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Feature Video

How Infamous: Second Son Makes You Consider Every Kill

What does the coffee tell you, Delsin?

by

Cole MacGrath has an important decision to make. A group of hungry refugees are about to swarm an abandoned shipment of food like ants on a crumb. Cole could easily swat them away by zapping one or two pedestrians and then steal the food for himself. Alternatively, he could do nothing, let the masses have their fill, and go find other means of satisfying his empty stomach. It's a simple choice of good versus evil, selfishness versus selflessness. But it's also a choice, as Infamous developer Sucker Punch discovered, that will most likely determine humanity's fate.

Moral choices--specifically black-and-white moral choices--are a hallmark of the Infamous series. For two games you have been guiding series protagonist Cole MacGrath down a path of good or evil. In Infamous 2, those ideologies were given a voice with Nix and Kuo, two women who acted as the proverbial angel and devil riding on Cole's shoulders. Now, with Infamous: Second Son, Sucker Punch is looking to put a more dramatic spin on how it handles new series protagonist Delsin's morality. It's no longer enough to simply say whether you want to be good or evil. In Infamous: Second Son, you must prove it.

CHOICE MATTERS

Having a morality system in the first place is a tricky task for Sucker Punch. Video games already present enough problems for storytellers without the added difficulty of letting you fork the story in extreme ways. At the end of the day, it would be much simpler to have you play the typical hero and force you down a path of justice and do-gooding. So why go through all the trouble? According to co-founder Chris Zimmerman, choice is what got people excited about Infamous in the first place.

To make you feel as if you had done something truly heroic--or villainous--the option had to exist for the inverse.

"When we started developing Infamous," explained Zimmerman, "the thing that worked for people was when we said, 'You get to decide if you're a good guy or a bad guy.' We would tell them that in the middle of telling them 10 other things about the game, and they would stop us and say, 'That's what I want from the game. I want that choice.' Learning that caused us to take a step back and think about our [karma system] a bit more, and once we came to that realization that we wanted to base the game around whether you were a good guy or a bad guy, a lot of things started popping into place. The karma system is really one of the core things that helped the game coalesce."

Giving players the choice whether to play as a hero or a villain also helped reinforce the game's superhero fantasy. Classic superhero stories revolve around a clear-cut struggle of good versus evil. To make you feel as if you had done something truly heroic--or villainous--the option had to exist for the inverse. "I believe being a hero requires you to give of yourself," said Nate Fox, director of Second Son. "If [being a hero] were trivial and easy, it would just feel like everyday life. It's the sacrifice that marks someone as spectacular, so if you're trying to make a game that's honest-to-god saying, 'Okay, an everyday guy just got superpowers. What would he do with them?' you have to put in the option for chaos."

The logo on the back of Delsin's jacket will change depending on if you're playing good or evil.

ALL OR NOTHING

Since the release of the first Infamous game roughly five years ago, Sucker Punch has been studying how players play Cole to help improve their karma system. "Every time we make a new Infamous game, we look at the karma system and ask ourselves, 'How can we improve the experience for people?'" said Zimmerman. "From Infamous to Infamous 2, we wanted to personify the karma system by introducing Nix and Kuo, which embody the ruthless and goody-two-shoes approaches. This way, when you're making a karma choice, it's not just some abstract moral decision, but you're also choosing which character you want to associate with."

"After Infamous 2, we looked back on all the data we had collected on how people were playing the games, and the data was really clear that people, basically, decide before they even buy the game that they're going to play good or evil," added lead designer Jaime Griesemer. "They sit down and make the first choice be good, then the second to be good, and so on. Sometimes we'd see, like at the end of Infamous 2, some people were playing evil but hit their moral limit and switched to good at the last second--and that's great. If we can make you rethink how you're going to play based on the story, that's fantastic, but because we gave you the best powers based on if you committed to one path or the other, people tended to do just that."

"We looked into ways of offering ambiguity--of having morally gray decisions--but because we're sort of a comic book game, people don't want to play a meandering, middle-of-the-road kind of hero (or villain)," continued Griesemer. "Once you decided you were going to be good or evil, you didn't really have to think about it or even look at the options any more. We've since realized we're never going to get someone to evaluate every single moral choice based on context and story if there are powers involved, because people will gravitate to what gives them the best powers."

Delsin isn't restricted to a single set of powers and can swap between them by interacting with certain objects, such as neon signs.

