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The Case For Villains

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This isn't about what we as players could do to create a really great or memorable villain. There's lots of posts regarding all of that. No, this focuses on what we could have had for a truly great villain in Guild Wars 2.

The main story of Guild Wars 2 has been focusing on world shattering events; Zhaitan, Mordremoth, Kralkatorri, Balthazar. Gods and dragons. Sprinkled among all of that was your garden variety of villains, from megolomaniacs to masterminds to the completely unhinged. One of the villains that had a great deal of potential was killed off recently. I say potential, because there's always a potential to have a really great villain.

And no, I'm not talking about Caudicus.

I mean Faolin.

ArenaNet really missed a step by killing her off (and Eir, but that's something for a different discussion). If you never really paid attention to the meta events in Dragon Stand (or never participated in them), there was a good chance you missed the Nightmare Court Duchess that was helping the Pact and the players during the entire event. We could have had that in the personal story as well, but with Faolin.

We could have had an interesting step up that would have carried us into LS Season 3, which still could have sashay'd into the White Mantle and would have given a better explanation why the Nightmare Court and the White Mantle were working together in Brisban (ya know, if you don't play fractals or Twilight Arbor).

Faolin could have been a really good villain. I say good, because I'm not sure if ArenaNet could make a great villain. But they could have made something close. Something to what I think is one of the greatest villains ever made.

Yes, this is a reference to Star Trek. Didn't you know, everything's Star Trek. I pointed this out on my tumblr, that Gul Dukat of Deep Space Nine (the absolute BEST of the Star Trek series and that includes Discovery) had all the necessary pieces to make a great villain. Instead of me rambling more about it, watch this from Trekspertise (or, ya know, binge watch all seven seasons of DS9 'cause there's nothing wrong with watching a good television series).

Spoiler: The Case For Gul DukatShow

Faolin, could have had that level of Machiavellian nature about her. Because, lets face it, the Nightmare Court isn't 100% wrong in their thinking. Just possibly the way they're going about it. But it would have been nice to have had some side stories regarding the Nightmare Court outside of fractals or Twilight Arbor. Granted, that would have meant a completely focused writing team doing all of that, along with voice acting and animation for cutscenes which does take a lot of time and effort.

But each of the different factions across Tyria could have had a villain that was similar in some way, and just poked their head up at certain times throughout whatever story there was.

Yes, I have a lot of strong feelings about Faolin's death. I think it was wrong and ArenaNet missed a big opportunity.

Got any other villains? I'd like to see what others think of missed opportunities ArenaNet's made regarding their villains. And I'm not talking about dragons or gods, I mean the more down to earth (Tyria?) sort of villains we've seen in the game.
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Posted Oct 23, 17 · OP
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ATTENTION BAJORAN WORKERS...
Posted Oct 23, 17
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Fuckin' Cadeyrn, first of the secondborn, FOUNDER of the Nightmare Court, dies in story mode? Seriously? Makes me mad every time I run Twilight Arbor.
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Posted Oct 23, 17
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Whilst not true villainy, for me I feel Anet wasted great opportunity with the societal attitudes towards classes, or lack thereof. The way that necromancers prance around, constructing hellish beasts from flesh, bone and blood without anyone remotely batting an eyelid or the zealotry of the Guardians being implied, but undeveloped in lore. It's as though you need to be truly dastardly, bordering cartoonish before you can actually be considered a villain within the GW2 universe. Having lead a guild for villains outside the framework of the go to lore organisations; (Inquest, Flame Legion, Sons of Svanir, White Mantle, Nightmare Court) it was a constant struggle between trying to maintain believability of character and justifying them cranking up the evil points in order to simply identify as villains. For me, I feel a lot of it has to do with the trend following a lot of MMO type games recently, pandering to the politically correct crowd, leaving a world without prejudices and pariahs within society. It is very uninspiring and frankly, rather sloppy. I think just by having more work placed into the lore of classes and societal attitudes, we would find much greater scope for exploring villainy, true or otherwise subjective within a given society.
Posted Nov 3, 17 · Last edited Nov 3, 17
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I don't think it has anything to do with being PC (which is actually language for... not being an asshole) but it has everything to do with two factors.

We've grown up having one brand of villain thrust upon us in fiction. While this isn't every single villain that's out there, these ones scream louder than the rest. The moustache twirler. The figure was born out of penny dreadfuls and dime novels and went into the Silent Film era. We knew who the villain was just by looking at him. Granted, this is more of a North American view point, I can't speak of European fiction as much, even though there is a crossing of fiction from Britain to Canada and the U.S.

