Jedi Fallen Order Part 4: Buddy Droid One

By Shamus Posted Thursday Aug 27, 2020

Filed under: Retrospectives 114 comments

Once the bad guys have killed Prauf and blind luckDid I say “blind luck”? My mistake. I meant “The Force”. saved Cal from picking a fight he can’t possibly win, we end up in an Uncharted-style set-piece chase sequence. Cal has to make his way to the front of a speeding train while a fighter ship flies by and pounds the train with blaster fire. Inside the train he’s got stormtroopers shooting at himThis is the lightsaber vs. trooper combat tutorial. and on the outside he has to contend with the ever-changing geography of this train as it gradually disintegrates from the attack. Eventually we wind up with cars hanging the wrong way off the track, forcing Cal to continually improvise. There’s also another ship in the area, flying close and trying to help him, but he doesn’t know who they are or how they fit into this chaos.

The whole thing is really impressive. I imagine scenes like this are where a lot of those lavish EA dollars got spent.

It's time to open up a can of whoopass, and I'm all out of whoopass.
It's time to open up a can of whoopass, and I'm all out of whoopass.

At the end we get a little showdown with the Second Sister. This is one of those boss fights you can’t win. This scene is really here to solidify our villain and give us the lightsaber duel tutorial. Once Cal has managed to take several tiny, tiny little chips off of her gargantuan health bar, the mystery ship returns and rescues him.

And look at that. We managed to have a fight that didn’t force me to win in combat just so it could turn around and force me to lose in a cutscene. The fight was properly telegraphed as “Cal can’t really win this”, which made survival feel sort of like victory. At the end, Cal understandably retreated rather than having a cutscene where he’s defeated but inexplicably spared. Here’s another moment that so many games managed to mess up, and SWJFO makes it work while also accomplishing story stuff and working in important tutorial stuff and making a cool scene. Again, it’s weird that this hobby is 50 years old and so many games still struggle with this, but there it is.

Next up we get an interesting first for video games…

Debra Wilson

Left: Debra Wilson from Wolfenstein New Colossus. Right: Debra Wilson in SWJFO.
Left: Debra Wilson from Wolfenstein New Colossus. Right: Debra Wilson in SWJFO.

I have this thing about voice actors and voices. I love recognizing performers by their voices and I love keeping track of a few of the ubiquitous voices working in games / animated features. I’m used to being able to name an actor as soon as their character begins speaking, but I was able to recognize actress Debra Wilson before her character said a word.

As soon as Cere Junda appeared on screen I recognized the face of Grace Walker from Wolfenstein: The New Colossus. That’s a first for me. We’ve been importing real-world faces onto our in-game characters since the face of Dutch model Mark Vanderloo on Commander Shepard way back in Mass Effect. Well, the practice actually goes back to 2000 with David Bateson as Agent 47 in the Hitman series. No, actually it was probably Pierce Brosnan in Goldeneye back in 1997. Actually, I guess we’ve been trying to put actors into games for a long time now. Still, this is the first time I’ve recognized two different 3D characters as belonging to the same (unknown, to me) actor.

That’s an interesting development. I imagine that eventually this sort of thing will be commonplace.

Welcome to the Team. You’re our First Hire

Really? You look just like Debra Wilson!
Really? You look just like Debra Wilson!

So we meet our cast of characters and everyone gets their first round of secrets out in the open. Cal confesses that he was just a kid when the purge happened. His master was killed in the attack, and this event “damaged” his connection to the force.

(This bit still trips me up. The dialog makes it explicit that Order 66 / the purge was 5 years ago. In flashbacks, we see that Cal didn’t look a day over 10 when Order 66 happened. That means that current-day Cal must be around 15. But there’s no way this guy is 15. He’s very clearly and obviously well into his 20s. You could argue that maybe young Cal is a little older than he looks and old Cal is a little younger than he looks, but no matter how much you stretch it, there’s just no way these two versions of the character are 5 years apart. Not even close.

This is what Cal looked like 5 years ago? No way.
This is what Cal looked like 5 years ago? No way.

Did the designer make the young version of Call look too young, or does the actor look too old to play a 15 year old? Or did they not work out the timeline until after the models were done and it was too late to change? I don’t know. I’ll do my best to not think about it.)

Cere Junda reveals she used to be a Jedi herself, but she’s since cut herself off from the force for reasons currently left unexplained. She wants Cal to join her mission to rebuild the Jedi order.

I need a name for my Star Wars character. He's kind of a greasy guy. Any ideas?
I need a name for my Star Wars character. He's kind of a greasy guy. Any ideas?

Greez Dritus is supposedly the captain of this shipThe “Stinger Mantis”. I’d normally say that a name like this is perhaps trying too hard, but this is the universe that gave us the MILLENNIUM FALCON so I guess nothing is too over-the-top., but it would be more accurate to say that he’s the owner and pilot. It’s clear the Cere is the one in charge. He’s a gruff exterior / soft interior kind of fellow.

So now we have the classic Master / Padawan pairing, except the Padawan can barely use the Force and the master can’t use it at all. This is a really strange creative choice on the part of the writer.

It makes sense to have Cal dealing with a “damaged” connection to the Force. That means we can have him level up and gain new abilities as the game goes on and he “reconnects” with the Force. But why make Cere deaf and mute to the Force? Maybe the writer was trying to avoid the obvious question of, “If Cere is such a great Jedi master, then why does she enlist this barely-capable Padawan to do all the heavy lifting?” Personally I’d just make Cere older so that it’s clear she can’t do all of the platforming and parkour this particular adventure is going to require.

The visuals in this game are top-notch. Like, every couple of minutes you run into another poster-worthy view.
The visuals in this game are top-notch. Like, every couple of minutes you run into another poster-worthy view.

I’m not saying this is a wrong creative choice. And perhaps having them both exhibiting Force problems underscores the general idea that the Jedi are weak, scattered, leaderless, and without hope. It just feels a little unintentionally hilarious that Cere has nothing and Cal has next to nothing. This is like a blind guy teaching a nearsighted guy how to drive.

Cere’s Force abstinence will be explained / explored later on in the story, so let’s move on for now.

Our first stop is the planet Bogano, where we get the rest of our tutorials out of the way. Cere tells us that she wants us to explore the area and “meet someone”. It turns out that someone is…

BD-1

Bwoop-oo-dooo!
Bwoop-oo-dooo!

We meet the droid BD-1Perhaps named after / inspired by the droid BD-8 in the long,tangled lore of the Expanded Universe?, who is the little guy you so often see riding on Cal’s shoulder in trailers and screenshots. Once again, the designer is making all the right decisions.

Game designers generally have a bit of a problem. We want the protagonist to have someone to talk to, but at the same time history has shown us that sidekick characters are an enormous pain in the ass. If you’ve got another person following you around, then they might get in your way. We have to deal with the headaches that arise if the player gets too far ahead of them”You must gather your party before venturing forth.”. If our foes can attack our sidekick, then the sidekick becomes a liability like the infamously burdensome Yorda in Ico. Or the game designer can go the other direction and have the enemies inexplicably ignore your friend, as was the case with Elizabeth in BioShock: Infinite.

You can solve this by making them a participant in the combat and platforming, making them equal to the player. Farah in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time and Alyx in Half-Life 2 are good examples of this approach. The downside of that is that it gets expensive to create an entire additional character with their own movement and combat animations, not to mention the difficulty of creating an AI good enough to withstand close scrutiny for extended periods of time. And then there’s the maddening challenge of balancing their combat contributions. Make them too strong, and it feels like the game is playing itself. Make them too weak and you’re back to the problem of dragging around a useless burden. No matter which way you go, a sidekick can be annoying, immersion-breaking, and expensive to produce.

I forgot to turn off stupid motion blur. That's the feature that uses tons of processing power to make your game look worse by imitating the limitations of cinema. I'm hoping this goes out of style soon.
I forgot to turn off stupid motion blur. That's the feature that uses tons of processing power to make your game look worse by imitating the limitations of cinema. I'm hoping this goes out of style soon.

On the other hand, supporting characters are immensely useful for storytelling. A lone character can only communicate with the audience by talking to themselves, but if you’re got two characters then you’ve got the freedom to do all kinds of things. One can deliver exposition to the other, they can talk about other characters, or they can advance their shared relationship.

