Monday, April 28, 2008

Heroism is a Crime Against Nature

In order to do something heroic in a game, you need to have taken some kind of risk and sacrificed something of your own in order to help somebody else, or a bunch of somebody elses.

So you need horrible punishments and penalties for acting heroic, and rewards for doing the wrong thing, y'know, rewards for doing the non-heroic thing, in order to provide heroic players an opportunity to show their true quality by deciding to fight against all the risk-reward mechanisms they got in all these games nowadays.

If you create a game mechanic that rewards heroic acts, then it actually makes the thing you did less heroic, depending on how great the reward was for you.

And even on the human side of things, if everybody knows its easy for you to help them, 'cause you're some high level guy that ain't got nothing else to do, and you just want people to think you are cool, then they ain't gonna give you a whole lot of points for it heh.

I was trying to think of examples where I've seen heroism in games, and I'm back to EQ again, where the punishments for stuff were really harsh and cruel.

It wasn't just the "knock me back into the Stone Age" loss of Experience Points when you died, there was also stuff like the possibility that you would lose your corpse and all your items in some place where nobody could get it back for you.

I talked before about how Necromancers had to help folks get their corpses back in the early days of EQ.

You had to be willing to spend your time doing that, instead of grinding out levels and making money.

And you actually had to risk losing experience points and losing all your items, 'cause you could get your corpse stuck in some hellhole while trying to help somebody else get their corpse out of it heh.

And sometimes, the folks that I was helping actually had to trust me not to loot their corpse and run off or whatever, too.

And then you gotta add to that that we were all dirt poor and all of us were a few spells short of a full spellbook and a few pieces of armor short of suit, and it starts to stack up pretty good.

Which was cool with me, man, 'cause I wanted to do stuff that was heroic, and the guys behind the keyboard always matter more to me than some stupid-ass thing in a game heh.

Plus I had just come from Half-life, y'know, so I had mad phat gaming skills and I was really quick on my feet compared to some of these people, so really I was one of the best guys to try to snake somebody's corpse out of the clutches of some monster hellhole.

And I had plenty of WASD ice-skating pals that were just like me who could do distractions and help me with whatever powers their characters had and stuff if I ended up needing it.

But sometimes corpses got stuck up in trees or in the ground or turned invisible or something as a bug in the early days, and sometimes people didn't show up asking for help until their corpse had already disappeared.

And whenever that happened, our community would hook up anybody that lost all their junk with new stuff.

All of that stuff was heroic in a game where we were all missing a lot of spells and we were all a few pieces short of a full suit of armor for the first three months.

Y'know, when you give somebody something that you don't need, that's nice, 'cause you could've just sold it for personal profit, but it ain't heroic.

When everybody has only got six of the eight pieces of armor you'd need for a full set, and they all chip in a piece to get a guy back on his feet, then that's a totally different thing.

And it was also heroic when some little new guy jumped into a fight with something nasty to try to rescue my dieing ass, and whether we both died or whether I managed to use the momentary distraction to turn the whole thing around Hulkamaniac style is besides the point, and whether he was just dumb or brave for doing it is besides the point, that kid's got a new buddy for life heh.

"dude! run! this is not going to go good!"


He had a chance to show his true quality, y'know, and the little guy took it.

That's the kinda bulldog I want on my team, man.

And it was heroic the way that all the newbs sitting on the Log By the Road out in front of the gates of Neriak, like a bunch of evil little birds on a Power Line, protected each other while they were resting up for the next fight, jumping down and helping out anybody that ran up to the Log with a bunch of monsters chasing 'em, especially if they didn't have any mana and they were still low on hitpoints.

But you can see how you need all these negative and non-rewarding game mechanics to create a situation of adversity where heroism can exist, being poor, losing levels.

Its like, heroism is created by super hideously painful game mechanics that try to actually discourage you from doing anything heroic.

And anything (like me having come from Half-Life) that lowers the risk or increases the reward makes the act of heroism less heroic.

That's the kinda junk that welds the good guys together, though, that's the kinda stuff that makes the dudes that could've and maybe would've been bad guys into good guys, by example, when they realize they can use their powers to help folks and get all sorts of cred and a place of honor in a community.

Its a contagious thing.

Seeing cool stuff like that way back in the beginning was what sold me on this stupid junk in the first place heh.

I don't really think you can be heroic like that in a non-multiplayer game, y'know, risking your neck to save a bunch of pixels from another bunch of pixels doesn't count, it ain't the same, its fake.

And nowadays there's like, no death penalty, and everybody else is in your way, and the only thing yer really sacrificing is time that you could've spent doing something for yourself when you help somebody else out just because they're a human being and human beings matter more than the rest of it.

But its the same thing right there, really, you're rebelling against the risk-reward mechanisms and the will of the gods and the game designers when you do that kinda stuff.

See, it really ain't no different than it was when we played D&D, the game dev still has to be the Bad Guy, and there's a whole sneaky art to doing that really well, y'know.

They have to be willing to play the bad guy, insteada wanting to be the guy handing out the goodies to make people like 'em.

But that is actually the place where game devs could do something heroic themselves, by providing an environment where other people get a chance to be heroes, y'know by going against the risk-reward mechanism that is probably gonna punish the hell outta them for doing it heh.

Not that I meant this to be some kind of cheering section for hideous-ass death penalties and stuff that make people feel like they just wasted days of their lives and shit, y'know, you gotta take it more subtle than that, and you gotta be careful when you talk to devs about this stuff 'cause some of 'em are really vicious little dumshits with god complexes who are trying to make all of us pay for some shit that happened to them in high school or something ahaha.

Y'know, you can never turn your back on one of them Gods from Greek Mythology, and you should never use all your tricks up in the beginning of a fight, either, you always gotta keep something in reserve, and if you do end up where you ain't got nothing left up your sleeves besides your wristwatch, then your wristwatch is telling you that its half-past time to run for it AHAHA.

"I don't know whether you are just stupid or brave."

"That is why you ain't a hero, man."

No comments: