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, 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!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Another Walkthrough Update

I posted images of my Obduction walkthrough printed book on Facebook and I received such startlingly positive feedback.  I was not expecting the amazing compliments.  One person said it was sexy!  So funny!  Also, many people expressed the wish to have a copy.  I really, really want to make this available at least in PDF format for everyone.  And if I am able to make it available as a printed book, and dare I dream, sell it, this would be so glorious.

I have two versions: one is the electronic PDF version that is formatted in such a way that it can be printed double-sided should one wish to print it.  The second is the print-ready format for publishing, which calls for larger margins with a bleed.  All images are 300 or more dpi for commercial printing as well.  The book cover had to be made separately according to a specific format, and the spine took me a while to put in exactly the right spot.  The book was printed as a paperback with glossy pages, which owes to its legit look.

After the wonderful responses I received, I went through and edited the thing again.  Surprisingly I had several to make.  I also researched on Cyan's site the protocol for getting permissions to make things available (at least for free) to the public.  I'm not sure yet how that works with sales.  I know there's a guy on Etsy who sells replica Riven balls for $125 each (ouch!) and he has permissions.  And there's the one fan who made the Journey and Shell cloths from Uru.  And let's not forget Heather Larkin's stunning graphic novel adaptation of Myst: The Book of Atrus, buy here: she signs it too!

Is there hope?

It was recommended to me by another fan that I should wait until Cyan isn't so bogged down with getting Obduction more securely off the ground for some time before I start asking about this, which I think is good advice.  The prospect is so, so exciting to me, you have no idea!

I thought I'd put up images of some of the pages here to whet your appetite a little more -- they're shots of the pre-PDF print ready file, so it still has here the margins.  And also, a huge THANK YOU to all of you who have showered me with compliments and expressed a desire to own this.  It gives me the warm fuzzies and lifts my spirit - which I can really use at the moment.  I appreciate the love and support!

In no particular order (and look out for spoilers; and also be aware these are pages-saved-as-pngs, so the quality is not shown as good as it actually is):

First glimpses of an exciting adventure!

This was aching for a screenshot.  It's been filtered to make it brighter for printing.  The real image is a tad duller

A perfect fit.  I was mighty pleased with my accidental find

The juxtaposition here is hella cool, imo.  And the image on the right was an accident.  I didn't realize I'd captured the other three worlds together until I was choosing from like a hundred screenshots in the end here.

It was SO HARD to choose from my folder of final screenshots.  I never pressed F10 more in my life looking for the perfect image to end the main text of the walkthrough

A winning shot, homage to the marketing images, as well as the first we saw of the game such a long time ago

It was hard to choose just one image for a two-page spread for Kaptar

I was happy to put "boxes" in the text...got the idea from a book on the history of the ancient Near East

The Kaptar temple courtyard is full to the brim of shot-worthy features.  This statue/column is irresistible.

Adapted maps; worlds map was a lot of fun to make!

Adapted maps; Hunrath one is filtered

You've seen my charts before, but now they are vastly improved

The bright colors!  Mesmerizing!

I waited a long time to get that bird in here

Yes, this was a bitch to get right

One of my favorite images

Love the Soria tree.  So photogenic!

My Thoughts on Quern: Undying Thoughts

First of all there are spoilers below, so you know what to do: read or move on. 

Second: the tl;dr version is I generally liked it and I recommend it if you have the resolve to spend a lot of time figuring out puzzles.  Though, I did find some flaws (mostly because I'm a dummy).  Dear Quern, It's not you, it's me!

I played Quern lazily because I wanted to play it to escape thinking and this game really makes you think!  Most of the time this was in a good way, but I admit that some puzzles and non-puzzles annoyed me to pieces because I thought they were outlandish.


Let's start with the positives, of which there are many.  I should state here and now that I give this game a 88-90%.  I admit that I cheated my way through it because I didn't want to be bothered too much with the more difficult stuff, such as finding random objects I didn't know I needed.  Also, I didn't bother taking notes, which likely would have helped significantly.  Like I said, I played lazily. 
I haven't played too many different games in my life, and when I began Skyrim it was something like a culture shock.  Quern began, for me, confusingly because all these objects you're meant to throw into an inventory and carry around until it finally clicks that you need it was a tad overwhelming.  The pine cone bowl was a huge question mark for me and I tried to put it everywhere before I discovered its purpose based on the drawing in one of the buildings.  


Positives


1. Anyway, I said I'll do the positives first.  For some reason, one that I really liked was the letters puzzle toward the end.  I thought that was delightfully clever, maybe because it was so simple. 

