Sex, Violence and Morality (oh my)

by Wardog

Wardog has been at The Witcher 2.
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Having just finished The Witcher 2, I thought I would kick back, light up and put my arm round its scarred, albino shoulders for a spot of low-spoiler, post-pleasure pillow talk. This isn’t going to be a conventional review, because there are gazillions of those out there, and anyway my critical faculties are all overcome. Yes, TW2 has problems: it’s inaccessible, the combat is hard to balance between impossible and far too easy, and the dialogue is occasionally clunkily written and clunkily acted. You might also want to argue it’s a bit brief, since chapter 1 and chapter 3 are basically bookends to the main action of chapter 2. But although the disadvantage of something being short is that it’s over more quickly than you might have wanted, the advantage is that the game was able to deliver a tautly plotted, surprisingly convoluted, non-linear narrative upon which your actions have a genuine impact.

Moreover the gameplay and the narrative are better buddies than I have come to expect from other cRPGs – one of the problems with the original Dragon Age, for example, is that story progression is often framed as a reward for extensive, and rather tedious, sessions of dungeon crawling and in Dragon Age 2 it feels as though nothing that doesn’t happen in a cutscene exists, which is why you can wander around Kirkwall in a mage dress while carrying a mage staff and blowing up petty crooks with blood magic and it doesn’t seem to cross anybody’s mind that you might just be an apostate mage.

TW2, by contrast, embeds its action firmly in its world. If you want to move things along, you can usually do that, and I did, in fact, skip most of the side quests / extra bits in Chapter 3 because I wanted to know how the story was going to wrap up. All the running around killing stuff and blowing things up that you get the opportunity to do is contextualized, not only against the story itself, but against the character, and career, of Geralt. You are a witcher, after all, so killing monsters is kind of your job. And, although combat can be an absolute bastard, it’s also satisfying precisely because it is so tough. To succeed you actually have to do your homework, think about what you’re likely to come up against and prepare accordingly, taking potions to enhance your abilities and setting traps and so on and so forth. Doing this sort of thing not only makes you feel incredibly clever (even if it does occasionally mean you get yourself bad-assed up to the nines only to jump, bristling with weaponry, into a completely empty room) but it makes combat victories something to be earned on their own terms, not a hoop through which you’re obliged to jump in order to get to the next bit of story. I really appreciate the fact that time and attention has been lavished on making the combat a major part of the experience (although an experience you can opt out of, if you choose, by dropping the difficulty to easy) since so many cRPGs nowadays seem to devolving into cinematic, semi-interactive story-delivery systems. Yes, I’m looking at you Bioware.

The main thing I want to discuss in this article is the way morality, choice and consequence work in the game but since this a witcher game that we're talking about, I should probably spare a mention for teh wimmins and teh sex. I know I’m probably alone in this but I do miss the sex cards. I acknowledge they were totally puerile but then, come on, trying to Get It On with characters in video games is, in itself, totally puerile. I know I’m on difficult ground here, as it’s easy to give things you like a Minority Warrior Pass because ahem ahem ahem because, but the sex cards kind of amused me. Dan wrote an article on this very subject quite a while ago now, and I agree with his take on it. The sex cards worked as a mechanic because they were a reward in keeping with the in-game activity – and, moreover, they were unique and collectible in a way that fade-to-blacks or generic-sex-cutscenes are not. Cutscene bonkage, even at its best, tends to look a bit absurd whereas the sex cards were tolerably well drawn and had a mischievous style to them, like the first one you get is Triss reclining in bed with a pussy on her … yeah. Snarfle.

I always saw them as tongue-in-cheek and bawdy more than anything, and in some ways I thought they reflected a moderately healthy attitude to sex, not only because they were so playful but also because it meant you remembered every encounter as being different. Ah yes, this is a high class prostitute rolling on some gold, this is a freaky vampire chick, this is a witch on a pile of bones, this is a peasant wench pouring milk on her boobs…Whereas in TW2 all sex scenes bar one are represented by the same slightly clumsy cutscene, so none of your temporary partners are particularly memorable, and I soon lost interest in sleeping with anyone. I think sex that renders every lover interchangeable is considerably more icky than sex that results in a silly picture of a chick with her boobs out.

I know The Witcher has a reputation for having an immature attitude to sex, but I find the exuberant adolescent relish much less problematic than in a lot of other games. And, yes, I’m looking at Bioware again. Geralt has always been a bit of a dudeslut, but the thing about his dudesluting is that he always find equal and enthusiastic partners for it, which serves as an important equalizer between the sexes. Geralt likes sleeping with women; women like sleeping with Geralt, not least because he cannot get them pregnant or diseased - everybody wins! Strangely enough, this very effectively deconstructs a lot of the prevailing ideas about women and sex by repeatedly demonstrating that, if they can get away with it without dangerous physical and social consequences, women are just as up for a good sexing as men. It’s no longer a strange barter economy between what we’re told men want (short-term sex) and what we’re told women want (long-term romance). The women who choose to sleep with Geralt are sexual agents in their own right, honest in their desires and in control of their pleasure. There’s no implication that the women are willing to countenance a fling because they are damaged or because they secretly want a commitment from Geralt, or that they regret the encounter.

Depressingly, this falls apart a bit in TW2 as most of the women available for boning are either prostitute or offer themselves to Geralt to thank him for having rescued them at some point during his adventures. But this is still considerably better than the deeply conventional, and often problematic, sexual politics depicted in most of Bioware’s recent releases. I’ve already got my feminist rant on about Subject Zero, but Dan was recently playing Dragon Age II and I caught the way the Isabella romance plays out. You can check out the scene below:

.

I really loved Isabella in the first game - I mean bisexual pirate duelist, how can you go wrong – and, although she mostly comes across well in the second game, the “afraid to love” bullshit brings me out in hives. Isabella gets a fair amount of abuse on the official forums for daring to be a woman and a rake, since as we know men who have a lot of partners are studs and women who do that are dirty, but until I saw the way the romance played out I was pretty impressed with her. She seemed like a woman who knew, and got, what she wanted, and was perfectly comfortable with sex and her sexuality. But no. Of course. Silly me. Women don’t sleep with a lot of people because they’re okay! They only sleep with multiple partners because they’re damaged. If you make the mistake of supporting Isabella’s lifestyle choices, as I did, this actually ends the relationship. Instead, you’re supposed to recognise that she acts the way she does because she’s afraid of love. Oh pulease.

Anyway, let’s get back to TW2. I was, for the most part, pretty happy with the women in the game. Most of those ones who aren’t prostitutes are pretty conservatively dressed – okay so those are some figure-hugging leather trousers Triss is wearing but, unlike Isabella, at least she has trousers. And the sorceresses tend to be boobalicious but at least they’re wearing things that could be described as actually being clothes. Furthermore, women tend to be pretty major movers-and-shakers of the plot, and they often occupy positions of considerable power and influence. I absolutely adored Saskia – the Welsh-accented, plate-mail-wearing leader of a peasant revolution - and despite the fact that Philippa Eilhart basically makes you her bitch it’s hard not to admire her for it. That and her unfailing ability to overcome even the most terrible adversity. As Pyrofennec mentioned in the playpen it is slightly annoying that Triss spends most of the game being a damsel in distress but I was generally pleased with the number of women in the game, and they were they were portrayed. Oh, yeah, there are some hilariously gratuitous lesbian domination scenes (whut?) but … I’ll take blatant immaturity over implicit sexism any day of the week.

