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Artikel mit dem Stichwort ‘Dragon Quest’

DQX Valentine Quest End Result

Mittwoch, 13. Februar, 2013

Astortia Queen Valentine Event

Results came in on Monday and nothing really changed for the queen voting:

queen_final

That’s an average number of votes of 123234.25 for the last 4 days, which is less than on the last few week days we have single day data for. So the 2nd week end wasn’t as strong as the 1st one.

For the monsters a few places still did change and sootheslime was replaced by drackyma, a palette swap of another DQ mascot.

Through Friday Through Saturday Through Sunday Through Monday Through Tuesday Through Wednesday Through Second Sunday

monster_final

For the last 4 days of the valentine quest players can get 3 pieces of chocolate per day from Maiyu. When you exchange these with another player (or simply give them to one) they will change into chocolate themed furniture for your house. There are 5 sorts of chocolate and furniture they turn into so by trading chocolate with other players they can try to get a full set or their preferred pieces of furniture.

DQX Valentine Contest Voting Quest, Day 5 to 6

Samstag, 9. Februar, 2013

Astortia Queen Valentine Event

From February 1st to 10th 2013, players can vote their favorite beauty in all of Astortia. The winner will be declared queen and players will receive a gift from the Valentine Queen.

To go along with the female of choice there is also a contest for the most popular monster. The female of your choice will give you 10 pieces of chocolate which you have to throw at monsters in her place. The one that receives the most chocolate will be the winning monster.

SE have stopped giving us updated rankings after Wednesday so this is the complete ranking data to expect before the end result which is supposed to be announced on the 11th. Trends have started to change for these two remaining days.

Day 5: Tuesday

English ~ Day 5 percentage trend Tuesday percentage trend
Maiyu 216097 28,84% – 0,25% 35231 27,63% – 1,21%
Fuhra 116281 15,52% + 0,19% 20975 16,45% + 0,93%
Queen Arwe 91126 12,16% + 0,10% 16135 12,66% + 0,49%
Sohmya 73415 9,80% – 0,08% 12002 9,41% – 0,39%
Phantom Thief Poyccrin 65566 8,75% + 0,05% 11486 9,01% + 0,26%
Runana 57371 7,66% – 0,03% 9577 7,51% – 0,15%
Sage Mareen 46697 6,23% – 0,05% 7631 5,99% – 0,25%
Queen Deohre 41316 5,51% – 0,05% 6691 5,25% – 0,27%
Precianna 25831 3,45% + 0,01% 4467 3,50% + 0,06%
Jenya 15481 2,07% + 0,11% 3296 2,59% + 0,52%
All 749181 127491

Maiyu’s lead still is in no danger but she keeps losing the most, followed by Sohmya. Fuhra is gaining the most, as are Jenya and Arwe. Poyccrin isn’t gaining as much as these three but she’s starting to give Sohmya heat.

Day 6: Wednesday

English ~Day 6 percentage trend Wednesday percentage trend
Maiyu 251932 28,73% – 0,12% 35835 28,04% + 0,40%
Fuhra 137805 15,71% + 0,19% 21524 16,84% + 0,39%
Queen Arwe 107391 12,25% + 0,08% 16265 12,73% + 0,07%
Sohmya 84995 9,69% – 0,11% 11580 9,06% – 0,35%
Phantom Thief Poyccrin 76940 8,77% + 0,02% 11374 8,90% – 0,11%
Runana 66949 7,63% – 0,02% 9578 7,49% – 0,02%
Sage Mareen 53816 6,14% – 0,10% 7119 5,57% – 0,42%
Queen Deohre 47986 5,47% – 0,04% 6670 5,22% – 0,03%
Precianna 30426 3,47% + 0,02% 4595 3,60% + 0,09%
Jenya 18749 2,14% + 0,07% 3268 2,56% – 0,03%
All 876989 127808

Now things start to get interesting. Maiyu still losing but gaining in the single day percentage, cementing her lead more sovereignly. Jenya is the exact opposite.

Poyccrin’s catch up with Sohmya is losing momentum. Precianna trending favorably.

Vote percentages by days

This diagram demonstrates very well that end positions were likely already decided on the first day.

A lot more fluctuations if we compare the single days but not much of a chance of positions actually changing. Poyccrin looks like she could be crossing streams with Sohmya but she was trending downward slightly on Wednesday. Let’s see what the final blind days will bring.

Votes per day

Friday as the first day and beginning of the week end is the second strongest day in votes. Saturday even stronger and Sunday showing first signs of less participation, likely because people had to prepare for their working Monday. The week days very stable with a slight gain on Wednesday.

One account pays for up to three characters, so the participant numbers don’t translate to human players one to one.

DQX Valentine Contest Chocolate Quest, Day 1 to 6

Freitag, 8. Februar, 2013

Astortia Queen Valentine Event

From February 1st to 10th 2013, players can vote their favorite beauty in all of Astortia. The winner will be declared queen and players will receive a gift from the Valentine Queen.

