Sep 14, 2009

Inventory in RPGs

This blog will be worthless to 90% of you, and is a significant deviation from my typical thought. However, I still think about these things, and need an outlet from time to time.

First, if you care, read this:

Basically it's a long complaint about the looting mechanism in video game RPGs. He focuses mainly on how you collect tons of crap, then go back to camp/store to sell it, and then repeat every hour or so for the rest of the game.

Now, this is something I suffer from. I tend to hoard things to a ridiculous length. I've been playing Oblivion a lot this past summer, trying to finish the game up (sufficiently) before putting it aside in favor of Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition in October. This game, and it's predecessor, Morrowind, also had this loot issue.

Whenever I explore or fight in the game, I tend to collect everything. If there is some value to an item greater than 5 gold (or equivalent), I will collect it. I will max out my inventory or carrying strength with things that I will sell later. Sometimes, I can play for an hour or two before maxing out my inventory; other things, I'm only a few minutes into a mission before I need to either drop everything or run to a store to sell. Some games you can make a lot of money doing this, but Oblivion/Morrowind have a more significant problem: high end loot.

High end loot is great. You get awesome weapons, armor, whatever. And they come with a great price tag! 10,000 gold for that cool looking sword you just got. But there is a problem. No merchant in the game has an inventory of more than 1500 gold. That means that no matter how much that sword costs, you can only potentially get 1500 for it. When I first encountered this problem in Morrowind, I quit playing shortly thereafter. The only thing keeping me going in that game was the loot; I always wanted that better sword, wanted to buy better armor, etc. When I realized I was routinely carrying 10+ of the best items in the game within the first 10 hours of gameplay, and never had enough money and could only get a fraction of what I was selling...I gave up.

Oblivion is a little different. Same limitations, but there is a storyline I care about. Or maybe I just care about achievements. Either way, I have the same problem. I've created two swords that basically kill anything in a few hits (Google has some crazy suggestions), yet I still find awesome weapons. Well, I don't need them, and they are heavy, but due to the merchant gold limitation, I am now just picking up tons of knifes and selling them for the max value, even while dropping that sword that has tripled value but also 6x the weight limitation.

Does that feel broken at all?

Historically, this has been a problem for me as well, ie, the addiction of finding and selling and hoarding. I played Diablo, the first one, briefly growing up; I enjoyed the game, but I quickly reached a point where I had enough weapons and spells that I could spam the game, so combat quickly became just loot grinding. For 3 years or so I played Dungeon Siege off and on (only got maybe 30 hours into it), and due to that game's skill system, I would find this awesome sword that would be great in 2 levels but I couldn't use currently, so I would hoard it.

Unfortunately with Dungeon Siege, in order to use that sword, I need to upgrade not only regular level, but also my Strength level (done by using swords more regularly), as well as my Dexterity level (swords and bows mixed), and maybe even a very specific Magic level (done by using that Magic's spells). Because of all this, half the time, I never got to use that "Sword of WTF?!" that I had found.

Along with a gaming addiction to inventory, looting, and the selling system of games, I also suffer from, well, basically the desire to have the best thing available. Is there an ultimate weapon in the game? I will hunt that down. I desire to have the best. Games that basically force you to play multiple times in order to have all of the best items, well, they piss me off. What do you mean I can't have the best sword if I have the best spell?! Etc. I will go out of my way to find the BFG.

Side note - one of the commenters in that article above mentioned how innovative Halo was in the FPS genre by limiting you to two guns. You know, in that game, I don't mind that. It was strategic and reflected the game world accurately. However, it should never be the standard. I tend to enjoy the fact that in some games, such as Doom, Unreal, Serious Sam, or Quake, you can have 8 different weapons as well as 3 types of ammo per each. Realistic? No, not really. But I find it often comforting to know that in Jedi Outcast I can switch between my lightsaber, thermal detonators, blaster rifle, and a freaking rocket launcher whenever I feel like it.

That article also listed some games that I desire to try some day, including STALKER, Titan Quest, and The Witcher. Still disappointed that The Witcher on Xbox 360 has been put on indefinite hold. I have a whole cd case of games that I want to play but can't currently, such as World of Warcraft, Baldur's Gate, Planescape: Torment, and the like. I've heard such strong things about these games, including combat, story, and setting, that I really want to experience it myself...obviously in a limited capacity and within reason, but still enjoyable as if they were a good book.

