Thursday, November 21, 2013

Why the Ever, Jane Kickstarter Rocks My World

Today I did something that has elicited mixed reactions from my friends and family. Some have called it crazy and ill-advised, while others have whole-heartedly endorsed it (provided I use my money and not theirs). And it's not eating fudge-covered Ritz crackers (though I did that too. They're okay, but nothing to write home about.)

What did I do? I donated a lot of money to the Ever, Jane Kickstarter. Like, a lot. Enough to be a baronet when the full version of the game goes live in 2016. 

What is Ever, Jane? It's an MMORPG based on the world and works of Jane Austen. For the uninitiated, that's a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, where you act as a character to collaborate with and work against other players. The most famous of these is World of Warcraft, but that's an insufficient comparison for Ever, Jane for reasons I will go into in a minute.

Why did I donate all this money to a video game? Well, partly because, if I'm going to participate in Regency England society, I am damn well going to be important enough that people will seek my approval. But mostly because I think that Ever, Jane is a revolutionary and worthwhile project that could very well change the face of video gaming as we know it and open the hobby up to a whole new group of people.

Quite simply, there is no other computer game like Ever, Jane. Now, I love computerized role-playing games. My occasional Sims habit nothwithstanding, Neverwinter Nights 2 is my favorite game ever, and I enjoyed both Dragon Age and Mass Effect. I even played World of Warcraft for awhile as an undead rogue (Victory for Sylvanas!) , and it consumed my life for months, as it is wont to do. So I love RPGs in their current incarnation. But I must confess my favorite parts are not the main aims of the game -- killing monsters and defeating the villains. I think I was the only Rogue in all of WoW who refused to PvP! No, what I wanted was to talk to people -- persuade my enemies out of fighting and to chat with my witty companions. And I wanted the loot. Dear god-of-your-choice, did I want the loot.

So imagine my joy when I found out about Ever, Jane -- an entire RPG about pretty clothes, witty dialogue, and arranging the most advantageous marriages for yourself and your family! I think this has the opportunity to interest a whole new class of potential gamers. I am sure there are people out there who are interested in taking on a role and acting it out with other people, but may not want to spend all their time deciding which combat maneuver to use to maximize their damage per second. And now they can. And who knows what other ideas this one gaming innovation will lead to. The sky is the limit!

The social scientist in me is also waiting in rapt fascination to see how typical gaming practices adapt to Ever, Jane. In World of Warcraft, some players engage in what is called theorycrafting, mathematically analyzing a character's various abilities and determining which yield the best output. The result of this practice is that players are expected to know which practices are best and play according to these guidelines. I'm curious what will happen with Ever, Jane's stats. Have we finally found a game where there is no "right" way to play? Or after a few months, will everyone be maximizing Status and minimizing Happiness to keep a competitive edge on other players?

And if my girl-gamer and behavioral scientist selves weren't satisfied enough, the part of me that majored in English is also getting a win. Ever, Jane is about the works of Jane Austen, one of my favorite authors of all time. I read all of her works before I graduated high school, and fifteen years later, I still have not forgiven my twelfth grade English teacher for thinking Mr. Bennet only had three daughters and for watching the movie of Sense and Sensibility instead of reading the book. (There was no Beth in the book, Mr. Bath!) I am perpetually disappointed that Ms. Austen only wrote six books, and while I look forward to every new movie adaptation, I have found most attempts at sequels or mimics rather lackluster. But Ever, Jane is an opportunity to interact with the world of Jane Austen in a new and exciting way.

And, so, for all these reasons, I purchased my baronetcy. So I'm sure your next question to me is, "Well, what are you going to do with it?" Or, more specifically, "Elizabeth, you are an author, with a wealth of characters inside your head. Which do you feel is most worthy to be a Regency lord?" For I always base my RPG toons on the characters in my books, and sometimes the games end up influencing my characters. The main character of my current work in progress has become more lawful good because I played her as a paladin -- she fights evil in full plate armor and stiletto heels! And I once decided a character had blue hair because her night elf equivalent did. So I asked myself, which character did I want to adapt to the game, knowing that he or she would be adapted in turn.

The answer, really, was obvious. It had to be Bedlam.

For those who have not read Oracle of Philadelphia, Bedlam is the demon of chaos, who, as a general rule, tries to be good but often comes up short for one reason or another. His humor and irreverence -- not to mention the fact that he is a hot angel boy -- render him by far the favorite character in the book among readers.  Regency Bedlam makes an appearance in chapter 13 of Oracle, which made me desirous of doing more with the idea. How would a character with Bedlam's wit, charm, and love of dancing -- but also his unreliability and complete disregard for society's rules -- get along in Jane Austen's world? I'd have to make him human, of course, and probably make a few other tweaks, but I'm excited to fit him into the stats of the game -- high in Wit, moderate in Happiness, low in Duty. When I told a friend of mine I was thinking about making Bedlam a baronet in the Ever, Jane game, and that young ladies across digital England would have the opportunity to vie for his hand, her response was "DO IT!!!" And so I shall.

For those who missed the link above, you can check out the Ever, Jane kickstarter here. They still need lots of support, so if you have a secret dream of being part of Regency society, or if you just want to support the idea of an MMORPG about something other than combat, consider donating or sharing this post. Because, as Edmund says in the movie of Mansfield Park, which, I must confess -- and I have the proper amount of shame about this -- I actually like better than the book, this is a video game "in a style entirely new."

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