Thursday, December 15, 2011

Amnesia: The Amateur Construction Hour

It turns out that Amnesia is one of very few games that my little netbook can run. Why or how this is, I don't know. I have not questioned it. I have not doubted it. I have simply enjoyed it, as a fading reminder of better days when I had a computer that tolerated if not outright encouraged my voracious gaming (and game-blogging) habits. The display is several inches smaller, the crowded keyboard has forced me into intimate acquaintance with some jerk known as Fn, and the whole rig labors along gamely but pitifully, like myself when faced with the challenge of a gentle slope. Still, it's something, and over the past week or so I've found myself revisiting Brennenburg Castle more often than I'm sure Daniel would like if he were a real person.

I haven't reached the end of the game or even gotten past the Back Hall yet, as I've spent most of my time finding something to do with every movable object I come across. Books, chairs, rolls of paper, the helmets on suits of armor--nothing has been spared.

I'm also running around with about forty-five tinderboxes, as I am Chuck Norris and/or Aaron Hotchner and/or a ninja and have no need for petty things like candles or torches. But that's beside the point.


Since a post dedicated to screenshots of every stupid thing I've done would be tedious to the point of unfunny, I'll just touch upon the largest: exploration of my inner architect.


It started in the Old Archives. There's a giant hole in the ceiling, you see, and I badly wanted to try and climb through it. There was no particular logic behind this goal--I just noticed it and decided that getting up there was more important than anything else in the world.


Unfortunately, Daniel cannot leap twenty feet in the air and Link is a right bastard who won't share his hookshot with other video game characters, so I had to get creative. I began stacking everything that could be stacked.


"Everything that could be stacked" was mostly crates and/or boxes with the odd trunk thrown in for good measure. I ran through the Old Archives picking them up and dragging them back to the ceiling-hole-room to be assimilated into my tower. At first all was well; I created a rickety but serviceable behemoth that allowed me to scrape the very bottom of the ceiling. From where I stood I could see up into the next floor but couldn't quite make it through. All I needed was one more box. I found it in a neglected, dusty corner and took it up with me for placement.

Along the way it brushed against something and the whole tower collapsed.

Undeterred, I rebuilt it all.

Then, after that one stupid box ruined all my hard work for the second time, I rebuilt it again.

And again.

And again.


My last attempt looked like this. It didn't work any better than the others and with all the different stacks it wandered out from beneath the hole anyway, as I am a terrible judge of distances. Ultimately, Daniel smashed his invisible head against the ceiling and then fell to the ground with a splatter of blood and a crack of bone as I hit a load-bearing crate with another crate and swept everything to the floor in a glorious explosion of wood and lag.

I gave up in disgust after that.

Fast forward to the wine cellar. I crept through the darkness, opening doors and poking my battered skull into equally dark rooms: collecting jars of chemicals, grabbing bottles of laudanum that demand a terrible, terrible price, extricating myself from cave-ins...


And then there is this room.


This harmless, wonderful room that contains about sixty percent of Brennenburg's barrel supply.

I was frazzled.

I was weary.

I was growing bored with my attempts to out-lurk the monsters.


It seemed only natural that I should take a break. I toiled for hours or at least fifteen minutes to create the ultimate hiding place, in the process both thwarting any monster who cared to pass by and annoying the person I'd Skyped my game with.


"This is ridiculous," he said. "It's stupid. Pick up the cuprite and leave!"

"Screw you," I said, hopping into my barrel fort.


I sealed myself in.

"I hope you're happy," he grumbled. "So, what, are you just going to stay in there for the rest of the game?"

"Maybe," I said. After all, it was safe and I had plenty of light--what more could I, and by extension Daniel, possibly need?


Oh, right, I'm supposed to kill a floating blue alien or something. (Concept art used because I am in no way far enough along to take a screenshot of said floating blue alien.)

At last I crawled out of my fort, but I did so grudgingly and with no small amount of trouble--I'd built it so well that even I, as its maker, had some difficulty taking it apart.

I moved on. Things happened and objects were rearranged and more suits of armor wound up headless and my audience screamed in horror when I entered the Refinery and baited the monster into chasing me around for no real reason. I was Chuck Norris and/or Aaron Hotchner and/or a ninja. I was invincible. I had no reason to hide--hiding was for Daniels, and I was Chuck Norris and/or Aaron Hotchner and/or a ninja, dammit. The monster obviously knew this, for although its growls and roars and slashing arms backed me into a corner it turned and beat a hasty retreat after I glared at it.


My glare looked just like this. I swear it did.


Okay, so it probably looked more like this recycled screenshot. Nevertheless, it was frightening enough to repel Mr. Face. His departure was in no way a coincidence or some glitch of the AI. Nope. My glare broke through the computer screen and rewrote Amnesia's code to inform the monster that it should be the one running from me.

