Thursday 30 December 2010

Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings.

Much like most things at this time of year, my gaming is coming in fits and starts of gluttonous excess followed by periods of pale-faced abstention where the slightest mention of the thing is at best likely to cause me to curl up into a ball, suck my thumb and whimper, and where running up the street screaming while wearing nothing but underpants and a wild-eyed unshaven expression of hair-tearing horror is a distinct possibility. I imagine it’s as much to do with the weird cocktail of choices, much like my festive eating habits where breakfast can consist of Christmas pudding and cold turkey one morning with a nice glass of port to wash things down, and then be followed the next day by the far more sensible choice of porridge and ice cream, my gaming has been, shall we say, eclectic.

In recognition of this, I thought I’d jot down some quick-fire thoughts over the next few days on various games that have been bumping around inside my head (the thoughts that is, not the games) and threatening to form an impromptu raid group and kill important memories such as my PIN, or whether zebras are white with black stripes or black with white stripes.

World of Warcraft has been fun enough, but I can’t see myself getting back into it in a major way. The world has changed, there are new things to see and do, but all of it so much like that which has gone before; for me WoW is becoming too much of a parody of WoW, the in-jokes have gone so far that WoW is now creating self-referential in-jokes about other in-jokes, and it feels as though that is what the whole world of Azeroth has become. It’s all a bit South Park or Simpsons, which is fine, but only if you weren’t hoping for something a little more serious. The curious thing is that the use of phasing and cut-scenes seems to imply that Blizzard are also trying to do the ‘adult storytelling’ thing at the same time, and for me it seems to run counter to the more general cartoon-like comedic nature of the rest of the game. What I would hope for is something akin to an interactive fable, with far-fetched magical events being balanced against a sagacious moral lesson, but what we get is something more like a Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown trying to explain War and Peace using suggestive sock puppets and one too many poo jokes.

There are also the standard MMO restrictions that make a mockery of Blizzard’s attempts at serious storytelling, and so the game leaves you confused and unsure whether you’re supposed to laugh or cry, like a clown delivering a eulogy at the state funeral of a king. Towards the end of the Worgen starter area there is a moment where your character and the leader of the Worgen confront the opposing faction – the last remnants of uninfected humans. On seeing your inevitable victory, their leader (and your main detractor/antagonist throughout the starter area) vows never to follow a Worgen leader, and runs off and throws himself from a nearby cliff. Poignant. I must admit I was caught in the seriousness of the moment, I looked to my Worgen leader and to the remaining human leaders, wondering what they would say. Nothing was forthcoming in the end, so I decided it was probably time to think about moving on.

At which point the chap who had just thrown himself from the cliff respawned in his original position in the midst of everyone.

Me: “D… didn’t you just throw yourself from that cliff yonder? D.. didn’t he just throw himself from that cliff? How have you returned, what sorcery is this?”

Human Leader: “What? Oh, that. No, it’s a water flume. We’ve built a giant water slide down the side there. Lord Godfrey likes to go for a quick slide when he gets bad news. Here, Godfrey, these poor Worgen thought you’d jumped to your death!”

Lord Vincent Godfrey: “Jump to my death? Oh good grief, no! Just a quick go on the water slide to calm my nerves. You don’t remember the water slides? Hmmm. You see, men? Their transformation has robbed them of their memories of Gilneas yet! They forget the ancient and noble history of water flume creation that our society was founded upon!”

Human Leader: “Oh the humanity!”

Lord Vincent Godfrey: “Come, let us leave them to the horror of their existence. I’m having another go on that most excellent water slide, and then I might go and relax in the jacuzzi for a while. Who’s with me?!”

Human Leaders: “Aye!”

[They all throw themselves off the nearby cliff in unison]

Meanwhile, EverQuest II released the most pointless playable race for an MMO yet: Vampires.

“What are you supposed to be then?”

“I am a Vampire! I am one of the undead! The ever-living! You cannot kill me!”

“Have you played an MMO before?”

“I… ah…”

“Have you ever known anyone to actually die, like, permanently?”

“Well, no but…”

“So you cannot die in a world where nobody dies? Is that, like, double death immunity? Y’know, just in case one of your ‘impossibilities of death’ doesn’t work? Genius.”

“I am still undead! That’s got to mean something, though, right?”

“Well, it means our cleric can turn you, or make you spontaneously combust, at will.”

What is ‘turning’ anyway? “I am a cleric, I can turn undead! Yes, left, right; name your direction, and I can make an undead go that way!” So undead are essentially the radio controlled cars of the Cleric world? Do Clerics set-up tracks and race undead around and around? Perhaps that’s why you get different speed zombies! Some have been upgraded with better motors to run on the A-spec undead race tracks, while the slower ones are more B-spec types.

Hmm, I think I’m on to something; a little more Christmas cake with Stilton should help me to maintain this train of thought into the next post.

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