My friend FauxPaws wrote a very excellent post this morning, first time in a long time he’s written, to talk about his strong objection to the famous quest in Borean Tundra, The Art of Persuasion.

To bottom line it for you, the Kirin Tor have a prisoner, they want information… and they want the information tortured out of the prisoner.

But they have no intention of dirtying their own hands to do it, so they want you, the player, to torture the prisoner FOR them. And they give you the tools to do the torturing, which they just happen to have lying around. Go to it!

I personally found the situation infuriating. It really, really pissed me off then, and it still pisses me off to this day.

Now, I’m not angry at doing the quest. Or at the existence OF the quest. The programmers and scriptwriters added a lot of political nose tweaking in the expansion, with the D.E.H.T.A. and other things, but I could care less about what their agenda or intentions may have been. It’s all minor BS.

I have played the Death knight starter area, counting Beta and Live, three times through. The things you do as a Death Knight in thrall to the Lich King is a bit more over the top, and I did them anyway. And I enjoyed playing through those quests.

The difference to me is the situation.

There is only one possible decision to make when you are playing the quest; torture, or abandon the quest chain.

If you go ahead and torture the prisoner, you get rewarded by XP and a continuation of the quest line, which leads directly to another quest line, which leads in turn to another quest line in Coldarra, etc etc.

If you refuse, you can drop the quest from your logs. That’s it. Done. Denied any further interaction with all the quests that follow, and I haven’t done the math, but I think it’s likely that you’ll be unable to get enough quests to complete the Achievement for Borean quests.

It’s just a game, but the big problem for me is, even though I am not playing on a RP server, I HAVE invested life, in my imagination, to my characters. I have gifted each of them with a personality, an attitude is probably closer to the truth, and I think of them as the avatars whose journey through the World of Warcraft is guided by my decisions… based on how I think they would approach things.

I play Windshadow the feral druid as an “in your face” rampaging lunatic that prefers to square off and charge in, Swiping and clawing and chewing the enemies face off. I tank with my face, I choose to TAKE your pounding because that’s the price I am willing, no, EAGER, to pay to get in and tear your fricking arm off.

Oh, and I’m quite cute in my Lovely Black Dress.

My Hunter, Windstar, on the other hand, isn’t all about being a max DPS hunter.

I was asked about this in game very recently. I was asked if I was going to respec, like the rest of the hunter population, to a BRK approved Survival DPS spec.

And my answer was, quite simply, HELL NO. Beastmaster isn’t about damage to me. My Hunter isn’t about dealing out damage. Not at all.

My hunter is an adventurous free spirit, traveling the world and seeing the remote, inaccessible reaches of the vast universe, her best friend at her side. And when the shit hits the fan, she is never alone… her best friend is right there to chew their face off and give her the time she needs to back off and throw down the artillery.

Playing my hunter is all about a partnership, an enduring friendship between my pet and I. Period. And Beastmaster allows me to buff my pet up as an equal partner, so I feel that I can reasonably say that we beat the odds and see the world together, instead of me seeing the world and, oh yeah, dragging my DPS booster along with me.

I don’t ever picture Windstar as lounging around in Dalaran in a Pretty Black Dress. I picture her pushing her way through the jungles of Sholozar Basin, Moonclaw at her side, stinking from being in the field for three weeks straight, looking for the secret of the lost Saronite Mine.

And if the guild has an instance run to do, Windshadow is the one lounging around, bored and eager for some action to fire adrenaline off in her veins, and Windstar is the one that has to be drug out of the most remote jungle to come and do what needs doing… and then wave goodbye to civilazation once more as she heads back out into the back of beyond. 

Neither of my characters are the “okay, you need some info? Could you hand me that poker from the fireplace and turn around? This’ll only take a minute” kind of lady.

Whether or not *I* am that kind of person is totally beside the point here. THEY aren’t.

And it pisses me off to no end to feel that my only options are to either dump the quest chain completely and miss out on a TON of follow up quests leading all over the place… or direct my character to do something that is totally, jarringly out of character for her.

My point to this rambling rant is to say that it is long past time that Blizzard implement branching quests.

