QfG5: Time and Competition

My goodness it’s been a while since I posted anything. I blame the spring weather. (In February? Yes. Apparently that’s when Spring comes in San Francisco.) But also I blame the poll experiment. One of the central things that keeps games enjoyable for me is that they’re one of the few things that no one wants me to do. There are no external obligations, just the obligation to the game itself. The Oath works against this a little, but I was careful to set that up so that I was never actually obliged to play anything — just to blog about it if I do. Letting other people choose what I play is another thing altogether, and so I don’t think I’ll repeat it.

Now, as to where we left off: By now, I’m pretty well into the swing of QfG5, having achieved about 40% of the maximum score. This is the sort of game that has an accelerated realtime day/night cycle (sped up by a factor of something like 30, or faster on the overland map), with some things refreshing themselves with new content each day. It’s important in this sort of game to get into a daily routine, something that lets you patrol all the major areas for daily developments, but still allows you some free time every day for questing.

qfg5-logosThe Quest for Glory series has varied a lot on the matter of timed plot events. QfG1 basically didn’t have any at all — you could spend as long as you wanted grinding for better stats and take care of the story when you felt you were ready. QfG2 went to the opposite extreme: most of the game, from the very beginning, consisted of a series of looming emergencies that would end the game if not handled in time. The rest of the games, as near as I can remember, try to strike some kind of balance. In QfG5, once you enter the Rite of Rulership, it imposes a certain amount of urgency on your actions. The Rite is basically a series of competitive quests, and if you don’t complete them quickly enough, one of the other candidates will beat you out. But if that happens, it’s not the end of the world — and more importantly, it’s not the end of the game. I’ve been taking care to win every event (it isn’t all that hard), but I have to wonder what happens if you just throw them all. Does the final save-Silmaria-from-ultimate-destruction event count for more than the rest of the events put together, like last-minute house points for Gryffindor? Or can you be a hero and still not become king?

It’s interesting to compare this to the last competitive quest in the series. At one point in QfG3 (the one in the pseudo-African setting), the hero has to prove his worth as a warrior by engaging in a sequence of challenges against another warrior candidate. One of the challenges is a footrace. The opponent stumbles and falls during the race, and if the player has a choice: stop to help him, or take advantage of his misfortune to win the race? The right solution is, of course, the former, which nets you more points and more Honor (key if you want to become a Paladin). If you just keep running, the opponent straightens up and overtakes you anyway. The message there is pretty clear: competition is all very well, but doing the right thing is more important.

So how does that notion fit into the present game? Here, I’m awarded extra points for putting the competition above more important concerns like finding out who poisoned the king. Arguably, the rite is more important than those mere sporting events in QfG3 — the organizers are pragmatic enough to turn the first two tests into repel-the-invading-mercenaries competitions. But that line of argument merely suggests that the hero should be participating, not necessarily that he should be playing to win. Will there be a showdown where the hero has to make the same decision as back in Pseudo-Africa, a choice between going for the win and doing the right thing? Or has that moral just been tossed to the wind? I can’t yet say.

No Comments

Leave a reply