Friday, April 26, 2013

It's All in the Details: Fleshing out Characters through the use of the Mundane

News:

So this week I was surprised by two phenomenal art gifts from Evion and Sushi. Both of them are humorous pieces featuring a drink labeled “something expensive.” Thanks to this there resulted much hilarity in the WSRP chat the other day. I'm going to share a few of the little quips here. Hope they bring a smile to your face!

Gift art from the talented Evion! Absolutely fantastic! Check out her other art here!

Sushi negotiates a bribe with Hawkins...with dubious success.(Check out Sushi's other fantastic art here!)


  • “When did “Something Expensive” become a brand name? It is brilliant!”
  • “I feel like that belongs in an ad campaign, with a snooty BBV “Received Pronunciation” accent”
  • “I expect it tastes bloody awful, hence the scowl, but it's expensive and that's what counts!”
  • “When circumstances force you to coexist in 'civil' setting with Exile, rather than treating with them at the end of a gun, you may have to drink common swill. For all “civilized” occasions, there's Something Expensive”
  • “Something Expensive: Because we're better than you and our drinks cost as much as your house.”
  • “You could be sensible with your money or, you could buy Something Expensive.”
  • “Something Expensive: For the discerning Cassian.” 
  • Something Expensive"Because there comes a time every day when, no matter what the question is, the answer is: Something Expensive."


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When you have near limitless potential at your fingertips, why would you ever waste your time on anything boring or 'normal'? When you can truly create a fantastic character, why would they ever suffer through “everyday life?” Perhaps it seems ridiculous, boring or unimportant, but you would be surprised. Even though in roleplay you can achieve such brilliance in the fantastic you might be surprised that one of the most powerful tools to create a realistic character lies within the exact opposite. It lies within the mundane.

One of the hardest parts of infiltration is playing along with a normal life. How do these people survive the mind-numbing boredom of their every-day like? How can they go through this daily grind without going mad? How can they be /happy?/ And yet, when I go back and return to the life of the shadow and become no more then a whisper on the lips of the fearful, I retain a strange feeling from the life I left behind. A lingering sadness...is this what it feels to be normal?

A character can do the most amazing things in the world but will always feel flat and distant if there is nothing you or others can relate to. Perhaps the concepts of space travel or super powers might be incredible, but that is not what triggers our human empathy to accept and even show compassion for a character. What really draws us in are the things we can intimately understand, the actions and words we can relate to our own experiences. What really connects us is the humanity found in our every day life. No matter how boring or unimportant it might seem, it is one of the most crucial aspects of our life and our interactions with others.


One of the most interesting aspects of the Doctor isn't his time traveling or his Tardis, but in his empathy for others.(image found here)

Real people do real things. They go to work, they go shopping, the brush their teeth and cook meals. They go to plays and talk on the phone. They laugh and get angry, fall in love and get into fights. They get sick and sometimes do stupid, unreasonable things because they are just people.

We see this. We live it. We know it. Well, as much as we can that is.

One of my good friends Ivania (from my RP days in SW:ToR) once told me that one of their ways of probing another character to see if they were well rounded and interesting was to have her character try to get them to watch a movie with herself. She explained that if they stoically refused on the basis that it was “stupid” or “too non-serious” after a few attempts that she would often look elsewhere for a roleplaying partner. If the characters she were trying to interact with were so serious that they couldn't even relent for a single moment and enjoy something normal then they were really no fun to play with.

I remember finding this concept profound. It wasn't that a character was a “badass military hero” or a “senator” or a “secret agent” that drew her entirely to them. It was what they were like outside of their defining roles. It wasn't their fantastical jobs but their personality and their normalcy This gave me some food for thought. It had taken Hawkens some persuading, but even he had finally relented to watch a movie with her character. Why had he done that? Why would an agent of Imperial Intelligence sit down and /watch a movie?/ Then I found a far more important question.

Why wouldn't he?

I mused over this for awhile. He hadn't wanted to originally because he found mundane actions to be tedious and sometimes boring. Yet that never stopped him from going through the motions of care for his hygiene, of cooking in his own kitchen or from playing an occasional video game. It wasn't about the movie at all. It was about the concept of relaxation, the concept of “letting loose” or “having fun.” He was far more worried about dropping his appearance as a grumpy and bitter individual who only cared for his job and nothing else. By watching the movie, he had strangely reasoned, he was showing weakness or betraying his ideals. And amusingly enough, after prying within these layers of logic (or logical fallacy as it were) I discovered something even more interesting. It was these very instances of normalcy that my friend enjoyed best with Hawkens. They made him relatable. It was when he stopped posturing and became just another man that she found compassion for him.

It made sense. On the job, Hawkens is serious, logical and completely devoted to the task. His attitude changes completely and he often becomes unapproachable. The very cold efficiency that makes him so skilled at his work also makes him completely alien to those around him. There is nothing to relate to in his detachment from humanity. Suddenly this no longer becomes an advantage of his character, but a point of contention.

"The first thing an agent develops is an immunity to guilt" -Cipher Nine (SW:ToR)


I actually find it somewhat amusing just how much the mundane can make a difference in the realism of roleplay and the resulting complexities that can result from it. One of the reasons we usually don't like to play these out, is these emotions, states of being, etc can often be unglamorous and even downright embarrassing. Who wants to play their hero through being sick? Sick is boring and gross right? You might get hot and achy, you might whine a lot or act weaker then you normally would. You sneeze out snot and rheum clogs your eyes while you sputter about, coughing pathetically. Disgusting. Hardly the glamor of being important and special right? 

We all know how much being sick sucks and we usually don't look nearly this cute. (picture found here)


So how do you react if your friend grows sick? Your family? Do you curl up your lips and walk away, disgusted in them? No. You find yourselves compelled to help, compelled to empathize and sympathize with them. You remember how much it sucked to go through being sick yourself and therefore you find the strength to overlook the weakness with compassion. Perhaps you bring them a gift to cheer them up, or food to help them recover. Maybe you keep them company so they do not have to suffer alone. Instead of filing away your reaction to them at their worst, you help them to become strong again and help the even to pass by.