If Blizzard wants to have a quest that requires your character do make that kind of decision, it needs to BE a decision.

You need to be presented with two choices, and the follow up quest has to be related to your choice. They should both lead to a junction that ties both into going back to ONE quest that unifies everything back together, and neither quest should have better reputation or XP rewards than the other. There should truly be no advantage to choosing one over the other, except that YOU made the decision that felt right for your character.

It’s way past time this was done. When other quests were more vanilla, it wasn’t that big a thing. You were always presented with quests that place you in the role of hero, or at least of adventurer.

But with the D.E.H.T.A. and the slaughter of hunters, with the torturing of prisoners, with the hunting of rare and uniqe animals for Nesingwary, even when the spirit of the animals asks you to depart the lands in peace, with quests whose journey takes you to places that require a moral decision…

I do NOT call for Blizzard to remove these quests. They are more mature, more adult than what we have had before, and I applaud the direction and depth Blizzard is bringing to the game.

However, in bringing these moral issues into the game, I feel Blizzard needs to go to the next step… and allow us to make our own decisions about these issues for our characters.

A choice, not an echo.

38 Responses to “Morality in WoW… and the desire for a choice”
  1. Bellwether says:

    Here, here.

    I did them on Bellwether because, as I was levelling Restoration, quests that didn’t require me to kill mobs were valuable time savers for me. But when I level Bellbell…she is purposely going to be put into those situations as her struggle with the Light and what it means to be a Paladin will cause all these quests and duties to war inside her.

    I, too, sat there hoping I could put down the torture devices, and still progress.

  2. megan says:

    But Smellwether, you seem to have no problem torturing me on AIM chat! Deep down inside, you know you like it.

  3. J says:

    Implementing a ‘choose-your-own adventure’ into the WoW world would be an amazing way to improve questing. Not only that, but everyone’s experience would be unique to some degree, just like in the real world. Love it!

  4. Aeltyr says:

    I don’t really see what the problem with torturing a guy is (and this is not specificly aimed at you but at the general complaints on torture quests like the DK starting area and the Borean Tundra one). Half of the quests out there are plain old, simple, “KILL THAT GUY” quests.

    And on branched quests … I’ve seen this concept in Fable: The Lost Chapters (where you can go the good way or the evil way and it affects your character’s looks).
    Those quests and the choices were pretty limited. Either you join the guards and help defend an orchard, or you join the bandits attacking the orchard (clearly, the most evil thing to do would have been to offer the guards to help, killing the bandits, then offing the guards and taking the money from both). While it feels like you have a choice, there’s usually not much of a difference involved, and it would in the end feel like Aldor/Scryer or Frenzyheart/Oracles – not much of a difference, and perhaps even limiting when you want to play with friends who took different choices.

    Anyway, my vision on RP is actually that it is similar to PvPing on a PvE server. You put on different gear and you sign up for the ‘closed PvP world’ (BGs) or flag for PvP. Similarly, all my questing is done OOCly, but when I want to RP I put on my RP set, flag myself as IC using my RP addon (and walk instead of run for those not using RP addons) and I emerge myself into the world.

  5. Shadowblade60 says:

    I have not done the quest yet, but I have rolled a DK and ran through the starting area and felt the same ‘uncomfortable’ feeling as you did when doing some of the quests. In fact, at the end, I refused to do the last part of the chain, where your old ‘friend’ recognizes you and begs you to change. I backed off and saw her die of her previous wounds, only to take the quest again and follow through with it. I found this to be the most difficult moment I’ve experienced in WoW. To me, ‘torturing’ an NPC doesn’t bring as many issues as than killing what is surely tens of thousands of MOBS by now, but that’s only how I see it and certainly doesn’t mean that’s how everyone should see it. I can’t begin to understand Blizz’s reason for putting these difficult moments in a game, but I guess they have them. I would be less than pleased if they put them there to make us ‘think’. I do not need a game manufacturer to help me with my moral compass.

    I think you make a good point in that there should be some viable choice.

    Anyway, good article, and excellent website. Thanks for taking the time to share it with us.

