Perfect Puddles

If you've read any of my previous posts here at Expansion Pak Detected, you'll be aware of my fondness for both of Rare's N64 first person shooters. GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark are rightly regarded as two of the best games on Nintendo's system, but I'd go as far as saying that they're also two of the finest examples of gaming anywhere - and that they proved to the world that first person shooters could be done expertly on a console. Sure, with hindsight the N64 controller is nowhere near as good as a keyboard and mouse set up, but back in the late 1990s I couldn't afford a fast PC so (like many others, no doubt), I had to settle for the three pronged controller/analogue stick combo...and in my naivete I was as happy as a pig in shit. Still am, to be honest. But this post isn't meant to be about the pros and cons of the N64 controller (and the pros outweigh the cons anyway...but we won't go there). No, this post is about something much more puzzling - something I like to refer to simply as 'the puddles.'

I was talking about Rare's seminal shooters earlier in this post for a reason - the puddles are a somewhat insignificant curiosity that I discovered some time ago, but have only really thought about recently. I'll explain. In Perfect Dark on the N64, there is a sort of 'hub' level called the Carrington Institute. Missions from the main campaign can be accessed through a pause menu, but you can also wander around this hub level and try your hand at various training mini-games that are located in the many offices and labs of the Carrington Institute. The Institute itself does feature (spoiler alert!) in a mission later in the main game, but as a hub level it is void of any enemy characters or any mission objectives and you can simply wander around looking at stuff - and this is exactly how I came across the puddles. If you access the lower levels of the Carrington Institute, you will eventually find yourself in the garages, and these garages are linked by a series of corridors that appear to be hewn out of the rock beneath the main building. In several locations in these nondescript brown-walled corridors you will find these:

Yep, puddles of water. Nothing interesting about that, right? I'm not so sure. Firstly, why are these puddles here? Take a good look at them. The texture used is a true reflection of the wall and ceiling above...which apart from being quite technically impressive, is a graphical technique that is not used anywhere else in the game. Even in the mission set onboard the Pelagic II deep sea research ship - a level which should be perfect for featuring pools of reflective water everywhere - there is no sign of the puddle effect employed in those dank corridors beneath the Carrington Institute.

I have a theory about these mysterious puddles, and it goes like this: maybe the puddle was a test piece to see if the engine could cope with true mirrors. I know that in other Rare games such as Banjo Kazooie, the engine couldn't do real reflections so in order to create a mirror effect the game just drew 'reflected' items as full models within the mirror space (there's a glitch where you can get the camera to go 'inside' the mirror and you can see the fully polygonal models), and maybe the developers were just experimenting with the idea and left the texture in place as an homage. I fully realise that there are 'pseudo' reflections in lots of locations throughout the game - the Carrington Institute has a highly polished marble floor and other levels feature similar effects...but there is nothing as perfectly mirror-like as those identically shaped puddles.

Carrington Institute's cleaners were paid well.

I'm sure I'm making too much of a big deal about this tiny, insignificant part of Perfect Dark, but it was something that really caught my attention. I have considered emailing Rare and asking them why it's there...but I'm pretty sure there's nobody at still working there that worked on Perfect Dark, and I'm also pretty sure they'd just ignore my insane ramblings.

I guess I'll never know the true meaning behind the puddles, and some might say it's better that way. It might be that the puddles are infact a portal to a Lovecraftian dimension filled with dark beings of unspeakable horror, and that any man who looks deep enough into them will be confronted with a vision of Hell itself. But then, it might just be a cool effect that the devs couldn't implement elsewhere due to time or cart space restraints.

Probably the latter rather than the former.

Edit: It appears there are other reflective puddles elsewhere in the game afterall. The rainswept mission Chicago: Stealth also features a few of them...

But rather than kill my theory, this just throws up more questions. Such as: why isn't the effect used in mirrors in bathrooms etc? Maybe the environment reflections are a totally different kettle of fish to character model reflections or something. Regardless, the subject is still an interesting feature of one of my favourite games.

No comments:

Post a Comment