This January, Hogwarts Legacy caused a stir when one of its developers said that the game wouldn’t judge you for committing major crimes such as murder. While this was lorebreaking for the Harry Potter novels, it was also very typical of a video game to have NPCs that ignore crimes being committed in front of them. But what baffles me is the reputation system that a data miner discovered while combing through the game’s files.
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A YouTuber named GrandTheftDiamonds opened up Hogwarts Legacy’s files and discovered an entire morality system under the hood. Which is very funny considering that the lead developer Kelly Murphy said: “Characters will react visually and audibly to seeing the player cast an Unforgivable, but we don’t have a morality system that punishes them for doing so–this would be too judgemental on the game maker’s part.” It now seems more likely that the developers just didn’t have the time or resources to fully commit to a proper morality system. And what a morality system it is.
“The game itself doesn’t have a House Points system or a morality system but data found in the game files shows evidence that the developers were working on them,” says the video subtitles. GrandTheftDiamonds then shows viewers a spreadsheet of game variables hinting at a morality system.
Potterheads will remember that young witches and wizards are collectively rewarded or punished at Hogwarts through a system known as House Points. Whenever a student was helpful or succeeded at academics, they are awarded with house points. Whenever a student misbehaves, they lose a certain number of points per offense, which incentivizes their peers to keep their friends in line. The datamined files revealed that this system made a return in Legacy, Except Avalanche Software tried to assign point values to the Unforgivable Curses.
For those not in the know, Unforgivable spells are so stigmatized that using them once will send you to wizard prison for life without parole. One of the most famous ones is Avada Kedavra, which instantly kills its victim, or the Imperius Curse, which forces the victim to obey the spellcaster.
Under this system, using the killing curse on someone carries a penalty of 100 points. As a point of comparison, you lose 25 points for extorting someone, and 20 points for bullying. So theoretically, five instances of bullying equates to one instance of murder. Or if you want to get really in the weeds, you can lose 10 points for sleeping in class. So if you sleep in 10 classes, that’s as bad as manslaughter. What a world.
Incidentally, Hogwarts Legacy’s world could have been more responsive than what players ended up getting at launch. You can loot private rooms with the lockpick spell, but the hidden morality variables would have labeled certain actions as crimes—such as intrusion and pickpocketing. NPCs would be able to respond by calling an authority figure, fleeing, or retaliating.
Warner Bros. owns the copyright for the Nemesis System from Shadow of Mordor, which would allow NPCs to remember actions that players committed against other members of its faction. Enemies would grow stronger and reference past experiences with the player as the game progressed. It would have been nice if Avalanche Software (which is a subsidiary of Warner Bros.) actually used the system that its publisher is currently monopolizing. Instead, players didn’t even get school point deductions.
Of course, the lack of a morality system wouldn’t have been nearly as controversial if the IP owner were not a committed transphobe. While Legacy’s developers have made attempts to avoid the J.K. Rowling controversy altogether in interviews, it definitely seemed suspect that a game made from Rowling’s IP didn’t want you to think too hard about the consequences of your actions.
Apparently, you were supposed to think of them at one point of the development process. Just remember: Bullying is one-fifth of a murder.