Sure, we can do a little of this by having someone call you on the radio as in Tomb Raider and Batman Arkham games. That’s better than nothing, but radio is a little impersonal because we can’t see our radio buddy emote during emotional conversations. They can’t comment on the scenery, and it stretches credulity when they’re able to deliver detailed exposition on the world around you. For example: Your Radio Buddy tells you that the north wall is weak and you’re like “What? Do you have a detailed map of these never-before-seen ruins that notes the structural integrity of every wall? Why do you have that map and not me?” Also, remote companions are only possible in a game where some form of radio or telepathy exists.

The Perfect Companion

C'mon Cal, train him to be a Jedi. It's the last thing the Empire will expect!
C'mon Cal, train him to be a Jedi. It's the last thing the Empire will expect!

So in a stereotypical sense, the writer really wants us to have a sidekick and the game designer would really rather not.

BD-1 is the perfect solution to this problem. He’s a character that can emote, he’s always with us, and he gives our protagonist a sounding board. At the same time, he’s a tiny little guy that rides around on your shoulder so he doesn’t need to climb around the environment, participate in combat, or get in your way while you’re trying to explore. He’s not a human, so we don’t need to add a bunch of extra idle animations and random vocal barks to make him seem lifelike. He’s cute, he’s useful, and he saves on voice acting  by communicating in Star Wars Droid sounds. He saves the designers money by allowing them to use a few bloops and beeps, but he also saves the player time because his little vocal barks can be very short compared to having the same thought communicated verbally.

This. This is the one thing they need to keep for the sequel. Change characters, change weapons, change the time period, or even change what side we’re on, but don’t change this droid buddy system. The movies gave us the “rule of two”, where we always have a master and an apprentice. For these video games, I think the “rule of two” should mean a player character and a small sidekickIt doesn’t need to be a droid, either. A tiny little space-chimp would work just as well.. That’s the magic setup that serves story and gameplay at the same time.

Well, we’re four entries into this series and we still haven’t left the tutorial. I promise this series will speed up once the plot gets rolling.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Did I say “blind luck”? My mistake. I meant “The Force”.

[2] This is the lightsaber vs. trooper combat tutorial.

[3] The “Stinger Mantis”. I’d normally say that a name like this is perhaps trying too hard, but this is the universe that gave us the MILLENNIUM FALCON so I guess nothing is too over-the-top.

[4] Perhaps named after / inspired by the droid BD-8 in the long,tangled lore of the Expanded Universe?

[5] ”You must gather your party before venturing forth.”

[6] It doesn’t need to be a droid, either. A tiny little space-chimp would work just as well.



From The Archives:
 

114 thoughts on “Jedi Fallen Order Part 4: Buddy Droid One

  1. Daimbert says:

    At the end we get a little showdown with the Second Sister. This is one of those boss fights you can’t win. This scene is really here to solidify our villain and give us the lightsaber duel tutorial. Once Cal has managed to take several tiny, tiny little chips off of her gargantuan health bar, the mystery ship returns and rescues him.

    When I saw the image before this, my thought was that it looked a LOT like the Albert Simon confrontation on the train at the beginning of Shadow Hearts. And then this description is pretty much what that scene — and the whole scene in the train — did there as well, although it added a reason to leave — you needed to get Alice away from him — besides simple self-preservation.

  2. Noah says:

    The “tiny sidekick” solution also makes Jedi one step more like Disney Princesses. I’m for it.

    1. GoStu says:

      I was just thinking: “I’m sure the Disney people involved will not mind introducing a cute sidekick.”

      To their credit, I think the Mouse Overlords are pretty good about not stepping in and demanding things of their Star Wars people, but you know they’re watching and you know they like cute sidekicks.

  3. Chris says:

    What about a sidekick being yoda whom you carry on your back like Luke did in empire strikes back. And on a higher difficulty level you dont know it’s *the* yoda, so he pretends to be the annoying little thing like he was when Luke first met him. This makes the difficulty higher as he doesn’t give any useful information and keeps rummaging through your stuff.

    1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

      That does sound like a great way to annoy the player, but story-enforced annoyances rarely work out well.
      Although a baby Yoda would be a massive hit for obvious reasons.

    2. RFS-81 says:

      I already can’t wait for the Bad Lip Reading mod!

  4. John says:

    I am not sure I like the idea of someone’s “connection” to the Force being “damaged”. It sounds too much like a technical problem. “Hello, Force T&T? I’ve been experiencing a lot of interruptions in my Force service lately. Can you do a line test and send a technician to check my equipment?” I just don’t think of the Force in those terms, and I don’t think the movies do either. How does a connection to the Force get damaged, anyway? What does that even mean? I could understand if character struggled to use the Force because of a crisis or faith or of confidence or if an injury somehow made concentration difficult. If that’s what’s going on in this game then the game should have the decency to just say that.

    1. Henson says:

      In a similar vein, I’m a little annoyed by the increasing frequency of ‘cutting yourself off’ from the Force. Like, the Force is supposed to be this ubiquitous phenomenon, created by and connecting all life. Is it really so easy to sever yourself from it? Surely, something like that shouldn’t be like flipping a switch, there should be significant consequences beyond ‘I guess I can’t use my telekenesis powers’.

      KOTOR 2 handled this pretty well because the connection, or loss of it, was the point of the plot.

      1. MerryWeathers says:

        I think it’s harkening back to the old days before midichlorians were a thing where being able to utilize the Force was thought to be something anyone could do but you just needed to train hard for it. You would still be connected to the force, you just wouldn’t be able to use it.

      2. John says:

        See, I don’t think it was handled well in KotOR 2. At one point the game suggests that the Exile cut himself off from the Force “because [he was] afraid”, i.e. because he had a crisis of faith or confidence. As I said, I’m fine with that. The problem is that at various other points the game suggests that the Exile’s original connection to the Force was somehow severed (don’t ask me how) by the Jedi council and that his current connection to the Force makes him some kind of unwitting but monstrous Force vampire. I don’t think either of those two things are at all consistent with the spirit of the films. Now you could argue neither of those things are necessarily true, and that if Obsidian had actually, y’know, finished the game then things would have been explained more clearly, but I have my doubts. Master Ed Asner clearly believes the Force vampire theory. At a minimum, the game definitely wants you to take both these possibilities seriously.

        And I can’t. I just can’t. It’s several steps too far from the portrayal of the Force in the films.

        1. Henson says:

          Well, the issue of not being consistent with the spirit of the films is a separate issue. And if that’s what we’re talking about, I would go so far as to say that KOTOR 2 in its totality doesn’t really feel like ‘Star Wars’. (even as I like quite a lot about it). But as far as being consistent with the logic of the universe, I think it handled being cut off from the Force fairly well.

          1. MerryWeathers says:

            I would go so far as to say that KOTOR 2 in its totality doesn’t really feel like ‘Star Wars’.

            Yeah, KOTOR 2’s narrative was designed to challenge the tropes of the franchise in contrast to how the first KOTOR celebrated them. It’s so different that hearing John William’s music comes off as incredibly jarring in this game. Essentially, KOTOR 2 to Star Wars is kind of like what Deep Space Nine was to Star Trek.

            1. The Puzzler says:

              Or maybe KOTOR 2 is like what The Last Jedi was to The Force Awakens…

              1. MerryWeathers says:

                Kind of but I don’t see TLJ being that different or unique from the franchise in the same way KOTOR 2 was, of course let’s save that discussion for November where Shamus may (or may not) discuss the film.

            2. thtehqwah says:

              Eh, I don’t really agree with that comparison. DS9 always seemed to me to be more of a ‘test’ of Star Trek’s utopian principle, but one that it mostly passed. Sure. things aren’t quite as obviously black and white as TOS, but the spirit of the franchise remained intact. Whereas KOTOR2 was more ‘destructive deconstruction’, unwilling to put anything up to be measured against the tropes/setting it was trying to tear down. It just revelled in the muck of its own nihilism. Whereas ‘Star Wars played straight’ is actually like Start Trek (despite their Science Fiction/Science Fantasy and ‘fandom wars’ divisions), firmly grounded in a far more inspiring and wholesome optimism.

              1. Syal says:

                Yeah, DS9 coexists with Voyager and TNG, while even KOTOR 1 causes some issues* with the Star Wars universe, and KOTOR 2 is just burning it to the ground (which is fun as long as it’s non-canon).

                *((Lightside Mind Wipes being the biggest issue by far, but also the Jedi/Sith philosophies, which won’t hold a lot of weight and shouldn’t be required to.))

