The idea that the WODMMO is going to have a "poetic" UI has been bandied about for a while now, and the developers are going for a much more "cinematic" gaming experience than what we've seen to date. Exactly how they're going to accomplish this, we have little idea, and there's enough speculation out there to satisfy even the most desperate of WODMMO news addicts.
That's not what this blog is going to be about. This blog is going to be about how we, as players, can live up to the poetics of the World of Darkness, as an entity distinct from that of the WODMMO. There are many more ways to give players a "poetic", a "gothic", and a "personal horror" feeling while playing the game than a shiny new graphics engine and a minimalist UI. These are the ways that vampires themselves are poetic creatures, and live in a world where symbolism and secrets are their own languages. So here are a few examples of the ways I'd like to see the game expanded into new territory, territory where MMOs of the past have only sojourned, but never stayed: the realm of significance.
Now, most games tend to have significance out the wazoo, but this is an artificial and a forced significance. This is the significance of "red versus blue" and the simplistics of a class- or raced-based faction system. What the Undead Mutant Zombie Warlock means is Enemy. What the Silver-and-Gold Noble Human Guy means is Ally. Purple means Epic, Orange means Even More Epic. More armor means Better. This is blatant and obvious signifiance, where what you see is what you get, and everything is easily interpreted so as to reduce the game's learning curve. And this simply is not going to cut it in a political game. In the World of Darkness, there is nothing so simple or so trustworthy. If somebody is wearing red, it could mean they are an enemy - it could mean they are an ally - it could mean they are a member of an undecided third faction - it could even mean that they really just like the color red.
However, I hope to see certain trends and patterns that will lend signifiance to certain things, decided upon and implemented by the players. In tabletop, there are many images and colors and symbols that have much more significance that call for something much more than a simple positive or negative reaction. The Sabbat, for example, takes the color purple as their calling card, and we can speculate as to the reasons: it could be because purple is the color of royalty. Or perhaps purple is the mix of red and blue, enemy and friend both, which is representative of the self-antagonistic nature of the Sabbat, it's constant infighting and belief that conflict is necessary to survive and grow strong. It could be an appeal to all vampires everywhere, for purple is the color of dead blood, which runs through every Cainite's veins. Any given interpretation of this color is going to attract some vampires - and I hope some players - because of what they feel it represents. Some may, indeed, even take to the color because they happen to like it.
So let us imagine we are innocently stalking the night in search of living blood, and we come across a hard-edged punk, fully decked out in leather and studs, who is wearing an incongruous purple scarf. Dare we comment on this? Does it mean he aligns himself with the Sabbat, in which case he will probably attack us? Does it mean he wants to look like a member of the Sabbat, but is really an undercover agent for the Sheriff? What kind of Sabbat would go around wearing purple in a Camarilla city, after all? Perhaps it's a token from one of his herd, or from his domitor. How do we tell which case it is, or even if it is only one of them? We can guess that the scarf has additional significance, but without being "in the know" already, we will have difficulty ascertaining whether or not we should run until it is probably too late.
There are many cases like this in the World of Darkness, where something seemingly common and normally would not take a second glance is exactly what is used to carry a great deal more meaning to the hidden world of vampires and other supernaturals. A black handprint is found on a skull buried deep in a Middle Eastern tomb, behind locks that seem strangely advanced for the time period of the burial. In the 1910s, an assassin claiming to work for something called "the Black Hand" kills a major political figure. You wake up in your haven one night to find an unmarked envelope slipped through your mail slot. Inside is a simple piece of paper signed only with a handprint in black ink. You don't have to be a learned scholar of occultism and symbology to start to question whether there's something going on behind the scenes here, even between seemingly random and unconnected events, times, and places. The Black Hand is out there, and it knows where you live.
