Gen­er­a­tion XX

What do you get if you com­bine a car­rot and a stick? Prob­a­bly some kind of de­li­cious weapon.

PCPOWERPLAY - - Contents -

Be­fore I had kids, I had all the time in the day/night cy­cle to stealth­ily wan­der through pat­terns of bees, har­vest­ing honey to sell in town (12 hours later, when the shop opened) then splurge on swamp boots for ev­ery­one. Why not? These days, I couldn’t care less about poi­soned feet. If I have a clear 20 min­utes to play games alone (for fun) there are big­ger fish to bake into a buff-pro­vid­ing pie. In Dragon Age, I was all about tak­ing down the winged bosses on Night­mare. Then, The Witcher told me a great, branch­ing story. I was con­tent with that. Un­til now.

Which new RPG in­spires me to spend my pre­cious gam­ing mo­ments rum­mag­ing in back­packs? Di­vin­ity: Orig­i­nal Sin 2, of course. Within are books to read, recipes to at­tempt, wa­ter bal­loons to craft from in­testines and body parts to in­gest. You can use a bar­rel and rope to craft “Poor­man’s Best Torso,” for good­ness sakes. I know I’m a di­nosaur these days, but re­con­nect­ing with some of the me­chan­ics mod­ern com­puter RPGs have polished out, like eat­ing, sleep­ing and even tele­por­ta­tion, has been thought pro­vok­ing and af­firm­ing.

De­sign­ers of­ten say they pre­fer to pro­vide play­ers with a car­rot rather than a stick. So, it’s de­sir­able to in­vite the player to en­gage with sys­tems, but not to force them. Thanks to my com­pan­ion, Laura, (who en­joys mak­ing in­ter­est­ing food for me) I can ap­pre­ci­ate the ex­tremely spe­cific heal­ing pro­vided by a hot potato por­ridge, mid-bat­tle. I sup­pose I could also eat it for break­fast (af­ter sleep­ing), sim­ply en­joy­ing a “morn­ing” boost to health, but I bought this game. Do I have to use my imag­i­na­tion, too?

Un­sci­en­tif­i­cally, I made a Twit­ter

I needed ev­ery advantage against those tele­port­ing croc­o­diles at Fort Joy

poll which asked, “Why should you put food into RPGs?” and 28% of 107 peo­ple an­swered, “to pro­vide heal­ing/ buffs,” as is largely the case in D: OS2. 32% an­swered “to flesh out the set­ting,” like the vi­tal­ity boost­ing but evoca­tive wa­ter­mel­ons and straw­ber­ries in The Witcher, or the near-sex­ual de­scrip­tions of food given by Shema, the Katta, in the Quest for Glory se­ries. Amaz­ingly, 40% of peo­ple an­swered with what I grumpily put last, as my “di­nosaur an­swer,” which was “be­cause peo­ple get hun­gry.”

Could one con­sider Iolo yelling “More!” (as you plied him with un­sat­is­fy­ing eggs in Ul­tima VII) pun­ish­ment? Not me. I en­joyed hunt­ing deer (with 5 legs of veni­son apiece) be­tween quests or on my way to the next town, just “be­cause peo­ple get hun­gry.” Hunt­ing re­vealed new places and taught me to fight, not to men­tion the whole bread bak­ing she­bang and its les­son in in­ter­ac­tiv­ity. I mean, U7 wasn’t “RimWorld-lev­el­hunger-pun­ish­ing” with ice sheets and can­ni­bal­ism (al­though I do per­son­ally love that level of pun­ish­ing). It was re­al­is­tic and mo­ti­vat­ing. Wasn’t it?

I’m also re­minded of the Dragon Age mod which added Bal­dur’s Gate 2 style fa­tigue, where char­ac­ters would be pe­nalised for not rest­ing. In BG2, I was like, “Aerie’s tired again, what­ever,” un­til I re­alised that stack­ing penal­ties to luck were mak­ing her miss ev­ery at­tack. In D: OS2, sleep is also “opt in” and you lie down on a bedroll to heal for free and get the Rested buff; +1 Strength, In­tel­li­gence and Fi­nesse. I needed ev­ery advantage against those tele­port­ing croc­o­diles out­side of Fort Joy and a good “night” of sleep cer­tainly helped, even if I had to imag­ine “night.”

Al­though I love D: OS2 to bits, my re­main­ing ques­tion is about how sys­tems that you can opt into in­ter­act with each other. If I have a bedroll, do I need night? If I have por­ridge, do I need to be hun­gry? If so, does that cre­ate (po­ten­tially) pun­ish­ing busy­work like hunt­ing and buy­ing a room at the inn? I to­tally get that many play­ers have lim­ited time, but re­ally cool con­se­quences could come of old sys­tems be­ing em­braced more firmly.

When I killed those crocs and got the tele­por­ta­tion gloves in D: OS2, I won­dered if they’d break the game. I still haven’t re­cov­ered from the shame of beat­ing the last level of He­roes of Might and Magic 3 in a mea­gre cou­ple of game-weeks with Di­men­sion Door, af­ter the beau­ti­ful strug­gle it took to get to that point. But, no. In D: OS2, I found a body to eat on an oth­er­wise un­reach­able beach. And a lad­der to tele­port up to and drop to my com­pan­ions. No-one told me they were there, but I’m notic­ing level de­sign that sup­ports the tele­por­ta­tion sys­tem ev­ery­where.

Yes, I’m still in Fort Joy but, in­ter­est­ingly, I’m OK with that. If you’re a par­ent (or oth­er­wise busy), you may find it dif­fi­cult to fin­ish mas­sive RPGs. This is, af­ter all, why I started writ­ing for PC Pow­er­Play when I had my first child; to le­git­imise the time I spend equip­ping and un­equip­ping boots. Di­vin­ity: Orig­i­nal Sin 2 re­minded me that sys­tems can be ex­cit­ing, in and of them­selves.

MEGHANN O’NEILL, Meghann O’Neill died in Sierra’s Gold Rush many times be­fore re­al­is­ing that she had to take fruit. She now eats fruit ev­ery day.

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