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The questionable morality of the Guildwars universe and its impact on the game as a whole


Diviner.4517

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Greetings fellow Tyrians!

For quite a long time now I've had this thought forming in my mind and growing as I played both Guildwars games and delved into their story and characters. It started as an afterthought, a minor nuisance, but quickly grew to become a dark cloud shadowing this game universe. As the title of this post states, I'm referring of course to the morality that guides all the forces that be in Tyria.

Before I begin rambling on, I should warn that there are spoilers contained in this post, so if you haven't finished the storyline yet and care about it, you should stop reading now.

To start off, it's fair to say that although the story of the two games is long and rich in detail, and although in the second game, the structure of the Personal Story does offer choice and does branch into a great number of small sub-plots that work towards fleshing out the player's character and make him more invested in the world, there is no actual choice in the final outcome of these events. Regardless whether your character joined the Vigil or the Priory, he will still end up fighting Zhaitan, and he will still end up being Commander of the Pact. Regardless whether or not in Path of Fire you suggest alliance with the Sunspears or with Joko when you reach Amnoon, you still leave Joko imprisoned when you die and you still take charge of his armies against Balthazar.

And that's perfectly fine. The story writers of these games want to tell a story, and for that they need to have a solid structure that can be broken down thematically and turned into gameplay missions. It would be madness to attempt to give more freedom to the player as he progresses through the storyline. So why do I even point this out? Because it's necessary to establish here, that despite the illusion of choice presented to the player through the branching storyline, the eventual events are set in stone, and the game designers have the final say on who is the villain and who is the hero. Regardless of what choices you make, you will always side with Queen Jenna against the Seperatists and the White Mantle, she and the Sylvari Pale Tree will always be the heroes and characters like Caudecus or Faolain will always be the villains. We don't get to decide as players who the villain or the hero is, the game tells us either explicitly or implicitly and we are meant to accept it as status quo. But this is the way all computer games operate, so why make this point?

The problem with Guildwars universe is that it has too clearly defined borders of what good and evil is. And this is hurting both its NPCs and its history, especially given the fact that many times it provides enough background information to suggest that nuance should exist, but it never acknowledges or does anything with it.

But enough theory, let's look closely on several examples.

Caudecus

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Right off the bat Caudecus is presented to us as a corrupt politician. Before we learn anything about the White Mantle, we discover Caudecus' connections with shady organizations, and we begin piecing together that the evidence points to him trying to usurp the Queen and take the throne for himself. He is shown leading the Separatists behind the scenes trying to undo the peace treaty between the humans and the Charr, and as the final nail in the coffin, we learn right before killing him that he is the current leader of the White Mantle, an insane cult that worships evil entities. To add insult to injury, while raiding his mansion we discover that he has a painting of Logan Thackeray in his bedroom, giving the player the assumption that Caudecus is potentially bisexual and secretly sexually attracted to one of his enemies (the Queen's Defender). I presume that his sexuality is meant to be insulting casting him as a pervert for not being straight, but that's up for interpretation as I personally don't find someone's sexuality to be either a positive or a negative character trait. But overall, the story we're given about him clearly paints him as the villain and therefore everyone who opposes him is the hero, including the player.

But lets look more closely into his character. First, some of his biography from the wiki:

He served as a general in the War of Ascalon Independence until the eventual truce between humans and charr which he opposed ever since. With his experience and popularity, Caudecus rose to the position of Legate Minister in the Krytan Ministry and emerged as a serious political rival to Queen Jennah, whose egalitarian rule had eroded her support with the nobility and whose failure to hold back the centaurs and bandits plaguing Kryta had caused some of the common folk to begin to doubt the queen's ability to defend her nation.

To those who have no knowledge of what the War of Ascalon Independence is, it's basically the aftermath of the Charr Invasion in Ascalon and the Searing. The Charr and the Human race have a very complicated story that goes back centuries. Charr used to dominate the surface of Tyria before Humans arrived in the world with their Gods. The Human Gods pushed the Charr from Ascalon, giving Humans lands to create their kingdoms. The Charr, being a war-based dictatorship (their entire social structure is governed by the military), never gave up on reclaiming their lost land and waged war for centuries against the kingdom of Ascalon. In a final push to destroy the Wall and push the invasion past it, they used divine magic to create the Searing, an apocalyptic spell that burned the entire part of the continent to the ground, demolished the wall and even leveled part of the Shiverpeaks Mountain Range. In fact, the players in Guildwars 1 live the destruction caused by the Searing in the first few levels of their storylines, and play out the eventual devastation and later exodus through the Shiverpeak Mountains into Kryta as refugees.

The Searing is recent history, only a couple of centuries old, and surpasses in destruction the most catastrophic wars we've ever experienced in the history of the real world. The Charr purged the human race from Ascalon much like the Nazis tried to purge ethnic and social minorities in World War Two from Europe. But unlike Nazis, the Charr won. This fictional dictatorship managed to achieve its goals through objectively unacceptable means and maintained its position in Ascalon as the winner.

