Timeline Of An Empire

9 12 2015

Age of Empires 2

I recently picked up a copy of Age of Empires II HD on Steam. Upon hearing that many of you are probably thinking: “What, have you only just played it” or along those lines anyway (or possibly even; “What is Age of Empires II HD on Steam? Well, click the above links). No, it is not the first time I have played Age of Empires II. It must have been when it was first released that I played it for the first time. I remember when it first came through and on that evening playing the tutorial mode with my Dad, and my Dad noting the bad attempt of someone from America trying to do a Scottish accent. Anyway, I have played it before, but purchasing this copy on Steam marks the first time I have played this version of the game (which comes packed with previously unofficially unreleased extras), plus the first time in a long time I have played it. And it has been fun. I enjoy playing different skirmish games, attaining new trophies in Steam and just generally having fun playing this game again. I am not too fussed by playing the campaign mode, I played the Tutorial again a few weeks ago, and was so bored, but general Skirmish games I find rather fun. I also find it rather fun playing Empires that I did not necessarily use before like Byzantines and Franks as well as old favourites like the Japanese, Teutons and Koreans. My one hope at this time though is to hopefully have a multiplayer game of it at some point in the not too distant future.

AoE Score

Anyway, why am I talking about this game in the first place? Well, one thing I rather like about this game comes in the end of game stats, the ones that show you statistics of how the game went. Now I am not really all that fussed by Economy or Military stats, but what I am interested in is the Timeline functionality at the far right of the menu choices.

AoE Timeline 1

I like this feature because it features a very detailed colour coordinated graph showing how your empire in the game, and those of the other players fared, and these can be very detailed. Take the above picture for example. It shows the names of the players or AI, what army they were, when they advanced to certain stages, when there was a battle, when a Wonder was built and when a Wonder was destroyed. Doesn’t seem like all that much to gawp at I know, but looking at the way that colour can take over the chart is something in particular to behold.

AoE Timeline 2

When a certain colour/nation fills the chart more than any other, it shows who at that time the strongest empire was. These strengths of colour increase and decrease throughout all the way to the end of the game as it stands (so either as overall victory is achieved, or when someone decides to quit) come the end. Some of these colours of course begin to decrease down to a small-scale as the end draws near for that empire; however abdicating is simply not enough. I have found that even if a nation abdicates; i.e. Loses, the empire can still carry on, on the timeline even if it is just a small slither across the screen. This comes in the form of leaving their buildings and some villagers and ships alive and not destroy them when they give up. Thus to end an Empire outright, and take over the chart that little bit more, you will need to make sure there are no survivors, either people, ships, or buildings. This will cause that Empire to be wiped out and disappear altogether from that moment in time, similarly to real past ancient empires of this world.

AoE Economy

I know it’s something to do a weird post about, but it’s a nice little feature in the game that I wanted to point out and mention. You can be someone who ignores the impact of ancient empires, but something like this can show, at least in a fictional video game stance how powerful an empire can become, but similarly also how it can simply disappear and be forgotten, as other greater, mightier empires forge their own future, quashing competition in their stead.

Steam (Valve Corporation, 2003 - Present)

GENEPOOL

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Colonia

23 07 2014

Colonia

Colonia is an Set Collection, Resource Management and Worker Placement board game released by Queen Games designed by Dirk Henn who also designed Shogun and Alhambra. Set in the ancient Holy Roman Empire city of the same name renowned for its ancient cathedrals and versatile trade, the game plays out over several rounds, but within those rounds are rounds themselves where players take on the role of one of several influential families and instruct them to do several things per mini round. Basically the game plays out with each turn within the round representing a different day of the week.

Colonia 1

On day one, players set up the game board for the week, placing edicts and setting out contracts, items for trade and ships that will set out. On day two, players secretly choose how much influence they will have during the turn by dedicating as many family members as they wish, the player with the most dedicated family members becomes the first player for that round, this is also how the voting mechanic works as a simple yes or no from everyone is multiplied by how many family members each person put forward on day two. On day three, players send any remaining family members they have (but preferably not all of them) to collect resources from the market. On day four, these resources are given to craftsmen to create new resources with family members taking the appropriate resources to the right contractor. On day five these new resources are then taken to ships in the harbour and their cargo holds are loaded with the asked resources. On day six the ships leave the harbour and the players are given the money for their products. Each ship though represented a different location in the empire and so the player is given money based on the type of money that the ship carries. Finally on day seven, players get the chance to buy relics using the money they earned from the week. Relics are how players win the game, as the family with the most points from Relics wins the game. After all this has been done the game continues for an allotted period of rounds before the game ends. As players go round the board again though, they retrieve the family members they put down on the previous round space by space.

Colonia 6

At its heart, Colonia is not a bad game, a definite improvement I feel over Alhambra which while having an ok mechanic is completely random where you want to build something but need the required money, save up and by the time have the correct money the building is gone.

