I’m at 60+ hours and counting on my latest Fallout 4 playthrough, and it feels like I’ve completely lost sight of the main quest. Settlers, amirite? Never satisfied. Feed us, defend us, whine whine whine… Meanwhile, Preston Garvey is always prattling on about proving that the Minutemen are reliable and will help to make the Commonwealth a better place, but what he really means is that *I* will be doing most of the actual work. As usual.
Imagine how that would play out in a movie. The hero’s son has been kidnapped! Their spouse was murdered! It’s time for payback and heroic rescues! Probably with lots of violence!
And then the hero spends the next hour-and-a-half helping some settlers set up camp.
Companions aside, does anyone else get tired of feeling like game worlds are places where you’re the ONLY person who’s ever taking action or… well, basically doing anything at all? Some games do manage to preserve some kind of illusion that NPCs actually do stuff, but generally, the world always revolves around you. You have to do everything. Literally everything, or nothing ever happens.
Ok, sure, yes, that’s sort of the point of being the protagonist, but let’s take Lord of the Rings Online as an example. Admittedly, I haven’t played that game in ages, but what I liked about it was the feeling that you were just a cog in a much larger machine. Though you cross paths with the real deal – the Fellowship – now and then, you’re not one of them. You’re not the hero of THE story. Sure, you might be the hero of your own story, but your story is just one of many, and you know it’s not the story that will be remembered.
World of Warcraft likes to make you collect poop. It’s not the only game that’s ever put me on defecation detail, but it feels like WoW does it a lot. The first time was funny. The second time was like, “Seriously… again?”, and the third was, “WTF, Blizzard?!?!?” Picking up poop in WoW became a household joke. Eventually, it irritated the heck out of me. Why am I picking up poop in a game? That was my most-hated chore as a kid. I’m supposed to be saving the world, and you want me scooping up shit?
When Star Wars: The Old Republic was announced, devs said they wanted the quests to feel meaningful. One article mentioned that they were using the “Darth Vader test” to determine if a quest made sense or was just silly. As in, “And then Darth Vader… went to find the NPC’s toothbrush for him.” Is that something Vader would do? If not, then they needed to rethink it.
I loved the whole idea, because yes! If I’m supposed to be saving the galaxy, sending me off to find some random meaningless crap object is just going to frustrate me. Don’t I have better things to do with my time? The game has some fails in that department, but I appreciated the sentiment. If I was a hero, “pooper scooper” would not be on my “things to pack before embarking upon epic quest” list. If the galaxy is threatened, I think you should find your own damn toothbrush.
Fit the quests to the scale. If I’m the Big Hero and you want to remind me about all of the normal people that I’m trying to save, do it in a meaningful way. Not in a “You people don’t DESERVE to be saved!!!” kind of way. Games don’t always have to put us in the position of being the Big Hero… but if they do, then dammit, leave the stupid fetch-and-carry side quests out. Or at least make them mean something real. Finding an evil tome in order to keep it out of the hands of the Big Bad is one thing; fetching crap for some farmer who’s too lazy to do it himself is another.
That’s right, I said it. Lazy. Usually, the farmer has a reason, but all too often that reason is “There’s something bad out there that will eat poor weak little me… you do it!”
First, if you’re thinking about farming in the middle of nowheresville, you should probably consider how your self-defense skills (or lack thereof) would affect you. I mean, what will you do if a hero doesn’t happen along at the right time? Sit there and wait? Maybe forever?
Second, after hearing variations of this excuse eleventy million times, I’m not thinking, “Gee, there are an awful lot of people out there who really need a hero! I’m so gosh-golly glad that I can do this for them!” and then traipsing off to run errands with sunbeams shooting out of my ass.
Nope. I’m thinking, “You people are all full of shit. Get off your lazy ass and do it yourself. Go ahead — ask me to run another errand for you, and see what happens. Go on. Ask.”
I probably wouldn’t be a very good hero.
I appreciate that Fallout 4’s settlers do make some effort. I have to plant the crops, but they’re the ones who actually do the farming. I’m also very glad that they’ll actually fight when a settlement is attacked. Nothing would have pissed me off more than to have a group of raiders hit the gate, while all the settlers are just standing around looking at me like, “Well? Aren’t you going to do this for us, too?”
My response would not be pretty. “No, I think I’m going to hang back and see what happens. In fact, I’m just going to sit over here in the shade and enjoy a bottle of Nuka-Cola Quantum. I’m kind of tired after running all over the wasteland gathering resources for you slackers. How about you shovel your own shit for once? Good luck!”
Yep…. I’d be a terrible hero.