2. I also enjoyed those panels where you have to make the lines complete, though I don't really count those as puzzles.  They don't require much thought; you just connect stuff and no biggie. 

3. The rotation puzzle of the mechanics building was equally not puzzlish, as, again, it was just moving stuff around.  One may compare this to the gateway puzzle in Riven (as I understand the inspiration was for this game?), but it lacks the "geometry" method of solving.  Down underground where you have to rotate it again is more clever, having to deal with all the crazy numbers.  I needed a cheat on that one. 

4. Inside the mechanics building, the panel with the five cylinders was a good one, though I gave up after a few tries haha!  I told you I was a lazy player.  In all honesty it wasn't a game I was prepared to play for a couple hours and then put away.  I just wanted to finish it.  


5. What I liked best was the blue torch.  That was great, though sometimes I didn't realize I needed it, so I had to consult the internet. I got better about remembering to pull up that torch later on, though.  But yeah, the blue torch rocked.  It helped with knowing when to use the white torch.  


6. It was fun mixing stuff to make potions, and was also fun to drink poisonous stuff.  I needed help with knowing which plant to use because it wasn't clear to me.  The paper said berries, but I didn't know what plant was the berries plant; I didn't exactly pay attention to berry shapes when I was trimming the verge.  Again, my fault.  It never occurred to me to bring it back to the control room and read the numbers.  And talking of, using those same numbers to open the cave door was also clever (and happily for me, quite obvious!  Yay!  I like that he easy ones). 


7. There was that one puzzle--perhaps inspired by Voltaic--where you needed to get the correct number of bars to reach the white line, like the pressure puzzle in Voltaic.  That was a sinch, also.  What followed was more or less straightforward, but I didn't realize how to operate the machine that makes the white torch haha! I found out I was trying to use the dials in the opposite way they were supposed to be used. Which puzzle is this one like in the Myst games? I'm trying to remember. There is one. Seems like one you'd find in Voltaic or Spire.



8. Other good ones were the green light beam ones.  Where you first use the do-dad that opens the windows on the mountain faces that reveal the symbols to insert in the telescope was buggy at first.  It's always a problem with puzzle games when you encounter a bug.  I was on the right track, then encountered the bug which caused the first spot where I pinged the sound stick ( I clearly have no idea what to call these things obviously, so sorry if you're here for hints!!!) not to open.  This was extraordinarily frustrating.  With a restart of the game it worked.  Getting all of that hooked up was really neat.  Time consuming, but quite fun.  I like the ones that don't require me to do too much thinking, apparently haha!  Later on, the second green beam puzzle was a good one, too, but I consulted the internet for that one also.  The third one irritated me for reasons I'll mention below.

9. The story was charming and basic and I had no problem choosing the right answer.  The M guy (forgot his name) was suspicious from the start, and became more so when he was bashing the blue light chick without even saying what it was she did to deserve his hostility.  Plus there's that whole lie about (among other things) no other humans having been there, and yet you have all these Myst fans who had scrawled their names on the wall.  Hmmmm...red flags there.  Or shall I say red crystals?  It was neat that everything led back to the original place.  It was all very tidily put together.

10. Let me finally mention the frequency puzzle.  This is a good one and so Myst inspired it's not even funny.  Sound puzzle (the second in the game) = Selentic, and the crystals = exact replica of the crystals in Rime.  I mean, it's unmistakable. An homage, I'm sure.  I reiterate, it's a good one and contains a lot of parts to figure it out.  One of the good things about it is all the parts to figure it out are in one place, which doesn't always happen in this game (as I'll say more about below).  My hearing is not the best, so matching sounds that sound, to me, the same to drawings of arrows was a disaster.  Definitely looked up the answers to that one.  The cart ride in Selenitic sometimes proved a problem for me also because of the sound, never mind that blasted keyboard.  But those who are tonally gifted must have had a great time with this one.

11. As a bonus: the funny little Las Vegas slot machine was amusing.

Negatives

I'm sure many of the negatives are due to my dummy-dumb incompetence and inexperience in gaming.  Let's make a list of games I've played since the dawn of Briana time: Super Munchers (loved this one), that DOS apple-eating snake game where they can't run into the wall, pinball, solitaire, SimCity 2000, SimFarm (a favorite!), SimAnt, SimTower, the Oregon Trail, all Myst games, Pharaoh, Rome Total War, Civilization 4 (blah!), and more recently: Obduction, Skyrim (whoa dude!), Predynastic Egypt (strategy), and I touched on Children of the Nile (strategy).  Which of these matches Quern?  To me it's Myst (puzzles) mixed with Skyrim (inventory, carrying tons of crap around for ages).  Remember, I only recently started playing Skyrim, too, so, yeah...  I'm still getting used to having an inventory!  Lolz!  Too many things!

