Thursday, July 29, 2010

Alice and Kev: Homeless Sims

An experiment in Sims 3 in which the player added the homeless neighbors, Alice and Kev

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Horrible Delight: The 7th Guest

Disclaimer: I spoil 7th Guest pretty hard in this article.

Trilobyte's The 7th Guest is a game that routinely makes top ten lists for 'Scariest Games of All Time'. I wonder, though, if they've played through the game recently or just place it on these lists out of a sense of respect and history. Certainly, it is a PC gaming's milestone. It's clear that Trilobyte made 7th Guest with the very goal of being a technology pioneer that would awe its players with a cutting edge multimedia event. That was exceeded beyond their wildest imaginations; it's just too bad that making a great game wasn't as important to them.

7th Guest's place in the annals of computer lore is well-deserved. The leap to integrate full motion video with rendered 3D graphics is an inspired one. Its CD only format pushed computing into the CD-ROM age and gave designers the freedom to make a game that was like a movie, with sweeping camera movements, actors, and a soundtrack. Graeme Devine, one of the founders of Trilobyte and one of 7th Guest’s visionaries, was the first to ever compress digital video and designed the tools to do so from scratch (if you ever find yourself streaming low quality video from Starz Play on Netflix, you know who to thank). Graeme, along with Trilobyte’s co-founder Rob Landeros, developed the story to go along with the dream of a next generation multimedia experience, though their ambitions to become a weaver of tales might have outmatched their talents.

The story revolves around a diabolical toy master named Henry Stauf. Though not spelled out, I gather from the Faust anagram that Stauf sold his soul for wealth and ended up with more than he bargained. Your character, who is nameless in the game but is supposedly called Ego, wakes up at the front door with amnesia (sigh) and the game begins! Throughout the game, you're treated to full motion video flashbacks of a dinner party thrown by Stauf (although he doesn't actually attend) where he asks the six guests to solve the grand puzzle of his mansion. The winner of Stauf's game is granted his or hers greatest desire. As the game progresses by solving puzzles and watching vignettes, you discover that Stauf is manipulating the guests in order to harvest the soul of a young boy who broke in the house on a dare, the 7th guest. You see, Stauf's toys actually steal the souls of children and he needs just one more childsoul to bring his evil mansion to life (or something, it's pretty vague). You spend the whole game discovering this basic back story with no real arcs for various guests or Ego. After you complete the last, best puzzle, there's a painfully obvious twist that you are the child, the 7th guest, that Stauf was hunting in all the cutscenes. Then Stauf explodes in a burst of holy light for absolutely no reason and the game is over.

The story was further developed from the initial concept by a professional writer, something I will credit them. Still, the full motion video segments are hurt by shoddy characters, low production value, and creative talent overmatched by challenges presented using the new technology. At the time, it was forgivable because there was nothing else to compare it to, but looked upon with a critical eye in a modern context, it’s a bit baffling. If you’re going to innovate with video, why not make it the best you possibly can instead of treating like a chore and an afterthought? When they set up Trilobyte in a quiet Oregon town, I’m sure it seemed like a great idea but it was ultimately a selfish one. I have no doubt it was a more pleasant to live in west Oregon than southern California but Oregon just isn’t going to have the resources that would benefit what amounts to an experimental film shoot. Inexperienced actors and silly costumes hamper a promising but hackeneyed story. Now, it’s not like I expect the 7th Guest to be written with the same level of complexity and depth as literature, but the emotional experience of the game leaves me little else to focus on.

Gameplay in 7th Guest, outside of the exploration of the house and story, boils down to puzzles. The puzzles are a mixed bag and, while plentiful and varied, left me wanting. Their lack of innovation is a major felony here, Halloween party versions of the most common brain teasers or word games. I enjoy a good chess challenge but they go overboard here and the knight-switching puzzle is one of the most awful and tedious puzzles that’s ever been forced upon me. A few of the puzzles make absolutely no sense unless you check out the clue book in the den (which will actually solve puzzles for you, I discovered way too late). There were puzzles I enjoyed, especially the insanely difficult game of Ataxx versus Stauf on a microscopic level (which took me longer to beat than the rest of the game combined), and I appreciated the level of polish to the puzzles. A lot about the puzzles can be forgiven with the limitations imposed by the game design. For a reason I don’t understand but accept, they could only have one button to interact with the world and I imagine that posed a challenge when creating unique puzzles. Still, what I can’t get past are the haphazard nature of the puzzles. Why are we solving them? To what end? Why does solving all of them make Henry Stauf explode into purity dust? They try to explain, at the start, that the puzzles are created by Henry Stauf for the six guests to solve as part of his dinner party game but they drop that after the first few rooms and don’t connect it to the story. Since there’s never anything to threaten your life and the puzzles are abstract filler, the only emotional draw is the full motion video segments, which, as I’ve already said, are less than compelling.

