Saturday, September 19, 2020

The Mystery of a Nameless Prisoner (DDO)

One of the things I really enjoy about MMOs, and games in general, is neat background details you can sometimes find.  Dungeons and Dragons Online has a lot of them, especially in older content.  Here is one of my favorites.

If you are working on the Tangleroot Gorge quest line,  it has a bit of a Groundhog Day feel to it.  You end up going into the same dungeon six or more times, with a slightly different objective on each run.  For example your first time in you are just scouting and killing a few hobgoblins, the second time in you are freeing prisoners.  However, much of the layout, trap and mob placement is identical on each run.

A lot of players find the quest chain annoyingly repetitive.  However, one advantage to the strange setup is that the quests can give you a sense of events progressing over time as you enter and re-enter the dungeon.  One of the designers took advantage of this to add in a neat little side story that unfolds over successive runs, but only if you take time to clear out an optional area on every run.

The second time you enter the dungeon, you are rescuing prisoners.  However there is an optional area where you can fight some scorpions:


After you kill them, if your strength (or that of one of your hirelings) is high enough you can go through the double doors at the back. There you find this bedraggled NPC:



At first he is raving about invisible bugs that are attack him, but when you start speaking to him he calms down.  He relates that he tried to escape, but got stung by the scorpions in the process.  He is now dying from the venom, and it's too late for you to help him.  As he starts to fade, he relates something ominous:

"Hiding down here in the dark, I started listening .  .  . listening to the stones.  It sounds like I'm mad from the venom.  Maybe I am.  But I've heard a voice.  Something lives down here . . . besides the hobgoblins.  Something old and angry.  It lives in a watery cave, and it hates.  Such hate in that voice . . . I am glad I will never meet its owner."

He then drops to the floor, dead.


After that there is a treasure chest nearby, and you go on with your adventure.  However if you go to the same optional spot and beat up the scorpions again, you find a single zombie in the area where where you talked to the NPC:


The next time through, if you go to the area for a fourth time, you find a single skeleton:
 

And if you go by one final time, you find only an inanimate skeleton on the floor:


Apparently his body  is now too forgone even for whatever dark magic animated his corpse before to revive him.  At last he is is at peace.   

Much later in the quest chain, in yet another optional side area, you can find out what he was talking about.  After killing the boss in the second to last quest of the chain, he drops a key and  this book:


When you pick up the book, the in-game narrator intones: "Zulkash's notes speak about trying to control an elemental in a water filled cavern."

Back near the entrance to the dungeon, if you are the type of player that explores the quest areas really thoroughly,  you may have noticed a grate underwater that you couldn't open .  


With the key from the boss, you can now open the grate, which leads to a long underwater passage.  


If you have water breathing, a decent swim skill, or are a living golem and don't need to breath like my character, you can swim to the end of the passage.  It opens up into a large cavern, in the back of which is an island with three stone elementals. Zulkash has apparently been trying to take control of them using magic with little success:


When you kill the elementals you get a bit of XP and an extra treasure chest.  Not hugely rewarding, but it's an interesting side story that you have to put in some work to see.  I love little details like these that game designers sometimes put in for us to find.  You can tell that they are real labors of love.  

Saturday, September 12, 2020

What do we want from MMOs of the future? Is it really the Multiverse?

Lately I have been really entertained by the anime of Sword Art Online and the spin off show Gun Gale Online, both available to stream on Netflix (at least in the US).  One of the things I like about them is the focus on MMO gaming and gamers. They depict players hanging out in alternate reality style MMOs in the near future. Inside the games are huge cities that have social gathering spaces, shops, and even kiosks where you go to sign up for tournaments.  Players spend as much time chilling out in bars and coffee shops as actually doing anything to advance their characters. When they head out into the larger worlds of the games to have adventures, the gameplay depicted seems mostly very unstructured.  There are  raids and PUBG style battle royal matches, but for the most part players either hunt random mobs or each other.  