Naturally, humans who fled to Kryta and lived this destruction would still want to fight back against this monstrous race. And they did, for 2 centuries. And General Caudecus led these armies against the Charr for most of his life. Until a weak ruler, Queen Jenna came into power, and sought a treaty with the monstrous dictatorship, thus rendering the efforts of the human army pointless and meaningless. Caudecus was a General without a Cause. And to top that, that same weak ruler now threatened to allow Centaurs (who, by the way traditionally ate humans) to invade the Krytan Human kingdom. Clearly the Queen was becoming a ruler unfit to rule, as her actions jeopardized the very existence of the human race in the entire world - which is not an exaggeration, as all major human kingdoms (Orr, Ascalon and Cantha) had already fallen. Queen Jenna, the ruler of all humanity basically, was threatening its extinction. Someone had to step up and correct this. It just so happened to be Caudecus.

And what of the White Mantle? They surely are evil since they worship evil entities, right? Well, according to the Wiki,

However, the sudden arrival of Lazarus, the last mursaat whom a faction led by High Inquisitor Xera had been attempting to revive behind Caudecus's back, led to the White Mantle splintering into two factions when Caudecus refused to submit to Lazarus, who in turn branded Caudecus as a heretic.

Caudecus after assuming command of the White Mantle, refocused the order from worshiping the Mursaat to usurping Queen Jenna. Caudecus had no interest in the Mursaat. He saw the White Mantle as a tool to be used for the greater good (according to him). So much so, that when Lazarus seemingly returned, he cast Caudecus out of the order branding him a heretic for making the Order change its priorities.

The assumption here of course is not that Caudecus is a hero, or even an anti hero. He's still bad, he did kill his wife after all, and he did become insane from the Bloodstone, plus he had a lot of other people killed in his path towards the "greater good". But he had clear motivations which were not inherently bad, and the major "crime" we're presented in the Personal Story from the moment we first hear about him till we defeat him is his will to usurp authority and the status quo, a motif that is happens again and again throughout the story of all other characters in Guildwars. There is clearly nuance in Caudecus, a very large grey area that isn't utilized at all in the story. And he's not the only example.

Faolain

Faolain.jpg

Faolain is the main antagonist of all Sylvari players, much like Caudecus is the main antagonist of all Human players. She also becomes a main antagonist against players of all races in Heart of Thorns. She is the leader of the Nightmare Court, a Sylvari faction that broke away from the teachings of the Pale Tree to pursue a more independent and free spirited path in the world. This path, of course is labeled as "The Nightmare", a darkness that exists within all Sylvari, which Faolain and her Court embrace while the others reject. However it's still unclear what this Nightmare is. From the Wiki we're told:

Within the Dream is a nightmare, tugging at the heart of each sylvari. Some sylvari are more susceptible than others, and those who have succumbed to the nightmare have formed the Nightmare Court, established by Secondborn Cadeyrn and led by the Firstborn Faolain. The Nightmare Court believe that the tenets of Ventari's Tablet have affected the sylvari's development, and seek to destroy the Tablet and convert the denizens of the Grove to the "true nature" of the sylvari, within the nightmare.

Other than that though, its nature is abstract and never clearly defined. We do know what the Ventari Tablet says however, and therefore what the teachings are that the Nightmare Court rejects:

I. Live life well and fully, and waste nothing.II. Do not fear difficulty. Hard ground makes stronger roots.III. The only lasting peace is the peace within your own soul.IV. All things have a right to grow. The blossom is brother to the weed.V. Never leave a wrong to ripen into evil or sorrow.VI. Act with wisdom, but act.VII. From the smallest blade of grass to the largest mountain, where life goes—so, too, should you.

From the actions of both factions in the game we can see that both of them follow the first and second tenets, each wanting to live life fully and not wastefully, and being fearless and headstrong. Nobody trully follows the third and fourth tenets, as they're all quick to kill those who oppose them (we see Caithe striking first against the Nightmare Court before we ever see one of them striking a Pale Tree follower), and tenets six and seven are platitudes with no real weight - be wise and travel the world. The only real tenet where the two factions differ is tenet five : Never leave a wrong to ripen into evil or sorrow. And here we need to remember that in the very clearly defined roles of good and evil in this game, evil is whatever the story says it is with no room for gray areas, and usually being the challenge to authority and the status quo.

Which is precisely what Faolain and the Nightmare Court is doing, challenging the authority of the Pale Tree and questioning whether it has the right to dictate how they all live. In Guildwars, being good means being obedient and never questioning those above you, in fear that you will be branded evil.

Of course both factions are also obsessed with what it truly means to be a Sylvari, and they're both wrong as we discover in Heart of Thorns where everyone learns who the Sylvari trully are and what they were created for. And with Modremoth's death, Sylvari should be free to choose their own paths. But they're not, because straying from the Pale Tree's decision means you're evil.

Of course as with Caudecus, so with Faolain, the case here is not that she's good. She is bitter and sad, and her betrayal caused the death of Eir Stegalkin, but she's not actually punished for that. We learn to hate her because the Pale Tree is defined as "good" and by definition anyone against it must be "evil". She's a rebel, and Guildwars has no tolerance for rebels and gray areas - unless the rebel is the player character. Which brings us to Palawa Joko and the player's involvement in dethroning him.