To go along with the female of choice there is also a contest for the most popular monster. The female of your choice will give you 10 pieces of chocolate which you have to throw at monsters in her place. The one that receives the most chocolate will be the winning monster.

SE have stopped giving us updated rankings after Wednesday so this is the complete monster ranking data to expect before the end result which is supposed to be announced on the 11th. Positions had pretty much stabilized by Wednesday.

Through Friday Through Saturday Through Sunday Through Monday Through Tuesday Through Wednesday
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.
15.
16.
17.
18.
19.
20.
21.
22.
23.
24.
25.
26.
27.
28.
29.
30.

The drop outs

LouiesawLouiesaw (26) only makes the top 30 on the first day but is one of the strongest enemies on the list. It speaks for its popularity that people would go to the trouble to raise the tension of such a strong opponent but obviously not enough were willing to keep at it for the following days.

snow_sanguini jailcatSnow sanguini (29) and jailcat (28) aren’t as strong by far (though Snow sanguini has a good critical attack rate) but you have to walk a bit of a distance to reach them, so they lost out to more easily available enemies after the first day.

king_slimeKing slime hangs on to the top 30 for a full 4 days but in the end his appearances were too rare and he was too far off the easily available spots to compete with the other enemies.

The drop offs

slimeIt might be surprising that the blue slime wouldn’t rank higher and that he even loses places. But if you haven’t kept a Rulerstone for one of the original locations reaching him takes quite a bit of a walk so that explains why he doesn’t match up to she-slime.

Teeny_SanguiniThe teeny sanguini suffers from this fact as well. Only beginners will easily encounter it.

bud_brother BasarahnaBasarahna starts out pretty high at 17 on day 1. He drops a high amount of money which explains his popularity. But he can also be tough to defeat so people might not have wanted to raise his tension. Bud brother, who inhabits the same popular hunting ground as Basarahna, has more staying power.

slime stackThe slime stack is another money maker, if you’re at a lower level. Like most slimes, it seems to lose chocolate to the leading she-slime.

The leveling favorites

tombreroTombrero must be the most hunted enemy of all. You can find him at Muse Beach and in the West of Orphea and he is said to be perfect for leveling a range level 20 character.

feralbeast pink_sanguiniThe pink sanguini is similarly popular with level 30 somethings. As is Feralbeast but the cave where it dwells in high numbers is always overcrowded with adventurers.

ghoulGhoul has massive amount of experience points and is ideal for leveling range level 50 characters, so it even gains places despite its strength.

The easy MP restorers

spiked_hare BludgerigarSpiked hare and bludgerigar are easy to defeat and often drop small bottles of magic water which restore 10 MP, an essential item.

The Gren entry level monsters

skullwasher leery_lout beakon

The highest riser must be the skull washer, a palette swap of the skullgaroo. From 8 to 2, that is quite a feat. He is also close by Gren, the most frequented city in all of Astortia. The leery lout and beakon are his neighbors and gain places as well.

The Curalana Beach monsters

takomett rock_diving_devilsummer_wolf

Takomett, rock diving devil and summer wolf all inhabit this region which is another favorite leveling spot for level 30 somethings.

Muse Beach

clawcerer man_o'_war slime_knightChimaera tombrero

Clawcerer, man o‘ war, slime knight and chimaera are neighbors of tombrero at Muse Beach.

Orphea

gremlin spiked_hare tombrero slime stackChimaera

In the east of Orphea gremlin is a neighbor to spiked hare and in the West tombrero is joined by slime stacks and chimaeras. These also benefit from the popularity of tombrero and spiked hare.

(mehr …)

DQX Valentine Contest Voting Quest, Day 1 to 4

Montag, 4. Februar, 2013

Astortia Queen Valentine Event

From February 1st to 10th 2013, players can vote their favorite beauty in all of Astortia. The winner will be declared queen and players will receive a gift from the Valentine Queen.

To go along with the female of choice there is also a contest for the most popular monster. The female of your choice will give you 10 pieces of chocolate which you have to throw at monsters in her place. The one that receives the most chocolate will be the winning monster.

About the valentine chocolate custom: This was probably established by the chocolate producing industry but in Japan women are expected to give their male colleagues and friends chocolate for valentine’s day. This is often called duty chocolate and doesn’t mean a whole lot.

In Dragon Quest X the valentine chocolate raises the tension of the targeted monster when thrown at them. If they become too strong they might defeat you in battle so most players tend to throw them at weaker monsters since they’re easier to fend off. The currently winning monster (by a large margin) is the cute she-slime which populates the outskirts of most villages and is ideal for leveling a new character or job before you go further out into the map where the stronger monsters await.

Throwing the chocolate rather than handing it over is reminiscent of throwing beans at devils which is meant to keep them away. It’s a recurring gag in manga to throw valentine chocolate at men like they’re devils, reflecting its function as duty chocolate and the women not actually being interested in the men they have to give the chocolate to.

