Thursday, May 9, 2013

Delsin Rowe is a Product of Players Says Second Son Director

So, inFamous:  Second Son is something that I've gone on record as being excited for and I would say it's deservedly so, if only for the pedigree of the franchise and the developers behind it.  Of course, it helps that the actual game looks quite intriguing and quite nice on its own merits, certainly.  Yet, that's sort of the rub is that it -looks- interesting, since there's still not a whole lot of information about it floating around there just yet, or at least there's not a lot of information that I've found about it even if I haven't been exactly looking.  Media blackouts and all that, only half-followed, etc.  To be sure, I haven't decided quite yet if I want to follow the development of the game feverishly, to soak up all the info on a new inFamous game until I can actually get my hands on it, or if I would prefer to go into the experience uneducated so that it springs open to me as only the best type of present does.

However, through all of it, there has been one fairly obvious area of contention:  the main character.  Delsin Rowe caught a lot of flak for a lot of things - well, most things really, including his name - but really, I think the thing that people don't like about him is that he's not our beloved Cole MacGrath.  It's innocuous enough, new game, new platform, new character, right?  Makes sense, is nice and easy, and doesn't have to be more complicated than that.  Yet, Nate Fox, the director of inFamous:  Second Son had a little to say about specifically -why- we have Delsin Rowe and not Cole MacGrath.  And the reasoning, to me is a bit....suspect, to say the least.  I only caught wind of this because Chance posted about it and I made a little comment about my thoughts on it. 

Thing is, the post, by its very nature of explaining what it does, contains major inFamous 2 spoilers and, as you all know, I try my best to keep away from spoilers or at least make it as impossible as possible for you to 'accidentally' stumble across them.  Which is why I'm going to do a post break, something I rarely do, and go a little more in-depth about the whole situation.  So, of course, after the break, there are, again, major inFamous 2 spoilers know.  You've been warned, and such.

Let's start with a little Quoteception as I quote Chance's post quoting the director of the game.  (I'll let you get the source from his post)  This is, apparently, the reason why they decided against using Cole MacGrath again, so keep that in mind.
"We started seeing trophy data and 78 percent of players decided to sacrifice Cole (in inFamous 2). So we wanted to honor their choice. Moving forward onto the next game we said, “Alright, well Cole’s dead, people have voted for this, let’s make a new hero.” And that’s where Delsin came from, really."
-Nate Fox, Director of inFamous:  Second Son
It's a pretty clear-cut explanation, but for the cheap seats, the assertion is that because the Good Ending - the ending in which Cole sacrifices himself and the entirety of Conduits so that humanity can live - was the one that more people got (first, I would assume, since I know a -lot- of people got both endings), it became the canon ending.  So, let's stop there for a moment so that we may discuss inFamous 2's endings.

The Good Ending, which is apparently the canon ending as stated, involved Cole taking a device called the Ray Field Inhibitor or RFI from now on and charging it at several locations around New Marais (because it was defective and they didn't have a method of fixing it properly) while The Beast, the prolific being that was destined to bring ruin to the world chased him about and attempted to stop him.  It was in vain, however as Cole managed to charge it, and even though he knew that it would kill him (it specifically targets certain things, the Conduit gene being one of them) he uses it.  It destroys not only The Beast but kills everyone on the entire planet that has the Conduit gene, even unawakened Conduits and clears up the plague that had hit humanity because of Conduits.  Zeke, Cole's best buddy, decides to take Cole's body off...somewhere on a boat where, in the last scene, it's struck by lightning to call into question whether or not Cole is actually dead.

Read that again - the ending itself, the one where Cole sacrifices himself willingly, was supposed to allow for doubt, for a prospect of him being a main character once more.  That's Strike One.

