And pay no worship to the garish sun.

One of the things that I like about Lord of the Rings Online is that, in order to claim at least some sort of adherence to the spirit of Tolkien’s mighty work, they needed to keep the game’s armour and weapons towards the more subdued end of the General Garishness Scale as we can see in Figure A.

Figure A - General Garishness Scale

Figure A - General Garishness Scale

Dragon Age: Origins on the other hand is hard to place on the scale because it has, on the whole, a fairly sombre design philosophy with regards to armour and weapons, but has the occasional Warcraftian eyesore whose effect is only magnified by the fact that it keeps such sober company. Take the longsword version of Starfang, one of the better swords in the game, which appears to have been designed by the car stylists from The Fast and the Furious. With its vivacious eggshell blue neon glow from hilt to tip, I think it’s safe to say that it stands out against the more traditional steel on offer, but not in a good way to my mind; it has what I can only describe as veins of glowing neon blue running the length of its blade and it does seem to resemble a giant blue penis in sword form, as though Dr Manhattan had detached his wang and altered its molecular structure in order that you could beat Darkspawn to death with it. Now there’s a fanfic crossover idea.

I suppose that swords in these fantasy games are a bit like lady’s pleasure devices: most want a subtle, discreet unit that doesn’t draw attention to themselves and can be slipped in and out of a body without any more fuss than a modest breathless gasp on the part of the recipient; other people, and I’m not entirely sure that they aren’t either mythical or the sole preserve of fans of adult entertainment films, want a humungous intimidating thing, that glows and sparkles and which could have someone’s eye out from over six feet away, the primary design goal of which seems to be to scare the living crap out of pet cats sneaking around under the bed, or a partner who accidentally stumbles upon it whilst looking for their slippers there.

I don’t really understand the whole ‘the bigger the better’ and ‘if it glows it must be special’ idea behind items in these games, I’m sure the heritage of it lies in fantasy literature and Dungeons & Dragons, and it has since evolved as a cheap and easy way to allow players to quickly identify those with the biggest eRogenous Zone from some distance – half a continent away in the case of World of Warcraft – but all the neon and flashing lights and ridiculously inflated proportions seem tacky and uncivilised to my mind, doubly so when it appears in otherwise sober games like Dragon Age: Origins or Lord of the Rings Online where the starkness of contrast is at its most pronounced, like finding a Constable watercolour titled 37DDs Outside Las Vegas Casino.

6 thoughts on “And pay no worship to the garish sun.

  1. Brian 'Psychochild' Green

    The awful truth is that this is what people like. I remember just after WoW launched you could make a small fortune selling teeth that some animals dropped. They were a component for a beastslayer enchantment. Why was that enchantment popular? Not because the beasts were so ferocious (especially not the shapeshifted Druids), but because it gave a red glow to a weapon. It was the lowest level enchantment to give a visual effect.

    So, yeah, people like the obnoxious glowy stuff. No accounting for taste, as always.

  2. Stabs

    The exception is DDO where the newbie tutorial gives you a garish glowing axe and everyone spends the next couple of levels desperately looking for something bland.

  3. Spinks

    I think this would all come into perspective if you added Final Fantasy to the chart, because it would be way off to the right (even further than WoW).

    It’s a big anime influence to have stupid looking weapons.

  4. Derrick

    Wow wasn’t bad initially. The weapons and shoulders were deliberately ‘extra large’ but that fit with the cartoon style of the artwork. Even the first raid gear wasn’t bad… But they fell into a cycle of needing each new level of gear to look more impressive than the last. Lather, rinse, repeat for 5 years, and now look what we’ve got.

    it was actually a contributing factor to my stopping raiding. Gear and spell effects were getting so out of hand I was finding it actually hard to see what was going on, and not momentarily (which would be ok) but continuously; which only highlighted how automated hotbar combat was.

    I *long* for an MMORPG that is focussed on maintaining a realistic look (and mechanics, as far as the effects of gear goes).

  5. We Fly Spitfires

    I’m not sure I like a lot of the power range attire that WoW has (although Blizzard seems to be getting better at making stuff look cooler and less garish) but I’m one of those folks who likes things as big and crazy looking as humanly possible. I believe my two handed sword should dwarf me and look like I’m clasping the Eiffel Tower in my hands.

    And no, I’m not French and neither was that a euthamism.

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