One of the thing that really helps The Witcher with its women is the fact that the world is explicitly sexist, racist, and generally unpleasant. A lot of fantasy novels and computer games claim to be post-ism worlds, and then promptly fall foul of the assumptions and limitations of our own. I don’t like, but I wouldn’t complain about, settings in which sexism is rife but I very much object to settings that are supposed to be gender-equal and yet all of the people in positions of authority happen to be men. One of the things I liked about A Song of Ice and Fire back in the days when I liked it was that it fairly consistently portrayed a social system in which everybody, male or female, rich or poor, could get screwed over pretty much at random. Women got raped a fair bit but men got killed and tortured. The worst, arguably undeserved thing that happens to anyone in those books is
Jaime getting his sword hand cut off
– it not only leaves him completely defenseless, but it strikes at the very heart of his identity and self-respect. In a society that prizes a definition of masculinity as harmful and limited as its definition of femininity, it’s a profound violation and an explicit emasculation. I think part of the reason The Witcher does all right in my book (and I acknowledge, by the way, that my book may not be your book) is for similar reasons: the awful things that happen to people are pretty much equal-opportunities, men and women are betrayed alike, and when Philippa Eilhart gets her comeuppance, although it’s pretty grim, it not a gender-specific comeuppance. That’s a pretty awesome scene actually, so I won’t spoil it but it essentially comes down to someone using physical and social power in lieu of psychological or emotional authority, and she comes out of it still totally badass.

But the main thing I wanted to talk about is the morality of TW2, and why it works, and feels genuinely challenging, compared to other games. Way back at the dawn of time, I wrote a couple of articles, the first being about the difference between moral complexity and moral ambiguity, and the second about the problem of complex morality in video games. My opinions haven’t had much occasion to change since I wrote those articles and my experiences with The Witcher have only further cemented them. TW2 has been the most ethically challenging and interesting game I’ve played in a long time – perhaps it is the most ethically challenging and interesting game I’ve ever played, but the entirety of its effectiveness lies in the fact that it has no moral system whatsoever. Recently, Dan linked to an article from two random dudes about what they perceived as being the problem with morality systems in games. It’s a strange piece because the conclusion, which asserts (correctly in my opinion):
Making our games ethically engaging calls for more than just cribbing moral dilemmas from an ethics textbook; it requires the construction of a narrative world with meaningful characters and a diversity of moral perspectives. It requires space for the player to form a detailed ethical identity and to explore and grow that identity through meaningful choices and challenging gameplay. In short, it requires morality to be the heart of the game rather than a cosmetic feature.

seems completely disconnected from the body of the article, which analyses in-game morality systems through the lens of moral psychology and seems to be arguing that the problem with such system is that there’s NOT ENOUGH OF THEM:
We contend that ethical systems in most existing games are dull, both strategically and narratively. They are over-simplified and engage the player’s ethical skill set in a very shallow fashion. They are also regular sources of dissonance, as the narrative meaning of a moral event has little connection to its strategic importance.

Riiiight. Because if something it isn’t working, the best thing to do is implement more of it. There are a couple of problems with morality systems in games, and these are partially connected to those inestimable buzzwords: choice and consequence. The first issue is, I think, becoming more widely recognised, as evidenced by games with a restricted protagonist like Mass Effect. Because most roleplaying games rely on a reasonably linear plot, which is very often connected to committing an unambiguously morally virtuous act (saving the world), this action must itself be contextualized against the smaller-scale actions of the player throughout the game. Giving the player the option to be “good” or “evil” even insofar as we can attach a relevant definition to those terms, is little more than window dressing if the overall arc of Dr Evil McEvilsome is to save the world from somebody slightly more evil than they are. Mass Effect is, I would argue, more successful in its morality than Dragon Age because Shepard is a soldier. There's no question of whether Shepard will want to save the galaxy: of course they will, that's their job. The interesting question however, that is left in the hands of the player, is how Shepard goes about achieving that. Paragon and renegade do not map onto good and evil, they merely reflect two alternative approaches to the problems presented and thus it feels much less artificial than Dragon Age, where, even though there isn't a formal morality system, some poor rape-bait city elf has absolutely no reason to give a damn if Ferelden gets eaten by an arch demon, let alone try to stop it.

