10 thoughts on “Latest Homer in Silicon”

  1. The “pick something the player cares about for emotional leverage” trick also gets used in Baldur’s Gate 2. Whichever character you develop a relationship with (presuming you do) is the one that gets kidnapped.

  2. The entry I just tracked back is pretty rambling, but I wanted to say that your story of the suitor you got killed reminded me of an emergent interaction I had with a cat in a variant of nethack. I kept the cat with me for a long time, resurrecting it twice (once in a mad scramble because I hadn’t expected it to get in trouble) and retaming it when a koala convinced it to abandon me. Eventually another koala untamed it and I realized the cat would be safer as a random monster wandering around the level than it would be accompanying me into the nastier parts of the dungeon. It was a complex feeling of renunciation, the likes of which I usually don’t experience in a game.

    I’m also pretty sure it wasn’t intended by the game designers, and that most of the emotional freight in the relationship didn’t come from anything in the game. It’s just that I really like cats.

    Your story also reminded me of the end of the first Spiderman movie. (Um, everyone knows how that ends, right? It’s not a spoiler?)

  3. I had a surprisingly emotional response to letting go my World of Warcraft hunter’s first pet, a cat. They’d gone from level 4 (or whenever you get a pet) to level 70 together over a looong time. I travelled quite some way to find a “safe” spot to release him.

    I doubt that was intended by the designers, either.

  4. @ Jason:

    “… gets used in Baldur’s Gate 2. Whichever character you develop a relationship with (presuming you do) is the one that gets kidnapped.”

    Where in the game is that? Because I presume it is not the kidnapping of Imoen by Irenicus that we are talking about? (Since that is always Imoen, and must be, given the plot.)

  5. Stephen, interesting. I note that the common element is cats (or at least pets). I think we may have hit on the unexplored key to emotional impact in emergent storytelling.

    I don’t play MMORPGs, but I take it that the cat is still wandering around somewhere? One thing about nethack (and the SLASH’EM variant I was playing) is that my cat is going to disappear into the ether when I finish my game, unless I somehow get myself killed on the level where I left him. (In which case the level will be preserved with my ghost for another player, who will probably blunder through and kill all the cute little peacefuls. But I should be able to avoid that.) So my concerns for my cat are particularly virtual.

    1. Fable II gives you a dog companion for the whole game, which has remarkably plausible doggy behavior: it’ll find interesting buried objects and participate in fights, and it likes to be petted; and it will hide in the bushes and whimper if it gets wounded. It really is adorable — and easier to relate to than most of the human characters, because a pet is something you really do communicate with only with gestures and sign language, and the amount of intelligence provided by an AI is about what you’d expect for a dog.

    2. In fact the cat would have spawned out quite quickly, so it was a similar fate to your cat – in the game universe presumably my pet lived to a ripe old age, but in reality the server lost interest very quickly, I expect.

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