Steelgod September: Day Five (2,353 words)

on Sunday, September 5, 2010
For the first time, I have found my chapter unfinished at the end of the day. Ah well; it was a light day, and the fact I got this many still amazes me. We had writing group over to read all our progress in our "Write a decent book in a month" party and critique it thus far. I got some interesting Steelgods comments, which will prove helpful.

Now that I'm blogging daily, I'm going to take this opportunity to talk about things you probably don't care about. So I'm going to talk about video games. Specifically, Bioware games.

For the uninitiated, Bioware is a rather popular game company that makes American RPGs. Specifically, they made the Knights of the Old Republic game on Xbox, as well as the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series. The reason I want to comment on them is that they receive copious amounts of praise from just about everyone in the industry for their "spectacular stories." It is often brought up that only Bioware knows how to write game stories that are comparable to movies, books, or other forms of literature/media. Seriously, everybody says that.

My problem is I disagree. I have watched a roommate play through KOTAR 1 & 2 multiple times. I have also beaten Mass Effect 1 probably four times, Mass Effect 2 twice, and am still working on Dragon Age. I am inclined to disagree that Bioware writes good stores. On the contrary, I'd say their stores are just passable. Usually they are cliche, predictable, and are just good enough to keep things moving. Granted, they are still heads above most game stories (save perhaps a game like Braid), but that doesn't make them good. When compared to just about any high-class sci-fi or fantasy novel, they fall flat.

But what Bioware does damn near immaculately is characters. They know how to make characters that are real, three-dimensional beings, rather than just cardboard cutouts of video game and sci-fi/fantasy cliches.

I'd give examples, but I'm lazy. So maybe some other time. The point is that, a huge part of Bioware games is interacting with your "crew." You often have long strings of dialogue choices that change frequently depending on how far into the game you are. As you begin to learn the characters, you begin to understand exactly what appeals to them, and it is then you realize almost all are not as simple as you think.

Ok, I'll give an example. Take Morrigan from Dragon Age. She's a snappy witch, who gets sent with you basically because her "mother" is sick of her hanging around and complaining. At first she comes off as just a jerk to everybody, who usually wants the people you help to solve their own problems and loves making fun of your party members as you travel the world. She's a great character.

The thing is, you have to take this into account when you talk to her. In most game, if you pick the generally flirty, nice responses to questions when talking to characters, it's the "right" answer. They'll like you, end of story. Morrigan isn't like that. If you are mushy or too "goody two-shoes," she'll insult you to your face. However, if you return her banter, giving her a taste of her own medicine, she'll like that And, in turn, she'll open up more.

Something I also like about her is she border between sympathetic and un-sympathetic throughout the game, especially towards the end when you have to make a serious decision concerning her. With most game characters, you have a belief that, no matter how mean they are, everybody crusty on the outside is soft on the inside. Morrigan isn't like this. While she might have a sliver of goodness in her, she sure as hell isn't going to let anybody see it. So, while you like her because she's clever (ex: "Oh good, now we have a dog. And Allistar is still the stupidest member of the party."), you come to realize she isn't going to turn out all tulips and roses. She's a witch, in more ways then one, and it makes her character captivating.

So, the point is that I'm sick of hearing people praise bioware games, when they should be praising their character development. I have yet to play a game made by Bioware where I didn't feel a genuine connection with each and every character by the time the game ended, even the characters I initially hated. Because they are so real, they are believable, and because they are so believable they become sympathetic. It's such a huge break from video game stereotypes, it's quite refreshing.

Ok, that's enough of that. Here's your bit from today. I'll finish the chapter tomorrow.

For being so small, they sure have a lot of Tinkers, I realized, noticing the mechanical servants as they darted to and fro between buildings, accomplishing their various tasks. Why have the Peacemakers graced them with so many?
I poised this question to April between ragged gasps; my arm was beginning to hurt again, and my chest was still sore from the Peacemaker’s blast the night previous. April looked back at Rosehip with a peculiar look on her face, and with what I thought was a touch of sadness.
“My dad,” she began, her eyes darting back and forth as she watched the Tinkers, “he was a master mechanic, as well as a smith. One day when he was swimming in the far lake, he noticed the bottom was coated with remains of destroyed Tinkers. It was as if someone had dumped them there, centuries ago, in a large pit. Then rainwater or an underground stream filled it, covering their graveyard.”
I stumbled, and quick as light April grabbed me, hoisting me up by my shoulder as she prevented me from falling. Her hands were rough and callused, and her tug was somewhat uncomfortable, like she didn’t know her own strength.
“Thanks,” I mumbled, trying my best to undo the damage I’d caused previous with my flippant comments. She gave a slight nod before continuing.
“Dad convinced the village to haul them all out. It was a huge mess; most were in pieces, and all of them were deactivated. They dumped the whole pile into our shop, for dad to work on. I was six then, and I remember staying up late watching father work, putting pieces together and drawing new parts to experiment with using Graffiti.”


Ryan said...

I still can't find many characters I find more amusing than HK-47.

Nathan Major said...

That's valid. I didn't like KOTAR2 as much as KOTAR1, but I really liked HK-47.

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