Sometimes I Don’t Think Of These Things During Class

There was a time in class when we were all discussing how exactly to remediate Spenser’s Faerie Queene, and afterwards a realization hit me…ah, I remember it like it was yesterday…

I realized that we could be going about this whole remediation thing completely the wrong way, and I believe the answer lies with LOTRO. The difference between LOTRO and what we’re doing is that LOTRO does not tell the story of the fellowship of the ring, but rather the story of Middle Earth. That is, in class we discussed how we should portray the forester and his encounter with Britomart, Guyon, and Arthur, how to get some action while seeing the Recrosse knight and Britomart tear up the six nights, and how we should experience the lusty assault of the lady Malecasta.

In LOTRO, how often do you see Frodo, Aragorn, Gandalf, or Legolas? You do find Strider at the Prancing Pony, and you do find Frodo in Rivendell, but they serve less than plot central roles. They give you quests and experience; they don’t take you along for their ride.

It seems to me that the way we were designing the Faerie Queene online is almost like a movie, or at least like a pick-your-adventure story. There are various areas to explore and dialogue’s to navigate through, but it isn’t the player’s story, it’s simply a retelling of Faerie Queene.

I think we need to take a step back and look at Faerie Land. I think this game should be a way for reader’s of Faerie Queene to interact with Spenser’s narrative, and I also think this game should help to interest players in perhaps maybe a little bit glancing at Faerie Queene, but I don’t think that what we make should be Spenser’s words as close as we can make it.

How do we do that? I think one way to do it would be to make the module, at least as we are creating it, at one specific time. Let’s say that specific time is Britomart at Malecasta’s castle. How would you meet Guyon and Arthur without any jousting scene (they have already gone chasing after the forester)? I would say that could be a quest arch. The player finds someone connected to Florimell (friend, family member, whatever) is upset over her loss, and you have to track down Florimell (perhaps killing various woodland critters along the way) as a multi-part quest. This quest could lead you to Guyon and Arthur where dialogue could possibly allude to the joust (to connect the readers to the story), but the dialogue would pertain mainly to the quest at hand.

As for Britomart in the castle, could first meet her at dinner and perhaps play through the small plot line of Malecasta getting in Britomart’s bed. This could involve quests of various sorts in the castle. This part would pertain a lot to Britomart and sort of railroad the character, but it is only a piece of the game and not a the whole thing.

The six knights? They’ll do what they always do. When you approach the castle you have to either choose to serve the lady Malecasta (and forsake your love!) or fight them to gain entrance.

Then again, Britomart is such a main character that you can’t just abandon her with such a small part of the game. This could be done with different parts of the game (just as there are different books in the epic quest). You could again meet Britomart at the wall of fire perhaps, at another “book” in the plot line. I would say that’d be a job for a future class.

Basically, I think the game needs to be more about the characters exploring the land, and less about the characters that have already explored the land.

Take my ideas with a grain of salt or disregard them in their entirety; all I’m saying is: this is our creation! Let’s make it something more than a lame summary.

-PChis (Melocotones)

We Need Spenser in Fable Form

I think what struck me most about Faerie Queene is the unique way in which Spenser decided to portray chastity. The idea that a spear, a phallic object, could be enchanted with the power of chastity tickled me I must say. I suppose just the divergence from the normalcy of chastity as a stalwart shield made it seem extremely clever, and the gender bending added some humor.

Spenser’s chastity is very different from the generally written about chastity partly because doesn’t stop at enchanting a spear. It also allows Britomart to stride through a wall of flame completely unscathed, a wall that stopped Scudamare dead in his tracks. Both offense and defense are covered by chastity. What interests me about this is that Britomart’s chastity doesn’t make her better at only healing or orating or fighting, it makes her AWESOME in all dimensions. I find this interesting because Spenser seems to be saying that Chastity isn’t simply a virtue, it’s the virtue. Possessing it improves one as a person in almost every way (a little naivety aside of course).

Not only does such a virtue provide the bearer with much more power than generally is recognized, but it is also a very different creature than normal. In most texts, it seems chastity is a close synonym to abstinence, but Spenser makes it so much more. Britomart is courageous and strong. She doesn’t run from lust and gluttony, but rather walks into its midst and emerges unphased. She quests after a love (orange zone in abstinence class!), but only the best kind (Arthegall seems pretty perfect) and with the best of intentions. Some might say it is her inward purity that gives her these abilities, but I would say that Spenser sees these things as prerequisites for chastity. To him, chastity is not something that is simply there or that can be easily taken from someone. Chastity is the epitome of greatness, and it is something that must be striven after with all ones might.