There certainly don't seem to be many quests or quest hubs where NPCs hand out random tasks.  You never see players roll up with ten rat corpses, turn them in to someone and then agonize over whether to get a pair of shoes or a hat as the quest reward.  I think it's meant to depict the ultimate incarnation of an "alternate world" style MMO.  A parallel reality that you inhabit during your spare time much more than a game per se.  It makes for a compelling TV show because it puts the focus on the characters and their motivations, rather than whatever in game story lines they are playing through.*  It also tackles some issues I think many MMO fans can relate to at least a little bit about like why we play these games in the first place.  

However, I am not sure I would really enjoy the "games" that the characters in the show are playing.  The game designs seem far too unfocused, with no narrative at all save what the players bring to them.  One of the elements of games that I enjoy is that they can serve as an interesting alternative to books or movies as a way to experience a narrative.   As much fun as the shows are, I'm not convinced that what is on display is my idea of the ultimate MMO.

Another fictional game that often gets held up as the ultimate virtual world for developers to attain to is the "multiverse" from Ready Player One.   For example the developer EnjinX tried to build hype for their platform by bragging that they had created the "real multiverse from Ready Player One" using blockchain.  "Blockchain" and "the multiverse," there's some buzzwords that will make investors drool!   But is the multiverse really what we want?  Based on my single viewing of the the movie, It's depicted as a bunch of semi-independent games linked by  a sort of persistent virtual metropolis.  Kind of like Second Life, only with more actual games.  Or maybe something like Free Realms, but for adults and with more emphasis on social hubs.  While moderately successful, neither one of those games exactly set the world on fire.  I can't say I'm convinced that  "Free Realms on steroids" is the path all developers should be heading down. 

Of course the "multiverse" is older than Ready Player One.  It's pretty much the exact same idea as the "metaverse" from Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.  That is also in turn heavily inspired by "cyberspace" from the novels of William Gibson and others.  So the multiverse is obviously an idea that many authors and readers find compelling.  I have to agree that it's a lot of fun to read about these sorts of virtual spaces.  But would we really want to inhabit them?  Is there really a huge market for some sort of virtual-experience focused internet that you need to create an avatar to interact with?  I'm not really sure that there is.  

Almost all of the elements depicted in these works of fiction have already been tried out in one way or another.  Gaming spaces connected to persistent social hubs have been around for a long time.  The first one I played, unless you want to count Everquest, was Phantasy Star Online back in the 2000 on the Dreamcast.  It had virtual lobbies where players would hang out and chat in between going on adventures.  They were quite lively at times, but I never felt like they were the future of gaming.  Home on the Playstation 3 also was a similar idea in some ways.  It was basically a mall that your virtual home connected to, where you would wander around, socialize and interact with whatever games or advertisements  various publishers and retailers decided to put up.  I thought it was pretty neat, and I'll even contradict my main point by admitting that in some ways I think Home may have been ahead of it's time.

More modern games like Fortnite have taken this model much further, with social spaces outside of the main game areas where things like live concerts or other events sometimes take place.  There are also three different game modes associated Fortnite now.  If some works of fiction are to be believed, that's a big part of the way towards a multiverse.  If you buy the premise of Ready Player One, pretty much all that needs to be done is to connect more game styles (e.g., racing, sports, and RPGs) and some more impressive social spaces to Fortnite and we well on the path to an alternate universe that sets the world on fire.  Everyone that could afford to would want to go there.  In some ways the inequities and suffering of the real world would be lessened, as we would all have a virtual paradise we could escape to at will.

However, I find myself skeptical that this kind of utopic virtual dawn is really all that simple, or so close.   Certainly we could take the Free Realms model, where you create one avatar and then use it to play lots of different styles of game, to the next level.  But I personally am not all too sure I want that.  I really don't mind making different avatars for different games, nor the process of logging in and out of them.  When I am playing one game, I don't need or want to be indirectly connected to any others.  For example, when I am running around in DDO I don't often find myself wishing I could take whatever character I am playing there and jump into a racing game or a tennis simulator.  Nor do I often wish I could take my character from Shot Online into Everquest.  For purely social interactions, my phone (or Zoom for groups) is a heck of a lot easier to use than a virtual meeting space embedded in a game.  

