Wednesday, July 31, 2013

“What a Terrible Accident” Let's Play Dishonored: Part 16: The Finale

The journey must have only taken an hour or two at the most. It's still clearly midday by the time we arrive, but it feels like ages. Hell, these passed few days must have shaved years off my life with all the stresses they've put me through. But at long last, our trials have nearly come to a close. All I need to do now is to save Emily from what remains of the so-called “Loyalist” conspiracy. Havelock, Martin, and Pendleton will likely need to be dealt with in some capacity if I want to succeed, but that's no reason to suddenly start to get sloppy. I've mostly kept it clean so far, and it's best to keep that tradition going.

As Samuel explains to me, there's a very good reason Havelock chose this place to be his stronghold in the event of emergencies. There are only two ways to get into the courtyard leading to the lighthouse proper. Each of these entrances is guarded not only by city watchmen on patrol, but also by their own Walls of Light. Once I get passed that, there's only one route to the lighthouse, meaning that I'll be funneled into taking a single path, likely crawling with guards. Though the place takes the guise of a lighthouse, it would be more accurate to call it a fortress. A normal man would probably never get in. Unfortunately for Havelock, I am not a normal man even without the magic given to me by the Outsider. As long as I'm careful, I can do this. Before I hop on to the docks, Samuel wishes me the best of luck, saying that it was a pleasure to work with me. Hopefully, once this is all over, we can sit down for a drink and just talk like friends. Unfortunately, he needs to speed off and go into hiding so that I have an escape route.

With that said, I start getting to work right away. There are some old supply crates right next to the drop-off point containing some plague elixirs, so I snatch a few up in case I need them later. Then, I notice a vantage point atop a set of stairs that I can use plan my strategy for infiltrating the citadel. I see a guard tower just before me. Lucky for me, I'm just out of its range so I don't have to worry about being caught. I can just barely get good look at the two entrances from here. That's when I get an idea of how to improve my view. With a running start I leap into the air and teleport to the very top of the watch tower. Once I remove the whale oil tank powering it, I have a much better sight of the exterior. There a certainly enough guards to be a decent fight, but I honestly expected quite a few more on each entrance. It's almost like they don't expect heavy resistance, which is odd since the conspirators must know I'm coming for them. Maybe they're just certain that I won't be able to bypass the Walls of Light.

There's where the real challenge will come from. I see them both pretty clearly and I won't be able to just walk passed them... not in my own body. There's an idea. Jumping once again, I use my powers to Blink behind a barrier. The guards must not have seen anything, because their demeanor hasn't changed in the slightest. From there, I sneak around using the supply crates littered about as cover, moving passed a large storm drain, using my powers of Possession to invade the mind one of the rats skulking about. Once I've assumed direct control of its form, I use this vessel to crawl through the small vents and right around the Wall of Light. Exiting the rat and returning control of its facilities, I see another barrier in my path, this time one of metal. Unlike the Wall of Light preceding it, this one can be simply climbed over. I'm up the wall and into the fortress proper well before any of the guards have time to spot me.

That's when I see another patrolman about to turn around and face me, so I Blink behind a large pillar before he has the chance. Now I see where all the patrols went. The courtyard has guards in abundance. If I got into a scrap, I could be here for hours and still not dispatch all of them. My only chance is to sneak into the lighthouse unseen. That's when I see the guard who almost spotted me going to relieve himself behind another stack of crates. From my position, I can also clearly view the Wall of Light guarding the only entrance to the lighthouse, itself protected by an Overseer with one of those power-jamming music boxes, so I come up with an idea on the spot. With a wave of my hand, I break through the pissing watchman's mental defense and jump into his mind. Properly asserting my dominance, I walk in his form towards the Wall of Light. The Musical Overseer on patrol must have noticed that something was off, because he seems concerned the his friend looked a little sick. He doesn't press the issue though, and I am able to stroll on through without a saying a word. Heading up the stairs and out of sight, I leave this body and continue my advance upwards, consuming one of Piero's potions to sooth my aching head.

In front of me, I see a guard at a desk. The next set of stairs crosses his line of sight, so I would normally be barred from making further advances without taking care of him. However, I'm much stronger now than I was at the start of this whole ordeal. Focusing my mind, I use my powers over the continuum to freeze space-time. Rather than use it to only get passed a single guard, I make a split second decision to make a mad dash to the top. I just barely make, and time resumes just as I return to a prone position, drinking another one of Piero's elixirs to quell my pounding head again. These powers are incredibly useful, but perhaps there are consequences to abusing them the way I am.

In this next area, I see that there is a set of rafters housing a few guards and an Arc Pylon. The direct route would be suicide due to the pylon, let alone the patrols. That's when I see that there's a little wiggle room under the rafters. They must have that crawlspace under there for maintenance. Well, no one's fixing anything today, so I might as well use it for my own purposes. After all, it's only a Blink away. When I reach the other side, I see that there's nothing more than a ramp separating me from the elevator to the top of the lighthouse. I'd never make it without alerting the guards, so I stop time and begin another race against the clock. I reach the elevator door, but when I try to open it I find that it's locked. Shit! I need to think quickly. Okay, there has to be a guard around here with the key. Searching behind the elevator, I see a guard with a key in his pocket. I snatch it up, open the door, and close it just as time resumes. Pulling the lever, I activate the elevator and breath a sigh of relief. Even if they did notice me, there's nothing they can do now.
I arrive near the top of the lighthouse, only a stone's throw away from the grand finale. I deftly tiptoe around the guards on my way to the top, feeling my moves becoming bolder and bolder. Just as I was about to be seen, I take possession of a guard and use him to bypass the remaining patrols. The top of the lighthouse can be more accurately described as a penthouse suite. This place is very lavishly decorated, with a winding staircase surrounding the golden statue of our former Lord Regent. As I scale the staircase, I hear, to my surprise, only a single voice. Havelock appears to be ranting on and on to himself. I didn't see hide nor hair of Martin or Pendleton during my ascension, so I expected that they'd be here with him as well. When I reach the top, just outside of the room, rather than go through the main entrance to what looks like a dining hall, I opt to scale a bookcase to observe the situation from the rafters.

That's when the grizzly sight unfolds before my very eyes. It appears that I did not ingest all of the poison Havelock had up his sleeve. I see Martin and Pendleton dead in their respective seats, each of them clutching a glass in their hands. From the looks of it, they've been dead for a while. Rigor Mortis has started to set in. I suppose in a way, that's a fitting end for a group of chronic backstabbers. Havelock continues to rant out loud, apparently to himself. I don't know what's going on in his head, but he's clearly gone off the deep end. All he keeps saying is that it's Martin's fault, then Pendleton's, then mine. Then, he goes on about how all the moves he's made have made sense. The paranoia inherent to someone who's spent most of their time conspiring has clearly done what years at war with other nations could not, broken him down a sniveling child. I almost feel sympathy for the poor fool... almost. Unlike Daud, this man is only sorry that his little house of cards has come crashing down. He must know that I'm at the very least on the island. And he must also know that his days are numbered. If I don't kill take Havelock's life, then the people of Dunwall sure as hell will.

