A Matter of Evil

One thing that I thought was noteworthy about Warhammer Online is that the “Order of Destruction” faction in the game is really, unequivocally and irredeemably, evil.

This is highly unusual in MMORPGs. No, really:

  • In Anarchy Online, the developers stressed that battle between the Rebels and Omni-Tek was a matter of shades of grey.
  • In Dark Age of Camelot, none of the three realms were evil, merely existing in different philosophies of existence. (Arthurian, Faery, and Viking.)
  • In Star Was Galaxies, the developers clarified that the Galactic Empire itself was not necessarily part of the Dark Side, that there was such a thing as an Empire official who was doing what they did for the good of the people.
  • In World of Warcraft, the Horde is not evil. If you played Warcraft 3, you know that the orcs were freed from being controlled by evil demons by Thrall. The undead you play in World of Warcraft are actually a rebel offshoot that disagrees with the far eviler faction portrayed in Warcraft 3. The Tauren are practically oozing environmentally-friendly Native American rainbows from their bovine posteriors. The Trolls are easygoing Rastafarians whose only apparent vice is an addiction to blunts.

The fear on behalf of those developers was that nobody wants to play an irredeemable bad guy. However, in Warhammer Online, there is no shade of grey.

Warhammer Chaos Wallpaper

I cannot clarify enough: These are Not. Nice. People. It's their whole thing. Don't take that away from them.

If you are working for the Forces of Destruction in Warhammer Online, that’s pretty much exactly what’s on the menu: You are a force of blind destruction. Your faction wants to destroy the fucking planet and offer the still-beating hearts of everything righteous and good on the planet to dark gods. They don’t care what happens to themselves at that point, but they all sort of hope they get a chance to do it again.

Maybe there’s still a doubt in your mind that the Order of Destruction is really that bad. Maybe you want to roleplay a nice orc in Warhammer online.  Well then, lets review.

A closer look: The Order of Destruction in review

This a faction populated by three, maybe four races.

The “greenskins” are a mixture of Goblins and Orcs. The goblins are underhanded mischief makers who delight in pain. The orcs are perpetually-bloodthirsty berserkers. Their children are represented in the game as snotlings. They like to stuff snotlings full of gunpowder and sic them on their enemies.  This amuses them.

The bloodthirsty “dark elves” became so because they are corrupted devil-spawn brought about by some common ancestor invoking a dark and terrible power that carried a curse. Their hobbies include enslaving lesser (in their eyes: all) races, twisting the magic fabric of life by force to instead inflict pain on others, and eating souls. Their main activity is in killing their cousins, the High Elves, with a sort of twisted “reclaiming our birthright” conviction that excites them sexually.

Finally, we have the humans who are referred to as “Chaos” because they’ve embraced and been corrupted by malevolent living forces of primordial chaos.  They’re pale and sometimes bearing terrible mutations, which they’ll conceal by wearing armor that makes them look like beefed-up versions of the evil protagonist from Overlord.  The most benign looks something like Gargamel from The Smurfs about 20 years younger and on a really bad bender.  His job is to suck the life out of people and he loves his job.

IM GOING TO TURN ALL THE SMURFS INTO GOLD EXCEPT SMURFETTE WHO I WILL RAPE AND HAVE DANCING IN THE UNHOLY FIRES OF CHAOS FOR CENTURIES

I'M GOING TO TURN ALL THE SMURFS INTO GOLD EXCEPT FOR SMURFETTE WHO SHALL DANCE IN THE UNHOLY FIRES OF CHAOS FOR HER TREACHERY!

The overall goal of each one of these factions is to be unthinking tools whose task is to tear the universe to bits.  The greenskins do so because they’re little more than raging animals.  The dark elves do so because they’re cursed, bitter bastards.  The chaos forces do it because they’re explicitly defined as a force of chaos.  They all (knowingly or otherwise) work for the Chaos Gods, which are literally vice given form.

The question of realism

There’s no question that the Order of Destruction is evil because the evil is so palpable that it’s not realistic.

Realistically, true evil does not exist. If you’re what people would call “evil,” you’ve just got something wrong with you.  Assuming you’re not just a victim of unjust societal scorn, maybe you should be locked up for the safety of yourself and others.  However, regardless of the cause, people who call you “evil” are misunderstanding you: like everyone else, you’re just doing the best job you can with your own limitations.

Not so for The Forces of Destruction in Warhammer Online.  These guys are a living force that exists to destroy life. They’re genuinely evil because they’re suicidal by inherent evil nature.  The greenskins, dark elves, and chaos forces throw themselves gladly on the pikes of their enemies just for an opportunity to cause some harm.  Realistically, they would have wiped themselves out in one orgy of stupidity eons ago.

Discarding realism and regarding them as an object of fantasy, they’re the perfect foils.  They’re fun to play because it’s actually sort of expected of you to play with the wild abandon.  They’re kind of like the bad gremlins from the 1984 movie Gremlins who frolic about giggling and breaking things, and if some of them happen to fall into blenders from time to time that’s just more fun for them.  They may be an evolutionary dead end, but they know fun.

In comparison, the Forces of Order are actually fairly realistic – at least as far as fantasy fare goes.

We have our Empire humans that run the gamut of religious zealots, underhanded inquisitors, and scientists of magic. The Elves and Dwarves are effective Tolkien knock-offs, taken to an even greater extreme: The High Elves are so stuck up that they’re somewhat naive, and the Dwarves are so belligerent that they’re almost perpetually drunk or fighting. It’s a stretch, but not much of one.

The name, “the Forces of Order,” is a bit misleading – they’re not a pack of goody-two-shoes who always get along.  They’ve actually a past that involves much bickering – even a full-fledged war between the Elves and Dwarves (more Tolkien material). This has lead to disagreements between them in the present.

The Forces of Order are not perfect, they commit the occasional atrocity, but in everything they do they’re doing the best job they can to survive.   This is how they are realistic.

In terms of realistic framing, the Forces of Order versus the Forces of Destruction is apparently a fight between a reasonably civilized but imperfect society and a thoroughly irrational foe whose only clear goal is their mutual destruction.

Even realer realism: Who cares? it’s a game.

Funny enough, the Forces of Destruction seem to be winning on most of the beta servers right now. Maybe it’s a balance issue, but probably not.  It seems that side is just really overpopulated.

PvP fans tend to enjoy being a rebel. They often don’t take game worlds seriously enough to feel self-conscious about being represented by a personae of pure dysfunction.  No, they’re playing Massively Multiplayer Counterstrike, and that’s fine by them.

There’s nothing wrong with that.  Good? Evil? The important thing is they’re having fun.  Of course, roleplay is a kind of fun too, and I think I’d have a hard time enjoying roleplaying someone with such an unrealistic backdrop.

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