Friday, April 12, 2013

Playing the Exotic


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 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!)

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