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

Monday, May 25, 2015

Enter Ahnonay

Saturday's meeting with iota was extremely successful and she zipped through Er'cana with the help of her extremely insightful kiddies.  That was a real treat for me to watch/listen to.  Last time we left off in the room accessed by that large vehicle.  I hadn't noticed last time that she managed to figure out she had to send the vehicle out in order to explore further into the space underneath.  When I first played the game that had never occurred to me.  So I was excited to see her figure it out, albeit a bit late.
iota in the passageways of the vehicle ports in Er'cana
She didn't catch at first--well until I told her--that there were light switches in these areas.  This doesn't really matter for the puzzles to function, but it's always nice to turn on lights.  My mom used to get annoyed with me because I used to turn on every light in the house when it was half-light outside.  I get very anxious at those times of day and I have no idea why.  Recently I've been trying to be conscious of that so that I can keep my electric bill at a reasonable level ha!  No wonder she used to get mad!  But there are no electric bills in Myst, so I get that meter spinning!

Lo and behold! iota was now able to access the walkways (or as she accidentally called them: "the things that walk" lolz) to get to the building beyond.
Heading closer to the power center.

Entering the windmill room
Once inside, she found the sixth Shell Cloth and the power to the windmill, which, again, I don't think serves much purpose if any(?).
iota finds the sixth Shell Cloth in Er'cana
With so many entrances and exits in this room, she initially missed one, but soon she found her way (again, as a result of my big mouth) to it. The control room was where a lot of the action happened.  Like me, when I first played, it took a century to realize you had to click on the chair in order to manipulate the controls, just like the control room in Teledahn.  One of those facepalm moments!  The controls are pretty intuitive, and the kiddies were definitely helpful.
Baladria watching iota figure out the controls in Er'cana

iota shuts down the spinny things
For some reason, the game was glitchy with her avatar and among moments of continuous spinning and falling through ladders, this happened:
How did she do that?
After some trial and error, iota was able to open the ladders and climb up to the pellet-baking room.  But shh...she doesn't know what that's for yet.  I told her to ignore it for now.  But this room was probably the most entertaining moment for me.  It took a while for her whole crew to learn how to get that elevator to work properly.  They came up with numerous combinations of which machines should be on or off, which involved a lot of ladder climbing.  Finally one of the little tykes had an idea, which turned out to be the correct one: turn them all off!
Taking stock of the pellet room

iota fiddles with the controls in the Er'cana ovens
At last, up we went to the top where we came upon one of the most striking views in the game!
The glaciers/mountains of Er'cana
When iota found the reward clothing, I made her pose for a picture.  She laughed at me later on when I asked again and said it was like a family vacation.
iota finds the Er'cana backpack
It was then that she remembered she forgot to change out of her desert gear and went back to Relto to change her clothes.  Apparently we have a beret now!  Whut?!  And, colorful dresser that she is, she went for the La Femme Nikita look.
iota's new ninja costume...with Minkata boots
So now that she had explored all there is to explore in Er'cana, she decided it would be a good idea to check on the shell hologram.  So we drove back to the beginning of Er'cana to get to the hologram alcove.
Baladria and iota driving back to the beginning of Er'cana
And sure enough, the hologram was complete.  She didn't realize it was a portal, so I had to give her that information haha!  And off she went to the donut place to get her donut wedge.
iota completes Er'cana!
Now, I am trying to remember what that connection between Er'cana and Ahnonay is for...really trying to remember, but failing.  It's been so long since I redid this that it's pretty much new to me also.  But now with Er'cana complete, we come to the final destination: Ahnonay.

Ahnonay is difficult.  Not in the annoying way that Minkata is difficult.  But in the way that Kadish Tolesa is difficult.  It was written by the same guy, after all.  It's difficult in terms of the complexity of its puzzle.  Like Riven, easily the best of the Myst games, the entire Age is one giant puzzle.  And it requires lots of linking, experimentation, back and forth, notes, snack/drink breaks, and frustration.  I don't want her to look up hints, but I will help when she feels mega stuck.  I think, since we journeyed to Ahnonay late her mind was tired by then, so she got stuck early on.  I think next time we play, after thinking about it some, she'll make some great progress.  Or not.  We shall see!  It may take weeks to figure it out, and that's the best!

So, we entered Ahnonay Cathedral, a most spectacular introduction to the Age.
iota enters Ahnonay Cathedral for the first time

iota approaches the Linking Book to Ahnonay
And thence to the Age itself:
iota arrives in Ahnonay for the first time

iota explores Ahnonay 1 in all its beauty
She found the first Shell Cloth easily enough...
iota finds the first Shell Cloth in Ahnonay
But then it got hard.  She wandered back and forth on the island, and when she accidentally fell in the water she discovered she could swim.  She tried to swim to the little building on the little island, but, just like all of us, didn't make it the first time.  Or the second time.  She didn't try again after that, and she didn't need to in the end.  I asked to to tell me her thoughts, what did she see in the Age.  She wasn't being observant enough, in my humble opinion.  (Sorry iota--I know you are reading this haha!)
Baladria watching as iota tries to swim to the island in Ahnonay 1
She mentioned the trees, and the quabs, and the "clock," and made an interesting comment that the buildings in the distance looked like copies of each other at different angles.  I knew she was stuck and I was trying to hint at looking at the "clock" more and trying to figure out what that was for.  She didn't say anything about the blue lights.  Later, I asked her if she noticed anything different about the clock, but she, to my disappointment, said no.  Rats!
iota and Baladria observing the clock in Ahnonay 1
So I had to give a more obvious clue.  I told her to stay where she was and watch the clock as I ran around the island.  That's when she noticed the blue light was following me.  Then, I jumped into the water, and she noticed the light disappeared.  So I asked her what that meant, and she thought the lights represented the trees.  I said, ok, but I'm not a tree.  What else is living?  Then she remembered the quabs and finally realized the lights reflected both us and the quabs.  So I asked her why would it be important for the clock to measure the life on the island and why the blue lights disappear after something goes in the water.  That's when she made the connection that the quabs must all go away.  She set about kicking them off the island.
iota chasing the quabs off the island
I was surprised she hadn't connected those dots sooner.  It was one of the very few things about Ahnonay I was able to solve on my own, but like I wrote above, it was late!  I told her I think the people who made this part of the game was banking on basic human instincts of sadism: kicking off the creatures once you know you can.  She said it had crossed her mind, but she didn't realize it was actually essential in solving the puzzle.  Hehe!  Yep, indeed it is!  Kadish was a weirdo.  

Afterwards, I decided to be over-helpful and I set her up for how the Age works.  I told her to have her sound on so she can hear what happens when the last living creature links out.  I think I told her too late, perhaps, because she didn't hear anything different.  At any rate, we linked back and she got a nice surprise!  Ahnonay 2!
iota and Baladria in Ahnonay 2
Ah...um...oh.  Ok.  Just now as I was writing this Google+ made a motion picture for me.
Baladria photographing iota in Ahnonay 2
The above picture happened because I was trying to capture the blue lightning.  I failed.  She was startled to see that we had linked to a deteriorated form of Ahnonay, and then the cogs really began to turn in her brain.  Questions abounded!  She soon learned the crystal "trees" could shatter, but I had to nudge her again into connecting the demolition of these and the blue lights on the clock.
iota shatters the blue crystal trees of Ahnonay 2
This time, when we linked out, she heard the loud noise that follows the last person out of the Age.  And then, when we came back...
iota in Ahnonay 3
The island was even more deteriorated!  She observed that it was sort of like the Nothing from the Neverending Story.  That's a pretty good analogy, I think.  It works.  As time goes on, perhaps she will update this assessment.

Well, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it only gets more difficult from here!  Hahaha!  Or should I say mwahahahaha! >:D  I think next time, we would benefit from taking a moment to assess everything that we observed so far in the Age (and outside of the Age even).  It's going to take a while, but I know that ninja iota can do it!
iota in Ahnonay 3

Saturday, May 23, 2015

On to the Good Stuff!

Wow, it's been a while!  My teaching gig is over, which means...well it means I'm using all that time to do something else much more intellectually strenuous: studying for the big exam I'll be taking at the end of this year.  I was able to cross "pass German exam" off my list of things to do, so hooray for me!  The to do list toward dissertation grows smaller.

iota had a bunch of stuff she was doing in real life.  Really cool stuff, too! Makes me wish sometimes I lived not in New York.  Then there was sickness and hanging out with friends, and lo and behold, over two months have passed without me writing up a post.  Last one was for St. Patrick's Day.  Wow!

