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Lagoon and more Assassin’s Creed

We are going to go to Lagoon today! It’s funny, I’ve been looking forward to this since we went (last year? oh my gosh) and I actually kind of forgot about it. Maybe because my schedule is a little bit weird. And the other stuff that goes on. Like finding out that I’m diseased. Hehe.

So yeah, to bed late and up by 6:25, as I would have predicted had I bothered to do so. I wanted to get my blog posts and word session done, and I was able to get at least some of one post in my session. I’d say ‘killing two birds with one stone’, but that’s beginning to sound quite barbaric. And I don’t even like birds.

Maybe it’s all of the Assassin’s Creed going on in my house. Pigeon coops and bird crap signify two of the best parts of this game. Bird crap means you get to do the awesome leap of faith (which really shouldn’t have carried over from a story-telling point, but it’s my favourite thing so I won’t complain). And the pigeon coops are where you command your elite assassin troops.

Honestly, if they had just released an assassin-commanding game on XBLA or something, I would have bought that and played the heck out of it. It’s really just point-and-click resource management with only one resource (the florins would be meaningless if this were the sole feature of the game, as they are strictly income). I just like the numbers and doing it. I don’t know, I still play Solitaire for fun.

Something else I was thinking about re:AC and I swear that it’s positive and this will be the last time I talk about it for awhile (have I said that before? recently? meep) is that The Secret of Kells would have been a perfect setting. Just take the movie and make it Assassin’s Creed somehow.

No really. It does sound ridiculous probably. But it’s gorgeous, there are thousands of surfaces and heights to do the wall-climbing. Aisling’s forest has tonnes of trees and there is at least one instance of ruins. The Abbot’s wall has scaffolding and crap EVERYWHERE. I watch this movie after playing too much AC and I can see everything that I would want to climb on.

There’s also the looming threat of the Northmen coming that gives the story a sense of immediacy while still maintaining–and indeed creating–a kind of inevitability. They are coming no matter what happens. Not just because it’s a movie but…well, maybe that’s the place to start. RPGs in general tend to feel a little like books to me. That anything could happen, even if you already know it by heart. *cough*QfG*cough* This is great, but not when the events of the story are supposed to have ALREADY HAPPENED.

Grr. Anywho. That was my funny thought the other day. I love this movie.

OH YEAH I GOT A NEW EAGLES CD YESTERDAY I COULD NOT BE HAPPIER. :D

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A Weak Character Can Destroy A Work

This was part of my last post, but it turned into a writing rules of thumb post. Even if it seems like it only contains this one notion, it’s a big enough lesson or whatever that it overrides the rest of the content.

NEVER WRITE A FRAMING STORY WITH A WEAK MAIN CHARACTER IF YOU PLAN HIM OR HER TO CARRY THE FRAME THROUGHOUT A SERIES.

There. That is the most major problem with this series. Desmond, the main character whose life and actions take place in the game’s present–and therefore the ONLY hero who is not dead and unable to make a choice that affects the outcome of the story–is flat, boring, and without any personal drive or distinction after the first game.

By no personal distinction, I mean there is nothing that makes him special. He’s just… not things. It doesn’t help that in the second game (and ever after), he is dropped into a group of characters who, though a bit flat, have things that they are.

  • Lucy is an empathetic leader, stressed out and a bit dull. One of the weaker characters, but then, she’s closely linked to Desmond, and I think that the characters’ personalities decay with each game. So it makes sense.
  • Shaun is a history buff with a short temper and a chip on his shoulder. There is a lot of implied history and personality in this character. Until he becomes an overt Snarky Brit stereotype, thanks to the decay.
  • Rebecca is an adrenaline-junkie programmer. I find this supremely annoying and possibly badly done, but it’s a personality type. She also clearly had a life and never lost the character that came with it. Decay didn’t seem to hit her as hard, but she’s not that deep.

And… Desmond. Oh Desmond. How I wish I could hate you. But there is barely a you to hate.

Okay, I did want to give him a bullet to go in here, to make my point, so here it is.

  • Desmond is not a leader or plagued with self-doubt. Desmond is not well-educated or self-taught. Desmond is not excited or ambitious. Desmond is not passionate. The rest of the group IS.

Desmond is just Not. As though “not” is a bloody adjective.

In the first game, the framing device and Desmond’s wispy characterisation worked fine. His situation worked as a wonderfully subtle parallel to that of the hero he was vicariously becoming. They each carried the theme of being trapped, but Altair was able to (seemingly) freely wander his world. What trapped him was perception, lies, and loyalty.

Desmond’s background and character were fleshed out almost entirely through dialogue, in a white room that he could not leave, save for another plain room that contained a bed and a wardrobe. If one chose to speak to Lucy throughout the game, then they both received great characterisation.

His background was not a big fat interesting mess. But he didn’t have to be bound to it. That may well be where this all started to fail. They never moved Desmond beyond the constraints of his initial character. Even after he escaped, the game still needed him to be in the Animus, and although the situation outside of it has changed, Desmond has not.

