Friday 14 October 2011

Narrative is linear, but action has breadth and depth as well as height and is solid

So it seems the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer is sadly going to be less Marx brothers focused, and more creating custom characters to fight on different and unique fronts in the war. That makes a lot of sense; as Jonathan B mentions in the comments Mass Effect (like the vast majority of RPGs) includes side quests aplenty, and we (like the vast majority of people who plays RPGs) have commented several times on the absurdity of wandering around a village/space station performing INCREDIBLY VITAL tasks like delivering packages, sorting out petty crime and trimming shrubs into beautiful topiary shapes while the WORLD(/galaxy/universe/multiverse) ITSELF is in MORTAL PERIL and there ISN’T A MOMENT TO LOSE.

Replacing optional side quests with optional sections from another character’s point of view that still tie in and contribute to a bigger story seems so obvious that some other RPGs must surely have tried it, though I can’t think of any off the top of my head. Half-Life does something similar with its Opposing Force and Blue Shift expansions seeing you take on the mantle of different characters experiencing the timeline of the original game, and occasionally crossing paths with the other protagonists. Steven Moffat’s Coupling used several unconventional narrative techniques to great effect, and they’d be well suited to something like the framing device of Dragon Age II, events being related by a not-necessarily reliable narrator. I suppose a significant problem is that structuring multiple simultaneous points of view is difficult enough at the best of times when you can precisely script the actions of all involved, give a player control and the complexity goes through the roof. It doesn’t really matter, so long as there’s a galaxy to save. But first, I’m just going to help Mrs Prodger complete her ornamental teaspoon collection…

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