Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Roleplaying The Old Republic

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 7 Feb 2012 16:00
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As I mentioned in my discussion of Dragon Age 2, I do like to try to get into a character, filling in backstory the game doesn't give in my own head. I think it's missing out not to, when "role playing" is right there in the title. But this is rarely something you can do right off the bat. I have to go through a few conversations and make a few character decisions to get a hold on their personality. What's interesting, though, is that sometimes their personality unconsciously grows into the appearance I chose at the start. In Dragon Age 2, I set out with a floppy hairdo and a cynical, self-effacing droopy-eyed look evoking a young Ian McKellan and ended up a snarky pillock who prefers hot dogs with all the trimmings over salty tuna sandwiches (oh Anders, why don't you ever write?).

So as I said in the video I opted for a Republic Smuggler, and for race I chose Cyborg. This was a rather insidious move on Bioware's part wherein they copy pasted all the assets for the human characters, replaced their facial hair with a selection of Borg implants and then claimed there are four whole races to play as. I assembled a fairly generic, dark-haired, boyishly handsome fellow, then went through the options for cybernetic implants. For some reason, the one I kept coming back to was a rather ugly metallic pipe running horizontally along the middle of the face and feeding up the nostrils, like one of those oxygen tubes they might put on you in the hospital. At first I thought it seemed ungainly, but then I realized, if anyone saw this bloke, the first question to leap to their heads would be "What's with the face tube thing?" It was a feature. A talking point. Backstory. So I ran with it.

My character was born to interplanetary surveyors. They did a lot of travelling around, and as a consequence of breathing too many alien atmospheres at a very early age, I contracted a pulmonary condition that ensures I will die if I do not constantly breathe a mix of prescribed gaseous chemicals. Unfortunately these chemicals are very expensive, and when I came of age and my parents lacked the money to both buy the gas and give me a proper space-education, the kindly family physician mentioned under the table that the stuff is sometimes used recreationally and may be cheaper to get hold of in the unregulated black market. A deal was brokered with a smuggling operation and all was well until pirates traced a shipment to my parents' vessel, slaughtering them and stealing my precious gas. Desperate, I turned to the smugglers and offered to join the bottom rung in return for a supply of what I needed to survive. Over the years I earned their respect and was finally able to break off into an independent operation, a cynicism beyond my years formed 'neath my deceptively youthful looks.

During the game I played Light Side but took every conversation option in which I grumblingly demanded hasty payment. My history had left me with a strong moral compass and hatred of pirates, but with the constant need for medication and the money to pay for it, I was also coldly realistic in my approach to working for hire.

See, to get into role playing games you have to know how to role play. What I've always liked about videogame storytelling is that to a greater degree than any other form of art it's a collaboration between the designer and the audience, and this is a nice example of that in action. It is important to let the game tell the story it wants to tell, though. It's a short step from the above to writing fan fiction, and that never ends well for anyone. The next thing you know you've written an entire novel about your character, then changed all the names and published it through Dark Horse.

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. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.

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