Prey 2017 Part 5: Getting Around the Cosmos

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Aug 4, 2021

Filed under: Retrospectives 160 comments

After the tutorial, Prey settles into a pattern that’s going to repeat for most of the rest of the game. You need to get thing A, but to obtain that thing you need to go through obstacles B, C, D and E, and each of those obstacles has sub-obstacles and optional branching diversions to explore. 

It’s Filler Time!

In this alternate timeline, the world never kicked its smoking habit. So there are ashtrays everywhere. Imagine all the additional headaches that causes for running a space station.
In this alternate timeline, the world never kicked its smoking habit. So there are ashtrays everywhere. Imagine all the additional headaches that causes for running a space station.

Here is the general flow of the first section of the game. Between each item on this list, assume that you’ll need to sneak around, fight some monsters, hack open a door, loot a room, apply some healing, and play peek-a-boo with a mimic before moving on to the next step.

  1. Escape your fake apartment.
  2. Escape the simulator, work your way through the Neuromod Wing, and reach the central hub of the space station.
  3. Explore the truly MASSIVE lobby area, and work your way to the top floor to reach your office.
  4. January has a message for you, from you. It’s a Looking Glass recording of your past self, explaining the plan to-
  5. Oops. The message gets cut off. Alex doesn’t want you hearing whatever this is, so he shuts down the servers that run the Looking Glass system.
  6. Cross the lobby and make your way to the Hardware Labs. 
  7. Explore the labs, gain access to the second floor, then back down to reach the server.
  8. The door to the server room is locked. A guy named Calvino has the key. Reach the security station and search for him.
  9. Make your way to Calvino’s location. Oops! His room got blown open and is now exposed to space. The door is sealed and his body is floating in a hard vacuum.
  10. Make your way to the airlock.
  11. Obtain a blueprint for a jetpack for navigating in zero-G.
  12. Reach a fabricator and have it build the jetpack. Equip it.
  13. Go through the airlock. Spacewalk over to Calvino’s location. Get his key.
  14. Get back inside, reach the server room, and power it up. 
  15. Now leave the Hardware Labs and head back to the Lobby. Note that the Lobby has been re-populated with Typhon.
  16. Reach your office and play the message.

ME? Aw man. Why can't YOU do it?
ME? Aw man. Why can't YOU do it?

The message explains the plan and rationale for blowing up the station. Congratulations. You have now begun the Main Quest™. 

In most games, some peasant would simply give you your goal the moment you escaped the tutorial, but here in Prey you need to go through several hours of hardship just to begin your journey. Also note that the next chapter is called “Detour”, so it’s a safe guess your journey isn’t about to get any more direct.

It’s fine. I mean, assuming you enjoy the core gameplay loop of sneaking around, scrounging for resources, and trying to cheese your way through difficult fights, then this endlessly winding road is probably what you’re here for. But if the gameplay isn’t really your thing and you just want to know what happens next, then the whole game is going to be a torment of nested distractions, like the search for Dandelion in Witcher 3.

Calvino is floating outside the station. Like a total loser.
Calvino is floating outside the station. Like a total loser.

I’m not going to cover the endless digressions and door-opening quests here in this write-up. This is a retrospective, not a walkthrough, and I don’t have much to say about this endless series of broken doors, fallen bridges, missing staircases, infested vents, restricted airlocks, sealed containers, locked computers, and depressurized rooms.

Morgan’s recording gives us the quest to obtain an arming key to blow up the station. (There’s also an alternate quest from December to simply escape Talos-1. That leads to an abrupt mid-game ending, so let’s ignore it for now and focus on January’s task.) We spend a huge chunk of the game just trying to get this arming key. 

For now let’s skip over the next hour or so of fights and locked doors, and jump to the part where we enter…

Psychotronics

Players will quickly learn that dead bodies have the best stuff, and will prioritize their looting accordingly. Which means that a smart developer can use them to draw the player's eye. If you want the player to look in this big hole in the floor, then put a body on the edge of it.
Players will quickly learn that dead bodies have the best stuff, and will prioritize their looting accordingly. Which means that a smart developer can use them to draw the player's eye. If you want the player to look in this big hole in the floor, then put a body on the edge of it.

This is the super-classified wing of the station where people study the Typhon. This is where the player learns about the aliens and what they can do.

I love the Typhon. They feel unsettling and genuinely alien. It’s common for games to make our alien foes into gun-toting bipedal mooks. Andromeda did it with the Kett. Crysis 2 did it with the Ceph. Resistance did it with the Chimera. Halo did it with whatever you shoot in Halo games when you’re not shooting the Flood. The designer of Mass Effect 3 couldn’t figure out how to turn the Reapers into an army of space marines, so they had us fight Cerberus for most of the game. 

I’m not saying it’s wrong to trade gunfire with aliens in our games about fighting aliens, I’m just saying I like that Prey is doing something different.

This isn’t an army of space-orks led by a howling despot. The Typhon are incredibly dangerous, but they’re not evil. At least, they’re not any more evil than a spider or a hawk. Yes, they kill without remorse or hesitation as a means of survival, but they’re also just a species doing what they do. They don’t have leaders, morality, or politics. As Alex says, “They don’t attack us because they’re evil. They do so because they’re incapable of doing otherwise.”

In some ways, I think the Typhon do a better job of capturing the feel of “Cosmic Horror” than Mass Effect did with the Reapers. No, the designer isn’t really aiming for H. P. Lovecraft here, but they do manage to nail a lot of the attributes that make Cthulhu-style stories so appealing. They really are otherworldly spooks, and they pose an existential threat to humanity. 

You Can’t Get There From Here

Ugh. I have a ton of footage that looks like this: Oily black monsters in a dark room with screen shake and motion blur. It's fine when you're viewing this in motion on a large monitor in a dark room, but it makes for lousy screenshots.
Ugh. I have a ton of footage that looks like this: Oily black monsters in a dark room with screen shake and motion blur. It's fine when you're viewing this in motion on a large monitor in a dark room, but it makes for lousy screenshots.

The storyteller presents us with a couple of interesting facts about the Typhon:

  1. The Typhon are incredibly invasive. If they can get their tentacles on a human mind, they can devour that mind and make a lot more Typhon. The process takes well under a minute. The assumption seems to be that if just one of them ever reached the surface of the Earth, total planetary conquest would be inevitable and rapid. Like, it would be over on the scale of hours or days. This isn’t like the Reapers walking around Earth, swatting people dead one at a time. This is like a wave of darkness moving across the surface.
  2. The Typhon seemed to just drift into Earth orbit like spores and grabbed onto our earliest orbital vehicles. That was either an astounding coincidence, or it was inevitable. 

What are the odds that an alien drifting through the cosmos just happened to bump into the first thing we put into space? If these things are rare, then we just won the cosmic lottery in the worst possible way. However, it’s also possible that there are a lot of these things drifting around in space. Maybe every life-bearing planet has a handful of these wiggling black monsters doing laps around it?

We’re not totally sure how they get around. Here in Psychotronics, we find some hand-wavy stuff about how they can shift to another dimension and back again to skip the eons it would take to travel between the stars at sub-light speeds. That sort of explains how they would survive the journey, but from the description it sounds like the trip would actually take eons for an outside observer and the dimension-shifting is just a way for the traveler to skip the long wait. But then later in the story it becomes clear that they can actually travel instantaneously. So I don’t know. It’s possible we’re interrogating bits of the setting that the designer wants us to ignore. 

Okay We’re Here. But How Do We LAND?

Given all the hours of footage I have, I can't believe how hard it is to find a clear picture of a Typhon. Anyway, here are a couple of mimics that have been set on fire.
Given all the hours of footage I have, I can't believe how hard it is to find a clear picture of a Typhon. Anyway, here are a couple of mimics that have been set on fire.

In any case, we can theorize that somewhere in the Great Void Beyond, there’s something making all these little space-worms. It then flings them across the cosmos. Either it aims them towards gravitational bodies, or their trajectories naturally bend that way due to [insert space magic faster-than-light mumbo-jumbo here]. In any case, you end up with space worms orbiting around habitable planets, waiting for something intelligent to show up that they can nom on.

However, we need to apply a quick lore patch if we’re going to swallow this premise. It strains credulity that there would be enough Typhon babies in orbit that our very first ship runs into them, and yet none of the Typhon wound up on the surface. It would be absurd to imagine that they all just happened to nail the razor-thin (on cosmic scales) trajectory needed to orbit the Earth, yet somehow none of them wound up falling into that great big (on local scales) gravity well. That’s like doing a few hundred free-throws in basketball, and by random chance they all land on the rim and balance there, and none of them go all the way in.

To fix this, we need to assume that while the Typhon can cross interstellar distances using unexplained science tomfoolery, they can’t survive the trip through the atmosphere. Or at least, not our atmosphere. You don’t have to accept this if you don’t want to. This is all very much fanfiction-y extra-textual wanking. But I’m going to assume this to be the case for the rest of my analysis. This topic will come up again later in this series, and I want to deal with it now while things are simple and I’m not busy juggling character, thematic, and narrative concerns. As far as this series goes, the Typhon can cross the cosmos but they can’t casually cross that last tiny little bit of distance to reach the surface of a planet. 

As we’ll discover once we get some good weapons, the little bastards are indeed vulnerable to regular old fire, so it makes sense that atmospheric interface would thoroughly unmake them.

This does make procreation a huge pain in the ass for the Typhon. Actually, I don’t know if they have asses. But whatever part of their bizarre physiology is considered the least respected, that part is going to experience metaphorical pain as they work to overcome this problem. 

But Shamus, what if some planets have a thinner atmosphere? Wouldn’t that make it easier for the Typhon to land?

You’re thinking about it backwards. Whether you’re a Typhon space-spider or Neil Armstrong, the problem you need to solve is that you’re moving SUPER DUPER fast relative to the ground. If you’re orbiting Earth, then you are moving at least thirty kilometers every second relative to the ground. And to be fair, you could be moving a lot faster than that. You need to get rid of that speed, one way or another.

Slamming into the atmosphere is actually the nice way of slowing down. If the atmosphere is thinner, then yes, you won’t burn up on the way in. Instead you’ll lose all that speed at the last moment when you hit the ground. Atmospheric friction burns like the dickens, but it’s nothing compared to the sting of kissing the ground at 30km a second. (For comparison, your average bullet travels at something like 0.7km a second.) 

The point is that the Typhon just crossed the impossible vastness of space, and now they find themselves floating just a couple thousand kilometers above the surface of a planet with no way to reach the ground without getting vaporized. Which means they can only prey on a species that’s advanced enough to get into orbit themselves. The Typhon need to ambush a local spacecraft and then hide in some darkened corner until the thing de-orbits and carries them safely through the atmosphere.

Research

The psychoscope is really cool. I love how it looks (appropriately) like a cobbled-together prototype and not a polished final product.
The psychoscope is really cool. I love how it looks (appropriately) like a cobbled-together prototype and not a polished final product.

