Friday, December 31, 2010

The First Annual Wherein I Rant Awards - 2010

Well the year is drawing to a close. And you know what that means? Every site on the internet is doing "of the year" awards. So why not join in the fun? I present to you, the first annual Wherein I Rant Awards.

Video Games

Best Indie Game of the Year - Super Meat Boy

Super Meat Boy is so good I can't even explain why it's so good. By all accounts it doesn't seem like it would be any good at all, at first glance. A game which prides itself on being unfairly difficult? Where's the fun in that? But it is. It's really fun. If you haven't played this game yet, you should.

Runner up - Beat Hazard

Beat Hazard! This game is just FUN! You see, this game is Asteroids. Oh, did I mention that instead of blips you shoot visualized light set to the music of your choice? ANY MP3 WILL WORK! It's fantastic, fun, and will probably give you a seizure.

Best Game For Under $5 - Poker Night at the Inventory

Poker Night at the Inventory is the pilot in the new "At the Inventory" series from Taletell games. It's set around a simple, yet ingenious premise. What do our favorite video game characters do in their spare time? The answer? Play lot and lots of Texas Hold 'Em apparently. For $4.99 you can get this game, 4 unlockable items in TF2, and hours of banter between the characters. It's great.

Runner up - The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom

Braid gets tons of critical acclaim for it's difficult puzzles and "great storytelling" (I use quotes because that's a load of crap, in case you were wondering.) However P.B. Winterbottom is a game that has puzzle very similar to some of those in Braid, and I heard no praise for it. It's cheap, it's fun, it has a uniquely awesome visual style, as it looks like an old silent film, and you get to steal PIE. It's pretty darn awesome.

Best FREE Game - Alien Swarm

Alien Swarm is freaking amazing. It's a completely free title released by Valve on Steam (You must have at least one game purchased on Steam in order to be eligible though. Might I suggest Poker Night or VVVVVV?) which is a remake of an old mod released on the source engine. The campaign is nice enough, and there are a ton of weapons, making a fun survival game, but Valve took it to eleven and let

Runner Up - Minecraft Classic

Minecraft is a game that popped up on EVERYONE'S radar this year. The game which is essentially the ultimate sandbox is supposedly quite good. It just entered Beta, and supposedly gets better every day. I wouldn't know. I'm too busy playing Minecraft Classic, the free (and AMAZING) version on the site.

Best Game That Went Under The Radar - The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom

P.B. Winterbottom, again is a game I heard NOTHING about until I purchased a copy on sale for 49 cents and played it. And that's disturbing since it's FREAKING AWESOME. You play P.B. Winterbottom, the dastardly pie thief. There are several things I like about this game, from the art style, as I said above, is that of an old black and white silent film, even applying film grain. The game also insults you and talks about what a horrible person you are, stealing pies. Anyways, you get time manipulation powers (sort of) and long story short, if you liked Braid, you'll like this. If you found Braid's terrible storytelling a barrier to entry, you'll love this as this is both funny and well done.

Runner Up - Worms Reloaded

I didn't hear much press or fanfare for Worms Reloaded when it was released late last august, but it's a VERY good game. It's fun, it's funny, and... Well, it's pretty darn good! The reason this is the runner up is because I at least heard VALVE mention it when they gave you a free hat in TF2 for buying it when it released. Either way, it was pretty under the radar, and I liked it.


Most Touching Movie - Toy Story 3


Best Adaptation - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One was a fantastic way of showing off how you should adapt something. Stay true to the core of it, but understand that some things don't translate well between mediums. Also, cut out a lot of the camping scenes. Oh good grief the camping scenes.

Best Effects - Inception

BRHAAAAAAAAAAM! Inception, like it or hate it, had brilliant effects. Between the sheer beauty of seeing the city lift up on top of itself to the low grav fight scene, Inception's effects, CGI and otherwise, were awesome.

Best Animated Movie of the Year - Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 is, quite simply, a great end to a trilogy. Most trilogies have a weak spot in them if you look. Star Wars had Return of the Jedi, and the Ewoks, Indiana Jones had Temple of Doom, and Toy Story had nothing. Now, while I still love me some Temple of Doom and Return of the Jedi, they were weaker films. The Toy Story films, all three of them, however, are fantastic. Keeping up that trend was enough to earn this my favorite animated film of the year.

Best Animated Movie of the Year Runner Up - Tangled

I praised this movie for every aspect of it in my full review, so if you have read that and are still wondering why this is so good... Uh... l2reading comprehension bro?


Worst Game of the Year - Chime

Ok, understand that this isn't really the worst game of the year, just the worst game I played this year. Chime is a rhythm game which might be fun if it had more than 5 freaking songs on it, but as it is, was just weak all around.

Worst Adaptation - Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lighting Thief

In contrast to HP7Pt.1 Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, took everything that was fun, witty, and charming about the book series, and threw them out the window in favor of a jive talkin' black sidekick. The main character is 16, not 12, which completely throw off the ENTIRE FREAKING POINT OF THE REMAINING 4 BOOKS, every character was changed extremely (for the worse) and worst of all Kronos is hardly mentioned. Luke's motivations are not only weaker for this, they're practically nonexistant. Not to mention the romance between Percy and Annabeth is resolved in the FIRST FREAKING FILM, instead of the FIFTH. It was a movie which might have been decent if it had been titled ANYTHING else.

Worst New TV Series of the Year - The Ev3nt

I saw one episode of "The Ev3nt" after looking forward to it for MONTHS. Let me explain how bad this show is. The first episode was the perfect storm of TERRIBLE. Terrible acting, terrible EDITING, and of course dialogue which sounded like this:
"Mister President sir, should we do something about the... Event?"
"Yes, we must keep the... Event a secret."
"But sir, what if there's another... Event?"
"Then we must be careful. We can't afford to let another... Event happen."
"I don't like... Events, sir."
"Neither do I. I don't think anyone likes... Events."
"Except sir, perhaps... Event planners."

Worst Ending of the Year - Puzzle Agent
Puzzle Agents is a game I got for a buck. I played it for around 4 hours. I really was enjoying it. It was like Professor Layton but... No, actually it was like Professor Layton. But that's a good thing! I had an interesting mystery surrounding a mysterious town... I was solving the puzzles... I was getting into it aaaaaaand....

Credits roll suddenly. What. Nothing answered, no resolution given to any characters... GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. WHY? HOW? WHO? Are the Gnomes aliens? Monsters? Was the one guy dead or alive?! WHY WAS I SUDDENLY AT A SPACESHIP FOR LIKE 5 MINUTES IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GAME?!

Screw this game, and it's ending.

Stupidest Moment of the Year -
Roger Ebert Opens Mouth, Inserts Foot

I've yelled about this enough by now that it feels pretty redundant talking about this again, but let me sum up the idiotic statement that a man named Roger Ebert made. "Games can never be art." If you need any more information than that quote, click through and read my post. Seriously. Ebert had to make a public apology. That's how bad this was.

Most Depressing Thing This Year - Stupid People Are Stupid, Complete Monsters Are Complete Monsters, -100 Faith In Humanity

I've made it FAIRLY APPARENT over the last year, since I started this blog, that I'm a big fan of games. I view them as a budding art form, am a huge advocate for games as art, and fully advocate games being treated equally to film and books, instead of the double standard that's SO apparent in the industry right now. Unfortunately, it gets pretty discouraging some times. Especially when you hear about MORONS who do absolutely HORRIBLE and UNSPEAKABLE things. Example? A few weeks ago a Korean college student died after a 12 hour marathon gaming session where he did not eat, drink, or otherwise attend to normal bodily functions. I wish I could say that this was the least depressing story this year, but unfortunately, that's the bright and sunny, happy story for this post. Take for instance this monster who commited the UNSPEAKABLE act of killing her child and leaving him on the floor for two days as she played games.

As with every year there are MANY of these stories, and no one of them can be called the "worst" as their all horrific in their own right. We have to keep in mind though that these people were obviously unstable before they began playing games, and the games are not at fault here. After all, the anti-games advocates hands aren't quite clean either. As was the case of the Korean boy killed in a Chinese "video games addiction reform boot camp".

Sigh. Stories like these keep making me lose faith in humanity

Best of the Year

Best Video Game of the Year Runner Up - Fallout: New Vegas

This is tough for me. I really do want to say this was the best game of the year. Fallout: New Vegas is a fantastic game all around. It's funny, fun, creative, and features some of the best examples of storytelling I've ever seen in a game. The gameplay is fun, and while it's essentially Fallout 3 set in Vegas, I actually like it a bit more.

Except for one thing. It's one of the buggiest games I've ever played. It absolutely should not have been released for another 3 months at least. I got it at the end of November, it had been out over a month, and it was still nearly unplayable. Random crashes, characters doing various bad things (like standing with their noses in the corner like they're in a time out) and clipping.

It's just... I can't say that it's ok for a game this buggy to be released. It's unacceptable. Game developers need to stop putting half broken games out there to be purchased. It's just not a finished game yet! The content is fantastic... When it works...

And that's what keeps me from calling it the best game of the year. That title goes to...

Best Video Game of the Year - Mass Effect 2

Another absolutely fantastic game. This is another landmark in game development. Mass Effect 2 is a great game. It has fantastic writing, fantastic characters, and is just all around fantastic. It's simply a wonderful game. Tali, Thane, Mordin... I could write entire articles on any of these characters, and why more game developers need to pay attention to their writing.

It would be very easy for Mass Effect 2 to fall victim to "middle child syndrome" as many games have, having neither a really good beginning, nor a really good ending, since it's simply a connector between the beginning of the trilogy, Mass Effect, and the smashing finale coming out next year (supposedly) Mass Effect 3. Instead though it starts by (spoiler alert I guess, although it happens in the first 5 minutes) BLOWING UP THE NORMANDY AND KILLING COMMANDER SHEPARD.

