Dead Kings Advertisement in progress

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aaronjer
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What makes Dead Kings special?
*by special I mean different and unusual, not inherently better, you’ll likely hate at least one of these things.

Strongly averts “because games” logic

The term “because games” is one I have coined myself for the purpose of describing something that gamers have come to expect from games, but that a non-gamer would likely find incredibly nonsensical. These bits of nonsense almost always occur as a result of technological limitations that became traditional and stayed in use even after the technology would support a different or better system. Sometimes simple lack of innovation or laziness results in an example of “because games”.

The worst examples I can give of “because games” logic are about encouraging otherwise needless murder. The first is the apparent soul-stealing property of most heroes in RPGs. I am aware that there are systems that function differently, but the typical method of gaining experience is to kill your enemy. This may seem normal to you, but that is only because you have become accustomed to it. This can actually be somewhat disturbing when analyzed closely. In Dead Kings you must only defeat and not necessarily kill an enemy to gain experience. If they surrendered or retreated, you still gain just as much experience as you would for slaying them. Many games encourage the player to massacre surrendering or retreating enemies, or encourage the player to murder those who are attacking them due to mistaken identity, just to steal a few more souls and level up!

Some games don’t even give the player the option of resolving a situation peacefully, some Ultima games, for example, give the player no method of progression besides cutting down helpless children! The player is meant to be a hero in those stories, not a bloodthirsty murderer of children! It’s not even played as dark humor, it just sort of... happens... like Richard Garriott had no idea how disturbing it was!

The final example is a relatively unheard of game, Temple of Elemental Evil. During the adventure the players come across a brothel. In the brothel the madam informs the player that a new whore refuses to have sex with anyone. The player can offer to see if he can change her mind or ‘break her in’... I know, not an option you expect in the game. I was very surprised at this, as games at the time were far too politically correct to even imply sex, much less rape! I was very exhilarated to see what possible choices could come out of this (for storytelling purposes, the tiny sprites were not going to offer much eroticism, I assure you!), as players were able to be good or evil in the story. It turns out in the dialogue the player has three options with the unfortunate prostitute. They can either leave her alone, free her and take her with them, or supposedly attempt to rape her. If the player attempts to rape her, she screams something along the lines of “over my dead body!” and combat commences. The player then only has the option to strike her down. The heavily armored, up to six very powerful warriors, against a small, naked girl with a knife that she could never even hope to injure them with. She started combat, so she must die! I could have excused the game having even evil players not follow through with sexual assault, and possibly just smack her down and tell her to shut up... but killing her? That goes entirely against the plan to make her into a profitable prostitute! That is the epitome of “because games”, and was the impetus for me to wish to make a game that never forces the player to murder someone when the characters clearly have no motive to do so. The game will never directly tell you not to, but killing people unnecessarily will certainly have consequences in Dead Kings!

In summary, people never even question the bizarre traditions in gameplay, and in many ways they shall be very surprised when their expectations are not met in Dead Kings!

Writers uninfluenced by political correctness
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for these ideals in real life, games do this because they are trying to appeal to more audiences. But do not be deceived, it is not done out of a desire to make a better story, it is done at the expense of story to make more money. Attempting to please all audiences neuters believability, and some enjoyment for everyone is lost in the process.

These editorial mandates are exhibited in many place, including:

-Normal women arbitrarily being as strong and combat capable as men.
-Equal treatment for sexes, races and sexual preferences.
-Invincible or complete lack of children, so that children cannot be harmed.
-Severely limited options for evil player and non-player characters.
-Evil characters are usually limited to insults, stealing and murder.
-Evil characters are never, ever sexually depraved. It’s okay to murder someone, but rape them?! Heavens, we’re evil, not monsters!

Now, this doesn’t mean that everyone in Dead Kings is an immoral, prejudiced, child raping monster. Just that those things are allowed to exist in Dead Kings. These things all exist without issue in movies, so why not games?

