In Assassin's Creed, we find ourselves watching and controlling a young man named Desmond, who has been captured by agents of some corporation, and is being forced to relive ancestral memories (which are implausibly stored in his DNA or some nonsense) in order to further their shady goals. Not much is explained, and information is given to Desmond in tiny, inadequate drops as the game progresses. A great sense of mystery is established and maintained.
The only two characters we meet outside of his memories are the scientist apparently in charge of this nasty business, William Miles, and his assistant, Lucy Stillman. William Miles is a stereotypical evil genius: narcissistic, obtuse vocabulary, aloof attitude. But he is well-written into that stereotype.
Lucy is his foil; a person who, even though she is assisting him, consistently sticks up for Desmond (us) and seems to at least regret the whole process that she is a part of. We later discover that she's actually an ally of Desmond's, and that she has a plan, and so on.
Frankly none of this is particularly amazing, though the dialogue is pretty well written. What IS amazing is that Lucy actually looks like a real person. So many titles, especially AAA ones, have only he-men, strippers, children, and old people. That's the range. I've heard a variety of arguments and reasons that women in video games ought to all look like whores, and while I find them unconvincing, frankly, characters like that get boring, and make the creators look lazy.
If Lucy had looked like a tarted-up hussy, it would have distracted us from the role she plays in the story. It wouldn't have fit. But instead, not only does she look like a real person, she looks like a real, living person. As it turns out, she was made to look as much like her voice actor as possible, and just to be clear, that woman is very beautiful, but she's not the impossibly perfect goddess we've all seen a million times in video games. So many details, so many asymmetries, are captured and deliver to us a very real-looking, believable, and interesting vehicle for character and story development. Awesome!
Walking away from the experience of Assassin's Creed, the one thing I found the most memorable and impressive was the design and execution of the character of Lucy Stillman. While most of the story, gameplay, and characters were only partly original at best, at least they nailed this one thing, and that's pretty impressive.
See? Real person. Was that so hard?
Then I played Assassin's Creed 2.
Assassin's Creed 2 is an obvious attempt to improve and build upon what was established in the original. Some crap was removed, some cool stuff was put in, and bullshit mechanics to lengthen gameplay were added as well! And they made Lucy look like this:
How did this change make the game better? HOW?!
Look, I'm all for sexy fun time. It has its place. Like gay Shepherd, for example. But when a character like Lucy 2 is hanging around all the time, it just worsens immersion. It's a constant reminder that this is the game where the audience is treated like they're stupid instead of treated with a tiny bit of respect.
What I'm saying is, I wish more developers would see believable characters as something to strive for rather than something to fix.
I think I'm not alone in my opinion here, because while looking for the relevant images, I came across this:
She also stops being an interesting character, in case you were wondering.
I'm going to get right to the point: video game developers owe us nothing.
The word "capitalism" is getting used a lot in this conversation, often by people who, in its use, are revealing their ignorance of its meaning. Whenever one makes a purchase in a capitalist system, a voluntary agreement is being made. One party has something to offer, so does the other, an exchange is made, and each one walks away with something worth more to them (at the point of sale) than they gave up. That's how it works.
If you buy a game for $60, then complain that it's not worth $60 because of an online pass, then you are a hypocrite. When you paid the $60, you were stating in unclear terms that you thought it was worth it. You can regret the decision later, sure. But not retroactively.
Are online passes "bad for the industry?" Maybe; I'm not sure what that means exactly. Will they make games -which would otherwise be worthwhile- into purchases that aren't worth it? Definitely, for some people. Is anyone moved by complaints by industry giants about needing to pay for this or that with extra fees? Not many, I think. But all of this is totally irrelevant.
They've got something to offer, and we can take it or leave it. We can take it and say it was a stretch. We can leave it and complain the product was ruined by fees. What we can't do without being complete assholes is demand a product from an industry which owes us nothing, and take a self-righteous tone as we insolently whine when that exact product isn't delivered to us just how we like it for the price we require.
I can hear some of you saying it now: "but they owe us their existence!" No. We've all made purchases, and those exchanges are complete. It's over. They owed us the games we bought, and we got them. You aren't buying a vested interest in the future of the gaming industry when you buy a game. Those are called stocks, and when Jim complains about online passes ruining the industry, he sounds more like a stockholder should than a gamer should.
Jim, you're a smart guy, and a great writer and speaker. But you don't get it.
If you've played EVE Online, then you pretty much know how this story is going to go. The EVE Online community is an elite club whose only membership requirement is having done 8 hours of waiting as an ultimate end-game user experience, many times.
EVE Online is a MMO about internet spaceships. You fly around, shoot NPCs, shoot each other, shoot asteroids, and click on spreadsheets. Also you train skills. It's all very exciting. One of the "end-game" features of EVE Online is the installation of Player Owned Starbases. These are persistent structures in the EVE world which may serve as a base of operations for 2-50 players. Someone has to install and manage them, and for some reason I thought it would be fun if that person were me.
I had some time off and a lot of alcohol, so I got started. 50 hours later, I had slept for 3 hours, eaten 2 proper meals, taken 0 showers, and spent the rest of the time watching progress bars go up while I hoped no one discovered me and destroyed all of my efforts, and with them the starbase itself, which I had barely been able to purchase after liquefying all of my other assets. By the end of it, I was down to drinking gin mixed with cookie dough ice cream. I suppose no one actually forced me to do that last bit. But still!
Now, if you're thinking that this was the work part, sadly, you have underestimated EVE Online. The real work came next. Remember when I said these were persistent structures? That means they can be attacked by anyone, any time. If they take enough damage they go into a 18-48 hour period of temporary invulnerability so that you can discover the problem and try to mount a defense, but you must still go through all of your days and nights wondering if someone has decided to make you sad by blowing up your space things. They require fuel which must be constantly supplied by someone. They are often processing or building or mining things, all of which must be managed. And of course all of the different people using the base (any of whom may decide to betray you and mess up your Christmas in a variety of awful ways) will be constantly sending you messages, questions, requests, and threats. I was acutely aware of this at all times. It felt as if I were tethered to the game, an a nearly palpable way.
I had to take the tower down because my pretend internet spaceship job was so much work, I was having trouble doing real work. But seriously, it's an awesome game and you should go play it!