Monday, March 28, 2005

Those Zany Vortigaunts

Vortigaunts are interesting critters. In Half-Life 1, you're required to kill gads of necklace-wearing vortigaunts in order to save the world. All the while, there's a rumor going around that those aren't necklaces, they're control devices. The rumor goes that vortigaunts aren't bad guys, they're just being controlled by bad guys.
Then you play Half-Life 2. Vortigaunts are nice now. They almost seem to suck up to you. One even zaps you, just like in the old days, but this time it charges your HEV suit instead of killing you. That's a pretty big difference! Oh, and no necklaces. Coincidence? Could be.
One thing that I've really enjoyed about the Half-Life series is that the developers don't care if you cheat. Not in single player, anyway. If you cheat online, then you're going to get kicked off of the online servers for five years, but cheating alone is ok. I think this is a healthy attitude.
I enjoy cheating (after I've played the game a couple of times without cheating) because it allows me to explore and try new things. I like being able to walk right up to an airborne hunter-chopper and fire 42 consecutive RPGs at it, bringing it down in a flaming heap of junk metal. I like popping the Civil Protection guards in the train station at the beginning of the game with my nine millimeter, just because they're ugly and short-tempered. Walking through walls is nice. It's a handy trick when you just want to get through a given area quickly. It's also nice to get face-to-face with characters that you usually only get to see from a distance, like Ravenholm's Father Grigori.
Speaking of Grigori, a shotgun in Half-Life 2 is extremely useful long before he gets around to giving you one. And speaking of weapons, where are my det packs? Det packs are very handy indeed. And a gluon gun sure would be useful.
Anyway, in my cheating, I've found a vortigaunt in Black Mesa East who has plenty to say about the relationship between Gordon and the vortigaunts. You have to walk through a chain link fence to get to him. I found later that there's a vortigaunt at the end of the canals level who you don't have to cheat to get to (I did anyway), and who says the same things. He also makes some noises as you're approaching him to let you know to keep walking through the radioactive goo that makes him hard to get to. He says:
"Hurrrmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Durrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Churrrrrrrrrrr---Koff! Hack! Wheeze!"
Then once you get face-to-face with him and start talking, he says the same things as the Black Mesa East Vortigaunt.
Now as far as the vortigaunt's voice, Valve coughed up a really talented voice actor. If you can imagine Yoda plus James Earl Jones minus Kermit the Frog, you've just about got the vortigaunt's voice. His voice is deep, gravelly, emotional, and he stretches out words for intensity. So when he says "Your bright face obscures your darker mask!" it sounds like this: "Your (higher) bright face (normal) obscures your (low and slow) darrrrker masssssk!"
Listed below are all the responses I could get out of these two vortigaunts. I had game captions turned on while I played to help with transcribing, but sometimes the vortigaunt doesn't say the captions exactly, and I've favored what's actually said rather than what's written on the screen. Here they are:
We remember the Freeman. We are coterminous.
There is no distance between us. No false veils of time or space may intervene.
We see you still in Black Mesa. Clearly we see you still in the Nihilanth's chamber.
We bear witness to the bright eternity of the Nihilanth's demise. You leap, you fall, we see you flash between the barriers.
For a brief time you joined us. You are one between the worlds. (Captions say "beyond the worlds.")
Communion of the vortessence, and that other: a deeper mystery. No deeper than the void itself.
We cannot forget those whose cords you cut. Forgiveness is not ours to bestow.
Unity of purpose, the shattering of common shackles, a single road we tread.
Your song we sing and shall sing for eternity. No matter the consequences of this struggle.
You have brought us grief and jubilation beyond measure.
We are there still, in observance of your final stroke.
While our own lay scattered at your feet, you severed the vortal cord that bound the Nihilanth to life, and to us.
That sharp spur of hope has not dulled to this day. For once the lesser master lay defeated, we knew the greater must also fall in time.
With you besides us, a talisman of victory, the day of freedom draws nigh. (Captions say "beside.")
Your bright face obscures your darker mask.
We call you sib, although your mind and meaning are a mystery to us.
Far distant eyes look out through yours.
Something secret steers us both. We shall not name it.
We have endured these chafing bonds for eons, yet a single moment of further servitude seem intolerable.
How often have we slipped our yoke, only to find it choking us again.
Let this war end in either total victory or our extinction. No further compromise shall we allow.
We take our stand beside you here upon this miserable rock. (Funny enunciation in "miserable rock.")
The way ahead is dark for the moment.
What seems to you a sacrifice is merely to us an oscillation. We do not fear the interval of darkness.
We are a tapestry woven of vortessence. It is the same for you if only you would see it.
How many are there in you? Whose hopes and dreams do you encompass?
Could you but see the eyes inside your own, the minds in your mind, you would see how much we share.
We are you, Freeman, and you are us.
We shall prevail.
This is more than anyone can bear, but we will persevere.
Our finest poet describes it thus: "Gallum Bagga Lilla Ba!" (Captions are considerably different. Took a few tries to get the vortigaunt's version right.)
We have survived worse across the ages.
Where to now? And to what end?
We have lost all dear to us.
Our cause seems hopeless.
Our life is worthless unless spent on freedom.

