Eden and MMORPGs: Look but don’t touch

29 03 2007

Dear Blog,

After MMORPG-hopping for quite some time (and taking screenshots galore), I think I have figured out what it is that I want out of a game, which is that which consistently eludes me: control. Sure, I have control over my character’s race, gender, and often haircut, and over what type of weapons she will use to slay monsters, when to use healing items, and even which monsters to hunt at a given level. But the thing that intrigued me more than any leveling or partying was always the scenery. I am a very visual person and would stop in the middle of the bleakest of deserts on my way to another continent, spin around in circles, and photograph the landscape from every angle. (I tried to snap my pictures at times when there were the fewest mutant bunnies in the line of sight.) The forests and cities of Final Fantasy XI were especially captivating to me.

And then I left.

I was not getting anywhere levelwise, having plateaued at level 14 on that game for almost a year straight because I so seldom joined parties. As a result of my weakness, I also could not experience new locations like I wanted to. Fly For Fun contains the highest-level character I have ever had, approximately level 24, but I have not played that game in quite some time. (No thanks to globalization homework, of course.) But the thing is, I am growing, so I can see new places. And even if I were not growing, I could always just kind of float around aimlessly on my hoverboard. Why do I lack any kind of attachment to the game?

Well, I think one major thing is that even if I can fly all across the world and see its wonders, it is not as if I can touch them. I can kill monsters and grab the things they drop, but that is about all. Well, I can also have scripted one-way conversations with NPCs. Final Fantasy XI had a material-harvesting system, which I did appreciate to the limited level a novice like me was able to take advantage of it, but that was still not enough control. I saw lovely trees and could not climb them; I saw lovely flowers and could not pick them. Forget planting a vegetable garden in a woodland clearing. The bunnies were both creepy and cute, but I could not take them into my mog house and name them Fluffy. Fly For Fun has some feral catgirl-monsters which are kind of dementedly cute, but they are monsters and I am a figher, thus I cannot feed them or buy them shoes or ask them what it is like being a feral humanoid or anything weird like that. They also will not follow me home and kill mice for me; they will only follow me if they are aggressive-types and want to kill me.

As a counterexample, on Second Life you can do anything. (Except, in my case, reset my password so I can log in. ;_; ) You just have to program it yourself. As a result, the landscape is littered with fragmented realities that are extremely limited in scope. I cannot begin to tell you how messy that world is in visual terms alone: look out across the sea and see the beautiful Viking ships of this landlord, the billboard-skyhome-shopping malls of the closest three neighbors (complete with even more billboards), and some disembodied genital organ sculptures dumped on the land by an obnoxious vagrant (which I probably do not have the ability to remove). Good luck picking up a sandwich you find on a table. Good luck doing anything that the object’s maker did not take the time to program herself. I mean, just because I am carrying around a sphere that I have not written a program for yet does not mean that a plywood ball would be intrinsically unsuitable for hurling at my acquaintances’ heads when they irk me! Bonus points if they fell over, ducked, or threw something back, but one of us would need to code it.

I have heard that when you add things like deformable terrain to MMORPGs, within a short time period your scenery starts to look like the moon. Second Life is proof that control equals chaos. The real-life story of the Garden of Eden tells us that what humans are allowed to do, they will sooner or later screw up. So how do I get a game keeps me engaged–where I can make stuff happen other than momentarily decreasing the bunny population in a certain neck of the woods–which does not deteriorate into absolute chaos? Where is the balance? How would it be implemented?

I want to make my own online game someday for this purpose. I am not sure if my chances of meeting the objective or even making anything at all are very high, but I think that it would be a worthwhile endeavor.

I shall make artificially-intelligent bunnies that can follow you home if you decide not to shoot/stab them. I will make flowers that you can pull out and plant elsewhere, or put in your hair, or make into salad. The eight-year-olds of the world will love me. Power-levelers may be less thrilled. I guess a truly great game would accommodate them as well, though. So…train your stats by killing ferocious dragons, then go home and feed freshly picked herbs to your pet bunny in the house you built right next to your favorite waterfall, then go out and snipe your foes for great justice! Yargh!

