Tag Archives: Medieval

Dawn of Discovery, Anno 1404, the year of freakin awesome

23 Jun

I have just discovered my new favorite game. Dawn of Discovery, or Anno 1404 as it’s called in Europe,  is a 15th century city sim game, and it is beautiful! Just look at some of these screen shots:

There is so much to this game, describing it will be difficult, but here it goes: Every map is an archipelago. You start off on an island with the rest of the map hidden except your “boss” island. Your boss island is inhabited by

“Lord Richard Northburgh” who claims to be the close cousin of “the emperor”. He is your basic in game advice guy who will give you tips along the way. You can also trade with him and buy needed items that might not be on your island starting out. There is also a host of other NPCs who are all comical knock offs of actual historical figures. (bonus points if you can name who they are based of off)

There is one big problem with the game that will become evident as I describe the features: the difficulty curve, it’s as steep as a castle wall. There is so many options and things you need to keep track of in this game, it’s taken me over 40 hours of play to finally start to wrap my head around it. There is no tutorial other than the campaign, but even that leaves a lot of things out.

The main focus of the game is managing your town’s economy so that it grows. You start of with peasants who have X needs. Once X needs are met, they will advance to citizens. Citizens allow you to build more buildings to further expand your settlement, but they also have Y needs. Once all of a citizen’s needs are met, they can advance to patricians, who again bring a whole new set of building options along with more needs. Then from patricians come nobles, again, more building options, more needs. This may seem simple, but it’s immensely complicated.

Not all of the raw materials you need to satisfy a class’ needs can be found on your starting island. Thus you must colonize other islands. Not every island will be fertile to every crop you want to plant. Often you have to buy the seeds from either the orient or your boss if that island doesn’t support X farm. (And you can only plant a certain number of foreign seeds per island) Once you colonize an island you have to set up trade routes with ships to carry the goods. (And don’t forget building escort ships if you’re at war) On top of managing trade routes, you have to set the buy/sell prices of goods at your markets. Oh, and don’t forget fiddling with the tax levels for each class! You can’t just build anywhere on an island either, you need to be within a certain radius of a market or storage building.

Building placement is also key in the game. Each production facility will tell you at what % efficiency it is working at, same goes for trade ships. You have to link up roads as best you can and then wait for market carts to pick up the goods and take them to the store house. You can also upgrade the roads to make them go faster.

There is also the matter of the Orient. On top of managing your city, somewhere on the map is another small island where there is an Ottoman outpost. A certain percentage of the islands will be desert climates, and to settle these you need technologies from the orient. To get these you must befriend the Ottoman outpost. To do this you need to bring gifts which you buy from your boss island with “honor” points. (Lost yet?) Honor points can be gained through reaching new civilization levels or completing quests. Just like there are different class levels within your island, there are different class levels within the orient. Once you settle there you use “nomads” instead of peasants, and they advance to “envoys” instead of “citizens”. Effectively you’re playing two games at once. You can’t neglect the orient because some goods that your patricians and nobles demand only come from there.

While the game focuses mainly on economy, there is a little bit of military action, but if you’re mainly into the “build em up” games and not fighting, don’t let this deter you. Military only comes into play when you reach patrician level or higher. You can build a castle and from there you can train army groups which come in pre-assembled camps. They move around on ships or land and set up camp. From that camp they take over any building within their affect radius after a 3 minute timer. That’s all there is to it. Other enemy camps can set up right next to yours and then it’s a game of odds, but the fighting is pretty straight forward and limited.

So the huge array of things you must keep track of and manage aside, the true charm of the game is in the details. The loading bar for instance! Normally you’d just expect to see a blank bar with a color filling up, letting you know how close the game is to loading, or maybe the name of the files being accessed as the game loads, not with Dawn of Discovery! The game developers said “Hey, why have a boring bar? Why tell the player what files are loading? It doesn’t matter that they know “map seed 33179 is loading plant textures”, lets put something fun there! So they did. I just loaded up the game and the loading bar says stuff like: “Fill ocean, add salt to the water, plant trees, release the animals, bury the treasure, hide the orient, invite computer players, tidy up warehouse, launch ships, and finish the witches’ make-up!”

Another great touch are the animations. Normally in most computer games, the little NPC people have a small set of animations they do, over and over again. Nothing is really specific to what they’re doing and it’s rather bland. Not in Dawn of Discovery! There are hundreds of animations for each sim, and it’s constantly changing. What really took my breath away was the tournaments. You can build a jousting tournament ground and hold faires to gain honor points. I set up a tournament and zoomed in on the NPC knights jousting. To my amazement, instead of just the same animation over and over again, it differed. Sometimes one knight would strike the other, sometimes they’d miss. It was all randomized and effected the outcome of the tournament! (You got points either way, but it was just fun to watch) Also, the fog of war has a fun little twist on it. Instead of just a boring blank grey or black emptiness showing unexplored parts of the map, they laid out a cool little cartography effect:

Lastly, the game has this built in feature that reminds you every two hours that you’ve been playing for two hours and Lord Northburgh suggests “How about a coffee?” in his British accent. It’s a nice feature for helping you keep track of the time and to remember to take breaks, and you’re going to need it because the game is addictive.