Another situation: Tensions are high in the city. The primogen are not speaking to their constituents, and rumor has it that the Prince has gone totally paranoid. Kindred fear for their unlives, for the halls of power echo with the whisper of "the blood hunt". Again, you wake up in your haven one evening to find something else slipped through your mail slot: a pressed stalk of flower petals, a deep purple-red in hue. An amaranth flower. You recall an old story your sire told you years and years ago, back when it didn't seem to be anything more than nonsense: Amaranth flowers were delivered to the subjects of a blood hunt the night before the hunt was to be called. Some traditions do not die.
I think that if players get the chance to create situations such as this, it would go a long way towards establishing the WODMMO as a game focused not only on great action and politics, but also as a game with depth and somewhat more significance. A lot of this is only possible, though, when players have the freedom to create and change things to suit their personal needs, as well as to maintain a certain consistency so that symbology can become common. In order for an amaranth flower to have signifiance, for example, there need to be amaranth flowers in the game, and we need to be able to deliver them to players, whether as the last courtesy before we hunt them for the blood in their veins, or simply because we need them to think we are because once they panic and flee the city, we can swoop in and seize their assets. But that reaction will only be possible if we can act out in poetic and symbolic ways. It would help a lot if we could grow our own gardens, and with a variety of plants, with amaranth blossoms hidden among the other colorful flowers to disguise the fact that we have them. Clothing can become an actual expression of who a person is and what they stand for, not simply what we felt like wearing tonight, because this isn't a really important Elysium meeting, after all. Two women arriving at the same ball wearing the same dress suddenly becomes a lot more than a social faux pas - it could mean they are expressing an alliance, or were both unknowingly the pawns of another vampire, who wished to show his dominance by delivering the same dress to both women, or that one of the women simply wishes to one-up her competition by showing how much better she looks in the same dress. Then imagine if one of the women was a Nosferatu.
By adding in the freedom for players to create and manipulate content like this, a whole new level to the game is added. When the person standing next to us says, does, or wears something that seems out of place, we should have to pay attention. There could be a message there, and if we can recognize that message, it means certain very important things to us - and if we don't recognize the message, it can mean worse things. The game could become a much more subtle dance than the tangle of red versus blue, of clearly laid-out friends and enemies. Things would be the way we want them to be, instead of the way they have to be because that's just the way the game works. A flower is so much more than a flower; a color means more than good fashion sense; a catchphrase you heard last night in a bar contains a message that, thanks to your blundering, just went into the wrong ears. Let's all hope that the World of Darkness is much more than it appears.
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1 years 26 days ago
Yes, it would be really interesting to be able to shape the lore of the ongoing game (considering that we, the oWoD fans, will likely be responsible to bring such feel and mood over the game - I wouldnt bet CCP will add much lore of the IP except the basics - so either if we bring the knowledge or create it, putting into the game "poetically" would be awesome. I dont know if it worries me or if I was overthinking, but what about the risks of such symbolisms (whichever they may be) eventually become a stereotype, and having it set on immersion (by ourselves), going against it would be from another faux pas to an unaware self-death sentence. I know it is a bit too much of an extrapolation, but I dared to "simulate" the thought process a new player would have, after understanding purple may-or-may-not mean sabbat so although s/he likes the color, better safe than sorry, just toss those colored clothes away. Also that we must remember, seeing through the layer of In Character and Out of Character knowledge is easy by most roleplayers, but what about "the others"? I must say I myself am an occasional victim of lasy(or wishful) thinking - see that last batch of pics that are out : I cannot believe that pic with the three women and the hound are not a reference to Setites! haha that is mostly wishful thinking, true. But you get what I mean? Keep up the thought-provoking blogs :D Cheers!
1 years 31 days ago
Somewhat ironically, I was thinking about the idea of this blog some more, only in the context of sewers and what it means for the Nossies. The whole symbolism of detritus and being the dregs of society - and then what if the Prince had the power to open up or seal sewer entrances? (By having the city put bars over storm drains, or putting lead seals around manholes, etc, "for the safety of the children".) Then the outcasts could be cut off from exile itself. My brain did a few mental flips when I thought of that.
1 years 31 days ago
Agreed on all counts. This blog x10