Saturday, 21 March 2015

Game 50: B.A.T. - Toilet Training

Written by Aperama

Ageless, Faceless, Gender-Neutral, Culturally Ambiguous Adventure Person's Journal #1: It's hard to be positive about being a B.A.T. operative. The pay is lousy and mostly goes towards food and drink – hell, they didn't even land me here on Selenia with any ammo – they barely give you any idea of what you're ready to face.. and they're so devoted to secrecy that I had to have my debriefing meeting with a strange guy in a toilet. Oh, and it's not until NOW that they tell me the planet I'm on is going to blow up in ten days! Naturally, they didn't give me enough to fly back out of this rock.. guess it's time to start pumping people for clues. Watch out Terrapolis, here I come!

I've ended up with a character that's pretty well even across the board
who specialises in conversations (not to mention electronics and stealing).
Looks like your average adventure gamer to me!

B.A.T. is not a game that I think I will ever – or could ever – love. It's already managed to annoy me with its interface rather heavily (in a rather short play session, might I add) by being extremely inconsistent. If you click on the screen when it has the standard cursor (which according to the manual is 'the falcon's eye, the symbol of B.A.T.') it brings up B.O.B, the arm computer system. It looked to me at first that this was also the load/save option, though that was actually the 'pre-programming' set thing that I couldn't wrap my head around in the manual on the first glance. Anyhow, in and of itself this is straight forward. Unfortunately, it doesn't work quite that way. It can appear/not appear at seemingly random, with the 'conversation' icon sometimes coming even in the sky or the ground. Utterly maddening. Not being able to reliably bring up what is essentially the main interface is simply ridiculous. The combat interface is utterly ridiculous, being even less tactical than the previous game Elvira was. Unless I'm missing something, it consists of selecting a weapon and clicking like a madman until the other person dies (or you do.) Uuuugggghhh.





All because the geniuses in B.A.T. didn't even give me ammo to go with my guns on introducing me to the city. Not so much as a robotic sausage. Life.. don't talk to me about life..

Anyhow. I decided to focus more getting a feel for the interface in this post as opposed to trying to make big storyline leaps (given only two of you are going to read these posts anyway, I can't emphasise enough just how painful the interface really is.) The B.O.B. screen is definitely interesting, admittedly. From what I understand, it's possible to set up a few things through it, for instance having it automatically translate 'robot' or 'alien' when you're conversing with one of those – but I really don't see the purpose behind doing so. It feels like I'd be spending longer messing around with the interface than I would really be comfortable with. As is, it's quite annoying that I have to do the manual translations, even though it seems that the majority of the species I'm encountering are either human or alien – it feels a lot like I'm having my gameplay stretched out. I really don't want to have gameplay stretched out. (I'm really depending on the French gods of gaming to have pity on me at this point!)




I find myself wondering if these screens will give me any sort of warning that I'm about to starve to death without having to constantly click on them, as I'm utterly sure I won't remember to look..

Anyhow, I do suppose what little I've played through should be explained. On landing in the spaceport and messing around with the interface for about ten minutes before even finding the area I was due to enter, I went to the unirace restrooms (although, as the game says, they are equipped for all types of anatomies, they're not very pleasant), I spoke to a police officer who gave me a few clues. Apparently, Vrangor (evil genius extraordinaire) has 'access to some very strange places', to find Merigo, I should 'try the seedier parts of town', and when I asked him of the city, 'the only access to the engines is in the old building'. I can only imagine this is him suggesting that the engines are a weak point to be targeted by bombs? I'm not even completely certain what the engines are for, given Terrapolis is supposedly a city built on a plateau in the largely arid Selenia. Anyhow, in going to the slightly ajar restroom stall, our local contact (complete with his B.A.T. pin badge on the right hand side of his coat) gives a quick monologue/summary of what the manual and back cover have already told us. Vrangor is crazy. Selenia is strategically important to the Earth, as it has large quantities of raw materials, and Vrangor is threatening to blow the city of Terrapolis if all of Earth's interests don't leave it within ten days. While Vrangor has hidden his tracks well, Merigo has been located entering the planet via an 'ecg wave' (his brainwaves, I'm guessing) and as such, we're loaded up with some guns, five hundred Krells (the local currency), a credit chit with 1000 Krells on it, and a hologram of Merigo to show to whoever might have seen him. Neat!


