Why does no-one notice you're a prodigy?

AuthorTopic: Why does no-one notice you're a prodigy?
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #0
Here is something I'd really like to see addressed in G3, especially as it seems to begin with you as a student in a Shaper school.

How come in these games your character can come in as a powerless apprentice, and within days accumulate enough power to wipe out everyone and everything, where the supposedly brilliant likes of Barzahl and Trajkov, supported by many talented followers, have been unable to get further than they have in months of effort? Why doesn't Barzahl, for instance, realize that cleaning out a few clawbug colonies would do him as much good as a canister? Or would it?

In other words, the ability to gain levels so quickly from experience earned must be something unique to the PC. Fine, this is a magical world. But why doesn't anyone ever comment on a fact that ought to surprise everyone involved? The PC must be the Shaper-world equivalent of Mozart, Newton, and Alexander the Great all rolled into one.

In G1 it might not be so hard to explain that nobody finds this remarkable. The serviles expect shapers to be godlike, the sholai don't know what to expect, and perhaps Goettsch imagines you to be even more heavily augmented with canisters than you are. And perhaps you yourself are too inexperienced a shaper to know that advanced shaper skills usually come with decades of training rather than days of killing rogue fyoras. Or perhaps it could be chalked up as a side effect of the canisters. Sholai who have apparently gobbled down dozens of them are as wheat to your sickle, but perhaps the canisters have additional subtle effects on an actual shaper.

In G2, though, it's quite weird that none of the experienced powergatherers in the game remarks upon how very much faster you can gather power than they can.

[ Wednesday, March 23, 2005 15:11: Message edited by: Student of Trinity ]

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We're not doing cool. We're doing pretty.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Warrior
Member # 5268
Profile #1
There are multiple explanations for this:

1. It wouldn't be interesting otherwise. Do you wonder why there are so few books written about ordinary people doing ordinary things? Arthur Miller was revolutionary when he wrote 'Death of a Salesman'

2. Think about all the times you die. In actuality, you are an amazingly lucky and seemingly skilled individual if you string together all the tight situations you somehow survive to get to the end of the game. You manage to display prescience on a scale that is unimaginable to ordinary NPCs - casting bless just before the critical fight, never walking into an ambush unprepared, always having the right item available - sheer genius! Consider playing the game where death is final? Do you think that you would move so fast or so recklessly? (e.g. Compare it with Angband the way it is meant to be played)

3. You succumb to temptation and suck down experimental drugs like they were candy - it's much hader if you don't indulge in 'canisters'. A standard comic book motif is the genetic mutation caused by random forces turning Joe Average into a superhero - why should this be any different?

4. You actually have some inate potential for greatness that is only revealed by trying circumstances. This is, fundamentally, related to point 1 and brings this list full circle.

Should you wish to play a game where you don't achieve much of anything and can't defeat any large monsters I would suggest you write it yourself. I don't think there is a very big market for them.
Posts: 148 | Registered: Tuesday, December 7 2004 08:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #2
I guess I wasn't clear enough about my point. In particular, my topic title didn't reflect my actual topic. So I have now changed it.

I'm not objecting at all to the fact that the PC is incredibly extraordinary.

I'm objecting to the fact that no-one in the game seems to notice that the PC is incredibly extraordinary.

[ Wednesday, March 23, 2005 15:12: Message edited by: Student of Trinity ]

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We're not doing cool. We're doing pretty.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Mongolian Barbeque
Member # 1528
Profile #3
I'm really enjoying reading this discussion. Internal logic in fiction, and the reasons for it from the author's perspective and determined to a great extent by the limitations of the medium the story is presented in, has alwasy intrigued me.

I can't add much to it myself, though, because all the most perceptive points have already been mentioned.

[ Wednesday, March 23, 2005 15:24: Message edited by: Icshi ]
Posts: 907 | Registered: Monday, July 15 2002 07:00
Triad Mage
Member # 7
Profile Homepage #4
Part of it is that they are at such a high level that killing clawbugs gives them no experience.

Another part of it is that a lot of their energy is put towards a) running a city and b) defending a city. You're like the straw that breaks the camel's back - you can go from the city and actually attack the enemy.

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"At times discretion should be thrown aside, and with the foolish we should play the fool." - Menander
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Posts: 9436 | Registered: Wednesday, September 19 2001 07:00
E Equals MC What!!!!
Member # 5491
Profile Homepage #5
Some BoE scenarios explore this concept in interesting ways - Emulations, Areni, and Roots, for example.

I'm in the camp that says that the party should not be more powerful than their opponents without a feasible reason for it. Canisters works. Training doesn't.

