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Van Hemlock Episode 29
Mon, 1 Dec 2008 23:02:00 GMT [download/play]



This week we're exploring the darker side with a show about Evil. Are the "bad" races you can play in MMOs really evil? Do your actions matter? And where does PvP fit in with all this?

This may not be our lightest show ever, but please give your opinions over at Virginworlds.com. Are we right? Are we wrong? Does a concept like Evil even apply to games?

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Episode 29 Discussion Thread

'Torture quests and evil in WoW' by McDonagh
Submitted on 2008-12-06 03:02:35 CST
Well, here's the thing, you aren't torturing prisoners per se in this quest. You're causing pain to people who are actively attacking you with weapons and wearing armor for some odd reason, i mean come on, pain? in combat? please... lol. Also, the character you're fighting is a member of a fanatics group known as the scarlet crusade who basically kill anything not human and kill anyone who doesn't pay a tax

There is one other quest(both horde and alliance) though in the new continent, Northrend, where you do torture a traitor to the mage faction, the kirin tor, basically. This is the only real torture quest but it still is torture. However, these traitors are decidedly evil technically so i guess blizzard put it in believing they could just get away with it(which they probably will in the long run) along with it written in the quest text and the item text that there is no actual damage administered, but thats just trying to justify it and keeping it in a grey area instead of a definitive black.

also, a large number of the horde are still somewhat corrupt and fighting off blood lust and desires for revenge, while the alliance has to deal with pride and prejudice.



'...and other stuff' by McDonagh
Submitted on 2008-12-06 03:48:15 CST
Walmart only refuses to stock A-O games. From what i remember though, no major chain sells A-O rated games in the USA.


'muahahahaha (evil laugh)..' by LealaTurkey
Submitted on 2008-12-06 16:28:12 CST
First off I just wanna say that I love love love your podcast. Its always a great discussion!

Since you don't play WoW, I thought I'd share a bit that I've been seeing in Northrend. There are actually a lot of rather "dark" quests there. (Sorry if this counts as a spoiler hehe) But aside from the couple of torture quests there are some where you send rats to pick the flesh off of dead bodies, kill the new barbarian type folk and butcher their bodies so they can't resurrect, kill people that are on your side who are being held hostage and even one where the mob you speak to (and presume that you are going to fight) decides he'd rather kill himself that let you do it. And this is just what I can think of off the top of my head. Julie and Fran also mentioned this week on NPNM some quests that I haven't gotten to yet where you steal babies from one of the new races.

Northrend is just a dark place and you definitely get reminded of that on a regular basis. While some of those quests did have me squirming in my seat they were also some of the most memorable stories I've seen in game. And they were of course, all optional. But who am I to make judgement calls, my main is a rogue who's entire job revolves around sneaking up on unsuspecting people, stealing their money and stabbing them in the back. =) (Insert evil laugh here.)



'"Evil"' by poozle
Submitted on 2008-12-07 15:09:00 CST
Your talk about evil in PvP just reminded me of playing WAR yesterday, I was just going around doing quests (on a Open-RvR server) but in a PvE zone and one person was stood just outside the town (8 levels higher than me) and killed me, so I tried to leave again and they had gone... so I moved a little way down the road to my next quest area, had almost finished the quest I was doing and.... splat, they got me again. I then decided to just log out. I wouldn't say I lost and he won, I'd just say that he was trying to be annoying and I decided I wasn't going to get frustrated and just left. If anything I probably won because I was the only person around and so he then had noone to kill.


'The evil' by Sente
Submitted on 2008-12-07 17:22:46 CST
A very good podcast, and an interesting topic.

Westin Phipps is one of the first characters I think of when thinking about evil in MMO - he is generally a despicable character and the story with Ms Francine is one part of it.
As you say, being a villain in City of Villains is for most of the time a bit of tongue-in-cheek evilness, but Westin Phipps himself is a notable exception. The missions themselves are though a bit lighter.

WoW already had a few elements of evil in the initial game, at least if you played undead in the start. Also one of the horde areas in early 20s I think contained a mission to release poison gas to kill goblin lumberjacks.

I have played mainly on the "evil" side in some games where there has been a choice. Not because I wanted to be evil, but because I found the variations and story content a bit more interesting and more humor.

Take EQ2 for example - while Qeynos was pretty I found many of the NPCs and quests there lacking in terms of providing an entertaining setting. A bit too one-dimensional and I could not really stand it for long.
Freeport on the other hand was more ugly, but I found the explorations in the setting and the humour and lore too be far more entertaining.

I guess this is a bit similar to why many actors want to portrait evil characters - they are easier to add some dimensions and variations to. Pure good characters are harder to make interesting and there is not much room in MMOs to explore the various characters in more depth.





'Fan-Spam' by Agilolfing
Submitted on 2008-12-08 03:53:07 CST
After listening to your podcast for months now, i finally made a Virginworlds-Account to enrich the comments with this wisdom:

OMFG, i love this podcast so much!
I came for "Warp Drive Active", i stayed for "VanHemlock".
Triangle wearing a hat and guy with no cool internet name are the best!



'Evil is as evil does' by jasoneth
Submitted on 2008-12-10 22:20:04 CST
An excellent discussion, gentlemen; thank you.

In recent years I've come to the realisation that much human behaviour makes sense when you remember that our species has spent the last couple of hundred thousand years in small nomadic groups wandering around Africa. Pretty much all our hard-wired tendencies can be traced back to behaviours that make sense in that context.

I suspect that the notion of objective "evil" is a mythological device that represents an explanation for why individuals behave in a manner that is considered detrimental to the group. In reality, someone is considered evil if they consistently perform evil acts. An act is considered evil if it's contrary to the well being of the group: hurting or killing others without reasonable cause, focussing on one's own success at the expense of the rest of the group, destroying others' property... All things that anyone can do, but since we're mostly well-socialised (a requirement to live within our society) we avoid these acts. We're conditioned from childhood to consider such acts as bad or evil. Performing such acts would typically create a crisis of conscience (how we react when we don't follow the group's rules). We despise such acts in others, because again we recognise those acts as counter to the good of the group.

So evil in gaming really means including acts (witnessed by the player, or actively performed by the player) which are currently considered bad/evil by our societal norms. The downside is that this may cause discomfort in players, because (as noted above) we don't like performing evil acts. I suppose the only danger is if the game was able to desensitise the player with respect to performing such acts, though the cultural indoctrination we all receive as we group should be effective in countering this (the same reason that violent TV doesn't have any detrimental effect).

Anyway, a fascinating topic. Always good to hear you both dig into the fundamental questions behind the games we play.



'Evil Topic' by Sinaea
Submitted on 2008-12-22 06:44:10 CST
I know this comes late, but I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this episode. Even if the original news story that sparked the discussion wasn't accurate, I still think this has been one of your best episodes to date.


'Nasty WoW quests' by FraidOfTheLight
Submitted on 2009-01-10 14:54:43 CST
This was a really thought-provoking podcast.

Regarding the WoW torture quest (1), it was a little nasty - but then a lot of quests do expect you to massacre "bad guys" just because someone wants them dead, which doesn't seem much better.

What I found a lot nastier was the previous quest (2), which involved finding four captured comrades - and then killing them! When you let them out of their cages, they expect you to lead them to safety; oh the betrayal! :-(

Links:
(1) "Torture the Torturer": http://www.wowhead.com/?quest=12252
(2) "No Mercy for the Captured": http://www.wowhead.com/?quest=12245