Hilarity and Insanity

I just discovered a guy who has made a “Pacifist Run” of Dark Souls 1. His Youtube name is Sol the Cleric. He accomplishes much of his playthrough by running right past the gauntlet of NPCs (non player characters) — running at BREAKNECK speed with a series of PERFECTLY timed dodges, rolls and flying leaps. His skill is breathtaking. Some enemies do have to be eliminated in order to advance the story line of the game; but instead of battling them himself, Sol the Cleric exploits weaknesses in their “pathfinding” (the character’s artificial intelligence). For example, the Taurus Demon frequently jump backwards. Sol made sure that for one of these jumps, the Taurus Demon was standing on the edge of a cliff. In the case of Dragon Slayer Ornstein, Sol took advantage of one particular move where the character starts an attack and then has to move forward (can’t stop himself once he’s started the move).  Sol tricked Ornstein into attacking when there was a wall nearby. Because of the way Dark Souls is animated, Ornstein “clipped” right through the wall — and fell hundreds of feet down a mountain.

When absolutely necessary, our green-haired pacifist hero enlists the help of another NPC to battle the enemy. Each NPC has its own strengths and weaknesses, its own pathfinding and move set. You have to know, like, every molecule of the game to make this work.

Sol gets through THE ENTIRE GAME this way. It’s like watching someone ride a unicycle backwards through rush hour traffic.

I think if I had watched these videos a couple of years ago I would have found them baffling. The flying jumps are cool, but why is he running around in circles like that? Why is he locking some of the NPCs up and then letting them out again? But now that I’ve played parts of the game myself (and watched the rest of it through Daniel Floyd’s Extra Play series) I have expectations for how to approach each chapter of the game. Sol the Cleric turns these expectations upside-down. Then inside out. Then backwards.

It has been a really, really long time since I have laughed that hard!

After watching these videos I’ve tried some of the same techniques myself. Running past enemies (instead of painstakingly picking them off one at a time) is exhilarating and hilarious. I’ve had several incidents of “Roadrunner physics” where I really should have fallen off a cliff but the game let me run off the edge for a few steps. “OMG!!! whew!!! that was close!!!” I’ve also enjoyed figuring out which enemies can be parried in such a way that they bounce right off my shield to their doom.

Part of the charm of these videos is the droll humor and the “macaroni” accent.

“So, please…..enjoy.”



Orreries and Fresnel Lenses

I have been thinking of creating an environment in Unreal 4 that has a collection of beautiful science gizmos in it. It is easy to imagine what this kind of room would look like, but I’m sure the process of creating and then animating each object (in game terminology, “asset”) would take hundreds of hours. It’s like looking at a huge oil painting in a museum and saying “I’d like to make a painting like that!”

I can dream, though…meanwhile, here are some cool science gizmos.

Things that were difficult to animate

My current favorite game, Dark Souls 1, does some animation very well, and in other places takes shortcuts. For example, water and slime look very realistic. This shiny visual effect is called “specularity”. Characters’ hair, however, is tied back and immobile to keep things simple — flowing hair is very graphics-intensive. The flowing cloaks of the Baldur knights were animated using the physics engine Havok, and they don’t look quite right.  From what I understand, the Havok engine has made a lot of progress since DS1.

Dark Souls — An Unreachable Village

This is the area you can see off in the distance when you stand on the cliffs by Firelink Shrine. I had guessed that these buildings were just painted in as background, but no — they are actual structures! You need special software to get there. The guy who made the vid said that he was using “Developer Mode”. No idea what that is, but I WANT IT.