Nope, not really. However...
If there was an increased difficulty as a result of saving them, how would we know? Increased difficulty versus what? If we are constantly kept in the dark as to what the other choice would have resulted in, then all we can go on is our own imagining if how it would have been different.
And plus, difficulty isn't the only way we can perceive sacrifice either. Getting emotionally invested in the story, and having the tale unravel differently could also constitute a form of sacrifice because we like the general sense of omniscience that a game's conclusion can bring.
Well hold on, I actually bring a lot of myself into a game, and it was no different with Bioshock. The first time I faced the choice, my immediate question was simply, should I kill this thing that just tried to kill me (pretty hard I might add). Then I thought a lot (A LOT) about what harvesting her would say about me and what kind of person I wanted to be (both within the game and in a general sense). And in the end, I pretty much thought damn the consequences (if any), I have to save her because my momma didn't raise no killah.
Think about the alternative. Let's say that in Bioshock, you got a significant penalty in terms of adam for saving the little sisters. The game would get increasingly difficult as you play because of this deficit, meaning that each time you come across a little sister the temptation to murder them to get's more and more strong. Wouldn't that be a more interesting dynamic? Wouldn't that actually be a dilemma?
Again, there's no way that a player would know that though! "Significant penalty in terms of adam for saving the little sisters" versus what? You see where I'm going with this right? There are certain things we now know, only after having played through it. But the decision wasn't nearly so clear - and much more blind - at the time of playthrough.
But... and just to beat that dead horse one more time... what if the player had no idea that the game was kept balanced?
Okay, let me rephrase that. Inhuman was a poor choice of wording. If I believe that a person has reached a state of perpetual and irrevocable negative change in nature, I generally don't feel like they're worth saving. If something ceases to be what it was in it's original state, I tend to have less sympathy for it. A dog would still be a dog, and animal would still be an animal, so they're okay. But a permanent mutant, vampire, zombie, Kerrigan, etc. is pretty much available for dispatch in my book.
Hmm, gotta say, that probably wouldn't keep me awake at nights.
I dunno. You can generally tell when a game starts getting difficult when resources become limited. You know when you've been wasting bullets, for instance, when they start running out in Resident Evil or Dead Space.
Or in RPG's the process of grinding is to metagame the difficulty because you get a sense that the difficulty is scaling beyond your ability to cope with it.
In a simulation game you might start adjusting behaviour or taking risks because of the limit of some resource. For instance in Simcity you might start taking out loans because you might be able to spend your way out of a hole that you've dug yourself.
In the same way you might be tempted to start killing little sisters if the game implicitly promises you a big reward in terms of Adam.
Scarcity / difficulty modifies behaviour and you generally get a sense when the game is difficult because of choices designers made, or choices that you have made. This doesn't require alternate playthroughs because you can get a sense of the difficulty changing as you play. Difficulty is an absolute quantity in that you personally experience how difficult a game is for you. An imagined scenario of some other difficulty doesn't make the game any more or less challenging to play.
The development team behind BioShock 2 was very much aware of the criticisms regarding the whole morality thing in first game. Choosing to save the little sisters instead of harvesting them is much more punishing in the second game. Like, the discrepancy between the rewards you glean from harvesting them and choosing not to is much vaster, and later on the game gets a lot harder if you decide to save all of 'em. That's what's so frustrating about BioShock 2: it actually makes quite a few improvements to the first game in terms of actual mechanics, and it explores some neat philosophical areas of collectivism, but it ends up being so boring and uninspired just in terms of artistic design.
For one thing, the main centerpiece of getting to play as a Big Daddy didn't really turn out to be as omgexciting as they were counting on, and in the beginning there's a pretty big moment of disappointment when you realize you're not this hulking death machine, but rather have armor that is apparently paper thin and can be defeated more readily than any other Big Daddy in the history of Rapture. Actually, this is the right thing to do from a game development standpoint: you want to start the players out feeling weak and helpless and give them a carrot in the prospect of becoming much stronger. If you know anything about the series then you know Big Daddies are really powerful and sort of universally feared around Rapture. But therein lies the problem: being a Big Daddy seems to mean nothing to most of the people you encounter. When you come up against some random Splicers, they should be terrified of you just because of what you represent. Sure, they could probably figure our you're a weakling soon enough, but there's no initial "oh shi--- !" only to be followed up by a "hey, wait, this guy is a pushover!" They even add insult to injury by doing this during the intro segment, when several citizens see you and scamper out of your way. So... what happened?
Ultimately the biggest problem with BioShock 2 was the lack of actual direction. The pacing sucked, there were no memorable set pieces like when you grabbed the shotgun for the first time in the original, no tricks with light and shadow, no musical cues (hell, not even creepy music half the time). You were in a Rapture after anything really memorable took place. Loooong after. Honestly, the new plot points in the game were less interesting than the little blurbs you unearthed about Andrew Ryan's vacation at a bathhouse. Yikes.