Yet I'm sure the loot system will drive me crazy.

Oh yeah, WoW's Auction House is brilliant. The only thing that could make it better would be a limited Craig's List effect in that game: the ability to have people come to you with your stuff.

Sep 6, 2009

Romantic Love in Film

I seem to have a big problem with the way romantic love is portrayed in most movies. Specifically, the romantic love where one person leaves another person for their "true love." I'm wondering if this problem of mine is spiritual or personal.

I just finished watching The Illusionist; I hadn't seen it since it came out on dvd. Personally, I think it's a much better, stronger film than Prestige, the other magic themed film that came out around the same time. There actually is mystery in The Illusionist, more of a story, more lives up to it's name, and features some strong performances, most notably by Edward Norton.

But I had forgotten some elements of the love story. Let me sum it up for you, briefly (SPOILERS, but this movie came out a few years ago):

During childhood, a daughter of a noble and a carpenter's son become friends. Over time, they plan to run away together, primarily because her parents didn't want her associating with someone of such low rank. The two are separated, only to be reunited later in life. The girl now grown is in talks to engage in an engagement with a higher ranked noble; note that they are at best courting and are in no way in love or engaged. The young man desires to win back the girl but needn't try; she still loves him and wants to break it off with the noble. Together they frame him for murder, and live happily ever after. (That about sums it up.)

The movie takes pains to portray the noble man as very evil. It is assumed he commits murder; he plans on overthrowing his father the Emperor (?); and he beats women. Immediately you begin to demonize this man and feel sympathy for the woman stuck under him in an almost forced courtship. On the other hand, the carpenter's son is mysterious but very much devoted and in love with the woman. He dedicates his life, by all appearances, to bringing down the evil ruler by film's end.

However, the movie does in no way feel emotionally manipulative. We are presented with a young man in love with a woman who is courting a very evil man. We triumph when good wins and cheer when evil is destroyed. This seems normal storytelling; to call it manipulative or cliche is to miss the point entirely.

Now, compare and contrast this with other films. Some examples that spring to mind:

Spider-Man 2. Mary Jane is engaged, about to be married, to a handsome astronaut who loves her utterly. Mere moments before they are married, she runs out on him to Peter Parker, the boy whom for two films we've been rooting for her to get with (aka, the hero) but whom she has danced around. We cheer because she is with who she is supposed to be with, because that is what Spider-Man is about.

The Notebook: A young man and woman spend a summer in passionate lust before being driven apart by life, family, and adult responsibilities. He carries a torch for her, and in a moment of passion she essentially commits adultery on her fiance, who has done nothing but love her and treat her with respect. However, it's ok, because we the audience see the two of them live "happily ever after" and die in each others arms, and no attention is given to the ex-fiance or anyone else they may have ignored in their selfishness along the way.

I'm sure there are other examples, but those are the two strongest that come to mind.

Both of those movies above feature a plot point where a fiance leaves a loving significant other in order to pursue their "true love." What it appears to me at least is a person selfishly pursuing their lusts instead of faithfully sticking with whomever they originally fell in love with enough to marry. The Illusionist at least tells us that the 3rd party is an evil man; the other two movies, these are just humble men whose hearts are broken by someone else.

Now, I was praying about how I should approach the rest of this blog. On one hand, I could discuss how movies that emotionally manipulate tend to become popular but express a brand of "love" that is demonic at best. Or I could discuss all this in relation to Christ, God's love for us, Christ's love for the church, etc. The Bible is so ingrained within me that I see and think of almost everything in Biblical shades. But people accuse me of thinking too hard.

Instead, I will get personal. Which may or may not include both of the above.

When I see these things happen in film, or even in real enrages me and scares me. Scares me because if there is such a thing as karma, I'm seriously jinxing myself and this type of scenario will happen to me. I can easily imagine myself giving my life to a woman, having genuine agape love for her, and then see her ditch me at the altar because the man she ran into in the street (or boyhood friend) is more handsome, more successful, or just generally more enticing. And then what would I do? If it's agape love, I will continue to love her even though she ran off. That may be noble, but it makes me despair as well.