Palawa Joko

Palawa_Joko_%28actor%29.jpg

The only instance to the time of this post's writing where Guildwars storyline changes its stance about usurping authority, happens only when it's the player that does the usurping and only when the person who's authority is challenged is "inherently" evil - in fact an undead lich.

It is very hard to defend Joko's morality. He's written in the storyline as evil incarnate, arrogant, proud, self centered, ruthless and backstabbing. In fact his main redeeming quality is the fact that he didn't turn everyone into Awakened after conquering Elona, but tried to create a police state / dictatorship instead. It's okay for us to want to throw him off his throne, even though we know almost nothing about him, because he's undead, he's a lich, and therefore evil. If he was human, things would be a little more complicated, because dethroning him would be like dethroning another dictatorship, like the Charr Tribunal. But making him a lich makes this action safe - no gray area is being explored, it's still the battle of clearly defined good vs clearly defined evil, only this time we don't need a polar opposite to contrast against him like the Pale Tree. Him being a lich is all the justification we need to not trust him, not help him and even striking him down first, an action that the Commander has never done before or shown any inclination of doing. Forgetting for a moment that lich is equal to evil, in any other circumstance our attitude against Joko when we first arrive in Amnoon, when we know absolutely nothing about him, is tantamount to racism.

Even with such low redeeming qualities however, Joko is not beyond defense, as shown in this thread.

I'd like to present the original post by user maxwelgm.4315 here for consistency:

When you first get your memory back during The Departing instance, the PC instantly goes on to mock Joko and very purposefully taunt him. In spite of supposedly being in a hurry to stop Balthazar, i.e, needing an army ASAP, we disregard Joko's offer completely and spend several minutes explaining how we would use his army without his help (let me repeat, we were in a hurry to muster an army). Then we spend what must have been in-game days of camp invasions in a very good but also nonsensical plan to take over the Awakened army, when in reality we should have stricken the deal with the kitten so we could dispatch Balthazar as fast as possible.

And then there's also the Vabbi zone. As soon as you get in, a whisper's agent goes on to explain how their culture is linked to the Awakening rituals and that their society couldn't simply be crushed from night to day. Yet during the whole exposition all I could do was cringe as my PC acted like a woodstock kid saying the whole thing was absurd and that she would show these people what was better for them. And it keeps getting worse as you get to the Necropolis and the Bone Pit (the PC cannot empathize with the lives of these people and internalize nuances, in spite of her mind being strong enough to conquer Mordremoth???).

I don't get why they made the PC necessarily and utterly antagonize Joko so hard. It feels forced and very un-RPG, specially if we put Amoon under the banner of Joko a couple days before meeting him. The writers do not have to make an effort to make Joko seem like a dystopian tyrant: he is one by definition. There should be no effort to show us how the propaganda is insane and how there are bad things being swept under the rug. Yet I never disagreed so hard and so often with my own PC's dialogue before in game, because in antagonizing Joko she basically ignores there's a whole civilization happening out there, regardless of her personal opinions about it. I get very bad vibes from my PC and actually sympathize even further with the Vabbians instead of pitying them. Am I just being biased towards undead or did anyone else feel this?

This user basically asked the very fundamental question that this post is circling : Why doesn't the story explore more gray areas? Especially since there's ample fertile ground for it in the actual lore which we either need to discover from off game sources or from in-game optional content.

And the issue of gray areas is not confined in individuals either. Entire factions and in some cases races of creatures are put completely into clearly defined boxes of good and evil.

Other factions and races

Every race has a racial antagonizing faction. Humans have the separatists, Asura have the Inquest, Norns have the Sons of Svanir, Charr have the Flame Legion and Sylvari have the Nightmare Court. Besides adding variety to the storytelling, these factions serve a very important gameplay role - to give players the opportunity to engage in combat with all other races regardless of the race they've chosen to be in. This increases they variety of missions that players can undertake, and also gives more level design opportunities in content creation like race based dungeons (Citadel of Flame, Twilight Arbor, Honor of the Waves, etc).

The game however did not treat their motivations delicately. We already covered issues with the Nightmare Court and the Separatists but the other factions are also guilty to lesser or greater extents. Inquest members simply operate outside of the Council's rules and regulations. It doesn't matter whether their experiments are dangerous. Every Asuran experiment is dangerous, as the race as a whole shows a remarkable indifference to life and death for the sake of research and progress. The main problem of Inquest is simply the fact that they are not the Council. Again the motif of resistance against the established authority being considered as evil rears its ugly head. The Sons of Svanir and the Flame Legion are possibly the only two factions that players can safely antagonize, as they're both guided by other entities, but that does not negate the fact that the game missed a great opportunity in all of them to explore the gray area that exists in most of them.