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SupaNik: Aran, you're not big enough to threaten Ash. Dammit, even JV had to think twice.
Posts: 1861 | Registered: Friday, February 11 2005 08:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #6
My own best bet is that the rapid gain in levels is actually some kind of side effect of the canisters, which only occurs when an actual born-and-bred Shaper uses a few of them. Only a very few such Shapers have used any canisters even in G2, and they are all (a) already secure enough when they started on canisters that they might never have had to fight much and thus discover the experience effect, and (b) stark raving mad.

Trouble is that you can beat the game and rise to enormous power without ever letting a drop of that bright green goo touch your skin ...

Clawbugs might not help Barzahl so much, but if that's a problem he's got lots of Glahks.
Whuppin' a few Glahks every morning before breakfast would give him back the sixpack abs he had in Shaper school.

As to running the city, why would he even bother, if like me he could take the whole world singlehanded? Tell the boys to hold the fort a few days while he picks up a dozen levels, killing things that need killing anyway because they threaten Barzite borders. Then make like a PC and go stuff the Geneforge down Easss's throat.

Here's the best rationale I can see for downplaying the PC's uniqueness.

All the G2 factions are really extremely weak, and know it. They could certainly defeat the PC if they concentrated all their assets for one pitched battle, but even if they did that they would be no match at all for a Shaper army. So they have to work all out at growing strong enough to resist the Shaper Council. They all have hopes for doing so, but these plans all take time, and require them to disperse their strength to work on several different projects in parallel. In the meantime they have a window of vulnerability in which a single Shaper, catching them strategically if not tactically by surprise, could rub them out piecemeal.

On this argument, Barzahl might be able to defeat the Takers the same way the PC does, but taking time out to do this would slow his work to put together a force that can defeat the Shaper Council, and he can't afford to risk even a few days' delay in that desperate race against time.

I think there are some problems with this rationale, though. All the factions send you right off to warn the Shaper Council as soon as you have neutralized their last local rival, so it doesn't seem as though they were largely ignoring each other to focus on the much harder task of resisting the Council. And none of them behaves towards you as though they imagine that their survival is at your whim.

You might be able to argue that it wouldn't actually take a historic titan to destroy the G2 factions in their windows of vulnerability. But it seems to me that the factions all think themselves to be pretty safe from a young Shaper apprentice, even if he has picked up a few things in his short visit to the Drypeak range. So it seems like there must still be something pretty unusual in the PC's rapid rise.

Perhaps it isn't so crazy that the main NPCs don't remark on this. Barzahl and the Takers might be too megalomaniacal to let themselves believe anyone could be a rival, and the big problem with the Awakened is that their only sane leaders are pretty much out of the loop as far as understanding real power is concerned.

But I still think there ought to be some narratorial indication that the PC has come a long way surprisingly fast, reaching higher levels of personal proficiency in a few days than senior Shapers like Zakary, Sharon, Barzahl and Shanti have managed in their whole careers.

[ Wednesday, March 23, 2005 18:06: Message edited by: Student of Trinity ]

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Mongolian Barbeque
Member # 1528
Profile #7
As a break from my normal posting pattern of late — in which I scribble pathetic, unintelligent, and unintelligible squeaks and squawks of risible desperation for GF3 — I've decided to participate in this very excellent discussion now that I've actually thought of something to say.

Another reason why the PC may gain levels so quickly is that both games took place in a sort of "wilderness" region, either not wholly tamed (GF2), or neglected and bobby-trapped galore (GF1). These are hardly ordinary circumstances — I'm sure most Shaper populations live in more civilized areas. It's the "frontiersmen," and those sent to the frontiers to investigate matters, who gather a lot of experience through short stints of hacking out a place in this new region, then defending what they've created. The PC is such an "investigator" in both games, an ordinary person thrown into this wild circumstance. Of course, this PC must have exceptional, untapped potential to start with in order to make the story more involving — if they were just a non-"frontiersman" Joe Schmuck who wandered into a situation like this, they'd get pulverized and eaten within the first few hours. I know I would. That wouldn't make a very good game. (Skippy the Bush Kangaroo mentioned this point above, but I felt the need to reiterate it.)