However, I believe in grace, and continually believe against and fight against a spirit of fear. I admit I suffer from a fear of failure and rejection, which I'm constantly battling against.

These things enrage me because it seems like an extreme justice. Perhaps a little bit of it has seeped through already. There is a strong part of me that demands judgment on people such as Mary Jane for their treatment of their fiance. "HOW DARE THEY TREAT THAT PERSON THAT WAY!! A person who did nothing but love them, and they turn around and rip their heart out! They reward faithfulness with adultery or betrayal!! These people should be forced to repent and beg forgiveness!!"

It's easy to make excuses. "Oh, but they love that person now." So? Because of your foolishness and selfishness, you have created this problem. Remember David and Bathsheba? At what point does lust become love? Before or after the child is born? The point all along is that David should never have fallen for Bathsheba in the first place. It is hard to rejoice at the beauty of David and Bathsheba's marriage (or the birth of Solomon) without sorrowfully acknowledging the sin and heartbreak (and murder) that led to these things.

"Oh, so you are saying that even if they don't love that person, they should run back?" If they are not married, then no. I've known plenty of engagements that have been broken, mostly with heartbreak (date often? quick engagement? Not really Biblical nor wise ideas at times). But if they are married? Then, YES. They should go back to that person, remain faithful, and work out their problems. "Lack of love" is in no way an excuse for adultery.

Perhaps I have too high of a view of love. Someone told me recently that man can never hope to attain "God's love", by which they meant AGAPE. I looked at him aghast almost. How can any relationship hope to exist without AGAPE at the core of it? That sacrificial love where you are willing to give your all with nothing promised in return. How is that something that is unattainable in this life?

I see so many people in relationships around me. I see so much heartbreak, so much financial ruin, so many foolish decisions. Obviously, since this is 'just' my personal opinion...the way I see it, why the heck would you get involved with someone if A) you aren't willing to marry them, B) God has not set the two of you up, and C) you can't lay your life down for them sacrificially with no expectation of anything in return. Too many are chasing their fantasies and lusts in the name of love that it has led to the highest divorce rate in history, even in the Church.

I have a friend on Facebook here who had his girlfriend cheat on hm and leave him for another guy, who himself cheated on then left his girlfriend just to be with my friend's ex! ALL IN THE NAME OF LOVE! Doesn't something like that demand a form of justice? A reckoning? How can we as Christians claim that there is a God who exists who is Holy, pure, and JUST?? ESPECIALLY WHEN HE LETS THINGS LIKE THAT HAPPEN?? And then we glumly turn around and say "once saved always saved" and that some who commit such atrocities are preordained from God to be holy. From our earthly standpoint, those people deserve judgment and death, not forgiveness. Especially forgiveness with repentance.

Hence, grace. Oh, and ideas have consequences.

I can understand perfectly well why my friend is angry and bitter. I can understand why he essentially loathes God and anyone who talks to him about God. Obviously I believe there are things he doesn't understand, that he truly does need God, but I see and understand him clearly, and my heart breaks for him.

Obviously that's just my "conviction." ...How I want to spit when people tell me that. Wisdom cries from the street, and people just say it's your "conviction." No, it's just common sense, stupid. It's just Bible, "christian."

Ultimately, I guess I am just shocked, dismayed, and saddened as to what passes for "romantic true love" in both movies and reality nowadays. It seems to me to be an evil, demonic perversion of what is holy. And yet we as a culture and as a Church have bought into it.

Perhaps I am painting myself into a corner here, having such a high view of marriage, courtship, and love itself. Yes, I have high standards. But I don't believe they are ridiculously high. Yet because they are so high they are damning to those who have settled for less. Which is ultimately fine with me.

After all, I just need to find one woman who has high standards as well.

So what is it, those of you with eyes to see and ears to hear. Is this me just being "bitter", as some have diagnosed it. Is this just a personal problem? Or is this something more, something of the Spirit?

This is not a diatribe against women. This is not me trying to destroy what others like just for the sake of destroying it. I already know some will try to manipulate my words, and I will not engage in any discussion with those who do.