I will cover the monster ranking in a later article, here is the queen ranking for now:

1. Maiyu

Maiyu

Maiyu helped the hero in the second Ogre key emblem quest by kicking some sense into the Ogleed warriors who were turned pokemon by Mareen (spoiler). Her victory in this contest is pretty much set in stone already, but her 30.41% lead on the first day has shrunk to 29.09% and on Monday she only got 27.59% of the vote anymore.

2. Fuhra

Fuhra

Fuhra failed her gradution test which she took together with the elf hero. Her father keeps making her do stuff like take part in this contest. Or be a reluctant priestess (a cheeky younger Yuna, if you will).

She has a pretty solid hold on place two and has actually been gaining votes by percentage, from 14.5% by the end of Friday to 15.33% by the end of today.

3. Queen Arwe

Queen Arwe

I wrote a whole article about Arwe, so spoil yourself here.

Her third place is stable and she follows a similar pattern as Fuhra, gaining percentages over time. With 12.06% it’s unlikely she’ll be a danger to Fuhra’s second place.

(mehr …)

The Note: Author’s tool, author’s weapon

Donnerstag, 15. November, 2012

In a series of interviews from Cloud Message1 A promotion compilation book from late 2008 covering several then upcoming Square Enix titles with art, game screenshots, interviews and preview articles for these games., the interviewed creators were asked to give an item they frequently use for their work, one that would characterize their work. Final Fantasy scenario writer Kazushige NOJIMA chose a note book which he uses to write down ideas for his stories. Obviously it truly symbolizes the work of the author and from the title of his 2009 game Sakura Note we can tell how important the note is for NOJIMA as the canvas of the stories he writes. The note probably holds similar importance to most people involved in writing, may they write games, or more traditional word based media like novels or comics. Same is actually true for other artists working with the pen, like the artists of comics for example.

Editor TORISHIMA tells freelance writer HORII about the game programming contest at Enix.

Contest Winners

Games originally didn’t even need any writing so it is no surprise that some of the writing expertise used in games borrows from earlier media like comics. Yūji HORII, one of the few game writers broadly known by name in Japan and the inventor of Dragon Quest, started his career as a freelance writer for the manga anthology magazine Weekly Boys‘ Jump. He also was an aspiring programmer and when an ad for a game programming contest ran by Enix was placed in Jump, HORII entered with a tennis game and won one of the three awards. Another award winner, Kōichi NAKAMURA, was to become at first HORII’s rival and later his partner on later games published by Enix, among them Dragon Quest. Jump editor Kazuhiko TORISHIMA, who had told HORII about the contest at Enix, was coaching Akira TORIYAMA at the time, the author of the immensely popular Jump series Dragon Ball, and TORISHIMA suggested that TORIYAMA should do the character and monster designs for the new game Dragon Quest. So two of the key figures that contributed to Dragon Quest’s success were of Jump descent and it was Jump writing and Jump art that would define the series. In a way, Jump was the cradle were Dragon Quest was born.2 From the 1990 Making of Dragon Quest manga by artist Shōtarō ISHINOMORI and writer Hiroyuki TAKIZAWA.

Meeting Akira TORIYAMA

So games and comics aren’t that far divorced in their subject matter and style and I want to compare two works from recent years of these two fields in their treatment of the note as a symbolic item. The worlds in Jump stories are often completely original and fantastic, but when they are set in the real world something quite normal becomes attributed with magical powers or takes on a fantastic dimension. In Yūgi-Oh, trading cards not unlike the ones used by the young readers of Jump summon real magical creatures. Soccer players in manga may use trick shots not unlike the spectacular hissatsu waza (special moves) of fantastic martial artists. And Hikaru is trained in the game of Go by the ghost of his deceased grandfather.3 Hikaru no Go is a collaboration by writer Yumi HOTTA and artist Takeshi OBATA, who would later also draw Deathnote and Bakuman. (mehr …)

  1. A promotion compilation book from late 2008 covering several then upcoming Square Enix titles with art, game screenshots, interviews and preview articles for these games. []
  2. From the 1990 Making of Dragon Quest manga by artist Shōtarō ISHINOMORI and writer Hiroyuki TAKIZAWA. []
  3. Hikaru no Go is a collaboration by writer Yumi HOTTA and artist Takeshi OBATA, who would later also draw Deathnote and Bakuman. []

Dragon Quest X ist da!

Freitag, 10. August, 2012

Insgesamt 16 Figuren kann man in Japan mit Pepsi sammeln.

Jetzt muss ich noch los und einen USB-Stick holen… inzwischen noch ein paar Fotos von Junkos Handykamera:

Warten auf Dragon Quest X…

Montag, 6. August, 2012

Heute zur Post, liegt im Flugzeug, also zu 40 % bearbeitet. Das heißt, ich kriege es frühestens am Donnerstag…

Meine Brieffreundin ist schon fleißig am Spielen und hat mir einige Handy-Fotos vom Spielverlauf geschickt:

Jun als Mensch

Die kleine Schwester hat ein Geschenk für die Heldin

Nach der Offline-Einführung als Mensch gibt’s eine erneute Charaktererschaffung als Mitglied einer der sechs Stämme.

Online wird’s eine Weddie

Jun zieht als Priesterin mit anderen Onlinespielern in den Kampf:

Ein Pukuripo-Magier als Zweitcharakter

Offenbar gibt es nur wenige Krieger-Pukuripos, weswegen das anfängliche Leveln in dieser Stammesgegend nicht sehr leicht ist. Die meisten Spieler wählen offenbar bevorzugt Jobs, die zum äußeren Erscheinungsbild der Stämme zu passen scheinen, und die lustigen Pukuripos lassen nur die wenigsten an Krieger denken…

Electric Pinocchio V: The Mute King

Mittwoch, 1. August, 2012

In the previous installments I illuminated different kinds of Geppettos and Pinocchios: creator and puppet, creator and robot, game creator and game character, parent and child, player and player character, bildungsroman and reader, game and player…

The Beginning of Dragon Quest

In this installment we will look at another one of these pairs: king and hero, as portrayed in Dragon Quest, the starting point of the Mario myth turned JRPG. The hero, being an avatar for the player, is mute, so the player can give him his own voice. The king on the other hand, being the most important non-player character (NPC), does talk. The function of the NPCs is to tell the player what to do, they are the voice of the game creator(s) explaining how the game is played, the king being the first one the hero meets in the original Dragon Quest (1986).

The king also commands the most authority, obviously, and can both save your progress and also tell you how much experience points you and your fellow party members need to reach the next level of your bildungsroman. In the Mother games (1989-2006) by ITOI Shigesato, where the Dragon Quest formula is transferred to a contemporary setting, the king in this function is replaced by an absent working father only reachable over the phone; in the later DQ games christianity-esque priests (fathers) serve these functions.

But at the end of their quest of becoming the legendary hero, the heroes themselves get to marry the princess and are crowned king. The hero of the sequel Dragon Quest II (1987) being their son. Finally in Dragon Quest III (1988) we get to play as the original hero Roto (or Erdrick, as he was called in the early NES Dragon Warrior translations), that served as a role model for the hero in DQI. In game he ends up being named what the player chose to name him, sent off by his mother to go out into the world and to again fulfill the king’s missions:

(mehr …)

Making Strange Allies… From Digital Devils to Electric Wave People

Sonntag, 26. Februar, 2012

In 1987 a game changed the way we interact with opponents in JRPG battles: Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei allowed the player to talk to and even befriend the enemies in addition to the option of fighting them. In the sequel from 1990 the player could even spare a boss’s life, capture him in a jar after his defeat and transformation into a measly frog. This act of mercy ultimately lead to the player being able to side with the demons against an absolutist god who would condemn all demons as evil. In Japan Megami Tensei II was considered one of the four great RPGs of its time, the other three being Dragon Quest IV, Final Fantasy III and Wizardry III.1 http://www.geocities.jp/dobiniq/4RPG-1.htm Two years later in 1992, the series reached its peak with Shin Megami Tensei for SNES:

(mehr …)

  1. http://www.geocities.jp/dobiniq/4RPG-1.htm []

The Relevance of Choice in Computer Game Narratives

Freitag, 21. Januar, 2011

Interactivity, as the word activity implies, is what distinguishes games from passively received media. Non-linearity, which means giving players different choices in paths to follow, is what promises more freedom in comparison to linear narratives. Many approaches to other narrative media can be applied to games as well but both of these features of games have to be carefully considered when dealing with game stories. In regard to choice there are several aspects as to how it affects the nature of the story.

What kind of choices are present in computer games?

There’s action choices and dialog choices. Action choices might take the form of what part of the game world to interact with and what events to trigger by doing so. Or as part of an event there could be a multiple choice menu giving a set of action descriptions from which the player can choose one. This kind of action choice is almost identical to dialog choices, which can also be viewed as a special type of action, namely speaking. By means of microphone-based voice detection or certain words and phrases being mapped to button presses like other actions are, dialog choices have the potential to take the same form of free interaction (without menus) as more standardized actions but this potential is only beginning to be realized in adventure games like Hey you, Pikachu! (1998, 2000) or raising simulations like Wonder Project J (1994).

Are choices in computer games really free? Can the choice be escaped?

Of course the player can only make meaningful choices in regards to the narrative when the writer of this narrative has foreseen that the player might want to make this choice or planned to allow the player to make it. Thus the freedom is necessarily limited by what is feasible in including in the narrative without making production time and man power explode. It is further limited by what the game creator wants to allow to the player.

Also, if the player doesn’t want to choose they could just press the button to confirm whatever choice is preselected. Devil Survivor (2008) by Atlus is a rare case of a game that avoids this by not preselecting any option at all. The player has to press a direction button first before an option becomes selected and thus confirmable and the player can enter the ordered list from top or bottom, so the order doesn’t favor either one option by making it more quickly selectable than all others.