Once I've seen enough. I decide to end it myself. I'd rather let him live to face proper judgment, but ultimately he's going to get in the way of my rescue efforts, so he has to die. I'm not an idiot though. I know that if I go down to fight him, that he may very well defeat me at the last possible second. Instead of chancing a direct confrontation, I summon two swarms of rats to devour his flesh. It's for the best. Farewell, Admiral Havelock. May you enjoy your stay in hell. Taking the key off his desk, I hear another voice, that of my little girl. It's actually kinda cute listening to her trying to intimidate Havelock into releasing her. She'll make a fine Empress. Once she calms down, I open the door and rescue her. Together, we make our way back to the docks where Samuel is waiting to come out of hiding. Since the future Empress is with me, the guards know better than to impede our progress, and the return trip is a smooth as can be.

And so ends my contribution to the myths and legends of Dunwall. In the years since, I've faded into the background, returning to my duties as Royal Protector. With Sokolov and Piero working together, a cure to the plague ravaging the city is developed faster than any of us thought possible. A new era of prosperity is ushered in with the rise of the next Empress, Emily Kaldwin “the Wise”, as she would come to be known. I cling to life for a long while, keeping my daughter as safe as I can. The task is easier than one might think since so few would even attempt to cross me. I live out the rest of my days in relative peace and happiness. However, like all other mortals, my life will one day fade. When that happens, I think I'll go out with a smile.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

“What a Terrible Accident” Let's Play Dishonored: Part 15: The Loyalists

As I advance through the Old Port District, I realize that the fastest route to the Hound Pits is to go through the Old Dunwall Sewer. I'm getting close. I can feel it. It's only a matter of time before Emily is safe from those backstabbers. On my way to the sewers, I see a Bone Charm in a nearby building and nab it before returning to the main path. Weaving around a few weepers I encounter on the way, I find myself at the closest sewage disposal shaft. The valve was a little rusted, but with a bit of elbow grease I managed to work out the kinks and open the shaft, sneaking in before the trap door closed above me. When I enter the sewer, I scavenge a few bullets for the Overseer pistol in my possession from what looks to have been a guard post of some sort. Passed it is an old, unlocked gate, so I open it and head through to my objective.

That's when I find, to my surprise, a small settlement of what appear to be either plague victims or refugees from Dunwall's poorer areas. My heart goes out to these folks. Even in these tough times, they're doing the best they can. I notice a few River Krusts acting up on my way over to them, so I dispatch a few using the pistol rounds I gathered earlier. While exploring the “village” of sorts, I found a Rune among a number of crates filled with various supplies, including food, water, and medicine. In their hands, it's bound to elicit feelings of paranoia and shatter the group dynamic, so I secret it away while no one is looking. With no other place to go, and no reason to stay, I head to the other side of this shantytown and continue towards the Hound Pits.

That's when I see another batch of River Krusts. The moment I get close, they begin to pellet me with their spray. Rather the fight them head on, since I no longer have any ammo to do so, I teleport onto a pipe overhead to avoid their fire. While a few pellets did end up hitting me here, it isn't so bad that a drink of Sokolov's plague elixir couldn't dull the pain and heal my injuries. I notice a Rune Charm in the corner of my eye, hidden behind the grotesque forms of plant life, but they would surely do me in before I got to it. It's much safer to proceed as normal than to take the undue risk. Once I'm in the clear, I see a literal light at the end of the tunnel. Emerging from the sewers, the back door to Cecelia's secret apartment is right there in plain view, completely unlocked. That's the closest thing I'll get to a written invitation these days, so I enter and find myself in the backyard of the bar I've been staying at for what seems like months, despite only being a few days.

Inside, I find Cecelia pulling a metal barricade down. When she sees me, she jumps. After observing my mask, she calms down and begins to explain what went on in my brief absence. When Samuel shipped me off, he left to avoid what was about to happen next. It was then that Havelock, Martin, and Pendleton told all of the employees that they would be given a bonus. Instead, Wallace and Lydia were shot in the back of the head. Cecelia would've been out there herself if Wallace didn't tell her that she wasn't getting anything and that her presence would be a waste of time. I wonder if that was Wallace being a dick, or doing his best to warn Cecelia before she found herself caught in the crossfire. Callista was also somehow spared. Apparently, Havelock was muttering something about owing a debt to Geoff. They went to go kill Sokolov before Cecelia made a break for this little apartment.

I know at least two of our compatriots are dead, maybe more. This is complete madness. I need to finish this quickly. The only way to do that will be to pick up the trail. Somewhere around here, there has to a clue as to where they've taken Emily. If I can get to her, everything will finally be done. The Hound Pits Pub is a small building, so there won't be too many places to look. Taking a few of Cecelia's spare elixirs, I open the door and begin to assess the area. That's when I realize that this job will be a lot more complicated than I thought. Havelock must have known I would come back here, because the place is swarming with guards. I'll need to find some way to get passed them if I want to search with impunity. If Piero's alive, maybe he'll have some ideas. If he's not, maybe there'll be something among his possessions I can use to solve this problem. Either way, I hedge my bets and decide that visiting Piero's workshop is the best course of action.

I'd ordinarily be too worried about giving myself away to try this, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Once I'm certain the path is clear, I use my newest ability, the power to freeze time, and make a series of teleportations, across the street to the awning and then to the ventilation shaft surrounding the workshop, to get to it before the tallboys see me. It was tight, but I managed to get close enough to it that I could sneak in undetected. Using my powers so extensively in such a short period of time was mentally taxing, but a few swigs of Piero's elixir helped sooth my mind, restoring my mental stamina. Speaking of Piero, when I enter the shop I'm pleased to hear his voice. But his was not the only voice I was listening to. Indeed, Sokolov was also alive, and the two seemed to be hitting it off. I guess even a disgusting creep like Sokolov can't be all bad. Considering our current predicament, the two of them working together might be exactly what I need right now. While they converse about their plague elixir formulas, I find and take a Rune off Piero's desk. Once it's clear the discussion is meeting it's end, I head down to make my presence known to them.

Once they realize it's me and not some watchman, they come out of their hiding places and immediately get to the point. Since they can't fight as well as I can, they decided to try to get themselves out of this situation by building an super-Arc Pylon capable of either incapacitating all watchman in the area or reducing them to ash. Thanks to their clever engineering, the pylon will not target any friendlies in the area, only guards. Sadly, the design still needs one last final touch. A blueprint which Havelock was inspecting contains all the information Piero needs. I knew coming here was a good idea. If they can knock out everyone in a single burst, then it will be easy to find the clues I need.

Tiptoeing out via the balcony on the second floor of the workshop, I head for the window outside my room to quickly break into the pub itself. Considering the number of times I've gone through his things, I should have no difficulty getting to Havelock's room. Once I get there a see a few guards just outside the doorway. I watch as one of them skulks into the servant's quarters while the other enters Havelock's room himself. With the area clear, I halt the flow of time once more, snatching the blueprint and hauling ass to the upper floors before time resumes. Heading back the way I came in, I make my way back to the two inventor-philosophers. Handing Piero his blueprint, he asks whether I want the guards knocked out or incinerated. Considering these fools are probably just doing what they think is right, I tell Piero to put them all to sleep.

