“Tosh.” How Apt.

By Alec Meer on August 5th, 2010 at 10:31 am.

As I moaned last week, while I’m entirely digging the game design otherwise, I’m finding StarCraft II’s writing a bit of a chore. At times it seems like it was generated by a machine, or perhaps a horse with a Dictaphone. It can be tricky to demonstrate why I have this distaste for the game’s oft-insipid dialogue and characterisation, outside of quoting the flat, tired lines over and over. So I’m going to try and do it through a character study instead: a breakdown of why I’m not satisfied with the approach the game has taken to its chattiest denizens.

Let’s talk about Gabriel Tosh: spooky Rastafarian psychic soldier dude. That he’s so appropriately called “Tosh” – well, maybe someone was paying attention after all.

Some spoilers follow, and are flagged as such – they’re primarily focused on Tosh, but you’re still advised to steer clear if you’ve not finished the campaign.


Kittens mean spoilers. Bears mean spoilers end.

Tosh appears early in the game, as a shady character offering to help you out, and goes on to provide the narrative backbone of a subset of missions.

As with all of SC2′s thinly-sketched characters, Tosh is described more by his appearance and vocal mannerisms than by what he says or does. He has dreadlocks, he’s a bit mystic, he says “be” instead of “is” – three times within 15 seconds at one point. “This be the moment of truth.” “This be worth a fortune.” Apart from that, the rest of his English is spot on – but apparently he needs a single vocal tic so that we remember he’s Rastafarian.

Ah yes: he’s the only non-white member of StarCraft 2′s main cast. (Admittedly, General Warfield’s importance is stated a few times, but his appearances are very fleeting compared to the rest of the plot-relevant characters). It would be petty and strange to complain about this in itself: plenty of other games (and movies) elect to star an entirely or predominantly white cast, after all. I mean Harry Potter, for goodness’ sakes. What I want to go into instead is how trite Tosh’s characterisation is, and how that could be perceived. I do not prescribe any negative intent to Blizzard, apart from possible thoughtlessness.

Here are some Tosh-facts:

Tosh is presented as sinister, untrustworthy and self-interested – his motives questioned repeatedly by gravel-voiced hero Jim Raynor and all his allies.

He has a drug habit, though this may or may not be necessary for his mystic powers.

A bunch of his friends are in jail. (Though are all white, however.)

He apparently has only two attitudes: stoned-sounding mystic and murderously angry.

Oh yes, and he has a Voodoo doll. A voodoo doll.

He even carries it around his neck, in case he needs to do any emergency voodooing at a moment’s notice. No-one else in the game is carrying a voodoo doll. There isn’t any suggestion that anyone else in the game so much as believes in black magic, in fact.

Are we supposed to think he’s cool, or think he’s quietly villainous? Omar he ain’t. It gets worse. Unfortunately, however…

SPOILERS!

In Tosh’s last mission, you’re given the choice to help him or bring him down. Do the former and he lives and remains your buddy, albeit with a little bit of threatened knife-crime first. Do the latter and he threatens Raynor with his voodoo doll – but gets it wrong and hurts the wrong guy. What a silly!

Take this path and his narcotics involvement extends to him being a drug-producer and possible dealer.

Take this path and Tosh gets killed. And insulted. Repeatedly. It’s not a noble death – it’s a humiliating death, in which he’s first made to look like both an idiot and a hissing pantomime villain, and then sent out with a cruel, cheap stab to the back of the head, before we’re treated to a lingering close-up of his slack-jawed corpse as Raynor celebrates the kill. This savage treatment completely undermines any sense that he’s a heroic character, a misunderstood freedom fighter – as picking the other path for this mission tries to claim he is. The game decides you shouldn’t feel like you’ve made the wrong decision, so removes almost all moral ambiguity about Tosh if you choose to turn on him.

He is, as per Hollywood cliche, the first major character in the game to die [Edit - this does depend somewhat on the order in which you play some of the climactic missions.]. And suffice it to say this is not game with a great many speaking-role casualties.

