Monday, December 19, 2011

Building a CRPG Glossary


During my last couple of years of blogging, I've encountered a number of CRPG phenomena for which I've suggested there ought to be terms. Lately, this has included:

  • The rhythm that you fall into while repeated re-rolling attributes during character creation, causing you to accidentally blow past the perfect set of statistics. And/or the combination of horror and rage you feel when this happens.


Space...space...space...space...wait...aw, $%*#&.


  • The act of growing so obsessed with character creation that you never actually play the game.
  • After you've taken a break from your game for a week or two, the uncomfortable period in which you don't want to continue with the old character but it seems too soon to create a new character.
  • Rapidly pressing buttons to escape from a conversation you've already experienced, only to click (or hit "A") one too many times and end up asking the same question again.


I couldn't play much today, so I spent a long car ride thinking about other player scenarios that could use terms. Note that I'm explicitly avoiding plot tropes, because those have already been pretty well-covered.

  • The moment, around the 2/3 point of the game, that you start to feel like you haven't been playing optimally, and that you should probably restart and do it right this time.
  • Related, the perverse desire to hit "New Game" when you've already invested 120 hours in your existing one.
  • The rationalizations that you go through while repeatedly extending your allowable game time. (At the start: "I'm only playing for four hours, tops. Then I need to study." After four hours: "Two more hours. I don't have that much material." After two more hours: "All right. I'll just finish this quest and I'm hitting the books." After another hour: "It's more important that I'm relaxed for the test than it is to have a head full of useless knowledge anyway." After three more hours: "Playing games is pretty much as relaxing as sleep is.")
  • The tortuous backstory that you invent for your character to justify joining the thieves' guild, the fighters' guild, the mages' guild, the paladins' circle, the temple, and the assassins' guild all in the same game.


Wouldn't this pretty much unbalance the entire universe? And what's the likelihood that such a person would be referred to using a generic title like "The Hero of Kvatch" in Tamriel's histories?


  • The high positive correlation between likelihood of death and the number of minutes since your last save.
  • Character portrait and icon options that someone obviously took a great deal of time to create and yet it's impossible to imagine anyone using them.

Has anyone ever used this one?

  • The urge to perform CRPG-related activities in real life. (Thanks to Oblivion and Skyrim, I can't pass a field of wildflowers without wanting to stop my car and grab my Swiss Army Knife.)
  • The vexing feeling that somewhere--maybe back in the Dwarven ruin you explored six hours ago--you missed a chest.
  • Undertaking a three-hour journey back to a previously-explored dungeon because a walkthrough informed you of a missed area that will give you 160 more gold pieces and 28 more experience points.


What terms would you suggest for any of the above, or what other player scenarios do you have that deserve terms?

Just an aside: one of the reasons I didn't get much playing done tonight is I went and saw The Muppets. When they re-enacted the opening theme from the old Muppet Show, I damn near cried.


62 comments:

  1. Related to one you have listed, I would include the urge to turn your life into an RPG. There have been numerous times when, impossible to satisfy with a simple to-do list, I have broken down every activity before me into quests, complete with steps to achieve success and rewards upon doing so. It's surprising how much more exciting it is to paint your living room, if you know you're getting experience points out of it.

    JS

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  2. Oh, I've got a whole posting half-written about this, but I'm sure someone else has had the idea, and I want to research it before I finish it. I'd call it "The RPG Life Management System." You'd estimate realistic attribute scores and identify key skills and talents, then create a quest log plus a plan for increasing your attributes and skills. I hadn't thought about assigning experience points to quests. We should co-author this. We'll send Tony Robbins running for the hills.

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  3. "The act of growing so obsessed with character creation that you never actually play the game."

    I experience this one constantly; I call it "Neverwinter Nights Syndrome", but that's just the most severe example in my case.

    Also, I accidentally hit Meh right before hiting a link. Then I hit it again trying to cancel it out. So that's why you got 2 Mehs.

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  4. That's one where it's particularly egregious, especially with the prestige classes. Then you think: well, to do every quest in the game, I need to be at least one level each in thief and mage, but the game only lets you have levels in 3 classes, including prestige classes and...and then it's time to go to bed.

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  5. I think a lot of the above can be summed up under the term Anal Retentiveness. It's something that many of us RPG players have, and we're damn fortunate to have an outlet for these ridiculous urges for perfection.

