Midway through yesterday, Blizzard Entertainment posted the reveal trailer for Tychus Findlay’s entrance into their upcoming MOBA, Heroes of the Storm. As part of the announcement, they decided to hold a small impromptu challenge on their official twitter channel, @BlizzHeroes, to see who could best sum up Tychus in less than 140 characters.
How would you describe Tychus in 140 characters? Be sure to use the hashtag #Tychus140. We'll share the best!
Naturally, when I saw this come across my twitter feed, I opted to take on the challenge. I have been known to pretend to be a writer at times, and I had played through all of Wings of Liberty, so I was fairly certain that I could gun down this challenge like a Yamato Cannon through hot zerg hide. Within a minute or two, and with some minor thought pruning to fit within the character limit, I was able to unleash this little gem (spelling error and all) on to the twittersphere and return my attention back to my day job, already in progress.
An angry man in a hallow prison shell. His selfish choices get him exactly what he deserves. Hell. Its about time. #Tychus140
Little did I know that not only would I get a response, it would come from Tychus’ very own voice.
Warning: The following post discusses some plot details about StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. If you have not played through the entire story at this point, I urge you to do so - it is a brilliant game. If you wish to brave the spoilers ahead, you do so at your own peril.
The reply I received came from none other than Neil Kaplan, the voice actor responsible for bringing Tychus’ CG rendered performance to life. His response wasn’t to congratulate me on my clever tweeting, though - I was to point out how completely wrong my impression of Tychus was.
@LordArturis ...selfish choices? Come on now! This ain't Jimmy Raynor & some little gal we're talking about here.
This sparked a small back-and-forth exchange between Kaplan and I, with him asserting how completely wrong I am in my assumptions about Tychus and his motivation, and me clinging to said assumptions adamantly. As the discussion went on, it started to occur to me: perhaps I have misjudged Tychus all along? I know that I had a severe distrust - I would almost say despisal - of the character from the moment he showed up on screen. How much of that was from the character himself, and how much was from my preconceived notions of who the character would turn out to be? I decided that there was only one way to know for sure, so I promised Mr. Kaplan that I would rewatch all of the Wings of Liberty cinematics, with a specific eye towards Tychus as an anti-hero instead of the suppressed villain I had taken him for.
After I was home and my nightly routines were complete, I started in on my research. Unfortunately, since I don’t have the time to completely replay the entire game, I’m going to have to set aside all the dialogue and character advancement that happens during missions and focus on the cinematics. Of the 18 cinematics I had managed to unlock in my playthrough of Wings of Liberty, Tychus appears in 10 of them: The Deal, Old Times, Escape from Mar Sara, Queen of Blades, Nova, Heir Apparent, Bar Fight, Card to Play, Fire and Fury, and The Showdown. That is just over half, which clearly denotes his place as a very important character to watch. But I needed to understand him more, and to do that, I started to break down what we learn about him from each.
The Deal - This was our first introduction to Tychus, shown as a teaser trailer years in advance of the game getting released (though originally it was without the Arcturus voice over). It serves to establish him as a convict and prisoner, trading his stationary cell in for a more mobile one, and as he slowly gets bolted, sealed and welded in to his marine armor you start to get the overwhelming impression that it is never intended to come off of him. This is also where Tychus utters his famous line, “Hell, its about time,” which both acts as an expression of his relief to finally be holding a gun again (and in a way, have a little more agency over his actions than just rotting away in a prison cell), as well as the voice of the average StarCraft fan, who at the point of the trailer’s release had been waiting over 10 years for any news of a sequel to one of the best RTS games ever created.
Old Times - In this cinematic, we start to learn a little about who Tychus is in relation to Jim Raynor, the hero of the game. We also learn that flies on Mar Sara are really, really big, but that is aside the point. The exchange between Tychus and Raynor is saturated in sarcasm, but at the same time gives you a sense of comfort - these are two buddies that have been through hell and back somewhere outside the scope of what we played in first StarCraft, and now that Tychus’ incarceration has come to an end (for whatever reason), they are ready to get back to their old antics. If anything, this scene should have endeared me to Tychus, but I can distinctly recall that he came across to me as shady and untrustworthy on my first play through. The case for my holding a strong and unreasonable personal prejudice against Tychus seems to be getting stronger at this point.
Escape from Mar Sara - Our first introduction to Matt Horner and Raynor’s ship, the Hyperion, sees Tychus supplying only a handful of lines of dialog (and one especially comic face as the ship kicks into warp drive). Unfortunately, we don’t really learn much about Tychus in this clip.
Queen of Blades - We do, however, learn quite a bit about him here. For starters, he has managed to access data records about the Queen of Blades without authorization, which Matt calls him on. On the topic of Kerrigan, Matt informs him of Raynor’s relationship with her, and that his judgement may be compromised if they were to confront her. Tychus response is cold and ruthless, saying that “With a woman like that, there’s only one thing to do,” as he puts out his cigar on the monitor in the center of Kerrigan’s forehead, insinuating a hypothetical bullet to the brain as the only solution. This scene, at least to me, does nothing to cast him in a heroic (or even anti-heroic) light - it simply shows that his motivation all along is to kill Kerrigan. Even if this scene doesn’t score him any points with me, it at least shows me that he is consistent character.
Nova - This is the cinematic you unlock if you side with Nova over Tosh. Tychus is in this scene purely as comic relief, suffering at the painful end of Tosh’s misdirected voodoo doll. While this is one of my favorite cinematics in the game, we don’t really learn much about Tychus other than the fact that he can endure a great deal of pain.