        2. Geebs says:

          Yeah, the original trilogy makes it pretty clear that the Force is just there, even for non-sentient objects (Yoda talks about it in Empire Strikes Back, IIRC).

          The other thing I can’t really tolerate is all that stuff about Grey Jedi and mixing the Dark and Light sides of the force that the Expanded Universe writers often seem to think is so clever. In the OT, Obi-Wan and Yoda aren’t exactly goody two-shoes, but there’s no question that they don’t follow the Light side. In those movies, the Light side isn’t some utopian ideal, so much as basically just not being a complete dick. It’s a case of writers coming up with a trite solution for their own false dichotomy, IMO.

          1. Matt says:

            Grey Jedi are the worst, IMO. They’re an attempt to circumvent the “uncool” elements of the Jedi: the discipline, the restraint, the moral clarity. We can’t have our hero be anything except a confident bad-ass who doesn’t follow the rules! It dilutes the Jedi by undermining the spiritual and personal characteristics required to be one. It dilutes the Dark Side by sort of forcing it to be dickishly evil so that Grey seems better in comparison.

            1. Daimbert says:

              You can do it well — and I think some of the EU sources did at least try to do it well — by placing it in-between the context of their overarching philosophies:

              Jedi:

              There is no emotion, there is peace.
              There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
              There is no passion, there is serenity.
              There is no chaos, there is harmony.
              There is no death, there is the Force.

              Sith:

              Peace is a lie. There is only Passion.
              Through Passion I gain Strength.
              Through Strength I gain Power.
              Through Power I gain Victory.
              Through Victory my chains are Broken.
              The Force shall free me.

              Grey Jedi could work well by rejecting the idea that emotion is always good or always bad, and instead, say, adopting the idea that sentients should act as sentients and embrace their emotions while understanding that what they suggest isn’t always correct. So to reject seeking to purge or unduly restrain emotion but also understanding that emotion must be constrained to other, higher instincts. That’s a meaty enough difference without having to make the Jedi overly passive or the Sith overly brutal.

              1. Retsam says:

                I feel like the idea that you have to be a Grey Jedi to have emotions is probably misunderstanding the Jedi in the first place. Certainly none of the Jedi we meet, (except maybe Yoda), seems to lack for emotions. The Jedi are about not being ruled by your emotions.

                I know one interpretation of the main hexalogy is that the Jedi’s rejection of emotion leads to their downfall and it’s Luke’s embracing of emotion (against Yoda’s instruction) that eventually saves them. And I’m not against that interpretation, I’m in favor of a “New Jedi Order” that has a more healthy view on the value of emotions.

                But the idea of “Grey Jedi” who are somewhere between the light side and the dark side is just a bad idea for the canon, IMO. It’s very fanfic-y, very “my Jedi is a cool ubermensch who isn’t bound by the inconvenience of moral restrictions, (Original Character, Do Not Steal)”. And it really undermines the whole good/evil dynamic that’s inherent in the premise of Star Wars.

                It’s reminiscent of what Shadow of Mordor does to the LoTR canon.
                We can’t have a “boring” “good” protagonist, because moral lassitude is cool.

                1. John says:

                  Yoda very clearly has and expresses emotions. For one thing, he spends most of his appearance in Return of the Jedi being obviously displeased by Luke. More seriously, he has a lot of distinct emotional tells, such as raising his voice when he’s saying something he considers very important. He may be a Muppet but he’s not a frickin’ robot.

                2. Daimbert says:

                  You run the risk, though, of simply defining the Jedi as being reasonable even though in the movies and prequels they weren’t really all that reasonable about emotion, and thus leaving no room for other interpretations. After all, if you define the Jedi as not being ruled by their emotions then the Sith, opposing them, would have to be, and the Sith don’t see it that way. So again a Grey Jedi could argue that the Jedi see emotions solely as an impediment that we might need to suffer at times just to remain sentients, the Sith see emotions as the perfect tool for their aims, while the Grey Jedi see them as nothing of the sort, but just as something that exists in the world that we have to deal with. To use an analogy with fire, the Jedi see it as a necessary evil that we must be wary of, the Sith see it as the solution to all their problems, and the Grey Jedi see it as a thing in the world with good and bad aspects that we need to manage properly. And the Grey Jedi, to extend the analogy, could argue that sometimes we need to use fire to burn things down and that’s okay, but that that probably shouldn’t be our first plan. This would allow the Grey Jedi to, say, use Dark Side powers or emotions at times without fearing that they will lose themselves to the Dark Side.

                  And the reply from the Jedi could be that they’re naive to think that you can just dabble in those dark aspects, and that if you justify using them you will keep justifying it until you are lost. And the Sith can reply that the Grey Jedi deliberately weaken themselves for an obscure philosophical point, squandering their potential. Done properly, this could be an interesting debate where it isn’t clear who is right and who is wrong, or perhaps that they are ALL right in a way.

                  1. SidheKnight says:

                    I wish I could upvote your comment. That’s a very good take!

                    1. Daimbert says:

                      Syal,

                      Things can be more nuanced than that, though. Take Yoda’s line of “Once you start down the dark path, it will always dominate your destiny”. The immediate response the Jedi can make to a Grey Jedi is that just because it hasn’t made you a monster doesn’t mean that you haven’t fallen. To hold that line is to again make it so that Sith cannot be Enlightened Egoists or ever work together or not simply destroy and torture people and so can’t work for ends, which is far more shallow a representation of the Sith than we should want.

                      The overall goal for this would be a philosophical exploration, not a conclusion. We don’t want to make the Grey Jedi necessarily RIGHT. We just want to make them REASONABLE, in the sense they can validly criticize both sides for being excessively rigid in their beliefs and rejection of the methods and ideals of the other side. One thing that was often nice in the EU was the ability to explore other conceptions of the Force than the rigid and simplistic “Light vs Dark” mindset, which can be seen as either something developed because of the conflict between the two sides that is limited, or as what both sides learned after hard experience.

                  2. Syal says:

                    This would allow the Grey Jedi to, say, use Dark Side powers or emotions at times without fearing that they will lose themselves to the Dark Side.

                    Which immasculates the Jedi as a concept. If actively using the Dark Side doesn’t lead to the Dark Side then they’re all a bunch of stick-in-the-mud wolfcriers and the Grey Jedi become the Good Guys.

                    If the Grey Jedi are fine for long enough to be worth replying to, the whole concept is broken.

                    1. Thomas says:

                      I’m fine with Grey Jedi as long as they actually are on one side of the other of the Dark / Light dichotomy and just say/ believe that they’re grey.

                      It’s clear (as the case was made above) that there’s a lot of room for doctrinal disagreement on the light side. Perhaps Yoda was wrong and Luke was right. And so you can have a character who thinks of themself as grey but is really firmly a lightside user but holds unorthdox views for a Jedi (i.e. Jolee Bindo whose ‘greyness’ goes as far as “being a bit grumpy” whilst very clearly having a strong light-side moral centre), Or you could have a character, a fallen Jedi, who believes that they’re not a Sith but very obviously are (Kreia).

                      It’s just when you have a force user actually crossing the boundaries of dark and light that the whole concept falls down.

                    2. Shamus says:

                      I’d like the idea of a force-user that goes around rationalizing his destructive behavior as “I’m just a Grey Jedi”. He’s actually a Sith, but he thinks that being self-serving rather than Empire-serving makes him somehow better.

                      Man, there are so many great SW stories you could tell, but so many writers want to make their story about the mechanics of the force and not about the personalities of the characters.

                    3. BlueHorus says:

                      If the Grey Jedi are fine for long enough to be worth replying to, the whole concept is broken.

                      Which is fine by me, honestly. Why? Because

                      so many writers want to make their story about the mechanics of the force and not about the personalities of the characters.

                      This, so much. Forget the Jedi, forget the Sith, hell, forget the Grey Jedi too. The force works best when it’s a metaphor for emotional conflict within a story; if the Light Side vs the Dark Side works, great.
                      (And it might, because it’s a take on the universal ‘power corrupts’ story…)
                      But if there’s a different metaphor that works better, use that instead.
                      Being shackled to one interpretation of the Force leads to, say, writers of Star Wars films rehashing the stories of previous films, or reviving villains from old films because they can’t think of anything better.

                      A ‘Grey Jedi’ could be a great story, about someone trying to balance having friends and family he loves with a position of authority and power. Can I force choke this guy even after he attacked my mother? What if no-one sees? And so on.

                    4. Syal says:

                      Going to try to respond to Daimbert and BlueHorus at the same time.

