I realized the moment I fell into the fissure that the Book would not be destroyed as I had planned. It continued falling into that starry expanse, of which I had only a fleeting glimpse. I have tried to speculate where it might have landed, but I must admit that such conjecture is futile. Still, questions about whose hands might one day hold my Myst book are unsettling to me. I know my apprehensions might never be allayed, and so I close, realizing that perhaps the ending has not yet been written. -- Atrus

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Adventures in Skyrim

First, I just want to say keep your peepers peeled for some neato news. Alliteration rocks.

Skyrim was cool before, but after getting my darling new laptop Sekhmet, the game has been phenomenal. Recently it was recommended that I play The Witcher 3. It definitely looks like a very cool game, even if it is OBVIOUSLY targeted at the cisgender straight man. Based on my cursory knowledge that I've gleaned so far, you play a dude in the game (albeit a really cool one), and I guess at some point some heterosexual adult playtime takes place. All right, I'm as imaginative as they come, so I'll let myself be amused. Let's see how much of a ladies man I can be, eh?

In other news, I'm waiting for Assassins Creed: Origins to go one sale. The Ptolemaic period of Egypt isn't really my favorite, and, since I'm a solid New Kingdom person, I'm an ancient Egypt snob and don't consider the Ptolemaic Period to be Egyptian haha! Nevertheles, from images I've seen, the accuracy is quite impressive.

Now back to Skyrim. My first ever RPG which I thought was really weird and scary and confusing when I first started playing it. My first character was a Wood Elf named, of course, Baladria. I made her do every quest she came upon, which made for a rather schizophrenic experience. I fared better with a redo, Niamh the Nord, who sided with the Stormcloaks rather than the Imperials as Baladria had done. Following this, I attempted a solid mage character but wasn't feeling it. Then I had a Khajiit assassin and thief, followed by a stocky short-haired Redguard lady-beast who liked to leave slain enemies naked where they died haha. That's when I discovered how awesome Redguards are.

Naturally, after getting a new computer, and getting new mods for Skyrim and being able to play it on ultra graphics, it was necessary to create a new character. Meet Sekhmet Blood-Drinker! A Redguard from Hammerfell who despises imperialism, is particularly helpful to her Redguard compatriots, enjoys massacring bandits, is disgusted by Forsworn and Falmer, frowns on the ways of the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood, refuses to betray friends, gives a huge middle finger to the Blades for trying to peer pressure her into killing Paarthurnax (wtf?!), and likes to fight with her Pussy Posse and hubby at her side! She’s named after the ancient Egyptian lion-headed goddess Sekhmet, the goddess of pestilence, war, and destruction who tried to decimate mankind. The sun-god Re filled the land with wine and she drank it, thinking it was blood. She became drunk and fell asleep, and thus mankind was saved. I wanted a Redguard because they are amazing warriors and wear heavy armor. Though Sekhmet is a capable swordswoman, she favors the bow—because it’s fun to shoot people in high castle towers haha! I also wanted to make her pretty so it would be all the more shocking that she is a vicious killer. She wears dragon bone armor and fights with dragon bone weapons.

Sekhmet Blood-Drinker...baddest bitch in Skyrim
Details on Sekhmet Blood-Drinker: Redguard, heavy armor, one-handed, archery
Dragonplate armor: increased heavy armor 25 pts / increased health 62 pts
Dragonplate gauntlets: 40% more bow damage / 40% more one-handed damage
Dragonplate boots: sneaking 40% better / increased fire resistance 46%
Jagged Crown: 40% more bow damage
Daedric cloak: increased fire resistance 46% / increased frost resistance 46%
Dark bandolier with shoulder pad: increase carry weight 100 pts
Pussy Posse Ring – Sekhmet: increased heavy armor 25 pts / 40% more one-handed damage
Pussy Posse Necklace – Sekhmet: increased frost resistance 40% / increased heavy armor 25 pts
Pussy Posse Archer – Sekhmet (gold and ruby circlet): 40% more bow damage (I don’t wear this)
Qaanahrin (dragon bone bow): soul trap within 15 seconds / 41 pts fire damage

Annihilator (dragon bone sword): absorb 25 pts stamina / soul trap within 10 seconds

I'll explain the Pussy Posse jewelry in a bit lol!

My discovery of console commands and item IDs has given me some neat opportunities to have things I can’t otherwise have. The Jagged Crown is super cool, so I added that via console, and I also have added other quest items, pretending they are “reproductions” of the original so I can display them in my awesome new houses. It’s also handy to use the console for someone who has started the game over so many times who wants to get Smithing and Enchanting way up there so I can role-play as I wish. Now I didn’t cheat 100% on getting those skills up to 100. I mined a lot of gold, iron ore, and hunted for skins for leather strips. But damn, it’s not enough to do that a few times. I’ve bought iron ore/ingots from merchants and blacksmiths a lot also, but eventually that process gets tedious and I just consoled like 400 iron ingots and leather strips and finished my dagger making. Seriously, it took hundreds of ingots to do that. But I enchanted all of them to get my enchanting to 100 so I could use the double enchant perk on the sweet armor I was going to make for myself and my gang, once I acquired them. I bought/consoled hundreds of common or petty soul gems and enchanted the daggers with soul trap. For the enchantment acquisitions, apart from stuff I found legitimately, I bought stuff off merchants and also (heh, well…) raided the hidden chests belonging to the Khajiit traders at Markarth, Solitude, and Dawnstar. This very beginning stuff I don’t count toward my character’s character, so I’m not owning up to any contradictions here haha! Though Sekhmet does make poor decisions occasionally for the greater good.

