Posts Tagged ‘Media

02
Nov
09

The Top Ten Video Game Shopkeepers.

So, I figured in a grim and lazy way of keeping me maintaining this thing, I’ve decided to go the way of all hack want to be journalists, and make a top ten list. I could quite easily make fun of lists for a significant amount of time, but I do really enjoy them myself and it’s not like this is anything more than a distraction.

The idea came to me while I was sitting on a table with my girlfriend outside of her locked house, and we discussed it and it took very little time to think who should be on the list.

For every hero, there must be one who supplies them, aiding them on their quest from the background – and sometimes they leave a significant impact upon your quest, or are just that damn memorable. Here’s to you, virtual capitalists!

10 – The Starship Titanic Crew – Starship Titanic

SMASH THE SHIP! SMASH THE SHIP!

One of the Crew - a bellbot with delusions of revolution.

Starship Titanic was a woefully overlooked game for the PC, based on a concept by Sci-Fi and humour messiah, Douglas Adams, and then written by the wonderful Terry Gilliam. See, just the prospect of the writing calibre should coerce you into playing it.  Factor in a great design aesthetic and stellar voice acting, and you had a magnificently obscure point and click game.

But this isn’t a top ten games that I’ve played that I think you should list. It’s about shopkeepers. Now, I’m starting on shaky territory by putting these guys down – the charming dysfunctional robot cast never actually sell you anything – but exist in order to make your glorious trip on the Starship Titanic as awkward as possible. Factor in that the game also featured a custom dialogue interface – you really felt like you were talking to the eclectic and hideously broken crew.

The Barbot was a particular sticking point in the game, outright refusing to give you a crucial item that sat behind him until he could finish mixing a drink – probably the most bizarre drink ever – and even then he would become a drunk robot and not give me the GODDAMN ORAFACTORY CENTRE GIVE IT TO ME YOU STUPID BARBOT.

9 – Deckard Cain – Diablo Series

NO WITTY TEXT

The last of the wizards, finally putting to rest the issue. Are wizards tight? Yes.

Moving from the shaky ground of the robotic crew of the Starship Titanic onto the shaky ground of Deckard Cain. Deckard is a recurring NPC of Blizzard’s dungeon crawling rogue-like haven of many an RSI gamer. Deckard is your most recurring ally – the survivor, the taskmaster and the guide in your quest against the ultimate evil, Diablo – the lord of darkness.

And Mr Cain has the gall to charge you to look at your goddamn magic items. Deckard, let me break this down for you. I am a mighty hero on a quest to destroy Diablo – to lock him away again and save the world. And you are a mage, with near limitless knowledge and you have the gall to tell me what this stupid sword does?

ASS.

8 – Beedle –The Legend of Zelda – The Wind Waker

I don't really like the beetle on his pants.

Let's be friends.

Now this is a man who knows the meaning of business strategy. Not many people can operate a floating shop and manage to maintain custom, let alone give our business loyalty cards.

Now those of you who remember this card system, you know what’s coming. But if you didn’t play through The Wind Waker (and you really should) then upon getting to the final and highest card available, what is your reward?

A hug. That’s right, a hug. From a shirtless, floating, swindling ass. Sure, I’m a little bitter still, but who wouldn’t be? But we do have to stand back and admire Beedle’s work. His ‘reward’ is an example of Capitalism at it’s finest – encouraging massive custom not for the products but in want for a reward – and this reward has no cost whatsoever. Genius. Cruel and more than a little bit creepy, but genius.

7 – Cut Me Own Throat Dibbler – Discworld Point and Clicks

Alright 'Throat?

I don't trust any business man who threatens suicide.

Unfortunately, I cheated a bit here. C.M.O.T. Dibbler is more of a literary character, but he has appeared in games, so I claim he counts. Dibbler is a fantastic example of an obstacle vender – more often than his products, his information was required to advance, and you had to run the gambit of the slew of useless and often horrible products he had to sell you. Managing to be about sleazy as a street side vendor can possibly be, Pratchett’s businessman manages to be magnetic and repulsive in equal measure.

6 – Happy Mask Salesman – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time & Majora’s Mask

These Prices are Crazy

The Happy Mask Salesman laments the loss of some of his more 'evil' stock.

