Peter Molyneux told me today that his decision to pour much of the emotional connection of upcoming role-playing game Fable II into the lead character's furry companion seemed justified after he ran into a duo of gamers in the lobby of his hotel earlier this week. "I met a couple of people downstairs the first time who played Fable, I didn't know them before, and one guy was super fanatical about his dog," Molyneux said. "He just asked me a million questions. 'Am I doing this right?' and 'Can I find this book and train the dog?' and 'How come I've seen other people's dogs?' and they're better at finding treasure.' He was talking all about the dog, he really cared about the dog. "The other bloke standing next to him said, 'Ah, you're such a wimp. I just left my dog and he was hurt and he had to crawl around and I found it funny. It just made me laughed he was so injured all of the time.'" "That was a fantastic moment for me because I realized that's what I wanted. Some people are going to be fanatical about the dog, but I didn't want to ram him down your throat. I didn't want to insist that you had him." But does that mean you can play through Fable II without the help and companionship of the game's emotional anchor, the dog? Sort of."If you don't use those dog treats to heal your dog he is going to stay sick and if he stays sick he is not going to be able to keep up and you're not going to be traveling with him," he said. Not only is that built into the game, but the Lionhead team was so aware of the possibility that some gamers may want to go it completely alone, they created that opportunity very early in the game. The first time you fight with the dog in fact, he gets injured. "If you don't want your dog you just leave him injured. Thats it," Molyneux said. "Eventually, he's going to catch up to you, it may be in half an hour's time and you may be in a pub. But you can leave him way behind." The decision to not include some sort of toggle for the dog and instead force gamers to abandon the dog to be rid of him was born of Molyneux's design philosophy for the game. "I could have put into the menu, I could have put something that said disable dog, but how does that make you feel anything?" he said. "I wanted people to realize this dog loves you. There has to be a consequence to your action. The consequence is he is going to catch up to you and that's when he is going to make you feel guilty. It's an emotion consequence rather than it being a GUI tool."
I can't tell if I find this illustrative or irritating.
To me, this has a direct corollary in a feature from Rock Band. Occasionally, while on tour, you'll get propositioned by some screen to do a gig for charity—for which you will recieve no money (and as a consequence, stave off the acquisition of the glorious vampirella top—and don't get me wrong, coatatonic is great, but I want my beauty to shine like a beacon, not bristle like an angry animal), and double the fans. Now, the charity isn't real, nothing about the gig is real, the fans aren't real either. They're even *less* real if you're sticking to a lower difficulty level and have reached your fan cap. But, at the end of the paragraph asking me the question, there is the phrase 'Please... Please?'
I nearly always go for it.
There are other circumstances, sometimes. For instance, I hate killing dogs in most games, because, while the humans/undead/whatever are almost universally bad people who deserve to die (or, occasionally, bad thermal detonator-throwing jawas), especially in Grand Theft Auto, where the people are almost all combative assholes who get all pissy when you brush by them, or accidentally knock them down, or punch them, or stab them, or shoot them 40 times, or run them over, the *dogs* (this sentence was originally about dogs) are being forced to attack you by the cruel whims of Designeria, dark goddess of uninspiration, sameness, and patron saint of sequels. There's that darth vader level, too. See, the storm trooper deserves to get force-choked for standing in my way. The wookie behind him deserves to get force choked for acting threatening and making the storm trooper fire on him. The other storm troopers need to die because they failed to save their comrade from force choking. The other wookies need to die for failing to exert positive social pressures on the assailant wookie. Kashyyk needs to be destroyed with a giant laser for harboring wookies, and the whole universe has to burn just so we don't end up with people wondering whatever happened to the wookie planet.
I'm still talking about dogs.
So all it takes to get my attention in rock band is that 'please' and the kind of plaintive nature of the proposition—the kind of genuine chance to do good that I would probably reject in *real* life, unless asked nicely by someone with breasts.
So, the question is, am I learning about how manipulable I really am—influenced by nothing more than someone being nice, while ready to kill in droves if given permission, or am I being taken advantage of by an unthinking beast lurking in a digital lair?
Is this dog a dog that makes me think about how I care about dogs, in general, so I put down my controller, drive to my parents house, stopping by petco to get a couple rawhide bones, and play with theo and vinny, the brittany-poodle half brothers? Or, am I like this guy I know, and use this experience to go *without* buying a dog that I'd have to lock up in my house all day while I was at work, and starve for affection? And by house, I mean tiny 1-bedroom apartment. Could this be a valuable surrogate for someone without any real affection in their life. For instance, the way that Aeris only has cache as a literary figure (term used with irony), because most of the people who saw her die had never had a girlfriend before, let alone one with a limit break and her own mysterious materia?
What about all those times I used machine guns the size of howitzers in Mechwarrior 4 to create gore fountains from the ant-like bystanders standing near anonymouse polygonal buildings? What about the character in the Sims I had who lost his sanity-preserving cactus to a theif, and passed out in the street on a puddle of his own urine?
I at least used a money cheat to get that guy a nice place with plenty of statues.
he eventually learned to paint.
god what a stupid game
Listen, if you own animal crossing, I know you're abusing yourself and wounding the christ child; each housing addition or carpet you purchase is like a thorn piercing the immaculate brow. As you cut grass, imagine the babe thirsting—lips drying out, then cracking, and a wheeze of dust emanating from his mouth. But all of that might be ok anyway—after all, there are so many ways to get abused, what's one more? Especially with cute little elephants?
Guilt is definitely an emotion that's unexplored in art, because it's hard to make someone feel guilty for looking at something someone else made. Unless it's a statue entitled 'an image of the artist banging your wife while you waste your time at art exhibits instead of showing her affection—the fountain portion of the work represents her loneliness, and your emotional disconnection.'
I wish you could pick a cat and then swing it like a club—so that it lets out a shrieking 'meow' every tim you bludgeon someone wearing platemail, or attempt to destroy a wooden barrier.