Part of me hates to harp on all of this, it is clear Trilobyte spent a ton of time and effort on the game and it’s one of the few PC games that transcend the world of your usual gamers. The house looks fantastic, seventeen years later, and even if the technology has moved on, the artistry has not. The music and sound design are, frankly, outstanding and shoulders most of the responsibility for creating an effective mood. Every guest has their own little theme that is woven into the overall music that adds more to their story than anything that appears on screen—it's clever and I'd put it on iPod if I could only figure out how. Even a cursory glance at the game shows they weren’t myopic programmers interested only in lines of code, there’s a real love there for the game and a real passion to tell its story. The problem lies in a deeper cognitive dissonance.

Graeme Devine stated that he wanted 7th Guest to be a family game, which is strange considering the content. There’s nothing outright offensive but it’s still a horror game with a brutal stabbing, Stauf’s weird demon tongue, lascivious sex moans, a strangling, and the stealing of children’s soul by their own toys--it’s not exactly a Pixar movie. It explains the silly Halloween party nature of most of the horror, though: the cake with cartoon skulls and gravestones, a painting that grows fangs, the relentless and degrading use of puns throughout the experience, it’s all haphazard and seems the product of an ADHD “Wouldn’t it be cool if...” style of game design. There doesn’t seem to be any real love for horror or at least an attempt to understand the genre. It’s like a Scooby Doo episode that lasts hours and hours, except Fred pulls off Stauf’s mask at the beginning to discover a hissing lizard demon and Shaggy spends the whole time hilariously weeping with terror as he tries to spell six different words with no vowels. The demonic presence that holds sway over Stauf isn't even addressed, really. Sure it can give Stauf a really long tongue to impotently lash at people but they don't try to have any perceptible rules to its power or any mystery to its existence—it's just a means to an end. There’s a powerful vision for a game but it’s just not very well thought out. In my opinion, Graeme Devine and Rob Landeros were men of vision. It’s just that the vision seemed to be more about the glory of making a great game than it was about making the great game.

The 7th Guest is a truly innovative and remarkable game that deserves its place in history but, at the end of the day, it’s not good. After 7th Guest was released, the company spent a long time spiraling down into financial oblivion and I think the cracks are already showing in their touchstone product. The truth of Trilobyte seems to be a story of aimless projects costing millions and infighting between a stressed Devine and a disgusted Landeros. It.sounds exactly like the problems in the 7th Guest: unfocused and at war with itself. I think the issue of implementing a game’s vision is one of the most primal struggles when making a game. What is it that makes a game fun? What is it that makes a game inspirational? It isn’t number of units sold or the groundbreaking technology used to make the game. The only game I think think of that tries to ape 7th Guest is Shivers (a game that is superior in every way) but mostly games took the technology and went their own way before full motion video died a quick death. Making a game is difficult and it takes a special talent to make a good one. It requires patience and a willingness to adapt to the problems at hand. There’s just no guarantee that the game will turn out, so the more thought you put into your game before you put the money into it, the better off you’ll be.

