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Everything posted by JDubkins

  1. Oooh, I gotcha. Thank you for the clarification @oceanes. I stand corrected then, @alhoon, that Zachary did indeed draw them to a purposefully failing colony. Not that we expected much better from thy guy, but that's particularly crumby.
  2. Ooh, I like a lot of your points in that last post. Particularly on the notion of oversight. More on that in a minute. First, though, on the topic of holding a modern culture accountable for actions of a long-past culture: -You may well be more studied on this than I am, and I'm very open to that possibility. But... I don't think I'm seeing what you are, beyond nominal slaps on the wrist or (especially) empty tokenism. Notably, you specify that "parties use it to get votes all the time," but that only works in a system where there are parties to play that political game (which there clearly aren't in Geneforge); and even then, I wouldn't argue that the end result is truly holding accountable the government that committed the crime to the extent that the crime dictates. On the 'popularity' issue, progressives like the tokenism and slaps on the wrist, because it soothes our consciences; but truly holding the aggressor (the government and its citizens) accountable to the same standard as it would/should be had the action been committed in modern times against modern ethics doesn't seem to jive with even the average leftist, let alone most moderates or conservatives. To completely destabilize the government and economy for the absolution of the sins of the past would be a sin against the present... That is the kind of reparation that is entirely unpopular, and for good reason. -You're probably saying, "but no one is saying we should take it that far." But that is what you are saying in application to the Shaper Empire: that the actions of the early Empire justify overthrowing a stable economy and (historically speaking) relatively free way of life for the human citizen, without any remote plan for ensuring any measure of peace, prosperity, security, or well-being for anyone. And this is where it boils down for me as a Loyalist in Geneforge, and I suspect for a great many others who end up supporting the Shapers. My point isn't that you should support the Shapers; my point is that you should understand why others do. There's a realistic pragmatism to the Loyalist path that, for me, tends to overcome the naive idealism of the Awakened, or the unfettered anarchy of the Takers. Now, onward... a significant part of our disagreement is based on the fact that Jeff is (purposefully, I think) a very unreliable narrator. The text box you captured confirms both of our viewpoints equally well, depending on how your bias chooses to interpret it. I've found this to be incredibly common in his writing. You mention, at the very end of the previous post, that the Shapers are the only ones who say that Shaper Law is harsh but fair, but that discounts that the narration itself says it just as often. (And I discount when it says otherwise! Oops.) (On a slight disagreement point: you have said a few times that Shaper Zachary lured in a bunch of outsiders with a promise of progress, but—correct me if I'm wrong—wasn't that Barzahl? I only recall hearing that from individuals you meet beyond the hidden tunnel, and by definition, whichever of them promised that wasn't wrong: there was progress and opportunity to be had.) I love practically everything you say on oversight, and I appreciate the background you have brought to the topic. I really enjoyed reading that. Sure you don't want to join the "let's reform the Shapers for a more peaceful and secure future" camp?? I also think you meant to say "peaches with a higher shelf life" rather than "self life," but now I'm intrigued by the notion of sentient peaches. There's our new kickstarter creation, huh? So hypothetically, what's keeping the Shapers from having that kind of oversight? Is it that they have too many Shapers and not enough Guardians and Agents? Or is it that the exclusivity (the "miniscule percentage" you mentioned a few posts ago) of the Order itself backfires on the Shapers, because there aren't enough members of the Order to fulfill proper oversight. Given how they feel about security and order, you'd certainly think that they would value severe oversight; especially since they clearly don't value their members' privacy. In the absence of modern communication methods and transportation, the geographic difficulty, of course, would have something to do with that, but it doesn't completely answer it. -I do have one question to verify though: I wasn't under the impression, as you are, that Drypeak hadn't received an agent in 10+ years. Zachary and Barzahl received their posting in Drypeak 10 years prior, yes. But Barzahl didn't disappear until about a year before the events of the game, right? So it has been at least a year since they've been checked in on, but the implication is that Barzahl was still at least sometimes present and capable of putting on a face for visiting envoys only a little more than a year prior. Rogues in Drypeak is a fairly new development, spilling out from the hidden vale only once Barzahl fully gave into his madness and disappeared permanently. So the impression, at least to me, is that there have been once-yearly visits from the Council, and until now, the chaos behind the hidden tunnel was easily contained and hidden from view. But I could be wrong on that. (Geneforge 2 is the installment I'm least familiar with by a large margin. I played the original once, over a decade ago, and I haven't had much time to dig into the remake yet.) One tiny last little point: The notion of whether Drakons, Eyebeast, and Gazers should be allowed to exist under a governing agency whose goal it is to control Shaping and keep the public safe from atrocities is arguable at best. Drakons can shape, which we've demonstrated thoroughly in this post and in others is a danger to humanity on the highest level. And Eyebeasts and Gazers are certifiably insane, malicious, and ridiculously powerful... Let's just say this is a moral complication I'm glad we don't have to face in the real world. I really enjoyed your engagement in this post. I know I'll never convince you to join the Shapers, but if I can demonstrate why others may feel the need to, I'll take that as a win.
