The Let's Play Archive


by berryjon

Part 4: Short Essay for Level 4

Ah, the first time Muro and Konoko actually meet! But seriously, "Kill her, I have a plane to catch"? Wow, you do know that she just got off punching out Barabus, right? What makes you think that two low-level grunts are going to be more than a distraction, especially given that they immediately split up, one to attack Konoko and one to go inside the building to attack civilians.

I call Muro a Saturday Morning Cartoon villain for a reason, and this is one of them.

Of note, the thing I missed at the end of the roadway there is a civilian hiding out with a free Hypo. Other than that, it's invisible walls in both directions, even though the level geometry extends further out.

Muro's other interaction with Konoko near the end is another example of his SMC stupidity. He notes that '(her) potential is almost as great as mine', and while the meaning behind that statement won't come until much later, we are still left with the villain of the story having the hero dead to rights and not finishing the job, instead strolling away and leaving her to fight his minions.

Had he stayed and fought, with his escorts and the two guys hiding in the side room, he probably would have won. Instead, we get what we got, and I don't think it's spoilers at this point to tell you that this will bite him in the ass immensely.

Past that, there's not a lot of plot or characterization going on in this level, as it's actually a single level split into two, and we'll get the other side later.

For the level itself, we see the strengths and the weakness of the game's rendering engine at various points. We have neat and tightly spaced indoor spaces with enemies and civilians, weapons fire going all over the place. You can see here the basics of what the engine could do if it was pushed, or even just given the chance. We can see scripted events, like the destruction of the access ramp that diverts you out onto the tarmac, and the tarmac itself.

I know it's not always obvious, but the draw distance in this game is huge. Pop open the video and go to 6:19 for example. You can actually see the far wall of the tarmac in the distance, even though the game is using 'night' as a cover to keep line of sight down. Part of this is the fairly basic level geometry, as if there's not a lot for the engine to render, the engine can render more. We'll see this in later levels, and alas, it's going to be a long time before we can properly exploit that with the BEST GUN. As even now, our long-range weapon, the Plasma Rifle, despite its self-accelerating shots, can't hit a moving target at the distances involved. And the missile launcher can't lock out outside of medium range.

Speaking of weapons, the VDG. This short rang stun-gun actually hits in an arc in front of you, allowing you to hit a few enemies at once, then get to punching them until they go down, or they recover. It's not useless at all, and in the hands of the enemy, it makes them actually higher a threat than someone with the BEST GUN. Why? Because you can get around the BEST GUN at that range, while the VDG is impossible to dodge.

Of course, the counter to the VDG, as I show in this video, is the Force Field, which I will persist in calling a Shield until the end of time. Also, the slow fist pierces the shield anyone? Yes? No? Don't like the reference?

However, if your Force Field is almost dead, the VDG does do a small amount of damage to it with each shot, so standing there and taunting the enemy while they shoot at you uselessly will only result in you still standing there when they run out of shots and their AI decides to punch you.

There is honestly not a lot to say about this level. Mostly because it's actually something of a breather level. As I intend to cover next time when I talk about the missing levels, this level was designed to segue into the next one relatively smoothly, making it less self-contained than others.

But, there is one subject I can raise here to help fill out time.

Oni was made by Bungie at their Bungie West studio, but published by Take 2 Interactive and Gathering of Developers. What happened was well.... there was this other game being developed by Bungie at the time under the code-name of "Blam". This game was the successor to their immensely (relatively speaking) popular Marathon Trilogy, and was touted for the Macintosh as an exclusive combination of RTS utilizing their Myth skills and being able to drop into one of your characters as a First Person Shooter. It promised to be revolutionary, and honestly, it probably was. I remember watching the gameplay demo in '99 and being the first to point out to my friends "Hey, that's a Ring World!" only to be met with "What's a Ring World?"

I would pull numbers out of my ass here, and say that Bungie's efforts were divided about 65% for Blam, 30% for Oni, and 5% for a third project that never really got out the door but was being work-shopped for development once Blam or Oni were nearing completion.

However, Microsoft was developing their own native gaming console at the time, under the codename "X Box". Yes, the publishing name was the same as the code name because marketing found people loved it. Anyway, Microsoft recognized that they needed something to help sell the console, a game unique to it, and one of the things they did was buy Bungie. You see, they saw that Blam had a lot of potential, and converting it to a dedicated First Person Shooter for their new platform as an exclusive would hopefully help drive sales.

As a result of this, Bungie had to let go of the Oni IP and game to Take-2 Interactive, who owned about 20% of Bungie at the time. However, Take-2 didn't have the resources to finish the game, and Oni was, roughly speaking, about 60-70% done. The levels were incomplete, and while the combat AI was stellar, and the plot and the majority of VA work was in place. The multiplayer aspects had run into technical difficulties as while they could get it to work on a LAN, the ability to do Internet multiplayer just couldn't be done as even the vaunted 56.6k modem couldn't keep up with the 8+ players they wanted in a match.

There were also enemies that hadn't be programmed into the game yet, most (in)famous of which was the Iron Demon, a walking tank that Konoko would fight at some point, but there were technical issues with a non-human enemy working in their combat engine.

Take-2 was given a game that was still in a Beta state, and unwilling or unable to devote the resources to finishing it, instead made things work as-is, and published it to recoup some finances from the game. What we got, what I'm playing for you here, is effectively the Beta for what Oni could have been, had Microsoft not bought Bungie, and focused their efforts on Halo.