The Lighthouse Customer: In Verbis Virtus

By Christopher Livingston on June 2nd, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

ARE YOU READY TO YELL AT A VIDEO GAME?

Each Monday, Chris Livingston visits an early access game and reports back with stories about whatever he finds inside. This week, yelling spells (and other things) in In Verbis Virtus.

I’ve been talking to a video game all day. It’s okay, I’m supposed to: the game requires me to cast spells by saying magic words into a microphone. I’ve found that having to talk to a game has resulted in me talking a lot in general, though. “Ah-ha!” I yell when finding something. “Nice try,” I say to a statue hiding a secret rune. “YEAH! TELEKINESIS!” I bellowed at one point. I was using telekinesis. It excited me. I won’t apologize.

All I knew going in to In Verbis Virtus (the title, by the way, I have to look up and confirm every single time I write it), was that it was an FPS game where you cast spells by saying magic words into a mic. In my head, I guess I pictured it like, I dunno, Skyrim, where goblins or whatever would run at me and I’d yell “COMBUSTIS MORTALIS!” into my headset mic and then my video game hand would reach out and a bunch of goblins would die of fireballs.

Well, I was mistaken, at least so far. There is, I’ve heard, a fireball spell in the game, though I haven’t found it yet. I haven’t seen any goblins, either, or combat of any kind. Essentially, this is a first-person puzzle game, wherein you explore caverns to find a spell, then use that spell to solve a puzzle and find the next spell, which you then use to solve another puzzle.

You should see the enchanted hogs they use to find these magic truffles.

It takes me a while — kind of a long while, for reasons I’ll explain later — to find my first spell, a light spell. The spell for light is cast using the words LUMEH TIAL, and, after clearing my throat, I tentatively try it for the first time, holding down my left mouse button while speaking into my headset mic.

Spell tomes: the original Kindles.

“Ummm. Lumeh… Tial,” I say, feeling a bit sheepish. On the screen, my hand reaches forward and the bright glow of light comes out of it. Huh, cool. I right-click to end the spell, and try it again. “Lumeh Tial!” I command, this time a bit more confidently. It works again. Magical! Then I have a thought. “Looo-cille!” I bellow. I create light again. Okay. “ROOMBA PEEL!” I shout. Nothing that time. “OOH EEE!” I yell. Light again. So, from my little test, it seems you just have to get the basic sounds out, generally. Magic isn’t super picky, it seems.

Magic knows what you're getting at. Magic gets the gist.

And really, would magic be super picky? Wouldn’t magic, like everything else in the world, just sorta mostly work the way it’s supposed to? Evil magic might insist on you pronouncing every single little syllable (see Army of Darkness), but good magic, helpful magic, probably wouldn’t be pedantic.

Walking around with my light spell on, I quickly discover a tunnel I’d missed before, which leads me down to a room that is filled with, (and forgive me if I’m being too technical) a whole bunch of magic stuff goin’ on. It’s not long before I’ve got my second spell, which lets me cast a focused beam of light, activated by new magic words, or words that are sort of close to those magic words. Let’s just say, I can yell HECTOR’S ROOMIE and still get to do magic.

Okay, I like the new spell. Little concerned about the picture, though.

Now that I’ve got a beam of light, I know exactly where to go: a chamber at the bottom of the cave that I found earlier and spent a good twenty minutes wandering around in, which brings me to another facet of the game. The game takes place within a sprawling cave filled with tunnels, chasms, chambers, and magical shrines. Based on how games usually work, I initally assumed that when I found something of value, like a spell from a shrine, I was done with that shrine. If solving a puzzle opens a door, that door is the right way to go to find the next puzzle.

Magic! High-five!

In this game, that’s not quite how things work. You may wander into a puzzle you’re not equipped to solve (which I did almost immediately, and spent quite a while fruitlessly trying to solve it). You may have to return to a puzzle room after you solve it and do something else. It helps (a little) to think of the cave as one big puzzle instead of a series of puzzles. Don’t think about escaping, think about scrutinizing. The best comparison I can think of is Myst, where you search the same areas again and again, looking for what you missed the last time.

Ohh maaaaaan. I shouldn't have eaten the mushrooms from that earlier screenshot.

Then, there’s the puzzles themselves. Sometimes they’re kind of straight-forward: you have a spell that shoots a beam of light, and you see a giant prism-like gem in a room with a locked door, well, at least you know how to get started.

There’s another puzzle, however, that I never, ever would have figured out without getting a hint from a forum post (there is a clue in the game itself, but it was not nearly enough of a clue for me). And the solution isn’t that difficult, really, it’s just that it requires certain behavior on your part, behavior that hasn’t really been hinted at up until that point. How to explain without spoiling…

Okay, remember in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where Indy is trying to solve the Penitent Man puzzle, and he realizes the Penitent Man kneels before God? And then Indy realizes the Penitent Man apparently also does a forward roll before God for some reason? This isn’t the same as that, but it does have to do with your movement, and that’s all I’ll say, though I’ll also say, what the hell was the deal with the Penitent Man doing a forward roll? What the hell was that?

I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure I'm gonna find some magic on that thing.

The side-effect of tough puzzles and a lot of confused wandering is that I get quite excited when I do solve a puzzle, or even just find a hidden rune or make a little forward progress. Combine that excitement with the habit of talking while playing, and I wind up yelling a lot. As I said earlier, I wound up hollering, “YEAH! TELEKINESIS!” I wasn’t even doing anything useful with telekinesis, I was just levitating a pot, it’s just that I HAD telekinesis, and I HAD it because I figured out how to GET it, and that was cause for yelling. Lord knows what my neighbors think.

