Worldharming
A video game theme: the setting is substantially damaged during the game.


(permanent link) added: 2010-10-07 08:59:04 sponsor: Kizor edited by: Catbert (last reply: 2012-02-19 09:11:02)

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A video game theme: the setting is substantially damaged during the game.

Saving the World may be about as common as fire buttons, but the world seldom looks like it's in ongoing peril. The average threat either strikes within ten minutes of the title screen, or is imminent and stays that way throughout the game. A madman is threatening to melt the South Pole! A thief has stolen the seven Crystals of Fluffiness! A sneak attack by the Plarhkleet Armada has destroyed all other Super Toyetic Fighters! The threat stays static until the Big Bad's defeat ends it.

This is mostly a role-playing trope, but happens in other genres as well. Even RPGs are averse to go the extra mile to change graphics, dialogue and scripting, or to cut the player off from the goods and services that would logically be lost. For instance, several Final Fantasy games feature the destruction of elemental crystals that control the world, but the only thing this seems to do is worry a few NPCs.

Contrast Take Your Time, Orcus on His Throne. I checked it, and it has very few aversions that would overlap. Compare Just Before the End.

This is the companion to Worldhealing, which has some kinks that I need to iron out before posting it. Alternate titles: Harming The World, Earth Dies Screaming (marvellous - but too grandiose?)


Examples:

Action Game
  • In Virus 2000, failing a level turns it into a Dark World with several times as many enemies.
  • As far back as Defender, failing to, er, defend the inhabitants of the planet will blow up the planet and turn all Mooks into Elite Mooks. Surviving the attack wave will grant the player a new planet.
  • God of War III is a Roaring Rampage of Revenge through Greek Mythology. The protagonist doesn't seem to notice that killing Olympians smites the planet worse than the Yucatan meteor, but gains a measure of redemption by releasing the power of hope to the world. Not that it'll make a difference: mankind might have survived when Poseidon's death flooded the land and Helios's death blotted out the sun, but then plant life died. Humans can still have months of hope through cannibalism, say, eating half their number every few weeks, unless of course the new plagues render meat inedible. But the cockroaches will be very hopeful - no, sorry, they're doomed. The dolphins - no, once plankton goes, predators go. Chemical-eating organisms in deep-sea vents? They'll be bursting with hope, unless the undead kill them. Yay!

Interactive Fiction
  • In Enchanter, room descriptions become bleaker and bleaker as the Big Bad corrupts the world.
  • A borderline example: In Suspended, the player is in an underground bunker, trying to fix broken weather control systems. The only score is the number of people killed in the chaos. The player is never given a description of the surface, but somehow that makes it worse...

Platform Game
  • In Mega Man X5, the game can be finished even if the player fails its main mission of stopping a Colony Drop. The impact drives bosses insane and proves the death of one of two player characters. It shreds the world map so that there's nothing left between the Indian Ocean and North Atlantic, Asia and Africa are in pieces, and Greenland has been torn in half.
  • Cave Story. About two thirds into the game, the entire remaining population of an NPC race is kidnapped and the world is left deserted. Also, the Egg Corridor gets completely trashed, though how this happened is never explained.
  • Sonic CD. The game's gimmick is time travel, so each act has a past, present and future version. Not going to an act's past and destroying the device there renders the act's future bad - a lifeless world overrun by robots, and even they are breaking down. Not doing it in a zone's first two acts forces a bad future in act 3.
  • Eversion.
  • Redder.

Real-Time Strategy
  • In Earth2150, the goal is to collect enough resources to flee the planet. As time passes, terrain changes from wintertime to spring, summer, desert and then Venus.
  • Outpost2 starts as human colonists flee an uncontrollable wall of terraforming Grey Goo. Then its activity causes vulcanism and earthquakes, then its effects create lightning storms and hurricanes. The meteor bombardment that follows is not related to the goo, God just hates you.
  • In Dungeon Keeper, the world map starts as Arcadia, and ever so gradually becomes Mordor.

Western Role Playing Games
  • The Ultima series. Several installments have the Armageddon spell, which kills almost everyone in the world and upsets the rest. This has no gameplay value whatsoever.
  • MegaTraveller 2: Quest for the Ancients. An Ancient site on Rhylanor starts spewing out slime that threatens to cover the entire planet. Each time you return to the planet the slime has spread further on the map. The game's main mission is to neutralize the slime and save Rhylanor.

Eastern Role Playing Games this.

Turn-Based Strategy
  • Nieuwe Aarde is a 48-hour game about fleeing a dying fantasy world. The oceans start blue, turn purple and end as red.
  • UFO: Aftermath begins on a blasted post-apocalyptic Earth. Then something starts to eat it.
  • Master of Orion 2 may end like this. Two warring sides spamming planet-killers will turn the galaxy into small enclaves of Crystal Spires and Togas, surrounded by dust and debris.
  • The Civilization IV mod Fall from Heaven has all Hell break loose as soon as someone is stupid enough to call upon it. Demons enter the world, and the terrain of Hell begins to spread. Hell spreads further and further as evil acts add to the game's "armageddon counter." The counter also unleashes monsters and plagues, and adds penalties to the diplomatic relations between good and evil civilizations, to simulate their shift from disapproval to "No, you fools, you'll doom us all!"
  • The nukes in Sid Meierís Alpha Centauri are space nukes, and not the tame paving tools of Civilization. A major nuclear exchange will drastically change the tone of the game: large portions of the world will be destroyed, global warming will begin to raise the sea level by kilometers, Gaia's Vengeance will rain down, and all previous plans will be undone.
  • Master of Magic has the spells Armageddon and Great Wasting, which slowly and methodically destroy the world.
  • The Dominions games have the spells Utterdark and Second Sun (which unfortunately do not negate each other if they go off at the same time). There's also the Burden of Time, which causes everything to age dozens of times faster and sweeps the world clean if it isn't stopped.

Other
  • Star Control 2 has a time limit. Events unfold on their own, and eventually the Absolute Xenophobes march out to exterminate all other races. This makes finishing the game much easier, since looting ruins for MacGuffins beats diplomacy any day...
  • Starflight. Play in a Wide Open Sandbox! Seek out new life and new civilizations! Discover the secret behind a wave of flaring stars!
  • The Space Rangers games are space trading games set in a galaxy under siege. Set the difficulty level high enough, and a vibrant federation will collapse into isolated pockets of resistance. Pirates will run free as friendly warships become a rare sight, the player may have to invent crazy blockade-running techniquest just to get from place to place, and the coolest gadgets will become useless once there's no one left who can repair them. The sheer unscriptedness of it makes the tension exhilarating. (Unfortunately, it also causes a very real risk of losing the war, and ending up hiding in Jupiter's atmosphere in an Unwinnable session.)
  • Defcon is a quietly melancholic game about global nuclear holocaust.
  • The world in Dwarf Fortress passes into the Age of Death once the last civilization falls, and into the Age of Emptiness once the last civilized being dies.
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