Sekhmet Blood-Drinker in arching action
So along with doing side quests helpful to getting good stuff, doing quests to obtain the followers I wanted, getting Smithing and Enchanting up to 100, and quests that helped me get and build Lakeview Manor, brought me to level 27. You see, I wasn’t interested only in dressing and equipping myself, but I was concerned with acquiring a house and decorating it and dressing my companions. I wanted to make a group of badass women warriors which I named the Pussy Posse. I also wanted a husband to cook for me haha! It’s nice to have one in at least one of my lives, eh? I shopped around online for good options, including stewards. I was intrigued by what people were saying about Erik the Slayer, and he certainly is adorable. Very cheerful, upbeat, grateful for my existence. Yep, husband material there. I was completely startled to see Adrianne Avenicci as a guest at my wedding. She traveled all the way from Whiterun just for me! It was all the more crushing a blow when I learned she died in what may have been a vampire attack. She left me an inheritance, bless her heart, and I expressed my condolences to her grieving husband.

Sekhmet Blood-Drinker, wedding ready!

Sekhmet Blood-Drinker marries Erik the Slayer; audience includes the Pussy Posse, Erik's daddy, and Arianne Avenicci before she was brutally burdered by a band of vampires in Whiterun. I'll hate vampires forever!
Lydia will always be my BFF. I know she gets a lot of heat because she gets in the way and charges in when you’re trying to be stealthy, but I’ve come to find it charming. I made her essential so that I would stop accidentally killing her. I selected Jenassa, too. She has good dialog, she’s a tough nut, and she’s just cool. She always tells me she’s happy she met me, isn’t that sweet? Lastly, I plucked Mjoll away from her good work at Riften. She’s a good follower, though sometimes she’s too loquacious and talks over soft-spoken people who are trying to give me useful information. Damn chick, shut up from time to time, eh?

Nevertheless, I adore them all, and they each have excellent double-enchanted legendary armor sets, weapons (I gave unique names to all the weapons I forged), and personalized jewelry. I looked up the Wiki to check their stats and see what works best of each. I continue to upgrade their armor and weapons, and they have jewelries that increase their skills, too. So let’s take a look at what I’ve put together for myself and my four favorites. I’ve taken their coloring into account when deciding how to dress them. Seriously, this is a whole new level of nerd for me, but I'm not mad at it.

Erik the Slayer fully outfitted
Erik the Slayer: Nord, light armor, two-handed
Dragonscale armor: increased light armor 25 pts / increased stamina 62 pts
Dragonscale gauntlets: 40% more two-handed damage / 40% more bow damage
Dragonscale boots: sneaking 40% better / increased fire resistance 46%
Helm of Yngol: 30% frost resistance
Cloak of the Crow: not enchanted
Amulet of Arkay: increased health 10 pts
Bond of Matrimony: Restoration spells cost 10% less (he doesn’t do magic; I just want him to wear his wedding ring!)
Bandit’s Bane (dragon bone greatsword): 37 pts stamina damage / absorb 25 pts stamina (he always mentions how much he hates bandits, so that’s why I named his sword this haha!)
Ice-Maker (dragon bone bow): 31 pts frost damage / paralyze 5 seconds

Lydia, my BFF. Affectionately known as Lyds.
Lydia: Nord, heavy armor, one-handed, archery
Ebony armor: increased heavy armor 25 pts / increased stamina 62 pts
Ebony gauntlets: 40% more bow damage / 40% more one-handed damage
Ebony boots: sneaking 40% better / increased fire resistance 46%
Ebony shield: block 40% more damage / increased frost resistance 46%
Cloak of Vokun (blue): increased heavy armor 25 pts / increased frost resistance 46%
Pussy Posse Ring – Lydia: increased heavy armor 25 pts / 40% more one-handed damage
Pussy Posse Necklace – Lydia: increased heavy armor 25 pts / increased fire resistance 46%
Pussy Posse Archer – Lydia (silver and sapphire circlet): 40% more bow damage
Thane’s Protector (ebony sword): 31 pts fore damage / 37 pts stamina damage
Zapper (ebony bow): 31 pts shock damage / paralyze 5 seconds

Hard and tough but loyal Jenassa dual wielding like a boss
Jenassa: Dunmer, light armor, dual-wield(!) one-handed, archery
Dragonscale armor: increased light armor 25 pts / increased stamina 62 pts
Dragonscale gauntlets: 40% more bow damage / 40% more one-handed damage
Dragonscale boots: sneaking 40% better / increased fire resistance 46%
Cloak of Hevnoraak (brown): increased light armor 25 pts / increased frost resistance 46%
Pussy Posse Ring – Jenassa: increased light armor 25 pts / 40% more one-handed damage
Pussy Posse Necklace – Jenassa: increased light armor 25 pts / increased frost resistance 46%
Pussy Posse Archer – Jenassa (copper and onyx circlet): 40% more bow damage
Daedric Twins – Pain (Daedric sword): absorb stamina 25 pts / fire damage 31 pts
Daedric Twins – Panic (Daedric sword): creatures and people up to level 25 flee for 30 seconds / undead up to level 25 flee for 30 seconds
No bow yet…looking for a cool unique one for her

Goody-goody Mjoll the Lionness, but she gets the job done. You can't really fault her for being nice.
Mjoll the Lionness: Nord, heavy armor, two-handed
Orcish armor: increased heavy armor 25 pts / increased stamina 62 pts
Orcish gauntlets: increased heavy armor 25 pts / 40% more two-handed damage
Orcish boots: sneaking 40% better / increased fire resistance 46%
Cloak of Rahgot (green): increased heavy armor 25 pts / increased frost resistance 46%
Pussy Posse Ring – Mjoll: increased heavy armor 25 pts / 40% more two-handed damage (chick doesn’t wear this!)
Pussy Posse Necklace – Mjoll: increased heavy armor 25 pts / increased frost resistance 46%
Pussy Posse Archer – Mjoll (jade and emerald circlet): 40% more bow damage
Grimsever (her own glass sword): frost damage 15 pts
Volendrung (unique warhammer): absorb stamina 50 pts

Seriously, how cool are we?! But do you see why I spent so long getting everything together before actually starting real quests? My personnel doesn’t stop there. I like to have property everywhere, especially when it comes with a staff. I like to be the boss, so you bet I’ll take every house I can get with a housecarl and others! As a Redgiard, I'm particularly joyful that Rayya is the housecarl for Lakeview Manor. My stewards are Faendal from Riverwood, Adelaisa Vendicci from Windhelm, and Talvas Fathryon from Solstheim.