The Witcher benefits similarly from the accepted limitations of its pre-defined character. Good versus evil decisions, as Dan argues here, are fairly meaningless because they come with a label already attached. Save the puppy / kill the puppy is simultaneously unmanageably broad and ridiculously restricted, the former because someone who would kill the puppy and someone who would save the puppy can't really be comfortable in the same plotline and the latter because it's a binary proposition. No shades of grey there at all. Even if under some circumstances it could be conceivably argued that killing the puppy is the right thing to do, you've still killed a puppy. In controlling Geralt, however, the decisions we have to make are much more nuanced – they come down to a question of priorities. How focused is our Geralt? How ruthless? What is important at the moment? What will be more important in the next moment? These are not binary decisions. Straightforward ideas of right and wrong become irrelevant – it's about perspective. And always a matter of degrees.

The main problem with morality systems in games is that the complexities of moral decision making cannot be effectively systemized, not least because it exists only in the player’s head. More or bigger or better systems is simply not the answer here. The answer, insofar as there is one, is “no systems.” A system, by its very nature, imposes an external morality on the player by saying this is a good thing and this is a bad thing and thus essentially writes the player out of the decision-making process. This reduces the question of whether you do x or y to whether you want to do something the game codes as good or something the game codes as bad.

In The Witcher and The Witcher 2, you make choices and things happen, but otherwise the rightness or wrongness of your actions is left for you to decide for yourself. For example, if you make the choices I made, the second chapter finds you allied with a group of terrorist elves in the middle of a peasant uprising. Someone poisons Saskia, the leader of the uprising and it's up to you to put together a cure. While you're busy doing that, a group of angry peasants comes to the conclusion that Saskia's poisoner is none other than the prince of the assassinated king to which the land formerly belonged. You can run around and gather evidence, and it becomes pretty clear pretty quickly how she was poisoned and by whom but linking the Prince to the whole affair is a shaky proposition. He comes out to defend himself, and burbles on at length about the divine right of kings. The choice before you is whether you have him arrested to face a tribunal of his peers as is appropriate for a noble (who, incidentally, will likely acquit him regardless of his guilt or innocence) or throw him to the peasants for a good lynching. I came down on the side of a good lynching because I think monarchy is a fucked up system, and I hate the idea of some rules being different for certain people.

Was that right? Or wrong? I genuinely have no idea. I believed it was right. And, even knowing the consequences, I stand by the decision. But ultimately I still allowed some dude to be kicked to death in the street by a mob of angry peasants. This is what makes the choices in The Witcher so interesting. You do things, and other things happen as a consequence: whether you want to interpret any of this as good, bad or indifferent is left entirely up to you. And, that, as I have argued before, is really the only way to do it.

Underpinning this, is a cast of morally complex, morally ambiguous characters with their own agendas, who may do evil things, but are rarely easily dismissible as evil. In Flotsam I took against the local commander, Loredo because he was fat, ugly and corrupt but, as it turned out, he was the only thing standing between precarious harmony and a bloodbath. My closest companion over the course of the game turned out to be a scarred elf called Iorveth but the moment I started to get a bit sentimental about him (in a “he's my buddy” way, not a “let's get gay” way) several characters were quick to remind me that he had, in cold blood, killed more innocent humans than I'd likely eaten hot dinners. Ouch. But, once more, the game left these things entirely up to me, the player: when nobody is obviously the good guy and nobody is obviously the villain, all you can do is pick your way through, trusting the people who seem, to you, trustworthy, and making decisions that seem, to you, reasonable. There's a real sense of freedom in this, and a real sense of involvement. There were even occasions when I had to stop playing to go away and think about it. One of my favourite moments, though, was when somebody I had betrayed earlier in the game saved my arse. I was genuinely shocked (and, honestly, embarrassed) by this, because it proved he was a better man than I had given him credit for being, and I can't remember the last time a computer game character surprised or shamed me.