The fact that these frontiersmen themselves must be hearty folk is demonstrated by their very presence there, within cities that they built out in the middle of nowhere. So your short (either a few days or a few weeks, depending on how you interpret how time "passes" inside the game) but intense stint of action in their area may be nothing too far out of the ordinary. The fact that you're doing most of this alone — whilst they did it in large groups with the proper equipment, weapons, etc. — concentrates all this experience in the PC. In fact, this is nicely demonstrated with Shapers with lots of creations with them; the experience is spread out among you all, so less is concentrated in each. If these "frontiersmen" had likewise done such things by themselves they may also have reached such heights, and they're probably aware of this. They also took a greater amount of time to do what they did — whereas the PC rushes around like a glaahk with its stinger cut off. There's probably a "threshold" point where your brief-and-intense accumulated experience surpasses their lengthy-and-spread-out accumulated experience. If you had accompanied these "frontiersmen" when they first came to settle the area, you would probably have remained at the same level they are. Likewise, the serviles on Sucia Island already had their living areas cleared out and set up, so all they had to do was maintain it — not exactly a potent experience-building activity, especially since the rogue epidemics on the island didn't begin until a few months before your arrival (courtesy of the Sholai & Goettsch).
Posts: 907 | Registered: Monday, July 15 2002 07:00
E Equals MC What!!!!
Member # 5491
Profile Homepage #8
Any rationalization that involves "levels" or "experience" is pretty dodge, I feel. Such things are sacrificing realism for gameplay - acceptable, but best if you don't examine them too closely.

I prefer games and scenarios that make the party's abilities an integral part of the plot.

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SupaNik: Aran, you're not big enough to threaten Ash. Dammit, even JV had to think twice.
Posts: 1861 | Registered: Friday, February 11 2005 08:00
Shock Trooper
Member # 3513
Profile Homepage #9
How do you actually know how much time passes? The games could be over a span of months, without the cue of a day/night cycle.

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Nobody appreciates me. It's all "Igor! Fetch some wine!" "Igor! Clean up this experiment!" or "Igor! Bury this in the garden, we're leaving town in 10 minutes!"

—Alorael, who tried to become a deivore once. The priest gave him a funny look after the third wafer.
Posts: 301 | Registered: Thursday, October 2 2003 07:00
Infiltrator
Member # 4592
Profile #10
The "save" function in games, or if you the "back in time" affects reality. It's in many a ways a necessary evil, you need to be able to save: you may want to turn off your computer, or be sure your hours didn't go to nothing due to a power failure.

However, this godlike power is a reason why PCs in many games are more powerful than their NPCs counterparts.

The reasons listed by Drakey, are also important: the leaders of the sects are all busy doing their civic duties as well as conspiring to remain in power or amass more power by bureaucratically giving certain tasks to others. They may not think they have the time, or wish to risk their lives, going around cleaning an area of nasties, after all they can relegate that authority and have someone else do it. They have, after all, a guard that protects them (or should)

This instinct of self-preservation may be a reason why many NPCs are not as powerful as the PC who, with the help of cheats, walkthroughs, difficulty levels, and saved games they can be more gung ho as to the adventures they have. These reasons are not very good, though, since they separate the reality of the world from the fact that it is a fictional world you visit for a while, unlike those who live in it.

In these games it's almost as if the PC is basically a person who is connected with certain divine powers that other characters don't have.

At least in the GF games the adventure is not linear, there are certain places where you simply can't go because the dangers are too powerful for you. How about the other games where you just happen to always face creatures that are adecuate to the amount of work/exploring/killing/adventuring that you have done?

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quote:

"I suffer from spiritual malaise," said Cugel meaningfully. "which manifest itself in outburst of vicious rage. I implore you to depart, lest, in an uncontrollable spasm, I cut you in three pieces with my sword, or worse, I invoke magic."
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Posts: 604 | Registered: Sunday, June 20 2004 07:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #11
I guess I just feel that with GF there is a missed opportunity. The games are mainly about the dangers and temptations of rapid acquisition of power by unusual means. Yet in totally unremarked parallel with the canisters and modification platforms and geneforges, here are you going from tenderfoot to gazer skin boots within what can't be more than a few days, just by fighting rogues. I feel it would be easy, and very interesting, for the games to offer some explanation for this remarkable capability of yours. Bitten by a radioactive fyora, inhaled a few stray spores from an aborted Taker project -- whatever.

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We're not doing cool. We're doing pretty.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Warrior
Member # 4278
Profile Homepage #12
quote:
Originally written by Student of Trinity:

Bitten by a radioactive fyora
Fyora-man, Fyora-man,
Does whatever a Fyora can
Spits a fireball, any size
can't you see, glowing red eyes
Look out,
here comes the Fyora-man

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Pathological Jerk
Jerking at Spiderweb since 1999
Posts: 143 | Registered: Sunday, April 18 2004 07:00
Infiltrator
Member # 65
Profile Homepage #13
quote:
In these games it's almost as if the PC is basically a person who is connected with certain divine powers that other characters don't have.
Actually that's how I see myself to the PC's- a benevolent divine power. After all, how else do the manage to be fully restored just before a big fight and always know where the hidden exits are?