Only one thing remains before the Pylon can be activated. The device needs one more tank of whale oil to power it. Just like when I first met Piero, I use his devices to fill an oil tank. This time, I head for the workshop's roof and affix the container to the only one of three sockets that isn't already filled. The Pylon sparks to life with a flash so bright that I'm nearly blinded. Once the flash subsides, all the guards in the area get knocked on their asses and into a deep slumber. When we're all sure that the place is secure, we part ways. I head into my room, where I'm greeted by a picture, no doubt drawn by Emily, of me. I look a little worn and scruffy, but mostly intact. When this is all said and done, I think the first thing I'm doing to do is shower and shave. A Royal Protector needs to look the part, and I appear to have let myself go during my six month incarceration. Next to the picture, on my desk, I see a letter in Emily's handwriting. It appears to have been written while I was out committing Regicide. She says that while she hopes that I see this picture, everyone's been acting strange. Callista and Samuel were talking about a flare launcher in the lighthouse and Havelock mentioned Kingsparrow Island. I know that place. Before I was jailed, the former Lord Regent spoke of building a fortress there. If he finished, it would the ideal place to set up camp.

At least now I have my goal. I need to travel to Kingsparrow Island to defeat the conspiracy and restore Emily to the throne. Thanks to Emily's intel, I also know how I'll get there. Samuel and Callista probably meant to use the launcher to send a signal flare for when the coast was clear. It will be sure to attract the boatman's attention. When I tell him my destination, I'm sure he'll give me a ride. There's no point in wasting any more time here. I need to get this done quickly before something bad happens to Emily. I don't think they'll physically injure her, but who knows what those three will do to get her to do their bidding. With great haste, I run to the lighthouse to launch the flare. I try the door but it's locked and I can't get in. That's when I realize there would be only one reason to lock this door, and I shout for Callista on the other side, telling her that's it's only me.

When she opens up, I can tell that she's worried sick. Frantically, she goes over the details of what happened. None of it is new to me at this point, but I think she just needs to get it off her chest, so I sit down on Emily's bed and let her talk for a bit. I'm glad they gave her the task of being Emily's caretaker here. She genuinely cares about the girl for more reason than just that she's the heir to the throne. I hope that she considers continuing to keep Emily on the straight and narrow even after this is all said and done. The world needs more people like her. After she finishes, she explains that Samuel set up the flare gun to signal my return. He promised her that he would come quickly once the flare went off. Her sendoff seems to be more confident than the rest of her speech. Since I've taken care of the guards, Callista will get out of here just fine. However, even she knows that she can no longer help Emily right now. It's up to me to finish this once and for all. All she can do is give me her blessing. Now that all is said and done, I send out the signal and teleport to the beach area out front. Samuel pulls up only a few seconds after me, and he appears relieved. We both know there's no point in talking, so I give him Emily's location and we embark on one final boat ride. Security on Kingsparrow is bound to be tight, and I miss my equipment more than I thought I would. This will be a true test of skill, greater than any I've has thus far...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

“What a Terrible Accident” Let's Play Dishonored: Part 14: The Assassins

In the remains of what used to be the train station, I scavenge a few bullets and a schematic for explosive rounds. If Piero is still around, he might want to take a look at this when I return to the Hound Pits. To my left, I see an makeshift bridge that leads out of the building, through a massive hole in the wall. Following it, I arrive just outside of another complex with a statue of a former Empress, from before Jessamine's time, outside of it: The Chamber of Commerce. I've arrived at what is most likely Daud's headquarters. Were there any other choice, I would go around and avoid confrontation. As it stands, if I want to stop the Loyalists from using Emily, I'll need to go right through the very same men who killed Jessamine those six months ago. No use dwelling on it, I suppose. It's best to get to the task at hand.

Using my mask's spyglass to get a good look, I see an entrance into the Chamber on the upper levels. The problem here is two-fold. One, I am sitting down on the lower levels, meaning that I'll need to find a way up there. Two, the place is crawling with Daud's men. I don't think I'll be able to just sneak my way through them, so I'm going to need to find a way around in order to keep making progress. Looking around a bit, I spot an alley to my left. It leads away from the Chamber of Commerce, but it's my only real chance of avoiding open conflict. Quietly, I teleport into the alley hoping that it will lead me passed, or even above the assassins. That's when I realize that the alley is also flooded, and fall into the water. Jumping onto the roof of a small shack, I see a route from my current position to another rooftop significantly higher up than I am, so I climb. From this vantage point, I have a clearer look of the area. There may not be as many assassins as I had initially though, I count at least 5, but still enough that I'm weary of being seen. Behind me, I see an entrance to an apartment building. Since jumping from the roof would give Daud's men a direct line of sight, I opt to use this apartment to keep going around them.

From the other side of the apartment, I blink into another building, passed the gaze of a patrolling guard. I'm quite out of the woods yet, as I can see him walking around just outside the building. I can't make my move until his eyes are pointed away from the Chamber of Commerce, so there's not much I can do but sit here and wait. While I'm waiting, I overhear a few of the guards compliment my weaponry, noting that despite their quality, Daud will not use them himself. I wonder about this man. He's as much a mystery to me as I am to him, but I suppose that isn't terribly important at the moment. When I'm sure that they are no longer looking my way, I quickly teleport into the ruins of another building closer to the Chamber of Commerce and duck behind a wall. Getting from there to the Chamber Interior was just a matter of waiting for the right moment again, as the guards couldn't see me from up above.

Once inside, I tried to open the door to the path that will lead me directly on the path to the Hound Pits. To my disappointment, but not surprise, the door was locked. While I'm thinking about my next move, I hear people coming, so I head for cover and lean slightly outward to get a better look. Two of Daud's men are in the hallway. One of them mentions going on assignment, but says that the door to the tunnel is blocked, which I already knew. The other one says that the key is in Daud's possession. Of course it is. If anyone around here has a key to it, it had to be Daud. This means that my worst fears have come to pass. To accomplish my goal, I am going to need to face the man who murdered an Empress. He has powers like mine too, and a small army at his beck and call. If I slip up, I'm a dead man. Once they finish talking, one of them heads my way. I move passed him using the bookshelves in this room as cover.

The other guy is another issue. He appears to be unmoving, so I can't just sneak by him. That's when I glimpse the two chandeliers in the hallway. Teleporting to the top of one of them, I manage to stay out of sight while continuing my advance into the Chamber. Once again Blinking to the end of the hallway, I come across a new assassin acolyte in training. The instructor appears to be teaching him how to keep hidden in shadows. Considering the profession of these men, that's not exactly a bad idea. After watching them for a bit to see if I could learn anything, which I didn't, I tiptoe around them and into what looks to have been a garden area. I see two windows to my left and right that I can use to get closer to Daud. If the maps I once studied of this building are correct, the central office, where Daud is sure to be located, is just ahead. Taking the left side, I observe as one of Daud's men goes in to give him a report, eavesdropping on their conversation.