The other thing that makes The Witcher such an interesting place in which to make interesting choices is that, unlike other supposedly morally ambiguous settings, I genuinely found it as morally ambiguous as it was presented. Humans are racist fuckwits but the Scoia'tael are terrorists who murder people. Although I came to adore Iorveth, not least because he is beautiful and graceful (something that influenced me far more than it would have influenced Geralt) I still felt pretty uncomfortable about my decision to side with him. By contrast, one of my major problems with the plight of mages in the Dragon Age universe is that I don't believe any of the designers are convinced by their own setup. There's an overlay of modern, real world thinking that makes it hard to view the Templars as anything other than oppressors, and the loss of personal freedom as anything other than an abuse of basic human rights. The treatment of mages in Dragon Age is only ambiguous if you take at face value the game's assertion that mages are genuinely dangerous but this not carried through in either the story or the game mechanics. You never encounter a mage who is genuinely more of a threat than any other human; and moreover if you choose to play a mage yourself you are never in any danger of corruption by demons (even if you actually become a blood mage). However, siding with the Scoia'tael is a difficult decision because, although they have real grievances against humans, their methods are sufficiently extreme that it is reasonable to find them unacceptable. The point is that this, as with everything else in the game, is down to your personal perspective.
Themes: CRPGs
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Comments (go to latest)
valse de la lune at 20:43 on 2011-06-02
Oh my god I finally remembered my password. Damn you LastPass.

Uh, yeah.

I loved how so many quests in TW2 continue that thing I loved about the Abigail vs villagers from the first game--you're presented with a bunch of circumstantial evidence but oh, you never know, though in the case of Saskia's poisoning I think the blame could be laid on Philippa's feet but, again, I've heard from people who sided with Roche (and experienced a very different chapter 2/3) that there's evidence that points definitively to
Stennis
. CD Projekt, you tease me so.

Saskia is wonderful even if I find it suspicious that her armor design exposes her cleavage. Her inspirational speech for her troops was GREAT. I dunno if you played the game in Polish but the Polish voice-work is superb (albeit not, alas, Welsh-accented). She got so... so shouty. Oh Saskia. Oh. If she was a real person I'd spend an awful lot of time melting around her.

Re: Triss as damsel in distress and the sorceresses in general--I was a bit pissed that Philippa
gets horribly maimed
despite, again, being so awesome she manages to project an undead-repellent barrier while shapeshifted (without getting nosebleeds and shit), and also that the Nilfgaardian sorceress gets offed and tossed into the pool. Still, on the whole I adored the Lodge of the Sorceresses. So influential, so ruthless, so appealing.

Although I came to adore Iorveth, not least because he is beautiful and graceful (something that influenced me far more than it would have influenced Geralt) I still felt pretty uncomfortable about my decision to side with him.


Tbh when that decision came around I just tossed him his sword because, man, it'd have made me feel shitty if I hadn't.

My TW2 time was interrupted by a business trip, but in two days I'll be baaaack to finish it. I should write more about how it bothers me that many of the sorceresses in game are depowered but it's lol o'clock right now so maybe I should finish the game first.
valse de la lune at 20:48 on 2011-06-02
She seemed like a woman who knew, and got, what she wanted, and was perfectly comfortable with sex and her sexuality. But no. Of course. Silly me. Women don’t sleep with a lot of people because they’re okay! They only sleep with multiple partners because they’re damaged. If you make the mistake of supporting Isabella’s lifestyle choices, as I did, this actually ends the relationship.


Waitwhat, so... like Subject Zero basically but with less BITCH BITCH BITCH? And, I think, a few other romance NPCs from Bioware in the past--Viconia's shtick was somewhere in that direction IIRC.
Wardog at 22:18 on 2011-06-02
Oh my god I finally remembered my password

Heh, Rami planned for this - if you forget your password you can just drop me an email and I can reset it with the touch of a button. Magic.

I loved how so many quests in TW2 continue that thing I loved about the Abigail vs villagers from the first game--you're presented with a bunch of circumstantial evidence but oh, you never know

Heh, the thing I found hilarious about the Abigail quest was that I was totally convinced I was absolutely right until I saw her sex card - in which she's sitting naked and covered in blood on a pile of skulls. Umm... Re the poison business, again I found the evidence pretty conclusive that it was
Stennis
so for me it came down to a question of whether I thought it was better to have him kicked to death by peasants or sentenced to a tribunal. However, I was so convinced that the tribunal would not see justice served that I settled for a good old kicking. As with most of the decisions I ended up making, I was content with the decision I made and I thought it was right for me to have made at the time I did, in the way I did, but I couldn't for the life of you make a moral case for it. And that's pretty awesome.