  6. Salanthe says:

    I play on an RP server, so I completely understand where you’re coming from. When it comes to quests like that, I compartmentalize them and consider it completely out of character (OOC) and do the quest just so I can continue with the quest line. Quite frankly though, the quest I have the most difficulty with is the one in Dragonblight out of Mo’aki Harbor where you have to kidnap wolvar babies. I did that quest on my shaman and tried to do it as a daily, but I couldn’t stomach it.

    Choice would be nice. It would be awesome to have some sort of alignment consequences for your characters. With the addition of phasing into the game, this could lead to some really interesting storylines. Depending on the choice your character makes, you end up on different, but parallel quest lines.

  7. Kanandi says:

    I skipped the torture on my characters that matter to me, and had a farmer alt pick it up, only to realize how MUCH was chained after that.
    I agree, while I play on an RP server, and don’t mind missing out of quest loot and such (I can always just grind some random nerubians elsewhere for the XP), it did actually make me pause when I got to that quest, and really think about if I wanted to continue or not. A Divided-and-Returning chain would be a HUGE bonus in that type of situation.

  8. bigbearbutt says:

    Salanthe, you nailed it on the head with the stolen babies daily in Dragonblight. I totally agree, that’s another one that is just… “Are you kidding me?”

    At least that one I could just decide not to do, and walk away, and not shut down a massive quest chain.

  9. Aselvar says:

    I agree, but Blizz has done a couple quest lines where you make a choice, and I don’t necessarily like how those work.

    Aldor and Scryers made you make a snap decision which would affect your game play, some quests you’d receive and some rewards… I’m sure quite a few players had no clue which to choose after a quick tour of Shatt, and a very brief introduction to the factions. Once that decision was made, it was more or less permanent. You could change it, but the effort involved was fairly involved.

    The oracle/frenzyheart are much the same. A little better in that you get more familiar with the factions before making a choice, but the way the decision is made is much worse… during the middle of a fight, and if you’re just going through the quests without wowhead or some other guide, you have no idea it’s coming. The effort to reverse the change is much easier, if not clear though.

    What I’d like in this type of situation (‘persuasion’ quest) is the ability to think the decision through. I’d like them to make the rewards consistent for either path chosen, and not make it a decision that lasts for the rest of the game… Not because the decision to torture or not to torture is something that should be taken lightly or has no consequences, but because I feel that basing the remainder of the game on a single decision doesn’t fit what we have in WOW.

    What I wish was the case is that there was the concept of alignment within the game. Quests like these could allow you to take your character down a path that would open or close doors to you. Either the impact could be small enough that your character could negate a single choice rather easily, or it would be obvious that a particular choice would alter your character. A wholesale change could be made, but would be a great undertaking. None of this, well you said you liked these guys, so if you want to be our friends kill a million spiders crap. Maybe for WOW II.

  10. Lil bear says:

    Out of curiosity, did you complete the “What book? I don’t see any book.” quest in Shattrath City?

  11. Gerronimo (Gul'Dan) says:

    I totally agree with the points on morality and the quests that are out there. I have thought about those quests mentioned, specifically the wolvar babies and the torturng one on Amber Ledge. I just went with it, probably much like everyone else. But I have a theory as to possibly why.

    Maybe this is a stretch, but it’s the best excuse I have for Blizzard in this scenario. Arthas started out as a well-intentioned paladin. His choices and single-minded determination for victory brought about his fall. My hypothesis is that in some way this downward journey he made is being played out in our storylines as well. Maybe content will even be based around those people that did the quests despite being objectionable to them. LIke a said…a stretch.

  12. ARA says:

    maybe I’m a heartless wretch, but I barely noticed this quest. Isnt the guy you torture a “baddie” anyway? In the way that illidan is a baddie, or arthas is a baddie? That is to say, an unquestioned baddie? I dont remember a morally ambiguous moment.