Violet Black


Feminists scare me.

27 03 2007

This is from a post on a dating sim development forum. The username will not be given. It contains far more information than what I am commenting on, but I did not want to abridge it lest I face the possibility of taking remarks out of context. Blueness is added to the paragraph that, within the context of the rest of the post, spikes my emotional meters the most.


Over-ambitious planned game…

But we’ll see how far it goes. I’m confident in my ability to handle code, so if anybody wants to help out in this project, artwork would be most helpful. But mostly I’m just looking for comments and thoughts, to keep me motivated to work on the project. Will start making early drafts available when they get to be big enough for me to think it worthwhile (perhaps in a few days or weeks, depending on how much I work on this in the near future).

Outline of the game:

Taking inspiration from H-games and Princess Maker 2, and from the things I disliked about those games and also stealing liberally from other games, and stealing heavily from the Tale of Genji for plot elements.
Thus, the main character is the Shining Lord, Genji, the beautiful, talented, but politically unconnected son of the Emperor. There’s a powerful Fujiwara clan too, and in general a lot of the politics will follow Murasaki’s tale, though I’m thinking there will be some foreign politics and more provincial politics.

In the novel, Genji ultimately puts into practice a plan discussed with some other characters early on in the story, of acquiring a girl at a young age and raising her to be the perfect age; this scheme seems to dovetail nicely with Princess Maker, so that’s where the PM-like elements will come in.

The more literate reader may recall that in the second chapter of the Tale of Genji, Genji imposes on the home of a noble family because he doesn’t feel like going back to his own home. The lord of the house is away in the provinces, and so after receiving wonderful hospitality during the day, Genji can of course not restrain himself from raping the lady of the house during the night. She stubbornly, though ineffectively, resists him all the way, and he is so impressed by her resistance that he falls in love, pestering her with poems asking for future meetings. He recruits her very young brother as a houseboy of some kind, hoping the kid can help him get closer to his sister.

After some schemes for hooking up with the woman again fail, Genji grows frustrated, and noting that the boy looks a bit like his older sister, he pressures the kid into taking her place (the kid doesn’t protest, but it seems to be because he wants to impress Genji rather than because he’s interested in sex with Genji). He then lets up a bit on writing love poems to the lady, which makes her depressed because she’s naturally fallen in love with Genji despite the initial rape and her subsequent protests, but he eventually (in chapter 3) tries to see her again. In a case of mistaken identity, he ends up in bed with her stepdaughter instead of the lady herself, and he figures (rightly) that pretending she was the one he was there to see and raping her is less likely to get him in trouble than trying to explain the situation. Really, I can’t imagine why the tale of Genji hasn’t been the subject of endless H-games already. I suppose it probably has, and those just haven’t been the ones to be translated into English.

Important departures from inspirations:

Religion in Princess Maker 2 was strangely and irritatingly Christian. No Christian mythology in this game. Christianity is so lame, besides being inappropriate to a fantasy setting anyway. Instead, a pagan religion will be implemented. Names will be stolen from Buddhist or Shinto deities, but no attempt at accuracy is made; the gods are what are required for my plot setups. There will be quite a bit more magic than in the tale of Genji or in H-games generally; it’s more at the level of Princess Maker 2 (I don’t know if the other PM games are similar in that respect), though with the magic tied to the pagan religion I introduce.

In the Tale of Genji, extreme modesty and separation from the wider world and especially the company of men is generally required of the women (as such was the custom among the Heian aristocracy, of course). I find this interferes with a lot of H-game tropes I like, so I’m relaxing that a lot. Some women will still be extremely modest and cloistered, and I’ll use plots from Genji that rely on that, but there will also be situations where men and women interact socially and publicly in ways they certainly could not have in the Heian world, and there will be pushy feminist women, as well as plain old arrogant bitches, brazen sluts, and various other quite un-ladylike characters amid the ladies. Sporty chicks, too. Sporty chicks are teh hotness. This will, of course, clash with some of the plots I steal from Genji, but it’s an H-game trope to be wildly inconsistent in the approach to women in general and female sexuality in particular, and while I won’t follow all the H-game stereotypes, the inconsistency at least serves my purposes. I’ll probably include a polyandrous character or two, as well; wildly inappropriate to the Heian setting and to most H-games, but I like brazen sluts and want them to have a chance at being absurdly spoiled as well.