Despite this, in the end I also have to admit that no-one has ever really tried very hard to make the multiverse/ metaverse/ cyberspace. The technology to do so will certainly be here soon.  It's already possible to create convincing virtual worlds. We've been iterating on them at least since MUDs.  I would argue the largest barrier remaining for a "metaverse" that we interact with using a mouse and keyboard is a clear market for one.  From there all that's missing is better neural interfaces.  Those are a very active area of research that is advancing rapidly.  I suspect that this enormous piece of the multiverse puzzle is closer to being created than most of us realize. Yet even with that in place, a future where individual games are a lot more immersive seems far more likely than one where every game under the sun is tied together into some sort of virtual social hub.  

In the end I suspect that the barrier that may prove most difficult to overcome is the creation of a publisher neutral VR platform that anyone can plug their product into either for free or close to it.  At least in the near term, full VR versions of standalone products like WoW or Everquest seem much more probable to me than the Multiverse. 

*Addendum:  Right after I wrote this I made it further into the second season of Sword Art Online.  The plot of the second half of the second season actually focuses squarely on an in game quest in one of the MMOs the characters play.  So maybe I'd like the fictional game of the TV show based on the light novel more than I thought :-)


In addition to Gun Gale Online cartoons, this rambling post was inspired by Tipa's "What makes an MMO an MMO?"



Friday, July 24, 2020

The Pursuit of Balance Part II: What We Gained and What We Lost

[Continued from The Pursuit of Balance Part I]

To be sure there are some good things about extreme balance. It makes PuGs a lot easier to assemble if everyone can both put out high DPS and take a few hits.  I have even seen developers brag about game designs where "everyone is a DPS, no-one has to play a tank."  Homogenization also helps eliminate new player traps on the character creation screen.  It really sucks to put 100 hours into a character and then find out you will never be particularly good at the class role you have chosen. You don't have to worry about that in modern MMOs because if two classes can fill the same role at all, they will tend to have a very similar cap on how effective they can be at it.   That's far from a terrible thing.

However I also can't help but feel like we have lost something that originally attracted to me to MMOs. Different classes used to (and in older MMOs generally still do) have wildly different capabilities. This forced you to approach the game from a completely different perspective when you played different classes. I may never have to worry about spending a month of my spare time raising a cripple,  but I also won't need to approach modern games from as many angles. A game with deep, highly varied systems helps create the illusion that you are immersed in a different reality.  Class diversity can be a big part of that.

Take Dark Age of Camelot.  The developers have cut the PvE experience back so much in the last few years that it only takes a few weeks or months to see almost all of it.  Yet when I first restarted this blog a few years ago, I had been wildly entertained for a solid year doing nothing but trying out different classes. The way that classes play is incredibly diverse there.  Learning how to play a mushroom summoner (Animist) teaches you almost nothing about how to play a melee DPS (e.g., Blademaster).  Just getting the basic attack combos down with a class you've never tried before might take hours.  Things that are easy to do on some classes are completely impossible when playing others.  It's not always fair, especially in PvP matchups that tend to go a lot like rock-paper-scissors, but it also leads to gameplay that is incredibly varied.

It doesn't seem to me that there has ever been much of a conversation about whether extreme class balance/ homogenization is a good thing or a bad thing, save for players whining when developers get it wrong. Because of this, developers keep sanding down the rough balance edges, or revising old designs that seemed flawed, and we just sort of ended up where we are now. For better or worse,  in most modern games you can pick any class you want on the character creation screen and have a pretty similar experience playing through most of the content. No matter what class you decide to try,  you'll probably never find that you need to radically re-evaluate your approach to moment-to-moment gameplay, at least once you've gotten the basics of a game down.

