Oftentimes when a game presents a player with choices it’s for the sole purpose of determining a specific story-outcome. You see this a lot in games with morality systems. The protagonist can struggle to do the right thing or have fun being a raging bag of dicks. Let’s face it, morality in games rarely works when every transgression or act of compassion carries the same weight. To defy this trend the team at Misery Dev Ltd. created their own system for post-apocalyptic experience, The Seed.
In 2014, 888 backers funded The Seed on Kickstarter. Due to setbacks the £20,923 raised with the campaign has long since run out. Undaunted, the devs have continued making slow, but steady progress all these years. Their latest update details how a player’s choices impact their gameplay experience.
The unique choice analysis system developed for The Seed is based around the HEXACO personality structure model. This model conceptualizes human personality through six factors, or dimensions; Honesty-Humility (H), Emotionality (E), Extraversion (X), Agreeableness (A), Conscientiousness (C), and Openness to Experience (O). Within each factor are the traits which indicate whether an individual has a high or low level of the factor.
Neither Black Nor White
What this means is that player choices carry different weight depending on a highly complex set of circumstances. Each choice, no matter how trivial will result in an array of points being given or taken away for specific HEXACO factors. Points take your character’s unique circumstances and situation into account and are gained or lost accordingly. By the end of the game, players will have a procedurally generated description of their character’s experience. This serves as a broad psychological profile of their decisions within the gameworld.
The update uses a simplified example of a player choosing to kill and eat a stray dog to survive. The HEXACO system may award the player a -20 on sensitivity for such an action. However, if the player had bonded with the dog and overcome obstacles with it prior to eating it, they earn -55 on their sensitivity scale.
While this decision would brand you as a dog eating monster, the game is able to factor in the subtle variations of your choices. Maybe you only had this one major transgression, you’d still be sensitive overall. (Still a dog eating jerk though).
Of course, it’s possible that your experience omits the dog eating specific branch entirely and you have to find other ways to be terrible. With each playthrough unique and judged on a scale of contextual sensitivity The Seed will offer a lot for players to unpack.
The project may indeed be long overdue, but the dedication of its developers is obvious. When The Seed finally does release (hopefully before our world resembles the gritty apocalyptic future of its setting) it will be interesting to see how players react to having their choices amount to more than just a color-coded moral ending.