He still has nothing that he personally wants or even likes. There is no sign of the affect that his background would have had on him, aside from the plot-relevant side effects of spending too much time in the Animus.

This could have been circumvented so easily. Just make the guy a reader. He didn’t even have to read anything good. Like most people, including me. Comic books, Sarah Palin’s book, only the smutty bits of romance novels–we don’t even know if this guy likes porn.

Give him a guitar. Make him a dancer, struggling with the changes he has to make to the way he moves, while trying to marry some of his previous discipline to free-running. Show him teaching Shaun how to make origami tanks. HAVE HIM PLAY PAPER FOOTBALL WITH REBECCA, SOMETHING.

He seriously has nothing. It’s almost like Twilight, which should make us all weep. Video games have a rich plethora of tools with which to spin narrative. The first game managed it, and the second managed to make a game about an Italian that was shoehorned into the series. When I’m not in a bad mood, I feel like it never really continued.

Which is kind of sad, all things considered.

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To Dream the Impossible Dream

I’m not really sure what I want to write about today. Yesterday was one of the nicest, laziest Saturdays I have had in a long time. In spite of my complaints, I managed to make it through a good chunk of Brotherhoods’ plodding beginning (a term that I believe umbrellas everything until you have unlocked the gimmick of basically commanding a very small amount of troops).

Still annoyed about things, but probably less likely to fly into a rage. The implementation of 100% Completion may have been a good idea. Unfortunately, I can’t tell through the haze of poor implementation thereof. Any game that makes you feel bad or angry for not getting 100% has failed.

It’s even worse when the game also lies about the requirements. “Don’t lose any health” in a game that safeguards loss of a full point does not mean the same thing as “Don’t get hit at all”. You can take what is basically “almost”-damage, but end the fight with completely full health–and then see the huge red and white FAILURE stamp on the side of the screen.

But enough of that.

Yesterday, I mentioned how I would like to see the story written in such a way that certain things were either fixed or removed. I also said that I could never do it, as I can’t write fan-fiction… and then I proved it later by writing an afterstory for the offspring of my hero in Quest for Glory.

Another reason that I don’t think I could write a fixed narrative or even repairing novelisation for Assassin’s Creed (and it would be for the whole series–not because the first game even needs it, but because a sufficient repair would need to agree with itself throughout) is because I do not have an entire team of researchers to gather up info on the history that I would need.

Who knows, I’d probably do it myself anyway just because I like reading about world history. But I don’t think I’d ever feel like I had a good hold on any culture I read about. Not enough to write a non-anachronistic narrative of the polish that I want.

But I could outline it. Someday. There are great ideas in this series, both for games and for stories. Yet it suffers from such poor character writing that I can’t get over it.

In fact, it suffers from it so hard, that I had to break up my original post into two. Mostly because the second half of it seemed to be much more about writing than even my disappointment with the game’s characterisation.

Someday, I’ll try to outline it. But I think I’d do so with it in mind as a novel. There are a lot of things I wish the games had done, which could only be done in games. That’d just have to be a simultaneously wistful and angry list.

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Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

Once again displaying my total inability to sleep for more than five hours, I woke up around 7:30 this morning despite going to sleep at nearly 2. I did not attempt to share my early morning and instead decided to get back to Assassin’s Creed: The Great Disappointment.

Such feelings of betrayal and disappointment are really only possible when a great expectation and indeed trust are built up. I played the first game, thought it was pretty awesome, and then got all kinds of excited over the second game. Then I was abashed by the announcement that there would be another game centring on the ancestor protagonist of the second game.

What happened to the developers’ stated desire to utilise settings that went unused throughout the industry? The highly touted innovation?

Where was the French assassin ancestor in the middle of the Reign of Terror?

Nevertheless, I gave Brotherhood a try. It’s probably here in my blog when I did, probably more of exactly what I’m saying here. I gave up on it halfway through, thoroughly convinced that a series that had always had flaws had somehow managed to not only multiply and build on its flaws, but had also removed many of the things that had made me like it in the first place.

But I feel like I should finish the series. The gameplay is still fun. I still want to play… The story is just poor, non-existent, or loathsomely broken. Characterisation is laughable, if there, and there are some places where the stories told are not only disgustingly contemporary (and therefore anachronistic), but also North American.

It’s set in Italy. Make them act like period Italians, please. In accordance with the way they were acting before.

There is no fixing this. I have joked with Dither about writing a story with a similar structure and “:spawn point”, simply to see it told with consistency and none of the glaring mistakes I’ve seen… But I don’t think it’s possible. Not for me. I don’t write “fix fics.”

Guh. I will finish this, because I have all of the games and I like jumping on buildings. But I am not going to stop complaining at the holes.

And no. I am not excited about the “final” game. I will play it. But I won’t bother about it.