So, let’s recap: the game’s only major black character is a witch doctor, is too inept to witch-doctorise properly, is a drug dealer whose friends are in prison, and who (optionally) gets killed. It is hugely important to note that there is a choice as to whether the player treats him as a hero or a villain, but picking the latter means he is then depicted almost unilaterally as thuggish scum who deserves to die.

SPOILERS END!

Again, I’m not prescribing any motive behind Tosh’s or anyone else’s depiction- the problem is that the sheer weight of cliche laden onto this one character alone is crazy. Perhaps more to the point, he’s just one more growly, semi-magic, exposition-spouting cipher in gaming’s great litany of such supporting characters. Maybe he’s a a light-hearted parody of that, but if so I wouldn’t say that comes across. He doesn’t add up to a fun, surprising or even particularly likeable NPC: he adds up to an exceptionally tired dramatic stereotype. Which is my only argument here – that SC2′s characters are nowhere near well-developed enough to escape cliche.

There are (at least) two huge counter-arguments against Tosh being an especially poorly-realised character, and I’m very much aware of both. [Edit - and, as some have correctly observed, a third. Another, hitherto minor black character is promoted from apparent villainhood to much greater importance very, very late in the game.]

1) StarCraft II is far, far, far, far from being the only recent videogame that treats its non-white characters cursorily. I’m not singling it out for that. My point is that big, gloopy spoonfuls of lore and prophecy do not excuse the game’s storytelling weaknesses – of which Tosh is just one example. Given how much time we spend listening to them, I wanted more convincing, more interesting characters.

2) The game willfully embraces stereotype throughout. Its white characters are variously: drunks, criminals, jobsworths, grumpy, nerds or despots…

…while the only two female characters with significant speaking-roles are a helpless scientist who immediately falls for Raynor, and his ex-lover Kerrigan, who’s been turned into the queen of all chitinous evil, but still manages to show off her shapely bottom at all times. Oh, you can also factor in that the medics are all (helpless) women if you want. The age-old nurse stereotype, clad in power armour.

As is so often the case, this videogame doesn’t seem to treat its female characters with a great deal of respect.

So no-one does well out of this, in other words. That may be because the game is shooting for Simpsons-style “if we insult everyone we’re treating them equally” blanket-prejudice, or it may be because aspects of the writing may have not enjoyed as much consideration as they perhaps should have done.

If there was more depth and subtlety to StarCraft II’s characterisation, I wouldn’t have spotted Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Tosh and thought “uh-oh.” It’s as simple as that. I’m aware that the game’s deliberately going for Lucasian breadth in its tale of war amongst the stars, but that isn’t excuse enough for characters this shallow and patronising.

Yes, it’s an overblown tale about lasers, love and larvae: it’s not The Wire. A little thought can make all the difference, however. Surely the world’s richest game developer can do better than this.

, , .

193 Comments »

  1. pipman300 says:

    Blizzard can’t write worth shit but damn can they white!

  2. Sassenach says:

    Writing is ancillary to a game that emphasis mechanics like Starcraft 2. But it would still be nice if they put some effort into it.

  3. Tony M says:

    I’m ok with Space Cowboys, Rastafarians, and Sexy Space Chicks. Its unambitious Genre Fiction. The problem is that every line of dialogue is sooo painfully cliche.

    For me to imitate the dialogue I have to deliberately reach for the cheesiest cliches I can think of: “Lets lock and load. I’m getting too old for this. Lets give em hell boys!” Every line the characters say is on that level of originality.

  4. Radiant says:

    He needs the drugs because he very obviously has cataracts.

  5. Froibo says:

    Who plays RTS for the story anyway? Or Blizzard games in general.

    • Tei says:

      You can’t have story on multiplayer games because people break the inmersion with the metagame part. Even RolePlayers have a hard time with inmersion in RolePlayingGames (Hell… RolePlayers are parias in RolePlayersGames). Is hard to have a good inmersion online. So singleplayer games *must* fill that hole.

  6. Grandstone says:

    @Wednesday

    But games are mechanical thrills, and if they’re cheap then that’s the fault of bad designers. Good writing is a bonus in a good game, and frippery in a bad one.