Not exactly a lackluster start. What follows is an EPIC story which took me around 30 hours to complete. And I loved every single minute of it. The characters are all fantastic, the gameplay is fantastic, and essentially they took everything that was bad about the first game, and fixed it. Then they made more fantastic characters like Thane, Legion, and Jack and... Well, it's just an AMAZING game! Seriously, if you haven't played this game yet, you're cheating yourself.

Best Movie of the Year Runner Up - Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 is a great film. I spoke a bit about it above, but... It's really superb. I can't stress how good it is. I'm not sure if it's on DVD or not yet, but if it is and you haven't seen it, either go buy or rent it immediately. It's the perfect end to a great trilogy.

Best Movie of the Year - Inception
Inception is the latest film by Christopher Nolan, creator of The Dark Knight and Batman Begins, among other things. It's a fantastic, albeit confusing at times, film with tremendous ambiguity and many possible interpretations. Again, if you haven't seen it yet, go do so immediately.

Most Inspiring Moment Of the Year - Brian Wood Gives His Life To Save His Family

If there was one moment that could inspire faith in humanity, in the face of all the tragedies I mentioned above, it would be the story of Brian Wood, the head developer of the game Company of Heroes, who gave his life to save that of his wife and unborn child.

If you didn't follow this story as details arose last September, here's the short version. Brian Wood and his pregnant wife, Erin Wood, were out for a drive one night. Unfortunately, so was 21-year old, Jordyn Weichert. Jordyn was out driving with a few of her friends, drunk and stoned, and decided to take off her sweater, while driving. She asked her friend, Samantha Bowling, to take the wheel for a moment as she did. As she did so, she drove head on into Brian and Erin.

Had it been a head on collision for both cars, Erin and Brian both would have died. At the last moment however, Brian made a split second decision, and swerved, a decision that would save the life of Erin and his unborn child, but cost him his own.

A noble, and inspiring story, to be sure. One which wasn't quite over just yet. You see, not long after, Erin went on The Today Show with her story. (Warning: If you aren't in tears yet, watching that video will cause you to be.)

As many people saw it, either through the TV, or via sites like Kotaku, one of the main news sites reporting on the story, a memorial fund was started for Brian which raised a lot of money for Erin and her child.

Millions of users from the internet, gamers, sent kind words and condolences to Erin. Something that, for the internet, is highly unusual. Something which Erin Wood would respond to shortly after.

" Hello.

My name is Erin Wood, and I wanted to send a request to please pass along my most sincere and heartfelt thanks to the gaming community for the overwhelming support provided to me in the past two weeks. I asked coworkers of Brian how I might best send my thanks, and they recommended sending them to Kotaku - hence this email. Any way you can help share this with the community would be much appreciated.

Brian always told me about how close-knit and wonderful the video game community was, but I had no idea until this tragedy just how special a group it really is. From all the articles and comments, to the emails and donations, I am simply stunned and so touched by the love, kindness, and generosity shown to me and my family. As everyone knows, the last 10 days have been the most difficult, dark days of my life. But this journey has been eased tremendously by the thoughts, prayers, and well wishes received from friends, family, and strangers living all over the world. It is so meaningful for me to hear about how his work and enthusiasm for the industry has touched others. Brian was completely and utterly devoted to the game industry, and was pretty much living his dream every day. He woke up every morning excited to be working in such a creative, demanding field. It was such a joy to be married to someone who was absolutely passionate about his professional life.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for the compassion and support. It is so, and has been a light to me in this impossible situation.

Warm wishes,

A tragedy, yet an inspiring moment to be sure. Happy New Years everyone.

I wrote an addendum to this post, after rewatching several movies again. It can be found here.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Video Game Review - Assassin's Creed 2

Well it's about time. Ok so, recap time CHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILDREN! (Oh wait, wrong game.) Back in august I did a 3 part series about the original Assassin's Creed, and the major problems with it, ending with my review, where I said despite the games BLATANT problems, I still enjoyed it.

Now last month, during NaNoWriMo I finally finished Assassin's Creed 2. So did I love it? Hate it? Was I completely neutral towards it?

Well... There are a few main points I want to address here, Assassin's Creed 2 as a game, Assassin's Creed 2 as a sequel, and the ending. Now, obviously, the ending portion will be extremely spoiler filled, so I suggest you skip that if you haven't played it yet and perhaps come a read that portion of the review later. Don't worry, I'll mark exactly where that section begins and ends.

Assassin's Creed 2 as a game

Let me start by saying that at first glance Assassin's Creed 2 seems to be much better game than Assassin's Creed. This shows me a series that really learned from it's fault in the first game, simply gameplay wise, and really did improve upon them. For example, the voice acting selection was much broader, and less annoying. You still hear repeated lines, but the commonfolk aren't ALWAYS TALKING ABOUT YOU. Also, you can run all you want now, and people won't instantly know you're an Assassin.

There are now, instead of beggar women, minstrels who run near you and start singing until you give them coin. The only difference is this time the game ACTUALLY HAS A MONETARY SYSTEM.

The game also has a new system where you can get many kinds of weapons and armor. Unfortunately this ended up being a very shoddy and confusing "stat" system, which I never fully understood. It only irritated me. Either way, getting the best armor in the game is easy to get, and available very early on, so it doesn't really matter.

There's also, as I said, a monetary system, which allows you to upgrade your home town to make it bigger and better, and then get more money to... Well... Invest in your town! Aside from achievements and getting rid of annoying minstrels, it's pretty useless.

The combat system also got BETTER between AC and AC2. That is a relative term, however, and by no means is the combat in AC2 good. It's still tedious and frustrating, just... Less so.

Still, this is a STEALTH game, is it not?! So what's the SNEAKING like?!

...Very, very optional. And that's not a good thing.

You see, I would have liked some middle ground. In the last game, if someone sneezed three blocks away from you, every guard in the city would instantly descend upon you. It was a great example of fake difficulty.

In this one though, it's almost impossible to get caught! You see, there's a system in place where guards will basically not even look at you, unless you are "infamous". How do you gain infamy? By doing things like stealing, killing... That sort of thing. But here's the thing. You know what irritates me? In AC2 there is a way to pickpocket random NPCs walking down the street. And you know what? No matter what happens, whether you get caught or not, you gain infamy. That bugs me. The whole system is a mess. It's just... A mess.

Speaking of messes, let's talk about the story shall we? So, in case you forgot, the main character of the Assassin's Creed series is Desmond, a bartender from New York who is a descendant of a long line of Assassins, who was kidnapped and put into a machine to relive "genetic memories" to find out where a secret object was. Now, as I said, the last game didn't have an ending. Oh sure, they'd love you to believe what they gave you was a "cliffhanger" ending, but it wasn't. This was not a cliffhanger at all. This game picks up immediately from the non-ending of AC, and leads to the secret lair of the Assassin's, who are teaching Desmond to be the ultimate Assassin, using a new version of the Animus, the machine which lets you relieve genetic memories, which increases the "bleeding effect" and lets Desmond learn from what he's reliving.

Basically it's a ton of technobabble, but it's mildly coherent esq, so I'll let it slide.

Assassin's Creed 2 as a Sequel

I suppose this is spoilery... So uh... Tune out the next paragraph or so, if you don't want a spoiler. Are they gone? Ok. YOU ARE NOT AN ASSASSIN. THIS ISN'T ASSASSIN'S CREED, THIS IS RENAISSANCE BATMAN WHO KILLS PEOPLE CREED. Seriously, at no point in this game is there a real "Assassination". In the first game it was called Assassin's Creed because you were an ASSASSIN! You didn't just kill people, you hunted them. You watched their routine. You found weak points in their defense. And then? Then you stalked them. Then you followed your prey, until finally they made a mistake. And only then, would you strike. Or, you could just kill them, but that made thing much harder, and less fun. Ezio, the main character of this game, DOESN'T EVEN BECOME AN ASSASSIN UNTIL THE LAST HOUR OF THE GAME!

This is a problem, as one of my favorite bits in the first game was the assassinations. There aren't really assassinations in this one, since you AREN'T AN ASSASSIN. It just frustrates me.

You see, while this game is better, technically speaking, than Assassin's Creed was. The problem is that it's TOO radically different. You see, they pitched out a lot of systems, in favor of better ones. You no longer hold X to walk slowly and blend in, you just walk around in groups. This works a lot better. You can run instead of walk, and not get caught instantly. This works a lot better. There's fast travel. This works a lot better. The combat, while still quite broken, functions differently. This works a lot better.

The problem? There's so many changes, that at times it just feels like you're not playing Assassin's Creed. You see, I liked Assassin's Creed. And I wanted this game to be a sequel to that. And it... Aside from a story perspective, really wasn't. Mind you, the game it was is a lot better than Assassin's Creed... But in a way I still missed a lot of what made the first game fun, even though the first Assassin's Creed was... Well... Fundamentally broken.

Now, speaking as a sequel, story wise this game improved IMMENSELY upon the first. The character of Ezio is SO MUCH MORE INTERESTING than Blandy McGee- Sorry, Altair. The voice acting is better, the characters are more interesting and... Well, in general the game is just a LOT BETTER!

And of course, there's the ending.

Assassin's Creed 2's Ending

*Major spoilers for Assassin's Creed 2 begin here. I will mark where they end.*

WOW. WOW. JUST WOW. I finished this game over a month ago and I still can't get over the ending. Heck, I've started Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, and I STILL can't get over the ending.

So, first let's talk about the ending, the final level, from a gameplay perspective.

First of all let me just say one thing. Whoever decided it was REQUIRED to collect all the Codex pages hidden throughout the ENTIRE FREAKING GAME in order to finish should be SHOT. This is the exact same GARBAGE that angered Wind Waker players. I DON'T CARE. OK? DO YOU UNDERSTAND THIS UBISOFT? I DO NOT WANT TO COLLECT ALL THE DANG CODEX PAGES. YOU ARE PADDING YOUR GAME OUT BY MAYBE ANOTHER HOUR, BUT IT IS A HORRIBLE HOUR OF BOREDOM AND SPITE.

Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about the last level shall we? The last level, the Vatican, is brilliant. Why is it brilliant? Because it asks you to use all of the skills you should have developed by this point in the game in order to complete it. There is an area where you can simply fight through hordes of enemies. But then, there is an area where you HAVE to use stealth. And it's awesome.

The last boss though, is pretty lame. It's basically fisticuffs with an overweight Italian man (Who just so happens to be the Pope. SPOILER ALERT!) who happens to have a magical staff. That he... Doesn't really use.

But the last boss fight is more than made up for by the absolutely awesome ending sequence. As you open the vault door, you enter into something, unsure of what you'll find. So what do you find? A message. Ezio opens the vault, and walks in, to find an ancient HOLOGRAM of the "goddess" Minerva (actually a member of "those who came before" the species that lived on Earth before mankind.) who has left a message. As she speaks, you notice that she's not looking at Ezio. She's looking at the screen. She's looking at you. Finally Ezio asks a question. He asks what she's talking about. She then looks at him angrily and says, "I wasn't talking to you! Silence!"

As she looks at the screen, explaining to you that the Earth, humanity, everything, is in terrible danger, danger that wiped out those who came before, and will wipe out humanity now. And then she says, "The rest is up to you... Desmond."

Fade to black.

Cue Desmond saying "What the ****?!"

Seriously, one of the biggest mindfreaks I've ever seen in a game. Absolutely jawdroppingly fantastic cliffhanger ending.

*Spoilers end here*

Buy this game if:
You like crazy conspiracy stories, filled with nonsensical, but nonetheless fun, technobabble. If you like seeing a historically accurate reconstruction of famous cities in Italy, all against a fantastic backdrop. Oh yeah, and there's a point where you get to hug Leonardo Da Vinci. So that's awesome too.

Don't buy this game if:
Clunky combat turns you off from purchasing things. The fact that the Stealth aspects of the game being very optional will irritate you. You're expecting a direct sequel to Assassin's Creed.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Difficult Subject

Let's not kid ourselves, games today are for the most part, quite easy. Even those games that do provide genuine challenge tend to at the very least have an easy mode. In fact, one recently released, and critically acclaimed, game, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, actually had a "Play it for you" mode which, as you might imagine, played through the game for you if you got stuck.

So modern games do tend to be very accessible with either an easy difficulty curve, an easy difficulty setting, or just plain by being easy. Prince of Persia (the 2008 one) a game which I really loved (but I was in the minority) in fact wouldn't let you die. If you ever screwed up you were ported back to the last solid surface you stood on. Personally I thought that worked well in that game, but I must admit, it did tend to make thing a bit easier.

Why is this? Why is it that video games, a medium which once prided itself on being really difficult, are now made so that anyone can play them? Well, quite simply, games are not for the elite of the elite any more. The industry used to only make money by taking quarters from kids one at a time, and making things hard only made sense. The more time the player dies, the more money you get. As the home console became more popular however, the trend didn't seem to wane as quickly as one might expect. Indeed, there are brutally difficult games from the NES, SNES, and N64 era.

It wasn't until the 00's that the industry really started to notice that the old market of making games long and hard was really not as profitable as it used to be. Indeed, they found they could in fact make MORE money by making short, easy games, so gamers would move on very quickly from one $50 game to the next.

You see, game which are short and easy make many gamers (I don't want to throw out the term "casual gamers" here as that has a bad connotation to it.) happier than bashing their heads against a wall. For the most part (Single player games) this is FINE! If gamers want to spend $50 for a game that will last them 3 days on easy difficulty and then move on to the next shiny object, that's their choice.

However, there is a dark side to this. You see there is another subset of gamers, (Again, I don't want to throw out the term "hardcore" as this has bad connotations) who want challenge. Who revel in the idea of fighting an enormous monster, armed with nothing but a toothpick, and then, after countless deaths, to finally triumph against it, only to find that the next beast is even more difficult.

This leaves game developers with a difficult choice. (No pun intended.) Do they make more money from the ADD masses, or do they please the dedicated, loyal, yet much smaller, fanbase?

The answer many of them found is simple, difficulty settings. Include an "easy" setting for those who want to see the art assets and move on, and include more difficult settings for those who want a bigger challenge.

The problem with this is that not many people understand that there are three kinds of difficulty. Real difficulty, artificial difficulty, and fake difficulty.

Artificial Difficulty

Artificial difficulty is the most commonly used, and to be honest, the easiest form of difficulty to create. You see, artificial difficulty is when a game simply makes things harder to kill.

For example, in easy mode, perhaps the most common enemy has 10 health, and you do 5 damage per hit. Then in normal mode the most common enemy has 15 health and you do 4 damage per hit. Then finally, in hard mode, the same enemy has a whopping 20 health, and you do a mere 3 per hit. You see, things did just get a lot harder, as the same enemy which took only 2 hits to kill in easy mode now takes 7 hits to kill in hard mode.

So technically it is harder. Perhaps it also hits you harder as the difficulty scales up. Well that does make things harder, since now you die more quickly, and it dies less quickly, but it doesn't really require you to pay any more attention than you were before. While yes, it is "harder" and it will take longer to complete a game like this, there's nothing new to see. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was like this. The harder difficulties were only "harder" because you died more quickly, and they died less quickly. The AI was no better. There were no new mechanics. Everything hit you harder, and you hit things less hard.

This is artificial difficulty.

Real Difficulty

Real difficulty is far more interesting than Artificial difficulty. You see, real difficulty means that something is actually hard. It requires pitch perfect execution to complete the tasks the game lays out for you. Super Meat Boy is a great example of this. You see, Super Meat Boy is probably the hardest game I've ever played. Not because of some difficulty slider, there is no difficulty slider in this game, there is only HARD. Not because things hit you hard, but because it simply requires pitch perfect execution. You have to perfectly jump between the obstacles in order to get to Bandage Girl and complete the levels.

Now, this game is not for everyone. Because it's HARD. Really HARD. That's ok though. Not everyone needs to be able to play the same games. That's why a lot of games are made, so that there's games for everyone.

When it comes to difficulty sliders, real difficulty actually adds new things for you to keep track of within the game. For example, Batman: Arkham Asylum's hardest difficulty, or Fallout: New Vegas's Hardcore setting.

Arkham Asylum (which is a fantastic game) had simple enough combat, you see. Square to punch, kick, hit, whatever, X to run (as always), Circle to stun your enemies... The fourth button, Triangle is where things get interesting. Counter. You see, on Easy and Normal difficulties, when an enemy was about to hit you, a blue flashing light would appear above their heads, and if you instantly hit triangle you would perform a powerful counterattack. The result was that, while I LOVED Arkham Asylum, you could, during most encounters (later in the game you encounter enemies with stun batons that can't be countered, and can only be dodged, and during most the game there are enemies with guns who will kill you if they so much as see you.) you can simply wait until you see a blue light, and then hit triangle to win. While this was far from the quickest way to victory, it would always win, if your reflexes were fast enough.

In hard difficulty though, while you still have counter, there's one vast difference. No indicator. The only way to know when to hit triangle is to keep an eye on each and every thug attacking you. A difficult task later in the game when you're fighting off ten or eleven guys. This provides real difficulty.

Fallout: New Vegas (Also a fantastic game) had perhaps an even better example of this. Anyone who's played Fallout 3 knows how Rads work. You have a small meter that shows how much radiation you've been exposed to, in addition to your standard health meter. It's a good mechanic. The more radiation you get the sicker you become, losing vital stats and such.

Fallout: New Vegas has an optional setting known as "Hardcore Mode" which, in addition to rads, added 3 more meters. Hunger, H20, and sleep. This was a brilliant example of real difficult giving you more meters to watch. Especially considering that in the Mojave Wasteland food, water, or a safe place to sleep can be hard to come by. In addition, all healing items went from being an instant heal, to healing you over time, keeping you from essentially injecting stimpack after stimpack to get past an especially tough group. Plus, crippled limbs could only be healed by a doctor, or one of two special (quite rare) items, "Hydras" or "Doctors Bags", or by a doctor. This, again, gives you more things to keep an eye on, not just increased damage and decreased health. Oh, and ammo has weight, meaning you can't just pick up all the ammo you find and sell it for thousands of caps, as I would in Fallout 3.

World of Warcraft has been experimenting with "Hard Mode" encounters over the past two years with Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm, which have optional "Hard Modes" in the raids which give superior loot. They've made both real and artificially difficult hard modes. For example, Flame Leviathan is, on normal mode, in Ulduar, a loot boss. I have literally never seen any group fail to kill him. He's stupidly easy.

On hard mode however, he adds four new mechanics, which make the fight MUCH more difficult. Beams of all sorts which you have to know to move out of and what each thing does. Adds spawn which must be killed... All sort of bad crap is on the floor you have to move out of... It's a much more interesting, and more difficult fight.

Hodir, however, is the opposite. There is literally not one new mechanic for his "Hard Mode". All you do is kill him, completely the same fight mechanics as normal, in fact you don't even do anything to trigger hard mode difficulty, in under 4 minutes. It's stupid.

Fake Difficulty

Ah yes. Fake difficulty. Have you ever been playing a game, and seen what should be a simple enough task, only to have something completely unfair happen and stop you from achieving it?

For example, the old "one key, two doors, one door opens, the other breaks the key" puzzle that can be seen in places such as Braid. That is fake difficulty. There's no way for you to know which it is. No deduction, no fair way for you to succeed, other than through luck, or experience. (Failing first.)

That is fake difficulty. Fake difficulty is when something is hard, not because of ingenious mechanics, or even just by scaling things up... It's not hard because it requires perfect execution... It's hard because it requires MORE than perfect execution. It requires perfect execution and LUCK. Lots and lots of luck. Will the random energy beams the boss shoots hit me this time? Will the jump button choose to work, or fail this time? Why am I playing a game that's unfair?! These are all questions you will ask yourself which indicate fake difficulty.

