Sunday, July 8, 2018

2088: Cultural Assumptions

Vinay Pai appears in his game to offer some tips.
       
The plot of The Cryllan Mission has resolved into a somewhat interesting mystery full of poignant metaphors. I'm a bit worried that it won't pay off, but I'm enjoying the journey so far
        
It turns out, first of all, that the residents of the various cities are Cryllans, not remnants of the lost U.S.S. Houston. Whatever they look and sound like, it's close enough to humans that they don't seem to recognize that we're not from their world. (How we're communicating at all is a mystery best left unaddressed.) The story that they tell is that Crylla used to be a peaceful, sedate, multi-cultural planet with a nurturing government and no weapons. Fairly recently, however, a revolution took place against the "misanthropes" who had previously "infested" the government, the state was overthrown, and a new government was formed. This new government values industry, ambition, and long-term planning. Some Cryllans are happy with the new circumstances; some are appalled.
             
This NPC would prefer things returned to normal.
           
This one wants to make Crylla great again.
            
One big change is in the availability of weapons and armor. The state now encourages everyone to own guns, ostensibly to protect them from "misanthropes." The misanthropes, for their part, protest that they aren't a different species; they just have a different skin color. A couple of them--refugees from a destroyed city--say that they used to be wealthy landowners, with a household full of servants, but are now looked down upon as second-class citizens. One of them, Aenur Bryllium-Se in Zenetych, makes an impassioned argument against these new weapons:
             
What are you? Some kind of communist?
        
Aside from the obvious plot holes (e.g., the language issues), this is a reasonably compelling story, particularly since I still don't know the fate of the Houston astronauts or how they might have instigated these events. 

Now, until yesterday, I was also convinced that the plot was an obvious case of real life writing the story. Doesn't it sound a lot like a story that some young Indian boys might have written after experiencing the culture clash of moving to America--particularly Texas? Their lives overthrown, their status inverted, perhaps coming from an upper-class existence back home and now suddenly lumped in with everyone with dark skin, denigrated, mistrusted? Especially coming from a country with strict gun regulation to a state that actively encourages people to open-carry? Is it any wonder that the disruptive force that has landed on Crylla is called the Houston?
               
This sounds like a mighty topical issue.
            
Alas, there are dangers in assuming too much autobiography in a fictional story. I had a brief exchange with Vivek Pai, and he said that the brothers not born in the U.S. emigrated at too young an age to remember much of India. They were more influenced by 1984 than real life; even the name of their company (Victory Software) was not simply taken from the "Vi" in front of all of their names but rather the ubiquitous brand name (Victory Gin, Victory Coffee, Victory Cigarettes, Victory Mansions) in Orwell's novel. Star Trek was also a clear influence, as was Apocalypse Now and The Killing Fields.

Whatever the case, I'm more interested in 2088 than last time. Since the first entry, I've explored the opening overland, which is 128 x 128 and wraps. I visited the cities of Karkala, Torphur, Adion, and Zenetych, and talking to every NPC that I could. The NPC names are a weird mash-up of what sounds to me like Indian, Polynesian, English, and Greco-Roman; for instance, Rala Mahana, Vanesh Wyckenry, and Brudhier Bryllium. Some women are designated with the suffix "-Se" after their husbands' last names, as in the married couple Hrishym Bolgarium and Giselle Bolgarium-Se.

Interacting with NPCs is entirely a one-way process of clicking on the various dialogue buttons--"Background," "Introduction," and "New Topic"--with any of them offering the possibility of "More Detail." Despite the different labels, clicking on them in order generally produces a progressive (if somewhat redundant) narrative, not so much individual topics. Vivek said that NPCs are so verbose and repetitive not so much as a reflection of Indian dialogue patterns but because the brothers were trying to pad the length of the game and make it more of a challenge to find the real clues amidst all the blather. So I'm 0 for 2 on my cultural assumptions.

Most NPCs, incidentally, don't talk at all. You waste a lot of time running up to icons and hitting Apple-T.
              
Off to kill a guard, I guess.
           
Karkala and Zenetych both had a full set of services: weapons, armor, food, transport sales and repair, and medicine. Janiv Masawanere, who works for the Karkalan government, told me that you have to have papers to buy a transport, and those are currently restricted to guards. Zenetych's NPCs are proud of it as a high-tech city where many of the weapons and armor currently being sold were originally invented. 