In 1999, System Shock 2 introduced the idea of doing “research” during the course of the game. You’d pick up some exotic gear or some monster parts. Then you’d need to gather up two different chemicals from the various chemistry closets spread out all over the station.Inevitably, you’d need to visit two different decks to get both chemicals. The game designer must have spent a lot of time making sure the various closets had everything except the thing you needed. Then you’d be able to kick off a research project for the supercomputer in your noggin to work on. Some minutes later the project would complete. You’d have access to a new weapon or a bit of combat intel, along with some cool flavor text.

It was a tremendously fun little side-activity and my only complaint was that there weren’t more research projects to do.

BioShock brought the idea back, only this time you were taking pictures of stuff with a magical science camera. Still, it gave the same basic rewards: Combat advantages and flavor text. 

Psychotronics is where we pick up our psychoscope, which is this game’s version of BioShock’s camera. If you’re lucky, you can scan your foes in secret before you get into a tussle with them. If you’re not lucky, you’ll end up trying to scan them while they try to gnaw your face off. (Not recommended.)

This is yet another thing I love about these games set in haunted space stations. I love mechanics that highlight the player’s role as a scientist / engineer. I appreciate that I’m not playing as omni-badass ex-Navy SEAL #573. I’ve played a lot of those guys over the years, and I usually spend some part of the game stepping over the corpses of hapless scientists that all died six seconds into the disaster. After this happens enough times I can’t help but look down at all of those labcoat-wearing cadavers and think, “Come on guys. You can do better than this! Don’t you live here? Aren’t we in your element? Aren’t you supposed to be a lot smarter than the heavily-armed dunce I’m playing right now?”

So I love it when I get to embody a hero from Team Nerd who relies more on knowledge and planning and less on muscle and one-liners.

Gordon Freeman is an interesting edge case. He’s arguably the original scientist hero of the first-person genre, but he didn’t really use his science knowledge all that often. His status as a supernerd wasn’t really supported by any of the gameplay systems.Which, fine. It’s a shooter. To fix this you’d probably have to make a lateral move into a neighboring genre. In fact, it was something of a running joke how little need there was for his alleged science skills. (And no, solving all those see-saw puzzles does not count as “using his degree in physics”. You smartass.) I’ll always love ol’ Gordo for breaking the mold with regards to FPS protagonists, even if he was pretty similar to his more military-oriented counterparts in terms of gameplay mechanics. 

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] Inevitably, you’d need to visit two different decks to get both chemicals. The game designer must have spent a lot of time making sure the various closets had everything except the thing you needed.

[2] Which, fine. It’s a shooter. To fix this you’d probably have to make a lateral move into a neighboring genre.



From The Archives:
 

160 thoughts on “Prey 2017 Part 5: Getting Around the Cosmos

  1. MerryWeathers says:

    In some ways, I think the Typhon do a better job of capturing the feel of “Cosmic Horror” than Mass Effect did with the Reapers. No, the designer isn’t really aiming for H. P. Lovecraft here, but they do manage to nail a lot of the attributes that make Cthulhu-style stories so appealing. They really are otherworldly spooks, and they pose an existential threat to humanity.

    If we’re directly comparing the Reapers to other aliens that have an element of cosmic horror to them in video games then the Brethren Moons from Dead Space beat them in that regard.
    I actually think the Dead Space trilogy did a surprisingly and significantly better job in expanding and revealing more about the Necromorphs, unlike the Reapers and whatever their deal was with the Leviathans was about.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      unlike the Reapers and whatever their deal was with the Leviathans was about

      Well, Mass Effect’s storytelling had fallen apart long before the Leviathan DLC…the Reapers had gone from unknowable god-machines to stupid bullies already. While I haven’t played a Dead Space game, you’ve kind of set a low bar there.

      Still, the Leviathan DLC did manage to answer some crucial question about the origins of the Mass Effect games’ main antagonists, which is naturally why it was taken out of the base game and sold seperately…

      1. Duoae says:

        Mass Effect lost me when it placed a vital plot element in DLC for the second game for the third game to make sense…. I never played that DLC I couldn’t understand the beginning of ME3, I couldn’t argue that I didn’t deserve the “punishment” I got in being unable to affect the entry of the Reapers in the Milky Way.

        Really, despite ME2’s excellent character studies and side quests, ME2 and ME3 are pretty much trash games in terms of linear story.

        1. ElementalAlchemist says:

          I couldn’t understand the beginning of ME3

          Because they scrapped the original opening that explained it all, had you on trial, etc. because (relatively speaking) nobody bought/played the DLC.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            Well from here on everybody and their dog will be playing the Legendary Edition so at least all that stuff will be coming in bundled with the base games. On the other hand Arrival is particularly bad, to the point where I’d argue while it might patch a hole between ME2 and 3 its quality might actively lower the value of the bundle.

            As a side note I take particular offense with EA not providing a discount for people who own all the games already.

            1. ElementalAlchemist says:

              The entire point of the legendary edition was a cash-grab. They weren’t going to needlessly diminish their take when they knew most people would stamp their feet and then pay full price anyway.

            2. Thomas says:

              Arrival is such a big action to force on your Shepherd, and there’s barely any dialogue options to at least express unhappiness.

  2. Thomas says:

    Kett, Ceph, Chimera and Halo’s Covenant. Perhaps we should have been pronouncing Cerberus the Greek way?

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Curberous? Lends itself to puns!

      1. Fluffy boy says:

        Curb you Kai Lengthusiasm!

    2. Mr. Wolf says:

      You’re telling me Ceph isn’t short for cephalopod?

      1. Syal says:

        Which is itself short for Cephalopodes, ancient god of weird water bugs and crap.

    3. Viktor Berg says:

      That would bring flashbacks of Cardcaptor Sakura and Kero-chan…

  3. Lasius says:

    The assumption seems to be that if just one of them ever reached the surface of the Earth, total planetary conquest would be inevitable and rapid. Like, it would be over on the scale of hours or days.

    To cover the entire earth from a single introduced typhon within a single week the black wave of doom woud have to travel at roughly 120 km/h across oceans and mountain rainges without ever stopping. Is that realistic given their behaviour in the game?

    1. Shamus says:

      It’s tough to say. Based strictly on what we’re shown in the game, no way. But if I’m allowed to extrapolate a bit, I strongly get the impression that the Typhon are incredibly adaptive. The monsters we see in the game aren’t just stock types the Typhon use everywhere, they’re specifically designed to operate in the given environment of Talos-1. (For example, imagine the Typhon happened upon some dog-sized species of rodent-style tunnel-dwellers. Their space stations would basically be a habitrail of half-meter tubes. The Weavers, Technopaths, and Telepaths we see in the game would be amazingly useless in that environment, since they wouldn’t be able to get around. So it’s reasonable to think that in a different environment, the Typhon would produce different variants with different properties.

      If this is the case, then we can’t really use their behavior on Talos-1 to judge how they might behave on Earth. Once they reached the surface, they would adapt new types suited to spreading in that environment. Maybe they would pump out clouds of mould-like spores, or winged creatures to get over mountains. Maybe they would form aquatic types to cross oceans. Maybe they would quietly stow away on ships and airliners to cross distances.

      Or maybe they would just ooze their way into the entire food chain, infecting everything. Then we’d have to choose: Starve, or eat Typhon cells. (That would then devour you from within.)

      I don’t know. Still, 120km/h does seem like a big ask. I think “one or two months” is a more reasonable projection.

      1. Smosh says:

        It’s not going to be a wave. Planes carrying around the tiny monsters will cover every major city within 24 hours, from where they then spread with exponential growth. If recent events are anything to go by, the crazy people who will look at videos of people getting eaten by Typhon will claim it’s all a hoax, and humanity will be completely doomed within hours, as nobody will shut down travel fast enough to stop it.

        Typhoon would be like a pandemic, except the safe “social distance” would be a few kilometers, give or take, so completely impossible for us to keep up with.

        Basically COVID, except with lethality and infection rates of 100%, resulting in the equivalent of a zombie apocalypse scenario, except the zombies are Typhon.

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          It’s a metaphor, cell phones are mostly black. The Typhon have already eaten our consciousness. You’re reading this on a phone right?

      2. Lasius says:

        This whole scenario reminds me of the novel Far Rainbow by the ever great Strugatskys.

      3. Chad+Miller says:

        The monsters we see in the game aren’t just stock types the Typhon use everywhere, they’re specifically designed to operate in the given environment of Talos-1.

        Technopaths and Voltaic Phantoms in particular seem specifically designed to combat the space station itself, given how handily both combat or even subvert all of the station security measures (in Psychotronics one newly-spawned Voltaic Phantom just casually walks out of containment)

        The research notes on Phantoms actually subtly support this conclusion; the notes on Phantoms other than the “base” model outright state that it takes more resources to spawn the more advanced forms and the scientists are somewhat bemused at the fact that Weavers bother to make them at all. Except the Voltaic Phantom which has no real notes at all, indicating that they showed up near the end and the outbreak interrupted any further research. It doesn’t outright say that Weavers were trying different things until they found something that could break free, but this is how we’d expect that kind of behavior would turn out.

      4. Jake says:

        To be fair, there are in game instances where a mimic was hiding as an item and it was used in a way a real version survives and the mimic doesn’t. The one mimicing a large fuse comes to mind.

        I’m all on board with them not being able to survive (re?) entry.

        Also, Pun intended.

      5. Jabrwock says:

        “But if I’m allowed to extrapolate a bit, I strongly get the impression that the Typhon are incredibly adaptive.”

        Incredibly adaptive, but it does appear to take time. It’s been how long since Talos was built, and the Weavers only JUST got around to a form that can break out of containment?

        While the existential threat is still there, it seems more like a creeping threat rather than a “one gets in and we’re all dead the day after” kind of scenario.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      When the Typhon get to earth, they’ll adapt into the form Typhon Anthrophantasmus Speedigonzalus, a special sprinting Phantom.

      But yeah, I think Shamus might have overstated how fast they would spread. Doesn’t diminish the threat, though: once they landed, they would be pretty much impossible to stop or root out.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        On the other hand, even leaving aside the adaptability that Shamus explores, Talos alone provided them with enough “consciousness material” to call Apex and in reality we have no idea if that’s the end of their life cycle. Not to mention that, in all fairness, not only is our knowledge of the Typhon incomplete, what we see in the game may be to some unknown extent inaccurate in light of the ending.

    3. Duoae says:

      This really isn’t very accurate for any sort of analysis. If a zombie plague can wrap around the world in a matter of days or weeks (due to delayed infections, etc) then there’s no reason to believe that the “black wave of doom” would be linear in expansion or position (i.e. multiple entry points a day or less after “infection 0” would multiply the spread of typhon).

