QfG5: Thief

I’ve made a certain amount of progress with my new Thief character in Quest for Glory V. I haven’t yet started the Rite of Rulership, but I’ve joined the Thieves’ Guild, practiced my skills there, stocked up on equipment, and done a little housebreaking.

From the beginning, QfG‘s take on the Thief has been characterized by:

  • A greater emphasis on adventure-game puzzlery, with lots of use of inventory items against obstacles that the Wizard overpowers with spells and the Fighter charges through with significant but sustainable loss of hit points
  • Extra content, including houses that can be burglarized and assignments from the Thieves’ Guild. In QfG5, there’s a subplot about a contest to become Chief Thief, paralleling the contest for kingship in the main plot. (I wonder if it’s possible to hold both titles?)
  • Additional opportunities to be a jerk.

My favorite example of the Thief being a jerk occurs in QfG3. There’s a musician in the open-air marketplace of the city where the game starts, with a bowl set out for coins from passers-by. Any character class can put a coin in the bowl, and earn a few points in the process. But the Thief has the option of stealing coins from the bowl instead, pretending to put a coin in to cover his movements. You get the same number of points for this.

Now, in that example, the consequences of being true to your profession are that you have slightly more cash, somewhat less Honor (making it basically impossible to become a Paladin), and the same score as you would otherwise. But other acts of theft in the games tend to just give you points that you can’t earn without antisocial behavior. The score in an adventure game is a non-diegetic reward mechanism. It’s a way for the author to reward the player for doing things the way the author wants them done, even in cases where there’s no benefit to it within the game. In particular, the QfG games use it as a way of rewarding you for staying in character. I’ve commented before on how the Fighter in QfG5 gets points for winning the Rites, while the Wizard does not. This tells me that the Fighter is more ambitious, more driven to win.

The thing is, I haven’t really seen this happening in QfG5. I’ve stolen some petty valuables from an empty house, but didn’t earn points for it. The game provides even greater opportunities for antisocial behavior than the previous games, mainly by adding the Pickpocket skill to your repertoire. You can try to rob everyone you meet, if you’re so inclined. You can even steal things that people would gladly give you for free if you asked them. But I have yet to see my score go up for such an action.

It’s seemed to me that the series toned down the crime over its run, which isn’t at all unusual for the morally questionable aspects of a series that’s supposed to be about a Hero. The Thieves’ Guild was a significant part of QfG1, a very minor part of QfG2, nonexistent in QfG3, and present but abandoned in QfG4. Opportunities for crime, while still present and rewarded in 1-4, lessened in number. In QfG5, we suddenly have a fully-functional Thieves’ Guild again, and there’s more opportunity for crime than ever before, but very little explicit motivation for it. Mind, this was a few years before GTA3 made it clear that crime for crime’s sake was viable in games. The original GTA had been released, though, so who knows, maybe there was some influence there.

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.