Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The one where magic and technology finally mix

Right. Ancient story time. When I started getting interested in fantasy and science fiction literature and gaming I was about 10 years old. According to myself that must have been approximately 12 years ago, but the commonly used calendar seems to disagree. Silly thing.

So anyway… back in those days fantasy meant a setting that was remotely similar to medieval. There were usually swords, the barbarians had not grown used to the value of a balanced weapon and were using battlehammers and axes. Sometimes there were horses – although surprisingly few of them were important. Sometimes there was just a bow, but occasionally people used a crossbow as a point of high technology. Magic was present more often than not – usually in both the healing and the fireballing variety.

There were probably one or two books that included guns and blackpowder - and civil engineering was usually strange at best (in hindsight, that is. It all made perfect sense to me). “People” (and that includes elves and such, obviously) used to use a chamberpot, but there never seemed to be much muck in the streets. They used to have no doctors as such, instead usually relying on a heroically applied bandage (possibly applied by a charming wench) yet were all drinking water. Running water had at the very least roman levels of technology and books were plentiful, whereas the technology for killing people was sometimes remarkably primitive (all that star iron? Yeah those books).

Now see… I was young and needed the money entertainment. I don’t think I ever spent much thought on that. It did work like any properly applied propaganda, though, and when I now think about good fantasy it still includes magic and swords and axes and absolutely no technology. See how well it works? I mean... of course they have wheels and yes, obviously they know what a proper pulley system is and how a three-mast sailboat works but that’s not really technology, is it?


Okay, so let’s go a step further and define unsuitable technology for “proper” fantasy. Guns are obviously right out. So are any other sort of explosives (unless - and this is important – the explosives are brought in by a foreign race and are based on … say… rare yellow crystals. Possibly red crystals). If people can fly, they do so by magic or magical chariot, not by helicopter or aeroplane. While we are on that – steel is worked by sweating dwarves and possibly by stinking barbarians and the occasional master swordsmith. The rest of the population uses iron. This only rusts in miniscule amounts – so as to require constant sharpening of swords – but does not fail as a construction material. Mostly because proper construction works is made from stone! Dragged on in blocks, not poured from a concrete factory.

And this always, always, always left me with a bit of a weird feeling when playing Warcraft – even worse in World of Warcraft. I mean, the gnomes were using bombs and there are dwarves with guns. And helicopters. And a bloody airfield just outside of ironforge. And steamtanks. And a golf-caddy, if you want to be really surprised by technology, complete with blimmin’ orbital defence systems! Wait… what?

The good thing, obviously, is that after five years of WoW propaganda I sort of got used to it. The guns don’t even bother me any more, and to be fair the bombs leave me a giggling maniac – especially when I’m playing a new alt and can equip the poor little newbie with too much materials for his own good and use bombs several technology levels too high. KABOOOM! (and stuns the target for four seconds to boot!)

I am still not quite sure why people would actually invest into the development of explosive technology as long as they have magic. I mean… yes… magic is not available to anyone (disclaimer: unless you are a player – then you can just roll a mage. Really. This game is not only warriors, unlike what my login screen tells you. And if you can see my login screen I have a security problem as well), but neither is engineering. To even begin training you need to be a level 5. Take that little farmer from Elwynn/Durotar. You are not allowed to throw bombs because you are a little nooblet!

And once you got magic, it does everything engineering does – just better. You can polymorph with a trinket  – but only once every 5 minutes. Mages do it all night long and it lasts twice as long, too.

You can throw a flaming ball of fire, but mages can do it more often, more fiery, and with scaling spellpower, too.

Oh yes... and of course there is the teleporting. Engineers can travel to a few more places than mages – but none of them are terribly useful (Blades Edge mountains? How quaint!), and they are likely to arrive on fire, falling to their death and replaced by an evil chicken! Mages can even bring friends to the Exodar at the end of a raid – almost against their wishes!

So yeah… I didn’t like technology much. Except for the sheer giggles, of course. But… it has all changed (and here we get to the part where I just blatantly want to show off). I am now a serious fan of engineering. I mean… the best thing magic users can have for continuous transport is this. Those with money and/or influence, however, can get this.

And boy is it great.

I mean.. it has a numberplate that says PWN.

It has the coolest “jump” animation ever.

And … there is a map for the passenger. Completely wasted on someone like my wife, but at least it is there!

Booyah for the dwarven motorcycle gang.
Where can I buy a leather jacket with “Fel Angel” on?

And you know... with a waterwalking potion you can even use it to go flowerpicking - American style - from the safety of your vehicle.

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