Well, I am happy to report that iota has finished Minkata, not without difficulty, and has moved on to Er'cana,  Hooray!!!!!!!

I'm not sure if I had any influence on her opinion, but, like me, iota did not like Minkata.  It seems so very un-Myst, so much so that when she started Er'cana, which is very Myst, she was stuck almost immediately.  She was expecting it to be more complicated and less intuitive like how the past months have been with the "To D'ni" part of the game.  I explained the inception of Uru, as I experienced it: it began with the single-player first mission, the Journey.  And from this, you were invited to the online portion of the game.  I didn't get much of a chance to participate in that.  And then To D'ni expansion pack came out.  And then Path of the Shell expansion came out.  And then they were all tied together to form Uru: Complete Chronicles, which has several differences from MO:ULa.  In UCC, the marker missions have a point, but not so in MOULa.  So in the online game, it's basically an optional part of the game, but it does lead you to calendar sparks and Relto Pages.  Likewise, Jalak and Minkata are pointless and serve only to pass the time, and to have a new Age to play with.  Which is great for people who really enjoy them.  When I took her to the Watcher's Pub, I explained that there had been a purpose to that also, but it remains only in UCC.  Not that we should complain,  Who wants to stand stationary on a weight plate for 15 minutes to open a door?  It's still to bad that tree remains so close and yet so far away.

A strange thing happened when we were in Bevin, by the way.  We arrived to find Happy New Year signs.  Maybe it it the D'ni New Year?  Not sure.  But there were fireworks also and then suddenly the fireworks cut out when I walked up the stairs toward the audience hall.
Happy New Year!  In April?
Fireworks in Bevin
Fireworks in Bevin seconds before they shut off

Anyway, Minkata!

Since St. Patrick's Day was over, iota changed from her green getup to some desert wear:
iota ready for the desert
So we began Minkata again with having one kiva down and 4 more to go.  As our hologram conveys to us:
Part one of the portal in Minkata
We had established from the beginning that we would, erm, cheat our way through it.  I'm not altogether sure what method iota used because she spent time walking and counting steps before she ended up in the proximity of where a kiva should be.
iota off to find kiva 2
She appeared to have found it with relative ease and before long, I was standing by the tent thingy watching the sky move and a hologram zooming toward me,  We linked back to see the portal was growing!
iota, the proud owner of a dot
And so on to kiva 3!  So far the only challenge was getting there without getting bored.

Baladria watches as iota sets herself into position to find kiva 3
This time I decided to go with her, since I had not yet gotten pictures of her finding one or of finding the hologram, which she hilariously calls "ghost lights"! HA!
iota marching off to find kiva 3
Found a hole!
Gazing at the beautiful nighttime Minkata sky
Ghost lights found!
A circle to add to the zig-zag and dot
So now that things were moving along gloriously, it was time to get to the kiva with the boots!  Yippee!  The best thing to come out of this Age.  We managed to find our way there, and everything was just peachy.  She got her boots.
iota sporting her newly acquired Minkata boots
But then we ran into a big of a snag when we must have followed the wrong constellation and thus got very, very lost,  We ended up linking back into daytime Minkata so that she could go back and find the hole again.
New boots!
SO off she went into the desert and soon enough she found a hole, and then a ghost light, and then there was an addition to the portal doodle.
Almost there!
But apparently, she found kiva 5!  Not kiva 4.  So she had to go back and try to find kiva 4 again.  Unfortunately, she ended up back at kiva 5.  By then it was edging on too late for me and too frustrating for her and we decided to leave number 4 for the next time.

We met up again last Saturday to finish this Surveyor mission.  Happily enough, she completed the Age!
Complete
Thank God!  I'm sure if one doesn't cheat through the Age there's a much greater feeling of accomplishment rather than relief just to be finished with it.  I was just so excited to get to the best part of the game!  I purposely forced her to save these babies for last because I think they are so great.  I hope she will agree!

