Prey 2017 Part 16: Cartoon Bad Guy

By Shamus Posted Thursday Oct 28, 2021

Filed under: Retrospectives 107 comments

Morgan (presumably) wants to blow up the Talos-1 space station. To do that, she needs Alex’s arming key. To get it, she needs to fly around outside the station and get mauled by six different breeds of alien tentacle monsters while she tries to scan bits of their neuron-like coral that now envelop the station.

The thing is, this scanning is part of a plan to obliterate the Typhon and leave the station intact. With the scan data, we can tune our contrivance generators to the right frequency and atomize the Typhon. Then, once the station is no longer in any danger whatsoever, Alex will hand you his arming key, which you will no longer have any use for.

You will actually get to choose which way you want to go at the end, to nuke or nullwave the station. I’ll come back to this choice when we get there.

The more immediate problem is that Player 3 has just entered the game.

Walther Dahl

Here I've snuck up behind Dahl. Like all videogame special-force guys, he has abysmal situational awareness.
Here I've snuck up behind Dahl. Like all videogame special-force guys, he has abysmal situational awareness.

Walther Dahl is the corporate equivalent of a special-forces agent. He’s here along with his robot sidekick Kaspar to take control of the station.

He shows up just as you return from your errand scanning the coral.  That is, he shows up just a few minutes before you finally solve the Typhon outbreak. If he showed up ten minutes later, he wouldn’t have needed to show up at all.

I hate this part of the game. I hate it tonally. I hate it mechanically. I hate it thematically. This part is dumb and it does not belong in this story. At least, not in this part of the story.

Let me explain.

This is the Wrong Point in the Story for This Bullshit

I like this scene from Aliens (1986) but I'd hate it if it came just before the movie's climax.
I like this scene from Aliens (1986) but I'd hate it if it came just before the movie's climax.

Do you remember the scene in Aliens where the stupid corporate lawyer dudes are sitting around complaining about the destroyed ship in the previous movie? To the audience, the Xenomorph represents this massive next-level threat to our species, and these doofuses are worried about the premiums on their spaceship insurance. They’re miffed they lost this one ship which is – in the grand scheme of things – a very small part of their holdings. Their concerns feel so trivial.

And that’s fine. It’s a really good scene! It drives home how much this experience with the Xenomorph has changed Ripley’s perspective. This is a great way to start the movie. These guys still think their spaceships and mining contracts are relevant, but Ripley has seen the scale of this new threat, and in the face of that threat the loss of a single ship doesn’t even register.

But imagine if you took that scene – if you took those lawyers and all of their dumb lame bullshit – and dropped it into the story right after the moment where Ripley duct tapes a flamethrower to her gun and right before the scene where she starts roasting aliens and wrecking their shit. That’s what this visit from Walther Dahl feels like.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a numbered list, so let’s do one of those to explain how much Walther sucks.

1. Walther is unworthy as a late-game threat.

We’ve spent the entire game fighting these spooky monsters. They’re strange. They’re alien. They represent a monumental threat to all of humanity due to how fast they can tear through the population. On the other hand, they represent incredible possibilities for humankind in the future. Not just in the form of neuromods, but a better understanding of the universe we live in.

The universe is vast, and we don’t know what sorts of threats might be out there. We’ve basically conquered and tamed life on our homeworld. We’ve been on top of the food chain for a long time. But we have no idea what the food chain looks like on a galactic scale. Perhaps we’re a planet of mice in a universe filled with snakes, cats, and owls.

It’s easy to sit here and say we shouldn’t study the Typhon because they’re just used to make neuromods and neuromods will only be enjoyed by an elite few because blah blah blah class warfare. But once you’re talking about creatures that hunt across cosmic distances and can devour a planet within the space of a few days or weeks, none of that matters. An alien has shown up and it has the capacity to eat civilization itself. You can’t expect the audience to care about such a pedestrian threat at this point in the story.

If one of these things reaches the surface of the Earth, then that’s it. Everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, the aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species, will have existed in order to create this momentary snack for a passing alien. That alien will burp and move on, and the universe won’t care one bit.

That’s the threat that the Typhon represent.

And now we’re supposed to be worried about some corporate bootlicker and his robot sidekick? Give me a break.

2. Walther Supplants the Typhon as the Big Bad

Oh man, the Nightmare. I remember when this guy was a big deal, back before the REAL threat showed up in the form of a dim-witted thug and his robot sidekick.
Oh man, the Nightmare. I remember when this guy was a big deal, back before the REAL threat showed up in the form of a dim-witted thug and his robot sidekick.

Up until now, the Typhon were THE big threat on the station. It was humanity vs. the aliens, and humanity was getting its shit collectively wrecked by these space bugs. This drove home the point that we hadn’t been taking these things as seriously as we should have. We saw their lack of language, rank, and leadership hierarchy and assumed we were dealing with a great big ant colony.

When the Typhon broke containment, it suggested these things were a lot smarter and a lot more patient than we ever gave them credit for. But now Baby Dahl and his droid sidekick Kaspar show up and suddenly the Typhon are on the ropes? Get the fuck out of here.

There are these kiosks spread around the station that can 3D print fresh operator robots. These robots come in several flavors that can heal you, repair your suit, and that sort of thing. But now Kaspar has taken control of these kiosks and he’s spamming the entire station with waves of military laser drones.

Previously, you had to fight a phantom or a couple of mimics every so often as you moved through the station. But now the only time you see Typhon is when they’re getting lasered into charcoal by swarms of killbots. If your secondary villain makes your primary villain look toothless, then you have messed up.

As the player, you’ll enter a scrappy fight to put down three robots so you can walk the next ten meters closer to your goal. Before you’ve even healed your wounds or looted your enemies, another killbot pops out of the nearby printer. You’re in a war of attrition against a foe with limitless resources.Not quite limitless. If you deliberately hang around a printer, it will eventually stop.

Which makes it seem like keeping the Typhon in check is no biggie. If we’d just had enough guns around, none of this would have happened. Previously it looked like humanity was simply outmatched, but now it looks like we can totally get these aliens back in their cage. We just need to print more gunbots. It’s not like Dahl brought thousands of robots with him in his space shuttle. He’s using the resources we already had on hand, and the printers have been here the whole time.

The fact that this never occurred to any of the hundreds of scientists and engineers on the station just makes everyone look stupid. Heck, if we’d designed the robots in-house then we could have programmed them to only attack the Typhon, instead of lasering anything that moves, which is what Dahl’s bots are doing.

3. Walther is Tonally Wrong for this World

Walther is voiced by Steven Blum. Blum is doing an accent, which is a little hammy. But his performance of that accent is a 20lb. glazed Christmas ham. He’s chewing so much scenery that pretty soon he’s going to shit out the 200 or so habitation pods we were missing earlier.

Now, I’m a fan of Blum, so I want to be very careful to lay this blame at the feet of the director and not the actor. Prey isn’t some outrageous over-the-top campfest. This isn’t DOOM, it’s not Saints Row, and it’s certainly not Rage. Prey is more or less science fiction for grownups, and Blum’s performance sticks out like Ronin the Accuser showing up in Moon. If he gave this performance for a character in a Transformers movie, Director Michael Bay would say, “Dude! Come on now. Take this seriously.”

I just don’t understand how the game’s director heard Blum’s performance and said, “Perfect! This fits right in with the rest of the game and I wouldn’t change anything!”

4. Walther Makes the Gameplay Boring

It's most convenient to use the Q-Beam weapon on the bots, since it uses the same ammo they do. You could also take their ammo to a recycler and turn it into whatever other ammo you're into, but using the Q-Beam will save you that step.
It's most convenient to use the Q-Beam weapon on the bots, since it uses the same ammo they do. You could also take their ammo to a recycler and turn it into whatever other ammo you're into, but using the Q-Beam will save you that step.

The Typhon are a diverse bunch. From the jumpscare mimic to the peek-a-boo antics of a poltergeist to the brute-force bullying of a Technopath to the hulking and tenacious Nightmare, this game has a lot of different kinds of foes to throw at you.

Or it did.

But lame-ass Walther only thought to bring one robot blueprint with him, so now you need to spend the next hour or so of the game fighting the same enemy over and over. Since all of his killbots drop the same ammo, this in turn funnels you towards using one particular weapon. I mean, you can mix it up if you’re willing to go out of your way to do so, but given the sheer number of fights you’ll be taking and the resource limits you’ll be up against, you’ll probably find a single way of dealing with them and use that over and over.

Also, there’s the uncomfortable fact that his robots drop, essentially, zero “XP”.

Obviously this game doesn’t give literal XP for leveling up. I didn’t get into this earlier, but to print a neuromod, you need a little bit of several different ingredients. A bit of plastic, a bit of metal, and a bit of “exotic material”. The exotic material is just a euphemism for Typhon cells. When you kill a Typhon, you can loot its corpse for a bit of this exotic goo.

When it comes to printing neuromods, you’ll have lots of the other ingredients. Plastic and metal are easily obtained by shoving your armloads of trash loot into the recycler. So the real limiting factor stopping you from printing out a hundred neuromodsBesides your own patience. The printer is actually annoyingly slow if you’re trying to print in bulk. and filling in the entire skill tree is that you need exotic matter. Every Typhon you kill brings you another step closer to printing your next neuromod.

