Dark, dank dungeon-delving: dubiously dumb?

There are some typical trope settings to video games: a war zone, an apocalyptic land, zombies ate my neighbors, and even to hell and back. The themes usually applied to such miserable settings is a dark one, further hitting home that where you are, in a video game, is not a nice place to be. It’s a common story element to try and bring fear to the player in the way a bayou at dusk with fog on the horizon and the howling of woodland creatures would inspire worry. It’s the sense and feeling of waiting for it, and waiting for it—the anticipation that something may jump out at you at any moment. Or perhaps the lack of anticipating anything at all on a barren world.

Setting is part of the triad to story-telling. For any story to work, it needs characters, a plot, and a setting. Each is as crucial to the other and they usually need to go hand-in-hand with one another if the story is going to be any sorts of good. But just like a horror novel, you have to make sure that what you’re writing (and in this case, developing) is going to be enjoyable to the target demographic of gamers.

But what exactly is enjoyable? To each is own is certainly a nice expression to apply, but do people really get their jollies from roaming around in Fallout 3’s Capital Wasteland from hours on end? Or roaming around the nine levels of Hell in Dante’s Inferno? The favelas in Modern Warfare 2? The Deep Roads in Dragon Age: Origins? Riverside campaign Death Toll in Left 4 Dead? Are these the sorts of settings that gamers enjoy spending copious amount of time (sometimes the entire length of the game) surrounding their selves in dark and dreary worlds whose color palette includes gray and brown as its main swatches? Read more of this post

The Fellowship of the Ring drags their feet

I have talked about Lord of the Rings Online before when I was in not such a great mood (and rightfully so). Since then, however, I have held out on the hope that Turbine would turn around development and return to the direction they were first moving when LotRo was first launched. I don’t know why; it must just be the Tolkien fan in me that insists on the hope that a developer with the intellectual property rights for the greatest fantasy novel written by man can pull through by (mostly) respecting the lore and continuing development from that aspect alone.

However I’m not entirely sure if that’s even possible these days. Turbine seems to be hurting more than usual, and the signs seem pretty clear. Dungeon & Dragons Online, Turbine’s other MMO, is now free-to-play. Completely. Instead they’ve added an RMT market much like what Korean MMOs have set up as a norm. I’ve played DDO and I personally did not find anything worth staying for, and apparently this was the case for a number of other people as well when the MMO turned to borrowed time.

It’s clear that Turbine will not find its riches in that direction. Instead it still lies with LotRo, an MMO that continues to garner attention as a “nice MMO” or a “refreshing breath” of other MMOs on today’s market. I can’t really speak on what LotRo is and isn’t, for it is for every person to decide that for their selves, but what LotRo truly is is Turbine’s last hope. I’ve been down this dark road before when a company is on the edge and is betting it all on black. Unfortunately I still don’t think Turbine’s heart is in its endeavor to try and win. In this case, the prize is its customers. Read more of this post

My God has more hitpoints than yours

Video games cover an array of different themes and elements (some of them even cover current affairs) from time to time when the developers are pushing their product to be something other than an action sequence. In this endeavor, they might actually hire the fabled “writers” to put in a coherent back story, add depth to the setting, and then put a twist on it. Usually, however, developers just pick a coder’s name out of a hat from a fanfic selection night and dub him the writer. That, or just hire some monkeys and sit them in front of typewriters and hope for the best. Either way, a story within a game is obviously commonplace in today’s market. But let’s look at a specific element that only a few ballsy writers actually try to take on. In this case, I’m talking about religion. Read more of this post