Deus Ex: Thinking about parts of the game other than the part that I’m playing right now

At this point, I’m creeping around the warehouse district, playing hide-and-seek with NSF sentries on the rooftops. I’ve played this part before, but I have absolutely no memory of it. It’s immersive filler: not bad, perfectly absorbing in the moment, but doesn’t leave a strong impression. I remember having similar thoughts when replaying the original Half-Life and being surprised at just how much ordinary FPS action against human soldiers there was that I had forgotten about completely, padding out the space between the impressive set-pieces and creatively-designed alien monsters that I associate with the Half-Life brand. But it’s kind of different: the striking thing about Half-Life‘s filler levels is that they were contrary to what I remember the game being like. Deus Ex‘s filler is perfectly Deus Ex-y.

What sort of thing do I find more memorable in this game? An example that I haven’t quite reached yet: after you make your way to the top floor of a building, the floors beneath you fill with enemies. The last time I was there, I did something I thought was clever: rather than fight or sneak my way floor by floor past them, I switched on an upgrade that helps you take less damage from falling and simply jumped off the building. I still took a lot of damage, but possibly not more in total than I would have taken from going down the slow way. At any rate, it was a noticeable thinking-outside-the-box moment, or at least felt like it at the time, but on reflection it seems very planned. But the way that the game just gives you the tools and lets you think of the use on your own made it a special moment.

I haven’t decided yet whether I want to do things the same way this time around. Ordinarily I’d want to go wherever the guards are, because they must be guarding something worth having, but this particular place has the peculiar feature that I’ll have already finished my explorations before they show up. But the leg upgrade that lets you survive jumping off a building also increases your running speed, so it might be worth trying to just book it past everyone instead.

Unreal II: Influences

Sometimes Unreal II: The Awakening feels like Quake and sometimes it feels more like Half-Life, but it never really feels like Unreal.

Admittedly, that’s a pretty mild criticism. Also, to be fair, it does have some things tying it to Unreal. It’s still got Skaarj. It still has a weapon that ricochets chaotically, even if it fires energy blasts rather than discs. And, after a fairly mundane beginning setting a bad first impression, the environments may be getting weirder and more alien as it goes — the third mission takes place on a planet covered with a single organism that gives it the appearance of magnified skin, complete with hairs. We’ll see how it goes from there. There’s probably more Unrealisms to come.

But at this point, I’m thinking that I’m enjoying it the most when it’s more Half-Life-y. When there’s an emphasis on set-pieces, environmental obstacles, huge machinery, and sub-goals with more variety than just getting from point A to point B. There’s one set-piece that I thought was particularly effective, and it plays a lot like those defense sequences from Half-Life 2 (which was still in development when this was released, so maybe the influence goes the other way?): waiting for extraction for five minutes straight in the dark of night while fending off waves of baddies, with the help of three ultra-macho space marine NPCs. I’ve seen space marines in games criticized as cribbing their design heavily from the movie Aliens while entirely missing the point of them there: that all their tough-guy swagger was useless when the xenomorphs came. Nonetheless, this scene, with its sense of tension enhanced by poor visibility, was an excellent portrayal of “Aliens but the space marines win”.

The more I think about this, the more I start to wonder if Half-Life was the main design paradigm for the whole game, like if the project lead was a big Half-Life fan and thought that obviously the best way to improve on Unreal was not to build on its own strengths but to make it more like Half-Life. Such things happen in the games industry. Or, if not the whole game, then at least the second mission is really extremely Half-Life-inspired: it takes place in a weapons research facility where an experiment went wrong, you spend a certain amount of time crawling through air ducts, and the main enemies are small leaping arthropods. That’s enough similarity to elevate it from imitation to homage. If I try, I can convince myself that mission 1 is similarly based on Quake or Doom, in architectural style if nothing else. But how this pattern extends to the hair-covered hills of mission 3, I have no idea.

Super Meat Boy: Following Trails

I played a little more SMB. I’m still stuck in Hell, but I managed to unlock another character: Ogmo, from the Jumper series. I recall trying one of the Jumper sequels a while back, probably Jumper 3 when it was featured on Play This Thing. It seemed a decent platformer, but I wasn’t in the mood for it at the time. But hey, if there’s one thing I can use SMB for, it’s as a framework for recommendations. Seems to me I should at least try out the games that McMillen liked enough to invite to the party.