But now that Walther has filled the volume of the station with endless robots, you’re doomed to fight countless foes who will drain your resources but who won’t yield any exotic material. These are the most boring and repetitive foe in the game, and to put salt in the wound the designer made it so you’ll never “level up” from fighting them.


5. Walther is Working for a Cartoon Villain

Walther claims he's here to save people, but if anyone transmits their location he just sends some gunbots to murder them. (I don't think anyone in the story actually falls for this.)
Walther claims he's here to save people, but if anyone transmits their location he just sends some gunbots to murder them. (I don't think anyone in the story actually falls for this.)

Earlier in this series I praised the game for making Alex Yu such an interesting villain. I was essentially praising the game for not making a bunch of really annoying and obvious blunders. And now I have to rescind that praise, because the story creates exactly the kind of one-dimensional mustache-twirling idiot I hate.

Walther works for William Yu, father of Alex and Morgan. William seems to be aware that something has gone wrong on Talos-1, but he doesn’t know the specifics and doesn’t care. He sends Walther to the station with orders to kill everyone on board, and secure all the technology. He doesn’t make an exception for anyone. Not even his own children.

William doesn’t even know what the score is, but he sends in Walt Witless to purge the place and even kill his children.

Why are you murdering everyone on the station? How does that help you? I get that you’re a lazy and cartoonishly evil monster, but like… hiring top-tier knowledge workers is hard, you know? Why not figure out what the fuck is going on before you start purging your expensive-to-replace staff?

He doesn’t say anything about destroying the station, which suggests he has no idea about the Typhon. And if you’re just going to murder all the people and leave, then you haven’t solved the problem. In fact, you’re just creating a fresh vector for the Typhon to escape the station and spread to a new batch of people who are even LESS prepared to deal with them than the people they just had for lunch.

William Yu wants the technologyNo doubt because MONEY LOLOLOL! but as far as we know, the only technology worth a damn is neuromods. And you can’t make neuromods without the Typhon. Either Walther blows up the station and the neuromod technology becomes worthless, or he leaves the station alone and the Typhon continue to fester, or (and this is the most likely outcome) Walther accidentally brings back a Typhon or two, and they devour the unprepared Earth.

William is clueless, greedy, and bloody-minded. While his vocal performance isn’t as outrageous as Dahl’s, conceptually he’s even more of a cartoon villain.

One final detail about Walther Dahl that cheeses me right off my Dorito is that he accuses Alex of being an attention-whore that loves the spotlight. Alex does indeed make a couple of announcements to the crew, but like… getting on the PA system and giving ridiculous villainous monologues is Walther Dahl’s entire deal. This is like Seymour accusing someone of having a needlessly elaborate haircut.

Having said all that…

I see your schwartz is as big as mine!
I see your schwartz is as big as mine!

I think this guy could work.

  1. We needed to deal with him much sooner in the story. Walther should be relegated to somewhere in Act II, not be perpetrating resolution interruptus so close to the finale.
  2. He shouldn’t overpower the Typhon so easily. Maybe he would just capture a single wing of the station. (Which, as luck would have it, we need access to.) The story can make it clear that he’s too strong for us. And then maybe you “defeat” him by crippling his defenses so that his position is overwhelmed by the Typhon. This would keep the Typhon at the top of the food chain.

The next part of the game is where things get really good, and we don’t need some lame secondary threat getting in the way while the story is building up to the really big threat.

We’ll finish up with this idiot next time, and also talk about getting home.



[1] Not quite limitless. If you deliberately hang around a printer, it will eventually stop.

[2] Besides your own patience. The printer is actually annoyingly slow if you’re trying to print in bulk.

[3] No doubt because MONEY LOLOLOL!

From The Archives:

107 thoughts on “Prey 2017 Part 16: Cartoon Bad Guy

  1. Christopher Wolf says:

    Sometimes a writer/designer wants to institute change to shake things up, and it simply does not work.

  2. MerryWeathers says:

    Corporations > Existential alien threats

    Everytime baby! I’ve always said that when the Colonial Marines stumbled into the Xenomorph nest in Aliens, it should have instead been a disgusting orgy amalgamation of various coroporate executives and stooges huddled together and splayed across the station, some of which are already in the middle of a business meeting.

  3. Dreadjaws says:

    During this whole retrospective I’ve felt a little bad because you keep praising this game as your favorite in the genre and I feel like I’m always showing up with complaints about it (despite the fact that I most certainly enjoyed the game and I’m sure I’ll play it many more times), so it’s a bit of a relief to see you’re as frustrated by this preposterous, cartoonish part of the game as I am. Now, as soon as I saw that you did I figured you’d be comparing it to the situation between Cerberus and the Reapers in ME3, so I’m surprised you managed to contain yourself.

    My strategy for the bots is to use Machine Mind on one of them and let him attack the other two (since they always come on groups of three max per area). Then I ignore them and run away or attack them all until they’re damaged enough that they can’t move but aren’t completely destroyed. This way, since there are still three bots around the kiosks won’t print any new ones and you can explore to your content without being attacked.

    I suppose one excuse for William Yu’s actions is that they’re not real due to the events of the end twist, and they are only shown that way to give you some sense of urgency, That works well as a lampshade, but it doesn’t really work from a story perspective, and it certainly doesn’t make for satisfying narrative.

    1. Henson says:

      My strategy is to just run past them all. Slow time when you need to. Then you only have to deal with the ones outside the station while you painstakingly search for the one tiny Operator hacking the place on the surface of the giant station. What a terrible sequence.

      1. PeteTimesSix says:

        Fun fact, Kaspar’s location is randomised (for some reason). Mine was hanging out next to the fake helicopter in the Simulation labs. Much easier to get to.

        1. Henson says:

          He can be inside?

          Dear Lord, that would been so much less hassle.

          1. Shamus says:

            I’ve also found him in the hardware labs, and in the weird basement area of psychotronics.

            Yes, his location outside of the station is just a chore to find, and it’s very easy to find yourself on the wrong side of some infrastructure with Technopaths zapping you senseless while you hunt for a way around.

          2. Mersadeon says:

            I had the opposite reaction, on both of my playthroughs Kaspar was inside and in very convenient locations. I literally do not remember having to go out of my way all that much. I got damn lucky, it seems.

        2. Rho says:

          I believe he actually spawns even before you know what’s going on. IIRC, I broke him and basically ended the entire subplot by accident.

          1. Mye says:

            Every time I play I end up taking Dahl out in less than one hour so I never really though about him, first time I just accidentally ran into him pretty much right after the quest started. Last time I did my best to avoid him (literally randomly found him but ignored him so that the other part of his quest would trigger) and it still was really quickly done and over with. It feel more like a minor side quest than a part of the main quest so it never really bothered me. I did like the resolution of removing his neuromod to trick him into helping you. My main annoyance is that you have to side with him if you want to find everyone in the station, no alternative.

            I think there’s a few easy way to alleviate the problems. For one, the better attack bot could have been purposefully forbidden by the Yu sibling because they were afraid the Typhoon would control them and cause even more problem. In gameplay term you could have corrupted version of them showing up after Dahl is taken care of. Maybe even change the balance of power over time so that at first the Typhoon get their ass kicked but later on with the corrupted bot they can easily overpower his army.

            I think Dahl was sent to sterilize the place specifically because the Yu elders were afraid the Typhoon could escape and any of the people on the station could be mind controlled or even a typhoon in disguise. Better to just kill everyone to be sure (they’d probably have Dahl killed too).

      2. Turtlebear says:

        I did the same, except used the stun gun occasionally if they were blocking my way, since they would fall to the ground for a few seconds. I also would gloo up the operator dispensers, which worked sometimes except when they’d just break through it. I have no idea why this worked sometimes but not always.

    2. Chad Miller says:

      Even better than machine mind: you can actually hack them and turn them to your side permanently. My first Nightmare kill came from a pack of stolen laser-bots.

  4. Lino says:

    I never got to this part of the game, but if it’s SO BAD that it deserves its own Shamus Numbered List™, then I’m glad I never did! The only way it could be worse is if there was a Terrible Shamus Car Analogy™ to go along with the list. Then it would have been officially unsafe for human consumption!

    But even as it is, I’m glad I never got to this guy – he would have definitely pissed me off, too.

  5. Smosh says:

    Funny, I never analyzed this part of the game, I just felt it was wrong. I never took Dahl seriously at all as a threat. I was genuinely annoyed that I had to waste time on some random harmless goon. I think I bee-lined for his shuttle, used a handful of recyclers to kill his defense turrets, just walked in the main door and shot him point blank with the shotgun, as if to demonstrate that he wasn’t worth the effort of sneaking around and being all clever-like.

  6. ContribuTor says:

    Writing for games is hard, but I have no patience for obvious flaws that a quick dialogue patch could help with.

    Why didn’t anyone think to build killbots before? The station’s 3D printers were designed to prohibit creating weapons for safety purposes. Dahl was sent up with a software patch signed with the appropriate corp code signing key (which isn’t kept on the station) to allow it.

    Why kill everyone, even possible survivors? Walter knows (from whatever comms/telemetry there was about the outbreak) about the telepaths that can possess humans. He doesn’t know how they work in detail (nobody off the station does). The safest option is to kill everything big enough to move.