  7. kit89 says:

    To be honest, I think all StarCraft two’s story is just picking up from what was written 10 years ago. Considered, at the time, possibly to ambitious to do to develop and placed on the back burner.

    Roll on 6 years, and it’s now feasible to develop the story. Though it’s a 10 year old story with the same quirks as it was 10 years ago. They probably did a little hacking at it to iron out some of the absolute horrors, but kept the overall finesse of the original. ;)

  8. G33kz0rd says:

    I d0nt know why u are all bitchin arround, the game its a strategy games and its clear that, THAT was their main focus.

    Some dialogs are normal, anothers are great well done, as the in-game ones that really does the SC1 trick. Tosh its great. I personaly liked Tosh, and even found it fun.

    The only thing that ive hated its the fact that sometimes the characters are a lil ciclothimic, mostly Raynor, but.. thought that as their personalities.

    And also, its true what says a guy in here that there are all humans with a criminal record. But u still find normal people in the ship. Have anyone tried to talk to them? There are also some funny lines on “Hyperion” and in-game modes.

    I dont know i think everyone is criticizing the game a lil much. Its just a great game, and the first one of three, u cant go and expect some “OMGAWESOMESHITDUDE” couse theres a lil of that, but its mainly a new start. An introduction. You can play the game without knowing about the Original one. And thats good, besides there are some good twists…

    So, as a book says… “introducction, development, and ending”

    Lets see what happens after this, and we’ll see about your opinions.

    • G33kz0rd says:

      Btw, if u are al slackers that goes “oh this game has too much rate, has selled to much, lets criticize it! just cant be that good”

      You are a bunch of Trolls.

      Just ifs the case.

    • tome says:

      G33kz0rd, I have to commend you for that addendum post. I laughed out loud at the last line.

  9. RQH says:

    @Pod: If a story is at all necessary to a game, then a good story makes the game better than a bad one, can’t we agree? What I mean to say is, if Blizzard cares so little about story in their game that’s mostly about mechanics, why put one in to begin with? The answer seems to be, that story provides a context for the missions and adds to the drama of success or failure. A good story would, I think, provide better context and add more drama. I don’t think all games should have stories, but I think if you’re going to have one, it’s worth doing right. What irritates me most about Blizzard’s story-telling approach (and they aren’t alone in this–they just do it so consistently) is that they seem to have so little confidence in their ability to sustain a dramatic and interesting narrative or develop complex and interesting characters that they just give up before they begin and hide behind goofy stereotypes and winking pop culture references.

  10. Son_of_Montfort says:

    Yeah yeah, same old argument about the same old storytelling problems. I’d think eventually all these editorials would have an effect, but – think back to the “original” sci-fi opera, Star Wars. The only black character turns out to sell his friends to the baddest of bad to save his own skin. That was 30 years ago, nearly, and it hasn’t got any better.

    Also, you mentionied Kerrigan’s bottom, but not the fact that – somehow – her chitin has formed into high heels (I’m not kidding, watch the Zeratul video) and she seems to have purple-pink lip gloss or lipstick on (well, it might be zerg blood, but it looks like lip gloss). The skin tight chitin was somewhat expected (I mean, her Ghost suit was skin tight) but she never seemed to be the “stiletto pumps” type of girl.

    The medivacs are also female – again, helpless women who carry and support the men that do the heavy lifting. The Banshees are an exception – these are also women and they kick butt. The female ghost character is too much of a blip to count on this one.

    I’m not all that outraged though. I somewhat expected the appearance of common “tropes.” They are common tropes for a reason, because they reflect certain societal and cultural beliefs. I’m not say I like them, I’m just not surprised. Frankly, I didn’t even think about Tosh’s race when I played – so either I just blindly accepted the trope, or race doesn’t register to me in fiction.

    • Adam Whitehead says:

      It’s a shame that STARCRAFT GHOST never went ahead. IIRC Nova, the female ghost in SC2, was supposed to be the playable character in that. If it had been completed, that would have been the first playable female FPS character for quite a while, I believe.