Take this a step further. Perhaps you are an Aurin who has discovered a Cassian deep in Exile territory. Hatred for the people who drove you from your world might be the first reaction, yes? Perhaps you feel a great deal of hostility and animosity for this person before you. It they were standing, staring you down defiantly, you might even move to violence for the deep-seeded wrongs their people has committed to yours. Now let's complicate things. Let's say the Cassian was found to be injured or ill. This immediately changes the terms of engagement. Oh sure, there are some who wouldn't care, or who may not have cared about the entirety of the event to begin with. But the typical reaction will be the struggle of the compelling notion to express compassion and concern for the ailments of another living being. This is empathy. Even though you know you should hate them, could you really leave them weak and alone? Suddenly this concept of an EPIC galactic war falls to its knees in the presence of BASIC 'HUMAN' EMOTIONS! Isn't this amazing!? These mundane reactions are not just relatable to, they're POWERFUL!

Even with all the wrongs they have suffered, the Aurin could still be moved by compassion. (image from here)

You could be the strongest warrior, the most ruthless killer, the most brilliant scientist or the most clever thief but you will never compare to the innocence of a child or the pride of a father. You will never compare to the fear of the lost, the laughter of the joyous or the passion of a lover. This is what makes a realistic character. This is what makes transforms them from someone you could only read in a book to someone you might meet on the bus tomorrow. Real people cook and clean and turn into squealing fools when talking about their pets. Real people go through the boring everyday parts of life and create magic even from the mundane. It stands to reason it can be the same in the world of writing.

The best part about using the mundane to add realism to your character is that it can come from your own personal experience. You can add your hobbies or perhaps some interests that you have. You know best how you felt when you were happy or angry or sad. You know what it's like to go to the movie theatre or go out to dinner. Use this understanding and describe that for your character when they wind up going through the same situations.

Now mind you this doesn't mean you need to dismiss all the other parts of your character development. The mundane aspects need not be the only parts you focus on. Think of them as a flavoring to their already complex story. By adding these in you move the character from a clever idea to something almost real!



Monday, April 22, 2013

Behind the Scenes: Tips on Playing the Opposite Gender

News:

A warm welcome to the folks returning from Arkship EU 2013. Hope you guys had a wonderful time and definitely looking forwards to seeing all the stuff you can share with us over the next few days here!

Check out this FANTASTIC gift from Himmel of WSRP for the Scowling Cassian! Agent Hawkens in his full scowling glory! It's PERFECT! Also, be sure to check out Himmel's art thread to check out more of their excellent art here on WSRP. Thanks Himmel <3

The Scowling Cassian himself




Today's topic is a suggestion from InnocentCivilian from WSC. Many people play characters of the opposite gender as their physical selves, perhaps for aesthetics or really any number of reasons. However, there isn't always the best connotations associated with this from creepy perverts to pathetic wanna-be's. The question InnocentCivilian asked was : what are your pro tips for roleplaying a member of the opposite gender?

Although I have played a few female characters, I tend to stick with males, with the exception of WoW. I just couldn't get over those beefcake hamfisted musclelumps they called men... So I usually stuck with Tauren females. Although I enjoyed my shaman, she was often referred to as “manly,” so instead I decided to ask my close friend to share his opinion as he has much more experience in this than I. Without further ado, here is Londrieved:

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"I was asked (or rather, I openly volunteered) to speak a little bit about Role-Playing as the opposite gender. It is something I've a little (re: an embarrassingly large amount of) experience in. So, without further ado:

It's honestly not a huge deal.

I suppose I should expand on this. I mean, some people seem to have a mental hang-up with men playing women and /vice versa/, so there is a lot to say on the matter. But, as a general rule of thumb, if you over think it, you'll make a mess of it. In fact, if you're already concerned about doing it well, you're probably well on your way of /not/ messing it up.

The things to keep in mind when going outside of your own gender, is that men and women have more in common than they have differences. It's when you try to overcompensate what differences you assume exist that may or may not that the mistakes happen. Men and women can easily have the same ideals, motivations, thoughts, strengths and weaknesses.

There are the physical and social differences though. Unless you're playing in an idealized world in which there are absolutely no gender roles at any given time, society is going to treat you differently. It's a fact of life. A woman may be considered an equal in all things, but it is still customary for them to be raised with pink, dolls, and lace. It's perfectly okay and reasonable to assume that there are fields that are more usual for a man to be in than a woman, and /vice versa/. This isn't a limitation, it's background fuel. Characters, male or female, are dictated by the challenges they face to reach their status and place in life.

Is your woman a Cassian in the Military, earning a high ranking and a reputation for no-nonsense leadership? Imagine the heads she must have turned in her rise to the top. How many doubters she silenced? How many condescending men she was able to turn their smiles upside down?

These men clearly respect their commanding officer, whether or not she is female.


Of course one mustn't not overdo this. A sassy Commander can easily become a caricature of a feminist should she become viciously man-hating and bitter. I'm not stating that every woman needs to have a fragile flower within her as is the modern cliché in film and video games. If you do not wish there to be a gentle soul within your hard as nails soldier, then by all means, don't put one there. In fact, bait and switch. Make someone think there is a softness there just to pull the wool over their eyes. That idea is free, I should be charging for these...

To keep things on topic, and without this point being overwrought, simply put don't push your luck. You don't win hearts and minds by competing with another about who's the most feminine (or masculine). Define your character as who he or she is, independent of his or her gender. A gender is only a part of their identity, not the screen that colors their entire identity.

In fact, I'm going to bold and underline that last line. I like it, and it's the thesis of my little paper here:

A gender is only a part of their identity, not the screen that colors their entire identity.

I could almost end this entire treatise here, but while I'm at it, people like lists. So, I got you a list. Or a few.

Common Pitfalls in Role-Playing a Female
  1. Lesbians! Okay, playing a lesbian isn't a no-no in and of itself. That would make me a horrible hypocrite at that. But, seriously, if you're not comfortable role-playing a woman already, pairing off with another woman is only going to shine a spotlight on you. Whether or not it's deserved (I personally don't see the big deal, but some people are /very/ adamant that men shouldn't play lesbians), people are going to watch you very closely for any sign that you're not an actual girl, if not outright just assume you're some no-life, basement dwelling pervert. In fact, a lot of actual lesbian and bisexual girls I've spoken to /refuse/ to play lesbian or bisexual characters due to this assumption. Just be warned, is all.