    Why would Walter allow Dahl to return when he might get infected? He didn’t. He gave Dahl the mission to wipe the station and transmit all the data that can be recovered. Walter has had Dahl’s ship programmed to burn up in the atmosphere on reentry. He and his team on the ground will study the data, and possibly launch a much more scientifically minded and better equipped team to see if they can recover any Typhon cells to start over on Talos-2 after they know what went wrong.

    None of the above would take more than a few lines to fix. They wouldn’t change that this is the wrong time, wrong tone, wrong character. But you can at least make him less pointlessly mustache twirling.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      Alternatively, have Walter tell Dahl to save his kids but, due to a previous incident where Morgan and Alex framed Dahl’s brother and colleague for murder to hide a blunder and he ended up being one of the prisoners they used for their experiments, Dahl actually wants revenge against them and only pretends to go along with the plan just so he has an excuse to kill them.

      This works in several ways. One, it makes Walter less cartoonish, as he’s not willing to sacrifice his offspring. Two, it makes your conflict against Dahl personal. Three, it makes Dahl a sympathetic villain who has legitimate reasons to want your life. Then you have to concede the fact that he’s right while also looking for a way to stop him because the current issue is much more urgent. And it would only take a few lines of dialogue. Though it’d probably be better if the conflict was foreshadowed. Perhaps Dahl’s brother could be the prisoner you get to kill or save earlier in the game.

    2. Chad Miller says:

      So, the thing about the robot R&D is kind of explained. A bit. There’s a sidequest where you can find out that the Q-Beam and resulting Military Operators are recent inventions. What actually happened was, someone on Talos drew up most of the plans but the final touches were put together in corporate, so you can handwave the assumption that whateve 3d-print schematics weren’t on Talos before Watlher showed up, and anyone who could have had the knowledge to complete them got caught early in the Typhon attack.

    3. Steve C says:

      I think the best option would be for the story to make Walter into a good guy. One who sent Dahl to save every innocent on the station. While Dahl also is there to kill everyone involved who committed crimes against humanity. The whole thing would now be about calling out Morgan and Alex for their crimes and condemning them. Making it Walter’s deliberate decision to have them killed. Not because of money or immoral reasons. But because the Yu family did this horrible immoral thing. That as the patriarch he feels it is his duty to solve. He wants to ensure his greatest mistake (his children) do not destroy humanity nor get away with what they’ve already done.

      Nothing would change in terms of what happens. Only the dialogue and motivations behind why it is happening. Plus now it re-frames killing Dahl as yet another one of your self-serving morally dubious acts. It would work within both within the main plot. And the after credits plot.

      In fact, it would not surprise me that this was the original way the story was supposed to go. Shamus’ points above should be pretty obvious after all. However I could see this alternative testing poorly with playtesters. Players (for good reason) don’t generally enjoy being told off like this even if it makes more sense for the narrative.

    4. Zekiel says:

      From memory I thought the killbots *were* something that the staff on the station (even Alex and Morgan) couldn’t create. Co opting the operator dispensers were specifically something Dahl could only do because as an agent of the board.

      Maybe that was just head canon though.

      1. guy says:

        I think, given that they hadn’t been made before, it’s reasonable to assume the schematics weren’t loaded into the operator dispensers. Given the threat of the Typhon they really should have been (well, unless you’re worried about technopaths but it seems likely they weren’t) but it seems pretty clear TransStar wasn’t taking the Typhon seriously enough as a threat. There’s lots of reasons you wouldn’t want a mostly civilian station to churn out killbots at the press of a button.

        1. Chad+Miller says:

          The Q-Beam sidequest hints that while the Q-Beam itself was developed within Talos, the part where they stick it in an operator was handled elsewhere. I just assumed Kaspar brought the schematic and uploaded it to the operator dispensers.

          The point about Technopaths is a good one, and could have been a good way to show the Typhon regaining the upper hand; it’s funny that while Techopaths stealing turrets is an actual game mechanic, the operator takeover isn’t. As far as the game mechanics are concerned, “Corrupted Operators” are just another enemy type that spawns sometimes. This also means that if you hack a corrupted Operator it can attack a Technopath for you, something that feels like it shouldn’t be possible for story reasons.

  7. Tizzy says:

    No doubt because MONEY LOLOLOL!

    Well, yeah, it sounds preposterous to our ears that a guy who has infinite money would perpetrate some atrocities because they might be bumped down to 99% of their assets. It certainly would have zero impact on William’s standards of living or anything.

    Yet, isn’t it what we see powerful people do all the time in real life? I can’t explain it to myself, I can’t imagine I would do the same in their situation (easy to say since I won’t be). But however unsatisfying that motivation may be, there’s no denying that it rings true.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      Right, but the point is that it makes for a boring villain from a narrative perspective.

    2. Damiac says:

      Do you have an example?

      Usually the greedy actions taken by corporations are at the behest of the stockholders. Those people aren’t typically in the “infinite money” group, at least, not all of them. Many represent brokerage firms holding retirement accounts for normal people, maybe even like you.

      Even the most puppy-kicking villainous example I can think of, Martin Shkrelli, was hired with full knowledge of who he was and what sort of things he did. The PR hit got to be too much, but why was he hired? Simple, to make money for the company’s stockholders.

      In the game Heat Signature, there’s an NPC who talks about the “mysterious force” that causes people to do evil. At first, he talks about it like it’s supernatural, but after you ask him to explain it, it’s very straightforward, but strikes me as completely true.

      He said that for any given corporation, there are many stockholders. The stockholders all have varying ethics, philosophies, wants, etc. But they have one thing in common. They all want the corporation to make more money. So even though every individual member of the group may be perfectly virtuous and ethical, they probably don’t agree on those philosophies and ethics. All they agree on is the company should make money. So that’s what happens.

      For a random blurb from a random NPC in a not very story driven game, this really struck me as insightful. The entity that represents the will of the stockholders is completely amoral, not because the stockholders are amoral, but because morals aren’t the thing that brought them together.

      And to me, that explains a lot. In my experience, the vast majority of people are good and kind and don’t want bad things for other people. But the more people you put together into decision making, the further you separate from those inherent virtues. A corporation made up of nice enough people can be greedy and amoral. A nation made up of nice enough people can be aggressive and cruel, because all they agree on is the need for security.

      1. Henson says:

        I find this explanation unsatisfying. If everyone in a group is ethical and moral, then surely they would agree on the ethical thing to do; or, inversely, agree on the unethical thing not to do. But if they don’t agree on ethics, then surely that means that some of them are unethical, yes? And if the company acts in unethical ways, that suggests that either there are a non-trivial amount of unethical people involved, or something else is going on.

        I tend to think that, when dealing with large, loosely-knit groups, conformity and de-personalization tend to make it harder for people to hold to strict moral stances; or, alternatively, to acquiesce to unethical actors.

        1. Tizzy says:

          My original intent was not even to comment on the moral or amoral actions of individuals (and I stress individuals here, I do not believe that William is acting on behalf of his shareholders, I had zero plan to get into discussing corporations, public or private).

          My point was simply that, however counterintuitive it may feel, people who have infinitely more material resources than we can dream of can be spurred to take actions (legal or illegal, moral or amoral) “just for the money” even when it represents only a negligible fraction of their wealth. So having William act to protect his financial interests doesn’t sound farfetched at all. We see this every day. Because that was my interpretation of the footnote: that Shamus thought this was not a credible motivation.

          Now, I can’t argue with Dreadjaws’ objection: Yes, the villain’s motivations feel true to life, but it’s the boring kind of true to life, and it doesn’t make for a compelling story. And maybe this is how the footnote was intended in the first place.

          Written communication is hard.

        2. Damiac says:

          You’re making the assumption there’s one “morally correct” action, or there is one universally accepted system of ethics. Let’s make it easy and say a company is owned by (Fake, stereotypical versions of)A “Whig” and a “Republican Democrat”. The fake, stereotypical whig thinks you make people weaker by just giving them stuff they didn’t earn. So their idea of ethics and morals is actually opposed to giving free stuff to help people, instead thinking that it’d be better to train them, or give a speech about “Lifting yourself up by your bootstraps”.
          While the fake, stereotypical Republican Democrat thinks you should help all the less fortunate by, lets say, giving shares in the company to every poor person so they’re on equal footing.

          Both of these people can be said to have solid morals and ethics, even though both are so oversimplified they hopefully don’t actually work in real life, so as to avoid offending anyone’s real politics. However they probably wouldn’t agree on many specific actions being ethical or moral. Yet both of them own shares in the company, and both want money. So when you combine these two moral and ethical people into one entity, they’re not immoral, but they’re really not moral either, because they can’t agree on any moral actions. What do they agree on? Making money.

          1. Henson says:

            The problem is that you’re using two different definitions of “Ethics” interchangeably. One hand, you’re saying that everyone in the company is an ethical person based on the standards of their separate groups; Person A is ethical according to Group Whig (A), Person B is ethical according to Group Republican Democrat (B). But then, when you judge the actions of the company in service of money to be unethical, you’re basing this not on the standards of Group A or Group B, but on the society in which both Groups A & B reside. The word ‘Ethics’ can now refer to either standard, and the definition has become slippery and unhelpful.

            Let’s take your above example: if the company decides to give shares to poor people, then they have adhered to the ‘ethics’ of Group B, but broken the ‘ethics’ of Group A. If we judge by the ‘ethics’ of each group, then the action is both ethical and unethical. Thus, from an objective standpoint, we can’t say that the company has acted unethically, because it’s only unethical for one group. But if we judge based on the larger society, then we can make such a determination.