Also, the Kaernk was so terrified of my wrath that it threw rotten body parts around to try and distract me long enough for it to escape.

True story.


Badass though I am, I am apparently slow on the uptake. Upon reaching this area I set my jar of explosives down, retreated, and watched it do nothing for the next five minutes or so. Where did I go wrong? I wondered. I mixed up a bunch of volatile chemicals and left them where I was supposed to! What did I miss? Was I supposed to find a big red button somewhere? How did I get through this part before?

"Maybe you're not supposed to look at it," my audience of one suggested. "They probably won't even show the explosion."

"But I want to see the explosion!" I said, and as five minutes became ten I crept back down and gave the jar a poke.


This was the only hint that I received for my trouble.

Perhaps I just hadn't gone far enough from the blast area? I wandered off down the hallway, expecting to hear the rumble of an invisible detonation at any second.


The detonation never came. Instead I wound up staring at a very old-looking bone next to a puddle of very fresh-looking blood, my back unsinged and my progress impeded because that damned jar of explosives was ignoring the fact that it had a job to do. At last my frustration boiled over.


I grabbed the bone and marched it downstairs. Then, with every shred of might granted to me by the throw button, I flung it at the jar.


It turns out that you can see the explosion. Um. Oops?


After the pile of boulders and myself were blown to smithereens--but not the bone; through some devilry it survived intact--and I'd finished scrubbing my own blood from my eyes, I peered down along the hallway that had just opened up. Oh, right. I was in Storage. That room was coming up.


I armed myself with a barrel and resumed wandering.


It was a faithful companion, as far as inanimate objects go. Nothing so good as the Luggage, of course, but it accompanied me through twists and turns and tinderbox-collecting, and not once did it waver as we drew closer to that room, the room where I, as a newbie Amnesia player, had experienced my first real monster encounter.

I'd made the mistake of researching the game a little before I played it, you see. I hadn't looked up any major spoilers, but I had read that the horror was largely psychological and that monsters were 1) few and far between, and 2) did not start to appear until late in the story. Having no idea of what "late in the story" or "few and far between" really meant, I grew confident. Footsteps on the floor above me? Alexander was trying to psych me out. Other unexplainable creaks and groans? Alexander was trying to psych me out. That tortured snarling and intermittent "BLEEEAUGH!" noise? Alexander was trying to psych me out. I stomped through one section after another, flinging doors open and collecting objects with gleeful abandon, until, my hands still greasy from whacking pig corpses around in the neighboring room, I turned the wrong knob.

I was traumatized. So was the person who'd been watching over my shoulder. That room holds a lot of bad memories for me.


It was all right, though, because I will reiterate that I am a badass who no longer cares about insignificant things like Mr. Face. Besides, I knew exactly how to deal with him now.


My barrel and I approached that room. I set it down in front of the door, taking pains not to disturb it.


My barrel was soon joined by all its relatives, including its extended family of trunks, crates, and boxes.


They even brought their friends, the rugs and burlap sacks and moldering loaves of bread. It was an inanimate object party! It wasn't my fault that they'd chosen to camp out in front of the entrance to that room.


Well, no, it was totally my fault and I totally did not feel sorry about it.

"What did you do?" my now-despairing audience wanted to know. "Isn't there something important in that room?"

"I don't know," I said, "and I don't really care." Then I went to go slap a few pig carcasses around.


Whee! (I also tried to get them hitting one another like an abacus, but they failed me.)

Once I grew bored with asserting my dominance over a few slabs of meat, I went back out into the main hall, and, secure in the knowledge that Mr. Face was confined to his room and wouldn't be out to pester me, strolled by his door. He banged on it as I passed, and I heard him grumble to himself and make a few of those "BLEEEAUGH!" sounds that have ruined many a gamer's life, but I ignored him. He seemed to give up quickly enough, anyway; after a few more bangs and grumbles he fell silent again, apparently resigned to fate.


It was a ruse. I was about to leave when the banging started up again. From the sound of it, he was now throwing himself against the door.

"Is he really going to try and break it down?" said I. "Heh. Stupid monster."

"You should be recording this," said my audience.

I listened to the banging for a while. The monster was definitely not going to stop. Clouds of dust and tiny wood-flecks rose up from the door and barricade, settled, and vanished into nonexistence.

"BLEEEAUGH!" said Mr. Face.

I decided that I should, in fact, be recording this spectacle. I did so, and then, because CamStudio decided that I didn't need any of the in-game sound, put it to some music.

And since then I've been working on this blog post and editing that stupid, stupid video, so I haven't progressed any further.

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