SOMA EP13: 696969696969

By Shamus
on Apr 27, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

I love at around the 7:30 mark, Simon says, “This better be the right way.” What makes this amusing is that by putting in this line of dialog, the writers are implicitly telling the players that YES, THIS IS THE RIGHT WAY. Without that audio cue, the player might worry they were just jumping around on a bunch of crap intended to be background scenery. But by putting in a line of voice acting – even though the line itself questions the direction you’re heading – the writers are making it clear that you’re supposed to be here and that this was a path they anticipated or even intended.

And if you’re curious why I keep hammering on Josh to stop bunny hopping and mouse-whipping even though “Josh Trolling” is a running gag, here’s why:

This is what the game looks like, more or less, under normal circumstances:

This is the mouseover text.

This is the mouseover text.

That’s what Josh sees, anyway. And the show you’re watching is recorded from this. But while we’re recording the show, the rest of the cast has to watch via a live stream. Streaming video already suffers under dark conditions. On top of that, it’s really harmed by fast-moving scenes, as I’ve explained in the past. So when Josh moves the view around, that frame above will get turned into this:

T--- -s -h- m---eov-r ---t.

T--- -s -h- m---eov-r ---t.

Josh doesn’t see this, because he’s still seeing the game in all of its 1440p glory on his jumbotron monitor, while we’re left looking at this soup of grey pixels and basically blind to the game we’re trying to discuss. On top of that, an abruptly shifting view is mildly uncomfortable when you’re controlling it, very uncomfortable when someone else is controlling it, and headache-inducing when your eyes are already straining to see stuff in the dark at 140p.

Josh keeps forgetting and reverting back to “bunny-hop and spin” movement style. Which suggests that this is actually how he normally plays games. I wonder how common that is? We know a lot about different driving styles because we can see other people driving. But PC-based FPS games are usually played alone, and I wonder about all of the strange quirks and habits we never get to see.

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  1. CrypticSmoke says:

    I am also a bunnyhop and spin guy.
    You can thank Morrowind for that.
    I incessantly hop everywhere in any first person game, and I’m surprised I haven’t started doing it IRL as ingrained as it is.

    • Benjamin Hilton says:

      My bunny hopping also started in Morrowind and while I Bunny hop in many games as well I don’t think it is purely because that one. It is an odd scenario where the result is the same no matter how different the game or the reasons may be. Some games unintentionally encourage it because it gives bonuses, such as increased stats or improved movement speed. Sometimes it is purely to break the monotony. In a game such as SOMA I would normally be in full role-play mode. But even here I would find myself hopping because it still makes sense to do. As someone with a diving license I can testify that when you’re weighted to the bottom hopping really is the most efficient form of movement.(Actually it looks more like a kind of skipping/shuffle thing but you get the idea)

      • Another Scott says:

        I never played Morrowind but I hopped all over Oblivion because it increased jumping skill to do so. (Was that the same in Morrowind?) Otherwise in other games I actually never bunny hop if it does not serve a purpose.

        One odd behavior I do exhibit however is I only face one direction when I navigate upstairs, alternating W A S D keys as I go. In fact if I ever make a 360 degree turn in one direction, I feel compelled to turn the other direction shortly there after… thanks OCD.

        I’m terribly curious now, does anyone else do this one?

    • Nidokoenig says:

      I usually move slowly if there’s a stealth mechanic, partly because I prefer stealth and melee weapons, partly because of motion sickness issues limiting the amount of experience I have, and partly because it’s great for soaking in atmosphere. In Morrowind I’d just buy points in jumping since I wasn’t getting them naturally.

  2. Rutskarn says:

    I can confirm that I bunny-hop, juke, and shimmy very much like Josh when I play videogames. I get restless and antsy just holding down a button to move forward; jumping like a jackrabbit is basically my equivalent of pumping the button at the crosswalk.

    • SyrusRayne says:

      Similar here. I don’t bunny hop everywhere, sometimes I weave and slalom or follow odd lines in geometry. I don’t think I twitch the camera around too badly, but then it doesn’t bother me when I do it.

