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Just say 'no' to Johnny Quest villains!


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This is one thing that always bugged me about Bioware games. The villains are made so fiendish, so nasty....not just in their actions, but in their everyday conversation....that it's impossible to take them seriously. KOTOR was no exception.

 

Example: the Sith characters you meet. Every last one of them is bullying, arrogant, obnoxious, and apparently without any redeeming qualities. Now, at the highest levels (Darth Malak), this makes sense; he IS a Sith Lord, dedicated to personal power at the expense of everyone else. But shouldn't the lower ranks have some ideal motivating them beyond pure power lust and cruelty? One quickly begins to wonder just how the Sith manage to find recruits when their only ideal is 'let's conquer the galaxy and be mean to people.'

 

I refer to these characters as 'Johnny Quest' villains. If anyone ever watched that show, either the old or new version, you'll recall that there was hardly a single line uttered by the 'bad guys' which wasn't dedicated to showing how evil and nasty they are. You couldn't sympathize with them in the least because they were made purposefully unsympathetic.

 

Remember, even the worst of causes (if it wishes to have any mass appeal) has managed to put some kind of cover on their excesses and lure idealistic recruits. The Nazis potrayed themselves as the defenders of European civilization against Soviet barbarism. The Soviets presented themselves as the defenders of the workers of the world against the enslavement of Capitalism. Hell, even the modern day Islamic extremists aren't just killing people to 'be evil', but rather because of a fanatic belief in the will of Allah.

 

As for the Star Wars Galaxy, one has only to read the manual of TIE Fighter to understand the appeal of the Empire; 'Stability' against 'Lawlessness.'

 

My appeal to the honorable designers of KOTOR II; please don't make the 'Sith Lords' Johnny Quest villains. Make them at least slightly sympathetic; make it so we can understand their actions and choices.

 

Thank you. :)

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Someone missed the planet known as Korriban...

Actually, been there, wasn't impressed.

 

Any army that operated on the guidelines of that Sith academy would disintegrate in upon itself after it's first battle. Imagine an army that not only tolerates, but actively encourages, the assassination of it's officers in the heat of combat by their underlings. 'Everyone for himself' isn't an ideal an army can operate around.

I made this half-pony half-monkey monster to please you

But I get the feeling that you don't like it

What's with all the screaming?

You like monkeys, you like ponies

Maybe you don't like monsters so much

Maybe I used too many monkeys

Isn't it enough to know that I ruined a pony making a gift for you?

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the assassination of it's officers in the heat of combat by their underlings. 'Everyone for himself' isn't an ideal an army can operate around.

Actually, whatshisname who runs the academy will let you fall through your test if you suggest that, when you recite and elaborates on the meaning of the Sith code.

 

The Sith philosophy is not about cruelty for crueltys sake, but evolution in its most basic form to make the Sith as a whole stronger.

 

That is also the entire purpose of Sith's taking apprentices and grooms them to the day they are ready to replace to old leader of the pack so to speak.

 

I would rather compare the Sith to a pack of wolves, where the younger ones are tolerated by the pack leader, even though one of them is bound to oust him one day.

 

The point is not to be cruel to the individual, but get the strongest leader for the benefit of the pack.

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.” - Albert Einstein

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Good post, and Korriban was no exception to the rule. As a matter a fact KotOR was to D20 DnD as Korriban is to the abyss. It was just a refuge for chaotic evil DnD fiends.

 

Anyhow, that is Bioware in a nut shell. Every epic has to either have you slay ancient red wyrm, or take a visit to the abyss. The trouble with Bioware is they are truly clueless when it comes to shades of off good and basically make good and bad discrete.

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That is also the entire purpose of Sith's taking apprentices and grooms them to the day they are ready to replace to old leader of the pack so to speak.

 

I would rather compare the Sith to a pack of wolves, where the younger ones are tolerated by the pack leader, even though one of them is bound to oust him one day.

 

The point is not to be cruel to the individual, but get the strongest leader for the benefit of the pack.

I would say that they strive for individual hegemony based on divine principles and anarchical rule, rather then amoral instincts honed by 1000's of years of evolution.

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I would say that they strive for individual hegemony based on divine principles and anarchical rule, rather then amoral instincts honed by 1000's of years of evolution.

Ehh ?

 

Hang on a moment while I try to look that up in the dictionary... :)

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.” - Albert Einstein

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I would say that they strive for individual hegemony based on divine principles and anarchical rule, rather then amoral instincts honed by 1000's of years of evolution.

Ehh ?

 

Hang on a moment while I try to look that up in the dictionary... :)

Found it. Looks about right :)

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.” - Albert Einstein

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The trouble with Bioware is they are truly clueless when it comes to shades of off good and basically make good and bad discrete.

 

One can argue that Sarevok and Irenicus were not simple villains. Sure they were *evil*, but they had reasons other than the desire to dominate the world. One was snared by the trappings of his blood, the other twisted by his fall.

 

Overall, though, I'd agree that Bioware's games aren't the best in offering shades of grey, but then, as we saw with DX:IW, simply offering shades of grey doesn't really work, either.

 

In the end, I continue to believe that it's the presentation of the villain, and not who he is exactly, that matters.

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You know, some of the best villains have been pure evil. Morgoth and Sauron were evil through and through. Scrooge, prior to the visitations, is depicted as quite two-dimmensional. Satan is pure evil.