  2. Slutty dresses! Okay, I loathe most outfits that games push on their female characters. Tera is very likely the worst offender at this. Okay, let's be frank. Most women do not bare their body easily. Sluts exist, but if people perceive you as a pervert, they're less likely to take you seriously. This may be an example of community perception, as female players are just as likely to dress their characters up this way too (it's the same effect of things that are being marketed to men use sexy women, and things marketed to women use sexy women as well). But if nothing else, it's unpractical, it's a little degrading, it's objectifying, and it's just simply silly. Robes of the Guardian Saint aren't classy, pretty, or anything of the like. It's revealing, and yes, a little slutty. For extra loss of credibility, combine 1 and 2!

    Now there isn't anything wrong with liking the dress, but it is hard to deny the extreme sexualizing of this dress
    (picture found on WoWhead)
  3. While I'm at it, oversexualizing in general. Sexuality is a natural part of the human condition. Woman aren't turned on by emotions any more than men are; they are just as attracted and in tune to physical desire. But, guys, just like you don't need to make a man-hating butch, you don't have (and shouldn't) make a woman who need men to survive. Or any other hypersexualized cliché.

  4. Do have lots of inspirations! As a rule of thumb, drawing inspiration for a character is not only unavoidable, but a positive part of character writing. There's a quote about there being no original ideas left, but that's not so much true as ideas do not spring forth from thin air. We make ideas from a combination of outside stimuli and our own bias. Think of it like a machine that feeds in ideas, rolls it around with it's own internal programming, and spits out the original idea. Having strong/nuanced female roles to call on to form your female character will only do you good. You simply need to define their own uniqueness independent of their inspirations. As a rule of thumb, and by no means a law or strict rule, having more than three character inspirations, as well as other non-character inspirations, will lend itself to making a fairly nuanced final result. This thread here is a good example of outward inspirations forming a character, and is a fun exercise in character creation as well.

Common Pitfalls in Role-Playing Men
  1. There are much fewer of these, as for some reason, I've not run into many botched female-helm men. The first is this: Too feminized. This is the opposite of the overly butch lesbian, the overly girly gay guy. He is sparkly, blonde, cooks, cleans, and never ever ever wants to be on top. Feminine boys are wonderful. There is a point, though, when the person role-playing with you is wondering why you didn't just roll a female character... I mean to say, I'm all for pushing boundaries of gender roles, but putting a man into stereotypes that are degrading for women in the first place isn't very progressive as much as it's exploitative. As an aside, thanks to society's views on lesbians as opposed to society's views on gay men, you enjoy a broader freedom to enjoy gay role-play that men do not get when doing the opposite.

  2. Did you ever see Mulan, where the character just tried so hard to appear manly that she looked like an unlikable dork? Yeah, don't do that. Like stated earlier, don't over think it.

So, to recap, avoid becoming a walking stereotype, a walking pornography, or a caricature, and you should be just fine. Don't over think it, relax, and remember, have fun!"

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The only thing I can think to add would be some of my pieces of advice from my thread Playing the Exotic. You can sometimes reinforce you point by emphasizing your race, or in this case, gender. Go ahead a play up a stereotype now and then. If you take it lightly and don't play it off offensively it can sometimes help. Same for commenting on the differences between your character and others'. Just remember to be respectful when you can.

I don't really have much else to add. When roleplaying, men and women are more alike then many like to think. Though there may be some variant in social stigmas, they can have the same hopes, dreams and aspirations that make us each a unique and wonderful individuals.

Like Lond said: Don't over think it, relax, and remember, have fun! If you are comfortable and having a good time, so will other people!


Thanks to InnocentCivilian for the topic question and Londrieved for your help in answering! 

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Thank you once again for joining us, dear readers! As always feel free to leave comments and suggestions to either myself or Agent Hawkens and we will reply as soon as able!


Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Responsibility of the Community: Why WildStar needs more WildBillSrs!

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about why I loved the WildStar community. It is here, that I have had the opportunity to meet some phenomenal people and seen some of the most impressive public relations. Tonight only further proved that. In a live stream from Roland of WildStar Nexus, the community gathered together to hang out, laugh and discuss the recently released patch notes together. Everyone seemed to be having a good time. There were warm greetings for familiar faces and when questions were asked, no one rudely told off anyone for not knowing recent updates or what some might consider common knowledge. Everyone was friendly and helpful. Then to make matters even more exciting, Carbine swung by briefly for a hello and sent out a tweet to bring more! 


Carbine, never lose your sense of humor please...

These are the things that build good community together.

This is what we should seek to preserve. Right now we have a very solid, tight-knit community while WildStar is still in development. But as the game comes closer to completion, our numbers swell and upon launch they will explode with people all flocking to enjoy WildStar. Unfortunately this means we will begin to see the inevitable less savory aspects of the community. However, if we can remain strong, we can help curb this damage with intolerance of poor behavior and the encouragement of kindness and generosity.

Today I want to talk about the man who taught me what it truly meant to be a part of the community. I met him in my early days of World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade and have used his fervor as examples to lead my own actions.

Today I want to tell you about WildBillSr.


The one and only WildBillSr!

I found him quite by accident. I was playing with my usual team, a group of my real life friends all in college, talking about where we were going to quest next after lunch. Accidentally landing in Darkshore, I was about to take the correct flight path when I noticed an interesting person chatting in the general channel. We spoke for a little while and suddenly we found ourselves walking from Darkshore to Auberdine. Half-roleplaying, half-chattering we started a great friendship that day.

One thing that really struck me about WildBillSr, was that he was so friendly. Sure I had met plenty of decent people in WoW, but very few who really made me enjoy chatting with them that much. So I brought him to meet my other friends when they brought lunch back downstairs. He was an instant hit with our guild, the Shapers of Destiny. We all hung out for quite some time before heading our separate ways. We all added WildBillSr to our friends list but, like many WoW friends, we did not expect to hear from him much again.

