The "Fear/trust system" is an innovative game mechanic used in the 2002 video game The Thing meant to emulate human behaviour, particularly in the unusual circumstances when facing a foe such as The Thing.
NPC AI in the game is determined primarily by the "Fear/trust system". In the trust system, the player must ensure that the NPCs will follow Blake's orders and join him in combat. To do so, they must make sure that the NPC trusts Blake and does not suspect him of being a Thing. NPCs have four levels of trust; red, amber, green and 100%. Red means they are convinced Blake is a Thing and will attack him. Amber means they are not sure if he is a Thing. They won't attack him, but they won't follow his orders. Green means they trust him and will follow his orders. 100% means they have complete faith in him, will follow his orders, and even if he attacks another NPC, they will support him. To gain NPCs trust, Blake can give them weapons and ammo, heal them, put himself at risk to protect them or use a blood test kit on himself to prove he is not a Thing. Actions which deplete trust include accidentally shooting teammates, taking away teammate's weapons or ammo, or pointing a weapon at one of them for a sustained period of time.
If your squad members don't trust you they wont do anything for you, and if they loose all trust in you they might just send you to hell. Your squad members are not mindless robots, they have just found themselves in the middle of an alien encounter and their own life depends on whether or not they can spot a monster that looks, acts, walks, talks and smells entirely human. Because of this they will watch your actions closely and react to anything stupid that you might do. They will also force you to prove yourself and they will not cooperate with you until they are sure that your one of the good guys. You will have to manage their trust to keep them cooperative.
- You can lose a small amount of trust from a squad member if you shoot him during combat.
- You can lose a small amount of trust from your squad members if they see you shoot one of your own men outside of combat.
- You can lose a small amount of trust from your squad members if they group is attacked and you don't take part in combat.
- You can lose varying degrees of trust when you taze a squad member. First, you'll lose trust for simply tazing your squad member. Second, because a squad member drops his weapon and ammo when tazed, you'll automatically lose more trust for disarming him. And third, if you continue to taze that squad member, you will continue to lose trust.
- You can lose a different amount of trust if you take a squad member's weapon and ammunition away. the bigger and better his weapon is, the more trust you will lose when you take it away.
- You can lose a large amount of trust if you coerce a squad member by pointing a gun at his head.
- You can gain a small amount of trust from a squad member if you heal him.
- You can gain a small amount of trust from a squad member by giving him some ammo.
- You can gain a small amount of trust from a squad member if he witnesses you attacking Things and other enemies.
- You can gain different degrees of trust from a squad member by giving him a weapon (the amount you gain depends on the weapon — bigger guns earn more trust).
- You can gain a large amount of trust from your squad members if they see a member of the group you've killed outside of combat turns into The Thing. In other words, if you kill one of your own men because you think he's infected, and he then transforms into the grotesque Thing, your squad members will be glad that you exposed the hidden threat among them, and their trust in you will shoot up. But then again, if you kill one of your men because you think he's infected and he turns out to be fine, your squad members won't like that at all ...
- You can gain a large amount of trust from your squad members by running a blood test on yourself in front of them.
When your squad members get scared they won't perform well, and if they lose it entirely and crack up... they just might call it quits and paint the wall with their own brains. Your squad members are living men and they are entirely aware of the circumstances they are in. Dark places will make them cringe, odd sounds steal their breath and the sight of those things will absolutely freak them out, you will have to manage their fear in order to keep them stable.
- Squad members will be a little frightened by sounds they hear.
- Squad members will get frightened based on the environment around them (the more banged-up and grotesque, the more fear it inspires).
- Squad members will be frightened to varying degrees by seeing The Thing. The bigger and more grotesque the alien is when they see it, the more terrified they'll be.
- You can calm a squad member to a small degree by giving him some ammo.
- You can calm a squad member to different degrees by giving him a weapon. The bigger the gun you give him, the more calm he will be.
- You can calm a squad member to different degrees by killing a Thing creature when it's near. The bigger the creature, the more calm your squad member will be when you kill it.
- You can temporarily calm a squad member to a large degree by using an adrenaline hypo on him.
- You can calm squad members to a large degree by taking them away from the area that's causing the fear.
Weapons in the Fear/trust system
- The Pistol will give a small courage and trust boost when given to a squad member.
- The Machine Gun will produce a small amount of courage and trust boost when given to a squad member.
- The Shotgun will produce a medium amount of courage and trust boost when given to a squad member.
- The Sniper Rifle will produce a large amount of courage and trust boost when given to a squad member.
Character classes in the Fear/trust system
Characters of different classes will react differently to the environment and The Thing:
- Soldiers are more collected and courageous, meaning they will keep their cool when attacked and won't be as afraid normally.
- Engineers are usually calm but will get scared more than Soldiers.
- Medics are the least courageous class and will get frightened more than all the other classes.
The Fear/trust system according to the developers
Although the Fear/trust system was lauded by players and critics, it was criticised in hindsight for its simplistic nature. The developers were aware of this and said in an interview that with the technology at the time they reached a compromise:
"The fear system worked but it was a bit simplistic," remembers Curtis. "Keeping your team sane was a matter of avoiding corpses, blood stains and darkness; but it did produce some great reactions from the squad mates. Some of them were quite rare like the electrocution suicide." Getting your team to trust you was merely a matter of protecting them and/or keeping them well stocked with ammunition; unfortunately the system for infection didn't work quite as well, limited by technology and the template of the game itself."
Even so, the Fear/trust system of the game is still praised and referenced to this day for its innovation.