In conclusion, the game is extremely difficult to wrap your head around when first starting out, but you’ll find that although it’s complicated, you’re still having loads of fun. I didn’t get my first patricians until almost a full solid day of playing. Despite this the came is constantly fun and there are so many thing you’re always working on to improve your settlement. The beauty and wonderful music score to the game only adds to it. All the minute attention to detail really give the game character. I’ve only been playing for three-four days and I’m sure there is plenty I have yet to discover. Go check this game out!

Military Through the Ages, recap

22 Mar

So I’m finally home where I was able to soak in the shower and wash off all the dirt, sweat, and wood smoke smell that accumulated from this past weekend at MTA.

I had an ok time. The best part was getting to hang out with some readers and watch WW2 Germans charge a British Zulu encampment.

As for the rest of the weekend, I had some issues. They are not very coherent, so I will try and put them in bullet points.

  • Egos are really making living history in my group not fun:

I’m not sure how this is in other groups, but it seems that in my group and the other late medieval groups near us that everything is just a giant dick waving contest. The hierarchy in the group seems to be determined by “stuff”. Who has bought the most stuff? Who’s stuff is the best and most expensive? I’m at the bottom of the hierarchy despite being in the group for several years because I don’t have very much “stuff”.

  • My gear is never good enough:

If I make something, it’s rarely ok to use in camp, and everyone else wants to display their things over mine. I often run into the problem of making something under the direction of one of the other members in the group, or buying something, and then soon after I get the item, they decide that it’s not right for the period. This is so frustrating! The only things I can use in the camp tend to be things that other people make for me.

  • I am never physically comfortable:

This has been true of just about every event I’ve gone to, but it was really bad this event. My clothes are horrible. The shirt I have is too big and the pants are too small. It all just ends up being this hot sweaty mess. My feet also end up extremely sore at the end of every event.

  • I never have a space of my own:

In my old group I had my own tent. It was a nice little area where I could set my stuff down and hang out. In the group I’m currently in I have no space of my own. I always have to put my stuff in other people’s tents, and I hate that. (I don’t think they like it either)

  • I always have to borrow:

This ties into space, and my gear never being good enough. I always end up having to borrow items from one person or another. I hate having to borrow from them. I feel it puts me in a position of inferiority, which then ties into the whole “this is all about egos” thing.

  • I am not your servant!:

This is perhaps the biggest bone I have to pick. I might just be paranoid, and this could all just be in my head, but I feel like other people in camp think I’m their to serve them. Yes, I know it’s important to help out in camp, and I do, but I feel people expect me to constantly be doing all the chores while they stand around and talk. For example, I was asked a couple of times to run and fill up the water pitchers. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but it was the way I was asked. “Hey, could you run and fill these up?” would be fine, but instead I got the “Since you’re just sitting around, could you go fill the water pitchers?” The tone doesn’t come over in text, but what I’m trying to get across is that in the second way the request was phrased was the hidden assertion that I need to be always doing work. Since I was not doing work at that time, they found some work for me to do in the form of filling the pitchers.

  • No one ever offers to help me setup/take down

For the longest time I’ve always put other people first. I show up as soon as I possibly can, and spend the rest of the daylight helping to put up other people’s tents, and then fill those tents with other people’s stuff. Does anyone offer to help me carry all my stuff in from the car? No. I end up making multiple trips, sometimes in the dark, to get my gear. The same thing happens when the event is over! I try to be one of the last to leave, helping everyone else take down their tents and pack their stuff. Does anyone offer to help carry my stuff back to the car? No. I end up having to do that by myself after I’m already exhausted from helping others. It’s all about them! (The ego and servant stuff ties back in)

  • Paying for food:

I got away with not paying for food this weekend, but in the past I have shelled out $20-30 to help pay for food stuffs. When the meals are cooked the food is just put out on tables for people to pick at. A little here, a little there. I end up feeling guilty about eating and so I buy extra food for myself on top of paying $20-30. If the cost of food was split evenly and everyone got an even split things would be fine, but it ends up that some pay a lot and others pay nothing. Some get a lot to eat, and others eat very little. I often end up in the “paying a lot, eating a little” category. Sure it helps cover the costs for the people who buy the food, but then I feel mooched off of.

