Yes, I now know that technically these things are called Bullsquid. But dammit, they LOOK like Star-Mole-Alligator-Things, and that’s what I’m going to call them! And besides, I have no doubt that that name will lead to more than one Big Lipped Alligator Moment joke during the course of this LP. (And if you actually had to click on that link to understand that reference, FOR SHAME!) Oh, and for those of you who just catch these videos on my blog and not on YouTube, this is what an actual Star-Nosed Mole looks like. You can’t tell me the creators didn’t have that thing in mind when they created Bullsquid.
Well as you can see, part 10 is finally up, and I believe I have solved all of my technical difficulties. This, combined with the fact that its almost Christmas break, will hopefully mean a lot more videos a lot sooner! Woohoo!
Thoughts on the game so far: Well, combat is certainly getting hot and heavy now. I really like the way they have it paced though. Half-Life, at least so far, seems to have a lot of “dead space.” There’s long stretches of nothing (or at least, nothing interspersed with random Headcrab assault), and then a fairly big and tense firefight…and then nothing again. I really, really, REALLY like that, for a couple of reasons:
1. It makes the facility feel genuinely abandoned. Of course its not TOTALLY deserted–there are a few scientists left, and the odd security guard to lend you a hand, but lets face it–for the most part everyone in the facility is dead, Headcrabbed, or has fled. Those long, empty stretches of corridor, while you could traverse them in seconds and add almost nothing in terms of pure gameplay, add everything in terms of atmosphere. It really gives you the sense that the place is real, and not just created as an arena for you to blast things in. I LIKE that.
2. It provides evidence of realistic monster/creature behavior. Think about it: does it make sense for a lone Imp to be randomly hiding in a secret, one-way panel in a wall, solely for the purpose of ambushing your character? No, it doesn’t. And creatures in Half-Life don’t. For as out of their home element as they are, the animals of Half-Life really do have their own lives going on. They don’t wander aimlessly, populating each hallway with the perfect predetermined number of enemies. That wouldn’t make sense. Instead they group together in packs of two or three–exactly what you’d expect frightened but aggressive animals to do. Headcrabs and zombies are a little different, obviously, since the zombies are essentially mindless and the headcrabs are more akin to large insects than intelligent predators. Even so, though, they have their own little ‘lives’ going on: I’ve stumbled across more than one group of zombies quietly sharing a meal of recently-deceased human together, so clearly they aren’t aggressive towards each other. And Headcrabs show a preference for hanging out in air ducts or small spaces in and around objects like boxes and crates–rather like roaches, actually, which is why I thought of the insect analogy. So far the only exception seems to be the Vorts; they just teleport in to ambush you at will. I have no idea yet if that’s just what they DO, or if its a sign of some kind of higher intelligence. They certainly attack single-mindedly, but that’s not necessarily a sign of lack of intellect, as any solder who’s been in combat will tell you. I’m keeping my eye on them. (Pun absolutely intended.)
“But Hawk,” I can hear all the Doom fanboys scoffing, “surely you aren’t judging an *FPS* on the basis of its *REALISM.” And the answer is no. No I’m not. But I will say I notice little things like this, and it makes me warm and fuzzy inside when a developer cares enough to make little details like that make sense. It puts me at ease as a player because I know I’m in good hands, and it also keeps me from being distracted by wondering, “what the hell was he DOING in there before I came along. Was there air? What did he plan to eat if I hadn’t walked by?” Does something like that break a game? Don’t be silly, of course it doesn’t. But it IS the kind of thing that makes an okay game good, and a good game great. And I’ll tell you something else: any development team with the talent, intelligence, care and foresight to pay attention to details like that will almost certainly NOT be producing “just okay” games. Valve sure didn’t.
3. It keeps me from being bored and/or burned out. Here’s the thing about me as a video game player: I don’t like constant action. While I consider myself as “hardcore” a gamer as any in terms of hours played and pure gaming experience, I’m not an enormous fan of the traditionally “hardcore” games–your Halos, your Modern Warfares, and so on. I find them rather mindless, slightly annoying, and quite…overwhelming, I guess, for lack of a better word. I play games to relax and have fun, and playing a game that requires my synapses to be firing on all cylinders every single moment I’m playing does not let me relax. (I work two jobs that both require that kind of vigilance; I don’t need it to carry over into my recreation too.) Does that mean all I want to do is sit around and play Pokemon Snap all day? Hell no. That’s why I appreciate Valve’s pacing so much; there’s never enough of a lull for me to get bored or start wishing for something to do, and never so long an action sequence that I start feeling burned out or tired by it. Just brilliant. I will say too that that does a wonderful job of increasing the tension of the game as well; you never know when the next attack will come.
So that’s that. Stay tuned for the next installment, which will hopefully be up on my YouTube channel by Wednesday night (with a write-up to follow on the blog here within a day or two.)