The Webcomic Overlook #181: The Noob
I think I’ve mentioned it on this site before, but I’ve never gotten into MMORPGs. Oh, I’ve played RPGs that bear striking similarities to to modern MMORPGs. I’ve played my share of Ultimas and Final Fantasys and Dragon Ages and Baldur’s Gates, but I’ve never experiences the glories of joining guilds, grinding, and dealing with mods. I’m most familiar with MMORPGs through the South Park World of Warcraft episode, perhaps my favorite South Park episode of all time.
We have a former professional gamer who just joined us at the office, and when he shows us Youtube videos chronicling his World of Warcraft exploits, my eyes completely glaze over. From what I have gleaned from my discussions with him, there are sanctioned competitions and joining a party requires filling out forms in a process that can be more strict than a job interview. This probably strikes to the heart of why I never got into MMORPGs. I love me some fantasy literature and imagery — a love that has endured since I picked up my first Hickman & Weis novel when I was a wee one — and from what I hear about the politics surrounding MMORPGs this seems to be anything but. In fact, it seems like math. And if I wanted more math, I’d go to work. Like, more often.
This makes me seem like I’d be terribly ill-equipped to review Gianna Masetti’s webcomic about life in an MMORPG. Fortunately, the comic is told from the perspective of … The Noob.
The Noob follows a newbie who has just signed on to a fictional gaming series called Clichequest, which is not too unsimilar to Everquest or World of Warcraft. (WoW does got name-checked often as Clichequest’s biggest rival.) Our hero’s name is a big-nosed guy named Ohforf. Why, do you ask? Because, after a frustrating login procedure, he said “Oh, for f’s sake” in anger and got stuck with it. Wah-wah! Get used to this kind of humor, by the way, because most of the jokes in The Noob are so corny that they probably would be improved if they were followed by the sound of a crazy slide whistle.
Ohforf teams up with Hypatia, a fellow newbie who uses a sexy, midriff-baring gal as an avatar. Hypatia is attracted to Ohforf because he’s
a newbie she can push around a lot got a big nose, which means big ubersmex dressed up as a hobo, and she’s into that kinky stuff a wide-eyed innocent. Ohforf is attracted to Hypatia because boobs. They first join up with with a community of roleplayers, who, while friendly, have an annoying habit of typing out long strings of text that sound like terrible fantasy novels. Ohforf’s quest is rather simple: he needs to LEVEL UP! Cue the Paul Stanley!
Live to win! ’til you die! ’til the light dries in your eyes!
Live to win! Take it all! Just keep fighting ’til you fall!
Day by day, kick it all the way, I’m not caving in!
Let another round begin, live to win!
Ahem. But I digress.
First, though, let’s talk about the art. It is oh so not very good. It looks very much like those awkward junior high doodles that you’d stick in the margins of your algebra notebook. Hypatia is supposed to be homina-homina hot, but her face always looks weirdly misshapen. Other characters, like Lady Tacobell seem like they came straight out of the horribly animated Legend of Zelda CDi games. Worse, The Noob has been going on for seven years now, and there has been very, very little improvement. At least Ms. Masetti doesn’t seem to paint fill her backgrounds anymore with the concrete texture.
In fact, I had considered docking The Noob a full star on the art alone, but I ultimately decided against it. Why? Well, it turns out that The Noob sorta plays out like Dilbert for the MMORPG set. It lampoons the foibles of fellow players and moderators with the same wan sarcasm that Scott Adams had for co-workers and bosses. Dilbert had Phil, a guy who dresses up as a devil and wields a giant spoon; The Noob has GMs who dress up like members of the Ku Kux Klan. So, in a rather twisted way, the rough, unpolished art style makes some sort of sense. Intentionally or not, the grotesque features of each character is highlighted, making them look more like the flawed, imperfect human beings that they are. Is this appropriate for a story set in an MMORPG, where typically everyone chooses a character that looks like a medieval ubermensh? Well….
Make no mistake, though, The Noob would be much, much better if, say, a Xin Ye or a Jamie Noguchi were handling the pencils/WaCom Tablet. However, the rough aesthetics do not significantly distract from the humor and the story that Ms. Masetti is trying to tell, so I’ll give it a pass.