MIGHT MAKES RIGHT

Since moral ambiguity is off the table, the team at Sucker Punch has been hard at work experimenting with other ways to improve their karma system. The good-or-evil choices from previous Infamous games aren't going anywhere, but in Second Son, if you want to be the best at either, you're going to have to earn the title. This means constantly going out of your way to either protect the populace or ruin them. After all, a "hero" who accidentally blows up your car and barbecues a few of your neighbors isn't much of a hero.

Zimmerman does a great job expanding on all this in our recent Now Playing of Infamous: Second Son, but in brief, you always want to be working toward either a good or an evil karma streak. You earn good karma by carefully aiming your shots so that you don't kill--only subdue--your enemies. Alternatively, you accrue evil karma by causing wanton destruction as quickly, and violently, as possible. If you do either of these long enough, you'll build up enough karma to unleash a special attack that will either incapacitate or obliterate all enemies onscreen.

After all, a "hero" who accidentally blows up your car and barbecues a few of your neighbors isn't much of a hero.

Both styles feel very different; one requires precision and the other is all about reckless abandon. When you're building up good karma, it stays locked and loaded and won't disappear unless you accidentally kill a civilian or something along those lines. Evil karma, on the other hand, is on a time limit. Think of it like building a combo in other action games: if you don't keep the destruction going, you will lose the evil karma you've built up. There are also ways to defeat your foes in a karmatically neutral fashion, but doing so won't earn you any progress toward those special attacks.

Outside of combat, Sucker Punch is also pushing the emotional impact of your choices. In the first two Infamous games, you were responsible only for Cole's actions. But in Second Son, your choices will not only drive Delsin down a path of good or evil, but will directly shape the personalities of those around him as well. "We have characters Delsin meets along the way, and through the choices you make, you change them--either redeeming or corrupting them--and their personal arcs are altered forever," said Fox. "Now it's not just Delsin changing along the way, but these other people as well." You may be OK with turning Delsin into a supervillain, but will you also be OK with the knowledge that you've directly twisted the mind of another as well?

The moral choices you make for Delsin will not only shape his personality, but those close to him as well.

These changes to Infamous' karma system mean it's no longer enough to talk the talk of a hero; you must also walk the walk. Sucker Punch has always used the struggle between good and evil as the foundation for the Infamous series, and now it takes center stage in Second Son, both in combat and in narrative. As Zimmerman explained, "There are people who really get into the game's morality systems, and are really role-playing through the game. Those people want the struggle to matter. They want it to be hard to be a good guy or a bad guy, and then feel like that hard work was rewarded. If we take away that challenge or difficulty, it makes the journey feel less meaningful--and I find that fascinating."

Discussion

210 comments
GOGOHeadray
GOGOHeadray

I would of liked for them to include grey areas; I envision my character being a magneto type; since the DUP and human/conduit relationship reminds me of the mutant/human ones in the x-man series. None the less I will buy this day of.

Jake518
Jake518

It's looking to be a good game so far!

Ares_hot
Ares_hot

I like that they're not making it easier playing one than the other. I'll probably go evil but I never wanna play a game the easy way so this is gonna work out great. So psyched, this game is the only thing that really makes me wanna get a PS4 as soon as possible. 

CaptainBerserk
CaptainBerserk

It should be a good game,i can't wait to play it, also very nice screen shots GS, game is looking good!

OneHundredPunks
OneHundredPunks

It doesn't sound too much different from the first two games, except the "changing other people" thing. If you hit wandering pedestrians in the first games you would take a bit of a karma hit as well. Either way, color me excited. Between this, Titanfall and the FFX HD collection, it's a hell of a month.

elbauto
elbauto

How Graphic Downgrades are attacking the world

translucent17
translucent17

I would take a game like this any day over titancrap

BlazeKingz
BlazeKingz

hmm the karma thing bothers me, how does all the good you do immidiatly get removed because there was an innocent bystander? The ai in previous game wasnt all that smart to get out of the way. cole was usually fighting the bad guys within a crowd op regulair poeple.

Carpetfluff
Carpetfluff

Well, if anyone hadn't finished Infamous 2 but believed you when you said you weren't going to spoil it and watched the rest of the video, they probably felt like slapping you a couple of minutes in...

