Friday, August 3, 2012

Rambling Randomly

Sometimes I just have collected thoughts that don't coalesce enough for a coherent post. This is one of those posts!

Diablo 3 and the Agency Problem
Since writing up Diablo 3 a while back I've played it a bit more in co-operation with friends, and finally managed to nail down something that has been bugging me and I wasn't able to articulate. And thats the strange thing about it's story. Most games put the player at the centre of the action - after all, it's you shooting those bad guys, or you saving the kingdom, or you stacking those blocks. Even where the story calls for a defined central character, by and large you are playing that central character, even when the story allows you no choices and pre-written cut-scenes, usually you are in charge of that main character within the gameplay. It's called "agency" and is one of the more unique things about storytelling in computer games, and a lot of games in the RPG genre particularly are experimenting with the limits of this agency when it comes to emergent stories.

The thing is with Diablo 3's story, is that you actually have no agency. Sure, you run around the world killing monsters and looting their shiny things, but whenever the story crops up one of the NPCs is there to actually do the thing that needs to be done. You're not saving the world, you're getting lesser creatures out of the way so that other people can save the world. Other characters tell you where to go, read ancient manuscripts and perform ancient rites. In the end, your character may get to kill newly trans-sexual Diablo but the celebratory cutscene is Tyrael's triumph, not yours.

It feels like such an odd way to write a story - as if they were too attached to their characters to let your disposable killer get in the way.

Graphic Novel Round-Up
My current comic reading is limited to the two or three graphic novels I buy each month, largely on recommendation. Sure, I'm always behind, but the quality is pretty solid. This month I picked up Orbital vol 4 and Long John Silver vol 3, both from Cinebooks, who translate the european comics scene for English-speaking audiences. Orbital is a space operatic police series, and LJS is a sequel of sorts to Treasure Island, set around a search of a South American city of gold. Both are fantastic, great art, great stories, but these volume are the last currently in print and the next volumes look to be available sometime in 2013. Which isn't fair; I'm used to being so far behind there is always another volume!

I'm also finally starting to read Hellboy. Its the sort of thing I knew I will like, and of course I do. My reading is slightly plagued by lack of availability of some volumes, which I guess is the downside of being so far behind!

Dragons in Dungeons, Oh My! 
After many years of being a role-player, I am finally playing a proper, dungeon crawling Dungeons and Dragons Game. I'm a cleric, with the stupidly fantasy-tastic name of "Radia Lightsalve". She's Neutral Good, reads tacky romance novels, and is nice to everyone. Yes, my tongue is in my cheek throughout. That said, I've rather enjoyed it so far - it sort of is and isn't what you'd expect, by which I mean it's mechanistic, combat heavy, and a bit too much down the "boardgame" line for my usual taste in RPGs, but despite that it's pretty good fun....