Initiating the predetermined1 Section added 22.01.2011

As mentioned above, apart from forced choices that take the form of menus where a selection has to be made to go back to the uninterrupted gameplay there’s also choices in free interaction screens, what parts of the game world to interact with and when. This can be treasures to be procured or information gained by talking to NPCs or observing certain parts of the world. In terms of dialog a considerable amount of in-game text is acquired this way, the player has to seek out the people who can tell them what they need to know about the setting of the narrative. Some of these interactions are necessary to progress in the game but many of them are optional and only enhance the gameplay experience. The player is in this way free to dictate pace and level of detail of the narrative to some degree.

In-game dialog is largely predetermined and little of it dynamically changing with players‘ choices. The options the player has are often reduced to who and when to talk to, but even here there is room to create better player involvement. In early games talking to a NPC would always result in the same text said over and over again. If the narrative progressed beyond a certain point dialog for this NPC might also change but at any one point in the game conversation would be severely limited. This is not a problem per se, in the same way as a reader of a novel is allowed to browse back to a previous page and reread dialog or a movie viewer to rewind and rewatch a scene, this makes sure the player can ask for crucial information again they might have missed the first time.

But by splitting long dialog parts into several smaller bits where the player has to repeatedly talk to a NPC to get all the information, sympathy and interest towards a certain NPC can be expressed, creating another layer of choice. In recent games most NPCs have several things to say and the player will get new dialog at least for three or so tries, the actual amount varying by game and character. To get all out of a NPC the player actively has to initiate conversation again and again, and although they can’t control what to say themselves2 Most of the time the protagonist is mute (see Playing the role: Defined characters versus blank slate avatars) in this kind of conversation, regardless of his status in other situations. the choice how often to initiate conversation is meaningful.

Prince of Persia (2009) is an example where this choice of when and how much to talk is utilized very effectively. There’s only one character to talk to but since she is always by the protagonist’s side dialog can be initiated almost anytime, by pressing a dedicated button and without interrupting the action game play. While dialog text is displayed and voice overs are heard the player can go on interacting with and advancing in the game world. Dialog depends on the surroundings, is informative in regards of the game world but also characterizes the two characters having the conversation. Both length of dialog bits and their amount is high, giving interested players lots to listen to but without forcing them to do so. It’s an unintrusive way of mixing text and action.

The opposite example would be when a NPC conversation is unexpectedly long, interrupting the game flow until it’s over. Sometimes this kind of NPC (like Maechen in Final Fantasy X) might warn the player that their tale is a long one and ask them if they really want to hear it. It might be so long that the NPC will ask the player midway through if they should go on with their tale. The choice is the same as in the above cases, is the player patient and interested enough to listen to everything. But the way the choice is accentuated is different. In the above cases the player actively has to keep the conversation going, in this case they have to actively decide to turn it down or stop it.

How is the narrative affected by these choices?

Some choices only flag minor events, changing small details in an otherwise fixed narrative. In this case the non-linearity, i. e. the branching paths, are short lived, keeping the overall plot manageable for the writer. Other choices more immediately and drastically affect story development, with longer chains of events only available depending on what choices the player makes. Structurally this distinction is purely based on quantity or length and amount of branching paths. But for the player to experience the non-linearity as freedom high amounts and longer deviations are preferable. They are also what makes the plot increasingly harder to manage in terms of consistency. Traditional narrative concepts as derived from other media and playful freedom are thus two opposing poles in governing what form the game narrative should take.

Giving the player moral choices

One of the first systematical approaches to shape and guide player choice dates back to even before computer games. Dungeons & Dragons, the first pen and paper role-playing game, used a two axis moral alignment system to define how the character the player creates should act when faced with moral choices in the narrative conceived by the group of game master (the main narrator) and role players (the narrators or actors of one individual character in the story). One axis reflected the notion of good and evil, the other of lawfully governed order or random chaos. D&D already acknowledged that the ideas of good and evil were dependent on the society in which the character lived and the second axis reflected concepts like duty/reliability opposed to whim/fancy. A lawfully evil character would maraud and abuse without fail, whereas a chaotically good character might save the damsel in distress only if he was in the mood for it.

In computer games both this alignment system and the idea of moral choice were adapted, many recent Western games like Fable stress the freedom to play an either good or evil character, however in many cases little affecting the core narrative. This is actually true of older Japanese examples like Shin Megami Tensei as well which uses an law-chaos moral alignment axis. But when moral choice is given to the player another question arises. Are these choices judged, meaning that the game encourages one choice over the other, maybe even penalizing the opposite one?