  3. @alhoon Hey, I did say that I was playing the role of propagandist. As for a fair rebuttal to your (also fair) point, Evidence that they did cultural genocide is distinctly separate from evidence that they do. It's an important difference, but because of it, my initial three points stand. (Not that it justifies any past action, granted, but let's be honest, the statute of limitations is long past. There's a reason it is both incredibly difficult and generally unpopular to hold a nation accountable for actions it took hundreds of years ago, especially when said actions pre-date any social or philosophical movement that condemns it.) On the language used here, "were replaced" is such neutral terminology that it offers more legal wiggle room than you can use to fully support your argument. Your assumption that "they eradicated the culture by killing everyone" (or rather, that they killed everyone as a means of eradicating the culture) necessitates a fair degree of conjecture, based on bias in order that you might further confirm your bias against the Shapers (refer back to argument 2.1 from my original post). Your repeated assumption that an individual Shaper has the personal agency to eliminate a culture or religion because he or she has a "sore tooth" is an example of allowing bias to propel conjecture past the confines of evidence (the lore). It's clearly seen that the Shapers function within a hierarchy, culminating in the Council. The Council is where Law originates; members of the Order are the Executors of the Law. No individual has the ability to change the law to his or her preferences. To demonstrate how this works, you might point out that a Shaper has relative freedom to put down uprisings without immediate Council approval (for example, if you decide to tackle the Harmony Isle situation yourself), but this is an example of a Shaper carrying out the mandates of Official Shaper Law, not revising or inventing the Law to suit his purposes. Shaper Law, within the timeframe that we encounter it within the game, is repeatedly characterized as "harsh but fair". With all that said, Shapers admittedly do have a lot of agency within the Law in how they decide punishment for breaking the Law; that's not great, but it fits the era Geneforge seems to replicate. I will also admit that the evidence is there that that inception of the Empire was quite brutal, but with the allowance that the modern Empire is shown to be vastly kinder (and always gradually improving) than its earliest iteration. Thanks for engaging Alhoon! You and I approach the world of Geneforge very differently, and I always enjoy hearing your perspective and experiences.
  4. I love the assumed emoticon. I'd be properly put in my place if it weren't so presumably darn cute. -I don't think anyone is in Drypeak by force, at least until the gates are closed and quarantined due to individuals who acted in violation of Shaper law. -Geneforge 3 is my favorite game. It was the only game I owned for probably 5 years straight as a kid, and I completed the game over 25 times, so this is gonna be my biggest beef with the above quotation: Lankan and his lackeys weren't getting sick in the swamp, period. The herbs being gathered had nothing to do with Shaper research. The Harmony Isle Rebellion progresses as follows: rogues, created by the rebellion, overrun the island; herb gatherers (literally just herbs, for seasoning food) were forbidden by Shaper Diwaniya to leave the city until he could solve the problem; the problem isn't as simple as he thought, and he realizes he can't solve it himself; Lankan takes this personally, confronts Diwaniya about his "unwillingness" to solve the problem, loses his temper, and punches Diwaniya; Lankan, the charismatic idiot that he is, convinces a handful of other gatherers to flee with him, because he's afraid to face the consequences of his actions and misery loves company. Oh, and by the way, Diwaniya, after being punched, doesn't even plan on Lankan's punishment being anything more than jail time. Should you decide to take the punch personally on his behalf, and dispense corporal punishment, Diwaniya is actually horrified at your actions. -Wartime production, eh? A war caused by who, exactly? (What is that expression? Don't throw stones in glass houses, or something, right?) In Geneforge 4, especially, most of the commons you meet are objectively pro-Shaper, and view the Rebellion as, if not objectively evil, then at least the primary aggressors. -The "miniscule chance" of becoming a Shaper is, at best, advocacy for my original point that Shaping necessitates strict control. Don't try to make me more pro-Shaper. What's more important (and impressive) is that said "miniscule chance" applies equally to all applicants. -I remember the mage you are speaking about. She was one of the defenders at Alwan's wall defense. And she's throwing around magic that only two in-game Shapers have the ability to use (the powerful lightning blast spell), and both of those Shapers are Councilors. She's also not shown to be an emotionally stable individual, so I'd be reluctant to trust her even with that much magic. I also wonder canonically, when the Shaper Order began to impose more strict controls on battle magic. GF1-Mutagen actually seems to imply that Shapers don't have any qualms with outsider mages, so I'd like to hypothesize that these restrictions arose as a result of the newly developed über-spells invented in the Drypeak mountains. Like I said, the mage you mentioned was throwing around one of the most powerful spells in the game short of Kill and Purifying Rain. What more does she want? And who in their right mind would give her what she wants? Okay, so Barzahl would...
  5. I mean, I get it, for the essence cost... But also, I've had insane milage out of my Rotdhizon on higher difficulties. The survival element is insane, and the AOE acid attack does significantly greater damage per hit than the rotghroth's acid spray attack. Not to mention the ability to cover an entire battlefield in acid regardless of directionality stacks a huge amount of damage over time. That said, battle Shaping is insane. My Loyalist Shaper, at level 11, was able to take down Tuldaric with investments practically only in Battle Shaping and Essence Mastery, and it wasn't a difficult fight. Side with Zachary early, and you can get 4th tier battle creations early. Now, a strong gust of wind, and I'm down. But if I stay free and clear, it's been shocking how easy the game is even at the highest difficulties.