    I had some trouble with the DK quest where I had to kill my friend from way back. That was morally wrong. But it was fine, and it was clever, because at that point, I started to feel I’d had enough of being a lich servant. That is to say, from an RP perspective, my friends pleas to “remember the light” had an impact on my DK soul, and though I killed her, I’d forever regret the dark path I’d chosen that led to so many innocent victims. That was very well done.

    Since americans were condemed around the world, for torturing prisoners in the middle east not too long ago… – could this be why people are so perturbed by this (imo pretty harmless) quest?

  13. John Smith says:

    What I get from your post is that you dont want your choices in the game to matter. I think that makes the torture much worse if you don’t have to do it; if there is some other way to get the information. I think the quest if fine the way it is, if you do it you get to finish the Coldarra chain and if you don’t you get to keep your morals. In life there may not always be a third option in every situation sometimes it is be evil and succeed or be moral and fail. And every character will have to make that choice for themselves.

  14. Gastone says:

    The one that got to me was pre-wrath on the Netherwing dailies where you had to poison the camps of peons. It just did not seem right. Still, I did them, and the torture quest, even though I did not feel good about it.

  15. bigbearbutt says:

    **John Smith**… well if that’s what you got from it… you misunderstood. And since that is what the rest of your comment is based on… well, too bad. Thanks for playing.

  16. druim says:

    I remember as a freshly minted wow character, a night elf coming upon a character called Zenn Foulhoof who gave this quest Zenns Bidding this quest irritated some other night elf npcs and you have to do the quest Seek Redemption! to smooth things over think quest is level 5 and level 7. if you are grinding rep for alliance its worth a look similar moral question yet here there are consequences in game. ( not much though and you get darnassus rep for both quests ) Still as a first timer made me wary of all quest givers and this quest was never repeated on my alts

  17. Tigerfeet says:

    Mmmmm, very interesting observations BBB. I wasn’t all that comfortable with the quest personally, but I did it anyway, I just avoided reading the quest text. There was one other quest that actually made me physically ill. I think it was out in the Stormpeaks, but you go hunt Mammoth with dynamite, and then pick up the pieces. I have no trouble chucking explosives at things (do it all the time on my hunter) but there’s a big difference to seeing an explosion, the animal falling down and then looting the corpse and tossing an explosive and watching that animal PARTICLE and looting the resultant bloody chunklets strewn across the landscape. If I’d have known that particular quest was going to be so graphic I wouldn’t have completed it, or I’d have asked Atrides to complete it for me. I’ve cleaned out game and fish before, it’s a horrible job and I hate it, but I keep in mind that I’m doing it to put food on my plate, it’s a Native American-flavored respect thing I guess. But throwing dynamite at even a virtual Mammoth and then having to see the carnage so… explicityly… I found it offensive. Maybe I’m hypocritical, but it bothered me.

  18. Darthregis says:

    Think of it as initiation.

    You do this task for us, thus we can trust you [to do all these other things for us].

    You don’t do this for us, well, find your work elsewhere.

    Just because you don’t like the repecussions of your actions (in not doing the quest), it doesn’t mean you weren’t given a choice, or enough viable options. Sometimes the repecussions of your (in)actions just plain’ ol suck. Moral basis or not.

  19. Kattrinsaa says:

    I quite agree BBB, and everyone else.. I’m quite in favor of “karma” type questing, where you have multiple scenarios for completion. For the torture quest, you could use the hot pokers (negative karma), or perhaps some sort of skill/stat check for a persuasive dialogue option (non-violent, positive karma), perhaps there’s a particular new alchemical recipe that the questgiver could offer for a “truth drug” (tradable item so it wouldn’t be for alchys only) this would still be an unwilling interrogation, but would avoid the physical damage to the person (neutral karma)

    I have no problem with protecting the puppies, (tho I never came back and did it for daily rep)

    I had no problem with the DK starting area, because at that final battle at lights hope you came back under your own destiny. (Never could get the rotten fruit smell out of my cape after entering stormwind… ) And I reasoned that my dk’s soul would not be harmed by bringing peace to my “friend” as opposed to someone else finishing the job and taking their time to prolong the pain.

