Saturday 27 June 2015

Timequest - 44 BC Survey

Written by Reiko

Temporal Corps Private Journal #3: "I’ve uncovered some hints of what else Vettenmyer has been up to and obtained a couple of items of dubious usefulness, but the highlight of the day has to be my visit with Cleopatra. Except then she implies I can’t keep up with her and puts me off until later. If it weren’t already quite the interference in the timestream even to get involved with her, I’d have to suggest just what she can do with that aphrodisiac she gave me. Hmph."

So I originally didn't solve the mission in 44 BC Rome all at once; I went on to several other time periods before going back and figuring it out. I thought maybe there was a chance that there was a cotter pin in another place. I reasoned that if Roman chariots use cotter pins in the year 44 BC, then perhaps chariots or wagons or other wheeled vehicles in another city in the same year might use similar cotter pins. It wasn't a great hypothesis, since various civilizations might have very different technology levels (I've played way too much Civilization, clearly, but these cities mostly represent standard civilizations - British, Romans, Egyptians, Chinese, Aztecs) and practices like pottery can vary quite a bit between towns even just miles apart, but it's all I could think of at the time. So here's what happens in the other cities in 44 BC.

History of Dover in 44 BC.

In Dover, I appear in a shed next to a tavern. I don't necessarily know if there are any plots I have to stop here, but I'd better keep my ears open. I exit from the shed onto a lawn, which seems to be the same kind of beautiful but pointless vantage point as the Academy scene in Rome, including the SAME BUSH whose description says, "It looks like a kinder, gentler bush." What does that even mean?? Kinder than what?

The tavern holds some sailors and an innkeeper polishing a tankard. Not much here either. I head back out and follow the path down the cliff. Partway down, I find a loose piece of chalk, which I pocket for five points. The path doesn't seem to go any farther down, though. As far as I can tell, that's all that's here. I try waiting around for a few hours just to see if there's anything exciting scheduled, but nothing happens.

Note the murals. At this point, the Indians have been boiling men in cannibal pots and defeating all their enemies.

On to Mexico in 44 BC. I appear in a temple to Quetzlcoatl. It doesn't look like I can go anywhere from here, but there's an opportunity to interact with a native who's meditating there. Apparently his lineage is waiting for Quetzlcoatl to return, and he's the last. When I “ask toltec about god”, he says this: “The feathered serpent appeared on this very spot over a thousand years ago. At that time, he commanded us to build an altar and await his return for 100 generations. He said that if he became displeased with us, he would return and show to us the symbol of our doom. Then, if our ways still did not please him, he said he would return again in the guise of a white man bearing that selfsame symbol. At that time will our race come to an end.” So if Quetzlcoatl doesn't return in his lifetime, then it's a sign that his people are invincible and Quetzlcoatl will destroy all their enemies.

According to the briefing notes: “In 1519, Hernando Cortez landed in Mexico with only 500 men and 16 horses. Yet in a matter of months he conquered the entire Aztec nation of more than half a million people. He accomplished this astounding feat with the help of an Aztec myth that the vengeful god Quetzlcoatl would one day come in the guise of a bearded white man and destroy the Aztecs.” Apparently Vettenmyer did something with the original myth in 1361 BC to make the Toltecs think their civilization would be permanently invincible if Quetzlcoatl didn’t return again by 44 BC, so I’ll have to go see if I can undo that. Then the priest here in 44 BC should say something different. I don’t see anything else useful here yet.

Before I move on, though, I have to comment that, at least according to the wikipedia article on Queztlcoatl, this Cortez connection seems to be a myth that could have been manufactured by the Spaniards to cement their superiority over the Aztecs. It isn’t clear that the Aztec Emperor Montezuma actually believed Cortez was a god; in fact, the Aztecs weren’t initially hostile to the Spaniards: Montezuma and Cortez exchanged gifts, and the Spaniards were hosted for several months before violence broke out. It makes a good story to have Vettenmyer tamper with the Quetzlcoatl myth, but it isn’t good history.

History of Egypt in 44 BC.