An example for a judged moral choice

In Zelda: Link’s Awakening (1993) for Gameboy instead of using a menu to select what to buy in the local shop players can pick up goods and carry them to the cashier to select them for purchase. If the player tries to carry it straight to the door and leave without paying the shop owner will scold them and disallow leaving. But the shop owner randomly looks the other way creating the opportunity to leave without paying. The creator actively leaves room for the player to decide to steal and also does this by utilizing standardized actions like item pick up and walking, making it feel much more intuitive and player initiated than a menu option which more explicitly alarms the player to both possibility and importance of the choice. In fact this is a brilliant inclusion of moral choice in game play.

It is also heavily judgmental, since on return to the shop the player will be killed by the shop owner (which in terms of the game’s rules is less gruesome than it sounds because the player has unlimited lives) and branded Thief which substitutes the name they inputted at the beginning. The player will then be reminded by every non-player character (or NPC for short) addressing him by his (now changed) name of his action and also denied the perfect play-through and its ending available to players who beat the game without dying. The choice is thus an example for a small scale alteration of the narrative affecting only some details, although sticking out by being so over the top.

And although it is judgmental the fact that this option is even there in a game appealing to all age groups including children is a refreshing taste of Eden’s apple in the most effective way this kind of experience can be created in games. Stealing is also an action that’s hard to escape consensus on its moral status, no matter what society. Although the penalty considered appropriate will vary. In the case of the Zelda Gameboy title the penalty happens to be the most drastic one imaginable.

The moral dilemma

In Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (1995) for Super Famicom the player has to make choices in a war situation, fighting for the freedom of his ethnic group. When the populace of a village enslaved by the leading ethnic group is freed but unwilling to go to battle to fight for their ethnicity’s cause, the leader of the army the player’s character is a member of commands him to kill all villagers and blame the other side, as to better persuade other civilians to make the “right” choice in the future, the right one being the one favored by the leaders of their army.

Depending on if the player carries out this order or opposes it they choose one of two very long branching paths, heavily affecting two out of four chapters in the game narrative. The law path, where the player followed this order, determines both next chapters, the chaos path initiated by opposing the order allows for another branching changing the alignment to neutral. While common moral notions would seem to judge the law path as evil and the chaos one as good the dialog reflects that utilitarian and political interpretations, in other words adult considerations, justify this path. The chaotic player on the other hand, while having a clear conscious, is considered childish and unable to join the grown ups in their ability to make the “right” decisions.

Again, the choice and its consequences are extreme, but the empowering sense of freedom is also very evident for exactly this reason, affirming or shaking the moral ideas the player might have had before.

Playing the role: Defined characters versus blank slate avatars

Most choices in games are not really moral ones though and some are even considered right or wrong in a non-moral sense.3 Fußnotenauszug: In Computer Games have Words, Too: Dialogue Conventions in Final Fantasy VII Greg M. Smith assesses game text by comparing it to previous text narrative media, where he naturally has to deal with the opposing poles of linear narrative and playful freedom mentioned above. Unfortunately he misses many peculiarities of the new narrative medium, too quickly applying concepts that don’t quite fit... In Final Fantasy VI (1994) a girl named Terra was controlled by an evil empire to carry out their orders using her magical talent. Freed from the slave crown controlling her she is helped by a group of people who are members of the Returners and oppose the evil empire. Terra is characterized as scared and feeling guilty over using her magic for evil. When she and her new found friends reach the base of the Returners they ask for her help in fighting the evil empire. The player is given the choice to either answer their request or politely turn it down.

This seems like one of the many non-choices present in games where only one will really advance the game plot and the player has to come back to it to make the “correct” choice this time. But in fact this choice can only be made once, and by the game’s evaluation turning down the request is even the better option, rewarding the player with some extra items to procure from Returner members trying to still convince her and new dialog by each of them expressing their understanding for her reluctance to join their fight. In fact, by interpreting Terra’s motives correctly the player can make a decision that better fits with her character as established by previous events.4 Fußnotenauszug: So instead of making a moral decision (if it were a moral one then joining the Returners should always beat remaining passive) the player has to stay consistent with the story, another aspect Smith correctly identifies when dealing with FFVI’s sequel but incorrectly applies. He writes: Often it offers two separate possible responses, only one of which is truly enticing or plausible. When giv... She does join them afterwards anyway, and the players taking the more obvious but misleading choice miss a part of the narrative that actually makes sense in the context of the story.

There’s really two approaches to role playing, either acting the role given to the player or the player being able to define their role themselves. The latter approach is hampered by the difficulty in granting the player enough freedom to really do this. The easiest way to somehow pull it off is to characterize the player character as little as possible and not involve him in the details of the story too much, leaving the actual characterization to the player’s imagination. In most cases such a player character will have no dialog at all and is referred to as a mute hero for that reason. Player freedom is pushed out of the scope of game play and into their imagination in this case, similar to linear narratives, like reader imposed characteristics on a character in a book for example.

Even if the hero is not mute, this type is very different from a strongly defined character like Terra, where the player has to act her role. Cloud in Final Fantasy VII (1997) is a mixture of defined and mute character and by giving him frequent dialog choices the player can bring some of their own personality to the narrative.

