Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Byte: Spike!

I think I should make up a follow-up post about my recent exploits on X-Com: Terror From The Deep, following the huge traffic spike (I say "huge"; I mean with respect to my normal traffic levels - i.e. a couple of visitors a day) resulting from Richard's horror at hearing the news that he'd been shot by aliens. (And yes, this back-linking is a blatant attempt to form an infinite feedback loop on my traffic stats)

I suppose the follow-up is mainly in response to Richard's suggestion that having an X-Com squad full of PC Gamer writers might be a little creepy. Which gives me an excellent excuse to post this picture:



Now *that's* creepy.

Seriously though, I guess it might be seen as being a bit strange, though in my defense I do tend to only name X-Com soldiers after people I've actually known for quite a long time (either via a forum, MSN, or indeed real-life); so while I might have a Tim Edwards or Richard Cobbett, I wouldn't have a Ste Curran or Craig Pearson, say - as I don't personally know them. For you to make it into one of my games of X-Com, you've got to be someone I know pretty well and think highly of - I wouldn't name soldiers after people I don't like (well, there was that one time, but that's another story entirely*), or even real world figures/celebrities (no squads named after footballers, actors, etc) - though in the endgame, where you have so many soldiers that I run out of friends to name them after, I do name them after my favourite characters from films (Vincent Hanna from Heat, say). So really, it's pretty much a form of flattery that I would name a soldier after you. Okay, perhaps not *quite* as flattering as having a High School or Space Centre named after you, but a compliment nonetheless.

I always found the ability to rename squad members in the X-Com games to be a huge hook to keep you involved in the game. Naming soldiers after friends, colleagues and other acquaintances really helps you form an almost emotional bond with the poor little poorly rendered sprites - I'm going to want to make sure a soldier named after one of my best friends is not going to get killed on a mission a whole lot more than a generic "Jane Hill". It's even more important when you consider that the longer you keep soldiers around, the more their stats improve, so keeping your soldiers alive as long as possible becomes a top priority and you really feel a loss if a soldier's death is unavoidable, even with multiple end of turn reloads (which is pretty much cheating, really). I still have a save game entitled "OMG they killed Tim!", which pretty much summed up my feelings when I lost the Tim E soldier a couple of nights ago. He was one of my best marksmen. Damned Aquatoid bastards...

Maybe I'm anthropomorphizing too much, but it really does hurt even when a "virtual" friend gets bumped off in game. So much so that I've even been known to "resurrect" friends who've been killed off earlier in the game. In one of my longer games of UFO: Enemy Unknown, where I was in "Survival" mode, i.e. trying to keep the game going as long as possible before doing the final mission to Cydonia, I think I got to a fourth incarnation of my own soldier avatar after about 18 months of game time. So no doubt Tim will be back fighting the alien menace as soon as I can afford to buy another Triton to get a third combat squad up and running.

In the meantime, my current X-Com soldier is also injured, laid up for 24 days after getting three "fatal" wounds (i.e. ones that sap your health points) in the left arm. Those bloody Xarquids are bastard good shots.

Last night I also dug out my X-Com Collector's Edition so I could reinstall Enemy Unknown, remembering that you have to download the DirectDraw fix so that the graphics don't smear themselves all over the screen if you try to run it under XP. Good times ahead. As long as you don't get shot by aliens, that is...



*(suffice to say it was someone who annoyed me on State and I sent him into an alien base alone, armed only with a pistol. An *unloaded* pistol... Revenge, as they say, is a dish best served cold.)
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