  11. Sir Digby says:

    “As is so often the case, this videogame doesn’t seem to treat its female characters with a great deal of respect.”

    Really?
    That and the supposedly cliché characterisation of Tosh is the better you can come up with as a way to criticize SC2′s writing?
    Almost all art forms treat it’s female subjects with less than a modicum of respect, why should it (gaming) be any different? More, why should it matter so much? Are we (the human species) so fragile that any form of mistreatment, even if only perceived, must be vindicated and fought back?
    Again, this is all about opinion, Tosh is bland as a character and as stereotypical as it gets but really, why does it annoy some people so much?
    It’s as if you are trying really hard to find any speck of racism/sexual discrimination/whateveryouwant just so you can strengthen your argument, which is pointless really, seeing as everyone agrees that SC2′s writing is subpar.
    Meh, I just think it’s the whole “OMG THE BLACK DUDE DIED, THAT’S RACISM!”, if Tosh was white but still “rasta” then people would complain he wasn’t black and that it was a charade, etc.

  12. Casimir's Blake says:

    Oops, looks like Pod has never played System Shock…

  13. Arthur Barnhouse says:

    “Who wants improvments in ‘game writing’?
    I’ll read a book if I want a decently written story.”

    Writing in Blizzard games are very, very bad. I often hear people say almost exactly what you said, but the thing is there are mindless, silly movies and mindless silly books, but in both a higher level of writing quality is expected than what gets by in a game like Starcraft 2. I do not expect Starcraft 2 to be written as well as “No Country for Old Men,” but I would appreciate it if they matched the level of writing quality of “Die Hard.”

  14. Samuel Bass says:

    Yeah, it’s weird how un-engaging the story is…Blizzard have never been all that original with their narrative, but it’s usually much better executed. If you don’t know (or can’t remember) tons of SC1 lore, it doesn’t make a ton of sense, but even when it does it’s just not all that interesting, and the lack of character amongst the characters is a big part of that. Given the protracted dev time, I expected more.

    Love the campaign gameplay – hey, I like trad RTS missions if they’re well tuned and cleanly implemented – but I ended up just putting on subtitles and skipping through the talking.

  15. Dan says:

    Problem 1: you looked for good writing in a video game. That doesn’t exist normally, and all efforts are made to destroy it when its found in the course of development.

  16. Nick says:

    I’m also curious as to why there is a dwarf running the armory.

    • Quizboy says:

      Oh thank god someone else sees it. I’ve been keeping a close eye on the little bastard for the inevitable moment he breaks into a song about gold. It’s straight out the airlock he’s conveniently standing in front of when he does.

  17. Matty says:

    @frightlever
    “Can’t you just skip the cutscenes and read the mission briefing? Looking for a decent plot or story in a game is like counting polygons in Walden.”

    Word.

  18. veok says:

    CAPTCHA: Rufe

    And Diablo II:

    “The previously noble Sarah Kerrigan was corrupted by the Zerg and became the Queen of Blades, leading the evil forces she once opposed. Jim Raynor, believing that there is still hope, dreams of finding a way to save her, despite the terrible battles that he faces.”

    becomes

    “The previously noble hero of Tristram was corrupted by Diablo, and became the new Diablo, leading the evil forces (s)he once opposed. ”

    I guess you could add in: “Decard Cain, believing there is still hope, dreams of finding a way to end diablo forever, despite the terrible trials this might incur”

    Why stop with one instance per franchise?

    “The previously noble Sylvannas Windrunner was corrupted by The Lich King, and became the Banshee queen, leading a band of the undead she once opposed. Her sister Vareesa, believing there is still hope, dreams of finding a way to save her, despite the terrible battles that he faces.”

  19. dengzo says:

    There was no way I would betray Tosh … I think he is a cool character!

  20. angrycoder says:

    Regarding Tosh’s voodoo doll, it is explained in the description of the reaper in the armory. Their training affects their mental state in such a way that it makes them superstitious and eccentric.

