Game Theory: The Metroid Morph Ball is Lame!

The Metroid Morph Ball is Lame!

This week on Game Theory: Metroid is known for great power-ups, but its most famous has to be the morph ball. So how does Samus fit into such a tiny space? We're looking at Metroid, Super Metroid, and Metroid Prime to get the definitive answer, and let me tell you, it has nothing to do with Samus being in her sexy Zero Suit.

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I read the title and prepared myself to be utterly underwhelmed by the video and... found myself really enjoying it. I'd never considered how pointless the ball was but he's completely right. Thanks for doing the math and most importantly, for thinking this concept up.

Yeah, this has been out for awhile now I think. And I have to repeat that he didn't get all the info for this, I believe.

I had a booklet that came in a old Nintendo magazine that explained all of Samus's features. Regarding the morph ball, I remember it said it was actually smaller than what it appeared to be in the games as it was designed to sneak through tiny cracks and bypass defense systems. And I also remember they mentioned something kinda close to it in one of the databases you scan in Metroid Prime, somewhere under the Phazon Mines.

Though I have no idea how Miyamoto see's it or what the comics say about it, but that's how I always saw it.

Lightknight:
I read the title and prepared myself to be utterly underwhelmed by the video and... found myself really enjoying it. I'd never considered how pointless the ball was but he's completely right. Thanks for doing the math and most importantly, for thinking this concept up.

The only thing I can see in terms of function is that it allows for greater mobility than the average guy locked in a suitcase can expect. But even then, things like crawling make more sense in a lot of places.

Of course, if she could crawl, it'd be interesting to see the rationale for why you had to "unlock" that later in the game.

Besides, Sonic can do this without a power suit or upgrades. >.>

Zachary Amaranth:

Lightknight:
I read the title and prepared myself to be utterly underwhelmed by the video and... found myself really enjoying it. I'd never considered how pointless the ball was but he's completely right. Thanks for doing the math and most importantly, for thinking this concept up.

The only thing I can see in terms of function is that it allows for greater mobility than the average guy locked in a suitcase can expect. But even then, things like crawling make more sense in a lot of places.

Of course, if she could crawl, it'd be interesting to see the rationale for why you had to "unlock" that later in the game.

Besides, Sonic can do this without a power suit or upgrades. >.>

Not to mention that if she were crawling, the "bomb dropping" aspect of the ability would be hilarious!

Why is Escapist posting old Game Theory episodes? I mean I don't mind, I love Matpat. I just don't get why.

Remus:

Not to mention that if she were crawling, the "bomb dropping" aspect of the ability would be hilarious!

And potentially quite messy.

It would make the bomb jumps especially awkward, too.

Eh, Okay so there isn't any really logical purpose for the morph ball other than crawling fast. Its still one of the more neat game gimmicks out there and highlights the cool things creators can come up with when faced with limitations (in this case it being cost and time limitations for the production team).

also here's one thing to consider. Samaus's suit is a space suit. It protects her from the vacuum of space and hostile environments. so its not like she can just take it off. And normally suits of armor are really bulky and not very flexible. Maybe the morph ball was a way around that. Yeah samus could crawl around easily in her zero suit but not necessarily while in what amounts to power armor. So the ball could just be a way to let her use her natural flexibility while wearing bulky space armor

The Morph Ball is supposed to be 1 meter tall, which would be really easy to fit in for anyone not suffering from crippling arthritis. It probably would be faster than crawling in that armor though, and some of the powerups wouldn't work otherwise (Boost Ball, Spider Ball).

Zachary Amaranth:

Of course, if she could crawl, it'd be interesting to see the rationale for why you had to "unlock" that later in the game.

Why do you think the Morph Ball is the first upgrade that you get immediately after spawning (in the original game at least), and sitting in a dead-end that would otherwise not need to be explored?

wow, the morph balls was created from laziness?
Thats awesome :-p

"And thus one of gaming's most ridiculous power-ups in gaming history was born." Nice writing =P

But besides snark, the morph ball has plenty of purposes. It allows Samus to roll up and down ramps, place bombs, and boost around. Plus it just looks iconic and, combined with the screw attack, gives Samus and her suit a sleek and stylish spin-based move set.

But... I thought the morph ball was faster than just basically crawling, let alone somersaulting? Also, how can you drop Morph Ball Bombs while crawling/somersaulting without it now looking "super-awkward"??

But, hay... Maybe that's just a counter-theory... (or, technically, a counter-question...)

Wait, Easter? Dead Space 3 Demo?! When the hell was this made?!

Silentpony:
Wait, Easter? Dead Space 3 Demo?! When the hell was this made?!

They're posting old Game Theory episodes for some reason. I feel like it's some contractual thing, but I have no clue and don't want to postulate anything specific and be way wrong.

Matt Gleason:
Why is Escapist posting old Game Theory episodes? I mean I don't mind, I love Matpat. I just don't get why.

I'm confused about this too. Are they random episodes or is The Escapist just way behind?