      The events of the game appear to occur across a few days and yet there are relatively few humans onboard Talos I, with most segregated and separated by physical interlocks which are, coincidentally, designed to withstand the rigors of space travel. Most of Earth does not have this sort of barrier, nor does it have any sort of way to contain something that spreads like a power virus that doesn’t appear to actually die without sustenance…

  4. Parkhorse says:

    Gordon Freeman is an interesting edge case. He’s arguably the original scientist hero of the first-person genre, but he didn’t really use his science knowledge all that often. His status as a supernerd wasn’t really supported by any of the gameplay systems.

    Whenever this comes up, I’m reminded of Freeman’s Mind. Just in general, really. And… apparently there was a new episode this April, and a couple last year! Time to go rewatch the entire series.

  5. Daimbert says:

    Whenever I see that title image, it always makes me think how interesting it would have been if they had given the main character a name beginning with “F” …

    1. Parkhorse says:

      Way back when, I worked backroom at a major retailer. Our metrics were printed not with our full names (the store *hated* anyone using last names for some reason), but with the first two letters of our last name, comma, our first name. So John Smith would be SM, JOHN. Well, we had someone whose last name was Fuller. It never stopped being funny to see “FU, JOHN” on every report.

    2. Henson says:

      Well, as it is, the nametag could be pronounced ‘Myu’, which is how the greek letter ? is pronounced, which is a symbol used in physics equations in several different contexts. Coincidence? Or meaningless reference?

      1. Henson says:

        Eck. Of course, Greek letters don’t show up on this website. Not ‘?’, but ‘mu’.

  6. eldomtom2 says:

    Bioshock actually doesn’t give you flavour text for research, unless you count the flavour text for the tonics you unlock through it.

  7. Joshua says:

    Actually, I was thinking of Half-Life when Shamus was talking about directness of the main quest, and how it zig-zags this idea.

    Half-Life 1: Mission to get to Lambda complex (which then sends you to Zen). You don’t get this objective until about halfway through the game I think? Before that, it’s more like figuring out how to get out of this nightmare.

    Half-Life 2: Mission to get into the Citadel (and do stuff) is given like one chapter or so before going into the Citadel, IIRC? Before that, every chapter is essentially giving you a new quest.

    Episode 1: Get out of the city before the Citadel explodes. Given to you right off the bat.

    Episode 2: Make your way to White Forest. Pretty much given to you right off the bat.

    1. Chris says:

      There are a few more steps
      1) survival and getting away from site zero.
      2) the military being dispatched so your next mission is getting to the surface.
      3) run away and hear about the rocket that would block the portal you opened.
      4) they tell you someone at the other side is holding the portal open so you need to go to the lambda lab to ask them for help.

  8. Philadelphus says:

    Whether you’re a Typhon space-spider or Neil Armstrong, the problem you need to solve is that you’re moving SUPER DUPER fast relative to the ground. If you’re orbiting Earth, then you are moving at least thirty kilometers every second relative to the ground. And to be fair, you could be moving a lot faster than that.

    We can actually put a lower limit on how fast something falling under the influence of gravity alone could approach Earth, and it’s Earth’s escape velocity: 11.186 km/s (or 40,270 km/h or 25,020 mph). This is the bare minimum possible speed something falling in to Earth from rest at infinity under nothing but the influence of gravity can have. Now that’s a bit slower than orbital velocity, but it’s still pretty honkin’ fast by human standards. And while there’s debate about whether hypothetical microbes hitching a ride on a meteor might be able to survive the shock of the extreme deceleration at the end, it’s hardly a big stretch to say that the Typhon (an obviously more “advanced”, and thus fragile form of life) simply can’t make it to the surface, either smacking into the ground or water at lethal speeds or burning up in the atmosphere like Vermicious Knids. This doesn’t answer the question of where the Typhon come from, why they’re in Earth’s orbit, or need to wait around for intelligent life to be able to reproduce, but it does explain why they haven’t killed everyone on Earth off already.

    I’ve been turning over an idea in my head for a while now for a short story about (somewhat more friendly) life being abundant out in space, but unwilling to approach planets too closely for this exact reason (hence why we wouldn’t have discovered it yet).

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      I feel like, if anything, the basic premise of “consciousness is a fundamental particle field” wasn’t sufficiently explored or fleshed out. There are so many things you could do with this. Here are just a few off the top of my head:
      * Go unconscious and the Typhon can’t find you. (maybe this is already a mechanic in the game?)
      * Gun that fires anti-unconscious bullets. Lethal to humans and Typhon, but no effect on robots.
      * Planets have low-level consciousness which extends into space along the magnetic field lines. This is how the Typhon survive in orbit. Typhon parasitism irritates planets. Humans are the Earths immune response.

      1. Coming Second says:

        Earth generating humans as an immune response to typhon is like giving yourself liver cancer to combat your AIDS.

        1. Alecw says:

          More like a fever. Don’t think like a college sophomore. We aren’t important, geologically or cosmically.
          Were we to 10x the co2 and explode every nuke ever made, it would be a holiday in the Maldives compared to events like the KT impactor or or the Siberian Traps super volcano, events which the biosphere, let alone the planet, recovered from just fine in a few million years.
          We’ve been here for a few seconds of the earths relative life and there is no reason to think we’ll last days. An immune response is fantastic concept.

      2. Chad+Miller says:

        * Gun that fires anti-unconscious bullets. Lethal to humans and Typhon, but no effect on robots.

        There’s something close to this in the Nullwave tech (in-game you can get grenades that use it which temporarily disable psychic abilities and can knock possessed humans unconscious, while also being the basis of a superweapon you can use in one of the endings)

      3. Philadelphus says:

        I want to read a sci-fi story where humans are the planetary equivalent of macrophages and T-cells now.

        1. Geebs says:

          I’d like a planet where fewer of the humans were the equivalent of mast cells :(

        2. Pink says:

          That is similar to the premise of the Secret World mmo, though in that case it is a small subset of humans.

      4. Smith says:

        * Gun that fires anti-unconscious bullets. Lethal to humans and Typhon, but no effect on robots.

        That’s called ‘coffee’.

        1. Jabrwock says:

          Imagine a Typhon exposed to Discworld’s Klatchian Coffee…

      5. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I don’t think that’s something that the game was interested in exploring and I don’t think that it needed to, it’s more of a handwave on how they Typhon work and something that makes them creepier.. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an interesting concept and if ever there was a sequel it should definitely dig into that but at this point even in universe it’s at this point little more than a theory with maybe some bruteforce applications.

  9. Trevor says:

    The game does a great job keeping the Typhon mysterious. It resists explaining things outright and instead has you learn about them by reading incomplete email threads from one scientist to another and piecing together things from experiment results written on whiteboards. Because these are subjective messages written by characters themselves trying to figure things out, any one of them could be right, wrong, or completely contradicted by the next scene. You’re constantly learning more about the Typhon, so it doesn’t ever feel like Morgan stops caring about them (like Shepard sometimes seems like he forgets about the Reapers) but you also never feel like you’ve gotten the whole story.

    The writer also throws in some scenes where the Typhon break containment specifically designed for them. This establishes the scientists have thought of contingency plans and are trying their best to control the situation, but even in those situations things break and failsafes fail and Typhon get loose. This made me a lot more willing to accept that when I go back to the Lobby there are a new set of baddies for no reason when I had previously cleared the room or that the Typhon act in surprising ways I hadn’t expected.

    1. Zekiel says:

      I also love how the games keep the mystery of the typhon. There’s a neat bit you can find somewhere of scientists hypothesising about how mimics actually work. IIRC they come up with 3 hypotheses, one of which is something to do with an alternate dimension (!)

      1. Retry says:

        I think that they don’t transform into the object they hide as, so much as dip into a pocket dimension, leaving a perfect replica of the object in their place. I like it a lot but the notes from the tech who accidentally plugged a mimic into a circuit might rule it out. Unless it just chose a bad time to poke it’s head out

  10. BlueHorus says:

    I always assumed that the Typhon were actively sought out by space explorers. Given that the game takes place in the 2030s, it seemed a reasonable assumption that they’d been noticed and sought out by astronauts some time after humanity had acheived space flight.

    Was it said that they were encountered by the FIRST astronauts / kosmonauts to venture into space?

    1. Trevor says:

      The Russians lose contact with their first satellite that orbits the Moon (so, presumably not their first satellite overall) and so then they send up a manned mission to figure out what broke on the satellite and fix it. Those cosmonauts get eaten by Typhon.

      I headcanoned that the Typhon are like wildlife but that are attracted to electrical energy and consciousness rather than food. The Russians sending up the satellite is like leaving a half-eaten candy bar in the woods. There aren’t many bears in the woods, but the scent of food attracts them so one wanders over to get a free snack. Then humans show up and they have even more food, and then build a campsite full of snacks. More bears are attracted by the activity. Them not being able to pierce the atmosphere is equivalent to the bears not being able to figure out how to get into the metal camper. They would really like to because holy crap is there some food in there, but they haven’t quite figured out how to do it.

    2. Chad+Miller says:

      Tangential, but it’s specifically cosmonauts. The earliest incidents were all on soviet expeditions, and Talos I itself is a modified Soviet station (you can’t see it in this update, but Psychotronics is one of the few sections they didn’t fully remodel; you can still see Cyrillic labeling on the walls from when it was the Kletka)

      1. Zekiel says:

        Obligatory What Do They Eat: is there any indication what typhon consume, and how mimics could survive in the Kletka for years without sustenance?

        Or were scientists just feeding them while studying them?

        1. Richard says:

          There’s a reasonable amount of evidence given/implied that they don’t need to eat to survive, only to grow and reproduce.
          Presumably they can hibernate for thousands of years, only waking up and becoming active when a tasty snack turns up nearby

          1. Zekiel says:

            Makes sense.

            I mean, it doesn’t make ACTUAL sense, but that makes sense of what we see in the game.

  11. Lino says:

    Another entry in the retrospective, and not a single Yu pun for ANY of the sub-headings! My disappointment is immeasurable, and my day is ruined!

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Yu’ll get over it, I’m sure

      1. Lino says:

        Thanks, BlueHorus. If all else fails, I know I’ll always have a friend in Yu.

  12. beleester says:

    I’ve always wanted to make a game where instead of the hapless survivor getting sent through a million detours to get to the other side of a locked door, you play the guy on the radio, looking at a map of the space station and trying to minimize the number of detours as you guide the survivor from Point A to Point B. So you’d look at the map and be like “Oh this is easy, I can just send him through this door… wait, no, he can’t go through the door without a security keycard… the keycard is in a depressurized sector and I’d need to get him a space suit first… maybe I can skip all that if I send him through the air vents instead?”

    Then you’d hand your plan to the survivor, watch him leave a trail of chaos across the station, update the plan, and repeat.

    1. kincajou says:

      I would play the hell out of that!

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Isn’t that basically the same game, but played from an overhead view? Or is part of it that you have incomplete information, and have to add to your map after you watch the person walk through each room, locked door, etc?