    I would like to see if they implemented a karma system, special armor sets that could only be worn by the very good or the very bad. Perhaps even special skills that unlock at certain karma levels. (ie rogues able to pickpocket from player characters if they were really evil) or a special paladin spell drawing on the naru (good) or demons (evil) that gives some seriously nasty AOE nukage (on a long ie 10min timer)

  20. Kapre says:

    It’s a very interesting predicament. In regards to the kidnapping Wolvar babies, the text is supposed to make you feel good and justify the cause and placate those of us who actually care to think about these things. There’s moral ambiguities as to how the “benevolent” the Kalu’ak will be in raising the Wolvar after the fact. What will the effects be of the Wolvar being raised in Kalu’ak culture? How will these Wolvar babies ever know of their past and their own culture, will they end up like Thrall and the orcs and have to learn of this all on their own?

    On the flip side, I’m not all much into RP, but I have been reading a WoW lore novel and an important thing to understand with these moral obligations is that the worl our toons live in is NOT the world we live in. The book I’m reading recounts Durotan’s struggle during Gul’dan’s rise to power and he is forced to slay the Draenei who were nothing but hospitable to him in the past. The alternative to this is the annihilation of his beloved Frostwolf Clan including his mate at the hands of Gul’dan. He doesn’t want to do it, but he must as it is the lesser of two evils, in his eyes. So you could take this approach in justifying the moral gray content, including the Kalu’ak quest. Heh.

    But, hey, I’m all about Blizz actually letting us make these choices without sacrificing, missing loot, exp, rep, or simply more content, as suggested above.

  21. Zeplar says:

    The Death Knight quests were extremely disturbing to me (I have a personal issue with torture), and I almost didn’t get past the part where you kill your own ‘sister’. Now for Death Knights, a lore-intensive hero class, this might be okay… but I hope with the next hero class, there is more branching.

    If anyone here ever played Arcanum, which imo is the best RPG ever made by a long shot (combat mechanics were screwed up, but they didn’t subtract since the game was single-player anyway)… you had a trillion choices in that game. If you were evil enough, even people in other cities would learn of your reputation and shun you, or even attack you on sight. And in the end, there was a little moral dillemna, when the “big villain” seemed to be a misunderstood good character, and the “big hero” might have been evil… and you had to choose which to fight, or to kill both of them.

    I think Blizzard could learn a lot from Arcanum, and from the different paths you could take through it, and also through its “talent” system (near unlimited customization with choosing what stats, spells, skills, or mechanical schematics you wanted).

  22. Sarai says:

    This raises a good point. My RP character isn’t even close to Northrend yet, he’s only lvl 55, but when he does get there, he will have to face this choice as well. And I can tell you, he is NOT the kind of person to torture anyone, whether they are good or bad, deserving or not. On the other hand, his partner in-game would also have some problem with it, but she is the kind of person that will do what needs to be done, so maybe they can get around that.

    My personal solution to the DK quest is, your character is under the Lich King’s control, so while your hand did the deed, it wasn’t necessarily your choice to do it, if that makes sense.

  23. Zero says:

    The whole game is slaughtering people that have personally done you no wrong merely because some other unknown character wants them dead. Would you character feel out of place running off and killing the Scarlet crusade in dragonblight merely because some quest giver said he wants the head of his nemesis?
    After having just met them to boot. I think choices would definately make for a better game but all the people getting bent out of shape over torturing in a quest should definately look back through their character history and see all the decidedy unpleasant things that it has done “just for a little XP” or to continue the questline. If the Kirin tor guy had not made a deal about it during the quest. If he would have just said. “Use this poker to get the info we need” I doubt very seriously if it would have even come to light. By adding the quest text that makes it sound wrong you feel wrong doing it.

  24. Bo says:

    Games like KOTOR (I know it’s not an MMO yet) gave you decisions as a part of the chat with the various encounters you had. I am sure that blizzard could add some greater interactivity (we already have quests where we need to speak to people and follow a course of chat in the quest screen) so that you could choose a “voice” response that might lead you down a divergent path from just being a run of the mill scripted event. It would be awesome if you did get an alignment change as already suggested. Making your gear warp in colour etc.. might be a little adventurous but would help identify you at a glance as to what kind of person you are.

