Monday, 25 April 2011

Charr Week Summary

*Staggers into room*


*Deep breath*

Don't worry! I'm here! Am I late?! Damn.
Well, I'm going to write a post on the charr anyway. Sit down. Oi. Get that mouse away from the address bar.

So, Charr week slinks off into the darkness. The charr have made a decent impression on me - not quite the whirlwind of joy that Norn week was - but a good impression nonetheless.

Monday brought us a textual tour of the village of Smokestead. We've heard a lot about the iterative approach that ANet take in their production, I think for someone who might not have encountered this idea before this post might have been a nice introduction to how they create their environments/events (although, I think Jeffrey Vaughan's post during Norn week was a little more interesting). Other than the focus on the iterative process - Devon Carter also attempted to walk us through the village - I found this a little odd as we couldn't actually see any screenshots of the village itself - but the description was pretty interesting:

The first thing you’ll notice when you get to the Village of Smokestead is the sheer amount of metal. It went from a small village with a few metal buildings to a village so full of metal it would make Mötley Crüe blush. You’ll then see metal structures and a metal highway taking you out into the world.
  I have to say this was probably the weakest article of the week - thats not to say I didn't enjoy it anyway - but it was let down by the lack of screenshots of the area he was talking about.

Tuesday was audio-day. Just like the other race weeks, we heard a few snippets of conversation from the Black Citadel and beyond. Out of the voice packs we've been introduced to so far, this was the most encouraging (if you've read my other posts for Human/Norn week you would know I've been rather disappointed by the middle of the road American accents that most of the voice actors seem to be sporting).

In the audio snippets in Scott McGough's article each of the actors seems to have taken a leaf out of Steve Blum's book and gone for the deep and gruff style of kitty-purr. I liked them. Particularly: "Beer is for cubs... I want whisky!"

Awwww... widdle kitty want a dwink?

There has been a niggling worry at the back of my brain however, throughout each of these audio blog posts. I'm hoping once these faceless convo snippets are attached to an NPC that they will begin to look and sound more natural (at the moment it's kinda easy to tell that they are separate lines recorded, probably, on seperate days and then mashed together). I have every faith that ANet can make it work - but I know they have to be very careful with audio as you are constantly walking the line between too cheesy and too casual. Many an MMO dialogue has been lost in uncanny valley.

Wednesday's blog post was a sort of Q&A with ANet artists and designers - Katy Hargrove, Kristen Perry, and Kekai Kotaki. It was interesting to hear about how they negotiated the original design of the charr (even narrowly dodging the pitfall of "cuteness") and how the final concept was forumulised.

A lot of the article was dominated with a discussion on the design of the female charr. Female charr didn't really feature in Guild Wars 1, so it was always going to be a bit of a rocky road trying to feminise such a masculine race without pandering to the WoW-style "big-boobs and pointy ears" crowd:

...initial designs explored the tension between an acceptable human notion of beauty and an animalistic design that is cool, but just too “creature” for the average player to find engaging. This exploratory process brought about one model design that was indeed more humanoid and catgirl in appearance. It had the back leg joint articulation of the charr, but stood much more upright, had a human neck, slender arms and almost hand-like paws—and, yes, breasts. The problem with this design, though, was we were trying to find a solution between both goals, which meant we didn’t really satisfy either. The human part of our charr catgirl wasn’t human enough to be cute, and the charr part of her wasn’t charr enough to be fierce, let alone look like a female of the same race. So while this experiment was very important for visualization, in the end it didn’t give us the result we wanted.

I think they've done a decent job of striking the balance between beauty and practicality. Although, I have to admit, if I'm going to play a charr its going to be a 8ft tall man-beast! The article was topped off with Kekai being awesome:

Q: Kekai, how did you approach the charr design for Guild Wars 2?
Kekai: My approach was simple: make the charr badass. And then make them even more badass.

 Thursday saw the charr page at get updated with lots of juicy info, including:

Finally, Friday saw Ree Soesby (*Swoon* - I should stop doing that, right? WRONG) post on the legions of the charr. Ree released some interesting information about the structure of the charr - the Imperetors at the top of each cohort of charr  (Ash, Blood, Iron etc) - below them, the tribunes, then below them the centurions (each commanding a number of warbands - a company) then commanding each warband a legionnaire. Charr without a warband are called Gladiums and have next to no support - to charr, their warband is everything; a family, friendship group, fellow soldiers etc.

I think the most interesting little snippet we recieved during the article was:

Some say that Smodur demands the return of the legendary weapon so that he can use it to bolster his authority and claim rulership of the charr. Other rumors imply that the unconventional imperator wishes to melt down the Claw and destroy the legacy of the Khan-Ur, in hopes that his people will continue moving forward and never look back.

Ree is referring to the Claw of the Khan-Ur - the weapon retrieved from Ascalon city during the Ghosts of Ascalon book. Each race, so far, has had an internal conflict which (I think) is likely to define the personal story of a character of that race. The humans had the internal politics between the Vigil, the Ministerial Guard and the Shining Blade. The Norn had the conflict between the Sons of Sanvir and the Norn themselves. The Charr may have the battle over the role of Primus - the overall leader of the charr.

So - Asura week next. (oh, come on - you know it won't be Sylvari week... right?)

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