In many MMOs eating food is a downtime activity used to restore a character’s lost health, and drinking restores mana for magic users. There are many curiosities with the nature of these mechanics, so let’s extend our culinary cognisance and see what the Inferno has to offer on the subject.
But first I just need to grab a quick snack.
The first thing to note about food in MMOs is the sheer amount and variety of food that heroes carry around with them. It’s astonishing. Imagine yourself on a family outing to a park somewhere and you’re taking a picnic, maybe you’ve got a nice hamper and you’ve filled it with all sorts of goodies; you get to the park, and hauling the hamper out between three of you you nearly cripple yourselves under the monstrous weight of the thing, you lug the hamper the twenty yards it takes to find the right number and variation of trees to create a scene from a Jane Austen novel, and then you all collapse from exhaustion and try to find the strength to open the lid of the hamper and lift out the roast turkey with all the trimmings, the barbecue, the fondue, the umbrellas for when it inevitably rains, the backup fondue, the small diesel generator to power the microwave… Ok, so maybe that’s just my picnics, but anyway, there’s a lot of food, and it’s heavy and a pain in the buttocks to move around. Now imagine that you’re doing that whilst carrying a ten foot sword or staff, whilst wearing armour or flowing mystical robes. Now fight a horde of twenty orcs.
Let’s just say that the gateaux is going to be slightly ‘pancaked’ (and don’t even ask what the pancakes look like) and the martinis are going to be very much on the shaken side of things.
Nevertheless, in MMOs it is an absolute certainty that even in the deepest, dankest dungeon, adventuring groups across the land will be pausing next to a pile of fresh corpses exuding cerebrospinal fluids, rat nests full of disease ridden rodents and pits of strange and unnameable slimes in order to whip out a raclette and accompanying condiments, and having elevenses whilst trying to avoid getting cave mould in their Clos du Mesnil.
In skiing they have après-ski, and in adventuring you have après-abattage.
I think the NPCs are missing a trick here. Just set-up a restaurant at a suitable depth in any dungeon and wait for the adventuring clientele to come flocking in:
“Hello? Is that Lou Liches? Yes we have a table booked for a party of five under the name of Thrognar the Red. Seven thirty? Yes, that’s us. I’m just phoning to let you know that there’ll only be four of us now, I hope that’s not a problem, it’s just that one of our party has been unavoidably detained by a pit trap full of vipers. Oh wonderful, I’m glad it won’t be a problem. We should be there on time, but we do have to defeat Mordon the Undying Betrayer of Gotland just before we get to you, so we might be a few minutes late, but I imagine we’ll be in need of some serious food by then. Tell me, do you have anywhere that a magic user can cast his wand about after drinking, if you know what I mean?”
Now don’t get me wrong, adventurers have to eat, but many of the items of food that they carry are these absurdly wonderful gourmet items that wouldn’t last five seconds being stacked next to daggers, rope, items of armour and whatever else is in an adventurer’s backpack. Take the humble pie for example: it’s probably one of the more robust items on the menu of heroic foodstuffs, but one whole pie is usually good enough to restore a depleted health bar once only, and a health bar is generally depleted after every other fight at least. So heroes carry around something like one hundred and seventy five pies in order to keep themselves going, and do you know how many calories that is? I mean, I know adventurers are an active lot, but seriously, never mind being able to find their way back out of a dungeon, it’s a miracle that they can fit back out.
Who ate all the pies? Now we know.
This pie-eating madness could almost be forgiven, except that every fantasy MMO has these stick-thin females, with non-existent armour that protects them from the strike of a two-handed battle axe, and there they are between fights scoffing pies and steaks and the like. I can see the Female MMO Fitness Workout DVD coming out soon: basically girls, just eat whatever the hell you like and as much as you like. Essentially, eat like a pig if you want, just make sure you kill forty or more orcs a day and you’ll fit into the tiniest outfit imaginable, and as an added bonus your breast size will triple!
Considering the sheer variety and culinary diversity that exists in MMOs these days and seeing as adventuring folk spend so much of their time masticating, why not making eating into a mini-game? Yeah, you could make it such that combining foods into ‘courses’ will enable bigger and better buffs as well as healing and replenishing mana. If you have a small soup starter and manage to follow it up with the lamb shanks and roasted vegetables, you’re allowed to try for the power combo finishing desert item! But only if you ate all of your brussels sprouts and you used the correct spoon for the soup. Otherwise the buff fails, and you go straight to bed without getting to fight Bregnip the Merciless.
Buffs from food is a wonderful tacked-on after thought isn’t it? I mean, how does an adventurer eat a wolf testicle pie and suddenly gain mightily in strength for half an hour? Do wolves have magical testicles that imbue arcane energies into a person? Wouldn’t that be the worst evolutionary design ever. Every wolf would be biting off his own ‘bits’ in order to make him stronger than his rivals and then when the strongest of them all has finally become leader of the pack he can’t breed. Maybe they would develop an Amazon wolf society, where the females were in charge. Makes sense, in a ‘none of this last paragraph made much sense’ sort of way. Anyhow, eating a pork pie and suddenly being able to bench press an elephant, or eating cheese and suddenly being more intelligent but only for thirty minutes! is totally bizarre. And what if you melt cheese on a pork pie and eat that, does that count? What happens then? Are you suddenly able to bench press an elephant with your brain? Can your pectoral muscles calculate pi to four hundred places? Food would become dangerous, you wouldn’t know whether to put mustard on your pie in case it combined in some weird way that gave your nipples the power to whistle dixie every time you’re struck in combat. For thirty minutes only.
Buffs from food don’t last that long, and one can imagine this is because the food item has perhaps passed on its way through the adventurer’s body. Yeah, we’re talking toilets now. Why are no dungeons equipped with toilet facilities? I mean, I know these places are run by evilly evil overlords from the evil dimension, but no toilets? That’s just a whole new level of evil, man. Not once in an excursion do you get a hero going “You know what, I’ve been down in this dungeon for four hours straight, I’ve seen sights that would make mere mortals crap themselves inside out, and I haven’t had a chance to relieve myself in all that time”. And thank goodness, can you imagine with the amount of food that gets eaten and the number of drinks that are quaffed, what would happen if nature was allowed to take it’s natural course? An outside observer would watch a bunch of hardened folk, grimly venture in to the entrance of an ancient ruin, only to be washed out again four minutes later on a tidal wave of excrement; hidden entrances to the place would suddenly become clear as geysers of faecal matter erupted from them twenty feet into the air.
So along with all their other skills, such as melee mastery and fireball flinging, adventurers come ready trained with the ability to ‘hold it in’. At least until they get to Lou Liches.
All-in-all it’s a wonder that MMO adventurers don’t just drag a cow along down with them on their dungeon delving deeds, they could all grab a bite from it in between fights without the need to crack open the picnic hamper. Don’t worry though, the cow has a health bar, so all they have to do is feed it something and it’ll be fine to carry on…