What if...You Aren't Allowed to Kill ANY Enemy?

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Moop
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Idea I've been kicking around.

Let's say you have this character- a girl. Let's call her "Dahlia Grayhill." Dahlia is possessed by a demon of wrath and has access to very gruesome attacks/weapons. However, if she kills ANYTHING, the demon will fully consume her soul and take over her. The main goal of the game would be to find some way to exorcise the demon from her, but she's targeted by various groups of people that want her dead.

In the game, killing the enemy is presented as the easiest option. But if you do that, it's GAME OVER. So the real challenge is finding a way to avoid a battle/non-lethally dispose of an enemy, rather than strait-up murdering them. Also, perhaps finding the balance between whittling away an enemy's health and not killing them would be a factor. And, of course, the think piece-factor of the whole story.

Also, what would the title be? I'm thinking "Don't Kill" or "Have Mercy," but I'm open to other ideas.

Either way, this may or may not be my IGMC project this year. (Thinking up ideas for a game isn't against the rules, right?)
 
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bgillisp

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I dunno about zero kills whatsoever. Maybe you could make it so that for each kill she makes, the demon takes her over more and more? Then you could even vary the ending based on how much she's been taken over? That way the player would idealy want to get through with no kills, but if they are stuck on how to achieve it, they can go for the kill, and the demon takes over x% of her.
 

Silent Darkness

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Stop trying to be Undertale. Undertale is Undertale.~

But in all seriousness.....

That....doesn't sound fun.
 

Accendor

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I also think that this will not work as long as killing ALWAYS results in a game over. On the other hand, what lilywhite wrote could be a real cool concept. The more she kills the stronger the demon becomes, resulting in a bad ending after X kills.
 

Kes

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You would need to provide a whole bunch of alternative strategies e.g. can you talk your way out of it?  If not then bgillisp's suggestion is the only one I can think of which would make this work.  At the moment it does not seem a viable proposition.
 

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Stop trying to be Undertale. Undertale is Undertale.~

But in all seriousness.....

That....doesn't sound fun.
*Googles Undertale* Hee hee hee....

But in all seriousness...

This...is why I wanted to run the idea in front of people before I potentially bury myself in a bad project.

It sounds like a game where you'd be given a bunch of abilities you're never allowed to use at all and then are required to play through the game in the most tedious and obtuse way possible in order to not lose.
Which was one of my concerns.... -_-

I also think that this will not work as long as killing ALWAYS results in a game over. On the other hand, what lilywhite wrote could be a real cool concept. The more she kills the stronger the demon becomes, resulting in a bad ending after X kills.
Ohhh...which could add into the theme of temptation I wanted to explore....

I dunno about zero kills whatsoever. Maybe you could make it so that for each kill she makes, the demon takes her over more and more? Then you could even vary the ending based on how much she's been taken over? That way the player would idealy want to get through with no kills, but if they are stuck on how to achieve it, they can go for the kill, and the demon takes over x% of her.
Ooooh! Love this idea! Opens more opportunities for theme exploration and potentially new mechanics...

You would need to provide a whole bunch of alternative strategies e.g. can you talk your way out of it?  If not then bgillisp's suggestion is the only one I can think of which would make this work.  At the moment it does not seem a viable proposition.
...such as getting better at doing something like talking your way out of things!

Eeeek, this is turning out better than I thought it would!
 
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I wasn't going to refer to Undertale (as much as this idea seems...very "inspired" by it) but even if you have a "the demon takes over X%" mechanic, it's still going to be painfully obvious that one specific playstyle is the "good" way to play the game and unless you play it that way you don't get the "good" ending. So either you don't care about the story or you force yourself to play in the most tedious, repetitive way.
 

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Perhaps the story explores a gray area; like if Dahlia has to kill to save someone else/a village/so on. Does open up theme exploration opportunities. And perhaps letting a person die because you didn't kill to save them could also lead to story ending/branching. Maybe the supposedly "good" ending you'd get by not killing is only good in a moral perspective, but not a personal/emotional one...(Getting hype tingles thinking about the script.)

(...Seriously though, I didn't know Undertale was a thing.)
 
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bgillisp

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One thing that might help is maybe she can't be the one to do the killing, but other members of the party can. Then it might turn into a case of can you convince others to help you? And, with your premise of everyone out to kill her, can you trust them too?

As for those concerned about the x% for bad ending, you could make it that there is a grace zone of 3 - 5 kills in the game before you no longer can get the best ending in the game.