      1. beleester says:

        The difference would be that you have multiple ways to complete each objective, and you need to figure out which one is the best. E.g., to get through a door you could either find the keycard, or hack the security console in another room, or blast it open with a bomb if you have the materials, or bypass it with a spacewalk, and which one is best might depend on where the survivor is, what equipment they have, where the aliens are roaming, and so on.

        As I imagine it, you’d have very good information on most details (where the main objective is, where all the keycards are, which doors are unlocked, which areas have hull breaches, etc), so that you can see lots of options, but with a couple of monkey wrenches thrown in so that you can’t plan out the whole operation start to finish. Like, maybe you can’t see certain areas until the survivor hacks a console, or maybe the aliens move around and put your survivor in danger, or maybe they find audio logs with new information you can use.

        I’d want to minimize the survivor calling you back and being like “the bridge is broken, I need a new plan” because like you said, that’s just playing the same game from the top down perspective, but you could probably get away with a few of those at dramatic moments.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          That still seems like the same game, but with random item locations, hacks, etc…which is Mooncrash.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            Not really, this sounds much more tactical. In fact I can see it going two ways, either straight up tactics where you have strong or perfect control over the survivor, or a bit more loose with more randomized elements and maybe some twists. Like for example the survivor(s) may have different skillsets letting them bypass different obstacles, or they may have personality traits like “greedy” where they’d stop to loot things despite the risk, or “fearful” where they’d try to cover or run if there was an alien in the room beside their path making scary alien noises…

            1. Syal says:

              they may have personality traits like “greedy” or “fearful”

              Oh god, I’m getting Darkest Dungeon flashbacks.

    3. Mr. Wolf says:

      Wasn’t that he idea behind the Alien: Isolation sequel that nobody knows about?

    4. Syal says:

      Sounds good. Makes me think of Lifeline, but y’know, better.

      (Reminds me of my attempt at fixing Lifeline; you’re the radio guy talking to a soldier, faced with an enemy immune to all known weaponry. You’ve seen it, the soldier hasn’t, and doesn’t really believe you. So you’ve got to figure out a way around them quickly, or the soldier will default to trying to shoot them and get killed.)

    5. bobbert says:

      Isn’t that Lemmings?

    6. lethal_guitar says:

      https://store.steampowered.com/app/503100/Black_Hat_Cooperative/ goes in that direction – one person is in the game world, the other sees a top-down map. Both need to work together

      1. Richard says:

        No online co-op?
        Rather foolish, given *waves at last 18 months or so*.

        Shame, will wait until that’s supported.

    7. Geebs says:

      There was a game called Interphase on the Amiga / Atari ST which was basically this. I only ever played the demo, so I’m not sure if it was actually any good. It was heavily influenced by the sequence in Neuromancer where Molly steals the Flatline’s construct, not that I knew that at the time.

      1. Addie says:

        I used to love Interphase – more games need unicycling frogs as the basic enemy type. The first few levels are great fun; it reaches a stage where the limitations of early 3D make it unfairly difficult – slowing down so much that the shots the enemies fire at you are barely visible, and thus not reasonable to avoid. A modern remake that really leans into the “Descent on LSD” aspect – where the facility that your partner is trying to navigate *is also* represented as an abstract, surreal environment where you have to disable the security and unlock the doors for them – would be awesome.

  13. LBW995 says:

    For me the Typhon kind of miss that narrative hook to keep me invested in the story. Endless ‘go do A, but to do A you must also do B’ type of quests can only keep me invested for so long without a strong narrative hook.

    Compare the Typhon to System Shock’s 2 The Many. They speak to you directly. Their struggle against you is made personal by you aiding their mother and antithesis, SHODAN. They even tempt you throughout the game, by offering to ‘put you seperate from the joy of the mass’ and show how even though SHODAN wounds Xerxes, they will not allow him to be destroyed, and ask if SHODAN would do the same for you.

    And despite their whole idea of consciousness being different than ours you can see how it might be appealing to some. (The whole being part of something greater and ‘belonging’.) But also how people are clearly suffering under the Many’s influence (Hybrids shouting KILL MEEE).

    The Many managed to keep me invested far longer than Prey’s Typhon did.

    1. Chad+Miller says:

      Endless ‘go do A, but to do A you must also do B’ type of quests can only keep me invested for so long without a strong narrative hook.

      I mentioned in an earlier post that the intro to this game is great but the spell wears off at some point. We aren’t at the part where that set in for me yet, but there definitely was a moment when I said “oh, this is a filler video game level”. (that moment being finishing Deep Storage and realizing that basically nothing advanced in the back story or the current story)

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Obviously a case of varying mileage, for me there was always enough interesting stuff, often relating to the side characters, to discover or interact with that I liked the exploration. I do remember rushing through some parts later on when I started coming back to certain areas. Also, the Typhon are not a personal antagonist, that role falls more to Alex.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Man, I don’t remember half of those things The Many said. (Tempting you with staying separate and keeping Xerxes alive specifically, sound totally new to me.) I must have ignored them, or been too tired from playing the game late on weekends. Might be the year t re-play this game again! :)

  14. RamblePak64 says:

    It took me somewhere around 4-5 hours to reach step 6.5 of your outline there, and that tells me that I’m probably not going back to this game. It’s such a shame, but I feel like the only other option is to set it to “easy”, and that wouldn’t actually fix my issues. It’d just make enemies less intimidating, though they’d still feel burdensome and bothersome to take out. It would also remove the desire to seek out alternate routes or strategies in avoiding or defeating them, which will then lead me to approach each environment in a more straight-forward manner.

    It’s a darn shame, but I look forward to continuing to read your thoughts on this. I just don’t have the time to devote to a game that I enjoy 50% of but then dislike 50% of. It’s possible that I’ve also just fallen out of love with many entries in this genre, as a recent trip back to the original BioShock left me feeling surprisingly lukewarm to what was once one of my favorite games.

    We’re not totally sure how they get around. Here in Psychotronics, we find some hand-wavy stuff about how they can shift to another dimension and back again to skip the eons it would take to travel between the stars at sub-light speeds. That sort of explains how they would survive the journey, but from the description it sounds like the trip would actually take eons for an outside observer and the dimension-shifting is just a way for the traveler to skip the long wait. But then later in the story it becomes clear that they can actually travel instantaneously. So I don’t know. It’s possible we’re interrogating bits of the setting that the designer wants us to ignore.

    This seems like a strange and unnecessary attempt to try and explain why such a creature is in orbit. I mean, considering how alien it is to us, would it really be so strange if we’re talking some primordial ooze beast from far off across the galaxy that somehow made its way to our orbit over millions upon millions of years? Something from a prehistoric time that itself had been drifting in space for unknown reasons, capable of surviving the cold vacuum but incapable of surviving the heat of atmospheric burn-up?

    I’m no scientist myself and this stuff is way out of my depth, but I feel like that’s the direction I’d take it, personally. Is there a gameplay mechanic they’re trying to explain away here? Do later Typhon enemies teleport or something?

    1. Chad+Miller says:

      Do later Typhon enemies teleport or something?

      Yes. Or to elaborate more fully: The “final boss” is a typhon comparable in size to the station itself that comes in through some kind of wormhole. It’s huge enough that you can’t even try to fight it directly.

    2. Dotec says:

      Not to toss shade at Bioshock, because I do like it well enough to have played through it multiple times. But it is very much considered the ‘diet’ Immersive Sim compared to its ilk. Playing through it again after Prey and System Shock 2 makes me almost wary of comparing it to either of those. Despite whatever superficial traits they share, Bioshock always feels like a weird fit in that bunch due to its moment-to-moment gameplay.

      I guess I’ll go ahead and throw it into the ImSim bucket just for the sake of convenience, but I also think it needs an asterisk. I’m curious if you have experience with other titles in this ‘genre’?

      1. Syal says:

        An Immersive Slim.

        1. Fizban says:

          I already hate the term “rogue-lite” because the vast majority of people don’t care about the distinction, and if you use it and someone doesn’t get it there now has to be an extra step where you check if they’re confused about the “lite” or the “rogue.” Your “Immersive Slim” is an infuriating extension of the concept and I hate it. Well done.

      2. RamblePak64 says:

        Just a bit of time with System Shock 2 long, long after its relevancy. I booted the game up and looked at the mess of a control scheme, where every action needed a dedicated key, and after wandering around for a while I decided “Nope, this ain’t for me”.

        It’s possible I’m a console gamer through-and-through, preferring the exploration of Zelda, select Soulsborne, Metroidvanias, and other such games over the immersive sims, which all seem to have wonderful worlds but lack in combat. I don’t find the lack of an inventory screen in BioShock a problem if the majority of your inventory is junk, for example, nor do I think having inventory automatically makes a game better (and even then, I feel the Resident Evil approach to limited inventory actually succeeds in begging the player to make interesting decisions, though it becomes more and more moot as the games progress and introduce inventory expansion mechanics). Some say BioShock is simplified, others streamlined, but in the end it is the clunky combat and constantly respawning enemies that make it a slog. The environment? The world itself? Navigating it? That’s all great.

        And the same holds true for Prey. I can tell you right now that I love its world, but even this early on I can feel that any empowerment gained from later power-ups are not going to make it all feel less clunky.

        There are some forms of gameplay jank I can tolerate, but jank in a shooter is becoming less and less tolerable as I get older. I suppose you could then digress into how Prey isn’t “a shooter” on a semantics standpoint, but if you point at a thing and pull trigger to attack thing, then those actions ought to feel tactile and satisfying and responsive, and for me, Prey does not, and BioShock no longer does, either.

        But as I said, it could be I’m just more prone to console-style iterations of genres. There aren’t many point-and-click adventures I like, but I’m starting to devour visual novels, which are not really all that different on paper.

  15. Ninety-Three says:

    The Typhon adaptability thing is weird, they’re generally portrayed as having basically animal intelligence, the smartest things they do wouldn’t surprise you from a dog, and they’re usually a lot dumber than that. Except that technopaths can wirelessly hack robots and voltaic phantoms seem specifically engineered to break the station’s containment measures. Both of those imply way more intelligence than we see on display anywhere else and it’s not really clear what’s going on with that. Is Typhon adaptation being guided by some kind of cosmic force that doesn’t think for them directly, or are they just adaptive because it makes for a cool story and shut up stop overthinking it?

    And speaking of adaptation, where do all the bigger Typhon come from? The game lays out a clear ecosystem of sorts where mimics spawn more mimics by eating people, phantoms are raised from corpses by weavers, but where do weavers, technopaths and nightmares come from? Something must spawn them at some point because there’s no way all the ones we see in 2032 were onboard the original 1960 satellite, but I never found an indication of how they’re generated.

    That sort of explains how they would survive the journey, but from the description it sounds like the trip would actually take eons for an outside observer and the dimension-shifting is just a way for the traveler to skip the long wait. But then later in the story it becomes clear that they can actually travel instantaneously. So I don’t know.