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Milla-Displacer Beastie

This is also a good site
Posts: 650 | Registered: Thursday, October 4 2001 07:00
Shock Trooper
Member # 5545
Profile Homepage #14
Why only a fyora? Why not an Eyebeast? Oh, wait- Can Eyebeasts bite? Or an ornk... Wait- we already have an ornk-man in this forum. So basicly, I have nothing to say. Why is that always the case? *wanders off to re-think his life. After all, there's nothing better to do until Geneforge 3 comes out*

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Plaudite, amici, comedia finita est.
Posts: 344 | Registered: Friday, February 25 2005 08:00
Warrior
Member # 3327
Profile #15
I guess the point is moot - the starting screens say that you are exceptionally bright.
Posts: 77 | Registered: Sunday, August 10 2003 07:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #16
Yeah, G3 presumes that you are an exceptional student. Discriminating people go out of their way to chat up you in particular. It also explicitly keeps track of time, and now I see that it has taken me nearly two months to get to Dhonal's Isle. So I'm gaining about two levels per week. If we assume that my periodic bouts of intense combat and strange discovery are being complemented by days of study and reflection on my previous training, days which pass while I rest in town, trudge through green squares, or sail the ocean blue, I guess this isn't so unbelievable, within the logic of the game world.

So, I'm happy now.

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We're not doing cool. We're doing pretty.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Shaper
Member # 247
Profile Homepage #17
Too funny! I think all the main leaders should whack some gazers before lunch. "Oh there goes Stange, he was a shopkeeper yesterday. Now he's a super hero taking on whole armies of shapers, killing drakons in one swing, more health than an entire town".

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The Knight Between Posts.
Posts: 2395 | Registered: Friday, November 2 2001 08:00
Apprentice
Member # 5652
Profile #18
I think that one thing missed here is that in GF3 many people DO notice that you are an apprentice. Although on greenwood Isle the people hadn't seen a shaper and assume that you're big and bad, you are called a n00b several times, especially on Dhonal's Isle. When Litalia talks to you on Harmony, she remarkes how much you have improved/gotten stronger.

Also keep in mind that your PC's rapid growing in strength is also due to the acquisition of better and better equipment. Having 12 strength and 12 endurance doesn't do much if all you have is chitin armor and a dagger! If I were to give Joe Townsperson a lightning girdle, an essense aegis, an emerald chestguard, and an avenger's ring, it is safe to assume that that townsperson will be able to kick some serious butt. It is logical to assume that better equipment will make the PC stronger, without any consideration to the effects of experience/leveling up.

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"Many minds make quick work of uncertainty"
Posts: 36 | Registered: Thursday, March 31 2005 08:00
Apprentice
Member # 5672
Profile #19
Greeting to everyone. I read the previous discussion with a lot of pleasure and I personally always assumed that the game lacks realism, until I managed to convince myself of precisely the opposite. :)

You see, if two guys fight in the street, then the one who will win the fight is probably the one who is stronger, tougher, faster, street-smarter, luckier, or can just use the surroundings to his
advantage (shoot in the back or from behind a corner). If I go out to a street at night, then I will be probably easily defeated by almost every one out there. But if I start going to a gym, take a couple of martial arts classes, learn to shoot a gun, and so on, then I will very quickly advance to the position when I can defeat more of those around me. The more I will advance, the tougher opponents I will be able to defeat (yes, and if I could also SAVE my life in a game file, so that I could restore it when things go wrong). The point is: I would not become 100 times better than I used, but sufficiently so to survive tougher and tougher enemies. Another example: take a bunch of raw guys who went to the army and look at them in just a couple of months after the initial survival course...The point is: it's like in the game.

Of course, I do not do all of the above. As you can guess, I am not spending every minute in a gym or learning to shoot a gun, not taking a survivall course, especially when I play GF3. I study, cook, watch TV... - I have lots of more "important" things to achieve than becoming an ultimate fighting machine. If I chose to - maybe, but I don't. My point is: the character in GF3 improves so quickly because this is all he does: training to become meaner and tougher. Unlike Lankan, Diwaniya and the rest, who lead a normal life and have many more pressing political and economical
(and social) issues to attend to rather than training to be a Rambo. So while they lead a meaningful life inside a society, our character fights, fights, and fights, and becomes better, better and better.