Relationships between characters

Most decisions in Final Fantasy VII lead up to a dating event and they involve distribution of information (being openly sincere or holding back information), trying to impress or alienate others, in general how to interact with fellow party members. This raises or lowers sympathy for Cloud in these fellow party members and determines who he will go out on a date with later.5 See Fergusson, FF7 ‚date‘ mechanics, 1999~2009. In other games like the Star Ocean series (first game released in 1996) it might affect how well the characters interact in battle and allow for useful actions triggered by strong emotional reactions based on deep relationships.  Or simply open up or block paths to certain events, the most extreme being who to marry and have a child with, which will become the next player character, something first tried out in Phantasy Star III (1990). As opposed to the above example with Terra all options are equally valid since the rude choices fit his previous characterization but deviating from his rudeness can always be interpreted as affection for a certain character or more generally speaking growing into a more caring individual, thus allowing for player controlled character development inside the boundary of the fixed broader narrative which after the dating event cannot really be altered anymore, only parts of it missed.

This again is an example of small scale freedom by giving a high amount of very short branching paths. The earlier Shin Megami Tensei and Star Ocean games also follow this pattern of letting the player shape minor details, which add up to one big event with multiple versions, but instead of midway through the game as in FFVII’s dating event this event is the final one, the ending. SMT uses it to show how the player’s alignment changes the world he helped rebuild, Star Ocean shows how character relationships end up depending on the player’s behavior during the game.6 See Welch, Ending/Relationships FAQ, and Feral, Star Ocean 2nd Story ending compendium, both 1999.

Bad or premature endings

One way of giving the player freedom without convoluting the narrative are dead ends. The player can frequently make decisions but one is clearly wrong, resulting in an undesirable ending. The player then has to go back to before this decision and take the “correct” path this time to go on with the canonical narrative. Not all of these premature endings are disappointing or straight out bad, in Chrono Trigger the game can be beat early at any time in the narrative, with the resulting ending focusing on the events the player was experiencing right before they beat the game, often hinting at the events that would have followed if they hadn’t prematurely ended the game.7 See Pringle, Chrono Trigger Endings, 2007~2009

Also, inside of the big narrative there are many little narratives dealing with a specific character. If that character is allowed to die by the rules of the game, their part of the narrative will also end prematurely and all of their personal story will be missed in the rest of the game. This is only the case for certain characters in most games8 Cid and Shadow in FFVI being prime examples. Shadow can be saved if the player decides to wait for their ally in face of great danger, Cid can be saved by feeding him with healthy fish when he’s lying on his sick bed. If the player fails to take these chances they will die, complete with dramatic scenes reflecting their loss. but in many strategy RPGs like the above mentioned Tactics Ogre any character but the one representing the player can die without ending the game as a whole.9 Fußnotenauszug: The Fire Emblem series, which started this genre of strategy RPGs, is also the one most representative of this mortal game characters concept. In Fire Emblem: Genealogy of Holy-War the series also incorporated the opposite concept of lovers having children. Like in the above mentioned Phantasy Star III (1990) and after it also in Dragon Quest V (1992) characters in this FE game could fall in love ...

Dynamically shaping the narrative

Little choices adding up later are the most frequent type and there’s also fake-choices that don’t affect anything and only draw the player’s attention to their own behavior but the most powerful ones are still those that have immediate and lasting consequences, like the ones in the above mentioned Tactics Ogre. This game relies heavily on explicit menu choices that are less frequent in number and less intuitive than free input actions which the player doesn’t even notice they are choices at first, but TO manages to also include little choices into the equation by basing alignment and sympathy towards the player character also on battle performance. Basically each time a character is killed or saved from death this adds up and affects the ending,10 See the section dealing with the chaos frame in TO at the end of this article over at http://luct.tacticsogre.com/. as in some other games mentioned above. But even though these are small scale details because of the subject matter (death) and the increasing difficulty having to fight without a potentially valuable ally they have a more lasting effect than other small scale choices, because they are more strongly interwoven into game play, linking it more strongly to the narrative. Player triggered dialog by choice of party members gets a lot of variation out of the seemingly formalized game play.

A good balance of small scale and large scale choices, appropriate usage of obvious menu options and naturally played out action events and a complex statistical evaluation of alignment and relationships between characters, as well as linking game play and player strength to events in the narrative, with each one of these techniques utilized further layers of free narration are brought to the game. When skillfully applied and combined they can even enhance the narrative rather than hinder its natural development.