  6. I appreciate this point! Thank you for your engagement! While I agree with you, I'm not sure whether the strongest proponents of the theory fully would. In my not altogether insignificant experience with religious doctrine, it is the very essence of the creator that so far transcends the essence of the creation that gives the creator supreme rights over his creation. By so fully and eternally separating the creator from his creation (both in essence and in understanding), there is no action the creator can do that is evil. He can send a worldwide flood, command genocide, or burn the world in fire; all of these actions may be defined as good when the creation is stripped of the possibility of understanding what 'good' ultimately means. Now, granted, in the Abrahamic faiths, part of this Creator's "transcending essence" is His omniscience, omnipotence, and... well, I've not heard it put this way, but omnibenevolence. So it's impossible to extricate whether the essential difference between a creation and a creator alone is enough for the theory to still hold water; and if it does, to what degree does the creator have to transcend his creation before the theory is valid? It's impossible argue that there isn't a difference in essence between a Shaper and his creation. Whether there is a transcendence of any degree is on the table, but the canonical worldview (at the very least to the knowledge of contemporary Shaperdom and commoners) supports that there is a distinct superiority of the human being to the servile being. Yes, amazing. Thank you! I couldn't think of the name of this for the life of me.
  7. This seems like a hyperbolic misinterpretation of both Shaper ideology and societal structure. If you don't mind, I'd love to play the part of Shaper apologist... or propagandist. You can decide. I believe the original GF5 was the first time Jeff introduced the idea of past cultures in Terrestia, right? My understanding (generally, and with admittedly some conjecture) of the assimilation or eradication of cultures under the Shaper Empire is as follows: What is the purpose of the Shaper Empire? The evidence points to the Shapers actually believing that the presence of the Empire is the greatest good for the greatest number of (human) people. You can argue with the outcome of that statement however much you'd like, but I don't think you can argue that they don't legitimately believe that. So what, then, is the greatest good? In the Shaper worldview, the greatest good is the antithesis to the greatest evil. The greatest good: Magic, and most specifically Shaping, is a gift too valuable to not use to better the world. The Shaper Empire is, at its essence, idealistic. A world without war, without hunger, without disease (until we accidentally make one. Oops!) The greatest evil: Magic, and most specifically Shaping, is too dangerous a tool to allow anywhere not under absolute control. (I know, you're going to argue that it's obvious the Shapers can't control it based on what you see in the games. But keep in mind the games are only a sliver of a snapshot, both chronologically and geographically. It is clear throughout the series that for the vast history of the Empire and across a broad swath of land, Shaping has remained under better control than it has any right to have been. Drypeak, especially, is shown to be an exception to the rule, where Shapers made their mistakes, learned from them, and established rules that would prevent those sort of mishaps in the future. Let's be real: with a power like Shaping, it's nothing short of miraculous that the whole of Terrestia isn't a barren wasteland.) The Empire, then, is a balancing act between these two notions. The power to Shape must be used everywhere, but it must be controlled everywhere. And if there is any land not under Shaper control, they are either deprived of the benefits of this power, or are subject to the atrocities of it. This, at its core, is why I can never wholly support the Rebellion in the later games. There's absolutely no solution to this problem, except the entry of another oligarchical controlling agency. (I'd actually love a solution where Shapers are relegated to what they really should be: scientists in the employ of a responsible government.) So with the purpose (although not the necessity) of Shaper Rule established, we need to be clear on something. It's fairly demonstrable that the Shapers don't have that much interest in ruling with an iron fist. Never once in my recollection have I heard an outsider complain of heavy taxation or moral legalism. This is a historic achievement, by any real-world standard. In fact, in many cities, the bureaucratic and especially financial details of governing are left to outsiders. There is ample evidence that, apart from learning to perform uncontrolled magic, the common are left to the pursuit of happiness as they see fit. And if they want to pursue magic, even Shaping, there are non-exclusive avenues for that, until your own (lack of) skill or (in)competence disqualifies you. So having established and justified the Shapers as a (mostly benevolent) Empire, let's hold them to the standard of an Empire. When an Empire conquers a land, the subdued peoples have the choice to assimilate or to keep fighting into non-existence. This is neither good nor evil from a historical perspective; it simply is. The only cultures you could even argue that Shapers have 'eradicated' are those first cultures who were suicidally militant at the very origins of the Shaper Empire (i.e. would not be conquered and ruled over). You said "We are shown evidence the Shapers do [sic] cultural genocide (lost languages, lost traditions)," but there's no such evidence that they do any such thing. Languages and traditions may be lost after generations of assimilation, but there's no moral culpability for the Shaper Empire for that loss. You could make an assumption that cultural practices that were at odds with Shaper law would have been eradicated, but the culture itself would be allowed to persist aside from that practice. We know that necromancy, for example, is a banned practice, so if that had been a religious element of a culture, it follows that the Shapers would demand an end to that aspect of their culture. That's perfectly in line with the express purpose of the Shaper Empire: to control dangerous magic. What we actually do see in the game, now, is that some of these cultures were extra-valued within their assimilation for what they brought to the table... Like a skill for providing the crystals that are needed for high-level Shaping research. This can only be viewed as a good thing. So let's compare it to the Roman Empire, Pax Romana era, or roundabouts, yeah? Whatever atrocities were committed by the early empire during its establishment, the world objectively has more peace and better resources than anywhere in history. Okay, so there's a little slavery, and that's bad (and yes, I'm being ironically flippant on an important issue to make this point). But grand scheme, an Empire is Utilitarianism at its finest: the greatest good for the greatest number. Now the differences: Rome was constantly having to deal with people who didn't like being heavily taxed (1 point for Shapers). Rome still couldn't solve world hunger (1 point for Shapers). In the Roman Empire, you were born a Roman citizen or you were an outsider for life; in the Shaper Empire, anyone can become a Shaper, and everyone is an equally protected citizen (2 points for Shapers). Rome made slaves of actual humans; at least Shapers can make a philosophical argument that a creator has absolute rights over his creation—anyone who is deeply familiar with religion is familiar with this argument—and that serviles are a lower form of life—which, as far as most people on Terrestia are aware, seems to be true. (Okay, so not a point for Shapers, but at least not as many negative points as actual historical human slavery). Okay, one more similarity, while I'm here. Certain Roman governors may have been jerks, and might have been a little rude when they were interrupted from doing their work by someone who amounts to, basically, a student. But just because a Guardian—or, sorry, governor—was a little rude to you once and wouldn't let you enter a building and disturb his boss during a historic uprising, doesn't really justify burning down an Empire and ending the Pax Romana for the sake of your ego. Disclaimer: I think there are plenty of valid complaints against the Shapers by modern standards of morality. But to be fair in how we evaluate them: If we judge them against nearly any governing agency throughout history, especially other empires, I'm afraid they actually come out looking pretty darn decent. Now, on that front, every government that wants to survive modernity and it's oh-so-heavy burden of ethics and morals must also adapt to fit these ethics. This is where the Shaper Empire fails. I suppose it depends on whether you view the Shaper Empire as pre- or post-Age of Enlightenment. I'm a little tired, so let's hope this is mostly coherent. If you made it this far, thanks for reading!