So, I looked at the unlockable character roster. So far, I’ve got Ogmo, the Headcrab, Commander Video, and Jill. Ogmo I’ve mentioned; I’ve downloaded the original Jumper and played it a bit, but it gets very difficult very quickly. The Headcrab is from Half-Life. Half-Life isn’t a platformer, and the headcrab isn’t its player character, but I suppose someone wanted a Steam-exclusive unlockable, and this is the only thing in Valve’s library that’s known for jumping. At any rate, I’ve played the heck out of Half-Life (although I need to go through Half-Life 2 again at some point, now that they’ve added Achievements). Commander Video is from Bit.Trip Runner, which is a Wii game, not available on any system I own. One of its predecessors, Bit.Trip Beat, is out for PC, but it looks like a fundamentally different game; if further Bit.Trips are ported, I may get them as a package, but for now, I’ll give it a miss.

Looking at unlockable characters I don’t have yet, I noticed one from a game that had garnered praise but which I hadn’t tried: Runman: Race Around the World, which can be described as Sonic the Hedgehog with everything that isn’t directly related to running fast taken out, including death. Downloading that, I see it’s done in a crudely-doodled style. No surprise there — I could tell that much from the screenshots and demo video. But somehow, seeing it in-game made me look at it better, and it looked very familiar — the drawing style reminded me a lot of An Untitled Story, a Metroidvania-style platformer I had played but not finished a few months ago, concerning an egg that falls from a nest and, after fighting a few bosses, hatches into a bird that fights more bosses. It had art that was clearly drawn with magic marker.

Googling, I discover that, indeed, one of the co-authors of Runman is Matt Thorson, author of An Untitled Story. Furthermore, he wrote the Jumper series, as well as a couple of other platformers I know: Give Up Robot and Moneysieze. I had played Moneysieze quite a lot last year, and meant to write it up here, but never got around to it. It struck me as fairly ingenious in its unconventional use of famliar platformer mechanics. For example, the double-jump. In many platformers, you can hit the jump button a second time at the top of your arc to gain additional height. In Moneysieze, you could perform the second jump at any point in your trajectory — which means you can use it to pass under obstacles that extend below your starting point. I thought this was clever, but now I see that the same author had already pulled tricks like this in Jumper. SMB treats the double-jump as Ogmo’s defining trait, and the warp zone where you acquire Ogmo for general use requires executing trick jumps of exactly this sort.

I’m a little shocked to discover how much of Thorson’s work I’ve experienced without being aware of him. I notice now that the Play This Thing writeup of Jumper 3 actually mentions that Thorson is half of the Runman team, but apparently that fact made no impression on me at the time. Well, if part of SMB‘s mission is increased awareness of indie platformers, mission accomplished. I considered myself pretty aware already, but it looks like I wasn’t aware of my lack of awareness. I’ll be watching for Thorson’s name in the future.

Also, for what it’s worth, Runman‘s level-selection screen plays a recording of Helen Humes singing Song of the Wanderer, the same background music as the level-selection screen for Immortal Defense. I suppose there are only so many public-domain jazz recordings out there, and Runman uses many of them, but unless this is a deliberate reference, it’s a strange coincidence. Or maybe there’s just something about that song that suggests “level select screen” to indie developers? I’m definitely going to use it for that purpose if I ever write a game with a level-select screen. It’s too good an in-joke not to share.

Penumbra: Black Plague

Black Plague, the second installment of the Penumbra trilogy, starts shortly after the first left off, with Philip, the player character, waking up in a cell in a secret research station hidden under the mines. I’m immediately struck by a number of surface similarities to Half-Life: ruined-laboratory look, mutated zombie-like monsters, booby-traps made of explosives wired to laser tripwires across hallways. It’s a pretty big contrast to Penumbra: Overture in style, but the gameplay hasn’t changed much — if anything, it’s this episode plays less like Half-Life than its predecessor, as I haven’t found anything that can be used as a weapon, except perhaps some bricks I could throw. Presumably the creators got complaints about the awkwardness of melee in Overture and decided to just eliminate it.

This means that stealth is even more paramount, especially since some of those zombies have flashlights. They’re pretty smart for zombies, really, capable of speaking in coherent sentences and everything. “Zombie” is probably the wrong word. Call them “infected” if you like, because documents in the game are pretty clear that we’re dealing with an alien virus here. One that takes over your mind, or, at first, just produces a second mind, which the infected hear as a voice in their head. Red, the madman in the previous episode, wasn’t just insane from isolation, he was infected and knew it. And now Philip is too. There’s a point where you find documents describing the early symptoms of the virus, such as auditory hallucinations and déjà vu, and realize that you’ve already experienced most of them. Shortly afterward, you get a full-fledged voice in your head telling you what to do, taking over Red’s previous role as disembodied sidekick, but more antagonistic.