We had no idea how wrong we were.

The very next day our mailboxes all had gifts from our newest friend. There was food with buffs and small crafting treasures for each of us. We all grouped together over breakfast, talking excitedly about the gifts our kind friend had sent us. They were all things that would have taken a bit of time to farm up and could have made a decent bit on the auction house. But instead he sent them to us, each with an amusing and personalized note. This generosity really blew us away and we decided we needed to give him something back.

As we logged back in, I remember one of my friends suddenly bursting into laughter. “Umm...Bill is in Karazhan?” We were all really confused as he was very much under leveled for that endgame raid. So, burning with curiosity, we sent him a tell. It turned out that he was at the waters just outside the raid, specifically to fish a particular eel that could be turned into a food item known as Stormchops. When consumed, stormchops gave a buff that would occasionally zap nearby enemies with lightning damage for a small bit of damage. At the time this was particularly nice for tanks, especially paladin tanks, which I was at the time.

And then I found out, WildBillSr was there fishing for these because he was making some more for me. He snuck into a zone that he was under leveled for, to sit down and spend all this time fishing just to help out a new friend. Because that is what Bill did. He helped people.

Every time we logged in, we always looked to see where WildBillSr was next. He was always exploring some fun place, farming materials or randomly wandering and questing or some other random adventure. We would find him in general chat, disarming trolls and joking with others of the community. Sometimes he would come and roleplay with us, telling stories as we gathered random passerbys in the cities to spend time in fellowship. He constantly surprised us and other friends with gifts and uplifting notes, brightening our times online with all these tiny little things.

WildBillSr, played WoW to his own tune. He didn't race to level, he didn't force himself to grind dungeons for gear or try to raid. Bill played the game for a sense of adventure and for a selfless contribution to the community. He was always encouraging and helpful and he always tried to make things just a little bit better all around him.

He taught myself and my guild about what it meant to truly be a part of the community. You don't need to spend your every moment doing everything for others, but there are all these little things you can do here and there that make a difference. They can really brighten someone's day. And these smiles and goodwill are contagious. They spread from person to person, infecting the community with positivity and kindness. These are the types of people we need to bring into WildStar. These are the people we should strive to be. So many people will play this game from all walks of life. Doctors, bus drivers, school teachers, musicians, first responders, artists, daycare owners, mothers, fathers, kids, I have seen so many wonderful people. No matter how they are different, they all share their love of the game, a single binding interest that unites them under a banner of fun and relaxation. By doing our part, we can continue to make WildStar a positive and enjoyable experience for all!

So many people, united by their love of WildStar. All of them having fun together! (photo found here)


When I went to make this blog, I reached out to my friend WildBillSr and asked him if he could share with us, in his own words, why he does what he does for the community. I leave you with his reply today:

  “ In my humble opinion, Trade Trolls are mostly unhappy folks who are insecure about their ability to make and keep friends.  Without a social anchor, so to speak, they bang about and, eventually, fall into the conceptual trap that "misery loves company".  It's hard for them to motivate, in any case, so it's difficult to get them off their arses and out into the world . . . . where they might actually enjoy themselves (and others) for a change.   What I tried to do in WoW was simple: to keep trade chat funny, kind, and helpful; sort of a protective spell against trade trollism, so to speak.  I kept above anger, above hate, because even Trade Trolls need a little love (though they throw it back in your face if they think you've noticed).  Pretty soon, as I discovered in WoW, the intelligent Trade Trolls start to play our game willingly.  The others get quickly shouted down by a community of Heroes Helping Heroes.  That's how we took out Sauron, and Lord Foul, you know-working together, or "Gung Ho!" as the Chinese used to say.

  In addition, a fantasy world needs story tellers, philosophers, and artists; more of them per capita, in fact, than our poor "real world".  Since I am all 3 (and remarkably humble, too!) I took the reins of Role Playing and ran that horse as hard and far as it would go.  I had a lot of fun that way, and I think I am remembered for it.

  Running into you lot made that mission feel like a complete success and I thank you for your contributions.  Your replies to my gambits left those hostile to me (and my Smurf backers) ill at ease, for they then suspected that I (not they) commanded public opinion.  SInce I teach by example (you would not want to be in a band with me . . . heheh . .  I don't smoke, drink, or carouse in public . . . more's the pity.  I'd be so good at it!), this was all that was required for my efforts to bear good, healthy, fruit.

  Thanks for understanding . . . I don't think many do, but isn't that the hero's lot?  We try and make the world a better place for everyone, not just a few.  If our harmonies are lost within the roar of humanity, well, does it matter, ultimately?  We still melted some of the ice that separates us as people.

  Also, remember that some of the worst of the Trade Trolls are folks with serious mental and physical problems.  Trying to re-integrate these wandered souls into our loving community is kind of our responsibility . . . ain't it not?

With simpatico, I remain your steadfast friend,

Wild Bill senior

Appendices:

Everyone I've discussed it with is psyched about WildStar house building and (some of us, anyway, are also excited about) living in the sky!

I will so play an Exile Explorer/Scout!

If PvP is a major angle then I suggest that you consider allowing Trade Trolls to hurl their ill-aimed weapons of vituperation and venom in the place where such stuff belongs . . . on the battlefield. “
















Tuesday, April 16, 2013

From Small Beginnings: The History of Hawkens

News:



Knock back a few in style with Quizzer's WildStar themed concoctions over on the NeXus. Their first feature: The Scowling Cassian! Can't wait to try one of these out!

I have also been “kidnapped” as an Ink-Slinger for the NeXus. You can check out my first roleplaying piece “Skyfire” here. Links to this and further articles will be put below my WSRP.

Gaffney has explained on Reddit that WildStar beta invites will be going out in waves of every 5 weeks. They may not be able to hold to that as solidly as they would like, but will be doing their best. So you can give your f5 buttons a rest for now.

In even better news, Carbine studios has made another fantastic outreach to their community. With the news of the beta leak out there, they decided to take the unfortunate event and turn it into something positive. To begin with they have officially released these patch notes to all of us and then took it a step further by opening a Q & A on WSC. You can check that all out here!







Great things come from small beginnings.