A big area of blame can be laid at the feet of the Comics Code Authority and the MPAA. Comics got throttled big time decades ago, by what could only be described as a sort of censorship. The Moral Right dictated how comics (and to a point, movies and television that followed eventually with the MPAA) would present themselves. Soon, gone were titles like Tales From The Crypt, Vault of Horror and others like it. In those titles, the good guys didn't always win, things were often morally grey, and there was a surprising amount of diversity. One such comic story that was a sci-fi story that nearly got the axe by the CCA was a story about a human astronaut that was sent to see if a planet of sentient robots was worthy to join a massive interplanetary alliance. It was denied when one kind of robot subjugated another kind of robot. That part was fine, but what nearly got cut was the part when the astronaut took off his helmet to reveal he was black.

Even bigger, though, was the strict rules that good had to always triumph over evil. Stories had to be wrapped up quickly, always giving the promise that good would triumph. This really hog tied writing creativity, to the point that we didn't really start pulling out of that until the 1990s.

Villains didn't really have interesting or unique backstories during this time. They were the bad guys, they didn't need any motivation other than the fact they were the bad guy. Readers didn't need their motivation, they just needed to know it was a bad guy.

This attitude has persisted throughout the years. And whether consciously or subconsciously, we've all fallen into that as well. It's getting better, mind you, but it's taking a while to climb out of that creative funk that we've been subjected to for decades.
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Posted Nov 3, 17 · OP
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wrote:
Whilst not true villainy, for me I feel Anet wasted great opportunity with the societal attitudes towards classes, or lack thereof. The way that necromancers prance around, constructing hellish beasts from flesh, bone and blood without anyone remotely batting an eyelid or the zealotry of the Guardians being implied, but undeveloped in lore.

The thing is, necromancy isn't anything new. It's been used in military battlefield functions as well as adventuring and major schools for hundreds of years. If not thousands. They aren't universally liked either, but they aren't hated. In true, I love that guild wars takes something so typically "PURE EVIL ONLY EVIL" and turns it completely around. Like they do with several things compared to other fantasy realms. And even then, minions is only one aspect of necromancy. There are many who don't use minions at all.

As for guardians,
Quote:
Guardians are devoted fighters who protect their allies and smite their enemies by drawing from the power of their virtues. True guardians are brilliant tacticians and selfless defenders who know when to sacrifice their own defenses to empower their allies to achieve victory.
What zealotry? In defense of allies perhaps, but outside of that?

And frankly, I've always held the belief that if one was to really hold necromancers in such poor regard, they should also be extremely distrustful of elementalists and mesmers to the same degree, if not more.
Quote:
For me, I feel a lot of it has to do with the trend following a lot of MMO type games recently, pandering to the politically correct crowd, leaving a world without prejudices and pariahs within society. It is very uninspiring and frankly, rather sloppy. I think just by having more work placed into the lore of classes and societal attitudes, we would find much greater scope for exploring villainy, true or otherwise subjective within a given society.

Honestly, the way some games/realms overplay that it's at least refreshing (for me) in the sense of stepping the other way. Look at WoW, when facing an undead horde the thing orcs do is not work side by side with the humans to try to win, but instead attack the humans from the rear, causing them to get wiped out, and then the orc group gets overwhelmed by the undead. And the guy reporting that event thinks that's a good outcome! As one example.

To the OP, I think Faolin could've lived, but not in the way some people have suggested in other topics and discussions. I remember the popular idea was for her to join the party, which I think is just bad.

Personally, I don't care for her, but I do agree that scene with her and Eir could've been handled much differently, and for the better.
Faolin, could have had that level of Machiavellian nature about her. Because, lets face it, the Nightmare Court isn't 100% wrong in their thinking. Just possibly the way they're going about it. But it would have been nice to have had some side stories regarding the Nightmare Court outside of fractals or Twilight Arbor. Granted, that would have meant a completely focused writing team doing all of that, along with voice acting and animation for cutscenes which does take a lot of time and effort.

I won't agree personally about the "Not 100% wrong", cause their whole thing is simply turning the race into murderous and violent crazies for the most part. But anet could've worked the court into the lore a bit better at least.

Honestly, I think anet could've had a wonderful thing if they made the nightmare as mordremoth's influence trying to get into the dream, and after his death the nightmare's urging to spread and corrupt would be gone from the court. Then we could've had a really interesting situation with Faolin and the other courtiers, setting themselves up without this pestering "Corrupt that dreamer" or "Spread the nightmare, so kick that puppy infront of the saplings!"
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Posted Nov 3, 17 · Last edited Nov 3, 17
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We've grown up having one brand of villain thrust upon us in fiction. While this isn't every single villain that's out there, these ones scream louder than the rest. The moustache twirler. The figure was born out of penny dreadfuls and dime novels and went into the Silent Film era. We knew who the villain was just by looking at him. Granted, this is more of a North American view point, I can't speak of European fiction as much, even though there is a crossing of fiction from Britain to Canada and the U.S.