7th Guest is a victim of poor planning. Dazzled by the tech and what could be, Graeme and Rob didn’t consider the journey. They relocated to the idyllic Oregon coast where there were few actors, fewer programmers, and certainly no one familiar with new technology of digital video. Graeme and Rob’s vision went unquestioned, by all accounts they seemed men of large egos and the writer they hired to flesh out the story didn’t do a good job at challenging them. The tone and game design are muddled, relying on the wow factor that certainly delivered at the time. Shock and awe is cheap and immediate, though, and it’s a terrible foundation for game design. 7th Guest could have been the Nosferatu of video games, something future generations could look at and appreciate as an important work in the art and history of video games. Instead, it's more of a footnote, the game that opened the door for better games to walk through. A cohesive and compelling game experience is the key lesson of game design that separates a great game from a good game and a good game from a bad game. Themes aren't just for books and movies, kids, they’re for any story, regardless of format. Something like Castle Crashers, one of the most ridiculous games ever made, resonates so deeply because its wild and silly tone is demonstrated in every aspect of the game, most especially the gameplay. I'd argue that themes are harder to implement in a video game than in any other medium because they have to be felt in the gameplay as well in the story and art direction. Left 4 Dead isn't just about shooting zombies, it's about the balance of four people fighting the zombie horde—the co-operative gameplay reinforces and elevates the feelings of isolation and horror exquisitely. 7th Guest just didn't get it, in the end, and that's too bad. How much more could it have inspired if it had? How many more lifelong gamers would it have left behind?


I tried to play 7th Guest’s sequel, the 11th Hour, for a follow up article but the game keeps crashing and I’m tired of troubleshooting it just to play a more polished version of the 7th Guest. Apparently it’s not a new problem; the joke is that the greatest puzzle in 11th Hour is getting the game to run. It’s too bad, because the game looks even better and the video elements have a fun Twin Peaks vibe (by that I mean they’re basically ripping off Twin Peaks but it’s still a good thing for this series) that I wished was present in the original. The puzzles I did play were better designed and, from what I understand, had a lot of AI involved that was cutting edge at the time. The look and feel of the game is more coherent as a whole, spookier and less stupid. It’s just too bad they released an MS DOS game in a world that had switched over to Windows 95. Technical failures are always worse than conceptual ones and, coming from a game company that redefined computing, are unforgivable.

I recommend checking out this article about the history of Trilobyte. It’s a cautionary tale of game design that I hope every developer keeps in mind when they build a game experience. Most importantly, it is a fascinating story and a great read.

The Rise and Fall of Trilobyte

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Horrible Delight: Legacy, the Realm of Terror

Horror is a genre that shines on the format of video games. Nothing will immerse you in the awful goings-on of a story more than being in control of whether your character lives or dies. It works so well that you can find horror elements in many of the major franchises. Games like Halo, Bioshock, Left 4 Dead and Half-Life are a major force in the video game world and I'd argue that that's due, in part, to how well the designer evokes the feeling of fear. Fear is just easier to create within the interactive nature of games; it's fun, it's safe, and the fear is personal.

The game that turned me onto the horror potential of games, before Gabriel Knight, 7th Guest or Resident Evil, was Microprose's 1993 diamond in the rough: Legacy, the Realm of Terror. The action/rpg game's initial premise is a classic haunted house set-up. Your character mysteriously inherits a Lovecraftian mansion from an unknown relative and after a brief but important character creation menu, you find yourself in the foreboding lobby of the 17th century Prentiss house with nothing but a few rumors and a book of magic spells (if you rolled a magician). The door is locked behind you and, with little prompting from the game, all you can do is explore and see what's going on with your house.

Legacy's non-linear nature is the game itself; you can go almost anywhere in the house from the start and most problems have several different solutions, usually tailored to your character's build. A locked door can be picked, forced open with brawny might, mystically overcome with certain spells, or you can go around and hunt for the key, like a coward. The game's world is presented mostly through notes and journals discovered as you fight (or more likely, flee) through the house. Legacy freaked me out on such a primal level, when I was young, that I find myself drifting back to the game every few years like a favorite novel; the twists and turns are now routine but it's still pleasant nostalgia to see them all played out.

Before I run away with what I love about the game, it's only fair to discuss the game's flaws. The thing that struck me most in my most recent play through is how little sense the mansion makes as an actual house. There are hundreds of rooms but no kitchen, the only bathrooms are on the east side of the second floor (maybe an issue with the 17th century plumbing, I will grant), and a fair portion of the rooms have literally nothing inside them. The game has some pretty laughable puzzles, which is the most unforgivable element for me. You encounter a room where you're so filled with dread, you can't walk another step forward. What do you do? Walk backwards! The game is filled to the brim with shit like this. When they're not silly or easy, they're often oblique offenders of trial and error. The inventory system is atrocious, as well. You receive so many clues, weapons, and puzzle-busting items that the only real solution is to find convenient safe rooms throughout the house to put your stuff (the screenshot below is my weapons pile, next door to my food and health pile). It's actually kind of fun to play hoarder at first, but it quickly becomes tedious as you travel from item cache to item cache, searching for the one weapon or doodad you need. Just don't put your rifle down to pick up the astrolabe, horned skull, or whatever. Sure, you promise you'll come back for it later but, trust me, you'll never see that rifle again.