    • Warclam says:

      I tend to do any turns in first-person games quite slowly and smoothly. This is because I get lost so easily that if I spin the camera around, I’ll completely lose track of which way is which. I don’t tend to hop either. The empty minutes of walking around are usually filled by mocking the NPCs, or if none are available, voicing my character’s thoughts Freeman’s Mind-style.

    • pdk1359 says:

      I’m a antsy gamer too, I’ll even use the wasd keys to circle in place (forward, strafe left, back, strafe right, repeat, repeat, reverse, go to 10) when I’m watching something happen that I’ve got to wait for, like a big gate, an NPC conversation or whatever.

    • Echo Tango says:

      Games could benefit by having movement with either more (interesting) input from the player, or no input at all if it’s just boring. i.e. Ditch all hold-X-toY style inputs. Like, in Crypt Of The Necrodancer, your movement is a series of button presses that are unique moment-to-moment decisions[1], and they are a skill-test to keep you on your toes[2], and at the very least, you can just stop pressing anything to choose to rest your fingers[3]. There’s also lots of games, where if you’re just going to be holding down a button, you have an auto-hold mode, like auto-run in Skyrim. If I was making a game, I would not want my players bored from monotony, nor exhausted from repetition.

      1. Attack the guy to the west? Move south to line myself up for something else?
      2. Gotta keep the rhythm!
      3. Unless you’re playing Aria. :S

    • Majikkani_Hand says:

      My bunny-hopping is game-dependent (but very frequent), and I pretty much always spin like a disco ball and weave like a drunk at 4AM–I like to treat game objects like they’re cones for me to zigzag around (or jump over). The tics aren’t just for first-person games, either–in top-down games, I spin the mouse in circles or lines or figure-eights when I’m waiting for something. I’m pretty glad that nobody every watches my monitor while I’m playing.

  3. Grimwear says:

    I tend to bunny hop whenever I can, I think it started way back when I used to play WoW in Vanilla where you were forced to run everywhere until level 40. *Shivers*. Also in any souls game after every boss fight or elevator ride I default spin the camera around myself non stop.
    As a quick sidebar I tried to replay Dark Souls 1 on steam and get dsfix working but it no longer does. I have been told that all new nvidia drivers is the cause of this predicament and I would need to roll back to like…August 2015ish to make it work. This makes me sad.

  4. Decius says:

    I habitually jump enough that other people notice and comment. But only when no slowdown results.

  5. Geebs says:

    I’ve got a question that I’m surprised the crew hasn’t brought up yet, since it’s even more fundamental than “what do they eat?”.

    What, and how, does Simon breathe? I thought it made sense to hear breathing noises all of the time when you’re still in “thinks he’s a real boy” mode, but when he knows he’s a robot, surely the breathing should stop. Arguably it might be to keep his (her?) body alive but the oxygen in the suit should have run out ages ago, so I assumed it was all explained by structure gel. Any ideas?

    • Zach Hixson says:

      perhaps because it’s a human body it just does it by reflex, probably just breathing in carbon dioxide at this point, but still reflexively “breathing.”

      • Geebs says:

        Thing is, you then have to explain why he breathes faster and deeper in response to stress. I suppose you could just hand-wave it all by saying that the WAU wired up his (her) sympathetic nervous system and adrenal glands using structure gel, but I don’t think that the WAU really shows any evidence of understanding human stress or distress – none of the people the WAU is keeping alive seems to be much above “paralysed with fear” in the emotional stakes.

        • Zak McKracken says:

          Well, even if he knows that he’s just the simulation of a human being, he’s still the simulation of a human being, and heavy breathing is as much a bodily function as it is an involuntary expression of your current state. So it’d make sense that the simulation continues to run on that level because breathing is something you usually do not control consciously. Even if Simon did decide to hold his breath, we don’t know whether the simulation wouldn’t consequently simulate the feeling of “oh my god, I have to breathe!”, which would make life quite uncomfortable for him.

