Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Arseholes of AI - Tricky (Starfox Adventures)


AI companions in games are usually a heavy dose of ketamine to the head for most games. Sometimes they are unresponsive, sometimes they get in the way, sometimes they get you spotted and others are just plain bad characters. But it takes a special kind of nihilism to manage to instil all of these qualities into one single character, but magnified to the point where you can no longer tell whether you're playing a game that you chose to spend money on or just some sick social experiment where you are hopelessly attempting to escape some hellish digital maze which has had the sensation of being relentlessly stalked by the virtual equivalent of a hot razor blade grinding away at your sanity programmed into it by some long forgotten madman in a pit somewhere whose only thoughts comprise of the endless suffering of all humanity and a strange desire to eat the eyes right out of his own head.

In this small series we will be examining the AI companions who managed to turn an already shitty game, into a truly unbearable one. However, if there are any main game protagonists who manage to be so grating that the even at the cost of failing the game, the prize of purposely killing them is reward enough, then I might also check them out as well. I would've included 50 Cent from 50 Cent Blood on The Sand in this, but he exists in real life so I thought that wouldn't count as much. That game's more of a biopic. Apparently.

I therefore present to you one of gaming's greatest arseholes, and by extension anyone who played a part in his creation; Tricky of Starfox Adventures for the Gamecube.


Now Starfox Adventures is by no means a perfect game. It's repetitive, drawn out, stupid and has more filler than a leaky bath. But it can be good at very rare times, so I'll leave my feelings with it to rest right there. However, someone at Rare must've seen this game which was already slightly jerky and slow and questioned why they hadn't destroyed their product enough. And therein lies the idea for Tricky. He's a young triceratops, who also happens to be the next in line for the throne of the Dinosaur Planet monarchy. He's spoilt, impatient and unreliable, which are all qualities that the development team thankfully attempted to program into him with admirably stupid integrity.

I've been stuck with annoying AIs before. Characters who have nothing interesting to add or say and follow you around like a violent gut infection, forced upon you throughout your play through. There have been many annoying sidekicks; from the unending uncharismatic joke spewing of Daxter, all the way to the multiple dead eyed barriers that constitutes every follower in The Elder Scrolls. But Tricky is the culmination of every terrible decision of AI companion design ever.

Aside from in the cutscenes where Tricky isn't quite so unbearable, although let's not have any misguidances here since Tricky is still unbelievably stupid and pointless all at once, a majority of his dialogue will be comprised of such outstanding observations such as “bad guy” when you're already being hacked to death by a giant lizard or face humped by a flying screaming frog creature. These enemy descriptions themselves may already be an indicator as to why Tricky is to the standard that he is.

Tricky will also harass you to “play!”, barking it out as an order during some of the most dangerously inappropriate situations possible. The developers even allow you to buy a ball in the game in order to play fetch with him, so maybe the next time when you're awkwardly trying to fight the rigid controls and camera in order to get yourself over an inch thin platform across a fiery pit, you can have the pleasure of casting the ball into the flaming hot death below and getting rid of him once and for all. Unfortunately, in usual style, Tricky has been programmed to continue his selfish streak all the way up to the point of not even having the selflessness to go and kill himself.

The item that launched a thousand fuck yous



But it's not just Tricky's dialogue and overall unbearable irritation that will drive you insane. As those who have played Starfox Adventures will know, this game can be quite boring at times and so lends itself to have a large number of segments that you will want to rush through. Usually while climbing ladders and jumping pits, Tricky is actually surprisingly, or otherwise disappointingly competent at traversing the world, sometimes running down the ramp towards you in the opposite direction of the bottom of the ramp that you left him at. It's almost as if Tricky has some unspoken power to teleport and is just not telling you about it just to screw with you.

But when you need Tricky to be somewhere, such as using his flame attack to light a small beacon that can only be activated after an arduous time trial obstacle course for the thousandth time, Tricky manages to just not show up. With seconds to spare you will arrive at your destination only to throw an order at Tricky to burn something or other, because destruction is all he is useful for, simply for him not to be there. You'll stare down the empty corridor, only for Tricky to suddenly plod round the corner and maybe clip into the wall for several seconds as he tries to run into it face first. When he finally does manage to reach you, he will then now face the useless bit of scenery that no longer needs activating, and will sit there bursting flames from his stupid face all over it. Then he turns to you, looks you in the face with his mindless eyes and just vomits the order that he wants to “play!” or what a “great team” you are.