                      A ‘Grey Jedi’ could be a great story, about someone trying to balance having friends and family he loves with a position of authority and power.

                      I don’t see why you need a Grey Jedi for that story instead of an ordinary Jedi. That sounds like Lando Calrissian with Force powers.

                      The immediate response the Jedi can make to a Grey Jedi is that just because it hasn’t made you a monster doesn’t mean that you haven’t fallen.

                      As long as the Greys are antagonists this can work. The second they do something heroic it becomes the old superhero facepalm of “I don’t kill people, I let my friends do it for me.” (Assuming this is actually Grey, and not Off-White like Luke. An anti-council sect of Jedi is fine, a Using The Dark Side sect is not.)

                      We probably need to define what ‘Grey’ actually means here, but I’m trying to think of what Darth Vader did that was actually Full Evil*. (Did he blow up Alderaan, or was that Tarkin?) He’s the bar for Full Dark Side that the Greys have to fall below, and there’s not much there.

                      But if there’s a different metaphor that works better, use that instead.

                      It’s not working better if it’s trivializing the conflicts that came before it, especially if previous conflicts were on a larger scale. You could write a Lord of the Rings story about a king in the Southern kingdoms who found one of the Seven Dwarven rings, but if he uses it willy-nilly and it works out the way he wants it to, you’ve poisoned the central conflict. It’s no longer about morality, it’s about these nine guys and this one hobbit struggling to do what a better person could do effortlessly, where Gandalf was wrong and Boromir was right.

                      You can always put a story in a different universe. Call it Space Conflict, or Interstellar Battles, or Start Warts, and tell whatever story you want. Like with Watchmen, or The Boys. But don’t integrate them with the main stuff.

                      Being shackled to one interpretation of the Force leads to, say, writers of Star Wars films rehashing the stories of previous films, or reviving villains from old films because they can’t think of anything better.

                      The Dune series does both of those without being shackled to any philosophy in particular. It’s lazy writing, not setting restrictions. See also, Spiderman: One More Day.

                      *(Darth Vader, not Anakin. He was The Dark Side without the prequels.)

                    5. Daimbert says:

                      Syal,

                      As long as the Greys are antagonists this can work.

                      I’m not sure I’d go that far, but I do agree that it would be difficult to make them protagonists. The reason is that the natural character arcs are either that the Grey Jedi learns that their approach is wrong and returns to the Light, or else are proven to be correct that the Force is Grey. Neither works that well in the context of Star Wars. And if you were going to start them as a Villain Protagonist to explore those issues, you might as well use a Sith. It’s hard to come up with a good character arc for a Grey Jedi protagonist that doesn’t do what you fear it will do to the Jedi, or else makes the philosophical challenge meaningless (which, again, is what i think Grey Jedi are best for).

                      The second they do something heroic it becomes the old superhero facepalm of “I don’t kill people, I let my friends do it for me.”

                      I really don’t see how this follows. A Grey Jedi who believes that there is no Light or Dark Side of the Force but only the Force is the equivalent of a Neutral character in D&D. Sometimes they act in ways that align with the Jedi and sometimes they act in ways that align more with the Sith, because they reject that distinction. Again, the issue here is that you are basically saying that either you’re a Jedi or you’re a monster. Even Sith can do “heroic” things with the proper justification.

                      We probably need to define what ‘Grey’ actually means here, but I’m trying to think of what Darth Vader did that was actually Full Evil*. (Did he blow up Alderaan, or was that Tarkin?) He’s the bar for Full Dark Side that the Greys have to fall below, and there’s not much there.

                      In his introduction, he interrogated the Captain of the ship by lifting him up and choking him, snapped his neck when he didn’t get the answers he wanted, and clearly expressed that he did that out of anger in his orders after that. When the one Imperial officer on the Death Star questions the Force, he chokes him and likely would have killed him just for that if Tarkin hadn’t stopped him. He tortures Leia for information with no qualms. He continually breaks his word to Lando and it seems like he had no intention of ever keeping it (which may seem like “Arson, Murder and Jaywalking”). It’s clear that he’s ruled by his emotions and mostly the darker ones, especially anger. A Grey Jedi might be willing to torture someone for information, but only if necessary. A Jedi could never do that without risking falling, and a Sith would do it if it was the more convenient option to get them what they wanted. That’s the real distinction there, in that the Jedi will shun darker options and the Sith will have no qualms about them, while a Grey Jedi will be guided entirely by their own conscience about those things.

                      Again, Grey Jedi work as a philosophical examination, asking to what degree the Jedi and Sith are overly rigid and if there is room for a more nuanced view of the Force. Or not.

                      It’s not working better if it’s trivializing the conflicts that came before it, especially if previous conflicts were on a larger scale. You could write a Lord of the Rings story about a king in the Southern kingdoms who found one of the Seven Dwarven rings, but if he uses it willy-nilly and it works out the way he wants it to, you’ve poisoned the central conflict.

                      But only because you’ve given a clear answer, that the things CAN be used and so the original conflict was meaningless. The Grey Jedi, if used properly, should always leave doubt in the minds of the audience about whether they are merely deluding themselves into thinking they’ve found a third way for the Force. Grey Jedi should raise questions, not answers.

                      Even in your example, if the king isn’t the protagonist, we can show him using the ring and SEEMING to have escaped corruption, but then show him doing things that the protagonists find questionable and then leave the question in the minds of the audience about whether he really has managed to use it safely, or if he’s just managing to control the expression of that corruption enough to be more heroic than you’d expect, but that he is corrupt and will eventually won’t be able to control it anymore.

                      I think that different Force traditions are best used to question the traditions of the Jedi and the Sith so that they can be explored. Which is what a lot of the new ones in the EU did.

                    6. BlueHorus says:

                      Reply to Syal:

                      I guess it depends on what you want from a Star Wars story; I get the impression that we disagree on what makes a story ‘Star Wars’. To me, it doesn’t have to be a ‘good vs evil’ story to qualify. And I really think that the newest films suffer from being shackled to the original ideas.
                      You can call it lazy writing – and it is – but, also, saying ‘It’s got to have X in it to be Star Wars!’ will actively encourage writers to stick to the same old tropes. More Death Stars. More Skywalker family. More cartoonishly evil empires. Cameos by old characters. And so on.

                      I mean, I would have loved to check out Solo: A Wacky Space Heist Comedy Set In The Star Wars Universe, but apparently that was a risk, and when it became clear that it was going to be Solo: A Star Wars Story, nice and safe, I lost interest.

                      The idea of a ‘Grey Jedi’ is appealing to me precisely because it’s not the same old Light Side-Dark Side dynamic. There’s so many ways that you could have that kind of different character in a Star Wars movie. I mean, the word ‘grey’ is kind of synonymous with ‘multiple possible interpretations*’.

                      *At least 50, hoho!

                    7. Geebs says:

                      @BlueHorus

                      But, that doesn’t get past the point that Grey Jedi are based on a mis-reading of what the Light/Dark dynamic actually is. Obi-Wan sees things “from a certain point of view”. Yoda steals people’s sausages. Mace Windu holds people hostage in front of their own Mini-me. Luke breaks stuff, openly threatens giant space slugs, gets really awkward boners, and dresses up as a Jedi Master every day, on the off chance that somebody might come by who he can then mock for assuming that he’s a Jedi Master, even though he gave all that up a decade ago*.

                      The light side isn’t about picking obvious dialogue choices and standing up really straight until light literally shines out of your butt, at any point in the OT. It’s about trying to be generally on the side of good. The OT was exciting because it was dirty and messy and often morally ambiguous. Grey Jedi owe their existence to a moral dichotomy which only came about because some writers didn’t understand the source material.

                      * Okay, forget that last one. That one really doesn’t make any sense.

                    8. Syal says:

                      @BlueHorus

                      I think we’re mostly arguing definitions. “Grey” to me doesn’t mean “multiple possible interpretations” when it’s between “Light” and “Dark”, it means “The halfway point between White and Black”.

                      TFA definitely suffers from safety. RoS suffers from writing to the point I can’t tell if it also suffers from safety. I thought Rogue One added some nice moral dubiousness among the Rebels. Never watched Solo, because… eh.

                      I know Shamus doesn’t want to talk about TLJ yet, but the many (many) flaws aside I thought that movie found a really solid inside-the-box twist on the formula, basically “What if the Force wasn’t with the heroes this time”. That’s a twist that makes future conflicts more complex while leaving the previous conflicts as they are.