We went off to the Watcher's Pub, which itself is a glorious place to be.  Her first assessment of it was "Pretty!"  It is indeed!
iota and Baladria in the Watcher's Pub
Blast, this brings back fond memories from years and years ago -- 2007 maybe?  When I finally got to Ahnonay and needed to obtain a helper.  I had no friends in game, being rather unsociable online.  But in the Watcher's Pub I met someone who I became great friends with and we'd be chatting into the wee hours of the morning about anything and everything.  He and I are Facebook friends now, but don't say much to each other, and he's not in the game now.  Man, back then I really needed the people here since my personal life at that time wasn't the best thing in the world.  Nothing is forever, and all of that passed: both the good and the bad.  I'm just happy to look back and see that there was good with the bad, instead of just bad.  Not everyone finds an escape.

ANYWAY, enough about that.  We took a tour of the Watcher's Pub, and I explained the tree in the distance, or at least the means by which once upon a time we were supposed to access it.  She rifled through the journal near the two Linking Books.  I said she could go through the other notebooks, but didn't have to because I didn't think it was essential in solving the Ages.  I also said that Ahnonay is the only Age I haven't completed since the reboot following the crash (haha! seems so post-apocalyptic!), but I want her to complete it first, and then I will do mine.

So I sent her off to Er'cana.  I wonder if she will change from her desert gear now?
iota links to Er'cana
After spending months away from a real mission, beginning a new one was a bit unsteady.  How does this work again?  What am I looking for?  Is this like Minkata?  Or the first four Ages?  I let her roam for a bit, hoping she'd first find the plants in order to get them out of the way.  Happily, that is the very direction she took.
iota searches among the weird Er'cana plants for the Relto Page she doesn't know is there
I was grinning ear to ear when she commented on how realistic the environment looked, and when she saw these plants and said "Whoa, these are weird-looking."  See, this is classic Myst, and this is what Minkata  was missing.  Minkata is for the esoteric group of Myst fans, whereas Er'cana is accessible to a much larger crowd, as Myst games are meant to be.  Myst 4 and 5 are for Myst fans, Myst through Myst 3 are for everyone.  And even the games for Myst fans, Revelation...well, you all know how I feel about Revelation.

I was excited to get into Er'cana, because I find it to be a motivator and a reminder of what it is like to play a Myst game.  It sparks curiosity and combines feelings of progress and accomplishment with just the right amount of frustration when you feel stuck.  It's well-balanced and I think it is one of Myst's highest achievements, in connection with Ahnonay.  It's Ages like this that make me excited for Obduction.

For iota, though, she still wasn't sure how to begin, having fallen out of practice.  I told her to look at the plants more closely and then I wanted to give her a big nudge, to jolt her back into the practice of the traditional mission and I showed her the Relto Page that would place these same squishy plants on her Relto.  I hope she notices them when we log on tonight!

After this, she ran in the other direction to get a lay of the land.  She remarked that she likes this Age so far because the plant life is similar to that where she lives.  She then made me jealous by telling me about all the cool national parks she's got all over the place.  Grr!  But, but, but!  I have Central Park and the Bronx River which show how NYC is built on ancient granite, so there!  Yeah, that's really not anything to write home about.

After running all over the main hub (what else to call it?) on this side of Er'cana, she asked what the objective was, and that is when I told her she's back to the cloth-searching mission, but they are different.  Immediately she found a cloth which are happily plain as day so that one's time is better spent exploring and understanding.
iota finds the first Shell Cloth in Er'cana
It was all a breeze from there.  She located the other cloths in this part of Er'cana, and found the alcove with the hologram.  I told her this is the part that is similar to Minkata, or rather Minkata drew from this.  With each Shell Cloth the hologram grows into a full shell shape.  I gave away that, like the first mission, there are seven to find.  Also, she found another calendar spark!
iota finds the Er'cana calendar spark
She made her way to the vehicle on the other side of the Age and fiddled with all the levers and switches and got the thing chugging along.  We found our way into the hub--well, I guess this part wouldn't be the hub?  Anyway, we got inside, where iota will return today to see what she can do to go into more areas. 
Baladria and iota in the mechanical area of Er'cana
iota contemplates the windmill in Er'cana
I'm looking forward to her progress at this point.  She's done the really easy stuff, and now it gets to be challenging, but not in an irritating way -- at least I hope haha!!