This greatness was not at all marred by castle joyous. Indulgence is alright once and a while as long as Britomart keeps her head straight and kept her true goals intact. She holds true love and honor above all else and does not begrudge a few mishaps and adventures as long as they are handled responsibly.

I’d say such an ideal beats the hell out of “slow and steady wins the race.”

-PChis (Melocotones)

Sometimes I See Bad Movies on the Weekend

It was just this past weekend that my R.A. came into my room and said something I’ll never forget…or at least that I haven’t forgotten yet.

He said, “You wanna go see Resident Evil 3?”

My answer was of course yes. So we grabbed some money and another guy from my hall and embarked on a twenty-minute odyssey to the movie theater. The movie was of course a horrible action movie. It has always surprised me how movies that can do so much with their settings just throw it all away in the name of pointless action. The t-virus with its strange mutations, including Alice’s psionic powers and how they affect her, the mobs of zombies themselves, and the umbrella corporation’s unlimited power are all rich places for a little social critique and a lot of character development. But I suppose when Resident Evil 2 was rated PG-13 for non-stop violence (I kid you not), the lack of most of these things was to be expected.

What I didn’t expect was zombie crows being demolished with a flamethrower: pretty bamf if you ask me.
But a lot of action movies have possibly interesting expositions that just turn into shells for pointless violence, so what? I expected it to be a pointless action movie, and you, reader…whoever you are, probably should have to. But something hit me the other day when Professor Clayton gave us our blog topic that hadn’t really struck me before, and that is that the Resident Evil games provide all these things the movies should provide. That is, they provide a lot more character development, plot, and identification with the characters than the movies do, which is really not something I have come to expect from video games. I’m not quite sure if it’s the games’ victory or the movies’ defeat that provides this juxtaposition, but I’m gonna go ahead and guess that it’s a lotta bit of both. We’ve already covered how the movie is just an action filled empty-husk made with a little bit of exposition and a little bit of character development, but what of the games.

I’ve played a few different games in the series, and they all share the creepy noises and jump-out-at-you moments that the movies love to use, but the only game I have truly perused in its entirety is Resident Evil 4 for the Nintendo Gamecube. The game, as opposed to the movie, limits its number of characters and provides a much longer time for the player to become accustomed to them (as any video game worth its salt will take longer than 2 hours to finish). Granted, most of the time there isn’t much character development when you’re running around as Leon owning zombies with the “Red 9,” but just experiencing the terror he is experiencing makes lets the player identify with Leon.

In addition to simple exposure difference, Resident Evil 4 has a number of movie clips that provide dialog, character development, and plot advancement. Not only do these clips provide do this, but they are also interactive. At the beginning, when I was taking a break from the game and put my controller down and was subsequently beheaded by a zombie with a giant ax when I wasn’t ready to press A, this interactiveness was really annoying, but in retrospect it made me identify more with Leon. It’s not exactly me being there, but it’s much closer to being with Leon than just sitting back and watching a movie.

But interactivity is really what video games are all about, so back to dialog, development, advancement. There was probably zero meaningful dialog in Resident Evil 3. They speak a little bit to strange “t-virus mutations” whereas the video game slowly reveals the strange cult los illuminados and the evil las plagas that they worship. As one plays through the game, they find out where the plagas come from and how they’re connected to the umbrella corporation and what they intend to do. During this time they meet dethroned lords of an ancient family and remorseful scientists who aided the evil cause and the president’s daughter. The characters have desires, goals, and feelings.

In the movie, the only real desire is to survive and destroy the umbrella corporation at all costs.

Without going into detail, let’s just say I find this to be the truth with most of the video games vs. movies made from video games comparisons. Most games are not quite so developed perhaps, but almost all the movies do just as bad a job as the Resident Evil movies. It doesn’t have to be this way. Especially with Resident Evil I feel that the setting can be opened up into, if not meaningful, extremely good movies, but as of now, that hasn’t happened. For now, it seems to me that movies should leave video games to themselves, as they do a better job of things generally better done in movies (you don’t expect as much dynamic character development in a video game as you do in a movie) than the movies that copy them do.

-PChis (Melocotones)

Baroomgadoomablloommfooomasheyrrrraaakiiifzzzhhxxyydafmmenaaaaaaaaaaaa means tree in my language.

When I read “Write about some aspect of Tolkien or his fiction,” I thought about the one aspect of Tolkien most unique to him. Aspect is about as broad a word as you can get, but when I thought about it I think there is one thing that stands out beyond all others in Tolkien’s fiction, and it’s not his symbolism, well constructed prose, descriptive and fleshed out settings, or romantic structure. These are all wonderful aspects, but it is Tolkien’s world that takes the trophy. His world is no empty shell crafted simply to provide The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy a setting with which to occur. Tolkien’s world is a a separate entity in which to two stories Just happen to occur. The appendixes at the end of Return of the King and the Silmarillion articulate quite a few more, but each story hints at thousand more stories yet unknown. Tolkien has fleshed out histories for the second and third ages, filled with highly detailed family trees and maps. What exactly Sauron, the wizards, and Bombadill is, their kin, and those more powerful than them, how the races were created and what is special about each: all of these questions have answers.

