Pirates Are Way More Interesting Than Elves

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Pirates Are Way More Interesting Than Elves

How story informs everything in games.

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First, someone needs to fix the update feature that brings stuff to the front page. I found this in one of those off-topic things and forgot what day it was.

Second, I would really like to see more anti-heroism that isn't just angst against some moronic authority or some great conspiracy. Granted, it can make for good motivation if it's something like the first or second Max Payne, but I couldn't help but think that the third was trying too hard to be an HBO special. Same thing goes for RAGE.

Third, what about pirate elves?

*takes notes*

I'm the main writer for a small RPG project. I agree with this.

Time to go triple check character motivations to make sure all of them are believable.

Here's a quick experiment. How would you design a game based upon the life of Muhammad Ali? Your first thought was probably that it would have to be a boxing game, wasn't it. Either that or a smack talk simulator. See what I mean? Story first, then gameplay from that. And there'll be no cover-based shooting no matter how much the publisher thinks it'd sell.

Well... they did manage to make a third person shooter out of 50 Cent, so yeah... I wouldn't put it past them.

Anyway, I'm also decidedly tired of Tolkien/D&D fantasy RPGs. Surely there are other fantastical settings out there.

Muhammad Ali: Chest high walls cover punching.

I'm so buying =D

Back on track, I agree that most MMOs are so stuck up to the same core gameplay, that they no longer explores any possibility. TERA had the usual setting, but could go for Exploration, and bigger battles, but it's still the same formula from WoW, with better combat mechanics.

I had hopes for the Secret World as well, but it seems is going in the same direction, with a different make up.

That's all they change, the make up.

I don't think that's necessarily true. Pirates just haven't been as overused as elves have. Given enough time and too many generic movies and games featuring them and pirates will become just as boring.

I once played a paper-scissors-stone tournament without using my index finger but people kept getting mad with me every time I played scissors.

Character motivations can make someone so interesting. Shinji Ikari of Neon Genesis Evangelion didn't usually care too much that the world was going to end. The mere fact that if he didn't fight the world would end was not enough to motivate him to save the world, nor even orders from a superior or even his Dad who was also his superior in NERV. Shinji needed something more, like fighting for someone, something or fighting because he knows he is one of the only people who actually has a chance at winning, and even then usually something would happen to him that would need him to get more motivation for the next fight.

This is why I find Shinji one of the most interesting characters in all media. He is not your everyday hero, he's someone who got thrown into a mess he wishes he wasn't a part of, someone who's had a bad life thus far and the oncoming apocalypse is something he's just been thrown in the midst of to sort out. He doesn't feel compelled to do anything by valour nor feel like it is his destiny to kill the Angels. He's just a boy that got caught up with a horrible life.

Calumon does not care for Evangelion, good day to you

Pirates only seem fresh because they haven't been used as much as elves recently. As a stereotype the whole pirate thing falls apart a lot faster than your average fantasy game. Not to mention that there have been a lot of pirate/seafaring games out there over the years, but most hadn't caught on due to problems with implenetation. One of the big problems that most of them can't solve is of course the issue of handling the entire bit on ships. Not to mention the sheer amount of time ship travel takes at that tech level, glossing over it isn't a bad thing unless your going for something like "Pirates!" where your character's lifespan is the big limit on gameplay since your character ages to uselessness and dies. If you have a plotline (which Pirates really doesn't) spending 30 years sailing around randomly kinds of ruins it, hence why it tends to be glossed over.

I'll also go so far as to say that elves and dwarves and stuff get boring in fantasy games because they are rarely the focus of the stories. As much as that might seem to not be true, 99% of fantasy games involve you wandering around a human-centric pseudo-medieval setting for the majority of the game, and when you deal with these other races and go to their areas it's generally as an "exotic" change of pace. Other than long rants about their history you rarely see much about them, and it all becomes lost in a tide of pointy eared emos and greedy accented midgets with bad attitudes. What's more such societies are almost always portrayed as being in their decline.

If they decided to say build a game based entirely around elves and dwarves, with their empires being at their height (so nobody has to be emo), it could be interesting, but the odds of us ever seeing that are actually fairly minimal.

I think it's interesting to note that these things tend to be more about the world than the characters, which is also from Tolkien's Master Guide to Fantasy. Building an interesting Universe for the game that the player will want to get lost in seems to be the alternative route for making the player give a damn.

Actually, I'd say that Bioshock's schtick was a very clever, interesting, and well-integrated lampshade.