“No Tricky. No we're not a good team and I wish you were dead” I scream at the TV, throwing his stupid ball off the side of a cliff, only for it to then reappear back in my inventory like some kind of cursed chalice from an ancient tomb that haunts me forever, leaving me at the mercy of granting Tricky's endless wishes for playing fetch.

This picture is supposed to be of Tricky running, but it more looks like him being struck retarded from a heavy brain aneurysm, so I'm going to keep it that way in my mind

After a while of throwing the balls into rivers and mud pits so that you can hopefully watch Tricky drown slowly as his small screeching lungs plugs with the gift of relief bringing thick sludge, Tricky will change colour. Yes if you throw Tricky the ball enough, he'll simply change colour. That's all Tricky really does. He makes noise and changes colour because apparently that was coded into the game to make him more likeable as opposed to fixing his erratic movement or writing any good dialogue for him at all. Tricky basically has all the usefulness of a lava lamp that's just developed self awareness and simply sits there yelling in agonising realisation at the insignificance of its existence as its flesh boils colourfully beneath its outer layers.

Tricky is also similar to a lava lamp in the same way that if you put a lava lamp in front of you, then it will be in front of you and it will be blocking your way. Yes, thankfully Tricky also has the amazing ability for you to not be able to get past him if he decides to stand in such convenient places such as a door or in between you and an attacking enemy. I think in hindsight that's all the ball was. Not a way to while away the hours having fun and bonding with Tricky, but just to get him out the way for long enough for you to somehow, if you can also overcome your increasing levels of frustration, get around to playing the game at all.

Well I have a better way for getting Tricky out of the way, and that method would simply be to delete him from the game files and simply replace him with a stick that shouts, but you can keep in your bag and bring out whenever you need to accomplish another arbitrary input in order to extend the game's playtime.

There is strangely a lot of Tricky affection on certain parts of the internet. Deep in little corners where people have written fan fiction about him, where they go on quests with him. I can barely stand Tricky in a situation where at any time I can simply eject the disk upon which he exists and go and burn it outside in the garden.

However, in many ways having the ability to do that to a real life Tricky may in some ways be satisfying enough to be worth the strain of having him around me in reality.

On second thoughts, no. Anyone who likes or even shows any intention to not leave Tricky's emaciated corpse in a ditch is already too crazy to be allowed to live in society. Tricky is a nuisance. An infectious cluster of ones and zeros that inhabits uncharted information space somewhere in the unknown. He is a virus in the matrix, consuming hours of people's lives and patience. I refuse to believe that Tricky was ever programmed at all, that instead he was just somehow the most prevalent glitch that has ever occurred and simply remains ravaging the code of Starfox Adventures until finally no one will ever again put it into their Gamecube.

I hate you Tricky and I'm just thankful that not enough people bought your game to have to suffer the experience with you as well.

For a bonus treat, why not enjoy all the shit dialogue that Tricky has to offer in one easy to listen format

13 comments:

  1. Last picture before video clip. Tricky is asking fox guy, "do people like me?", and fox guy is wondering if the truth is the right way to go.

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  2. If I had to spend any time around 'Tricky', I think I would have to set fire to his horns.

    Highly good read.

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  3. Someone was going for cute and somehow managed to get brain destroyingly annoying instead. Quite clever.

    Thanks for the laugh.

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  4. I used to play this. Ah heady simpler days!

    Gravity. Never quite believed in George, but thought Sandra was far better than I anticipated. Did you see the fetal imagery, must have meant something profound but still can't think what. Can't help thinking the angst could have been racked up under the circumstances. All in all an 8/10.

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    1. Foetal. Strong pain killers wreck your spelling.

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  5. 50 cent should not be exempt just because he really exists. Being real is no excuse.

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  6. The last scene of Gravity, was that an allegory? I think it was. New life, new beginnings. Probably better than Thor 2.

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    1. Yeah I was getting a first animal to emerge from the sea vibe from it. I think it was it's one ditch attempt at trying to be more than an action thrill ride, but I still don't think it pulled it off. Not that the action alone didn't already make up for that completely.

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    2. And yes probably better than Thor 2. It's the first marvel film that I literally couldn't give a shit about going to.

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  7. Tricky has a new career now as the voice in the sat nav.

    Should nearly be time for your Christmas rant?

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    1. That's a safety hazard. The rage will eventually make you crash the car just to put yourself out of your misery.

      Nearly time for a Christmas rant. Slightly blew my load at the first one, so I hope there's more reasons to dislike Christmas by then.

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  8. Gravity. 9/10. A good recommend, guys. Will not be digging out the rusty fork.

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    1. I don't know who couldn't like that film. Although weirdly there are alot of them. Mostly angry babies though.

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