          • If I remember my diving/biology lessons correctly, the “Oh god, I must breathe NOW!” reaction to holding your breath is your body’s reaction to too much CO2 rather than to too little O2. It’s triggered by even a fairly small increase in % CO2 (at uni I took part in a study that involved breathing an air mixture with a slightly higher than normal % of CO2 and it was really quite unpleasant, but students will do anything for a tenner). Whereas istr that a lack of O2 means you sleepy-time and then die. So… is the simulation sophisticated enough to replicate a chemical-based trigger like that? How would it know? Why would you need it to in the first place? Are you going to make it able to distinguish the breathing patterns of a heavy smoker versus someone who free-dives for a hobby? It just makes me think that Simon breathing/panting is more a cue for the players, “Hey look! He’s super-stressed right now! This is some scary shit, right?!” than something that would actually be replicated by such a simulation.

  6. Dt3r says:

    Is humanity screwed? Short answer, yes. Longer answer, well…

    Estimates for the number of individuals needed for minimum viable population (MVP) of humans have been kicked around for a while, mostly for space exploration purposes. I’ve seen numbers as low as 100-600 individuals, but those numbers are far too low. 100 people could survive and repopulate, it’s not impossible. It is, however, extremely unlikely. To have a good chance of survival the number needs to be much higher. As a population geneticist, my estimate would be more in the 10,000 individual range. That’s roughly on the same scale as what Smith, 2014 recommends:

    (Remember: You also need to deal with the difference between population (Nc) and effective population (Ne). Any given population will have a proportion of its members that are either too young or too old to reproduce.)

    Sustaining a population requires a massive change in how we conceive of things. If we are concerned with aggregate results (survival of a populations) that doesn’t always correspond with individual results (survival of a given individual). To give an example, the Haldane-Muller principle states that the severity of a mutation has no impact on the fitness of the impacted population. Any deleterious mutation, severe or mild, will have the same aggregate effect on the population. This is counter-intuitive, but that’s because population genetics leans heavily on statistics. When you talk about populations you need to look at larger scale mechanisms.

    The biggest problem is a phenomenon called genetic drift. Any non-infinite population (i.e. real world population) will exhibit some genetic drift, but it is far more severe for smaller populations. Genetic drift is stochastic variation that eventually results in either fixation or loss of a given allele (fixation means that 100% of the population has an allele, loss means 0%). The Wright-Fischer model gives a good example for how fixation and loss works. Once you reach either of these points it is extremely difficult for a populations to break away from fixation/loss. If you reach that point you’re effectively locked into whatever trait you have. In a situation like SOMA that means you’ll likely lose important traits, like disease resistance. The average time to loss of an allele is -4N *(p/(1-p))*ln(p), where p is the frequency of the allele. So if you have a population of 500 individuals, and only one person has a specific resistance gene, then that trait will most likely be lost in about 14 generations.

    Genetic drift also deals with stochastic events, like natural disasters. Think about how often the RNG screws you over in games. Smaller populations are more susceptible to random disasters. In the SOMA situation they’re in a very precarious situation, with massive water pressure all around them. Let’s say one of two structures has a catastrophic failure: if 50 people out of 100 die, there goes half the population. If 500 people out of 1,000 die the population is in much better shape.

    The usual way to alleviate genetic drift is geneflow, bring in individuals from another population. New individuals (hopefully) have alternate forms of an allele, which bumps the population out of the rut of fixation/loss. That’s not an option in SOMA though. Mutation can introduce variation, but it’s not reliable for breaking fixation. Depending on the trait, it would most likely take tens of thousands of years to get a mutation at exactly the right spot to break fixation.

    You also have to deal with the fact that any scenario like the one in SOMA would suffer from very severe founder effect. In a crisis you have whatever people manage to survive, and that’s not going to be a good representation of all human genetic diversity. So you’re already starting with a limited genepool, and drift makes things worse over time.

    To put it in perspective, there’s evidence that around 70,000 years ago the human species was reduced to around 2,000 individuals. Even today, with over 7 billion people alive we still have an extremely restricted genepool compared with many other species.