Oh. If she was a real person I'd spend an awful lot of time melting around her.

I didn't find her lack of reality to be any hinderance to melting. I had an absolutely enormous crush on her, and I especially liked the fact she never became sex-bait for Geralt, even though I'm usually happy for Geralt to dudeslut his way through the game. I'm slightly embarrassed because my morality basically came down to "side with the pretty people", in that I threw my lot in with Iorevth and Saskia without a backwards glance really. And I LOVED Saskia rallying the troops. The "man up and get ready to kill shit" speech is usually the provenance of male characters.

I was a bit pissed that Philippa
gets horribly maimed

I didn't mind that because, well, she sort of deserved it some respects and also because it was blatantly a petty act from a petty man who did it because she wouldn't submit to him, and her awesome made him feel inadequate. I know it's not exactly an empowering story but I loved the fact she would rather have that happen, than submit to someone, and the fact it barely slowed her down. I got the impression she was going to be basically fine and some people would be advised to sleep lightly from then on ... but then I did
leave Triss rotting in the dungeon in favour of saving Philippa
which was a bit embarrassing.

So influential, so ruthless, so appealing.

Exactly :) They totally gave me the run around the whole fucking game...

Tbh when that decision came around I just tossed him his sword because, man, it'd have made me feel shitty if I hadn't.

Ditto, I felt responsible for getting him into that mess - and having been hanging around in gorgeous elven ruins, lamenting the fact humans had fucked up this ancient civilisation, I was feeling especially guilty. But once the "oh God can I bring myself to fuck this guy over" decision has passed, you then get a second choice to side with him or Roche ... and I chose Iorveth because, well, prettier... and angrier... and better voice acted.

I should write more about how it bothers me that many of the sorceresses in game are depowered but it's lol o'clock right now so maybe I should finish the game first.

I think it's ... problematic. They are somewhat disempowered, I agree, but they're also incredibly smart and all-powerful so in many ways they would make impossible antagonists for a game. I think thing about what happens to Philippa is that she it takes a king with a grudge to even come close to taking her down. And he basically fails.

Waitwhat, so... like Subject Zero basically but with less BITCH BITCH BITCH? And, I think, a few other romance NPCs from Bioware in the past--Viconia's shtick was somewhere in that direction IIRC.

She's WAY less annoying than Subject Zero, and I did genuinely like her, but I just hate the "supposedly sexually liberated women have to learn to love one man/woman/elf" romance plot Bioware seem desperate to thrust upon their less sexually conventional women.
Michal at 02:09 on 2011-06-03
The morality discussed here in the games seems to mirror the later books very well, where we get *genuine* moral ambiguity and *genuine* moral complexity at the same time. However, my poor little laptop can't even run the first game, so I'm left hearing how awesome the games are without experiencing them firsthand. Maybe then I'd know why the English translations of Sapkowski's books are creaking along at a slower pace than it took for Geroge R.R. Martin to write a Dance with Dragons, because maybe the publishers think people will be disappointed, or something? I haven't read the English translations, but from what I understand, Danusia Stok really wasn't the best choice for tackling a project like this.
valse de la lune at 05:21 on 2011-06-03
Heh, the thing I found hilarious about the Abigail quest was that I was totally convinced I was absolutely right until I saw her sex card - in which she's sitting naked and covered in blood on a pile of skulls.


Ah, there's also the doll with the likeness of that one guy's brother in her house, suggesting that she did have a hand in that business after all. It's been a while but I think there might've been bits of information that implied she was accessory to some of the other crimes committed in that village too. But yeah, lol, that sex card.

