Saturday, February 25, 2012

Deus Ex Training, Part 7: Killing People With Sheep

[This is part of a series of posts about the game Deus Ex.]
[The series began with this post.  The first post in this section is here.]

When I went two weeks without writing a Deus Ex post I felt bad about it until, in the course of writing a post at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings, I realized how much I did write in those two weeks. Then a third week passed without me getting a Deus Ex post done and I didn't have the same excuse. This week I haven't written anything, but I didn't want to go another week without a Deus Ex post, so I'm writing this. It might be a bit rushed.

When we last left off Gunther had told us to head over to the next area, and here we will get a chance to use a new kind of weapon. An explosive. It can function as both a grenade and a proximity mine and it is called a Light Attack Munition which is shortened to LAM. The pronunciation of that is just like it would be if you were talking about young sheep.

This is the demolitions training area. First you will learn to use a LAM as a proximity mine. Approach the bay window and you will see a LAM placed on the target board on the black and red wall.

Yes, Gunther. I just told them it can be used as a proximity mine.

If you look at the window what you see is a sort of hall with two robots at one end and, yes, a target board with an explosive attached. It is blinking red to show that it is active. It's so pretty.

Actually, before you even get to the window you should notice a medical bot in the room which is there in case you, you know, blow yourself up in a non-fatal fashion and need some healing.

When you approach the window Gunther will tell you more stuff:

Press the first button next to the window and a security bot will be released. Watch as he nears the LAM. LAMs placed on walls are proximity triggered.

Ok, I've pressed the button.  Oh look, it's a robot. It's all shiny and metal and it has two legs and pistons and I wonder if it'll be frien- BOOM!

Ok. There's no longer a robot there. I think I'll add this to my list of, “A real training program would be nothing like this,” things. Not just because they could simply sit you in a classroom and show you a video and thus get things done without damaging robots, but also because if you somehow unaccountably felt the need to use real weapons to show people that something like a LAM could be used as a proximity mine, there is a weapon better suited to the lesson.

There are four types of of grenade/proximity mine in Deus Ex and they all work the same way when it comes to how you go about using them.  They just do different things when used. In addition to the LAM, which goes boom, there is the gas grenade which releases teargas that will immobilize human enemies for a time*, the scrambler grenade which screws with bots iff** system, and the EMP grenade which disables electronic devices including bots.

If you did this same thing with an EMP grenade you wouldn't be left with a pile of scrap metal (you'd have a mostly intact bot) and you wouldn't risk the trainee blowing themselves up.

Anyway, once the bot blows up we finally get to handle the explosives:

This time you will place your own LAM. Take a LAM from the munitions bay and proceed to the red and black wall below.

So, since the medical bot was there, I was wondering what are the chances someone detonates a LAM in their face and doesn't die from it. So I dropped a LAM and had it blow up more or less exactly where I was standing. I was left without legs, and ninety percent of the health in my torso was lost, but I survived. Then, as I was starting toward the medical bot I hit the wrong button (I threw a LAM when I meant to put it away) and blew it up. The rest of this exercise was preformed crawling along the floor.

As it turns out, and I didn't realize this at first, you cannot die in this level. So no matter how badly you screw up you will still be alive to use a medical bot. Of course, you can only use one if you don't blow it up.

Get as close to the wall as possible when you place the LAM. If you aren't close enough, the LAM will fall to the ground and detonate.

In other words, don't do by accident what I did intentionally. It's important advice because if you're not standing right next to a wall the game assumes you want to use the LAM as a grenade and you throw it. Throwing it into a wall isn't necessarily a bad thing, I once saw someone do that in order to send the grenade in the direction of their pursuers without having to turn around, but it's a highly specialized move and not one you want to do by accident, especially since if you throw it at the wall when you're trying to put it on the wall it's probably going to hit you, and then end up falling right at your feet.

Of course it almost goes without saying that this is another case of game training doesn't possibly match realistic training because there would be entirely different directions in realistic training. Something more like, “Make sure you secure it to the wall well and have it set to proximity mode instead of a three second fuse.”  And you wouldn't need to use live explosives.

After the second bot goes boom we get to move on.

Very good, Agent Denton. You may proceed to the next area for more demolitions training.

Um, Gunther, I don't know if you noticed this, but I don't have legs anymore. I mean technically I think I'm supposed to assume that I do have legs and they simply don't work at the moment, but seriously, I could barely reach the switch to release the second bot. My eye level was about the same as the very bottom of the window I was supposed to be looking through. I'm crawling on the floor. I'm not sure that qualifies as, “Very good.”

Ok, so between this area and the next we meet yet another UNATCO trooper who is in a sort of storage room separated from us by bulletproof glass. Except this one is different. He has different lines and a different function. The other ones were here to take our stuff, he is here to give us stuff. He also has a different story, and some thoughts on how to run things for better employee morale.

You'll need a few extra LAMs for the demolitions area. Here, catch!

I just like to kid around.

Yes, making jokes about explosives is very funny.

Gets boring down here.

Didn't have my boots polished. That's why they put me here.

They just make up excuses because they like to harass us.