                    9. BlueHorus says:

                      @ Syal: Oh, sure. We’re not just arguing definitions; it’s personal preferences as well ;D

                      …that said, it’s labels too. For instance: ‘Jedi’. What makes one? Can you be a Jedi if you’re generally nice but aren’t part of an order of Jedi Knights? If you’re just some hermit who wants nothing to do with peacekeeping or whatever wars are happening?

                      It also applies to the other side: what makes a Sith? Are they incapable of doing good ever? Would doing a good act make them a Jedi, at least temporarily? Are the colour-coded swords and robes mandatory?
                      (We’ve all got answers to these, but this thread is already pretty stuffed. And that’s besides the point, because…)

                      …what makes Grey Jedi interesting to me (having never read a EU book ever) is that it’s is clearly and effort to be different. Someone cared enough to try and redefine one of the core concepts of Star Wars.
                      And it might not end up all that different, fundamentally, from what came before…
                      …but one of Ben Kenobi’s points in A New Hope is – as I remember it, can’t recall the exact line – that if you look at something in a different way, the thing itself changes.

                  3. The Puzzler says:

                    I’ve often thought ‘character ruled by emotions’ versus ‘character who suppresses their own emotions’ is a common duality in genre fiction. The Pirate and the Ninja. The Wookie and the Jedi. The Klingon and the Vulcan. The dwarf and the elf. The sexy werewolf and the sexy vampire. Etc.

                3. Moridin says:

                  I think the idea of Grey Jedi could work, just so long as you make it clear that they’re trying to balance on a knife’s edge and one mistake could see them fall on either side.

                4. MerryWeathers says:

                  I know one interpretation of the main hexalogy is that the Jedi’s rejection of emotion leads to their downfall and it’s Luke’s embracing of emotion (against Yoda’s instruction) that eventually saves them.

                  The Jedi rejected forming attachments, not emotions. The main dilemma in ROTJ was whether or not Vader could even be redeemed at that point, as he had been in the dark side for over two decades and committed countless atrocities, not necessarily because Luke was embracing emotion.

            2. Daniel says:

              Soon we’ll be getting pink Jedi

              How far off from Super Sentai are we exactly?

          2. Joe Informatico says:

            I always remember the advice in the original West End Games Star Wars tabletop RPG for writing Star Wars: All neutrals in Star Wars end up picking a side. They either side with the good guys (Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, the Ewoks) or the bad guys (Boba Fett, DJ). They might have different reasons for picking a side, but they all pick a side. Even in The Mandalorian, which gets into the grittier gutters and underworlds of the Star Wars galaxy and doesn’t shy away from tarnishing the Alliance/New Republic or humanizing Imperials just a bit, by the end of the first season every other character’s decided if they’re actively helping the title character and his charge or trying to capture/kill them.

        3. Philadelphus says:

          I think the game ultimately makes it clear that the Jedi council let the Exile believe that they (the council) cut them (the Exile) off from the Force, but that it was actually the Exile’s own unconscious action that caused it (in reflexive self defense to avoid dying in the…Force backlash?…from the deaths of so many people they had formed Force bonds with at Malachor [which they apparently just have an unusual aptitude for forming, it’s consistently presented as a highly non-standard ability {as befits a game protagonist, I suppose}]). But then at the end they (the council) are prepared to actually cut off the connection to the Force of the Exile, so it’s clearly something they can do.

          Given that Darth Nihilus basically is a Force vampire, and has been wiping out Jedi and all life in his vicinity for some years now, the hypothesis that the Exile also one is at least plausible from the masters’ perspective, if a bit silly. I absolutely won’t argue, however, that any of this is in any way hinted at in the depictions of the Force in the original trilogy, though The Last Jedi did bring Force bonds like the Exile-Kreia one into the movie canon…

        4. Thomas says:

          “Because [he was] afraid” isn’t canon, that’s just what Kreia, the unreliable antagonist, says. I feel the game makes it clear it’s some form of deep trauma from directly experiencing the suffering of so many people through the force.

          Given how much you hate Kreia, you take her words at face value a lot more than I do. Or maybe that’s the difference, because I hate her too, but I get the impression that you see her as an author insert who is always right even though they shouldn’t be.

          I always saw her as an unreliable narrator whose words just showed her delusion and malice. I felt the game forced you to be exposed to her ideas, but was happy for you to take them and reject them.

          1. John says:

            It’s true that I hate Kreia, but my problem in this case isn’t with her or what she said. (Strange, I know.) It’s with the other stuff, with the idea that the Jedi council can cut someone off from the Force and with the idea of, ugh, Force vampires. For the sake of my own sanity and everyone else’s, I am not going to get started on Kreia again. Please don’t tempt me.

            1. Sartharina says:

              I always saw the event of Malachor as a horrific trauma to the force and everyone around. The “Force Vampire” made more sense than people being able to voluntarily cut themselves off from the force, and in KOTOR2, the Jedi Council made it out to be something hard and not-exactly-good to do, like an emergency-only thing, due to how all-encompassing the force was supposed to be. It’s not supposed to be something you can just easily cut yourself off from.

        5. FluffySquirrel says:

          There was no disconnect and two different points there.. the idea that the jedi council cut you off was a lie is all. Kreia lies. The Exile cut themselves off

        6. ElementalAlchemist says:

          When the Mass Shadow Generator was detonated at the battle of Malachor V, the overwhelming experience of feeling the tens of thousands of simultaneous deaths around the Exile would have essentially killed them. The Exile cut themselves off as an instinctual self-defence mechanism.

          1. Corsair says:

            It isn’t the death. Millions of deaths generally aren’t enough – you don’t see Vader losing his shit over blowing up Alderaan, or Luke cutting himself off after either Death Star blew. The issue was that the Exile had an instinctive knack for creating bonds through the Force, and when the Mass Shadow Generator hundreds, maybe thousands of people the Exile had bonds with died simultaneously. -That- was what turned Exile into a force abomination.

    2. Asdasd says:

      This one’s easy. You just include a section where you go to the force hospital for a scan and it turns out you need a midichlorian transfusion. It can even be a plot point that you need to find a suitable donor, or go on a quest for like, a really expensive pot of probiotic yoghurt.

      1. Christopher Dwight Wolf says:

        As far as I know paper technology is not found in Star Wars. How can we know for certain they have yogurt?

        1. Syal says:

          We do know they have ice cream.

    3. Daimbert says:

      I’ve always pretty much just interpreted that as “I am damaged in such a way that I can’t connect to the Force as well as I used to, but I have no idea why that is”. I’m re-reading the Darth Bane books and this pretty much happens to him in the first one: he wins a fight and starts to lose his connection to the Force, leaving him unable to do the things he had been able to easily do before. Ultimately, the cause was his being afraid of what actions his anger — which he used to power his Force abilities — drove him to do, but before figuring that out talking about his connection to the Force being damaged is a pretty good shorthand for “I can’t feel or use the Force like I used to, and don’t know why”.

    4. ccesarano says:

      As a spiritual/religious person, I feel like maybe it’s the wording that’s the problem. If you got a lot of inner turmoil and conflict in your life it can be difficult to feel the emotional/spiritual connection to your God, make it difficult to think and concentrate, so on and so forth.

      I can understand something similar being the case with the Force, which is originally presented as a spiritual thing. So Cere would be like someone that just can’t crack open their Bible or step foot in a Church again, or refuses to even pray. There is no more communication with their God. For them it’s a choice, whereas for Cal it would be like cracking open the Bible and just struggling with the contents within until understand and reconnection is established.

      That’s the best I can describe it, but the descriptions used in the game are such that I don’t think it works so well. Wouldn’t surprise me if it was written by someone that’s not at all religious and thus is applying more grounded, physical terminology to try and make it sound like a medical problem when it would really be a spiritual one.

      1. John says:

        Yeah, it could just be an issue of the wording. I haven’t played the game and I have no idea how it all eventually gets explained. If it does ultimately turn out to be some sort of mental hangup, then I guess that’s fine. I’m starting to think that a lot of my problems with Star Wars spinoffs are due to their tendency to use jargon when plain speech would be clearer (and, in many cases, just as convenient).

    5. Gethsemani says:

      My headcanon (useless as it is) is that one’s connection to the force can be damaged if you lose your emotional stability. Since all force use is more or less concentration based and meditation is a big part of it, it would make sense that someone who has “lost their center” would also be impaired in their use of the force. This does seem to be the case with Cal, since he lost most of his abilities when his mentor was killed.