One of the most fascinating aspects of roleplaying is its ability to form into something unexpected. So often I have seen a small character or idea suddenly develop a life of its own. Sometimes it is the result of time, slowly building into its own, and sometimes it is the efforts of others who take it into new and exciting directions you couldn't possibly have imagined.

Agent John Hawkens is my pride and joy of many years of accumulated writings, happenstance and the chaotic additions of some amazing roleplayers out there. But he did not begin as everyone's favorite Scowling Cassian. In fact the beginnings of himself and his family were quite different.

Being as this is a roleplay blog, I would like to link some more of my writings but without more lore to support Hawken's current iteration, I am at a tad bit of a standstill. I do have a few things I've been working on over with the awesome community on WildStar-Roleplay that I will share sometime soon. But before that I decided that I would like to share how my ornery agent came to be. (If you would like a little intro before I begin, check out Hawkens profile on WSRP here)

You are seriously not talking about me as though I am not here, right?

Oh were you still there Hawkens? I thought I could feel that scowl boring a hole through the back of my head. But I'm getting so used to it now...

Hmph

Well then, if you don't want /me/ to talk about you, why don't you break a little fourth wall with me and talk about yourself?

But I was always Cassian, I was never anything /but/ perfection. How dare you insinuate otherwise!?

Oh give it a rest, will you? Besides I bet our readers would love to hear your own opinion. Honestly do you think they actually come here to read what I have to say? Obviously they are here to hear your insightful input.

Flattery will get you nowhere...

Oh get on with it already.

..
fine


My original iteration began as a pale comparison of the grandiosity I would later achieve. Though there were certainly earlier influences, this was really the first true beginning.

I began as John Drakonrue, a blade smith set in the mountain village on my writer's planet of Rokhr (pronounced Row-cur). Though he was not nearly as important as I, he at least had my charm.

What he means to say is that John Drakonrue was my first attempt at the lovable jerk. (If you haven't read my article on that yet, check it out here) Though ornery and often times short and abrasive, he really had a soft interior if you got to know him.

Am I telling this or are you?

Right, uh, go right ahead Hawkens.

John Hawkens was also one of the first character's to ever be written with a collaboration piece with another author, a close friend of my writer. Being that they were still in rudimentary schooling, their work left something to be desired...

Oh hey now! Yes yes, I was young and foolish back then. This was some of my earliest, really serious writing. So maybe John went through four versions of himself and one of them he might have been a vampire -_- I blame it on my friend playing too much Soul Reaver with me at the time.
Ugh...and now you are laughing...

Although he went from human to vampire to shape-changer, there was one thing that always remained consistent with Ser Drakonrue: His wife Rose. Though she herself always remained human, they were always found together in a strong and loyal relationship. This would also be the last time one of my iterations would come with their own relationship. After Drakonrue's run, there would no longer be the potential for a peaceful marriage.

John's first iteration came to a tragic end with the death of my friend who had been writing with me. I actually quit writing for a year or so. There was a chance John might have completely faded into obscurity if it were not for the arrival of my best friend in college who came to save the day. Bringing her creative talent to the table resulted in the resurrection of John.

As well as my first steps into the role of an agent.


In the time away from my writing I had, had the opportunity to build my inspirations from many excellent sources. The Deus Ex series most likely had the heaviest influence, bringing me into my love of cyberpunk and agent/operative stories while finally reading Neuromancer solidified that interest. Strangely enough, inspiration from James Bond would not come for a couple of years.

This time, John had lost his name, as the character had originally meant to be a fresh start. Befitting of an agent, he took on the alias Agent Wolf and once again returned to the world of Rokhr. He accompanied two unlikely allies, a spunky woman with demonic powers and a small kender-inspired traveler written by my writer's college friends, as his job was to keep an eye on the woman until she arrived as some mystical place in the future as foreseen by the mysterious people he worked for. Though the plot itself ended up meandering all over the place as the writers came more into their styles, the character development truly began to hit home. Now the lovable jerk came with a sense of duty and obligation to a higher cause, his company becoming the first “empire” like force that would drive him onwards.

Agent Wolf and the other characters in the story, as drawn by my best friend!


Although this series of writings did not go as far as I would have liked, it set the grounds for the first true formation of John under the name that would become his legacy (that will be more amusing in a moment)

My next iteration came with the arrival of Star Wars: The Old Republic. It was easy. Imperial Agent storyline was a given. With everything I had been through up to this point and all the inspiration in between, it was the most logical conclusion. Though the epic story of Cipher Nine was certainly an excellent sort of inspiration, much like Deus Ex, it was not just that, that created the glorious being that I have become.

No, not just that. It came in the between. In all the tiny masterful dialogues that Bioware put in. Not so much /what/ he did, but /why/. It was the same reason I loved watching my non-RP friends go through this game. You simply could not help but build a deep personality.

Amusingly enough, John did not begin here at first. In fact, his elder brother Brenner was my first agent here. I had so much fun playing Empire and going through the excellent storyline. Then all of the sudden I had to choose a legacy name. You have /no/ idea how hard that was to choose. I mean, I am the type to spend hours in character creator just to pick a name. Drakonrue was my first idea, having been the last name used long ago. But it just didn't feel right anymore. I turned to my experiences in WoW. Most of my characters were all named after a bird of sort: Goldhawk, Steelhawk, Crowstorm, Gavynn (Based on Gavin:Welsh for white hawk of battle) and Gryffin. So it just felt sort of right to perpetuate my style. However these names seemed a bit too tribal for the sort of English style the Empire supported. And then it hit me. The perfect name.

Hawkens

 
Meet Brenner, the eldest of the Hawkens brothers


With the name, came a bit more fleshing out. There was a family, of course. A Master Hawkens and Lady Hawkens. I decided they were a prominent noble family, dealing in innovative wartime engineering. I decided their son was still rather attached to them, even if he was forced to remain distant on the job.

I had no plans at the time for John to resurrect. Then one day, one of my friends really wanted me to play Republic side with them and join their RP guild...

