Friday, 20 April 2012

Game 16: Captain Blood - Me Not Good Insult Curse

Captain Blood Journal Entry 1: “Surely I’m hallucinating! Or perhaps this is just a bad dream and I’m going to wake up sometime soon! After spending the last few weeks obsessively developing a new video game, I now find myself trapped in the game itself, having to face all the challenges that I designed. Here I am sitting in a spacecraft, guiding OORXX’s through planetary defences to reach zones where I can communicate with various alien species, all in an attempt to track down the five duplicates that contain the rest of my vital fluids and disintegrate them. Why did I have to make communication so challenging in the game?! I guess I could never have known that my own life would depend upon successfully gathering information from Migrax’s, Croolis Ulv’s, Buggol’s etc. Thankfully, I’ve managed to form a bond with a Croolis-Ulv called Great Bounty, who wants me to destroy his enemies. He’s given me the coordinates for four planets which are inhabited by Croolis-Var. I assume in return he will give me information which might lead to one of the duplicates I’m tracking.”

There are five duplicates somewhere out there. Shouldn't be a problem.

Captain Blood is, as expected, one of the strangest games I’ve ever played. That’s not to say it’s bad! It’s just unlike anything I’ve experienced previously and offers a serious challenge in a bizarre environment. I won’t lie! So far I’m shit at this game! It’s taken me ages to figure out what I’m supposed to do and how I’m meant to go about it. Even now, after two hours of playing, I feel like I understand only a small portion of what’s going on and what I’m supposed to do. It’s going to be a tough game to blog about and I’m afraid you’re all going to have to experience my confusion along with me. Despite everything I’ve just said there’s something about the game that draws you in. I can sense the promise of a true gaming experience, if only I could wrap my bewildered brain around the game mechanics and in particular, the communication system. Before I talk about that though, let’s start from the beginning.

My console, complete with OORXX, ready for service

The game begins with the player (Captain Blood) sitting at spaceship console, looking at the planet vision screen. From what I can tell, the planet in front of you is random, so there’s no guarantee which one you’ll be looking at when you start the game. It’s important to write down the planet coordinates, as you may need to come back to it later on in the game. The aim of the game is to find the five duplicates and take back your missing vital fluids, but the duplicates could be hiding on any of the 32768 planets that are available in the game. Going off into space and hunting planet by planet would obviously be suicide, so the first thing to do is to go down onto the planet you can see and try to extract information from whatever alien species inhabits it. The goal seems to be to get coordinates of another planet that might lead to information about duplicates.

One of the random planets I've started out in front of

So how do I guide Captain Blood down onto planets to talk to aliens? The answer is i don’t! Captain Blood stays exactly where he is, sitting at his console in space. He directs half organic half machine creatures down to the planet surface to do his dirty work. The player does have control of these creatures though (known as OORXX’s) and have to guide them through rough terrain, avoiding the missiles sent by defense systems. Some planets have no defences, which makes landing pretty straight forward, whereas other planets have lots. Whenever there are incoming missiles, I need to keep my OORXX as low to the ground as possible to avoid them, which can be pretty difficult when the terrain is filled with mountains. My technique for high defense planets is to fly pretty slowly, then stop altogether when missiles are in close range and drop to the surface floor. Once the missiles have gone out of range, I pop back up and make some more ground before they come back.

Even the harshest of planetary landscapes have handy runways for landing.

My OORXX comes to a stop as soon as I reach the landing zone, and I find myself confronted by whatever alien inhabits the planet. This is where things get interesting (and bewildering). All aliens speak and are spoken to using the 150 symbols that are available in the interface. I’m not entirely sure how it’s decided upon, but a handful of icons are not available at any time. Despite this, there are still a heck of a lot of icons to choose from (look at the scroll bar at the bottom of the image below for an idea what I'm talking about) when trying to extract information. The best way to describe how communication is handled is to lead you through a typical conversation.

This is a Migrax. As much as he looks like the creature out of Alien, he's actually annoyingly happy and laughs a lot.

ALIEN: Howdy You. Me Croolis-Uly Dead Genetic. Planet = Trap 4. Me Great Warrior

(Each of the above words is communicated with a symbol. Putting your cursor over the symbol reveals what its English translation is. It took me a long time to figure out that this particular alien is of the race Croolis-Uly and that his name is Dead Genetic. This is typical of the way the aliens talk and some of their names could easily be used in other contexts such as Brave Missile and Good Nonsense, which is damn confusing. I assume they’re completely random given how silly they are.)

CAPTAIN BLOOD: Me Want Information

ALIEN: Me Like Information Enemy

(I figure the translation of this is “I like information about my enemy”)

CAPTAIN BLOOD: Me Search Information Enemy

ALIEN: Me Search Enemy Curse. Me Search Danger Curse. Me Like Information Enemy. Me Like Brain Enemy Dead Great Laugh.

(The aliens often laugh, insult and curse to emphasise their feelings. Don’t ask me what the rest means.)

CAPTAIN BLOOD: Me Kill Brain Enemy You Give Information?

ALIEN: Me Search Enemy Curse. Kill Yes Yes Insult Curse. Izwal Small Brain Insult Curse. Me Not Give You. You Give Me Yes Curse. Me Like Information Enemy. You Give Me Idea? Me Like Brain Enemy Dead Great Laugh. Me Kill Time Laugh Laugh. Me Croolis-Ulv Dead Genetic. Me Want You Destroy Planet Croolis-Var. You Kill Croolis-Var. Planet Trap 2. Coordinate 13/90. Planet Great Fear. Coordinate 219/91. Planet Kill You. Coordinate 213/116. Planet Trap 1. Coordinate 103/92 Kill Kill Laugh Laugh. Me Give You Great Information. Bye Good Blood.

Dead Genetic: "You Give Me Clothes. You Give Me Boots. You Give Me Motorcycle. Laugh Curse."

So, as you can probably tell, I got the information I was after. It seems that the Croolis-Ulv called Dead Genetic wants me to destroy all the Croolis-Var (another race of aliens) on the four planets he’s given me coordinates for. I can only assume that if I complete this mission, Dead Genetic will give me some info that will help me find the first duplicate, or at least lead me to someone else that might. If you wondering why all of the above took me two hours, the conversation example I gave is a massively summarised one that doesn’t include the fifty other things I tried saying with varied results. I’ve tried all sorts of things ranging from “Me Like Dead Genetic You Help Me” to “You Not Help Me Me Destroy Planet”, and I imagine I’ll have to be re-educated every time I come across a new race of aliens. I guess it’s time to go kill some Croolis-Var and see what happens. I’ll report my progress in the next couple of days, unless I get sucked into the game.

The little dots are defense systems. Something tells me my next landing approach will be a rocky one.

Session Time: 2 hours 00 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 00 minutes


  1. This sounds like the most realistic version of trying to communicate with aliens I've ever heard of in a game: Hard, confusing and frustrating.

    1. On the one hand, an innovative replacement for the text parser. On the other hand, my linguistics training is rebelling against its complexity and the ugga-bugga results.

  2. If the game has any Star Trekkian tendencies, you are most likely meant to negotiate a peace between the two warring races (just guessing, as I've never played the game).

    1. This thought raises an interesting point which I'll come back to in my next post.

  3. 32768. 32768 planets seems to be to be an odd number of planets in the game, although why does it seem familiar.

    Oh wait 2^15bit = 32768. Basically the max size of a signed integer. Who knows how many more planets they would have added, hadn't they the limitations of then current computer system.

  4. Or why thy used a signed integer for that instead of unsigned. Might be a system limitation if they were coding in BASIC, which as I recall only had a few variable types.