I rarely do any proper roleplay in games, although I prefer to roll on RP servers and I’ve very much loved the light or just-for-fun roleplay that I’ve done with guilds. I’m respectful of roleplay, I walk when necessary, dismount before entering a building, etc. I will respond in kind if someone initiates roleplay with my character…but I usually will never initiate it myself, I would feel like a tit.
That said, I’m always “in character” – it’s why I play MMOs. I’ve written before about finding it difficult to play characters longterm if they don’t click for me as characters in their own right. My Warcraft hunter Kitsune had a backstory and a personality from the moment I created her, and I loved her enough to have her name in kanji tattooed on my spine. If that’s not being serious, I don’t know what is. :)
Ravven, my character in The Secret World, hadn’t clicked for me as a person until I hit the lighthouse in the Savage Coast and listened to the author’s cut scene on Life Imitates Art. Even given the extremely basic character creation tools, I’d managed to create a look that I could deal with. I had reserved my favourite name. I’d spent tons of cash in Pangaea putting together outfits for her. But I didn’t know who she was until I watched this:
That is Ravven. She is an ordinary person who worked a shit job until the world fell apart. She’s a bit like Thelma in Thelma and Louise in that it took a horrible event to make her realise who she was born to be. Just as Thelma discovers the outlaw living under the skin of the mousy housewife, Ravven discovers that what she was actually put on earth to do is kill, efficiently and coldly, without enjoyment but with a fierce desire to right an upside-down world. First it was survival, and then it was an avocation.
I rolled her as Dragon, and that fits with her emerging persona. You may think that the Dragon are anarchists and terrorists, but they are actually creating order out of a chaotic world using seemingly random events to shape and guide the future. Ravven is a force of change and the destruction that clears the field for healthy growth. She doesn’t know, and doesn’t need to know, what the grand overall plan is. She is just doing what she was put on this earth to do.
And yes, she is well aware that if she hadn’t been thrust into this broken world she would have been “another rat stuck in a race with a dead end job, living for a paycheck and the weekends, one long booze-soaked slide towards the dark and cold grave.” (Such gorgeous storytelling in this game!) She finally has her place in the world, a purpose, and a passion.
This is why I play.
I’ve really been enjoying The Secret World. As you get farther into the game, the story becomes deeper and deeper. The writing and voice acting are some of the best that I have ever seen, although the character animations let it down a bit. If you’re one of those “rush to end game, skip quest text, skip cutscene” type of gamers, you will really be missing a wealth of stunning material.
So far, the early access and launch have been silk-smooth. There were some initial problems with loading screens (one of the usual culprits) and quests, but those bugs seem to have been smoothed out. I would have let Funcom DIAF without bothering to piss on them after the Conan launch, but they have almost entirely redeemed themselves with The Secret World. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should. If you have an interest in writing or story you definitely should.
When you look at three recent MMOs that have featured cutscenes as a method of telling story, you see some interesting differences. (Warning – these videos will contain spoilers if you haven’t played through these bits before.)
Star Wars The Old Republic:
In SWTOR the story was focussed on your character, and I would rate it the highest due to the immersion of watching your character act out their part. Smooth, well-written, and voiced by some of the best voice actors in the business Steve Blum and Xanthe Elbrick are two of my favourites. It was fun seeing the same scenes playing out differently depending on the choices that your group makes. All in all, this is my favourite treatment of cutscene video used in storytelling. Below is an excerpt from the series I did on Andronikos Revel (such a sexy pirate).
Guild Wars 2:
Guild Wars 2, in contrast, feels stiff and artificial to me. I confess that I do skip many of the cutscenes not involved with personal story in GW2, as they aren’t immersive or involving. I know that the art team made some possibly controversial choices in order to keep them in line with the “hand painted” look of the game, but the characters stand stiffly and never look at each other. It’s a shame, as this is an amazing game.
The Secret World:
And now we come to my current love, The Secret World. The scene below shows my character in a conversation with the guy in the junk yard. It’s profane, very funny, and features tons of spitting. He’s one of my favourites, although to be honest it’s quite difficult to choose just one – they’re all well done, smart, occasionally hilarious, and very well acted.
The Secret World (at least at this point, not having seen the entire game) is more about the world story than your personal story. Star Wars was very heavily about your own personal story. Both approaches are done well, and both are enjoyable to play through. Guild Wars 2? Well, unfortunately for one of the games that I am most looking forward to, it doesn’t work well for either. Perhaps that isn’t meant to be a strong point of the game.
“Shut your pie holes, boys!” I’m still laughing over Edgar in the video above. Isn’t that one of the best game characters ever?
Wow, I’ve been really bad about keeping the blog up – I’ve been busy at times, but not enough to warrant not having the time to write. Must be attributable to epic fail-ness at blogging.
Yesterday morning I said on Twitter that it was my off-the-wall (haha) prediction that ArenaNet would announce the Guild Wars 2 launch date that day…just as a fun poke at the jersey crowd. And you know what? I totally nailed that sucker.
And today is the early-access launch for The Secret World. I’m looking forward to it, actually. Partially because I really, really need a fantasy world to escape to (it’s been a long time since I’ve been really immersed in a game) and partially because it has improved greatly over the course of months of the closed beta. I was very luke-warm about the game but in its present state it is a very playable game. Will I sub after my free month? Probably not…but one never knows. Part of that will depend on the community that I find there.
I’m rolling on Arcadia, which has been designated the RP server dimension. Originally it was called Faerie, which I was totally in love with, but due to Funcom bowing to pressure from homophobes it was changed. My first thought was that I haven’t had much respect for Funcom since my Age of Conan days and this really lowers it. My second thought was “why are people like that rolling on an RP server?” If I see people roleplaying bigoted assholes, spouting anti-gay rhetoric in chat, I’m going to have a problem with it. I can understand the PvP-centric fourteen year old boys not wanting to be known as “those Fairies,” but one would think that they wouldn’t be caught dead on the roleplay server.
In any event, Arcadia here I come. As a Dragon, sowing chaos and watching the resulting changes. Be warned.