Now let us briefly discuss the Evil Ending.  In this ending, we discover that The Beast is not actually destroying everything, but rather is awakening Conduits to their powers.  The process requires human life, much like the Ray Sphere, so for every dozen humans or so that are destroyed by The Beast, a new Conduit arises.  Humanity is in its dying throes is how The Beast rationalizes it, and extends the olive branch to Cole, beckoning him to join the movement.  Cole makes this possible by killing the two people standing in his way - Nix and Zeke - and then destroying the RFI.  However, The Beast then wusses out at the prospect of murdering the entire world to create Conduits and channels those powers into Cole.  The ending then suggests that Cole takes up the mission as stated and travels the nation, creating Conduits everywhere along his path.  Rather than destroying The Beast, he's become it.

With endings as divisive as that, it's easy to see why it's difficult to decide a 'canon' one with which to approach for a possible third game, yet both endings easily offer a set-up for a third game.  A Good Ending game would likely start with Cole awakening after being struck by lightning (possibly not directly after, maybe months later even).  This conveniently allows Sucker Punch to deliver Cole as a de-powered super being once more, while also giving several avenues to go down.  Perhaps the bolt only restore his body and the barest hints of the Conduit gene, forcing him to re-discover his powers that might not even be 'his' anymore.  Maybe he's the Iceman now.  Maybe he gains the ability to rapidly terraform.  Maybe he gains Delsin's Chameleon-like Conduit ability.  It's as open-ended as possible.  Over the course of the game, we could discover that his very existence has once again bred Conduits as a possibility.  Or maybe someone from the first game or the lore or whatever discovers a new way to engineer Conduits.  It's simple, is what I'm getting at.

The Evil ending is technically a little easier to make a game out of since Cole is alive at the end of inFamous 2 because of it.  The acquisition of The Beast's powers likely means that Cole is over-powered and not likely to become de-powered once more...unless he transfers his ability as John White before him did.  Maybe in doing so, he loses his electrical powers and becomes a straight Pyrokinetic to start the game with him eventually becoming able to either regain his Electricity powers once more or gain a new tree of abilities on top of the Pyrokinesis while being tied to some sort of Moral Quandary.  Once again remembering his promise in the past, he then decides to once again challenge The Beast, or rather the New Beast, and the ending could be as simple as re-inheriting the powers or destroying The Beast once and for all.  Again, it's a -really easy premise- from which you can construct an entire game around.

Personally, I would've liked to see some Legacy of Kain shenanigans go down where the series split off into two different series in itself.  One based around Good Cole, another based around Evil Cole and all of it dictated by that one moment where Cole decided whether or not to save humanity by destroying all Conduits.  Get some parallel universe storyline going - it's a damn comic book style super hero story after all (Hell, the first game involves time travel) - eventually coming to a head between the two Coles ala The Legacy of Kain:  Defiance.  There's more than enough there that could've facilitated it, and while it would be accused of being "the same game packaged twice" (while wholly inaccurate that would be) it would likely be different enough to attract attention and sales.  I know I'd buy both of those games I suggested above.

That's neither here nor there, however, and is a massive tangent away from the point I was trying to make.  I understand that, because of how different these endings are, there has to be -one- that is correct in the traditional sense since they would never do the dual-game design (even though, again, it would be super awesome and they could sell a dual pack with packaging that has Cole from the shoulders up split down the middle as Good and Evil and you know it would be awesome) meaning that it is canon.  My point, however, is that saying "Welp, Cole is dead because the Good Ending was picked more" is inherently flawed from just about every damn angle that you can poke it from.

I already mentioned the fact that the Good Ending already presents a scenario in which Cole is, in fact, -not dead-, but we'll wave over that because blah blah blah, it was the sentiment and such because players chose it expecting Cole to die.  Or, as is the most likely decision, players chose it because it's the damn Good Ending.  Let's conduct an experiment here.  Think of the last game you played that wasn't inFamous that offered you a chance to be a Good Guy or a Bad Guy.  Now think of how goddamn fast you started being a Good Guy because let's face it - that's exactly what you did.  The people that go straight-evil right off the bat in games that allow it are the outliers, not the example and we all know this.  The figure above, the 78% of people who got the Good Ending is exemplary of that, as again it likely means the people who got it first because I'm guessing there's a very low percentage of people who played inFamous 2, got the Good Ending and just stopped playing.  (Or got the Evil Ending first and stopped playing)  It's not impossible, but it's not at all outrageous to think like this, especially because this is probably exactly what happened.  That's Strike Two.