            Or, alternatively: if the company decides to neither give speeches or give shares, but rather to kidnap poor people and sell them into slavery, then both Groups A & B can agree that the company has acted unethically. But then that means that Groups A & B both share an ethical position, and don’t disagree on this action, even if they couldn’t agree on what to do about poor people in the first place.

            This is why I find your reasoning unsatisfying. You say that people in a company don’t have any shared standards besides making money, but shared standards are the very thing required to make a determination about whether the company has acted unethically.

            This is also why I think it’s much better to talk about ‘Values’ rather than ‘Ethics’ when it comes to things like political differences. I could, theoretically, believe that the Whig’s above position is the best course of action, and I might even be right about that, but that doesn’t mean that people who disagree must be unethical; they simply have different values. And while such differences can be about ethics, it’s not inherently so.

      2. Fizban says:

        Usually the greedy actions taken by corporations are at the behest of the stockholders. Those people aren’t typically in the “infinite money” group, at least, not all of them. Many represent brokerage firms holding retirement accounts for normal people, maybe even like you.

        And where do most of the infinite money people get their money? By holding stocks. You can’t hide your choice of actions behind “the stockholders” when the majority of the stock and thus actual decision-making control is held by. . . you (or split between however many of the company owners/board of directors/whatever).

        How many companies actually sell *all* of their shares to randos? Pretty sure that’s not how it works at all. Whining about “the shareholders” is blatant obfuscation. The person in control of the company whining about “the shareholders” is themselves either the majority shareholder, or the chosen representative of a small number of majority shareholders. If “the shareholders” primary motivation is making money, it’s not because Joe Random only cares about making money: Joe Random has no majority, no control other than what meager influence comes from their choice to hold or sell*. The amount of influence the entire collective of Joe Random has, is determined by the “company” itself, because the “company” decides how much of “itself” it sells.

        “The shareholders” is just a roundabout way of saying the same thing as “the Board,” or “the CEO,” or whoever. Whining about how you have to do X because “the shareholders” is quite literally saying that you have to do X because you personally want to do X (And the same, saying that “the company” did something is actually referring to those same people in control, who made the decision, not the hundreds or thousands of people with no say who do all the actual work that *is* the company.)

        *Even if a large portion of stock is held by randos who all suddenly sell because of some thing happening, that drives stock prices down, so what? The company still exists, all of its normal operations *should* still be working as normal. The people who *actually* make up the company are unaffected. Only those in control, who get most of their money from the actual “the shareholders,” are affected. Unless the company’s ability to exist has somehow been tied to the visible value of its stock shares, which it probably can through some circuitous chain of totally sensible and 100% legal gymnastics that suddenly cripples the operation with real-money debt as a consequence. Which probably exists and is in common use as a way for “the (actual) shareholders” to squeeze more money out of “the company” they make decisions for, in the time between taking control and bailing out.

        Now, should an *actual* company want to make money? Of course. All those people that do the work, that need that job to live, want their job to continue existing, and for that the company must continue to exist-which means it needs to break even, not make magically ever-increasing amounts of money. An *actual* company should be most concerned with not having to lay off its workforce, because those workers *are* the company. But when the people in control can increase “the company”s profit for “the shareholders” (themselves) by sacrificing those workers, “the company” is clearly no longer the *actual* company.

        1. Damian says:

          You got me, I’m swimming in a pool of gold coins in my vault like scrooge McDuck.
          I buy stuff from China made with slave labor because I love slavery, obviously, not due to financial realities. How could I help to uphold an abusive system unless I completely agree with it, right? It must be my lack of ethics and morals.

          I’m coming across as hostile because you accused me of “whining” when I’m just sharing a point of view I found interesting.

          1. Fizban says:

            I’m sorry if you took that as a personal attack, since it was meant to be aimed at the infinite-money people who whine about “the shareholders” to (badly) disguise what they do in order to benefit themselves (as seen just like, all the time when a company is criticized for doing something normal people consider bad). The “you” is not *you*, it’s the not-so-strawman. The part I think you (actually you) are missing is that the majority of stockholders are not individuals, or stocks being brokered for individuals, but simply the people in control of the companies- if for no other reason than it was them choosing exactly how much stock to sell.

            Brokerage firms holding retirement accounts for normal people are part of Joe Random: they don’t have any more say than an individual unless they actually own enough shares to own the company, or to control a seat on the board. I suppose it’s possible such a representative of normal people’s interests could control a seat, and a particular company could have all of their non-owner seats controlled by separate normie-reps, and could then capitulate to that (still-minority) group and whine about having done something for “the shareholders.” But I’m pretty sure retirement accounts are supposed to be sufficiently diversified that even a particular firm would never control that much of one company, specifically because doing so would put them at risk. Even if 49% of all stock was held by normal people just trying to save their money from inflation*, it would still mean “the stockholders” opinion is actually made of the 51% held by not-those-people.

            Unless you can provide me with a quick link to a breakdown showing that majority of stock is actually held by randos, such as due to a vast majority of small to mid-size companies selling off all their stock to randos, but again, I don’t think that’s how it works (I did google the question but what little useful result I got supported my expectation).

            *Which incidentally while I’m thinking about it, is a hilarious example of the $100 dollar boots problem extended to all money. If you don’t have enough money kicking around to “invest” (which means not only having enough to save, but also enough to spread it around so that it’s not going to be lost on a bad gamble, and also the time and effort required to learn just how you’re supposed to interface with the system), then any money you do save magically loses value over time so your efforts are worth, less.

    3. Syal says:

      Yet, isn’t it what we see powerful people do all the time in real life?


      But however unsatisfying that motivation may be, there’s no denying that it rings true.

      There absolutely is. I have never once seen a corporation send a kill squad to their own facility, and I highly doubt you have either.

      1. Damiac says:

        I’m glad I’m not the only person living in the real world here. Real life rich people are not a bunch of James Bond villains. And many awful people are not wealthy.

        However a very wealthy very awful person can do a lot more damage, so that’s probably why they work so well in fiction.

        1. Tizzy says:

          I hope everyone is having a good time debating strawmen. It’s a lot more fun than actually replying to what I wrote.

          1. Damiac says:

            You disagreed with shamus saying William yu (the super rich dude) was acting unrealistically in having everyone, including his children, murdered for a comparitively small financial gain. You suggested this happens “all the time” in real life.

            We’re saying that actually doesn’t happen “all the time”. I can’t think of a single time that’s happened in real life.

            What are we misrepresenting? Where is the strawman?

          2. Fizban says:

            Well there is a negativity= interesting angle. It could very well be that the actual majority of lol infinite money people (by most thresholds) really don’t sweat the small stuff and only concern themselves with losses that are showing a trend that (based on competent experts) is actually going to harm the company they’re in charge of. But we never hear about it because it’s not interesting,

            “Company owner and primary stockholder behaves as rationally and morally appropriate for a human being in charge of the lives of other human beings” only sounds radical because we’ve been inundated with all the tales of the most ridiculous and infinite of the infinite money people, who got that way by obsessively sweating *all* the small stuff.

            How would one even go about attempting to measure this? And no matter how you tried, simply moving the threshold for what qualifies as lol$ would drastically change the body of people observed, allowing you to control the results, or others to brush them off as not representative.

            1. Radkatsu says:

              @Fizban – completely unrelated, just curious if you’re a Dragonlance fan?

              1. Fizban says:

                I was reading the War of the Lance when I was first told to make an email, yes. Though it didn’t take many years for me to sour on the character’s big scene (fireballing the party is not actually funny), and I’ve been using the name for hell probably almost 20 years now. Haven’t read a huge amount of the other stuff the Twins’ series which I should re-read to see if it was actually good ’cause I don’t remember hardly anything that happens, and the Summer of Chaos and War of Souls arc which is fascinating in how it’s just a thick depressing march as they tear apart the setting and everything the previous characters accomplished. I don’t actually have a set of the Chronicles/War of the Lance: by the time I went to get my own copies they’d switched to printing them with an ungodly WotC/DnD logo styled for the new editions that clashes horribly with the cover (hopefully I’ll find a good set used some time).

                Fan is a strong word but yeah, Dragonlance generally good.

                1. Henson says:

                  I actually re-read the Legends trilogy not too long ago, which I hadn’t done in probably over 20 years. I found it…mixed. There are some parts that capture what characters are thinking and feeling wonderfully, and the plot itself is really cool, but then there are other parts where the writing just comes off as amateurish. I like Dragonlance, but I think it’s much better in my head.

          3. Syal says:

            It’s a lot more fun than actually replying to what I wrote.

            You wrote:

            a guy who has infinite money would perpetrate some atrocities… isn’t it what we see powerful people do all the time in real life?

            Perpetrate. Atrocities. You wrote.

            1. Shamus says:

              This is a reply to the thread, not just Syal:

              This exchange is getting kind of mean in a few places. In an effort to pin this to something concrete and shove it in the direction of the topic at hand, I offer the following…

              Elon Musk is working hard to get his hands on all the lithium he can. We need lithium for batteries, but lithium mines are gigantic, expensive, polluting eyesores. I’ve read from informal sources (read: people on Twitter and Reddit) that there are also some human rights concerns with how this stuff is extracted. Stuff like child labor, wildly unsafe working conditions, and poverty-level wages for the guys doing dangerous and backbreaking manual labor of digging up the lithium.