    After all, spending a few hours "levelling" up my strength, dexterity, wisdom, intelligence and charisma in the real world is sadly not as effective (or easy). ;)

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  6. I don't think anal retentiveness is limited to RPG players. There's a reason there's an achievement in Half Life 2 for hunting down and squishing all 333 AntLion grubs. :)

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  7. My wife just finished a zoology class in which one of the projects was putting together a collection of 60 insects. When she told me that my immediate response was "And people say WoW doesn't teach you anything you can use in real life!"

    ObRPG: _Timelords_, from the Blacksburg Tactical Research Center. A PnP RPG with very detailed rules on constructing a PC based on yourself. And then the time-travel kicks in...

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  8. I always use the jester character icon for my characters, even though I never play a bard or other class that's even close to what the icon resembles.

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  9. "Slight of Dice"- The rhythm that you fall into while repeated re-rolling attributes during character creation, causing you to accidentally blow past the perfect set of statistics. And/or the combination of horror and rage you feel when this happens.

    "Prolonged Prototyping"- The act of growing so obsessed with character creation that you never actually play the game.

    "Non-Player-Person (NPP) Limbo"- After you've taken a break from your game for a week or two, the uncomfortable period in which you don't want to continue with the old character but it seems too soon to create a new character.

    "Ten-Clicks Rick"- Rapidly pressing buttons to escape from a conversation you've already experienced, only to click (or hit "A") one too many times and end up asking the same question again.

    "So Clo-RESET"- The moment, around the 2/3 point of the game, that you start to feel like you haven't been playing optimally, and that you should probably restart and do it right this time.

    "The Prestige Corollary"- Related, the perverse desire to hit "New Game" when you've already invested 120 hours in your existing one.

    "Role-play the Fool"- The rationalizations that you go through while repeatedly extending your allowable game time. (At the start: "I'm only playing for four hours, tops. Then I need to study." After four hours: "Two more hours. I don't have that much material." After two more hours: "All right. I'll just finish this quest and I'm hitting the books." After another hour: "It's more important that I'm relaxed for the test than it is to have a head full of useless knowledge anyway." After three more hours: "Playing games is pretty much as relaxing as sleep is.")

    "Omni-Club President"- The tortuous backstory that you invent for your character to justify joining the thieves' guild, the fighters' guild, the mages' guild, the paladins' circle, the temple, and the assassins' guild all in the same game.

    "Reaper's Stopwatch"- The high positive correlation between likelihood of death and the number of minutes since your last save.

    "Immaculate Screen Junk"- Character portrait and icon options that someone obviously took a great deal of time to create and yet it's impossible to imagine anyone using them.

    "Gandalf's Weed Madness" alternatively "Richard British"- The urge to perform CRPG-related activities in real life. (Thanks to Oblivion and Skyrim, I can't pass a field of wildflowers without wanting to stop my car and grab my Swiss Army Knife.)

    "Macguffin Withdrawal"- The vexing feeling that somewhere--maybe back in the Dwarven ruin you explored six hours ago--you missed a chest.

    "A. Schultz Prophecy"- Undertaking a three-hour journey back to a previously-explored dungeon because a walkthrough informed you of a missed area that will give you 160 more gold pieces and 28 more experience points.

    You're welcome ;)

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  10. You're absolutely right Codrus! I forgot about the "achievement" craze that is helping to bring out the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in young teenagers worldwide!

    Giauz, I was going to have a shot at some of them, but I could never surpass the awesomeness that is Gandalf's Weed Madness aka Richard British. :)

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  11. That picture is indeed of Xzar from the first Baldur's Gate, and I had him in my party for a time. I have an interest in characters and NPC's who are slightly or not-so-slightly insane. Xzar has a penchant for screaming, "Stop touching me!" when you click on him to perform a task. XD

    Giauz is a genius.

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  12. Rolling attributes over and over doesn't contradict role-playing?
    I assumed rolling attributes is a design choice to accept that you cannot have a flawless characters. When you throw the dice a hundred times you work agains it. Then, why not use a character editor and make the desired attributes? Because it is cheating? I don't see too much difference in the two.

    I rather try to play with a flawed character because it seems more realistic than taking superheroes to battle.