A rock-paper-scissors game without an index finger isn't so bad. You just have to do the Vulcan scissors instead of regular one. With some quick last minute adjustments you can win two thirds of your games that way (and tie on the rest). <.<

Pirates are more interesting than Elves, but not necessarily more interesting than Generic Fantasy. Why? Because Pirates are still pretty much only one flavor. Pirate flavor. You'd get as sick of it as you do Elves pretty quickly.

And this is why I still like Zombies (for what they can be). They have no personality or character. In a properly-handled setting, they're background noise. They're an obstacle. This allows you to showcase the actual characters in a wide variety of ways... so it's a shame that rarely happens. I'd offer that people aren't nearly as sick of zombies as they are of the same few generic characters used in zombie settings.

I wouldnt necessarily agree that pirates inherently have more personality than elves - I think its more accurate to say that for the last 10 years game developers have gone straight to "Tolkien-esque super polite elitist snob" when they hear elf. Elves are fey, practically alien, and theres no reason I can see to make them essentially act human. They love nature apparently, so why not have them be so fiercely protective of it that any human they catch chopping down trees becomes their next meal? They are supposedly constantly happy and gay, so why not have them be so cheerful and perpetually amped that none of their behaviour even remotely resembles human behaviour?

Not saying elves have more personality than pirates, just saying that maybe writers have been mis-managing what they have for a while.

I like how the Japanese have made badass RPG's like Persona which has a High school combined with demons setting and yet western developers are content eating Tolkien's leftovers!

You thing COD is generic and same-y? Well so are most RPG's now a days! Do something new!!
Make it based on Dresden Files, American Gods, Hellboy, Hellblazer/Constantine!

I love the fact that he mentioned Wind Waker near the beginning. It's the little things, you know?

Also, the part about why the main character does what they do was brilliant.

OT: Yeah, I'm going to have to agree with everyone else who's commented thus far, while it is nice to see an RPG that doesn't include Elf species #XXXXXXX, I have to imagine that pirates would get pretty old, pretty fast.

Not really... I would say elves in fantasy settings have been around more time than pirates. Given that most people associate the Tolkien's version of elves (a version that is not that interesting, to begin with), they tend to get generic and formulaic as a race.

If pirates were featured more prominently (or if they were only featured as Johnny Depp's sassy, witty, playful and slightly-dirty-but-not-so-much version), we would get tired of them fairly quickly. The same could be applied to any setting being overused... How far did we go from praising Normandy and Stalingrad set pieces in MOH and COD to loathing everything remotely connected to WW2?

The problems you point out with the motivation are true, but that is often something a bad writer will commit, while a good writer can take an overused setting and give it a fresh spin. How boring and generic can Meyer make a modern fantasy horror setting? How fresh can George Martin make a medieval fantasy setting? I guess we are lucky that Risen's writers are decent, but this could have been a typical "go in search of the legendary treasure of Purplebeard... The X marks the spot."

Dastardly:
I'd offer that people aren't nearly as sick of zombies as they are of the same few generic characters used in zombie settings.

... This. (Please don't report me)

I like my zombie games, I really do, but the characters have a tendency to be... well, shit. Dead Rising (the first one, I haven't played the second) offered somewhat of a change to it by having its special backstories involving psychopaths, escaped convicts, and a photographer with the most annoying in-game voice in the world (I'm talking about "Kent", which is weird because he sounds normal in the cutscenes). Still, though, Dead Rising's main characters are just stereotypical cut-and-paste characters. "Strange Hispanic Man". "Strange Hispanic Woman". "Photojournalist". "Agent".

... But really, that can be forgiven when you compare Dead Rising to, say, Dead Island (what's with all the "Dead"?), you'll find which is truly better. ... And no, graphics don't make anything better. ... Okay, they do, but nowadays they really don't, considering we're still comparing everything to Half-Life.

Like I said, pirates rule. 8)

I prefer them to ninjas, ESPECIALLY in video games, considering there are WAAAAAAAY too many ninjas in video games.

I remember hearing Ken Levine of Irrational Games say that they would always figure out the core gameplay before the story, which is undoubtedly why Rapture is such an interesting setting, because it was conceived as the perfect framing device for a set of unique game mechanics that just didn't fit in conventional shooter settings. I don't know why more devs don't do that, I mean, you'd think the "game" part of a game would be your main focus, and really, the "story first" approach seems like one of the biggest potential road blocks in gamings approach towards genuine artistry, because it leads to games that don't really use their central form of engagement (interactivity) to make any statement.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
As much as I keep hearing that game developers these days just don't care about story, one can't get away from the fact that story, setting and context all define the gameplay.