The flaws are enough that I can't give the game a glowing recommendation. Along with aforementioned problems, the game is punishingly difficult in a way only an old school PC game knows how to be. There is only a finite amount of health, ammo, and magical energy to be found and it's common to find that you saved your game in a horrible situation with dubious chance for escape. The graphics, while decent enough for its time, don't hold up to even the most forgiving modern standards. While the theme changes from floor to floor to keep things interesting, each individual floor can feel barren of detail; for every room with interesting art, there are forty rooms that features that same bookcase model with that same bookcase description you've already seen a thousand times. It's a limitation of the floppy diskette generation of games, but it really hurts the playability of Legacy today.

Still, for its time, even its flaws kind of work for the game in their own weird way—they hamper playability but not tone. The bizarre layout heightens the tension as you wander around, hoping to find a clue (or even better, a M16) to help you deal with the poisonous monsters in the basement. The item management makes every choice you make important—sure the baseball bat isn't as strong as the pistol but a baseball bat takes up less slots than all that ammo and won't jam up midway through the zombie battle. The puzzles? Well, I guess the Dark Lord that Hungers is too busy devouring adorable bunnies to think up clever brain-teasers.

Despite it's flaws, the game is quite well made. The RPG system is well balanced and every stat is worthy of use, though I haven't had the balls to try out my bare knuckles against the Demonic 1st Battalion. Every build has a shot at survival, though I'd say the game rewards a rounded character with a few strengths and enough magic to shore up your weaknesses. The background draws much of it's inspiration from Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos and the works of Edgar Allan Poe, though they work hard to bring their own version of things with unique touches and twists on common horror elements. My favorite bit in the game is the fight against the shotgun wielding zombie. I just love the idea that this one zombie, tired of seeing his brothers and sisters blown away time and time again, decided to pick up a shotgun, put on some shades, and beat the living at their own game.

Most importantly, this game is scary. The soundtrack is an oppressive series of alien beeps and boops, tailored to the particular floor you're on. The monsters in the game definitely look imposing and often require some thinking to tackle without grievous harm, in fact, much of the game is better spent in flight—only using that precious health and ammo when you're cornered or if the monsters guard a key area. Legacy is well-paced, too, the moment you've got a grasp on one floor, the game will raise the stakes and demand more from you as you climb up or down those stairs to the next area. To the game's credit, there are very few instant death moments such as you'd find in older PC games of its ilk (and those are at the very end and shouldn't be a surprise if you've been exploring), so even if you're on the brink of death, there's still a chance you can crawl your way to a health kit, a magical healing spell, or some ammo. That kind of hope is important in a game as unforgiving as this one. It's the kind of game you could beat in a few hours but took me months on my first time through (before the days of easy internet hints) and it kept me fully engrossed the whole time.

Ultimately, I think the success of Legacy's horror comes from how they present its role-playing elements. Often times, in a horrorish game such as Resident Evil 5, they try to stuff so much in there that it loses its luster. Sure, it's fun to demolish mutant dogs but it isn't as scary to over explain the atmosphere. In Legacy, the story is only in what you discover, what you do, and how you deal with obstacles in your way. The story is as personal as your fears and exists in your imagination, no small feat for a video game.

Unfortunately, the game is out of print, but copies can be tracked down by the intrepid game hunter, just make sure they include the instruction booklet (for the copy protection). If you do choose to engage in Legacy, make an effort to avoid internet walk throughs for as long as you can. The game is better without them. I will give you this tip, though, don't go into the basement until you've stocked up on munitions, there are bad things in the basement.

They really don't make them like this any more.

Truly, the greatest nightmare.

