Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gobble, Gobble

Source: The Onion, of course.

Night had fallen in the dungeon of Anaias. Four heroes, exhausted, sat Indian-style around a small fire, fighting hunks of tough, gristly meat with fingers and teeth. The gore and carnage from the latest battle had been shoved into one corner of the room--a room that, like all rooms in the dungeon, was curiously perfect in its proportions.

"All I'm saying," the scholarly Nabi was saying between bites, "Is that this Grey Lord guy must have had a hell of an architect. Each corridor exactly ten feet wide? That's just not representative of the technology level of most pseduo-Medieval societies."

Hawk was wiping grease off his dagger with a piece of Elven doublet. The vest had served faithfully as his armor for five levels, but he had found a mail aketon earlier in the day and had torn off the doublet without a moment's hesitation.

"What I find odd," he said, "Is how every time we move, we move exactly 10 feet. Just a minute ago, I tried to take a little baby step , but somehow I couldn't do anything but take my normal huge stride."

"Like an anti- Zeno's Paradox," Nabi mumbled through a mouthful.

The svelte Syra had been unusually quiet during the meal. She chose the brief lull in conversation to speak up.

"You know, in our user's world," she said in an obvious homage to Tron, "They have a holiday in which everyone eating a meal tells what he or she is thankful for. Since he's all alone today, I thought we might honor him by engaging in this odd custom."

"Our user?" snarled Leyla. "You mean the guy who managed to get me slaughtered by a flying snake nine times in an hour?"

Syra remained committed: "Just be thankful he doesn't go off to play Faery Tale Adventure and leave us stuck here forever."

That shut Leyla up quick.

Hawk was the first to speak. "I'm thankful," he said, "For the magic spell that permeates this dungeon and prevents food from ever spoiling or rotting. Imagine where we'd be otherwise."

"Uh, Hawk," Nabi hesitated, "I'm not sure there's..."

Hawk cut him off. "No. Don't even tell me there isn't a spell. I just ate a drumstick that we found in a chest inside a sealed wall."

Turkey legs, corn on the cob, apples, and chunks of giant mushroom-people. I'm almost sorry I'm missing Thanksgiving dinner.

"I hear there are some RPG characters who don't have to eat at all," Syra remarked.

"Get out!"

"No, really. The gods of their world decided that slaying endless hordes of monsters is hard enough without having to worry about basic bodily needs, too."

"Consumable" is the best thing you can say about it.

"And we're stuck eating chunks of flesh from giant worms," Hawk said. "I knew I should have been a character in The Bard's Tale."

"You still have to drink in that game," Nabi remarked.

"Only one character has to drink in that game, and for a real role-playing reason. Besides, drinking is a separate issue--we'll save that discussion for a time when we have better screen shots."

The characters shifted uncomfortably. "Anyway, at least we can eat slices of worm round," Leyla offered. "I'm thankful I'm not like that poor bastard in Ultima II who had to travel all the way to Africa just to steal hundreds of orders of fish & chips. I mean, he couldn't have just caught a few fish from that frigate he was always going around in?"

"There's a balance, I suppose," said Syra. "I remember talking to an adventurer from Might & Magic. There, you only need to carry a little food, and you only use it when you rest. If you don't eat for days, you get fatigued and ultimately go insane, but it's not a constant nagging chore."

"I know you all get hungry," said Nabi, "But I'm thankful that when you do, you don't shout, 'I'M GETTING HUNGRY!' or 'AVATAR, I NEED FOOD!' I ran into this guy a while back from Britannia, and all he could talk about was how his companions bothered him every time they needed to eat."

"Yeah, we just start taking damage and dying," Hawk said.

"At least you do it quietly," Nabi said. He thought for a moment. "Odd, that guy. When I came back from the men's room, he'd taken off and stuck me with the tavern bill. All he'd left was a note that said, 'Hawkwind can suck it!'"

"Speaking of men's rooms," Syra said. "I'm thankful that this game doesn't require us to, shall we say, attend to any of the other needs on Maslow's bottom tier. There's such a thing as taking realism too far."

"Maybe," said Nabi. "But there's also such a thing as not taking it far enough. Isn't it odd to have such meticulously crafted houses and palaces in Oblivion, but no bathrooms? When was the last time you even saw a commode in a CRPG?"

"Oblivion," Leyla interjected, "Being the game where you somehow take a chunk of meat from a dog, combine it with some flour, and use a mortar and pestle to mash it into a potion." She shuddered. "I don't even want to think about what that tastes like."

"Since we're completely destroying the fourth wall," Hawk replied. "I have seen commodes in CRPGs. The was a whole row of them in this orc fortress in Icewind Dale II. One of them had a diamond hidden in it. That, my friends, is how you tell the true role-players from the poseurs."