    Alas, I discard characters which I consider utterly unfitting for a game.

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  13. The tortuous backstory one: This, a thousand times this! As I am currently playing Skyrim, I am faced with a dilemma regarding the Dark Brotherhood. My character is an argonian who has a penchant for thievery and seems to be easily swayed by the whims of deadra, but wants to make up for his guilt-ridden conscience by aiding the empire - the party he perceives as more just in the civil war.
    Then I joined the Dark Brotherhood, which in itself was needing a justification. Now I have progressed a bit in that questline and I face the following the choice: either a. replay the game with a character who wants to join the Dark Brotherhood and leave them with my current thief/assassin alone, or b. join the imperial legion AND pursue the Dark Brotherhood questline, but make up a silly backstory about him being mental/a drug-addict with memory loss/ a robot who tries to understand human emotions :/

    I would name it "Schizophreniac By Choice" ;-)

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  14. I'm interested in the psychdynamics of constant rerolling (I've never done it too much), it seems to me to be related to an internal desire for initial life equipment geared for perfection. Similar to Eugenics. Perhaps a dislike about how one's own 'stats' were rolled in the moment of conception contributes. Other symptoms might include even considering what your 'real world stats' would be (this I've certainly done). For example I get constantly lost in urban environments, I have a dreadful sense of direction and I remember joking to friends how I should have bought the 'intuitive sense of direction' perk instead of stacking everything into charisma related skills :P

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  15. I'd add two possible ones to the list.

    Feeling the need to explore every corner of a new location, such as visiting a friend's house or going to a store, looking for hidden Easter eggs and treasures. Along the way, seeing the "Employees Only" and barricades as either later plots or level boundaries.

    Accidentally forgetting that a two foot tall barrier won't actually stop you.

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  16. These rather philosophical texts are the reason why I love your blog!

    20 years ago, when I was young with little self confidence I would reroll or even hex edit my characters to perfection. Now that I'm older (late 40s) and much more self assured I create my characters with intended weaknesses like low endurance and strength as I smoke and don't do much sports.

    I've never thought about character creation in correlation to how I view myself although it's quite obvious in my case.

    As for the "join every faction" part my back story is always that of "Joe" from the movie "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly". To me he is, in terms of D&D, a chaotic neutral or chaotic good character who uses everything and everyone to survive but does the "good thing" in the end.

    And if the game world doesn't react to fact that I'm a famous assassin AND a well known general of the imperial guard … well that's the game world's problem, not mine … :p

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  17. 1st note: Damn, people beat me to pointing out that was used for an NPC. I thought that was a really cool feature: You could use NPC portraits for your character, and the NPC would that switch to a backup image.

    2nd: You Wizardry review was mentioned in Chrontendo (http://chrontendo.blogspot.com/2011/12/one-last-episode-for-2011.html ) so evenhandedly Dr. Sparkle reads this blog (Hi Dr. Sparkle! Chrontendo is awesome!) I feel you two must now team up to do a epic review of Dragon Quest or something. Actually, I'd love to hear your take on that game in specific as A: I've beaten it on gameboy colour, and B: It would be damn cool to get a PCrpg players perspective on THE classic console RPG.

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  18. Agreed, Canageek, but I don't really like it and I have been asking for him to do a 1990 translated NES Final Fantasy 3 review since before the start of 2011.

    Also, keep'em coming D. Moonfire and CO.:

    "Queptoventure"- Feeling the need to explore every corner of a new location, such as visiting a friend's house or going to a store, looking for hidden Easter eggs and treasures. Along the way, seeing the "Employees Only" and barricades as either later plots or level boundaries.

    "Unlearned fencelessness"- Accidentally forgetting that a two foot tall barrier won't actually stop you.

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  19. @CRPGAddict: That 3-class restriction alone must have added about 20 hours to my playtime, given all the time I spent in character generation trying to devise the perfect character and plot out how I was going to level him. And then it only got worse from there after I installed the Prestige Class community pack...

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  20. Canageek, I have beaten DW 1 and 2 on the gameboy color. I've been told that DW 2 on the GBC is easier than it was on the original NES version. Still very fun to play, and one of these years I'll get 3, 4, 5, and 6 played and beaten.
    Way too many fun games, no time to play all of them.

