Monday, June 10, 2024

On Narrative Continuity, Fiction, Metafiction And Games No-One Plays.

I should save this for Blaugust, really, but who has the patience for that? And anyway, I already have twenty-five posts about EverQuest to write before August. I really should get on that sometime soon.

What we have here is an object lesson on why there's never an optimum time to write a a post and why you might just as well go ahead and publish whenever you're done. The future is always going to roll you over, whatever you do.

On Saturday I put up a lengthy post, telling the tale of how I climbed a mountain and how good it felt to have done it all on my own, with no-one telling me I should. Okay, maybe that last part was subtext but it was in there, somewhere.

Two days before that, I posted about a new narrative event that had just been added to the game, saying how well-written, what fun it was and expressing satisfaction that such quality content had been added to the game so quickly. Alright, more subtext, maybe. But heavily implied. 

The day before that I wrote something about how there were loads of cats in the game and how I'd done a quest involving one of them and rescued another from the top of a tree. I think that one was subtext-free but maybe there was some subconscious subtext. Can't ever rule it out.

Almost immediately after I published the most recent of those posts I was back playing Wuthering Waves again. When am I not, these days? I was in the city, looking for something to do next, when I spotted a quest marker on the map close by.

It took me to the rear of the theater, where a girl was hanging around looking like she was at a bit of a loss. I went over and asked her what was up, as you do if you're the lead character in a TV show about some wandering do-gooder who breezes into town and fixes everyone's problems, once a week on a Friday at seven in the evening, which, let's face it, is basically the elevator pitch for the entire RPG genre. 

She told me her elder sister had joined the army and gone off to the front lines but before she went, she'd left a kind of treasure hunt for her younger sister to follow. The younger sister, Shixia, was some kind of prodigy, who'd been admitted to a prestigious academy but had trouble keeping up with the intellectual pace there, so she had some stuff of her own going on. Also she was worried about her sister, as you would be, what with the war and all.

Naturally, having only just met and nothing in common, we ended up doing the whole thing together. It turned out to be not so much of a treasure hunt, more like some kind of sororial bonding exercise crossed with a motivational mental workout. And the means by which all of this was going to be achieved? Climbing a mountain!

Actually, climbing two mountains, one of which was the exact same mountain I'd just climbed all on my own just a few hours earlier. So much for doing it on my own initiative.

At the start, I didn't realize what was happening because the first part of the quest-line involved the other mountain, the one I didn't already climb. It turns out the two are next to each other. They look over the city, one giant peak split in two. I had noticed the landmark - you can hardly miss it - but at that point I hadn't yet connected it to my own mountain-climbing exploits. 

The girl and I worked our way up the first mountain, largely by way of various paths, although with some free-climbing up sheer cliff faces along the way. There were some puzzles to solve, a couple of easy fights and a surprising amount of cooking. It was good fun and the views were beautiful.

When we'd gotten to the top of one mountain, of course we had to do the other. The treasure hunt was over but it seemed the elder sister had once climbed to the top of the Western mountain, in the rain, just before dawn, so we had to do the same in the name of sisterly solidarity or something.

It seems Wuthering Waves has quite a lot of quests and events that only happen at specific times of day or night. I really did have to wait until just before in-game dawn the next morning, when I got a message from Shixia saying she was ready and oh look, how lucky, it's even raining!

Long story short, we climbed all the way to the top of the same mountain I'd already climbed, only we went the sensible way, following the paths and the remains of that dilapidated wooden walkway I mentioned, which turned out to be more passable than I'd thought, especially with the aid of a couple of grapple-cannons we found along the way.

It was another very strong, involving and enjoyable quest and if I'd waited a day I could have incorporated it into my post about mountaineering. Wouldn't that have tied everything up neatly?

Well, no, not really. The same day I was doing all of that, another, new narrative event was added to the game, another Companion Story, this one featuring what absolutely appears to be the first non-human character we've seen, Lingyang.

Lingyang is a lion-dancer, which is a job, not a race or class or species. Maybe a calling. A vocation.

He has a long tail and lion-like ears. It's possible these are part of his costume but if so he wears his costume all the time. I'm fairly sure his animalistic attributes are natural, if only because at one point in the story someone makes a point about how dangerous he is when his tail starts to wave from side to side, which is not something I think anyone would say about someone wearing a fake tail.

If he is some kind of hybrid or separate species, however, there's no explanation for it even in passing. He seems to be treated just the same as anyone else, possibly because he seems to be the nicest person in the world. Seriously, he could win prizes for it. 

As with Yinlin's Companion Story, I hadn't planned on jumping straight into this one but Wuthering Waves is exceptionally good at lead-ins. There's some excellent in-character use of in-game technology and some effective meta-fictional prompting that make it very easy to find yourself on a quest before you've even stopped to think about whether you want to go questing right now.