I'll return the the example I started with because almost anyone reading this blog is probably familiar with it. Consider how much more varied playing different classes is in WoW Classic compared to Retail.  Totems on a Shaman, hunting down rare animals to tame to learn new skills on a Hunter, convoluted quests to earn new summons on a Warlock.  Heck, even running out of mana constantly on a Balance Druid.  That's the kind of diversity we've lost from much of the genre.  I have mixed feelings about whether the balance we've gained is ultimately worth it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Pursuit of Balance Part I: Where we Ended Up

This post by Bhagpuss got me thinking about class balance, where it started , where we ended up and whether that is a place I'm happy, unhappy or ambivalent about.  In modern MMOs class choice often feels more like a cosmetic decision to me than anything else.  For example, take retail WoW.  Assuming that you are in a DPS spec, the damage that different classes can put out is very similar.  Even a a DPS speced tank class like a Paladin can put out roughly the same damage as a Mage or a Rogue. Your class determines whether you apply most of your damage in melee or at range, and how difficult the rotations are to get the hang of.  It also determines what additional roles you can perform (tank, healing, or only different flavors of DPS), but doesn't really affect your potential damage output by much.  Classes don't have identical DPS of course.  But certainly it's close enough that when out questing solo your time-to-kill feels very similar on nearly any class, and any class can act as a DPS in an instance.

Other games take it even further.  I recently started playing Elder Scroll Online.  At first I was really frustrated by the way classes work.  It didn't seem to make any difference at all which class I picked, they all played pretty much the same.  At low levels you intersperse some kind of weapon attack with whatever your first "spammable" attack skill is. These skills all do pretty much do the same thing, they just look different.  For example, Dragon Knights spam fire whips, and Tempests spam light spears, but they do about the same damage and cost roughly the same mana per use.  In ESO diversity is further diluted by how skills work. Out of dozens of abilities, any given character picks and chooses either five or ten abilities to actually put on their hot bars (and thus be able to use).  These abilities come from various skill lines, and among those skill lines way fewer than half are actually related to your class.  Most of them come from weapons, armor, guilds, and other assorted lines that every class shares.  If you wanted to you could build nearly identical characters starting with different base classes.

Eventually I did come to appreciate the system in ESO.  It makes sense if you consider the offline Elder Scrolls games where any character can develop any skill.  However, ESO falls firmly into the camp of lot of more modern games such as Destiny 2 and Warframe where the effects of the class you pick are pretty subtle.  Maybe one class can turn invisible while another one can occasionally shoot lightening.  But overall the weapon you are using has much more of an impact on gameplay than your class abilities, particularly at low levels.  Functionally the differences among classes in modern games tend to be closer to flavor than the sorts of stark contrasts that separated them in older MMOs. 

For example, in older MMOs the difference in potential damage output among classes used to vary wildly, likely by an order of magnitude. Solo in a game like EQ, DAoC, or FFXI some classes kill things so slowly you could practically eat a sandwich while waiting for a mob to drop.  Yet there are others that can nearly one shot most mobs.  You just don't see those kinds of wild differences very often in modern games.  In modern games, the tendency is for classes to be easier to figure out how to play and to be somewhat homogenized compared to older MMOs.

The reason we ended up here is because modern designers are more interested in balance than diversity.  Given how much players obsess over the tiniest difference in the capabilities of classes, that may also be how most gamers want things.  I have seen arguments break out on message boards about how one class is completely overpowered or another is completely crippled based on comparisons of classes that differ by less than 5% in potential DPS.   Some players seemingly won't be satisfied until the capabilities of every class are literally identical.  This obsession with balance has slowly led to widespread class homogenization.

Tomorrow I'll actually get to the point of all this :-) 

[Part II here.  I decided to break this post up because it really got away from me.  Looking over it on my lunch break, "Wall of text hits, wall of text crits you for 200 damage!"  started going through my head.  If you managed to catch the whole thing while the second half was up, and actually read it all, bravo!] 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

When you live in terror of "improvements" to your game

Dungeons and Dragons online has one of the more unique endgame progression systems.  Once you hit level 20 or higher, you can reincarnate your character and start over again at level 1.  Your name and sex carry over, but you can completely change your race, class and other build choices. You also get to keep all the gear you earned during your previous life.

The main reason to reincarnate is that your character gets slightly stronger every time you do it.  The first few reincarnations you gain more points to spend on your physical stats (e.g., dexterity, strength and constitution), and so grant you a considerable power boost.  However, additional lives beyond these continue to grant small bonuses, all of which stack.  For example, one life might grant +2 to a skill, another might grant +1 to a stat, another might grant a few extra hit points, another might give you a small damage bonus, and the list goes on and on.  If you have a lot of lives under your belt you can become quite a bit more powerful than a first life character. There are currently more than 100 possible past life bonuses.