Now understand this, Real Difficulty Vs. Artificial Difficulty is a real debate. Neither are, persay, bad. Both have their places. I'm not saying every game should add in tons of mechanics on hard modes, or that games should simply scale everything up. Personally, I like real difficulty being added to games more, but hey, that costs a lot more time and money to implement which could be better suited elsewhere in production.

Fake difficulty, however is BAD. BAD BAD BAD. You see, you can argue about things being as hard as you want them to be all you want, but they must always, ALWAYS be within reach of the player. If they aren't, there's no point in trying. Thus, Real and Artificial difficulty are both perfectly fine, but Fake difficulty is BAD.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Movie Review - Tron Legacy

Tron Legacy is the sequel to the cult classic film Tron, which was released 25 years ago. I'm not exactly sure who thought this was a good idea, but ok. Sure. Tron, for those who don't know, was about Kevin Flynn, a computer nerd getting sucked into a computer system and finding a magical world inside. Lot's of stuff happened, and most people mostly remember one scene.

Cutting edge, back in the day. And still, even though the technology looks dated, a fun scene. It has tension, and is in general a good, fun scene.

So, Tron Legacy takes place in present day. Kevin Flynn went back into the grid in 1989 (the computer world) and vanishes, leaving his son, Sam Flynn, our main character, to grow up an orphan.

Years pass, and Sam is a rebellious, 27 year old who's not yet taken over his fathers company Encom (which is basically a Microsoft expy, in case anyone was wondering.) and does things like break into the Encom building, and do WACKY SHENANIGANS!

As one might expect, before too long Sam ends up getting zapped into the grid himself. And that's where the movie really begins.

So, let me talk about what I liked about Tron Legacy. (Don't worry, this won't take long.)

First of all, the visuals are very nice. For example, the lightcycle scene in this one is a lot of fun. There are ships that look like big space invaders, and the grid looks very sleek and minimalist. Unfortunately, while they excelled in making it seem minimalist, this is not always a good thing, since every solid surface is black in the entire film, that means you have black buildings on black streets in front of a black sky. There are small streaks of color but... The world just starts to feel dull and empty before too long. While the visuals are nice, there just wasn't enough color.

But the visuals were nice. I'll give them that much. The effects are impressive, if not a bit too dark.

The other major success in my opinion was the fact that they got Daft Punk to do the entire soundtrack. Seriously. Daft Punk and Tron are a match made in heaven.

I'm not the biggest Daft Punk fan, but they fit this movie so well it's not even funny.

Ok, so now let's talk about what I disliked about this film. This part may take a bit longer.

Now, I'm going to get a bit spoilery for the first hour or so of the two and a half hour film here, because I seriously can't explain how monumentally stupid this plot is without... Well... Explaining how monumentally stupid this plot is. So uh... Be warned. I won't spoil anything past the first hour or so, but... Yeah. The first hour or so of the film is fair game past this point.

So let's talk about the story shall we? What words can I use to describe the story of Tron Legacy? Hmm... Tedious. Nonsensical. Technobabble. Stupid. Uninteresting. Dull.

Yes, I can use all of these things. You see, the story of Tron Legacy is stupid. Really, really stupid. Now, I didn't have high expectations for the story of a film about a guy finding a magical world inside a computer, but this was BAD. Really BAD.

So. Kevin Flynn has been stuck inside the grid for 21 years (1989-2010). That's what we're getting at here, yes? Ok. First, let's take a look at why he's trapped. You see, the portal in between our world and the grid only stays open for 8 hours. And my favorite part, it can only be opened from the outside. Why? Why would you do that? Why would you not include any sort of failsafe in the device, in case, you know, YOU GOT TRAPPED INSIDE FOR 21 YEARS? Especially if it were a secret that such technology even existed, and you told NO ONE about it.

And even then, are we to believe that the computer has simply stayed online for 21 years? That's a long time! I'm sorry but there's no way that's possible! Let's even ignore the most obvious problem, that the facility is shown to have been without power when Sam first enters it, and pay attention to the fact that to keep a computer running for 21 flame would require constant upkeep!

There are many reasons why this wouldn't work beyond the power, but let's take a look at the first one that popped into my mind.

Do me a favor please. If you're on a desktop, get out of your chair for a moment, and look at the fan vent on your computer. It'll likely be on the back, although if you have a nice case there may even be multiple ones. If you're on a laptop it'll probably be on the bottom of the laptop. Tell me, what do you notice in the fan vent? Likely, the answer will be a lot of dust.

You see, computers and dust are not friends. That's why microchips are made in clean rooms which have been completely sterilized from all dust. That's why laptop fans are designed to be so hard to clean, so that they'll break and you will have to buy a new one.

Caution: Mild language

Now all that dust you see on your computer is just from you running it for, let's be generous, 8 hours a day. How long have you had your computer, assuming you've never cleaned your vents out? (also: shame on you) Probably, in fact, definitely not since 1989.

Now, for a computer to continue running for 21 years, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and never be cleaned at all (and it's pointed out to us that it hasn't been.) then... I see no way that system could still be running.

So there's our first major plot hole. How far into the movie are we? 15 minutes? How long is it? 2 and a half hours? Oh.

So, we get into the grid, and what do we find? Programs are people too! Lo and behold, a computer is just like a city. Ok. Sure. This is Tron, I'm going to let slide the fact that this is NOT HOW A COMPUTER WORKS AT ALL.

So we get taken to the games, and run into Clu, the resident Evil McBadguy of the grid. He looks just like Kevin Flynn because yes. Apparently Kevin "made him in his own image" by looking in a mirror or something. This is never adequately explained. Get used to it, nothing in this film is adequately explained.

So Sam gets put into the fanservi- excuse me, lightcycle tournament, and... It's a visually striking scene. It takes out a lot of the tension of the original scene in my opinion, because... Well the original scene was shot largely from the perspective of the driver. It was cramped, and claustrophobic, and at the same time you knew what was going on. This one was much more hectic. Still, this is one of the better sequences in the film, so I won't complain.

Before the fanservicemobiles can kill Sam though he's saved! By a GURL! Gee, I wonder if this mystery woman will be some sort of creepy love interest for Sam in this film? (Hint: She is.)


This has to go up there as one of the WEIRDEST romantic subplots in film history. I mean... I just... WHAT?! She's a computer program! It's just... WHAT?! You seriously want to... Well... I'm just saying... THERE WOULD BE PROBLEMS. MANY MANY PROBLEMS.

Don't even get me started on what the children will look like. Because I seriously don't know. It's a mystery.

In any case, luckily this PAINFUL subplot is put on the shelf for MOST of the movie, and if you try REEEEAAAALLY hard you can ignore it.

So Kora, the... Ugh... Love interest... Takes Sam to his father. His father then explains the two worst plot points of the movie, or to be more accurate, mentions the two worst plot points of the movie.

You see, neither of these plot points are ever explored in ANY detail AT ALL. And the worst part is, if either of them were explored even slightly further, they may actually have not been half bad. In fact, they could even have possibly saved the film. Or at least made it better.

The first TERRIBLE plot point is the introduction of the Isos. What are Isos you ask? Well so did I. Isos are, and I paraphrase, "new life forms which began within the computer system". Why are they important? Apparently they hold all the secrets of the universe? Why? How? THIS IS NEVER ADEQUATELY EXPLAINED.

No seriously. All they say is, "Here's the Isos. If we got them into the real world we could cure cancer, change science as we know it, cause world piece, end world hunger, and punch Hitler in the face. Why? That's an excellent question. Allow me to not explain this at all in any way ever."

The Iso's... They're DNA or whatever hold all the secrets of the universe. Why? Because BLAH.


They were all killed by Clu for being imperfect when he overthrew Kevin. Ok. Sure. Why not.

The other STUPID PLOT POINT OF STUPIDITY is the fact that apparently programs will be able to leave the grid using the portal and enter the real world, if they have Kevin's disc. Why do they need Kevin's disc to do this? What's special about that disc? THIS IS NEVER ADEQUATELY EXPLAINED.

They tell you over and over that Kevin's disc is the master key to everything, and never explain why. They don't even give you a technobabble reason why, they just expect you to accept it. NO. I REFUSE. I REJECT YOUR STUPID STUPID REALITY AND SUBSTITUTE MY OWN.

Yes, that's it. It's official. The reason why Kevin's disc can let programs materialize into the real world is because KEVIN IS A UNICORN. OK? OK.

Now, I'll stop here, in case anyone actually can't see exactly where the plot is going. I won't spoil any more of it.

The more observant of those reading this may notice that, for a film called "Tron Legacy" there's a distinct lack of a certain security program called "Tron" in this film. Well you see, that's because Tron himself has all of 15 minutes of screen time. That's right. This is Tron, without Tron. Sure. Why not.

You see, in order to make Clu, which is a younger version of the actor playing Kevin, they actually used advanced technology to make him look younger during the film. Now I gotta say, that's actually really cool. It also looks really good. Although there's a bit of uncanny valley going on, it's still pretty darn cool technology. Unfortunately it's also expensive, so they chose only to make one character look younger, not two, and so Tron is hardly in the film. Much sadness.

There's also a few... Strange moments that seem to be contradicting what we already knew about the Tron universe, and the way the grid works. For example, every program has an identity disc. This identity disc records everything the program does and learns. Ok. Sure. It's Tron logic, but I can accept that.

Up until the scene where we see a program with two identity discs. What? No seriously, what? Is this a program with multiple personality disorder? What are we to take from this?!


The characters are bland and generic, when they aren't having some sort of EXTREMELY STRANGE AND PROBLEMATIC sexual tension going on between them. The villain is generic. He has a generic henchmen. Kevin is a generic wise old man character. Sam is a generic young protagonist. Kora is a generic female lead.

The only character with any, erm, character is killed off after less than 15 minutes of being introduced. This character who shall remain unnamed was the only one who was even semi watchable in the entire film, and even his personality felt over the top and forced. But hey, at least he had a personality.