One point where I’ll follow ToG and ignore H-games is that Shining Genji is an aristocrat of very high rank, as are most of the women he associates with. Aristocrats don’t do their own cooking. Hardly any of the women in my game will try to impress the protagonist with their ability to do tasty home-cooked meals. Apologies to those with housewife fetishes, but that’s not one of my perversions. Despite my love of violence and rape and harem fantasies, I’m really a pretty fierce feminist IRL, and I find women who really buy into traditional roles rather sad and a little disturbing and not at all erotic.

On the subject of tastes which are not mine, despite the nature of some bits of the source material I don’t at present plan to include any yaoi at all. I may eventually change my mind about that, and certainly if anybody gets so interested in the project that they want to send me stuff for scenes they would want to include I would seriously consider that, but it’s just not something I’m into or that I feel like I can write well. However, I do realize that girls seem to be as into boy-boy stuff as boys are into girl-girl stuff, so since getting girls turned on is certainly something I’d love to do with my game, I am rather on the fence on this issue. Oh, I am a typical boy when it comes to my attitude to girl-girl stuff, so that will probably appear here and there.

It’s a common, though not universal, H-game trope that there’s a One True Love, and being indecisive in pursuing her will doom you to unhappiness, or at least lame game-endings. This is obviously quite stupid, and would make it impossible to model most of the Genji plots I want to steal anyway, so those familiar with normal H-games need not worry that changing your mind about who to focus on will swiftly lead to a band ending where you end up with nobody; my game won’t work that way.

Schools are a big H-game trope, and the world of Princess Maker 2 was awash with schools (there were, what, 10? 12? different kinds of classes you could send your “daughter” to). They don’t appear at all in Tale of Genji, but they’ll be in this game, and they’ll mostly be co-ed. The students will be mostly from ambitious families in the lower ranks of the aristocracy, and so fertile ground for rivals and love interests. Also, I feel like I can’t engage in lame plagiarism of Asian tropes without some competing martial arts schools. I know, it’s more Chinese than Japanese, and certainly totally un-Heian, but I’m freely stealing anything which I think may produce interesting plots.

Oh, and I don’t get the freaky H-game obsession with unsafe sex. Obviously condoms are inappropriate to a fantasy setting, but since it is a fantasy setting there will be birth-control magic, as well as the old stand by options of withdrawal (not altogether reliable, of course) and oral and anal sex (mmmm, love the butt sex. So why aren’t I writing any yaoi, you ask? If you are asking that, stop pestering me! Maybe I’ll get around to it eventually.)

Characters planned so far:

From Murasaki:

Shining Genji: The beautiful son of the reigning Emperor and his favorite concubine, Genji’s status at court has suffered due to his mother’s lack of sufficient political connections. His mother’s death several years ago also left him without an advocate in court, though the Emperor remains hopelessly fond of him. Nonetheless, his younger half-brother is the crown prince (the crown prince’s mother is from the Fujiwara clan, the real rulers of Japan). As our tale begins, he has been thoroughly educated and trained in preparation for being made a “commoner” (being given a name and so being non-royal, though the status of a Genji or Taira would certainly count as noble by most standards) and sent to pursue a career in the aristocracy independent of his imperial lineage. He’s pretty much good at everything, and the story starts right after his touching coming of age ceremony.

Aoi: The only daughter of the powerful Minister of the Left, on whom he dotes. The Minister of the Left is also a huge Genji fan, and so passes up more politically advantageous opportunities to offer his daughter in marriage to Genji. She’s somewhat older than Genji. She’s very beautiful, but a little spoiled, and not entirely pleased to be matched with a husband who’s still really just a boy. Aoi’s mother was a princess, so Genji and Aoi are cousins.

Fujitsibo: The Emperor’s new favorite wife, a younger version of Genji’s mother. Genji is hopelessly taken with her.