I'm told that if you sit and talk to the vortigaunt who puts the gun on the water skipper, he'll say most of these, too.
When you've played through Black Mesa East for a while to the point where the scanners invade the junkyard, some interesting things happen. First, when you follow Alyx back into the compound, she will run ahead of you and rocks will fall in the way of you getting to her. She'll tell Dog to let you into Ravenholm.
If you walk through the rubble toward Alyx, you'll find yourself in a laboratory room. Alyx has disappeared. Dr. Vance* is there, looking toward an instrument panel. He won't move or talk. There are three vortigaunts standing near him, looking at a closed door. Every twenty seconds or so, a Combine soldier teleports into the room just in front of the door. He generally gets off three or four shots before the three vortigaunts zap him dead. The bodies of dead Combine soldiers collect in front of the door. If you wait long enough, the collected efforts of all of the dead Combine soldiers will kill one of the vortigaunts. If you wait even longer, all three vortigaunts will die this way. When the last one dies, a new vortigaunt will teleport into the very back of the room at the same time a new Combine soldier does and immediately begin zapping any soldiers present.
The teleporting soldiers never look or shoot at Dr. Vance. They also never move from the spot where they teleported in. The vortigaunts that are teleported in do move around to get a better shot at the Combine troops.
The vortigaunts say things as they kill the combine soldiers that they don't say when they're not fighting. They also say things when they're trying to kill Combine troops and when Gordon gets in the way. Here are those phrases:
Give over your essence.
We live to serve.
Undeserving of consciousness. (I like this one. I think I'll use it.)
This is regrettable.
To the void with you.
We claim you.
All in one and one in all.
Return to the void.
Allow me.
That one shall trouble us no more.
This should keep the Freeman safe.
That is all for now.
Ware, Freeman! Done.
The Freeman must beware! That is all we can spare.
For the Freeman!
Return to the all in one!
Warning to the Freeman. Done.
The Freeman is in our way.
We have dreamed of this moment.
Pass on!
Its energy empowers us.

One more note. If, when Dog is waiting for you to take the entrance to Ravenholm, you instead walk through the walls back into the junkyard, you'll find two interesting things. First, there's a lone headcrab. He's right in the middle of the open area, so it's not clear where he came from, but it sort of makes you suspect that Alyx overestimated the threat when she dragged you out of there. Surely she can handle a headcrab? She sure looks fit enough.
Second, if you look around, you'll find a playground carousel mounted to one of the spinning gadgets that you find so often in Ravenholm with blades on them. If you duck beneath the carousel part, you can throw the lever and start it spinning. I played with it for a while, and I couldn't manage to stay on it for more than a half second or so.

* Thanks to Jeff for the correction.