One Zenetych NPC, Hackyrn Kassimar-Se, is married to a human and doesn't seem to realize it. She says she lost her first husband in the war, but then "Yanov" came along, "one of the new appointees to manage this district."  A "Janov Kassimar" is listed among the crewmembers of the Houston. He has two children with Hackyrn, Yany and Iri. He has recently been recalled to Nepenthe, so I didn't get to meet him directly. Did the Houston crew overthrow the legitimate Cryllan government themselves? What else would have led the Cryllans to adopt so much of the humans' culture?

Torphur was a ruin of a city with only one NPC, a refugee named Broonden Mair who admitted he was a "misanthrope" who had rebeled against the new government, with the help of "dissenting outsiders" (the Houston crew?). He told me that force field generators can be destroyed with a plasma grenade.
                  
Torphur is as destroyed as Magincia.
           
The force fields in question activate at night, preventing "misanthropes" from entering the cities. The implication is that the self-same "misanthropes" make up most of the thieves, outlaws, soldiers, merchants, and other enemies attacking me in the countryside.
          
Crylla at night.
           
Adion was hidden amidst some mountains, but there wasn't much I could do there. A group of guards at the entrance said it was a "restricted" city and said I'd be executed if I proceeded. 
         
The wilderness combats remain generally easy. The only thing you have to worry about is earning enough money to offset the cost of the medicine you use post-combat. That hasn't been hard. I've mostly been letting the computer fight except when NPCs get hung up on each other. My characters all leveled up at some point, which confers attribute and hit point increases.
               
Leveling up.
             
NPCs told me repeatedly of another land lying "beyond Cramur." Cramur is a dungeon that connects to at least one other continent, where I will find the cities of Nepenthe (the seat of the government) and Eune.

I found Cramur and accidentally entered it too soon. Dungeons apparently switch you to 3-D view, until you encounter monsters, when you go to a regular combat grid. (This dual interface was featured in Ultima IV and V, which Vivek confirmed as influences.) The problem is, the entrance seems to be one-way. I can't leave from the square I entered and I can't find the exit. The monsters, meanwhile, are much tougher and more numerous than those on the surface--I think I need to be Levels 3 or 4, with plenty of upgraded weapons, armor, and grenades, before I attempt Cramur.
             
The dungeon view.
          
Unfortunately, 2088 is a bit of a bastard when it comes to character death. First, it saves the game upon every death. It also saves when entering and exiting buildings. Second, if your doctor dies, there is no way to resurrect him or any other party member. The doctor is the only character who can resurrect, and the service isn't available in towns. Not only did I have to restart after the game saved in Cramur with no way out, but my next party also became completely useless when the doctor died. (There's also no way to swap out party members; you have to reconstitute the whole party.) I guess I'd better put two doctors in my next party, then spend a while grinding.
                
This combat is not survivable at my level.
          
My enjoyment of the game increased when I realized that it does support movement by the numeric keypad. The problem was that KEGS automatically maps the keypad to the joystick, but if you disable the joystick, you get your regular keypad back. It makes it so much easier to move around than clicking on the screen. I look forward to visiting other cities and seeing how the plot develops.

Time so far: 3 hours.
 

52 comments:

  1. Sorry to break this to you Aenur Bryllium-Se, but when seconds count the police are hours away. Best to get some guns and ammo and protect your own property because the government sure as hell won't.

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    1. I must admit that as I read this entry I was looking forward to the responses of some the pant-shitting Randians that would inevitably infect the comments...

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    2. Many dystopian societies value property over lives. It's pretty messed up!

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    3. If your government does not protects your property, it is simply means it's a bad government and you need a new one.

      But instead of that simple notion, people like you run around and, pretty much, promote anarchy or "might makes right"-type society.

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    4. Weird. Where I live guns are highly regulated and the scenario you describe doesn't seem to happen all that often. Also criminals don't usually have guns (neither does the police come to think of it). Works weirdly well.

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    5. You're confusing Objectivists with libertarians. Rand wrote almost nothing on the gun issue.