Still...sounds like it will either be a heavy stealth based game (sneak around the enemy), heavy puzzle based (who can I talk into killing them for me), or heavily dependent on your other party members getting the kills (which then could open up drama with the party members). Either can work, but you may want to decide early on which way you want to go and stick with it.

Alternate idea: You could make it that 0 HP is not a kill, just a knockout. However, hits that take the HP below say -50 are a kill. Then the player would need to finish off opponents with a hit that takes them below 0 and not below -50 or so. Probably would work best if you didn't use the standard power curve used in most RPGMaker games though, else it might be impossible late game. After all, who ever did only 50 damage late in an FF game?
 
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Sated

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I like how everyone references Undertale when games like Dishonoured (and even older games, but Dishonoured is the best recent example that I can think of) did the whole "kill less people, get better ending" gimmick before Undertale, better than Undertale and with much more compelling gameplay than Undertale. Undertale doesn't have a monopoly on morality but whatever :)

As for the idea, most games are "if you get killed then it is game over", so I don't see anything theoretically wrong with "if the enemies get killed it is game over". I just can't personally think of a very good way of managing to do that. I can't think of a way to make that fun. I certainly don't think that giving the player skills that make killing the enemies easy, but then preventing them from using them because they'll get a game over if they do, is the right way to go about it.
 
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Ah, one thing I forgot to mention was that it's an action-battle/real-time battle game (think Legend of Zelda or Secret of Mana). Would this change any perceptions of the concept (though I've gotten a bunch of ideas from this already!)?
 

Kes

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I think the battle system is somewhat separate from is the whole question of whether this is a good idea anyway.  I don't think your choice of battle system makes the task of making this idea work any easier.

I still haven't read any compelling way of carrying this out which doesn't eventually, imo, lead to the player walking away, totally fed up.
 

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Hmm....maybe a factor that can be considered is when/who/what a player kills. Maybe these factors can cause a ripple effect throughout the story that could make things better/worse for you in the long run. (Which in turn could play into a theme of how death affect people.)

And perhaps the demon's hold on Dahlia could lessen if she saves/protects people instead, which could also have a similar ripple effect.
 

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Ah, one thing I forgot to mention was that it's an action-battle/real-time battle game (think Legend of Zelda or Secret of Mana). Would this change any perceptions of the concept (though I've gotten a bunch of ideas from this already!)?
Hmm....maybe a factor that can be considered is when/who/what a player kills. Maybe these factors can cause a ripple effect throughout the story that could make things better/worse for you in the long run. (Which in turn could play into a theme of how death affect people.)

And perhaps the demon's hold on Dahlia could lessen if she saves/protects people instead, which could also have a similar ripple effect.
It sounds like you should really check out games like Dishonoured and Tenchu: Stealth Assassins because they use the "enemies are easy to kill but you get a better ending/rating if you avoid them" gimmick pretty dayum well. I think the Hitman games do the same thing also, but I haven't played one of those games for a long time. Not that your game necessarily needs to be a stealth game, it just sounds like what you're describing would definitely suit a stealth setting. Maybe it would be worth checking out the KOTOR games as well, since what you're describing with the demon sounds much like the influence of the dark side of the force in those games (you could throw lightning at all your problems, but why not diplomacy or discussion instead?) 

EDIT:

What you said in your second post (get a different ending for killing enemies, rather than a straight-up game over) is definitely the better way to approach this. It gives you more freedom, and also gives the player more freedom, as well as making your game more re-playable. 

EDIT2:

If you did want to go down the "killing enemies -> game over" route then the desync system in Assassin's Creed might be worth looking at. Doing enough things that your ancestor didn't do (such as killing civilians or not making use of dead animals) leads to the equivalent of a game over. You could use a similar system for killing enemies in your game, with the demon taking over if you do it too often (which would be a game over). Or perhaps something more like the humanity system in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, whereby doing enough inhumane things causes your character to be more likely to succumb to frenzy, which takes control of the character out of your hands and usually leads to death/bad things happening.

Okay, I'll stop now.
 
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Or perhaps stealth can always be one a few options. That way, the player can tackle a situation however they want.

Thanks for the recommendations!
 
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hadecynn

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My take on this would be to first split the topic into two dimensions. First, there is the Mechanics Dimension, then there's the Narrative Dimension.

I'll define the "Mechanics Dimension" as the actual forms of play that players will be engaged in throughout your game. That is, the button-pressing, the skill selecting, the mental-math calculating, etc., all the things that make up the RPG combat into something that we've come to enjoy (or want to improve on).