              Now, I haven’t personally followed up on any of that, so it’s all hearsay to me. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume it’s true. Let’s assume that lithium is being extracted in third-world countries by borderline slave labor and that bigshot billionaire Elon Musk is pressing them for more and not asking too many questions about how they’re getting it. This extraction is leaving an environmental mess and most of the money is going to corrupt third-world governments that have no plans to clean it up.

              Assuming all of this is true: We have a billionaire that seems to be profiting from this ghastly resource extraction so he can make more cars. How evil!


              He’s not assembling his cars using slave labor. His own company is purportedly a really good place to work. If he’s SO evil, then why is his evil so laser-focused on lithium extraction?

              Based on his public statements, he’s motivated by a desire to get us off of fossil fuels. He believes the future is at stake. And he believes that these lithium mines – despite their awful conditions – are the only way to get lithium in the required quantities. So he has two choices:

              1) Buy lithium from third-world countries that will extract the material using unacceptable labor practices.
              2) Do nothing and allow the fossil fuel problem to run for ANOTHER generation.

              You could make a lot of arguments about what he “should” do, or what you would do in his place. I’m not trying to paint him as a hero or get you to like him. I’m certainly not trying to get you to approve of his actions. I’m just saying that the real world is complicated and messy.

              (Disclaimer: It’s been a few years since I read all of this and this technology is evolving quickly. No doubt a lot of my Tesla information is outdated. But we’re just using this situation for illustrative purposes.)

              Most corporate villains have some sort of excuse for their apparent villainy.

              * I’m creating jobs!
              * This technology is saving lives!
              * I’m saving the planet!
              * I’m building a better world through improved infrastructure!

              “Every villain is the hero of their own story”. Except, there is nothing to suggest that William Yu is anything besides a cartoonish murder-goblin. He’s just engaging in pointless and self-defeating mass-murder for “money”. William doesn’t get any dialog to humanize him, to make him complex, or to make him feel real. He’s a sloppy and boring character in a story that otherwise has interesting and well-observed villains.

              Unrealistic dialog:
              “I don’t care about those kids! I need that lithium or our fourth quarter earning report is going to be a disaster!”

              More realistic:
              “I understand it’s a difficult situation, but see if there’s anything you can do to speed things up. Obviously I’m not asking you to put anyone in danger. I’m just saying that the sooner we can get the material, the better things will be for everyone.”

              The first dialog tells me that the writer thinks I’m too stupid to pick up on subtext. And that’s the kind of dialog that William Yu has. I don’t think he’s realistic. But even if I thought he was, he’s boring and his cartoonish malice is in danger of upstaging the cool space aliens at the center of this story.

              1. Syal says:

                Will throw my general thoughts on it here, I suppose.

                My take is that corporate bigwigs are really good at bending the rules, and as such are going to be very reluctant to break them. A company making things with slave labor is going to do that in countries where that’s a legal practice, and the really unscrupulous will push to keep it legal; but once it’s no longer legal, they’re going to shut down their operation, because the financial loss in no way justifies putting themselves at risk of prison. They’ll risk fines, they won’t risk freedom.

                A situation like Transtar’s, with a joint unethical operation between a company and multiple governments, is going to be all about deniability; William’s going to be drafting his speech about how he never thought his kids would lie to him about what was happening on that station, and/or that the alien was introduced suddenly and unexpectedly and their employees had no chance. All the while telling the cooperating governments that it’s going to go horribly for them if this gets out, trying to get them to cover it up. They wouldn’t try to scrub it themselves because that’s one more way their deniability can fail.

                Assuming they’re unscrupulous enough to send someone to scrub the facility, they surely would be trying to bring the researchers back; these are the people who know what the research means, and have already proven to be unscrupulously loyal to the company. The only reason you wouldn’t would be is if you’re afraid they’re deadly, but in that case the operative will catch it and can’t bring back the research either. And if you could transmit the research by itself, then surely you’ve been doing that the whole time and already have everything except the very end with the collapse, so there’s no good reason to risk an operative to collect it.

                1. ContribuTor says:

                  My take is that corporate bigwigs are really good at bending the rules, and as such are going to be very reluctant to break them. A company making things with slave labor is going to do that in countries where that’s a legal practice, and the really unscrupulous will push to keep it legal; but once it’s no longer legal, they’re going to shut down their operation, because the financial loss in no way justifies putting themselves at risk of prison. They’ll risk fines, they won’t risk freedom.

                  Except…they never go to prison, do they? Corporations break the rules all the time. Knowingly. When caught, they deny that what they did was actually against the rules (using some twisted argument). Or blame it on some underling or a breakdown in communications. Or a “technical failure” because, hey, we all make mistakes. Or, most likely, settle with whatever regulator is involved for a fine that sounds impressive but doesn’t really hurt the bottom line, with a “no admission of guilt” rider.

                  The handling of the Bhopal disaster is a masterclass here. It was a tragic accident! No, it was an act of sabotage! No it was a standalone subsidiary and we are shocked, shocked at their practices!

                  1. Syal says:

                    Which rules were actually broken in the Bhopal disaster? Looks like routine negligence, ordinarily punishable by fine. And at least in this article, nothing claims that anything broke Indian law; the only safety standards mentioned are internal.

                    And yes, that’s what you expect here; they’d solve the problem by burying it in money and noise. Those are bends. The company divide is there from the very beginning, for pre-emptive deniability.

              2. Coming Second says:

                Or 3) put pressure on the US government to back bloody coups in lithium-rich but exploitation-averse democracies to open up those markets. Supposedly. Theoretically.

                1. Paulo Marques says:

                  Actually putting pressure on anyone is probably beyond his capabilities, although it’s still an incredibly bad take to support such a violent coup.
                  OTOH, the man is awash in greenwashing, from the unworkable loops killing discussion about real transit, to a clean gas plant to fuel rockets that is nothing but a good old-fashioned oil plant.
                  A tame evil, if you will, relying on gullible tech bros with a hard time understand even what money is. He’s no Eric Prince.

              3. Damiac says:

                That’s a great real life example, thanks Shamus, sorry for getting heated.

                I’m just another Han Solo shooting first, I’m afraid. Thanks for being the Mr. Rogers.

                Just to clarify, the whole concept I was talking about was something an NPC said in the game Heat Signature, not any real world CEO making excuses.

                And just to add to the complaints about real world behavior, let’s not forget about Congress giving themselves an exemption for insider trading or retroactively making illegal spying on Americans legal. The corporations can only make use of the corruption that’s already there. It’s a big ugly ouroboros eating it’s own corrupt tail.

              4. Thomas says:

                This is the first time I’ve seen an internet debate _defused_ by bringing up Elon Musk!

              5. Vladius says:

                Here is a more cut-and-dried well-known modern example.
                The Sackler family runs Purdue Pharma. They knowingly and willfully told doctors to prescribe their opiates at disproportionate levels and specifically went out of their way to downplay how addictive they were. This led directly to massive widespread opiate and heroin addictions, and resulting deaths. They paid a fine of millions of dollars so that they could make bajillions of dollars in profit. They were already ridiculously wealthy.
                But if this were fictional I think you would say that they’re “mustache twirling” or “black hats” or “cartoonish” or “LOL MONEY,” you would say that it was unrealistic, or that they had no motive to do that.

                I think when you start believing that every villain and every bad person in real life has to have a tragic backstory or some compelling political ideology or something, or that everything has to be “nuanced,” you’ve allowed TV Tropes and Screenwriting 101 to overwrite your brain. Stuff like that is more cartoonish, not less.

                1. Smith says:

                  TV Tropes actually has Card Carrying Villain and Complete Monster tropes, so they actually allow for people who are just moustache twirlers.

                  In fact…yep, the page for Prey specifically says Daddy Yu doesn’t have an excuse, he just wants to bury company secrets.

                  People generally like nuanced characters because it makes things more fun and interesting. Because we try to humanize characters literally by definition. And humans tend to be complicated.

                2. 101001101 says:

                  I vaguely remember one person on a forum commenting on The Cheiron Group from the RPG Hunter The Vigil, they noted that none of the conspiracy’s *individuals on the ground* actually seemed that bad in isolation. But the mountain of people all making rational decisions at their level and in the moment adds up to an organization that is nightmare-ish.

                  Note that while The Cheiron Group is a somewhat villainous conspiracy and a source of a bit of black comedy, they do not come off as cartoonish evil, even when the possibility of their board of director being shadowy and possibly non-human is raised. They have a perfectly reasonable motive for hunting monsters and doing questionable stuff – the supernatural is a great source of profitable research and development. Heck, their conspiracy-specific Endowments are their successful innovations in harvesting monsters for sweet badass biotech (albeit the beta version with incomplete bug-testing, but hey). What pharma company WOULDN’T jump all over a chance at a cancer cure, even if it meant waging a war on the worst horrors squirming in the darkness?

    4. ContribuTor says:

      This is where I disagree with Shamus on LOL MONEY being the motivation. Because this isn’t about technology to crank out slightly cheaper blue jeans or improve inventory management in warehouses.

      This is the iPhone. Facebook. The automobile. This is the technology to fundamentally reshape people’s lives and how society works.

      There money (LOTS of money) in those technologies. But more than that, there’s the opportunity to world the godlike power to shape society as you see fit (at least in some ways).