  25. Tristan says:

    I don’t see what everyone’s objection to this quest is. Every class out there kills things in a way that could be construed as torture, but if you have to do it in as a quest it is somehow highly objectionable?

  26. Moogasooga says:

    I did the quest, along with my wife, who tortured the prisoner, and we both got quest complete credit. Good cop, bad cop style.

  27. Dorgol says:

    I don’t have a problem with these quests. I have a kill count in the tens of thousands JUST in the time 3.0 was released.

    However, I do understand people having issues with these quests. ESPECIALLY RP players.

    I would love to see more choices for completing these types of quests. Not only does it allow for players who don’t like the “dark side” of the quest, but also just to add variety. I have 5 level 70s to level up… I would LOVE to be able to make each of them have a slightly different leveling path that is more than just Zone XYZ instead of Zone ABC.

  28. Kattrinsaa says:

    There are a lot of really good games with this good vs evil branching and it goes right along with many RPG’s as alignment is an old standby of D&D, Arcanum had that good/bad alignment, also had magik/technology branching (one canceled out the other), Black and white was a really interesting one, you raised a giant creature to be your avatar (you were a god) and your choices made your creature be anything from a gentle giant to a force of destruction, various star wars games have your choices determine your alignment from bright white/blue (light side) to bright red (dark side). Fable had a very dynamic good/bad system that changed your appearance. All of the fallout series factor alignment into things, save these people and gain alignment, kill these and lose it. TES4 Oblivion has fame and infamy, most actions will award fame, but evil ones award infamy. more than 1 point of infamy and you can’t use the armor/weapon of the holy crusader. (pity there wasn’t a similar module that you had to have a certain infamy level to equip)

    Now, one thing that would tie into WOTLK would be some sort of bonus damage spell/ability/weapon that is very effective against the lich king’s minions and arthas himself. but only if your karma was at a certain level (good of course.. putting you on the side of light.)

    Another tie in, would be for all characters. The sword of the lich king. We know it will turn anyone who wields it into the next lich king unless their will was unbreakable. So, lets say if your karma is over 5000 light side you could wrest control of the sword and purify it extinguishing the evil within. If it were over 5000 dark side, you could tame the sword and bend the evil to your will. Anyone in the middle if they tried would be corrupted and turn into a weakend lich king that the rest of the raid would then have to kill.

    If I recall baldur’s gate (pure AD&D rules if i remember right) you couldn’t have good characters and evil characters in the party at the same time for long. so you might have a debuff effect not quite as severe as the polarity on thaddius, but possibly detrimental to a party. A pure of heart paladin for example couldn’t fight as well teamed up with a evil rogue nearby. (type casting i know..) BUT, the possibilites for PVP are immense here. Opposites may harm teamwork, but going head to head would increase their damage against the other.

  29. Boojah says:

    I believe there are at least 2 “pacifists” that have leveled up to 70 without killing a single thing, or raising a sinlge weapon skill. So you do have choices.

    The torture quest I thought about, and I thought about feeling bad about it… but then I realized I’ve killed thousands and thousands of mobs for their brains, bones, skin, dust, etc. I’ve chopped the heads off people, chewed their limbs off, etc. I’ve poisoned people, I’ve killed the other faction by drowning them, throwing them off ledges, etc. Heck, I’ve even murdered people because they tagged a node I wanted, or because I thought they were acting like a jerk quest mobs. I figured if I can deal with all that murder and mayhem from my character without really thinking about it, torturing a guy for information that supposedly saves lives isn’t any worse. Same with the Wolvar. I mean, I’ve killed thousands of mothers in this game, leaving babies orphaned… in this one I’m actually saiving babies from eventual slaughter.

    As for the Death Knight quests… you’re a Death Knight. I mean, maybe they should have picked a different hero class, but it’s a Death Knight. If you have a problem with the Death Knight quests…. wouldn’t you also have a problem playing Death Knights period?

