Sir F. Chook, Inventor of Leopard Oil

Likeness captured upon a daguerrotype machine in Japan, July 1891


Wherein the Author reflects upon certain topical & personal issues of the Day.

Professor Plum, with the candlestick, in th-*whonk*

Penned upon the 29th of June, 2008

I’ve been playing a nifty little game which seemed to slip under the gaming world’s radar, alas. It’s called The Ship, based on a Half-Life mod, and available on Steam. It could perhaps be described as a slow-paced first-person-shooter in which your character has to stop to go to the lavatory.

The story is this: set in the Roaring 20s, mysterious decadent Mr X has kidnapped a luxury ocean liner full of society types and issued them a challenge – they are to do each other in by whatever means they can muster for his perverse amusement. Each has the name of their target, and each has a hunter given their name. Mr X has discriminating tastes, so to keep things from descending into a boorish free-for-all, there are a few rules. One, the ship’s staff shall carry on as if everything’s normal, so overt violent behaviour will result in a trip to the brig. Two, greater rewards shall be given for more creative murders – ‘creative’ defined by Mr X’s whims, and repeat use of any given MO bores him quickly. Thirdly, offing anyone other than your given target is strongly discouraged.

Residents of The Ship
Some of the characters you meet on board.

It’s a common enough storyline for a B movie, but it plays out well by including so many elements your standard shooter game would ignore. You are assigned a random identity – perhaps a South Asian businessman, in pinstripes and half-moons, or a peasant woman from steerage with a big straw hat. You have no weapons, no picture of your target and no idea who’s hunting you. You have to scramble for a knife, a club, anything you can find, while maintaining chatter with fellow passengers (possibly bots, possibly fellow humans), putting names to faces for future reference. You can build up quite an arsenal – Winchester repeating rifle, carving knife, deadly poison, traditional disemboweling claymore – but it would mean a hefty fine if you’re caught by security.

You rotten swine, you deaded me!
That’s the target out of the picture; now make with the 23 skidoo!

The sense of dread and paranoia is wonderful, especially considering the game never resorts to cheap horror effects. The graphics are lovingly done – grand Deco and Nouveau staterooms and restaurants, swells in plus fours and flappers in furs, bright colours everywhere. You’ll see a lot of them, too – you might start off hiding in the cargo hold waiting for victims, but before long, you’ll need the WC, and probably a shower, and a nice glass of wine wouldn’t hurt… perhaps some shopping, or a dip in the pool… let any of your stats – Hunger, Entertainment, etc – get too low and you’ll keel over all on your own, so you’ll have to keep a public face, and leave yourself open to attack in the process. It’s not too bad, though – perhaps you might catch your enemy in the sauna at the pool, and tinker with the steam controls. And if you think you’ve been made by someone after your blood, you can always switch outfits to throw them off your tail.

Reading Goethe and plotting murder.
The ship has an extensive library – perhaps some Milton to pass the time?

Online FPSs tend to attract some of gaming’s less decorous proponents – the short-fused type, you know. The Ship seems, thankfully, to be an exception – perhaps the setting brings out people’s civil side. In-game chatter often includes “Good shot! I’ll get you next time!” and winners tend to be jolly sporting about it, congratulating everyone on a good game. We might be staving each other’s heads in with fire axes, but there’s no reason we can’t be polite about it, you know? I’ve always been able to find at least enough players for a good game, even though it’s no Counterstrike. Small but dedicated following, you might say, and apparently significant enough to warrant a sequel. There are several maps, too, to keep things fresh – large liners, small cruisers, a riverboat, even a network of rafts, ideal for snipers.

So, that’s The Ship. Not a new game, and I’m not usually one for promotions, but it’s just something I thought you might be interested in. It’s on Steam, quite cheap. See you in the brig.

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Commentary upon “Professor Plum, with the candlestick, in th-*whonk*”

  1. Andrew was heard to remark,

    Upon the 2nd of July, 2008 at 7:46 am,

    Just what I needed to tempt me! I desperately wanted to play the game when it first came out a while back, but my old computer prevented me from doing so. I’m very near to deciding to purchase it, but I’m a little wary of the fairly small playerbase – I tend to play at weird and rather random hours, and if I can’t find an active server immediately I’m wont to ship off (no pun intended) to another game.

    On the other hand, much as I love Team Fortress 2, this would be a nice break from the amount of hours I’m devoting to such high-paced intensity. I believe this qualifies as a dilemma.

    Ideally there’d be a demo I could try to ascertain that I’ll enjoy it as much as I fully anticipate, as a deciding vote sort of thing. Perhaps I will just call halt to my indecisiveness and forge ahead – I’ll have it forever, after all, to play when I’m able. Surely I’ll find ample opportunities.

  2. Sir Frederick Chook was heard to remark,

    Upon the 2nd of July, 2008 at 3:52 pm,

    I’ve got a spare guest pass if you want it! I’ve always been able to find at least one server, and there’s always bots, too. If I’m feeling like capturing flags or earning a few cheap points as a Medic or Heavy, I go TF2. If I feel like some relative peace and civility, I go Ship.

  3. Andrew was heard to remark,

    Upon the 4th of July, 2008 at 6:05 am,

    I would be very grateful for it! Not that I particularly need convincing that I’ll enjoy it, but a toes-dipping would be convenient given my current state of waffling.

  4. Sir Frederick Chook was heard to remark,

    Upon the 5th of July, 2008 at 1:27 am,

    Check yo’ gmail!

Further remarks are not permitted.