on Sep 29, 2009
When we last left our hero (that would be me) I had just crawled out of a pile of rubble during an alien invasion. The city was in danger, the people needed me, and I couldn’t reach my publicist.
|I don’t want to tell you how to do your job or anything officer, but since you’re standing there greeting people as they emerge from the rubble maybe you could, you know, help dig them out?|
I briefly consider slipping back into the rubble and waiting things out, but a police officer recognizes me and calls me over. He serves no other purpose than to welcome me to the game. He’s sort of the Wal-Mart greeter of the alien apocalypse. Officer Greeter tells me that SOCRATES wants to talk to me. Socrates is the immense self-aware AI that guides the heroes of the city. Of course (s)he would want to talk to me. (The gender of Socrates seems to change depending on what mood the thing is in and what service packs have been recently applied.) I clap him on the shoulder and let him know he’s doing a good job. I’m a professional, and I know you always let the police know they’re doing a good job. It’s the sort of lie they really appreciate.
As luck would have it, the closest Socrates kiosk is right across the street. It’s hard to miss, since it projects a twenty foot hologram of Socrates looking down on us. Since the entire purpose of this device is to allow us to talk to Socrates, it seems like they don’t need anything more elaborate than a microphone and a speaker. Your average McDonald’s drive-thru mastered that technology ages ago. I don’t know how much a 20-foot holographic projector costs, but I it’s probably a waste of taxpayer money if it just serves basically the same function as a pay phone. Ill bet people vandalize these things all the time.
|Anyone using this thing is going to glance upward and get an eyeful of holo-crotch. When it comes to misappropriating public funds, this city doesn’t screw around.|
Let me paint you a picture of what is going on around me:
No that won’t do. I can’t find my paints and my brushwork is inept. You’ll have to settle for prose: Across the street is the looming hologram projector. Beyond that are some tents, and beyond those is a hastily constructed barricade where a couple of cops are fending off waves of aliens. To my right are rows of heavily armed soldiers, who are doing nothing. To my left is a street where aliens have deposited a bunch of oozing eggs.
Socrates asks me to walk over and kill some eggs. Three, to be exact. All things in moderation, I guess.
Right. Time to send these space-roaches packing. I smash some eggs the aliens have foolishly laid in the middle of the street and I can’t help but feel a little un-heroic. I mean, they’re eggs. What the hell kind of strategy is this? Did Hitler begin the scourging of London by putting German babies all over Piccadilly Square? I don’t claim to be Sun-Tzu or anything, but I’m pretty sure you don’t spearhead your invasion with abandoned infants.
|Worst. Tactics. Ever.|
The eggs are gooey. I made sure my suit was made of glossy easy-wipe material for just this reason.
After I kill the third one I realize I absolutely hate, hate these Ego powers. It looks like I’m fighting with an energy sword and holding it wrong. This doesn’t fit with the character concept, it doesn’t look cool, and it’s not fun. So I execute the Nuclear Retcon Option and exit the game, delete Star On Chest, and then re-create him exactly the same but with different powers. I go for old-school “smash with fist” style powers this time. Unimaginative, yes. But it fits with what we’re trying to do here and I simply refuse to compromise when dealing with an issue as important as myself. Besides, all the big superheroes are doing the continuity re-boot thing these days. I’m just getting that out of the way super early.
Login screen. New character. Powers. Character creation. Obsessive fussing. Re-enter biography. Say no to drugs. Start game. Skip cutscene. Talk to cop. Talk to Socrates. Punch Eggs.
And we’re back! Let’s continue…
Next Socrates wants me to help the police test some weapons. Rows of police are standing nearby, waiting to see if their weapons work. Socrates’ plan is thus: I stand still, police shoot me. Yeah. And this is the guy who opens every conversation by telling you how smart he is. Directly to my left are four street cops holding off an endless wave of aliens with their sidearms, and here we have ten paramilitary guys with body armor and handheld howitzers who won’t join the fight until they can shoot someone and ask them if it hurts.
|They instruct me to, “Use the block button”. I instruct them to, “Stop shooting me, asshole!”|
So, we’re countering the babies-first invasion tactics of the aliens with mandatory friendly-fire against our own troops. Here is an idea for you geniuses: Point your weapons at the bugs and shoot. If they die, the guns work. If not, grab a brick. Once you’ve got a fight going within brick-throwing distance, it’s time to stop with the R&D and make do with what you’ve got.