      Mark Zuckerberg could quit right now and never have to work again. The reason he shows up every day isn’t LOL MONEY.

      That’s a power that mere money can’t achieve. Very few people are ever in position to wield

      1. Shamus says:

        The problem with this reading is that William Yu doesn’t seem to know about the Typhon or neuromods. He doesn’t know what’s going on. If the story hinted that he had a clue, then we could talk about how he’s maybe motivated by the potential of this new technology and the power / opportunity it offers.

        But he only gets a couple of lines of dialog, and in those lines he orders a bloody purge of his knowledge workers and for Walther to bring back whatever technology he can recover.

        Money is his only possible motivation, aside from bloodlust.

        1. Henson says:

          Aren’t the neuromods public knowledge at this point? They got a famous pianist up to the station to record his talent, there are excerpts from things like “The Neural Horizon” that indicate that people in general are aware of the existence of neuromods. Also, Morgan had one installed before she left earth.

          1. Shamus says:

            It’s really weird. In some places the game shows us magazine articles talking about neuromods. In other places it feels like neuromods are still in the R&D stage. Like Alex gives a toast when they print their 8,000th mod. But like… that’s not 8k shipped to customers, that’s 8k produced, which means they’re still in the prototype stage. Also, Morgan’s testing treadmill feels like the kind of thing you’d do at the start to get things figured out, not something that would be needed if you’ve already gone into production.

            William Yu wants all technology, but he doesn’t NAME any of it. And he doesn’t indicate any awareness of the Typhon. But then, how could he NOT be aware of the Typhon? This station was built around them. How could he not know that they exist? How could he not know about neuromods? How could he not know that neuromods are made from Typhon?

            But if he knows all of that, then his orders to Dahl make NO SENSE. His orders boil down to “Secure the technology and blow up the alien that makes the technology useful.”

            You can argue that William Yu isn’t as cartoonishly simple as I make him out to be, but only at the expense of making these other plot holes bigger / more obvious.

            Any way you look at it, this section of the game is very rough and not really up to the quality of the rest of it. Someone else suggested that this bit was added on near the end of the project to keep the game from being too short, and that makes a lot of sense to me.

            1. Killjoy says:

              I think it’s Typhon-based abilities that are in the R&D stage. Stuff humans can already do – like playing piano or lifting heavy things – are already public, in a way

            2. Henson says:

              I suppose his orders could make sense if TranStar has Typhon available somewhere else. There is mention of another mysterious station somewhere that a shuttle happened upon, but I don’t know if we know anything about it. And I can’t say I have any idea how they would get Typhon off Talos I, but you could probably make something work.

              I guess I’m just much more hung up on the narrative problems here than the logical ones.

              1. guy says:

                They do have Typhon on a moonbase, which also goes completely to hell

                1. Chad+Miller says:

                  I don’t know if this retrospective will bother with Mooncrash but if so I’ll be interested to see how Shamus fits that into the timeline. I feel like they only give about 2-3 hints as to when the events on Pytheas actually happened, all of which contradict each other.

            3. guy says:

              It’s quite possible that an early experimental stage of something so transformative would get lots of press coverage.

              I figure the technology must be the neuralmods, because they don’t seem to be doing much non-Typhon research, but even discounting Mooncrash, which shows they have a backup Typhon supply, the research into neuralmods could be pretty valuable even without the capacity to create more. You could learn all kinds of things about the brain from studying how they work and potentially get on a path to making Typhonless neuralmods. Or theoretically discover a way to sythesize Typhon goo in a lab.

              Certainly they’re the only thing likely kept exclusively on the station that even a cartoonish evil corporate executive would risk a boarding action for.

            4. Chad+Miller says:

              It’s really weird. In some places the game shows us magazine articles talking about neuromods. In other places it feels like neuromods are still in the R&D stage. Like Alex gives a toast when they print their 8,000th mod. But like… that’s not 8k shipped to customers, that’s 8k produced, which means they’re still in the prototype stage. Also, Morgan’s testing treadmill feels like the kind of thing you’d do at the start to get things figured out, not something that would be needed if you’ve already gone into production.

              Where I landed on this part was:

              1) The existence of neuromods and the ability to transfer skills between humans is public knowledge, but not yet released to the public
              2) The existence of the Typhon is known only to the US/Soviet governments and the upper eschelons of TranStar
              3) As a corollary, the source of “exotic materials” as an ingredient, and the existence of Typhon-power neuromods, is top secret (including to most TranStar/Talos employees)

              Morgan’s experiments can be explained as specifically testing the Typhon powers; as far as I know there’s no reference to her doing relatively mundane things like bake a cake or play a guitar solo, it’s all levitation and transforming into chairs and shooting fireballs. Meanwhile Alex can give employees things like “drumming expert” neuromods as a job perk and/or as a kill switch to wipe an employee’s memory if they happen to find out something they shouldn’t.

            5. CannonGerbil says:

              Neuromods absolutely are public knowledge at this point, the various articles and interviews prove that. What is more fuzzy is how available it is to the general public. My reading, based off the advertisements of getting free neuromods as job bonuses for working at Talos and the various attempts to smuggle neuromods out of the station by various employees is that Neuromods are publicly available at this point, but only to the very rich and people of exceptional means.

              What isn’t public knowledge is the existence of the typhon, and by extension, the Typhon based neuromods, which is still undergoing R&D, and why Morgan needed to be treading the memory timeloop for.

              Incidentally, Neuromods don’t work exactly like they do in the game. Canonically each Neuromod is supposed to be specifically programmed with one specific skillset, and the way it’s actually depicted in game is an abstraction done for gameplay purposes, so those eight thousand neuromods Alex mentioned could very well refer to 8000 unique neuromod skills rather than eight thousand physically printed neuromods.

            6. andnowforme0 says:

              Well this reply is a week late, so I don’t know if anyone’s gonna read it, but narcissism demands I press on.

              My reading from the in-game emails, magazines, loading screens, voice recordings, etc. is that the existence of neuromods is incredibly NEW, but not secret. Like, it’s the year after the first iPhone was released. Their existence is public knowledge, but they’re incredibly hard to get ahold of unless you’re rich and/or well connected. And of course, the vast majority don’t know what it’s made from (predatory alien guts).

              As others have said, Morgan is testing primarily alien abilities like morphing, levitating, blink, and psychoshock. The human abilities like playing an instrument, lifting well, piloting, throwing a curveball, etc. are available to people rich enough to afford it, and those neuromods are programmed by, for example, scanning Leitner’s brain while he plays the piano, then making the alien goo take the shape of those brain cells.

              Obviously, as the Big Boss of Transtar, William would be read in on EVERYTHING. In his message to Dahl he specifically mentions retrieving “all cobalt level research”. There’s an audiolog in Psychotronics that also mentions “cobalt”, and it’s the same one where Morgan and a couple scientists are talking about putting mirror neurons in Typhon. So yeah, William knows about the aliens and he wants Dahl to grab all the research notes (which presumably get periodically and securely transferred to HQ but not constantly and not on an open frequency) and silence any witnesses that might have figured out the horrific crimes against humanity which are regularly performed on the station. Even if the Psychotronics staff were all down with the whole “brutally murdering political prisoners because sedatives are for pansies” thing, more than a few would probably be disgruntled enough to blow the lid out of spite after surviving.

              It’s easy to see why William would see a containment breach on Talos I and reach the conclusion that “Oh too bad so sad, the reactor just blew everyone and everything up nothing to even recover from the wreckage,” is the cleanest way to avoid liability for the aforementioned crimes against humanity, avoid liability for harboring hostile aliens and not warning the crew, and keep rival corporations from getting their hands on Typhon.

              1. Shamus says:

                Ok, this is all really helpful. The big key for me is this:

                ” (which presumably get periodically and securely transferred to HQ but not constantly and not on an open frequency) ”

                Yes, that would explain why William seems to know everything yet is still sending a merc to secure tech. He just wants the latest updates.

        2. ContribuTor says:

          Huh. I’ll defer to you having played it much more recently and in depth.

          It never occurred to me that “recover the technology” referred to anything other than neuromods. Maybe that’s just my head cannon.

          1. Henson says:

            ‘Head canon’. Head cannon is something very different, but much more exciting.

  8. MilesDryden says:

    I was halfway through the numbered list when I realized that the guy’s name was spelled Walther, with an H. At first I thought it was a typo but then looked back and saw that the H is there consistently throughout the post. I think I just experienced the Mandela effect in real time.

  9. Gethsemani says:

    I actually like William Yu because his villainy is to essentially personify TranStar’s merciless corporate attitude. You’ve seen how Alex is all about results, how Morgan used to be pretty close to Mengele on the “ethical research”-scale and heard about TranStar’s sinister board and sinister dealings. Then you hear from William Yu and realize that none of it is a mistake or a personal failing of the Yu siblings. William shows us that the failsafe for Talos I was to kill everyone, secure the research and maybe destroy the station, no matter what the failure aboard Talos I was. William will gladly sacrifice his own children, the companies most prestigious asset and every hyper-competent worker working there just to ensure that no one else will know about the Typhon or TranStar’s secret research.