  8. I'm enjoying your take on it! I haven't seen any other fanfiction works set after the war, so it's great to see your interpretation of what the post-war/post-oppression servile culture might become. Obviously you yourself have only begun to probe how that manifests, but I like the direction you are going. (Also, nice job walking the line between having to satisfy the pro-servile and pro-shaper readers, so props there.)
  9. I disagree. If the storyline were to progress to an attack on the citadel, Alwan will have already been dispatched. Further, if memory serves, the text states that the remaining three councilors are sustained by standing stationary on shaping platforms that are being fed a constant stream of essence. The throne might be an artistic liberty, but it otherwise seems logical to assume it is the high councilor. It's been a while since I perused the other artistic renderings of Geneforge V, but I'm assuming if you look for the one of the council assembled (if you follow any of the other storylines), you'll see the high councilor wearing the same purple robes... I'll say that tentatively though.
  10. I'll start by saying that I was overwhelmingly pleased with the changes the Geneforge 1 remake brought; I don't want this thread to turn into a haven for blanket grievances on things we wish had been. However, there is a singular disconnect between the game mechanics and the lore that somewhat ruins the immersion for me, at least in the most recent remake. In the lore, we know that Shapers have the ability to control their creations over a potentially large distance. I'm most familiar with Geneforge 3 through 5, so I'm not aware of the prevalence of this bit of lore in the early installments, but in the later games, this fact isn't just trivial: it plays a large role on the trajectory of the war and the overall game narrative. With that simple fact established, let's talk game mechanics... Not every piece of lore can or should be translated to game mechanics. I get that. However, I believe in the original games, you could select any number of creations/followers apart from yourself and send them across the map without your protagonist having to be selected. (I know this to be a certainty in games 3 through 5, but my exposure to and memory of the first two games is limited, so I'll leave room for the potential that this assertion may be incorrect.) This allowed the protagonist, in proper Shaper fashion, to stay relatively safe while he sent his creations to die in droves, provided you had enough essence pods. You lost the ability to offer supporting magic and healing, which meant you lost a lot more of your creations, but again, that fits the lore. Bottom line, I felt like a Shaper with that play style. (This play style notably fits the unstable/exploding creations, and it seems to me like Jeff was trying to make them more viable in the remake anyway.) Yes, I know you can sort of accomplish this same effect if you stay in combat mode the entire time. But it is wildly monotonous to do so. So I'm wondering why this mechanic was removed. (Or was it? I'd check that out for myself, but I don't have a computer that can run the original first two games anymore.) I considered the idea that Jeff figured this was a cheap play style. Maybe it is. But there are ways to counteract that (many of which were applied in the original games): zones that trap you inside an area; zones that respawn enemies, especially from various locations; zones that have to be completed in one run; enemies who were programmed to hunt your protagonist. And even if it is a cheap play style, some of us enjoy playing cheap. When I play Skyrim, I enchant my gear down to 0% spell cost. That's cheap, and I love it. If you don't like it, don't play that way. My argument is this: 1. The ability to control your creations over a distance within the same map is lore appropriate. 2. It's a useful but not game-breaking mechanic. 3. It would be hilariously easy to (re)apply to Geneforge 2 and beyond. Anyway, thanks for the read. Anyone else on board with the desire to send your creations off to die while you sip tea? (And while I'm whining, my pettiest complaint of all: can we select our sprite color at character selection again?)