 

On the other hand, I prefer Milton's portrayal of Satan as an almost sympathetic character. I prefer Shylocke to Scrooge. I prefer Ravel to Malik.

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Irenicus had more complexity than Bioware's average "villain", but of course, most of the others didn't - Sarevok had potential but was underdevelopped, Melissan was the classic villain, so was the Creator Race's overlord thingy, (though Aribeth had the whole redemption thing going), etc.

 

Bioware needs to recognise what Evil really is. Their game designers have an overriding flaw in that their stories always cartoonise evil, and decide to treat it as a 2D thing; they never show that people who we perceive as evil might in their own minds be justified in what they see as a 'right' quest; furthermore, villains are classified into two types; those with redeeming qualities who will be redeemed (or die a tragic death and be elevated in status thus), and those who will NOT be redeemed - and for that have NO likable qualities. You might want to massacre a nation and still give a child a warm smile as you walk down the road.

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Irenicus could've easily been made a more tragic/sympathetic character, simply by playing on his past a bit more, and the details of his fall. Same thing with Sarevok and his indignity at being abandoned by Gorion and having to fend for himself while the PC happily dwelt in Candlekeep (just one cutscene would've done tons for this). Heck, they had all the makings of a tragic love story for Sarevok, as well, but it simply wasn't developed.

 

I'm starting to wonder why this is. Is Bio really clueless (which I doubt), or is there some kind of twisted logic at work that makes them believe that villain development isn't a good idea?

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Korriban works best after the Leviathan, and if you're DS, then you can just revel in your darkness.

 

The 2 Sith masters are unlike the others. True, they're still motivated by power and their dialog reflects that, but they aren't the mindless bullies we've seen before. They outline their ideals and actually make a good case for joining. Each day could be your last though, betrayal and plots are rife.

 

Uthar & Yuthura are my favorite characters in the game.

If Kotor2 has complex Sith like those I'll be happy. Malak didn't impress me at all. He was a cardboard-cutout villain with an evil laugh.

 

To be honest, most game villains take their cue from "Johnny Quest"... I don't see that changing either.

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I adored Yuthura Ban.

 

Her explanation of the Sith Code, as well as Uthar's, makes it seem so... sensible. No stagnation, no suppressing human (in a non-species specific sense) emotions but rather, putting them to use. It is reasonable and it makes sense -- the kind of subversive, insidous "evil" that is far more threatening than the "I torch people at random!" Malak or Vader.

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On the other hand, I prefer Milton's portrayal of Satan as an almost sympathetic character. I prefer Shylocke to Scrooge. I prefer Ravel to Malik.

Most certainly. Villains with whom you can sympathise are far more interesting than pure evil villains. If you can see the "humanity" in a villain, that makes their actions all the more distasteful, disappointing or treacherous. And if you get a sense of betrayal follwing a percieved redemption, than it's all the better.

 

I find the best villains are the ones you care about the most.

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I agree. The only purely evil characters I find compelling are the ones who are remote. That is, if it's some remote evil against whom the Prot struggles, and we don't ever really see the evil character, then that's fine. In that case, pure evil isn't so bad.

 

...But for the rest, I say develop them in 3d. That doesn't mean the player has to sympathize with them, merely that they don't seem cartoonish. You can have the antagonist display normal motives and feelings without leaving any doubt that he's the bad guy.

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You know, some of the best villains have been pure evil.  Morgoth and Sauron were evil through and through.

Yeah? Neither of them had any trace of personality. They were just "there" to be Big Bad Ultimate Evil.

 

Boring.

Yes, and that worked out very well simply because the story wasn't about Morgoth or Sauron. Sometimes it's not such a bad thing to leave the Antagonist as some remote evil when the focus of the story rests on the good guys.

 

If they had played a significant part of the books, then Morgoth and Sauron would have been boring. As it was, they weren't really characters at all. They were symbols.

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not gonna get started on sauron/grendel kinda antagonists... not worth asking why dragons is malevolent and horde gold.

 

as to kotor and simple Good v. Evil characters...

 

duh.

 

the star wars movies used the traditional archetypical characters and plots and themes. kotor brazenly, unapologetically, and successfully recreated what many folks liked

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I guess that's true. I mean, I didn't worry nearly so much about the ultimate bad guy in KotOR as I did the adventure and I thought the adventure was great. With that in mind, I'm not sure I'd want them to stop using a formula that, for whatever reason, worked for me personally.

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Admittedly, it seems that BIO is gonna use a 'Johnny Quest' villain in JE.

 

While the stupid TOB villainess (one of the worst villains I have ever seen), and all the NWN ones were 'Johnny Quest ones, BG1 and BG2's main one's weren't. True, they didn't have much of a spark of good; but they weren't 'Jonny Quest' types either, imo. Their motivation was deeper than doing evil for evil's sake.

 

As for KOTOR, Grom covered it nicely.

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On the other hand, I prefer Milton's portrayal of Satan as an almost sympathetic character.  I prefer Shylocke to Scrooge.  I prefer Ravel to Malik.

 

My TNO found Ravel humane and hated to fight against her.

 

Most certainly. Villains with whom you can sympathise are far more interesting than pure evil villains. If you can see the "humanity" in a villain, that makes their actions all the more distasteful, disappointing or treacherous. And if you get a sense of betrayal follwing a percieved redemption, than it's all the better.

 

I find the best villains are the ones you care about the most.

 

True. Light/dark sides struggle is more convincing when realized as characters

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