As a disclaimer here I must point out that there is one instance where the game almost successfully questioned the predefined morality of its world, in the Sylvari personal story. Early on we meet Gavin, a high ranking member of the Nightmare Court who masquerades as a follower of the Pale Tree and befriends the player. After revealing his true identity we see that unlike the other members of his faction, he's actually honorable and an idealist. Eventually we kill him in an honorable duel and we never hear about him again. The problem with Gavin is that he doesn't represent a side of his faction that isn't a stereotype. He actually reinforces the stereotype by being the only exception. From the wiki,

[...]unlike most of his brethren he acts honorably and dislikes trickery, only killing when needed rather than because he can—though like other Courtiers, he views the Nightmare as the proper route for the sylvari.

He is an exception to his faction's overall "evil" nature, and as all exceptions, his existence story-wise is to reinforce the rule - the Nightmare Court is evil. Again, no room for gray areas.

But we see this issue even in entire races. Take the Dredge for instance. When encountered in the wild they're "yellow", semi-aggressive, and usually red or aggressive. They are given to us by the game as monsters to kill, even though they're an intelligent race adept in technology with a clear hierarchical community. They parody the Soviet Union by having territory names such as the Molengrad ( possible inference that Communism is evil by the game designers? I'd rather take it as a sense of humor instead :P ). Also as another jab against the Soviet Union, they have a corrupt government that oppresses its lower ranking members conveniently called the Moletariate (parodying the Proletariate).

There is only one instance where the Dredge make an official appearance in the personal story, and we're given some in-game background for them, which is when they plan on attacking the Priory Headquarters to kill the last living Dwarf, Magister Ogden Stonehealer. And at that point we're given a very insightful piece of exposition regarding their backstory (source : wiki):

Vyacheslav: You cannot stop us! The revolution will have its vengeance!Vyacheslav: Why do you protect the oppressors who enslaved us?Vyacheslav: No! I can't die while the oppressor dwarf still lives!

According to the lore, the entire Dredge race was enslaved by the Stone Summit and forced to work for them for centuries. When the dwarves sacrificed themselves in the events of Guildwars 1, the Dredge freed itself from its slavery and as an act of vengeance it hunted down most of the remaining dwarves. Their actions although cruel were justifiable, and certainly not easily labeled as evil. In fact, when at one point a faction of the Dredge under the leadership of War Minister Shukov attempted to assault and conquer all other races, a civil war erupted that caused Shukov's plans to fail. According to the wiki,

This in turn led to a civil war within the dredge leadership, resulting in Shukov and his generals' deaths.

Clearly the Dredge is not a race of stereotypical evil single minded creatures, and when such members gain power, the race is able to police itself, much like any of Tyria's other civilized races. But the player is never given the chance to explore this side of the race. To my knowledge, in the entirety of Guildwars 2 so far, there isn't a single Dredge NPC with a green name, let alone a section of in-game lore exploring other facets of their culture.


So how does this simplistic approach to morality affect Guildwars as a game? Here's my main point.

It's clear to me that the development strategy of Guildwars is to focus heavily on its storyline, and attempt to create lasting and iconic characters. They clearly put a lot of effort in the voice acting, cut scenes and overall aesthetics of the storytelling aspect of the game. Their end goal, I assume, must have been the creation of characters that can stand alone as franchises, much like we have characters of other games doing that (Illidan, Arthas, Kerrigan, Zeratul, Tassadar, etc). And they've gone far in reaching this end. The size of the game's lore is very respectable, with novels published to add more flavor to it, with expansions whose primary focus is expanding the story and only close second expanding the gameplay. From experience, I can estimate millions of dollars spent on only this aspect of the game, but it's being held back. Logan will never be Arthas. Caithe will never be Kerrigan. Rytlok will never be Illidan. Because no matter how much background these characters get, and how many voice acting lines they speak, they'll never have a soul and will never become icons until ArenaNet stops playing it safe with their morality.

I do not play World of Warcraft. I only played Warcraft 3 briefly when it came out. I'm not very familiar with its characters and story. But the following cut scene from a character I don't know in a situation I don't know gave me more goosebumps than any cut scene or story arc I've witnessed in both Guildwars games. And it just so happens to deal exactly with the issue of morality. I hope I'm not breaching terms of conduct by posting it here.

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Don't be afraid to explore the gray area between Good and Evil. That's where true heroes are born.

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I agree with the overall call to actually explore all that tantalizing gray they set up, but to flip your point about 'authority=good' on its head- you mention GW1 at a couple points, but neglect to bring up that in that game there's scarcely a human government we don't rebel against. We undermine King Adelbern on several occasions, the closest thing to a main plot Prophecies has is attempting to overthrow the White Mantle by working hand-in-hand with the franchise's most visible rebels, and while Joko isn't human, the Elonian dictator we overthrow in Nightfall certainly is. If you accept the Ministry of Purity as a legitimate arm of the Canthan government, the game's lifespan even ended on an anti-authority note. If you have to have a black-and-white story, I don't mind that the second game at least mixed things up by reversing the script.