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  21. I would also add in the intense loss of excitement that comes after the first death. I played Oblivion through, replete with all expansions, gaining every achievement, without a single player death. Great fun. I tried to do the same with Morrowind afterward, and while I never died after level 6, I died 6 times en route to that point. Was so tempted to restart the game after the first one. Feels like such a break in the narrative - essentially a winking agreement with the computer to say "let's just pretend that never happened." That's why I like games like The Bard's Tale where if your party is wiped out, there's an in-game consistent way to bring them back into play without breaking the narrative. Same with the modern Dark Souls, actually.

    JS

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  22. The desire to save your life before having a conversation so you can safely say the wrong thing, just to see what happens. (Related, the Sands of Time had that in the final cut scene *grin*).

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  23. From Nym and D. Moonfire:

    "Premature Expiration"- the intense loss of excitement that comes after the first death.

    "The 'Next' Temptation"- The desire to save your life before having a conversation so you can safely say the wrong thing, just to see what happens. (Related, the Sands of Time had that in the final cut scene *grin*).

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  24. On "The RPG Life Management System"...

    http://www.chorewars.com/

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  25. "The rationalizations that you go through while repeatedly extending your allowable game time." You mean one more turn syndrome? The strategy game Civilization is so famous for that they have an option to turn on a real world clock in the game, and to set alarms with custom messages. ("Hey idiot, it is 1 am, SLEEP")

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  26. In our tabletop D&D game (back in the day) we referred to OCD rerolling as "rolletition",but Helm's "Stat Eugenics" has a nice ring to it.

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  27. I've never used Xzar's portrait for my own PC, but I have always kept Xzar and Montaron in my party whenever I've played BG because evil parties are so much more fun than do-gooder weenies.

    However, I often used the portrait of the uber-fat chick in the Eye of the Beholder games when I created a party, and I like to think I'm probably the only person who would ever use it. I think it's a good image for a slovenly female dwarf fighter named Bertha or somesuch. I don't have the picture at hand, but you can see it at around 2:57 in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqkgMM1BgA0

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  28. I tried to check out http://www.chorewars.com/ but it looks like the mention here has gotten it slashdoted.

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  29. Re: The RPG Life Management System: check out Chore Wars.

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  30. Oh, nm--beaten to it. :)

    For more examples of that sort of thing, you should check out Jane McGonigal's book Reality is Broken. SuperBetter is another example, but related to recovering from illness.

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  31. "Undertaking a three-hour journey back to a previously-explored dungeon because a walkthrough informed you of a missed area that will give you 160 more gold pieces and 28 more experience points."

    I'm so pleading guilty on this one... Actually, your blog inspired me to read walktroughs AFTER I finish playing games, and I'm enjoying them quite more now. But the urge to confirm if I've missed something is still hard to resist sometimes.

    As for CRPG-to-RL, the most important change I see for me because of Oblivion and Skyrim is that when walking in the streets I now naturally look more a) up above street level and b) far towards the horizon. For example, I live in Montreal, there's a "mountain" in the middle of the city: I never really looked at it before, now I stop an take some time gazing at itfrom a distance and considering how the trees are seeded, drop shadows and that it has amazing LOD. Also, everytime I pass near a gothic stone church, I have a deja-vu feeling and want to "pan the camera" up.

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  32. Wow, Giauz. I'm not sure you nailed every one, but major kudos for giving htem all a try. I particularly like "Reaper's Stopwatch" and the call-out to Andrew Schultz in the last one. How about "Schultz Detour" instead? I think Helm's "Stat Eugenics" works perfectly for the re-rolling.

    I realized that the picture was Xzar, but I also knew that you could pick it as your PC portrait. What I didn't know was that if you did that, it would replace Xzar with a backup portrait. Now I want to know which one it chooses. I remember thinking that it was dumb you could choose Minsc--hamster and all--as your PC portrait in BG2.

    A couple of you--feamatar, Helm, Wolfgang--addressed the re-rolling issue. I don't consider it cheating because the game explicitly gives you mechanisms to re-roll. In games that actually offer more "role-playing" options, I agree that it's sometimes more fun to deliberately lowball an attribute and make that part of your character. But in games like Wizardry, you need all the advantages you can get.