  11. I think you are mistaking my point, alhoon. I'm not trying to say that the Shapers are as good as they can be, or that they don't need reform. I whole-heartedly agree with your sentiments that Shapers need significantly more oversight even once they become Shapers, and I quite like many of the ideas you've put forth on that subject. My point of disagreement comes in making the standards for becoming a Shaper more lax. I think it's contradictory to the premise you need if you're going to justify the greater oversight that you are championing. They are truly two sides of the same coin, and a shortcoming on either side is equally problematic. Thus, the problems you see in the current Shaper regime. While I agree with you on that point, my statement that Shapers are equally concerned with problematic Shapers as they are with problematic outsiders maintains its integrity. An outsider does not land himself on the Shapers' watchlist until an incident is reported; likewise, a problematic Shaper. And both are held to the same standards for activities that they are not legally authorized to do: death. (Yes, truly. Investigate the series. Gray areas that aren't discussed under shaper law or hadn't been encountered under shaper law may result in lighter punishment, but shapers who violate their laws are almost always put to death. Just like outsiders are almost always put to death.) Perhaps both outsiders and shapers need a heavier handed governance, eh? I'm also not making the argument that Shapers don't exhibit traits of greed and fear of losing their power. In their fear of losing control of their magical power, I've already demonstrated that they are justified. (And you've inadvertently supported me in this in your passionate discussion reappraisal of the dangers of essence pools. Your inclusion of spawners as one of the primary examples of their danger negates the notion that they can be controlled, which renders your concerns moot, and necessitates control elsewhere, i.e. on those doing the shaping/on those accepted to learn how to shape in the first place.) Regarding their fear of losing their political power, of course they fear losing influence! Find me one scenario where those in power aren't afraid of losing it, and find me a solution to it. In the meantime, find me a solution to world hunger. (Oh wait, the Shapers actually do that one.) In fact, if we are being fair in our assessment, the Shaper empire is far more judicious in their use of power than practically any governing body in history, apart from the obvious slavery issue and the strict regulations on magic. Outsiders in the Geneforge world consistently live far better lives than the vast majority of humans do, not just throughout human history, but in much of the current modern world as well. Shaper rule is very purposefully noted in-text to be extremely light on outsiders (unless those outsiders try unlawfully to utilize magic, or unless they engage in a rebellion), and their provisional care of their subjects is actually pretty noteworthy. On Shapers being "buttholes" as you put it: Sudanna already mentioned it, but. In law and governance, the governing do not owe their subjects kindness or humility, so long as they act in a manner that is just, and care for and protect their subjects. I think most readers will agree with me that the Shapers have succeeded in this, although bias may interpret data to the contrary. I could say a lot on this subject, but Sudanna covered at least one facet of this discussion nicely already. I like to be very careful that I give credit where it is due for valid arguments, and I like to think that my worldview shifts a small amount with each discussion. Until you can prove to me that there is a better alternative to Shaper rule, however, Shaper reform is the only logically sustainable route. My opinions on what should be considered part of that reform has undergone some beneficial changes in this discussion, though, so thank you for engaging with me on that. I'd like to investigate the physical demands of Shaping on an individual when I have the chance now. I suspect it lies somewhere between both of our expectations...
  12. So I think we all can agree that the lore isn't super specific regarding how essence pools work (among other things). My interpretation of events is somewhere between Sudanna's and alhoon's. There's obviously some difficulty distinguishing between lore and game mechanics, but my understanding of how it functions is something along the following lines: -On the one hand, and in agreement with alhoon, a Shaper with a well-fed essence pool has nearly limitless potential for creating hordes of creations. At least in theory. -In practice, however, there are natural limitations that have to be considered. The biggest one that comes to mind is a Shaper's mental aptitude for control, as pointed out by Sudanna. Alhoon pointed out that the "once you use your essence, it is tied up in your creation" mechanic isn't reflected in the lore, but the lore is still very insistent that a Shaper has strict limitations on how many creations he or she may control. Going off memory, the highest number of creations controlled by a single Shaper that I remember referenced in the series is somewhere around 40 (Geneforge 3, I think?), but my memory could be faulty. The number of creations the average competent Shaper can control seems much lower, but in either case, there is a static limit to how useful even a limitless source of essence may be. -That all said, that limit only applies under the assumption that the individual who has access to an essence pool is concerned with controlling their creations. This was precisely the issue with Shaper Monarch, right? He had the essence to create them, but not the need to control them. Definitely problematic... -On the other hand: one issue I haven't seen addressed is that shaping is portrayed to be an incredibly physically demanding act in the lore. We see very few instances of Shapers managing to perpetually create (really only in the final battles of G5), and under the circumstances it is always mentioned in-text to be remarkable. With this consideration, the potential damage is severely mitigated by the sheer exhaustion that a single Shaper would experience, even with an inexhaustible pool of essence. With all that said, I see both alhoon's and Sudanna's points of view. I agree with Sudanna that the likelihood of a hostile creator getting access to a Shaper lab, where you have pools of essence, is negligible. I think ultimately, alhoon agrees with this too: "A random nurse could grab saliva of 3-4 covid patients from her hospital or could create and spread the disease in a nursery home or twelve. And yet, it hasn't happened because people are not psychos." Let me rephrase: "A random Shaper could create a disease in a lab and spread it through a town or twelve. And yet, it hasn't happened because people are not psychos." Shaper mantra isn't "people are nefarious, and we have to control our power because of it." It's more along the lines of "people are prone to mistakes, and we have to control our power because of it." In agreement with alhoon, however: while I think that you exaggerate the dangers of essence pools, considering the Shapers' aversion to unnecessary risk (especially when considering access to their tools or knowledge), I have to agree, I'm surprised they don't keep access to essence pools far more limited. Thanks for bringing up the issue, alhoon. It isn't something I'd considered before.
