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Video Game / Rama

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Besides being the "father" of satellite communications, Arthur C. Clarke has the particularity of being one of the most popular science-fiction writers of the 20th century. His novel 2001: A Space Odyssey brought to Hollywood by director Stanley Kubrick in 1968, encountered tremendous success from the public, which, with the long series of science-fiction books he published later, raised the reputation of Clarke to a worldwide awareness. Developed by Dynamix and published by Sierra and inspired by the series of the same name, Rama is the first game based on Clarke's work. The series started with Rendezvous with Rama and today contains three additional titles co-written in a period of ten years by Gentry Lee, Clarke's friend and an ex-NASA engineer. Lee is the person responsible for the idea to create a game that would propel players into the mystical universe of Rama. With the help and contribution of Clarke himself, the Rama project became a reality and is now available as an adventure game that is truly captivating.

Rama is the name given to a huge cylindrical space ship that one day entered into our solar system. Even though the time is 200 hundred years in the future ahead of our time, there have been no contacts with extraterrestrial life yet. For many, Rama represented the only hope to establish contact with another intelligent life form. For this purpose, a multi-disciplinary team was organized and intensely trained to be ready for the exploration of the city-size vessel. Still, when the date of the departure arrived, none of the team's members were prepared for the amazing encounters they would make in Rama, nor the fascinating world they would explore. The International Space Agency (ISA) did not plan for you to become a part of the mission, but the brutal and mysterious death of the mission commander Valeriy Borzov made it necessary for you to be sent as a replacement astronaut to join the crew on Rama. When looking through the window of your ship as it was approaching the enormous black structure of Rama, you wondered what would await you in Rama. Somehow, you hoped you would find an answer to the essential questions you kept asking yourself. Why was it sent, and by who?

This game provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Area: The bottom level of the Avians' domain reveals the Myrmicats' lair, which suffered a minor cave-in and a massive fire that possibly killed the inhabitants long ago. It's also home to a set of caustic swimming pools, one of which has to be drained for the player to reach an item safely.
  • Adaptational Karma: Sabatini is among the missing at the end of the game. Her uniform and belongings are found but no body. Somewhat unjustified as the game leaves out most of her unlikable aspects. She is not quite the The Vamp that she was in the book and seems to be manipulated by Brown and Heilmann.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: Irina Turgenyev was quiet and rarely spoke in the book. In the game, she's very chummy with the player character. Francesca Sabatini is not The Vamp that she was in the novels.
  • Adaptational Villainy: The spider biots were merely scouts in the novels, not assassin units.
  • Adapted Out: The events of the first Rama novel, Rendezvous with Rama, are not mentioned or referenced in-game.
  • Age Lift: General O'Toole is substantially older in the game than he is in the novel, but his personality is broadly the same.
  • Alien Geometries: There's a sense of this, the interior of Rama using cylindrical coordinates. 'Up' and 'down' are towards and away from its rotation axis. Gravity reducing to zero at the hub doesn't help.
  • Alternative Number System: Involves solving mathematical puzzles based on the native number systems of the Avians (base 16) and Octospiders (base 8).
  • Ambient: The music, composed by Charles Barth, definitely fits the atmosphere.
  • Ascended Extra: Irina Turgenyev and Otto Heilmann both get much more characterization and personality than they did in the book.
  • Big Dumb Object: Rama itself, or so it seems.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses:
    • The lair of the Avians is home to murals painted with materials that human eyes cannot see, and the player must eat manna melons to be able to see them, some of which contain clues.
    • The Octospiders only communicate in varying flashes of color, and some of them even dance to light shows that have no sound.
  • Cigar Chomper: Otto Heilmann, in contrast to the novel, where only Sabatini was a smoker.
  • Clarke's Third Law
  • Chekhov's Classroom: Learning the various number systems in Bangkok allows the player to get around the Avian and Octospider domains later in the game. One of the latter aliens even tests you on this towards the end of the game.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Micheal O'Toole's favorite number sequence. A randomly generated portion of this sequence is used as the nuclear bomb's disarm code at the end of the game.
  • Convenient Replacement Character: You are the replacement, sent to Rama after the death of mission commander Valeriy Borzov during a routine surgery gone wrong. However, you're not replacing Borzov in the role of commander.
  • Creator Cameo: Aside from the Have a Nice Death entry, Nicole des Jardins leaves you a data cube with a snippet of 3001 on it, with her accompanying note mentioning that your character likes Clarke's works.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Puck, your miniature Robot Buddy, has his moments.