Every time you reincarnate you need an item called a true heart of wood.  The easiest way to get one is to buy it from the item shop, but it's expensive.  At current conversion rates each one costs about $20, which puts the cost to do all current possible past lives (126 if I am not mistaken) at $2520 (!!!).  You can earn the hearts of wood you need in game, but only incrementally and only from certain quests.  For example heroic true hearts of wood, the type of heart you currently need the most of at 45, can be bought with Tokens of the Twelve.  Of the 597 quests in game, only about 30 grant these tokens.  The first time I wanted to reincarnate a character, I did some research and discovered that even after all the years I've been playing I didn't have enough tokens to get a heart.  I simply hadn't happened to do the right quests enough times.  I was forced to spend a solid week repeating the handful of quests near my level that would give me the most tokens and fragments of tokens.  It was not fun.

New players often get frustrated by this system.  When they find out that (a) they need to reincarnate at least a few times to get up to par for typical PUGs, (b) they don't have nearly enough tokens to buy a heart because they didn't know to ignore 80% of quests in a particular level range, and (c) the hearts are for sale in the item shop, but they are expensive as hell . . . they often get upset.  About every month or two a new thread pops up on the forums whining about this issue.  For example, you can see the latest such thread here.  In general, most players agree that the system needs improvement.

However, a contingent of players also always shows up and declares that everything is fine, that those complaining are just being cheap or lazy, and under no circumstances should any change be made to this system.  Until recently I thought this was all generic fanboyism.  No matter how idiotic a design or how screwed up a developer's actions, there will always be some loud voices defending them in any MMO.  I got a chuckle out this Daily Grind at Massively OP about "MMO Defense forces" because it rang so true. The developers of a MMO probably could be caught using players' credit card info to buy porn, and some players would still chime in with something like "You gave them your credit card info, what did you expect?"

However, in DDO and on this issue, I think there is more to it than just fanboys defending developers.  Years ago the developers in DDO proposed to all but remove any way of earning hearts for true reincarnation in game.  This idea was not well received by players (to put it mildly), but at first the developers ignored them.  To call attention to the issue, players staged a protest in game.  Eventually some news sites even started covering the protests, and the developers finally relented.  This is when the system that DDO has now was finalized.* Considering this system a vast improvement over the original proposal of "You can buy one in the store, grind for months for one, or go screw yourself,"  players took the deal.

I honestly believe that many of the players defending the system know how bad it is, but simply fear that if it's revisited in-game methods of obtaining the hearts will be further restricted or even removed. After all, the developers originally didn't want to let players reincarnate at all without hitting the item shop.  The problem with this is that reincarnation is one of the central game play loops of DDO.  It is the system that probably the majority of hardcore players use to advance their characters.  Hearts should be a heck of a lot easier to get in game, and buying one in the item shop should not cost more than a monthly sub fee.  If your most hardcore players are absolutely terrified for you to work on a bad system because they are convinced you will make it even worse, at the very least communication with your community has broken down.

Now of course there is more than just terror of incompetence going on when forumites defend this clunky system.  More than almost any other MMO I have played there is a serious disconnect between how the game is perceived by long time vets and new players.  This is likely at least in part due to the reincarnation system and the power disparity it produces.  When you are strong enough to solo enough quests for a heart in an hour of play, complaining about the system seems absurd and childish.  There is probably also general fanboyism, which you find in almost any game, at work.  However, I do think a lot of it is a deep rooted belief that any change will lead to something even worse than the current system.  I have to admit that after seeing several instances of developer "corrupt a wish" in DDO**, I can understand this trepidation.

*I am not sure if the current system was implemented, or simply not removed after the protests.  I wasn't playing at the time and reports vary.