    Helm, I don't know whether you're on to something or not. In my case, I often reroll out of a desire to experience all the facets of the game. In certain games, you lose dialogue options if your intelligence or charisma are too low, and that annoys me somehow. But perhaps you're right that the "perfect game" is a real-world analog to the "perfect life." In my case of course, I max out at 18 in all real-world attributes, too, so maybe I'm just trying to make my CRPG character as close to myself as possible.

    Hybris, your story is exactly what I was talking about. In one of my plays of Morrowind, I got infected with vampirism early on, so I decided to join the Morag Tong and and thieves' guild and attribute it to my new evil vampire nature. Once I completed all the quests, I got "cured" and decided joining the temple was my way of atoning. After I'd "atoned," I decided to "return to my roots" by joining the fighters' and mages' guilds. I thought that, altogheter, it was pretty good justification. Bloody long game, though.

    Moonfire, you're going to get in trouble, man. I've never experienced that in average real-world settings, but I did have a crushing version of it when I took a tour of the Tower of London. There were all kinds of sub-ground entries and locked doors within the buildings, and I was in agony wondering what treasures lay beyond them. In the case of the Tower of London, there probably really WERE weapons and treasures in chests beyond the doors.

    Wolfgang, I think that if you pretended you were "chaotic good" in TES games, you could justify joining most of the factions, but perhaps not the Dark Brotherhood.

    JS, I can see your point but I've never experienced it myself. Rather, I figure if I don't die now and again, the game is a bit too easy. I guess I kind-of pretend that my character is prescient, like Nicholas Cage in Next, and my deaths are examples of seeing a bit into the future and realizing I need to try a different tactic.

    Matthew, hats off to you. I agree: I wouldn't use that portrait. All of my female PCs, even dwarves, are babes. Well, except the goblin in Might & Magic VII, but even she was kind of cute.

    Chore Wars. Never heard of it until now. I'm torn between thinking it's lame and wanting to set up an account immediately.

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  33. "The act of growing so obsessed with character creation that you never actually play the game."

    Well, that's obvious. That's called "roll-playing"

    Too bad the pun doesn't work verbally.

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    Replies
    1. How about "re-roll playing" which works verbally, too?

      Delete
  34. >>Related, the perverse desire to hit "New Game" when you've already invested 120 hours in your existing one.<<

    I have played literally thousands of games since I started playing computer games back with my first computer (A Vic-20 in 1983) and I have solved less than twenty. Why? I am unable to resist that temptation- except I don't play again. The closer I get to solving a game, the less I play and soon I stop playing it altogether.

    Sucks, I tells you. To be me, that is, but also to do this with games.

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  35. Yeah, I'm doing that with Skyrim right now. I was insanely close to winning the game when I just abandoned it and haven't played it for weeks.

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  36. "The moment, around the 2/3 point of the game, that you start to feel like you haven't been playing optimally, and that you should probably restart and do it right this time."

    Yup. I almost never finish a game, because I always have this overpowering urge to start over and do it better the next time. So I end up playing the first part of games over and over again.

    And when I've let a game sit for awhile, I rarely start it up again without creating a new character and starting over. It's a curse.

    One other phenomenon which afflicts me, when I've been playing a lot, has to do with reloading a saved game. In the real world, I'll spill a box of tacks or knock over a glass of beer, and the first thing that goes through my mind is to reload to the point before I did that.

    Unfortunately, that doesn't work outside of a game. :(

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  37. Oh, remembered another one. You get to the point in the game where you don't really care about the plot or dealing with any more grinding, but you have to finish because you put so many hours into it. And then suffer because you will finish, damn it. :)

    (Sadly, too many console RPGs go that route for me.)

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  38. WCG: I'll call your situation "RL Scumming" and raise D. Moonfire a "Apathy, Destroyer of Game Worlds."

    Yeah, I don't know. Do these situations in the comments still fit within the topic of the post, CA?

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  39. Oh, who cares. It's still fun. I have to echo WCG. I once spilled a bunch of paint on the floor of my new condo, and for a second--just for a second--my initial reaction was to "quit without saving."

    Moonfire, I'm exactly at that point in Wizardry V right now. Part of me is hoping if I go long enough without posting on the game, you'll all forget I was playing it and won't be surprised when a new game suddenly pops up.