I'll admit that I'm one of the players (and amateur game designer) that doesn't care much for stories in video games since I feel like they serve more as exposition for a narrative I don't care about, or they distract from the main game that I find more enjoyable than the stupid character's drama with their parents. However this sentence does make some sense since I do believe that story should justify the reasoning why a player might do something in the core mechanics of the game. For example, "Prototype" gives a context reason why the avatar can eat people to unlock more information of the story or XP rewards; whereas "Fable II" gives no context reason why you could be a dick to a bunch of 1s and 0s.

In most of my experience I tend to stick with the core mechanics first, and then build a story around that. However I think this is where some game designers might fail in justifying things in the context of the game. For example, I've been watching Graham and Paul (LRR crew) LP of "X-Men: Destiny." Supposedly the game starts with the destruction of the town from a mob of people that hate mutants--armed with electric batons and guns, but are capable of destroying a town so it looks like something from "Fallout 3." But if a game designer starts first with the story to justify the context of the core mechanics, could this limit options in the game-world to the player? How would this work with something like Skyrim or other sandbox games?

It's this reason I'm playing Fallout: New Vegas again. Zombies with character, no sign of elves, some decent RPG dicking around, and a group of people who are basically pirates, even going to the extent of raising their ship from the bottom of some water. But this is ancillary to the point at hand, that point being: Pirates Rule!

What would be really nice is a pirate game that's actually based on real history. Where pirates are sometimes criminals, sometimes government agents, sometimes both. It's an absolutely awesome set-up, several powerful nations at war even when they're supposedly at peace, each with their own distinct culture, trying to take over a brand new world as far as they're concerned with natives stuck in the middle, captains going rogue, building their own fleets at times. History offers so many other situations like this that are far more interesting than the usual 'good guy vs bad guy' nations that most game stories seem to fall into.

I think this is a huge failing of the story-telling process as well for games, they make the good guys and bad guys extremely obvious and stereotyped, they don't give you anything to think about. The last time I can think of a character even approaching being a sympathetic villain was Loghain from Dragon Age who seemed to think killing the King would allow him to keep the nation safe. But the game barely developed that motivation and set about making him otherwise so evil that it pretty much fell apart.

The very fact that elves have become a cliche serves only to show how creatively bankrupt the fantasy genre has become, especially in gaming.

The whole idea of 'fantasy' is to create something new and intriguing that sparks the imagination. The clue's in the title, after all. When Tolkien created Middle Earth, he combined a variety of different mythological sources with stuff of his own invention, and gave us all something we'd never seen before. A completely unique mythological world, with its own creatures, people and history. The elves of Middle Earth weren't just simple stuck-up snobs, they were deliberately portrayed as aloof because their immense lifespans (and thus their very perception of time), manic-depressive emotions and ability to see things waaay beyond the mortal realm kind of hamper their ability to mingle with everyday folk. Add to that the fact that Tolkien made his elves human-sized and totally bangable, and you get a drastic reinterpretation of a mythological idea that's been around for hundreds of years.

This is the sort of thing missing in fantasy now, and it's why we have this stagnation of the genre that Yahtzee alludes to. Instead of following Professor T's example and going to great efforts to build new worlds with new sights, new races, new takes on mythological ideas, etc, game developers are happy enough just aping his work, and changing a few of the particulars. Even something like The Elder Scrolls boils down to being a more metropolitan Middle Earth, complete with elves, orcs and dragons.

There are great fantasy writers out there. Writers like China Mieville and Clive Barker are able to come up with whole new universes that have next to nothing to do with Middle Earth, and the views they offer are so much more spectacular and memorable because of it. We need western developers to step up and realise that fantasy doesn't begin and end with Lord Of The Rings, and that fans of the genre are craving something different and unique, not yet another take on a well-worn formula. Japanese developers seem to understand this pretty well. You don't have to like the gameplay of JRPGs, but typically Japanese developers are pretty good at creating unique fantasy worlds that don't rehash the same old Tolkien archtypes.

This is so true. I understand why it's done though. You make your character as blank as you can because then the player can just "be" the main character, but they could at least give us some more reason to care about why we want to save the world or whatever.