I’m currently working on adding the fun decorations like trophies from my hunts and slayings, armor sets and weapons, and unique items. I also want to fill my shelves with book collections of skill books, journals, several volume sets related to quests, etc. It’s pretty goofy, sure, but it’s still kind of fun. I haven’t decided on acquiring children. I’m not really interested in them in reality. I’ll have to talk to Erik about it.

For quests, I’m avoided the main Elder Scrolls quest for a while in favor of the DLCs and other minor quests. Dawnguard has its cool moments, but that chick Serana annoys the crap out of me. She was sad when I told her to go away, so I told her, “Well, maybe you should have been more respectful to me!” I convinced her to cure herself of vampirism, though. That questline comes with some great stuff, particularly Durnehviir, but I dislike very much being inside that death world. It’s so creepy and depressing.

Moth stuff from Dawnguard DLC

Lord Harkon in Vampire Lord form

Soul Cairn in Dawnguard. This place depressed the crap out of me and I just wanted to get the hell out of there.

I like Durnehviir! I named my bow after the title he gave me

Blasted gargoyles were very successful at startling me. Thank the gods for the Adventurers Assemble mod so my Pussy Posse could help me fight these three.

Traveling around Solstheim is really neat though and I like the Black Books, even though they also scare the crap out of me. But damn, that Miraak clothing set!
How cool is this villain?!

It's great that this place has tons of knowledge waiting for you, but does it need to be so scary?

These things are so disgusting, especially in the way they just pop up in front of you, looking so gross with their tentacles.

This guy isn't all that attractive either. But he is rather generous.
So far there are two quests that are particularly controversial. One is the civil war, and the other is the Kematu vs. Saadia quest. As a Redguard, I felt it was my duty to do this one again (as well as Amren’s radiant quest)—gotta help my brothers and sisters! I’d done In My Time of Need before, but always sided with Kematu because he and his brethren are tough to kill alone. I did some superficial research to see who other people choose and then learned that if you choose Kematu, Saadia’s ashes will later be found in the Hall of the Dead. Also, I got to thinking that it seems suspicious for the Alik’r to hide away with bandits, and even the bandits are uncomfortable around them. Lastly, I was perturbed by their having left their brother in jail because he got caught. Not cool, dude. Bros before foes, Kematu. Seriously!

Therefore, this time around I chose Saadia. Happily, I had my sizable crew with me to do all the necessary Alik’r slaying and I felt I had served proper justice. Now dear Saadia can be free forever. She seems content enough to be a tavern worker, having started over well below her original station. Seems pretty admirable.

Sekhmet Blood-Drinker in traditional Redguard garb

Now for the civil war. At first I thought maybe I shouldn’t have anything to do with it. The first time I played I sided with the Imperials. The second time I sided with the Stormcloaks and there developed my crush on Ulfric—hahaha! It’s all too true! Aaaaaanyway, I also looked online to see who people tend to side with and there really are excellent reasons for both sides, I read that Ulfric, when encountered in Sovngard (is that correct?), expresses regret over the affair. And yet, I think his cause can be justified. In the very beginning Tullius is kissing Thalmor ass, the jerks who are trying to spread imperialism. Being from Hammerfell, I believe in a free and independent state, so it makes sense to me to try to liberate the Nords, racist as they may be, from any group trying to oppress them. Ulfric can be really crabby, but I do feel a spark of glee when I win his praise. However, I feel crushed that I have to betray Buulgruf, and it doesn’t help that he admonishes me for it. If my virtual self could hang her head in shame she would. Can’t he have just sided with the Nords? But life sucks, even in Skyrim.

Sekhmet Blood-Drinker with Ulfric Stormcloak after liberating Solitude. Skyrim belongs to the Nords!
I've got some other lovely images, but I'll save those for another post. The game is quite lovely and it's hard not to share everything! But maybe I'll leave you with Sovngarde, since it is the end of the journey for us all.

Victory or Sovngarde!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sekhmet Is Here!

I got my new laptop (HP Omen), which I named Sekhmet, last Thursday and spent nearly the whole day setting her up.  My favorite part was being able to download and begin re-playing Obduction -- but this time I am able to play the most-recently updated Obduction!  The difference is absolutely astonishing.  I can't believe it.  Even the loading screen has seen a change: now there's a purple seed surrounded by a circle whereas in the initial beta release it was an enormous circle.

Now that my graphics are beyond amazing and I can play the most epic graphics version of the game, I decided I need to retake a lot of screenshots for my little walkthrough I made.  You won't believe the difference.  If I ever get to get moving on it people are going to see some amazing images.  I got other games from the Explorer's Bundle sale and I tested them all as well.  The Witness is having problems for some reason, but the others seem to be operating just fine.

I played through Kaptar and Hunrath again so that I could get started on re-doing the cover of my walkthrough -- oh wait till you seeeeeee!  But I also decided to take screenshots of the old school graffiti in the train yard.  I have always loved old school graffiti.  Only rarely nowadays is gang tagging an art.  How far we have fallen!  Anyway, take a look at my images below (they have been cropped)!  Also, I used Afterburner instead of Fraps this time around.  That may have something to do with the improved quality, but I'm not sure.  Great program in any case.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Going Through Uru Again

I got the urge to play through Uru Complete Chronicles again, and I look forward especially to checking it out on the NEW GAMING LAPTOP I'm getting tomorrow. I really hope there won't be anything wrong with it that needs fixing before I can pour all my love and devotion into it.