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    6. I like more open gun laws because I like guns and being able to own them. Nothing more to it. I think the whole debate would be a lot less heated if people didn't politicize it that much and just admitted they either like or dislike guns :P

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    7. In the U.S., not even gun control advocates are looking to stop all ownership of all guns. (I'm sure you'll find one or two on the fringes who are, but there's always SOMEBODY who holds an extreme position.) I suspect that even among people who support heavy regulation, a shotgun in the closet for home defense is the least objectionable type of gun ownership.

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    8. Valuing property over lives is not uncommon in RPGs generally.

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    9. I'd say: 'For use on your farm' is an even less objectionable cause! And also happens to be the reason I grew up in a gun-owning household :p

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    10. I dont see one sensible reason to have firearms in my home. Never needed one in my life and thats 44 years now. Never had, never will. Just read Another story lately of the toddler that shot his own younger brother just because there was a gun in their house he could easily access. Then again, im not living in the US...

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    11. I was trained to use firearms and can disassemble then reassemble an M16 within a minute *blindfolded*.

      Never understood why anyone would want a tool meant only to maim and kill in their house.

      There are plenty of other objects in the house, including your bare hands, that can do that while performing various other more nurturing functions.

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    12. It's for 'use on my farm' They don't know that my 'farm' is all the humans, BWA-HA-HA_HA!!!

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    13. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    14. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    15. From professional experience in Australia, I can promise you that, in the context of a jurisdiction with heavily regulated firearms, the likelihood of a private citizen ever being a situation where they will be better off for owning a gun is vanishingly small.

      The fastest way to get shot with a gun is to live in a house where one is stored.

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    16. Nice. I haven’t been since I was a kid, but I mean to go back.

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  2. You wrote "their are dangers". Not that I really care, but if I just say how fun and informative this entry was I might come across as an apple-polisher*.


    * Never heard this term before, but it's what the dictionary told me is American for "Schleimer".

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    1. stepped pyramidsJuly 8, 2018 at 12:30 PM

      "Schleimer" is a great word!

      "Apple-polisher" reads as kind of old-fashioned to my (31 year old Anglo American) eyes, but it sure is evocative. Makes me think of an obsequious student bringing in an apple for Teacher.

      Most of the terms used for this in English have a somewhat scatological element -- "ass-kisser", "brown-noser", etc. I'm curious how insulting "Schleimer" is in comparison.

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    2. Not particularly insulting, I'd say, or very mildly so. Now, as for the semantically similar "Arschkriecher" (ass-crawler) on the other hand...

      (See https://www.dict.cc/?s=arschkriecher for a delightful list of variations on the theme.)

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    3. For Chinese, it's "smacking a horse's rump".

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    4. In Poland when someone "polishes an apple" we say "jeszcze Ci nogi wystajÄ…", which means "your legs are still out", which is clearli in the same vein as Arschkriecher above.

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  3. stepped pyramidsJuly 8, 2018 at 12:42 PM

    Wow, this game is starting to look interesting. Even if it isn't particularly nuanced, a 1984-influenced storyline with characters who debate the proper role of government is really something in an era when a lot of RPGs were still quite happy with "defeat the evil wizard". Especially from an independent developer.

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    1. What would really make this game amazing is if, at the end, you get to make a choice between pro-government or pro-the old ways. That would really make this game be ahead of its time by several years.

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  4. Now I'm trying to imagine how awkwardly formatted the protest signs these Cryllans wave at each other would need to be.

    MISANTHROPES
    OUT
    NOW


    SUPPORT
    MISANTHROPE
    RIGHTS

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    Replies
    1. I can't imagine the misanthropes refer to themselves as such.

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    2. DOWN WITH THIS SORT OF THING

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  5. This seems like a really interesting and unique game, not only for its time but in general - RPGs in scifi or modern settings are rare enough as is, ones which actually touch upon political themes are even rarer. Really looking forward to how this one is going to progress.

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  6. This scenario is so classic Trek that I expect you to either be saved from peril by a lovely woman conflicted about the society she has authority in, or to talk a computer to death.

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    1. Could you still get away with asking it "what is the square root of minus one?" in this era?

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  7. Aenur Bryllium-Se is absolutely right though.

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  8. In a bizarre cosmic synchronicity, I also decided to dig up 2088 and a //gs emulator and play it within the past week. I remember that I'd gotten to the point where I had transport papers and a pass for Adion and was just grinding my way to the point where I was fully equipped and ready to take on Cramur... and then I got distracted and stopped playing and never got any farther.