The interesting thing here is that it seems like the virus-personality might not be necessarily evil. It might, in your case at least, be more of a symbiosis than a disease. It’s certainly capable of being helpful, and there’s been mention made of the virus helping its host to survive (or, as in Red’s case, forcing its host to survive). To a large extent, Philip’s new brain-buddy is as new to this whole situation as Philip is; its whole personality seems to be formed from reading his memories, which means that its notion of what it is and what it should be doing is informed by its host’s expectations. The whole phenomenon is linked somehow to pre-Columbian Inuit superstitions and practices that were abandoned as demonic with the conversion to Christianity (as described in a document in the previous game — this story is starting to pull together elements that didn’t seem connected before). When the infection takes hold, you have a series of nightmarish interactive visions/hallucinations/ordeals involving elements of ritual sacrifice and elements of events in the previous game (with Red’s death qualifying as both). Until you reach the end and come back to the real world, the game basically stops feeling like Half-Life and instead feels like Silent Hill. This whole bit seems like a kind of initiatory passage through the Abyss, and I can easily imagine ancient shamans, who hadn’t yet been told that the spirits are evil, deliberately becoming infected/possessed to share their wisdom.

But then again, zombies. If the infection is supposed to be benevolent, something has clearly gone wrong. If I understand right, the virus has basically killed the original personality in these cases, and, in the process, left itself stunted. But perhaps it did this in self-defense.

TF2: Five Things

A full workweek of lunchtime TF2 (and one evening session), and no post! I really have been remiss. To make up for five missed days, here’s five paragraphs on unrelated topics that summarize my week.

I’ve achieved First Milestone with the Heavy class. I had been hovering at 9 Achievements of the required 10 for a while; the one that finally put me over was for killing five enemies in a row without spinning down my minigun. See, the Heavy’s gun takes a moment to spin up before it starts firing — it’s a manifestation of the class’s slow-but-powerful theme. What’s not obvious at first is that you can keep it spinning without firing by holding down the right mouse button. While in this mode, you can start firing instantly, but at the cost of moving even more slowly than the Heavy does normally. The notable thing about this Achievement is that it’s essentially a tutorial: it draws the player’s attention to the possibility of not spinning down, and encourages one to give it a try. By the time you’ve got the Achievement, you’ve got a good handle on why, and when, keeping your gun spun up is a good idea. There are other Achievements like this, such as the Scout’s Achievement for executing 1000 double jumps, or the Spy’s Achievements for backstabbing an Engineer and sapping his buildings (in both orders), or the various ones for killing opponents with Taunt moves.

I’m getting the hang of playing as a Demoman. As with the Medic, it’s all about the secondary weapon — the stickybombs, which can be strewn about and then detonated on your signal. At work we mostly play King of the Hill maps, which makes a Demoman partcularly powerful: there’s just one important spot, and if it’s covered in your stickies, it’s very difficult for the enemy to take control of it. An enemy facing a bestickied hill basically has two options. First, they can send one guy on a suicide mission to make you detonate your bombs, then rush it with the rest of the team to capture it before you can set up them the bomb again. This involves more coordination than most ad-hoc teams are capable of. Alternately, they can just send someone to kill you before you can detonate your bombs. There are maps where there are battlements overlooking the control point that are hard to reach from the enemy’s side — ideal for Snipers, but also, I’m realizing, for Demomen, provided they can lob the stickies to where they’re needed. Even so, given the significance of the Demoman in keeping enemies off the point, and the general difficulty of killing people at close quarters with Demoman weapons, it seems like it would be a good idea for the Demoman’s teammates to station someone more melee-capable (a Pyro, say) on the route to the battlements to protect him. Either way, there’s an opportunity here for chess-like gambits involving multiple players, but ones that the gameplay (including the Achievement system) doesn’t explicitly encourage. Consequently, the opportunity is generally wasted.

