Wednesday, 8 February 2012

A Rat's A Rat For All That


Rats. What is it about rats and MMORPGs? I can't say that I thought about rats one day in a hundred before I took up this hobby and now a day never passes. A dozen years ago, when I stepped out into Norrath, what's the first thing I remember? Well, alright, falling off Kelethin, losing my corpse and logging out in a strop but let's forget that, my own fault for making an elf. Cut me some slack, I was new and I knew nothing. We've all been there.

So then, forgetting that that the way I conveniently forget the first record I bought with my own money was a Gerry Anderson E.P. not, as I choose to tell people who ask (and it's surprising how often the subject comes up) "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" by Joan Baez, my first MMO memory is... well it's chasing bats outside North Freeport. But the second! The second is rats. Big rats.

Roekillik au naturel
Rats get not one but two entries on GiantBomb. Kill Ten Rats is an MMO trope (and an excellent blog). At least one MMO has tried to define itself with a bold claim that it didn't have any rats at all. (It was Horizons and it had maggots instead, which really wasn't an improvement). Boars may get the "everywhere" hate but it's rats who have ubiquity down.

It's not just plain vanilla rats, either (and there's an ice-cream flavor to ponder. Or not). Giant rats and plague rats are all very well but as Orwell said, four legs good, two legs better and what's better than a very large, infectious rodent? An even bigger one walking upright wearing pants of course!

I believe I first encountered ratmen when I bought the Warhammer RPG. What a great book that was and what an excellent campaign. I must dig it out. Pen and paper gaming is the new black around here apparently, what with Tobold, Ardwulf and Tipa all getting their D20 on all over again. I can't recall exactly what part the Skaven had in the plot but I'm pretty sure they were in it up to their elbows. Assuming rats have elbows. Plotting is what ratmen do best.

Smoking jackets are in this season
Mythic inexplicably decided to leave the Skaven out of Warhammer Online. Hamlet without the prince. Everquest had ratmen, though. Had them from way back in Velious. Safely tucked away in Dragon Necropolis, where there was little chance of me tripping over them back at the turn of the millennium. It's hard enough to get there even now, as I may have mentioned.

What's that rumbling sound ?
It must have been somewhere in around 2003 that I finally encountered the Chetari. Ultra-aggressive, tall enough to look a dwarf in the eye, a race of white lab rats gone feral. They favor Donald rather than Mickey, dressing only from the waist up, but short of that idiosyncrasy they're all rat. There was much complaint, when EQ2 announced the ratonga, that Norrath already had ratpeople. I just hope when Dragon Necropolis comes to EQ2 as surely it must, we get a showdown. Forget the Roekillik and their incomprehensible plans for world domination, the Chetari are the real bad rats here.

Norrath may have the most upright rat races and Warhammer the archetype but love the Ratonga and Skaven as I do I'd still have to hand the crown to the Ksaravi. Are they the most fully-realized of all the ratfolk in MMOs? Not really. Sure, the Skaven have them beat paws down, offline. Sure, you can actually play a Ratonga. But did any of those rats build Ksaravi Gulch? No they did not!

Ksaravi Gulch is a work of art. Actually the whole of Telon is a work of art and should be preserved in some kind of online Gallery if and when the sad day comes but I digress. Even by the exceptionally high standards of Telon, Ksaravi Gulch is astonishing. Rats built it and it shows. From the scavenged materials to the treadmill wheels to the cages on stalks it's the rodent Fallingwater. I can't begin to do it justice with words and screenshots. It's worth downloading Vanguard just to see it.

I'm a cat person, really I am. But there's something about a rat in an MMO.

Does Guild Wars 2 have rats?

2 comments:

  1. "Does Guild Wars 2 have rats?"

    Yes
    http://www.arena.net/blog/those-sneaky-sneaky-skritt

    Once again, not playable, but much like the Ksaravi, they will be fully realized, and artistically rendered. (I definitely agreed with your assessment of Ksaravi Gultch... one of my favorite early areas in Vanguard.)

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  2. Thanks for that link. The Skritt look very interesting indeed. I love the hive mind part. I guess I'd better read up the GW2 lore before the game gets here. I've only been following it sporadically but it looks to be a lot better done the average MMO backs-tory from what I've seen.

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