Friday, 9 August 2013

SWTOR/LOTRO: Where are all the children?

You're my second best friend!

I was running with my low level shadow through Coruscant a bit (have been doing some all-stealth baby lowbie warzones with some friends lately, very much fun - but another story), when I ran into the most creepy NPC in Star Wars history. No, it's not Darth Malgus or the Dread Masters. You're bound to run into this one when you visit Coruscant for your story quest and stare at her: the creepy kid (with the missing brother). There's just so much wrong. Her head has the shape of that of a baby, very round with huge eyes (even too large for a baby). Her body shape is that of sixteen year old girl or older. Her language is that of a much younger girl, say, around ten. Her voice is that of a grown-up woman that tries really hard to sound like what she thinks a little girl sounds like ("Thank you so much! You're my second best friend!"). This mix of ages (zero, ten and sixteen year) makes my hair stand upright each time I have to speak to her. I'm sure of it, this is an alien infiltrating humanity in the shape of an animated doll! Feels more natural to me than the probability that this really is a kid.

What's it with MMOs and neglecting children? Apart from the failed example above, I can't remember to have spoken to or even seen any children in SWTOR. Any at all! Maybe there are some around on Tython as part of the scenery, I dunno. Hell, the only baby I've seen was a flesh raider baby. Come to think of it, the same situation used to apply to LotRO.

Children in LotRO

I remember the time when there were no children in LotRO either. It was strange when you think about it. Realistically, there should be loads running about if you imagine a town like Bree. Someone among the designers must have thought about this at a certain point as well. I think it was with the Dunland expansion (the Rise of Isengard) that we got our first children. In LotRO, children are more or less a miniature version of adults (but without breasts, do I need to tell?). This works better than the creepy kid in SWTOR. In Rohan we even got to play some typical children games (Rohan-style), including tagging and hide-and-seek. I remember getting realistically laughed at by the parents by playing a children's game as a grown-up afterwards. I always thought those quests were cute.

Ravanel giving the Wrong Example (for a responsible hero)

What would a game be like if it would've been totally made up by children? Or by elderly people? If you think about it, the games we play really are a reflection of their makers. On top of that, young children don't belong to the target audience of MMO developers. They also serve as a moral compass of some sort. Put children in a warzone and your MMO might all of a sudden not feel so happy and playful anymore. The presence of children in Rohirric towns threatened by the orcs of Saruman may unconsciously add to a sense of urge. These are families, the kind of people we heroes ought to protect!

If you think about it, how many children play around in your favourite MMO?

This said, being a sucker for immersive worlds with a high amount of realism, I plead for more (NPC) children!


  1. Oh god, that girl on Coruscant! I fully agree with everything you said about her, she's sooo creepy!

    There are a couple of more children when you do the Gree quest line on Coruscant - you repair the leaking water pipes and they tell you that they've been siphoning off water for themselves.

    Can't think of any others though, you're right... then again, I have to admit that in SWTOR I can't really think of any places that make me think "there should totally be some children here".

  2. That girl of SWTOR must be a hafling. That is the only logical explanation!

    Anyway, the lack of children isn't a problem with just MMORPGs. Single-player games have that problem too. For instance, I never noticed it until someone made a mod to add children to Morrowind.

    As for what a game made a by a children would look like... I think we can guess pretty well based on a webcomic called Axe Cop. Here is the wikipedia article so you have an idea of who is behind it:

    If you want to go straight to the webcomic and read it though, you can start at it here:

    1. Axe Cop... brilliant! Thanks for showing me this. :D

      I guess "the lack of children" is a general phenomenon. It even exists in archaeology, where children are hardly visible in the archaeological record and are often overlooked in scientific research (just like slaves for that matter, and women, until people started to pay a bit more attention to that). Apparently we create worlds/realities through our own glasses (that of the grown up person, previously grown up male). This was what made me think about children in MMOs in the first place.

      Someone in the LotRO developer team must have had the same thought at a certain time, because a lot of children were added to the world with one expansion. I'm curious how that happened.

    2. Axe Cop is an excellent example of how children are so insanely creative. They can come up with pretty much anything and it will make perfect sense to them. :)

      That is a pretty good theory. I guess it is also a reflection of a person's life. For instance, since I don't have children around my life, I don't give it much thought if I think about a story or a game.

      I guess in the case of game development there is another issue, which is that the artists will probably be busy churning out enemies, scenes, props, weapons, clothing, etc. so children will probably be in the bottom of the list unless it is specifically required by the story or in the game design document.

      Perhaps with LotRO one of the artists felt that children were missing as part of the game world immersion some time after the game was launched and negotiated with the team to add some in the game. Or maybe one of the writers thought what it would be to be a child growing up in a world like that and tried to come up with some interesting quests involving children and things went from there.

      ~ Rakuno

  3. There are a few younger people (using the term loosely) on Tython - some padawans need finding/rescuing, and a lot of characters across the game just look very young/young adult, at least to me. I agree with Rakuno in that it does show up in a lot of other games, and there could be any number of explanations for this (artistic, moral, practical...). There are a couple of young hobbits in the Shire, as well, now that I think of it - the ones in "The Very Best Hiding Spot" quest and a couple that get attacked by bees and bears. Again, though, they're not necessarily children, since hobbits act and look childish even into their middle age, so who can tell? AND I think I just remembered one or two kids that might be running around the Beggar's Alley, although they might be hobbits.

    So, yes, they're there. But surprisingly few.

  4. There a few children of several different races in WoW, though probably a lower proportion than would naturally be there. GW2 has a few including some involved in some of the storylines. And TSW has a few really creepy ones (not as bad as the girl on Coruscant, but still not right). I can't recall seeing any in Rift.

    1. I guess TSW can't be blamed for having creepy children, it sort of comes with the theme. ;)

      Thanks for keep us updated with the MMOs I don't know about. ^^


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