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  40. CA: Don't give up. Unless Irene just sits on the couch all week eating your cheezy poofs and pot pies (if you get the reference make your next post what this character always says in response) instead of grinding like a person with OCD, you're sure to nip it in the bud and show us some more awesome maps and funny screenies.

    Also, I call your real-life reaction to quit without saving "Savecide."

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  41. "I want Cheesy Poofs, you want Cheesy Poofs, if you didn't want Cheesy Poofs, you'd be lame." ;)

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  42. Not quite Amy. I was thinking of what he says to his pet (if I remember the situation comes up pretty often).

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  43. "No, kitty, this is my put pie." (not a typo)

    "Mrow?"

    "NO KITTY, THAT'S A BAD KITTY!"

    :)

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  44. I didn't get the reference, I fear.

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  45. Reference is South Park.

    Feeling the pull of reality (hunger/thirst) and thinking you'll do it after you finish this one part in the game. An hour passes before you have that feeling again, and you realize you never took care of it.

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  46. I'd call the first one the Swearvent Horizon, given what immediately follows.

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  47. That point in a game where it ceases being fun and starts to feel like work. This one always gets me so I would love to have a name for it.

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  48. UbAh: That would be "Self-Aware Grind-Monkey" or SAG as in, "I was having a lot of fun training up my party but then experienced a SAG in gameplay."

    The Glossary must continue to the point of

    MAJESTIC PERFECTION

    so don't let it die guys.

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  49. I liked the "Never winter syndrome" Where you just cant seem to make a character because there is too much choice.

    Me and my friends have a saying "Lionheart glitch" Which is where you reload your game before a certain thing happens to either get an alternate treasure which is better than what you got previously. The game Lionheart was guilty of this every chest could hold something better if you reload and check again, you end up reloading after every chest because you know you can just get that better item which will help you.

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    Replies
    1. Before I play the game, I created 12 different characters; each customized with starting feats in anticipation of the Prestige Class they'd be going into... at least 6 levels away from these rookies.

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  50. Mattias, I never played Lionheart, but yes, that "Lionheart glitch" can ruin an RPG. It's just too tempting to keep reloading the save, trying to get something really good.

    Today, I was walking in my neighborhood, and I passed a yard which was rather overgrown with trees and bushes. For a moment, I could have sworn there was a treasure chest hidden back in there!

    It wasn't a treasure chest, of course. It wasn't even a container. (I'm not quite sure what it was.) Mind you, I've never actually seen a treasure chest, except in an RPG. But that's where my mind went, when I first saw it. I guess I've been playing too many games...

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  51. WCG has "Chest on the Brain" (this actually ties in as a reference to Baldur's Gate where an NPC in the very beginning gives a pretty funny double entendre speech).

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  52. I know this is belated, but games like Baldur's Gate and Oblivion have given me an all new neurosis similar to some of these. Mildly curious if this happens to anyone else.

    The obsession with finding every worthwhile mod for the game and getting them all to work together in such a way to make the game as varied and interesting as possible. Then never actually playing the game.

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  53. "Rapidly pressing buttons to escape from a conversation you've already experienced, only to click (or hit "A") one too many times and end up asking the same question again."

    I was thinking something like "Kaepora's Curse" for that one. At least he does have awesome theme music to make up for it.

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  54. The rationalizations that you go through while repeatedly extending your allowable game time. (At the start: "I'm only playing for four hours, tops. Then I need to study." After four hours: "Two more hours. I don't have that much material." After two more hours: "All right. I'll just finish this quest and I'm hitting the books." After another hour: "It's more important that I'm relaxed for the test than it is to have a head full of useless knowledge anyway." After three more hours: "Playing games is pretty much as relaxing as sleep is.")

    This one already has a term. It is called addiction.

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    Replies
    1. Just trying to help. Honestly didn´t meant to bring you down or anything.

      How about "Fascination"?

      Delete
    2. Hey, it's not like Chet doesn't know about it. He even admits it by declaring himself the CRPG ADDICT.

      Delete
  55. Anger of the German Kid (or AGK): The seething anger that eats at you between rage-quits (fight a boss, die, rage, turn off the game, thought of a new strategy that just might work, turn on the game, fight the boss, die again, rage, turn off the game, decided to grind, turn on the game, grind, fight the boss, die yet again, rage).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbcctWbC8Q0

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