    Puck: (upon the character inspecting or entering an Acid Pool) My, that pool seems to be as caustic as I am.
  • Death by Adaptation: Implied for O'Toole and Sabatini, both of whom are listed as missing after entering New York along with Takagishi. All three characters' belongings are scattered around the area, but aside from Takagishi, they amount to a case of Never Found the Body. It doesn't make a huge difference for O'Toole, who originally remained in New York with des Jardins and Wakefield at the end of the novel, but in Sabatini's case, her being the de facto Big Bad of the novel means a massive case of Karma Houdini Warranty as opposed to her original escape with the rest of the remaining Newton crew.
  • Demoted to Extra: Newton cosmonauts Janos Tabori and Hiro Yamanaka never show up, but are implied to be around offscreen.
  • Diegetic Interface: Your HUD could basically be a biot in itself, since it has the distinctive three eyes in the lower left corner. They even move if you hold an item in front of them for a close-up view.
  • Early-Bird Cameo:
    • Almost literally; avians can be briefly seen flying past the hub site and out on the plains of Rama, whereas in the novel, they were only encountered while des Jardins and Wakefield explored the island of New York.
    • Myrmicats are also in evidence, when they only showed up in the later novels set after Rama II.
  • Energy Weapon:
    • London has a wall of energy in front of it that pulses on and off in a pattern, leaving a small window for the player to cross unharmed at the right moment. Fortunately, it can be promptly disabled on the other side.
    • A decently-sized energy weapon is set off by the Player Character in one site on the Raman plains to melt an otherwise indestructible cube of transparent material in another location, allowing the Player Character to take another puzzle piece for city access.
  • Exposition Fairy: Puck, the six-inch Shakespearean robot who lives in your inventory. He was created by Dr. Richard Wakefield specifically to help you explore the titular alien spaceship, having been programmed with the team's initial survey data to do so. His most useful comment is "There appears to be an object of some interest lying on the ground."
  • Featureless Protagonist: You only ever see your hand, or a pointer, or the item you are holding. A human-looking silhouette is shown during your ride down on the cable car, though.
  • The Game of the Book: For Rama II, the sequel to Rendezvous with Rama.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: When Reggie Wilson dies, there is only a Dead-Hand Shot from a distance, with his body hidden from view by his toppled rover as the crab biot slices him up.
  • Gossipy Hens: Irina Turgenyev is one, a complete 180 from her taciturn counterpart in the book.
  • Have a Nice Death:
  • Hidden Depths: Turgenyev is the most unlike her book counterpart, probably because the book gave her little characterization other than to say how quiet she was.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: If a spider biot catches the Player Character, they are treated to a first-person view of the biot fatally stabbing them with a large (and soon very bloody) metal spike.
  • Info Dump: A computer at the beginning has video greetings from every crew member, sans Yamanaka and Tabori. The ones that have to be watched to advance the game are marked as "URGENT".
  • Killed Off for Real: Several astronauts end up this way before long.
    • Mission commander Valeriy Borzov dies of a botched routine surgery before the game ever begins, prompting the arrival on Rama of the Player Character as a replacement.
    • Reggie Wilson befalls this when he crashes a rover into one of the crab biots during a capture operation, whereupon it chews him up along with his rover. Worse, Sabatini filmed it all on TV, causing major concern among the crew and Earth over the mission.
    • Takagishi, O'Toole, and Sabatini are reported missing after entering New York. All three are implied to have been killed by the Octospiders, judging by their belongings scattered around the area, but it's never actually made clear.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: If it’s on the ground or in someone’s locker, pick it up and take it with you.
  • Macro Zone: With the use of Falstaff, Dr. Wakefield's personal android, late in the game you get to see pygmy Octospiders up close, thanks to his small size.
  • Magic Countdown: The six-hour countdown for the bomb is in real time, but in a subversion, every single movement you make subtracts more timenote , meaning that players will have to do things in a strict order to keep as much time on the clock as possible.
  • Medium Blending: CGI with live-action clips.
  • Mistaken for Quake: At one point in the game, the camera rattles when an earthquake-like tremor shakes Rama. Dr. Wakefield and Brown then chime in via vidmail that it's actually Rama altering its course, which turns out to now be on an impact course with Earth. It changes again later on to a safer course, but the nuclear bombs brought by the crew are armed by then.
