I have had the dubious pleasure of having lots and lots of time to think over the past two weeks. The Friday before last my back decided to freak out on me. This left me unable to work for nearly a week, not that it’s completely better even now. Normally I wouldn’t mind so much; I’ve certainly got plenty of writing to catch up on, both for this site as well as a couple short stories I’m tinkering with, but with my back hurting so much I couldn’t focus enough to write. This was especially annoying as my big review on Unhallowed Metropolis had already been delayed as I tried to get a group together to do a scenario. (I have finally run it, and should have my insights on game play and the rules up in the next week)
With all the fun physical therapy and pain meds I’ve been thinking about how life would be easier if it were a game, be it D&D or WoW. Imagine how life would be if you could just drink a potion and instantly mend disease, broken bones, whatever ails you.
Artificially colored energy drinks aside marketed to gamers aside, that isn’t going to happen, so I’ll remain grateful that doctors and medicine are as developed as they are.
Really though, something about the Health energy potion and Mana energy potion just unsettles me. I don’t know why, and as I’ve never tried them I can’t say if it is any good or not, but it just weirds me out.
On the topic of D&D, there is a fantastic web-comic I have been meaning to recommend to you. It is called The Order of the Stick, hosted on the website Giant in the Playground (www.giantitp.com) The setting is a standard game world of D&D, populated with all the standard clichés and standards the game is known for, with one big difference. These NPCs and PCs know that they exist in a world controlled by dice rolls and game rules, and not only comment on them and plan on them, but manipulate them when they can. (Incidentally, the most recent comic, page 669, is something of the reverse of my comments about health potions, see it here: http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0669.html)
One thing I will mention about it, however, is that the early strips, funny as they are, are nowhere near as good as the comic becomes later on. This is partly because when it was first started Rich Burlew (the author) hadn’t planned an overarching story for the strip, instead imagining it as simply one shots lampooning D&D rules and stereotypes, later adding a twist on the standard destroy the world super-evil plot. (mostly in the incompetence of the bad guys… and most of the good guys really) The last hundred or so pages this plot has dragged on a bit, though still funny, but has begun to pick back up the last few strips with the return of a major player.
Speaking of stereotypes, one of my favorite things about the strip is how the main characters (the PCs, though it is never explained what makes them PCs and not NPCs) play off of the clichés of high fantasy. The party leader, Roy Greenhilt, is a fighter who is smart, charismatic, and wise, (leading to one gag where a mind-flayer, when deciding whose brain to eat, imagines the wizard’s brain as a burger meal and the fighter’s as a turkey dinner with all the trimmings) a far cry from the dumb meat shield or Conan type. The Halfling ranger Belkar Bitterleaf is psychotically evil, (Quote: “He’s not jolly, WHY isn’t he JOLLY!?”) with a wisdom score in the gutter (In D&D wisdom is important for rangers, both for skills and their nature based spells) and is fantastically bad at tracking, which of course is his role in the group. The longest running joke of the strip is the elf wizard, Vaasuvius, who is so androgynous that no one knows if V is a man or a woman.
The first three volumes of the comic have been released as books, as well as two prequels, one detailing the formation of the heroes, the other dealing with the origin of the bad guys alliance and a bit more about their plans.
And now for something completely different
Aside from my musings of Dungeons and Dragons, I have been thinking about Fallout 3 ands Bethesda’s earlier work Oblivion. This came about as I picked up Fallout 3 for my computer. (it was ½ off on Steam, I’ve had it since it was released for my X-box) After I finally got it and all the DLCs installed and updated (I love Steam, but the download time for new games can be a drag, even with DSL) I set out on the internet to see what new and interesting mods gamers had made for it. I was rather surprised to find that there wasn’t nearly as much for Fallout 3 as I found for Oblivion mere months after its release. Of course much of this is due to the months delay between the game coming out and Bethesda making G.E.C.K. (Garden of Eden creation kit) available. I also thought this odd, especially as the construction set was released so much quicker.
I have come up with a sadly plausible reason for this delay. As you may or may not remember, player created content caused a firestorm of criticism for Oblivion. This was because one of the first large mods made for the game (and Fallout 3 too, I checked) was as new model/texture for the female characters with some degree of realistic nudity. Overzealous used this to get Oblivion’s rating changed from T for Teen to M for Mature, helped in part by the somewhat recent scandal over the “Hot Coffee” mod for Grand Theft Auto. I for one (and I am not alone in this) thinks this is a complete outrage. To put it in perspective, this is the equivalent of moving Harry Potter from children’s literature to adult romance because some people go through the book with white-out and a pen, adding swear words and sex scenes all over the place. It’s ludicrous to hold an author responsible for what others do with their product after it leaves their hands. The GTA incident is different, in that Hot Coffee didn’t add anything to the game, but merely unlocked content already present in the base code that was unreachable in the standard game.
So, basically, my theory about the long delay in making the G.E.C.K. available is thus: Bethesda, burned previously by their experiences with user made content, decided not to release the game together with the developer tools so that when the inevitable nude mods were created it would be long enough after the game had come out that the rabid watchdog groups would not notice. This was especially important as Fallout 3 is one of the most violent, bloody, and vulgar games released in recent memory, not to mention all the slavery, prostitution (even if it is only implied) and other sexual situations in the game. You throw in nudity and the already M rated game becomes a contender for AO (Adults Only) status, which is the kiss of death for a game, as almost all the major retailers refuse to carry AO titles. Granted, I agree with their stance, the world really doesn’t need games graphic enough to warrant the AO rating, but Bethesda having to worry about what some geek does on his basement PC is inexcusable.
[tags]Fallout 3, Oblivion, Order of the Stick, Dungeons and Dragons[/tags]