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Messages - Strain Of Thought

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As I write this it is the next day after I stayed up far too late in an attempt to finish your game and find the good ending, an endeavor which dragged on into the night as I tried every possible permutation of actions and did not end until I finally resorted to searching the internet for walkthroughs only to find that I had, in fact, gotten what is apparently the game's 'best' ending on my first run through. I would not have stayed up so late and looked so hard if the high quality of the game leading up to the ending had not lead me to believe there would be an ending of equal quality, but there you go. It's always the ones we love the most which hurt us- but then crappy games I don't usually get around to finishing anyway. At any rate, I admit to being pretty cranky right now, so this is going to be a fairly hostile negative review. I'm sorry. The game has many many good points but it left a bad taste in my mouth at the end.

My first reaction upon seeing the ending with all the robots in the desert working on the UNNIIC was that it must be some one-off alternate side ending that was put in the game only for flavor- as there were already several other largely pointless 'bad' endings to choose from, and it seemed like the author thought that exploring every possibility was important, which I could understand and appreciate. Things that contributed to this impression were the re-use of Crispin's and Clarity's original art despite the absurdity of them being rebuilt to identical appearances under such conditions, the skipping over of what I felt would have been pivotal scenes of them being reconstructed, and the tiny, pixely, all-but-unrecognizable images of all the other Metropolitan robots used without dialogue in the background of the final tableau shot for only a few seconds. Surely, I thought, this is just an alternate ending thrown together quickly out of existing assets. There must be another ending where MetroMind is actually defeated, where we get to see the Metropolitan robots' reactions to what happens, where Clarity doesn't have such an abrupt, unexplained break from character as to leave the city without regrets after explicitly saying she could never leave. What further cemented this impression was the complete lack of distinction between the ending for threatening to destroy the power core and the ending for transmitting the virus to Scraper- obviously, I had used the virus wrong, and there must be a better way to use it to get an ending that I couldn't have trivially acquired without exploring that entire story branch. And it didn't help that MetroMind suddenly genuinely caving to threats and promising to let Horatio go, especially after doing so much lying, came off as wildly improbable.

I was deeply disappointed to learn from the internet that that was the best ending I was going to extract from the game. I don't know if you guys were rushed at the end or what, but it seriously felt like you must have forgotten to do art and record dialogue for the epilogue and this was what you could put together at the last minute from existing backgrounds, animations, and voice samples: Just put some low-res versions of all the other characters in the background! Slap some flickery, poorly-matched arms onto Crispin's existing art! Just use Clarity as is, right down to her sash; we don't have time to do anything else! No one will wonder what happened in Metropol after Horatio left! It's not important!

Playing the game, the ending I was under the impression everything was leading up to was Horatio defeating MetroMind and then leading the Metropolitan robots in setting up a new Robot Council, with Clarity likely playing a key part. I thought the reason little pieces of all the previous council members were being found was that some of them were going to be resurrected, and others were going to be succeeded by their disciples- perhaps Clarity taking Arbiter's seat, Factor awakening to reoccupy his seat, Memento inferring that she should take on Memorious's seat, Leopold returning to run Steeple's Cathedral... I had gotten the impression that the reason there were so many failable side-quests to help the Metropolitan robots was that their collective support was going to be needed in establishing this new government. I was completely flummoxed that there was no way to unseat MetroMind without wiping out the city. I can understand somewhat if the direction for the desert reconstruction ending grew out of an early decision that Horatio would never stay in Metropol, and whatever precise shape the ending took it would involve him leaving the city and returning to the UNNIIC. That's not inconsistent with the character, and I can see fleshing out the ending beyond that being put off until the rest of the game was in place, as any ending wrapping up so many loose ends would need to have those loose ends finished first. But it really does feel like someone got within sight of the end of the marathon and then just decided to lay down and have a nap.