I know it's not exactly an empowering story but I loved the fact she would rather have that happen, than submit to someone, and the fact it barely slowed her down.


That's a fair point. Also, what happens to her--and what she does about it--usually is something that happens to a male character (i.e. not a sexual threat, plus she not only refuses to submit but also gets back on her feet pretty quick; I'm sure she can grow some new eyes anyway).

But once the "oh God can I bring myself to fuck this guy over" decision has passed, you then get a second choice to side with him or Roche ... and I chose Iorveth because, well, prettier... and angrier... and better voice acted.


The Polish voices for both of them are really quite--okay I'll just shut up about the Polish VA now. Anyway, I felt pretty bad when it's Roche who shows up to save Geralt's ass in chapter 3 after you've gotten into the camp. Dude's surprisingly decent considering Geralt went with the terrorist elves.
http://webcomcon.blogspot.com/ at 08:22 on 2011-06-03
The Iorveth/Roche decision in Witcher 2 really reminded me of the hardest decisions I made in Witcher 1, between Siegfried and Yaevinn. In both cases, I was really drawn to the character in the position of authority, but couldn't bring myself to actually collude with the racist and oppressive human regime. And I didn't want to put myself in a position where I
betrayed and eventually killed Siegfried
. It was pretty hair-pully stuff.

Witcher 2 is already making me feel like I want to play through it a second time, and I'm only halfway through.

***

As an aside, I'm really pretty happy with how CD Projekt Red has supported TW2 after launch. They patched out the DRM after a week or so, along with a laundry list of other fixes. Tomorrow, they release another laundry list of fixes, and patch in all the retailer-specific pre-order bonus content that they originally had, AND they patch in the ability for you to pick one of five new haircuts (!) for Geralt. Not too surprising considering they dropped the Enhanced Edition of Witcher 1, but still very gratifying.


(Also, apologies if the spoiler tag doesn't work, it's not showing up in the preview.)
Wardog at 10:15 on 2011-06-03
@Michal
Welcome to Fb :)
The Witcher games have always seemed determined to push the graphical capabilities of my current computer. I remember the loading times on The Witcher 1 were so lengthy I actually read about three books while playing the game - but, dammit, it was worth it :) And I had to play the second game on "lowest settings" but it still looked gorgeous. Sorry, this probably isn't very comforting... I did read The Last Wish, not long after I played the game, and I think part of the reason they're not very popular is the fact the translation is unbelievably banal. You can tell when you're reading that there's something genuinely witty and subversive going on here but there's no way to actually get at it. I mean one of the things that comes through really well in the games is the "genre-mashup" of fairytales, fantasy tropes, and weird pseudo-science but in the English translation of the books it just comes across as incoherent.
Arthur B at 10:26 on 2011-06-03
Yeah, as I mentioned in my review of it the translation is just kind of... off.
https://profiles.google.com/netwomble at 10:32 on 2011-06-03
Thanks for the random Song of Ice and Fire spoiler in the middle.

I know there's a Statute of Limitations of these things, but you know: new TV series, lots of people just discovering it for the first time...
Andy G at 11:02 on 2011-06-03
Err you do know that book was out over a decade ago don't you?
https://profiles.google.com/netwomble at 11:24 on 2011-06-03
Err you do know that book was out over a decade ago don't you?


Hey in G R R Martin years that's like few months!
Wardog at 11:25 on 2011-06-03
Well, I've dumped the offending words round a spoiler tag as a gesture of goodwill.. I'm sorry if I've dented your pleasure but I'm afraid I have a bit of a gung-ho attitude to spoilers, and I didn't really see that as being particularly spoilery. I mean it's A Song of Ice and Fire:
everybody dies.
I even wrote an article about what seems to me to be a wide-spread over-sensitive attitude to spoilers. Of course I don't want to go around pissing on people's enjoyment for the hell of it but I reckon if all a text can offer you is a succession of things that happen it's not much of a text.
Wardog at 11:37 on 2011-06-03
@Webcomcon
In Witcher 1, I think I was neutral all the way - but The Witcher 2 doesn't allow you to get away with that. Also I think there's an extent, perhaps, to which neutrality is implied to be, or portrayed as being, selfish, in that you put your own moral comfort above the lives and experiences of others. I know Witchers are supposed to be neutral but I think you also accept that clinging to neutrality can also be a way of ducking moral responsibility. In The Witcher 2 I was reasonably satisfied with the decisions I made but I did not rest easy in them - and when Roche
rocked up to save my stupid arse
I felt genuinely ashamed at having previously betrayed him.