Tolkien has even created the languages of all the races. Mordor, the dwarves, the elves, the ents, each race has a unique language that can be learned and spoken. I have a few friends who have learned to speak elvish, and frequently (or used to anyways) post on forums and talk in chat rooms where elvish is the only language used. Tolkien could have made up some gibberish for the few poems and songs he put in the book. He could have, but he didn’t, and that makes all the difference.

Where ever you look, Tolkien has fleshed out the history of almost anything somewhere. Sometimes, in the midst of a heated scene (Merry and Eowyn’s battle with the Witch King comes to mind), Tolkien will go on a tangent about the history of something or other (using the same example: there is quite a long story about how the sword Merry picked up from the Barrow Downs is actually a sword specifically crafted to destroy the Witch King). Sometimes this history can be a little long-winded and take away from the drama or action in the story and becomes almost a little text bookish, I feel, but for this cost Tolkien’s world become almost as real as our own. It’s defined races, history, and languages provide a precedent through which the characters Tolkien’s tales act and feel through.

I have read very few other stories that provided such a cosmology. A few have succeeded, such as Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. He has detailed histories and maps (with a good deal more political intrigue than Tolkien) as well as a consistent language called the “old tongue,” but one language is not four, and the non-legendary known history only goes back a few hundred years, as opposed to a Tolkien’s which goes back a few thousand (what can we say, the elves live a pretty long time, and the wizard’s live even longer). Most fantasy series try to imitate with maps and a few references to historical battles or other significant events, but it seems like the history was only created to help move the plot along. Tolkien’s seems to have almost the opposite thought in mind. He writes the plots to help relay the history in an interesting and meaningful way. It is this idea that the fantasy world should be a world and not a plot scheme that truly sets Tolkien’s fictions aside from those of other writers.

-PChis (Yto)

My World.

Me.

As everyone else, I am going to tell you what is happening right now in my world of LOTRO.  I am also going to tell you my opinion of the game.

 My level 8 Elf Hunter has been questing throughout the first part of the Lord of the Rings Online video game.  Though I have yet to find Avorthal, I have been killing wolves and goblins alike since level 3.  The main quest that I started on was freeing Thorin’s Hall from greedy Dourhand dwarves.  I helped Dwalin (i think) kill his way through the baddies that loitered in Thorin’s Hall (first point – fairly unbelieveable.. two guys killing the guards to “save” the path to an entire city?).  This was the introduction to the questing which I have now begun (where is Avorthal???). 

 Now that I have the graded part out of the way, let me continue with my critique of this game.  I shall be comparing this game with another MMORPG (WoW) and a regular RPG (Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion).  The plotline of LOTRO, however amazing, is not very engaging.  The same can be said about WoW, but not Oblivion.  Within WoW, you could skip right to the point and find outwhat you had to do with a particular quest (as in with LOTRO, though I haven’t been skipping [for Jay and Matt]).  In Oblivion, you interacted with the quest-giver, and the dialogue was spoken to ensure your understanding of the task.  Another point, in LOTRO (as in WoW, and most other RPGs), you might not get “in character” (a.k.a. absorbed completely) into your particular toon (for lack of a better word).  In Oblivion, for example, if you are any good, you play in the first-person, noting specifically the way in which you fight enemies.  You press a button to slash with your sword (I use the term loosely) and another to cast a spell.  You get much more of an adrenaline rush than you do when playing these MMO’s.  In LOTRO, you click your mouse to queue an action, which might involve strategy, but not nearly as much as hand-to-hand combat that one may experience in other games.

Alas, I am not wholly for the RPG as compared to the MMO(RPG).  The main idea in MMO’s is to interact with other players (and get someone hooked, so that that person buys the patch).  Interaction, though seemingly not even half of the game, is a very big part due to competition with other players (better items, levels, etc [see Gamer Theory 2.0]).  RPG’s are only there to make you say, “Ooo” and “Ahh,” enjoying the graphics as well as the plotline.

 So, how do I rate LOTRO?  Thus far, as I see it, it is a bit better than WoW, due to lack of repitition.  In the RPG sense, it is almost half as fun to play and get into character as Oblivion, which I suggest you buy if you have never heard of. 

A little plot, a lot of comparison.

-Jeffrey Webb (Bluebaals [Elf Hunter])