    My assumption was that the Typhon are strictly STL until they make the coral, which acts as some kind of warpgate for more of them to arrive. The fact that it summoned more Typhon from the depths of space almost requires that it was sending messages FTL given how long a lightspeed message would take to get anywhere, and once you grant that enabling fast travel doesn’t feel like a stretch.

    1. Tony says:

      Re: weavers, one of the logs shows that when a population of mimics reaches a certain point, one mimic will be stung by all the others and transform into a weaver.

      1. Chad+Miller says:

        Yes, the research notes for the Weavers say this. You can also find the process captured on video in Psychotronics (the same office where you pick up Neuromod fabrication plans)

        I think the implication is that Mimics create Weavers and Weavers create the others. They also spin the Coral which offers some hypotheses on the nature of Typhons’ collective intelligence but I think that’s mostly speculation.

      2. Ninety-Three says:

        I continue to be surprised by the details that are apparently easy to miss despite having made what I thought was a reasonably completionist playthrough of the game. I guess that’s going to happen when you scatter lore around like random collectibles, no one finds it all without serious dedication to sweeping every room.

    2. Fizban says:

      I’d say you’re overthinking it: the Typhon have psychic abilities. Not intelligent, psychic. Lots of conscious this and collective unconscious that and meaning rather than understanding. They don’t “hack” the program in the operating system in the computer language on the circuit boards of the robot. They mind crush the robot and now it’s theirs. A dog with a mind crush ability doesn’t have to be human-intelligent to mind crush things. And plenty of animals can learn from mistakes and failure.

      If the weaver has a stock of different psy abilities it can build and tries all of them in sqeuence until one works, it doesn’t neccesarily mean it’s out-thought its captor- it just tried barking and jumping and digging and eventually the electricity attack broke it out. And then it builds metal mind crush when it finds metal things.

    3. BlueHorus says:

      I always got the impression that the Typhon were like a swarm, or some kind of sophisticated infection, or even an ecosystem* in themselves. They want to grow and increase, nothing more, and everything they do is adapted to that end.
      Need prey? Create mimics that can hide. Are humans fighting back? Create a tougher, larger variant that can fight. Stuck in containment? Create variants that can escape the rooms. M. Yu is injecting neuromods that allow her to act like a Typhon? Create a dedicated hunter organism to track her down.

      All of which is intelligent in a sense, but also profoundly…instinctual. Animal. Even the Coral they made seemed to me to be a form of alien ‘terraforming’ more than anything else. Once there are enough Typhon present they make Weavers, who make coral, which helps make more Typhon…

      A good analogue would be the Tyranids from Warhammer 40,00: not stupid at all; but they’ve got literally one purpose.

      *Which is a word specifically used in-game…

      1. Shamus says:

        Yeah, this is my take on it as well. Like, ants and honeybees can do some amazingly complex things. They can build complex structures, route around obstacles, and adapt to weird conditions. But it’s all instinct and brute-force trial-and-error.

        I see Typhon as being roughly dog-level intelligent creatures, but with colony-style problem-solving skills.

        Would that setup really allow such a creature to manipulate their environment by hacking computers and controlling infrastructure? Eh. It’s a stretch, but I’m willing to go with it.

        1. Gethsemani says:

          I’m going to one up you and say that I think of the Typhon less as individual creatures but more parts of the same creature, in the vein of human cells. No one is going to claim that a single human cell is intelligent, but the sum of all our cells most certainly are and even without consciousness our cells, as a clump of biological matter, is very efficient at their task of creating and sustaining a human organism. The individual Typhon we meet could all be likened to various cells in our body, doing their darndest to replicate and fulfill their biological imperatives, and when they reach a critical mass the consciousness that is the Apex emerges. It isn’t a perfect likeness of course, the Apex seems more summoned then spawned for one, but I find that thinking of them more as integral parts of the whole then as individual animals/creatures/monsters makes more sense.

          The way the Mimics procreate by consumption and division is much more similar to human cell division then to any creatures procreation. As is the morphing of Mimics to Weavers, which is somewhat similar to how organs are formed in utero. The Weavers then start making all those specialized cells, organs and what not that are needed to continue the process of turning a single Typhon cell (Mimic) into the final Typhon gestalt (Apex, presumably).

        2. Awetugiw says:

          I would agree that most of the time the Typhon seem to be at about that level. I’m not sure that dog-like intelligence works very well with the twist ending, though. Clearly typhon are capable of human-like intelligence at least in some cases.

        3. BlueHorus says:

          It’s an interesting question. I’d argue that the demonstrated intelligence of the Typhon is basically that of a dog, but that’s primarily because Prey is a computer game. In a stealth game the human guards you encounter are about as smart as dogs* too…because it’s more fun that way.
          It’s a better game experience for mooks to go back to their patrols after an alert than, say, organise search parties, lock all the doors, call ahead, and any number of other things that a competent guard force capable of communication would do.

          In certain scripted, events, mimics demonstrate a hell of a lot of intelligence (mimicking a gun next to a security guard’s corpse, mimicking raw material inside a fabricator), hinting at genuine intelligence…of a kind.
          It always made more sense to me that it wasn’t a matter of intelligence that held the Typhon back – instead it was the inability to understand that other things could be.

          In fine Twenty Sided tradition, here’s an analogy:
          Imagine like a human being attacked by inanimate objects. Seemingly at random. They can adapt to the methods of attack, sure, recognise patterns, come up with ways to avoid the objects or subdue them…but if the human is incapable of even asking ‘why the hell do these things keep attacking me?’, they’ll be stuck treating the attacks like an inscrutable threat.

          *They even have barks!

          1. Shamus says:

            Allow me to add to this now breathtakingly tall heap of fanfiction / speculation with just a little more:

            I think the Typhon got smarter as the coral grew. It’s supposed to be like a big bunch of neurons, so in addition to the whole “galactic dinner bell” thing, I think it also gives them access to more cognitive power.

          2. Ninety-Three says:

            In certain scripted, events, mimics demonstrate a hell of a lot of intelligence (mimicking a gun next to a security guard’s corpse, mimicking raw material inside a fabricator), hinting at genuine intelligence…of a kind.

            If you’re inclined to view them a particular way then the scripted mimics sometimes demonstrate theory of mind.

            There’s a scripted event when you’re first going to your office where you’re walking up the stairs and a trash can bounces down them (it doesn’t hurt you or anything). You get up to the top of the stairs and find another trash can sitting in the normal trash can spot, which is of course a mimic. The implication is that this mimic understood two trash cans side by side were suspicious so it knocked the original away. If you’re extra generous in your headcanon then this is a non-cheating explanation for all the scripted events where a mimic is placed in the form of an object with no original anywhere in sight: it found a way to throw that item away as it transformed.

            1. Jabrwock says:

              Might not imply intelligence, just that having two together leads to discovery and death/capture, so the survival adaptation is to remove the copy. Sometimes they screw up.

              1. Syal says:

                Sometimes they screw up.

                Now I’m imagining a mimic turning into a trashcan and kicking itself down the stairs.

                1. Jabrwock says:

                  Lol, I meant like they don’t get rid of the duplicate, so you find two of something you normally wouldn’t. Like two dropped pistols next to a guard. Obvious sus.

  16. Clareo Nex says:

    In most games, some peasant would simply give you your goal the moment you escaped the tutorial, but here in Prey you

    I auto-completed this sentence with, “give it to yourself.”
    The takeaway being it was someone who you care about and definitely cares for you in turn. It’s a bit sad that games have to go this selfish before I believe in the benevolence of the quest-giver, though. Though partly this is because I want levels and loot and quest-givers never seem to acknowledge that I don’t care for their petty grievances which they could fix themselves more easily than I can. “Pretend to be excited about this.” No? Hey, game, how about you pretend to be excited to let me better my character? “Hey, the best stuff is over there.” Thanks man, uh I mean thanks collection of binary.

    The enemies are already enemies. Maybe don’t make the quest-givers also, fundamentally, my opponents. At least, not if I can’t complete their quests via unplanned organ donation. (The better Ultima NPCs drop their quest items on death, as if their inventory is real and not a gameplay abstraction that can only be touched through other gameplay abstractions.)

    I still want a game that follows the Dragon Quest 1 model of using character strength to gate advancement.* Rather than wanting loot for vague psychological reasons, the player will want loot so they can defeat the thing blocking them from getting farther. The enemies are actual obstacles. That is, instead of hassles/digressions that happen to be in the way of the obstacles you need to overcome, which are themselves trivial tasks aside from the player time spent walking there.

    Fun fact: you can make a clean one-variable difficulty meter using this kind of dynamic. “How much exploration do I need to do to advance?” Put a slider from like 20%-100%, and scale the loot accordingly. On 100% the grenade launcher is split into two parts hidden behind secret walls and the grenades are found one at a time. If the boss needs four grenades, there are four grenades total. On 20% the first grenade is a whole fully loaded launcher, and the other gun segments are also fully loaded weapons. Mainly I’m thinking of Metroid. The game doesn’t know how many energy tanks it can expect you to find. Best if you just tell it.**

    Come to think you can also rejigger the combat to be a clean single variable. “How many affordances do I need to use to beat the boss?” Again, scale it from 1 to max. 1 is: you need to be able to pull a trigger. 2: pull trigger, also aim. 3: also use healing items. Etc.

    You may note these difficulty scales are factorizable. You can set the game to require you to explore 100% so you can reach the point of utterly trivializing the boss, or demand only the critical path so that it requires you to use everything the character can do to its utmost. If you screw up either of those selections, you can explore more / fight harder and still come up on top.

    What if Zelda had a puzzle meter, which determined which of the chests had the mcguffin? Say there’s ten chests, each deeper than the last, and you can plop the hookshot or whatever into whichever one you want, based on that slider? Then the boss key has the same rigamarole. There would still be rupees or spare bombs or whatever in the deeper chests, which you could go fetch if you wanted, but it wouldn’t be required. Wouldn’t even make bits of the game world go to waste.

    Would the combat slider work with just scaling numbers? E.g. if you have a regenerating shield at some point the damage stops overwhelming the shield and you’re plain immortal. Perhaps that’s okay on a low enough difficulty? If the boss say jukes rockets, at some point the speed scaling means it doesn’t juke rockets, but instead wiggles ineffectually, thus interrupting its attacks and taking the blast on the chin anyway.
    Might, at least, have to customize the scaling for every boss. Might be easier to gate AI routines to high difficulties rather than to work out a nonlinear scaling function, should that be necessary.

    *(Though maybe make Neo-DQ provide something beyond the gate other than more character-strength gates.)

    **(If you try to have the game measure your tolerance for difficulty, it becomes a game about spoofing the measurement to make it think you’re incompetent. E.g. it can offer ten energy tanks and assume you found all that you could. Or you could deliberately find none, making the game think you want a negligible challenge. Just make an explicit slider.)