    • Echo Tango says:

      Given that structure gel is essentially nano-machines, I would assume that the ability for this underwater base to do genetic tinkering would also be fairly good. You could artificially introduce genetic diversity with nanobots. Run all the available computers in the base on genetic simulations (and keep detailed records of all genes from both dead and current people), so that you can better decide on what genes to mess with and how to mess with them, and you should be in a batter state, than relying on nature alone.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      Science! I’m amazed!

    • NoneCallMeTim says:

      Nice essay.

      I read somewhere that the numbers can change depending on the locations where people are brought from. So if you take all the sample from, say one town in the country, it will be considerably less diverse than an equal (or even smaller) number made from people of every continent.

      It makes me think that a similar argument could be made for the Fallout Vaults. Mind you, they weren’t really designed for survival.

      • Dt3r says:

        Thanks. I’m in the middle of writing my dissertation, so my brain is stuck in writing mode. I originally just had a few points, but you can see what it ballooned into.

        Completely right, the selection method definitely affects the starting diversity. I mentioned the Founder Effect briefly, and at its heart its basically a sampling issue. 5,000 attendees of an international conference have more diversity than the residents of a 5,000 population rural town. If you specifically picked people from around the globe for maximum diversity it would reduce the severity of the Founder Effect, and you could get by with a smaller population. Of course, that assumes you have enough time and resources to collect and screen individuals from all over the world. Survivors in a crisis scenario are likely to band together from the local region, resulting in limited diversity out of necessity.

        • I enjoyed your essay, although the whole time I was reading it, all I could think of was the plot of Moonraker. :p It was on TV relatively recently, and clearly when I’d watched in the 80s I’d never really paid attention to the plot, such as it was. This time…. OMG you’re going to do WHAT, now? *facepalm*

    • Bubble181 says:

      Hold on, don’t those two things contradict? Saying that we’d need about 10,000 individuals to repopulate, but we’ve been reduced to 2,000 in the past?
      I understand that ‘it succeeded once’ isn’t the same as saying ‘it’s good enough’; those 2,000 could easily have been killed off or whatever, but still. If we all come from 2,000 people, clearly we don’t need more than that to have enough genetic variation?

      I’m not being annoying or trolling or whatever, I’m genuinely curious/interested, for the record.

      • Octapode says:

        IANAPG, but I think it’s a matter of probability of survival. My understanding of Dt3r’s post is 100 is the smallest possible population to survive, but 10-40,000 is the minimum to be at little risk of fatal catastrophe. So when the human population got bottlenecked to 2,000, we were at the mercy of fate for a long time until our population could recover enough to be resilient to disaster, and we still bear scars to the genepool from that catastrophe.

        • Dt3r says:

          Exactly. A small population is more at risk of being destroyed by unexpected events, like an earthquake, volcanic eruption, plague, etc. To put it in perspective, the famous eruption at Pompeii suddenly killed off 1,500+ people. If a population of 600 gets caught in a disaster like that humans are now extinct. Larger populations (in addition to having more genetic diversity) are also less likely to be wiped out by random events.

          Can 10 people survive to repopulate a species? Yes, it’s possible. Is it even remotely likely? No.

      • Fizban says:

        I think it’s that we’d need 10,000 to pull it off thanks to the previous damage. What little diversity we still have is scattered and harder to find, so you need a much larger sample to have a chance of gathering it all up to keep it cycling. Current population is in the billions, descended from 2,000, which means that you can go through thousands of people and still not get anyone descended from the few of the 2,000 who had important gene X that needs to keep cycling to avoid eventual collapse.

    • Steve C says:

      I’ve been reading the blog for years and the comment section remains the best on the internet.

  7. Ninety-Three says:

    Re: Can they repopulate: I think it’s a huge, wrong assumption to say that these are the only people left alive. There have to be pockets of people left in bunkers all around the world, hell, there are probably other sea labs that survived.

    As for maintaining genetic diversity, it actually depends heavily on your starting pool. Disease resistance is mostly out of the picture, given that the surface has been utterly sterilized, so the only thing you need genetic diversity for is avoiding nasty recessive traits. You could get ludicrously lucky (like, hundreds of natural 20s in a row lucky) and have a population of two that dodged all the problematic inbreeding traits and could safely repopulate. If you have access to futuristic DNA mapping technology, you can cut down on the number of people needed to repopulate by pairing people optimally. But most modern day estimates I’ve seen range from 70 to a few hundred.