**For example, recent changes to martial ranged builds.  There was one enhancement tree, Inquisitive, that pretty much everyone agreed was a bit OP and needed to be reigned in.  So how did the developers do it?  They did it by nerfing the multi-target damage of every single ranged build in the game by 20%.  Not just Inquisitives, all ranged builds.  Ranged builds that were considered weak before became even worse, and Inquisitive remains much stronger than most other martial ranged options.  When that is how a set of developers "fixes" things, it's not surprising when some players want nothing fixed.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Why I don't play tanks any more

Back in the olden days of EQOA one of my favorite classes to play was a Shadowknight.  It was a tank class that held aggro with a mixture of taunts and sustained damage.  Generally in a PUG, the main goal was to pull mobs one at a time and kill them as quickly and safely as possible.  A good tank was one that was able to consistently pull mobs without getting adds, and was able to lock down aggro quickly.  I found tanks fun to play back then in EQOA and other MMOs because it was expected that the rest of the party would try to work with you towards the goal of aggro management, rather than against you.  There's something really satisfying about taking all the hits and trying to keep everyone else safe.

The two main parts of playing a DPS skillfully were managing your mana well so that the party didn't have to rest often (or at least not more often than the healer needed), and knowing when it was safe start doing damage.  A good DPS actually waited for the tank to get aggro before opening up.  A DPS that pulled aggro off of the tank constantly, or ... shudder ... actually pulled stuff themselves was considered a bad player.  Repeat offenses would get you booted from a PUG.  That was bad, because in those days you sure as heck didn't want to try and play a squishy DPS class solo. 

Things have changed.  That's not how "skill" as a DPS is generally measured these days.  First off it's nearly impossible to run out of mana or the equivalent in most modern MMOs.   Second, DPS players are often all about trying win the damage meter contest.  This trains them to try and start hitting mobs before anyone else in a pull.  It also trains them to engineer massive group pulls, where they can use their AOE abilities to best effect.  Hitting a bunch of mobs at once has a multiplicative effect on the damage you are putting out, and is one of the main ways to consistently top a damage meter.

The effect of all this is that in most modern games players tend to pull everything in sight and spam massive AoE abilities constantly.  They run through an instance as if there is a bad man standing behind them irl, holding a pistol to their head and whispering emphatically "Don't wait for anything!" It's a chaotic style of play that is either exciting or quickly exhausts me depending on my mood.   It's also an environment where I absolutely refuse to play a tank.

In modern PUGs if you are playing a tank you are basically a crappy DPS for most of an instance. Apart from boss fights, where at least some strategy is still the norm, the DPS are usually going to be tagging every mob in sight with their hardest hitting abilities like it's last five seconds of the apocalypse.   The only thing you are good for as a tank through 90% of an instance is getting mobs off the healer in a pinch, and even then only when your snap aggro abilities happen to be off cool down.  I used to really enjoy playing tanks, and now it's far and away my least favorite class role in most MMOs.

The thing that puzzles me about all this is that there is a really easy solution: make it easier for tanks to hold aggro.  If a tank goes all in spamming taunts and other abilities that serve no purpose save to generate threat, to me it makes sense that they should be able to lock down big groups of mobs regardless of who pulls them.  Yet in most MMOs that absolutely isn't true.  It's pretty much always up to the whim of the DPS players whether a tank can hold aggro.  If you don't get those first few hits in, you are not generally going to get aggro back from a DPS that's going all out.  Most tank classes do have snap aggro abilities that can bypass this limitation, but the abilities are also usually on such long cooldowns that you can't use them in every fight.

In WoW, SWTOR and many other modern games players expect you to know an instance like the back of your hand if you que up as a tank.  On top of this, for whatever strange reason, the mechanics of most MMOs also make it much harder to hold down aggro than to heal or do DPS.  All-in-all it's a a stressful and often thankless role to take on.

I certainly don't mean to come across as too whiny about the whole thing.  In modern MMOs playing a DPS is arguably much more fun than it used to be.  I sure as hell would not want to go back to the dark days of launch era EQ where half the classes were all but useless solo.  I like being able to make progress in these games on my schedule.  The pace of modern MMOs may have ruined tanking for me, but on the balance I'd say it was a good trade for everything else we gained.

