Saturday, 20 August 2011

Chillin' With Mah Gnomie. Then Launching Him Into Space.

A Tale of One Free Man and his Gnome.

Before I begin, I'd like to make two brief statements.

I don't think that I'd be exaggerating if I said that Half-Life 2 and it's episodic content was my favorite game of all time. I reckon I've played it from start to finish at least five times since episode 2 was released, and in my opinion, no other game that I've unleashed upon my humble PC thus far can match it for pure undiluted fun from beginning to end.  

I hate achievements. I don't do them. I believe that the core content of the game is what makes it fun. I enjoy the journey, the story, and the simple pleasure that comes from interacting with game mechanics that work well. I also enjoy launching explosive barrels at zombies with Zero Point Energy Field Manipulators.
I don't feel the need to complete arbitrary tasks set by games developers just to extend that happy-fun-time period a game provides before boredom sets in. Of course, this is just me.

If you want a reason to obsessively squash every ant-lion grub in the game then that's up to you! Although surely that pleasing squishing sound is reason enough?

Bearing all of this in mind, I was extremely surprised recently when a blog post by Tom Francis from PC Gamer inspired me to have a go at one of the more interesting achievements Episode 2 has to offer.  
My task? Pick up the vacantly smiling garden gnome found in a shack towards the beginning of the game, and carry it all the way to White Forest near the end. All the while, trying not to get shot, stabbed, crushed, head crabbed or exploded.  Once there, and upon the successful loading of his perpetually happy face into Professor Magnusson's rocket, I'll be awarded the achievement. My conversion to the dark side of gaming will be complete, and the gnome will be launched into space.

This is my record, in pictures, of an epic journey to send a gnome to the stars.

The Gnome.

Alyx and Dr Kliener wonder if Gnome is up to the task.

I discover that the gnome is flame retardant...

.... and explosion retardant.

Alyx just thinks he's retarded.

 The Gnome looks on in cold indifference as she is wounded by the hunter.
Of course, he's all smiles when the Vortigaunt arrives on the scene...

I try and convince Griggs that we definitely didn't step on any ant-lion grubs. Or is that Sheckley?

With The Gnome safely entrenched, the ant-lions attack.

The Gnome has seen the face of death, and stared vacantly back at it. The Gnome is unyielding.

With the ant-lions in full retreat, we return to find him face down, surrounded by the mutilated remains of his enemies.

The Vort seems indifferent to my claims that The Gnome is ant-lion retardant. 

Shortly after, he and Alyx take a moment to reflect on their near death experiences.

After failing to convince The Gnome to get down for his own safety, the Vort turns to me in frustration. 

... Xen lightning retardant.

He claimed to have found them like that.

The Gnome has an odd form of torettes that forces him to randomly slide out of moving vehicles without any provocation. So when we finally acquiring some wheels, we had to find a way to transport him. This didn't work.

We found that if we drove slow enough, cramming him into the foot well of the back seat kind of worked. There were times though, when we just blasted him through the air with the gravity gun and caught up later. He's impact retardant obviously.

The awkward moment when Dr Magnusson learns of my mission to load a gnome into his rocket.

Alyx feels uneasy at The Gnomes glassy lack of emotion when faced with death.

Not even the emergence of a giant, brain sucking, grub monster, can draw a reaction from him.

As the car bursts into flames we find that The Gnome is not good at fixing stuff.

The Gnome can only destroy!

As I lay wounded on my belly, covered in mud and slime, his unshakable good mood starts to wear thin. 

But, repairs completed, we are finally ready to get back on the road. Alyx is pleased with our new sat-nav.

An Inn! Finally, we can take a break from this madness! It was a good job the Combine stuck that roadblock there or we would never have found it.

Fuck. You.

Don't worry Alyx. Things cant get much worse.

We start to get the feeling The Gnome is mocking us.

We finally make it to White Forest. However, our arrival is tarnished slightly by DOG's refusal to acknowledge Alyx's existence.

I struggle to get The Gnome through customs.

No one can quite believe that I was serious about the whole 'gnome into rocket' thing.

He discusses the logistics of the mission with ground control.

I feel an odd sense of loss as I load him into the launch capsule, but my mission is complete. I've actually deliberately completed an achievement in a game and sent a garden gnome into space!

Maybe these 'arbitrary tasks' aren't so bad after all....


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