    Re: Killing marine life: It’s not that the surface world dying would kill marine life (although it would mess with things a bit), it’s that asteroid would kick up dust that would blot out the sun, ruining the parts of the marine food-chain built on photosynthesis. Which is to say, most of the marine food-chain.

    • Arstan says:

      Still, marine life would not be extingushed entirely – and after the cataclysmic event finishes, it will return to abundance pretty fast. At least as previous extintions had shown…

      • Josh says:

        The issue for the scenario in the game I think is “Does a sufficient population large marine life (fish, kelp forests, seaweed, etc) to work as a viable food source for a population of a hundred-ish people indefinitely?”

        • Sleeping Dragon says:

          Actually, isn’t feeding the teeming masses of humanity with some kind of gooey seagrown life (I think it’s usually “modified algae” or some such stuff) almost a trope for, primarily, dystopian near range sci-fi? Not saying that it answers all the technical questions but it’s not exactly a new concept in works of fiction.

    • Only problem is getting them all together when you’re dealing with a toxic planetary surface One of the survivors tales gives some hints of how bad the surface is . Oh, and read the others too, there’s a good one from Dr. Munshi’s POV and they’re all pretty short.
      I think between anyone on the surface is likely in a Metro 2033 sort of situation at best and that isolated lab pops tend to be low (plus aren’t generally set up as self-sustaining unless that’s part of the research), humanity’s doomed. Oh, and I really hope we’ve managed to get the STEM sex imbalance issue fixed or created artificial wombs (which would need to be in most/all of these “safe” areas) because if you’ve only got 50 women of those 200 survivors, that could be a problem for continuing the species. After all, growing a baby human’s a huge resource drain and hard on the body at the best of times.

      • Oh, and now having listened to the ep… I did hypothesize in the comments a few eps back about how well the oceanic ecosystem would have survived, but I was basing things on a “nuclear winter” type scenario. According to the above linked story (again), there’s a decent amount of sunlight getting through, so provided that whatever’s poisoned the air is either not water-soluble or capable of blocking oxygen flow into the ocean, oh, and doesn’t poison phytoplankton at or near the surface it should be good (I spoiler-tagged in case you want to read the story to find out more exactly what’s going on up top).

  8. Mephane says:

    I have no idea whether it originated there, but bunny-hopping is widely spread in multiplayer shooters. The reason is simple: if the target is constantly moving up and down, all the time, it is extremely hard to land a headshot on them. This is on top of it looking so silly that even in shooters that make whimsy their central premise (e.g. Garden Warfare), it quickly becomes infuration when you see someone bunny-hop ad nauseam, thus it is also a tactic to troll the enemy.

    Of course there are remedies. For example, have jump consume some form of stamina resource (usually shared with a sprint function), so you can’t bunny hop forever, plus you risk being out of stamina when you need to do a sprint.

    But it is also a good idea to reconsider whether a shooter really needs the ability to hop around anywhere. For example, in WH40K Eternal Crusade, you simply cannot jump*. To get over or on top of obstacle, however, you can climb. Much better than having chaos space marines bunny-hop across grimdark battlefields like bunnies on a meadow.

    *Unless you play a class with a jump pack (jetpack), which is designed around this ability; and still they can’t bunny-hop, because the jetpack jumps too high and not at such high a frequency.

    • Geebs says:

      Bunny-hopping started in Quake deathmatch, because Quake’s physics are broken in a highly desirable and entertaining way such that you can accelerate far beyond the normal speed limit by a combination of moving forward, strafing, jumping, and wiggling the mouse just so. The fact that it makes you harder to hit because of vertical movement is just a bonus, really.

  9. Sleeping Dragon says:

    RE: At around 24:00

    “-…what are we doing today? Are we jabbing something with a jabby thing? I’m gonna jab this with a jabby thing!
    -Umm… we’re geologists?

    -Oh… :(
    -Which means you get to jab the planet with the big jabby thing!

