Thursday, March 17, 2011
In what is likely NEVER to become a regular column, I document an interesting glitch I found in Ys IV on the Super Famicom, and reveal a little of my warped logic in the process.
Whenever I play a game I have an inherent distrust of the designers, believing them to be in many instances trying to bamboozle me with their fiendish trickeries. A good example was in the original Yakuza. I came across a sobbing man who called out a woman’s name, lamenting how he lost everything because of her. Five minutes later a mission triggered, where a woman ran up to me being chased by a thug – she told me her name, the same exact same one the old man had mumbled, and begged me to save her. I thought aha! The game is trying to trick me, and if I save her I’ll lose everything too. I had assumed that the NPC was giving a warning for wary players, so I let her get dragged off. As it turns out you were supposed to save her and then lose everything, and in avoiding this fate I would never gain access to one of the game’s secret casinos. So in disgust I stopped playing and never completed the original Yakuza. It had clearly given me a warning which I had followed, and instead of being rewarded for my astute vigilance, I was punished.
Anyway, this highlights how an obsessively astute nature can disrupt game flow. As it did in Ys IV on the SFC.
At the start of Ys IV Dr Flair joins you, stating he intends to find a rare flower to create a special panacea. He lodges at the first inn you come across and stays there while you go off on your adventure. Most players would forget about this, but for me this mentioning of the flower took precedence over all other things – if it wasn’t to become a pivotal point of the game, it wouldn’t have been mentioned. Most writers avoid creating a “dues ex machina” situation by casually dropping something significant at the start of books, films and games. So when someone mentions being double-jointed, a place of interest, a bottle of milk or packet of prophylactics they’re picking up, right at the start of any narrative, my assumption is that the final act of this narrative will somehow hinge upon this seemingly innocuous item/skill/location/etc, otherwise it would never have been mentioned. In fact 90% of all films are ruined for people who watch with me, precisely because I pin-point every key aspect which most of the time ends up correct thereby totally spoiling it ahead of time (except Morgan Freeman and his knife throwing in Seven – that never went anywhere, making it something of a red herring).
So anyway, when I finally find this flower late into the game, at an exorbitant price, from a merchant who only has one of them, and then I’m asked to give this flower to an old man whose wife needs it, my SPIDY NERD SENSES kick in, and I realise: Tonkin House is trying to **** with my mind, man. Of course they’d set up this situation where I need to take the game’s ONLY flower to a dying old woman, thereby denying Dr Flair the game’s ONLY flower, and thereby denying myself some kind of outlandish reward – like having the power of GOD, or something equally outlandish.
So in order to fulfil my Messiah Complex and best the game’s trickeries, the only logical thing is to abandon the old woman and trek it aaaaaaaaalllllll the way back to Dr Flair, across about 137 different map screens, in order to instead give HIM the ONLY flower, in the original inn he’s staying at, and get the super secret reward.
Right? Eh, readers?
I could have looked up a FAQ to check this, but I trusted my gut instinct.
My belief was that only the most astute (or paranoid) of players would make such a journey. And therefore only such gifted individuals would receive an unimaginably amazing reward. Because if I made commercial games, they would all be made like this, forcing players to constantly double guess me and break the design flow – because if I made commercial games, I would absolutely 100% of the time be ****ing with your mind. My games would literally be non-stop mind ****ing.
So I trek it back to Dr Flair, who is still inside the inn. After talking to him he starts spouting strange gibberish about coming here to find me, after finding the flower himself, and that he’d take me to the elder if I follow him. At which point he freezes in place and Adol starts walking around the scenery, only to end up stuck inside the background, as in the starting image. It even incorrectly says: Elder's House.
As it turns out, you’re not supposed to go back to Dr Flair. Giving the flower to the old woman sets a trigger which places Flair in the seaside village, whereupon he’ll take you to the elder. Failure to bring her the flower causes him to remain at the inn. The curious thing is though, at some point a different trigger must have been activated, whereupon instead of his usual “best wishes” dialogue he initiates the conversation about taking you to the elder. So there must be two triggers at work: (1) to alter his dialogue response and (2) to actually make him appear in the seaside town. By triggering (1) and skipping out (2), I was able to initiate the wrong conversation while still inside the inn, which of course resulted in Adol getting stuck.
The worrying thing is you can still save the game after this, so it is quite a fatal glitch.
I reloaded and did things properly, whereupon I discovered that Flair ended up getting the flower on his own, so Tonkin House wasn’t really messing with my mind and I could have just gone with the flow. Making it all a great waste of time...
See? You absolutely cannot trust games designers.