Anyway...  I more or less played Uru back when I was following my sister as she played it the first time, but now that I'm zipping through on my own, nostalgia to the max is hitting me. Part of the reason for this is the fact that my new computer approaches.

When Uru first came out, I was terribly excited only to discover my computer's graphics card didn't make the grade and my mom so generously went out and bought a new one just so I could play it. Awaiting my new beefy laptop made me remember that feeling all over again, especially since now I will get to play Obduction in its most recently updated glory. All this time I was stuck playing the first beta release hahaha!  My darling 5 year old laptop tried her very best, and she deserves the applause.

It just hit me (or maybe hit me all over again?) that Eder Kemo foreshadows the breakthrough in Ahnonay because the rock painting very clearly indicate the fake worlds. Also, paintings of the Ahnonay symbol that hovers above the Ahnonay book in the Cathedral appear on the floors of the gazebos. I never realized the extent to which all these segments of the game were connected. There was so much more to tell. What a shame Cyan couldn't tell it.  And in the Baron's Office, Esher And Noloben are alluded to.  Mind = blown. I still haven't the faintest idea what that floating monument is in Kemo, though. I think a Google search is in my immediate future.

I watched an interview with Rand Miller in which he discussed Uru and its online component, and he talked about broadband. I was laughing hysterically because I remembered the first time I tried to get to the online part after I got my key to register, back when we only had dial up at home. Really, that was just not feasible. And I was afraid of talking to strangers. The internet was still pretty new to me then.  What is this magic?!  Technology has come a long, long way!

One of the many spectacular things about getting a new computer is adding all your games to it, and praying that the old ones still play.  I just purchased four new games on Steam as part of the Explorers Bundle -- this is a temporary sale on six games (including Obduction, Quern, and The Witness), and it lasts until Friday only. The collection is 59% off. That's pretty amazing.  I'm looking forward to trying another set of new games!

I've been treating my new laptop like a real baby haha!  I prepared my apartment for the new arrival, such as clearing my desk, dusting furniture, vacuuming the floor, cleaning the bathroom. Yeah, I know. It's really weird. But having an incredibly clean apartment when my new darling comes home seems to make sense. I don't want it to attract a single germ!  And it's not every year you buy a new gaming laptop!  However, this also has to do with the fact I'm remodeling my apartment, so I want everything to sparkle. My new laptop will look stunning in my newly repaired and painted apartment, a perfect conversation piece for my house re-warming party!

I'll give an update soon about how my new lovely lady is doing. Complete with pictures haha!!!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Problem with the PlayStation4 Release of Obduction

...is not what you think.  This will be a negative Nelly post, one that will likely be unpopular and one that may incite anger.  However, I am compelled to speak my mind.

Yesterday, Cyan released Obduction for PS4 with some interesting extras.  Please follow this link to read about it. You may have caught the words "new content" and you would be correct in getting excited. Also, what to take away from this is that the legendary Legendary company is actively interacting and funding Cyan on this bit of extra content -- Myst TV show, anyone? We may consider marketing moves at play as well, to make the PS4 release all the more enticing.

I don't have consoles of any kind. In fact my only attempt at using a console was when I was jacked up on Vicodin after having my wisdom teeth extracted.  I'm sure you can imagine that didn't go so well. I don't have PlayStation, therefore I can't play the PS4 release and see that exclusive content. But I don't think it is a big deal not to have it BECAUSE I know that eventually it will be released to everyone, yes, even us backers.

This is where the problem begins.  On Facebook, non-console people, especially backers, threw down dramatic angry posts, accusing Cyan of "stab[bing their] followers in the heart" and that they "need their arses kicked" for not making this available to backers (first?) or non-console people.  Seriously? This is right up there with the box drama. These posts even followed those left by Cyan employees OBVIOUSLY indicating EVERYONE will have this new content eventually.  We just need to wait a little bit.

To me, the collective temper tantrum read like a child yelling at his parent that their sibling got a bigger cookie than he did. Calm down, everyone is getting the same size, ok?  Jeez!  This is one more instance of what I knew would happen the moment the Kickstarter was released: as soon as they put down money, backers were going to think they own the game. Sorry, folks, just no. It happened with the updates. It happened with the release date. It happened with the specifications. It happened with the box.  It happened with the Mac release.

Did you pay to receive updates? No, you paid for the game. Should you have expected a later release than planned? Yes, because the estimated release date was an estimation and not set in stone. Should you complain about the game not working on your computer because the minimum specs rise beyond what your older computer can handle? No. You knew well in advance that Cyan used the most up to date softwares to make the game which, surprise, are above and beyond what they were when Myst was released almost 25 years ago. I'm sorry if you can't get a new computer because they are expensive, but the target audience is not just Myst franchise fans, but people who tend to game regularly and who have computers or consoles that can handle the game. Is that unfair? No. It was up to you to research what you were donating money to. Should you have complained about the box being "cheap"?  No. You simply failed to understand the artistic intention, which was minimalism, in case you are still lost. And if you can't understand why they went for minimalism, then you didn't understand the game and I can't help you. Should you have complained about the Mac release? No. One, games tend first to market to PC users because that is the widest-used computer for gaming. Macs require other configuration, I guess; I'm not a computer expert. Two, Mac had first to release some new stuff on their end, which was out of Cyan's control.

I don't have a PS4.  I don't have a VR headset. My laptop, Hathor, is 4 years old and can only support the original beta release of the game. I have not been able to enjoy the fullest, recently updated version of the game. But in no way has this diminished my enjoyment or appreciation of the game that I helped make happen, for which I and my fellows were credited at the end of the game. No one is getting shafted or bamboozled or duped. Your mighty dollars were put to the use that was clearly outlined in the Kickstarter: to have a new state of the art puzzle game with three worlds. That they have received more funding since the game release, can you truly blame Cyan for adding stuff? Do you truly believe they are sharing it only with PS4 users?  You'll get your cookie, and it will be the same size as everyone else's.

