Why yes, this IS the time of year where parody articles show up everywhere, why do you ask?
Today, we have a very special interview for our loyal Destructoid readers. We’ve reached out to head of Totally Real Indie Studio Bledi Bleino, who happens to look exactly like myself but with a funny mustache, to talk about TRIS’s first project on the day of its public reveal.
Bleino’s magnum opus, Mor’Al Choisses, is a divergent narrative-driven tactical action Japanese RPG featuring Dante from the Devil May Cry series, themed around moral choices. While the preview build I played and all the footage I took is still under embargo, I can say the build reminded me of sensational hits like inFamous: Second Sonand Mass Effect Andromeda.
This completely professional discussion revealed a lot about his deep understanding of intertwining game design with narrative design. He demonstrated a masterful demonstration of demonstrating moral choices in video demonstration games. Just talking with him gets me excited for choosing between binary moral compasses!
Disclosure: Bledi Bleino is my third cousin twice removed. I barely even remember he exists, so no bias here. Also disclaimer, he paid me $100,000 in exposure to talk about his game.
Read on for the full interview with Bledi Bleino.
Chris: So, Bleino, tell me about Mor’Al Choisses and its inspirations.
Bledi: Well, as a hardcore storytelling aficionado, one of my favorite genres is RPGs. I’ve immersed myself into several minutes of emotional storytelling across a staggering two books, video games, and tabletop roleplay campaigns. But I’ve yet to play a game that truly feels like it can invoke the same personal investment into your actions as real life. And like any story, life is like a roller coaster of difficult choices.
Should I stand up to the bully who gave me a purple nurple, or give someone else a swirlie? Should I vote that the world’s strongest superhero is Superman, or Goku? Should I become the world’s savior, or its destroyer? And other things we ask ourselves every day. I wanted to develop a story based around such decisions, to invoke that sense of investment and visceral immersion. The story of a creative world named Mor’Al, and a series of unique, yet personally relatable scenarios, that we call Choisses.
C: Interesting. Can you share some more examples of what choices we’ll make?
B: Well, on your journey through Mor’Al, you will face many difficult situations that will force you to deeply reflect on your true moral principles. Will you save your childhood friend the narrative introduced to you two hours ago, or sacrifice her to a demon lord for a Slightly Rare Broadsword? Do you pledge your loyalty to the peaceful Rainbowsparkle Kingdom, or the war-torn Murderskull Empire? Do you donate to the orphanage or burn it down?
These questions and many more will challenge you to carve your own legacy unlike any branching narrative to come before it. These are the Choisses of Mor’Al. These are what reflect upon the very essence of your life and character, your soul itself. No repeat playthrough can wipe away your past. Unless you dig into the game’s files and fudge around with your save data for a few minutes. That might purify your soul, I guess?
C: Ah, I see. But how do these choices relate to the gameplay?
B: Well, much like real life, your Choisses will have consequences. Saving the village might earn you a discount for equipment that is almost as strong as uncommon loot drops. Being an upstanding paragon of light might allow you to recruit a righteous paladin to your cause who will stand by your sense of justice, even if you steal a baby’s candy seconds after meeting him. You might stumble across an NPC who tells you that the innocent girl you spared from the orphanage you burnt down five weeks ago is actually a succubus, and now you need to go on a sidequest to kill her. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Choiss to just ignore her entirely and shirk your responsibility. That doesn’t say anything about your character or your outlook on life.
Also, being evil makes you stronger with no negative side effects except for spawning some annoying patrol officers you can effortlessly ignore. Just like real life! I should know.
C: Fascinating. How do you expect people to make these choices?
B: Well, the most compelling part of any interactive story is being surprised by where it goes. It’s easy to assume you have a sequence of events figured out before you’ve seen them. So when those expectations are subverted but you still need to respond, you instead have to go with your instinct or contemplate questions you never thought about before.
That’s why we’re extremely upfront about what virtues your Choisses align with so that you’ll always choose the one that most closely fits your preferences. You’ll probably never even read the other options as long as you have a label telling you that A or B gives you the alignment points you want. Why waste time thinking about your actions when you can just impulsively walk down a single path? Thanks to this brilliant user-friendly convenience, you’ll never accidentally choose a Choiss that gives you Paragon points instead of Renegade!
C: Cool beans. One last question. This conversation reminded me of a similarly innovative game released last year, Torment: Tides of Numenera for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. That game decided to eschew traditional good vs. evil or law vs. chaos scales in favor of a system that reflected five core virtues of its setting, and how they revolved around a single thematic question. Did that game’s multi-faceted and meaningful morality mechanics influence yours in any way?
B: Leave this place.