Sweet, equipment! Now why couldn't we have met somewhere OTHER than a toilet stall?
Working here really is the.. well, you know.

Here's probably a good point to mention that the inventory system is legitimately horrible. Each item is listed singularly, and the only selection is made with a 'NEXT' button, meaning that if my inventory should bloat, it'll be quite difficult to work out what I've got exactly. So, I've been given two weapons (a 'hacker', a weapon that 'shoots several thousands of missiles simultaneously', and a 'Haas 10' which is a pistol-like missile launcher with heat-seekers and dumb-launchers) – but no ammo for either. Luckily, I don't plan to spend much of this game shooting if I can help it, as the combat is really that bad. (And yes, this is a homemade video by yours truly, but this is first chance to plug the 'Adventure Gamer' YouTube channel, which will no doubt see occasional uses from the writers around. Also note the way I find someone to 'talk' to (and shoot at) – it's literally random as to whether or not you manage a hit. I also left the full DosBOX screen up to make it clear – combat is that fast even at 3000 cycles.) From the spaceport, we end up in a random sort of 'travel lounge' place, I imagine it's supposed to be – there's a vending machine to buy some food along with a club, so this is essentially the Duty Free area of the spaceport. Apparently, the club (or 'pub' as the game calls it in spite of it having the word 'CLUB' written in the staircase leading to it) has a reputation for being one of the shadiest places in town. A number of visitors have been found dead, too! Oh no!


What's with that little E.T. looking thing?


I still don't fully understand this. The little screen you find in the corner requires a bribe for 'information on the city' for no apparent reason, though you can just leave, with a picture of what looks like a gun poking towards you.. but it has no payoff aside from this thinly veiled threat.

Given that the Space Pub/Club/Bar/Place To Imbibe Overpriced Drinks was largely a bust (unless I was missing something important in there and just couldn't work it out from the interface), the next screen is 'Astroport Square', a place that is 'teeming with people'. It's pretty much what you'd expect coming out of an airp-- er, spaceport – overpriced hotels, overpriced fast food. Again, the place seems largely to be useless, though it does serve its function of leaving a place to keep your B.A.T. agent healthy. I'm imagining that one of the meters on the B.O.B. unit (getting so sick of these acronyms) is indicative of how much rest you've managed to give to them, with 'drink' and 'calories' being the other key health indicators. Still, I'm not going to worry about it until it's needed – so after buying a Dish of the Day special at the Mecafood Center™, it's on to more interesting places..


The 'hot quarter', I'm assuming, is like the Red Light district


However, the central junction has a gun shop


Just for the record, here. I selected the Hacker, which has AG-1080 charges.
I had to double check, as this read awfully like 'A610-80' to me in that font..

So, after having ammunition to go along with my willingness to pump people for information and steal from them recklessly (as is the true adventure gamers' way), I went on a spree of information gathering. A 'skunk' (essentially, a human street punk) told me that someone near the park mentioned Vrangor, and one 'Crisa Kortakis' has a lot of influence here on Terrapolis. (A Glockmup, a 'traveler native to MIGA, not very intelligent but very proud, often destined to carry out dirty jobs and often used as assassins or robbers as they're 9 foot tall', mentioned that influence and money were going to be my best way to make my way around Terrapolis, so I'm doubtless going to have to find her at some point.) Showing the hologram to a Kradokid (one of the races populating the planet Sabellius, resembling lizards with only one eye and extremely intelligent but very fraternal) has them suggesting they might have seen them on 'Tri-Dee' – and any attempts to speak to a Stickrob (a robot that is 'slightly less intelligent than a human') is simply greeted with the note that they don't tend to care much about the goings on of humans.


Of course, I find them a lot more entertaining when they're speaking through
 what looks like the Galactic Standard Alphabet...

So, while I've technically not gotten very far, I felt I had to end before the interface completely destroyed my brain. Still, I have a clear set of directions – I've got to share my hologram of Merigo around as openly as I can manage and track him down. Even though the manual suggests that the Glo(c)kmup (in the manual it's Glokmup, in the game a Glockmup) aren't to be trusted, something tells me that the direct mention of 'Crisa Kortakis' means that I'm going to have to hunt them down, too. This game already feels like a chore, and I haven't even gone past an hour of play yet.. I really hope that this picks up!


If only..

Session Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!

19 comments:

  1. Oh, cool, an official advgamer blog YouTube channel! Although I go have to wonder why you used an external screen capture program instead of DOSBox's own capture feature. To show the cycles I guess?

