Posts Tagged ‘hero’

The Escapist has a good article up on Foozles; those Big Bad end bosses in the majority of RPGs.  Certainly, there is a place for a Big Bad villain to serve as a strong antagonist in a narrative, but what can you do without one?

I’ve been writing an “alternate history” sort of book/series for a while now, sort of a mix of Steampunk ethos and Dinotopia with a fair dose of Norse-inspired whimsy.  It’s not in any sort of publishable form as yet, but as I’ve been crafting the world and its history, I just haven’t been able to find a good place for a singular Big Bad.  The scope of what I’m angling for is more political and sweeping than would be served justice by a single criminal mastermind.  (It’s worth noting that Dinotopia is the single strongest influence in this project, and that excellent book is most about exploring an amazing world, not a Heroic Journey needing resolution.)

One alternate that I’ve toyed with is the sort of thing that Kirk dealt with in The Doomsday Machine; a totally nonsentient relic of a forgotten war.  Of course, it would serve as a singular menace akin to a Big Bad, but it also has elements of a force of nature, in that it simply functions; there is no malicious deviant at the helm.  Even so, that just isn’t terribly satisfying to me, and if I go that route, it’s going to be a wheel within a wheel.  The notion of a singular Big Bad just seems too… simple to me.  Too… neat of a solution to a world where factions and contentions aren’t merely black and white.

That doesn’t mean that it’s bad to have a clear singular enemy.  Darth Vader has his fans, and in some ways, he really makes the movies.  Simplicity isn’t a bad thing either, especially in a relatively straightforward morality tale.

So, singular iconic villains aren’t a sign of incompetence… they just aren’t the only way to create conflicts for heroes to overcome.  In a lot of ways, heroes are made by a lot of little choices, not by the singular defeat of a true monster.  Sometimes it’s the quiet moments that are the most important; the choices that don’t save the world, but define a soul.

The Escapist article floated the notion that games have indulged in Foozle hunting for a long time, and may yet for a long time.  Perhaps games are too simple a storytelling medium to do much else… or perhaps our writers (and players) are too immature.  Maybe the mainstream of games will always be a Foozle hunt (whether in the Big Bad mold or the “kill ten foozles” mole)… but I believe there’s a place for something a bit more subtle.

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Pretty purple epic loot does nothing for me.

This is part of why:  Obsidian Hatchling

Note two key nuggets of information:

One, the Rarity is “Very rare”, kindly noted in pretty purple text.

Two, the cost and supply: “50gold (unlimited supply)”

To be completely fair, it is possible that something with unlimited supply could be very rare, if not many people are actually buying it.  That said, since gold is also itself unlimited (OK, throttled by time and per-character carrying capacity, but practically unlimited), there isn’t much of a limit to how many of these critters can be in the world.  I must admit, I’d love to see an Obsidian Hatchling swarm crash a server somewhere.  Yes, you can only have one per player active at a time, but the mental image of these little guys Zerging through a capital city just makes me chuckle.

Calling them “Very rare” is a bit disingenuous, and is likely more of an arbitrary selling point, rather than any reflection of accurate valuation or representation.  Perhaps it could be cynically noted that savvy customers already know this, but I can’t help but feel that something has been lost in the callous marketing.

“Rarity” in WoW is a better measure of the time investment than actual rarity.

It’s ultimately not a big deal, and I’m certainly nitpicking the nomenclature (something I’m no stranger to, considering my stringent objection to “black holes” in the most recent Star Trek movie), but it’s one measure of how sales and presentation are rather… flexible… in their interpretation of reality.  (It’s also why you need to do your homework when shopping or listening to those who are selling, and why Big Brotherish information peddlers are less than informative.)  The game goes out of its way to make everyone feel Super, which ultimately, undermines the point of being Super.  (Cue Syndrome evil laugh.)

True rarity just wouldn’t sit well with the current crop of MMO designs, for better or worse.  That’s not  “bad design”, just unappealing for some, and underwhelming for those looking for a little more meaning in their entertainment.  (Not everyone, to be sure.)  It falls into the same taboo realm as basing advancement on player skill, and really would be a niche design tenet.

To be fair, I’m not terribly concerned with true rarity, either.  If I’ve achieved something in the game, it’s a goal I’ve set for *myself*, and I don’t particularly care if it’s something that has been done before by someone else.  I don’t care for the pride and preening aspects of these things, either.  As a wise man once said:

Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.” (Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952, pp. 109-10.)  *Cited here: “Beware of Pride”*

At any rate, this is why I have a hard time getting worked up about gear in modern MMOs, or about “Achievements” that anyone with enough time (and OCD) can do.  It’s all about time and perception, and I have neither the time nor the delusion that these “epic rares” are all that epic (in anything but the grind to get them) or all that rare, and with the “Im speshul, yur not” and “true uniqueness” aspects removed, all these things are is indicators of how much time I’ve spent.  I choose to spend my time elsewhere.  (Yes, some things are vaguely skill based, inasmuch as they require raiding skill or social (asocial?) skills to manipulate a guild to do your bidding, but by and large, time is the biggest factor by far.)

By extension, it’s also why I can’t get worked up about playing these MMO things all that much in the first place, at least not long-term.  It’s fun to see your numbers go up and watch merely mortal mobs melt under your maleficent ministrations, but when it comes to feeling special as part of the game world, well… we’re all just heroes in our own minds.  Some of us play that role better than others (maybe because we have to to enjoy ourselves in a world of clones), but in the end, what do we have to show for it?

Are you really a rarity, a sparkling snowflake in a world of me-too caped heroes?  (Sadly, my Death Knight is no longer the only Sendoku.)

Somehow, I can’t make myself any more interested in being a level 80 Druid (or whatever) any more than I want to be an 80 year old Cube Jockey dual specced into Paperwork and Maintenance.  The journey itself has its share of great moments, certainly, but the destination is rather underwhelming, including the epics you have to show for it.  Perhaps a whirlwind spin through the Cataclysm will be fun, but like any good vacation spot, it’s not somewhere I’d really want to call home, or build a self image around.

tl;dr version, I’m still an Explorer, not an Achiever.  This applies to gear and loot as well as Achievements.

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Yes, Master

This is all Pete’s fault.

Well, mostly.

Actually, it’s more like “he started it”, and I followed along like a good little lemming. In my defense, I’ve played with previous versions of this particular little bit of art software, but this is the first time I’ve actually been able to make something I kinda sorta thought was cool.

Maybe I’m wrong, but there you go.

The Strange Four Eyed Jedi

The Strange Four Eyed Jedi

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