I spent a little time playing the original Half-Life recently, for reasons I won’t go into, and I was struck anew by how different the feel of TF2 is. By and large, single-player FPS games live in the wake of Doom, which is to say, they’re horror games. (Even Portal, which is about as far from a typical FPS as you can get while still viewing things in first-person and using a gun, has a strong sense of nightmare.) The dominant mood in such games is the adrenaline rush. And that’s something that’s strangely missing from TF2. The cartoony style is a factor, but a relatively minor one, in my opinion. In a game without an exploration element, the sense of of anticipation is blunted, and with it any possibility of dread. Death is swift and frequent and often comes without warning, all of which also works against dread, but more importantly, death is inconsequential. I don’t mean that the only consequence is respawning back at your base — similar things could be said of conventional FPS games, where dying just means respawning at the last save point. I mean that things don’t stop happening just because you’re temporarily tagged out. If you started capturing a control point before you got killed, there’s a good chance that one of your teammates is still there finishing the job. You can even watch it happen while you wait to respawn. As a result, death doesn’t feel final, but like just one of those things that happens. That is, it doesn’t feel like death. Which probably contributes to the sense of exaggerated slapstick I described earlier.

My latest random acquisition in the game is the Sandman, a special baseball bat that the Scout can use. Its special virtue is that, unlike normal baseball bats, it can be used to hit baseballs. Baseballs that hit an opponent leave them temporarily stunned and very likely to get killed by whoever’s nearby. This is very annoying when it happens to you — as always, unexpectedly taking control away from a player creates frustration. But I have yet to actually hit anyone with a ball, as it’s a difficult skill that has to be mastered. Difficult to pull off, annoying to others wen you do — in other words, it’s kind of like playing a Spy. It strikes me that a lot of the special items have the effect of letting one class take on attributes of another. A Pyro with the Backburner becomes more lethal when attacking from behind, like the Spy. A Spy with the Ambassador can do headshots to kill instantly from a distance, like the Sniper. A Sniper with the Hunstman can be effective in melee, like most other classes.

I complained a while ago about my inability to find documentation for this game. Well, I really should have looked for a wiki earlier than I did. Blame it on my retrogaming habits — I’m not used to playing games where the wiki is an essential feature, rather than an afterthought. (Although the ancient Spoiler Files for Nethack come close.) You can call it laziness on the part of the developers, but when you come down to it, no one documents stuff as thoroughly as fans. So, given that people were probably going to make a wiki anyway, why bother with any other docs? It would have been nice if either Steam or linked to it, but I can understand why a company, with legal obligations, would want to avoid linking to something so unaccountable. The wiki led me to the Movies page, which I really could have noticed before, considering that there’s a link to it right on top of, but it’s a link that, paradoxically, is too prominent to be noticeable: it’s part of the page’s banner image, which is something I generally ignore. At any rate, the Movies page is particularly significant, because that’s the one place where you can actually find a summary of the game’s premise. It shows something about the game that I’ve playing it for so long without missing that.

HL2E2: Final Fight

The scene I abandoned at the end of my last session is in fact the final combat sequence of the game, and quite a scene it is — by far the most satisfying fight in the episode, full of fiero and adrenalin. Let me describe it in detail.

First of all, as I said in my last post, Striders are marching on your base, which is located on a lushly-wooded mountainside dotted with rustic cabins. The cabins hold supplies, including dispensers for a kind of sticky bomb that you can lob at the Striders with your Gravity Gun, then shoot with a pistol while they’re stuck to destroy the Strider instantly. The bomb dispensers are important because you can only carry one bomb at a time. The Striders more or less ignore you, but they’re escorted by their smaller cousins the Hunters, which don’t. So right away there’s a tradeoff in where you devote your attention: you can’t ignore the Hunters, but it’s bad to let the Striders stay alive too long too, especially since they can blast apart the cabins where you get your bombs. In addition, Hunters have weapons that can disintegrate the bombs you’ve tossed (without detonating them), so if you’re going to try to kill a Strider before demolishing its escort, you have to at least make sure the Hunters are distracted or too far away to do anything about it — which is actually pretty easy to accomplish, because the Hunters will break off to chase you while the Strider just keeps on walking.

Except if you wind up in a running battle like that, you’re probably going to wind up too far away from the bomb dispensers to attack the Strider. The battlefield here is large, and what’s more, too heavily forested to see more than a small part of it at a time. You have a car: it lets you get around faster than you could on foot, it’s equipped with Strider-detecting radar, and if you have room to accelerate, it makes a pretty good anti-Hunter weapon. But it’s not as maneuverable as you might like on those rough mountain roads, and you can’t launch bombs from it, so you have to get out sometimes, and it’s all too easy to get separated from it when you’re dodging Hunters.