  30. Artorin says:

    When you look at WoW as a game it doesn’t really give you the option of being all good. You can’t level to 80 without killing something. Quests exist to give the player a sense of purpose in the game aside from random killing. To really give players a sense of choice though the quests from 1-80 would all have to be changed. This would be awesome for RP and games like KotOR, oblivion, fallout3 all give you these options for the most part. Ultimately though this game is centered around being a hero and fighting evil. Many quests in the game have you do things that blur the line between being good or bad. While I think that having alternate quests in WoW would be a cool idea I think the reality is that doing these quests doesn’t really change who your character is. You can do the quest but deny to everyone your character ever did it and who could say differently?

    Besides this one dude I totrured lived while the rest of his buddies died while I was trying to get the key!

  31. Shadowblade60 says:

    @ Bo

    KOTOR was an amazing game. It was mentioned with some pride by Lucas Arts that the storyline was written by screenwriters. And I have to say it shows. I played my first character taking the path of the light, then started a new character and chose the dark side. The choices on the latter were far more difficult, but I am glad I played both. Despite its limited life (not an MMO and the storyline wasn’t free. i.e. it followed a structure), it was one of the best games I’ve ever played. WoW is in a totally different class, and because of it’s depth and complexity, I haven’t seen anything that compares to it.

  32. Malphailuron says:

    I’ve thought, ever since my first week playing WoW, that the game would be much improved by including some moral choices in quests—even if they had no in-game effect.

    Morality is, after all, a highly personal thing. You shouldn’t be rewarded for conforming to the developers’ ideas of Good or Evil. But the option would be there for you, on a personal level, to have to wrestle with difficult decisions or play your character the way you wished. If you didn’t want that as a part of your gaming experience, then fine, you’ll not be punished by missing out on loot or suffering a lower Reputation score or anything.

    When you think about it, the world presented by Blizzard is a TERRIBLY morally ambiguous place, with many factions willing to do many horrific things, quite convinced that they are in the right. The Scarlet Crusade is the best example of this, but many—both Alliance – and Horde-side—would hardly bat an eye at the thought of genocide or torture. The Alliance is frequently portrayed as self-righteous, aloof, uncompromising, racist, puritanical, and hypocritical (c.f. VanCleef or the Slaughtered Lamb); the Horde is barbaric, bloodthirsty, vindictive, bestial, manipulative, desperate, and morally apathetic. Much of this is propaganda spread by the other faction, but there are members of every race who represent their darker side. And, of course, we have both factions making land claims that they can’t really back up in the various battlegrounds (with the possible exception of WSG, where it seems pretty clear that the Horde are the aggressors). And this is to say nothing of the lore—the books and comics and whatnot behind the game are all rife with moral ambiguities and tough decisions, some of which we may not agree with.

    All this really forces the player (the one who doesn’t ignore it all, anyway) to think about who the good guys are here. Both sides are aggressors, both sides are victims, and neither side is willing to back down … for every step towards peace, a skirmish breaks out somewhere and undoes any progress. Everyone’s just trying to survive in a very hostile world. But survival at what cost? Who are your real enemies here? Especially when one considers the subtler influences of the Burning Legion? There’s a lot of room for ethical considerations in the game. I wish Blizz would capitalize on that, and really bring it to the players outside of RP realms.

  33. Tesh says:

    Giving players choices with real consequences, especially ones that alter the game world, is ideal in a lot of ways… but devs won’t do it. One, they may not really be thinking about these things. Some people really can’t conceive of the idea that other people don’t think like them. Two, it can get expensive. Game development is largely about getting the most out of your resources, which is part of why we get the treadmills and cookie cutter approach; it’s cheaper to force everyone into the same mold.

    That said, one of my pipe dream game dev ideas is a game that offers real consequences for actions, and offers real progress for alternate solutions to problems. It would require a large, involved “finite state” engine, but could offer a much more rewarding experience than the “antihero” scripted offal being offered by most devs. Putting that into an MMO would be yet another order of complexity… but may well be worth it. (Though a company spending resources on writers, screenplay authors and engineering may well skimp on graphics and slide under the AAA radar.)