Gameplay uninfluenced by genre expectations

The active gameplay is well established to be recognizable as tactical RPG combat. Except when it’s not. Large scale strategy and even 4X elements are present in the design. On top of that, there are Raising Sim mechanics influenced mostly by Princess Maker titles for if and when the player decides to procreate.

Fantasy world that does not arbitrarily ignore the inequalities of a medieval setting

Nobles are not noble!
Nobles act like real-life nobles. At best they are careless and hedonistic, more often they are heartless predators, abusing the weak for profit or pleasure. This is not because the setting is meant to be ‘dark fantasy’, but because that’s how nobles actually act.

People who attempt to seize or hold onto great power are without exception challenged in their morality. Popular opinion is that there have been many remarkable leaders throughout history; those such as Catherine the Great and Alexander the Great are very well regarded. History would have you replace the word “Great” with “Inhuman Abomination”. Both were arrogant elitists, pointlessly cruel, murderous and utterly irredeemable. Accounts of their lives are marred with the enslavement of countless people and the massacre of any who resisted. They are no better than those the world despises, such as Hitler or Stalin, and yet are renowned as though they have any worth.

Some may argue that there are benevolent kings and queens in history, Elizabeth I of England, for example, but even she has moments of inexcusable evil. Even the theoretical ‘benevolent autocrat’ is still a man or woman controlling the lives of people that he or she has no right to interfere with. Essentially, if they were truly a good person, they would use their power to abolish nobility and replace it with an elected government. The only good kings are the last kings, or those who refused a crown. The point is that nobles in Dead Kings are assholes, because they’re nobles.

The characters in the Dead Kings world are realistically depicted for their classes. The hero of the story may have some moral flexibility in the choices the player may take, but in the end, anyone who wants to control others is of deeply flawed character, and unfortunately he is determined to be king.

A woman holding a sword? Ludicrous!
Women are incapable of complex thought or understanding. They are weak of body and will, and of no use in violent conflict. They are commodities to be traded, and objects to be used for pleasure and progeny. Their word holds no value in court or otherwise, as trust is deserved only by those worthy of respect, and everyone knows only men can be respectable.

This is the average opinion you will find regarding women in Dead Kings, as it is the sort of opinion one finds in a medieval world. It is shared even by the women, even if it upsets them, as they have been subjugated of all authority since birth. Fantasy game worlds inevitably treat men and women very equally, progressive even by modern standards, without even mentioning how unusual it is. I have no problem with an idealized world where women are treated with the respect they deserve, but it has become the norm in fantasy, even clichéd in how expected it is. In fact, I cannot think of any fantasy world, game or otherwise, that depicts the treatment of women with a medieval standard.

Horses and Servants
There is a confusing trend to show rich and noble knights travelling the lands and going on adventure without any of their servants or so much as a horse! A few recent games have remedied the cavalry deficiency, but none have contained a proper retinue of attendants and servants. Even merchants do not travel on foot, and they do not travel alone! In addition to the potential six main party members, the player will eventually obtain a following of dozens of cooks, laborers, squires and soldiers. Menial tasks that would otherwise be performed as tedious fetch quests, or the hauling and management of inventory, will be handled by peasants and retainers. Nobles do not collect twenty mushrooms from a festering swamp to appease a strangely entitled commoner, in fact, the mere suggestion of such a request may offend a noble and put the commoner in a dangerous situation! Why should an affluent noble leave behind heavy loot, or mine and carry loads of valuable ore when he could pay a meagre sum to a few desperate serfs to do it for him? This is also very much a “because games” problem, and was remedied by a much needed dose of common sense.

Balance does not create a rift between plot and combat

During cutscenes characters will not use abilities, magic or otherwise do things that they are not capable of in active gameplay.

This is so brand new an idea to games that you may not even realize the problem exists. This ties into averting “because games”, but I feel it deserves a special mention. It is less a subconscious tradition resulting from technological limitations, and more purely thoughtless writing and design.

