Monday, 19 March 2012

Wasteland: The Burial of the Dead

Last time, I promised to speak of the issue with violence in Wasteland.  First, though, I'll show a mistake that can be made while doing the visa card quest, which will serve as a demonstration for later.

If you approach the wrong tent and tell them "caterpillar", and this is really easy to do since they're not labelled, something interesting happens.

We've seen what happens if we tell it to the Atchisons, so let's try the others.  First the Santa Fe clan:

That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
No feedback besides that, and you can't enter the tent regardless of how many times you say it.  So next is the Topekans.

Has it begun to sprout?
When you do so, you're placed in the centre of the tent as so:

Will it bloom this year?
Or has the sudden frost disturbed it's bed?
It gets worse:

A woman drew her long black hair out tight

And fiddled whisper music on those strings
And bats with baby faces in the violet light
Whistled and beat their wings
After a day of killing women, children, and even a baby, who wants some loot?  Maybe even some tea and crumpets?  Yes, you read correctly, I just butchered a tent full of men, women and children.  Not pictured were also the clan elders, presumably elderly men.  Yes, they did attack first, and the baby was firing a pistol at me (try saying that in a court of law), but it's still a bit sickening.

I've also prepared another example of this in Highpool.  You might recall that I mentioned that most of the actions you can take there involve destroying people's lives.  So, we head into Highpool, and discover from a young boy, Bobby, that his dog got "sick", and he hid it in a cave to keep it safe.

Let's check that out, I'm sure it can't end in tragedy.  We're down in the cave now, when suddenly...

My friend, blood shaking my heart
The poor doggy, having been infected with rabies jumps out.  It needs to be put down, no argument from me.  However, on returning to the surface:

The awful daring of a moment's surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
No repercussions for this one.  This is another fight started by the NPC, and since he has no ranged weapons and won't move around the battlefield, he can easily be run past.  So it's not actually a completely bad situation, if you think the dog needs to be put down, and you don't mind simply breaking poor Bobby's heart and having a bit of inconvenience whenever you want to use the cheap doctor in town.

Another thing that can be done in Highpool is to wander around on the slippery rocks in the creek.  Do it enough, and sooner or later you'll fall over, prompting laughter from the children in town.  Doesn't that just make your blood boil?  So teach them a lesson!

By this, and this only, we have existed
Which is not to be found in our obituaries
Oddly, the children disappear when butchered.  There are around four sets of children who laugh at you, and when you kill the last one, another child appears.

Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider
Killing this one causes a strange figure to appear: The Red Ryder!  Now, I'm a bit young to remember this one, and I've never seen A Christmas Story.  He's armed with the Red Ryder BB Gun with the compass in the stock, but that's not enough to stop me.

Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
However, killing the Red Ryder has a drastic effect on Highpool itself.

In our empty rooms
The buildings become inaccessible, removing the cheapest doctor in the game.  Still, it's really not much of a penalty, and if you can stand to do it, you get some great flavour text in return.  I'm guessing this is one of those "He was dead all along!" twists, and Highpool was actually lost in the war, along with the children.  Though, one of the kids is described as a mutant, so perhaps not.  Still, it's my favourite theory.

Now, I read something interesting a few years back which I've been unable to find again.  It was one of the lead guys who worked on the game writing in to a site which detailed all the atrocities varied players had committed in the game.  He was shocked, and said something like "I thought Rangers were supposed to be the good guys!"

Now, I'm certainly not criticising for the content of the game in the slightest.  I always try to do the right thing in games, though this one does force a bit of petty theft to some degree.  So this is the first time in many, many years that I've seen this side of the game, despite playing it at least once every couple of years.  However, you have to realise that if you allow the players to commit atrocities, and even reward them with loot, experience, and interesting flavour text, naturally most of them are going to want to do these things.

I have no problem with games that allow sociopathic actions, and I have no problem with gamers who want to do these things in the game, even though it doesn't appeal to me, as long as that's where it stays.  Of course, it does, because games don't make psychopaths, genes and upbringing do.  But it seems to be a bit disingenuous to allow terrible things with little or no consequence, and then throw your hands up in shock when people go Lord of the Flies.

Of course, the fellow may have been tongue in cheek when he said it.  In which case, carry on Mr. Game Designer.  Though I know I don't have many readers, it'd be great to hear what people think about this topic.  So if you're going to comment on any post, make it this one.

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