The Let's Play Archive

The Chzo Mythos

by Quovak

Part 10: 7 Days, Part 1: Space is Hard.

Two days ago I said I would update on May 5, then yesterday I revealed that I lied and would update that night. Now I'm revealing that I lied again in such a way that I was right all along. I'm taking the politician approach to this LP.

Astute readers might be wondering if I've forgotten about the bonus scene in 5 Days a Stranger. That was going to be part of the "odds and ends" update, but I'm just going to have a larger odds and ends update that will include 5 Days and 7 Days bonuses in one. It will bridge the game between the mediocre and the actually quite good parts of this series, and should happen after I've finished 7 until I change my mind about this LP's setup again.


7 Days, Part 1: Space is Hard.

5 Days a Stranger, in my eyes, is a good (or at least decent) game made horribly. There are some legitimately good ideas in it and scattered moments of brilliance, but by and large it's a mess of insane logic, excessive text dumps, and lots and lots of backtracking. 7 Days a Skeptic, however, I consider to be a flat-out bad game, and if not for 6 Days making it actually relevant (and doing a surprisingly good job of doing so, considering 7 Days takes place a few hundred years later), I would recommend skipping it altogether. People have been disagreeing with me, and I intend to show them why they clearly don't remember anything about the experience of playing 7 Days a Skeptic.

I... what? I have absolutely nothing to say to this. I mean, maybe it's self parody, I guess... Maybe...?

Malcolm is Trilby's real name by the way. That's completely unrelated to this, but I felt I'd spoil the mystique still left from the last game.

Space News: The scoutship Mephistopheles, first built 2328, was relaunched yesterday after extensive upgrades. She will be assigned to map the uncharted regions of the Caracus galaxy. She is under the command of Captain Barry Chahal, hero of the Mars riots, and is to be Captain Chahal's last posting before his retirement. A spokesman for the Earth Federation navy dismissed claims that, despite several upgrades, the Mephistopheles is outfitted with obsolete technology. He is quoted as saying "If it was good enough in the twenty-third century, it's good enough today."

Well, we're starting this game off on a high note of research and accuracy. To start off:

1. Mephistopheles is a "literary reference" in that it demonstrates Yahtzee once skimmed a Wikipedia article about a piece of literature. Mephisto, as he's often known, was one of the angels who supported Lucifer in the rebellion against God, which went about as well as you'd expect a rebellion against God to go. Mephisto isn't Satan, but he's close, and he's the one who buys Faust's soul in the classic legend and Goethe play. Now, naming a spaceship after a hellish demon who corrupts vain humans makes absolutely no sense in-universe, but it doesn't even work thinking about the game as a work of fiction. At no point is there any symbolic significance to the name, there's no allusion to men having sold their souls to technology, etc. It's there because it sounded cool at the time, logic be damned.

2. The Caracas galaxy doesn't exist. This is entirely reasonable, actually, given that fiction is allowed to make things up, but for some reason people decided to name a galaxy after the capital of Venezuela. Perhaps Yahtzee wanted to tap into the oft-neglected Hugo Chavez's Cabinet market.

3. That quote makes absolutely no sense, given that the ship clearly wasn't from the twenty-third century. Four sentences ago it's said to have been made in 2328, which any third grader can tell you is the twenty-fourth century. This is a common mistake made by nobody who thinks about it for two seconds, and represents the depth and consistency that will characterize this game.

3b. The date, as told to us a whole minute ago, is 2385. This means that the quote about outdated technology was saying "If it was good enough for a century it wasn't used in, it's good enough for the same century in which it was originally used and currently is". The dialogue in this game only gets worse from here.

You have to love how Yahtzee doesn't even try to make it look like that picture's actually being displayed. They also apparently decided to build another spaceship for the sole purpose of traveling next to the Mephistopheles and taking pictures of it.

As with 5 Days, there is absolutely no similarity between this image of the Mephistopheles and what it actually looks like. The real ship is a narrow pillar with about three rooms on each of its five floors. In contrast, this is a sprawling hotel in space.

I mean, I'm here, on this ship, surrounded by all these veterans, and I'm terrified that someone will notice me and say I'm on the wrong ship. I keep having this weird dream that I'm in a room full of people with green skin, and they just watch me, wondering what I'm doing there. And then one of the green people turns around, and he's my father.

Not really, although I do feel kind of embarrassed. What do you think, John?
What do I think? William, I think you're just letting things get on top of you. I mean, ship's physician on an exploratory scoutship, that's a pretty heavy first posting. No-one here expects you to do anything other than your job.

