Overall, I think “Kingdom Come” would be a safe game that publishers could put on retailer shelves with confidence. The variety in combat would be attractive to a variety of gamers with differing interests—fans of MMORPGs, RTS games, tower-defense games and even traditional RPGs could find something to like in “Kingdom Come” if my ideas for exploration, province development and warfare were to come to fruition. The inclusion of an avatar, or virtual persona with which each gamer may identify him/herself, also gives gamers a visual—almost tangible—identifier that they can customize, upgrade and show off to the world.
Specifically, “Kingdom Come” possesses elements that should excite all five of the “emotions” Aki Jarvinen outlines in his article “Video Games as Emotional Experiences:”
- Prospect-based Emotions: “The potential for emotions based on events is in their prospect: what does the occurrence, and subsequent resolution of the event, promise for the player, and is the event worthwhile in the sense that the player invests effort into trying to make the outcome desirable for oneself or for others” (90).
- “Kingdom Come” is full of occurrences that lead to prospects. Exploration, war and the decision-making process of building construction and scientific research are all events where players must take an educated chance in order to obtain a prospective resource and succeed in the game. At every turn players are faced with tension, apprehension, “relief, shock, surprise, and suspense” (90). Ultimately, however, the question becomes whether the gamer receives enough for what he/she must put into the game. As one player of the MMO game Travian pointed out, “by last week, I could tell [my gameplaying experience] was winding down. The alliance had fell apart—most people were either bored with the game or bored with being farmed or both” (Gillen). I hope that the structure of “Kingdom Come” will prevent such “farming” and complacency in players (through the enforcement of penalties and bonuses for attacking other provinces beneath or above one’s own standing), but I’m not sure.
- Fortune-of-Others Emotions: “Fortunes-of-Others emotions include good-will emotions, such as being happy or feeling sorry for somebody, or on the other hand, a display of ill will in the form of resentment or gloating” (91).
- It isn’t difficult to find Fortune-of-Others Emotions in “Kingdom Come.” With every military victory comes a military defeat for someone on the other end, and the intra-kingdom relationships throughout the “Kingdom Come” world provide many opportunities for players to transfer aid and enemy intel, and co-ordinate attacks or retaliations.
- Attribution Emotions: “Attribution emotions are reactions geared towards agents, that is, the behavior of other human beings, or towards something perceived as an agent, such as the game itself as the governor of rules” (91).
- Obviously, inter-province diplomacy will always garner reactions from players who are at the receiving end of an attack or aid. But Attribution Emotions may be felt most strongly by players when they are thwarted by computer calculations as they attempt an attack, thieving operation or spell.
- Attraction Emotions: “Objects evoke attraction emotions—players like or dislike game settings, graphics, soundtrack, level design, and so on” (91).
- To me, this is where “Kingdom Come” differentiates itself from other MMO games currently offered. The variety in gameplay is sure to offer something that should attract the majority of gamers out there, and the up-to-date graphics and customizable soundtrack should keep people happy as well. However, I worry that level variety in the exploration and thieving missions could be limited, and the sound effects forgettable. I also worry that gamers may appreciate only 25% of the game offered, and actually dislike the variety of gameplay. I am sure that pleasing the majority of gamers is exactly what keeps game developers up at night.
- Well-being Emotions: “Well-being emotions are basic emotions that relate to desirable or undesirable events. Reactions with positive valence give birth to joy that manifests as happiness, delight, pleasant surprise, etc. Reactions with negative valence lead to distress such as depression, dissatisfaction, grief, etc.” (92).
- I can’t think of a game that does not evoke Well-being Emotions within its gamers, but I suppose Jarvinen had to make mention of this in his article. Winning is fun and losing sucks—in “Kingdom Come” and any other game.
In fact, most of Jarvinen’s article strikes me as common-sensical, but at the same time his outline of emotional responses felt by video gamers provides a decent vantage point from which to overview a game design. Jarvinen’s list managed to expose the major strengths and weaknesses of “Kingdom Come” fairly quickly, but then again it may not take much for a gamer to realize what he/she does or does not like about a game.
Apart from player emotions and whether or not the general gaming public will accept “Kingdom Come” as an enjoyable game to play, what else may the game bring to the table? Is it a “critical” game as defined by Mary Flanagan, or a “philosophical” game as defined by Lars Konzack?
Of the two options given, “Kingdom Come” may be more what Konzack calls a “philosophical” game—a game “that go[es] beyond mere entertainment” by cultivating a consistent theme that envelopes players and forces them to question various aspects of life. SimCity, for instance,
is an example of philosophical game design, not so much because it creates a sandbox in which the player is able to act, or whether the player chooses to play the application either as a game accomplishing a goal or performing a free-play, but because the underlying rules of the game presents a vision of the world. The philosophy of SimCity is that of the complexity of modern cities and how social behavior and environmental issues influence city planning… With SimCity, Wright was presenting a cybernetic philosophy of urban construction in an aesthetic way, making these feedback relations and game theoretical mechanisms into an experience. (Konzack 33-4)
While SimCity illustrates complexities of city life, “Kingdom Come” illustrates the complexities of militarism and the greed of resource hoarding. Players are constantly searching for ways to become bigger, stronger and more powerful, while the people (granted, virtual people) of their provinces are neglected or sacrificed to meet the empirical goals of the gamer, virtually embodied by the hero. Utopia works in a similar fashion, and the game’s name has always struck me as ironic. Draft rates of 65% of a province’s population are not uncommon, nor is sacrificing peasantry for the military gains of a province.The name “Kingdom Come,” on the other hand, plays on the history (much of which mythical) of the crusades, which involved the recruitment of soldiers to fight a holy war aimed at winning the respect of God. One can only imagine the sort of rhetoric that kings of medieval times would employ to recruit men to do their bidding, and I hope that “Kingdom Come” would possess a similar rhetoric throughout, particularly in instances of military prospects or results.
Because of the subversive nature of medieval peasantry abuse, it could also be argued that “Kingdom Come” could be played critically, but this is not the main objective of “Kingdom Come.” This game is intended to provide a massively multiplayer online experience that boasts better graphics than Utopia, better combat than Age of Empires and a more complete, engaging and complex game than World of Warcraft. “Kingdom Come” may not blow anyone out of the water in terms of providing an innovative story or interface, but it does all of the little things well, which is where many MMOs today are coming up empty.
Flanagan, Mary. Critical Play: Radical Game Design. Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 2009.
Gillen, Kieron. “Writing to Reach You: Two Months with Travian.” Rock, Paper, Shotgun. 14 Nov. 2007. Web. 9 Aug. 2011 <http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2007/11/14/writing-to-reach-you-two-months-with-travian/#more-584>.
Jarvinen, Aki. “Understanding Video Games as Emotional Responses.” Video Game Theory Reader 2. New York: Routledge, 2009.
Myers, David. “The Video Game Aesthetic.” Video Game Theory Reader 2. New York: Routledge, 2009.