And Agent John Hawkens was born that day. Younger brother of the family, he suffered a terrible tragedy with a cruel Sith Lord, resulting in his defection. The only defector he knew that still ached to return home, that still carried the abrasive attitude and classy accent. This is where my scowl became famous. They learned to fear my--

They found it endearing, Hawkens, no lying.

Hmph.

The Quintessential Scowl


There was no question when WildStar came to be. The moment I saw the “Meet the Dominion” video, I knew who I would play.

Agent John Hawkens. Cassian. Loyal servant of the ICI and of his Empire.

The Scowling Cassian
The Scowling Cassian


-----------------------------------------------

Thank you once again for joining us, dear readers. Your support and encouragement have been overwhelming. I invite you to leave a comment here or on WildStar-roleplay. Have any ideas for topics you'd like to see discussed or questions for Hawkens? Feel free to drop us a line and we will do our best to accommodate!


Friday, April 12, 2013

Playing the Exotic

News: 

Huzzah!
Another busy week for myself and for WildStar! Congrats to everyone who has received the beta invite. Good luck, have fun and if you'd like some tips or advice, feel free to check out my article of tips from my previous beta experiences here. I would also like to note that the Scowling Cassian is in full support of the NDA and will take actions accordingly if such things appear here. But you guys are awesome and I really am not worried about it. 

Ah this reminds me. I have heard a decent number of people mentioning that they would like to comment more on the articles but do not enjoy the blogger system. If you would like to comment, I usually post these articles up in the threads at WildStar-roleplay.com. Please feel free to drop a line there from comments on the articles to suggestions on others. And be certain to check out all the other amazing posts there too!

If you wish to follow with what news we do know about beta, be sure to check out WildStar Fan's beta article. Be sure to check out all their other excellent articles while you are there as well!

Also, roleplaying fans, get your thinking caps on. Settler in Exile is holding a contest for the scientist path badge from PAX East with a roleplaying themed entry. Limit 400 words either share your character's backstory or how they got their nickname. Go check it out now!



On to the article now! Alrighty folks, this one is a suggestion from Jynetik, creator of the Female DrakenThread on WildStar Central.

One of the most exciting aspects of fantasy, sci-fi, fiction in general and heck, even real life is the exotic. Something strikingly, excitingly, or mysteriously different or unusual. From another place, another world, alien to our own concepts of normality. In some ways enticing in the sheer strangeness.
WildStar offers us quite a few amazing choices for some exotic races: the Draken, the Mechari, the Aurin, Granok and the two as yet unreleased races. And do not forget that between each other and against the other races, even the Cassians and humans can appear exotic!

Of course they would be in awe. No other race in the galaxy possesses the grace, the poise and regality of my people. No other race can compare with our conviction and pride. No others can--

Yes, yes Hawkens. Of course. The Cassians are certainly the most glorious race in all the galaxy.

Why do I get the feeling you are patronizing me?

Perish the thought, good Sir. Anyway, as I was saying.

I've always found it interesting to find out that most people tend to play humans in their MMOs. Since my days of pen and paper roleplaying I have always wanted to be the coolest monster possible, always shot for the most bestial race. In Dungeons and Dragons, I played the Dragonborn or shape-shifting druids. In Diablo 2, I was the druid there as well, spending as little time outside my wolf form as possible. In WoW, I played almost exclusively Tauren with the exception of a few Worgen or Draenei for the alliance. It wasn't until I played Star Wars: The Old Republic that I first really played a human. Now, even though my main character in WildStar will be a Cassian, the other exotic races still fascinate me. So today I would like to talk more about playing the exotic, the challenges associated with it, suggestions for how to pull it off and how it differs, or doesn't differ from humans.

This combines charts from both WoW census and GW2 (Kotaku article) showing humans as the most played race.


I have often heard that people play humans because it is “safe.” Despite what we may wish otherwise, we are humans ourselves and it is a very familiar ground to operate on. We know how people act, we know how they think and how they might handle things. No one is going to look at our character and laugh, telling us we aren't playing a human right.

Exotic races are a little bit different. How does a Granok act normally? Do they all believe in the Way of Stone and what is it? Since player characters will probably be from the exiled Granok, do they even believe in their culture anymore? Do any of the Draken resent their alliegance to the Dominion? How does a typical Mechari act? Do they have feelings? We know a little from what we've read in the lore that WildStar has provided us, but not that much.


This leads to a problem that my coworker at work brought up to me. (Bless her soul for listening to me for hours ranting about WildStar) When you know very little about these races how can you keep them from simply becoming a stereotype of the couple of paragraphs of information we have? For instance, if you were to base an Aurin solely on their love of nature. We know that the Aurin rose in a forest world and are keenly in tune with the natural world around them. But if that is the only defining characteristic of your character, they may not appear terribly interesting or unique. Just like humans, we figure that other races will have endless variety in their personalities, attitudes and goals. When we look at an exotic race, we tend to define them by concepts that we recognize. The Aurin love nature, the Mechari are cold, the Draken are violent. In order for us to portray them, we wish to adhere to their defining characteristics. So how can we remain faithful to their core while still make them unique and interesting?

Though their connection to nature is important, not every Aurin must be like this


One of the biggest things to remember is one of the strongest tools roleplayers have to work with in MMOs. Graphics. If you roll a Draken, your character will look like a Draken. Other people will identify them as a Draken. Therefore you do not need to spend all your time in your character's personality defining them as a Draken. Maybe it might seem a little shallow, but it really is a wonderful advantage. Humans don't need to spend all their time explaining they are human, why should the other races?

Even though you cannot see them that well, it only further proves the point. The tiny snippets you can see show you the races at a single glance. No explanation necessary. (this image from Massively) 


You can actually accomplish a great deal using small homages from time to time. Perhaps a Draken might acknowledge their tribe or mention their hunts. A Granok might occasionally drop the reference of “The Way of Stone” or an Aurin might mention their Mother Tree or the ravaging of Arboria. These occasional blips can further reinforce the image of your race while not falling into the pit of stereotyping. These are culturally important and most of the race would know of these things and most likely speak of them.

