It's like a backstab, but right in their face!

| Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Now and then there is the hullabaloo about stories and narratives and the player's story and the developer's story and how these don't go together and how lame it is to have the developers making paths that we have to follow.  And so on and so forth.

Well call me a middling middler because I want both, a bit!  I like having overall narratives: background and events that are set up to happen.  I don't mind that a game inevitably takes me toward the standoff with the Big Bad.  It's good, actually, helps wrap things up and push me out the door to go play another game.  It also gives some sense of purpose, of a plan, that these game worlds we inhabit are not mere chaos given form by pixels.

I must first talk about Minecraft.  That is a game with no story, no plan, no given goals.  That's great!  I can't imagine Minecraft would be any fun at all if it instead consisted of a series of Building Challenges in which you were told to go dig up sand and bake it to make a glass castle.  The player story vs. developer story seems to me to be a matter of genre, of which type of game best fits each narrative type.

A game could put those together a bit: bring in developer stories, but let players have some flexibility when working out what to do.  Maybe they'd side with the other group.  Maybe they'd sneak in rather than shoot in.  Maybe they'd convince the enemy that violence is not the answer, leading them to disappear into the mountains and form a monastic order of peace.

And so there is Fallout: New Vegas, my latest world in which I wander around killing people who dress funny.  Some of them are drug addicts.  Some of them are thieves.  The worst of them all speak Latin.

Thanks to the open-ended design, I can follow along with the stories of the developers, but in my own way.  With my own alignment, which I like to call Chaotic Lawful Good.  Essentially I am aligned with the Lawful Good faction/government, but I do things in the less lawful way.  I run off on my own and kill the bad guys without orders.  Though I'll gladly follow orders too.

It all came together wonderfully in Cottonwood Cove.  It was there that the Big Bad of the game was offering me a second chance at evil.  All my crimes against evil were forgiven and I could take the raft up to his Fortification and even join his Army of Evil.  How nice of him.  I was planning to work with the good guys, but hey, this was quite the honor!  So up the river I went.

Of course they exhibited some minor degree of intelligence, in that they were letting me in, but confiscating my weapons, but missing the silenced pistol I'd stashed away... somewhere.  Things were looking good.  I'd finally found a way to the Fortification, which as you can tell from the capitalization, is a very important Place.  And I had a weak gun.  And sneaking skills.  So I snuck away a little, shot a guy in the head, stole his weapon, killed a couple more people, stole their weapons, and finally got the key to the boxes hold my good guns, good armor, and invisibility devices.

I proceeded to go through the entire Fortification, killing everyone with the help of my cybernetic dog and girl voiced by Felicia Day who likes to punch things.  This included the Big Bad Caesar himself, because why not?  I mean, he went to all the effort to allow me into his Fortification; it would be rude to not stop by and kill him.  I am Good aligned, after all, with a bit of Lawful as well, so I have good manners.  Not that I'm stuck up or anything.  I can't stand stuck up people.  I found an entire casino full of them.  So I killed them.  They wore stupid masks too.  That was reason enough.  Also they were cannibals, but that was just icing on the cake of me hating them.

I don't recall any quests telling me to slaughter the casino of elitist mask-wearers, but that's the great thing about the semi-sandbox game: you get to do your own thing when it really matters.  There also didn't appear to be a quest directing me to kill the Big Bad, but that sort of thing seemed self-evident.  I blew up a robot army too.  I don't think I was supposed to do that, but again, I was in the area.  It's important to see all the sights and blow up all the sights before the trip is over.

See, all Lawful Good.  Sort of.  And that's just the way I like it.


Celendus said...

I think the addition of the enderdragon adds quite a bit of fun to Minecraft. All of the sub-goals are exploration oriented, so it plays out much like your Fallout games. Need diamonds, go on an adventure looking for them. Need blaze rods, explore the nether. Stockpiling goodies for that final push into The End is also a natural time for a player to reorganize, and let's face it, totally rebuild their house.

Klepsacovic said...

Now that you mention that, I may have to drag some of my friends back into Minecraft. We did run into the "We've built up the civilized world" problem and I was the only one who was into building railways, so we could only expand so far before distance became excessively irritating.

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