Seeing Daud like this gives me a new perspective on him. I hear him talk of the Lord Regent with a mix of pity and spite. He muses of all the various ways he would have killed Hiram Burrows had he received the chance, calling the Mole quite a few nasty names. That's when he begins to talk of the many people the Mole hired him to kill. In his words, “none of them like the last. I'd give back all the coin if I could. No one should have to kill an Empress.” I thought many times of what I might do if I had the opportunity to get close to the man who murdered my love, but all of those plans really don't seem to matter anymore. Now, this shell of a man fills me with nothing but sorrow and pity. Even if revenge still mattered at this point, I don't think I could bring myself to extract it from him. Nonetheless, there is still the problem that I need his key in order to protect my daughter.

That's when I think of a bold, daring plan. Instead of fighting him, I can try to steal the key and leave before he or any of his men notice me. Perhaps that's the best way to leave him my message, one of mercy. I notice a bookshelf close to the pitiful man, and teleport to the top of it to wait for my chance. Once he begins to read from his book, I teleport in, grab his key off the desk and a Bone Charm from his pocket, throw myself back onto the bookshelf and again out of the room. The whole ordeal took a matter of seconds, but in the end he's free to live his days as he sees fit, seeking death or redemption, and I can move on from here. I hope I'm making the right decision by sparring him. If not, I may have inadvertently killed quite a few people.

But there's no point in dwelling on the potential consequences of my actions. There is still much work that needs to be done. Returning to the locked door using very much the same route I arrived at Daud's office with, I close the door behind me and jump onto a chain leading downward. On the way down, I find a Rune and absorb it's energy. At the bottom of the Chamber of Commerce, I used the key stolen from Daud to open a tunnel, leading me one step closer to rescuing my daughter from her would-be puppeteers. On the other side of the tunnel, I emerge to find more flooded ruins. I start to lose hope that I'll ever make it back, when suddenly I notice a train dumping the bodies of plague victims to my left. Those things don't travel far from Dunwall as a way to save money on whale oil, so I must be close. That train also looks like a good way to hasten my travels. With that in mind, I make getting up to it a priority.

Spotting a bridge below the train within range, I ready my powers and throw my being up there. Analyzing my surroundings, I see a window into another old apartment building. Climbing into it, I find that it makes for a great way to advance upwards. As I ascend, I see a woman who is clearly distraught. She initially suspects that I'm a new kind of guard and raises her arms to defend herself. When I don't respond in kind, she gets the hint and withdraws. Though she continues to rant afterward, I lose my patience and continue onward and upward. When I make it to the roof, I see and grab another Rune. It's been a long time, and I've gained a lot of Rune energy. While I wait for the train to return, I take this time to increase my power. Just like before, a vision appears in my head. In it, I am accosted on all sides by city watchmen. When they go to strike, I raise my hand in a similar manner to my previous vision of slowing down time. Except now, rather than simply slow the flow of time, the world itself seems to be frozen in place. Since no one is moving, I take this as my moment to escape. Pouring my energy into this vision, I feel my powers over Space-Time growing stronger.

As the haze of my mental landscape fades, the train finally appears. After it finishes dumping the bodies, I do not hesitate to jump aboard. I see buildings, guards, and even Tallboys pass by before I notice the Wall of Light closing in. At the last possible second, I Blink onto the platform just outside the Wall, pulling the oil tanker fueling it out of it's socket. Then, I climb down a nearby training and move passed the Wall of Light. I'm now just outside the Old Port District, where the Hound Pits Pub is located. Soon Emily. I'll be there for you soon....

Saturday, July 20, 2013

“What a Terrible Accident” Let's Play Dishonored: Part 13: The Betrayal

Feeling helpless as I lie on the ground without the strength to move, the only thing I can do is watch and listen to my would-be killers. I knew Havelock, Pendleton, and Martin would try to do me in, but the forth voice is one that surprised me: Samuel. He tells them that I've breathed my last and that the poison did its job. Either he's a fool or he's lying. Regardless, this means that I might just have a chance. Hearing them talk disgusts me. They want my body, hoping that giving the people the corpse of “the man who murdered the Empress” will secure their power and legitimacy to the claim of the title of Lord Regent. Everything I suspected about the top conspirators, all the fears I've had, turned out to be true. If and when I manage to escape, I will need to find Emily and protect her from their treachery. I don't know what they plan for her or Dunwall, but I know it can't be good. No one will use my daughter to further their own twisted agenda. No one!

As they leave me with Samuel, his demeanor changes drastically. The boatman kneels down next to my paralyzed form and apologizes, confessing that he only filled my glass with half of the poison since they were watching him, hoping I was strong enough to withstand it. If I was actually able to move my face, I'd be smiling right now. We've only known each other for a few short days, but Samuel and I are becoming fast friends despite, or maybe even because of, harsh circumstances. I'm glad that he's the one they asked to deliver the poison. Sadly, he can't wait for me to recover, as they'll quickly figure out that I'm not dead. With that in mind, Samuel intends to float my body on a raft while he escapes. It's a long shot, as I could arrive anywhere and will need to make my way back here, but it's the only option we have right now. It's far too risky and impractical for him to travel with my paralyzed body in tow. I only hope the others wise up and ship out too before the shit hits the fan. As Samuel notes, the others have also likely outlived their usefulness. Before Samuel ships me off, I lose my remaining willpower and pass out.

When I awaken, I find myself drifting into Dunwall's Flooded District, once known as the Rudshore Financial District, where plague victims go to die, segregated from the rest of the population. Still under the effects of the poison, I am accosted by two figures wearing familiar garbs. Like the ones who attacked my Jessamine and I on that fateful day, these two are wearing uniforms from old whaling ships, signifying that they work for Daud. As always, it's out of the frying pan and into the fryer for me. I really can't seem to catch a break. That's when they teleport onto my raft to analyze my body. Almost immediately they recognize who I am and that I've been poisoned, further complicating the matter. Ominously, when one of them proclaims that the attempt on my life was “amateur work” that I will live through, the other says that it will ultimately be up to Daud.

With them dragging me onto some sort of gondola and rowing to an unknown location, I start to feel the effects of the poison wear off, as I can finally move my head. Using my new-found head moving abilities, I see that we've arrived at an old refinery in the district. Outside, a few more of Daud's men are clear in view. Taking my limp body, they raise it using an old elevator. At the top, I face the assassin leader himself, holding what looks to be the case I hold my equipment in. There's a certain irony to having my life in the hands of the one who killed the woman I loved the most, but right now I'm too scared out of my mind to appreciate it. If he wanted to, considering my state, this man could take a sword and gut me right now. It's not like he has any sort of moral fiber preventing him from doing so. Still, considering what's happened, I've been extremely lucky so far. There's as much of a chance my luck will continue as there is that it will run out, which is equally disturbing and uplifting. All I can really do is wait and see.