This is the last Zelda, I swear. Zelda is a real contender when it comes to this list – I could very easily make a list purely out of Zelda’s shopkeepers. For example, in Link’s Awakening, you could actually just pick up an item and then walk out of the store without paying for it – and from that point on the whole population would refer to you as ‘thief’ and not help you. Which is troublesome.

But anyway, he didn’t make the list – and this guy right here did. Happy Mask Guy makes the list because of his mannerisms and stock. Sure, some of these people have quite insane powers and items, but none of them carry the dangers of the Happy Mask Guy. Majora’s Mask? This guy made it. And was carrying it around on his back with a huge number of massively powerful magical artefacts.

When he finds out that the mask is gone, he appropriately freaks out – but maybe, he shouldn’t have been carrying a device of untold evil and power around without some kind of care. Then he charges Link (which as it happens is pretty much the best person you could do, admittedly), a small child with getting it back. Here’s a thought, Happy Mask Guy, how about you give me some of those magic masks you’ve got there, and I’ll do it faster.

He would be higher, but my goodness is he irresponsible.

5 – Merchant – Resident Evil 4

Hello Stranger!

Seriously, how heavy is that coat?

Probably the most memorable character from Resident Evil 4 is the amazing Merchant. The man in purple was your silent compatriot, teleporting around the map, never encountering danger or the insane villagers that you had to overcome. He carried an infinite amount of ammunition and weaponry and had the awesome power to perfectly modify weapons on the spot. He was invaluable in your quest, and a welcome sight to the weary Leon and Ada.

But weapon sales, upgrades and ammunition is not new, and the ability to dodge danger is nothing special – the merchant in Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance managed to make his way around two castles that were in parallel existences. Which is impressive.

No, what makes the Merchant number 5 on this illustrious list is his horrifying personality and mannerisms. His laugh, his declaration that you had ‘NOT ENOUGH CASH’ or that he would “Buy it for a GOOD price.”. Resident Evil 4 was a significant reboot for the series, and the game now had a new, grimier and more grimly realistic tone. And when you can design a character that is creepier than a bandaged woman wielding a chainsaw who is on YOUR SIDE – you’ve done something special.

4 – Borderland’s Various Vending Machines – Borderlands.

Yes, it's crap. But I found the best image I could.

Hand Grenades from a Coke Machine. The Future.

This was a tough one, with Borderlands just beating out the horrifying plasmid stations of Bioshock. Bioshock’s stations were great at conveying the mood of the gutted and decaying Rapture but inherently makes no sense – I couldn’t really contemplate that Andrew Ryan would allow the selling of horrifying genetic mutations on each street corner – while it does embrace the “No Gods, Only Man” mantra of Rapture, I always found it jarring.

Borderlands on the other hand, I feel hit the mark with their cheery, slogan launching vending machines dispensing guns, ammunition and health. They conjure the mood of the wastelands of Pandora and show the population’s grim-minded embracing of their situation and going beyond despair into humorous acceptance. As the former doctor Zed says “Why go to a real doc when you’ve got my machines, and their scary needles?”

Not to mention, on a non-character side, they’re refreshing stock every twenty minutes is a fantastic system. Every twenty minutes of real time, the game changes the stock of the shops – an obvious system with Borderlands’ gazillion weapons dynamic, but still an interesting take on the merchant.

3 – Tom Nook – Animal Crossing

What is it with the blue crotch cover?

You'll be in his pocket forever?

Tom Nook is a racoon in the surreal and pointless world of Animal Crossing. Upon your arrival in your town, your character realizes their amazing shortsightedness and has not purchased a house, nor have they brought any kind of finance. Tom Nook leaps to your rescue and sells you a house – that you can pay off at any time – no rush, no hassle.

And he’s got you. You’re trapped forever. In a no-hassle world of passive-aggressive guilt from your racoon oppressor – making his fortune of the labours of your tireless avatar. Anyone who has played Animal Crossing will remember the day that you paid off your mortgage to Nook, only to find that somehow in the time it took you to walk to the Nook ‘n’ Go, that he has modified your house – be it a second floor, basement or even less plausibly, a massive increase in floor space.