Get. Over. It. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Penultimate Mission

A few days ago I returned to my favorite city building game, Pharaoh, based on ancient Egypt.  Of the three ancient Egypt games I have played, this one continues to take the lead for a number of reasons.  It's incredibly challenging but also historically accurate, relatively speaking. I truly believe it's a spectacular learning tool not only for understanding ancient Egypt, but also for social anthropology and those interested in the development of "the state."  The development of the state is an important part of civilization and it is a topic one typically finds in courses in ancient history.  I certainly include it when I teach.  Pharaoh begins in the Predynastic period, ca. 3,000 BC, and explores the moment in the evolution of civilization when nomadic groups begin to become a sedentary society.  And the game continues, in a sort of tutorial mode that adeptly represents the growth of society and culture, slowly adding development in agriculture, infrastructure, administration, emergent social hierarchy, and religion.

As your little society grows, and your family lineage increases in importance, the game becomes more challenging.  You're expected to manage increasingly larger and varied socio-economic aspects.  You've got to worry about adding entertainment and learning facilities.  Tax collectors and courts are instituted.  Monuments become grander and therefore more expensive to construct.  What begins as a simple, charming game suddenly becomes stressful as all the cares of your people are dumped continuously on your shoulders.

And then the game gets even bigger!!!  Suddenly, you're trading with cities far, far away. They ask for  grain or money or raw materials while you're already struggling to maintain these items for yourself.  And boy, if they don't get what they want in a timely manner you're in trouble.  Once Pharaoh's army comes for you, you know you have to replay the mission.  Other, foreign lands start to invade your lands, too. First on land, and later by river!  You've got to build armies and navies.  Military technology improves and you've got to build chariots, and fortifications walls and towers.

After this game you'd qualify as a presidential candidate for sure.  I mean, hey, less qualified individuals have done it before...

I'm attaching here images of the dashboard to show you all the stuff you have to manage at once.  First, there's the main screen where you actually build your city. At the very top of the screen is your typical toolbar with settings, etc.  But it also shows you how much money (debens) you have, the population count, and the date.  Because you need to keep your eye on the date so you can get ready for the Nike flood that occurs every year, as well as get out of the red by year's end or your approval ratings will go down.  And those ratings matter!

Main display
The sidebar on the right contains your panel of building tools.   There's a mini map that indicates where you are looking on your main screen, below it are two buttons: left one shows you your administration statuses (will look at more closely below), and the right button takes you to your "world" map to check on your trade activity.

Northern Egypt, the Levant, and the Aegean
The buttons below this are (from left to right, top to bottom): house building; farms, hunting, animal husbandry, fishing, agricultural technology; entertainment venues; public health like water supplies, doctors, pharmacists, and mortuaries; road building; raw materials and industries; religious structures like temples and monuments; administration buildings such as firehouses, police stations, tax collectors, courthouses, and the central administration building like city hall; the erase tool; food and goods storage and distribution; learning facilities; military facilities like forts, naval warfs, fortifications, and weapon smiths.  Of course, all these items are not available at once, but are added as the game goes on, as would be the case in state development.

Industries and Raw Materials menu
Now, let's take a look at our overseers. The first overseer shows you how many people are employed or unemployed, what the wages are, and the distribution of workers.  You can set wages yourself, too, but I rarely change this feature.  You can set priorities for which areas of employment you want addressed first.  I always set Infrastructure as 1, and Health and Sanitation as 2.  Several years' experience taught me this -- and yes you read that right: YEARSSSS.  I've been playing on and off for years and still haven't finished the game haha!!!!  So why set it as such?  If your infrastructure isn't fully staffed, buildings collapse and catch fire.  You have to spend lots of money you probably don't have to rebuild. And guess what?  The buildings that collapse matter because they are granaries or storage yards filled with food and household items and items you're trading to gain income.  Houses burn down and your population dwindles.  You can't rebuild without money and you can't fill jobs without people.  Hence, Infrastructure is #1.  With Health and Sanitation lacking in employees, your people die and more jobs are left empty.  Therefore, it's #2.  I can often get away with leaving the others to fill organically, but there are occasions where these must be changed.  Sometimes, when your population is low it's because you're missing food. People leave and you can't get them back!  So temporarily, you've got to push around priorities to Food and Distribution.  People will begin to return in droves.  One that always stresses me out is when the gods start destroying buildings and sending plagues because you haven't been paying enough attention to them because, oh I don't know, you're trying to bring in people to fill positions!  So you have to set the priority to religion and the gods will calm down.  Bast is the hardest to please.  I really dislike her.  Many have been the moments where I caterwaul in dismay over my dwindling populations!

Employment Overseer
Next overseer (I'm skipping military for now) is your personal info.  Here it shows you what your salary is.  This increases over time as your family gains more power. Eventually you become king, but much later in the game.  It also shows you if you have to fulfill any requests from other cities, such as 1600 units of grain within 7 months.  If you don't comply, your approval rating decreases.  Sometimes you can't comply because those assholes ask for shit you don't even have, and you have to import it!  If your approval rating gets to zero, you're done for.  However, with your salary you can buy Pharaoh gifts or donate money to the city, which may be helpful.  But you should do it at least once a year, so you have to keep your eye on the date.

Political Overseer
Next overseer shows you your ratings.  Each mission has a particular rating requirement and you have to keep your eye on the kingdom (approval) and prosperity ratings.  The other two are easy to achieve.  In the box below you are given tips on how to improve.

