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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Book Review – MICRO by Michael Crichton

10 09 2014

Micro by Michael Crichton (HarperCollins - 2011)

Title: Micro

Author: Michael Crichton, Richard Preston

Publisher: HarperCollins

ISBN: 000735007

There are many frontiers in the world today. Space is a possibility of course, but if you want to keep your feet on planet earth there are many regions you could explore. You could climb the highest mountain, dive to the bottom of the deepest ocean, cross vast inhospitable deserts or discover new landmasses just waiting to be discovered. But what about the areas of the world that we know about but are yet to truly discover? What if you could put yourself in a position to discover more of the world we already know? What if you could make discoveries about Insects on their level………just a thought.

Released in 2011, Micro is the final book by best-selling author Michael Crichton whose previous work includes Jurassic Park, Disclosure, The Andromeda Strain, Timeline and State of Fear. Crichton had begun writing Micro and had finished a third of the book by the time of his death in 2008. The book was discovered on his computer sometime later and Science Writer Richard Preston; the author of The Hot Zone and The Wild Trees (and the only person not to be a medical practitioner to receive the ‘Centers for Disease Control’s Champion of Prevention Award for public health‘) was asked to complete it. This does not mean in any way though that the book loses anything from the loss of Crichton as Preston has done an amazing job in keeping the writing style the same from the moment he picks it up till the very end. The book also features an introduction into the world the book explores written by Crichton himself but was also sadly unfinished.

Micro, much like many great books starts with an event which for the most part has characters which do not have a major story in the book but is a great way to lure the writer in. The event ends with three men dead in a locked Honolulu Office with razor-sharp cuts all over their bodies. In Cambridge, seven bright students are encouraged to visit Hawaii based start-up company Nanigen who are making increasing discoveries into the world of microbiology. Wanting to learn more the students go to the Hawaiian Island of Oahu where things begin to take a mysterious twist as a death at sea occurs with the presumed death of the company’s vice president who is also a relation of one of the students. The students begin to marvel at the how the company operates and make the discoveries, but when one student goes to talk about the incident out at sea, things take a dramatic twist as all seven students are instantly thrown into a world which is far beyond their wildest nightmares. It’s now a struggle for survival as the students have to contend with the cruel natural world and harness the abilities they each have as they struggle to survive in the rainforests of Hawaii and battle nature that only a few days ago was smaller than them.

I first spotted Micro a few months ago when I started reading Jurassic Park. Within a few chapters I wanted to read more work from Michael Crichton. When I spotted Micro, the first thing that drew me to it was the size and spacing of the letters, it had plenty and it was nice and big for me to read without causing too much strain, something that I find hard to avoid with smaller writing and spacing. The books cover also got my attention and when I read the blurb on the bag, it was a book I wanted to read, and read then. Several Months later I bought it and started reading. One thing I sometimes do is that when I read a the books blurb, I try to picture what the book might be about, and more often than not I get the right idea, but not in the right direction. When you see the word Micro on the books cover you know the book is going to be about something Small or tiny and over reading the first few chapters I was waiting to see what would happen but I thought it was going to be about Nanorobotics and Nanotechnology. By the end of Chapter Nine you discover what the book title really means and then you get more of a clear perspective of what is going to happen to a group of students whose main form of research is the study of Insects.

The book is written in the third person but does not break to move from the thoughts and actions of a single character but just does it. This at first can seem regularly annoying, but as the book keeps going and more and more characters start appearing and of course, disappearing, it becomes more part of the flow of the book. The only time the book does use breaks are the points the narrative changes location. One thing the book does which at first appears to be overlooked is the way the chapter beginnings are formatted, with the current Narrative Location as well as the time and date. This method is a terrific way to show the passage of time but also shows the progression of specific ailments that the characters begin to feel and suffer from as time goes on, something that the book continually reminds you of and makes you wonder how long the characters have left until the proverbial end. The book though is not quick and there is a real sense of real-time going through the entire story without much need for skipping except for moments of large amounts of time passing.

The books characters are a mixed bunch of good, bad, annoying and sinister. For the most part the book takes the narrative of one of the students with tiny points of narrative coming off of him here and there, this being the character of Peter Jansen. For the most part, the tertiary characters only have short points here and there with only little bits of introduction for each one but highly detailed sections of narrative for when they are the main spotlight, the secondary characters though are a main spotlight in the story throughout with characters like Rick Hutter and Karen King standing out and eventually taking top spot in the story. In terms of other major characters, the story focuses on those who are not in the group including the sinister head of Nanigen Vincent Drake, his Security chief and the interested policeman who begins to unravel the huge plot going on as things begin to get weirder and weirder. As the story goes on more and more characters are introduced but whose appearances are not major and usually don’t last, but a nice little twist is added later on. As for the other students, real characterization begins to unfold when you discover what they are actually like in the current situation with some becoming strong and fearless, while one of them just becomes plain annoying and is the kind of character who is mostly interested in his own survival and as a result the one member of the group you probably wouldn’t mind leaving behind.

One of Micro’s key points is that it is believable due to it being set in a real world location. If a book is set on a distant planet or in a different universe, a lot of imagination is required to make the story work, and if it is not done properly, it is easy to confuse the reader. Micro though, being set on Hawaii instantly rings through the head of the reader, even if they have not actually been there they can get an idea of where it is and a partial idea of what it might look like. It’s a lot like the setting and introduction to Jurassic Park where the introduction talks like an essay being written in the here and now but then talks about the company and location as if they’re real and this sets up the story for you. by putting the story in the real world it makes the story seem real as if something like what is happening in Micro could be happening right here and now without us even knowing it and this is one of the brilliant things you begin to realize when reading a book by Michael Crichton, and it’s that he has written something entirely fictional, but is also incredibly plausible at the same time.

That is one thing reason why Micro is so enjoyable, it’s believable, but on that point you get something else which is also a sort of key trademark of works by Michael Crichton in that the world and setting is so finely and minutely detailed in a way that is not boring. When you read Micro, there is a lot of gaps and moments of detail of the world that the characters are experiencing, moments where it talks about certain smells of the rainforest, and the types of species and relations to each other there in. Crichton details everything and talks about everything that the characters are dealing with from complex names of species to how venom and poison from insects work to even how well detailed creatures nests are to pheromones that creatures give off; and it’s not just prohibited to the insect world, but also the technological world with devices which as far as we know don’t currently exist but gives a detailed look into the experience such machines do. This level of detail may sound rather boring, but instead it is much the opposite, it’s incredibly interesting and while such moments may slow down elements of thrills or action, they are very much required in order for the player to experience the world that they are trying to engross when reading (there’s even a bibliography after the story showing points of reading that was undertaken in order to write the book).

Micro is an incredible book, one which I find possibly better than Jurassic Park as the story dives into a world that we can only dream of experiencing yet one that we see every day and it’s only thanks to the true visionary of author Michael Crichton that we get to both experience and enjoy it. While there are moments here and there of high levels of violence as well as moments that I found revolting in a very disgusting way when visualizing, it’s also a book of peril, thrills, action, discovery, corruption, love, romance, death and beauty and one that continues to push levels of discovery and hardship as the book continues and as a result becomes a read that you will find hard to put down.  While I find it sad that Michael Crichton sadly passed away before he could finish it, I do feel that Richard Preston has done an excellent job completing it. From Start to finish, Micro is one intense ride and one that is enjoyable from start to finish and is in itself a brilliant ending and a terrific tribute to the Amazing career of one of the world’s Best and Greatest writers.

GENEPOOL








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