With the lift taking me further into the refinery, Daud begins to speak to me. He knows who I am and that I've been given the Poncy's mark, revealing that he has it, as I suspected. Furthermore, he confirms that he is the man who “knows what's its like to shove a blade into [my] beloved Empress.” However, there's one thing he doesn't know. That is, who I fight for and why. Because of this, he is as fearful of me as I am of him. It is then that I watch as he tosses my equipment into the chasm of the storehouse, and knocks me out again immediately afterward. Coming to for the second time today, I find myself in the Void. As if this day couldn't get any worse, I am going to need to speak with Poncy, because the thing I need most right now is obviously cryptic mutterings and bullshit. Though he appears and speaks to me, I can't even be bothered to listen. Eventually he takes the hint and returns me to the real world.

In this case, the real world happens to be a small drain being used as a makeshift jail cell, where I wake up for the third time today. Instead of a grate, they opted to use wooden board to prevent my escape. Though I can move, I still feel the effects of the poison in my bloodstream, so I choose to spend a moment taking inventory to see exactly what's missing while I wait for a more complete recovery. As expected, my sword and most of my conventional equipment is gone, along with the gold I had in my possession. That being said, I am legitimately surprised at some of the things they left me. My mask is still in my pocket where I left it, so I put it on out of like I would for one of my assassinations. If I treat getting back to the Hound Pits like any other mission, I should be able to get it done no problem. Another surprising thing to note is that all of my Bone Charms are here as well. The ones I have equipped up until now are also still firmly attached to my belt. Lastly, and most strangely, the Heart wasn't taken either. It doesn't really make much sense. Since Daud knows the value of these mystical artifacts, why would he leave them with me? Even my mask was in part built by the Outsider. One would think that he'd keep these items for himself.

Finishing up my inspection, I can finally feel my body return to full strength. Finally, I'm back and I'm ready. I tighten the straps affixing my Death Mask to my face, and begin the second jail break of my life, except this time I won't have outside help. Looking down, I notice that there are a lot of bricks on the floor. Instinctively, I toss them at the wooden boards blocking my exit, and leap out of the hole created. On the desk outside my cell, I see a few plague elixirs and one of the knives that Daud's men use, so I pick them up in case I need to defend myself. Like it or not I'm still in Daud's territory, so it's best to be prepared. There also appear to be a few notes scattered about as well. Reading them, I finally see why they let me live. Apparently, the bounty out for me will dramatically increase in the event of a live capture. Since these guys are mercenaries in the end, it's to be expected that they would want to maximize their returns. Unfortunately, while they may be great assassins, they are terrible wardens, providing me with all the tools I need to make my escape. While I have considered going back to the refinery to retrieve my gear and truly screw with them, I ultimately decide against it because the items in question, despite being lovingly crafted by Piero, are things I simply don't use. Going after them would end up causing more trouble then necessary.

From my position in what appears to be an old brick-and-mortar building, I can't see anything. So instead, I begin to listen. I can hear the footsteps of Daud's men above me, so I opt to go downwards, where I stumble onto an alternate exit in the form of a body of water. Then, I slowly and quietly get into the water, swimming out of the building they trapped me in. It involved spending time with slaughterfish, but that's a lesser risk than engaging in open conflict. After escaping and climbing up out of the water, I find myself pretty chewed up from the sharp bites of the slaughterfish, so I drink the elixir I acquired in order to heal my wounds. Luckily, there are wooden planks and debris I can use avoid being fish bait any longer. As I recall, if I want escape, I'll need to head past the old Chamber of Commerce. Knowing what I've heard of Daud and what remains of this district, he has likely established his base there. To rescue Emily and get my life back, I'll need to go directly through him. Right now though, I need to get my bearings and figure out exactly where in Dunwall's former Rudshore Financial District I ended up, so it's time to make for the high ground. Looking around, I see a chain I can climb, so I use that to raise myself up.

That's when I come across I metal bridge connecting two buildings, decorated by the corpses of fallen Overseers. Rather than leave their equipment to die with them, I opt to scavenge a pistol and grenade off their bodies. After I finish looting, I climb the metal gate on the other side of the bridge and arrive at the entrance to the Central Rudshore Rail Line Station. I breath a sigh of relief, as that means I'm not far from the Chamber of Commerce. However, three of Daud's men are patrolling outside. To get through, I'm going to need to sneak passed them. Considering that they also have powers like my own, it may be more difficult to get through them than the City Watch.

Going around these guys, using the handrails as cover, I arrive at the door only to find that it's looked. Hopefully one of these guys has the key. Returning to my safe spot above the patrols, I look around to see if any of them have the key. The only one I can see clearly from here is one the roof across from me, and he's clean. To get a better view of the other two, I Blink to a nearby apartment building. From there, I see an assassin on a nearby awning. When he turns around to look behind him, I see the key on his belt. Observing him a little while longer, I make my next move. Almost effortlessly, and faster than the eye can perceive, I teleport directly behind him, snatch the key, and teleport to the door before he has a chance to even notice what happened. I'm close to the Chamber of Commerce, and likely Daud himself, now. I'm probably going to need to deal with him in order to proceed. The question is how. Hopefully by the time I get there, I'll have an answer....

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Disclosure Alert: Alpha Protocol: Episode 28: Non-Lethal Fire Damage

In this episode, we break into a mansion with the help of a crazy lady who gets off to people shooting her. Also, we get hosed at the end.

There's not much to talk about in this episode, so let's start with the whole Reputation thing. I think the Reputation losses you get for choosing either SIE or Madison over Mina make her out to be more than a little petty. As of this moment, I'm not sure whether I hate what that implies about her character or love it like I would any other of Obsidian's little touches. Either case, -1 or -2 isn't that significant in the long run, especially for Mina. It's just a little annoying because you'd think she'd understand why you'd want to at least choose Madison over her.
On the other hand, I like that choosing Madison only amplifies her [Maddy's] current opinion of you. If she likes you, she'll like you more and vice-versa.  This seems pretty realistic to me.

But as a whole, this -10 to +10 Reputation thing is pretty flawed. It's just weird how so many little things affect people's opinion of you. Would you hate your friend a little bit more if he spilled his drink at a fast food exactly one time as you watched? A lot of the +1s and -1s are justified, but a few of them border on ridiculous. Mina hating you a little more for changing handlers is the latter. The whole system where higher or lower reputations are more resistant to change in the opposite direction would've been a great idea, credit to anaphysik.

I think I like that Marburg is homosexual. It's not really a secret, as the game all but directly points it out. However, it's understated in a way that I respect. It would have been extremely easy to instead go for the stereotype. In this manner, it makes Marburg slightly more interesting and adds to his character without dominating it. This is how you deal with minorities, developers! Can we start getting that right more often?

Sometimes, those news broadcasts do a very good job at showing you what an outsider might think of the actions Mike is taking throughout the course of the game. For that reason, I'm glad they are included.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Disclosure Alert: Alpha Protocol: Episode 27: Roman Charges May Apply

In this episode of Disclosure Alert, I scream, you scream, a Gelato shop owner screams, when we shoot him for ice cream. That's how the old saying goes, right?
Then, we talk to an anonymous person... who turns out to be Marburg and call a totally random chick that we've never met before a bitch.

As anaphysik points out, the gelato shop owner made a very brief cameo in the first episode. Because we are using the Veteran background, which is only unlocked after beating the game on Recruit, we got a special introduction sequence where the drugs administered to Mike made Mina looked like this guy on the PDA. This variation is only available as a Veteran, likely because otherwise it'd be a minor spoiler.