Minister of the Left: The Minister of the Left and the Minister of the Right are the joint heads of the government, in theory answering only to the Emperor. In practice, the authority of one or the other sometimes exceeds that of the emperor; as our story begins, the Minister of the Right, the father-in-law of the Emperor and grandfather of the Crown Prince, is probably the most powerful man in Japan. The Minister of the Left is charmed by Genji’s spirit and good looks, and greatly favors the boy. If he becomes Genji’s father-in-law, as he wishes, he will be a powerful and valuable patron. He’ll become even more valuable if the balance of power between left and right shifts, of course, which I’ll be sure to give the player chances to influence.

Tono Choju: Brother of Aoi, Genji’s close friend and frequent rival in Murasaki’s tale, likely to make appearances in mine as well. Son-in-law of the Minister of the Right.

Other planned characters:

Personal attendant: If Genji chooses to refuse the marriage to Aoi, he’ll get to choose two servants to take away from the palace to serve him in his new hovel (it will, of course, be a challenge for him to survive with only two servants, but he’s resourceful). He’ll get to choose a household servant, for which I’m thinking of making the choices slutty, efficient, or kung fu (with romance plots with them and various other effects from the choice). Names TBD.

Footman: Also for Genji the outcast in the city. He can have a male footman (I’m imagining Valmont’s scottish servant in Dangerous Liaisons), if he really wants, but this is an H-game, so he can also have a sporty chick to be a genuine footwoman, or he can decide that he can take care of himself and doesn’t really need someone to drive his carriage and act as extra muscle in dangerous situations, and so use this slot to take an extra slut. Names also TBD.

Some plans:

The player will have the option of refusing the marriage to Aoi, in which case Genji will be largely severed from court patronage and sent to live in the more middle-class parts of the city with a meager allowance. This will be the quickest way to get into the totally non-Murasaki school rivalry and other standard H-game plots, though there will be ways to get there after marrying Aoi as well.

The player will also have the option of being more serious about his relationship with Aoi, being faithful to the novel and continuing to obsess about Fujitsibo, or doing something else entirely after marrying Aoi. I’m planning to have lots of options. Some plans will perhaps have to be trimmed, but I’m ambitious at the moment.

Lots of other vague hovering ideas, but this is already a huge post.

Okay, now tell me, what does this guy really think of women?

Further troubles…

22 03 2007

And also, I need a family photograph. I am not sure if the teachers care if it fits the scripted dialogue, but if so, then April needs to be wearing a hat. I think I will tape in Alice Cooper post-printing, since a father is mentioned in the script.

And Mom logged out just as I was typing to her. I should have picked a shorter greeting.

Kyou wa

22 03 2007

Dear Blog,

I came back from CCC, saw that Mom was online, started typing to her, and…she signed off.

Darnit to heck!

Now I shall do my Japanese homework and/or play an RPG. Or maybe I should catch up on my sleep after two needless 5:30am nights. Or I could do an online puzzle.

Violet Black

Postscript: April, as long as you are on MySpace and can message other MySpacers, could I trouble you to solicit Preston for homemade software?

Argh! Why do I keep missing dinner??

5 03 2007

Dear Blog,

Missed dinner again. I got back to the dorm late because I had to work on a project that is due on Wednesday (and I will need to reserve the film editing room for it again because I did not finish all that I had to do), and then I had about five minutes left but had to attend to something bio-hygenic…so I have no dinner. I did think to bring candy with me to the media study thing, even though I am not sure if we are allowed to. (I did not spill anything on the poor helpless equipment, though.) Anyway, yeah, I have my regular homework load, plus that darn media study thing. Oh, and I have to register for classes by Wednesday, too! Aww, crap!

Violet Black

Oops, forgot CCC…

2 03 2007

Dear Blog,

Tonight I forgot to go to Campus Crusade for Christ…and did absolutely nothing useful in the meantime, except for finding pretty sci-fi pictures.

Oh, well. Here they are.


^————-I seriously need to finish a fantasy novel so I can hire this guy to work with me on the movie version.

Sorry, CCCers!

Violet Black