It helps a lot that the stories are so well-constructed. Once you're going you don't want to stop. Again, in this one there's mystery, plenty of detail and enough background to make you care about the characters and the stakes. Plus a big helping of excitement and adventure as you figure it all out. I certainly wouldn't claim any of it was original but it's highly entertaining.

The tl:dr is that a bunch of bad guys are running a scam that's causing issues with the food supplies to the city and also incidentally scaring a girl who was just about to join an adventuring association. The scam involves a monster with a really silly name that makes it hard to take seriously as a threat although everyone in the game seems to manage it, somehow. 

The girl's brother, with whom she's had a huge argument, goes off to try and eliminate the monster or the gang or both so as to get back in his sister's good books, which inevitably leads to her being scared something bad has happened to him (She's not wrong.) and eventually to Lingyang and the player character setting off to sort it all out and set it all right.

Well, we did all of that and it was great fun and took a couple of hours of quality time to finish, with some 2D platforming and a few big fights along the way. If I'd have waited a couple of days, I could have portmanteaued the two Companion quests together for a much stronger post. That would have wrapped everything up nicely.

Ehhh... would it, though?

Much of the story takes place a long way out of the city, in the middle of a region completely unexplored on my map. The big surprise was that, although we were teleported to the final instance, I was allowed to exit the cave normally and find my own way back.

I spent a long time exploring the new area, which was fascinating, colorful and very weird. I was hoping to open some teleport towers for future adventures but I couldn't find a single one. I don't know if that's because there's some kind of level or story lock on them appearing or if I was just unlucky not to bump into any as I wandered around in circles. 

Eventually I ended up in the sea, swimming up against one of those invisible barriers that say Go No Further, so I ported back to Zinzhou, but before then, while I was wandering around the countryside, I got a phone-call from Xiaoju, the quite possibly crazy cat-lady from Wednesday's post. 

She said she'd she was having another cat-related problem and since I was so good at dealing with those, maybe I'd like to come over and sort this one out for her. Once you get a reputation it's so hard to shift perceptions, isn't it?

Why fight it? As soon as I'd finished my exploring I got right on the cat thing. Catching the noisy stray and getting it back to Xiaoju was simple enough. I delivered the somewhat unwilling feline and Xiaoju said she'd find it a good home but first she asked me what we should call it. I went with Xixi. (Hey, I could have called it Insomniac! That was one of the options.) 

Xiaoju went off with the animal and I went back to the city thinking if only I'd waited I could have tied all these storylines up with a nice, neat bow and delivered them in a single post. Except if I'd done that, next time I logged in, some other dangling thread would have caught in the ever-turning gears of the game's unusually complex narrative engine and I'd be right back where I started.

It's a little too early to make declarative statements about the extent and reach of Wuthering Waves' intertextuality but there does seem to be a little more in the way of connectivity and resonance than I'd expect. I like it. 

It does make it harder to work out when to start posting about stuff that happens to me in the game. If I leave it more than a day, I can barely even remember what order things happened. I had to revise this post three times after I looked at the screenshots I'd taken because I had it all in the wrong order. If I post right away, though, I risk missing out on a whole raft of consequences and implications.

Still, I'll take the hit. It's not like anyone else is going to pick me up on any narrative anachronisms, is it? That's one advantage of writing about a game no-one else is playing. No-one can say you're doing it wrong.

That should be my Blogging Advice for Blaugust 2024. Pick a game no-one else plays and then no-one can call you on it if it turns out you don't know what you're talking about. 

Of course, you won't have any readers but hey, omelettes, eggs! Amirite?

You know I am.


  1. Pick a game nobody else plays? Or play a game others play in a different manner than what everybody else plays? Either should work, and maybe you'll get someone to try things differently.

    1. I'd guess ther'd be a lot more interest in a series of posts where someone played a well-known game in an unusual way but there's also be a lot more people telling them they were doing it wrong. That's one thing I don't get a lot of - no-one knows how half of these games ought to be played, least of all me!

  2. I love reading about your adventures in games I am not playing. It gives me a surface level idea of what they are like and how they might fit my limited video game time. Plus, I tend to really enjoy the humor!

    1. Always good to hear someone's enjoying the posts - and if you're enjoying the humor too, I reckon that probably makes two of us at least! I know I think I'm funny...

  3. One needs to do some things at specific times of the day in Genshin Impact too. The game has an option to turn the clock forwards, literally, so you don‘t need to wait around. Maybe WW has something like that too?

  4. "That's one advantage of writing about a game no-one else is playing"

    I thought everyone was playing this? Maybe they just have a really good marketing team, though. I feel like it is everywhere.


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