Cerebral Pop: Catching Up to the Industry Part 1

Cerebral Pop: Catching Up to the Industry Part 1

Cerebral Pop takes the time to look at what he's been missing, which fits right in line with this blog here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Clive Barker's Jericho

As reviewed at Ascii Dreams.  The game has had its share of bad reviews, mainly due to its design and story being constantly at odds.  It is also the only game Roger Ebert feels he can watch as he finds the screenshots pretty.  Enjoy.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Critical Damage: Frayed Narratives, Closed Games: Understanding My Allergy To BioWare Games

Critical Damage: Frayed Narratives, Closed Games: Understanding My Allergy To BioWare Games

Critical Damage takes a close look at the closed game that gives the player the illusion of agency, something I will be covering in the upcoming review of Mass Effect.

The top 10 video games of the past decade -

The top 10 video games of the past decade - and 10 more games to add to my list.

Fallout’s Forgotten Revolution | Hellmode

Fallout’s Forgotten Revolution | Hellmode - A look at old school gaming, and relating Dragon Age and The Witcher's lauded innovation.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Batman: Arkham Asylum: The Chore of Enjoyment

Thanks to Steam, I have a handy barometer of my game enjoyment to reference - hours played. As of this writing, I've played it a total of 33.6 hours of Mass Effect and bought and downloaded the sequel, logging 30.7 hours to beat that. During the same sale in which I bought Mass Effect, I downloaded Batman: Arkham Asylum. I’ve logged a mere 4.2 hours so far. In addition, I've logged 2 hours here, 3 hours there in other, smaller games. Deus Ex, M.U.D. TV, World of Goo, Multiwinia. In fact, I'm only playing through Arkham Asylum right now so I could feel comfortable deleting it off my miniscule hard drive. After that, I plan another go at mass effect 1 and 2 and downloading another AAA title on my queue, like Bioshock.

I can't wait to play Bioshock.

The question I have is why? Why is this popular and critical darling an obstacle I must get through rather than an enjoyable experience?

On paper I should love this game. Largely considered one of the best licensed games, Arkham Asylum comes from a who’s who of Batman pedigree. Character designs by Jim lee, written by Batman comic and animation alumnus Paul Dini (perhaps my favorite), and most importantly voiced by the same actors of the animated series - Kevin Conroy, Arleen Sorkin, and Mark Hamill's delightfully energetic demented Joker. And it’s Batman!

Added up, all of the math means that this game was made for me.

So why is getting through this game such a chore?


I should admit that my system is not the most gaming geared - it’s a measly laptop that reaches the minimum requirements for my graphics work, and that’s about it. So, when I first entered the Asylum, I did so very slowly. I began to have similar issues with Mass Effect 1 and 2, and so I looked up some tutorials on how to tweak my system. Batman runs pretty smoothly now (thanks to my desire to make sure Mass Effect runs very smoothly). Still, I kept going back to ME 1, bugs and warts and all, and only occasionally visiting Batman: AA. This disparity still seems too wide to be ignored.

There’s an unfair comparison, isn’t it? Two games couldn’t be more different. Still, I was playing them simultaneously, and devoted more time to one than the other. I enjoyed Mass Effect so much I barely waited to download the sequel to continue Shepherd’s adventure.

While I’ll still wait to finish this game before writing a full review (as it would be unfair of me to not), I figure it is appropriate to look at the first 5 hours and ask myself why I’m not having fun.


My first thought was rather cynical: did I not want to like this game?

I was cynical about Mass Effect. I didn't believe it would take me where people said it would take me. I didn't believe that the game could be that good, and it was. Despite my best effort, Mass Effect sold me.

I desperately want to like Batman: Arkham Asylum. It seems that nearly everybody else does. Still, public opinion could easily be shaped by widely read opinions. Or, could it be that a good game is a good game, and therefore earns those reviews?

Perhaps that's the issue - I wanted more from the game than I got. I wanted to be blown away in the first hour, and it didn't fulfill its promise.


But that's not true - the opening credits sequence, with its limited movement, and Batman following a talkative Joker really got me. Hell, the bats flying though the menu system got me. However, those very first moments of gameplay, in the tutorial levels, didn't.

But that's not fair, is it? Tutorials are a notoriously bad bit of business one must get through to teach you how to play the game, after all. "Use W, A, S, D to move" is not a great plot point.

