Friday, September 26, 2008

Keeping it In Character

As a long time denizen of the role playing world I've run into a whole number of niches and cultures and persona. I could talk a lot about them, but there's a lot of that which I'm not willing to discuss in a blog my parents and grandparents know about, and most of the rest of it is boring to anyone who hasn't actually been involved in these communities.

What I'm here to talk about right now is how we handle it when reality mucks up our little bubble. In every online world you have to deal with the idea of Lag. For most role players this means putting your next sentence in double brackets, or putting an (OOC) in front of it, or whatever that games nomenclature is for designating that what you're saying is Out of Character, but for me lag was it's own little game. Working within canon is fine, but there's a lot of tricky fun to be had in making things canonical.

Given that my first RP realm was in AO, where I was part of Xtronica, which made up 90% of social elite on the server I started with simple things that fit easily into the cyberpunk raver club kid scene we had going. Spacing out, Acid flashbacks, whatever assorted drug reference you needed. What was most amusing here was that when you were in the Grid in AO and you got lag you could call it lag and still be in character.

In CoX things were a bit different. When I was playing a hero I was playing a character that drew upon the guilt and fear of his enemies to deliver their justice, and when I was playing a villain I was playing the fiery incarnation of all of humanity's repressed emotions given brutal form and out for revenge. Given that these both drew upon a kind of maddening well of thought I had a staple that suited me quite well, and that I still find amusing to this day. When the game would shudder and the movement became blocky, your actions happening without being displayed and the video seizing I started typing my reaction before the spike had even stopped.

Chained Inferno pauses, gripping his head as his fires darken into a chaotic black and blue
[Chain Inferno]: Ahh... The visions... They won't stop. The past and the future, always one, collapsing onto each other...
Chained Inferno shakes his head, his fires resume their violent harmony of destruction

I milked the "Nightmare Visions" thing for all it was worth. It was also fun to watch the reactions of non-role players whenever we chose to admit one to our group.

In WoW I didn't really go into any kind of hard core role playing. I have a back story for a few character, and my paladin has a ton of macros that basically allow me to pretend to be a death knight, but things got lighter. I started playing a new kind of game. Lag in WoW is harder to detect because your character still appears to be under mostly your control. Your abilities don't activate, but everything stays smooth until the moment you snap back into focus. This means we need a test to see if we're getting an actual response, and the basic lag test is to just say "lag" into guild chat, and see how long it takes to actually display. Once it displays you're clear. My game was to think of better ways of saying it. I'm sure I had a few at the time, but only one comes to mind right now.

"Sweet Sauron I'm Bilbo Laggins!"

It amused me, so don't worry if it doesn't amuse you.

I've been playing a fair amount of Team Fortress 2 recently and I've been thinking about how I would explain lag in that game if it was a role playing game and not just a team based FPS where I'm mowing people down with a mini gun because they're on B.L.U.* team and I'm on R.E.D.* I did eventually settle on something though. Battle Frenzy. That state where you just kind of lose yourself, and vision reds over and you fight without knowing it (because I don't bother to stop shooting while I'm lagging, I just begin aiming wildly at imagined targets) and then you come out it, you calm down and you survey the wreckage around you, which may also be the wreckage of you.

*Builders League United
*Reliable Excavation & Demolition


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