In short, Tron Legacy is a film which is saved by it's effects, and just barely saved at that. It's a watchable enough film because of the effects, but the story is absolutely idiotic, and the characters are all painful. Also, PROBLEMATIC ROMANCE IS PROBLEMATIC.

Bottom line, Tron Legacy is a film that, while worth seeing, I only recommend being seen in theaters if you are a major fan of the original. If you weren't a major fan of Tron, wait until this hits DVD, and rent it. For now, spend that extra dough, and go see Tangled. Again, if you've already seen it. It was a much better film.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Movie Review - Tangled

Tangled, for those of you who have been living in some sort of alternate universe where you aren't spammed with advertisements for everything having to do with Disney every five minutes (which admittedly actually sounds pretty nice) is the latest Disney film. It is, like many older Disney movies, and like last year's "The Princess and the Frog" is a modernized version of a classic fairy tale. This time, Disney chose the well known story of Rapunzel.

You know the story, girl has a wicked stepmother/witch/whatever who traps her in a tower, and for some reason she grows really long hair and yada yada yada blah blah blah. If I have to tell you the story of Rapunzel... Who are you? Seriously. If you don't know the story this film is based on... Go Google it you strange person.

The major difference, and one that I will admit made me very hesitant of seeing this film, is that this is not traditional animation, this is CGI. And looking back at Disney's CGI track record... Errrr... It's not the best. I mean, on the one hand you have movies which are good but not great like Meet The Robinsons or Bolt, which are both worth seeing... And on the other hand you have Chicken Little and... Well...

Yeeeeaaah... Not a good track record for Disney here when it comes to CGI* thus far. So, while the trailers looked good I've been disappointed by a movie with a good enough trailer before so I've since learned not to trust them. And so I went into the theater hopeful, but skeptical. So what was the verdict? Is the movie good? Decent? Terrible?

Ladies and gentlemen, this movie is absolutely FANTASTIC.

Seriously, I never thought I would say this, but this is a real contender for my favorite animated film of the year, and that's saying a lot considering this year brought movies like "How to Train Your Dragon" and of course "Toy Story 3". In fact, this is one of the best MOVIES I've seen this year. And I saw Inception, so... I was wowed.

But let's back up a minute, shall we? What makes Tangled so good? Well, I'm tempted here to say "everything" and just stop writing, but NO! I shall tell you just what makes this movie so darn good.

First, let me tell you about the plot. As you could see from my statement above, everyone knows the story of Rapunzel, so it would have been very easy for this film to feel repetitive and redundant and repetitive and redundant. But was it? No! Not at all! They introduced many new elements that vastly improved the typical story of Rapunzel. So let me give you a quick outline of the plot. This is spoiler free in my opinion, since everything I tell you is recapped in the first 5 minutes of the film, but uh... If you really care that much about spoiling the first 5 minutes of the film... Scroll down a bit.

Are they gone? Ok good. Now then, long ago there was a magic flower. An old hag found the magic flower, and learned that it had magical properties that would return her to youth when she sang to it. She kept this power to herself and would return to the flower every so often, to return her youth. Centuries passed, and there was a kingdom which sprung up in the area, ruled by a beloved King and Queen. The Queen was pregnant, but unfortunately before the child was born, she became very ill. Dying, the entire kingdom searched for a miracle. And thus, they found the flower, much to the dismay of the old hag, Gothel.

The Queen was restored to health and the girl, Rapunzel, was born. Gothel, unwilling to give up her eternal youth, however, snuck into the castle, and attempted to steal some of the girl's hair, which she knew would have the same magical properties of the flower. However, as she cut a lock of Rapunzel's hair from her head, it turned brown, and lost it's magical properties. Still unwilling to leave her eternal youth behind, she stole the child, and hid away with her in a tower deep in the forest, never to be found again.

Cut to 18 years later, when Rapunzel has grown, and wants to leave the tower. "Mother" Gothel, isn't pleased with this however.

Now, let me say, the writers for Rapunzel did an AWESOME job. She totally feels like a fully fleshed out character, and not a stereotypical princess, which would have been an easy trap to fall into. The voice actress did an awesome job with her lines, and just in general they took a generic princess character, Rapunzel, and made her kind of awesome. Her character feels intelligent, capable, and fun. Also, there's a very interesting dynamic between her and "Mother" Gothel. You see, Gothel raised her, and Rapunzel really thinks she's her real mother.

And so, even though to the audience it's very obvious that Gothel is evil, you can also really feel for Rapunzel, as everyone's had a point where they've been frustrated with a close family member in some way, and can relate to still loving your family, even when you don't particularly like them.

The other main character of the film, aside from Rapunzel, is Flynn Rider, the daring charismatic thief. The best way I can describe Flynn, is if you took one part Nathan Drake (or for that matter any character voiced by Nolan North), one part Captain Mal, and one part Aladdin, and mixed them together into one awesome character.

Flynn, voiced by Zachary Levi the actor who plays Chuck in, well, Chuck, is a LOT of fun. His dialogue is always fun, and well written, and... Well, he's just awesome. He's, again, a really well done character. Major props, again, to the writers for that character.

But what would a Disney musical extravaganza be without music? ...Er... I guess it would just be Atlantis, But that's aside the point. What I was getting at is that the music in this film, written by the legendary Alan Menken, with lyrics by "Glenn Slater" who I've never heard of, is really really good. I could tell you about it, or I could give you an example.

Guess which one I'll pick? (Hint: Both.)

The music feels both modern, and at the same time completely feels like the music from classic Disney movies like, again, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, or The Lion King. Due in no small part I'm sure, due to the fact that it was composed by, well, Alan Menken. The guy who WROTE all the music for those movies.

But, the real big turnoff for most people, myself included, was the animation. So I suppose I should probably talk about that some, right? Right. So is the animation good? HECK YEAH! This is, I don't hesitate to say, some of the best CGI I have EVER SEEN. Avatar has nothing on this movie, not because this is more photo realistic, but because this is more gorgeous.

Let me give you an example. The tower. The tower Rapunzel and Gothel live in. Every surface in the tower has been painted by Rapunzel during her 18 years living in the castle. The result? An absolutely gorgeous set, which, just looking in the background, is jaw dropping. It's visually stunning, seeing intricate designs on every surface. The outside of the tower is also gorgeous, and the sequence about 2/3rds of the way through the movies, during the song "I See The Light" is probably the most amazing piece of CGI animation I've ever seen. It's fantastic, on par, perhaps even surpassing, anything Pixar, the best animation studio on the planet, has put out.

If you get a chance, see it in 3D. Why? Well, while there won't be that many things popping out at you, the 3D adds a depth to the film which makes it even more visually stunning.

The action sequences are awesome, the characters, even the minor ones, are all a lot of fun, the humor is always spot on, and... This movie just rocks! I loved this movie. It was absolutely incredible. You are doing yourself a disservice if you dismiss this film as "just another Disney CGI film" like Bolt, Meet the Robinsons, or Chicken Little (And 2/3rds of those movies were pretty darn good, see if you can figure out which two.), and you should see this film.

10/10. This movie is incredible. The voice acting, the animation, the writing, the music... All perfect. Go see it. End of story.

*For the love of god if I get a single person who tries to tell me I'm wrong about Disney CGI movies because I'm forgetting Pixar I will give that person an internet punch in the face. That's right. I will reach through your monitor and give you an internet punch in the face. PIXAR =/= DISNEY. Pixar is (now) owned by Disney, but this was NOT produced as a Pixar film, and I was speaking of DISNEY ANIMATION movies, NOT Pixar animation movies. Big difference.

Monday, November 29, 2010

NaNoWriMo Project Update - Day Twenty Nine - VICTORY!!!!

Well I did it. I wrote a fifty thousand word novel in thirty days. Twenty nine days, actually. And for that, I have learned a lot about writing, and a lot about myself. It's been a hectic, yet fun 29 days, and I think I've come out a better writer for it. I actually have a bit of wrapping up to do on the novel left, maybe another few hundred to a thousand words to finish it, but I reached the goal. And I'm proud of myself for that.

* * *

Finally, after what felt like an eternity of searching, we found another deposit of books. As we entered the building Weq and I could both feel Rios’s excitment level rise to unprecidented amounts. He quickly began to search the building, as Weq and I helped. Before too long we had found the section, similar to the last one we had found, brightly colored, with thick books containing pictures, alongside words.
Rios began to go over them. Rios began to get answers to our million questions.

* * *

We spent a very long time in that building. It became a sort of “home base” for us. We slept there, when we did sleep. Rios spent night and day pouring over book after book, deciphering the language. Every day, he sat there, learning a few more words. He had been right, it seemed. The small books had, in fact, been a sort of pictorial depiction of words, kept immediately below them. There was more for him to do, naturally, than simply see what word meant what, of course. For example, he needed to work out how exactly the written word of this culture worked. It seemed, he explained to me at one point, that unlike our written word, where each word was represented by a symbol, individual “letters” which each would have represented one verbal sound, and would have been strung together in order to form words. These words, then, were broken up by a small space, and strung together to form longer sentences. Naturally, though, we couldn’t tell what sound each letter made, without an actual auditory recording of speech, and so he was only able to figure out how to read the written word, and not how it would have been spoken verbally.

While he spent day and night deciphering the written word, Weq and I continued to search the city together. We took the guns with us, naturally, unable to trust Rios with them, however it seemed unnecessary to guard him day and night. His whole purpose was to return to the surface to find just such a thing as he was sitting in day and night now. What was the point, in guarding him? Where would he go?

No, Weq and I let him sit in that building, as we continued to search the city. Of course, nothing we found made much sense to us. More of those metal vehicles sat everywhere, just like everywhere else in the city, more buildings containing various objects whose purposes we couldn’t figure out… Indeed, it seemed as if neither of us could do anything important at all, until Rios had learned to read the written word.