  • I don’t feel like I belong

I grew up with my old group. I just joined this group a few years back. All the people in this group have been together for a while. They’re their own little click. They’re nice to me an all, but I just don’t get the feeling that I’m one of them. Most of them are friends outside of the group as well. (Or at least were, there is a lot of political infighting and passive aggressive bullshit going on between all of them now that luckily I’m not a part of) When I sit around the fire with them I’m usually very quiet, I don’t know what to say and I feel a bit like a stranger.

  • Is it worth it?

Well I was sitting there this weekend in the middle of the event and decided to analyze my situation and how I was feeling:

  1. I’m hot, sweaty, and very uncomfortable in shitty clothes that do not fit
  2. I feel like they want me to constantly be serving them while others sit around and do nothing
  3. I have no space of my own and I have to borrow almost everything because my stuff is never good enough
  4. I often end up paying for stuff for others

Basically it’s become a job that I go pay to spend my time at. While I’m there I feel alone, unappreciated, and uncomfortable. Because of this I’ve decided that I’m going to take a break from doing living history.

I think a lot of the problems I have stems from not having enough “stuff”. It’s not that I want to compete in their dick waving contests (I couldn’t care less about that) but it’s that I just do not have the time or money at this point in my life to keep up with the hobby. If I had more of both I could afford clothes that actually fit me and felt great. I could buy my own tent where I could put things. I could get really nice and expensive gear that they couldn’t bitch about. All this would elevate my status in the group and I don’t think they’d be asking me to run around doing bitch work for them while they sit on their beds in their big fancy tents. I don’t want to quit because there are aspects that can still be fun, but I need to step back until I’m on sounder economic footing.

Modern politics ruins living history

26 Feb

So lately I feel my hobby, the hobby I’ve had for 10 years, is being ruined for me. Every living history person I’ve come across, with the exception of like 3 or 4 are the complete political opposites of me. Now normally this wouldn’t even come up, and I would prefer for it to stay that way. Unfortunately, through facebook they’ve found out that I completely disagree with them. I post something up for all my like minded friends to see, and then they see this and start giving me shit.

I thought I had the settings right where they wouldn’t see such posts, but I guess not. And now they argue with me over facebook and sometimes make snide comments in camp. It’s ruining LH for me! I’m not friends with them because of politics, I’m friends with them because of a common interest in history, but now that’s being eroded. I’m starting to feel like I don’t belong in LH any more, which depresses me because it’s something I’ve done since I was 12!

It just seems like every re-enactor I come across is a conservative of some flavor. Not sure why exactly. I wish they could keep the modern politics to themselves. I know they feel the same way about my and my facebook posts, and I’ve apologized to them and fixed the settings, but it still makes it feel awkward when I go out for events. It’s even worse when one of them makes a quip in camp. I’m on the verge of quitting….

Too many chiefs, not enough indians

30 Jan

Today I’m running around preparing to leave in the afternoon for a medieval immersion event. Myself, along with a couple of other buddies, will be camping out in the woods for 2 days in full 15th century kit. No public, just us.

One of the things that I love about these types of events is that the “hierarchy” is really reduced. Sure there are the event coordinators in charge, but everyone there is from mix-match groups.

One of the problems my current group has, and that I think a LOT of medieval living history groups have is “Too many chiefs, not enough indians”. Lets face it. Life back then sucked. The social hierarchy sucked. There was a reason for the French revolution, and the execution of all the nobles. It was just really awful to be lower class.

Well the problem for the later period groups is the social pyramid. Unlike more modern groups where only the military hierarchy is really rigid and the social is more loose, the medieval hierarchy is extremely stiff. “You are a peasant! And you will serve my table, polish my armor, and generally kiss my ass! This is your place in life determined by GOD!” Yeah, not much wiggle room there. Nobody likes being stuck with the crappy impressions. Everyone loves putting on the expensive armor, picking up polearms, and looking badass.

Ideally, the system should work a bit like a Ponzi scheme. As long as the base keeps getting bigger things are fine.

If the group kept adding new members, at the same rate that current members move up from one kit level to another, the pyramid stays stable and just grows. Entry level people move up to level 2, level 2 people to level 3, etc. This would make it so people who were in entry kit level, who had to play the shitty parts of being a peasant, could at least look forward to building their kit up and getting to play something cooler.

Unfortunately, this is never how it really works in reality. The above method requires everyone to be working on their kits equally, and assumes a steady supply of new members. In reality people have lots of other things that need their attention. They can’t spend all the time working on their kit, and as everybody knows, it’s hard to get new people that stick. So what ends up happening is this:

Without a steady flow of new members, the pyramid stagnates. People who have put in the time and effort to move up to the next level are forced to stay in their current level for the sake of preserving the historically correct pyramid. This in turn breads resentment and increases the chance someone will stop coming out to events, which only further exacerbates the problem.

Eventually people will get tired of having to spend money to go kiss someone else’s ass for a weekend. It becomes a job that you put everything into, and don’t get what you want out of. These people will inevitably either quit the hobby altogether, or break off into splinter groups with them at the top. (In the 10 years I’ve done living history, I’ve seen this happen a LOT)

In living history individuality can be a great thing and a horrible thing. On one had, it is awesome to have unique items in camp; anything that makes you stand out from the rest of the people out there who might be doing similar but different stuff. On the other hand, the individuality has a tendency to make everyone a one man/woman show. Yes they all have to work as a unit, but people love you show off their stuff. While some groups might not be overly affected by this, it can turn into dick waving contests in other groups. (Which in turn also fuels splintering of a group into smaller groups where other people want to take their cool “stuff” and be the center of their own group.
I really don’t see any other option than the continuous cycle of group forms, group eventually breaks, splinters of old group form new group, only for that one to splinter and break. That is unless the group is pulling in enough new members regularly. Thoughts?

Weapon effectiveness

16 Aug

So today I was playing around with Empire Earth II. I was having a great time and then a swarm of enemy pikemen surrounded one of my tanks and killed it. I was like “Hey…wait a second….” Let me see, how I can best put this? Oh, I know!

tank pwns

I know how the game calculates damage. X unit has Y hitpoints and does Z damage. If enough of unit A gangs up on unit B, then eventually the damage done by unit A is going to deplete unit B’s hitpoints. Simple. Unfortunately, in this case that scenario is totally impossible. A bunch of guys with pikes could never destroy an active tank. Maybe if it was left in a field and they had a few weekends to take the nuts and bolts off, but not if it was manned, moving, and shooting.

Now this is a computer game, and so it’s rather trivial, but it would be nice to make it as realistic as possible. Unfortunately, that would require a lot more code to be written about what the computer should or shouldn’t do when 2 units fight. Production times and costs are already so enormous, this issue will definitely be on the back burner for a long long time.

This is an area where I think table top gaming has an edge over computer gaming. D&D and its many spin offs have AC “armor class”. AC determines if, when attacked, a player takes any damage. The better your armor, the better your AC, and thus the less likely you are to take damage. Now the system is not perfect for every possible weapon/armor combination, but it really helps in trying to make the game more realistic.

Female armor

12 Jun

Sexy female armor is ridiculous. Plain and simple. To quote Savage Garden, it’s like swimming in a raincoat.

armorThe whole point of wearing armor is to protect your body, especially vital organs. As you can see, all three women have their sexy stomachs exposed. Often sexy armor covers even less.

can pwnsAs sexy as this armor is, It offers you almost no protection from weapons. It’s like the idea is that a force field of sexyness is supposed to protect the wearer from harm.

sexy sheildBut on second thought, maybe the strength in sexy armor is not physical, perhaps it’s mental. Maybe the idea behind it is to make a male opponent falter, if only for a split second. If I turned around in a fight and was confronted by a woman wearing this, I would surely stop to admire. Every guy would, it’s automatic and we can’t help it. It would only take a second, but anyone who spars knows that a second is all that’s needed. On the bright side, I’m sure plenty of guys would love to die at the hands of such a beautiful enemy… ^_^

The people you meet at reenactments

24 Mar

There are a lot of interesting people you meet at living history events. Here are some archetypes:

The armchair general: Usually a slightly overweight white guy in his 20’s to early 40’s. He’s a big military history buff despite never actually having served. Often these guys are old wargamers and model enthusiasts.

The spoiled fat kid with delusions of grandeur: This kid usually is out of sight of his irresponsible parents and loves to run around at high speeds through the camp. Your camp is his playground. “Don’t touch without asking” is a phrase this kid has never heard, nor understands. Watch your food table because he’ll help himself if he thinks he can get away with it. Often he asks to join your group believe himself to be very important and a great fighter.

The veteran: One of the more enjoyable visitors. This guy actually served in the military and as a result is much more subdued about your weapons and armor. He usually asks educated questions about your equipment’s weight, trying to make comparisons to his experiences.

The teenage girl: She’s usually with all her girlfriends and loves to put on the helmets and take group photos with their cellphones. A pleasant enough visitor, but usually doesn’t ask too many questions.

The young family: Usually only married a few years with one or two young kids. The kids are often scared of you especially if you’re in armor with a helmet on. Usually to get the kids to warm up to you you have to take off the helmet, bed down and let them touch the armor. The parents are moderately interested and ask good questions.

The boyfriend: He usually is a fit, hip guy who has to wear the armor and hold the weapons while flexing his muscles to show off to his girlfriend. Usually he doesn’t ask very many questions because he’s too busy trying to show off.

The fantasy nerd: Usually a scrawny white kid who plays World of Warcraft while watching Lord of the Rings extended edition. He loves the armor and weapons but is not to interested in the actual history. He believes he knows all there is to know about fighting based off of fantasy moves in the Final Fantasy cut scenes.

I’ll add to this if I can think of anything else. Feel free to suggest archetypes.