Shamus Plays

Shamus Plays: Champions Online, Part 1

Shamus Young | 14 Jul 2010 09:00
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I begin my life as a hero in* the midst of this destruction. My first act is to climb out of a pile of rubble. I'm not the only one, though. Apparently this rubble has been spewing out heroes in an endless stream since launch day. This rubble is the king-hell clown car of the ages. There are actually people appearing on top of me before I can even step away from the pile. This leads to that awkward moment you get in MMO games, "Pardon me miss, but it seems we're occupying the same physical space and you haven't even bought me a drink yet." I step out of the transporter malfunction and greet the nearby police officer.

* This phrase is not an endorsement for heroin.

I briefly consider slipping back into the rubble and waiting things out, but a police officer recognizes me and calls me over. He serves no other purpose than to welcome me to the game. He's sort of the Wal-Mart greeter of the alien apocalypse. Officer Greeter tells me that SOCRATES wants to talk to me. Socrates is the immense self-aware AI that guides the heroes of the city. Of course (s)he would want to talk to me. (The gender of Socrates seems to change depending on what mood the thing is in and what service packs have been recently applied.) I clap him on the shoulder and let him know he's doing a good job. I'm a professional, and I know you always let the police know they're doing a good job. It's the sort of lie they really appreciate.

As luck would have it, the closest Socrates kiosk is right across the street. It's hard to miss, since it projects a twenty foot hologram of Socrates looking down on us. Since the entire purpose of this device is to allow us to talk to Socrates, it seems like they don't need anything more elaborate than a microphone and a speaker. Your average McDonald's drive-thru mastered that technology ages ago. I don't know how much a 20-foot holographic projector costs, but I it's probably a waste of taxpayer money if it just serves basically the same function as a pay phone. Ill bet people vandalize these things all the time.

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Anyone using this thing is going to glance upward and get an eyeful of holo-crotch. When it comes to misappropriating public funds, this city doesn't screw around.

Let me paint you a picture of what is going on around me:

No that won't do. I can't find my paints and my brushwork is inept. You'll have to settle for prose: Across the street is the looming hologram projector. Beyond that are some tents, and beyond those is a hastily constructed barricade where a couple of cops are fending off waves of aliens. To my right are rows of heavily armed soldiers, who are doing nothing. To my left is a street where aliens have deposited a bunch of oozing eggs.

Socrates asks me to walk over and kill some eggs. Three, to be exact. All things in moderation, I guess.

Right. Time to send these space-roaches packing. I smash some eggs the aliens have foolishly laid in the middle of the street and I can't help but feel a little un-heroic. I mean, they're eggs. What the hell kind of strategy is this? Did Hitler begin the scourging of London by putting German babies all over Piccadilly Square? I don't claim to be Sun-Tzu or anything, but I'm pretty sure you don't spearhead your invasion with abandoned infants.

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Worst. Tactics. Ever.

The eggs are gooey. I made sure my suit was made of glossy easy-wipe material for just this reason.

Next Socrates wants me to help the police test some weapons. Rows of police are standing nearby, waiting to see if their weapons work. Socrates' plan is thus: I stand still, police shoot me. Yeah. And this is the guy who opens every conversation by telling you how smart he is. Directly to my left are four street cops holding off an endless wave of aliens with their sidearms, and here we have ten paramilitary guys with body armor and handheld howitzers who won't join the fight until they can shoot someone and ask them if it hurts.

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They instruct me to, "Use the block button." I instruct them to, "Stop shooting me, asshole!"

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