Teleri (telerib) wrote,

Blast from the past

So, the Dear Spouse picked up the video game Dragon Age: Origins.

Now, I have a long history of idly watching him play video games. I watched enough Diablo II (I think because I kept expecting this fight to be the one where something interesting happened) that I actually tried playing it. That lasted all of a few hours. The kill-loot-kill-boss fight-grind, grind grind and level drill got really, really old for me, really fast.

Dragon Age plays like a really mediocre tabletop RPG, which is frankly amazing*. The plot is a fairly straightforward near-railroad, with a few branches in key spots to make your decisions count. The exploration isn't endless, the fights are mostly brief and to the point, and they apparently paid the writers. (Also, half the writing team was female. I do think this makes a difference in appealing to non-traditional gamer audiences.) You get to dialogue (using menu choices), frequently, with recurring and non-recurring non-player characters.

There is a Wise Mentor NPC, and his voice was maddeningly familiar. I asked the Dear Spouse, who was at the computer, to find out who it was and see what other voice credits he had. "He sounds like a Wise Mentor," I said, and lo, the exact character in question suddenly jumped to mind. "Splinter! Was he Splinter?"

Not only was Peter Renaday, the voice actor for Dragon Age's "Duncan" character, Splinter from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, my favorite TV show when I was thirteen, he was Mandrake the Magician in Defenders of the Earth, which apparently no one else has ever seen.

This pleases me all out of proportion to its actual impact on my life. It's like an unexpected visit from an old friend.

*Speaking as both a GM and an AI researcher. The branching factor in an open-ended tabletop RPG would absolutely kill any AI planner we have today. They can't improvise on the fly when the party suddenly decides to dress in drag and do the hula.
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