Thanks to the nature of the area we were in, a desert, we came across very little animal life. The only animal life we did come across, were insects, and reptiles. (Interestingly enough, we later discovered our animal classification system was very similar to the Earthlings method of classification. Close enough that about 80% of the classified animals we discovered on Earth would have been put into the same “category” by both my people, and the people of the earth. I’ll cover this a bit more at a later point in time.) They were, naturally, fascinating to Weq. Although we kept our distance for obvious reasons. If our suits were punctured by a threated animal, that would be the end of us, and that was simply a chance we couldn’t take. However, from a distance we did observe the reptiles. One type of the reptiles we noticed, interestingly enough, didn’t have any limbs. No, they were just a long body, with a head on the end. They moved by contorting their scaley body and sliding across the ground.

Another type of animal we noticed, an insect (although the Earth had a special classification for them called “Arachnids”, like I said our classifcation systems weren’t identical.) Was also interesting. It had eight legs, and large claws (in proportions to it’s body size.) The really interesting thing about it though, was what looked like a large sharp stinger on the end of it’s tail, which it held up in the air above it’s body. “I wish I knew why it held it’s tail like that.” Weq said. “I wish I could study the creatures here further.”

“I wish I could… I don’t know… Learn about them.” I said. “About the creature?” He asked. “No… About them.” I gestured towards a building. “We know almost nothing about them, aside from the few pictures we’ve seen of them as we’ve searched the city. Clearly they were a great society, but… We know nothing about them. Nothing.” “Tare…” Weq said to me. “Tare, Rios is really good at what he does. I don’t… I don’t agree with what he’s done, but he’s still very smart, and he will do this. He will decipher the written word of these people, and we… We will learn. You’ll learn about the culture, and I’ll… Someday I’ll figure out a way to study the creatures of this planet. And we’ll learn about this planet.” Weq was good at inspiring people. At supporting them. I’d known that about him before, but it still helped. “Thanks Weq. I hope you’re right.” I said. “I just wish… I waited my whole life to meet intelligent life forms on another planet-” “We all did.” He intterupted me. “Of course! I know we all did! I wasn’t trying to say that… It’s just… Like I said, I waited so long for an opportunity like this and now… We’ve found this planet. And we know there was life here… And they’re… They’re just gone. And I don’t even know what happened to them.” “And you wish they were still here. I understand that. We all do.” I paused for a moment. “It’s… It’s more than that though. These people… Look around. These people were clearly a great culture. I mean, just look at the huge structures, and enormous cities they had built. And now… Desolate. Decrepit. Dying.” I said. “What’s your point?” Weq asked. “Weq… If they could just… Just vanish… What’s to keep that from happening to us? What’s to keep us from dying out?”

Weq and I stood in silence for a long time. We stared at the skies of the Earth. White clouds, blue skies… This planet was so fascinating, and yet we knew so little about it. “Everything about this planet is a riddle.” Weq said to me. “From the history, to the species. From the written words, to the brightly colored walls of the buildings. Everything, every detail, is a mystery. We don’t know what happened to the people of this planet Tare. We have no idea. We don’t even know if they did die out.” “Then where are they?” “I don’t know. But that’s what we’re going to find out, isn’t it? We have to.”

We stayed in that spot for a long time. We stared at the skies. We watched as they faded from blue, to orange, from orange to scarlet, and from scarlet to black. Even then we stared at the stars. The same stars our ancestors had stared at so long ago, and had dreamed of finding this place. I wondered if, back when our ancestors stared up at the skies from our planet, someone was staring back at them from here? As we stared at the stars, I finally spoke. “Look. You see that?” I asked Weq. I gestured towards what looked like a large bright star, moving across the skies. It was probably ten times the size of the other stars, and was moving slowly across the skies. “What is that?” Weq asked me. “That’s one of our ships.” I responded to him. “It’s orbiting above us now. We’re seeing the lights out of the windows of the ship.“
“I wonder what’s going on up there?” He said to me. “So do I.” I responded.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

NaNoWriMo Project Update - Day Eighteen

Broke 20k words today, should have broken 30k. I'm 10k behind. I can still make that up, but it's going to take some work.

(I'd like to apologize for any spelling errors in the following snippets, Scrivener's spell check in the windows beta is bugged.)


Days passed, and we weren’t allowed to see Trai. He lay in a hospital, and we had no idea what his condition was, other than that it couldn’t be good. He was quarantined, to keep and of the viruses that had leaked into his suit from infecting the rest of the ship. Unfortunately this meant that not only could we not see him, but his condition was kept secretive, and we could only expect the worst.

During the time we were waiting for word on Trai’s condition, Weq, Rios, and myself attempted to convince Yui’Req to let us return to the surface of the planet. Our ships sat in orbit, and continued to send drones down to the surface every day, but Drones were clunky, and difficult to use to gain any valuable information. We must have sent hundreds of them to the surface, all over the planet. We saw everything from lush forests, to frozen wastelands, to large stretches of nothing but sand. We even found more cities. They were just as abandoned as the first. Indeed, it seemed the only thing we couldn’t find were the people who had built the cities.

“Perhaps they’ve gone underground?” Weq suggested at one point, as we discussed where the population had disappeared to. “Or perhaps they devoloped space travel, and abandoned the planet?“ “But why?” I asked. “We can speculate all day long, but the fact remains, until we can get down to the surface, and actually have a chance to study the city… We can’t know anything.” “Then it’s decided.” Rios said, at one point. “We need to get back to the surface. As soon as possible. By any means necessary.”


“Steal a ship?!” I asked, hastily. “You’re utterly out of your mind Rios! Steal a ship? Do any of us even know how to-” “Fly?” He cut me off. “Yes. I do. You forget my Father was a pilot. I grew up around the controls of various ships. He always knew I’d follow in his footsteps, imagine his… Surprise, when I told him I wanted to study language.” He looked sad for a moment, before continuing. “I won’t make it fly loops and flips, but I can get us down to the surface, I’m sure of it.”

“Even then, stealing a shuttle? That’s impossible! I mean… They must be guarded somehow-” He intturupted me again, something which was become quite irritating. “The only security system they have is a built in tracking device to see where exactly the shuttle is. That’s where I fall short. I don’t know how to disable that tracking device, to keep them from instantly locating us.” “Well.” I said satisfied, “That’s that then. We can’t steal a shuttle, or we’d be caught instantly.” “Actually..” Weq began, “I have an idea.” “You too Weq?” I said, annoyed. “I don’t want to be no one again! I want to go down to the surface, and study these creatures! I want to find them!” “Fine then.” I said, “What’s your idea?”

“Well… um… That is to say…” He began, losing confidence in himself. “Yes?” Rios said. “Well… Trai would know. I mean, he is a computers expert. I’m sure he’d know how to disable the tracking device, and maybe he could tell us how…” Rios looked at me. “There! Don’t you see! He’s right! It’s brilliant! We ask Trai how we would disable the tracking device, and then do it ourselves. We get down to the surface, and they’ll never know where we are!” I sighed annoyedly. “You’re crazy. Both of you.” I said. “This will never work, and we’re going to get ourselves killed.” Rios looked at me, “Ourselves?” I paused and said with a small laugh, “Well, you two are pretty obviously going down there with or without me, and hey, you only die once right?”

“That’s the spirit!” Rios said. “But you’re forgetting one thing.” I reminded him. “Weapons. If we’re going down there alone, we won’t have Yui’Req to protect us. Where do you suppose we get weapons? We can’t just go down there unarmed. There’s all sorts of vicious beasts.” There was a long pause. “I… I hadn’t thought…”

“There’s only one place to get weapons on the entire ship, and I don’t think the armory is just going to give us guns because we asked nicely.” I said. “No… No of course not.” He said to me. “You’re right. Leave it to me. I’ll get us weapons. We won’t go down there completely unarmed.” “How?” I asked him. “I… I don’t know yet. But I’ll get them.” He replied.


I still remember very well going into Trai’s room in the hospital, still under quarantine, but allowing me to enter only with a suit similar to the one we wore down on the planet surface, and telling him of our plan. How Rios, Weq and I had a heated argument about whether or not we should return to the surface, or wait for clearance which may never come. I told him every word that had been said. I told him how I had argued that we should wait, and how Rios had told us that we would never return to the surface, and finally how we had decided to steal a shuttle. He lay there, weak, and listened. Only when I finally reached the point where I told him about the tracking device installed in the shuttle, and that we needed to know how to disable it, did he speak.

“Yes..” He said in a hushed tone hardly above a whisper. “I think I can help you. Get me… Something to record instructions on.” I paused, stunned for a moment. “You mean, you’ll help us? You’re not going to tell me that we’re crazy, or anything like that?” He slowly turned to look at me. “I’m dying, Tare. I lie here, hardly able to breathe. I know that I am in the last days of my life. But I don’t regret a thing. I have set foot on a planet inhabited by other, intelligent life. That’s enough. You though, you’re going to live, Tare. You have a chance to go down there again, and learn about the life on the surface. Maybe even find them. And you ask me if I think you’re crazy? If I think you’re stupid? I would think you were stupid if you weren’t willing to do anything to get back to the surface. I would think you were cowardly if you weren’t willing to give up everything to get back to the surface. I would… I would hate you if you weren’t doing exactly what you’re doing right now.”

I looked at him, and he looked back at me. “Trai…” I began, but before I could say anthing else, he said “Are you going to get me something to give you instructions, or are you just going to stand there?”


The time had come. I met Weq and Rios in an area of the ship which was near the hangar where all the shuttles were kept. Weq and I arrived first and waited in silence. I don’t know about him, but I was too nervous to speak, so I was glad he didn’t seem to want to talk either. We waited there for what seemed like an eternity, when finally we saw Rios turn a corner, and come into our vision. He moved quickly towards us, with a large bag that seemed to be holding something heavy. As he approached us he said, “Tare, you spoke with Trai, correct?” “Yes, I did.” I responded. “Good. We need to go. Quickly.” He said. I began to ask why, we hadn’t been seen, and truly we had nothing but time, but before I could say anything, he took off again towards the hangar.