  21. dethgar says:

    I know quite a few Blizzard fans that think their writing surpasses Tolkien. Everyone I know that plays WoW, plays it for the lore. This makes me a sad panda. Especially when you look at how much(all) of it is copied from somewhere else, not word for word or from a single source, but many. Blizzard lacks originality.

  22. Cliche lover says:

    I think mainstream culture is generally ridden with the cliche of the magical negro, where black characters are unreasonably frequently pure competent and\or sympathetic. I think it’s nice that for a change a black character is stereotyped in a way which is more close to reality (pick any random black dude and he will be more similar to tosh than to any mainstream magical negro)

    • Klaus says:

      (pick any random black dude and he will be more similar to tosh than to any mainstream magical negro)

      Voodoo practicing drug dealers? That’s news to me. I suppose we’re a homogeneous people, like pokemon!

      Well, I must be off to pick up a voodoo doll from the voodoo shop… I hope the clerk barters with drugs because my ass is broke!

    • FunkyBadger says:

      What tha hell’s a “mainstream magical negro” when its at home?

    • Nick says:

      What the hell did I just read?

  23. Lorc says:

    “I’ll read a book if I want a decently written story.”

    What does this argument even mean? Do you depend on games to get your bad writing fix? Is quality threatening to your enjoyment of the medium?

    Or perhaps you consider “good writing” to be non-renewable resource, that shouldn’t be wasted on games in case it gets used up and nobody can make good books any more.

  24. Panzeh says:

    I don’t know if you know, but the SC1 campaign was full of cheese and camp in the dialog. It had its moments, but it was overall pretty weak in the writing department as well. And in there the missions were incredibly samey.

  25. m_s0 says:

    It’s a space-themed western filled with cliches, archetypical characters, really cheesy, unfitting references (“she’s dead, Jim” cracked me up the most) and if you don’t expect it to be artsy, it’s pretty damn enjoyable. The first Starcraft wasn’t much better. There was more technobabble and less drama but that’s about it. I’m all for better writing in games but seeing the writing in this one… I honestly think this is what they were going for. It’s far too cheesy to be an accident.

  26. Neil says:

    So basically you are saying that Tosh is, like all other characters in all Blizzard games, a cardboard cliche? The affronts to his blackness are simply collatoral damage in Blizzard’s war against good story.

  27. perilisk says:

    Blizzard has a weird thing for rastafarian types and witch doctors anyway – first the trolls, then tosh, soon the Diablo 3 witch doctor too. Eh.

    The plot was… weak? As in, there wasn’t much of it. There were several related subplots, basically. It felt more like TV episodes, complete with a Pilot (the Mar Sara missions) and a Season Finale (the Char missions). For a game that seemed to draw a lot of inspiration from Firefly, I guess that’s not a shock.

    I suppose if you wanted to be more than charitable, you could argue that SC2 is the Odyssey to SC1′s Iliad. The first was a huge war epic focused on the conflicts between multiple memorable personalities. The second is a set of loosely connected stories centered on the personal mission of a single protagonist and the people he encounters.

  28. FunkyBadger says:

    First name: Peter?

  29. LM says:

    I don’t care if spectres are supposed ot have voodoo dolls as a matter of course. plot cannot justify a) bad writing or b) stereotyping someone to the point of racism.

    Would you defend the portrayal of the goblins or trolls in WoW? I’ve always been offended by the fact that the goblins are large-nosed bankers and the trolls are childish, bloodthirstyvoodoo-monsters. Blizzard uses racism as a crutch for its inability to tell good stories. You can’t use the stories or the lore to justify the racism.

  30. Vandell says:

    The issue with making a story well-written with layered characters is that a company runs the risk of making their hero seem not-so-heroic, and possibly unlikeable, thus reducing sales of future sequels.

  31. Jimbo says:

    Everybody really should know better than to portray a black guy as anything other than a paragon of virtue by now. Totally not worth the hassle.

    The Evil Emperor is white again, for a change.

    • Klaus says:

      But then you’ll get loud&proud black people remarking on their Uncle Tom-ish nature. It’s a no-win scenario, so I tend it ignore it.