1. The problem with the inventory is you collect a bunch of things and then forget you have them or you forget, because you've been carrying them around so long without using them, can't think of which puzzle they are meant to belong to.  Maybe taking hand-written notes would have made this better.

2. The notebook: every time you open it you have to re-find the page you were using.  Couldn't there be a feature where it stays bookmarked on the page you were using?!

3. The various crystals and telescope: it never crossed my mind in the slightest that I was meant to put the red and green crystals on the metal stick and to put that stick on the telescope in the watchtower.  A diagram somewhere would have been really helpful.  Unless I missed one?  I had forgotten all about that flag you have to burn to get the code for the second code in the cave because it had been so long since I had encountered it.  Also, I had no idea I should've been looking for a green crystal portal in the mountains.  I, for some reason, never found it in the first few times I looked around through the telescope.  Yes, I know it's not the dev's fault for me not knowing how to solve these things. What I'm saying I don't like is how there are so many puzzles to solve at one time that it's not always clear what you should be paying attention to to solve one of them.

4. Opening the mechanics building tower: I'm not quite sure what about this puzzle annoyed me no end, but I know it has something to do with the polygons on the canisters.  They just seemed pointless to me.  They're meant to give an indication of which canister you're using, but I think it complicated it beyond what complication was actually necessary for the puzzle.  I think it would've been better to have the chart inside the control room rather than only inside the mechanics building.  That way you could forgo the polygons.  Or have the polygons indicated in the mechanics room also.  I'm not sure.  There's just something about it I found silly.

5. The first sound puzzle with the jars: again, for those with poor hearing it could have been a good idea to have had some kind of diagram to indicate which pot would make which noise, such as matching the painted bands on the vessels to the lines drawn on the sound chart.

6. The "mastermind" puzzle: I'd never heard of mastermind before until I sought the internet for hints about this one.  I felt it was more trial and error rather than puzzle-solving.  I found it a problem that the number sequence resets entirely after 7 tries with the same number.  This made it unnecessarily time-consuming.  The same holds true for the crystal skull puzzle.  It's not altogether logical.  I mean, you get the idea of what to do (match the patterns in the two columns of circles in the correct way), but I did not feel any sense of true puzzleness.  As I mentioned above, there were other non-puzzles, but those ones were logical.

7. That fourth quarter pie piece for the box with the lock inside.  How the blazes are you supposed to make the connection with the white torch and the globe devices?  The globe devices were a finished puzzle, so why would anyone think to spoil a good thing?  I'm not annoyed they hid it there; I'm annoyed there was no indication to find it there except by dumb luck while playing with the white torch.  It was like the white page in the marker switch in Myst, but in Myst there was an indication it was there.  It's an essential piece in the game, not an Easter egg, so there should have been some guidance.

8. And I'll stop here: my sharp proofreader's eye (unless I'm editing my own stuff--you know how it goes) spotted the wrong use where.  They used where instead of were!  It's a minor point, but I grade my students very harshly on the confusion with these words, so the angry professor in me wanted to mark off points hahaha!  There was a typo elsewhere...in the credits maybe?  Can't remember.

Closing Remarks

Like I said at the beginning, I recommend this game!  But please take your time.  If you do you will appreciate it all the more.  This is a game you want to take slowly to avoid getting angsty about it like I did.  Do not play it to cruise around aimlessly, like in Skyrim (haha!).  It's a really good game and when you finish it you will be very satisfied not only in the game but also yourself.  The graphics are quite lovely, too.  You almost want to set the green crystal and open the portal so that there's a promise for a sequel, but alas, that's not how the game works in the end.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Can We Just Talk About Skyrim?

The title of this blog is Baladria on Myst, and in case you didn't realize, it's meant to be a play on that phrase "This is your brain on drugs."  When Obduction was announced, I added Obduction to the header, which therefore made this blog Cyan-specific.  Another game I spend a lot time playing is the excellent city-building game Pharaoh, which is superior to any other by miles, but I've avoided discussing it here because it wouldn't fit, you know?  I also used to play Rome:Total War but haven't in a very long time.  

Around the holidays in 2016, a friend gave me an extra key for Elder Scrolls: Skyrim.  I'd never played any Elder Scrolls game before, and, after starting it up, have never played a game where I have to fight anyone.  I mean in Pharaoh and Rome you have to send off armies and such, but in first-person fighting I had no experience.  

Another friend told me to be careful with Skyrim because it will take up a lot of your life.  I did not believe this, but then I hadn't yet begun playing it. Oh dear.  