As Ohforf tries to level up, he joins up with several Clichequest subcommunities. He gets kidnapped by a bunch of PK’ers, who, it turns out, are much more sympathetic than the roleplayers. They have a more realistic outlook on everything being a game, at least. Ohforf moves on to the elven world where everyone is named “Legolas” and obsessed with the Lord of the Rings — the movie version, at least. He also befriends Sir Bob, a power gamer who wears a ridiculous outfit because while his clothes clash, they’re significant status increases. who wants Ohforf to join his guild, Efficient Omniscience.
Why would the powerful Sir Bob want a total noob to be on his team? Partly because a noob tends to attract a lot of creatures, which translates to experience points. Ohforf is able to stand his own, though, becuase I imagine that his luck stats are through the roof. The guy manages to gain powerful items just by stumbling on them. Ohforf manages to accidentally bogart a wish-granting orb for a team of advanced gamers, defeat the game’s creator through the power of dance, and become the Clichequest Raider of the Year just by being at the right place at the right time when a very powerful dragon bites it. Oh, Ohforf, you silly! He’s got a better batting average for doing nothing than Inspector Gadget.
Ohforf’s biggest threats are, in fact, not his fellow gamers. After all, if he dies in game, he just respawns and keeps on playing. Getting killed is a minor inconvenience … unless you’re one of those hapless fools who wanders on a permaban/permadeath. Ohforf’s biggest challenges are actually the staff of Clichequest themselves. The GMs are bored, underpaid employees who are never helpful and dish out arbitrary judgments, usually banning the most innocent of players. The head developer is worse. He’s an egotistical megalomaniac who plays Clichequest in secret. Since he knows the ins and outs of the programming, he games the system to try to win glory and accolades.
Interestingly, the Clichequest staff are the only people we regularly see in the real alter egos … making them something like gods who deign to visit the puny mortals milling around the world they created. There are only snippets of the real world lives of players. Their in-game avatars might as well be the characters themselves, especially since Clichequest is apparently working on Otherland code as there’s little you can do in the real world that you can’t do in the virtual one. (What keystrokes do press to boil someone’s headpiece in a stew, anyway?)
Ohforf isn’t a nerdy guy at a computer, but rather a bumbling oaf who sleeps under the stars. While the PK’ers act as if they’re above the role-playing aspect of the game, they make believable thieves and cutthroats just being themselves. The paradox of The Noob is that the less characters try to construct a fantasy facade, the more they fit into their actual universe.
The Noob gathers a large cast of characters. None are particularly multi-dimensional (in the same sense that Dilbert is just a long-suffering office worker and the pointy-haired boss is simply clueless), but the are nevertheless memorable. The story typically splits into three or four different plotlines. It isn’t that hard to follow along with the adventures outside of Ohforf’s circle.
Ms. Gasetti’s sense of humor can sometimes be baffling. She loves doing send-ups of pop culture, which is nothing unique in a gamer comic. Still, a Blair Witch Project parody … in 2005? Which is at least 5 years after Scary Movie and Blair Witch 2 made all Blair Witch jokes tired and obsolete?
Or how about her parody of the 70’s cult movie, The Warriors. Now, I love me some Warriors references, but the Warriors gag goes on for way too long. I estimate that there’s about a hundred strips between when Lord Ironman makes his impassioned plea to unite the factions to destroy the PK’ers and the inevitable “Warrrrriorrrs, come out and plaaayyyaaayyyyy” parody. Ms. Gasetti is so devoted to her Warriors homage that there is a character named Cyrus who says, “Can you dig it?”
The rest of the jokes are typically about collecting xx amounts rat tails/spider silk/animal appendage for your quest and how people take things way too seriously. As corny as the comic can get sometimes (i.e. lots of times), Ms. Gasetti does a great job walking real-life noobs like me through the frustrations, tedium, social interactions, and fun of an MMORPG.
It also made me realize that I was never, ever going to sign up to play an MMORPG, because damn does it look like a waste of time.
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Posted on September 1, 2011, in 3 Stars, action webcomic, adventure webcomic, comedy webcomic, fantasy webcomic, The Webcomic Overlook, video game webcomic, WCO Big Review, webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.