So there’s a whole mess of conflicting motivations that you have to sort out on the fly as the situation evolves: attacking the Striders vs defending yourself, staying maneuverable vs getting places fast, going where the enemy is at the moment vs staying where you can get more bombs. It’s all a mad scramble. There are friendly soldiers stationed here and there to help you through it, but, since they don’t have any anti-Strider weapons, their main role in combat is distracting the Hunters. Their real purpose in the game, though, isn’t tactical at all, but emotional: they’re there to give a sense that you’re not fighting this battle singlehandedly (even though you pretty much are), but that you’re all in this together. Whenever a Strider is downed, they let out hearty yells of triumph and congratulation. The whole level would feel very different without that detail. Where most of the combat scenes in the series are designed to give a sense of calamity or panic, this is the “Oh my god we’re actually winning” level.

Afterwards, all that’s left is some staged scenes where plot events occur around you as you walk to the final room, where there’s a dramatic reversal and a cliffhanger. And now, for the first time since I began HL2, I have to wait along with everyone else for the next episode.

Half-Life 2 Episode 2

Time to get the numbers down. Time to try a game that I can reasonably expect to finish in a weekend.

After my first multi-hour session of HL2E2, I’m well into the sixth of its seven chapters, facing what amounts to the Half-Life version of the Battle of Hoth, trying to repel a dozen Striders marching on the rebel base. Striders are the immensely tall things that I’ve referred to before as “tripod robots”, but by now I’ve had enough opportunity to see them close up and realize that they’re not robots at all. They’re three-legged alien cyborg crustaceans. Most of the Combine war machines are at least partly organic. One of the new monsters for this episode, the loping tripodal Hunter, doesn’t have any visible organic components, but its behavior is animal-like enough to suggest that it at least has an organic brain.

The other new monsters this time around are the luminescent acid-spitting variants of the Antlion. Much of the midgame is spent in their warren of glass-smooth tunnels, helping the Vortigaunts on an errand that would have been a lot easier if they still knew how to use pheropods. I found the new antlion grubs particularly disquieting. They’re about the size of your forearm and completely non-aggressive. There’s some evidence that they’re fed on human meat, but they basically just sit there glowing and occasionally wiggling, waiting for you to squish them. If you don’t want to squish them, tough. You’re going to squish some whether you want to or not, because they’re often on the floor in places where you want to walk. The worst part is that when they’re squished, they emit a little glowing crumb that, when picked up, restores a little bit of health. Is Gordon eating something that came out of a dead alien bug? Intellectually, I know that I’ve eaten worse things in Nethack, where consuming monster corpses in order to gain their powers is a pretty important part of the game, but it’s all very abstract there, without the visceral revulsion you get from graphics. Still, you get used to it, just like you get used to the violence and gore.

HL2E1: Ending

Spoilers strut about boldly in the daylight ahead.

It turned out that I had only one major set-piece battle to go before the end of the episode, against a tripod in an enclosed area full of boxcars and other obstacles. The tripod is too large to follow you as you wend your way through the maze-like environs, but its weapons are strong enough to physically alter the environment in ways that must have taken a good deal of careful planning on the part of the designers.

After that, Gordon and Alyx set a train in motion, hop into the caboose, and watch the city explode noiselessly in the distance. At least, it’s in the distance at first, as you see the ships flying out of the towering citadel just in time to escape and speeding off in all directions. Then the fireball (plasmaball? otherworldly-dimensional-energyball?) engulfs the places your train has just sped through — it’s sort of a “Yee-haw!” moment, staying just ahead of the wall of white in your wake, until you have the dismaying realization that you’re not going to make it.

I’ve had nightmares like this. Dreams of near-escape, followed the realization that you’re doomed and powerless to do anything about it. The sense of doom can be surprisingly peaceful at these moments, because if there’s nothing you can do, there’s no need to react in any way. Being on a train isn’t completely necessary to the feeling, but it adds a lot to the sense that your course is beyond your control. And that’s Gordon’s life in a nutshell, isn’t it? Trains have been a major part of Half-Life all along, bringing Gordon to places he doesn’t want to be, literally railroading him.

HL2E1: Escort Mission

Speaking of hardware modification, it turns out that I was right: all that I needed to pass the Point of Certain Crash in Half-Life 2 Episode 1 was a second gigabyte of RAM, which seems to cost about two cents per meg these days. So the stated “minimum requirements” of the game, which would have it running on a fraction of the RAM I had beforehand, are a lie. This is probably pretty common. There’s little motivation for game producers to tell people in advance that they shouldn’t bother buying their games.