    1. evilmrhenry says:

      “I still want a game that follows the Dragon Quest 1 model of using character strength to gate advancement.”

      The Ys series might be interesting. (“Oath in Felghana” and “Ark of Napishtim” era, the newer ones might be doing something different.) How it works is that there’s a series of areas, each gated by a boss. You can rush to the boss, who can kill you in a few hits, and takes nearly no damage. A couple minutes of grinding can get you to a point where you can do real damage, but it’s still an extremely tough fight. Grinding a bit more will make the fight easier. Each level makes the fight measurably easier, but takes longer each time. This incentivizes beating the boss at the lowest level possible for you, no matter what your skill level, while always letting you level up more if you can’t handle the fight.

      1. Syal says:

        I’ll add: Skip Ys 1. It’s the only one I’ve played and it features the boss I point to as The Worst Boss I’ve Ever Seen, and an earlier boss that might have come close if you didn’t have the option of tremendously outlevelling it (which you can’t with the Goddamnedest Bat.)

    2. Syal says:

      It’s a bit sad that games have to go this selfish before I believe in the benevolence of the quest-giver, though.

      Well, that’s part of the atmosphere of these games. You are Alone and Friendless. Everything — EVERYTHING — wants to kill you. Especially the friendly things; they just want to manipulate you first.

      I had that puzzle slider idea for my (theoretical pipe dream) FF2 knockoff game; you have Quest sliders, with higher numbers creating more locked doors that require diving into other dungeons to retrieve keys. Lowest setting, go straight to your goal; mid setting, you need a key, get it from the local deity after climbing their pain tower; high setting, the deity will make you get them something in return, at the bottom of a nearby pain cave. (Maybe a highest setting where you have to do them in a specific order, that order being the least convenient ability-wise.)

      And another one for how many walls the dungeons have. You can turn all of them on to get spaghetti tentacle mazes that funnel you up and down five flights of stairs. or turn them all off to get a big open room you just walk across.

      1. CloverMan-88 says:

        I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but that sounds like a totally useless system. Games already have a mechanism that makes them longer or shorter, depending on how much time you want to invest – it’s called side content.

        1. Addie says:

          Eh, it sounds a lot like the ‘quick game’ options in either Darkest Dungeon, or Dungeons of Dredmor – they both have an option to procedurally-generate smaller dungeons where you accumulate experience quicker than normally, if you want a shorter play session. Dredmor even generates fewer fetch quests for you.

          Mind you, a ‘quick’ game of Darkest is about thirty hours rather than eighty, so YMMV.

    3. Mr. Wolf says:

      The takeaway being it was someone who you care about and definitely cares for you in turn. It’s a bit sad that games have to go this selfish before I believe in the benevolence of the quest-giver, though.

      Despite that, I got the impression that the game was trying to produce a disconnect between present-Morgan (that is, the player) and past-Morgan. January, December and October. Alex’s ‘original’ Morgan. The wild mood swings and changing personalities mentioned in the debriefs and psych reports. After a while, you start to wonder if any of these Morgans knew what they were talking about. Did any of them really know more about the danger than present Morgan Yu?

      My absolute favourite disconnect was talking with January,
      “I have been given your voice to make you more comfortable and more likely to trust me.”
      *Morgan stares mutely*

      1. Clareo Nex says:

        Still preferable to just about any other quest-giver I’ve seen.

        I suppose that’s part of why I like Shadow of the Colossus. Dude’s giving himself his own quest. The consequences may not have gone quite as planned, but he can’t blame anyone else for that.
        (Or maybe it did go as planned? Not 100% on that one.)

  17. Tyrael says:

    In this alternate timeline, the world never kicked its smoking habit. So there are ashtrays everywhere.

    You missed that as well apparently. I remember reading something in the game that there are pills, that just rid you of any cancer cells, which makes smoking much less dangerous and after a couple of decades after the invention the stigma of smoking was gone and it got popular again. (I don’t remember if it also said anything about detrimental non-cancer effects.)

    1. BlueHorus says:

      I think the comment about air quality would be that smoking does a lot more than cause cancer. Creating smoke, ash, odors, litter…in a small enclosed environment like a space station, that’s all got to be dealt with.

      Sure, no-one gets cancer from the habit, but it still stinks and someone/something’s got to filter burnt tobacco out of the oxygen recyclers (or whatever provides breathable air for Talos 1).

      1. Jabrwock says:

        Considering the station used to be Russian, it’s possible they inherited a station that has a massive over-engineering HVAC designed to deal with smokers.

  18. bobbert says:

    Anyway, here are a couple of mimics that have been set on fire.

    Well, don’t tease us. We all know the most important part of a game review is “How much fun is setting things on fire?”.

    1. Fizban says:

      In Prey 2017? Eh, not that great. No flamethrower or incendiary grenades, not sure there’s even any explosive barrels. You can get a psychic fire attack, but it’s this weird trap-thing you have to point at the ground, has a delay, and friendly fire. And it’s either really weak, or if you upgrade it, one-shots things. Got nothing on Bioshock when it comes to setting things on fire.

      1. Chad+Miller says:

        not sure there’s even any explosive barrels

        Not barrels, but there are those pressurized containers and some red pipes that shoot fire if punctured (earliest example of both would be in the teleconferencing room just across from Morgan’s office)

  19. Grimwear says:

    Fine you win Shamus, I have now downloaded and will begin playing Prey, even though I’m 95% positive my crappy laptop cannot handle it. It will be the best 10 fps Prey run the world has ever seen.

  20. Steve C says:

    You need to get thing A, but to obtain that thing you need to go through obstacles B, C, D and E, and each of those obstacles has sub-obstacles and optional branching diversions to explore.

    Yup. That happens a lot in all sorts of games. Turns me off completely. I get exhausted. Developers often approach this by reminding the player again and again what they are doing and why. Which just makes it worse for me. My true issue is that it is a nested problem. I find those so frustrating. I read the above 16 point list of getting to where the point of the game is explained and my eyes glazed over.

    What *does* work for me is if a large problem that has to be systematically broken down into smaller parts. A good one is 1)who, 2)what, 3)where, 4)when, 5)how. There’s a lot of meat to chew on there. Yet it’s rarely used. Instead it always seems to be a series of detours and solving nested problems. I do not understand why a straightforward comprehensive analysis of a single problem is so unpopular and the obstacles with sub-obstacles approach is so popular.

    This is true not just in games but books and movies too. I recently read a story where a character was cursed. The protagonist (an expert in curses) was tasked to get rid of it. Except nothing was known about it. So she had to figure out what the curse was doing. How it was doing it. Who else it was aimed at. When it was applied. Where it was applied. (To narrow down who applied it.) Why they applied it. Who their allies were. Then figuring out a way to stop them and enacting that plan.

    That was the entirety of the book. There were no McGuffins or side quests. Complications but no nested problems. No way to become lost in what was happening nor why. There was still plenty of material to cover an entire (enjoyable) book without adding fluff. I don’t think stories or games are enhanced when there’s backtracking to get the red keycard to open the vault to get the yellow keycard which allows you to open the yellow gate to get the cat needed for a fake mustache. A game has 16 parts to even discover what the Main Quest (aka the point of the game) is? My reaction.

    1. ContribuTor says:

      I think the real problem is not having nested quest goals, but rather having pointless layers that are unnecessarily arbitrary or not related to your goals. “I’m looking for a red keycard so I can open the vault to get the yellow keycard” is a great example of BS padding. There’s no logical flow. It’s “because I say so” nested fetch quests.

      But it’s certainly possible to have nested quests that all clearly point to stages along the way to a larger goal. One example that I like and is relevant here is from Shamus’ System Shock novel (https://www.shamusyoung.com/shocked/). As a computer hacker, I need a neural implant so I can extend the window where my skills are relevant. To get an implant, I need to steal it from the company that makes it. To steal it, I need to figure out where they keep them. To figure out where they keep them, I need to access their corporate database. To access the corporate database, I need to break into their headquarters. To break into their headquarters, I need to get past the guard at the front door. To get past the guard, I need a weapon I can use to disable him. To get a weapon, I need enough money to buy it. To get the money, I need to borrow it from the Yakuza. That’s….a lot of layers (and I’m leaving a few out). But they all seem to flow naturally from the goal, and they make sense as an overall plan. Personally, I bought into borrowing money from the yakuza making sense because, even thought it was miles from the ultimate goal, it fit into the journey.

      1. Steve C says:

        Eh. Yes and no. I certainly agree with your larger point. I only disagree with how we coming to different definitions for the same thing. Pointless added layers is the very definition of a nested problem. If it doesn’t have that aspect, it wasn’t a nested problem in my mind. I fully accept there won’t be a single objectively correct answer when it comes to categorizing this kind of stuff though.

        For me, I do *not* consider your (Shamus’s?) example a nested problem. I’d call that “a large problem that has to be systematically broken down into smaller parts.” Exactly what I want to see in a story. While the 16 point Prey example would be a nested problem. “A guy named Calvino has the key” is literally “a red keycard so I can open the vault to get the yellow keycard.”

        1. Jabrwock says:

          You’re always going to have a yellow keycard. The trick is to make finding that card not feel contrived.

          1. Steve C says:

            I completely disagree. There does not need to be anything like that at all. Countless existing games don’t find it necessary. Even exploration games like Outer Wilds.

            1. Addie says:

              The yellow keycards in Outer Wilds are cleverly disguised as secrets to get into places, complex puzzles where you need to have found the simpler examples to understand, practicing your movement skills, ‘the code for a door’ squiggle, and one actual ‘keycard’ which needs to be fetched from one place and taken to another. So yeah, they’re definitely there; it’s just it does really well at making them not feel contrived. Which is one aspect of why it’s such an awesome game.

              1. Steve C says:

                We are butting up against definitions again. It’s not a yellow keycard because the defining aspect of the yellow keycard is that nobody wants a yellow keycard.

                That’s not true of understanding the squiggles. You want to understand the squiggles. Taking actions to understand the squiggles is natural and intuitive. Choosing to explore a difficult to reach area because it is difficult to reach is not a nested problem. It is a desire and goal you chose for yourself. Yes, these are subsets of the larger problem of figuring out what is going on and how to change it. But that does not make it nested, only complex.

                No action is nested if you wanted to do the subset actions in isolation regardless. Desire is the difference.

          2. Syal says:

            The best version of the yellow keycard is when it’s actually a rocket launcher. Part of why Metroidvanias are popular; doors are gated by abilities that are useful in core gameplay. People complain about those keys a whole lot less, even when they’re incredibly contrived.

            1. Chad+Miller says:

              Funnily enough, there is one example of this principle but it’s the second weapon you get in a normal playthrough: the GLOO Gun. In addition to paralyzing enemies, stopping their attacks and making them more susceptible to damage, but it can also be used to build your own makeshift platforms and stairs!