  1. Section added 22.01.2011 []
  2. Most of the time the protagonist is mute (see Playing the role: Defined characters versus blank slate avatars) in this kind of conversation, regardless of his status in other situations. []
  3. In Computer Games have Words, Too: Dialogue Conventions in Final Fantasy VII Greg M. Smith assesses game text by comparing it to previous text narrative media, where he naturally has to deal with the opposing poles of linear narrative and playful freedom mentioned above. Unfortunately he misses many peculiarities of the new narrative medium, too quickly applying concepts that don’t quite fit his subject. The points he raises on character moral alignment hold true when he discusses the characters other than the protagonist because they match the conventions he is used to from film, but when he discusses the multiple choice options he doesn’t seem to notice that the examples he gives aren’t actually moral choices, which are in fact mostly absent from the game he discusses. He writes:

    One significant way that this moral evaluation differs between games and film is that we occasionally have options to choose conversational responses in Final Fantasy VII. By choosing to deny vehemently a romantic attraction to Tifa (the „no way“ response), we take a different kind of ownership of the character’s moral stance. If we are allied with a film character who then does an action we morally disapprove of, we can more easily detach ourselves from this allegiance. After all, the character has made the choice, not us. But when we choose for Cloud to behave gallantly or badly, we are complicit in a more complicated involvement. Final Fantasy VII does not allow totally free choice in these „interactive“ dialogue situations.

    If the player has romantic feelings for Tifa they want to reflect in their choices or decide to either admit or deny something for their player character isn’t a moral decision in any way. There can’t be moral consensus on what individual to have feelings for. So it escapes the notion of morality altogether. Regarding decisions on how to make Cloud behave, again this is etiquette rather than morals and the significance of these choices lies in shaping relationships, more on which I write in section Relationships between characters. []

  4. So instead of making a moral decision (if it were a moral one then joining the Returners should always beat remaining passive) the player has to stay consistent with the story, another aspect Smith correctly identifies when dealing with FFVI’s sequel but incorrectly applies. He writes:

    Often it offers two separate possible responses, only one of which is truly enticing or plausible. When given the choice of making sweet feminine Aeris a flower seller or the town drunk, only one choice maintains any kind of narrative consistency.

    In fact, the choice being present (though inconsequential) hints at Cloud’s memory being fuzzy, foreshadowing a majot plot detail, Cloud being amnesiac and impersonating his dead friend without even being aware of it. The player doesn’t notice it yet but whatever they choose it will end up being consistent with the narrative.

    Smith also talks about non-choices that make the player drop out of the narrative, but ironically in this case to stay consistent they have to make the decision that is easily mistaken for a non-choice or drop out. The examples of drop outs Smith gives are from a different game but also in fact viable choices. He writes:

    Frequently we are given a choice between doing something that advances the plot or doing nothing („No thanks,“ „I don’t care“), providing the appearance of choice while allowing the game to continue its story arc. To make such a „non-choice“ is to drop outside the game.

    Again, Smith seems to be too quick to assume that a bias formed in encountering previous games will apply in his examples as well. Although he previously acknowledges how protagonist Cloud is characterized in the game, being a non-caring mercenary, he dismisses these choices as drop outs even though they allow the player to act the role staying true to previous characterization. This is where the notion of consistency, which he misused earlier, actually applies. The „non-drop out“ choices would be the player trying to change Cloud’s previously established characteristics, a process that will be advanced by the plot even if the player doesn’t take these earlier chances to advance it. He goes on stating this about decision making in games:

    Final Fantasy VII loads the dice to induce us to make the right choice. We inhabit the characters‘ behavior more fully partly because we choose that behavior, even when that choice is rigged. One of the many ideas implicit in the concept of „interactivity“ is this more complex notion of moral judgment that is no longer as externalizable as it is in film.

    I very much agree with Smith stating that judgment isn’t as externalizable anymore as it is in film, but as I pointed out above not all or even most of this judgment is of the moral kind. Instead the notion of the „right“ decision refers to consistency, if the player is supposed to act out a defined character, or to what the player feels to be the right choice in developing their player character, if they have the opportunity to shape the character.

    Also the choices aren’t rigged as they do affect the narrative or illuminate details of it, a fact Smith ignores completely. []

  5. See Fergusson, FF7 ‚date‘ mechanics, 1999~2009. []
  6. See Welch, Ending/Relationships FAQ, and Feral, Star Ocean 2nd Story ending compendium, both 1999. []
  7. See Pringle, Chrono Trigger Endings, 2007~2009 []
  8. Cid and Shadow in FFVI being prime examples. Shadow can be saved if the player decides to wait for their ally in face of great danger, Cid can be saved by feeding him with healthy fish when he’s lying on his sick bed. If the player fails to take these chances they will die, complete with dramatic scenes reflecting their loss. []
  9. The Fire Emblem series, which started this genre of strategy RPGs, is also the one most representative of this mortal game characters concept. In Fire Emblem: Genealogy of Holy-War the series also incorporated the opposite concept of lovers having children. Like in the above mentioned Phantasy Star III (1990) and after it also in Dragon Quest V (1992) characters in this FE game could fall in love and have children, only this time it wasn’t limited to just the main character anymore. []
  10. See the section dealing with the chaos frame in TO at the end of this article over at http://luct.tacticsogre.com/. []