  32. origo says:

    Well, the moment i heard of the prophecy about the end of world i felt a bit tired. Again off to save the world and a girl. How many times has it been…
    Saving grace was iggy pop, that surprised me. first the song raw power and then the last news broadcast with donny going bananas and running around naked covered in peanut butter:D

  33. V. Tchitcherine. says:

    Reply to subedii on August 5, 2010 at 11:21 am, but also a general commentary on the story.

    SPOILERS THERE BE, ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE.

    I. for one think it was a deftly executed technique for the following reasons. When it becomes apparent that Tychus is being controlled and blackmailed by some third-party, the immediate, natural and obvious expectation is Mengsk, and whilst the red herring of the Moebius foundation is presented, it’s hardly resolved when Moebius itself is revealed to be controlled by Valerian.

    Revealing some form of Mengsk’s machinations in Tychus’s release in the beginning creates a form of dramatic irony -knowledgeable to the audience, not the characters- and shifts the natural conclusion (Mengsk is controlling Tychus) from a disappointing affirmation of that obvious suspicion into a far more interesting question of what exactly is Tychus being used for. I found this tension actually built as Tychus continually failed to betray me at often crucial moments (to Mengsk’s increasing detriment) and the final cutscene left me on the proverbial edge of my seat.

    It also creates the question of why Mengsk would rather have Kerrigan dead than a counter-revolution against his most troublesome human rival. Is he aware of the prophecies? Is he colluding with the ‘Voice of the Void’? Samir Duran? Dr. Narud? A commentary on the anti-union practices of the Gerber Corporation?!

    Though I must say that I enjoyed the storyline on the whole, far more than Starcraft, certainly more than any other RTS. I found Raynor’s turmoil over Tarsonis, Kerrigan and Mengsk to be a far more personal and human suffering than space-factional warring. His voice actor really imbued emotion into his dialogue during his controversial decision to ally with Valerian and facing a possible mutiny, whilst having to defend the ostensibly selfish desire to save Kerrigan -someone who he clearly still loves the memory but not reality of (at the time)- by making his own deal with the devil.

    I also thought Tychus Findlay was great, he’s internally-consistent and strangely visceral and believable as a serial-killer with little empathy save for the camaraderie and history he has with Jimmy. Perhaps it’s due to the fucking godly voice actor who plays him (comments to the contrary are just inconceivable to me)… Dat perfect Southern drawl.

    For me, it’s a paradox that the finer elements of Starcraft II‘s storyline are juxtaposed with some really, genuinely poor and laughable (terrishit?) moments such as the Char speech especially and “…kick this revolution into overdrive.” Of course, then we also have a cast which include a virtually Dwarven-engineer and an acne-ridden, bespectacled teenage scientist with a retainer-lisp. The thing I think people overlook is that Blizzard, in any of their games, always have a sense of humour and never try to take themselves too seriously (save for the serious parts). Starcraft had a lot of black humour, such as a Terran soldier announcing his true feelings for his sergeant whilst their vehicle was surrounded by Zerg or during a montage of battle having a shot of a dismembered, bleeding arm floating in space, still holding a lit cigarette.

    So the people, in a manner are supposed to be caricaturish in similar way the art-style is deliberately stylised, yet apart from the completely throw-away scientist, they seem to be far more than hideous Cliff Bleszinski monster-cardboard(tm) creations. Now those were fucking offensive. Fuck you Cliff. There’s only one Coltrane, and that’s John mother-fucking Coltrane. Fuck your ten shitloads! FUCK THEM! I renounce any claim to Polish citizenship I have, because of you! Fuck the pain away. Fuck the pain away.

    I mean Tosh is Hamlet in comparison to {shudder} ‘The Cole Train’. I mean the latter is probably (could be wrong) the most offensively written black character in any game (obscure racist flash game excepted). The former is actually more perceptive about fellow characters than any other character in the game save for Kerrigan, but that’s obvious as she can read minds.

    In conclusion… I spend far too much time writing lengthy replies, few will ever read on this website I seem to have a reflexive contrarianism to.

