If you're like me, you play morality-filled games as a generally good person the first time around. The second time, you experiment being the bad guy.

Stephen Totilo asked "Fallout 3" producer Todd Howard if he'd solved what Totilo called the "Han Solo Problem," where it's seldom as fun to play as a mix of nice guy and bad guy, since games tend to only reward only extreme behavior.

Howard claimed "Fallout 3" hadn't completely solved it, but "Fable II" designer Peter Molyneux told me last week it will be fun to play as a character with mixed morality in "Fable II" because it's difficult to be truly good or evil.

His team may have solved the "Han Solo problem." Read More...

'Fallout 3'

When I finished playing "Fallout 3" last week at a small New York press event I was told I had played further into the game than anyone who touched the role-playing game at E3.

Ah, to be a pioneer in the game voted Best of Show in the Game Critics Awards competition at E3.

I was a judge for the Game Critics Awards, and I didn't even pick "Fallout 3" as my favorite. I went with "Little Big Planet." If that makes me a skeptic, then perhaps you'd like to know what I thought of the game. After all, I did play more than anyone did at E3 (did I mention that already?).

Without spoiling much, here's what I did:

'Fallout 3'

When the United States is busy electing a president this fall, the developers at Bethesda Softworks will be hoping that gamers are enjoying their time in a nuked Washington, D.C.

And, no, there's no connection.

I spoke with "Fallout 3" executive producer Todd Howard recently about his team's game, a sequel to the beloved top-down role-playing game PC series that is getting a first-person/third-person "Oblivion"-style treatment from Bethesda.

No political statement intended, according to Howard. The timing of the release of "Fallout 3" so close to a national election is "all a coincidence," he told me. Development of the game started in 2004 without any sense of when it would come out. For all the opportunity of staging a post-apocalyptic action role-playing game in a bombed-out Washington circa 2277, Howard maintains the game "has nothing to do with the current state of affairs."

During our half-hour interview, Howard could be more affirmative about some other stuff, though, like how the game's dog behaves, why his game will finally do justice to the nation's capital, and what his favorite perk is in the game's humorous upgrade system: Read More...

'Fallout 3'

Video games often discourage players from living interesting, unpredictable virtual lives. Play a game that allows you to be good or evil, violent or peaceful, and seldom will you find that a mixed approach is rewarded. Special powers are given to players who direct their character to behavioral extremes.

Morality-coded video games like "Fable" or "Knights of the Old Republic" encourage you to be a Luke Skywalker or an Emperor. They seldom dole out a specific reward if you choose the Han Solo path instead. But isn't the morally mixed path the most interesting one? Isn't it the most life-like? Or even the path most of us walk in real life, being nice to some people and not so nice to others?

This is what I confronted "Fallout 3" executive producer Todd Howard with in the middle of an interview about his team's upcoming game: "Can we take a middle path, and will you, unlike most developers, reward us for it?"

Howard told me just how far they've come in addressing that issue: Read More...

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