      That does nothing to explain all the characters who seem perfectly fine but has cut themselves off voluntarily and somehow just can’t take a seat, relax a few hours and reconnect. Which, as you say, makes it feel more as if they cancelled their 5G subscription then as if they are failing to get in touch with some ubiquitous force that is everywhere, always.

    6. Syal says:

      They slept on the Force wrong and now it’s numb.

  5. Asdasd says:

    I must admit I’d never have expected to see Shamus advocate for more Navis in gaming!

    1. SupahEwok says:

      Hey! Listen!

    2. Henson says:

      Watch out…

    3. BlueHorus says:

      Navi’s a great idea in principle; just hamstrung by that terrible choice to make her bother the player over and over with the same bullshit prompt.

      BD-1 sound a lot like a quieter, better-thought-out Navi.

      (Alos, you used the wrong link for the proper Navi experience

      1. Asdasd says:

        The Zelda series has tried it a few times.

        Midna was a much better Navi than Navi.
        Fi was a much worse Navi than Navi (although she would have been fine if she had waited to be asked for help, instead of solving every puzzle for you unsolicited).
        Breath of the Wild abandoned the concept completely, which made for a markedly lonelier experience.

        Interestingly, in both series the conversation is one-sided. It’s the main character who talks here, whereas Link is always a silent protagonist (well excUUUUUSE MEs notwithstanding). You’d think in terms of characterisation, dialogue would be a huge boon. But maybe it creates too much of an expectation to have the characters be talking to each other all the time.

        1. Addie says:

          There’s a 97% chance that you need to be told what being low on health means every time you start the game, as well. As you say, Skyward Sword assumes that that you can’t hold a thought in your head for ten minutes at a time, and are completely incapable of making any kind of creative leap on your own accord. Which is kind of odd, since most Zeldas are kind of reasonable about letting you do your own thing once the tutorials are out of the way.

          There’s already a much better Navi than Navi, and that’s Tatl out of Majora’s. Doesn’t take much to make a better companion.

  6. MerryWeathers says:

    Still, this is the first time I’ve recognized two different 3D characters as belonging to the same (unknown, to me) actor. That’s an interesting development. I imagine that eventually this sort of thing will be commonplace.

    In the case for Star Wars, the purpose is to make it easier for the character to appear in a movie or live action TV show just in case. They even do this for the cartoon shows, some characters are modeled after their voice actors. Instead of having to find a new actor to cast for the character, they can just have the motion capture performer/voice actor reprise their role.

    1. ccesarano says:

      Interesting. I was thinking about how I’ve seen film and television actors/actresses used for their likeness, but not often do you see it with voice actors (Death Stranding’s actual inclusion of Troy Baker’s face notwithstanding). So seeing those screenshots side-by-side threw me for a loop since I don’t recognize Debra Wilson from anything. It’s not like seeing Jean Reno in Onimusha 3, where they’re trying to use Hollywood star power as a marketing gimmick for the game. Perhaps Debra Wilson does have television/film roles I’ve not been exposed to, but here it’s feeling jarring since Jedi Fallen Order is my first time seeing her.

      I can’t help but feel some lament in that regard. I like the approach God of War 2018 took, where I know Christopher Judge from Stargate SG-1 but Kratos remains Kratos. Character designers are allowed freedom to create unique, stand-out characters.

      At the same time, by using real people as models you get to avoid some of the more standardized/idealized faces and are able to have minor differences and flaws that rarely come about in original illustrations. Heck, everyone was complaining about Cal as some generic white dude when he first premiered, but nothing about him had that stern jaw Nathan Drake look to me. He looked like a guy. I thought that was pretty nice (even though I’m completely aware others wanted more from their diversity than “Different kind of white guy than Nathan Drake or Marcus Fenix” (and no that’s not me complaining about other people let’s not rabbit hole this please please please please please)).

      1. Eric says:

        Debra Wilson has had a long career prior to voice acting. Most notable to me, she was one of the principal cast on MadTV way back when.

      2. Thomas says:

        Maybe it’s fairer to say that Cal is a non-generic genric looking protagonist then! I agree he looks different to a lot of game protagonists. He also looks like a person you might see working at a checkout and will tell you all about Norwich City.

      3. Syal says:

        but not often do you see it with voice actors

        It seems to be getting more common. Yakuza 0 used the real faces of its voice actors for most of the characters, and Horizon: Zero Dawn had Lance Reddick’s face for Sylens so I assume the others were real folk as well.

  7. GargamelLeNoir says:

    Was the “It’s time to open up a can of whoopass, but I’m all out of whoopass.” being repeated twice on purpose? If it’s a joke I didn’t get it :S

    1. Shamus says:

      Nope. Just sloppy copy/paste. Fixed.

      1. Baron Tanks says:

        Awww, I was hoping this was to be a recurring joke, some kind of lampshade of, in this scene this guy* has no personality other than generic videogame protagonist and no sense of what’s appropriate to say in mundane human** interaction.

        *and/or the writer
        **sentient? Obviously I used human here colloquially, not referring to species :P

  8. Melfina the Blue says:

    Miniature Giant Space Hamsters! Come on, it’s a perfect solution. Though sadly I doubt none of them will be as awesome as Boo.

    (Also, man, that You Must Gather Your Party message still has the power to raise my blood pressure and I haven’t played any of those games in like 10 years. It’s almost enough to make me want to play them solo, but then I’d miss all the dialogue with Boo…)

    1. Vukodlak says:

      I always assumed that there would have been a quest where someone kidnaps Boo and we have to get him back. Your comment made me realize that the opposite would be much better – we need a module where Minsc is kidnapped and Boo comes to the players for help. Ass kicking for goodness!!

  9. Philadelphus says:

    Also, having a side-kick character who doesn’t speak English allows you get away with some great writing (though I suppose it also raises the stakes for failure a lot higher too) by allowing the audience to imagine what they’re saying based on the responses the intelligible character gives.

    I actually quite like T3-M4 in KotOR II for this reason. Sure he’s not the most talkative or even interesting character, but I loved talking to him and figuring out what he said based on the various replies I could make. It’s smoke and mirrors in a way, but I still love it if it’s done well.

  10. Geebs says:

    We managed to have a fight that didn’t force me to win in combat just so it could turn around and force me to lose in a cutscene

    I just got done with playing through Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (two weeks stuck in quarantine on my own, due to travel) and that game really is the Ur-example of this problem. I’m pretty sure every single boss battle apart from the very last one in the game results in the player losing in a cutscene and having to put up with ten minutes of getting mocked by the guy that they just beat. To add insult to injury, I think I overkilled literally every last one of them. It goes from demoralising to annoying to just bizarre.

  11. Joshua says:

    “Did the designer make the young version of Call look too young, or does the actor look too old to play a 15 year old? Or did they not work out the timeline until after the models were done and it was too late to change? I don’t know. I’ll do my best to not think about it.”

    Maybe it’s a callback to how ret-conning Darth Vader to be ~18 year-old Luke’s father screws with the timeline to make it a little too short? :)

    “Or the game designer can go the other direction and have the enemies inexplicably ignore your friend”

    This is kind of how I handle NPC tag-alongs and absent players in tabletop D&D, except that they are described as having their own foes that just aren’t on the map. “You guys see the 8 goblins here, and Calgon the Aromatic is fighting an additional 2 over there, just outside where any AoE spells can affect them”. This is also how Lord of the Rings Online handles a lot of combat, especially when you get into the later large battles. There are hundreds of orcs fighting hundreds of allies, but only a few of them are interactable. However, harder to do when it’s just a few enemies and they and your sidekick are all fighting in your space.

    1. Daimbert says:

      Shamus made fun of the LotRO solution in Lulzy’s story, as the big and powerful ranger gets caught up fighting with — and not killing — a couple of rats while the small hobbit takes on the main boss …

      1. Joshua says:

        That’s a problem with the implementation of the concept, not the concept itself. Also, I think he also pointed out the absurdity of two Blackwold Bandits assisting the Nazgul which seems worse. :)

        The reverse can be bad too. D&D’s Waterdeep: Dragon Heist module (in which I apparently am in the minority for disliking) has the adventure start with the PCs in a tavern and a Troll and a few Stirges pop out and attack. The bartender challenges the troll, while the PC group gets to take on the Stirges. Go mighty heroes!