With this definition, I don't think there's a lot of ways you can work around "killing is a Game Over", or "killing leads to a bad ending" because inherently, a game requires the player to act and provide input; if most of the player's actions and tools are detrimental to the goal of the game, then the setting will actually detract from the game experience and make it frustrating. You may try to convince the player that they don't have to play the "moral/righteous" way through the use of multiple endings and such, but I think its a hard sell based on your current setup. Specifically, the fact that "killing is the simplest option", and the fact that by default the goal that drives the character is to "exorcise the demon". Now, if you make some tweaks to the difficulty and the story so that Dahlia starts somewhere in the middle, and then have the choice of progressing into either the "Light" or "Dark" sides, and make that equally realistic and challenging, then it could work. But I think that would stray too far from your original idea. Which brings us to... 

The "Narrative Dimension". The "Narrative Dimension" is how the player experiences the meaning behind their choices within the context of the game. This is where I would get creative if I was trying to make the game myself.

From your backstory, if Dahlia was possessed by this awful demon who wants to consume her soul by getting her to kill things, but Dahlia (the player) still has control over her actions, then how about this? As per your setup, people will be out to get her, but as soon as they get in close proximity to her (ie. battle events in traditional RPGs, or literally within a certain radius for ARPGs), they would start taking damage. Whenever they attack, they would suffer even more damage.

In essence, the GAME, not the player, will be the one constantly trying to kill all these other people (and maybe also Dahlia's teammates). Don't let the player "role-play" as the demon at all (it's not like they can in the first place anyway if any death = Game Over). The Demon is still the bad guy, and your goal is still to "defeat" it, but instead of doing damage throughout the journey, the player's role is to actually either heal, buff, revive... okay maybe not revive, but you get the idea. You basically turn the default "Attack" command into "Heal", and flip everything upside-down so that player are thinking about numbers and gameplay in the framework of healing, as opposed to attacking.

Of course, mechanically, this is identical to most other RPGs, you've merely replaced minuses with pluses. But narratively and experientially, the player will feel that they are doing something very different: they are trying to protect and heal through a very sick/unfortunate/deadly world. 

Thanks for reading. =)
 
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Oooh, I like the idea of healing/helping your enemies being a factor...Not to mention making sure the player plays as Dahlia and not Ira the demon and getting her to start down the middle path...

This is gonna be a fun project! I can feel it!
 

SPP

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Uhhh, I really don't understand why people would run away so fast from playing a hard game. Too nooby, sucky reflexes? ...yeah, fall for me baby play ma game. Hahaha(monotone laugh).

Sorry, in all seriousness, there are some people who play a game eventhough it's hard/time consuming cause not all of them are busy working adults. Namely people with a lot of time, children and people that fell for my taunt. BD *shot*
 

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I was planning a stamina system in one of my games where the enemy's MP was 'replaced' with Stamina (its not like they use it anyways in most games....). You had access to various attacks that would deal stamina damage instead of HP damage (some examples include rubber bullets, tranquilizer darts, a sleep spell that doesn't automatically put the enemy to sleep, just deals a large amount of stamina damage, martial arts take-downs, etc.). Regular attacks would also deal Stamina damage, so you weren't limited to just stamina attacks if you weren't looking to kill, but you have to be careful with standard attacks or you could accidentally kill the enemy anyways. The difference between a kill and a knock-out was if you had HP or Stamina reach zero.

I had a common event called with each skill to check if their stamina was at zero or not. If the Enemy was knocked out I would show a message to acknowledge it, then removed the enemy from battle.

Even though its an action-ish battle system like Legend of Zelda, you can still make a difference between 'lethal' and 'non-lethal' attacks and weapons, and instead of the enemy dying then disappearing from the field, give them a K.O graphic instead. Maybe add in an option to help/heal the K.O'd enemy, get some valuable information or an item.

As for what happens if you do accidentally kill by using too powerful of an attack?...do nothing for just one or two kills. Just have something to track how many enemies are killed and how many are Knocked-Out instead. When the enemies killed reach a high enough threshold, the demon starts to take her over more and more (like what bgillisp suggested).  I know that you want to limit the player by having no kills, but it would be better (and less infuriating for players) if you just limit their kill count instead. ((Go play Metal Gear Solid, see how easy it is to go through that game with no kills, and see how not at all tempting it is to kill a dozen soldiers with that nice shiny rocket launcher you just found!))
 

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