"Real role-players don't hunt through orc excrement looking for diamonds?" Leyla said. "I don't know... our user seems to do a lot of that."

"Only metaphorically," said Hawk.


  1. This Thanksgiving turned out wierd, so my family is cooking today and eating tomorrow (by the way, I'm on break to browse some football). Anyway good post. More than once I really had to smile at the role-playing "realism" cliches you mentioned. By the way, Final Fantasy 6 (3 on the Super Nintendo) had toilets in the Vector Castle barracks back in 1994 on a Nintendo console and rude using the toilet animations and flushing when you examine them with ANY of your 12 characters (ON A NINTENDO CONSOLE IN 1994!... no joke).

  2. Very funny post indeed!

    I remember the Realms of Arkania series as being particularly awful in terms of realism, to the point where it almost ruined the game.

    "Damn, there is a hole in my boots due to wear, my feet got wet during the travel, now I have a cold, quick, someone from the party get me some healing herbs quickly before it turns in a pneumonia, while our wood elf goes hunting for a meal if we are not to die from starvation and while our fighter struggles to start a fire in the rain with the silex we bought at the village so we can keep wild animals at bay."

    Travelling from one town to the next was a whole epic voyage without even speaking of actually fighting monsters or going in a dungeon.

  3. The only toilet I can think of in a CRPG is in Fallout 2, where you have to blow one up (scattering whatsis everywhere, naturally) and then climb down into it to retrieve some heirloom or other for somebody.

  4. There is a puzzle in Arx Fatalis that involves triggering a food allergy in an NPC so he will rush to the bathroom, leaving a critical door open in his haste, thus allowing you access.

  5. @Georges I loved that about Realms of Arkania. Your boots weren't just for armor and you had to cover up in colder weather. Little stuff like that added a lot to the game for me.

    A lot of items you find in RPGs are just fluff. I want to have some kind of use to them other than your usual kind. Like boots for armor.

    Rogue-likes are the best for this kind of realism.

    I really wish there had been a few more games like ROA other than just rogues.

  6. Oblivion takes place in medieval-ish times, when there was no indoor plumbing. People would just go in chamber pots and then dump in into the street.

    ...Or maybe that's what all those pointless barrels in the houses were for. Think about it. Who gets an ENTIRE barrel just to put a silver pot and some cloth in it? That's probably just all the character WANTED to take, if you get what I'm saying.

  7. I'd say that Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas between them have enough toilets to cover the need for a long, long time. I think those games have more toilets in them than all other crpgs together!

    Also, this was a pretty fun read :)

  8. Great post!

    Although I should point out that the majority of the world doesn't do thanksgiving... especially us over in the UK! ;)

    Since this has become a thread about admiring toilets, I guess I'll chime in with my own experiences...

    In Final Fantasy 7 there are (unusable) toilets, showers, baths etc. and also one quest which involves helping someone who is having some... digestive difficulty shall we say.

    In Ultima Underworld, there is a great bit about the Grey Goblin toilets, where one of the Goblins will tell you that sometimes, in the night, someone will get up... and all they hear is the *splash* and never see them again (the toilet being a deep hole to a lurker-filled bit of water. Needless to say, the lurkers are not pleased).

    Ultima underworld also had a pretty decent food system, which worked well with the survivalist aspect of the game.

  9. skavenhorde, I actually enjoyed Realms of Arkania quite a lot (altough I never got to finish either 1 or 2, never tried the third). I also found all this traveling realism really great, it's just that once the novelty effect passed a little, it could become quite tedious in the long run. I was just questioning the balance of gameplay time devoted to different aspects of the game.

  10. Glad you guys liked this.

    Georges, thanks for the advanced warning. I look forward to Realms of Arkania in 200 games.

    Kyle, that's the kind of stuff I love to hear.

    Zink, I suppose that's a good point. I don't know why I'm looking for indoor plumbing in the Dark Ages. Although I would note a conspicuous lack of outhouses, either. Plus, Baldur's Gate features houses with bathrooms, sinks, and tubs, but no toilets. Your observations about the barrels was a little too accurate.

    Andy, I don't understand. Why doesn't the rest of the world celebrate Thanksgiving? Do they hate America?

  11. I can't believe my first post here is about toilets, but there you go. As Kyle said above, Arx Fatalis has a toilet-related quest, but there is also another hilarious toilet-related scene in that same goblin stronghold. Once you make your way to the living quarters of the gobbos you come upon a toilet. If you try the door, a very annoyed goblin will cry out, "Occupied!" Classic stuff!

  12. I should do a special topics post about toilets. Curious--commenters have mentioned "Arx Fatalis" twice recently, and I've never heard of that game. Looks like it won't be coming up soon.