The actually impressive part of the morph ball is not fitting into it but spinning fast while not suffering from any side effects like nausea, disorientation or bruising. And immunity to her own bombs is cool, too.

Also I have a hard time believing the suit with its broad shoulders and stiff components would fit well into the ball. This is not so much a question of ball volume but armor construction. Especially in the games where the ball is smaller, I think height is not her biggest problem. Bulk is a more likely candidate. The thick/broad torso section does not allow for a contortionist's trick (the transformation sequence looks bullshit, too. Pretty sure there's a lot of ignoring biology/clipping going on)because the shoulder pieces are large balls themselves and the breast plate sticks out to the front,making it much harder to draw the knees close.
Also, with all the argument about that contortionist guy fitting in a suit case, his volume is far different from hers, plus he can't move shit in there, let alone accommodate a suit of space-plate, navigate while rotating and drop bombs.
So if the suit and whatever the morph ball upgrade adds can solve these problems, that means either the suit can compress itself and her so that a mechanism can be created around her to either turn the ball around her without having her spin or make her spin but simulate motionlessness to her senses (otherwise she could have no understanding of her surroundings because it all spins)while retaining absolute control over the position of the bomb dispenser that fits in there somehow.
Also the ball itself has a thickness, too. Just the visible joints in the armor plating mean she has considerably less room. One cm might sound little but take it from a sphere and you take away a lot.
I would call transformer-like armor (and possibly camera-studded morphball-exterior plus gravity and inertia manipulation on the inside) no small feat. And to be honest, crawling through tight spaces is not very cool to watch. You just never look good moving slowly, carefully and hindered by your armor. One just has to imagine watching Samus crawl through those long pipes on all four.

Who questioned the plausibility of the morph ball? You can clearly see the morph ball is the same height as her crouching in most games. Crouching on one knee without her head even tucked in. The suit would have to reposition, unfold, and possibly reshape some parts to a) fit and b) cover gaps to become spherical, but even in a passing glance you can see she doesn't need to be a contortionist, and you can see that the dimensions are easily plausible.

As for why: it may have been a programming shortcut initially, but a lot of the game was designed around it so that must have been decided early on: the video makes it sound like an afterthought, when it would have very likely been a part of early stages of development. The reason is irrelevant though, because it is a combat suit, and mobility is an obvious benefit. Slowly and noisily crawling into a hole while under fire isn't quite as useful as quickly rolling into it. Furthermore, the addition of spiderball in later games (such as Prime) demonstrate that her Chozo suit can hook into existing Chozo technology (monorail-like tracks)- given all the above uses within the game universe's context there's nothing really 'lame' or questionable about its presence. She can make herself smaller and less of a target without slowing down and also interface with existing systems (transport systems, unlocking mechanisms, upgrade and repair stations, etc).

In a discussion about the plausibility of the morph ball, I'm disappointed to see the one implausible attribute about it was not mentioned: the third person camera control. You can theorize that she doesn't get sick or disoriented because she's used to rolling, you can theorize the ball's movement is pushed with gyroscopic devices within the ball, but what can you say about how she actually navigates? This is really the only topic that throws the whole concept into question.

Honestly, Samus turning into a ball is way more interesting than just having her crawl around. How many games feature a crawling mechanic versus a rolling ball one? It feels better than any crawling in any game I've played with constant crawling sections. It is perfect in the Prime games, and I can't imagine going through small openings in a Metroid without it.

Also, I've always thought that she somehow converts herself into energy when going into a Morph ball. In the prime games you don't see her in a crouching position, you see glowing energy between the cracks. I would liken it to a Poke ball more than contortionist skill.

One of the scientifically possible theories on FTL travel is space warping, or the ability to compress space. Since Samus uses a spaceship, it's more than likely she has this technology on her ship, and because her ship seems to actually fly from planet to planet instead of practically teleporting there as it would appear with space folding and other FTL means.

What would the application on a person be? Becoming denser which would increase internal pressure? Increased effective gravity on a relatively smaller object in comparison to whats normal? Not in theory or negligible, and theory is all we can say until we know how to utilize this. But before you take a can full of people and attempt to send it through space, you'll probably want a prototype to use on inanimate, living, and finally human(oid) subjects to test the effects on matter, biochemistry, and finally psychological levels before you start using it in space. What happens to technology developed for astronauts on aerospace budgets after they're slashed harder than a parody of a B-movie? It's repackaged and sold to the end consumer. Now we know whence comes all of those jeans that adventurers wear that are able to hold entire arsenals within, and without compromising comfort.

So, what of the morph ball? Imagine ship engineers that need to crawl around in spaces that would be too tight to go within and have proper leverage to spin a screwdriver, a spherical space shortening device capable of going just faster than a normal walking speed in tight areas, and there we have it. The morph ball is one part segway and one part robotic grabby arm. Though it's purpose isn't entirely necessary, it is functional as crawling is extremely slow.

 

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