  13. I fully agree with this. I know why Geneforge 1 is considered the best of the series by a large number of people, but I personally never found it as engaging as especially the last two games I think for this very reason. I'm pretty sure I recall such Serviles in Stonespire, as well. I'm fairly positive there weren't any such serviles in Stonespire, and I don't recall any in the game outside it either. The entire rebel route in this game is "we'll let you atone for your people's crimes by helping us, but don't expect us to like you any more for it." There is arguably two exceptions to that rule in the game; but again, only arguably. Maybe Hannah, in the school, and maybe the servile in the warrens west of Stonespire (One of the "learned" characters from an earlier game. I don't remember which one specifically). Other than those two examples, I can't even remember any character being remotely thankful for your actions on their behalf, although I confess that I played the Shaper route far more frequently than the rebel route in this game. I also strongly enjoy the character of Khyryk. It's really too bad he wasn't utilized further.
  14. I could wrap my head around the rebel route in Geneforge 4 from a role playing perspective... The kind of person who is willing to undergo being altered by the Geneforge probably doesn't have the risk-aversion necessary to shut down the project. It's all worth the consequences from that perspective, and, frankly, it fits with the pattern of behavior that the rebellion set in Geneforge 3. Or just play as a servile... when you have that much more to lose, you'll win the war at any cost. Geneforge 3, however, really only made sense from Shaper side. It would be cool to see the remake include a lot more of the conscience-numbing effects of canister abuse. Imagine this: And I agree with alhoon that the rebellion needs at least something to make it a touch more tasteful in G3. I like the extreme nature of both sides, but it would be nice to see more moderate representation within those two extremes. A few Shapers that are undyingly loyal, but hopelessly wish that there could be some social reform within the order. A few rebels that actually doubt the rightness of their cause. A handful of serviles that don't outright hate you; they just want to be free. I genuinely love the way the two factions were handled in G4, though. Top-notch writing, with compelling arguments on both sides. If we had that attention to storytelling in Geneforge 3, I'd buy it 10 times over.
  15. Thanks, Sudanna, for clarifying my post. It isn't about justifying the Shaper order, it's about validating the Obeyer belief system and pointing out that, ultimately, all three servile sects on Sucia Island are essentially different "religious" responses to the same information. One of my favorite small but poignant moments in the game is: And thank you Alhoon for giving me a lot to think about as well! On a few points: There's a lot of room for argument here. There's plenty in this world that receives "worship" that probably doesn't deserve it, but how do you qualify what does and doesn't deserve veneration? Do celebrities? Politicians? I guess the cool thing about worship is that it is the worshipers who decide who or what deserves their praise. On who becomes a Shaper, is it loyalty or competence? And how do we get bad Shapers if the system is so good? On the topic of what kind of people end up being Shapers: Any system is obviously going to have its flaws. Do we need a better system of making sure bullies and racists don't end up on a police force? Absolutely. It's tough to come up with a good solution, though, and tougher still to implement it. Doesn't mean we shouldn't try though. On nepotism: I actually don't see even a hint of this in the lore. In fact, on the contrary, the series indicates quite often that Shapers are chosen first for their aptitude, and then gradually filtered out based on their attitudes toward Shaper law. With the addition of the remake of G1, actually, we see that even familial nepotism doesn't have a place in the Shaper order. On more moderate regulation of Shaping: I agree that power leads to a measure of corruption, and the fear of losing one's power is a flaw of some of the Shapers. An ideal scenario in my mind is a world where the Shapers aren't the governing body, but that's also not plausible. If the Shapers wanted to take control of the governing body by force, the unquestioningly could. I disagree, however, that even the slightest relaxation of Shaping could be beneficial. With the current system where only the best and brightest become Shapers, you still end up with things like fatal burrowing mold (G3) or plants that choke out an ecosystem (Is that Geneforge 2?). I think we have entirely different understandings of just how dangerous Shaping is, even on the smallest scale. Regarding a doctor stealing a contagious disease, sure, the scenario where a doctor purposefully lets loose Covid 2.0 is pretty unimaginable. But there are reasons there are extreme protocols for scientists working with infectious diseases. Let's say you prick yourself in the lab on accident, carry out the plague with you, and just like that, you've started the next pandemic. The Shaper order is less concerned about hostile Shapers than it is about careless ones. There's a reason they shut down Sucia Island so quickly. One last comment on that quote: Shapers like power about as much as anyone else. But they also fear and respect it. Limitations on one's power, according to Shaper dogma, should be perceived as a good thing. They are just as concerned about controlling themselves as they are about controlling the outsiders. On Shaper society backsliding: I wouldn't take the canister-addled Barzites as an example of Shaper society, and the same could be said about most of what was happening on Sucia Island. From Geneforge 1 to Geneforge 5, as a whole, I see Shaper society gradually adjusting itself to a more modern world. Too slowly, probably, but it is happening. The war certainly helps speed this along. It's always fun for me to see how different people play this game. I love watching let's plays on Youtube where people treat their creations so carefully, and even name them. I definitely play like a traditional Shaper. I actually really missed the option in the remake to create a horde of monsters and send them off across the map without me having to be with them the whole time. It's a shame in my book... it's perfectly appropriate with the lore. I have some thoughts on the essence pool issue, but I'll have to come back later for that one. I think I'm more in agreement with you here, Alhoon, but with one major caveat...