That's what I like about Fallout 3. Because it lets us develop our main character's personality from our birth to when we step out of Vault 101, and it gives us a goal we can aim for besides save/destroy the world. Find our dad. All done with gameplay and story choices.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chronicles_of_Thomas_Covenant

Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Completely original fantasy settings despite the plot revolving around the main character carrying a plot pivotal magical ring.

Also has quite possibly the best big bad villain in the history of fiction writing.

Third chronicles went off the rails so it is skippable but first and second is some of the most brilliant fantasy ever written.

Still waiting for an RPG where you're either A: the back-up hero and people clearly know this given there's a system for "chosen ones" with you being something like 48th in line and the villain ends up systematically killing everyone in front of you off over the course of the game as they gather all the ancient artifacts while you went off on your own (increasingly interrupted) quest to go fetch something mundane or B: someone who increasingly runs across what a normal hero of an RPG would be while you carry on trying to keep the local inn afloat while dealing with the continual forces of evil trying to burn down the hero's home town (your town).

As cliche as it is, revenge is usually my favourite reason for why some character feels the need to go to war again big bad world-raper. It's a personal reason and driving force behind many things.

Personally, I'd like to see more modern-day RPGs with magical elements e.g. the Persona series but done with a more western style RPG.

Anyone else think moral masturbation sounds pretty hot?

Aerograt:
Anyone else think moral masturbation sounds pretty hot?

I read that in the voice of Purple Link, now I feel rather silly.

This constant wanking of Tolkien is why I made my version of elves the heavily-industrialist race of the setting who realized there was a reason that people made advanced technology. The West really does need to get away from Tolkien (or also Martin) catalog of fantasy or typical sci-fi. Say what you will about Japan's RPGs, but they certainly don't rely on Tolkien when it comes to settings.

I would like to see more pirates, but I think the point Yahtzee is trying to get across is that the West seems to relegate themselves to very narrow settings for know other reason that because D&D was swords and sorcery typical high fantasy. I mean, come on, TONS of pen and paper RPGs have settings other than fantasy.

I want to see a RPG (the usual fantasy setting would be fine) where you manage a small band of adventurers with the goal of getting rich. They willingly go into the dungeon of horrors or wherever so they can kill things and steal their gold and magical whatsits. There would be endless rivals trying to do the same thing. The town outside the doom pit would be like a gold rush town; ramshackle, unruly, build and frequented by people thinking only of the cash they can make today.

If you want a larger story you can have your money-grubbers stumble onto something down in the hole that they're just not practicably able to ignore, no matter how much they'd like to.

...
How would you design a game based upon the life of Muhammad Ali? Your first thought was probably that it would have to be a boxing game, wasn't it. Either that or a smack talk simulator. See what I mean? Story first, then gameplay from that. And there'll be no cover-based shooting no matter how much the publisher thinks it'd sell.

hmm...cover based punching..
i just found a lucrative market niche!

GangstaPony:
I like how the Japanese have made badass RPG's like Persona which has a High school combined with demons setting and yet western developers are content eating Tolkien's leftovers!

You thing COD is generic and same-y? Well so are most RPG's now a days! Do something new!!
Make it based on Dresden Files, American Gods, Hellboy, Hellblazer/Constantine!

to be fair, both high school and demons are the done to death subjects in japan, so just moving to somebody else's pond and seeing their big fish means that you're resorting to being "exotic" again

it's the characters in those games that carry the content

Fronzel:
I want to see a RPG (the usual fantasy setting would be fine) where you manage a small band of adventurers with the goal of getting rich. They willingly go into the dungeon of horrors or wherever so they can kill things and steal their gold and magical whatsits. There would be endless rivals trying to do the same thing. The town outside the doom pit would be like a gold rush town; ramshackle, unruly, build and frequented by people thinking only of the cash they can make today.

If you want a larger story you can have your money-grubbers stumble onto something down in the hole that they're just not practicably able to ignore, no matter how much they'd like to.

watch me railroad this post

...

have you ever played megaman legends?

Delock:
Still waiting for an RPG where you're either A: the back-up hero and people clearly know this given there's a system for "chosen ones" with you being something like 48th in line and the villain ends up systematically killing everyone in front of you off over the course of the game as they gather all the ancient artifacts while you went off on your own (increasingly interrupted) quest to go fetch something mundane or B: someone who increasingly runs across what a normal hero of an RPG would be while you carry on trying to keep the local inn afloat while dealing with the continual forces of evil trying to burn down the hero's home town (your town).

Nice. I'd play both.

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