Optimist_Pryme
Optimist_Pryme

Always loved the infamous game, and great article... only one thing that made me cork an eyebrow... was when they said there's no gray area, no in-between, that nobody wants to float out in the middle, etc... then talk about comic books, and pretty much point out that everything is either good or evil... and even though that's worked in Infamous... that's not exactly 100% true... look at comic book characters such as Wolverine, or The Punisher, and others... not like they have a shiny glowing moral-compass at all times. ;)

88Metallica
88Metallica

I loved the first two. This one should be great as well. Paid my copy off today.

WetVein
WetVein

Looks good... but what a douchie name for the protagonist... Delsin.  It should be something more powerful.. like Fabian, Marty or Benedict Cumberbatch. 


Personally.. i would have went with Bob.  


I'll be buying it thou.. that is if Amazon ever delivers my PS4.

veryDERPY
veryDERPY

sacrificed cole for the greater good...welp so much for no spoilers. 


but besides, isn't it a choice? the other ending could be canon if they wanted it to be

Crazyguy105
Crazyguy105

That's a really long article stating a bunch of bull.


The first two inFAMOUS games were jokes with the morality system. None of the choices made you think. 


"Oh, this choice is clearly marked under a BLUE tone? Well there is the good route! Let's not go for the RED one since that means I'll unlock the evil power grid."


inFAMOUS is an insanely fun series, but the morality system has always been lackluster.

sagejonathan
sagejonathan

As an inFamous fan and a comic book nerd, I am really hyped about this game!

ohjtbehaaave
ohjtbehaaave

Will there be a demo for this game?  Still undecided on it with MLB 14:The Show and Watch Dogs not really that far off.

sedrikp39
sedrikp39

if you love xmen youll like this game... sometimes i would just like to think that they are mutants instead of conduits... for sure im gonna be soo much distracted in this game for too much exploring.  Is the supersonics arena in the game??

mbounce88
mbounce88

Can't wait to see the graphics and gameplay first hand. Seattle will be such an awesome city to play in. Doesn't hurt that i'm from there! Hope its long and fuN!

waxcriminal
waxcriminal

Good for ps4 owners to get a good game!

NightOfInsomnia
NightOfInsomnia

I cannot wait to play this. My copy should be here Saturday, judging by the tracking information I have.

Derbefrier
Derbefrier

"choice matters" after hearing that so much only to find out it boils down to a binary system of right and wrong I hope they use this chance to explore the grey areas of morality and make it truly interesting other being the either just good or bad. I only played the first infamous and even though it was an excellent game if suffered from the same binary morality system that have plagued Bioware games. After a while it just becomes choosing whatever answer fits the template you chose when you started the game leaving no "real" choice at all except the instiall good or bad choice. If they overcome that limitation they really will have something special, I just don't think they will as long as they tie a morality system to a point system.

nep321a
nep321a

This game seriously looks awesome. I want to get a PS4 just for this game.

ziseknsa
ziseknsa

Delsin the dolphin, a little home-alone-emo hipster running around killing everything with his purple magic.- Nah thanks I'll pass

IndependenceYou
IndependenceYou

Neever played any. This guy seems wayyy too over powered. Wheres the challenge.

bbq_R0ADK1LL
bbq_R0ADK1LL

I've played both Infamous games twice (although never quite finished my second for I2). I played good the first time on normal difficulty & evil on hard. Playing evil is usually more fun & it's worth cranking up the difficulty because I think the evil powers are easier to play with. Killing civilians is easy.

The main failing in the 'morality' system is that once you choose a path, you have to continue down it to level up all your powers. Unfortunately that diminishes the importance of each choice, but overall I still like the system. I'm hoping for more divergent side missions in Second Son. This series has always been worth playing through twice, but even more story divergence would be great.

PlatinumPaladin
PlatinumPaladin

I really don't know what to make of this. I'll admit I've always found inFamous' karma system to be a fairly hollow game mechanic. Morality has never been an issue, you were simply choosing a weapon loadout; heavy or precision, and you'd carry on down that path like using the same gun in Call of Duty until you'd unlocked all the mods for it. That always seemed like a lazy or poor attempt to me.

