Sunday, January 14, 2007
07.41am, Sunday morning 14 January 2007. About a year and a half after everyone else, I finally finished HL2. Quite worth the extended attention, I feel. But sorry to say, the delay was not of my making. Fucking Bastard Steam-Mongering Pieces of Shit (it's not bad language, that's their official name!) left a game killing bug right at the beginning of the last section. And here's the crazy part - it's a bug that is completely explicable to even a rigorously logical person though the internal consistency of the ingame narrative.
To elaborate - I got stuck at the beginning of the level entitled 'Our Benfactors', just after Gordon enters the Combine Citadel and has his gravity gun ungraded for free (nice Combine). The way forward hit a junction - a choice between a corridor blocked by a forcefield, and one blocked by a low metal railing. Well, what choice? Clearly a low metal railing is within our power to overcome? But no, for it became apparent that somehow after entering the Citadel, we lost the abilty to jump. Legovers were never a part of the control set, so the low metal railing appears to have stymied us. Nonsensical? Perhaps not. When life gives you lemons, even if they make no sense, do you first ask - why would I be getting lemons? That's just stupid. OR, do you assume that life knows what it's doing, and instead ask - what am I gonna do with all these lemons and no booze?
In a computer game - a triple A game with a 5 year development cycle, no less - similar assumptions apply. After all, logically speaking, why put a low rail across the only forward path? It makes no sense unless the novel inability to jump is an intended gameplay development. But why, suddenly, should we be unable to jump? Is gravity stronger inside the Citadel? Well hardly. We were jumping and prancing about right up until they confiscated our weapons - wait, the weapons! The gravity gun has been augmented by crazy Combine localised field technology! Could it be that its new potency must be traded against a kind of gravitic inertia? It seems plausible - nay, given the clear evidence of our denuded jumping capabilty, it seems definite. So that's the way the game system has gone. I guess we have to look for another way forward.
WRONG! NO! DO NOT PASS GO! DO NOT COLLECT BREEN'S HEAD-ON-A-STICK! In fact, return the game to the person you pirated it off and deny it your game of the year vote, cos you ain't goin noplace, son! Its just a fucking bug, disguised as a plausible gameplay feature with such improvidence, one can only suspect the hand of the horned one himself to be at work in the bowels of Valve.
It's a bug that you can't jump over the tiny, pointless fence at the start of the final section of HL2, and if you don't hold it within your mind that this is not necessarily a self-consistent, logically sound world that you are experiencing, you are in danger of treating the bug as a consequent feature of game-world attributes entrained to a plausibly real-world logic.
Which sucks, cos then there's an hour or so of fruitless level-wandering, back-tracking and head-scratching as you ponder on how to proceed, before concluding that reality demands this to be regarded as a hopeless cause, and the premiere game of 2005 is relegated like somebodies least favourite pair of underpants.
Or at least that's what happened to me, until I got my machine on broadband a while ago, got some free time a bit ago, and got around to investigated where it all went wrong a second ago. And so one blog ago, I finally finished HL2.
Somewhere along the line there, I wanted to ramble onto a thread of thought regarding human cognition and self-consistency. But its late, or rather early, so instead I'll just point here - and hope that one can access it. If not, perhaps another time!
Posted by Ben Cowley at 9:38 am