Barring that, why shoot me? Just shoot some cars or rubble or something if you want to see the gun go zap so bad. It’s all going to be written off anyway. It’s not like I own any of this stuff.
This whole thing is obviously a bad idea and a waste of everyone’s time. I’m beginning to suspect that Socrates might be a little buggy. But if I refuse to get shot in the face, people might think I’m a coward, and the whiff of cowardice is deadly for a hero. Companies will pull their endorsement agreements in a flash if the public gets the impression you’re a jelly-spine. From a public relations standpoint, being called a chicken is worse than being caught in a hotel with heroin* and a couple of underage hookers**.
* I would like to re-iterate my very strong and focus-group approved anti-drug stance.
** While I have no official position on this sort of thing, it’s probably not a good idea. Try to keep this sort of behavior to one at a time.
So I take a couple of blasts in the face. As I walk away, I make a point of NOT telling the officer he’s doing a good job. That should sting a bit, and maybe next time he’s repelling an invasion he won’t ask passing allies for permission to shoot them. Knave.
Socrates sends me to see the mayor. This sounds impressive, but the mayor is in a tent ten feet away and being ignored by every single person in his employ. There’s not much mayoring that needs done at the moment. Maybe he can publicly condemn the aliens via a public address (shouting) or a strongly worded letter (although I bet he doesn’t even have a pen) but other than that he’s making even less of an impact than Officer Greeter. Unless he’s got guns or kung-fu he’s just in the way. I suggest he go over and visit the friendly firing squad and make himself useful, but NPC’s never react when I say things out loud to my computer.
|Our befuddled and not-particularly-useful mayor. Usually the question mark is there to tell the player, “I have quest stuff for you”, but in this case it’s there to express, “Uhbuh-what”?|
The mayor asks me to walk to the other side of the barricade and recover the city disaster plans, as he seems to have left them in a building I have now dubbed, “Roach Central”.
Sir, the good people of this city took the time to author disaster plans. Your only job was to have those plans. I don’t want to seem rude, but… is the deputy mayor available?
In any case, I’m betting that if we did have the plans here, somewhere near the top of page one it would say: DO NOT TEST WEAPONS BY SHOOTING EACH OTHER. I agree to get the plans, in the hopes he can at least put a stop to that.
I jog over and grab the documents. They’re in a pile of rubble and guarded by about a half dozen loitering bug men. These guys aren’t really invading, but sort of hangin’ out. I am glad to see that despite their fantastic array of space guns and future toys, the aliens have faces which are susceptible to punching.
Nearby is a woman wanting to be escorted back to the safe zone, but there is a line of heroes waiting to do so. They’re all elbowing and jockying for position to be the next lucky hero to march her back to the
mayor’s camp site command center before she appears back in the hot zone and needs to be re-rescued. I opt to not rescue her at this time.
I would like to point out that chivalry is not dead, it just hates waiting in line.
The mayor is grateful for the documents, and sends me down the street to meet with the chief of police. I don’t like where my career is headed so far, as I seem to be moving down the chain of command. At level 1 I was working for the self-aware super-intelligence of the city. At level 2 I was working for the mayor, and heading into level 3 I’m working for the chief of police. If this trend continues I’ll be the world’s most powerful assistant meter-maid by level 10.
Getting to the chief of police means going through waves of enemy bugs, some ambushing fliers, and a minefield. This sounds bad, but the truth is that under normal, non-alien-invasion circumstances, this section of the city is home to groups of level 28-ish criminals who are so bloodthirsty they will attack groups of superheroes. On sight. But right now it’s just overrun with simple level 1 and 2 bugmen. Despite the wreckage, this is actually the safest this part of the city has ever been.
Right. We’re off to see the chief of police.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.