Light beams. Gems. You don't gotta draw me a map.

Excited yelling means often getting magic words wrong, but like I said, magic doesn’t care that much. “Uh, tuh, uh…” I said frantically at one point while staring at a rune carved into a thing that I was trying to do something magical to and had a very little amount of time to do it in. And, it worked just fine! Again, I’m convinced magic would do this if it were real. Magic knows what you mean when you’re in a hurry, look at a magic symbol and say “Uh, tuh, uh…” Magic isn’t gonna make you get it completely right. Magic isn’t a dick. Magic is cool.

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22 Comments »

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    AngelTear says:

    I don’t post this every week, because I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but your articles are always a pleasure to read.

  2. LionsPhil says:

    I suspec’ t’ speech reckognitshun ees kwite lyoose t’ allow fer t’ whyde and diverse range of comedy accents in which the fine English tongue can be spoken.

    Although I am now imagining a DLC in which you have a very snobbish upper-class wand that only accepts casting spells if they are correctly intoned with Received Pronunciation. Sloppy rural or—perish the thought—colonial diction shall be met only with stern, disapproving silence.

    Starring Lord Custard Smingleigh as The Wand.

    • Shuck says:

      This seems like the perfect place to have relatively strict voice recognition, though. (You’d only have to worry about background noise.) You’re having people imitate arbitrary syllables, not words, so accent shouldn’t really come into it. (Although it would be an interesting “stealth” method of introducing accent training.)

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      Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      “I’m sorry, did you say Lumah Tial or Lumeh Tial? Because one summons rays of light, and the other summons manta rays at the speed of light. I hate to be a pedantic bore, but my previous owner made exactly that mistake the last time we worked together. Oh, how we laughed and laughed. Well, I laughed, he turned into a rapidly-expanding ball of plasma when the kinetic energy released by a relativistic sea animal obliterated him, his laboratory, the city he was in, and a large part of the small nation he called home. He would have laughed, though, I’m sure of it.”

  3. anon459 says:

    You should be able to make your own spells so that I could make one where you can say “Surprise, motherfucker” to teleport behind your enemy(if the game had enemies).

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      Illessa says:

      Yeah, there was a voice recognition game on Kickstarter about a year back that allowed you to alias all the commands, that would be a lot of fun to have in this.

      [Edit] There Came An Echo that was the one. Watching their (slightly cringeworthy) videos also demos how these systems are so loose, it’s not that they’re inaccurate so much as they have a very limited pool, so they’ll try and wrench whatever irrelevant nonsense you’re saying into the nearest valid command, like autocorrect if it only knew a couple of dozen words.

    • dE says:

      Dark Souls 2 can do that. At least I’m sure of it by the amount of people randomly teleporting behind me from across the map in time for a feisty backstab.

  4. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Is this better than the demo? It got rather repetitive quite quickly once the voice recognition gimmick wore off. Nice graphics though.

  5. bhauck says:

    Sure, good magic is probably pretty flexible, just like surgeons can get into your body and sorta just do whatever and make you better.

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      Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      You can check your anatomy all you want, and even though there may be normal variation, when you get right down to it, this far inside the head it all looks the same

  6. foszae says:

    On a metaphysical level, i’m certain magic isn’t at all forgiving and takes exceeding exactness of clip and spiritual tone to get right. Harder to speak magic than to speak Ithkuil in real life. The reason we lost touch was we got slovenly of mood and slangy of tongue. The physic of the æther requires its own version of perfect pitch to enable anything interesting.

    • memetyrant says:

      exactly

      it’s vingardium leviosa. not vingardium levioSA

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        Harlander says:

        Pah.

        Magic words and the precise finger-wigglies are just a means to focus your Will. A failure in spellcasting is a failure of resolve, not the equivalent of a flub ordering your cloth-eared manservant around. To think otherwise is to mistake the map for the territory.

        (On the other hand, will-recognition is an even tougher problem than speech-recognition.)

  7. Crane says:

    Reminds me of the vague voice recognition of Phoenix Wright…

    “So you see, I can’t possibly be guilty!”
    “GOLBAT! *press* “What do you mean by that?”
    “I was in the pantry at the time, so I couldn’t possibly be the murderer!”
    “ERECTION!” *presents evidence*

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    Lars Westergren says:

    > Evil magic might insist on you pronouncing every single little syllable (see Army of Darkness), but good magic, helpful magic, probably wouldn’t be pedantic.

    If fantasy literature has taught me anything, it’s that it is the other way around. Good magic is like “Oh no, you must prove your worth first, prepare for a life of sacrifice and grief. It’s called character development.” while evil magic is like “Here kid, have some awesome power, this one is on the house. And if you one day ‘accidentally’ fireball your annoying little brother instead of the charging goblin, I’m sure no one will blame you. Have fun!”

  9. Niko says:

    “LIGHTNING BOLT! LIGHTNING BOLT! LIGHTNING BOLT! LIGHTNING BOLT!”

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    Napalm Sushi says:

    I normally hold off on early access, but with my girlfriend moving into my flat soon and my computer being located in the living room perhaps I should get this one out of the way sooner rather than later.

  11. gamergal121 says:

    I just started this game. I kinda like it even though sometimes there are voice recognition issues. However, I found a neat trick due to this frustration. First I say a spell til it works. Next I say it the same way while keeping left click pressed..then I release left click when I want to cast the spell. It helps out a lot when u need to move something fast to run by it or if u need to block fireballs shooting at u.