Having said this, I am not surprized why no one pays attention to what level he is, because "level" is not a physical quantity, you cannot look at a person in real life and assign him a level based on your look. Also I am not surprised that the character evolves so fast.
Part of the reason is that he spends all the time exercising. But another reason: the character should have a tremendous potential to achieve anything, in this way he is better in the very beginning than all other Shapers. As an example:
if I start jumping as far as I can, I will never break the world record even if I train for years, but there are those for whom this is actually possible. So our character is phenomenal in this aspect. Of course, in the Shaper's school no one notices it because every student is already a prodigy, a genius - out of such team it is not clear who is the supergenius.

So, this was supposed to convince everyone that our own life is not very different from GF3...
Ah, forgot to mention, I interprete distributing the points as the character gains levels in the following way: if the character chooses to do
push-ups every spare minute he has - he should get stronger, if he chooses to repeat battle magic spells - he should be better in battle magic, if he chooses to practice oratory skills - he should become a better leader, and so on...

P.S. An unrelated question (I am sure that it was discussed already, but...): are Shapers really people with certain inborn (and perfected in years) magical abilities. Or are they a completely different race ?
Posts: 48 | Registered: Tuesday, April 5 2005 07:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #20
It seems clear that the arts of the Shapers mostly consist of skills never acquired by the PC: growing living tools, mines, and turrets; growing long-lived creatures in vats; researching new creatures, items, or improvements; controlling large numbers of creations at immense distances; making potions; making living boats; shaping items; and so on. The PC evidently turns out to be a prodigy in the narrow range of arts most useful for doing what the PC does -- making a handful of creations from personal essence, slaying rogues, disarming traps. These talents wouldn't necessarily make one stand out so extremely in a Shaper school that was mostly dedicated to longer term endeavors.

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We're not doing cool. We're doing pretty.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Apprentice
Member # 5748
Profile #21
quote:
Originally written by Claymore:

It is logical to assume that better equipment will make the PC stronger, without any consideration to the effects of experience/leveling up.
This is something I never originally thought of. Equipment plays an enormous role; if at any time, no matter how strong you are, you empty your inventory, a Thahd can come along and pretty much beat the snot out of you, whereas you're trying to throw punches at an eight-foot Chewbacca clone. If you want to go into the reality factor, do you notice that your character never really has to eat, sleep, or do number two? I mean, then you're getting down to something like The Sims, and you have to draw the line somewhere. At that point it would just be annoying to play. I'm having that problem myself (I'm a freelance game designer, somewhat inspired by Geneforge to make an old-fashioned RPG).

As for the passing of tim, I decided to use a clock based on PC movement (i.e. you stand there and no time passes, but you take a few steps and a minute passes). I'm giving the PC an energy value that depletes over time; low levels of it can cause bad accuracy, poor defenses, and eventual depletion of health. You can sleep to increase it, but sleeping outdoors, (drinking coffee?) never increases it above a very low level. So, you're constantly in search of a good bed, and there's actually a good reason to stay at inns/hostels. But that's just my game. Back to Geneforge:

I'm bothered too by the fact that I can't leave mines, turrets, and spawners around. It'd be fun to just make a big-ass Golem spawner in a back room in Drypeak Warrens, wait till you hear about ten spawnings, and open the door. Watch the humans run!

quote:
Originally written by Student of Trinity:

The PC must be the Shaper-world equivalent of Mozart, Newton, and Alexander the Great all rolled into one.
Would it be any fun to play a commoner?
Posts: 3 | Registered: Sunday, April 24 2005 07:00
Warrior
Member # 2607
Profile #22
quote:
Originally written by Ringer:

quote:
Originally written by Student of Trinity:

The PC must be the Shaper-world equivalent of Mozart, Newton, and Alexander the Great all rolled into one.
Would it be any fun to play a commoner?

Here is the part where I'm tempted to say how much I enjoy playing commoners... But that's in an entirely different setting.

I am all for suspension of disbelief in games. If you want 'realism' play the Sims (I actually rather enjoy the Sims 2) but if you want to create a mini-army of creatures and rid small islands of rogues, well, there's got to be some sacrifice. In this case, it's the reality that goes. But, there are other games dedicated to that, so it's not a big deal.

You can't have it both ways.

Although, a combination of the Sims and Geneforge might not be all bad...

Yeah, okay, it probably would be, but still...

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1. Forge my Genes, will you!? (attack!)
2. That's all for now. Thanks.
Posts: 82 | Registered: Saturday, February 8 2003 08:00