    Now I feel bad for somebody having to suffer through this due to me buying this game. But hey, I gotta use those CAPs for something, right? ...Woah, that was back in 2013. How time flies.

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    1. Yeah, it's been long time. After that, Trick spent almost all summer playing Neuromancer, and in September began the longest gaming year thus far (1990) with 18 games to complete. Plus, there was a long hiatus at one point. I'll just hope 1991 with 21 games will go much faster, when we have more reviewers.

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    2. Yeah, I used (a software that is used more often for streaming) to show the cycles and make it completely clear that I wasn't messing about - the combat is a savage clickfest. If there is some amount of tactics to it, I don't understand it - as is, I'd have rathered something along the lines of a die roll.

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    3. Yeah. So, it's pretty pointless to spend any points in Combat (or anything at all, really) during Character Creation.

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    4. Aperama: So, XSplit since you won't say the name? OBS is free, so if it was that you probably would just say it. ;)

      (Still reading, just less time. Also, once I get back from Mara's, I'm often too tired to read. Watching a lot of streaming as she is also into that so we can curl up and watch The Alien eat someone we've met online.)

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    5. *Turns red* I mean, that time we were watching HP play Alien Isolation! >.>

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  2. This is such a weird game, thinking back to Chet's play through. It's like the developers couldn't get out of their own way: instead of sticking to tried and true mechanics and focusing on story as graphics--two things where this fame arguably differentiates itself from the pack--they muck around with a bizarre, nearly unusable interface. Hame companies should play to their strengths and only reinvent the wheel where absolutely necessary. My two cents, for what they're worth.

    It seems like nobody play tested the combat engine. Ilmari, I feel for you...

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    1. No need to feel sorry for me, it's Aperama who's playing :)

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    2. Haha correct! Though you, like all of us, are suffering with him...

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  3. You can program the B.O.B. to alert you when you are injured or low on food/water, which is one of its main purposes. And also to automatically translate the alien and robot languages. It's a bit fiddly, but you only have to do it once and then you can forget about it.

    Here's a program that enables alerts for all of these things. It's quite straightforward and mostly just adapted from the manual, so I don't think it should count as a spoiler. First click on "Edit" on the "Prog 4" screen and then enter this:

    IF ROBOT
    TRANSLATE ROBOT
    END IF
    IF ALIEN
    TRANSLATE ALIEN
    END IF
    IF HUNGRY
    DISPLAY HUNGRY
    END IF
    IF THIRSTY
    DISPLAY THIRSTY
    END IF
    IF TIRED
    DISPLAY TIRED
    END IF
    IF INJURED
    DISPLAY INJURED
    END IF
    IF ILLNESS
    DISPLAY ILLNESS
    END IF
    RESTART
    END

    Note that for the DISPLAY command you need to select one of the five messages at the bottom of the command list. After entering the program click "Quit" and then "Save", enter a name, click on the name in the list, and finally click "Run". After that you can close the B.O.B. and forget about the program.

    And just in case you missed it, the weapons you get from the guy at the begging of the game depend on which ones you picked in the character creator.

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    1. What the... you have to implant a freaking computer into your flesh for that?! I could do that with my smartphone, for f*ck's sake!

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    2. Your smartphone can tell you when you are hungry? Pretty awesome!

      Although I do have to wonder why people in XXIIth century are so dependent on computers that they cannot even say when they are hungry without computer telling them.

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    3. More importantly, you have to do programming in order to make the interface do what it should have done from the beginning? (As in, if hunger is a gameplay factor, it should automatically tell you in some way when you need food, no matter what.) This isn't a Dr. Brain game!

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    4. @Ilmari- There sure freaking is! https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.scarpelli.simplemealreminder&hl=en

      I'm wondering if BOB will tell you when to piss and defecate as well. If the thing is broken, as all electronics and mechanical crap do, will the agents that use them cease to function like normal people?

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    5. Oh, wait... what the f***... http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2978991/The-device-tells-TOILET-App-gives-10-minute-warning-daily-stats-bathroom-breaks.html

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  4. I don't like the look of this game, but thumbs up for getting a Hitchhiker's Guide reference in there :)

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  5. "entering the planet via an 'ecg wave' (his brainwaves, I'm guessing)"

    So he entered through an electrocardiogram? Go on, hunt the heartbeat then.
    (sorry for this, I am still catching up)

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