  34. Arthur Barnhouse says:

    Again, good writing does not have to mean “It’s like The Wire.” Die Hard is quite well written. It is not nuanced, it does not think any further than the immediacies of the plot, it contains no allusions or metaphors or complex ideas. It is still well done with a believable main character, and writing that makes sense.

  35. GrinningD says:

    Well I can honestly say without a hint of irony that I loved every moment of the SC2 ‘acting’ every badly phrased set of dialogue and every cliché heavy character. It was exactly what I was expecting and I was not disappointed.

    I have no argument to make all the haters understand this, it simply appealed to my space opera schlock mind. Call me a fanboy if you will – I am – but I enjoyed it, was sucked in by it and was heartily amused by every step of the way.

    And Tychus? He da man!

    • Starky says:

      seconded – it may be cheap, and cheesy, and stereotypical – but none the less it was a fun ride, and that is all I ask for in an RTS.

      RPGs demand a bit more, even FPS’s – but RTS’s the plot is the least important aspect by far.

  36. Mac says:

    I enjoyed the story and characters as much as I did in any other game, there’s nothing about them that sticks out worse than in other games like Mass Effect, Dragon’s Age, Alpha Protocol or other games with supposed good writing. It’s even better than in recent C&C installments and other RTS’ such as DoW2. None of them, or games in general, have amazing storytelling so I think it’s pretty silly to call this one out. Especially on things like female units, it’s like they’d have to fulfill some kind of stupid quota for people to stop nagging about really idiotic things like there being a medic woman, which is a throwback to SC1, I mean really, what the hell. There’s plenty female characters in the game, both as units and in the story, some good some bad, just like every male character. This article was really silly and pretty disappointingly written as well, a lot of it was inane comments about pretty standard characters, and a lot was wrong as detailed in other comments to the article.

    Personally I liked Tosh most out of the bunch, he gave nice insight about other cast members and him and Raynor have some pretty good conversation and dialogue at times. It was also nice to see that he wasn’t really evil or psychotically prone like the nice white girl said.

  37. Sarkhan Lol says:

    Eeeveryone’s a critic.

  38. JackShandy says:

    The weird thing about this isn’t that the writing’s bad- a lot of games had terrible writing, and it didn’t matter a jot- it’s that it put so much EFFORT into the terrible writing. I can understand a game developer just throwing a plotline on at the last minute- it’s kind of de riguer these days – but if you’re going to put such an amazingly huge part of your budget into the cutscenes and character and story, couldn’t you just splash a tiny bit of that on a decent scriptwriter?

    Maybe they wrote it themselves.

  39. Son_of_Montfort says:

    Of course there is a dwarf running the armory. You do realize that SC is just Warcraft in space, right? Same exact plot (Xel’naga = Demons, Kerrigan = Sylvanas Windrunner).

  40. Mox says:

    Just because no one lives forever, you should not be too young to remember Cate Archer.

    • Mox says:

      This was supposed to be a reply to the comment claiming Starcraft Ghost would have been the first FPS with a female protagonist.

  41. chrbarrol says:

    This review is bullshit, I don’t get people who expect EVERY game to have deep emotional character with deep emotional and moral undertones. If you want story you go to a movie, if you want to play A GAME i dunno if you’ve heard of the fact that games are supposed to be about gameplay and not about spending every freaking second of the development to develop the characters. Also guess what, unlike you I like to play the game and simply enjoy the cinematic instead of sitting there analyzing EVERY character and plot point.

    • jeremypeel says:

      We don’t expect every game to have deep emotional character with deep emotional and moral undertones. Just sodding SOME of them. Starcraft 2 is worth commenting on because Blizzard have gone so far out of their way to involve us in their story visually, and to integrate it into gameplay, that to have the plot itself be a steaming pile of turd is kinda jaw-dropping.

      Alec summed it up best: “Yes, it’s an overblown tale about lasers, love and larvae: it’s not The Wire. A little thought can make all the difference, however. Surely the world’s richest game developer can do better than this.”