Alhambra

This time around though, there is more opportunity to get the correct money you want in Colonia as the money is readily available, you just need to plan ahead and get the satisfactory results to get the money you want to buy the relics you want; however that is also one of the game’s short comings. The relic’s score so low a number of points that you personally think that more high scoring ones will be out in a bit but as most score no more than between 1 and 3, you hold out for as long as possible instead of buying as many as possible. While the game does include shrines, one of each colour that doubles the score of up to 1 relic placed in it, it’s still not enough and it is really only thanks to the end game stained glass window bonuses that a winner can be crowned at all.

Colonia 4

Colonia’s basic structure of buying resources to turn into other products to then sell is brilliant, and an absolutely brilliant idea at that. It beats the usual resource gathering mechanic where you buy resources to use only once for certain things. The mechanic in Colonia is more like that of the world today and I am surprised to see that said mechanic is not used more often, even in big economic games like those designed by Uwe Rosenberg.

Colonia 3

While I do like the game to a point, there is just a sense that there could be more to this game. Why is it that I hardly have anyone in my family remaining to do the basic of commands, why is it that I lose family members trying to buy contracts and resources, why can’t all the ships leave the harbour every round instead of just a few, why is it that the edicts don’t seem to make much for understanding without reading the rules and why do we decide on them during their round than right at the beginning so we don’t forget about them, why can’t the relics be a lot more valuable. It’s almost like the game is trying to sabotage itself by limiting options when in the end you need as much as you can, which is very hard to do when to begin with you are limited to the point of almost impossible. I don’t have problems with games that limit what you can do, it puts a real strain on your gameplay if it’s part of the mechanic and forces you to think clearly about what you both want and need to do to accomplish them. That’s fine, but not when such gameplay prevents you from doing the most basic actions that are required in order for the game to work.

Colonia 7

The look of the game is very basic and holds some charm but given the detail of games out there which play and look along the same lines, there could be more to appeal to the player, though on saying that, the player shields which are used to hide the resources collected and produced are a nice touch and the bag that is used to place resources randomly on the market tiles is a good device also and prevents the players from holding a monopoly on certain resources. While Colonia is still a very enjoyable game, I don’t think it carries enough value for much in the way of replay value and at most is a game that you will want to play after a few months or so after playing it for the first time.

Colonia 5

GENEPOOL





A Better Way Of Life – ELYSIUM

23 09 2013

Elysium (TriStar Pictures - 2013)

If you were offered the chance at having a better life than you do now, would you take it? well in many a sense it depends on what do you do now. If you prefer your current life you may not take it, but if it is the case that you are living quite poorly like many third world countries you would probably have the salesman’s hand off. But let’s just say that you do want a better way of life, so you say yes to the salesman’s offer. He then says it involves moving are you ok with that? Probably, then he tells you have to move into space on a giant space station, what would your answer be. Well I have always thought that I would probably go insane if I went into space, but on Elysium, it looks quite nice.

E8

I have been looking forward to this film for a while. Why? Well because it was directed by Neill Blomkamp. The man to date has only directed one feature film, but it was Amazing, that film being District 9 and so as a result when I found out that he was making a new film, I was both pleased and excited. While the Elysium is neither a sequel nor a prequel to District 9, it is set in a similar theme and deals with similar themes.

Neill Blomkamp

In the distant future (141 years from now) the earth is disease ridden and overpopulated. The wealthy left the earth to live on Elysium to preserve their way of life. The people on Elysium also have access to top-notch medical equipment which can heal anything. Back on earth meanwhile the residents of the earth live in poverty. Max Da Costa (Matt Damon) grows up in an orphanage and makes a friend named Frey (Alice Braga). Max grows up with hopes of going to Elysium so he can take Frey there. When he grows up he is trying to make an honest living after some time as a convict, which is particularly hard when the police are ruthless robots. While working at a robotics factory he succumbs to radiation poisoning and is let go. He has only a few days left to live.

E2

Meanwhile, several shuttles attempt to land refugees on Elysium, the stations defence secretary, Jessica Delacourt (Jodie Foster) uses sleeper agent Kruger (Sharlto Copley) to shoot them down but one manages to get through, everyone on the shuttle is apprehended though within minutes. Delacourt is brought in front of the president of Elysium who does not like that civilians were killed or the use of sleeper agents and so Delacourt is given a warning. She goes to see John Carlyle (William Fichtner), the head of the robotics firm who built Elysium and asks him to cause a system reboot to put her in charge.

E3

Max, down in the dumps after being fired decides to do a job for notorious smuggler Spider (Wagner Moura) and has his body fused with an exoskeleton machine which enhances his abilities to that of a robot. Along with 3 other soldiers including a good friend, they attack Carlyle, to obtain pass code information to get into Elysium; instead they collect the reboot code. The group are attacked while trying to escape from a now reinstated Kruger and his henchmen. Max manages to survive and finds Frey who is trying to look after her dying daughter.

E4

Max wakes up after getting healed from a stab wound and goes on the run from Kruger, who after finding his location takes Frey and her daughter captive. Max finds out from Spider that the information he got from Carlyle could make everyone on earth a citizen of Elysium. Max bargains with Kruger who takes all three of them to Elysium, however a scuffle on board ensues and the ship crash lands on Elysium, Kruger’s face is wrecked and Max, Frey and her daughter are apprehended.