  34. Bearncat says:

    I’m kinda new to this site, but I have fell in love with reading it. Now that being said, I was reading MMO-Champion today and i was reading the interveiw with J. Allen Brack and Jeffrey Kaplan, it was about what they thought of WowLK. One of the main things i took from that was that we are rushing off to kill the LK but at what cost? Maybe this is part of that cost? For us to lose some dignity in Northrend.

    Now I didn’t have a porblem with this quest at all, but I did have a issue with the DK one where you had to kill you companion(I took as lover). I actually failed the quest twice before I went ahead and killed her. I didn’t want to do it, but I had to. Also I didn’t like killing the civilains from the SC either.

    But i am posting this because maybe blizzard wants to to these horrible things, as part of the storyline for the future. Thats just my opinion.

  35. Yggdrasil says:

    I’ve seen a lot of comments that wonder why torturing a single enemy is wrong, but killing vast swaths of enemies, literally annihilating entire populations of creatures, is okay.

    My response is this: while killing the mobs, they present a direct and immediate threat (no matter how minor), the same as warfare to a soldier. Does it excuse any action? No, but it gives a fairly comfortable rationale, “it was him/her/them or me, someone had to die, and I don’t want to die yet”, which allows a little more resistance to the bad feelings that a normal human being experiences when killing or harming something. The fact that these mobs are only a threat because you are in their vicinity (often their homes/towns/huts) is relatively inconsequential. Killing for loot and experience is the MMO way, and has been the primary way of advancing a character in a roleplaying game since the first edition of D&D. Its an accepted reality of gaming that things will have to die for your benefit.

    Someone who is being tortured is generally not an immediate threat. They are either too weak to respond in kind, or somehow incapacitated to prevent them from from defending themselves. They are vulnerable, literally powerless, and we are inflicting extra pain on them *because* they are in this state of being. If they were able to defend themselves, we would kill them outright. We are being placed in the role of a sadistic oppurtunist, without any other relatively equal option, and no apparent moral backlash in the game.

    As a human, most people generally feel sympathy to vulnerability. Its an internal fear for many to be at the complete mercy of someone who wants to hurt them. Its tapping into a primal sense of insecurity, that something like this could happen to us. Most people can come to terms with dying, even dying in a relatively painful way, but to be tortured, genuinely tortured, is still terrifying.

    Torture, or sadistic, antisocial behaviors of the like, have generally been punished when they occur in RP games, at least in some way, whether they be tabletop, live action, or even video games. Your character is killed in the process, you become a criminal/outcast, a rock falls on you, or something happens that says what you’re doing is socially unacceptable and morally contemptible, and the powers that be will hold you accountable for your actions.

    A mission like this that offers no karmic justice for doing wrong doesn’t sit well with many people. If there were some form of a punishment for the behavior, it would probably be better received, even if it still wasn’t optional. Even if the punishment was as simple as being chastised by a NPC, it would seem less wrong, I think.

  36. velk says:

    This is a late comment in the way of things – and I apologise if the suggestion has already been made.

    Group up with someone whos character is willing to do such actions. You get the quest credit for being there, and you can RP out the consequences if necessary. It gets you around going OOC for the sake of completing a quest, and keeps your hands clean.

    Regards
    -Velk.

  37. Lilivati says:

    This is an issue I think about a lot (and I’ve written a few posts on my own little blog about it). One of the things I love about the good single-player RPGs is that the choices you make strongly impact the progression of the game. This not only makes a single play through better, but lends a vast amount of replayability to the game. Players of WoW always complain how boring it is to level that second, third, eighth alt- this would be an ideal solution. It bothers me that my druid and my death knight, with completely different perspectives and motivations, can end up in exactly the same standing.

  38. Fera says:

    The DK quests were pushing it imo, HOWEVER it is what DKs did and/or had to do. The torture quest was a bit over the top I agree, but if you spend some time looking around the tower you will see something even more disturbing. What’s that you ask? For just a few silver you can actually purchase the torture device, it only works on that specific NPC but you can sit there for hours making them suffer. That’s just ridiculous. WTF blizzard!?

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