  10. Zak McKracken says:

    That bunnyhopping and mouse-whipping thing is half the reason why I only watch SW very occasionally, only in small bits, and usually not in full-screen mode — it makes me nauseous.
    The other half of the reason is time but that’s my own problem…

    • TMC_Sherpa says:

      Yup. The last SW I watched regularly was probably one of the ME games? Trolling I can handle (for various definitions of handle), losing my lunch not so much.

      Hey Shamus, if you can add a tag on the Spoiler Warning season page for games that don’t have a jump button I would really appreciate it.

    • Kathryn says:

      Yeah, the number one reason I don’t watch SW is that there are no subtitles and no lips to read, but if there were, I still wouldn’t watch it because the constant spinning and bouncing is definitely nauseating. My husband occasionally pulls it up on our television, and I have to leave the room. This effect might simply be a property of mouselook, though; my husband doesn’t (usually) bunny-hop, and I still can’t be in the room when he’s playing Skyrim for very long without feeling sick.

      For me personally, if I’m playing a game where I control the camera, I prefer gentle, leisurely camera movements, and if I want to look around, I stop first. I feel strongly enough about these preferences that I won’t play games that punish me for them. (“punish” = e.g., an enemy jumps you from behind and kills you before you can turn around, particularly in a game with no visual indicator that an enemy is approaching from behind. [Yes, visual; I also won’t play games that punish me for not being able to process audio cues.])

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    That guy in the glass cage is the only part of this game that manage to jump scare me.Because this whole section is creepy,and you expect something to jump out at you at any moment.But the “hub” is supposedly safe.I applaud the game for this section.

  12. Mr. Son says:

    I bunny hop as a fidgeting action. If I’m running and I’m not thinking about what I’m doing, I hop, but if I’m focused and say, running from an enemy, I stop. I’m trying to train myself out of it.

    I don’t spin much unless I’m nervous, or I keep seeing interesting things and going “oo, flowers!”, “oo, cute animal!”, “oo, interesting NPC!”, but when I do spin, I spin counter-clockwise, and I get uncomfortable when I have to turn clockwise. To the point where if I’m going around a clockwise staircase, I might counter turn against the stairs’ rotation.

  13. Peter H. Coffin says:

    And, yes, tape has TREMENDOUS capacity at a cost of linear access, which means VERY slow get at particular bits. On the other hand, if you’re making backups or trying to capture a LOT of data that’s coming in rapidly, tape’s an excellent choice. Contemporary tape systems store like 10TB per cartridge. You can get an LTO-6 (2.5 TB native, ~5TB compressed) drive and 10 tapes for it for less than $2k. And those tapes will be hardy enough that you can expect stuff you put on them to still be there in 15 years.

  14. Trix2000 says:

    I jump all the time in any game that will let me, to the point where any game that has a jump option (needed or not) gets points in my book.

    Though I find that having a sprint option can help alleviate my need for jumping, as it’s something to press and focus on aside from “move forward”.

  15. silver Harloe says:

    At least she went with “yo, dawg…” which, while older, is far funnier than “-ception”

    Speaking of “-ception”:

    Yo, dawg, I heard you like Inception, so I put “Yo, dawg, I heard you like Inception, so I put “Yo, dawg, I heard you like Inception, so I put “Yo, dawg, I heard you like Inception so I put…

    Speaking of memes, how appalled must Richard Dawkins be that his idea about “ideas spreading through minds” has been reduced to “images with captions that have a similar form to a quote by the imaged person or character”?

  16. McNutcase says:

    I’m an inveterate bunny-hopper. Even if it slows me down. I blame Morrowind, and more recently Warframe, for making walking the chump’s choice; in Morrowind, you would literally reduce your attainable stats by not bunny-hopping, and in Warframe moving on the ground is slow compared to making use of the crazy parkour options that let you zoom across the map at 50 mph.

  17. Metal C0Mmander says:

    Like many other have said before I too bunnyhop around when moving around to break the monotony. I personally blame the TF2 scout and his amazing jumping abilities. Hell I even try to use the game geometry to try to reach the highest point possible when I don’t have to be going anywhere.

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