Sunday, 15 September 2019

Ringworld - Two Boxes and a Repurposed Probe

Written by Reiko

Quinn’s Journal #3: "We’re making good progress on collecting these stasis boxes. Hindmost keeps demanding answers we don’t have or don’t want to give. We’d do better if he’d just leave us alone to do what he sent us here for. At least Seeker hasn’t been putting himself in danger so much."

Seeker and Quinn get macho.

The next box is located on a rock in the middle of a "sunflower" field. Not the usual sort of flower, these things are dangerous bioengineered constructs. We can't land close enough to retrieve the box on foot, so Seeker decides we should fly an unmanned probe through the sunflower field. I get a couple of conversational options about who should fly the probe, but it boils down to Quinn volunteering. This starts a little minigame where I have to navigate the probe over to the rock by moving the mouse back and forth to steer while not flying over any sunflowers, depicted by yellow lines.

Quinn's quip about nervous habits.

I don't have any trouble with the navigation, but when I get to the rock, I can't figure out how to get the probe to land or do anything else other than fly past it. There's no right-click menu. I circle around a couple times and click frantically, and eventually Quinn says his hands are sweaty and Seeker should finish the box retrieval.

I'm not sure if I did anything, or if that was just the game giving up on me and letting me proceed even though I was failing to do what was needed there. Seeker manages to get the box back to the lander, but the probe is too damaged to fly again afterward.

Miranda's more clever than she seems.

Hindmost calls again and threatens us when we tell him we still don't know the contents of any boxes. Quinn calmly calls this bluff, saying that the Puppeteer needs them more than they need him. Whatever is in the stasis boxes seems to be of huge importance, enough that the Puppeteer is being too eager to find it.

Afterward, Miranda admits she did get the first box open, and what she found was a neural control module which could be used on the "sunflower" devices. That might have been useful for the box we just got, although maybe there were too many sunflowers to control them all.

Nope, not Louis Wu. The name's Quinn.

Miranda goes off to open the new box, and meanwhile we travel near the site of the next box, which is apparently deep underwater in the Great Ocean. It's too deep for our pressure suits, which means we have a problem. Fortunately, just offshore there's an aquatic creature we can talk to, called Skeenar. Quinn goes to meet him, and we discover he knows Louis Wu and mistakes Quinn for him initially.

Take me to your leader then!

He's willing to help, but of course we have to talk to the leader of the Coastal Sea People before we can get anyone to help retrieve the box. But the leader, Lord Poria, is at the "Coralhouse" which is deep underwater. I have to go to him, so here's where I have to use the pressure suit.

I wish the game didn't let you wander around the ship while wearing it, since the airlock is in the same room as the suits. You can't leave the ship via the ladder while wearing the suit: you have to use the airlock. I forgot initially and went off to the ladder first.

The Coralhouse of Poria

I guess the universal translator doesn't translate dolphin.

Anyway, once I’m out there wearing the suit, I can enter the water with Skeenar. We get a short cut-scene with the two of them swimming through the water, with some interesting aquatic scenery. After Skeenar introduces Quinn, Lord Poria says that he could help us, but first we have to help him. Louis Wu gave them a device to communicate with dolphins, but it's been stolen by the "Explorer" who lives in a "sky house," which I guess is some kind of floating platform. With the device, he can send the dolphins to retrieve the box for us.

The Explorer’s home is in a floating tower.

Where is this Explorer? I have no idea, so I go up to the bridge and ask Seeker. He does a search and finds a location for me, up in the air about two miles away. I can't exactly walk there, so I go back to the cargo bay and get out a flycycle to ride. That takes me right there, and apparently I just walk in.

Quinn asks for what he wants...

...and is firmly rebuffed.

I end up in what looks like a lab or workroom with a white-haired man busily working with his back to me. I look around for a minute but don't see much of anything interesting besides a glint inside some kind of transfer tube on the wall. First I try talking to the man. He's generally brusque and unhelpful, admitting he's the Explorer, but ordering me to leave him alone, and refusing any possibility of a trade for the communication device we need.

Not seeing any other options...I stun him. Not exactly my favorite mechanic, but it is sort of refreshing once in a while in a genre that usually gives you some variation of "Violence is not the answer here." when you try something like that.

First I take the glinting thing, which turns out to be a key. Except I have no idea where to use it. None of the six (!) visible desk drawers are locked, although one is jammed and won't open. There's also a sealed wooden barrel that I can unplug, which spills some sticky lubricant onto the floor. Atop it sits a dirty tin cup, which I can't take.

The desk has some equipment without a power source, so it doesn't do anything, plus there's a greasy towel. I feel like I should maybe be able to use the towel to get more of the spilled lubricant in order to unstick the drawer, but I can't take the towel either, or do anything else with the lubricant. I even tried scanning it, which told me it's "repellent" but "non-toxic to mammals". I guess maybe it's more like bug repellent?

The marks seem to line up.

The stool is also interesting. When I click on it, I get an inset close-up on it, and I can click on or around it to spin it either direction. Examining it tells me that there's a mark on the stool and a mark on the floor, but what that means is not obvious. Spinning the stool doesn't seem to do anything. Some tiles make the same squeaking noise as the stool when I click on them, while other tiles just give me a comment about polishing them with a handkerchief.

The Explorer lies stunned while I ransack his books for clues.

Finally I find a glass jar on the Explorer's desk. I can then use that on the repellent to fill it with the stuff for later. Then I discover that one of the books on his shelf doesn't give me the default "you can't read the writing" message. Ah, it's not a book, it's a hiding place for his combination. The stool is a spinning combination lock. The code doesn't give me directions, but I just try it both ways, and the second time the stool clicks and pops open, revealing a safe. Using the key on the safe gives me access to the dolphin translator device we were after.

