The Enigma of Rapp Scallion

Let’s take a refresher course. Monkey Island 2. Guybrush Threepwood is searching for Big Whoop, a mystical treasure that brings untold power and riches to its discoverer. A crew once claimed to have discovered it: the four seafarers Captain Marley, Rum Rogers, Rapp Scallion, and Lindy, the cabin boy. Whatever they found, the four crew members tore their map into four pieces and went their various ways. Once Guybrush manages to leave Scabb Island, he begins hunting for the treasure, discovering first that he will need the map made by the crew.

Here’s the entirety of what Guybrush reads out of the book Big Whoop: Unclaimed Bonanza or Myth?

It says here there were four pirates: Rapp Scallion (the cook), Young Lindy (the cabin boy), Mister Rogers (the first mate), and Captain Marley. They buried their treasure along with plenty of booby traps on a place believed to be called Inky Island. They made a map which they divided into four pieces, each man taking one. Rapp Scallion later opened the Steamin’ Weenie Hut on Scabb Island. It was a huge success but fell into disrepair after Rapp was killed in a flash fire. Young Lindy drifted aimlessly, down on his luck until he mysteriously came into money while panhandling on Booty Island. He used the cash to bankroll an advertising firm which failed after its gross mishandling of the Gangrene ‘n’ Honey account. Mister Rogers retired off the coast of Phatt Island. He marketed homemade contest grog brewed in a bathtub until his recent disappearance. Captain Marley vanished while sailing in the America’s Cup race. His boat was leading at the time.

Once we learn that Rapp was killed on Scabb Island, Guybrush has a reason to find Rapp Scallion. Through various shenanigans, he finds Rapp’s coffin, brings him back to life with some voodoo, and turns the gas off in his Weenie Hut in exchange for the map piece.

That’s the end of Rapp’s involvement, right? Not quite. First, let’s examine the game’s approach to death. For a comedy adventure game, Monkey Island 2 is morbid.

Guybrush Threepwood has a concussion-fueled hallucination about his dead parents. Later he finds their decomposing skeletons in the tunnels miles underneath Dinky Island. This is the dream sequence where Guybrush receives a message from his parents in the form of a reggae-infused song and dance number. While imbued with a blood-red background, the dance is upbeat, with Guybrush’s parents tapping their toes, snapping their fingers, and knocking their various bones off each other’s torsos in a happy, choreographed manner.

This is the stark, industrial-looking waiting area where Guybrush finds his parents, in more-or-less real life. It is, possibly, one of the more upsetting scenes in adventure game lore, but the palette is generous, and the parents stand out in bright white.

More death: Rum Rogers still sits in his bathtub, decaying, clinging to his piece of the map to Big Whoop. This is the room where Rum Rogers died, underneath his house on Phatt Island. The planks of the basement are bright and distinct, and the stone and earth are all nicely colored.

More death: The player is forced to trap Stan, the previously used-ship-salesman, now used-coffin-salesman, alive in one of his own used coffins. This is the bright, cheerful coffin store, where Stan is trapped in a coffin in order for Guybrush to steal the key to Rapp Scallion’s crypt.

All of this is handled with the same cheerfulness and gallows humor that defines many LucasArts adventures. Many of the dead are presented as dry, clean skeletons: utterly cartoonish. There’s one counter-example to this, and that’s Rapp Scallion. Here is the crypt where we find Rapp’s coffin.

Here is the interior of Rapp’s Weenie Hut.

Nothing but dull blues. There’s an obvious effort to create this subdued aura around Scallion’s death. Even the exterior of the Weenie Hut is similarly subdued, with the opening scene campfire the only protection from the unsettling color.

When we do finally revive Rapp, he comes alive in flesh and blood, and while the conversation is generally filled with terrible hot-dog jokes, there is a very real sense of somberness. You can choose to say, kindly, “I’ll check the gas for you, Rapp”. Turning the gas off allows Rapp’s soul to finally rest, and, giving you the map, he says, “Now I can rest in the folds of the earth,” (adding, “like a Steamin’ Weenie in a soft, fresh bun.”)

So, what’s going on here?

Why do Guybrush’s parents dance around singing Dem Bones like a vaudeville act while Rapp Scallion’s theme contains the melody of Chopin’s Marche funèbre? Why is Rapp’s death the only one that is treated seriously?

Why is Rapp Scallion distinct from the other characters in Monkey Island 2, and what does it tell us about the highly contested meaning of the game’s ending?

Abstractions

Technology evolves, and if you look back over the past 20 years, it is truly amazing what has been accomplished. The CPU in our smartphones outruns what most people had sitting on their desk, twenty years ago. As technology improves, we as developers need to keep up with the chafing landscape – and among other things, this means being open to leverage higher levels of abstractions, deferring more work to be handled by the computer, under the hood (be it by the compiler, the runtime or the operating system) and to focus on higher-level tasks for our code.

A Delphi developer looking at the advancement of runtime environments, touching on the same theme I discussed in The Next Dinosaurs. That twenty years measurement seems to be pretty powerful.

The Visitors — New Vegas

You can barely see them through the sandstorm. Four silhouettes. Just at the edge of your vision; at the edge of the horizon. Asking if they’re friendly is pointless: no one in the Wasteland is friendly. You unholster your laser rifle and crouch through the darkness. Click for 1920x1080.

Panorama Scenes of King’s Quest II

Umran Ali put together some panoramic images of the wonderful EGA vistas of King’s Quest II, a game he considers as from the ‘Embyronic Era’ of virtual environments. His minus gallery also includes albums of panoramas for The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim. Excellent work all around.

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