  • Museum of the Strange and Unusual: A round, city-like structure called Bangkok is this, with staple items from each alien race.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: If, after ignoring Heilmann's instructions to keep away from the Iceport until further notice, he issues a stern warning and threatens to inform Brown. If you ignore this warning, Brown will contact you once on your wrist phone and issue a warning himself. If you ignore this warning, Brown will call you essentially to tell you "You're fired!".
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Nicole (French) and Francesca (Italian). Francesca, however, given the casting, might have had a change of nationality and possibly partial ethnicity with the game adaptation.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Played with; when the Player Character first arrives on Rama, they enter the hub site through an airlock to find everything but the immediate area shrouded in utter darkness. It's only when they descend the cable car to the Alpha camp site that the lights of Rama finally come on and stay on.
  • NPC Roadblock: Otto Heillman blocks the way to the Iceport until a certain point in the game, and approaching him too often will result in a game over.
  • Nuclear Option: Three nuclear bombs are placed inside Rama as a safeguard against it being a threat to Earth.
  • Pixel Hunt: Items needed to progress the game are often small and easy-to-overlook spots in your vision.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Janos Tabori and Hiro Yamanaka go unseen, although the two characters are said to be present in some capacity. Otto Heilmann gives a Hand Wave for their absence based on different assignments from the Player Character. To be fair, the game already had an impressively large cast for its time, and it would have been cost-prohibitive to add even more actors.
  • Press X to Die: By voluntarily entering an area of the map containing spider biots, or a squad of crab biots moving in your direction. A quick chat by Arthur C. Clarke will ensue, wherein he will warn the player about the threat and encourage them to keep trying more carefully next time.
  • Reactionless Drive: The propulsion system of Rama is said to be this.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni:
    • On the military side, there's General Michael O'Toole (warm and grandfatherly) versus Admiral Otto Heilmann (blunt and uptight).
    • Among the scientists, Dr. Shigeru Takagishi (warm and friendly) contrasts with Dr. David Brown (boss with No Social Skills).
  • Redundant Researcher: Played With; while you can't complete the game without help from the NPCs, who get work done when you're not around, it's up to you to do the heavy lifting (read: puzzle solving).
  • Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training: Played straight with David Brown. Averted mostly with Richard Wakefield, who comes off as zany and charming in the game, although the books do mention that his socialization coefficient score was low compared to a lot of the others, but at least still not as low as Brown, however.
  • Scare Chord: When seeing the first two nukes on the ship.
  • Scenery Porn: The interior of Rama, starting from when the Player Character takes their cable car down from the hub site and the lights of Rama come on for the first time.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: "Evil" is debatable, but the spider biots are first visible locked into a large caged pen. If Puck is used to examine the pen and/or its gate, he pointedly wonders what they could do if they got out. Later, when the player solves one of the Raman puzzles, they do, adding to the danger level throughout the plains.
  • Sequel Hook: Unlike the book, to which the author never planned sequels, Clarke tells the player that "in the not too distant future, [they] will have another chance of visiting Rama." (If such a thing is ever going to happen, it must have long since been consigned to Development Hell.)
  • Shout-Out: Pigeons from Hell, referenced when Puck sees one of the avians flying around the plains of Rama for the first time.
  • Sinister Silhouettes: The intro sequence.
  • Solve the Soup Cans: Plenty of "solve the number" or "solve the shape" sequences.
  • Songs in the Key of Lock: Avian voice players and tuning forks are used as keys late in the game.
  • Spinventory: You can rotate inventory items when in close-up view.
  • Starfish Language: Used as another puzzle element.
  • Super Wrist-Gadget: Your handy-dandy wrist-computer, for receiving vidmail and reading occasional data cubes scattered about. Also has a map, which is how you get around the alien ship. Later, Dr. Wakefield allows you to control his android, Falstaff through it, and it monitors how much time is left before the three nukes go off.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: The unseen Ramans who built the titular craft.
  • Taxidermy Terror: A gallery in the Octospiders' domain includes the bodies of an Avian and Shigeru Takagishi, both stuffed and put on display. There's even a picture nearby, showing how Takagishi was stuffed.
  • Time Abyss: Rama is incalculably ancient.
  • Timed Mission: Becomes one of these near the end, where the Player Character must deactivate a set of nuclear bombs and save Rama.
  • Warp Whistle: Going to the edge of any of Rama's various locations takes you to a map of the ship, with red dots around it marking where you can go. Clicking on one of them shows a general schematic of that area with an icon of yourself moving to it; clicking on it again takes you to that location.