I'm not entirely sure it was Sucker Punch's intention, but the talk of inFamous being a comic book game in this article, and not forcing the player to deeply consider any form of moral ambiguity made me think that maybe it's best to play through it as if there simply isn't a moral decision to be made. To think of the protagonist not so much as a single character with moral dilemmas, but as two separate characters. It's a small distinction, and one that everyone else has probably been aware of for some time,  but it's a revelation to me.

jsmoke03
jsmoke03

this will be frustrating trying to play the hero.....hope everyone knows that.

dgh511
dgh511

really cant wait for this...

coaltango
coaltango

Initially i kinda had my doubts about this game, but now im pumped up! cant wait to watch the review & then get the game hopefully

Findy37564
Findy37564

i will burn all that stand in my path 

OneHundredPunks
OneHundredPunks

@Optimist_Pryme Good point. Who is the most boring super hero? Superman. All good, no grey at all. Gimme Batman or Daredevil all day.

E-Major
E-Major

@Optimist_Pryme  whiles this is true i wouldn't say that these characters exist in the gray area. It's more that they have managed to range from good to evil (and sometimes back again). Lets face it comics thrive on extremes because when we get REAL gray we are in essence dealing with everyday life which is..........everyday and boring. Its the BIG good or bad decisions that get people pumped and in that respect Sucker punch have succeeded admirably with the infamous series.

adub424
adub424

@IamTakkun I agree it looks like they are just starting to get to the point that Mass Effect series was years ago and executed fantastically. The fable series found ways in their game mechanic to make the moral grey areas much more important than spoiling your combo counter. Nothing I have seen from this game so far makes me excited. I sure hope they have something really cool up their sleeve we need a good game for the PS4.

patsfan365
patsfan365

@Crazyguy105 I'm pretty hyped for this game and loved the others, but I have to agree. I think what they should've done with the karmic system is walk the morally-grey path. I'm not saying they should just add a new color between blue and red for people who don't know whether to be good or evil, but when it comes to story choices, leave out the colors and neon-signs that differentiate between good and evil. Keep the combat karma system, that looks great, but write major choices in the story in ways that don't make it obvious what's good and what's evil, then strip away the colors and let the player choose based on what they THINK is right. I saw someone play the ending of the second one, and they wanted to play the whole game through evil, but when they came to the final choice, they didn't see how the evil choice was more evil than the good choice, because it was written in a way that made it sound kind of good. If not for the colors and obvious descriptions, he probably wouldn't have known which choice was good or evil, and that would've been amazing. Right now the series isn't really "karmic-based", but more really "choose your path".

Karlinel
Karlinel

@Derbefrier  Looks like that will still be the case, if they are going for the "comic book" style then it'd make sense being black/white, since there are really few gray area characters in that media.

Chronologo
Chronologo

@IndependenceYou  Play the games first and then ask where's the challenge, you don't start with all the powers at your disposal. I finished the first 2 ones in hard difficulty on both paths, good and evil.

BlazeKingz
BlazeKingz

@Helidokter @BlazeKingzMy question is will the AI be smart enough to run away when there is a fight? If you want to be accurate that means you have to stay still and take your time to aim which was pretty much impossible in the previous games where the reason you stayed alive was the whole mobility thing. you were climbing and dodging and spraying lighning mixed with grenades because if you got sourrounded and didnt move you were pretty much knocked down and killed.

E-Major
E-Major

@adub424  Actually forcing the player to take moral choice into consideration as part of their play style is fairly groundbreaking. In Mass Effect (a game i LOVED btw) the choices were entirely story based and didn't REALLY affect the actual fighting. Whereas what sucker punch is trying to do is create a feel of...

Good Guy = "I need to take these punks down fast before someone else gets hurt"

Bad Guy = "MWAHAHAHA DIE DIE DIE"

If they can pull it off then this should be a VERY emotional game.

Imagine actually caring that you just shot nameless npc b in the nutts.

Carpetfluff
Carpetfluff

@adub424  Well, seeing as they have kept plenty under wraps this time there's plenty of potential for surprise. Looking forward to actually getting a big new game that I don't know everything about weeks before it's out...this should happen more often.

adub424
adub424

@Karlinel @Crazyguy105 Mass Effect did enough character and story development to make the choices seem like choices. Do you kill Kaden or Ashley, Do you save the Rachni, If you make the wrong choice on a character mission you can lose that character for two or three games. Shoot if you made the wrong choices in ME2 your version of Sheppard died permanently. This seems to make moral choice a chore rather than a plot driver. If you want the really cool red ability you had better make the right choice or you wont get to see it.