Aside from that, the other noteworthy things about this mission is that it provides foreshadowing for the reveal that Mina works with the NSA and it has a lot of comedic potential, especially with "horse porn... all over your computer". And then you can pull the trigger for no reason. I always thought it would be cool if games gave you the option to try to kill every person in the game. It'd be like the Renegade interrupts in Mass Effect 2/3, except they are there for the entire conversation. I don't even care if some particularly skilled NPCs are powerful enough to stop you, I just the option would be pretty cool. If anything, this game shows that something like that could lead to some pretty great moments.
NPC: Could you get me 10 of this thing?
Player: *draws gun and fires*

I really like the conversation with Marburg. Like many others before it, there are quite a few different ways it can go down. Depending on what you do, Marburg can think of you as a friendly rival, a bitter nemesis, or anywhere in between. The discussion also changes a fair bit depending on whether or not you obtained a lot of dossier information on him. Lastly, your relationship with SIE matters to him, because Marburg and SIE both hate each other. (Likewise, SIE will like you if Marburg hates you and vice-versa if you meet her in Moscow after this.) It's another fine example of the game at it's best.

And yes, I needed to point out the whole "mercenary" thing. Considering the person who is guest starring in these episodes, I felt compelled to. (Although I honestly probably would have anyway.)

God, I love these interview segments. They really are a great way to frame the narrative. It allows the game to comment on what you've done and then gives you a chance to respond and possibly justify what you did. It also helps to give you insight into the mind of the big villain. As for the comparison to Dragon Age 2, I never played that game so I'll let Aldowyn and Josh handle it.

To be fair, Josh was totally right to call me on "except a solid gameplay experience". However, the point I was trying to make was that this is a game where the player interactions with the story matter a lot more than any of the "gameplay" sections in it. In fact, I think the game would've been better if they gave you more dialog and less gameplay, because the gameplay segments really do feel artificial at times. Sadly, I don't think a lot of people besides myself would go for it, and others would accuse it of "not being a video game" because reasons. Sometimes I really hate the culture surrounding my favorite hobby.

I also concur with what Josh said at the start of the Contact Madison mission. When I first played through the game, I honestly only had a bare-bones idea of what was going on. It took a 2nd and 3rd playthrough to really get a sense of the plot, and this is coming from someone who can easily understand Tetsuya Nomura's way too overly-complicated storytelling in Kingdom Hearts.

I still find it hard to believe that the one, totally random stranger that happens to suspect that her employer might be less than ethical JUST SO HAPPENS to be Alan Parker's daughter. It's such a long shot that it's pretty baffling. This becomes important later on, but it just seems like it's too out there. On the other hand, I like how the game let's you be suspicious of her, because quite frankly I would be in that position.

And #AldowynIsDumb again for forgetting his Pistol. Oh well, it only made the next episode more interesting.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Disclosure Alert: Alpha Protocol: Episode 26: Audionarrative Dissonance

In this episode, we continue our genocidal march of Rome. Fitting the legacy of our guest, we bring carnage to all before us with extreme prejudice.

For the record, I take pride in my Lara Croft/Nathan Drake/Mass Effect/Indiana Jones fan-fiction. I worked for literally SECONDS to get you such high quality writing and I hope you're all happy. That's 5 seconds of my life I will never get back. Of course, Thorton was using that time to stealth level up, so maybe it was worth it.

Josh makes a good point. For a game that's supposedly set in the real world, the mechanics do very much make this feel like a video games instead of a spy thriller. To its credit, the "plastic-y" visuals help make those mechanics feel like they belong, so isn't too egregious. Despite that, it can be pretty strange to have Thorton use "Hide in Shadows" like a character in Planescape: Torment or Baldur's Gate when the stealth mechanics that said skill was simulating are already in place. I've spoken before about such phenomena in the past, but Alpha Protocol in particular really makes one question the necessity of old school RPG mechanics in modern day game design.

Trying to tell Aldowyn how to go ANYWHERE is insufferably annoying. It takes him forever to follow directions and the 5 second delay does NOT help. I hope you guys enjoy this glimpse of our suffering, because this was so annoying. He's a terrible hacker, which is worsened by the fact that the hacks are getting more difficult (another case of redundant mechanics in an RPG). At least he can lockpick well.

I know that building security is never well-designed in a video game (as Josh noted) because, by their very nature, the security systems have to be systems that the average player can be expected to bypass in some way. However, this level's defenses strike me as particularly bad. I don't know why that is, or why I'm bothered by it, but I am. Perhaps some of you guys have thoughts on the matter.

I'm not worried too much by it, though. After all, we went to get ice cream right afterward. >:)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Disclosure Alert: Alpha Protocol: Episode 25: Exactly Like a Spoiler Warning Episode

It has been a long time, hasn't it. Let's just say that since recording the first part of Rome, Aldowyn had, and continues to have, a number of issues he needed to deal with. I hope you can forgive him, because we've sure taken him to task for the delay.


Anyway, this week we also have a very special guest joining us for the first half of our tour in Rome. Those of you who watch Spoiler Warning over at Twenty Sided will recognize Josh Viel, whom we were happy to have with us. It was a very fun recording session.

Also, funny story: Aldowyn was recording all of us, but he lost the files. Fortunately, anaphysik had backups. Unfortunately, his connection sucks. As a result, we had a few problems getting this together. There were also issues with the game audio. *sigh* >_>

This is one of the easiest and shortest non-contact missions in the entire game. Also, it's the only one of it's kind. I actually really like this mission, simply because it breaks away from other gameplay missions (And let's be honest, the parts where you aren't having conversations really aren't that good. I say that as a fan of this game.)

As for the suit, I have a theory that Obsidian originally tried to make this a mission where you had to blend in, but either realized how much effort it would be or that it looked goofy given the way Micheal Thorton looks and controls during gameplay missions. It's much easier and sensible to have this setup as a mission where Thorton scans them for Mina to get info on. I have to admit, given the recent gov't spying scandals, it's interesting how readily available all this data is to your operation. To avoid going further down the politics rabbit hole, I'll stop at that.

It's worth noting that saving or killing Al-Bara, despite him being a confirmed terrorist working with Al-Samad, does NOT affect your relationship with Shaheed if he's still alive by this point. He'll comment on it, but his reputation won't change.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

“What a Terrible Accident” Let's Play Dishonored: Part 12: The Regent

Arriving at Dunwall Tower is a very bittersweet moment for me. Were it not for all the security, guards, and the Lord Mole I've been sent to kill, this would feel a lot like a homecoming. As it stands, it's sad to see how far this place has fallen. What was once a bright and cheerful place where Jessamine did her best to help as many as she could is now under the control of a bleak and petty dictator. I may not have a great vantage point from the bottom of the water lock, but even from here the change is obvious. The darkness merely accentuates what is already there.