This place would run a lot smoother if they'd just rotate assignments, instead of always making you feel like you're being punished.

Bastards. I don't have to take this crap. There's lots of things I could be doing.

I had offers on Wall Street, you know. Top corporate security divisions.

Corporate work's not so glamorous, but it sure pays better.

One of these days, I'm going to resign. Then they'll be sorry. Then they'll wish they'd treated the troops a little better.

He also has two different lines for what to say if he can't give you LAMs because your inventory is full. One if you already have a full compliment of LAMs, which is impossible because there were only 8, one if you don't have any LAMs. In either case this is impossible to trigger because you simply cannot have found anything to fill your inventory with.

The development team had a habit of planning for the impossible and taking a look in the conversation files one will occasionally stumble onto a comment along the lines of, this situation should never come up, but just in case it does, here's the lines we'll play.

Also, beyond LAM-Trooper's eventual resignation, UNATCO has other reasons not to alienate their employees. If you should run out of explosives, you can return to him and he'll say:

Out of explosives? Here's some more. Hell, I don't care. I'm not paying for 'em.

In an organization that fostered loyalty in its employees he probably would care. He'd want to know that resources weren't being wasted. Of course UNATCO does foster loyalty in broad terms, largely because many or most of it's employees believe that UNATCO is all that stands between the innocent people of the world and utter ruin, but that doesn't necessarily make people take an interest in whether or not resources are being wasted.

Anyway, we use those explosives to learn that there are some doors we can blow up, and some we cannot, and also that damaged walls can be destroyed using a LAM. We do this by throwing one first at a set of doors, then at a damaged wall.

At this point we've learned two ways to detonate a LAM. We can use it as a proximity mine and we can use it as a grenade. I'd like to bring up a third way not mentioned here. You can shoot it.

If you see a LAM attached to a wall and want to be rid of it but don't want to risk screwing up defusing it, shooting it will work just fine as a means of disposal, just make sure you stand well back because you are detonating it.

This also works for LAMs in flight so when someone tries to attack you with one the result can be quite impressive. You can't shoot it while it's still in their hand, the game isn't quite that good at handling possible interactions with explosives, but the moment that it leaves their hand, which is to say in actual game design terms: the moment the projectile is spawned, then you can shoot it. You might not even realize they've thrown it yet.

You could just be trying to stop the person before they kill you, fire off a shot at them, and hit the LAM that they've just thrown. The first time this happens it will take you off guard. Assuming there are not other people trying to kill you but instead you are allowed a moment of quiet reflection, what happens is this:

You look at the place where your enemy was standing just a moment ago. You look at the pistol in your hand. You look back that the site of the explosion, you return your gaze to your pistol*** and look back at the scorched site of the explosion. You think, “Did I do that?”

And the action-movie coolness of what just happened dawns on you. It's like this scene from the movie RED.

Anyway, at the moment you don't have a gun and even if you did the helpful munitions trooper, with the standard lines, would take it away from you. So as you move on to the disarming course you have to do this the hard way, which involves getting to the LAM before it has a chance to detonate, then clicking on it. After you do that you can click it again to pick it up to use for yourself.

This is hard to do when you're slowed down because you're crawling on the ground due to incapacitating damage to your legs. Fortunately you cannot die in this level, which I realized when the first one blew up in my face.

A word of warning, Agent Denton. This was a simulated experience; real LAMs will not be so forgiving. You may proceed to the next area.

I feel like that would be a more powerful statement if he only said that when you screwed up. It still works if you do everything right because he could be saying that real LAMs will not be so easy to disarm, but I think it would work better if he said that only if you'd managed to damage yourself and said something different if you'd gotten through unscathed.

Down some halls and it's a medical bot. I Can Walk!

Also a munitions trooper. No more explosives for me.

Passed that is the next level, where we will hear from Anna Navarre.


* Which makes it very powerful because the standard response to being hit with the teargas in Deus Ex is to forget about everything and rub your eyes, which leaves the victim standing still and defenseless. The only thing that can snap them out of it is direct damage, but since you don't have to worry about them fighting back until then, you can take your time in making sure that the damage will be effective.

You do not respond the same way to teargas, probably because that would be incredibly annoying and possibly result in sure death.  (You have to stand still while your enemies can shoot you, what could go wrong?)  But the flip side is that you take actual damage from teargas which no one else does.  If you're sufficiently injured already, teargas could kill you.

** Identification, friend or foe. The bots use complex algorithms to determine who they should and should not shoot. If you scramble that they have been known to identify birds as the enemy. (And that was how the great robot seagull war began.) Iff doesn't always mean that. In other contexts iff means “if and only if”, for example, but in Deus Ex I'm pretty sure iff is always referring to identifying friends and foes.

*** If you've seen the 1999 film Thrill Seekers you might wonder if you somehow ended up with one of the guns from the future that look normal but fire explosive bullets. You have not.  Sorry.


1 comment:

  1. This sequence has already had vastly more thought put into it than most. It seems a shame to criticise it for having gone a long way in the right direction, but not quite far enough.

    On the other hand, it wouldn't have been hard to write a trigger for the medical bot getting destroyed.