Really, let's not kid ourselves with the last point here.  As stated, inFamous is a Comic Book Styled Super Being story.  I ask you directly now:  When is the last time a character, a main character, died forever for reals in a comic book?  Batman has died, what, twice in the very mainline series?  Remember the big deal waaaaaaay back with "The Death of Superman" series of comics?  Hell, Comic Book Death is a phrase that describes the trend of main characters dying and subsequently coming back to life for little to no reason.  So to expect players who are presented with the idea that Cole will die to actually believe he will die for reals, forever, for good, is inherently unrealistic.  I don't even read comic books and I know this.  A few examples aside, most games are entirely too remiss to murder off their own main characters for good, anyway.  That, my friends, is Strike Three.
On the one hand, I kind of understand the idea he's trying to present here.

On the other, it's such patent bull that I'll not even hear of it. I'd say it's fairly likely that most people only have the time to put one playthrough into a game before moving on, and in games with Good and Evil options, people generally go towards Good first despite things like GIFT and the like. There's probably 'reasons' for that, but even someone like me who actively indulges in playing the Evil character when it's allowed tends to play Good first. So it's a skewed figure.

Really, I think they just wanted a clean slate. And that's fine. Cole got so powerful at the end of the first game that you could tell there was a sort of "Where do we go from there?" feeling with the sequel, not only with the de-powering at the start, but with the new Fire/Ice powers. And that sort of "Where do we go from there?" would just persist even stronger for a third game because just doing that over again, or just having Cole get more new powers of whatever elements available would just seem a rehash.

Really, they could've just said that. Because now this guy is just going to look silly eventually. This is a friggin' Comic Book-Style Super Person story. Nobody ever dies forever.
-My comment on the linked post on Chance's Blog
Despite how I might've presented it in the comments, I'm not trying to be entirely dismissive of the whole thing on a wide scale.  Rather, I think it's mostly posturing.  As stated, it's hard to make a Super Hero game with a recurring main character because the entire game is about making him more and more powerful.  Hell, -all- games are structured like this.  Even something like Batman:  Arkham Asylum/City where Batman isn't getting actually stronger during the game, he's getting more tools and more this and that.  He's gaining the whole game and it's hard to make a game on -top- of that where you gain even more.  And, some series' aside, it's not just as simple as going "Well, you're starting at basic again, have fun collecting new powers!" despite how some wish it could be that way.  So at the end of inFamous 2, you either have a Cole that is newly-resurrected in a world where there's no super-powers or a Cole that is the embodiment of destruction, carnage and chaos.  Where do you go from there, indeed.  (Besides what I suggested)

Delsin Rowe is a clean slate.  He's a brand new hero/anti-hero that they can brand all over again, that they can decide what he's going to get, what his progression is going to be like, and what his story is going to involve.  They don't have to worry about whether or not they need to take away his ability to use static electricity to glide through the air, or if they need to make it impossible for him to send a vortex of energy down a major roadway.  They don't have to worry about the past karmic choices of Cole MacGrath requiring new impacts on this character because this character is not Cole MacGrath.  And, most damning to the presentation of the idea that Delsin is a character -we- chose because of the Good Ending, he is a brand-new Conduit, possibly in a world that is not supposed to have Conduits anymore, thanks to the heroic sacrifice of Cole MacGrath.  I'm interested in seeing where he goes and, mostly, where he ends up considering the whole thing with inFamous 1 and 2, really.  I'm excited for it.

But if you think we've seen the last of Electric Jesus, I do believe you are sorely mistaken.

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