Also I think they've tweaked their portrayal of the Scoia'tael a bit for 2. In 1 I genuinely couldn't bring themselves to join them because they seemed to be so utterly detached and full of hate, and it wasn't helped that Siegfried is a good and loyal friend to you, so I felt the portrayal of the two groups unbalanced the moral complexity of the situation. But in 2 Iorveth is very appealing, I mean just because he's a hottie, but because, in spite of his anger and his murderin, he's a genuinely honourable and idealistic person. In his way :)

I'm probably to going to play the game "the other way" in a bit but I was so happy with the story as it unfolded that I'm having an appreciative rest first.

CD Projekt Red has always treated supporters of the game exceptionally well - I mean even my bog standard edition came with all the sweet-smelling feelies you could want (not bust of Geralt, though, for which I feel a certain sense of relief). I'm glad the tradition is continuing. It is one of the few game companies left towards whom I feel a genuine sense of personal loyalty.
Wardog at 11:39 on 2011-06-03
Hey in G R R Martin years that's like few months!


TOUCHE!

You're absolutely right - I'll be more careful in future.
Michal at 01:47 on 2011-06-04
I did read The Last Wish, not long after I played the game, and I think part of the reason they're not very popular is the fact the translation is unbelievably banal.


I'm not particularly surprised, considering how half-assed Gollancz's approach to publishing these books has been. It took CD Projekt to make anyone notice in the English-speaking world after quite a few years, I assume because Sapkowski has the misfortune of sitting beside R.A. Salvatore in any bookstore, leading to "another albino?" eye-rolling, but when they got around to it they rushed the translation. I don't know why you'd choose someone best known for translating textbooks and not, say, Miroslaw Lipinski, who can actually do this sort of thing, unless the only onus was to get the book out around the same time as the game's release in North America. Then there's the choice of not translating the second book of short stories, which contains two stories which are, well, very important to understanding what's going on in Blood of the Elves. I get the feeling that Gollancz just doesn't care all that much, and that the whole series isn't even going to make it into English, in whatever crap form it is now.

Going off on a tangent, there was a TV series in Poland a ways back that doesn't follow the short stories in any fashion beyond mashing together a few, but was entertaining in a low-budget-80s-sword-and-sorvery-movie sort of way:

TRAILER!
Robinson L at 22:30 on 2011-06-24
I came down on the side of a good lynching because I think monarchy is a fucked up system, and I hate the idea of some rules being different for certain people.

Yes to this. 'Course in real life, I wouldn't be nearly so sanguine about sending anyone, no matter how despicable, to their death, but eh, it's a game. (Which I've never played and may never get around to, but if I do I'm sure I'll make the same choice.)

Michal: there was a TV series in Poland a ways back that doesn't follow the short stories in any fashion beyond mashing together a few, but was entertaining in a low-budget-80s-sword-and-sorvery-movie sort of way

I watched this the same day I watched the trailer for the new Conan movie, and I believe I've noticed a pattern in contemporary fantasy/action flick trailers as regards to women. The first two-thirds or three-quarters of the trailer will focus on the manly male character and other manly men doing manly male things; then Establishing Shot of One Female Character in the Movie/Show; then an optional shot of Male Lead and Female Character Flirting or Sharing a Passionate Glance; then a shot of Male Lead and Female Character Making Out or Female Character in Erotic Pose; then cut back to ~20 seconds of manliness and boom!, end of trailer.

Does that make any sense, or am I giving the majority of trailers insufficient credit?
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