Ratings Overseer
Overseer of Commerce is one you'll visit often, where you can manage your imports and exports, check out their prices to see how they impact you financially, and you can also turn industries off and on, as well as stockpile goods.  Each mission gives you different raw materials and industries, so you're usually going to be trading with someone.  For instance, maybe your people will start whining for pottery (and they do), but you don't have the raw material clay. You do have a potter, however, so you have to import clay to make the pottery.  In many cases, you can export pottery and make up the money lost!  Trade routes cost money to open, and these costs vary.  Some traders come by foot; others come by ship.  So you need a dock and storage yards. And they trade only a certain number of items annually.  Waset may sell 4,000 clay a year, and On may sell up to 500.  It's a strategy just to decide which routes would be best to open first.

Commerce Overseer: manage industries, and imports and exports
You can even see the prices of cost for buy vs. sell!  Whaaaaaaat!
Next is your population overseer who tells you about the status of immigration and how much food you supply.  This is pretty straightforward and I don't often concern myself with it. The next three -- Public Health, Education, and Diversions -- are useful in showing where you are lacking in appropriate facilities.
Population and Agriculture Overseer

Public Health Overseer

Education Overseer

Entertainment Overseer
The religion overseer is another one that will take up a lot of your time because the gods are petty assholes.  You have to keep them happy by building temples and making sure they are fully staffed, as well as throw festivals for them -- you need a festival square to do this, and you have to make sure it's one of the first things you plant.  When they are angry it is cause to worry.  Ptah, for instance, may destroy a storage yard full of all the gems you mined which are your main source of income.  They can be quite cruel.  Bast is the bitchiest.

Religion: bribe gods
The treasury is a good one because it shows all your expenses, your income, tax rate, taxes collected, and tax registration.  If you are in debt or lose more money than the year before, your prosperity rating goes down, which could also lead to your kingdom approval rating going down.  It's useful in pinpointing where you need to make financial adjustments.  Following this is the Chief Overseer who tells you the general problems and statuses in the city.

Treasury Overseer
Chief Overseer
You can also check on problem areas in the city by selecting the overlays button in the toolbox, as below:
Overlays screen
The monuments overseer will keep a tally of monument construction progress as well as indicate what items you need to donate to the funerary structure.  You can also check in on the monument rating, or have fun watching them build the great pyramid!  If the gods are feeling especially benevolent, they will build parts of the structure for you, which saves money on stone!

Monuments Overseer
Returning to the military overseer, you can check up on your armies and navies.  You are allowed only six divisions of each, which was a problem for me in the last mission I completed.  For the army you can have a collection of soldiers, archers, and, later, charioteers.  You need a recruiter, a weapon smith, and an academy if you want well-trained soldiers.  Weapons are made with copper, which sometimes you need to import.  In battle you can decide what position you want them to take, stand ground or charge.  Sometimes they get scared and run back to the fort, but with experience they get better.  Sometimes in naval battles you lose all your ships, so you've got to make sure your shipwrights are stocked with wood so they can make more immediately.  Then, after your harrowing battles on land and sea, you have to rebuild.  Sometimes the enemy destroys areas of your city...and they always go for the most important buildings first!

Military Overseer
I've gone through all of the above to illustrate the remarkable complexity of this game.  It has its moments when it is truly difficult, and the last mission I played, which is the penultimate mission in the vanilla game, was one of the most difficult I have done.  The site is at ancient Byblos. Byblos is a coastal city in the Syria-Palestine region, and in antiquity it was one of the most important cities, and one of the wealthiest.  It was Egypt's main source for cedar wood, which they prized above all other woods.  Byblos was a trading capital.  Therefore, I thought it was going to go smoothly in the game.  But alas.

Obtaining debens was not exactly the issue.  My kingdom rating was great, monument rating easily obtainable, culture rating just fine.  But for the life of me I could not achieve my prosperity rating!  I was supposed to have 40, but the highest it would go was 34!  Why?  I'll tell you!

The three main problems were population, beer, and those god damn Hittites!  I had a massive population until people started wanting beer.  I had to import beer because I had no method of making my own, BUT there was only one city, Rowarty in the Delta, that was selling, but they would sell only 400 units at a time.  Therefore, there was rarely any beer to go around and people started leaving my city.  Even worse, the Hittites invaded often, on land and sea.  Eventually, my six army units (1 archer, 2 soldier, 3 chariot) were skilled enough to demolish the Hittite foot soldiers and chariots with relative ease, but they often scared away my population.

The Hittite ships, though.  Egad!  As I wrote above, you are given only six navies.  Frustratingly, this is not nearly enough in this mission, because those bastard Hittites come with double the ships!  And they kill yours like smashing ants!  It was a very stressful mission, and a couple of my friends were forced to hear all about how the Hittites were kicking my ass.  But glory be!  I completed the mission.

When my prosperity rating was not going beyond 34, I knew it never would, but I also knew the problem was not with me. I was doing everything right...the problem was that Rowarty was just not selling beer!  I grew tired of trying to fix it and set the game difficulty from normal to very easy, and within ten minutes I completed the mission.  It took 73 game years, and my score was absolutely atrocious, but I felt such elation and relief to have come out of that terribly stressful ordeal.

Last mission: Rowarty
Now I'm on the final mission of the vanilla game, and guess where the site is?  Rowarty!  At least I know I'll have a steady beer supply!  This mission covers the Sea People, who, in antiquity, almost decimated the entire eastern Mediterranean.  They destroyed the Hittite empire, which would never rise again.  They razed cities in the Levant and there are some tablets that have been discovered that include letters of desperation from Ugarit to a city in Cyprus where the ruler is terrified because the Sea Peoples are approaching their city.  These kinds of letters are always heart rending because we know those poor sods were killed.  (I have a whole thing about the king of the Mitannians and his demise when my favorite pharaoh, Akhenaten, stopped paying attention to him.  I wrote this crazy sad paragraph about it in my MA thesis, and to this day I'm surprised my adviser let me keep it in there...well blast. Now I want to share that with the world, and damn it I will!)