        1. Crimsondragoon says:

          Haven’t actually read through Dragon Heist, but I’m guessing that tavern is the Yawning Portal. That’s a fairly well established spot in the setting and the bartender is supposed to be this former big-named adventurer, so that encounter makes sense as a bit of lore-building and fanservice.

          1. Nimrandir says:

            Yeah, I was wondering if Durnan is the bartender in question. He’s probably not going to offload a troll fight on player characters. I’d argue the author and GM need to build that up for the players if they aren’t already familiar with the Forgotten Realms setting.

            1. Joshua says:

              Yep, that’s the one. When I ran it, I believe I adjusted the combat so that the PCs could get involved in some way. I can’t remember if I added a second (nerfed) troll or what, but the PCs got to do a little bit more than just fight stirges.

    2. John says:

      Nah, my guess is that old Cal is too old because the character designers used TV teenagers for reference and TV teenagers are all played by twenty-somethings.

      1. Syal says:

        Cal grew up all at once, just like Edward Bloom.

      2. ElementalAlchemist says:

        Cal went to the same high school as those 90210 “kids”.

  12. eldomtom2 says:

    Sure, we can do a little of this by having someone call you on the radio as in Tomb Raider and Batman Arkham games. That’s better than nothing, but radio is a little impersonal because we can’t see our radio buddy emote during emotional conversations.

    Arkham Knight did try to solve this problem by having Batman bring up a visual feed every time it wouldn’t directly interrupt gameplay. Personally I found it annoying – I can’t wander around and look at the scenery and these sorts of conversations are never going to have attention lavished onto their animations.

  13. Thomas says:

    Never use specific dates in your science fiction! It always comes back to haunt the authors. (It’s gone 2019, where are my flying cars and andorids Blade Runner?)

    1. Erik says:

      Meh. We had breakthroughs in computer tech instead of anti-gravity tech, so we have self-driving ground cars instead of human-piloted flying cars.

      I think we’ll get a lot lower accident death rate from our actual future than any flying car future. Man, people around here can’t drive in 2 dimensions, I’d hate to see them try to do it in 3. You think the problem of people running into your parked car is bad, wait for people crashing into your parked house at flight speed.

    2. Supah Ewok says:

      Autonomous flying taxis are actually in the latter stages of development: here’s an example.

      1. Drathnoxis says:

        That’s not a taxi at all! One it’s not yellow. Two it’s not in the shape of a car. And 3, it’s some sort of helicopter thing and doesn’t have flames shooting out of where the wheels should be.

        Doesn’t count.

      2. Echo Tango says:

        Aaarrrg! That thing is a helicopter! There’s nothing inherently wrong with a helicopter, but the marketing material makes it seem like it’s an eco-friendly, when helicopters actually use more fuel than winged aircraft. I don’t mind their multi-prop airplane, which they linked at the bottom of the page. :)

        1. Supah Ewok says:

          Both of these designs are only test prototypes, not finalized production designs. In general, rotary wing certainly uses more energy than fixed wing aircraft, but rotary winged can stop and hover, and have superior turning ability. When you’re talking about urban air transit, those things matter, like a ton. You wouldn’t want to be using a fixed-wing aircraft to fly in-between buildings.

          The multi-prop plane is a tilt-wing design, with the propellers tilted up for takeoff and landing, and tilted down into a fixed-wing configuration for cruise. A variable design inherently is riskier because the increase in operational complexity leaves more room for mechanical failure, which would be catastrophic for the project’s purpose of urban transport. This specific design only features space for a single passenger, as opposed to the rotary wing’s 4 passenger design.

          Lastly, the only claim made in regards to environmental impact is that both designs are “emissions free”, which is certainly an important point given that many aircraft in that weight class and even below it are still gasoline engines. The tilt-wing’s battery has a capacity of 38 kWh, as opposed to the rotary wing’s 110 kWh. Although these limits should NEVER be tested in a non-test flight, and disregarding that the tilt-wing likely has a greater range per flight, should each flight use power up to the limits of their battery, at max passenger capacity the rotary-wing design actually comes out more energy efficient in terms of power-expended-per-passenger-transported.

          Tl;dr it’s a lot more complex than “rotary wing uses more juice.”

  14. zackoid says:

    I suppose it’s not the time to ask, but does BD-1 end up being the savior of the entire light side despite being tiny?

    Because the impression I get from Star Wars media, especially anything Dave Filoni is involved in, is that the light side’s only and overwhelming advantage is that the dark side completely ignores the capabilities of, has no security protocols for, and under-utilizes their droids.

    1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

      Especially weird since Destroy Droid is a light side power!

      1. Daimbert says:

        Well, if you make droids that are actually competent, you have to plan to be prepared to face competent droids, assuming that the ones you meet will be just as competent as yours. The fact that they aren’t just means that you have to use less Force power to kill them [grin].

        (On the other hand, it could be argued that the Sith are just being more efficient, since Force Lightning works equally well on people and droids, and know that droids aren’t any better than people and so don’t bother relying on them [grin])

  15. Steve C says:

    I would not characterize Yorda as infamously burdensome. HAWP’s take is legitimately funny. But I would not say it is true. Yorda and Ico had legitimately one of the most touching and emotional impactful relationships in gaming. It’s the high bar example of doing a sidekick right. Then they successfully copied it with the horse in Shadow of Colossus. Those are not examples of doing it wrong. No game relationship has ever worked as well as Yorda and Ico. At least for me.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Each to their own; I hated Yorda and once I realized that the entire game was going to be trying to herd her, I gave up entirely.
      Man, I swear she was TRYING to get herself killed.

    2. PowerGrout says:

      Yeah, ‘infamously burdernsome’ here is steering dangerous close to ‘bad take’ and I’d go further again to says HAWP’s use of present day mores to slight Fumito Ueda as being a Bad designer were pretty grating at best.

      1. Shamus says:

        For clarity: I’ve never ACTUALLY played ICO. I was just reaching for the most notorious example of an escort quest. I really thought this was the Ur example of it. Every time ICO comes up, there’s always someone with “LOL escort quest” and until this thread I never saw anyone defend the game. I’m happy to discover the game isn’t as bad as I’ve been led to believe.

        Having said that, it leaves me wondering: So what IS the worst / most burdensome sidekick in gaming? I don’t just mean annoying (Navi) but an active impediment in a mechanical sense.

        I want to say Sam from Tomb Raider, but her burden is entirely narrative-based. She’s a dumb helpless Lara fangirl with a boring personality. She’s basically a walking MacGuffin that screams “LARA!!!!” a lot.

        So who then? The president’s daughter in Resident Evil 4? Your friends in Daikatana? Perhaps Amy from Amy? I don’t know.

        1. Nimrandir says:

          I haven’t played many games whose core mechanic is NPC escort, but my personal worst would be Maurice Jondrelle from Skyrim. That guy’s pointless aggression not only got him killed repeatedly, but he somehow led my actual follower to her death on multiple occasions.

          The only saving grace is how scared modern Bethesda is of ever putting the player in a non-powertrip scenario, so his quest is readily solvable even if he decides to get into a three-way fistfight with a dragon and a giant.

          1. Syal says:

            …oh my god yes Skyrim has the worst sidekicks. I got some kind of bug where Victor from the Companions would trigger conversation all the time, forcing my character to stop and turn and talk to him. He would actively hinder my ability to move unless I Shouted him away or froze him. Nothing else even comes close to that.

        2. Christopher says:

          I feel like this might be a sign of the times. I haven’t done any research or anything, but I feel like there’s more tolerance for alternative game design now than there used to be when gaming was smaller. Some people might not enjoy it(I don’t mind Ashley in Resi 4 very much, but I can’t stand escorting Yorda at all), but if it’s justified within the themes or gameplay enough then some people are perfectly fine with it. That was probably the case back in the day too, but since the market was less split, you got people who don’t like that sort of thing trying it out and discovering their annoyance at it then and there.

          I partially went on that rant ’cause I can’t think of any escort NPCs more iconic than either of those off the top of my head. There’s no end to partner NPCs, but they’re usually a non-factor for gameplay these days. Many games have escort segments, but they’re only tiny bits of the whole compared to Asley and Yorda.

          I think you chose the right examples. Can’t think of any better, anyway. They’re both defensible – Yorda(and I’d say Trico) try to build a bond with the player buy making it unclear what is scripted and procedural, trying to make you think of them more like real people, immersing you, all that stuff. Ashley provides a lot of variety to the gameplay, giving you occasional segments where you have to defend her, play as her, support her etc, but also getting out of the way(hiding or being kidnapped) often enough that she’s not always a factor. But obviously both can be very annoying depending on how your brain works.