[This post brought to you by the Tank's Lament  at Going Commando]

Saturday, April 18, 2020

On being "Evil" in video games

This post by Bhagpuss got me thinking about my most recent playthrough of SWTOR, the darkside/ lightside choices that the game offers and artificial moral choices we make in video games more generally.

With this character I decided that one of her major goals was to spread chaos and disrupt society. More out of a sense of childish glee at tearing things down and utter ambivalence about the consequences than out of any moral inclinations.  SWTOR is uncommon among MMOs in that you are encouraged to give some real thought to your character's personality as you play.  
When I start a character in SWTOR, one of the first things I do is decide on a personality and motivation for the character.  I often like to play a character with a different moral compass from mine, just to see how various choices I personally would never make play out in the game.  I conceived of my current character as a walking monkey's paw.  She takes any quest offered to her, but often completes it in a way no sane person would be happy with.  More generally, her goal is to sow chaos and destruction everywhere she goes.  This is someone that wants to see society burn.  Having grown up a slave and becoming a member of the ruling council of the Sith Empire despite it, she knows she can thrive in situations where almost  anyone else would just give up.  A universe where no-one knows what to expect is one where she, and few others, can thrive.  She will also happily burn down a city if it furthers her goals, or even just to see what happens.  She's as close to an Evil character as I have played in a long time.

Contemplating how best to sow chaos and destruction. In Dungeons and Dragons terms I have basically been playing  her as a chaotic neutral character.
Yet even with her, I actually end up making a lot of choices the game consider's light side/ Good.  Her ultimate goal is to disrupt society, and often times the best way for her to do that is to encourage any random weirdos she meets to keep doing their thing.  Killing everyone that doesn't follow society's rules, generally the dark side option, only helps reinforce the rules.  Further, being rude to absolutely everyone also goes against her secondary goal of amassing power.  If she really wants to have enough power to throw society akimbo, she needs allies.  You don't earn trust by being needlessly rude to everyone all the time. Once someone trusts her completely, then they can help with her real work of being a crazy supervillain.

Here she is hanging out with one of the more morally ambiguous NPCs you recruit during the KoTFE storyline. You can tell my character has been making a lot of "evil" choices because of all the sith corruption (e.g., the glowing red eyes). However she did also pick a lot of options that the game considered light-side / "good "as she went along. Primarily helping NPCs get away with things she thought would be more disruptive in the long term than killing them. Not here though. At the end of this story vignette she decided to blow up everything and everyone, much to the delight of this NPC.
This leads to a problem I tend to have with dark side / Evil choices in games that have dialogue trees.  They tend to make very little sense.  It's hard to imagine a realistic character that would kill every single person they can, be rude absolutely all the time, or NPCs that would want to have anything to do with them.  Because of it, picking those kinds of choices over and over again tends to break my immersion.  Further, it's a somewhat shallow / naive depiction of morality.  In the real world even brutal dictators are often capable of being charming when it suites them. To me evil is defined by the effects of your actions and the intention behind them.  It's not really defined by whether you can go 20 minutes without being a jerk to anyone.  That's more a measure of whether you have social intelligence, empathy and self control exceeding that of a toddler.

A random DDO screenshot that seems thematically appropriateDDO also sometimes has dialogue trees, but they are purely for flavor.  They almost never affect the outcome of a quest.
When it comes to doing things in a game that would usually be considered Evil (or at least childish), I tend to enjoy it more in games that aren't specifically set up for it.  Particularly in free form sandboxes like Grand Theft Auto, Fallout, and Elder Scrolls games.  For example, when I was playing Elder Scrolls: Morrowind, I once killed an old woman so that I could take over her house.  I was trying to collect all the books in the game, and she happened to have a lot of book shelves.  I also once killed everyone in a tower and a nearby village because one of the local guards was rude to me. I can cackle gleefully looking back on that senseless carnage, yet I often find it hard to be rude to one of my underlings in SWTOR.  What that says about me I'm not entirely sure.  However I suspect I'm not alone in this.  At least one popular youtuber that has made a whole channel out of torturing video game NPCs in really creative ways, and I find many of his videos really amusing.  Videos of him mashing dark side dialogue options in SWTOR over and over again would probably not be nearly as entertaining.