Anyway, when the Sea Peoples arrived at Egypt, Ramesses III was finally able to defeat them once and for all.  If he hadn't, who knows how history might have been different!  Now, with all this in my mind, realizing that this is the last mission in the game, the final showdown after which Egypt's power begins to decline, it's rather an emotional mission to play.  It's going to be tough as hell, I imagine, but I'll feel really cool donning my Ramesses III hat and kicking butt!  (In the game, it looks like they have this occurring under the reign of Ramesses II, which is factually incorrect.  The Sea Peoples did attack in the reign of his son, Merneptah, though.)

In short, play this game!  You not only learn about Egypt, but also you learn how societies develop and function.  You learn some intense management and problem skills, as well.  I think this is an excellent educational tool and I recommend it to schoolchildren and college students.  And of course I recommend it to regular gamers!

Friday, July 28, 2017

New Additions and New Editions

My goal to collect all five covers of the From Myst to Riven has, I am happy to announce, recently brought me two steps closer to achieving it.  I was talking with a friend of mine about this project, which inspired me to look again for any new covers out there.  It wasn't that long ago that I found cover number two to stand beside my 233rd Age cover, so I thought I'd be out of luck.  It's always hard to figure out what's out there because everyone uses the stock image of the Tay cover, and all the covers have the same ISBN.  Therefore, you never know what you will end up getting.  Last time, I found the Jungle Island cover on eBay.

I searched eBay again, but there was nothing there.  Then I took to Amazon, which tends to yield worse results because it's next to impossible to get details on the covers.  HOWEVER!  This time around I was pleasantly surprised to see that someone provided an image of the specific book!  I was able to acquire two new covers: the Tay one, and the view of the golden dome coming from Gehn's lab -- you know the view...the "approaching inserting disc 5" view.  My 233rd Age cover is hanging out at my mom's house, but I have a lovely image of my three new friends together:

It took me a little while to get the image because my silly cat, Topaz, kept rubbing herself all over the books.  Oh cats.  I have one cover left: Map Island!

As I excitedly texted my friend about my acquisitions, I grew a bit concerned and asked her if she thought my collecting these items was bordering on illness.  I'd begun watching Hoarders recently -- good God, that is such a depressing show.  But I am so glad so many people are finding help.  Currently, my Myst stuff is in various places, but I think it is healthily contained.  Most of it is at my mom's house, stored in the cedar chest she gave me as a high school graduation present.  Otherwise, I've got the other 1/3rd (?) of my collection in my apartment either on display or stored in the storage place of my chaise -- if you are not counting the 4 posters I still have in their tube, awaiting frames.  I think that's still healthy.  Sheesh...I wonder if it ever crossed the Miller brothers' minds that there would be freaks like me with a collection of this stuff.

There are a few items I feel I must part with, though.  Some extra copies of stuff.  You see, when I worked in the library back in my hometown, people would donate books to the book sale and some of them were the Myst books.  The book sale functions as a kill shelter...if the books are languishing on the shelf, they are gotten rid of.  I felt the need to "rescue" them, so I took each one as it arrived.  Thus, I've got multiple copies of these things.  I think it would be a good idea to put them up for sale, but make sure I keep the lovely clean copy for myself.  All I need is one...one each of the paperback and hardcover!  Or not.  Maybe sticking with the first edition hardcovers will be fine enough.  This means I have to find The Book of D'ni in mint.  Right now, I have a library-rescued copy.  BUT!  And I just thought of this, paperback copies would be good to use when I loan out books.  If anyone ever bothers showing interest in the story that is, hehe!

In other news, unrelated to games of any kind, following the successful printing of my little Obduction walkthrough book, I decided to have my novel printed likewise.  I edited and reedited and reedited it, then formatted it to make a 6x9" paperback.  Then, I made a cover, and printed it!  No, I did not self-publish it...I don't really believe in self-publishing novels, though I know it has worked for people in the past.  I believe strongly in professional editors, and in having a team help you to make your work even better than you've got it.  My intention is to agent shop...annnnnnnnnd probably never get published hahaha!  I was so excited when I got my printed copy in, and loads of people thought it was a legit book.  I told them the difference between a professional cover and a self-published cover is the font: serifs all the way, man!  None of that silly florid font that you find on romance novels.  No sir, you want a neutral font with serifs.  You'd be surprised at the difference that makes!  Here is the cover:

Wouldn't you want to read that?  If you would indulge me, let me write a bit about it.  It's the first book in an intended 9-book series.  Yes, the number 9 is significant, as it refers to the Egyptian Ennead, a genealogy of 9 gods that symbolize completion and perfection.  The series is called the Golden Sword because it revolves around, you guessed it, a golden sword.  The function of the golden sword is to uphold order in the cosmos.  Anywho...the first book is called The Lords of Maat, as you can plainly see, and basically sets up the rest of the series.  Lord of Maat was one of the many titles for ancient Egyptian kings, meaning that they were responsible for maintaining order in the cosmos by maintaining order in their kingdom.  I'm sure you are familiar with Maat...the feather of truth, hearts were weighed against it in the Book of the Dead to see if so-and-so could continue to live in the afterlife.  There's more to that story, but I'm not trying to turn readers into Egyptologists.  There aren't enough jobs for that.

This is the summary as I have it currently.  I'm really bad at writing summaries, especially for complex stories/dissertations: In ca. 1600 BC, a thousand-year alliance between four world powers stands upon the brink of collapse, as three of the nations aim to fortify themselves against the inevitable fall of Shaddenrod.  But then, the Light and Dark Gods of the Shaddenite faith awaken through a Whisperer whose vision from the Dreamtime once again draws all four nations together.  meanwhile, south of Egypt, a Nubian king, inspired by his kingdom's recent victories against Egypt, seeks worldwide glory for Nubia.  It is by joining the alliance that he finds a way to realize his goals, though at great cost.  His only weapon: a mysterious ancient Sumerian tablet that would change the fate of the world.