In Cairo, I appear in a dusty tomb. Outside is a road through the City of the Dead lined with many other tombs and mausoleums. I have arrived just before Cleopatra's procession will pass through on her return from Rome. I can also explore further to reach the royal compound and walk along the river, but I don't find anything of interest. A guard blocks me from entering the palace itself, which doesn't surprise me. When the procession arrives, Cleopatra notices me, still wearing the wreath from Rome, and invites me to join her for a "night of pleasure" to thank me. Well then. Oddly enough, entering "say yes" doesn't work; I have to enter just "yes".

Anyway, she takes me to her bedroom. I wonder how much later in the year this is. The Rome mission takes place on February 15th, but here in Cairo, Cleopatra is just returning from Rome. I don't know how long that journey takes, but of course I've just used the interkron to travel more or less instantaneously, while she's maybe taken a ship or traveled overland over the course of some days or weeks.

Should I be insulted or grateful?

It's clear what Cleopatra wants. But this isn't that kind of game. She summoned me with a kiss in Rome, so I offer one back. Then she says I need an aphrodisiac to keep up with me, so she gives me one and says to come back in five nights. I don't think we'll have a chance to keep that date, but the aphrodisiac might be useful somewhere. Five points for acquiring it.

History of Babylon in 44 BC.

In Baghdad, I appear in a secluded cave between Babylon and the village at the modern location of Baghdad. There's some writing on the wall, which says, "Everywhere you go, I've been there too." In ENGLISH. Creepy Vettenmyer. Somewhere it suggested that he has a psychological desire to be caught, and leaving all these clues is possibly one manifestation of it. I also get a point for finding his message. I wish I could scratch it out or something. That kind of message would play havoc with modern archaeologists if it lasted that long.

Outside the cave, there's a caravan taking a break, but they seem unfriendly and I quickly move on. The village of Baghdad holds a bazaar and not much else, apparently. I see a wagon with wheels in the picture, but it doesn't really exist in the implementation. Following the trail the other direction, I reach the ruins of ancient Babylon. There's a broken clay bowl, but I can't take it, and there's nothing else here.

History of China in 44 BC.

In Peking, I appear at a roadside shrine. There's a box of candles, but nothing I can take. You might think the altar or statue would have some description or at least history attached, but nope. I move on to a park near Peking's main gate. I know in another time I'll have to open the gate to preserve Genghis Khan's invasion, but in this time I can just walk in.

Aside from the picture, this marketplace could practically be identical to Baghdad's bazaar. There are "people" and "wares", neither of which have any description other than I don't see anything unusual or special about them. WE'RE IN HISTORICAL CHINA. How is this not unusual? It certainly wouldn't be the sort of goods I'd find at the nearest grocery store. At least Baghdad's room description listed some of the things that might be for sale: carpets, spices, figs, etc. What would a Chinese market sell? Silk, I would imagine. Rice, surely. Any number of daily necessities. This is shoddy work.

I move on, returning to the park and then following the road out to the burial cave of the Shang emperors. This too will be significant in another time, but for now it's sealed over with a huge boulder. The road continues north quite a long way to the Great Wall. When I walked up to Baghdad from the cave, it said I walked for a "long time" but no more than a minute advanced on the clock. This time it says, "After an hour's walk..." and the clock does advance by an hour. I'll have to be careful not to go back and forth too much here, especially in other times where timing might matter.

And there's a barbarian army just about to attack. The sentries on the wall are gone, killed or bribed. I don't know yet if I need to intervene here, if this is the result of interference from the past, or if this is supposed to happen and I need to leave well enough alone. But I don't see anything I can do. There's nobody to talk to in Peking, and the army starts shooting at me if I try to walk along the wall. So I'll leave it for now.

That concludes our tour of 44 BC. In the first post, I only covered the intro to the game, which takes place in the present headquarters, and in the previous post, I only covered the mission in 44 BC Rome. Now I'm starting to jump around to more places, some of which I'll have to return to later.

So to keep track of where I've been and what I've done, I've made a grid of the locations and time periods. Green marks places where I think I've finished the important interactions. Orange marks places where I know I need to visit another place first and then return. Blue marks places containing messages from Vettenmyer, which don't seem to hold anything else important, but I can't rule them out completely. White means I haven’t visited or I’m not sure what’s going on yet.

Status of 44 BC locations, plus inventory and score.

Next time I'll start working through 1361 BC locations, beginning with Mexico to investigate the Quetzlcoatl myth issue. If you’ve played and know I’ve missed something really important in a 44 BC location, let me know, but otherwise I’m not asking for help, per the usual note below.

Session Time: 1 hours 0 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!


  1. The creator of this game appears to have absolutely hated history. It gives me a headache.

    The Toltec people were supposedly a civilization that lived shortly before the Aztecs, centered on the city of Tula. They were distinct from the Aztecs and generally they were looked on as being almost god-like, in a not dissimilar way from how post-Roman tribes in Europe came to see the inexplicable Roman architecture and buildings that were made from materials that could not be sourced locally. But in point of fact, the Toltecs probably never existed as the Aztecs envisioned them as their accomplishments and culture were heavily mythologized. There is more I could complain about with Cortez, but I won't.

    Very interesting thing about the Aztecs: Their version of creationism in their religion had the world being created somewhere around the year 1100. They literally thought there were hardly more than a handful of generations since the dawn of the human era.

    1. Oh, it'll get worse before we're done. Thanks for the additional info about the Toltecs and Aztecs!

    2. I maybe wouldn't go so far as to say that the creator (Bob Bates) hated history, so much as wasn't very well acquainted with all the intricate details of certain historical events. Compared to Future Wars (almost the only game involving time travel in Earth's history we've met in the blog), there are lot more historical details, and I appreciate even the slightest mentions of Toltecs, different dynasties of China etc., although I also like to nitpick the historical inaccuracies.

      In manual Bates suggests that he has ironed out some historical complexities for dramatic and game play purposes. For instance, he mentions that he has deliberately changed the geographical positions of certain historical figures so that you can meet them at particular space-time-coordinates game system allows.

    3. I suppose my language was too strong, and I would expect a certain amount of narrative efficiency at play. But there are also just enough issues that it would consistently take me out of the moment and destroy my suspension of disbelief. As a result, I think I would enjoy the game less than otherwise.

    4. And in 44 BCE, China didn't even call Peking "Peking" then. The meaning of this name is, literally translated, "Northern Capital" and it only got this name centuries later. During 44 BCE, this place was called JiCheng (City of Ji). The actual capital then was called ChangAn and was so for a very very long time.

      Also, why the f*ck is TianTan Park there?! It's supposed to be built more than 1 millennium later in the MING Dynasty! I believe Vettenmyer isn't the villain. He's the protagonist who's trying to right the already distorted history back on track.

    5. Ha! That's a great alternate interpretation. I guess I'll have to keep playing to find out whether history was already screwed up and I'm just making things worse by trying to fix Vettenmyer's changes. Seriously, it's just hilarious the lengths the PC has to go to.

  2. including the SAME BUSH whose description says, "It looks like a kinder, gentler bush." What does that even mean?? Kinder than what?

    George Bush, Sr., campaigned against Michael Dukakis for US President successfully in 1988, and "a kinder, gentler nation" was one of his catch-phrases (along with the legendary "thousand points of light"). See also Neil Young's "kinder, gentler machine-gun hand" in the lyrics to "Keep on Rocking in the Free World", 1989.

    The reference was getting a bit long in the tooth by this point.

    1. Nice catch on the reference! I had no idea.

    2. Bush was elected in 1988, served from 1989 - 1993. Here's a video -

      The game came out in 1991, so the "kinder, gentler" phrase was part of pop culture then.

      We used dozens, perhaps hundreds, of such references in Quest for Glory, many of them meaningful only to a small part of the audience. For example, our Marx Brothers references were already 40 or 50 years out of date when we used them. Then there was the Persian Golfer, referring to the Gulf War, stuff from other Sierra games, etc. We assumed that each player would only get some of the references, but would basically ignore the others.

  3. More timeline messups: the caravan in Baghdad 44 BC has been stopping there since "time immemorial," but "time immemorial" shouldn't happen for another thousand years!