And guess what! You’re back in debt. Nook is also the only vendor of any kind of furniture on a regular basis and of a legal nature (Crazy Red, I’m onto you) and as you slave away against your ever increasing debt, nook moves up in the world, upgrading from his tiny shack to a multi-storey megastore “Nookingtons”.

The man has taken the pitch to the ultimate level – his spin is unparalleled, because he ignores it. He just goes for it and reckons that the huge guilt of his bailing your homeless ass out will carry him through. And apparently, Crazy Red is the criminal.

2 – Drebin 893 – MGS4

Having numbers for your surname has never been so good.

SAMPLE PRODUCT

Drebin is a fantastic character. I think he’s my favourite Metal Gear character with the one exception of the younger Revolver Ocelot (An Ocelot never lets its prey escape). Drebin is more than a vendor – he’s the incarnation of the games socio-political environment – a mercenary arms dealer that deals in death with a smile and for the right price, while accompanied by the ludicrous shaved monkey Grey. Plus he’s a snappy dresser, and in my book that counts for a lot.

He’s more than a vendor apposed to most of these chaps, he’s a main character, interacting directly with Snake and advancing the plot, while most vendors only advance your inventory.

Now, Metal Gear has always been a source of some disagreement in gaming circles – some say it’s more of a movie than a game, and some who say it’s a movie then move on to point out the cyclical and often poor writing. But I like that extremely long-winded nonsensical style, and Drebin’s character is delivered with such a magnificent self-confidence that he’s always a pleasure when he’s on screen.

1 – Smilin’ Stan S Stanman – Monkey Island

They've got allen wrenches, gerbil feeders, toilet seats, electric heaters Trash compactors, juice extractor, shower rods and water heaters Walkie-talkies, copper wires safety goggles, radial tires BB pellets, rubber mallets, fans and dehumidifiers Picture hangers, paper cutters, waffle irons, window shutters Paint removers, window louvers, masking tape and plastic gutters Kitchen faucets, folding tables, weather stripping, jumper cables Hooks and tackle, grout and spackle, power foggers, spoons and ladles Pesticides for fumigation, high-performance lubrication Metal roofing, water proofing, multi-purpose insulation Air compressors, brass connectors, wrecking chisels, smoke detectors Tire gauges, hamster cages, thermostats and bug deflectors Trailer hitch demagnetizers, automatic circumcisers Tennis rackets, angle brackets, Duracells and Energizers Soffit panels, circuit brakers, vacuum cleaners, coffee makers Calculators, generators, matching salt and pepper shakers

Where does a pirate-time guy get a suit, anyway?

Now, when it came to the end, there could be no real discussion. Stan is the epitome of the fast-talking snake oil salesman and would talk the legs of a dead guy. And tried to in the first game.

He’s a staple of the series – just as recognisable as Guybrush, Murray or LeChuck and every fan wants to talk to him and has the knowledge that somehow, he will turn up again. He’s not a great salesman – his pitches put people to sleep and he’s so far ahead on the business dynamic of the world that his items are near impossible to purchase. But Stan never says die. He somehow always manages to keep going – and start up some other implausible product and throws himself into it with gusto and full force – building stalls and lighting them up with electric lights only outmatched by his own garish suits.

Stan – you are a great man and as long as Guybrush lives, I want you to irritate him with a ridiculous pitch about some product. You are the ultimate salesman and I’d salute you, but I think that would probably sign me up to some three-year warranty on a new coffin.

Finally, I have to have some kind of basis – I would feel bad if I were to publish up a list without some kind of meaning behind it. What I’m trying to accomplish with this little list is that a vendor is a game staple – serving a simple purpose in order to advance the player’s arsenal, or just to keep them alive. But what the vendor CAN be is an additional character – and every single character can improve the tone of a game, and to abandon an opportunity to do that diminishes the game.

Near every vendor in World of Warcraft can repair any kind of magical cloth, leather or metal armour, legendary weapon or common butter knife. But the vendors who stand out are those who have a limited supply of a certain schematic and are recognisable by the crowd of players hoping to get that particular item when it respawns next.

It’s always possible to make your world more immersive, and to disregard that opportunity is a waste – you’ve been handed another character and one who the player is going to spend significant time interacting with. Who knows – you might just make it onto a list like this.

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