Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
What if We Leveled Backwards?!

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 22 Feb 2011 16:00
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Next, it makes considerably more sense from a storytelling standpoint. The main issue with using a traditional hero's-journey structure in games, as I've said before, is that these stories are rooted in adversity, in the hero being in a losing position right up until the end, while a game structure depends upon the hero winning at every turn - it can't continue otherwise. In TfD, you still have to win all the time, but in a succession of Pyrrhic victories that leave you worse off than before. When you fight the final boss, you are at your lowest point - exactly where drama demands that you be before the final act reversal. This makes the villain's threat more vivid, and your eventual tortuous victory more satisfying. It'd avoid the common issue that I choose to call "Resident Evil 4 Syndrome," in which the final boss still attempting to come across as smugly threatening at the final showdown falls a little flat, considering that the hero has just one-man-armied his way through every single one of their allies and resources.

Finally, if the game were an MMO, it would rather neatly eliminate the practise of griefing nubs. This will however almost certainly result in a reverse problem where the newbies grief the oldbies. This may be the issue that renders the concept unworkable, since ideally in an MMO you want the newbie to aspire to be on the same level of the other players they see, that's part of what drives them to keep playing, but I can think of a few counterpoints to it.

Firstly, the newbies will probably have a lot of fun bullying the older players, giving a good first impression that may lead them to be suckered into continuing playing the game, but the more they grief, the weaker they'll get. Whatever you do in the game, levelling down would be virtually unavoidable. If the game's designed properly, then by the time the nubs get to the point that griefing isn't so fun anymore, they'll be hooked on everything the rest of the game has to offer, just in time for a new batch of nubs to come a-griefing - tee hee!

And second, status in an online game (and indeed many online environments) is often awarded, not by ability or merit, but by who's been around the longest. Take a look at all the supreme champions of the human race who thunderously announce "FIRST!" in the comments for every single fucking video I've ever made. By this logic, the most respect in TfD would be given to the weakest, scrawniest, brittlest motherfuckers in the land, regarded as wise, refined self-disciplinarians like mountaintop holy men, while all the big strong lads are considered brash, dumb thugs who barely know how to use the dustbin full of spells they've got strapped to their massive backs. Griefers and trash-talkers might even come out of the experience with a whole new attitude.

Perhaps this game could change the world. Perhaps it could bring the shake-up that the Internet desperately needs, but without any of the awkward side-effects that come with surgical nuclear strikes.

Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games and writes the back page column for PC Gamer, who are too important to mention us. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.

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