At first I had no idea what was going on.  I followed some random guy who told me to follow him as he decimated enemies, we snuck past a bear, I touched some "warrior stone," and he killed a wolf on the way to a place called Riverwood where he left me. Uh, what?  I wandered around this town, lurking around taking vegetables from barrels.  My only the thought was what is this all about?

I wandered off again and discovered a place called Whiterun.  Eventually I received the directive to go kill a dragon, so off I went and let other people do the killing.  Then, I absorbed a dragon soul. 

I was still clueless as to the main point to the whole thing, but as received more and more missions I came to understand how this game consumes your life!  Staying up until 2am to finish the mission, trying to level up to enjoy a new perk so you can kill more dragons, etc.  my current goal is to smith dragon armor from the enormous pile of scales I have sitting in the chest in my house.  I bought a house, like, really?

My main problem, however, is the zombies.  I have a strong fear of zombies, that is as one encounters them in movies.  I am someone who was terrified by Shaun of the Drad, so...yeah...

Those Draugr.  I had nightmares about them. 

I joined a military group so I could level up smithing.  This is my life goal, people.  

I still have zero idea what the point of the whole thing is, but I have become obsessed anyway hahaha!  And I take having my follower, Lydia, very seriously.  A couple times she died, so I loaded an earlier save to save her ha!

It somewhat reminds me of that creeptastic "game(?)" Second Life, minus the creep factor.  It's certainly an adventure!

But now I want to get Queen and The Witness and Children of the Nile.  Looks like this blog will have an expanded repertoire!  Fun!!!!!  I'm excited, and I hope you are, too!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Walkthrough Update

I have deemed making my walkthrough available via PDF might be a copyright infringement...I'm not sure...  So, alas I won't add it.  However, I did finish it, and I uploaded it to a site that's typically for self-publishing, but I made it available only to myself.  It's being printed now and I'm very excited to see the finished product.  Unfortunately, I already found a couple things that should be fixed, but it's nothing that hinders the walkthrough. It's always when it's too late that you notice stuff like that ugh!!!!

I do believe, however, that I should make a post here about the Gauntlet because I pinned down exactly how many swaps are necessary for each stage: 2, 4, 6, 10.  I've also got all the rotation down on the giant Kaptar sphere.  

As to the Villein number puzzle, I recently asked a friend what he thought about the math.  He said you don't actually need to figure out the number system because there's a path that can take you in the right direction to get to Hunrath.  Can someone point out to me where exactly this is?  I've tried Googling this info, but no one who has mentioned it is forthcoming anout how to find this nifty shortcut. 

I finally figured out what's up with the ending and what it all means.   Also, I discovered why the fish I didn't catch on to that battery...the blue I needed was buried under the huge black bar that covers the bottom of the pages in the journals!  Grrrr!  Hopefully I will one day get a new computer so I can play the latest updated version of Obduction.  

I also realized what happened with all those carts in C.W.'s workroom.  When I played the first time it never struck me that they contained the panels for the tree.  In fact, the first time I played I don't even think I noticed they were there, or if I did I didn't add up the facts.  Surprise surprise!

At the end I finally saw C.W. riding the rail to the tree which is something I missed before. There was a lot I missed before.  I know some people have criticized the puzzles as having no logic, but I have to say--just because you didn't figure out the logic doesn't mean there isn't any.  And once you do figure out the logic, the experience is all the more enriching. I think the game truly is better the second time around. 

On to other important things!  Did I ever mention I got my hands on the rare Myst bundle "Gear for the Journey"?  Well I did!  But to add to that fabulous news, following one of my readers' activities, I've begun a search for all five covers of the From Myst to Riven book.  I've had a copy for eons already, which has the 233rd Age lab on the cover.  Today I just got a beautiful copy of the one with the path that goes under the fire marble done on Jungle Island.  The covers left to acquire are Tay, the bridge to the golden dome, and the striking path through the island shapes on Survey Island (Plateau Island).

Lastly, I was gifted a copy of Skyrim and I've started to play it.  I have no idea what I'm doing. I've never played a game like it before!  It might work best as a console game I think, but I'm no good with those.  I'd love to get my hands on Quern and The Witness, and a couple other games have been suggested to me. One thing I thought I might start doing here is talking about the other games I play.  For the most part I play Pharaoh, a FANTASTIC strategy and city building game.  In the past I've played some Rome: Total War, but I haven't gone back into that for a while now.  I just recently got another Egypt game called Predynastic Egypt which is along the lines of a Rome or Civ game.  I'm not altogether find of it however.  Also, I don't care for Civ, which I know is a horror of horrors to some people.  A game I want to get is Children of the Nile, but something tells me Pharaoh will still be the best!