Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.
Of all the impossible announcements to come out of E3 2017, Nintendo’s confirmation that, yes, Metroid Prime 4 is in development was maybe the most shocking. (After all, we kinda already had knew something Beyond Good And Evil-related was coming.) The game is, seemingly, a long way away and the only thing we know about it is that Retro Studios, the Austin-based developer where the first three entries were made, is not behind it. So, what does a new Metroid Prime game in this day and age look like? (I can’t believe I’m about to publish this sentence, but here goes.) Nipples has an interesting idea:
Please be Metroid: Breath Of The Wild. I want to start the game with Samus fully equipped and let loose on an open world complete with an ocean, Chozo colonial ruins, space-pirate bases, and claustrophobic tunnels clear to the planet core. The entire map wraps around a moon-sized sphere rather than a flat continent. The opening tutorial (the equivalent of the Great Plateau) can be a space station orbiting the moon, like in other Metroid openers. I really don’t want another inconvenient story device where Samus is stripped bare and has to find her missile upgrade for the nth time.
Man, I really hope this is the game we get. Let me start out with all the usual shit, and then upgrade to new stuff that I haven’t seen before. How about a Half-Life-esque gravity gun? A fancy space zipline you can deploy to cross long gaps? A straight up jetpack?
Putting The Odd In Odyssey
The big star of Nintendo’s E3 showing this year was Super Mario Odyssey, and the game got people scratching their heads and losing their damn minds when a new trailer debuted its central “cap-ture” mechanic, which lets Mario throw his hat at things, both inanimate and living, to possess their bodies. All of this is so that he can disrupt a forced wedding between Bowser and Peach—the game’s bosses are literally Bowser’s wedding planners—which The Space Pope points out is just as strange as the whole “Mario is now a pudgy, wandering god” thing:
I can’t imagine how Bowser thinks an obviously coerced marriage ceremony is going to help him consolidate his power over the Mushroom Kingdom. Unless it’s just a propaganda stunt to establish some form of legitimacy with the conquered citizenry, presumably followed by quietly confining Peach to some wing of her castle and taking over ruling duties.
I am more interested in the monarchical politics of the Mario games than I should be, especially considering I’ve never played one.
Sliding Into Your DMs
In rare non-E3 talk from this week, Danette Chavez reported back from her trip to Stream Of Annihilation, a two-day event put on by Wizards Of The Coast to promote the newest Dungeons & Dragons storyline, Tomb Of Annihilation. She focused on the diversity of people at the event and enjoying D&D around the world. But one quote from actor Joe Manganiello caught Baulderstone’s attention:
“Where I grew up, the people who played D&D were insanely creative. If you think about it, the job of the dungeon master is the equivalent of a showrunner on a TV series. You’re tasked with creating a storyline or narrative that’s potentially going to run for years.”
I find that is the least fulfilling way to approach running a game. Writing a predetermined storyline and herding players can be entertaining enough, but that bores me as a GM. I find it more fulfilling to set up some locations and situations and let the players loose to do what they want. That way, I am surprised by the way the game plays out.
You certainly want to have some hooks built into the setting. Maybe there is a dungeon full of loot to the north. There are some bandits on the road to the west. The local lord is kind of a dick to his subjects. Then you let the player choose what to do. This approach is even less work than the “story” method. I need some quick stats for bandits and a personality and goal for the leader. I need some stats and goal for the lord, and stats for his men. Grab a town map off the internet and make few colorful NPCs to meet. I can grab a dungeon offline or off the shelf and stick it the north. That’s an hour of work tops.
A story will happen when you add players. Maybe they want to raid the dungeon for loot. Maybe they want to fight bandits. Maybe they want to set up resistance against the lord. Maybe they want to take over the bandits as a force against him. Whatever they choose, you have the stats ready to play it out.
Going with the “Story” method is hard fucking work to prepare for because you need to write a story, and it will probably be less interesting than if you just let the players do their own thing. Then you have to spend the whole game stressing about your players deciding to go off your path.
TheThinHam split the middle:
Manganiello certainly makes it sound far more intimidating than it actually is. We’re not all going to be running Critical Role, which needs to have this significant, intricate story because it essentially is a television program with an improv cast.
I find that it’s a pretty even mix between improvisation, admin, lots and lots of Post-it notes, and some creativity to string it all together. I think I put a more pre-planned story on the table than you described, but all the best moments have happened entirely because of the players. I’m happy to put a bit of work down (I have most definitely drawn maps, and I’m very specific about music/sound) but I think what he’s describing is a pretty different experience to what most people will have.
And Mister Evil showed us exactly why it’s the players that usually make the campaign interesting:
My favorite gaming memories are pretty much all from spending three hours trying to plan a perfect run in Shadowrun, arguing about what the best approach is. My favorite example was when I used to play with a guy who was constantly deployed by the government to various hot spots around the world. He’d never really talk about what exactly he did, but a couple of the other people in the group had been friends with them since they were little kids and knew a little bit more about his actual job. Anyway, in the game, our mission was to get some corporate exec to agree to sign some contract and there was a hard 12-hour time limit to get it done. We argued for a long time trying to figure the best way, with this guy arguing that we should just kidnap the exec’s wife and kids and hold them hostage, a tactic most of the group found kind of repellent. We went back and forth on this for a while until finally one of his friends was like “Wait. I’m asking you now, not your character. If you had to do this, what would you do in real life?” and the guy goes “I’m telling you, I would kidnap his wife and kids!”
The table got real quiet after that.
That’ll do it for this week, Gameologerinos. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. We’ll see you all next week!