Monday, March 17, 2008

This World Was Made for You and Me!

I've been thinking about worlds.

You see, I have a lot of complaints about Mass Effect. The gameplay was uninspired, the writing was all stereotypes, the plot was about as exciting as a sleeping turtle. That's not to mention the fact that every container in the universe was full of guns.

But, even so, I wouldn't mind more of it.

It kind of reminds me of the Star Wars universe in its way: most of the writing is crap, few of the games are really very good, and the only time the plot surprises you is when it's worse than you ever imagined. Despite that, I and many others have an insatiable urge to keep playing in that universe.

For a long time, I just thought that kind of thing was because of the popularity of a universe. I mean, if Star Wars is drilled into your head since birth, you're going to want to play Star Wars, right?

Well, actually, I'm technically more of a trekkie... but I really have no urge to go play a game in the Trek universe. It's at least as big and well-defined, and it's way deeper under my skin...

Conversely, the Mass Effect universe is bright and new. I barely know anything about it, except that it's filled with painfully stereotypical races and situations. But I'm eager to play more games in it. So, obviously, how much I experience (or enjoy) a universe hasn't got much to do with how much I want to play in it.

I don't think that my preferences are the preferences. Given the number of Star Trek games, there are definitely a lot of people who feel the opposite way as me. But... what makes a universe stand out for me?

I think it's a diversity of interesting elements. I really need to see that the universe is "full": it needs to have not just good guys and bad guys, but mechanics and sports figures and whores. It needs to have problems with bugs, chewy bacon, and that weird smell that always accompanies a newly installed Argleburk Megatransistor.

Star Trek is pretty bad at this. Nearly every detail is critical to the A or B plot of an episode. Even color like the poker game or Data's poems are used in the plot. The universe never feels really "full" - it feels like a vast field of neatly-fitted pegs in carefully-sized holes.

When I first started watching DS9, I felt a little thrill: at last, a Star Trek series where people lived!

Of course, it fell short, and I ended up not liking it at all... but at least I can now peg the reason I really wanted to like it.

From some point of view, Mass Effect totally screwed this up as well. Everyone lived in a tiny room with no bathrooms or anything. Every container was full of guns. It was a very adventure-centric level design.

But from a writing point of view, Mass Effect was full. It did have all those fun little details. Including fairly major details that simply never matter - like Vorkosigan's Joker's brittle little legs. The universe was alive, messy and vibrant. Even if the level design was usually pathetic.

What universes do you want to play in? Why?

1 comment:

David said...

Definitely something I try to imbue all my stories with.