Should Enemies Be Able To Surrender In Video Games?

Game developer Andrew Doull recently asked reader of his blog whether players of his upcoming game should be able to get enemies to surrender. You seldom see this option, because, well, it'd be messy.

Doull pondered how surrender would work in his game, Unangband, which is classified in the strategic genre of "roguelike":

I'm going to be implementing some changes to the monster AI to allow monsters to be bribed, which will allow a 'not allied but not trying to kill you either' state for monsters to be in. They'll hang around suspiciously and follow you, they won't target you with spell attacks or try to injure you with melee, and they'll either betray you or leave after some period of time, as well as periodically asking for more money or gifts.

Now this AI could also be used to allow a monster to surrender to you if you have sufficiently injured it. Unfortunately, this is directly contrary to a lot of the design and game play for a roguelike - you basically want to be able to kill stuff - so I'm interested in whether having monsters surrender could ever be an interesting choice. Do you know of any games where the surrender mechanic does work successfully?

In the comments below his post, Doull's readers questioned the gameplay advantages of having monsters surrender. Doull posted a follow-up, arguing that, for things in a game that might be moral choices, gameplay advantages shouldn't be factors... which of course raises the question of whether enemy surrender as an option would be a feature added for gameplay benefit or moral intrigue.

Enemies who can surrender... what do you say?

Should Monsters Surrender? [ASCII Dreams via Twitter]


    I take moral choices over loot rewards in RPGs most of the time (unless I am choosing to play evil). I enjoy the option and I think it adds to the richness of the game. Sometimes it works for the player's advantage, sometimes it doesn't. Either way it's part of the fun and adds to the richness of the story.

    I think the hardest games to do surrender in are realistic (modern setting) FPSs where a twitch is the difference between an NPC's life or death. Games have done it though, like swat 4 where you can yell at people to drop the weapons, you can intimidate (with shots to the wall. gas or flashbangs) in the hope that they will surrender and be cuffed and disarmed. If the gunmen persist or return fire then you have todo what is necessary.

      I agree. I like the idea!

      Even though swat 4 is nothing but a horrible train wreck, the moral mechanic that lied within was an excellent choice. Honestly if another swat game was ever made, and incorporates modern game design with it's game ideology, it would be very entertaining and potentially successful.

    The Jedi knight series had enemies that surrender. Mostly when their weapons were disabled. To be honest i tried not to kill the ones that surrendered.

    It would certainly change the gameplay, I've often wondered in a game how much harder it would be to shoot an enemy if they cowered into a corner and dropped their weapons and put their hand up in front of their face. It would change the whole feeling of playing the game. I would like to see surrender, fear, cowardice etc. in games, I'd like to see a squad member leave you hanging because they were just too scared to go through the next door, or turn and run in the middle of battle. It has been done a bit, but I really would like to see it explored much more, and have the full range of human reactions to what in real life would be pretty traumatic events.

      You should play The Thing. That game was awesome for AI emotion to mass carnage. Allies that freak out? yes please.

    Funny this article has come up as I've just started playing MGS: portable ops which not only allows you to hold up enemy soldiers (making them surrender) but also allows you to restrain and drag them to your truck for interrogation and convince them to join you(read: brainwashing).

    Plus it's fun!

    Arma and Arma 2 both have a similar option with capturing enemy Generals. It's a bit of a mission in itself as you have to get to them to capture them and then also get in to transport them back to base.

    I pretty much always let enemies run off if they give up in a game (eg Assassin's Creed). Referring back to that article last week about Goombas and what motivation the bad guys have... often the 'bad guys' are just regular people who happen to be your opponent (eg a soldier for the other side, or a police officer). I virtually never play an 'evil' character, so having some mercy is normal for most video game characters.

    It actually makes more sense than your usual, 'everyone has a death wish AI.

    I always wondered why, in Oblivion, the random encounter bandits never turned tale and scarpered, or begged for mercy, when it was pretty clear you were going to kill them. Game enemies do all seem to be suicidal.

    I think its a cool- more realistic if done right. It might ad some personality to the 'bad guys' you often mow down with sociopathic indifference in games nowadays- which could end up sending you down a less lethal path. I see better application for this in things like sandbox games or RPG's- I think I read somewhere in Red Dead: Redemption enemies might surrender but I could be wrong. The success of the implementation though would throughly depend on the mood and story line of the game. It wouldn't work in MW2 for example, where its utterly hectic from start to finish.