              Some of the neuromod upgrades work this way too; in fact one way to avoid the “I put all my upgrades into keys and now I can’t fight” problem is to realize that even the “non-combat” neuromod upgrades often have combat applications. Increased inventory space also increases your suit chip capacity. Leverage can be used to clear debris but it also lets you throw said debris for an ammo-free ranged attack. Hacking can be used to turn certain enemies like Corrupted Operators over to your side.

              I was kinda hoping the Q-Beam would have more of the door-opening aspect when it did; I first picked up the one in the Crew Quarters where you can use it to shoot down an ice wall, which gave me the false impression that it would regularly be good for that sort of thing.

            2. Steve C says:

              Eh. I accept that other people like those. Personally I don’t. To such an extent that the entire game becomes a hard pass even if I otherwise like it. A good example is the Lego games. I like them overall. Hate the ‘repeat the level with different abilities’ aspect to the point it overpowers everything else. The end result is I dislike those games overall for no other reason.

        2. Syal says:

          Pointless added layers is the very definition of a nested problem. If it doesn’t have that aspect, it wasn’t a nested problem in my mind.

          To expand, it’s only a nested problem if it looks simple to begin with. If all the complexities are known before the protagonist takes any action, it’s a complex problem, not a nested one. But if:

          (a) the simple solution fails and requires a complex workaround (“I’ll just ask Bob, Bob will tell me.” “Bob’s been replaced by Hardass Harry, you’ll have to file a C-1798 with his secretary to apply for an appointment, the C-1798 has these eight parts…”)

          (b) the stated complex solution has a seemingly simple workaround that goes unaddressed (“Instead of going into space, how about we find a different copy of this key? You’re telling me Calvino has the only version of this key? This door could only ever be opened by one guy, who’s dead and floating in space now?”)

          Then it’s nested, and infuriating.

          1. Chad+Miller says:

            Presumably, if all the facilities were still working then Security or someone would be able to print replacement keys. (which to be fair, raises the question of why you can’t ever do that even after breaking into all the IT and security facilities. Come to think of it, “print a Master Key” may have been cool as a random late-game side objective)

          2. Steve C says:

            I still disagree. You’re focusing on the key. Or asking Bob. Or asking Harry. Except none of those things matter. There is no Zelda game: Link must talk to Bob! It’s a pointless. So by even thinking about that, that is already so deep into the nest that you aren’t seeing my point…

            Every non-trivial action should directly relate to the main goal in a concrete and intuitive way.

            I want to know about X. Well then experimentation research X makes sense. I now know enough about X to name it. I still want to know more about X. Experimentation gave enough info to research it a library where I didn’t know where to begin before. Etc. That’s a example of something I do enjoy and don’t consider a nested problem. Harry or Bob or w/e has nothing intrinsically to do with X. Unless they are the ones who made X and I’m going there to kill them or whatever.

            1. Steve C says:

              Addendum since I saved too quick: Using Shamus’s original nested problem as the example, the true issue is not the flat tire. It is not even going to the store. Presumably the trip is to buy something. It is not even what you are going to the store to buy.

              Whatever issue you are trying to solve by buying something at the store, that’s the real goal.

              A game doesn’t need to put a hole into the tire to justify a frustrating nested problem of bolts and batteries. It had a wealth of opportunities to make the problem more complex *that was intuitive* before the player even left. Like figuring out what to buy, why and where exactly to go to get it. If the point was to divide up the driving part, then stop to get gas. Or a bathroom break. Or a conversation/argument with a passenger. Or all 3. A flat tire alone should be the full extent of the unexpected frustration. Put the complexity elsewhere. There’s no excuse in a game when there’s infinite opportunities to do it well.

              Imagine you are going to the store with a child passenger and you get a flat tire. You change the tire. You get back into the car and the child is gone. Why did they leave? How you not notice? Where did they go? There’s a whole host of problem solving that could be done. That the type of setback I can get behind. The answer can even be something trivial like they are hiding behind a tree to pee.

              * (In the previous comment it was supposed to be”It’s pointless busy work.”)

    2. Smith says:

      I quit Final Fantasy 12 when I realized I was fighting a desert turtle for a McGuffin to replace the previous McGuffin so I could save a princess or something, who I didn’t really care about.

      Admittedly, I was also losing to the turtle, repeatedly, so that may have contributed to my frustration.

      EDIT: The wiki says it was even more complicated than I remembered. The turtle had something that would make it easier to weaken the boss guarding the location where the McGuffin I needed was kept.

      Or something.

  21. Syal says:

    Halo did it with whatever you shoot in Halo games when you’re not shooting the Flood.

    Halo did it with the Flood too; the very second Flood level gives them shotguns and rocket launchers that are probably burned into the brains of anyone who played it.

    But Shamus, what if some planets have a thinner atmosphere? Wouldn’t that make it easier for the Typhon to land?

    Is that even relevant? Are we actually worried about the Typhon invading non-Earth locations?

    “Aren’t you supposed to be a lot smarter than the heavily-armed dunce I’m playing right now?”

    There’s a reason the real-life scientists are kept far from the front lines; they’re the kind of folks who get really into details, and don’t improvise well when they don’t have details. If they try to wing it they get Saruman-style problems of “how hard can it be, oh, extremely hard actually and now I’m dead”.

    1. Also Tom says:

      “Aren’t you supposed to be a lot smarter than the heavily-armed dunce I’m playing right now?”

      There’s a reason the real-life scientists are kept far from the front lines; they’re the kind of folks who get really into details, and don’t improvise well when they don’t have details. If they try to wing it they get Saruman-style problems of “how hard can it be, oh, extremely hard actually and now I’m dead”.

      Not only that, but the fact is that once you correct for the fact that a disproportionate amount of the military is young men between the ages of 18 and 24, a demographic notorious for making poor life decisions, soldiers are actually brighter than the general population. Especially the ones that you would send in to a situation like this, because you want people capable of making good decisions quickly.

      Their IQs might not be as high as the scientists’ are (or were before they died), but I’ll guarantee you that in the sort of team you would send to Talos I or Black Mesa, most of them would be in the upper quarter of the human ability curve, and all of them would be in the top half.

    2. Fizban says:

      Couldn’t post yesterday, but Yo ima read that whole series- and have since read half of it. Actual military historian analyzes fictional military stuff? Gold.

  22. Dr. Breen says:

    Gordon Freeman is an interesting edge case. He’s arguably the original scientist hero of the first-person genre, but he didn’t really use his science knowledge all that often. His status as a supernerd wasn’t really supported by any of the gameplay systems. In fact, it was something of a running joke how little need there was for his alleged science skills…. I’ll always love ol’ Gordo for breaking the mold with regards to FPS protagonists, even if he was pretty similar to his more military-oriented counterparts in terms of gameplay mechanics.

    This is not some agent provocateur or highly trained assassin we are discussing. Gordon Freeman is a theoretical physicist who had hardly earned the distinction of his Ph.D. at the time of the Black Mesa Incident. I have good reason to believe that in the intervening years, he was in a state that precluded further development of covert skills. The man you have consistently failed to slow, let alone capture, is by all standards simply that—an ordinary man.

  23. ContribuTor says:

    It strains credulity that there would be enough Typhon babies in orbit that our very first ship runs into them, and yet none of the Typhon wound up on the surface. It would be absurd to imagine that they all just happened to nail the razor-thin (on cosmic scales) trajectory needed to orbit the Earth, yet somehow none of them wound up falling into that great big (on local scales) gravity well. That’s like doing a few hundred free-throws in basketball, and by random chance they all land on the rim and balance there, and none of them go all the way in.

    The alternative explanation is volume. They took several hundred million free throws in a gym where the floor is made of lava. The only evidence that this happened is the (by comparison) very very few basketballs left hanging on rims or stuck between the rim and the backboard. But if you took enough shots, it’s certain to happen a few times.

    Sending out millions/billions of creatures knowing that 99.999% will fail to achieve orbit and either skip off into interplanetary space or burn up in the atmosphere is incredibly wasteful. But if your scouts are very numerous or resource-cheap to produce (for example, if you’ve successfully fed on a planet of billions), then maybe it’s worth it for the statistical certainty that a tiny fraction will by random chance achieve the perfect orbit.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      Well, plenty of earthly organisms produce tens of thousands of offspring of which only a tiny fraction of a percent will reach adulthood, so there’s precedent. And maybe feeding on human consciousness is a non-standard way of reproducing for them, so whatever way they normally reproduce allows them to create large numbers of offspring to send out.

  24. Zekiel says:

    Great stuff Shamus.

    Wondered if you were going to say anything more (later) about the ability to search for crew on security stations. I thought it was an amazing system that really added to the illusion of this being a real place: you can literally search for any crew member and it will tell you what area they’re in and whether they’re alive or dead. And you can tag them so they appear on your map as an objective. (Which means you can occasionally get the creepy factor of a dead crew member moving about, since they’ve become a Phantom.)

    However I hardly ever used it since it was such a faff to navigate through, and you could only have one crew member tagged at a time. Shame.

    1. Chad+Miller says:

      (Which means you can occasionally get the creepy factor of a dead crew member moving about, since they’ve become a Phantom.)

      Though, such people show as alive in the terminals. So a naive player can think they’re tracking down a crew member that can help only to find that it’s an enemy.

      However I hardly ever used it since it was such a faff to navigate through

      Yes, that interface freaking sucked. At the very least it should have been sorted by what section they were currently in rather than what department they worked for.

      1. Zekiel says:

        YES! That would be have been so much more helpful!

        I could have sworn Phantoms showed as dead, maybe I’m thinking of a case where you found out somewhere else that someone was dead.

        1. Chad+Miller says:

          Must be. The “phantoms show as alive” thing is even reinforced by NPC dialogue:

          Sarah Elazar: Can you get to the escape pods?

          Erica Teague: Negative… the escape pods are malfuntioning, it’s like they’re locked in place. Only four of us made it to Life Support…

          Sarah Elazar: Five. I’m picking up Remmer behind you.

          Erica Teague: Negative, Remmer – Remmer isn’t Remmer, Chief. These things… Chief, the main lift – it isn’t working – we’re locked out. O my god. Remmer. Remmer’s here. Stay away, stay away-

          Sarah Elazar: Teague? Teague? Erica. Respond!

        2. Chad+Miller says:

          So, followup: Maybe the game itself is inconsistent about this? I just picked up the game again today and now I’m seeing Phantoms as dead, but I swear I wasn’t last time I played. e.g. Yuri Kimura and Garfield Langly showed as alive in the Lobby but Clive showed dead in the Hardware Labs. So I dunno.

  25. Mr. Wolf says:

    Given all the hours of footage I have, I can’t believe how hard it is to find a clear picture of a Typhon.

