In response to “Bring on the Bad Guy” from The Escapist Forum: I’d say that the Early rule doesn’t always have to apply. I’ve never wanted to tear a character apart more than in Jade Empire and you’re over halfway through the game once you reach the point where that villain is revealed.
If you can avoid telegraphing it, I’d say a betrayal of some sort is a great way to make the player truly hate the villain. Of course, it happens so often now that it has become a bit cliché.
My favourite villain from Mess Effect was Sovereign. The exchange between it and Shepard on Virmire was chilling. Not much about Sovereign was revealed until Mass Effect 2, but it just goes to show that sometimes a single conversation can really set a scene and establish a bad guy.
I’m reminded of a scene in the film Assassins. Where Antonio Banderas’ character is in the back seat of a cab which Sly Stallone, who he is trying to kill, is driving. The bulletproof glass screen prevents either one of them from really doing anything to one another (although Banderas fires a shot).
Putting the player in such close proximity to a villain but having something in place which prevents a physical altercation can be an effective way to build up the bad guy.
In response to “The World is Out to Get You” from The Escapist Forum: That is certainly an amusing point. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve careened into Jagged Rock Junction, or down a pit, or into lava/acid/purple cloud stuff over the years. Or when traversing a rope line to jump off too early and miss the landing by a couple of micrometers, or jump to a platform that looks safe only to discover that there was a hidden trap. Maybe my timing was off, maybe my jump was just a few degrees off, or a second too early, and whoops, there I go making another stain again. Maybe I was running across a building top, jump off the edge and leap to the next building, but misjudge the distance and land face first on some poor sod below me who apparently is composed of motile reinforced concrete. Maybe it’s the random bit of wall that juts out in an infested corridor that seems specifically designed to bounce my strafing-thrown grenades right back into my face, or that bit of ceiling that seems to pop down right as I jump up and try to launch a rocket at someone across a room, only to realize that a half-foot radius is no where near enough room to dodge an exploding rocket and end up launching myself back to the ground, in a multitude of little bits. Truely, the environment is out to mash us into little gibblets.
In response to “Stop Killing the Foozle” from The Escapist Forum: Braid was also Foozle-free, when it had honestly cribbed most of its stylings from existing time-rewinding games (Prince of Persia for example) and Mario (definitely a foozly series). Although the final stage is “boss-like” in its behaviour and difficulty, there is no singular antagonist. There is even a playable epilogue that follows it.
Foozle-free games are interesting. Mother/Earthbound has unconventional Foozles, that you defeat in unexpected or unusual ways, yet utterly relevant to the core plot and thematics of each game. I would like to see more games like that. I would also like to see more games like a number of the Metroid series’ games: Those that have a Foozle, but don’t simply end with it. There’s more than just destroying the monster to save the day. Fusion is a great example of this, with the final bosses being more obstacles to try and stop you surviving, as opposed to great enemies you have to destroy the save the day. The day is already saved; whether you get out alive or not is another issue! Utterly removes the idea of the enemy as a “foozle”.
On reflection, Resident Evil had this too. Frequently, the “final boss” was just a really big, nasty monster, usually one that had been stalking you for a time, but was not actually the key to saving the day. Usually that was already in your possession – again, the monster was just a climactic obstacle to overcome, not the goal in and of itself. I feel that’s a better model for the majority of games. Sure, have the heroes Talk the Monster to Death, but make sure there’s a big bad angry beastie for the player to overcome too, otherwise – even though the narrative has climax – the gameplay does not.
TL;DR: Foozles provide gameplay climax. You do not need a foozle to provide narrative climax.
Good article. Of course you can’t possibly mention every example, but I did half expect the Legacy of Kain games to crop up in that section discussing complications of the foozle role. The glory of those games was an epic narrative arch in which the player brings Kain to power, only for him to become the foozle for the main character Raziel in the later follow up game, (Soul Reaver). As the series progresses the shifting relationships between the various characters creates foozles from allies and allies from foozles, culminating in a grand finale which has completely switched up the roles originally established. One superb section that sticks in my mind is in, (I think, it’s been a while) the final game in which Raziel and Kain face off. You play half the fight as one character and then switch midway through, so the game toys with the players sense of empathy for their main character… who exactly do I want to win this fight? The game complicates and undermines the simple hero/villain binary by doing something very realistic- basing ethics in indivdual perceptions.
To link this in with another of this week’s articles, (Colin Rowsell’s What Hulk Hogan Taught Videogames): by toying with it the Legacy of Kain games demonstrate that the good guy and bad guy, player and foozle, are completely inter-reliant. That’s why so many games have a foozle, because they are a tool by which to define through opposition the identity of the hero. And if there’s one thing a game really does need, it’s a hero.
In response to “What Hulk Hogan Taught Videogames” from The Escapist Forum: Personally, I think it is important to acknowledge that Hogan is not exactly remembered fondly by the wrestling world. He, and Vince McMahon, made wrestling a joke and took away respect or credibility that the wrestling industry had. He had a pretty bad cocaine habit during the 80’s. His backstage politicking and favoritism led to the WWF stagnating, since it hadn’t been creating any new stars. His ego was the size of a planet. He refused to put anyone over, ever, and would outright refuse to work if the money wasn’t good enough or he didn’t like the guy he was going to have the match with. He would fake legit injures as an excuse to take time off and play political games with the people backstage. His antics, later on, caused WCW to go bankrupt. Seriously, Hogan has done more to hurt the business in the last two decades than anyone else in that position. If anything, games didn’t learn jack from Hogan. If they had, they’d would be boring as all hell.