Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Game Designer's Reflections on Scarlet Blade

No doubt, if you spend time on the internet, you have seen ads for games that openly use sex to sell games. You've seen the banner ads that have scantily-clad ladies and sexually-charged captions to get you to click on the ad, which takes you to a game that only rarely has anything to do with sex.

Well, I'm going to be discussing something a bit different here. I'm going to be discussing one of the games that does that, and actually delivers, and all of the things that are wrong with it.

The following material is flagged Red Level. It deals with the blogger's original ideas, personal beliefs, and delusions; and might not be believed by any expert in any field anywhere.
Now, let me start with a bit of a disclaimer. I have nothing against sex in general, nor against sex in games specifically. It is my belief that a game containing sex, or even about sex, can be good; in the same way as non-game entertainment containing sex, or even outright porn, can be funny or dramatic or sweet or otherwise well-written (no I am not going to put any links here; what I get off to is one of those things that I do not wish to share with the Internet, and I am sure that you do not wish to know either)

What I do object to is trying to replace good writing with sex appeal.

Now, on to a discussion of the game in question.

Scarlet Blade is one of the games that uses the advertising gimmicks I mentioned in the introduction. The banner ads it puts up are a woman, or more accurately a 3D model of a porcelain doll resembling a woman (either nude or in what appears to be bondage gear) with a sexualized caption. The game itself is a fairly bog-standard MMORPG with several bugs (largely related to pathfinding) and some severe balance issues (most adversaries are trivially easy to defeat; the only way to really lose outside of a boss fight is to run a streak without resting; and doing this does not grant any benefits). It is obvious from this that SB does not intend to sell itself on unique or challenging gameplay.

No, SB runs mostly on sex appeal. The login page depicts a character similar to the ones in the ads who appears to be making use of some kind of mecha in a rather unconventional way. About 85% of the dialogue (a rough guess) is either explicitly sexual or an obvious double entendre. Your avatar's dialogue with you (see later in this post for an explanation of this part) is, for the most part, intended to get you to think of your avatar as a sexual being, and is based on the assumption that you find your avatar sexually attractive; the continuous propositions from other characters do not work against this. Your avatar is portrayed wearing very little; in the beginning the avatar is wearing little more than what appears to be a metal bikini; and even in full armor your avatar is wearing much less than even is usual for heroines in most graphic media. For those players who did not find this level of sexualization overwhelming, there is an option, advertised in loading screens, to remove even what little your avatar was wearing.

Which is a real shame, because there's a few bits of good story that could have been developed into games (with some rather unusual gameplay!) of their own. Occasionally, a bit of dialogue or flavor text will show up involving transhumanist philosophy (your avatar has been biologically modified to the point of being no longer human; and every now and then there's discussion about whether or not a creation has a duty to its creators or the reverse or at what point a modified human stops being human); the framing narrative is interestingly metafictional (essentially, you are, well, you: the person sitting in the chair playing the game. Your avatar is a separate person to whom you give orders, which seems to deliberately parallel the idea of a video game character); the narrative at least in theory focuses on a war, and occasional mentions are made of the cost of war to the people fighting it, the civilian population, the idea of morals, and the land itself; and part of the plot centers around the (at least) three different relationships between you and your avatar.

In other words, the actual story reads as though the developers were trying to create a mature game, but did not know the difference between "mature" and "adult"; and so, they ruined several mature games by making a game that was mature only in rating.

No comments:

Post a Comment