...Yeah. Remember all that bitching about text dumps in 5 Days? That's Shakespeare Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe compared to what we're going to need to go through in this game. I'm doing a lot more editing of this game's script, because the number of times characters just slap you across the face with already-known information becomes unbearable very quickly.

I suppose you're right.
I'm a counselor. I'm always right.
Heh. Well, sorry to barged in on you like that.
Oh, don't worry. That's what I'm here for.

All personnel report to the conference room on the ops deck by order of Captain Chahal.

What's this all about?
Beats me. Maybe someone died.

Serena and I have a little announcement to make, of something we think you all should know about.
I thought you were already married.
Yes, yes, very witty. Fact is, the scanners have picked up something floating in open space. Something manufactured. Serena?
Thank you. If I could draw your attentions to the tabletop? The object is constructed of a metallic alloy, and seems to be rectangular in shape.
First contact!
Let's not get too excited. It's more likely to be a human artifact left to drift for a long time.
What else do we know about it?
It seems to be some kind of container, the right size to be a cryonic escape pod. Sensors don't show any life signs inside it, though.
Did you inform high command?
Yes sir. They recommend we drop a beacon and leave it for a fully-equipped research vessel.
Just a recommendation, not a direct order? Adam, use the grappling claw to bring it into the cargo bay. It'll be in range for the next few hours.
Righto, chief.
Okay, everyone else can go back to what they were doing. We'll let you know if we need any of you for anything.

The most common complaint about this game's plot (besides the twist at the end) is that they shouldn't have ever come across something as small as this object in space. Even I don't think that's a big deal, and even I have no problem suspending my disbelief, especially when the later games make it clear that... well, I'm getting ahead of myself. The point is, stop complaining.

What do you think of this?
I guess I won't know what to think until it's brought in.
You know I'm going to need you there when we're examining it?
No, I didn't know that.
C'mon John, this is basic procedure, you should know this. This is potentially a first contact scenario. Regulations say a qualified psychologist must be on hand for first contact scenarios.
Okay, sure, but I'm not sure what use I'd be.
You really need to stop depreciating yourself. Stop by my quarters for a chat if you like, help pass the time.

In case you haven't noticed, John is even worse at psychiatry than Trilby is at stealing. Spoiler alert: There is not a single instance in the entire series of a protagonist actually demonstrating a skill we're supposed to believe they have.

Serena has nothing of interest to say, so we're ignoring her. To her right are three human-sized escape pods for a ship with a crew of six. If the ship ever explodes we can expect a fierce rock-paper-scissors competition to decide who can actually live.

To the left we can talk to Barry, but he also has nothing to say that won't be hammered into our heads over the next updates or wasn't already said in the intro news brief. Even by this game's standards he's exceptionally dull as a character. Also, no points for guessing what happens to Mr. Racial Minority within about twenty minutes of the next update.  He dies .

This elevator is your main mode of transportation, with those icons corresponding to the residence deck, engine room, etc.

By the future, Chzo Mythosians have found out how to harness glass invincibility for good. They've also found out to harness environment-changing powers for themselves.

(Not Pictured: A glass dome)

Probably nothing but miscellaneous space debris. I agree with the captain's actions with regard to it. Better we find out that it is unimportant before wasting a large research ship's time.
Okay, what do you want it to be?
I want it to be nothing important. Federation reports say that there is no life in the Caracus galaxy. If this proves correct, we won't have to update all our records.
That's... a very practical attitude.
Thank you, doctor.
Nice view, isn't it?
I thought so once, but now I've spent so much time in space, it loses its wonder. Now I see nothing but clusters of red giants, binary systems, nebulaic dust...

This is Angela. You will want to punch her in the face.

To be honest, I'm not that bothered. It won't matter to me unless someone injures themselves on it.

Some real three-dimensional personalities on this ship, yep.

This room (next to the hospital room) is entirely meaningless; nothing happens in it at any point in the game, but I guess it's a good idea to throw darts in low gravity. Speaking of which, let's learn more about space than Yahtzee did.

Space Lessons:

Gravity vs. distance is an inverse-squared relationship, meaning that once you get reasonably far away from a large mass the effects of gravity are so small as to be insignificant. Gravity is a very good thing for both comfort and survival, since without it your muscles atrophy due to a lack of having to do anything. Now, to simulate the downward force of gravity, one can make a ship rotate and supply a relatively similar centripetal force, which is what any moderately realistic sci-fi series will depict a ship as doing. Not this one, of course.

