211: Digging Up An Old Bone

Digging Up An Old Bone

Plenty of pet simulators let players train and play with a virtual companion, but they rarely attempt to portray the deep bond that can form between people and their pets. Austin Price looks at one of the few that does: Squaresoft's Secret of Evermore.

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I used to love that game, I think it suffered unfairly in comparision to the Secret of Mana.

It was also really funny, "This way to the Bodiless boy" and so on

Good article as well

this game was masterfully done. Along with the interactions between the boy and the dog, the way magic was cast has been replicated throughout the gaming genre. Its feels good to see this game, which has so much incorporated into it, given the credit it deserves.

a good read, thanks for your hard work. I can only imagine how amazing a remake of this game would be.

More studios need to review the rules of good writing and remember the "show, don't tell" rule. SoE didn't say "here's a dog, you like him," it demonstrated that the bond between the player and the dog was incredibly deep, causing the player to actually care for the dog. It's not impossible, but now all we see are stories like that of Dead Space, where you are told to care for someone you have no reason to be attached to.

Good points about a good game.

Good magic system in said game, too.

Very, very interesting. A 14-year-old game, you say? That's almost old enough for it to be a good one ;-)

Damn article... Now you make me wish my HD-TV played Nintendo Games well (Or that Nintendo released it on the Wiiware thing)

Good points about a good game.

Good magic system in said game, too.

Except for that bug where if you use a spell so much you level up passed rank 9 it resets back down to 1 XD
(Oh and WTB Ether)

It's pretty interesting to examine how the emotions of the player, even though clearly encouraged by the game, highly affect the player. Though pets always seem to hold a very special place in the hearts of everyone. Gamers are no exceptions, and the amount of discussion spurred by the inclusion of Dogmeat in Fallout 3, or the calls of outrage at the dog's death in Fable 2 prove that gamers have a very fond attachment to their pets, digital or otherwise.

I'll agree that Secret of Evermore seemed to have a closer understanding to the bond between pets and their owners, or at least understood how to represent the relationship more on a more subtle level. It's a lot better for the sake of emotions and the narrative to let the reader/player/user to experience and form their own opinion rather than "this is your dog, love him." Fable II made that mistake, Dogmeat was a little closer to the right way to do it. As you illustrated, Secret of Evermore really did do it right. Perhaps in these modern times, we could get a little closer to perfection.

Though, sadly, seems like no one's willing to go the extra mile.

Nicely done Mr. Price, the feelings of nostalgia you brought to me was quite priceless. In general Secret of Evermore wasn't as well garnered as I had expected from my fellow game players at the time. I always expected it had to deal with the "Secret of" moniker, it lead people to expect a Secret of Mana sequel.

I honestly couldn't of said it any better myself, sadly it just seems that games these days just don't have enough room for a boy and his dog to survive the storyline intact. No matter how attached and cohesive they work as.

I've never played Secret of Evermore - in fact, I'd never even heard of it before this article.

Sounds like a very interesting game.

It's sort of funny how gamers (and people in general) become attached to animal characters in games, movies, and books relatively easily, while building that same kind of attachment to human characters (which is what many developers are trying to do now) is very tough.

In the case of Secret of Evermore, it seems like you grew attached to the boy character because of his relationship with the dog - the animal makes the human character easier to relate with.

Why is it so hard to form a bond with a virtual character? We can replicate human movement about as well as we can replicate the movement of a dog or a horse - what prevents us from feeling something for a virtual human?

I liked the article, but a lot of the points about the interactions between boy and dog were greatly exaggerated. The dog didn't have any sort of internal "affection" system where if you mistreated him, his behavior would change at all. If I recall correctly, there were a couple AI settings and that was about it. Oh and if he ran out of hp he laid down, following you if you moved too far away. Still, good article and made some great points.

Dear Mr. Price

I'm not entirely sure if the problem with "pet empathy" in video games is a problem with the game industry or with you. Don't be offended, but I suspect the problem is with you. Either you have become too old and jaded in your emotions, or perhaps you simply pick the wrong games to play if that is what your looking for. Pokemon for example is a horrendously bad example for someone looking toward games that highlight a relationship between master and pet.

I'd point a finger at a rather unique survival horror title called "Rule Of Rose" for an example of what your talking about. To me at least that is probably the best relationship between master and dog done in video games, especially when you get to the end of the game and more or less figure out what was going on. All I can say is wow... just wow.

There have been others of course though none that were that good. "Haunting Ground" comes to mind, and then of course there is Fable II, though I must admit that the pet in that game needed some work, the final scene involving the dog and the desician you have to make involiving it hit a lot of people fairly hard irregardless of what they say. I was there for some of the initial discussions on that one when the game was brand new.

Then, while it's arguably a bad example, there is Dogmeat. Dogmeat in Fallout is sort of a Phenomena in of himself. Oh sure he lacks a lot of the antics/writing of other pets, but consider that people who play Fallout 3 were immediatly screaming "where is Dogmeat" since he was hidden in the Scrapyard, and then once they have him they go to crazy lengths to protect the little furball, ranging from keeping him in their house (semi-defeating the purpose) or installing one of the ever-popular "put Dogmeat in God Mode" mods (PC version) so they can keep him around. I wouldn't be surprised if the most popular use for the PC cheat console is actually to respawn Dogmeat when he glitches out hunting items.

My point is that I think the relationship between master and pet has been captured pretty well in video games, albeit not in many RPGS based around capturing pets largely because there is typically such a huge bestiary that your constantly swapping them out, and objectives that require you to switch things up as opposed to keeping your favorite pet handy. Plus in a game like say Pokemon they really don't do much except fight for you when you pop them out of balls. They generally don't walk around with you like in some of the other games mentioned above.

Generally speaking I think you don't see more of it because the games that really made an effort were not smash successes (except maybe Fable II if you look purely at sales, but that is the weakest example of the ones I listed above I think).

At any rate, anyone who is looking for a relationship between pet and master should probably check out Rule Of Rose. Not only is it a very unique and atmospheric game that deserves more attention, but it should give you pretty much everything your looking for and perhaps more. This is simply a personal opinion though.

Now, all we need is an equivilent for cat people. :)

Really interesting article. That's one of the games I grew up playing. You are correct in saying it's far from perfect, there are pacing issues. I remember having to do a lot of strict grinding just so I could proceed, and levels in that game didn't come cheap. On the other hand, I finished it and never finished Secret of Mana.


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