True, but Mass Effect's tutorial bit (walking through the ship to a cutscene than landing on a planet) didn't feel like training. I have a fond memory of that bit where my Shepherds look ahead, out at the world that I've just come into. Portal's entire game is a teaching / tutorial level for the eventual "boss fight" with GlaDOS. The bike riding sequence in Grand Theft Auto 3: San Andreas was the most laughable, literally starting you off by riding a bike. Fallout 3 uses the tutorial level to start you off as a baby, an infant, that slowly teaches you how to walk while establishing your character's relationship with his father, the very driving plot point of the game. Most games I have played, including those with complex key-bindings and difficulty didn't feel nearly as bad as that first hour of grinding through Arkham's prisoner reception hall - which seemed to be designed by some sort of mad labyrinthine architect.


So, writing then? Bioware is specifically known for its writing, and it was one of the primary reasons I had to come back into their world over and over again.

Zero Punctuation specifically isolates the writing as clumsy, and I sort of agree. It pains me to say it as Paul Dini is one of the best comic book and visual media writers out there, especially where Batman is concerned. That being said, something went wrong here. Some of the dialog is a bit too much, but then again, I'd venture to guess they didn't give Paul Dini much to do.

Whereas Bioware's writing philosophy is to keep them on staff and hire them from the get-go, Eidos, Rocksteady, and WB games come from a different world entirely. They hire the writers to create set up the levels and setpieces that they have already created. So much technology and resources have already been expended into creating the game, the writer is left to merely create the framework surrounding it. So, Paul Dini probably had to write several thousand lines of mostly use dialog in order to set up the game and give it the drama he feels it should have.

Alot of the story logic makes little sense to. Why am I being distracted by a collection quest set up by the Riddler if Gotham is a panic? Optional fan-service, of course. It's not enough to play as Batman, we needed some rickety addition just so we can keep people playing - but that just confuses the design. Batman should be grinding through to SAVE GOTHAM, not messing about with stupid gimmicks left by a third rate criminal (who doesn't even bother to show up in the game). Why does Waynetech build the security gates and Batman NOT have a back door to the place? Is he worried that he's one day going to go crazy and break into Arkham and deal with all of the villains himself (hint; he's already nuts)? Oh yeah, Lucius built them, not Bruce. But Bruce did bother to put his own freaking batcave into Arkham. Did Amadeus Arkham get a good deal at a statuary, because there are SO MANY FREAKING GARGOYLES INSIDE BUILDINGS.

One of the early lines I cringed at was when Harley Quinn specifically points out her costume as her "new, sexier look". I can only imagine what it meant to do that as Dini was Quinn's original creator on the animated series. Wildstorm, lead by Jim Lee, reworked most of the characters for the game. Changing Harley from a fun sociopath to a crazy sexpot when rendered in 3D. Dini couldn't help but point that out, it seems, and the writing became clunkier for it.


Wildstorm's vision of Batman isn't too far off from the comics. In fact, Lee penciled the Batman classic, "Hush", and was lauded for his character designs. They weren't much different from historical design, but every character looked better in some way.

The looks in Arkham Asylum, though, are muddy, dirty facsimiles of the originals. This doesn't quite work when one brings in voice acting and writing from the animated series.

Wildstorm's Batman is a badass. He slowly becomes more scarred and tattered as the game goes on, wearing him down. He's a pacifistic Rambo, a Dirty Harry who won't kill the bad guy, but chiselled nonetheless. He's a pair of underwear and a cape you wear when you're 5 and pretending to be the Bat.

When I think about the Animated Series, however, I think of a moment where they flashback to Crime Alley (something that happens in this game) and Batman watches helplessly as his parents get killed in front of his eyes. His white pupils turn up, scared, frightened, a vulnerable little 8 year old boy as he falls into oblivion.

That Batman is not a badass. He's conflicted, angry, and human. This Batman isn't vulnerable. He can't be. His face has a constant look of determination, sheer force of will. There is no way that he can lose.

And there it is, my main problem.

There are no stakes. I have no reason to come back and play because Gotham will continue to be safe.

Shepherd had to save the Universe, and it was not easy to do. The humans are the newcomers, and have to prove themselves, but Batman doesn't have this issue. Ultimately, I wanted to play Mass Effect more to root for the underdog, whereas Batman, well, he's just the jerkoff who likes to beat up nameless Blackgate fugitives.