Weq and I quickly followed, wondering why he was going so fast. Perhaps he was nervous too, and this was his way of showing it? I supposed. My question would be answered soon. As we reached the hangar, there was a large gate closing it off. “It’s closed off?!” I asked. “I thought you said that the only security measure.” “Yes, I did say that the only security was a tracking device.” Rios answered, as he held up a small pad to the scanner which unlocked the gate. To my surprise it opened. “How’d you do that?” I asked him. He ignored the question and took off towards one of the shuttles inside. The hangar was a large room with many shuttles within it. Again, the shuttle was locked, but Rios dug through his bag and got out another small pad and held it up to this lock. It opened also, and we hurried to the locked inside of the shuttle, and began to put suits on. As we were doing so, however, someone yelled behind us, “What are you doing?!” and we all three turned simutainiously. A guard stood there, holding a gun (a small one, not one like the one which Yui’Req had used on the surface, although also very lethal.), though not holding it up to us quite yet, apparantly not sure it we were actually supposed to be there or not. Obviously there was more security than Rios had told us about. I was about to surrender to him, and was trying to think up excuses when Rios started digging through his bag. He reached down into it, and pulled out a gun. He held it up and shot the guard before he could react. I was stunned, as I saw the guard evaporate into nothing but particles in front of my eyes. “Rios! What did you do!” I screamed at him. “You told me to get a weapon for just such a situation as this.” He responded, calmly. “I meant… I meant if we were attacked by beasts again not… You killed him!” “Get his gun.” Rios told me. “Get his gun?! That’s all you can say? ‘Get his gun’?! You just killed an innocent guard!” Rios continued to put his suit on. “We don’t have time for this.” “Are you insane?!” I continued to yell at Rios. “This isn’t right! You just killed-” I was intterupted by a voice behind me. “Stop!” I turned, and saw Yui’Req behind us at the entrance to the hangar. “Thieves! Murderers!” He yelled. Rios held up the gun to him but I knocked his hand down as an energy ball shot out and exploded in the corner of the hangar near another shuttle. “You are insane! That’s Yui’Req! He’s-” Something dawned on me in that moment. Rios turned and hit the button to shut the shuttle hatch, as Yui’Req dashed towards us.

The hatch to the shuttle closed just as Yui’Req reached it. He beat on the door, but to no avail. Rios started the engines to the shuttle, and we began to rise. He took off out the open hangar through the pressurization field into open space. “Tare, how do we disable the tracking device?” He asked me suddenly. “Disable the- Are you insane?! Why do you think I would even let you know now? Why do you think I don’t just want us- You! To get caught?!” Suddenly the shuttle began to shake violently. It knocked me to the floor, and Weq just barely supported himself on the wall before falling. “That’s why you want to tell me how to disable the tracking device!” I looked out the window. The ship had targeted us, and was shooting energy weapons, similar to the ones in our gun, but much more powerful, towards the ship. “Tare! Quickly!” Rios said, and I begrudingly handed him the information tablet Trai had given me with the information on how to turn off the tracking device.

Rios quickly began entering the commands into the computer system, while we continued to be shot at. The shuttle wasn’t meant to take a beating, and it wouldn’t last long agains’t the ship’s weapons. The ship rattled again, and there was a beeping from the computer console. “Alright, the tracking is off, they won’t be able to hit us again-” As he said that the ship shook even more violently than before. “I thought you said they wouldn’t be able to hit us again?!” Weq yelled, frightenedly. “They- I mean they- They must have gotten a lucky shot!” He said. “Hold on tight, this is going to be a rough time down!”


The next thing I remember was awakening in the twisted wreckage that was once our shuttle. I lay there for a moment, in shock. After regaining myself somewhat, I realized Weq was next to me, unconsious. I stood up, and realized there was something on top of Weq. I attempted to pull it off of him, and he gave a great moan, regaining conciousness, as I succeeded in pulling it off of him. He looked around and said “Urgh… Tare? Tare, are we dead?” “No, we’re not dead yet Weq.” Luckily neither of our suits had been punctured during the crash. We had landed in some sort of desert. It looked as if there were nothing around for an endless stretch, in every direction.

Rios was sitting the pilot’s chair. He too groaned and began to regain conciousness. “We… We did it.” He said. “We made it down to the surface.” I walked up to him and held him down to his chair. “What was that?!” I screamed at him. “’The only security is a tracking device’? That’s funny because it looked to me like there was quite a bit more security than that! And Yui’Req- Why was he here?!” Rios groaned as I held him down, apparantly I was hurting him, but I really didn’t care at that point. I was so angered at him, that I almost reveled in his pain. Almost. Rios was staying silent. He looked at me as I looked back at him with anger and disdain. “What’s going on?!” I screamed at him with rage in my voice.

He hesitated to answer, but I held him down (I was, and always had been, much stronger than Rios.) Until he answered. “You… You told me to get weapons.” He began. “What do you-” I began to ask him. But then I realized what he meant. “You… You stole weapons from Yui’Req.” I said. He stayed silent, but I could tell through his silence that I was correct. “Not… Not just that. I took… Passes. Into the hangar.” “Passes?! You didn’t even tell us the gate would be locked! You didn’t tell us about the guard-” “I didn’t know about the guards.” “How can I believe you? How can I trust you?!” I asked of him. “You… You can’t. I suppose. But it’s the truth.” He said. “I… I knew about the hangar lock though.” “How did you know?” “I had been to the hangar when it was closed before. My father was a pilot, remember?”

“Why didn’t you tell us about It then?” “Because… I didn’t think it was important. I knew Yui’Req would have a key. He was a leader of our unit. Every unit leader has a key. When you told me to get a weapon… I just decided I could take his while I was taking his pass cards.” I looked at Rios with disgust. I picked up the bag which was sitting next to him and looked inside of it. There were three or four guns inside of it. I pulled out the smallest one. “Here, Weq.” I said as I gave him the gun. I pulled out another one, and took it for myself. I looked at Rios. “You don’t get one. If you so much as step out of line…” I held the gun up to him. “You’ll pay.”

I took the bag, and I let Rios up. We looked out around the area we were in. There were some mountains out far off into the distance. “Where did we crash?” I asked Rios. “Near any known cities that we’ve found?” “I set it for the co-ordinates of the city which we landed in last time… Obviously we must have gone off course during the crash.” Rios replied to me. “How far off course?” I asked him. “It’s hard to say.” He said. “Give me an estimate. You’re the one who crashed us.”

He paused and said, “Well, it’s possible that we’re near the city and only went off course towards the end…” “Or?” “…Or, the navigation system was overloaded by the energy discharges we were hit with and we could be anywhere.” He said. “Well…” I began, “We’d better start moving then.”

So move we did. We traveled a long way, and for a long time. I thought we would never stop. Our suits were designed to keep us alive for long periods of time, in case you were stranded on a planet and couldn’t open your suit for long periods of time (as we were), so nourishment wasn’t something to be worried about, and they were climate controlled, so there wasn’t much reason to be afraid of overheating either, however after being attacked by those beasts in the city, it made me nervous of what might attack us in a place like this. The thought made sure I kept a firm grip on my gun.


Hours later we had finally reached the outskirts of the abandoned city. It was obvious that it was not the same city we had been to before. The city we had first come to was overgrown, this one however, was not nearly as overgrown. There were still plants scattered about the city, but they were only the same kind of plant that we had seen before in the sandy desert. They dotted the landscape, but otherwise this city was dry and barren. I wondered if it had always been that way, or if the climate had changed since… Whatever happened to the inhabitants. The buildings that made up the city were also quite different. For one thing, the building were much more spread out. The other city had building cluttered next to each other, creating a cramped feeling, but these buildings were far more spread out. There were even what seemed to be open spaces that could have once been fields if the climate had in fact changed this area into a desert.


“These symbols…” He said, “They’re the same as the symbols in the objects we found in the building where we landed last time…” I looked at him. “What does that mean?” I asked. “I’m… I’m not sure. But I think… I think that they might be written words.” “Written words? You mean stored knowledge, like we store knowledge on computers?” He paused for a moment. “Yes, similar. Our written word seems to be very different from theirs, but I think… I think it just may be something like that.” “So they stored knowledge on pieces of paper, and metal boxes? That’s so inefficeint. Why wouldn’t they store information on computers instead?” “Perhaps they hadn’t yet invented computers?” Weq suggested.

“I… I don’t think so. I… We need to find another building with those objects again. The ones with pictures on them… Perhaps if I could find more of them with pictures on them I could begin to decode their language.” “Wait, are you saying you could be able to decipher their written word?” I asked. “Well… It’s possible. The pictures in some on some of the paper we found… I think they might have been words for what the object it depicts is.” “Wait. You mean… If that’s true, we could be able to read the more complex ones, without pictures in them.” I said. Rios continued. “Let’s… Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I could still be wrong. First we need to find another one of those knowledge storehouses so I can try and... Figure this out.”

Thursday, November 11, 2010

NaNoWriMo Project Update - Day Eleven

Day Eleven of NaNoWriMo and I'm falling behind. I'm currently at 11,534 words, and am 6,800 behind. I also won't be able to write at all this friday and saturday. In other words, I have a lot of catching up to do, but I'm not SO far behind that I have no hope of finishing. Yet.

Either way, here's some new excerpts from the book. They are very rough, naturally, given the nature of NaNoWriMo, and they aren't complete, meaning I'm only picking and choosing which portions to post, since
A. I'd like to refine the book and publish it some day (and believe me, much editing must be done first.)
B. 9,000 something words is a bit much to post in one blog post.

And so, here's some more of Legacy.


It wasn't long before my Unit met. I entered the chamber where we were supposed to meet first, a bit early. I waited a short time before Rios entered. I looked towards him. As he walked into the chamber he said to me “So what do you think?”

