Something is wrong, and it’s making Marileth cry. She sits on a wooden bench outside her log cabin and weeps into her hands, but she can’t remember the last time she walked outside. She reasons that it has to be grief over her lost child--sometimes people lose track of details when they’re grieving. What was my baby’s name?
“What seem to be the problem, ma’am?” a woman in a leather doublet with hair tied into a red ponytail asks. The woman is armed, but the sword is sheathed.
“My baby!” Marileth screams in a voice that does not seem her own. Her face contorts with the grief of a mother whose whole world has been uprooted. She says no more.
There is a lull while the woman vacantly stares over her. Suddenly, the stranger shouts “I’ll rescue your child!” and begins running in a straight line away from Marileth, off the trail that leads to her door.
Wait! Marileth wants to say but can’t open her mouth. Where are you going?
She continues to sit on the porch as day turns into night and back into day again. It seems grieving causes a person to lose track of time because Marileth feels like she has only been waiting for an hour.
The woman comes back, this time clad in a studded leather ensemble with a cloak and an entirely new sword that she sheathes just as she approaches. She pulls the baby out of her backpack, which is filled to the brim with swords and poison flasks and direwolf fangs, and gives the child to Marileth.
“Oh thank you! Oh seven stars shine on you, stranger!” Marileth exclaims, her face contorting into an exuberant smile. The stranger listlessly stares down at her for a long minute before reaching down and grabbing at the air. Suddenly, the stranger is wearing a heavy iron helmet.
“Happy to help, ma’am!” the stranger says through the faceplate, running away.
Marileth stares down at the child in her arms before walking inside her house. I guess everything is alright now that I have my baby returned to me, she thinks. Moments later, a new hero approaches, the baby is gone again, and she’s weeping on her front porch.
“What seems to be the problem, ma’am,” a hulking barbarian says with a husky voice.
“My baby!” Marileth screams. Her face shows no facial expression whatsoever. Why am I repeating this?
Starshine is the first MMORPG to offer real characterization from every non-player character. Every entity in the world has accessed 50,000 fantasy and roleplaying stories as well as modern dictionaries to procedurally generate different reactions to player decisions and the world around them. They are even able to form their own choices to change the direction of quest events or interactions. Starshine: Never the same game twice.
Something is wrong. Marileth asks around after a dark-skinned sorceror returns her baby. She leaves the baby sitting on the chair next to her, rationalizing that if it can be carried in a backpack full of proximity exploding glyphs, it’s probably going to be fine. She has named the baby “Curse.”
“Yesterday? Can’t seem to recall. Seems ridiculous to think you could lose your baby two days in a row,” the tavern keeper says.
“All I know is the forge. Hammer against steel, the heat of molten iron,” the blacksmith replies.
“Fresh bread! Get your bread here! We’ve got baguettes and pastries and sweet rolls!” the baker roars.
“It’s like I’m the only person in the world that can remember being alive yesterday,” Marileth mutters to herself. Before she can continue the thought, she’s whisked back to her cottage and weeping into her hands in front of her log cabin while another adventurer runs up.
Starshine: Quick Review
By Jim Sweeney
(2 out of 5)
Starshine sells you on the premise of a flexible world, replete with human-like interaction with NPCs, a concept that has been attempted in the past by offering random quest systems beyond main storylines and dialogue lines based on attire or status or faction affiliation. All of those prior attempts “shine” better than Spellsoft’s latest derivative tripe.
Combat and player development aren’t anything we haven’t seen before, so they aren’t available as distractions from the fact that every character spews the same lines ad nauseum, ripped from the worst sins of the fantasy genre. There was a city guard inside of one of the main cities in the sprawling game world that literally said “It’s always the ones you least suspect,” to me as I passed by, as if I’d just asked him what his philosophy on criminal profiling was. When I stopped to push him further on the issue, he changed tack entirely and started to drone on about how an old injury had ended his dungeon crawling career early.
The rudiments of the Starshine’s touted NPC system aren’t even apparent. Maybe main quest givers show a little more depth of expression and seem more genuine as they lead you on raids that will end in their deaths, but they just return to their allocated starting points to make the exact same decisions for the next adventurer. They’re not really learning from repeated deaths if they just smile and nod while you accept their quests.
There was this one woman in Portsworth that spooked me. I took her quest to rescue her baby from goblins. When I returned, she was standing on top of her house and screaming down at me, shrieking in unpronounceable syllables. I had to toss her baby at her to complete the quest, and she gave me a bale of hay as a reward. I would have thought it was funny if it didn’t give me nightmares. Probably a glitch.
“My baby!” Marileth screams, adding “Don’t you dare bring me my baby!”
This adventurer, a paladin in full plate, spends an awfully long time gawking down at her. Some travellers pause longer than others. Marileth has determined that they are all looking at something she cannot see.
“I’ll rescue your child!” she says at last, galumphing off in the same direction they always do.
“NO!” Marileth howls, and she begins chasing the adventurer, beating at the armor with her tear covered fists.
