Posted by: Sean | September 2, 2008

Theme Week Romance: … goes together like a horse and carriage.

Where there is love, there will be marriage – Everywhere but World of Warcraft, it seems. Yes, there is still no way to really be properly married in Azeroth, which is a real crying shame. Weddings are primo role-play events, there is a reason why the Everquest wedding is one of the standard jokes aimed at role-players, it’s probably one of the classic RP events. And yet there’s no in-game support for such an event. So, let this be an open letter to Blizzard, a rumination, and a theory case for how you could implement weddings in World of Warcraft.

The first model I can think of is what could be described as The Sims method. In The Sims, marriage is a two step process. The first step in proposal, wherein as one Sim, you click on a second one and choose “Propose”. This links the two Sims together, allowing you to purchase a “wedding arch”, a location in which you can actually become married. (Complete with pretty rose petal cut-scene.)

Implemented into World of Warcraft, this would probably take the form of a location within World of Warcraft where players could select an in-game object, probably an NPC priest, to marry the two of you. The easiest way I could think of to do this would be that it starts a 2 person quest, and then upon returning it, it ‘marries’ the two characters on the quest. Maybe there’s a money turn in to complete the quest, a ‘registration fee’ or some-such. A small ‘cut scene’ type scene occurs where the priest NPC runs through a set of scripted lines, with nice pauses for the PCs to say their “I do”s.

This option has the virtues of being simple, quick and easy to implement. That said, I don’t like it much. I can see a whole host of potential issues with it, not the least of which is crowding – Everyone who wants to be married is going to be in one location, requiring some kind of scheduling. What if they want a PC priest to handle the vows instead? It’s very fixed, which is why it’s so simple to set up, but it’s woefully inflexible.

I also want to know how it mechanically handles the wedding; with this model I honestly think the best option would be that it’s just a set of words spoken by the NPC, and that’s the whole sum of it. Kind of a boring choice, yes, but what’s the alternative? A title? Would you really want to go around as “Katafray, Husband of Olay?” In addition, how would you handle divorce in this system? You can turn off a title in the character screen, but what if you want to remarry later? Possibly there would only ever be one marriage title in your menu, so if you remarry, it simply removed the previous one. That’s workable, but I’m still not convinced this is the best way to handle it.

So let’s go to option #2: The marriage items. The notion here is that one or (probably) both of the PCs purchase an item from an NPC that, when used, bestows marriage upon that person, along with giving them an object in turn to mark the wedding. As a quick example, you may purchase a [Ring of Marriage] which when used marries you to a partner, and gives them [Wedding Ring], a quite different object which either has no use effect or at least a different one, and some yellow flavor text that says “Wife of Katafray”. They, presumably, then go ahead and do the same for you. But here is immediately the first danger with this system: It’s asymmetrical. I might choose to give you a wedding object (with, one sincerely hopes, an accept or decline window available, and good GOD but isn’t there mischief you could have with that?) but what’s to say you’ll return the favor? Hell, you could end up doing a chain of marriages; Katafray marries Olay, who marries Kahvyr, who marries Auxijen, who marries Katafray. And while I’m sure some of the folks reading this don’t see this as a problem, can we acknowledge that Blizzard probably won’t be trying to endorse polyamorous marriage with this system? Thanks.

And what mischief you could wreak! Try this one on for size, “Hey, want to go PUG Kara?” “Sure, I’m up for that.” “Cool, I’ll invite you in.” And then you throw a marriage item at them. If they hit ‘accept’ too swiftly, it’s done. This has bad day written all over it.

But despite all this, I like this option a lot. It’s more complex to code, and might even be prohibitively so, but all the challenges are surmountable. While the above mischief scenario is annoying, there’s a simple reply: Delete the damn object. Divorce is really easy in this system. You could even code in a defense; you can’t accept a marriage offer without having an appropriate marriage object in your inventory as well, and as soon as you accept one, it puts a timer on your own, so it has to be used, on the person who you’re now married to as the only valid target, fairly swiftly. That’s not, however, trivial coding. The real argument against this system is the complexity behind it, which makes it prohibitive to introduce.

But the flexibility it would offer is enormous: You can perform a wedding anywhere. No, or at least reduced, scheduling issues. PC priests are doable. There’s a fun, but not unbalancing, in game effect – Each of the wedding items you receive could have a nice little cosmetic effect. Here, let me give some examples.

  • [Wedding Ring]: Given by humans, bought in Stormwind. Produces a glow of romance when used, giving the PC a short pink glow and the rose petal effect from Valentines Day.
  • [Cloak of the Lifebound]: Given by Tauren, bought in Thunder Bluff. Creates a tiny spirit coyote (Named: “Lifebound Soul”) who immediately runs to the married PC, and then disappears.
  • [Matrimonial Holographic Device]: Given by Gnomes, bought in Ironforge. Creates briefly a transparent version of the married PC, who responds to /kiss, /hug or /flirt.

And I’m sure you could think of more. In short, this is the most difficult, but most fun option, by far. It’s my preferred choice, but I see it as unlikely.

Which brings us to option #3: The wedding quest. Similar systems exist in other games, I’m given to understand. The idea here is that you apply for marriage with an NPC, who sets you both out on a long two-person only quest, ideally somehow scaled to your level. (Very, very tricky idea, that scaling one. Probably impossible.) The notion is that it forces you to rely on your partner, forging the bond between you. When you complete the quest chain, one or both of you will have an object that can be activated in any location, completing the quest and marrying you both.

It has a few of the weaknesses of the first option. (Really, it’s a variant of the first idea when it’s all said and done, and no, there’s no reason the ‘give you a wedding object that marries you both somewhere else idea couldn’t be done with option #1.) What are the benefits? How is marriage indicated?

Truth be told, I don’t think we’re getting in-game support for marriage anytime soon. Blizzard just haven’t shown enough interest in supporting RP as a method of play. (If I had to make the call myself, I’d say they currently are most interested in supporting a PVP method of play, and then a raiding one. RP is a distant fourth, right behind “doing lots of daily quests all the time”.) But it’s good to think about, and who knows? Maybe one day, my little gnome will be able to receive a [Matrimonial Holographic Device] from some dashing gentleman.

Knowing her, she’d just use it to prank people.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: