Posted by: Sean | December 20, 2008

Guest Post(?): The Value of Engineering

[Blogatelle notes: Hi everyone! Fulthruttle McKenzie Winterspring is a gnome, here on loan from The Venture Co. She’s here to tell us a little bit about how to set up a good role-playing device. Take it away, Fulthruttle!]

Please, call me Felicity

Please, call me Felicity

Erm, hello. I’m Fulthruttle McKenzie Winterspring, Gnomish Engineer. Sean asked me to come in today to talk about the logic of ‘role-playing’ devices. By devices, of course, I mean engineering gadgets and machinery. These can be a lot of fun in ‘role-play’ and while I suppose magic could be used in similar ways, he told me that he thinks devices are a lot more fun, as long as you have an engineer around to build it. He said, ‘to justify it’, but that just confuses me.

Anyway, he asked me to explain why devices are so useful, so much fun, and so helpful for ‘role-playing’ purposes. I’m not entirely sure what ‘role-playing’ purposes are, so I guess I’ll just explain why devices are useful in their own right.

  • Devices let you do stuff that you otherwise can’t. Need to chat to someone a vast distance away? A clever walkie-talkie could be the answer! I once knew an engineer who created an entire system of walkie-talkies for his guild. Once, I couldn’t attend my guild’s meetings in person, so instead I built a hologram and sent it along in my stead. And a gnomish friend of mine has been busily creating his own personal oven so he can cook on the go, delivering fresh tasty food to anyone he meets!(How did we do those? The walkie-talkie is simplicity itself: We used a global chat channel to represent it, and invited people in. The hologram was a little trickier: I created an alt that was identical to Fulthruttle up there and leveled it up to level two as a rogue, so she got stealth. Then, I had warlocks summon her to the location ahead of time, and put her into stealth. Voila! One hologram. And the oven? That’s only theoretical right now, but it’s pretty easy: You just pre-cook the food and then emote cooking it. That explains why it’s so fresh!)
  • Mind you, they have limitations. Engineering is not magic. You can’t just ‘will’ around problems, you need to think through them and often you can’t solve every problem. Sometimes you get little technical hitches. OK, you always get a few technical hitches. But they’re never too problematic. For example, that walkie-talkie device? Yeah. Turned out that thing tunneled through the Twisting Nether to work. Darn Goblin engineering, stupid thing. Anyway, occassionally demonic creatures turned up and, well, took over the channel until everyone switched to a new one. My holomatic projector was much more stable… although it only has a three foot radius of projection. And the oven? Yeah. It explodes occassionally. Only a minor problem. (And this, right here, may just be why engineering is such a fantastic role-playing workaround for the standard issues of gameplay. Because engineering devices work… mostly. And when they break is usually half the fun. It’s comedic and lifts tension, creates amusement, and could even sometimes work for drama. So how do we make them break? Simple. The walkie-talkie was simply explained to the users out of character, and they were encouraged to add in fuzzy sound effects, static, and occassionally demonic voices. Later, when we realised that people couldn’t speak in foreign languages in it, since it was a global chat channel, we added an automatic translation device to it… which was consistently wrong — People were encouraged to develop nonsensical dialogue when speaking a foreign language. The hologram projector was limited simply by my character never leaving a small circle on the floor. And the oven? Let’s just say those Goblin Sapper Charges provided the bang.)
  • But above all, devices are fun! Seriously, one of the things people don’t realise is just how much FUN it is to build it yourself! To have to think through it all. To tediously and tirelessly tinker with the mechanism until it stops lashing out and obliterating buildings. Yesiree, engineering is fun! (And it is. It really is. The point of Engineering in World of Warcraft is that it is limitless, but highly unreliable. Magic is the reverse, it works along strict lines of logic, but it does what it’s meant to do. Engineering can do anything, but it never actually does it right. As such, it’s really a terrific RP profession. There’s nearly always a gadget that can produce a useful effect for what you’re after. Think about the visual effects of certain trinkets in game, and then think how you can use those to create fun story elements, and have fun.)

Erm, thanks for having me. I hope this was educational.

Why won’t you stop staring at me? It’s over.

It’s over.

AHHH! Stop staring at me! Ahhhh!

(She’s just a little shy. ps. Also check out Hoof and Horn Research and Development at WoW Insider for some inspiration. It’s a cancelled column, but the back issues are worth checking out.)



  1. Love this entry! 🙂

    It may of just touched on all the fun one can have with engineering but it will still get the ball rolling in the idea department for future tinkers. I particularly loved the idea of the hologram and how you cleverly made it using a rogues stealth, definitely creative.

    So where have you been hiding this cute whittle tinker Sean?

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