@Diviner.4517 said:To my knowledge, in the entirety of Guildwars 2 so far, there isn't a single Dredge NPC with a green nameIt's a side point, but there are a fiar few in that dungeon storyline you mentioned, another in the PS arc you mentioned, and more in two or three hearts in Frostgorge (plus I think a couple at the portal between Frostgorge and Snowden). They aren't common, by any stretch, but they are around. The broader point about not exploring their lore stands, though.

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Thank you Aaron for pointing out the Guildwars 1 storyline about usurping power. To be fair, even though I mention it throughout my original post, I mostly keep it as a background in order to comment the dualism of morality in Guildwars 2. In fact, I haven't even finished Prophecies campaign on the first Guildwars (and therefore I'm unaware on the specifics of the Canthan storyline) but even from what I see in the campaign I have played so far, I can agree with your point. My points about the simplistic moral duality of Guildwars 2 do not necessarily apply to Guildwars 1. Different writers and different games, so I shouldn't generalize. My points were mainly about Guildwars 2 structure. Also nice find about the friendly Dredge, I hadn't noticed any of them :)

@"perilisk.1874" said:Nah. So long as they are picking one canonical path, they need clear good and evil. If things are so fuzzy as to be open to interpretation, people might interpret their character's actions as evil, and be rightly angry about being forced into it.

I don't think what you say is absolute. For starters I'm not necessarily saying the Commander should be morally gray. In fact I would point that the player character role should be morally neutral as a way for the player to be able to more easily fit his own personality in the context of the storyline. They even attempted to do that by giving players the choice of a primitive "alignment" system on character creation (persnonality traits such as intimidation, leadership and seduction) which is very slightly touched in the storyline and generally doesn't affect the main personality of the Commander. I do agree with you that if the story tried to force morality down the player's throat by forcing his actions one way or the other, it would become frustrating, but that's not only limitted to said choices being "evil". In the thread I'm quoting on my original post, the author is equally frustrated at the game for guiding his character's morality towards what the game perceives as being good. For player characters a more neutral moral path would be much more engaging.

My entire original post though as I said focuses on the NPCs, and in its conclusion I was saying how they wouldn't become as iconic as NPCs of other franchises unless they stopped getting written morally safe. I do see the authors of Guildwars 2 storyline trying to create some complex interactions in the Commander's group by creating conflict, but that conflict is not generated by actually different moral views between the characters. In the case of the broken down Destiny's Edge for example, the conflict is created by shared grief over the loss of Snaff. There's no question at any point whether the members of Destiny's Edge share the same moral values. They are undeniably all the good guys. They simply can't handle loss effectively. And as for the conflict created with the Commander himself, it's all based on misunderstanding. Caithe for example, despite how much her writers try to pass her off as morally ambiguous is anything but. She is a purely "good" character throughout the entire storyline. The artificial conflict with her in Heart of Thorns is based on a misunderstanding (she thought that taking the egg was part of her Wild Hunt), and as for the flashbacks we get from her, her only "fault" is keeping company to Faolain more than she should have. If anything, on the raid to the Inquest lab, the "achievement" way to complete that story instance is by not killing any Asura, despite Faolain explicitly stating that it's her favorite way of doing things. Caithe is as morally good as any of the other members of Destiny's Edge. Her moral "ambiguity" is basically just her secretive nature. And as for Braham and his beef against the Commander, it's simply just another case of a Guildwars 2 NPC not being able to handle loss properly, in this case the loss of his mother. Braham isn't evil or even gray for antagonizing us. He's just being a big manchild and needs to grow up.

Now if Braham's inability to cope with loss and grief led him to commit morally gray acts or get consumed by vengeance? Maybe becoming an anti hero in the process? That would make for a compelling character and one that the player would enjoy interacting with in the game. But given the current state of Guildwars story writing, this won't be the case until things change.

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I'm not sure what you expect. A large percentage of fantasy has clearly defined roles of good and evil. The empire and the rebellion in Star Wars as an example (Star Wars is generally considered science fantasy rather than science fiction). Lord of the Rings. It's something I don't particularly like in books but I don't mind in games. This is particularly true in most MMOs, because story is really the bailiwick of single player games, where your choices can impact the world and the game can change based on that choice.

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As I previously said, it's more easily done on NPCs than on PCs when it comes to MMORPGs and that's where I put my focus of the original post. They player should be morally neutral as a way for the player to project his personality on him. And even though the franchises you mentioned have clearly defined good and evil, many implementations of these franchises have characters crossing the borders back and forth multiple times. Anakin was a Jedi before becoming a Sith. In Knights of the Old Republic 2, we have an entire game that shows the dark side through the eyes of a Sith. Even the last Star Wars movie questions the purpose of the Jedi through Luke's character. It's not about having sound belief systems and world views in your setting. It's about not letting the people in that setting explore more than one at a time and even finding their own morality between the defined lines.

I will agree that Lord of the Rings is also to blame for this simplistic moral duality. But I can forgive that to the novels as they were written almost a century ago in a time when the general public had more simplistic views of the world. I prefer my fantasy more tailored to Game of Thrones than Lord of the Rings, but then again that's just a matter of preference.

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For what u said about the sylvari, ist not just that the nightmare court is opposing the pale tree but the methods they use to attack an "free" other sylvari. im not defendig the pale tree here im also not that happy about some stuff regarding her.but there are some sylvari who oppose the pale tree who are not regarded as evil so to say that the act of Opposition is evil is not true. the aggressive methods are the reason to stop the court. and not that theyare not confirm with the pale tree


@Aaron Ansari.1604 said:

@Diviner.4517 said:To my knowledge, in the entirety of Guildwars 2 so far, there isn't a single Dredge NPC with a green nameIt's a side point, but there are a fiar few in that dungeon storyline you mentioned, another in the PS arc you mentioned, and more in two or three hearts in Frostgorge (plus I think a couple at the portal between Frostgorge and Snowden). They aren't common, by any stretch, but they are around. The broader point about not exploring their lore stands, though.

Lets add the Dungeon about the moles. There the PC is Helping a fraction of the Dredge to rebel against their rulers (opposing the bad communistic structures, yea i know- ur Point is acknowledged here)


as for caudecus. yes his main crime is usurping the queen who is ruling because of her rights from birth (i dont like the concept of monarchy funded in blood relation either)but just because jenna is trying to negotiate a truce with the charr she is not weak. caudecus lost his trust in the crown by jenna taking away his purpose but still he only want to establish himself on the throne for his selfish Needs. IMO he is only craving for power and revenge because he felt betrayed by the leader he is supposed to serve. like many Military leaders in history he was not able to let go of his war.

by now we know that caudecus himself is partly responsible for the centaur war. so i would not agree in ur Argument about this being the cause for him seeing jenna as a weak leader. again he only want the throne for himself.

that he does not accept Lazarus as his god doesnt mean his intentions are good. because they are still selfish. he does not accept Lazarus because he knows that it cant be the real Lazarus( indeed it IS balthazar in disguise) cuz he hid one aspect of Lazarus himself and the ritual performed from whatever her Name was again( sorry for that maybe some1 wanna check this?) could not awaken the real Lazarus.in Addition to that u are right about his abuse of the White mantle because his Actions prove that he is not interested in the return of the mursaat. the mantle is a tool - correctbut he only refuse to serve under another authority than himself even if it is the god entity of his Religion. because HE wants to be the guy at the top HE wants ALL the power.

im not really 1 of those queen jenna fanboys but i can still accept caudecus as a bad choice as a leader at the current time of Events and by threatening a leader who is better to deal with he is indeed evil

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Oh I agree with you, he IS bad, and I even mention it in my original post. I never question whether or not he deserves to be an antagonist and I do think he needs to exist as one for the story to contain proper challenges. None of the examples I posted above were a defense of their characters. I acknowledge in each one that at the bottom line, they are bad. I just think that they could have given them SOME redeeming qualities before having us take them down, especially since the backstory has ample opportunities for this. It's unfortunate I had to learn of Caudecus' motivations through off-game sources and instead have the game portray him as a caricature trope of a corrupt politician. We could still antagonize him even if we were presented with his "good" side. Unfortunately, we were presented with none.

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Anybody else annoyed by the PC acting exactly like balthazar during PoF? siding with terrorists(White Mantle/Sunspears) who want to get rid of the current ruler, deceiving others to gain an army, killing everything that gets in the way... but somehow the PC is the hero and Balthazar the bad guy...

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@Diviner.4517 said:It's clear to me that the development strategy of Guildwars is to focus heavily on its storyline, and attempt to create lasting and iconic characters. They clearly put a lot of effort in the voice acting, cut scenes and overall aesthetics of the storytelling aspect of the game. Their end goal, I assume, must have been the creation of characters that can stand alone as franchises, much like we have characters of other games doing that (Illidan, Arthas, Kerrigan, Zeratul, Tassadar, etc). And they've gone far in reaching this end.

I'm going to disagree here. Neither ANet's, nor Blizzard's games are that focused on story or characters. They are more focused on building a rich world and a lot of lore than they are on story and characters. If you want the latter, I'd suggest you look toward BioWare's games.

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@"Feanor.2358" said:I'm going to disagree here. Neither ANet's, nor Blizzard's games are that focused on story or characters. They are more focused on building a rich world and a lot of lore than they are on story and characters. If you want the latter, I'd suggest you look toward BioWare's games.

Are you referring to MMORPGs made by BioWare? Because for single player games you are absolutely right, they are a lot more focused on character development. MMORPGs suffer from the "everyone is the hero" issue. The player has to ignore that in the world he's playing, every player character he meets is also the Commander. But if your point is centered on Starwars the Old Republic, then yes, although I do agree that they made a bigger effort towards character development, the difference isn't as great compared to Guildwars. And as for Blizzard, well, we'll just have to agree to disagree. Blizzard polishes every aspect of its games equally, and character development is a shining example. I can't think of another company that has created so many iconic characters in such few franchises. I even know these characters without even having played those games, which is something I doubt Guildwars (or even the Old Republic) can boast about.