I thought to myself for a minute. “It's hard to say any reasonable assumptions without more information, but there were quite a few... Oddities, I noticed.” I told him. “You and I both.” I looked at him. “What did you notice?” He was quite quick to respond, “Well, the plant life covering the planet seemed odd to me, but what really struck me as strange was the growling.” “What about the growling?” He paused for a moment, clearly thinking how to put what he was about to say. “It was such a long, monotone rumble. It seemed... Inefficient to me.” “How so?” I inquired. “It was just... One noise, one long drawn out noise, with very little variation. It didn't seem like it was trying to tell us anything.” “Perhaps they communicate in more than just verbal ways? Perhaps the verbal is only one portion, and smell is another?” “Yes, I thought of that. I suppose that's possible.” He replied. About that time Weq entered the room.

Rios and I both looked towards him as he said, “So what do you both think?” Rios repeated what he had just told me, and I told them the strange oddities I had noticed. “Yes, all of that is very strange.” He agreed with both of us. “So did you notice anything odd?” I asked him. “Well, it was very hard to get a good look at the life form from the video. So... I didn't really notice anything other than what you said.”

At that moment, our leader Yui'Req entered the room. “I see all but one of you are here.” He said to us. He was very stoic and strict. A cold person. While the rest of us were good friend, he always secluded himself from our group. Whether that was because he viewed it as being below him to socialize with those he was in charge of, or whether he was just a cold person, none of us knew. In any case, none of us knew him very well. “Yes Yui'Req. We're just waiting on Trai.” I told him. He glanced at me. “Waiting on who?” “Erm... Trai'Muh sir.” Yui'Req wanted us to say each others full names in front of him. It was unusual to speak of your equal like that, but he considered it to keep us better as a team, due to being less of a casual feeling. Our naming system was quite simple. The first half of the name (for example the Tare in my name) is our name. The second half is our parent's name. (The Sondre, in my name.) For example my father was named “Sondre'Tsoni”, thus he named me “Tare” a name he had chosen for me. The second half of my name would automatically be “Sondre.” Thus, the two halves would come together to form a “full” name, “Tare'Sondre”.

The full name would typically only be used in very specific situations. When you introduce yourself to someone, you would never introduce yourself “I'm Tare.” You would always introduce yourself as “Tare'Sondre”. The other person would then know instinctively to call you by the first half of the name, based on how you emphasized the name, and context. You would also only call someone ranked above you, like the leader of my Unit, by his full name. It would be unthinkable of me to, for example, call him “Yui”. I would always call him “Yui'Req”.
A few moments later Trai entered the room, and Yui'Req looked at us all and spoke. “We have been chosen,” he began, “to be one of the first few Units to depart for the surface of the planet.”


Before I knew what was happening, it seemed, we were descending in a shuttle. Down toward the surface of the planet. To protect from native viruses, and bacteria we were all in minimally restrictive suits. I looked out the windows, down toward the planet surface. It was a quite smooth ride down to the surface. 5 days, of this planet's time. That was how long we had on the surface. I still remember the first step onto the alien surface. It was... It transcended words. It was a feeling... And unbelievable feeling. I was setting foot on a planet that another species of intelligent life had been living on for an indeterminate, but assuredly large number, of years. We had landed not far from where the Drone had explored ever so briefly. I looked around. There was a sort of still in the air. I looked at the overgrown structures to either side of the road we had landed in. Then I walked up toward one of them. I touched the plant life. Thin, long vines grew vertically up the side of it.

We walked through the empty roads. It was day, and the local star shone brightly upon the city. Of us, only Yui’Req carried a weapon. The people of Earth had a term for a similar weapon, a “gun”. Although the earthlings use for these weapons was far different to ours, as I shall cover in detail later on. As such, I shall from here on refer to the weapon as a gun. Understand there is still a considerable difference between our weapons and the earthlings weapons, but for the sake of convenience, I shall refer to it in the way. Yui’Req was the only one permissed to carry one, although even his usage of it was only intended more as a display of technology or to be used for our defense should something terrible happen, and nothing hostile.


Suddenly I heard Trai give out a loud yelp, and heard a low pitched growl. I turned suddenly, and saw Trai lying on the ground, with one of the creatures atop him. It had attacked him, and Trai continued to give out loud screams as the creature assaulted him. I attempted to pull it off of him, but to no avail. Suddenly, I realized a disheartening fact. We were surrounded. I looked around the five of us and realized that there were seven or eight of the creatures encircling us. They looked at us with a vicious hunger in their eyes, their ferocity clearly hardly being concealed beneath their harsh demeanor. They watched our every move.

What happened next disturbed me. Yui’Req took out the gun, and shot projectiles at the creatures. “No! Don’t!” I screamed, but it was too late. I watched as the creatures were propelled backwards from the force of the blast, and watched as a cloud of their very being dispersed, leaving nothing behind. “You can’t attack them!” I screamed at Yui’Req. “Why not! They’re attacking us!” He responded, and shoved the beast off of Trai. “We can’t introduce ourselves to them by killing their people!” Yui’Req glared at me. “We need to fall back, somewhere safe!” “Where?!” He asked of me. “I… I don’t know yet! Somewhere… There!” I gestured towards a large structure at the end of the road. It was large, and overgrown like everything else, but it seemed like it would make a suitable place to fall back to, to me.


I had to have picked the best building in the entire city, I supposed, to be trapped in. As Trai lay injured we explored the building. Only Yui’Req stayed behind with Trai. It was enormous. A giant building. But the architecture wasn’t what excited me. What excited me was that it was filled with… Well… Knowledge. It was filled to the brim with something my people had never invented before. We had many ways of documenting information, obviously, but it wasn’t like this. The term, as we later found out, for this type of document was a “book”. A book was a collection of many pieces of paper with writing on them, bound between two hard coverings.

The point we finally realized we were sitting on exactly what we needed, to study the planets culture, was when we found one specific section though. It was a brightly colored area of the building. There were images on the walls of brightly colored, and simplified versions of the various beasts we had seen in the picture books we had found. There were images of clouds, and multicolored arcs in the “sky” of the walls. “What do you suppose the purpose of this section is?” I asked Rios, as we picked up the thick books resting upon large wooden structures (we later found out, were reffered to as “shelves” or “bookcases”.) And looked at them These books were not like the other books in the building. They were thick, and each individual piece of paper, was extremely thick, made of the material the covers of the other books were made of. They were brightly colored, like everything else in that section, and there were far less symbols on them, than there were on other ones in the building.

Rios looked at them, with an intensity in his eyes. As if he were devouring every image, every symbol on each individual piece of paper. I was about to ask him again when Weq charged in. “Look at these.” He said, and dropped many books onto the floor. We crouched down and he opened one. “These are from the ones with all the pictures.” He told us. He turned the individual pieces of paper, and we saw various images of wildlife. Very vicious, bestial creatures were recorded visually in this way. Finally he got to one specific image and stopped. “Is that-” I began to ask. “It is.” Weq responded before I finished the words. “Those are the creatures that attacked us." They certainly were. It was undoubtable that these creatures were, in fact, the same that had attacked us before. “But what does this mean?” I asked Weq. Weq looked at me and said “I don’t think those creatures were intelligent.” He responded to me. “You don’t?” “No! Think about it! They didn’t seem intelligent to me! Sure, they surrounded us, but that doesn’t indicate intelligence, certainly not sentience. I mean, look, here they are just listed among the other creatures of this planet. They have one piece of paper dedicated to them, no more than any other creature in here!” “That’s not conclusive!” I told him. “Of course not… But it’s... It’s…” Rios spoke. “I think Weq is right.” He said.

“Why do you think that?” I asked him. “Look at this.” He opened one of the thick books we had found moments ago, and gestured towards a simplistic depiction of a creature on it. “What about that?” I asked him. “Look around, the pictures in here, these creatures pop up everywhere.” I looked at the pictures on the wall. He was right, there were several of them on the wall. Two legs, two arms, and a head seemed to be connecting to a torso on these creatures. “What’s your point?” I asked. “I think those might be the real intelligent life that built this city.” Rios responded to me. “Because there’s more pictures of them? That seems pretty… Farfetched.” I asked. “No, not just that. There’s more. It’s… It’s…” He said frustratedly. “Those creatures we encounted! Those growls… They didn’t seem to be any kind of language. They didn’t seem to be directed towards each other like language would be. They just seemed… Bestial.” Rios paused, and there was silence for a moment. I finally said, “Alright, let’s suppose you’re right. Suppose those are just some beasts living in the city. Where have they gone? The creatures who lived here?”

“I… I don’t know.” He responded. “But I’m telling you, those things, are not what built this city.”

“Interesting.” Yui’Req said. None of us had noticed that he had apparantly approached us silently while we were talking. “So what you’re saying is that they aren’t intelligent at all?” “Yui’Req! What are you doing here? You were supposed to be staying with Trai!” “Trai will be fine. I sent a message out for backup, and a shuttle will be coming to pick us up and take us back to the ship soon.” “What?!” I shouted. “You mean, only Trai, right?!” “All of us.” He responded. “This planet is clearly too vicious to come down to without protection of some kind, beyond these thin suits.” “This is unacceptable! We just got here! We can’t just leave-” “It’s done. The shuttle is on it’s way. That’s why I came to get you all. It’ll be here in a few moments.” I began to speak again, but Yui’Req said “It’s done. Do not complain or else I shall have to take extreme action against you.”

And so we followed Yui’Req back to the front of the building. Moments later, sure enough, another shuttle touched down in front of the building we had been holed up in. Rios looked longingly back towards the building, as Weq and I helped Trai into the Shuttle. As we lowered him to the floor of the shuttle, I turned back to Rios and said, “Don’t worry. We’ll be back.” “Do you know what those pieces of paper we found were?” He asked me. “What were they?” I replied. “They were knowledge. Knowledge of the language, knowledge of the people, knowledge of the species, of this planet. And we’re leaving them behind.”

“We will return here.” I told him, “For now, Yui’Req is right. I wish he weren’t but he’s right, we weren’t prepared for… Whatever it is we’ve found here. Trai needs help- We need help. We’ll get ready and come back.”

“I hope you’re right.” Rios said to me.

I hoped I was right too.