E6

Doctors on Elysium attempt to extract the data from Max, but Max manage to escape and looks for Frey and her daughter. Kruger receives treatment in a matter of seconds and his face is completely restored. He kills Delacourt, has an exoskeleton attached to him and hunts for Max so he can use the data to rule Elysium. Kruger’s men cause chaos on Elysium and Spider manages to sneak on board. Kruger and Max confront each other and a fight ensues with Kruger dying after Max throws him off a ledge. Spider and Max manage to get to the main hub on Elysium and load up the data which kills Max. As a result everyone on Earth becomes a citizen and medical pods are dispatched all over the world to deal with the sick including Frey’s daughter on Elysium. E1

Elysium’s special effects are some of the best I have seen in recent years. This is mainly from the robots who don’t look very sci-fi-ish, they look more sort of the now instead of the future. Other forms of special effects include the outside images of Elysium where you can actually see what it is like on the surface with things like houses as well as the great scale of environments such as the inside processing plants and the curvature of Elysium itself when looking at the buildings and landscape. While down on Earth, most of the landscape is realistic due to it being shot on location but the ships, while looking very industrial and dilapidated like the spaceship in District 9, look like you can go up to them and actually touch them. It is important in many respects to remember that Blomkamp used to work in Special Effects and so he knows how important the right effect is but also how to produce them.

E9

The film’s cast are a nice pleasant mix of different personalities. Max has that redeeming feature of him of someone who is trying to do the right thing in a bad world and this is shown by him trying to get back in people’s good books after some time as a criminal. While his job like many people’s is low pay and down trodden, he just gets on with it and tries to make the best out of it knowing how important it is and how much of a rare opportunity it is. But he is also determined and this helps him greatly when he attempts to get to Elysium and is willing to go to the extremes to achieve the right outcome.

E10

Frey has the character of someone who is very caring and so you can see how important she is to Max. Her daughter Matilda (Emma Tremblay) meanwhile sees to be like some philosopher when she tells the story of the Hippo and the Meerkat, almost like Willow Smith in I Am Legend, it is a nice part, but a bit confusing. Delacourt meanwhile is cold and calculating and has a bit of a superiority complex but there is a redeeming feature in her as someone who may actually have a caring side. Spider is a great character and has a very warm essence around him, an essence that you care for him and are pleased when he is around.

Jodie Foster, Emma Tremblay, William Fichtner, Alice Braga, Wagner Moura

For me though, no one stood out better than Sharlto Copley. As Kruger you can tell that he is a dangerous man, a soldier, a warrior and he is willing and can do anything to achieve the outcome he wishes. but he is not a stable man, as in he is not mentally stable. Throughout the film, particularly when he got involved with Frey and her daughter, you can see more of a psychopathic idea coming out of him, but towards the beginning you wonder if he is a robot? He is brutal and harsh and likes to cause as much chaos as possible, because he thinks he can get away with it. When he goes up to Elysium, he causes as much chaos as possible and you can tell that if he were to run the station, he would probably make the civilian population his slaves.

E5

Watching the film, it is hard to ignore the level of graphic gruesome effects that the film has. lots of occasions of blood splatter as well as body damage that just looks gruesome and horrible. But in many a sense it is required to show how things work including how the exoskeleton is attached and Kruger’s facial reconstruction. I am not for one second saying it is ok to do that kind of thing all the time, I am just stating that it gives a level of understanding about how the world of Elysium works and feels and acts as another point when looking at how bad the world has become.

E11

While watching this film, you do wonder how it is going to turn out. On the eve of the film I was wondering if it was going to be along similar lines to District 9 as the film does have those tones about it. People having a better life than others because they are privileged and in many sense I was right as the population of earth is sort of trodden on for the benefit of those above. The people on Elysium have mansions with gardens and swimming pools all to them selves and ride in ships made by Bugatti and have the best medical care possible while those on earth are lucky enough to have running water and a roof over their head, if even that. When you see how cruel the robot police are and find out that the corporation that build them are involved with Elysium, and when air traffic in a whole are is locked down by those on Elysium. You wonder if those who run Elysium also run Earth and when people try to get on Elysium via ships, you can see their desperation to get there because of how bad Earth has become, but you also see how cruel the people of Elysium are denying people who need Medical Attention for one as well as how far and how efficiently they will go to prevent their way of life being snatched from them. And so I was beginning to think that the film would have some kind of attack scene with earth ships attacking Elysium, or if the Robots were going to be reprogrammed to attack it, but instead you get something completely different and almost unpredictable as it is not the case of whole armies rescuing the down trodden, it is the freedom fighters.

E12

Elysium is definitely a film that should not be overlooked, it is very enjoyable on all levels as it is not just an action film. You may want to pass it off as a sci-fi action film but it also has a lot of emotion and drama to it as well including a bleak idea of the future and the selfish attitudes of those who are willing to keep others beneath them to keep hold of their own way of life.

GENEPOOL








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