Let Us Be Thankful for Architectures of Swift Death

Long jump of a short pier

I started in on a permadeath speedrun of Half-Life today, and one weird thing about it was how fixated I was on the idea that the first chance at death would be the initial encounter with an alien. I seemed to remember a headcrab appearing early on and imagined allowing it to slowly peck away at my health bar. Then, when starting, I started to conceive of the idea that it might be possible to jump into some kind of deadly beam during the “resonance cascade” that brings the aliens to Earth.

I was kind of excited because it seemed to suggest I’d actually need to learn some speedrunning techniques, because there’s quite a lot of spatial navigation prior to that sequence. I’d need to shave corners, memorise routes, practice jumps, and so on. At a certain point I realised I would be able to speed up an elevator ride by jumping off the edge of the elevator to catch a ladder and go through the doors before the elevator had even departed. Then I tried it a few times, but I kept dying.

And then I was like… wait a second… I’m dying… and this is a permadeath speedrun. It seems I had become so fixated on particle beams and headcrabs I forgot about death by falling. In fact, retracing my steps, back to the end of the (excruciatingly long) tram ride at the start of the game, I saw the view in the screenshot above. Literally opposite you when the door slides open is a short amount of walkway followed by a railing followed by a deadly drop. If you accelerate out the door and hit jump, you skip daintily over the barrier and fall too your death with great efficiency, a Gordon Freeman who just can’t take the pressure.

It’s so immediate it’s like it was practically designed for this kind of run. It’s almost easier to jump to your death than navigate your way to the door in the distance, somehow more fluid to run and jump than awkwardly shuffle around the pointy corner. I suppose the layout is like that to provide spots for the hypothetical people who ride the tram to get out, while also providing a narrower passage that leads to the door itself and thus the opportunity to show off the scale of the space you’re in by having the big drop through space visible beyond the railings. (I don’t know so much about these things, ask Robert Yang.)

But heck, there’s even a green light right there on the railing, saying go, go, go!

11 January 2016
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