Sure, you arrived after a lot of the chaos in the first game, but it worked so well because you were not only trying to survive, but were also cast you in the role of the archaeologist digging up relics of interesting things that happened earlier, basically trying to figure out what the hell is going on around you (and in the process who you're supposed to be). The first game had a very keen understanding of the limitations of gameplay mechanics, and it even mocked you with this, taunting your inability to really deviate from the script as a gamer. You can do things your way, sure, but if you want to play the game you ultimately have to play by someone else's rules.
And thus we come to the idea of morality in the first game. Often times in games when you choose the "harder road" you gain something worthwhile: the better ending, a higher score, even an acknowledgement (not playing on "beginner" or "easy") or sense of accomplishment. Sure, if there's no penalty for saving the little sisters, the decision to save them is easier. But what's wrong with that? Why do we assume doing the right thing is hard? Does "doing the right thing" actually have to hurt you to be the right thing? I get the whole concept of sacrifice, believe me. However I don't think sacrifice is intrinsically necessarily for something to be "the right thing." In the case of videogames, I'd argue that making the good decisions harder is essentially stripping them of ambiguity, basically acting as a red flag for what the developer often thinks is the just action. I think the developers realized this and struggled with it in the first game.
To add to my above point, the idea of virtue in many contexts is that the ease of execution depends more on the individual. Those who do good are more predisposed to doing good in the future, whereas those to whom virtue is alien will have a harder time of it. This is sort of the operating principle behind many systems of morality, including religious morality and the notion of grace (God's helping you to do the right thing). In the case of videogames, I see the argument behind the little sisters thing: you should choose to do the right thing because it's the right thing and not because it's easy or you expect something from it. I agree. However we run into a problem when you start prescribing that doing the right thing should equate to some kind of harder gameplay experience, some form of punishment.
Sure, it *can* result in a harder time. And it makes that decision more dramatic when we do it in spite of having a harder time of it. However one could argue that there is an expectation here: I am getting something out of it, because I'm triumphing even though the game was harder. I'm more of a badass. Plus I was a badass while doing the right thing! I'm a pious badass.
My second point is that many gamers come to associate the virtuous path with the more difficult path. When we encounter increased difficulty, it serves as a cue that the developers think that's the more virtuous path. In a way THAT makes moral decisions easier, because we have a yardstick beyond ourselves.
Sure, if there's no penalty for saving the little sisters, the decision to save them is easier. But what's wrong with that? Why do we assume doing the right thing is hard? Does "doing the right thing" actually have to hurt you to be the right thing? I get the whole concept of sacrifice, believe me. However I don't think sacrifice is intrinsically necessarily for something to be "the right thing." In the case of videogames, I'd argue that making the good decisions harder is essentially stripping them of ambiguity, basically acting as a red flag for what the developer often thinks is the just action. I think the developers realized this and struggled with it in the first game.
Interesting point, that. Had there been an obvious slant to the imbalance of rewards, would we now be wondering what that says about the morality system of the developers? And worse, as Mupps points out, how quickly would that have become obvious to the gamer... and thus exploited?
And maybe, just maybe, the world of Rapture was so effed... that for us to simply not do the wrong thing (i.e. do as they do because I'm sure no slicer would pass up a chance at harvesting a little sister) was the right thing.
I'm actually more curious about a third option that was never implemented... that of simply doing nothing. Don't harvest them, but don't take the slug out either. Wonder what would have happened then?
You can always "spin" morality in many ways. Harvesting the Little Sisters? Mercy killing. I mean, there's no guarantee you or Tannenbaum would make it out of there. Some might think it more humane to end it quickly than let them slowly starve to death or be ripped apart by Splicers or worse.
Though I myself don't agree, it's just an example of morality-a-go-go.
Choosing to do nothing is an interesting one. On the one hand, the Little Sisters would be protected since they have their Big Daddies there to kill off most of whatever tries to come adam at them. However choosing to do nothing is still a choice as Rush would remind you, and non-activity is still an activity. There is something to be said for the notion of silence as consent. By not doing anything you're basically saying "I'm OK with the way things are in Rapture." Then again, you may be able to bring about change in some other way through some other means, but it's likely you wont survive for long or be able to stop the baddies without the aid of adam. Also the second game shows you what happens to the Little Sisters when they're allowed to mature into young women. It ain't too pretty. So in a way, one could argue doing nothing is the worst choice of all.
That's why I liked the morality systems in the first two Mass Effects and in Deus Ex. Being a paragon or renegade wasn't "good" and "bad" so much as how you choose to approach the solution to a situation. In both cases you're rewarded, but in different ways.
I've got the Liquid Lightning 2 up and running.