Due to my current standing with the government of Dunwall, I'm unable to get clearance to use the water lock's mechanisms to raise our boat to the garden of the tower. This means that I need to climb my way up myself and go from there. After all of the many, many buildings I've climbed in a few short days, this isn't a big deal to me, especially since I have magic teleportation powers. After climbing a few pipes, I find myself using these powers to land inside a nearby vent. There are spinning wheels that divide this vent, but in those wheels are gaps which I can easily sneak through. At the end of the vent, I see an opening that I use to exit onto a steel beam. From there, I see what appears to be a Bone Charm on the other side of the water lock, in another vent. Confirming that it is indeed a Bone Charm with the Heart, I Blink over there and pick it off of a corpse. It's a good thing that I was the one who picked it up, because as soon as I put it in my bag, a swarm of rats appears out of nowhere. Reflexively, I throw myself back to the other side using Blink before I am devoured by rats. Looking at the Bone Charm, I see that it helps me restore my mental energy faster, so I equip it onto my belt.

Taking a quick breath to calm myself down, I overhear a few guards talking on the level above me. One of them moves towards the bannister. If he looks down, I will be spotted, ruining any shot of assassinating the Lord Mole. Luckily, his Dunwallian inability to look around gives me the break I needed to get to the balcony by the door to the maintenance room. Opening the door, I am immediately greeted by an Arc Pylon. The door is just outside of it's effective range, so I'm safe for now. However, if I want to get to the upper levels, I will need to disable it somehow. The panel must be around here somewhere. I see that there is a metal barrier I can use to hide from the Arc Pylon, so I throw myself behind it, not giving the pylon any time to charge up. From there, I see not only the control panel, but the oil tank fueling the device. Quietly dislodging the tank from the conduit, I move upstairs and continue my ascent.

Rather than take the slow, painful route of sneaking through the top level of the water lock, I find that it is smarter instead to teleport onto a nearby spire and again to the roof of the building, bypassing the patrolling guards entirely. Sneaking across the rooftop gives me a perfect view of the tower gardens, so I take this as an opportunity to sit down and plan my strategy for braking in. While the basic structure of the garden is very much like how I remember it, security has clearly been improved. There are stations and watch towers that were clearly erected recently, on top of the large number of guards out on patrol. I also see construction laid about for further potential “renovations”. According to the Heart, two Runes are also in the area. One is close by, and I can likely get to it on the way to the tower proper. The other is clearly on the top of the tower. Unless the Regent is there as well, the odds are I won't be grabbing it. It's too risky.

Finishing my survey of the area, I decide to use the construction nearby to sneak through the right side of the gardens, behind a guard tower. Since the Rune is in the tower, I use a small hole in the construction to enter. As I climb up, I hear footsteps above me, and wait for them to pass before I pull myself up and Blink passed the patrol before he turns around. The watchman is in plain view of the door leading to the Rune, so I wait before making my move. Entering the room containing the Rune, I see that it must be the bedroom for the guardsmen in the area, judging by the cots, lockers, and food littered about it. One of the notices on a circular table says that after the death of my beloved Empress, Lord Mole severely restricted access to Dunwall Tower. That doesn't surprise me, but I'm still angered at the way he spits on her legacy. Rather than listen to the words of the people, this fool would sit and watch the city crumble. My resolve is strengthened after this. I know now that regardless of my expendability to the conspiracy, this man needs to die.

When I look back at the way I came into this room, I see an awning on the side of the tower I can use to keep the high ground and advance further into the complex. I can't teleport to it normally, so with a running start, I jump and then use my powers to get up there. Turning back, a wry smile crosses my face as I see that the guard is still completely oblivious. He didn't even hear me thanks to my boots, outfitted by Piero to be as silent as possible. Fortune smiles at me again when I gaze to my right, finding a ventilation shaft that leads directly into the tower foyer. On top of the archway above the main entrance, I see the Lord Mole himself talking through one of the screens to his top general, standing atop the staircase leading onto the second floor.

What luck! Apparently all the stress is getting to the old fool. Rather than stay in his safe-room on the top floor, he heads to his bedroom. Considering that there is only one real “bedroom” in this tower, the rest being more accurately called barracks, I know exactly where he'll be. I can't help but be mad that this sick individual is sleeping in the room that rightfully belongs to the woman he contracted a hit on, but that's tempered by the relief that I won't have to struggle to get there. After all, the bedroom's balcony directly overlooks the foyer, and from my vantage point I can see that the door is wide open. As many people on patrol as this idiot has, there was absolutely no way he could have known that his pursuer has the power to throw himself onto the chandelier, and then to the balcony. The moment he decided to leave that room was the moment he sealed his fate. Lord Mole, Hiram Burrows, you are mine.

On the balcony to the bedroom, I take the time to pilfer a Rune from his chest in front of the bed before climbing up to the awning above. It's made of incredibly sturdy materials, so I have no doubt that it will support my weight. All I have to do now is sit, wait, and figure out how exactly I plan to get the job done without leaving evidence behind. He takes his time getting here, but eventually I hear him outside the door, chastising the watchmen. Part of me wonders exactly how much they like Lord Mole. If he wasn't paying them money, how many of them would stay out of loyalty? My guess is few. As the door opens, I summon a swarm of rats to attack him. Watching the guards panic and swing their swords wildly, trying to assist him, my heart jumps as I see one of them accidentally swing their blade directly into the Lord Regent, killing him on the spot in a similar scene to the the Pendleton twins.

Oh dear, what a terrible accident. Apparently the guards in this city have trouble defending their lords from the rats.

Though I probably should look around and scout for more Runes and Bone Charms, I opt to not take my chances with Dunwall Tower Security. I leave exactly the same way I came in, using the chandelier to keep out of sight of the patrols and sneaking back into the vent. My journey back to Samuel's boat goes a lot smoother than the one I made to get to my final target. After a few Blinks, I am back on the roof of the water lock and in a good position to dive into the water and swim to the boat. Explaining that the deed has been done, a weight appears to lift from the boatman's shoulders, and he takes us back to the Hound Pits.

As we travel, Samuel confesses a mix of unease and excitement for the new change, worrying that the small guys like him may end up getting steamrolled. I didn't tell him for fear of worsening his mood, but deep down I share the same apprehension. All the evidence I've gathered points to this being the perfect moment for the heads of this conspiracy to show their true colors, assuming my guess is correct. I hope I'm wrong, but considering I'm the foremost expert on being backstabbed, I trust my instincts. I can hear the party in the bar from here, so I decide to join the festivities. As Pendleton praises my final victory, he hands me a drink. Both him and Havelock seem excited for the changes to come, and in their fervor give a toast to me and Lady Emily.

In the excitement of the moment, I imbibe the fluid from the glass and immediately curse myself for it. I wait a few moments, and think that I might be okay as I listen to Callista argue her case to Martin that she should take the job of caring for Emily. It was then that my vision began to blur, and I knew that I had made a terrible mistake. It's getting worse and worse, and I don't think there's anything I can do about it. The only thought crossing my mind is the vain hope that if I get to my bed and rest, maybe they'll be too chicken shit to finish me off and I'll have time to recover. Frantically, I rush up the stairs and to my room, but as I reach my bed, I collapse onto the floor. I've been lucky so far, but it appears this is where my journey comes to a close....

