How Evil Should Thermaplugg Be?

In many ways Mekkatorque and Thermaplugg are defined by their relationship with each other.  It’s difficult to talk about Thermaplugg without talking about Mekkatorque.  They have a very clear cut and close relationship as antagonists.  Gelbin is the hero and Sicco is the villain.

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There have been some hints recently that Thermaplugg is attempting to clean up Gnomeregan and cure the leprosy himself.  I think that giving Thermaplugg more depth and development is great.  Thermaplugg’s actions inform us, as players, first hand of the notorious flaws of the gnomish race, in the same way that that Mekkatorque shows us their greatest strengths.  Seeing these two characters in active conflict is exponentially more effective at defining ‘gnome-ness’ than any out of character write up could ever be.

In order for this style of storytelling to work we need both sides to be developed.  Both characters to be interesting, engaging and little bit relatable.  Thermaplugg being undeveloped undermines Mekkatorque’s development.  Warcraft primarily tells it’s story though villains.  We spend as much, if not more, time interacting with enemies than we do allied heroes.  Confronting evil is how our characters interact with the world and it is how we as players learn to understand life on Azeroth.

I have joked that I would like to see Sicco get redeemed, saved, or even, turn out to have been the good guy all along.  It would be fun for me, but it would be bad for gnomes in general.  We need him to show us what the moral, ideological, and conceptual failings of gnomes.  I feel like currently Thermaplugg is perceived by a lot of people as Stupid Evil.  I hope that these new lore hints are leading to something that put an end to that perception.

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What does it mean to be a ‘Good’ Villain?

There are a lot of villains in Warcraft.  They have different Modus Operandi, and motivations (When they have motivation) but there is no denying there is a broad spectrum of evil doers out there.

Illidan – The recklessness Illidan displays makes him a danger to himself and others. He goes full tilt on every problem he encounters even when it’s not necessary, and by doing so, he does a lot of collateral damage, which he then seems largely indifferent to.  A less obvious villain trait that Illidan displays is his dishonesty, not that he outright lies very much, but he does make a point of withholding information from his allies.  No one knows what he is planning or what he will do next.  You know Illidan is never going to have your back, because he is to preoccupied with his own plans to consider the consequences for anyone else.

Gul’dan – For all the lip service orcs pay to Honor, their culture is really build on the concept ‘Might Makes Right”.  They do not use logic or mediators to resolve conflict they use violence.  The traditions and trappings of honor they uphold, are simply a way to hold combatants to only using their raw physical prowess in battle.  It is intentionally set-up so that you can not trick, fight dirty, or outsmart your opponent. Whoever is physically strongest is correct in all matters of debate.

This set-up is a real problem for a orc like Gul’dan who is clever, but not physically very strong.  Gul’dan sees though the veil of honor that orc praise, and knows that at the heart of things, power is what they really respect.  Honor is discardable because they live in a society where killing your opponents is a legitimate form of conflict resolution.

Once Gul’dan realizes his potential and rules over orcs though the Shadow Council, he becomes vindictive.  He’s bitter and resentful of orc society for how he was treated when he was weak and revels in being about to lord his power over those that would have done the same to him.

Arthas – Arthas is like the inverse of Illidan.  Whereas Illidan goes out and jumps the gun trying to handle problems, Arthas was reactionary.  He followed a problem, to it’s source and by the time he did something about it, things were desperate.  The thing that makes Arthas so effective as a villain is that, even though you may not agree with what he’s doing, you understand why he’s doing it and why he thinks it’s the right thing to do.  That understanding of why he’s doing makes it possible to imagine that in the same situations, you might feel like you have to do the same things.

A good villain should be relatable to the player, and have a reason to give a hero pause. Make them wonder if fighting them is the right thing, even for just a moment.   In addition to being a difficult physical fight to challenge the heroes attempt to stop them.  They should also offer a narrative reason to challenge the heroes morality or conviction in their ideals. Even the most evil and malicious villain is more effective when we can see something of ourselves in how they act.

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@MatthewWRossi  made a great point in the Queue a few days ago about the importance of failure http://blizzardwatch.com/2016/01/22/the-queue-the-narrative-importance-of-failure/

No one does “Bad Guys Win” as well as blizzard does.  Arthas and Kerrigan are two of their BEST characters. It’s not just that the bad guy won, but I was cheering them on as they did it.

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I think World of Warcraft could really benefit from this.  There is one catch though.  I don’t think they can pull it off, unless the downtime between expansions gets much smaller.  While it’s a great story for us to lose and be on the run.  A year plus of losing and running is probably more than most of us can stomach.

We also need a charismatic villain, one people clamor to put in to place, and then once they are supremely evil and ruling over all, they smile at us, say ‘thanks’, stab us in the back, and start destroying everything we love.