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The thing that needs to be understood about the Pale Tree, is that She is Good in the same sense Glint is good, the tablet is what allowed her to break ties to her dragon master, hence it's significance to both her and the whole Sylvari race.

Her need for her children to be good is based on that there are only two choices, Freedom and Service to the Dragon, the Nightmare is really nothing more then service to the Dragon, as such the Nightmare Court is like children playing with Fire, and not knowing what they are playing with, or how destructive it can be. But since the dragon was not really awake yet, their Nightmare was more like a children's dream, a made up place, to rebel against the perceived oppressive parental authority of the Pale Tree, never knowing that the Nightmare was really just a shadow doorway to the Dragon. And while the nightmare court did fight the call from Mordermouth, they were simply lying to themselves to deny their true nature, just like the soundless, which were even more susceptible then any other kind of Sylvari.

When Faolain, finally converted, she only then truly understood how futile the nightmare court really was, and what a Lie it had been all along, it was pointless to try and fight against their creator, the nightmare always was the Dragon, just a shadow of it, so they never truly knew the horror they were playing with.

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Could you back this up with sources? It's a very appealing theory but not at all what I got from playing the storyline. I assumed that since the Nightmare Court was not more susceptible to Modremoth than the Dreamers, the Nightmare had nothing really to do with the dragon at all and was simply an allegory for the darkness present inside every living being in every race. Just that the Sylvari can manifest it more vividly due to their connection to the Dream.

I would like to be proven wrong though by your theory if you can tell me which source is backing it up. Cause I can certainly understand how one would explain the Nightmare like this if we disregard the events of Heart of Thorns.

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I just want to say bravo – great post. The game could definitely embrace moral greyness a bit, and the rigid adherence to authority in the game has always bugged me. I always found myself empathising with the Nightmare Court's ideals, if not their methods.

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@Diviner.4517 said:

@"Feanor.2358" said:I'm going to disagree here. Neither ANet's, nor Blizzard's games are that focused on story or characters. They are more focused on building a rich world and a lot of lore than they are on story and characters. If you want the latter, I'd suggest you look toward BioWare's games.

Are you referring to MMORPGs made by BioWare? Because for single player games you are absolutely right, they are a lot more focused on character development. MMORPGs suffer from the "everyone is the hero" issue. The player has to ignore that in the world he's playing, every player character he meets is also the Commander. But if your point is centered on Starwars the Old Republic, then yes, although I do agree that they made a
bigger
effort towards character development, the difference isn't as great compared to Guildwars. And as for Blizzard, well, we'll just have to agree to disagree. Blizzard polishes every aspect of its games equally, and character development is a shining example. I can't think of another company that has created so many iconic characters in such few franchises. I even know these characters without even having played those games, which is something I doubt Guildwars (or even the Old Republic) can boast about.

"Iconic characters" isn't quite the same as "interesting characters" or "morally ambiguous characters". Sure, there's some of that in Blizzard's games, like Illidan or Kerrigan. But it is still not on the same level as in BioWare's games. Mostly in their classics, which are indeed single-player. But not just there, SWTOR had some great characters as well. Not as iconic as Kerrigan, but certainly having more depth, and certainly being more morally gray.

By the way, I actually don't think it's a "MMO vs single-player" issue. The story here, in GW2 is pretty much single-player as well. It is tuned to be soloable, and even though you can have a party with friends, the story is strictly about one of the group - the creator of the instance - which assumes the role of the Commander. So I think it's purely a design or writing choice.

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True, the story is presented from a single player perspective. Maybe then, the issue in MMORPGs (and the fact why they can't produce the same quality of characters as single player games) is that their scope is different. MMORPGs must be huge, because they're designed for prolonged gameplay, where single player games only want to tell a story within the time frame of 10-12 hours. This forces the budget in MMORPGs to be focused on assets and development, rather than story structure. It would be a bad investment production-wise to pay 6 figures salary to Martin Sheen to voice act one role (like Mass Effect did), while with the same money they could add several more maps in the world. In a sense, I kind of agree with you that character development can't easily be the focus of games like Guildwars.

On the other hand, I think it's a missed opportunity for the exact same reasons. It's the benefit that TV shows have over feature films; due to longer screen time, they have more time to establish and flesh out characters than a feature film does. This in turn makes viewers a lot more invested in the storyline. It's a shame that MMORPGs don't take advantage of the same feature they possess in developing a much stronger longer connection between the player and their universe.

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Also, in the rare instances where Guildwars has employed semi-celebrities to voice act, they've done a poor job advertising it. I only very recently found out that Zojja is voice acted by Felicia Day. Certainly not the same celebrity caliber as Martin Sheen, but still worthy of more advertisement than she got.

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i think it's less lack of moral grey and more lack of interesting villains in general. the villains in this game are either treated like carrots on a stick to fight at the climax rather then characters or they're megalomaniacs on a quest for genocide.

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I believe it's both and that one leads to the other. Exploring the gray areas gives additional dimensions to the villain personality. The reason most of them are boring stems primarily from the fact that they're one dimensional plot devices to move the story forward. We don't care about them because we have nothing to identify with them. Which makes them feel like carrots on a stick.

