Fatmooch69 has spent the last couple weeks searching for a bot in For Honor. The AI in question is a Raider, one of the game’s two-handed axe wielding vikings, called TheeLizardWizard. Fotmooch69 has enlisted other Reddit users to help him, asking them to share screenshots if they ever encounter it. That’s because TheeLizardWizard is a tribute to a close friend of his called “B,” who he says died last spring.
On June 28, Ubisoft’s medieval brawler For Honor got a new update. It increased the power of the Revenge ability, tweaked side rolls and dodges, and made reviving allies take slightly longer, among other tweaks. It also added TheeLizardWizard into the game. Unlike the game’s long list of existing AI opponents, this one was inspired by a real life player. “After reading FatMooch69’s remembrance of his fallen comrade our dev team quickly got behind the idea of immortalizing ‘B’ in the game as a bot,” read For Honor’s 1.25 patch. “If you see ‘TheeLizardWizard’ charging at you in the heat of battle, pay him tribute by giving him a good fight!”
Fatmooch, who wouldn’t give his real name, shared the post in question on February 17, just a few days after For Honor’s one year anniversary. In it, he described his experience of playing the game nearly every day for the past 12 months, and thinking about how it had strengthened his relationship with his buddy. B played a Raider on PC, while Fatmooch played Warden on Xbox One. Occasionally, B would get on Xbox One so the two could fight together, but mostly, they just talked about the game for hours and hours while playing on their own. B was the one who convinced Fatmooch to get a Reddit account so he could follow the game more closely. Then, toward the end of the game’s second season, just a couple weeks before graduation, Fatmooch said B went to a party, overdosed, and died in the hospital.
Fatmooch told Kotaku that he had actually known B since they were in 6th grade. Years before For Honor had been greenlit, their friendship began over a shared interest in a different fantasy game. Fatmooch was new in town and didn’t know anyone. One day, he struck up a conversation with another kid at his lunch table about Bethesda’s open world RPG. “We were rambling about Lord of the Rings and I asked him if he liked TES: Oblivion and he immediately lit up,” he said. “We talked about the game for the rest of the lunch period and we instantly became friends after that.”
The way Fatmooch tells it, B wasn’t just someone to gossip about Middle-Earth or Tamriel with, he was also there when real life struck. “We would come to each other to vent about things and for advice on life. He helped me through my first traumatic death in the family, my first bouts of depression, my first breakup and he supported my dream to become a fantasy author,” Fatmooch said. “He really helped me find myself and be comfortable with who I am.”
After his friend’s death, Fatmooch explained in his post, he approached For Honor differently. “I got a weird complex with my hero roster,” Fatmooch wrote. “I had played Raider before but never really enjoyed his play style. But once B passed away I picked Raider back up. It felt wrong to me that Raider wasn’t getting any love.” He went on to put 1,063 hours into the game.
“Raider is my highest rep, 12 out of 122,” wrote Fatmooch. “Warden is right behind him at 11. I just can’t bring myself to have either of them be a lower rep than anyone else. In a silly way, I want it to represent our friendship and the fun we had together, the great memories we shared.”
The developers at Ubisoft Montreal, the wing of the French publishing giant responsible for For Honor, were touched. Edgard, a level designer at the studio, forwarded the post to Eric Pope, the game’s community developer, who then suggested immortalizing B as a bot, Pope told Kotaku in an email. In April, Pope approached Fatmooch with the idea. Fatmooch convened with some of B’s other friends and they decided on the name TheeLizardWizard because it was apparently something people called him online, a reference to the psychedelic band King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.
In a weird coincidence, Pope says the technical designer assigned to detail the bot, Felix, also loved the band, and the project became a kind of personal quest to do B’s Raider justice, trying to give some hint of the psychedelic aesthetic suggested in the name while still keeping it in line with the game’s general grimey visual palette. “He spiced up the Raider with a lot of the newer gear in the game, which none of the other Raider Bots have, as they were developed pre-launch,” Pope said. “We even investigated whether we could somehow find the player’s own customization via UPLAY and copy that, but it proved to be too difficult to pull off technically at the time.”
Much of B’s life story remains unknown. Fatmooch declined to provide any details Kotaku could use to confirm who B was. Similarly, we were unable to reach B’s parents to get their thoughts on having a tribute to their son hidden in a video game, though according to Fatmooch, B’s younger brother really appreciated it. When asked, Ubisoft said Fatmooch was the only person they had been in touch with as well.
“I don’t want to talk much about how he passed away, that’s not what this is about,” Fatmooch said when asked if B’s death was linked to the current opioid crisis. “It took the entire school by surprise, maybe even the whole community. It wasn’t really a noticeable epidemic in my area, just a tragic thing that happens from time to time. His funeral was the definition of a celebration of life, I doubt I’ll ever go to such a pure funeral like that again.”
Seeing B get added to the game has felt both surreal and reassuring, he said. “With my original post I felt a bit silly. I felt silly for paying tribute to him in my own way for reasons that just came to me out of the blue,” Fatmooch said. “I felt dumb posting about it and expected it to be overlooked. Instead all of my feelings were validated by the community, they understood and wrote really sweet DMs and comments.” He also never expected his memory of his friend to end up living on in the game that he spent the last year using to help cope with his grief.
This isn’t the first time the For Honor team has honored a player in-game. Faris Khalifa, a 29-year-old who settled in the UK as an asylum seeker after fleeing the second Sudanese civil war at the age of 15, spoke earlier this year about how playing For Honor with an online acquaintance helped him cope with suicidal feelings. Pope and his team tracked Khalifa down and invited him to this past E3 in Los Angeles, where they introduced him to the development team.
“When the For Honor developers who attended E3 got to spend time with Faris there, and get to know him, they all remarked how amazing it was,” Pope said. “Mostly because Faris is a truly inspiring and positive human being, but also party because for most game developers the BEST you can ever hope for is to simply READ one of these stories, and not actually make the face-to-face connection in the real world.”
Fan communities online, such as specialized subreddits for games, have changed how games get made and what happens after their release. These online meeting places allow fans to speculate about what will be in a game or argue heatedly about what updates they think developers should be working on.
These fans aren’t just sending their ideas into the void, either. Multiple people who worked on For Honor, from the community side all the way up to the creative and game directors, told Kotaku that they pore over the subreddit constantly. Often it helps them flag problems with unbalanced characters or technical glitches early. Other times it shows them that these games can have a real and profound impact on people’s lives.
“As for what B would have thought of it, I think he would have been overjoyed,” Fatmooch said. “He enjoyed the game, the idea of it all and ancient Norse culture immensely. He would have loved to be honored by having a Raider named after him because Raider is really the epitome of the seemingly mythical Vikings that interested him so much.”
The nights that Fatmooch has played For Honor recently have been spent searching for TheeLizardWizard. So far, those attempts have been in vain, but he’s hopeful the bot will turn up sooner or later. Maybe the next time someone accidently disconnects from a match or rage quits after a particularly brutal execution, TheeLizardWizard will appear at last.
“I am obviously incredibly grateful and excited for this tribute,” Fatmooch told Kotaku. “Since he passed on I’ve been thinking of ways to immortalize him. Going back to my love for fantasy, I plan to base a few gods in my fantasy writing after him. For Honor might’ve beaten me to the first tribute but it won’t be the last.”