I've never understood the TV trope of the British villain in American narratives, but it always gives me a good giggle, nonetheless. I'd hate to generalise and I have no doubt that there are likely many big exceptions (Francis Underwood from House of Cards springs to mind) but from my general experience, I've found that British fiction usually doesn't define hero from villain quite as clear cut as our neighbours from across the pond, but I think what feeds into that is the cultural difference, where American (comedy especially) fiction tends to be more open and observational, whereas we rely more on satire, innuendo and sarcasm to the point of almost seeming to revel in the misery of a protagonist. The anti-hero of a tale; who's behaviour and attitude makes them an everyday villain is, I believe, often the one a British audience tends to root for as opposed to the fresh faced, tediously likeable do-gooder hero that, again just from my own albeit narrow experiences, dominates American literature. That's what I'm trying to get it, at least. I'd love to see more every day villains and anti-heroes. The Sylvari characters seem to encompass that best and of course, they're given British accents!

wrote:
As for guardians,
Quote:
Guardians are devoted fighters who protect their allies and smite their enemies by drawing from the power of their virtues. True guardians are brilliant tacticians and selfless defenders who know when to sacrifice their own defenses to empower their allies to achieve victory.
What zealotry? In defense of allies perhaps, but outside of that?

Well, one of the Guardian specialisations is actually called Zeal and the starting gear choices are titled as "Fanatic's/Conqueror's Pauldrons". Their skills and traits play into this, as well; "Zealot's Flame, Wave of Wrath, Purging Flames and Kindled Zeal" to name but a few examples. Whilst it's easy enough to dismiss this as purely an aspect of gameplay, there is so much reference to extreme leanings of conviction. Granted, this is wrapped up neatly under their protection of allies and goody virtues, but that's the point I'm arguing. I feel it's a wasted opportunity and I'd love to see greater fanaticism involved in the story. The only thing that comes close to my current recollection would be the Zaishen Order.
Posted Nov 3, 17 · Last edited Nov 3, 17
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Excellent points, Sheriff!

This very much ties into what I've often felt about Guild Wars 2's writing, which is that they write very complex and textured worlds, societies, politics, but when it comes down to writing characters that represent parts of their world, they tend to lean on cartoonish stereotypes.

The biggest examples of this for me are villain-factions for each of the races. For the Sylvari you have the Nightmare Court, Humans have the Separatists, Charr have the Renegades and the Flame Legion, Asura have the Inquest, and Norn have Sons of Svanir.

At a glance, the game really wastes no time in coding to us that these are the bad guys, but once you get past the gameplay and the surface writing you find a lot of really detailed and complex philosophies to each of the factions.

The Nightmare Court are really a response to the "politically correct" Dream of Dreams; they feel that negative experiences are as important as positive ones for learning about the world. But when we encounter members of this faction, they laugh maniacally and are purely sadist.

The Separatists and Renegades are perfect representations of how racial prejudice gets passed from generation to generation, and conflict gets perpetuated when both sides refuse to communicate. But we never really get the chance to explore this except through direct conflict in which we kill them.

The Flame Legion are all charr who seem adept with magic, and we see how charr society is suspicious of magic, so it's reasonable to assume that some charr who find themselves to be magically gifted to feel ostracized by their peers to the point where they seek validation elsewhere. But in-game, of course, the Flame Legion are crazed pyromaniacs.

The Inquest are among the most interesting to me because they address issues of ethics in science. One of the things that fascinated me most when I was getting my degree was how restrictive Institutional Review Boards are toward what sort of experiments can and can't be run, to the point that many of the greatest and most revealing research could never be done again. I wish I could say that that's what I see in-game, but as far as I can tell, the Inquest are actually just every James Bond villain rolled into a single megacorporation.

And the Sons of Svanir, well, I used to think they were boring dragon-worshippers, but then I discovered the misogyny of the faction. Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 were always very egalitarian worlds, which I love, but as a consequence it often misses a lot of the fascinating ways that gender has steered real-life culture, particular during our equivalent medieval eras. So to have villains that deliberately exclude women really makes me wonder what sort of cultural experiences would cause Norn men to feel that norn women are inferior. Except, that's barely addressed, they're just angry cold dudes.

What I'm getting at is that while I think that the writers at ArenaNet seem very aware of how to write complex and compelling conflicts that really make you think, and furthermore, compel roleplay-minded players to create their own characters that embody these ideals without making them 'mustache-twirling villains', they seem to sort of give up and go for the cartoon shorthand when it comes down to writing individual characters involved in those conflicts.
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Posted Nov 3, 17
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I'm sorry but I will -always- fall for the sly-tongued, two-timing, stab you in the back villian.