    For me, who had the //gs at just the right part of my childhood, this game was a huge thing, flaws and all.

    There's at least two versions of the game floating around. The one I presently have seems to have the other problem with saving -- it doesn't autosave and if I try to save multiple times in a session, only the first one seems to be preserved. Not sure if this is an emulator bug or something...

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  9. Hope I'm not breaking any rules by posting this here, but seeing as Corey Cole is a regular commenter I felt it as fair to let everyone know that he and Lori have released Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption! http://hero-u.com/

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    1. Weird, no, reviews yet. Would have thought the lineage and nature of the development would have piqued some interest. I hope the Coles are happy with the sales and reception so far.

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    2. Reviews on GoG are mostly positive....I pre-ordered, but haven't had a chance to play yet.

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    3. It's good so far. There are a few elements that feel a bit rough and placeholder-y - the game's opening, for example - but the amount of detail, interactivity and pun-filled writing is impressive, and it very much feels of a piece with the QfG games.

      My only wish is it discussed more of its meta-framework in-game. Time passes - do I have a limited amount of days? Is it possible to befriend everyone or do I actually have to make choices? Am I a "disbarred bard" for life or am I working towards other classes? Some of this is covered in part by (anachronistically) a PDF manual outside the game; it's a bit weird in this day and age to find useful things in the manual that aren't accessible in-game. (A map of the school in particular would have been helpful if the game had directed me to it.)

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    4. I also don´t understand why there are no reviews so far. It´s rather strange.

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    5. There are some reviews on reddit and the hero-u site, but I'm guessing it isn't being publicized very well for an indy title. I'm personally on about day 28 and really enjoying the game. I am a bit disappointed by the time management system as I never feel I have enough time to accomplish what I want. That said it makes sense in the context of the game and forces you to make decisions that impact outcomes. Overall anyone who enjoyed QFG will likely get similar enjoyment here. In addition the game is longer/ has more content than any qfg game besides maybe 5.

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    6. An ongoing complaint I have about all the Kickstarter games I've sponsored (and this partly relates to Hero-U) is that I get too many release notices: the Alpha release, the limited Beta release, the full Beta release, the backer's release, the Steam release, the blah release, the yada release, etc., to the point that I miss it when THE release comes along.

      I this case, I missed it because the update was tilted "Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption is Live!" I interpreted that as, I don't know, the web site was up or something, not "done, finished, available for download." Yes, if I'd scrolled, I would have understood, but who has time for that?

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    7. In any event, unfortunately it comes at a horrible time for me. I'm glad the Adventure Gamer got a timely review out. I'll be lucky to be able to play it before the fall.

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    8. I feel ya Chet. Work gets crazy sometimes and our habit takes a back seat unfortunately!

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  10. Hey, CA, I just now heard about this on NPR:

    https://enchroma.com/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwm6HaBRCbARIsAFDNK-h9T5ufRDc5ci5nmoxxsrpM8diGvnrG89AeujKh3zavIaHRHCIoji0aAr-GEALw_wcB

    Now The CRPG Addict can have no more color-blind problems!

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    Replies
    1. They have a color test on their web site. I've taken it a couple of times. Unfortunately, it tells me that the glasses are unlikely to help with my particular form. But thanks for thinking of me.

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    2. I'm bummed. I had hoped that would make your project that much easier, but oh well. It was worth a shot.

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  11. Joaquim NogueiraJuly 16, 2018 at 4:08 AM

    Do characters start at level 0? The image with the title "Leveling up" puzzled me, because a character is raised to level 1. So he starts at level 0?
    It's the first time I've seen such a thing.

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    1. Yes, they start at Level 0. That's happened in a few previous games. It makes sense given that the programmers started numbering the characters at 0, too.

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    2. As a programmer, but also as someone who cares about UX and usability, I really hate when details like that "leak" through the UI. No player should ever have to see the 0th entry of a list, or level 0, or things like that.

      (Well, level 0 can be justified sometimes, but in that case it has to be intentional design. Eg. you start off as a commoner with no levels or skill at heroics, but are thrust upon the adventure nonetheless. And not simply because enumerating things from zero makes the math neater.)

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    3. There are plenty of non-zero indexed languages available, though. ;)

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