Over on his blog youhaventlived.com, Richard Bartle, MUD developer, posted about his initial experiences with Wrath Of The Lich King. He took issue with one quest that requires players to torture a prisoner for information. And then Richard experienced “Wrath Of The WoW Fanboys”.

No surprise, quite a few people jumped all over him. They pointed out the obvious: that all players massacre armies of monsters and animals, that the new Death Knight tortures people, that torture isn’t exactly new in games.

What all of them missed (I only skimmed some of the stuff, which was more than enough), was that Richard was making a statement on design. That Blizzard seemed to be throwing torture in like any other quest, instead of making it something special.

For that matter, most (if not all) the commenters missed this important statement in his original post: “I don’t mind having torture in an MMO — it’s the kind of thing a designer can use to give interesting choices that say things to the players.”

In this case, he believes Blizzard dropped the ball by not having consequences or choices for performing torture. So his quarrel with “The Art Of Persuasion” (that’s the quest) is from a design standpoint, not a moral one.

Richard also took heat because he was originally misinformed about the job: he thought it had to be done in order to reach a new location. It turns out not to be the case; there is a roundabout way of getting to the new area that doesn’t have anything to do with that particular task.

Y’know, I feel sorry for Richard. His post was picked up by several sites, and it seems to me that most (if not all) the commenters didn’t bother to read through his entire article. Or maybe they skimmed through it and missed a few things. Like the sentence repeated above.

Personally, I think he has the right idea. If you’re going to throw something as abhorrent as torture in the game, it needs to be treated as special, not as “just another job to do to get on with things”.

Before anyone comments here, I’d appreciate your taking the time to read his original post, and then his replies to some of the remarks made by outraged WoW players. The link to his replies is at the bottom of the post.

Richard Bartle on torture in WoW