Relationships and romance do not pander to “wish fulfillment

I would describe player driven romances in games to be on the intelligence and maturity level of Mary Sue fan fiction at best. Real romantic relationships are not fueled by giving the correct set of shiny objects to someone, and then completing a side quest. That's not romance, that's a business deal, and shows the kind of emotional understanding seen only in a true basement dweller!

"Oh, I heard she likes cakes! I'll just keep giving her cakes until she'll let me have sex with her! THAT'S HOW IT WORKS, RIGHT?!"

When people are romantically attracted to each other, they give each other presents as a result of an established connection. They have to already like each other for that to happen. Repeatedly giving gifts to someone who has not shown any sign of interest, as games portray love, is a sign of being an obsessive stalker. Games do not understand this very basic interaction. Sharing an emotional bond that may lead to amorous activity in Dead Kings will require that the characters involved share interests, ideals and adventures. They do not need to perform side quests for each other, they must simply do anything at all as long as they do it together. I have found in my life that attempting to 'win a girl over' is a mostly fruitless endeavor, and that it is much easier to find a girl that actually likes me. This experience, which writers for other games have shown no sign of, is used to form the progression of romance in the story.
 
 
2013 Apr 8 at 06:58 PDT — Ed. 2013 Apr 8 at 09:15 PDT
aaronjer
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2005 Mar 21 • 4628
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This is an in progress document about Dead Kings. I just need it some place that people can read it without me google doc sharing it to them.
 
 
2013 Apr 8 at 06:59 PDT
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Cap'n Moth of the Firehouse

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2007 Oct 19 • 5486
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2013 Apr 9 at 17:01 PDT
aaronjer
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2005 Mar 21 • 4628
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Nah, dog, it ain't no rogue like. There's a definite story progression and concrete plot. Also it's not ASCII. It has unfortunately seen little progress in the last month, what with my broken dominant hand... but only another week for the cast to come off!
 
 
2013 Apr 10 at 04:10 PDT
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Cap'n Moth of the Firehouse

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2007 Oct 19 • 5486
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I somewhat meant in terms of depth, or something. Actually I can't really remember what I meant, it was very late, or very early, depending on reference frame.

It's been a bad week.
 
 
2013 Apr 11 at 11:14 PDT
aaronjer
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2005 Mar 21 • 4628
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Well, I still love you. In fact, I don't know what I would do without you.

There's a lot of planned gameplay depth, but not to the intentionally inscrutable levels of Dwarf Fortress. Still some inscrutability, to be sure, just... nothing like that. More depth is focused in the storytelling and character aspects, I hope, than any other game. Which, sadly, isn't saying much.
 
 
2013 Apr 11 at 12:27 PDT — Ed. 2013 Apr 11 at 12:28 PDT
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Cap'n Moth of the Firehouse

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2007 Oct 19 • 5486
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Having reread your post in a similar late-night frame of mind, I'd have to say I think I was going for the attention to detail thing. Which is pretty cool, to be honest. I'm not sure I can actually think of any decent relationship examples in games, beyond the standard "but Bioware" comment. Though their solution essentially amounts to you talking to the person/object of interest until they submit.

Maybe it is time for something new.

Also, by the way... that title. "Dead Kings". It's really evocative :)
 
 
2013 Apr 11 at 20:53 PDT
aaronjer
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2005 Mar 21 • 4628
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Bioware really surprises me. They put far more effort into character development than any other developer I've seen. Character's personalities are distinct, not too clichéd, and very memorable. No other game has me itching for the next 'random party dialogue' like Bioware manages. And at the same time they have the most blatantly 'because games' and 'wish fulfillment' romance I have ever experienced.