(Not Pictured: Sensible ship design)

End of Space Lessons

Here's the residence section, where we can see a redesigned interface. Right clicking on something brings up this menu, where the interaction options exist alongside your inventory. It's much nicer than the one in 5 Days, but still leaves a bit to be desired. It's also much more dangerous, apparently.

Here's Yahtzee's way of getting around the eating issue this time. Now, the breathing, gravity, and sources of clean water are still unaddressed, but on the bright side we get to see Ben pretend he's Hideo Kojima.

This prison is horribly designed for reasons I'll explain when they become relevant.

This is the magical machine that generates gravity and oxygen, I guess. It makes a very annoying noise ripped from the original Half-Life. Conveniently, OSHA standards only require one side of the walkway to have railings.

Finally, here's a cargo bay. Now, despite being explicitly asked to meet here, I can't do anything until I fulfill an arbitrary event flag. Never change, Ben, never change.

Next time: finding things in space.

Creator Commentary
5 Days was originally going to be set in space. I'd written this long bit of jerk-off writing about a bunch of characters I'd used in separate unfinished projects being mysteriously transported onto a spaceship in the future, where something would start systematically killing them off. Trilby was still the main protagonist. The story ended with a different twist, though - the villain was an insane AI, and all the characters were perfect clones with implanted memories. Before producing the game I realised that setting it in a present day mansion wouldn't have been quite so retarded.

My first idea for 7 Days was a direct sequel to 5 Days. You played Trilby again a few years after 5 Days who, having discovered that John DeFoe remains a threat, comes to an office building to find Jim, now an adult working there as a night shift security guard, and help him to safety. For reasons unclear the same thing that happened to DeFoe Manor happens to the office building. It would have ended with them discovering that the idol was also in the building, having been acquired by an evil scientist named Chahal who wanted to harness John DeFoe's power for his own ends. I didn't get very far on this one because it was shit. A by-the-numbers sequel that does nothing but retread the original in a phenomenally more stupid way, exactly the sort of thing my present self would kick around the garden path. The only good bit was the prologue, which I recycled for Trilby's Notes.

So I set 7 Days in space instead. That, thought my younger self, would be enough. Even though the structure is extremely similar and there are even several identical plot points ( wrongful accusation and imprisonment  for example). What's even sillier is that the amount of story and puzzles I came up with were barely enough for seven days, but I thought the title sounded so cool (despite the main character not being the least bit of a skeptic) that I forced myself to come up with the most absurdly contrived reasons for the characters to hang around an extra day or two (hence  extremely illogical escape pod warmup sequence , but more on that later).

Forgive me if you already figured this out, but I'm not a great artist. I've developed techniques to get around my shortcomings, and 7 Days I think has the laziest overuse of those techniques. The one thing I hated most was designing backgrounds. With the perfectly flat puppet-theatre style of Chzo Mythos backdrops it was simplicity itself to make a bunch of template walls and floors to take apart and glue together in various ways to make new rooms, and 7 Days was about as simple as it gets with its uniform corridors and shiny clean metallic interiors (because it's a self cleaning ship no really).

The character art is even lazier. Every single one of them is based on the player's model, with heights slightly changed and different heads glued on (the  cops at the end are the player character wearing gloves and face-covering helmets. ) The women have only the most token attempts at breasts and wider hips. The actual personalities of the characters is a rant for another time, which will be after the next update, which I have a strong feeling it would be more relevant for.

The layout of the Mephistopheles (and yeah, naming things after slightly appropriate mythological figures is a very adolescent habit for a writer) obviously has nothing to do with the exterior shot. It has everything to do with making easy backgrounds first and worrying about consistency second. I told myself that the visitable parts of the ship are a very tiny minority of the presented vessel, with the rest taken up by cargo space and the technology needed to work the engines and internal systems. But the more obvious truth is that I wasn't thinking about it that hard, and assumed no-one else would.

Originally, the player could go straight to the cargo bay after the first scene in the meeting room. But I had one person playtest it and they said this made it easy to miss the big fat conversation with the captain about the crew. I decided this was too important to miss and railroaded the player through it. This is the sort of decision that makes me want to send a T-800 back in time with the instruction to break all my younger self's arms and legs.

And yes, every sound was from Half-Life, and the midis were chosen from random google searches for scary-sounding music. When the T-800 is finished he will leave a post-it on the keyboard with a link to