Friday, December 06, 2013

Games Without Frontiers


Following on from yesterday's ridiculous time-travel post, @wowcynwise is one of many people on Twitter who thinks the way I do:

Best comeback EVER. More at 11.

We as players often forget the fourth wall, the separation between us and the 'drama' of the game. Many people simply don't consider that as even an issue, but there are those (often the role-players or the lore-lovers) for whom the 'world' of Azeroth is a place that continues to live and breathe even when we do not inhabit it. For them, as it is often for me (who inhabits a space I'm not sure fits neatly into either label, perhaps unsurprisingly) there are moments when you wonder how the place works when you're not in it, or more importantly how the NPC's deal with the problems we have to consider as part of our daily 'grind'. people write comics about it, or write parody songs: it's a rich seam of potential, which the game itself never really references... except things often slip in. A great example is the drunk NPC's in the Stormstout Brewery (whom we have mentioned before in passing) whose comments on the abilities of passing five man groups does at least acknowledge that your dungeoun experience can vary.

I often wonder what the game would be like if more places like this stood up and made a nod to the experience, and not simply the journey.

What do they do when we're not here?

Am I the only person who wonders if the trash in Instances does what it does regardless of whether or nor we're actually INSIDE one? Do they all play cards, for instance, or sit around like actors listening to their music players or on mobile devices? Do NPC's do more than one job? Maybe if no-one's visited the Sunwell for a while then everyone changes their costumes and goes and stands in Blackrock Depths instead. Do people ever forget what they're supposed to do? Yesterday, for instance, Huolon decided to hover in mid-air for about ten minutes before beginning his flight path: maybe they wish they didn't have to do the same flight path every day and some mornings they just don't turn up. This seems to be the way with Evermaw some mornings: I wonder if the guys inside the costume (I'm betting they're Gnomes pedalling on bicycles) just decide they're staying in bed or to go down the Inn for an early lunch...

Yes, I *know* it's only a game, but after almost a decade of this the entire experience becomes something a bit more than just a bunch of people bashing pixels with other pixels, at least for some of us. There'll still be the pre-teens who think they're playing XBox and the Haters and the Precision Players, and everyone will have an expectation of what they'll face and an understanding that the only things that are likely to ever go wrong will be based around lag, bad play and the occasional dose of utterly random. You know, like the time I ended up in Stormwind for 30 minutes and there were no NPC's at all. Or that great time when I was able to solo farm the Twilight Highlands for two hours because there were three of us in the zone on a Saturday afternoon. Those are the only real concessions we get to the mechanical and artificial nature of the World we 'live' in, and occasionally this makes me sad, because I'd like more.

This could all be just one NPC IN DIFFERENT COSTUMES. Just saying ^^

In the end, however, the game's own gravitas means that we don't often see the fourth wall being broken, and that's probably no bad thing, because one could argue that life is complicated enough without us working with another version of reality on our plates. It doesn't stop people like me from wondering, however, and I will be keeping my eyes open fr any suspicious NPC activity in the months that follow. After all, you never know: that Night Elf could be a Gnome on stilts in a costume...

You never know.


Tome of the Ancient said...

Exactly! I was just in Serpentshrine Cavern seeing if I could acquire some more pets and came across a body that I'm certain I didn't kill! I know!

I searched the whole place looking for whoever was in there with me. They eluded me but I know they were there, I just know it.

Grimmtooth said...

Somebody snuck a gnome into the mainframe during maintenance and got a peek.