On the cover of the book -- oh and this cover is by no means something that would be able to be used on a legit publication because there are too many copyright laws being broken.  Also, it's anachronistic, ha! -- on the cover of the book is Maat in her goddess form.  This image comes from the tomb of Nefertari, wife of Ramesses the Great (ca. 1250 or so BC).  The design at the top is what's called a kheker frieze and it is found in the tomb of Senenmut who lived under the reign of Hatshepsut (ca. 1450 BC), and finally, the background is a tablet written in Akkadian (not Sumerian), part of a collection of tablets known as the Amarna Letters dating to the reigns of Amenhotep III and Akhenaten (ca. 1350 BC).  See?  Anachronistic haha!

The story, obviously, is a historical fantasy and I do intend to include real, historical events.  In fact, this book does have discussions on real events and the state of affairs in Egypt and Sudan at this time.  It's the period the Egyptologists call today the Second Intermediate Period.  It's one of my favorites!  Lots of chaos abounded.  But later, I'm going to be including real events that took place in the Near East that will peg the story down at 1599 or 1595 BC -- scholars differ in their chronologies.

I've been working on this series for nearly half my life, having gotten the first inkling of it when I was 16.  Over the years, I've redeveloped it and done LOTS of research, drawing, of course, from my Classics and Egyptology degrees.  This story is always on my mind.  Always.  Personally, I think it's pretty damn amazing, but I think the majority of the world would 100% DISagree.

With all that having been said, I think I have a better chance publishing my series if I publish a standalone novel first.  And I have just the one in mind!  I got the idea for it when I was 13, but the story would never come.  It never seemed right and I couldn't figure out how to get it going.  It has been very frustrating to know that it's back there in my mind, and that I have so many details, but not the big picture.  Happily, recently, it finally came to me.  And when it came it was like I was dropped from 100 floors up, that's how powerful it was.  It's been so much fun putting it together.  I love writing stories so, so much!!!

End transmission!  Glad I got that off my chest!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Obduction Backer Rewards

It was a day of joy when I received my Art Collector tier rewards for Obduction.  Though I mostly cared about the game, getting these awesome goodies reinforced my no regrets (and irresponsible probably) attitude for defaulted by on bills so I could help make Obduction happen.  Hahaha!  I'm kidding about the bills.  I think.  It was almost four years ago anyway.

I've just got to share my stuff.  It's a bit premature to do so because I'm waiting for the frames to hang up my signed poster and three post cards, all of which are beautiful!  I feel guilty about the Cyan team having had to sign everything, though.  That must have sucked.  It makes me think of that Seinfeld episode where Jerry had to sign all the royalty checks and his hand became a claw.

The night I brought home my box of stuff I began to think about how things were going to look on the walls and where I'd put them.  One has only so much wallspace in a New York apartment!  Originally, I had planned to hang the poster next to my D'ni map above the other half of my corner desk.  For some reason I was expecting a 18x24" or so poster, but the dimensions are 12x24".  That meant I had to rethink things.  Finally, at 3am, I had it all figured out.  I put the art print in a frame I had lying around unused, removed the Myst 5 lithograph from the adjacent wall, and hung both next to the D'ni map.  It's always a little difficult to get used to my new d├ęcor, but this is awesome!

The  Starbucks cup is my decoy when I go to Starbucks to use the internet so that I don't have to buy yet another coffee haha!  The upper right is the concept art print, featuring what would become the rotating sphere in Hunrath.  The poster will go on the adjacent wall, and when it's installed I'll share a pic.

The art book is striking, and it also came with a certificate of whatever it's called--can't remember, too lazy to look.  Happily I found a way to display it!  It's hanging out next to my Egypt photo book.

I am also showing my boxed version, which is unfortunately difficult to see in this image.  It's standing next to my laptop which has the digital concept art as a background.  Oh the box.  There was incredible drama over the box.  I mean, really absurd.  Some complained it wasn't of the style we used to have with the Myst games, and because it wasn't extraordinary in that way they wanted their money back or what have you.  Really?   One person said they would sell it for the $75 they paid for it.  Um, no.  You paid for the game.  The amount you donated rewarded you with some extra stuff.  Besides, take away the cost of the game (according to what Steam is selling it for), the box is actually worth a minimum of what, $30?  Come on.  Personally, was think the minimalist design, especially the cutout, makes sense and is reflecting the aspect of the game where things are removed and placed
elsewhere.  Jeez.

There was one thing I noticed when I compared the art book and the game box: the titles are different colors!  I recognized this same problem in the draft of my walkthrough guide (still waiting on an answer.  I know they are terribly busy, but I'm worried my email went to the spam folder!).  The title printed darker than it appear on the computer screen, probably from tinge RGB color format.  When I went through my previous muted version to edit it I had to lighten some of the images and my title reproduction.  I have to say, I'm pretty impressed with my reproduction of  the colors and gradient in the title!  I hope it doesn't make the images look bad.  Here are the comparative images below. 

The frame for the post cards is arriving today, at least it is supposed to.  My mail carriers like to lie about attempted delivery and I have to trudge to the post office half a mile away to pick it up, and then climb a giant hill on the way back.  Anyway, that's going in my entryway.  The other frame should be arriving later this week, and it will go on the wall adjacent to the D'ni map.  An update will be added when that is complete.  It would be great to get poster frames for my limited edition Myst/Riven posters!  In the fall perhaps?  I also need to replace my Riven shirt, which I actually improved.  I'll show you later!  Along with the Narayan scarf I made!