Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What's On The Stove? - Breaking Quarantine

Official Seal of Rutgers University
Image via Wikipedia
Rutgers University Evacuation Zone - NOTICE

All able-bodied persons must take a shift on the walls.  Deposit all unused ammunition in one of three depots.

All food must be deposited in the central repository when obtained.

Clean water is currently available.  Wash your hands regularly and shower daily.  This may not stop the infection but it will assist in the maintenance of the Evac Zone.

Do not waste ammunition on infected beyond the fence.  Do not display lights or make loud noises in the quarantine zone.

If you must leave the quarantine zone for any reason, when you return, approach the quarantine zone slowly with your hands held in the air.  Use a radio countersign.  Speak in a normal voice.  This will assist in differentiating you from the infected.

Radio communication with National Guard evacuation centers is for official use only.  No information is currently available outside the evac zone.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Prototype - Part I - Missed Opportunities

Prototype (video game)Box Art, via Wikipedia

Prototype is an Activision game that was released in June 2009.  The reason I’m picking it for my first Game Story Reboot is because it has several really intriguing ideas that don’t quite hit the mark.  Prototype has good voice acting - especially for the protagonist, voiced by Barry Pepper.  It has excellent production values, and was critically well-received.  There are a lot of good things about Prototype, which is why when the story missed the mark for me, it really felt jarring.  So let’s fix it!

By the by, you really shouldn't be reading these things if you care about story spoilers. We have to look at the whole story, including the ending, in order to see what went wrong and what went right.  Ready?

The Medium Doesn't Excuse The Message

I don't find the arguments that games are not art at all credible, but this isn't because there are a lot of artistically successful games, but because art is broad and inclusive. I grew up with teachers and spent a good deal of time with art and music teachers as a youth. Art, to them, is not just stuff that sits in museums while we talk about it with our pinkie extended, though those may be extremely important works of art. Art is the conveyance of emotion from artist to audience, and the provocation of thought and reflection, and anyone in the world can and everyone in the world should be an artist at various times in their life. The growling death metal band and the experimental dance troupe are all artists. The guy struggling with how to propose marriage is an artist. If toys are works of art, and anyone who has seen a child play with a toy will readily admit they are, then games must be too. Once we reach that conclusion, we have a basis on which to critique games as art. My own particular area of interest is in critiquing story elements of games.

Threat Report Update - Pack-Rat

The Mutants and Masterminds Threat Report series from Green Ronin gives a solid character with stats, Hero Lab files, an adventure hook for Mutants and Masterminds Third Edition. In the Threat Report Update, I give you some alternate views on, alternate versions of, and supplemental material for these great reports.

Threat Report #1 is about Pack-Rat, an uplifted rat who has become a thief on, and under, the streets of the city, and assembled a "guild" of other thieves to replace the other rats that were experimented on who didn't escape.  He is pursued by an evil organization called the Labyrinth.  Somehow it avoided even making a "rat in a maze" pun!

Wah-Wah They Hate Us Supers: Interestingly, Pack-Rat simply doesn't identify with human beings.  He doesn't "get" them and all their weird behaviors.  So if you're a deformed mutant who is struggling with feelings of rejection and alienation, meeting a deformed superbeing who just doesn't mind living in the sewers and doesn't expect anything more could be either empowering or terrifying.  Once the death robots start hunting your kind in the street, maybe Pack-Rat is what you see as the inevitable result - scrounging for scraps and living with criminals.

Get Dat Rat! - A cool adventure hook might be that Pack-Rat, while digging into the activities of the covert evil agency pursuing him, picks up an item or piece of information that other people want - a brutal law enforcement agency who doesn't care about collateral damage, an international terrorist organization, or maybe the player characters.  Or the item is inherently dangerous - a sample of a terrible bioweapon, for example.  Recovering something he not-so-"innocently" picked up is one thing, but what if lawyers turn up and demand that it be returned to the shady original owner?  Will the players back the law over the thief even if it means giving the terrible device back to the evil organization that had it?

Pack-Rat The Mastermind - This character was made smarter and better by science - what if he keeps getting better, or finds some way to improve himself?  He could reflect the desire for power or, more positively, the desire to improve your station in life?  The player characters' attempt to stop him could be perceived by him as a desire to put him "back in his place", whether that be in the sewers or in the Labyrinth.  Labyrinth might even share information (in a sinister way) with the player characters in order to keep Pack-Rat from evolving to a state where he could take effective revenge on his former captors.

Pack-Rat The Comic Relief - Let's not forget the comedic possibilities inherent in the character, as he messes up human interaction and runs off with shiny things the big bad villain really needed.

Using Pack-Rat in My Current Game - As with always, the main question I have is "can I use this in my game right now?"  And the answer is yes!  Obviously Pack-Rat will fall in with the Omegas. But what happens when it comes out that he's not a mutant after all?  Sentinels will pass him by, people won't be existentially threatened by him (although of course he's still a monster.)  Might he be separated from the only people who have identified with him?  What happens then?  Will he seek a new pack, attract new followers who might have avoided him thinking he was a mutant?  He might even become a Toad-like figure, always loitering around the outside of this fringe group or that, trying to find someplace he fits in.