Their new trend of every character being bisexual or at the very least main-character-sexual offends me terribly on a storytelling level. When you know every character is potentially interested in you romantically, you feel like the center of the universe, and the word is no longer believable. The romance is a constant reminder that you are playing a game, and that the world is not real. For me, anyway, it destroys any sense of immersion. On top of all that, it's boring. Everything going like clockwork and there being no need to discover a character's interests and sexual preference to see if they are a good match for you is just plain boring. It means you inevitably just pick which one you think is hottest, which is offensively immature and basic for a game world with characters that are otherwise very complex. There are worse relationships in games, I am well aware, but they stand out so much more in Bioware games.

As far as 'because games' is concerned, I really hate how the majority of relationships develop in, for example, Dragon Age. There are three things that cause your love interest to become more enamored with you:

1. Shiny Gifts - This should be part of a relationship, but a very minor part. You can practically win someone's love through presents alone.

2. Saying just the right things in deeply profound conversations - This is also totally fine to have as something that makes someone happy with you. It's just that the characters never develop interest through casual conversation or simply having fun. Your character seems to deeply empathize and understand your romantic target when you say the right things, and yet there is never any sign your characters share any similar interests? Very strange. Most people go their whole lives never saying anything deeply profound, and they still find love...

The most annoying part about this is that the characters HAVE believable casual conversations, the exact sort that would really tell you if someone was right for you, except they happen randomly while you're wandering the world and the main character is NEVER INVOLVED! How the hell did they fuck that up?! They had all the correct dialogue, and the WRONG PEOPLE SAYING IT! If you've played Dragon Age, or Mass Effect, I'm sure you've noticed the main character is strangely silent during the random banter sections? It makes them seem very distant from all the other characters, including the one you're supposedly in love with.

3. Doing their sidequest - This isn't a problem except that it is REQUIRED for them to have sex with you. It's extremely 'because games'. It takes you totally out of the relationship and makes you think of it as a quest for poontang. Like, you're bribing them for sex by killing somebody for them. As I've said, that's not love, that's a business deal. The love interest is acting like a prostitute, or at least very like manipulative fiend. Real people have sex with each other because they like each other. That is ALL that it takes. If somebody refuses to have sex with you until you complete a task for them, that means they do not love you.

Morrigan is the only example that does not have this problem, and she is explicitly not in love with the main character when they have sex. She was by far the most believable and interesting romantic interest in a Bioware game, as there were no blatantly 'because games' requirements for the relationship to function. I still didn't really get into it, though, as I first liked the whole "Now that she realizes she's in love with you, she no longer wants to be intimate, as she believes love is weakness" aspect, until I remembered that no human has ever thought like that in the history of ever. Still liked it the best though.

Make a comparison to movie or book characters, and really think about it. Bioware game characters act like villains in romance. If they were in a movie, their manipulative attitude about sex would be considered reprehensible and self-serving.
 
 
2013 Apr 12 at 10:02 PDT — Ed. 2013 Apr 12 at 10:14 PDT
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Cap'n Moth of the Firehouse

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It's true. I ended up accidentally sexing Liara in Mass Effect, because I was trying to romance Kaidan but... This is coming out wrong. I was talking to Liara about how her species does shaggin' because I was playing my Shepard as "interested in everything" type, like science and things, but apparently Liara took it the wrong way and got a bit hot... anyway, next time I talked to Kaidan (literally went from one conversation to the next) he refused to talk to me about the romance-dance because I'd talked to Liara about it.

Long story short, the guy has blatantly bugged my clothes and was listening to my conversations.

Did you ever play Jade Empire? Have I asked you this before? What do you think of the mechanics of Fire Emblem?

Also my post sounds like I didn't read yours but I did, you have many valid points. I guess it's a symptom of making things game-y. Like, getting players to form relationships with NPCs involves having them spend time together, spending time implies doing things, doing things is basically large-scale murder, so you get the situation as is. Kind of. That's not to say it shouldn't change, I'd love to see a first person game where the most significant decision you make is firing a gun.
 
 
2013 Apr 14 at 16:30 PDT — Ed. 2013 Apr 14 at 16:35 PDT
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