Player freedom in sandbox games is always a tricky balancing act, and developers often have to walk a very fine line to prevent their games from becoming “gankboxes.” This is the exact subject of Legends of Aria’s latest dev blog, in which Citadel Studios’s Jeffrey “Miphon” Edwards details the game’s Karma system and the difficulties of creating a system that provides players sufficient freedom — particularly in terms of criminal activity — while avoiding becoming “the dreaded ‘gankbox,’ a system which inevitably has a minority of winners and a graveyard of losers.”
According to the dev blog, one of the central facets of creating the Karma system is the notion of risk vs. reward: “With respect to risk it is imperative that players are coerced as opposed to forced out of their comfort zone. Risk can be a thrilling enterprise when engaged in willingly or a nightmare when enforced,” Edwards writes. The amount of risks a player is willing to take will likely correspond to his or her Karma level, which is divided into three alignments: Innocent, Chaotic, and Outcast. Innocent and Outcast occupy the extreme ends of the spectrum, with Innocent players “[enjoying] full protection from aggression inside the protected lands” and Outcast players being, well, outcast from civilization and hunted wherever they go.
The Chaotic alignment, however, occupies something of a grey area. These players are not completely exiled from civilization, nor do they enjoy the same degree of protection afforded to the Innocent, thus allowing them to still take part in PvP conflict “anywhere outside towns” without fully committing to a life of outlawry. For more details on Legends of Aria’s alignment and Karma system, you can check out the full post — and the accompanying feature highlight video — on the game’s official site.