I know, I know... everyone likes to spot bugs but nobody wants to write code. Well, here's my version of the 'good' desert reconstruction ending that actually makes sense:

Horatio uses the virus on Scraper as before, destroying him. Instead of Horatio just leaving at this point, the player continues to have control. If they go straight to the elevator they get a 'bad' version of the desert reconstruction ending where Crispin and Clarity and most of the Metropolitans aren't present- (I think only Surly Company would be present in this version) Horatio talks about rebuilding Crispin and Clarity some day when he can find enough parts, just as he will repair the UNNIIC some day... but the general tone is somber, of things that may never come to pass. In this ending Horatio would still walk the desert alone, which was a very powerful scene and I think the best part of the existing ending, but wouldn't be a part of the expanded 'good' ending I am describing. If the player doesn't go to the elevator they can continue to poke around, with MetroMind alternately entreating them to join her or pleading with them to leave. If the player climbs to the top of the tower at this point they will find the radio tower as before. Without Scraper there to stop them, the player finds it's now possible to attach their data pouch to the transmitter. Horatio does this and sends out a signal all across Metropol and the Dunes consisting of everything he's learned over the course of his journey- all the notes, all the recorded memories... maybe he even plays the record or the tape deck somehow. Maybe Horatio hooks himself up to the memory reader and sends his own memories, or uses Crispin's or Clarity's in some fashion. Horatio adds a statement about who he is and why he is sending this message which echoes statements made by many of the robots throughout the game- He admits to being Horus, he asserts the existence of man, he speaks of having been faithful to their memory, of acting to uphold justice, of sharing his data so that others can see it as he saw it. He sends the text of his Gospel. Maybe at this point there is a montage of robots receiving and relaying this signal- Primer down in the Underworks with 187th and Leopold, Gimbal floating in front of the courthouse surrounded by the Main Street robots, The Factorbuilts hiding below with Factotum, Goliath still buried in the dunes being ministered to by Ever-Faithful. When the transmission is over, Horatio goes to leave, and MetroMind says that no one will believe his deceptive half-truths, and Horatio simply answers that 'We'll see." He exits the tower with the power core.

If Horatio didn't pick up Clarity's head, then the game returns to a slightly modified version of the "walk the desert ending", with added text to suggest Horatio has had a positive impact on the world with his transmission and it has attracted more robots to the UNNIIC over the years, resulting in a small city growing up around the wreck, powered by its core- the UNNIIC still doesn't fly, though, and Crispin and Clarity still aren't repaired. Otherwise, if Horatio took Clarity's head, then he returns to the Courthouse, saying that he knows of only one place to get parts that can rebuild Clarity. Walking through the city he sees the other robots wandering in confusion, arguing amongst themselves. There is some chaos, but it also seems that MetroMind's hold over the minds of the city's robots is broken. Horatio reaches the courthouse and a montage starts as he works to attach Clarity's head to Charity's body, creating a robot who literally has Charity's heart and Clarity's mind. As Horatio works the Metropolitan robots who he has helped come to him in turn and thank him for what he has done, before asking to leave the city with him. Horatio finishes rebuilding Clarity/Charity, and when she awakens as Clarity Arbiterbuilt version 3 he tells her what has happened. Clarity is distressed that MetroMind remains integrated into the city, despite her psychological power over the robots being broken. She is unsure what the law requires in this instance- the Metropolitan constitution defines the law as protecting Metropol, but if Metromind is Metropol, then the constitution seems without force. Horatio responds that ultimately throwing off a dictator like Metromind and replacing her with something better is a task that must be carried out by the robots she rules over, who embody the city as much as she does- and who are now literally her free partials, much as Alpha, Beta, and Gamma were free partials of Goliath and Horatio is a free partial of Horus: Only Metropol can take back control of Metropol, by choosing freely not to follow MetroMind. Clarity responds that lawfulness does not stem from the personal choices of individuals, however noble their intent, but from the adherence to rules which come from outside one's self- even Arbiter merely interpreted the laws; he was ruled by them to an even greater, not lesser, extent than any other robot. Horatio asks if the Metropolitan Constitution can be the only body of law that Clarity adheres to- if there are no older, greater laws, and if a body of law that only applies to one city out of the whole world can really be a universal creed for her. This gives Clarity pause, and she admits that even the Metropolitan Constitution had to have been written at some point, and that its laws were indeed drawn from older and more proven laws of eras past. Clarity is at last satisfied with this, and resolves to leave the city with Horatio to discover and follow the wider law of the world. Perhaps someday she will contribute to the writing of a new constitution.