    Just file them next to your bigfoot photos. We’re not that gullible, Shamus! I don’t think you met any space monsters at all.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      “Oh no! This stapler is attacking me! It’s totally a mimic or something, guys!” :)

  26. Mye says:

    I always disliked the plan of blowing up the station for a lot of the reasoning outlined in this entry. The game treat it like its a big moral dilemma about whether you want to survive even if you risk the earth in the process but to me it seems like a stupid plan that’s only going to put the earth more at risk. The odds of the typhoon just randomly getting on the satellite are so low its ridiculous, the only reasonable assumption is that they can’t land on earth safely but are otherwise either common in the universe or specifically start showing up around the planet once the population (ie the amount of consciousnesses) reach a certain threshold. With this in mind, blowing the station is a terrible idea because explosion aren’t blackhole, it’ll just break the station into many part, spreading debris all over space. Plenty of these could have typhoon in them (either actual typhoon or mimic transformed into object) or could be hijacked by space typhoon. Some of these will re entry earth and not everything in them will be destroyed, giving typhoon an easy way to land on earth.

    Its far better to preserve the station (and more importantly the knowledge of typhoon and how to detect them) so that humanity can be ready in case more show up.

    1. Coming Second says:

      If you take the nullwave solution you’re also making some very dangerous assumptions. Such as that it will work at all; that it will completely kill all the typhon anymore than nuclear fire will; that Alex, who has demonstrated himself to be a profoundly duplicitous person, didn’t straight up lie to you out of desperation to save his precious station.

      And it is a moral dilemma. Talos-1 is an abomination. If you leave it standing you’re tacitly condoning everything that went on there and enabling TranStar to carry on exactly as they have. If you want Earth to take the typhon seriously maybe you should fess up to your part in it in the ensuing inquiry as Mikhaila says you should, and force the US and Soviet governments to take responsibility themselves instead of offloading it to a depraved corporation.

      1. PhoenixUltima says:

        The “blow up the station/use the super nullwave” thing always gets presented as a strictly binary choice (both in the game and in discussions), but I had a thought near the end of my last playthrough: why not do both? That is, use the super nullwave to destroy the typhon and the coral, and then blow up the station to make extra double sure that you got ’em all. Maybe even rig up some extra nukes around the station first to make sure the station gets blown up reeeeeeeeal good. Why take half-measures with something as dangerous as the typhon?

        1. Syal says:

          The self destruct sequence is itself a mimic. The nullwave would deactivate it.

      2. Mr. Wolf says:

        Well if the nullwave didn’t work there was nothing stopping you from taking the lift down to the reactor and then blowing the place up.

        I object to your assertion that that preserving the station is “tacitly condoning” the experiments there. We can condemn the methods involved without dismissing the results. The data held on the station is vital to the survival of humankind and, no matter how it was obtained, it’s preservation is a noble goal.

        Although now I think about it, did the game ever talk about other labs or off-site backups? Fiction just loves a lack of redundant data stores and I don’t think this was an exception.

        1. Gethsemani says:

          Mooncrash shows us that TranStar also had a similar research station for Typhon on Luna and the Mooncrash ending, if you manage to get all five survivors out in one run, reveals that one of the survivors there was mind-controlled by a Telepath to get a mimic into an escape pod that gets launched to Earth. Another survivor also escapes with a shuttle that’s strongly implied to have a mimic on board and the shock ending is that the PC has a mimic aboard the small space station he’s been running his Luna hack/simulation from. So basically, no matter what Morgan did Earth was boned anyway because the Luna site was not contained.

          1. BlueHorus says:

            Also related: There’s evidence of a Neuromod smuggling ring on Talos 1, you can find some of their logs and emails from people blackmailing them. So in theory the Typhon made it to Earth before the game even starts…

            (Plus, there’s a series of secret stashes around the station used by the smugglers that you can loot. Another example of the game rewarding you for paying attention.)

        2. Syal says:

          We can condemn the methods involved without dismissing the results.

          Not effectively. There will always be people with more vision than morals or self-preservation, who view the theoretical ends as justifying the guaranteed means, and the only way to discourage them is to show that everything they do will be summarily destroyed without even being glanced at. It’s setting a precedent.

          1. Mr. Wolf says:

            So hypothetically, if I developed a panacea but killed a hundred people to do it, you’d be fine with seeing my work destroyed? Those people are already dead, but you’re willing to make literally everybody else suffer just to teach a lesson on ethics?

            1. Coming Second says:

              These gotchas don’t exist in reality. Even within the scenario we’re talking about, there’s no way that all information ever collected on the typhon only exists on that station. This is about whether you want Alex, TranStar and their architecture calling the shots in the future or not.

              1. Mr. Wolf says:

                In that case, should we blow up the backups too? It’s all drawn from the same well.

            2. Syal says:

              Yes.

              Those people are already dead,

              That attitude is why it’s never going to just be a hundred people. It’s going to be a hundred people for every problem any mad scientist can think of, over and over again, most of which will completely fail and have nothing usable to show.

              The more you embrace the result, the more you embrace the method. The more you embrace the method, the more the method is employed. The more the method is employed, the more trivial the reasons. “What’s a hundred lives against a plague” becomes “what’s a hundred lives against two extra years for everyone else” becomes “what’s a hundred lives for a world with softer, smoother skin?”

              Burn it.

              1. Mr. Wolf says:

                Then find some other way to stop them. You didn’t say, “You’re a psycho, so we’re locking you up forever”, instead, “You’re a psycho, so we’re ignoring your miracle of science because we don’t want other psychos to get ideas”.

              2. Also Tom says:

                Wrong.

                You take the panacea and use it, but before you do you shoot the psycho.

              3. Shamus says:

                I can appreciate the importance of NOT encouraging unethical research. At the same time, I think this particular idea attempts to use rational motivations to change the behavior of fundamentally irrational actors.

                ME: Hey Professor, you’re killing these people looking for a cure. Do you know that this type of research tends to create a lot of dead people without ever producing useful results?

                Prof Nefarious: I’m special. The normal rules won’t apply to me or my research!

                ME: Okay, but even if you miraculously devise a cure, people will refuse to use it because of the horrendous methods you used.

                Prof Nefarious: Ah, but… I’m special. The normal rules won’t apply to me or my research!

                And so on. Doc. Nefarious has already demonstrated that he’s unreasonable, so attempting to reason with him won’t work. In which case, you would be throwing away this valuable data for no benefit. Doing so will increase the overall suffering in the world (assuming the research is actually useful) without deterring the next generation’s unethical researchers.

                I find Tom’s suggestion to be interesting: Use the data, but make sure the person who created it dies in prison or hangs from a rope, whichever suits your particular moral calibration. (We don’t need to drag capital punishment into this or we’ll be here all freakin’ day.)

                Now, the counter-argument to that is:

                “Hey, some scientist might conduct the research willingly, knowing ahead of time that they will eventually face the hangman. But maybe they will be willing to do so if their eventual cure will someday benefit millions.”

                Now, I can’t really argue with this line of thinking. Being willing to use unethical research does make it possible for people to game the system like this. However, we’re talking about a hypothetical person who:

                1) Is smart enough to obtain a degree in a highly specialized field.
                2) Is also heartless enough that they’re willing to perform atrocities on human beings in order to solve some large-scale problem.
                3) Is also somehow “selfless” enough that they’re willing to do all of this work for no personal benefit, and in fact are willing to die for this cause.

                I won’t say that it’s impossible for such a person to exist, but it strikes me that this scenario is probably so rare as to not be worth worrying about. Someone with this very particular blend of intelligence, fanaticism, ambition, cruelty, and willpower is not going to respond to any rules or policies you create.

                I don’t know, though. I guess it depends on what they cure. I don’t think I could bring myself to throw away the cure for brain cancer, even if it was obtained by evil means. But if it was like, the cure for diverticulitis, male pattern balding, or research on the effects of feeding colonists to thresher maws?

                Eh. Chuck it.

                1. Steve C says:

                  Using the fruits of unethical research is the plot of the Star Trek: Voyager episode: “Nothing Human”. I think it covered all the talking points.

                2. Syal says:

                  I think there’s a lot more of those people than you do. It’s a natural extension of being willing to dedicate your life to a research career. “I’ll die, but everyone dies, not everyone gets their name in the history books for discovering something new.”

                  But this is pretty much a political topic so I’ll stop here.

                  1. Mr. Wolf says:

                    Nah, it’s not political, it’s pure ethics. Which is a) equally, if not more, contentious, b) so much more fun to debate.

        3. BlueHorus says:

          I object to your assertion that that preserving the station is “tacitly condoning” the experiments there. We can condemn the methods involved without dismissing the results. The data held on the station is vital to the survival of humankind and, no matter how it was obtained, it’s preservation is a noble goal.

          So, while I agree that the player isn’t responsible for the deaths caused on Talos 1*, can you think of a way to ethically and safely harvest and research Typhon?
          If you can, I can guarantee that someone else won’t bother to. Letting even the knowledge of the Typhon exist is a practical guarantee that many people WILL look into it, and if Typhon can be found someone WILL cut corners, and the risks and deaths WILL happen again…

          It’s similar to nuclear weapons. Horrific weapons, ones that that are expensive and dangerous to maintain, indiscriminate, that no sane person really wants to use…
          …and countries scramble to stockpile them, keep them ready to use at a moment’s notice, use them as threats against each other, deny other countries the chance to develop them, and so on. The mere fact that these weapons COULD exist ensured that they HAD to, thanks to human paranoia. It’d be the same with the Typhon.

          A classic example of the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

          *Well, Morgan is, but given the memory loss and changing personality, it’s…debateable. Also, it does depend on what the player did during the game.

  27. EmmEnnEff says:

    Nit:

    > If you’re orbiting Earth, then you are moving at least thirty kilometers every second relative to the ground.

    If you are orbiting the sun, you are moving at ~30km/s.

    Orbiting the earth can be done at ~8km/s.

  28. Jonathan says:

    The Typhon sound a lot like the Hive from R. M. Meluch’s Tour of the Merrimack series to me. Though the Hive lack the telepathy and brain obsession and mostly just eat everything. But the Hive are specifically attracted to the transmission sources for that ‘verse’s FTL communication, and I’d guess an analogous “noticed the electricity” makes sense. The Hive will also get down to planets by a whole bunch all cramming together – sure the outer layers burn off, but if you start with a large enough mass…

  29. Dreadjaws says:

    Welp, I’m finally able to play the game properly so I can finally continue with this series. Reaching this point in the analysis I thought it was insane that this was the part where the game was only now really starting despite the fact that I have over 10 hours of playtime. But then I realized the reason for this is that I’ve spent at least half that time just exploring until the last available corner of this place. The darn station is huge, and I have only unlocked the few starting areas. Granted, it’s natural that being a game set in an isolated place it has to be different from one where you can travel to several places (such as Deus Ex or Mass Effect), so the whole place has to be a large map. But still, it being all a large interconected place where you have to backtrack a lot makes it feel much bigger than something like Bioshock, whose linear progression makes it look more like a collection of smaller places.

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