Another powerful tool is actually using the exact opposite tactic. Rather then trying to reinforce your character's race, have them talk about how strange the other races might appear to them. To an Aurin, the Cassians must have strangely small ears and broad shoulders. Granok might refer to humans as “smoothskins” as has been used in other fantasy genres. Perhaps the Draken find that the Aurin being ruled by a queen with her consort odd compared to their clan chieftains and huntresses. 

How strange this must seem to an Aurin


This is actually a good tactic for Humans and Cassians as well. Remember that playing the exotic is a matter of perspective. Maybe Draken and Granoks may appear very different to us, but keep in mind that in real life, other cultures can appear exotic and new. Therefore you can even pull this sense off for Humans and Cassians as well. Each of these has their own history and culture from the Brightland's Rebellion to Shade's Eve.

Shade's Eve was a tragic moment for my people's past; something we will never forget. A moment in which we proved our steadfastness and courage to push onwards despite the horrors we have faced. From the ashes of the fallen we rose to greatness, never forgetting their brave sacrifices of those who have gone before. A heritage of blood and glory for the rightful rulers of the galaxy.

Now although I mentioned that it was not always preferable to fall into stereotypes with one's race you do not have to purposely avoid this. In a galaxy of different races with different views and goals alongside the tensions of war you will have a great deal of people who will be fiercely proud of their race and will do their best to be the very paragon of their existence. If everyone were like this, it would get old fast. But don't be afraid for your character to really get into their exotic nature!

So, as you can see, playing the exotic can be a very interesting a rewarding aspect in any game. And despite what some may feel or say, they really are not that different from humans. They have their own goals, history, dreams and ambitions. They build a life for themselves and usher in their future generations with pride.

And not matter what, despite what you may play, no matter their race, religion or language, there are some common grounds that cannot be broken. As one of my favorite graphic novels once told me:

“A smile is a smile in any language.”

(For an excellent list of lore links, including many used in this post, check out this thread on WildStar-roleplay!)





Sunday, April 7, 2013

How to Roleplay with your Non-Roleplaying Friends

In case you couldn't tell, I really enjoy roleplaying. It is a wonder medium for creative expression and storytelling and it is just plain fun. I really put a lot of thought and feeling into my characters and though I do not necessarily need to roleplay all the time, I always have a sort of “personality” for my character that I am playing regardless of what I am doing.

Why are you looking at me like that?

Oh no reason, Hawkens...

Unfortunately many of the friends I really enjoy playing with are not roleplayers. A few just don't really like it and some outright seem to be made nervous by its mere mentioning. So how can we coexist peacefully while both enjoying the game and each others' company? My best friend, who does not consider herself a roleplayer, gave me some tips she thought up as to why she still enjoys some moderate roleplay with me and some of my other friends. She is also the one who suggested this article to me as a way to help out other RP and non RP people out there in the WildStar community and help them better understand each other.


I found that Star Wars: The OldRepublic was one of the best ways to bring roleplayers and non roleplayers into a happy medium. For most roleplayers the character stories and quest dialogue were an awesome way to build their character's personality and listen as they grew and shaped with time. However there were also many people who did not consider themselves roleplayers who enjoyed these same aspects. I had to smile every time these friends would turn to me and explain to me why their character made the decisions they did. Perhaps their bounty hunter really had a heart of gold and would never kill an innocent. Maybe their Jedi was struggling with the Dark Side or their Imperial Agent was fighting to keep their humanity. All of these led to a personality and attitude that they built for their character and it delighted me to no end.

When we would group up, the decisions we would try to make based on our character's personality would make for some interesting scenarios. We did not always agree and sometimes that would lead to teasing or friendly arguments over who was right or wrong in a situation. After this our own stories we were building for them just sort of began to happen as we created relationships for them. One of our friend's Sith was tolerant but always racially insensitive to our Rattataki bounty hunter while they would both nod nervously every time my inquisitor tried to explain to them that he was really a coilicoid. Some of the stories were silly and that was okay, we just made things up as we went. They weren't all pure roleplaying gold, but they were FUN!

Our Trio of Doom! (art by author)

And all of the sudden I found my non roleplaying friend taking more and more interest in her characters. She didn't feel like she had the pressure to make amazing stories and she didn't feel uncomfortable being around people who she believed took their playing waaaay too seriously. She began to link other of her characters to our silly stories and we've had fun with it ever since.

Although in WildStar we won't have the personal stories or dialogue options quite like in SWToR, I think we have already lain the foundations for some awesome adventures. My friend has already picked a character she has played in the past and has been building some ideas as she learns more about WildStar. Both her and my other friend have agreed to build another trio with me that we will only level together, making sure that they grow and evolve together!


If you wish to work alongside another, one must be prepared to make compromises. Only if both parties feel equally valued can you have a trusted partnership.

While playing SWToR with us, my best friend had to start with an open mind and be willing to give a bit of roleplaying a shot. The fact that we didn't force anything and just let things develop naturally helped a lot. However there were some other pointers she wanted to add that she felt were important to share.

  • -Please make time for your non RP friends by putting aside RP now and then. Sometimes it is really easy to get into roleplaying and enjoying going back to see what will happen next and that can occasionally make it harder to enjoy just running a dungeon or something of the like. It is still important to take the time to stop and make sure that your friends that don't rp still can enjoy having time to hang out with you too and do the things they want.
  • -Building character relationships can be fun when they happen naturally. By not forcing your friends to make a personality or story ahead of time, but just letting them build it as they go is a lot more fun. If they don't feel pressured to take it too seriously and can just have fun and be silly, they will enjoy it more.
  • -Don't type or whisper other friends when you are playing with your friend. This doesn't mean you can never chat with others, but if you want your friend to feel more involved, then you need to be more involved with them.
  • -Inside jokes can be a lot of fun to make. Bringing up instances of past hilarity will help them to not just have fun with you but feel a bit more invested in their character.


I've met some amazing new friends in the WildStar community and there has already been an explosion of creative genius and roleplaying over on WildStar-roleplay.com that has gotten me excited for RP in WildStar. But even so, I am also very much looking forwards to playing with my best friend. Even if it may not be the most epic stories I've ever worked on, our time together is fun and a great way to spend time together!

