I wasn't sure I heard David Pellas correctly. We were standing in a noisy room. He was playing a video game called The Conduit 2 that he helped make. He was fulfilling my request by showing me what he considered to be one of the most impressive things in the game.
And he said: "I like to think of John Adams as a Triceratops."
It was at this moment that I dropped my gaze from the TV and stopped looking at what David Pellas considered to be one of the most impressive things in The Conduit 2. I was looking at one of the most impressive quotes I've scrawled in my reporter's notebook.
Yes, I got it right.
John Adams is the main bad guy in the Wii game Conduit 2, a first-person shooter game set in modern times and filled with high-tech guns and lasers. Pellas had mentioned Adams' role casually yesterday in the penthouse of the Shoreham Hotel, where the Conduit 2 and other games published by Sega were being shown to press and fans.
I had to stop him and confirm that he meant that John Adams. He did. The second President of the United States. The guy was really an alien as were some of his cronies who all only appeared to be human. One crony looks more like a green lizard of some sort. John Adams? More like a Triceratops.
I've played video games that feature Satan as the bad guy. Dracula is a formidable foe, as is the snarling Bowser, who usually kidnaps Princess Peach in advance of getting squashed by Super Mario. Having missed the reportedly fun Conduit 1, I'd not yet encountered the possibility of John Adams as arch-villain.
I was intrigued, and I was baffled, because Adams seems, historically, neither nefarious nor physically mighty enough to be a major video game villain. Pellas was busy using futuristic video game guns to kill a nasty-looking lizard guy called the Progenitor. This was the impressive thing he wanted to show. I was too distracted by the revisionist history.
Why John Adams?
"We were looking for someone who has been around for a while," Pellas told me, "someone who no one would have expected was the mastermind of evil."
I wondered if Ben Franklin had been considered and suggested that Franklin could have wielded a kite. The inventor of Daylight Savings Time was, Pellas told me, but was considered by the Conduit's development team at High Voltage Software to be "a little too high profile."
And there I thought High Voltage was riding the Adams hype train. The man's been a big deal again since a blockbuster David McCullough biography took over the non-fiction charts a few years ago. Pellas wasn't familiar with the book.
Abe Lincoln and George Washington were also considered for the Conduit 2 role of Mastermind of Evil. Adams beat them, but they do get to be part of the game. "There is a special destiny I can't reveal for them," Pellas said.
"We were looking for someone who has been around for a while … someone who no one would have expected was the mastermind of evil."
I wasn't sure what Adams' angle was. In real life, I believe he was a fairly decent man. In the Conduit 2 video game, Pellas teased, he's going to reveal that lines that were written in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence don't mean what we thought they meant.
I couldn't see Adams yesterday, nor could I hear him, which was even more disappointing because Pellas told me that the old man has some great one-liners in this new game. Pellas couldn't recall any at the moment, but directed me to the Conduit 2 soundboard which has a batch of one-liners delivered by the game's good guy, Michael Ford. Lines like "Put that in your pipe and smoke it, dad," which Pellas said is really funny once you know the context (note: you have to play the game to know the context).
The Conduit 2 is a hell of a game, a big first-person shooter for Wii that has dozens of graphical and gameplay features its creators are proud of — and which don't show up in a lot of Wii first-person shooters. Pellas was handing out print-outs full of bullet points, showing what The Conduit 2's got: "Epic Bosses", "Non-linear campaign", 14 modes of "Online Competitive Multiplayer", just tons more of the kind of thing you might get on an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 but are hard-pressed to get out of any shooter on the Wii that's not called Call of Duty. Sure, it looks quite aged thanks to the tech its running on and the quasi-realistic art style High Voltage is going for. But the alternatives for trigger-happy first-person shooter fun on the Wii barely exist.
Pellas had eight pages of color print-outs, eight pages of stuff to brag about. On none of these pages was the promise that in The Conduit series, you can try to save the world from the worst man it has ever known, former President of the United States, John Adams.
The Conduit 2 will be out for the Wii on April 14.