    Is it cartoonish? A bit maybe, but I also think it is entirely in line how TranStar has been presented up until that point and further drives home how the chief failure of Talos I isn’t just that the Typhon are smart, but that TranStar only cares about its bottom line and future sales potential. Everyone on Talos I and the station itself are entirely expendable as long as the board can keep making Neuromods (this also nicely foreshadows Mooncrash and how TranStar also has a station on the moon doing the same research).

    1. Kylroy says:

      Killing the creator is historically the *original* patent protection.

      1. 101001101 says:

        My guess is that the rationale for William’s decision is;
        1) The authorities will eventually want to investigate the disaster on the station.
        2) If the authorities investigate, they will probably discover the hideously amoral experiments.
        3) Even if the company escapes jail for that, it will likely go public and ruin the reputation of everyone who even knows how to spell Transtar. William will go down in history as another Stalin.
        4) Torch the evidence before the cops show up.

        Maybe it’s an overreaction, but taking risks is a young man’s game. William Yu is fairly old.

  10. Killjoy says:

    Do you have any thoughts on how this part plays if you’re playing as “Evil” Yu, Shamus? I didn’t do a playthrough like that, but I read how Dahl pretends to be aligned with your objectives and gives you a quest, where ultimately he plans to double-cross you and kill you. I don’t know if in this scenario he doesn’t have the killbots set to ‘murder Yu’ though

    I’m not sure if this is less or more stupid than the usual thing we get, honestly

  11. Chad Miller says:

    Regarding this section and why it’s annoying, I would like to add:

    This is too many times we had the same goal jerked away from us in the same place

    If you’re following the main quest, then everything after the GUTS looks like:

    * You’ll pass near Alex’s office in the Arboretum. You may or may not get past the shutdown elevator, but either way you can’t get to him.

    * Try to get into Deep Storage. You need Danielle’s voice.

    * Do all of Crew Quarters, go to Deep Storage

    * Get locked in Deep Storage, go on the reactor reset adventure

    * Back at Alex’s office. “I’ll give you the key…after another sidequest”

    * Go outside, scan coral, get your genitals irradiated off by Weavers and their Cystoids

    * Back at Alex’s office. “Okay, now you can have the key. Oh wait murder-robots.”

    Not only have we been denied accomplishing anything in this specific location three times, but the coral-scan task is long enough to feel like effort was expended but also short enough to feel like nothing was accomplished. And this is coming at a point where the player, correctly, is assuming the game is nearly over. If you’ve been sidequesting enough it’s likely you’ve already seen the entire station at this point, and if you’re not then you’re probably looking forward to the conclusion and this is going to feel like a last minute bullshit detour.

    1. Coming Second says:

      100%. The one cool moment Dahl provides, the windows opening in Alex’s office and you finding yourself surrounded by murderbots, is ruined by the player having been jerked around so much at that point it doesn’t arrive as a nasty shock but a weary shrug of the shoulders. “Here’s yet more dumb bullshit you have to contend with before you get to see your brother. Fuck you.”

      I actually began to doubt Alex even existed except as a voice here, because the game was being so unbearably coy with him.

      1. Smith says:

        Honestly, if I was an overweight administrator who has the physical capability of a snail on a salt flat, I’d hide in my panic room and leave the legwork to my sibling too.

        1. Coming Second says:

          His bulk actually gives him slightly better hitpoints than the human average in this game! Not that he’d be able to do any of the sprinting and vent crawling that Morgan gets up to.

    2. Trevor says:

      Yup. This.

      I felt a little jerked along by this sequence, but there were enough interesting things and new areas that I was okay going along with it. The only place you really backtrack to is the outside of the station where you scan the coral but there you’re expecting the payoff of learning some big truth about the Typhon and that can help you maintain momentum.

      But once the murderbots hit, the camel’s back breaks completely. Too much busy work, boring villain and the murder bots are annoying to fight and not fun to kill, even with Machine Mind.

      I guess Dahl is there to pad the run time, but I didn’t feel like the game was too short. He feels like a last minute ass-pull that someone dictated to add an extra 1-2 hours to gameplay and I don’t know that the game needed that or who felt like it did.

      1. Fizban says:

        Not game-length- I’d figure someone thought they absolutely needed to have a (para)-military kill team show up to wipe the station. Because. . . tradition? It’s in Half-Life, it’s apparently the sort of thing they do in the Aliens franchise, it’s what villainous corporations are supposed to do, right?

        It might even be that the villain is cartoonish and the sequence short because they new it didn’t actually fit with the rest of the story, so they leaned away with it even though someone decided it had to be there. It could even be an internal “hey, we’ve got robot dispensers that could print kill bots, this has to come up at some point” lampshade that went wrong.

  12. Kylroy says:

    Reading about this guy for the first time – he sounds like a perfect Act 1 villain. Have him infiltrate the station and start producing killbots as the inciting incident, let the player get used to the gameplay for a bit before introducing neuromods, and *then* have escaped Typhon start overwhelming the killbots.

    This means Walther can’t be aligned with Yu Sr. (he wouldn’t sabotage his own still-functioning station, after all), but the corporate espionage angle still works. As a bonus, it means Morgan and Alex *did* have everything under control until another person undermined them.

    …it occurs to me that this kind of “Well actually” story note late in design is the kind of thing that makes both programmers and writers want to kill the person suggesting it.

    1. Syal says:

      System Shock 2 had a character like that, I think; the Security Officer sees what’s happening to people and just starts killing everything that moves (it doesn’t work). That’s the best version of it; no outside infiltration, just a panicking gunman.

    2. Syal says:

      Alternately, you might be able to make it work if he wasn’t working for Transtar, but one of their affiliates; either the Russian or US government has heard about the crisis, lost their faith in Transtar, and sent their own agent to wrest control of the station.

      Probably would still end up a big old padding pit, but at least it would be some worldbuilding; we know all about Transtar already, but I don’t think we’ve heard much about the governments involved yet.

      1. Chad Miller says:

        If they wanted to go with the corporate espionage angle, there’s already a rival corporation in the game that fits the bill. You only hear about them in one optional collection sidequest (Talos Smuggling Ring) but they end up getting expanded on in the DLC, and even fits the role in the story you guys are edging toward: at least some of the damage on the Pytheas base is their fault, and it’s likely that they’re indirectly responsible for the Typhon reaching and taking over Earth

        1. Syal says:

          I wouldn’t like espionage, especially not this late in. A formerly silent partner suddenly turning on you works better for the “everything flying out of control” theme, than an established enemy doing the same. Would have to be much, much earlier for corporate espionage to work, more a catalyst to the disaster than an 11th-hour aspect of it.

          1. Kylroy says:

            Exactly. Putting him in at the start preserves the “sudden change in the station” effect by making it a robot takeover before it’s a Typhon takeover (which also establishes the Typhon as the greater threat). Plus you don’t care about the lack of neuromod supplies of the game hasn’t introduced neuromods yet.

            You’d want to keep it brief because putting it first means essentially delaying the *actual* story, but I think it could be worth it to show the character one kind of danger before introducing the Tyhpon as a next-level threat.

    3. Smith says:

      Corporate espionage is basically the framing device for Mooncrash, incidentally.

  13. RamblePak64 says:

    I feel like there’s a couple ways to fix this guy, and one of them is to fix William Yu’s own motivation. “We’ve lost contact. Go up and assess the damage. In the event that everything went belly up, destroy the station, including everyone on there but my children. Bring them back alive, everyone else is expendable.” We now get an opportunity to see where Alex and Morgan may have gained some of their cold perspective while also making the man believable. As for why destroy the station? Because the one thing Hollywood and other stories never seem to grasp is that, at some point, a company wants to burn all evidence in order to save their hide. Did the project not work? Blow it up.

    This now presents an interesting choice for the player, or at least, similar choices. Perhaps Dahl is loyal and pragmatic enough to carry out his mission and will fight alongside you to destroy the station and all evidence, but Alex wants to preserve the station. However, even if you want to destroy the station, do you want to just let all the survivors die? It’s not like the game has to drastically change the ending conclusion (I think (I don’t actually know how it all ends)), but it’s subtle enough that it gives the player a bit of wiggle room.

    That’s about all I can think and suggest as someone that’s not played the game in full, though.

  14. Coming Second says:

    I have to assume the reason for Dahl’s inclusion was sheer padding. Perhaps some arbitrary number of game hours from start to finish was agreed upon with the marketing department, followed by a realisation late in the day that they weren’t going to meet it. Because yes he’s completely tonally off, the gameplay his army of drones provides is offensively dull, and the Kaspar scavenger hunt seems designed primarily to waste your time. It all just feels like something that was wedged in there at the last minute.

    1. Chad Miller says:

      I had the exact same initial reaction; it felt like the sort of thing where someone said “this isn’t quite enough video game. Let’s put more game in this game.”

      That said, it’s also possible that it’s the other way around and that something bigger was planned, they didn’t have time to finish it, and this is what was left. It’s not like they do literally anything else with the Shuttle Bay (it’s actually weird if you go in there before Dahl shows up; there’s some kind of gas filling the chamber that most players will never see). And the Bridge is only ever used for the ending of the Cook sidequest and the ending of the game; it’s possible for even a reasonably thorough player to miss it entirely right up until the final scene!

      Maybe there was some more interesting cat-and-mouse plot in someone’s head that was eventually whittled down to “laser bots. Just laser bots”

      1. Chad Miller says:

        oh, forgot another bit of weirdness around this guy. The Military Operators are foreshadowed. Barely. In one sidequest. That’s difficult to even happen across. And only sort of makes sense.

