Sunday, 31 January 2016

Hacking Invisible Inc (Klei)

I was going to talk about something else this week, but I've been ambushed by Klei's stealth roguelike Invisible Inc. I don't know what to think about what just happened. I'm not even sure it happened. So I'm going to write about it here in hope I'll get a better understanding by explaining it.

Bear in mind that a large chunk of this post is going to be blocked out because it contains spoilers. I'm sorry about that, but there's no other way. Also, I'm not going to go over the gameplay, since I covered all that in Not Quite Review Corner.

This relates to the DLC release Contingency Plan.

I'm playing through on Expert, and have finished the midway extra mission, where the objective is to recover a McGuffin from the field to keep AI Incognita alive. Breathe a sigh of relief, since this is way more difficult than I had anticipated, and on to the missions after that.

The story adds a further 48 hours to your search, and requires you to recover an extra piece of special loot each mission before you can escape. So I'm already on a tight deadline, and now I have something else to worry about. Oh goody!

One of the next missions I tackled was a Cybernetics Lab, Sankaku, level 4 difficulty. The team that went in was Sharp, Banks (my starting team) and Shalem 11 (rescued). I don't know if that makes a difference or not, but I mention it for what it's worth.

Spoilers incoming!

Early in the mission I discover a special computer terminal. That terminal, Mother informs me, has information that the corps looted from Invisible Inc when we were raided. There are three terminals on the level, and I need to hack and download the data from all three to complete this side mission. Not a problem, I think to myself. So Shalem starts tackling the first, and Sharp and Banks go off looking for the other two.

Bear in mind, though this is early in the mission, it's taken me a couple turns to get to this point. I'm still on alarm level 0, mind you, but the point is that time has passed. It's been maybe 3 to 8 minutes since I booted the game. 

Shalem begins the hack. Sharp finds the second terminal soon afterward, and starts work on it. Then Mother tells me that, after I hack each terminal, she'll insert a worm onto Sankaku's systems. 

And then the game starts singing to me.

I nigh on flipped. I don't know what it was; some generic triumphal rock, I think, with cheers and so on. At first I thought I'd somehow left YouTube on and it was playing in the background. But that made no sense; remember, it had been several minutes since I booted the game, and if it was YouTube I would have expected it to kick in much sooner. 

Then I decide it's the game itself. I didn't recognize the music it was playing, and I convinced myself that this was because it was some work for hire stuff that Klei bought specially. OK, funny, heart attack over; Banks, go find the third terminal.

That's when I hear a voice stab from Valve's Team Fortress 2, the Soldier. I'm pretty sure he said Maggot! which is his favorite voice stab; it caught me completely off guard. Then the music changes to I'll Make A Man Out of You, from Disney's Mulan.

By this point I am utterly, utterly baffled. A work for hire might explain the earlier music, but persuading Disney to part with its tunes is no easy thing, and would probably cost more money than Klei has ever had. I know there's at least one YouTube short that mashes Valve's TF2 with that particular Mulan tune, and there may well be others for all I know, but this particular combination isn't one I recognize. 

I'm also laughing like a hyena on crack, but that's just by the by.

Once Banks cracks the third terminal and takes the data, the music stops. Down to business! Where's the cybernetics lab? Found it. Where's the exit? Found it! Job done?

No, of course it isn't bloody done, because with all this theme tune business I've completely forgotten the special loot. It's hidden way off in a corner of the map I can't easily get to, and now I'm on alarm level 4. Sod! Sod sod monkey bollocks, run run run!

OK, now I have the special loot and am making my way back. Shalem is moving very slowly because he's carrying a very heavy weapon, so he's back near the exit. Sharp and Banks are the ones out in the field, but they're about as far away from the exit as it is possible to be.

I hit alarm level 6.

The bloody game starts playing the Beatles, Hey Jude. 

Talk about take a sad song and make it better. 'Hey Jude, don't let me down'? You cheeky bastard. I'm dying over here. I've never had to play so skillfully to get my people to the exit, trying not to hack the big tank drone since it has a Validate daemon on it, which means if it goes down yet another guard will be summoned to the level and I'm up to my armpits in guards anyway ... it all gets very messy. I prefer not to kill the guards if I can help it but this time I was positively overjoyed to shoot one of the buggers.

Hey Jude follows me all the way to the exit, and my team extracts safely.

Once I'm out, I log off. That's when I discover that there really is a pop-up, a video player, and it has been playing in the background.

I don't know what to think. Was it Klei? Was it an accident? It wasn't YouTube, that much I do know, but as for the rest of it, I'm completely and utterly in the dark.

Let's say it was Klei. Well, it implies that Klei hacked my PC. Though hacked may be too strong a word, since if that is what happened, I'd bet money I gave Klei permission. Not that I'd know it. It'd be buried somewhere in the User Agreement, right next to the bit that talks about Germany's potato exports, since Klei knows full well nobody reads those things.

I don't know where it would stand legally. All it did was open a video player, which then played some music. I could do that myself if I liked. In fact, I am; as I type this I have Hey Jude playing in the background. 

If it was anyone else, I'd say it didn't happen. But this is Klei. The game is about hacking computers, and one of the achievements notoriously forces you to hack the game files to get the achievement. In fact until the DLC dropped it was the one achievement I didn't have, since I lack the skills and in any case didn't really want to mess with the game.

In short, if anyone would do this, Klei would. I'd bet anything on that. I don't know how I'd prove Klei did do it, mind you. Presumably if I went poking around in the game files I'd eventually find the code that set this up, but I don't know how to do that, and in any case doing so feels a little too much like telling the magician how the rabbit was pulled out of the hat. You don't want to do that. You go to a magic show to see magic, not to be an arse about the show.

So, Klei? If this was you, hat's off. An utterly brilliant idea, and it worked perfectly.

And if it wasn't you, I don't know what the hell happened.

Postscript: I don't know what to make of this, either. 

1 comment:

  1. I would not be surprised if it were deliberate; there seems to be a bit of a recent fashion for this sort of thing, what with Undertale fiddling with your saves, and The Binding of Isaac spilling out into the real world.

    I remember being impressed when Psycho Mantis read your PlayStation's memory card in the first Metal Gear Solid, and you could beat him easily if you swapped controllers, and it's great to see these kind of beyond-the-game ideas developed and evolved further in the modern era.