        3. Chad Miller says:

          I once saw a let’s play of the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog game where the player literally used a telekinetic ability to keep an escorted character from walking into missiles. And I don’t think you’ll find many people defending that game.

          1. Nimrandir says:

            Oh yeah — that reminded me of the final level of Psychonauts. I didn’t have too hard a time with its escort segment, but I recall people getting super salty about it back in the day. It was bad enough that “What’s up with Meat Circus?” was on the FAQ page of the Double Fine website.

          2. Karma The Alligator says:

            Goddammit Anna, stop trying to kill yourself! Yeah, Sonic 06’s AI is lower than a roomba’s.

  16. Parkhorse says:

    A tiny little space-chimp would work just as well.

    Kowakian monkey-lizard? I mean, okay…

  17. pseudonym says:

    There are unfortunately no movies in the star wars universe that give a good master/apprentice character development arc.
    New Hope: Ben and Luke, Ben dies at the end.
    Empire Strikes Back: Yoda and Luke, Luke leaves early.
    Return of the Jedi: Luke returns to Yoda. Who dies. The Emperor gets a more prominent role as Vader’s master. Also dies at the end.
    The Phantom Menace: Qui-Gonn Jin and Obi-Wan. Qui-Gon also wants to train Anakin. Then he dies. Also we are introduced to Darth Maul, apprentice of Darth Sidious. The apprentice dies.
    Attack of the Clones: we have missed most of Obi-Wans training of Anakin, because he is already a young adult. How it went is not brought up. Also their current relation is not the focus of the movie.
    Revenge of the Sith. Anakin is a knight, he is no longer a padawan. He thanks his master for his training, only to turn to the dark side two days later.
    The force awakans: no masters and apprentices as such. Decided not to watch the rest of the sequel trilogy after TFA.

    The animated series however are much better. I can really recommend Star Wars: Rebels. This is a long series that focuses on a small band of characters. As such these characters have arcs and their relationships develop . The master/apprentice arc is very good. The master is also constantly learning and developing, he is not a static pool of knowledge.

    Star Wars: the clone wars also does the Ahsoka-Anakin relation really well. As well as other relations. By the end of series 5 some regretful decisions are made and you can really feel and see the characters’ emotions. Best acting in the Star Wars universe.

  18. Christopher says:

    I would feel it unfair if I didn’t call out Cere’s gigantic googly eyes after the trash talk Cal gets for his ugly mug. I never noticed it on the Wolfenstein character’s model, but it sure was the first thing that stood out, literally, in whatever initial trailer she was in for Jedi.

    I think the partner dynamic is really convenient for games, too. This is one of those ways influences work in circles, but the first game I can think of with an action guy kinda player character and an assistant in a backpack is Banjo-Kazooie, with Banjo performing all these moves with Kazooie’s help. Then comes Ratchet & Clank, a next-gen 3d platformer based on Star Wars, in which the hero leaves his desert planet with the help of a tiny robot he straps to his back that helps him perform all his moves. And now a Star Wars game itself puts the little droid guy on the protag’s back. I would prefer if you could understand his speech and he had an interesting dynamic with Cal, but at least he doesn’t have an annoying personality instead.

    Cal’s actor is in his mid to late twenties. He looks too old because he is. It would be nice to have some actual teens playing teens. I dunno the logistics of teen facial capture, but I feel pretty confident you could at least model someone young-looking.

    1. baud says:

      I would feel it unfair if I didn’t call out Cere’s gigantic googly eyes after the trash talk Cal gets for his ugly mug. I never noticed it on the Wolfenstein character’s model

      Personally I just think Debra Wilson’s 3d model used in JFO is not as good as the one used in Wolfenstein and is not terribly good-looking (and is not as good-looking as the actressherself).

      Regarding Cal, I though it could have been nice if the dev had done the same thing as Jedi Academy, with choice of sex and character model at the start of the game, it’s too basic to be called character creation, but at least there’s a choice, including the race of the character.

    2. Olivier FAURE says:

      Oh shit, I didn’t notice the Ratchet and Clank parallel until you pointed it out.

  19. Jabrwock says:

    Personally I’d just make Cere older so that it’s clear she can’t do all of the platforming and parkour this particular adventure is going to require.

    The prequels kind of made it out that it’s not impossible for a physically weak Jedi to parkour, just that it’s mentally exhausting. Yoda could do all kinds of flips, but definitely needed a nap afterwards.

    There are instances in the “Legends” Expanded Universe (the ones they don’t count as Canon anymore so they don’t conflict with the “new” EU), where a Jedi could have their connection to the Force stripped away, either by other Force users, or through an experience similar to PTSD.

    There are also vows that are the equivalent to celibacy or silence, only you swear you’ll never use the Force again, maybe you lost control before and are afraid of losing it again, so it’s less a loss and more a personal choice.

  20. Paul Spooner says:

    I can’t wait for the next title “Starwars Pirate Hors D’oeuvres: Polly Wants a Cracker”

  21. That means that current-day Cal must be around 15. But there’s no way this guy is 15. He’s very clearly and obviously well into his 20s. You could argue that maybe young Cal is a little older than he looks and old Cal is a little younger than he looks, but no matter how much you stretch it, there’s just no way these two versions of the character are 5 years apart. Not even close.

    Ralph Macchio was 22 when they filmed the first Karate Kid. No reason to think that age road can’t go both ways.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I’ve met 19-year-olds (barely old enough to go to the bar) who looked like they were 21-25.

  22. evileeyore says:

    “Again, it’s weird that this hobby is 50 years old and so many games still struggle with this, but there it is.”

    Shamus I get that poking video games is your thing, but I must point out that writing is 3,000 years old and people still fail at that all the damn time.

    1. Gndwyn says:

      Yeah, but how often do you read a book and think, “FINALLY a book manages a satisfying version of a common storytelling problem that almost every other book I’ve read screws up”? What if you could only find three books that had figured out that showing was a more satisfying way to do characterization than telling?

      1. Retsam says:

        Honestly, if you regularly went through books with as fine toothed of a comb as the internet picks through other media, I have no doubts that you could unearth just as many complaints, and would have just as dour a view of written storytelling as one might have of movies and video games.

        After all, we shouldn’t make fun of Renowed author Dan Brown: even highly popular books can be filled with “basic writing mistakes”, to say nothing of stuff like research failure.

        If books are better for any reason, it’s likely just that there’s a lot more of them written and so there happens to be more “well-written books” than “well-written games”, but also there’s doubtless many more badly written books than badly written games, even discounting the realms of amateur writing available on the internet.

  23. Zak McKracken says:

    »I forgot to turn off stupid motion blur. That’s the feature that uses tons of processing power to make your game look worse by imitating the limitations of cinema. «

    Well actually … it’s only looking worse if the motion blur is longer than a frame. The classical thing where the blur length is half of the distance moved between two frames is not really making it worse, it actually helps “see” the trajectory of an object.

    Example:
    Make some big black space on your monitor (background, make a big rectangle in Gimp …whatever), and then move your mouse in circles within that space, really fast.
    Can you tell which way the mouse pointer is moving, based in what you see? Nope, it’s just some weird strobe effect where you see it appearing in seemingly random places along the path, but you can’t quite tell which one was first, so you can’t tell which way it’s moving. With motion blur, the pointer would be blurred in the direction of movement, and that would trace the path out for you nicely.

    Now, some might argue that that would make it harder to know where exactly the pointer is, but if you’re moving it fast enough to cause noticeable blur, then it’ll be hard to hit any particular pixel on the screen anyway … in fact, the distance between mouse pointer positions at to two consecutive frames, that’s the uncertainty you’ll have anyway, and the blur is only half that.

    Of course it would be _even_ better if you didn’t need this, and just had a high enough frame rate that nothing moved more than one or two pixels per frame. That way any motion blur would be what your eyes create themselves, as they to in real life. However, the frame rate is limited by your graphics card and monitor. I’m sure that computing motion blur is reducing the frame rate somewhat (though certainly not halving it?), and it can make screenshots look worse (unless you want viewers to see that there’s motion in the scene, in which case it’s an improvement), but I don’t quite see it as an annoyance. In most motion-blurred scenes I’ve seen, it makes the motion look smoother, and is not really noticeable unless look for it, sometimes only after you slow the video down.

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *