Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Forceclap? Invisibility? Not in my books!

Imagine if Obi-Wan Kenobi slipped into stealth mode during his fight with Darth Maul in “The Phantom Menace.” He creeps up behind the Sith Apprentice and takes him down with a “finishing movie,” ending one of the best lightsaber fights in the franchise. Fast forward to “Empire Strikes Back.” Luke Skywalker turns invisible during his duel with Darth Vader. He appears suddenly and stuns him, stopping Vader from attacking right away. Horrible right?

Yet, we see character’s turning invisible in “Star Wars: The Old Republic” and it works.

Now, this type of action is fine in a video game. That being said, I hope that it never finds its way into a book or movie. Imagine if Jaina had gone invisible, decapitated her brother and that was it. Many readers would throw down “Invincible” in annoyance at such a cheap final confrontation.

The events of the Star Wars video games are a part of canon. However, only some of what is in the video games works in canon.

In a MMORPG, it’s necessary to even out the classes somewhat for fair play. A smugglers needs to possess an ability to render a Jedi Consular helpless. Without considering those, the game loses subscribers. Video games allow players to complete impossible feats. These feats cannot find their way into canon, though, or the franchise will fail.

Drew Karpyshyn said in his May 18 blog entry, “To put it bluntly, Revan in the book will not be the uber-powered death machine you controlled at the end of the video game. You might have min-maxed your character to smack Darth Malak down in seconds without breaking a sweat, but in a book that battle would have been a brutal, hard fought affair spread over multiple pages. In a video game it’s fun to kill hundreds of Sith Masters, but in a book that would just be boring. It would suck out any drama or conflict or tension, and as an author I have no interest in writing that.”

He can’t make it any clearer. As fun as it is to watch your DPS fly up as dozens of enemies fall to your feet, that’s not literature. It’s a game. If Luke Skywalker defeated the Lost Tribe of the Sith by annihilating them in one fell swoop in the Fate of the Jedi books, it’d be a travesty.

I’ve spoken before about the importance of suspense in storytelling. A battle in which two opponents have to work to survive is more gripping than throwing a thermal detonator. Are there times for that in books and movies? Yes. We all remember the infamous scene in “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” where Indy shoots the man in the market rather than engage in a lengthy fight. The scene worked there, but that man was not the main villain.

Some of the best encounters in movies and books occur when the hero is beaten down or her weakness exploited. She finds the opponents weakness and uses it. Obi-Wan Kenobi took advantage of Darth Maul’s smug behavior and overconfidence to defeat him to defeat him.

While I’m not arguing the decision to consider the overall story in “Star Wars: The Old Republic” canon, I don’t want to read about Jedi stunning an enemy with a Force Leap. Keep that to the game.

Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan

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