No-one has to die: Choice in videogames

Okay, so I know this is slightly off-topic compared to everyone else’s blog posts, but I recently played a game and I really want to talk about it and Professor Clayton said we can write about something else if you want to, so…

Basically, I watch a podcast/video series called “Extra-Credits.”  It’s a series that examines issues, problems, and ideas in the game industry.  They occasionally do a video-series called “Games you Might Not Have Tried,” and they did a special one for Halloween.  One game in the video immediately stood out to me and I had to try it right away and I’m glad I did.

The game is called “No-one Has to Die” and the premise of the game is simple.  You are a person who has access to a security computer for a company.  The building is on fire.  There are four people in the building.  Save them.  However, unlike what the title implies, you have to sacrifice one person per level so the others survive.  But what makes this so great?  Also, I really recommend that you don’t read this until you play the game.  Please.  Please play it now.  I linked to it at the end of this article.  Skip down there and play it.  It really needs to be experienced.

no one

Unlike every other choice system in a video game, this game does not present you with any ulterior motives.  In series such as BioShock or Mass Effect, the choice system is its own metagame.  “If I do this, then it will benefit me in the long run.”  No matter what, you always have a that question in the back of your mind when you play those games.  You can not make an altruistic choice.  However, in this game, it doesn’t present you with any other motives.  It is simply your choice who lives and dies.  In between levels, you talk to the people trapped in the building and you have to make the choice of who lives based off of nothing but these interactions.  Do you save the CEO of the company in hopes of getting more information, do you save the arsonist in order to bring him to justice, do you save the man who shouldn’t even have been there, or do you save the woman because the man begs you to save her instead of him.  Secretly, there is a hidden route that lets you save everyone, but the game gives you no indication that this exists.

gaming_no-one_has_to_die

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that this game does a choice system correctly.  You have no indication of what your choices mean which means that your choices are based entirely upon your emotional connections to the characters.  You feel guilt when you sacrifice someone, and sadness when (in what will probably be your first playthrough) you have to sacrifice either the man or the woman, right after they all but admit their love for each-other.  This is a choice system that more games need to use, because this actually works and I hope to see this in a mainstream game someday.

 

~Nathanial Edwards

All pictures from No-one has to die (seriously, you should play this…)

http://die.clay.io

To War – Reflections on Lord of the Rings Online

What would Tolkien have said about LOTRO? I wish we can know. Because this is one heck of a way to explore the rich mythology Tolkien has created.

In the familiar trilogy, the story is mainly focused on the Fellowship of the Ring and its adventures during the War of the Ring. However, given that there is a full-scale war going on, what happened everywhere else? Did the elves, humans, and dwarves  just sat around and waited for Gandalf and Aragorn until the few momentous battles occur at Helm’s Deep and Minas Tirith? LOTRO seeks to fill this gap, and I think it did a very good job of it, so far.

I have played LOTRO  briefly once before, but for some reason I found the narrative so much more engaging this time around. The story line of the epic quests provided a nice view of the beginning of the War from a fresh perspective, of forces from both sides working to gain more advantage (aside from fighting for that one magic bullet, that is) for the looming War. These forces included many elven guardians, dwarf champions, human vagabounds, unlikely hobbit warriors, Southern raiders, local scoundrels, ring-wraiths and many more. These narrative made Middle-Earth so much more lively and colorful, providing details I have never imagined in, for example, Bree before. It is also nice to see characters, places, and events mentioned in the original material and see many characters come to life and fleshed out. I felt a pang of excitement and urgency while helping Aragorn in ensuring the safety of Bilbo and company, could not help but feel alone and confused trekking the Old Forest, and stood in mild confusion talking to Tom Bombadil.

Aside from the narrative perspective, playing LOTRO has been a fairly standard MMORPG, where target selection is done by clicking the mouse, and extra abilities are with pressing progressively large numbers of buttons. While this in itself is not a huge problem, it does show that Turbine (LOTRO’s maker) did not try very hard in pushing the envelope or challenging RPG conventions (many of which are set by another MMORPG, World of Warcraft). Granted LOTRO was created in 2007, fairly early in the history of MMO games, Turbine could have made more effort in designing a better tutorial, for instance.

All in all, I feel LOTRO is a great MMO game, despite certain shortcomings. It has great narrative, amazing world-building, and serves as a great exploration of the original material. While the gameplay itself is not very innovative, it plays smoothly and is, most importantly, fun. I believe I will continue to play LOTRO and slowly make my way through the epic quest line, if only to see what happens to Skorgrim, push towards Angmar, take on a Balrog, and even participate in Helm’s Deep (soon-to-be-released).

-SyC

Braid- A Perfect Experience.


Braid is an incredibly noteworthy gaming experience. The first thing that you are greeted to when you start the game for the first time is the beautiful water-color title screen- A city bathed in warm-yellow light. This magnificent art style persists throughout the game, but it is not what I will be focusing on within this post. What I would rather focus upon is the blending of rules and narrative the game employs.

In the game, you travel to six different worlds, each one with its own time-related gimmick. The game never explicitly tells you the rules for each world, or even the game really, beyond some basic controls- leaving the player to suss out the mechanics themselves. However, each mechanic is intrinsically tied to Tim’s(the player-character’s) story. Before each world, you enter a region known as “The Clouds,” within which you read books that relay Tim’s story to you. Within each story, the mechanic is presented as a concept- the weight of a ring, feeling as though you’re going in a different path from everyone else, the wish to erase your mistakes. By utilizing this blending of mechanics, Braid is able to create a beautiful and poignant narrative which subverts all of you expectations out of a genre, by having you, the player, be the villain, the monster. (And yes, I realize there is a second ‘true’ ending, but it requires you to absolutely violate the mechanics the game has taught you, and is overall a much less satisfying ending in every way- in fact, there is much to be said about an ending requiring the player to defy the rules set by the game, but I am trying to keep this post short).

Overall, Braid provided a wonderful experience. It blended narrative, rules, and your preconceived notions about how a story should progress to create a beautiful and poignant narrative about time, obsession, and mistakes.

Tim watches over the sleeping Princess

On a less analytical note, my experience playing with my partner, Amanda, was a great experience. Watching her play was fun, and she was very quick to learn (small analysis, this attests to the games strengths). Watching her play let me see the game through a new perspective.

-Nathanial Edwards