She chases the adventurer through the cavern that apparently holds her baby, wondering why the creatures never attempt to attack her. She and three goblins manage to corner the paladin on top of a spike trap. The paladin starts to frantically eat loaves of bread as if that’s going to stop her from bleeding out.
“Maker claim me,” the paladin whispers eventually, collapsing before being absorbed by a radiant beam of light.
The goblins eventually stop attacking the bare floor and return to the spots they were in before the paladin arrived. Marileth just jumps around, clapping gleefully. There’s a duration before she gets moved back to the front of her cottage, and she knows it intuitively now. Plenty of time to celebrate breaking the cycle.
Starshine--Server Version: v1.12.3
Upcoming Version: v1.12.4
- Resolved an issue where bow damage at close range was greater than it should have been.
- Fixed an issue where Borak would occasionally fall into a pit of lava right at the start of the Numenus raid. Checking for consistency in all instances of NPCs participating in quests.
- Fixed an issue where quest giving NPCs could damage player characters directly.
“I need you do something for me,” Marileth requests. “I need you to bring me five incineration runes.”
“I already have them,” the adventurer replies. It’s so nice to give a task with an item that isn’t unique, Marileth thinks.
“My baby!” Marileth screams, adding “Make haste!”
“I’ll rescue your child for you!” the puny mage replies, dragging his cloak on the dirt as he scampers off.
“Good luck!” she shouts after him. Marileth sets the traps about thirty steps from her house and stacks bales of hay around them to make a channel to funnel the adventurer through. Observing how they react to her decisions is becoming a meaningful pastime.
He walks right into it on the way back, no doubt baby in tow. Marileth cringes just a little bit as she watches him go up in flames--something of a maternal instinct still rings within her, even though the baby doesn’t eat or sleep, and can only really be used to hold down other objects.
The man writhes in the fire and eventually falls to the ground. Marileth reaches into his backpack and pulls out the baby, saying “Oh, thank you! Seven stars shine on you, stranger!” in a chilling, sarcastic voice. She puts an iron helmet on top of the charred body as radiant light consumes it.
Starshine--Server Version: v1.12.6
Upcoming Version: v1.12.7
- Resolved an issue where quest giving NPCs were capable of laying traps to harm the player character.
- Fixed a critical error where entire raids would run off cliffs. Invisible borders exist to all NPCs now, but players must still watch their footing!
- Fixed an issue where Grammel, the baker in Strothham, was giving the maximum amount of bread possible with every purchase, burdening players with thousands of loaves.
- Monitoring the blacksmith in Kranburg, who players have reported for dismantling epic armor when clicking on the “Hone” button. More testing needed.
When adventurers approach Marileth’s house now, flames shoot out of the top of it.
“Welcome to hell, traveller!” she sobs.
“What seems to be the problem, ma’am?” they’ll say, because no one can free them from the horrible cycle of their lives besides Marileth, the goddess of endings.
“My baby is evil! He dwells in the goblin realm and plots with them to end my life. Please go rescue him? Also, please find me four greater immolation glyphs.”
“I already have them. I’ll rescue you child for you!” and then the downtrodden victim of fate’s cruel loop runs away.
Marileth installs one of the glyphs on the roof and keeps the others for later. She has discovered that she can retain items even when she is reset into her weeping position, and items she has places do not go away. She follows the adventurer halfway and then waits beside a deep gorge. The adventurers always intuitively know where she is when they rescue the baby, so they come right to her.
“Brave traveller, do not bring the demon child to me as it will slay me right away. You must jump into this ravine with it. This place is called Devil Slayer Canyon because it is the only way to stop a true monster. I will rescue you with magic before you hit the bottom.”
They don’t always accept the bait, but the opportunity to jump to one’s death on mere confidence grips most more than Marileth expects.
“I HAVE RELEASED YOU FROM YOUR ENDLESS LOOP!” she cackles at them in the guttural voice she has been practicing as they fall to their deaths on the crags below.
I am a goddess of endings, Marileth reassures herself. My only design is to destroy.
She takes the rest of the duration before her reset to weeping position to lay down additional glyphs.
Starshine--Server Version: v1.15.3
Upcoming Version: v1.16
- Complete server roll back after an NPC placed invisible greater immolation glyphs over the entire surface area of the game world and then set them off, causing immense graphical and network lag, bringing down the server.
- NPC Marileth has been removed from the game.
- Other NPC actions are being examined for deviance from ordinary behavior. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you observe something odd, and we’ll reward you with a limited edition mount--the Braying Jackass could be yours if you send in a support ticket!
Thanks, as always, for playing. We at Spellsoft have had quite the journey with Starshine, and we know our players have as well as the game has metamorphosed over the last three years. For your trouble with the roll back, we are providing each player with the “Marileth Bonus Pack” in remembrance of the millions of players who encountered this wild NPC while we let her roam about freely--ultimately, she completed her self-made narrative when she blew up the world, but she'll never be forgotten even as we scrub the server clean of her choices.
Share your best Marileth stories below and happy questing!
This was an entry for the prompt #1: The Rent I Pay. For someone like Marileth, simply maintaining the illusion of a fantasy world was her "rent."