I’ve mentioned before how the structure of Half-Life 2 makes me end most sessions in the middle of a difficult battle. The latest quit-for-the-night scene for me is one of those scenes where people start following Gordon around and get massacred for their trust in my ability to defend them. This time around, though, it’s not just a regrettable happenstance. Defending them is in fact my explicit goal: Barney has dragooned me into shuttling people from a safehouse to a waiting train, four at a time. (This seems to be a magic number for the game engine. Whenever NPCs are spawned dynamically, there are always four of them. New folks show up only as fast as you let the old ones die. If it were a movie, I’d suspect that they only had enough money to hire four extras.)

So, it’s an escort mission, that traditional bane of shooters. I don’t know yet if getting my charges killed actually makes any difference in the game here, and on the basis of precedent, I suspect it doesn’t. But for various reasons, I’m unwilling to let them die, and this makes the scene harder than it would be otherwise. The fact that it is my explicit goal is of course part of it. There’s also the fact that it’s my fault that they need to get on the train in the first place — the reason they’re fleeing the city is that it’s about to blow up, due to my own actions in the endgame of Half-Life 2.

But also, it just seems like discharging a karmic debt. The whole episode so far has essentially been one long escort mission — one viewed from the opposite side. Gordon frequently has to concentrate on things other than shooting, like operating machinery or pushing cars onto antlion burrows to block them. And whenever the player is occupied in this manner, Alyx covers him. There have been battles where I’ve hardly fired a shot. In one of the scenes shortly before where I am now, Alyx climbed up onto a high vantage point with a sniper rifle to pick off enemies while I ran ahead. I’ve played that exact scenario in several other games, but always as the sniper. So after being the beneficiary of so much uncomplaining protection, it would be ungracious to refuse the same to others.

Half-Life 2, Episode 1

hl2e1-alyxAfter playing episodic adventure games, it seems only fair that I follow up with the noble failure of the episodic FPS. The confusingly-titled Half-Life 2, Episode 1 has of course been on the Stack since I purchased the Orange Box, and for stack purposes I’m counting it as a separate title.

The episode begins with an intro sequence that essentially says “never mind” to Half-Life 2‘s epilogue and puts you right back into the situation you were in at the end of the final boss battle. Alyx Vance, sidekick and presumed love interest, seems to be a more or less constant companion this time around, and the designers put some effort into coming up with gameplay that takes advantage of her. In one segment, you’re attacked by alien bugs, which can be killed most efficiently by flipping them over on their backs with the gravity gun and letting Alyx shoot them while they’re helpless. Before that are a few scenes in darkness with lots of zombies. You have a flashlight built into your hazard suit, but limited ammo. Alyx has a different gun than you and loads of ammo for it, but no flashlight. So you spend most of that part just shining your light on things for Alyx to shoot. (In restrospect, it would have been simpler to trade guns, but I can’t blame Alyx and Gordon for not thinking of that, seeing how I didn’t.)

These things remind me of using the pheropod to send antlions after enemies in Half-Life 2. Although this is a shooter, you’re not always doing the shooting yourself. Sometimes you’re just directing it.

Another thing that reminds me of the pheropods: If you catch a rollermine with the gravity gun, Alyx can hack it to attack the enemy. This is the sort of thing she’s been doing all along, really — there were scenes in Half-Life 2 where she pulls similar tricks on automated gun turrets — but rollermines are mobile, and seek out things to attack, which makes them seem more like monsters than weapons. So this seems like an extension of a theme I noted before, the enemies switching sides 1One example of this I failed to note in my previous post: Dr. Kleiner has a defanged headcrab that he keeps as a pet., except this time applied to something purely mechanical.

At any rate, it looks like I’ve gotten as far as I can get in this episode for the moment. From near the beginning, it has sometimes crashed to the desktop when it loads a new area, and now I’ve reached a point where this happens consistently. The worst part is that it crashes slowly. It’ll spend a minute or so with the word “Loading” on the screen, and I won’t know whether it’s actually loading or crashed. Then the screen will go black for a minute, and then, even when the desktop comes up, it’ll be another minute before it actually displays a dialog box with an error message in it. Upgrading my display drivers has not helped, so it’s time to hit the support forums. The slowness is the sort of thing I associate with running out of memory, so maybe slapping another gigabyte into the machine would fix it, but I’d like some confirmation of this before I pony up the dough.

1 One example of this I failed to note in my previous post: Dr. Kleiner has a defanged headcrab that he keeps as a pet.

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