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

#62: The Mythical Cloud: Don't Believe the Hype

A while back, as of the time of writing, Game Trailers released a news story about a game named Darkspore, published by Electronic Arts and developed by Maxis, makers of The Sims and SimCity. The game was newsworthy because after many months of problems with it, rendering it nigh unplayable, Steam has officially delisted it, making it unavailable for purchase. This is interesting because the issues have nothing to do with the game itself. In fact, the real issue is that the EA servers are not operational. That is correct: In order to play Darkspore, even in single player, customers had to connect to EA servers. You see, EA had cited that the servers were needed for the betterment of the experience, and not as a form of DRM. It is this particular issue that I wish to talk about: the cloud.
Lately, especially with the dawn of the next generation of gaming consoles, cloud gaming has become a serious talking point for both Sony and Microsoft. Quite a few next-gen games, most notably Titanfall from Respawn Entertainment and Ubisoft's upcoming games The Crew and The Division, also made it perfectly clear that they will require the use of cloud-processing in order to function. I have heard a lot of people in the industry praise the advent of cloud-processing. After thinking about it, I am not convinced that such an innovation is healthy for the industry. However, I cannot just say that I think it is bad. My task is to argue the point to those who do not share my view, which I intend to do.

The biggest point someone prosecuting cloud-processing in a video game can make is that utilizing it is another way to mandate that players of the game are constantly connected to the internet at all times. In other words, regardless of any potential benefits, it is another form of always-online DRM. In order to actually use cloud-processing services, it is necessary to connect to the servers where the calculations being remotely handled for the purpose of streaming inputs and receiving outputs. Since the odds of any given person playing the game in the same room those servers are located in are <1%, this can only be reliably done via the internet. Going further, this connection must be maintained in order to continue to make use of the cloud for offloading calculations, because otherwise there is no way to transmit data. The unfortunate reality of this necessity means that cloud-processing will always demand that users get online and stay online, giving publishers and developers a very convenient excuse to implement always-online policies. We have seen this is the past with 1 very infamous case study.
Of course, I am talking about SimCity (2013). Also released by Maxis, SimCity (2013) was actually the fifth installment of the series with the same name. Unlike previous installments of the city-building simulator, this game featured an ability to communicate with other players' cities and share resources between them. Sadly, this otherwise interesting feature came with a cost. EA decided that to facilitate the sharing of resources, all saves had to be uploaded to their cloud servers, with no copies on a given user's computer. In order for this to work, EA mandated the players be constantly connected to these servers. When people cried foul at this, Maxis claimed that due to the way the game was programmed, it was literally impossible to add this new feature without also including always-online. This was later proven false by a simple modder who allowed the game to function perfectly fine without any sort of online connection. Though EA and Maxis deny that the system implemented was for DRM to this day, most of the people who saw it unfold would be hard-pressed to accept that for truth. The notion of utilizing the cloud was quite obviously another way of sneaking DRM into a game that does not need it.

Another issue with cloud-processing in video games is the sheer impracticality of its use. Though I spoke of this last week when talking about the Xbox One, the issue with maintaining servers applies equally to cloud-processing. Needless to say, without servers to offload calculations onto, it is impossible to actually do any offloading. Creating and maintaining said servers cost money, which is already a dwindling and precious resource in the industry. Since many people in the industry lament a lack of profits due to a variety of reasons, it seems foolish to knowingly forge an unwritten and unspoken contract with consumers to keep and maintain servers so that a given product remains playable. Though not living up to their side of the contract is certainly still legal in this case, it has a way of tarnishing a publisher's reputation, and lowering consumer confidence in future products.
Another key practicality issue is that there are only so many calculations that can be offloaded to the cloud. Ignoring the issue wherein many people do not have reliable internet connections, there is only so much data that can be transferred through wires and even the air itself. Bandwidth is very much a finite resource, so it is necessary to limit the amount of data that needs to be transferred between cloud servers and the machine playing a given game. As a result of this limit, things like high-definition graphical data are pretty much completely out of the question. While I do not consider my own internet to be particularly terrible 70-80% of the time, there is absolutely no way I would ever be able to stream HD graphics through my connection. I can barely play YouTube videos at 480p. Other types of calculations exist on a spectrum of practicality, so at best cloud processing can really only be used as a supplement and/or for games that are not very system intensive. With this in mind, claims from Sony regarding Gaikai, which is their reported “solution” to backwards compatibility, and Microsoft having “infinite power with the cloud” seem dubious at best. To best utilize cloud processing would require an intelligent, and nuanced, approach that minimizes the amount of data streamed through the internet. That notion contradicts claims made by both major console manufactures.

The last, and maybe most significant, issue that cloud-processing presents is that over the long term it will result in a lack of longevity for video games that use it. Like I said in my previous point, utilizing this new computation technique requires servers that must be maintained. Although it will probably take a very long time for most games, eventually the time will come when a business decision gets made. It will be decided that the costs to keep servers up and running outweigh any benefits of keeping them, so they will shut down. Like in the aforementioned case of Darkspore which started this article, cloud-based games that suffer this fate will be permanently shut down unless publishers are generous enough to put the tools out there for consumers to make servers for the game. This results in making games that, unlike every other entertainment product out there, have a finite, if unknown, shelf life.
To be fair, this is a very hard case to make to publishers. After all, whether or not a game works 10 years from now does not really have a noticeable impact on profit margins. Also, making games like this enables them to charge years later for higher definition remakes and ports of those same games, giving them a financial incentive to make games that will expire in some way, shape, or form. However, in the future, it will be necessary to have these products available as a way to study and learn from them in many the same way people learn from old books or movies. If the servers no longer exist for these games to be played, then they will forever be lost to history. This is a problem that has yet to truly be solved, and even services like Steam will need to eventually face it. Although the thought sounds laughably absurd, there will eventually become a time for each of these companies to forever close their doors or be merged into another. This new technology is ripe for abuse in this regard, and that is something that can be frightening to many.

On that note, I want to make very clear that this article was not intended to be an alarmist piece on cloud-processing in video games. All I wish to do is inform you, the reader, that there are still many concerns that must be addressed before it becomes a more viable model. There are positives uses for it, too. After all, Steam, Playstation Plus, and Xbox Live users have already become accustomed to the benefits of storing backup save files on the cloud. For games like the aforementioned Titanfall and The Division, which have made it clear to consumers that they are exclusively online multiplayer games, cloud-processing is a perfectly viable tool for offloading some extraneous calculations away from the console/computer.

It only becomes concerning when we see cloud computing in areas where it does not necessarily belong, like in the case of Darkspore, as the problems then outweigh the benefits. There is also the opportunity for a nuanced approach, using cloud-processing only for the multiplayer components of a game, not affecting the single-player portions. It can, in fact, be a benefit to gaming. However, it needs to be done smartly, else many other problems are born as a result. It is a difficult balancing act to make, and I am honestly not sure that major console manufacturers, game developers, and publishers are able to do it. Who knows? Perhaps I will be wrong. Nonetheless, make sure that you are informed about the technology before you pass judgment one way or the other.