At this point if Horatio has Crispin's personality matrix he expresses regret that he cannot begin to rebuild Crispin until he returns home, and that even there it took him many years to gather the parts to make even the small, armless body that Crispin had before. Clarity reasserts that even if MetroMind's mind remains distributed throughout the city's inhabitants, Metropolitan law still considers her an enemy of the city, and thus her and her allies possessions remain forfeit and subject to plunder- including Scraper Sturnweilerbuilt's deactivated, damaged body. Horatio and Clarity return to the tower, finding other robots already having entered it to bring their complaints to MetroMind, who seems increasingly unable to handle the situation and overwhelmed with all the petitioners. She tries taking control of their processors, but it turns out her ability to do this depends on having lots of other willing robots letting her use their processors to brute-force the connection. When she tries to take control of everyone at once, she starts to lose control of everyone at once. Factotum might make a cameo here. Horatio and Clarity stay out of this unfolding drama as they work to install Crispin's personality matrix into Scraper's body and repair some of the damage to it. Crispin awakens, his eyes lighting up cyan as always, and is overjoyed to have such a big claw, entreating Horatio to repair the matching one as well. The three of them leave the tower together as MetroMind is drowned out by the chanting of her petitioners.

In the next scene Horatio, a further repaired Crispin version 2, Clarity, and all the Metropolitan robots which Horatio has helped are standing in the train station. Clarity (or perhaps Primer) reports that with MetroMind so distracted gaining control of the Red Line was easy; together they all bid farewell to the depressing skyline; Horatio says as in the original ending that they don't know what will happen in the city but it's not their problem anymore. The scene fades out as they all go below to board the train. The scene comes up again just outside the UNNIIC, showing the robots working on the repairs up close and happy in their new home. Horatio, Crispin and Clarity walk across the scene talking about the passage of time and how much progress they've made- joking that progress has its place. Leopold and Surly Company are all shown reunited and interacting with one another; Ever-Faithful commends Horatio once again for his piety. Finally Horatio, Crispin and Clarity climb to the ridge above the ship to get a good look at it as in the original ending, with the wing re-attached and the ship surrounded by workers. The robots all express their hopeful sentiments as in the original ending, and the credits roll.

So, there. What happens in Metropol is still left open ended, which I read you elsewhere saying was part of leaving things open for a sequel, but it's much more positive and hopeful. Everyone still ends up in the desert, but you get to see them deciding to go there. An explanation for Clarity and Crispin's appearance is given. No completely new locations or character art is required. The main issue with the ending I've just described is that it involves quite a lot of dialogue, which could be both a pacing issue with the ending taking too long to play out, and more obviously a casting issue with regards to getting the dialogue recorded- I don't know how many sessions you did the dialogue for Primordia in, but I've seen that lots of projects seem to keep the number quite low, with an initial session for almost everything and then only one or two sessions to make changes or fill gaps as the projects evolves- which is why I suspect the ending was truncated simply because you hadn't recorded enough dialogue for it when you had the chance, and what we got was a case of making pictures to fit the recorded narration. Of course having ongoing relationships with your voice artists across many projects tends to make this sort of thing easier to manage, and as Primordia is the only Wadjet Eye game I've played so far I don't know if you do that or not. At any rate I'm very hesitant about playing another Wadjet Eye game now as the ending was such a let down that I'm worried that that's going to be a theme with you guys- certainly I've encountered other artists who create mostly great work but produce consistently weak endings. If you did read through everything I wrote here, I'm very impressed, and I greatly appreciate you taking the time to do so. Writing this has helped me blow off steam from my frustration at the ending and I feel better about it now.

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