I'm definitely looking forwards to hanging out with my friends on the Nexus, RP or no!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

How to Beta

Sorry folks for the late post this week. It has been crazy busy and I have not had much time to just sit down and write. Either that or I thought my April Fool's post was just so very clever that I had to bask in its glory for a few more days. 

I'll let you decide. ;)


Oh and before I get started I would like to share that I have been accepted by the awesome people on WildStar-Roleplay.com as one of their writers! I will be posting links to the articles I make there underneath my site links. Feel free to stop by and read them and/or leave comments and make sure you check out all the other awesome threads on the site too! (You can check out the first one here)


Today's blog will be a slightly smaller one, but hey all the more reason to head to WildStar roleplay and check things out there right?

You are utterly shameless.

Oh you're one to talk, Hawkens...

Anyway, with the promise of beta looming before everyone like a giant golden carrot I decided I wanted to share a few of my thoughts on how to be a good beta tester. I believe it is important to remember that while beta invites are a pleasant gift from the producers, there is still a degree of responsibility on the participant to provide feedback: the entire purpose of beta. No there is no rule stating that you must and one should not feel unduly pressured to hunt down every little problem they can, but it is a wonderful opportunity to help shape the game you love.

As I know I was very confused how I could help when I received my first beta invite, I thought I would throw out some advice from my experiences.

Beta is Beta.
Keep in mind that what you will be playing with really isn't the finished game. You may be restricted in what you can play and where you can play it and large sections or features of the game may be missing or disabled for the purpose of the testing. Be sure to read any notes the company might provide to explain to you what you are working with. This way you do not accidentally report on something that it intentionally missing. *cough*

Beta is going to be beta, try not to let the bugs bother you too much...


That said, here are some key things to watch for while you play:

Technical Errors: Issues with the game play itself

-NPCs and/or monsters that do not animate
-Quests being impossible to finish ( for example, in the Cataclysm beta for WoW, I found a mob that I needed to kill for a quest could not be harmed after a certain point in her scripted fight, thus making the quest unable to be completed)
-Written dialogue errors (for example “Hello <player class>, good to see you!” or perhaps typos )
-Spoken dialogue errors ( Perhaps some spoken dialogue may cut out before the printed words are finished. Sometimes this is intentional, sometimes it is an error)
-Emotes (In TOR, many of the original emotes that had animations to them seemed to be stuck in a really awkward loop. Here would be a good time to find that, or if something doesn't seem to work right)
-Do tooltips match actions?
-Are there any missing graphics? (for example, does a parked ship disappear if you look at it from a specific way? Are some objects clearly missing skins or parts of their skins?)


Personal Thoughts: Remember, your feedback does not have to be solely bug reports. This is a PERFECT opportunity to share your personal issues or enjoyments with the game!

-How do you like the “feel” of the classes? (An example was that some people felt the spellslinger seemed to be too stationary to be enjoyable at times)
-Are there any skills you love/hate? (Some people wanted the stealth in stalkers to be a toggle feature, not just a cooldown based ability)
-How do the zones “flow?” (Do you feel like you have to backtrack a lot to do your quests? Do you often get lost trying to find the next questing hub? Do you have a sense of connection with the quests in the zone or do you feel like you are being shepherded from point to point with little cohesion?)
-Is there anything in general that you like or dislike? It's okay to just talk. Do you like that particular boss and found the mechanic rewarding and unique? Did you not like those bombs you picked up because the explosion doesn't feel very 'big' or 'fun?' Did that one quest feel awkward and insult your intelligence as a player? Were you really taken aback by that gorgeous vista from that one mountain? Every little bit is helpful. Sure major technical issues might be fixed sooner then aesthetics, but that does not mean that your voice does not have weight.

DON'T BURN OUT!

Okay, so you have beta and you are REALLY excited to play it right? You've got plenty of time and are SO ready to go hunting for all the things you can find to send helpful feedback to your favorite devs, right? Well before you get started I want to warn you about ONE VERY IMPORTANT POTENTIAL PROBLEM: Burnout.

Try not to let the stress, or the excitement get to you


The last thing you want to do with a game you love so much is mash your face so hard on the beta that you end up numb to the release and suddenly find you no longer enjoy it that much. This happened to me with Guild Wars 2 and I deeply regret not having taken beta a little less seriously. Keep in mind that while you are testing, you will most likely be forced to play the same zone(s) over and over again. Each time you try a new class or race, you will end up repeating many things. No matter how much you love something it cannot change the fact that quests glitching or the game crashing will always be frustrating. So as much as you are chomping at the bit to dive in, I'd really like you to consider some of these tips to help keep your love of the game alive!

-Play the class/race/faction you like/expect to play the least (make sure you still roll what you want to play if you really want to. You do not need to ignore it. But this is a good opportunity to take a deeper look at something you are the least likely to worry about burning out on and it might also encourage you to explore things you might end up liking in the end, anyway)
-Take a break (seriously, you do not need to log in every second you can. I know it is so tempting, but it is a really good idea to step back and enjoy other things. Remember, not too much longer and you will have the complete game at your fingertips at all times. So at least for now, try not to drown yourself in the content. Even though every voice counts, you are still one person and it is okay if you are not the only one giving feedback)
-Try a little bit of everything (Maybe you are really into roleplaying or you just love PVP, it's easy to pick your favorite bits and spend all your time looking at them. Try to branch out and check out other areas you are less interested/familiar with. Who knows, you might end up liking them or even finding something a fan may accidentally overlook. In any case you will be less likely to beat your interests into the ground in endless repetition.)



Even though our numbers are part of the advantage of beta, our individual voices are still important.

That pretty much sums up all I have to say on the matter. Beta invites are a really great opportunity for the game producers and their fans to communicate while they stress test their game. A small team of maybe forty or so people can only coordinate and test so much. And building the game itself can also make it difficult for someone to notice certain issues. By adding many many testers, you have not just bodies, but lots of eyes and ears and voices.

So, if you end up getting an invite, congratulations! Go out there and test away, but be sure to remember to have fun and take it easy. Oh, and of course share everything with our awesome community. (If you are allowed to, mind you. Please respect the NDA!) Don't be afraid to put in your two cents!

As Carbine always tells us: The Devs are listening!