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OP I most certainly agree with your line of thinking. To put my spin out it simply: Less is more, ANet went too far in molding the player character into THEIR story thus depriving in a fairly broad way the player's own sense of fitting into the game world. While we all know the technical limitations of the MMO genre - if a simple method of actually opting out of the story was available, I'd have been much happier. The parameters are far too narrow, it's a pity.

Instead, the PC is deeply entrenched and difficult to fully disentangle without willful conceit on the player's part. Not the stuff that bides well in the rich soil of one's own imagination.

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To me inst so complex,The "evil" is basically anything that can destroy Tyria at all, outside of it is all political mess and power dispute, and therefore there are no "righteous" there.And I think that was well presented in game, in the episodes about forming Pact, if theres not Elder Dragons, the Tyria will be a place plunged into wars.

That is why as much as the PC has used "dirty methods", balthazar is still the villain, after all Balthazar success implies in the destruction of Tyria.

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It could be argued that the actions of the Commander in killing Zhaitan and Modremoth were far more devastating for Tyria than anything Balthazar attempted. It has been made known in the story that killing elder dragons threatens the stability of the fabric of reality. Balthazar attempted to kill 2 and failed twice. The Commander killed two and was about to kill the third with Taimi's device when Balthazar stole it. By such simplistic morality, the Commander is the greater evil between the two, regardless of whether he was knowingly endangering the entire world or not. In fact, we can't even use agency as a determining factor for the basis of morality when we don't even know what the Elder Dragons' motives are. They are clearly presented to us as evil, perhaps due to their destructive potential, but clearly their existence is tied to the well being of reality, and we don't know anything more about their true motives.

Which is why we don't generally define morality in the real world by abstract utilitarian standards such as "who does the most damage". Well, people try to, but in philosophy there's intellectual guidelines against it and is generally frowned upon.

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@"Diviner.4517" said:Could you back this up with sources? It's a very appealing theory but not at all what I got from playing the storyline. I assumed that since the Nightmare Court was not more susceptible to Modremoth than the Dreamers, the Nightmare had nothing really to do with the dragon at all and was simply an allegory for the darkness present inside every living being in every race. Just that the Sylvari can manifest it more vividly due to their connection to the Dream.

I would like to be proven wrong though by your theory if you can tell me which source is backing it up. Cause I can certainly understand how one would explain the Nightmare like this if we disregard the events of Heart of Thorns.

Actually, it's a bit long and drawn out, and it starts mainly with HoT, or at least the LW story that leads up to HoT "We are Of the Dragon" is what Wynne said. She knew that Faolain was pure evil by rejecting the Pale Tree, as the Pale Tree was the only true means to be free from the Dragon for the Sylvari race, and this gets played out more and more as the story unfolds that following the Nightmare, is following the destruction of life, not simply for greed or even self serving motives to gain something, but to kill for the sake of killing, like Faolain did with the centaurs,. all in the quest to kill the Rouge Herald.

While Faolain was not aware she was a puppet at the onset, in fact she believed what she was doing was cutting the puppet strings, the truth, hence her inital resistance, what was really going on was far more sinister. She, unlike Scarlet, was an unwitting servant of the Dragon that created her.. who's power is of Mind and Dream.

While Scarlet went mad from the realization, Faolain rejected it. Whereas Cathe knew all along that the Nightmare was the decent into service to the Dragon, hence her own unwillingness to join the Court, even tho she loved Faolain, she knew where that path led.

Now, The Nightmare Court has embraced the Dragon much in the same way Sons of Svanir have, where they used the Dragons power to power their own ends. However, The Sons Knowingly worshiped the Dragon, and used the Dragon's power, but they would not want to be directly enslaved by Jormag and become mindless branded, the Nightmare Court was unintentionally doing the same, they simply didn't realize what they were playing with, so when it came, they rejected it.

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@STIHL.2489 said:While Faolain was not aware she was a puppet at the onset, in fact she believed what she was doing was cutting the puppet strings, the truth, hence her inital resistance, what was really going on was far more sinister. She, unlike Scarlet, was an unwitting servant of the Dragon that created her.. who's power is of Mind and Dream.

Given that we know what happens to Sylvari who heed the call of the Dragon, and that there are non-Mordrem Nightmare Courtiers in HoT (and I think they were at one point supposed to have played a larger role), and even Faolain kept her mind until subjected to a physical transformation, I don't think that's true at all. Even more so, since prior to HoT, the Sylvari who were most susceptible to Mordremoth weren't Nightmare Court, but Soundless, who abandoned the protection of the Dream and were left defenseless against the dragon.

The Dream represents free will, for better (dream) or worse (nightmare). Mordrem aren't evil or good, because they don't have free will.

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That's what I got from the story too @perilisk.1874 but I will replay these storyline missions with @STIHL.2489 's interpretation in mind. It's been long since I last played them, there might be a new way of looking at this story.

However, if he's right, I still place a blame on the story writers for not making this more obvious, since we both potentially misunderstood it.

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