The ones that are ever quiet, ever roaming, ever lurking. Ones that /allow/ you to have power to feel safe and the next thing you know..snatch it up and walk away leaving you in shambles.

I love the complex language they use, the tongue twisters that make you double take on who your allies actually are. I love the side characters that are always planning one step over their bosses, or the bosses that feign ignorance and then suddenly bring down the hammer to show they are dominant.

Villians with emotion, with feelings, that can show mercy or none at all. They decide how you feel, when they feel like it, on their schedule. Faolain paid homage to that behavior and it absolutely angered me that she basically became a science experiment .

Just, no.
I don't want Saturday morning cartoon villians.
Posted Nov 3, 17
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I'll agree to disagree, though I'll put out my thoughts on it.
The Nightmare Court are really a response to the "politically correct" Dream of Dreams; they feel that negative experiences are as important as positive ones for learning about the world. But when we encounter members of this faction, they laugh maniacally and are purely sadist.

The court wasn't started about negative emotions as well. It really was started from a second-born being tired of getting ignored by the pale tree and the firstborn, and watching them simply step back from possible threats. Whether that was pre-emptively destroying what would later be a massive problem (Krait young) or simply not retaliating toward an attack on one of the firstborn (asura).

In all honesty, I'd love to see where, when, and why the court went from simply wanting to make some changes to Sylvari culture (a bit on defending themselves from threats partly) to crazed, shoving negative things into the dream in an effort to corrupt it. I hate the court for the "All evil, no virtue or good at all." "Perm evil, no redemption." and "There is not a good counterpart to it, and the "dreamers" are all the neutral sylvari."

Because even the most noble courtier we got (gavin) literally ordered you dead the moment you refused him and explicitly treated anybody who doesn't join, or isn't worthy of joining as something to kill. :p Where did it go from minor culture/society change to that?
Quote:
The Separatists and Renegades are perfect representations of how racial prejudice gets passed from generation to generation, and conflict gets perpetuated when both sides refuse to communicate. But we never really get the chance to explore this except through direct conflict in which we kill them.

Well, the Renegade leader gets killed and it's implied they weaken out severely after that. As for Separatists, it's a hard spot to explore considering they quite literally would rather their city under siege all the time instead of peace. They are however, good showings of the worst of both sides, Charr who won't follow orders and move on, and humans refusing to accept any change.
Quote:
The Flame Legion are all charr who seem adept with magic, and we see how charr society is suspicious of magic, so it's reasonable to assume that some charr who find themselves to be magically gifted to feel ostracized by their peers to the point where they seek validation elsewhere. But in-game, of course, the Flame Legion are crazed pyromaniacs.

Not entirely correct. Flame legion has more spellcasters then most, but it's not all spellcaster charr. They have front line melee grunts in plenty of numbers. The only magic using legion charr I recall really getting any type of stink-eye was the ones who are directly related to a flame legion person. Like the backstory of the father being a flame legion shaman who had defected.

Sure, flame legion may try to nab those spellcasters quickly, but plenty of legion spellcasters exist. Charr don't like it, but they use all tools they got.
Quote:
The Inquest are among the most interesting to me because they address issues of ethics in science. One of the things that fascinated me most when I was getting my degree was how restrictive Institutional Review Boards are toward what sort of experiments can and can't be run, to the point that many of the greatest and most revealing research could never be done again. I wish I could say that that's what I see in-game, but as far as I can tell, the Inquest are actually just every James Bond villain rolled into a single megacorporation.

Varies by area actually. Ones near Rata Sum, or within it tend to be assholes, but further away the more evil they get. Course, they also believe they are above everybody else, and don't have any type of ethic rules or morals. So literally everything else in the world is a possible test subject.
Quote:
And the Sons of Svanir, well, I used to think they were boring dragon-worshippers, but then I discovered the misogyny of the faction. Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 were always very egalitarian worlds, which I love, but as a consequence it often misses a lot of the fascinating ways that gender has steered real-life culture, particular during our equivalent medieval eras. So to have villains that deliberately exclude women really makes me wonder what sort of cultural experiences would cause Norn men to feel that norn women are inferior. Except, that's barely addressed, they're just angry cold dudes.

Well, the reason they hate women literally boils down to their faction name. Svanir gave into Jormag and gained power, turning into the norn-bear. Jora refused the power, and in the end killed Svanir because of the whole situation.

So they look back and see that a woman murdered the first worshipper of dragon (in a sense) and go straight from there into "Women are only useful for having sons". It's not so much that women are inferior, but that a long time ago a woman rejected jormag's power and then murdered her brother, who had accepted it.
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Posted Nov 3, 17
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