I've left it on for most of the day, as I observe some amps (like the LL1) sound best after being on for a few hours. I've also observed that 'stats sound better when you've left them on for a while. In theory, the stators should charge up almost instantaneously. However there's some conventional wisdom about leaving them plugged in all the time rather than discharging them by touching the pins. Seems like one of those mysterious areas like cable difference and burn-in, though in this case I'm fairly convinced of "warm up time" being real for stats and many amps (stat or otherwise).
Some preliminary notes:
~> This thing is a beast. Large, heavy, sturdy ... very nice! If the Liquid Lightning was a species of wild amplifier critters, the LL1 would be the smaller more colorful looking male while the LL2 would be the larger more uniform female. She'd be the one doing all the hunting, methinks.
~> The front panel is lovely. Dr. Cavalli has improved the etching / engraving used on it, so it shows up better than on the LG while still maintaining the stealth look. Texture and overall look of the front panel is like the LG's. Black only, apparently.
~> Improved ventilation on the chassis is a good thing. There are vents on the sides now, as the top of the amp is mostly a big open grate. I miss the yin-yang design of the older amps however. Also a good thing are the added inputs.
~> The jacks are the same proprietary ones from the LL1. Which means they start out being ridiculously stiff. Really, since I had Dr. Cavalli loosen the jacks on mine I forgot just how hard it is to plug stuff in LOL. He says that the production LL2 will come with looser jacks from the get-go thankfully. Also the jacks on the LL2 are flush with the front panel rather than slightly recessed as in the LL1.
~> Compared to the LL1, the amp is definitely more similar than dissimilar. Tonality is the same. It's still a stately, "grand" sounding amp with a punchy lower end and overall organic quality.
~> Detail level seems slightly greater than the LL1. I'd put it roughly on par with the BHSE now in that respect. Better definition around the edges. Vocals seem to "pop" more now.
~> Better sense of layering compared to LL1. This was by no means a weak point of the LL1, however the LL2 sounds a bit more open and multi-dimensional, and as a result I'm finding the LL2 to be a little more immersive.
~> I've noticed a very slight hum coming from the amp itself. It's not present through the headphones: the background on headphones is pitch black. However there is a definite hum coming from the chassis of the amp. I'm guessing it's especially audible since the amp is really open: the top is essentially a grate. Talked to Dr. Cavalli about this, and he is aware of the issue. His explanation to me was that the transformer wasn't potted correctly by Custom Magnetics, but that there was no time to fix it before sending it out to me. He assures me the production amps will be next-to-totally silent.
All listening has been done with the SR-009 for the time being. I plan on using the SR-007 as well at some point, though TBH I don't want to do too much swapping because the sockets are so tight, making removal of the plugs a major hassle. I'll probably leave the SR-009 in the top socket and the SR-007 in the bottom for the extent of the audition.
So far I'd say it's an improvement over the original in sonics, though how much of an improvement is a little trickier for me to answer with any degree of certainty. It's clear Dr. Cavalli has spent a lot of time improving the layout of the original LL and fixing stray capacitance, however. This has resulted in a performance boost.
At this point I'm a bit uncertain as to whether I'm going to sell my original LL to fund the revised version. I really like the LL2, but I'm also extremely attached to my LL1. It's a bond that transcends pure performance. It helps knowing that my LL1 would probably be going to a very cool head-fier, but still. I guess we'll see!
Pictures of the LL1 and LL2 together will follow soon-ish. Maybe some shots of the LG too.
Very few people want one -- they prefer to either use their IEMs only with balanced amps, or swap cables when they swap amps. I wasn't keen on the idea of continually plugging and unplugging my IEMs (IEM sockets are notoriously fragile) so I made an adaptor instead.
It's also complicated by there being no inline sockets for that connector type -- only panel or board mount. So if you want a nice sleek housing you have to mould your own out of epoxy. Mine is just wrapped in red electrical tape
Sorry for the weird photo - it's the best pic I have of it.
Doesn't the game designer's contract with the player (that the game is designed to be completable/survivable/winnable with knowledge found and skills developed within the game) imply proper balance as well? Otherwise it's not winnable except by chance, or it's not interesting.
I haven't played Bioshock and don't even know much about its storyline, but a_rec's example of the misleading consequences of altruism is interesting. Games do not necessarily have to be anti-altruistic, but that's how almost all of them shake out. It's much harder to make a game compelling and playable when the goal is to make the player work against their own best interests, because if the gamer's goal is to work against their own best interests, their working-against-their-best-interest score becomes their best interest, a currency to accumulate, that makes it easier to ignore other consequences in the same way that when killing people is the gamer's goal it's easier to ignore the consequences of all those corpses you've left behind.
There's an idea: An in-game requirement that when you kill anybody, you have to provide their last rites and properly dispose of the body according to local customs; All while not getting busted for, you know, murder.
Wow just finished reading that disaster that is called the X3 thread.... lol. I have a headache after that ordeal. I remember having it out with that Gorillaz guy on the Heir thread before....