In every game since Ultima IV, designer Richard Garriott has included a room where players are asked to kill or save a room full of children. The moral mechanic dates back to a moment during Ultima IV's development where he wanted players to prove how good they really were, Garriott told Crispy Gamer in an interview today.
"What I created was a room with cages in the four corners filled with children, and in the middle of the room was a lever," he explained. "And if you threw the lever it would open the cages. But the things that actually looked like children were in fact monsters, and the monsters would just come over and attack you. And I knew that this would cause the player to wonder — as they first saw the lever there, they’d probably go, 'Uh-oh, what do I do now? Because I’m the good guy, and I probably should free these children.'"
Garriott's decision was met with resistance from even his own brother, his business partner at the time, when a tester raised a complaint about it. His brother refused to be associated with a game where players were given the choice to kill children, but Garriott wouldn't budge on the issue. In Garriott's mind, "the fact that this person was moved to this level of emotional response, I think is a good thing."
Eventually, despite protest from much of his family, Garriott kept the feature in the game and it went more or less unnoticed. But the experience has remained a profound one for Garriott; he's included a similar room in all of his games since, including his most recent project, the recently shut down MMO Tabula Rasa.
Head on over to Crispy for the full interview.
What have you chosen to do when presented with this dilemma in Garriott's games?