        The quest in question starts in the Hardware labs, in a room that you can only get to by conducting repairs outside of the station or using Mimic Matter to get through a ceiling. Then the second leg of the quest leads you to the Q-beam in the GUTS, even though the room also has a Q-beam in it. The ending is so abrupt that I literally said, “wait, that’s it?”

        Anyway, this is the only other thing I know of in the game that talks about the Military Operators and it feels like slapdash, nearly-cut content in its own right.

        1. Fizban says:

          I found the effective “reward” for the Q-beam guy sidequest meh, since there isn’t one, but the story was solid. The guy that was developing a weapon is found out, the blackmailer meets them in secret, and shockingly the weapons devloper kills him with the weapon- dumbass doesn’t know how to blackmail, other dumbass shot them, all very appropriate for people not actually experienced in that sort of thing.

          The biggest problem was that returning later to open the room to get the quest, and then spending like an entire hour trying to follow the map marker through the GUTS where it turns out the body is hidden behind a specific pipe within a pipe that it itself in the middle of the twisty bit, deserves a goddamn reward. But it’s also something you could technically randomly wander into so there’s nothing significant there.

          1. Chad+Miller says:

            Oh, by the ending I’m talking about the part where you go back to Lane Carpenter’s phantom or whoever and the only thing there is a memo on a computer that says something like “Hey, thanks for these Q-Beam plans. We’re going to have someone put these in an Operator” which is as far as I know the only possible foreshadowing to this Dahl section.

            It wasn’t actually a blackmail plot as I understood it, more like one guy being mad at a coworker snaking away his project and getting the credit from management. You can find conversations with HR about it on various terminals.

            I did also kinda find myself wondering if/how this guy expected to get away with murdering a coworker. Was he lucky enough to get his revenge in right before the attack and that’s why his body’s floating in the maintenance tunnels?

          2. CannonGerbil says:

            The guy that was developing a weapon is found out, the blackmailer meets them in secret, and shockingly the weapons devloper kills him with the weapon- dumbass doesn’t know how to blackmail, other dumbass shot them, all very appropriate for people not actually experienced in that sort of thing.

            What, no, that’s not what happened at all. Some low ranking researcher working at Talos came up with the Q Beam design. His boss took the design, claimed credit for it, and submitted it to the corporate board as his product. Once he found out it, the researcher made a copy of the Q-beam based of his own design to prove that he was the original creator of the weapon, but unbeknownst to him the version he came up with had some flaws that made it lethal to the user that were fixed in the version that the boss researcher submitted to corporate, so when he fired it he killed himself as well. Of course this entire thing happened just shortly before the Typhon broke loose.

            There’s a bunch of passive aggressive emails between the two you can find if you snoop around, including one where the boss emailed HR about it.

    2. Thag Simmons says:

      Dahl has two obvious reasons for inclusion that make me think it wasn’t padding. He shows the outside world reacting to events on Talos I and his assistance is required to evacuate the station in the ‘destroy everything’ ending

  15. DarthVitrial says:

    I’d legitimately forgotten that Dahl even existed, and I’ve played through the game twice.
    Shows how memorable he and this segment were, I guess.

  16. Philadelphus says:

    Perhaps we’re a planet of mice in a universe filled with snakes, cats, and owls.

    Just wanted to say that’s a pretty cool line.

  17. RFS-81 says:

    Interesting how different your experience was. Exotic matter was not XP to me. I used up so many bullets that I was always running out of minerals. It’s not that I never crafted a neuromod, but I was always bottlenecked by minerals. I picked up the Typhon Biopsy skill early in the game and it felt like a waste.

    One trick that I figured out with the murderbots was that you can damage them so that they don’t function, but don’t blow up. The operator station still sees that the area is at capacity and doesn’t make more.

    I liked Dahl as a character, but they’ve picked the worst possible point in the story for him to pop up. I like how he suggests that Morgan kept cycling neuromods to forget what she did, just like he does.

    1. Chad Miller says:

      I too printed enough bullets that exotic matter wasn’t a bottleneck.

      At the end of my last playthrough, I actually went with the Nullwave ending and had to break down some Psi Hypos in order to get the necessary metals.

  18. Dev Null says:

    I really enjoyed this game, and it was awhile back, but still…

    I think I barely remember the existence of this Walther character. I don’t remember fighting the waves of bots at all. Shows how much impact they had on my memory of the story.

  19. Vladius says:

    I thought that having a human bad guy was a nice change of pace.

    Also I assumed that William Yu is doing the same thing the government is doing in Half Life. They just want to kill everything and wash their hands of it, because anything coming out of that place is really dangerous or looks really bad for the company. If there are no witnesses and no aliens you can just come in and scoop up the technology and try to salvage the assets, and you can just write it off as the aliens already killed everyone when you got there.

    1. guy says:

      I think the big question is why, if the aliens are considered dangerous enough to wipe out the station and any researchers who might be infected (note that they can deal with witnesses by pulling neuromods and recover a high-value researcher) they’re sending a kill team and not a nuke. If they can’t trust that they can get the researchers down safely, how can they trust they can safely retrieve technology/cleanse the station for reuse?

      Only thing that makes sense to me is if the neuralmod research wasn’t backed up to earthside for security reasons so they want it downloaded and this is secretly a one-way trip.

  20. Zekiel says:

    It’s funny, I actually rather liked Dahl, even though having the arming key yanked away from AGAIN was infuriating (and the endless Military Operators were boring).

    But this is the point in the game where you feel like the station is “your own”. You’ve been almost everywhere. And suddenly everything changes since Operators are spewing out of everywhere and fighting the Typhon, and you’re now forced to react to threats rather than simply coming across them while exploring.

    The ambush in the Medbay is quite clever. The fact that you have to drop everything to try and save the npcs in the Cargo Bay is neat.

    Also the first time I played, I assumed Dahl was the head of a bunch of commandos, Half Life style, so it was quite a fun twist when I discovered his tech guy was another Operator and his resources were literally himself, his tech operator, and the ability to take over the Operator Dispensers.

    I think it’s a neat idea, even if it comes at the wrong place in the story. And they needed two more variants of Military Operator to make them more interesting.

    1. Thag Simmons says:

      Yeah, I liked Walther a lot. He was tropey but I found him fun. Also, his section is highly reactive to player choice, which is an extremely endearing quality.

      I get the sense that his dominance over the Typhon was meant as temporary. He’s able to gain the upper hand for a bit, but it feels like the Typhon were meant to evolve a new enemy type designed to counter his operators. Maybe they thought the Apex would cover the beat of the Typhon regaining the upper hand on the station, but that only comes after the player has beaten Dahl.

  21. Asdasd says:

    Everyone you love… will have existed in order to create this momentary snack for a passing alien.


    Up until now, the Typhon were THE big threat on the station. It was humanity vs. the aliens, and humanity was getting its shit collectively wrecked by these space bugs

    I’m not so sure about this. Couldn’t you also say it’s humanity vs the aliens, and the aliens are getting their shit collectively wrecked by a single human (who’s simulatenously having to deal with a bunch of other BS?)

    Overall though I get where you’re going with this. It reminds me of Tom Francis’s dissection of Bioshock’s similarly momentum-breaking final act (which also features the late introduction of a villain with a too-hammy accent).

  22. Also Tom says:

    One thing here: to all the people saying “Well corporations and powerful people sometimes do cartoonishly evil things in real life.”

    Well, yes, they do, but they usually do cartoonishly evil things that have a point. There is no point to sending Dahl up there to kill literally everyone. If you’re that worried about infection, you don’t send someone inside, you send them up with a tac nuke and have them detonate it once they get a safe distance away, and chances are that you can get the US and Russia to agree to give you one–sjnce they already know about Talos-1 and it’s research. If you’re not that worried about infection, then there is no reason to kill everyone and their knowledge, since they’re in as deep as you are when it comes to all the illegal and immoral things done on this station.

    IOTW, the problem with this plan isn’t necessarily how evil it is, it’s that it’s evil in a way that doesn’t make any sense for the person who made it.

  23. ydant says:

    Nice reminder to listen to Carl Sagan read Pale Blue Dot again.

  24. Mersadeon says:

    I gotta say, I really like that Dahl is *a thing* in general, though. Sure, this shouldn’t be the endgame, but his plot existing has two benefits I really like:

    1. Showing more dynamic enemy vs. enemy engagements, which I always love in all games

    2. Showing that the Yu siblings have basically always been on thin ice with their even more ruthless parents. This did a lot to explain their behaviour for me – they knew they could get shitcanned with everything frozen if they didn’t turn a massive profit as quickly as possible.

  25. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    I actually really liked Dahl’s intervention because for me he felt not like the new big bad, but a “regular” human villain who thought he had the situation under control and severely underestimated both the typhon and Morgan. With all my powers I effortlessly maneuvered around him and got back to the real threat in short order, the intervention of the *military* was only a distraction at the end, which by comparison built up the importance of the typhon. Also after an entire game of feeling like I was barely surviving, it felt good to have a conventional enemy against which to flex my muscle.

    I didn’t feel like he could fix the problem just by spamming bots, just like auto turret were only stopgaps, but a line where he realizes that he’s running out of building material and the typhon is encroaching again, to show that he was never going to win, could have been nice.

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