  42. Anonymousity says:

    I would rather a game had good gameplay mechanics than writing, not that I don’t enjoy good writing in games, but in sc2 where you can skip the spoken briefing for the written one it’s just no big deal.

  43. Aurelius says:

    Ok, I get the argument about cliches. I get the argument about the black guy with the most visibility in the story being possibly portrayed (depending on your choice) as a bad guy.

    But I don’t see where everyone, and I mean everyone, it seems, is coming from with how bad they portray this story to be.

    First some background. I am college educated and have read many of the great works of lit and philosophy. I have read books society defines as great, so I would like to think I have an understanding of good writing, or at least a familiarity.

    Starcraft 2 is not great writing, but I can’t help but sense many of these arguments are petty and exist primarily to demean the work, and have little intellectual heft behind them.

    For example, I haven’t read one articulation of precisely where the dialogue goes bad and how it could be made better.

    That’s my challenge: Pick a scene from the game that you feel is just the worst written and that annoys you the most, then provide me with an example of how you would change the dialogue to improve it.

    On Raynor being a drunk. Many of you complain that is cliche. But what if they had made him not a drunk? Then you would criticize him for being too noble, virtuous, and clean. Give me a well written Raynor. What would he be like? On the one hand some people are saying the characters are cardboard then complaining that at one moment Tosh is mystical rasta hippie and the other is crazed killer…well, isn’t that complexity? Don’t we all act in different ways in different situations? Can’t his personality encompass both natures?

    Now I’m not arguing that is War and Peace but I didn’t feel it was so bad I was cringing while watching it.

    • poop says:

      you would think that someone with a degree in this sort of thing would be able to articulate a response to criticism beyond HEY ITS NOT LIKE YOU COULD DO BETTER >:(

  44. Z says:

    The facts speak the truth: the human military is mostly men, and the Starcraft humans are no different. Although the Banshee is a female, I’d like to note.

  45. Carra says:

    Someone has to say it. Go play Planescape Torment or The Longest Journey.

  46. The Sombrero Kid says:

    if it didn’t use western cliches you wouldn’t realise it’s a western as it’s set in space and not the wild west. No one criticised Pirates of the Caribean for it’s tierd cliches and they were far more well worn than this, i think you see weakness in gaming narative because you’re looking for it and this makes you blind to the natrative weaknesses of all media.

    where TV is concerned you overlook the 80% of it with aweful natative structure bacause that’s all they have so you drill down to the wire and ask why don’t all games have narative this good, rather than accpeting that some games do.

    • Tony M says:

      No, if Pirates of the Carribean was written by Blizzards writers then the dialogue would sound like this: “Arhh me heartys, pieces of eight, you vermin can walk the plank, and then I’ll count my dubloons, argh.” There a difference between genre writing and bad, cliche genre writing.

  47. Kdansky says:

    Thing is: Starcraft may have bland characters, but its plot and story telling is still in the top 1% of all current AAA games, easily equal to most RPGs, even those produced by Bioware. I must conceede that SC2 is one of the top dogs in the plot and story department, despite its shoddy characters. I genuinly want to know how it ends (I just played the Tosh mission yesterday), which is already a lot more than the vast majority of recent games.

    A bit less stereotypical would help. A strong female lead or two on the good side (Nova?), a decently interesting black guy (Duran?), and less clichée would improve it vastly with only minor changes.

    * The main plot of the first ME was bland, the main plot of the second installment imploded violently during the intro cutscene and got worse from there. Fanboys, GIT!

  48. nekomancer says:

    Well, Bioware games since first KotOR are just bunch of cliches stealing from each other, so to me the SC 2 felt actually refreshing O_O

  49. MMO Games says:

    Good article and i will like the SUN(or my beer) that they are still people that are not completely brainwashed on this planet. Only 20-30%, but still, there is hope.

    The story is like a cheesy puke Hollywood, action, crap movies. PUN INTENDED!

    ST1 and Warcraft III were superior, tho still suffered from the same dumb writers and dumb targeted audience. I even bought the fracking game (no ideea why, it doesn’t deserve my money at all).