Comic for Tuesday, Dec 1, 2009


Posted December 1, 2009 at 1:00 am

This was actually the first of the new batch of EGS:NP comics I drew. I've put off posting it due to Ellen and Nanase being in it, as the timing of the strip with the story comics would have felt contradictory to the jeopardy they were both in. Also, Nanase's black hair had not yet been introduced.

This comic is a comment on the video game Fable 2. I don't bother mentioning it in the strip, as I figured people would either know what it is and recognize it, or not know the specific game while still getting that it's a comment on some game due to the dialogue. I wrote a script that was more direct about it, but it felt like boring talking heads. Besides which, I grew up on the Simpsons. Half the things I laughed at were references I didn't fully get until later.

While I am a fan of the Fable games, I have reached the conclusion that creator Peter Molyneux is more concerned with sticking to a theme than making a fun game. Fable 2 introduced numerous clothing options to the series, allowing you to mix and match your outfits, modify the colors thereof, and do so without it impacting your stats.

My first few hours playing the game, once out of the tutorial part, were spent earning money and shopping! I was obviously initially thrilled with these new options. My female hero, whose outfit and haircut wound up similar to what Nanase has here, had an expansive wardrobe with custom color schemes and I was most pleased. This level of customizability made her feel more like my own personal character.

Then I started using the XP I'd earned to become more powerful, and my character became rapidly more muscular, tall, and overall more masculine. Part of me wanted to praise the game for having both male and female characters become more muscular as they become stronger, but I found I didn't care about that. I no longer liked how my character looked, and the only way to get the look I liked back was to weaken her.

Beyond growing taller and bulkier, learning magic makes blue lines form on one's character. Once enough magic is known, it looks like a bunch of glowing veins, and I find it rather disgusting. I wind up keeping my magic to a minimum, which really doesn't matter much. The spells aren't all that varied and one doesn't need maximum magic power to succeed, so outside of my intentionally disgusting evil character, I don't feel much incentive to master the arcane arts.

With both male and female characters, I would much prefer being in control of how my character looks without having to sacrifice power to do so, especially when access to varied outfits is a supposed feature. I'd even accept having to buy potions in-game to get the look I want, which they actually provided in an expansion pack as an option for controlling height. No potions thus far that I know of for curing absurd manliness and glowing veins, however.

I said earlier that I think Peter values the theme over fun, and this is but one of several examples (most others involve annoying moral dilemmas and multiplayer). This appearance issue applies to the theme because the game is obsessed with its own system of morality and your behavior affects your appearance in many ways. My character's reward for being good and pure is an annoying halo and teeth so bright they could blind someone. It's enough to make me want to have her go on a killing spree to get back down to neutral status.

I know this won't happen, but here's what I'd like to see in the third game. Stats and such would still modify appearances, but make it possible to get potions to get the exact look you want regardless of stats (and possibly even alignment / purity). There can be a quest to make this possible, and I've even thought up what it could be:

There is an alchemist. He can make the potions you need, but he needs an ancient tome that's kept in a museum to do so. This museum is key to a town's economy, and how well it does determines how well off the town is. The more artifacts it has and how valuable those artifacts are is what determines the value of the museum.

One would basically have three options: trade an artifact of greater value for the tome (an artifact you can't get until later in the game, so you'd have to wait), bribe the curator (an impure act that also depreciates the value of the museum), or rob the place (which would require violence, could ruin the museum, and is definitely evil). I can think of ways to make it more interesting with more options, but that's the basic idea.

Ultimately, how good or evil one would act in this scenario would be determined by their patience and how much they want the potions. This would be a situation where the benefits of being evil and/or impure would be immediate gratification at the cost of the well being of characters in the game. I feel that's an in-game moral dilemma more compelling than a lot of the ones I've seen in the actual games thus far, mostly because I think I would actually feel conflicted about it and waiting to get the artifact to trade with would be a genuine test of patience without stopping the game. I'd be thrilled to see something like this in future Fable games.

All in all, though, I do like the Fable games, and it would take a lot for me to not buy Fable 3 the first day it comes out. For example, if it requires using Project Natal to play it, I may be sticking to the first two.

...Oh! Right. Pies. Yes, you really can eat pies to keep your HP up in these games, and you really can get huge from it. You can also easily lose the weight by eating enough celery. The heroes in these games truly have odd metabolisms. I actually don't mind this at all, but given the comic, I felt I should mention it.

As for Ellen and why she looks less heroic than Nanase, this is one of those issues I was talking about. Multiplayer in Fable 2 consists of a second player as a stock henchman assisting the first player's hero. It is impossible for two heroes to meet as, much like Highlander, there can only be one chosen hero in the game's world. Player two is but a guest, and a lackey at that. The potential fun of having two heroes interact takes a backseat to the narrative, not to mention the potential fun of their dogs meeting. Competitive games of catch, anyone?

There's also the issue that, even if playing multiplayer online, both players share a camera view. That's not fun being set aside in favor of the theme or anything, but it just can't go without mentioning when the subject of Fable 2 multiplayer is brought up.

Tags: Ellen, Nanase, grow, tf, Video Games, fantasy