Constructible Environments, cont’d (Secret Societies, Pt. 2)

[continued from Part 1]

As I wrote in my previous post, before I could  meet with the agent of the secret group known as the Sublime Society, I encountered someone else.

I was walking home one day when a car with tinted windows pulled up alongside me. The back window rolled down.

“Get in the car Mr. Philtron,” said a figure from within.

“Sorry,” I said, “but I don’t trust people who use my nickname as my surname.”

“You’ve become embroiled in things beyond your scope Mr. Philtron.”

“For real? Use my last name already.”

“I’m with the Opponent. I just want to talk.”

I decided to take a risk which could have ended with me at the bottom of the river. Luckily the city I live in doesn’t have a river.

I said, “I suppose you want me to keep quiet about you guys.”

The cigar smoking man across from me shook his jowls. “Quiet? Nooo. The Sublime Society are the ones that care about secrecy. We don’t need to hide in the shadows like they do.”

“Then why do you hide in the shadows.”

“Because of tradition! That’s why! you hippie anarchist bastard!”

I squinted my eyes menacingly. “Alright who are you?”

“We are the Opponent. An organization of–”

“I know that already. I meant what do I call you?”

“Oh,” he puffed at his cigar, “you can call me… Morning Cock.”


“Ssseriously,” he growled.

“You gave yourself that code name?”

“No. I got it from longer lasting members.”

“Do you know why?”

“Because I am like the rooster in the morning whose call wakes everyone to a new day.”

I shook my head sadly. “I don’t think that’s why they named you Morning Cock.”

“I am the harbinger of a new era of gaming!”

“That’s stupid.”

“That’s the Opponent… I mean, You’re Stupid!” He hissed, leaning forward and jabbing his cigar in my direction.

“Look, I don’t know what you want. I got mixed up in this because I thought constructible environments in games are cool.”

“Hmmm, constructible environments… that is more catchy than ‘immediately terroformed gamespace’.” He stroked his chin. “But, no matter what you call it, it makes no realistic sense.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“See! You are stupid!” He grinned. “Just look at the jungles of From Dust. The only thing realistic about those jungles is how fast they burn…

…Stuff burns fast. That makes sense. But the growing part doesn’t make sense. Forests don’t grow fast, but in the game they grow as fast as they burn. That’s the problem with the Sublime Society’s constructible environments. In the real world things don’t get built quickly or grow quickly.”

“Don’t you mean ‘nor grow quickly’?”

“Growing things and building things takes a really long time. It doesn’t even make sense to have the player grow things really fast; it’s just not real and it wouldn’t be fun if you did it realistically. That’s why destructible environments make more sense. Also, destructible environments are just tradition in gaming. Ever since Space Invaders they’ve been around.”

“I don’t want to see the world from a perspective where destroying things makes more sense than creating things.”

“Oh, but you’d want to if you knew the clarity you’re missing. When I finally came around to the ways of the Opponent it was like a veil of smoke was lifted from my eyes,” he said as the cigar smoke obscured his eyes. “The constructible environments don’t work because they add content to the game. As if the player needs to be visually rewarded for progress,” he snorted in derision, “No no, it makes more sense to have the player remove content from the game through destructible environments. It’s a good reminder to the artists and level designers that their work is unimportant and will only be present in the game for a short time before disappearing permanently. Constructible environments would put the artists’ work up on display and we don’t need thatNo. I mean, we’re not making art galleries here!”…

…He burst into uncontrollable laughter that shook his whole body. As Morning Cock jerked up and down blood swelled to his head and it turned bright red. Finally he gained control of himself and caught his breath.

I remained frightfully silent.

He waved his hand dismissively, “Noooo, no no no. Constructible environments don’t serve any purpose. They don’t even make sense thematically. Why would a protagonist create things? As a hero, a protagonist is a destroyer and this has been true since Gilgamesh. They don’t heal things, fix things, make things better. They’re violent and they murder, and break things, and keep society the way it’s always been. Beowulf, Patton, Mario Brother, Caesar, the Nuclear Bomb: those are heroes. Da Vinci, Tesla, Penicillin, the smart Ghost Buster, those are just sidecharacters, or even villains. Doctors, scientists, and priests are the ones that grow, fix, and build, and they’re always the villains or at best they’re sidecharacters. It wouldn’t make sense to have the player do the things a sidecharacter or villain is supposed to do.”

“That doesn’t make as much sense as you seem to think it does.”

“Of course it does. Doctors and scientists are always creating armies of mutants, or death ray machines, or they’re rebuilding ancient alien armies of death ray zombie cultists. They create and rebuild these things to destroy the world. Then the hero comes and destroys those things in order to save the world. It’s really deep actually, it’s zen, like yin and yang: the villain tries to build in order to destroy, and the hero destroys in order to build.”

“That’s not like ying and yang. It’s actually a contradiction.”

“Perhaps to be zen is to contradict oneself… and be at peace.”

“Dude, you can’t just fall back on nonsense in defense of not making sense.”

“Ho, ho–”

“Did you just say ‘ho ho’?”

“–there is no contradiction to any of this. That’s why the Opponent created the Zerg.”

“Wouldn’t that make the Opponent a sidecharacter?”

“NO! Because they did it satirically!” He cried.

“What were they satirizing?”

“Your face!” the Opponent’s member ejaculated.

I shuddered.

“I mean, constructible environments.” He brushed off his suit. “The creep that spreads from certain Zerg buildings is a form of constructible environment similar, even, to the forests of From Dust. You could essentially cover an entire map with Zerg creep, completely terraforming it into their natural habitat. But they are the villains. They grow and spread so that they can destroy. The good guys are the Terrans and Protoss who do not construct the environments around them; they only accessorize the environment with their buildings.”

I've been watching it a lot lately on DVD.

Really good show.

“Alright, I’m missing Community. I’m going to go now.”

“Very well. That is a great show, after all.”

As I got out of the car I suddenly thought of something. Through the car window I said, “Gordon Freeman. There’s a hero that’s a scientist.”

“But in title only. He murders and destroys while, appropriately, the sidecharacters and villains are the ones that build and create. It’s even referenced in one of the cinematics.”


“Yes, Freeman is called a scientist, but in Half-life 3 you’ll be in for a surprise as to what Gordon Freeman’s true nature is.”

“What is it?” I whispered.

“He was actually a secret military commando planted at Black Mesa and pretending to be a scientist.”


“And he’s from another planet.”

“WOOOOAAAAAHHH! Was that the original idea or is it being retconned in Half-life 3?”


I fell to my knees and screamed at the skies, “Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”

Then I went home and watched Community which is a good show. And waited for my meeting with the Sublime Society agent codenamed Hermit Crab.

[Continued in Part 3]


Speak, mortal, if you dare...

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