This afternoon I had a breakthrough in my “decision-making style system.” What I aim to do with this system is enable the player to make different types of decisions, independent of consequences (the result is always the same), allowing the player the opportunity to practice consistency in decision-making. This, without judging their actions to be right or wrong and treating them accordingly.

If you followed that, you are the best audience in the world. Here’s the thing: I don’t agree with a “karma meter” concept. You’ll find one in Fallout I find it frustrating based on the principle that the game is judging your actions. By making karma a mechanical goal, you’ve removed any and all moral significance from your character’s actions.

Let’s look at one example from Fallout 3. There is a man dying of thirst outside of Megaton, to whom you can give purified water. If you do, you gain one point of good karma. I tend to play my characters as paragons of goodliness because that’s the kind of character I like to play. I certainly didn’t need karma.

When I gave this man water, it wasn’t because I wanted to be good. I mean, the first couple times I did, it was because I wanted to help him out. I didn’t realize he was always there until some time later. At that point, the only reason I gave him purified water was because I was a pack rat and I wanted to offload items.

Being a good person, or a good character, is about acting in accordance with wanting to be a good person at the same time as doing something good. Now, I’m simplifying the hell out of morality, but that’s the start of it. The game can’t or doesn’t measure intent, so there’s a disconnect between your character doing good and being good.

The system I’m designing is far more secular than that. It measures your character’s consistency in making certain types of decisions that reflect multiple, non-judgmental philosophical possibilities. You will never be making a choice between “good or evil.” You’ll make choices between “fair or popular,” and “honest or noble.”

Ultimately, the game responds to your consistency by presenting you with more and more unpleasant choices to make. If you’re going to prove that your character has “moral fiber” by choosing a “correct” path (based on consistency), then you’ll make lots of enemies, who’ll be very cross, and will try exceedingly hard to discredit you.

It isn’t about who’s right or wrong. The game shouldn’t determine that for you. The question is, who is more confident, and how far are they will to take their beliefs? Now, that is instilling morality into a game. Will you decide to save the princess if it means pitting two kingdoms against each other, and having assassins sent after you?