Heir Apparent - “You wanted your revolution, kid. Now ya got it,” Tychus says to Matt as they head out to infiltrate Mengsk’s flagship. The line is delivered in a very matter-of-fact way, not really showing malice or scorn, but if anything a bit of “I told you so” hiding in the intonation. It definitely reaffirms that even though he is helping to kickstart this revolution, it isn’t his, and he wants no part in it beyond what he has to play to get the job done. This could be chalked up to either my “selfish” theory, or Kaplan’s “anti-hero” theory. The rest of the scene lets him do exactly what he loves - shooting, crushing, and blowing stuff up - so to that end, he wins the scene either way.
Bar Fight - If there was any one cinematic I could point to as showing Tychus at his absolutely most decrepit, it is this one. To his credit, he *is* stark raving drunk, so his judgement and morality aren’t at an all time high. Still, in the course of this scene he tries to incite a rebellion to overthrow Raynor (he doesn’t start it, but he definitely dumps gasoline on the fire), he gets into a knock down brawl with Raynor, and worst of all, he damages the jukebox! If all I knew about Tychus was from this scene, it would be an open and shut case of him being the biggest walking turdball this side of the galaxy. Fortunately, Blizzard isn’t in the habit of making characters that one dimensional, so there is still hope.
Card to Play - By the time we get to this scene, the invasion of Char has begun, and good lord is it not going well for the Imperial army. General Warfield is standing has ground as best he can, but it is only the timely intervention of Raynor and Tychus that saves his bacon. While Tychus only delivers a couple lines of dialog here, it is his actions - specifically flying into the very heart of zerg infested hell planet and helping to rescue Warfield - that speak much louder than words.
Fire and Fury - Without a doubt, this is one powerhouse of a cinematic. From the flash storm raining down over the dead and wounded, to Raynor’s rallying speech (that technically he was only giving to Warfield, but seems to have conveniently left his comm channel open for all to hear), this scene signifies the start of the last, desperate push against Kerrigan and the zerg. Tychus makes a point of stating his distrust of the Xel’Naga artifact they brought to take the Queen of Blades down, but other than that, is still ready and able to go through with the final battle.
The Showdown - And here is where it all comes to a head. After discovering Kerrigan’s body, human once more, Tychus immediately radios in to Arcturus to confirm his hidden orders - Kill Kerrigan and he gets to go free. He freely admits to Raynor that he made a “deal with the devil” but as Mr. Kaplan points out, doesn’t immediately fire. He has plenty of time - plenty - to shoot her in the head. But he hesitates, and gives Raynor a verbal warning of his intention. He then pulls the trigger, and Raynor deflects the shot, following up with one of his own - the final bullet in his revolver that he had been saving for Arcturus Mengsk.
I watched this cinematic several times in a row, and after repeated viewings I started to notice something interesting.Tychus displays a small facial tick, just before his starts to pull the trigger. Its what they call a micro expression, or at least the closest to one you will find on a 3D model that isn’t truly human, but an artist’s stylized approximation. And noticing this facial tick, watching for it, thinking about what it could signify, everything clicked. I finally understood what Kaplan was saying.
Tychus committed suicide via Raynor’s bullet.
He knew the odds were against him killing Kerrigan, but he took the shot anyway, knowing full well that either way Raynor would take him out. It’s the final release from the walking prison that he was entombed in from the very start of the game. That facial tic was exactly the kind of thing you would see on a person that was fighting very hard to not cry or panic because they had made their choice to die.
I can’t believe I had missed that in my first playthrough. Or, more accurately, I had built up such a dislike of the character - considering I had expected a betrayal from the very beginning - that I couldn’t even see that his final act was one of self sacrifice. Sitting here, typing up this post and reflecting back on what I just revealed to myself, I feel both foolish and at the same time, in awe of the craftsmanship of the Blizzard writers, animators, and voice actors like Neil Kaplan who can create a character that is far more than what I had interpreted. My apologies go out to all of them, and of course to Tychus Findlay himself, for not understanding the whole of what I had witnessed.
After completing this article, I ran it past Mr. Kaplan to confirm my facts and get his okay to use his quotes. He read through it and was able to supply me with further information about Tychus that I had either missed or forgotten, mostly coming from dialog in the various missions, as well as from his insight in playing the character. I’ve included them below in order to paint the full picture of exactly who Tychus Findlay is:
- Tychus’ armor was rigged with a self destruct system, and Arcturus’ finger was on the button. It was quite literally a no win situation for him from the moment he is introduced.
- Tychus had every intention to kill the Queen of Blades, but had no intention of killing an unarmed and helpless Sarah Kerrigan. Through out the game, he was certain that there was no way to actually bring Sarah back, and that she was too far gone in her metamorphosis. If he killed the Queen of the Zerg and that hurt Jimmy’s feelings, so be it. But when he entered the cave at the end and saw she was Sarah once more, he knew it was all over.
- The drunken argument shown in Bar Fight was fueled by frustration over Raynor making his mission harder, including making it harder to keep his mission a secret.
- “Tychus Findlay would rather be cheating at cards, drinking good whiskey, smoking a fine cigar and flirting with any female within earshot.”, said Kaplan, “But soon as he hears someone needs help, he curses them & their bad timing. But, he's usually the first out the door to save their hides.” He went on to liken him to other Anti-Hero with a Heart of Gold characters, like Han Solo, Batman, and Robin Hood.