  16. Geneforge 3 was my first Geneforge experience. Without the other games to compare it to, the island system actually brought a more immersive environment to the game, at least for me. It was a sort of limited linearity that worked well for that specific storyline, but doesn't compare well with the rest of the series. The pragmatic issues that the boat system creates are a pain, but I never really noticed them until I moved onto other installments in the series. In my blissful ignorance, I probably played through that game more than 20 times before ever experiencing any of the other Geneforge games. After playing the rest of the series, Geneforge 3 actually still remains near the top of my "favorites" list. Yes, it has awkward mechanics, limited (and extreme) dialogue options, not much innovation from Geneforge 2, and more typos than any of the other Spiderweb Software games I have encountered. But one of the reasons I love it so much is actually due to its extremism: you have to choose between two terrible options. With the horror that the war ultimately becomes, how else could the rebellion have begun? How much worse could Shaper society have become to make that necessary? It feels very real in that sense. I hope that it is remade soon, and when it is, it retains its extreme two-faction system. Let people feel bad over the choices they have to make for what they perceive as the greater good. The dialogue, however: I'm fully in agreement here. Just because you have to ultimately choose between two equally extreme factions doesn't mean the dialogue should reflect that. I want to have the option of picking my side without wholly committing to the dogma of whichever side I choose. Let me be conflicted over having to make a terrible decision. In addition, I get especially exhausted with Alwan and Greta, whose dialogue options both reflect only a superficial engagement with the philosophy. Their internal struggles basically amount to "Hey, remember how extreme my views were at the beginning of the game? Well, now they're more extreme. You're welcome." I know that Jeff can write compelling characters who can competently wrestle with their ideologies; he's done so consistently in practically every game he's made since this one. Frankly, I want to be able to believe that the people I'm traveling with in G3 are actually capable of becoming the people I see risking their lives for their beliefs in G4. I disagree with the notion that the rebellion should be presented much more generously than they are in this game. The only way this war happens is with extremism. I can't wait for Geneforge 3 to get its remake. It has so much potential to be an amazing story. I'm hoping Jeff has the opportunity to give make it the predecessor to Geneforge 4 and 5 that it deserves to be.
  17. And, to your last quick note, Alhoon: I also morally side with the Awakened. But knowing the power of Shaping... I believe the Shapers are the way to go. Funny how that works.
  18. Hey Alhoon! It was a busier week than I was anticipating, so I apologize that it took longer to reply than I would have preferred. Thanks for your thoughtful response. I'll confess, I don't often agree with your posts on this board, at least in their conclusions, so we might occasionally bump heads on these issues; but I do always appreciate the vastly different perspective from my own that you bring to the table. There's a lot of value in seeing someone else's thoughts on these issues. My views in short, if you're curious: My first experience with Geneforge was actually the third installment, so that probably had a pretty significant influence on where I stand, but I generally tend toward utilitarianism and public safety in my own political preferences to begin with, so I broadly support the Shapers on most issues. I believe the social agendas of the rebellion (or parts of the rebellion, anyway) are both admirable and necessary, at least in regards to servile rights, but I have a very hard time justifying the devastation that would result from the complete dissolution of the Shaper body (and that's even before you consider the Rebellion's tactics). Regarding the strict control the Shapers maintain over both the power of Shaping and over magical learning, I'm honestly completely supportive. Despite my best efforts, I've never felt the slightest sympathy toward a large percentage of the human faction of the rebellion, especially where their primary complaint is "the Shapers hoard their magic, and that peeves me." And I wholly do not concede that an oligarchy acting a little pompous is justification enough for their complete annihilation. For me personally, if you remove the servile issue from the equation, I have a very easy time supporting Shaper rule. There is a LOT of nuance involved in all of the above statements, but I promised I'd keep this short. Regarding your reply specifically, you bring up a lot of important distinctions... If my argument were either (1) that Shapers see themselves as deity or (2) that, in reality, Shapers are fundamentally superior to serviles. (The latter could be argued, at least as a devil's advocate, and would probably be a worthwhile discussion.) My argument, instead, is that, in order: the Obeyer doctrine functions on the same presuppositions as real-world deity-creator-based religions; because of this, faith in these doctrines may likely be interpreted as hopeful, rather than "emotionally heavy" to those who espouse these beliefs, i.e. the Obeyers; and, of the three "religions" founded on Sucia Island, the Obeyer faction reflects the best "wager" (think Pascal) between what the serviles presuppose about their creators and what is likely to be the best outcome for the individual should the Shapers return. In a more practical vein, as it concerns my play-through, I agree with the final deduction of the Obeyer philosophy, while not agreeing entirely with how they got there. Regarding your assertion that the parallel between a Shaper and a deity-creator breaks down on the basis of substance, I have two problems. The first is that you seem to propose that the difference in substance between the creature and the creator is the basis of worship (any by extension, the onus of obedience). In my experience with doctrine, that's not entirely the case, or we would, theologically speaking, have a solid foundation for the worship of other spirit beings, be it any class of angels or demons. Worship (and, invariably, obedience) within a traditional christian theological framework, praises the creator for his traits (which include power, substance, and works), but ultimately originates from the act creation itself. I can't speak for the broad majority of other creator-centric religions, but I'd be willing to bet a fiver that they're pretty similar in that regard. I agree with your assertion on some level, because I have to admit that there is a difference, but I don't concede that it's significant enough to break down the parallel. The second problem, which is only a problem now if you still aren't convinced by my first point, is that there is a difference in substance between humanity and serviles... Serviles are held together by essence (whatever that really is). It's why discipline wands work in the original game on creations and not on humans. It's a small, but important point that has to be made; it could be argued much further, but I don't think it needs to be. I here also concede that the difference in substance between serviles and humans is not a fair parallel to the difference in substance between humans and [fill-in-the-blank], but there is a difference that cannot be ignored. Then again, if we're basing everything on traditional religious (/cultural) texts, you might just arrive at the conclusion that slavery is totally okay... So, maybe a grain of salt is necessary. But from a philosophical perspective... you can see why there is an argument here. There are more shades of gray in Geneforge than either side likes to admit, and thank goodness for that.