  13. Fallout 3 has washrooms in it.

    Funny, all the other games I can think of with washrooms in them are FPSs: Bioshock, Goldeneye, Duke Nuke'em, Dark Forces...

    I think Zink has a good point though, in most of the middle ages you just dumped everything out into the street, part of the reason there was so much disease and pestilence. In that case it would make sense not to have a washroom in most houses in the town, though the streets are not usually portrayed as dirty enough...

    The lack of outhouses is a mystery. Perhaps they collect it in barrels to spread on the fields?

    1. Ahh, breaking the fourth wall never gets old :)

  14. Arx Fatalis was pitched to Electronic Arts by its developers (Arkane Studios, who just made Dishonored last year if you have heard of that) as Ultima Underworld III. But Electronic Arts was even dumber in the early 2000s than they are now about what to do with their intellectual property hoard, and passed on it, so the team made the game into Arx Fatalis instead. It is a fantastic game, as you might hope. You may have learned this in the subsequent years.

    1. I actually just picked up Dishonored for my Xbox. It's not categorized as an RPG, but it certainly has plenty of RPG-like elements. I didn't realize that they were the same company to make Arx Fatalis. I played it once, a couple of years ago, and it didn't grab me at the time, but who knows what I was thinking back then. Thanks for the input.

  15. 1st post I've read since popping the old comment cherry and i'm drawn to do it again. I have a personal theory that Bethesda read all the commentary about the lack of bathrooms in Oblivion and decided to paste them all over in Fallout 3 as a subtle "f--- you". Not only are there a lot of toilets, some of them (esp the one in Megaton, the first city you visit) are so prominently placed one could hardly avoid running into them at some point.

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    2. Kenny, don't make me implement some kind of warning system.

    3. Oh, damn. I should have used the word "rectum", eh? XD

  16. I was pleasantly surprised to see toilets in Skyrim, in the forts. Many if not most of them have little rooms (some even a series of them) with a bucket, a stool and some "reading material". =)

    In houses the medieval way was more or less to just use a potty and throw the contents out of the window, so the lack of specific toilets isn't that jarring. =)

  17. I wonder when we'll have a CRPG where wandering around the burbs at 4:30am causes death from above.

  18. This is probably one of my favorite posts. Mostly for the humor, but also because it calls to light the multitude of ways in which games handle or ignore realism, and to what extent. Nutritional systems in games are almost as varied as magical systems. That's pretty weird, when you think about it; if anything food, water, and sleep are even more ingrained in real life than hit points and melee combat, and yet they're treated far more erratically or abstractly than combat is.

    There's other oddities, like some games that just use item slots, and others that use weight. I've often imagined one character bemoaning carrying "eight whole wands" which exhausts them by having a full inventory, and getting dirty looks from another character who's carrying three suits of armor but has five empty slots.

    There's also just the issue of what constitutes food in some games. The assortment of sentient mushroom remains, lizard steaks, random monster corpses, bat-, rat-, and cat-inspired recipes, and all the rest make for a pretty disgusting menu. Honestly, I might take a corn cob near a sewer drain over such delicacies as "rat appendix stir fry" (courtesy of Kingdom of Loathing), for example.

    1. U orefer wildly unrealistic and imaginative game. Reality is boring and terrible, and media are escapism. I want to be the hero who slay dragons and conquers insane realms, not the wimpy guy digging through shit to find the resources he needs to live.

      Things like weight limits can work if they are integrated into the game and not too intrusive, but other things are really annoying: I want to run and jump and swing my sword wherever I want, not run out of stamina and have to wait and do nothing while enemies gang up on me. I want my character to die when he runs out of hit points, not get crippled and limp around at low health.

    2. I don't mind having to juggle logistical issues like food and torches as long as they're not senseless and the game gives you options. For instance, having to steal your way to thousands of meals in Ultima II, is just stupid, but I love the way the last two Elder Scrolls games have dealt with darkness--you don't completely NEED a torch, but it sure is good to have one--and think Skyim would have actually been improved by a food/fatigue meter.

    3. I like such things given the right framing story. For example, in Fallout I like thinking of how the food, toys, tools, etc I'm lugging back to town will help the people. I do wish they'd show the town getting nicer & healthier as I sell medicine, tools and food from all over the Capitol Wasteland in Megaton though....

      This might be due to me reading (and loving) Daybreak 2250 (Aka Star Man's Son) by Andre Norton (aka Andrew North)

    4. One of the things I like in Skyrim is how the thieves' guild slowly improves as you complete quests. The same thing subtly happens in the Dawnguard expansion, too: the castle gets incrementally better as the plot moves forward. I agree it would be awesome if other RPGs did this as the player slowly cleans up the town, brings in resources, creates a more robust economy, and so forth.


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