Most online petitions don't amount to anything, but Dark Souls fans have reason to think otherwise. After tens of thousands demanded Dark Souls get a PC port years ago, publisher Bandai Namco listened, and the series has made the PC a priority ever since. This emboldened Dark Souls fan Connor Marwede to start his own petition, to get developer From Software to add something he'd wanted for years: the helmet of Dragon Slayer Ornstein, complete with flowing plume.
To date, Ornstein's helmet has always showed up without the flowing plume, a gorgeous arrangement of feathers feeding out the back.
"It's like opening a brand new can of soda only to find out on your first sip that it's completely flat," said Marwede. "I'm trying to come up with a better analogy, but it just feels disappointing at its core, especially when Dragon Slayer Ornstein in Dark Souls is one of the most iconic bosses, if not the most iconic boss, in the game."
He's right. Few boss fights in Dark Souls stand out more than when you're tasked with staring down Ornstein and Executioner Smough, a formidable duo—one big and lumbering, the other small and agile—that proves one of the game's thorniest roadblocks. They're incredibly tough.
Even more curious, other armor sets in Dark Souls include a plume—but not Ornstein's. The armor didn't make an appearance in Dark Souls 2, despite Ornstein being an optional boss. There was renewed hope in Dark Souls 3, another chance for From Software to right things.
"If anyone could come back a third time," said Marwede, "I felt like it was Ornstein. And with his return, we might finally get the plume that we'd been waiting for since Dark Souls, which was 5 years ago at that point."
No dice, no armor, no plume. The game is an enormous tease, too. Dark Souls 3 includes a boss named Dragonslayer Armour, who shares a similar armor set to Ornstein, plumed helmet and all. His armor doesn't show up in the base game, but does show up in the newest DLC, The Ringed City...without plume. Adding insult to injury, if players slay the optional Nameless King boss, they learn Ornsetin's unique fighting style came from him. And as part of the game bringing the series full circle, Ornstein's iconic armor is found near Nameless King's corpse.
"I was literally speechless when I picked it up," he said. "I was so sure I'd have his glorious plume, for the final entry in all of Dark Souls."
But once again, Marwede's dreams were crushed: plumeless.
Marwede decided to take action. Though the lack of plume had been mentioned in the past, nobody had properly galvanized the silent majority, those in search of a proper helmet plume for their beloved Ornstein. Nearly a year ago, he posted a thread to reddit that outlined his petition. He was mocked, the thread barely got any traction, and he spent the next few hours trying to defend himself.
"So that I got this straight. You started a petition to the US government to get the plume of a helm in a Japanese video game added back in?
"Genuinely not sure if this is a joke or a further sign that modern society is doomed."
The general consensus: why would anyone, let alone From Software, care? Shouldn't the focus on balance changes? (Or poise?) Even Marwede's real-life friends, many of them Dark Souls fans, questioned his pursuit.
"I honestly don't think I even broke a hundred signatures at that point," he said. "I was pretty bummed out."
Marwede tried his best to put the plume out his mind for the next year, hoping From Software would surprise him in one of the game's two planned downloadable content add-ons. But when Ashes of Ariandel came and went without a surprise appearance from Ornstein, he got nervous. The clock was ticking.
"It's like opening a brand new can of soda only to find out on your first sip that it's completely flat."
"Panic started overriding any nervousness I had about expressing my opinion that 'Yes, this plume is important. People should care,'" he said. "My family, all of us avid Dark Souls fans, encouraged me to make one more post about it before Ringed City."
This thread managed to get some traction, possibly driven by the notion that with The Ringed City, From Software might be closing on the book on Dark Souls forever. People were supportive of Marwede's plight, even if it was likely doomed.
Up until this point, Marwede had only managed 350 signatures. With the latest reddit thread, he'd reached nearly 500. It wasn't quite the 70,000 fans that rallied to show they'd be interested in Dark Souls on PC, but hey, it was something.
Marwede began tweeting at From Software, Bandai Namco, and the official Dark Souls account, an act of desperation, more than anything else. But not all desperation goes unheard, and in this case, someone was a fan of Ornstein's plume.
There it was: hope. The game's community manager said he'd email the team.
"I knew that it didn't necessarily mean that we were going to get the plume, but it felt like sweet victory to me," said Marwede. "I really could say that, in the worst case scenario, I did try."
At this point, fans had already data mined tons of information from the then-unreleased Ringed City and found references to Dragonslayer Ornstein's armor—without the plume. With The Ringed City only a few weeks away, it seemed Marwede would have to settle with Bandai Namco acknowledging him.
Then, after a routine patch showed up, Marwede noticed people were talking about the fabled plume. Though Dark Souls has fanatics of all stripes, there often wasn't plume discussion unless Marwede was prompting it, causing suspicion. Things got weirder when someone posted a photo of the plume in action.
"I felt my eyes bulge out of my head," he said.
Disbelief turned to excitement when he asked for more proof.
"I remember screaming in awe immediately," he said, "and my sister, who was a room over, came running over. 'What? What is it?' she was asking excitedly, and I was just flubbing over my words non-stop."
There was no denying it: From Software added Ornstein's plume. Others noticed that Marwede's longshot petition had been successful, and joined to celebrate.
"Wow. WOW. I can't believe this happened. This is quite a special gift. In the end, it actually happened. Imagine the one team member working night-and-day trying to get the physics right for us, heheh."
"Thank you Gwyn, for giving us the plume of our beloved Dragonslayer for this final journey into the Ringed City."
I asked From Software for more information on how this all came to be, but the studio hasn't responded to my request for comment.
"I can't even begin to explain how happy I am," said Marwede. "If I needed any sort of reason to pour thousands of more hours into the Dark Souls series, this was it."