Stolen Pixels #134: The Devil in the Details

By Shamus
on Oct 16, 2009
Filed under:
Column

People chided me for my rant on the abysmal story in Champions Online. Shamus! This is an MMO! It’s not supposed to be about the story! After all, how bad can it be, really?

This bad.

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1818 comments. (18 is the only non-zero number that equals twice the sum of its decimal digits.)

From the Archives:

  1. Stringycustard says:

    I’m assuming the scriptwriters weren’t paid or one of those “my 14 year old son/niece/person-to-whom-I-am-obligated loves superheroes and so I’ve let them do the entire script” sort of moments occurred.

    Your highlighted example is a fairly atrocious story. Was quality control skipped or handed out to illiterate testers?

  2. Drew says:

    What’s funny is, with just the barest effort, the story could be a lot more believable. For example, let’s say instead of data, they had stolen parts that would be used for these crazy goggles, and the parts were prototypes that would take months to reproduce. Now let’s say instead of armored guys standing around in a parking lot, that they’re unloading the truck of stolen goods into some kind of secret warehouse. The encounter can still take place in a parking lot in a residential district, but now at least it’s not just random conspicuous guys guarding crates of data, it’s villains caught in the act of unloading stolen parts. And all you need to do is put a truck there.

    As for holographic frog-men from space, well, I can’t fix EVERYTHING, but I think it’s more bearable this way anyhow.

  3. krellen says:

    @Drew:

    “Sensible Storyline: Just add Truck.”

    I love it.

  4. Jon says:

    This is an MMO! It’s not supposed to be about the story!

    I’m not sure why this is a valid argument – people seem to use the fact that a game is an MMO to explain its story faults, which makes absolutely no sense. MMO developers are just as responsible as others devs (if not more) for coming up with a good storyline.

  5. Alrenous says:

    The boxes are stolen servers containing the data and there were no backups.

    …yeah it still doesn’t make sense.

  6. BlckDv says:

    Currently behind a firewall that blocks escapist; so can’t see the comic, my comments are based on the assumption this is the “Glasses Managere” quest line against the Gadroon in City Center.

    I think my mind must have rebelled. When I did these quests, I was under the impression that I was recovering components, foolish me.

    Now, the armed goons were standing around the parking area adjacent to one of their corporate offices, and the lot does have a good number of trucks in it if a Hero hasn’t been by recently on an insurance claim rampage, smashing every vehicle vaguely connected to a crime scene.

    That said… yeah, the setting did not convey “smuggling illegal stuff in secret” to me at all, it was more of a “guarding company stuff the lazy FedEx guy just dumped in the lot and left” feeling.

    The subsequent use of the glasses was just inexcusable weak sauce. “Hey, here’s a theory… why don’t I just use my magical ‘never hurts civilians’ AoE on the people standing around saying ‘I hope I don’t get caught’ as they stand next to frog men calmly not freaking out instead of hassling with these goggles at all.”

    I am very glad we have fun quest lines like the Mayor’s kidnapped daughter or the ‘Artic Thrush’ sanctuary in Canada that manage to bring good funny while giving you a more rational series of goals.

  7. Parsnip Lover says:

    Those x-ray spec researchers should’ve made backups of their data. This all could’ve been avoided if someone had bought them an extra hard drive.

  8. Ramaguchi says:

    They were in the parking lot because the databoxes were still “in transit,” and the original transport truck was called off to business more urgent to the organization. Why do you think the mission had a time limit? It was because the lower-priority replacement truck was on its way to retrieve them. Do you even read the wiki?

  9. Ritch says:

    This is the first time I’ve seen a game that actually gives you incentive to NOT read the quest text.

    o_o

  10. Marlo Rue says:

    You’re a dumbhead

  11. acronix says:

    Uh, so let me se: To understand the plot of each quest in this game we need to, not only read its text, but also go to a WIKI? Lazy quest-writers, I say.

  12. Jabor says:

    From what I understand, the Wiki is actually the most-commonly-accepted retcon that tries to make it coherent.

    So really, it’s an acknowledgement of the problem and basically saying “you guys figure it out”.

  13. Dan says:

    As someone in tech support, I’m sure this conversation occurred after the theft: “Those guys stole all our laptops, we’d better get some replacements and restore from backup.”
    “Actually, our server is kinda slow, so I’ve just been storing all of my data on the desktop.”
    “Our docs folder is redirected to the server, right?”
    “So less than half of us have our data backed up anywhere, guess we’d better flag down some heroes to get our laptops back.”

  14. Ergonomic Cat says:

    I believe Ramaguchi was prodding fun.

    If CO’s game play were put on CoH’s storyline and mission system I would be dead.

  15. Joshua says:

    You mock the labs’ backup procedures, but didn’t this essentially just happen to Microsoft and T-Mobile with all the data for all the Sidekicks in the world? Minus the frogmen, of course…

  16. Jeff says:

    I’ve found the WoW lore to be pretty good, as well as the quest text for their chains, starting even from the newbie areas. No excuse for a crappy story. (Don’t get me started on FO3 and the admitted “story/dialog was unimportant”!)

  17. Taellosse says:

    I just realized I didn’t see a post from you mentioning your Experienced Points article for the week and went and read it. I imagine I’m not the only one that generally depends on your reminders here to be made aware of your work over at the Escapist when it goes up, so I thought I’d mention it, in case you just forgot yourself, rather than deliberately chose not to put up a post about it.

  18. Artillery_MKV says:

    I can’t get to the Escapist from *ahem* work, but the glasses exposing the aliens living among us was a direct homage to the movie ‘They Live.’ Which is part of the CO tradition of puns, lame jokes and homage. This tradition goes back to the original P&P RPG. It’s seldom going to be as serious as the plotlines in CoX, although there are some serious plot threads.

    I’m guessing that the Devs were mocking people who don’t back up ,just as you guys were.

    @Artillery_MKV

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