I can put the key back where I found it, so I do that in an attempt to mitigate the damage I've done here, although I can't figure out a way to put the stool back how it was, nor the combination paper. Maybe I need the paper later for something else? I don't know why there's any reason to put the key back if I can't undo the other things I've done too. Not that the Explorer won't know what's happened once he wakes up anyway.

I return to the ship with my purloined goods. Back out to the shore we go (donning the pressure suit again first) to hand over the device to Skeenar. As it turns out, I didn't need the pressure suit this time, because I don't have to swim. He asks for the box's location, which Quinn provides, and then swims away to direct the dolphins to find it.

Skeenar returns with problems.

In an improbably short amount of time, he returns and reports that the dolphins cannot approach the box due to its proximity to stinging anemones. Well, I've got something for that. I hand over the jar of repellent, which Skeenar takes to the dolphins. He quickly returns again and reports that the box is too big and the dolphins have no way to transport it. They can't grab it with their mouths or anything.

Well, I have no immediate answer to this one. I did see a coil of frayed rope in the Explorer's lab, but when I clicked on it, all it said was that you should never use frayed rope. What if I could un-fray it or repair it somehow? Not that dolphins could tie it.

Quinn transforms a broken probe into mechanical hands, quite a feat of engineering.

Is there any other way for dolphins to grab a box? Do we have any of those prosthetics that I read that Earth dolphins have? Hmmm...I poke around and then try using the tech console on the other side of the cargo bay. Without any further input from me, Quinn uses it to modify the broken probe into a pair of hands for the dolphin. Now I feel smart. Good thing I read all the computer entries.

I hand over the hand-device to Skeenar, and he promptly returns with the box. He also mentions that Louis Wu and Chmeee probably aren't too far from there, since they only had their feet to transport them when he saw them. But we still have one more stasis box to retrieve, so they'll have to wait.

Kzinti don't do well at negotiation.

I take the box back to the lander, and Seeker starts getting a fix on the next one. He also compliments Quinn on his negotiation skills with the aquatic Lord Poria, saying, "Such dealings are difficult for my species. We find it much simpler to take what we want." I find the irony here rather amusing, since Quinn also had to stun the Explorer and take the dolphin communication device rather than negotiating with him.

I don't really see how he could prevent us from leaving, honestly.

Of course, then Hindmost calls again, furiously demanding answers, and chews us out when we don't provide any. After he disappears, Miranda reveals that she had already opened two of the boxes, but didn't want to say anything to Hindmost yet. Apparently one box contained a stasis control module, which then makes the process of getting into any of the other boxes trivial. Unfortunately, the box from the ocean was empty. But the good news is that having the control device means we can later go back and check out that ship that was in stasis near the canyon where we first landed.

Before that, we'll aim for the last stasis signal. It's 100 kilometers away, but Seeker doesn't want to bring the lander any closer because it's in a palace inside a city. So we'll fly the flycycles over there to check it out.

I don't really understand this, but Seeker says that this city is in an area of Ringworld called the "Map of Earth," like there's part of the Ringworld that replicates Earth somehow. And there's also a "Map of Kzin" that replicates Kzin somehow. It might be just that those are the areas where humans and Kzinti live. Seeker seems surprised that there are Kzinti on the Ringworld at all, because a colony expedition would have been rather difficult to send.

Next time we'll collect the last stasis object and find out what's in the ship in the canyon.

Number of people stunned by Quinn: 1 (the Explorer); 5 total
Number of actions taken by Quinn other than stunning: 14 (including getting 5 items: the key, the glass jar, the combination paper, the dolphin translator device, and the mechanical hands); 38 total
Number of conversational choices: 2 (two in the argument with Seeker about flying the probe]; 9 total
Number of deaths: 0; 2 total
Number of alien species encountered: 1 (the Coastal Sea People); 6 total [the Explorer looked human]

Session Time: 1 hrs 30 min
Total Time: 4 hrs 40 min

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. Regarding the maps of Kzin and Earth: they are areas of the Ringworld that exactly duplicate the geography of their respective planets at actual size. There are similar "maps" for a few other planets as well, including Mars. They're located in one of the big oceans as I recall, but I could be misremembering that (it's been a while since I read any of the books).

    Just another reminder of just how immensely huge the Ringworld is.

    It's been interesting to revisit the Ringworld, even if only second-hand. I do look forward to seeing how the rest of the game goes.

    1. Adding that there's a map towards the end of this page: that shows the "maps" in the Great Oval Ocean, though they're pretty small so it might take a moment to find them.

    2. That... is bizarre. I can't help but feel that it's not an exact duplicate of the geography, though, since it's on the inside of a toroid surface rather than on the outside of a sphere, yes?

    3. The torus is large enough that the area the Earth occupies would be effectively flat so presumably it'd be distorted the same way as a paper map would be.

    4. I wonder what projection the makers of Ringworld used? Is the Ringworld Africa as large as Ringworld Greenland?

    5. Can you imagine the conspiracy theories it would create? I mean it must be almost measurably flat but at the same time you can see the ring. Maybe they would argue it is flat and the ring is just 2 really high mountains?

    6. Now that you mentioned it, I started to wonder what would the ring look like from its inner surface. Presumably the sun (and the floating disks creating the day/night-cycle) block something, so you couldn't see the whole ring.

    7. The opposite way, I guess, since it's on a concave surface instead of a convex one (for a Mercator-like projection anyway)?