    I've been playing Fallout 2 and it's nice when an enemy surrenders, I just pickpocket them and walk away. Mind you - any enemy that surrenders is probably a grunt and didn't have anything worth killing them for anyway.

    In a roguelike, no. I don't think that kind of thing would really fit the genre.
    But as for many other games, enemies surrendering is something we don't see nearly enough. Enemies just fight on and on, never doubting. Hell, look at Arkham Asylum. That had an interesting system in the stealth parts. Pick off the enemies without being seen, and when there's two left, they start to panic and turn on each other. When there's one left, he's terrified, jittery, and looks around all over the place. Yet he never surrenders.
    It's not really rewarding in that way. Getting the last enemy is just a matter of picking him off in any number of easy ways. Thusly, the gameplay isn't rewarding. Having that last enemy possibly surrendering would have been a much more involving element.

    It's something that adds an element of personality to the many endless goons of video games; something that is never paid as much attention as it should be.

    In Eagle Watch, the first expansion for the original Rainbow 6 game, they added the ability for the terrorists to surrender. Though when the AI chose to surrender alway seemed a little random.

    I remember one time playing co-op with friend, we were charging up a flight of stairs, came round a corner and ran straight into a bad guy. He shot me in the face point blank killing me, then immeditately dropped his gun and surrendered. Needless to say my friend didn't take kindly to this and immediately capped him.

    The problem was once a terrorist surrendered you couldn't do anything with them. There was no option to restrain them, they just sat there. Also there was no benefit to taking the terrorist alive, and no penalty for killing someone who'd surrendered, so it made it a pretty trivial addition.

    More recently, in Assassin's Creed 1 and 2 guards would flee and/or surrender when you killed a couple of other guards in front of them. In that case it did give the NPCs a little more character, making them seem less like meaningless cannon fodder.

    Plus getting jumped by six guards, killing two in a spectacularly gruesome fashion and watching the other four panic and flee screaming was quite satisfying.

    i've been playing dragon age lately and i think having the choice to kill or let live is great! Finally freedom to make decisions, albeit in limited specific situations. If it were to occur in real time then i think it would still be a good feature as long as it didn't occur all the time otherwise the 'good' players will never get to kill and loot anything.

    Red Steel did an excellent job. I forget what the reward was, even if there was one. Basically, what happened was you could shoot the weapon out of your enemies hand. This would temporarily disarm them. If let alone for a long enough time, they'll grab their guns and keep shooting.
    If, however, you point your gun at them then motion your gun towards the floor (several vertical flicks) they would drop to their knees and become inactive. Very clever AND fun. Good use of motion controls.

    Mass effect also did this pretty successfully although a tad simplistic. Even though you didn't really know what you were really going to say, the overall message could be figured out beforehand, mostly by the whole "Blue means good and red means bad" text colouring choice.

    I wonder if Mass Effect 2 will continue with more diplomatic options, even though it will be the dark chapter. I purposely made my Shepard as the "Do no wrong" type, just to see if Bioware screw's it all up, though the screw up will rather be hilarious instead of game-breaking. I hope that game releases well.

    But back on topic, it all depends on the game and how deep it wants to go. You cannot converse with aliens and predators as they don't give a rats ass most of the time. However whenever applicable, yea there should be an option.

    However I have not yet encountered this scenario besides Dragon Age: Origins. What games exist where, if you to let a surrendered enemy live, the game will register it as a good moral choice, but have you regret it later for being too good?

      Most of what I said is still valid in it's own separate discussion, however I didn't read that it was specifically "monsters" or in general any non-human creatures. I think that would work brilliantly when done correctly. Not every creature needs to be slain to overcome them. They could be tricked, or captured and tamed in order to use them as an ally, and even fight them for a bit, lower their morale and have them run off for having their animal instincts recognise a superior adversary. This would definitely add to any experience, provided it is tastefully done.

      I added the taming option in because I wish for a game where I am able to subdue and make allies with hell demons and such fight for good instead of evil. Why must they be evil, yet look so awesome!?

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