  19. I’ve been a lurker on these boards for over a decade, but this is finally the thread that has managed to lure me into actually engaging in the conversation. Sorry for reviving the conversation a few weeks late, but this has been on my mind for a while. Sorry in advance for the length, but I’d love to engage with anyone’s thoughts on the matter. I’ve always been a sucker for the philosophical threads regarding the moral quandaries presented in Jeff’s games, but the Geneforge series in particular intrigues me for its ability to deal with questions of a cosmological (on some scale) and teleological nature, rather than simply “is this moral?” The first Geneforge game notably confronts this in a manner that none of the later installments in the series manage to, at least in my opinion. In preface, I apologize in advance for bringing up religion on a board that isn’t intended for religious conversation; however, I think it is an indisputably necessary element to a comprehensive discussion of the Obeyer sect (and, really, of any of the servile sects on Sucia Island). Please don’t mistake my intentions on the matter. That said, on the topic of Pentil being an emotionally heavy place… is it truly any heavier than either of the other cities? Is the Taker worldview less emotionally exhausting simply because their suffering has lead to hatred instead of doubt? Or is the Awakened worldview somehow more valid because they haven’t had the suffering to lead them to either extreme? (From my line of sight, the Awakened worldview is only attainable from a place of privilege; only those who hadn’t had to experience the worst that the island had to offer, who were geographically protected from extremes in suffering, had the capacity for such an unrealistic dream as equality and acceptance. I’m willing to defend this with the in-game lore, but I’m also open to other ideas on the matter.) Each of the cities is a microcosmic reflection of a creation’s relationship to its (absent) creator, and I think the real-world relevance of that idea is unmistakably intended in Jeff’s writing here. Only, in this instance, we are given the benefit of being able to take for granted that the Shapers do indeed exist. Each sect is dealing with what they think they know about their creator(s), acting in faith that what they have been told by the previous generation is true, and hoping that their actions will result in the best outcome for them. The Awakened worldview is uniquely built on the premise that a creator isn’t inherently superior to his creation by merit of being the creator alone. (You could argue that the Taker worldview is built on the same foundation, but I think there is support for the notion that the Takers actually accept a differential status to their creators.) As servile beliefs pertain to real-world religion, it is worthwhile to mention that the idea of a created being having independent rights apart from its creator is a very modern idea (and frankly, originates more from the prevalence of a worldview in which there is no creator). Regardless, this premise of equality makes an intriguing philosophical argument to sustain… but that isn’t the purpose of this thread. Instead, this thread is devoted to the Obeyer worldview and its foundations. Apart from this modern concept of independent rights… within those religions dealing with cosmology (especially those more prevalent within western culture) is the central tenet that an absolute creator has absolute rights over their creation. In this sense, teleology and cosmology are essentially intertwined where religion is involved: Creation may be a purposeful act, and if a creation fails to serve its designated purpose, the creator has the right to replace it. I’m not looking to make a moral defense of or attack on this, and I wouldn’t have anything worthwhile to add even if I wanted to. You can find an overabundance of pre-Naturalism philosophers (and many even who came after) who have written entire treatises on the subject if you are interested. My point is only this: that a case could be made that the overwhelming majority of world religions through history have functioned on the philosophical premises that (1) creation is a purposeful act and (2) the creator has the right to destroy any creation that deviates from that purpose. This is particularly apparent in the most common western religion in today’s society. There are potentially ideas in this paragraph that someone might want to argue with, but I’ll save you the trouble… Even IF you disagree with any of statements made, this is essentially the operational belief structure on which the Obeyers faith is built. (And what else is it, if not faith?) Back to the topic, then, of the emotional toll that Pentil takes on some readers: I initially played this game a number of years ago, when I was still especially involved in a worldview fairly similar to the one described above. Pentil felt like coming home at the time. Even without the maturity to know why, it all felt so familiar. Hoping, praying, that the life you were living had a reason. That what you had been told was right was true. That your suffering had a purpose. That you would reach your end, and you would be told that your labor wasn’t in vain. Playing the role of the Shaper, it felt appropriate, good even, to be able to reward them for their fidelity. Perhaps it was emotionally heavy even then, but I didn’t feel it at the time. Coming back to Pentil now, it felt different. That said, I still sided with them. There’s no hope for an Awakened reality (for the moment), and the Taker route can only ever lead to absolute catastrophe. Thank you, Sudanna, for a very succinct and well-expressed introduction to a defense of Shaper necessity. The Shapers don’t always make it easy to defend them, do they? But that's another thread for another time... Anyway, for those who made it this far, thanks for your time!
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