Team V – Merlin’s Cave

Matt Thumser & Jake Karlsruher

Canto 1, Stanza 67. Canto 2, Stanzas 6-8.

You are riding your noble steed at a slow, comfortable pace through Castle Joyeous plain. It is 3 o’clock on a sunny day. A long journey lies ahead. Your companion, The Redcrosse Knight, rides by your side. Redcrosse strikes up a conversation. “What uncouth wind, brought you into these parts?” And so, as is such for all good road trips, a story is told of a time long past. Tell Redcrosse your reasons for being here. OR Tell Redcrosse to mindeth thou business. You grow pensive. The memory plays in your head. *Transport to Entrance of Merlin’s Cave*

You walk into the cave, and the smell of sea water is pungent.  You hear the waves crashing on the water and the screeching of large sea birds. The ground is damp but as you get further in it gets less damp, and becomes a rocky, unsettled floor. Visibility in the cave is about 10 feet.  You walk further in and stumble over a low stalagmite.  From then on you are careful with your steps.  Unable to see, you warily run your hand along the cave wall.  It is cold to the touch, yet oddly smooth.  Too smooth.  Some magickal Science is at work.  You glance right, and suddenly become very nervous.  On the ground you see a cyclops skeleton.  Behind him is a large boulder and 3 heavy spears.

You’re overcome by fear.  Nearly shaking now, you step further in.  The eerie silence chills your bones.  Suddenly from the rear of the cave you hear a banshee-like scream.  From your left you see a single pathetic creature, a feende, limping towards you, slowly.  He appears to be injured.  He clutches his right leg.  This feende, is helpless, almost cute. You extend your hand, you want to help him.  With cheetah-like reflexes he snatches your wrist and tries to bite you. You draw your sword and strike down the feende.  A horde of feendes consumed by anger appears from all sides screaming with ear-splitting ferocity.  You were prepared for battle and proceed to slay all of them.  With the feendes slain, you continue to wander into the impenetrable darkness. You hear the screeching of bats and the flapping of wings. Occasionally, a streak of black flies in front of your face.  Luckily, the bats aren’t hostile.

After a few paces the ground begins to shake.  Suddenly, everything is illuminated.  The source of the light is unknown. Stalactites begin to fall from the cave roof.  You must dodge the falling stalactites to survive. Out of breath, you stumble into a well furninshed den.  The surrealism of it all makes you question your sanity . A warm fire burns in the fireplace. Merlin’s mirror is the centerpiece of the room. It is gilded, and hangs from the ceiling on the back wall. You’re not crazy. You’re in Merlin’s cave.

The sight of the wrinkled old man is in sharp contrast to the dangers you faced before. Startled into a loss for words, you forget the very reason you entered the cave.

You’re in Merlin’s Cave to discover the identity of your true love. Are you up to the challenge?

QUEST:

1. Enter the cave.

2. You are attacked by feendes. You must fight each of them of, killing them all.

3. Follow the cave into a narrow tunnel. Stalactites fall from the ceiling, dodge each of them.

4. Speak with Merlin. You must convince him to show you your true love. Your love’s face will appear in the mirror.

5. Upon completion of this quest, you will be transported back into the Castle Joyeous Plain, from which you came.

NON-PLAYER CHARACTERS:

Merlin: Very old, kindly man. If he were a human, he’d look to be in his eighties. Very long white beard, drapes down him in a two pronged fashion. He controls his mirror, and holds the secret to your true love.

Merlin looks like this, but with a blue robe.

Feendes: Wretched looking creatures. Like, mutated humans. They look to kill you upon seeing you.

Feendes look similar to this.

CONVERSATION:

The player nervously enters Merlin’s study…

M: Sit, Sit, please sit. I’ve been expecting you.

P: Facial expression grows obviously nervous: You have?

M: Of course, of course, how may I be of service?

P: It’s… I feel as if my heart is empty.

M: Ah, so it’s love you seek. A common affliction, but not so commonly healed.

P: This, I’ve come to realize… is there anyone out there for me?

M: The path to truth, requires abilites many would deem unnatural. If it is knowledge you seek, be forewarned: the truth may be not what you desire. Answering one query may only lead to another.

OPTIONS: ask for the truth OR bid Merlin adieu

P: Please, Merlin, I truly desire to know the truth.

M: Then come my dear, to the Mirror of Merlin. Your future awaits…

Merlin conducts a spell, a beautiful face appears in the mirror. The player becomes awestruck.

P: Gasps Why… who is this man?

M: It is Arthegall, the gallant knight.

P: I must know more. Who is he? Where can I find him?

M: I can tell you no more. Your quest is yours, and your alone.

Character is transported to Castle Joyeous Plain

Another Language

Okay, so you’re an IT professional, right? That means you’re pretty good with computers and computer programming. I, for one, could never deal with computer programming. To me, even the simplest HTML code is completely and utterly unintelligible, but for an IT professional, code can be an intuitive way to send richly detailed messages. Here’s an example:

 

codeexample-code
Sample HTML Code

 

 

There is no way I could translate this code into standard English; maybe a professional can, but I am certainly not one. I can, however, understand bits and pieces of it though, and gather a few bits of information from it. I can guess that the </html> symbols at the beginning and end symbolize the start and finish of the code. By seeing “blueborder.jpg” in the text, I can deduce that this code will display something on a computer screen, and it’s probably something blue. Furthermore, I know a little bit about color hex codes, and a quick Google search of “#FF0000” tells me that some text will be written in red. Finally, I can also see that the text will be written in the font “Brush Script MT.” So you see, I can understand parts of the code, and gather some information, but I cannot visualize completely what this code is trying to tell me.

Likewise, the same can be said about Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene. Although it is written in English, it can look like a foreign language to some. For example, modern English doesn’t tell us to include “bounti-hed” in our vocabulary, but Spenser tells us that it means “cherished.” Sure, we can take bits and pieces from the text, and get a general understanding of it, but unless someone is very well trained in Medieval English, they will have a lot of trouble while reading Faerie Queene.

Both Faerie Queene and HTML code are similar in that they are written in “almost” another language. While they are both technically in English, they are very difficult to understand for the untrained. This is where the value of reading becomes obvious. To an IT professional, and to the common reader, new languages allow us to understand more of our surroundings, of our history, and of our future.

-Matt Thumser

An Albatross Around My Neck?

With a name like Worlds of Wordcraft, it goes without saying that we play a substantial amount of video games in this class. So far, it’s been mostly contained to Lord of the Rings Online, but this is changing with the introduction of Neverwinter Nights 2. Now, I wouldn’t consider myself a gamer; I’m nowhere close to that. In fact, outside of what’s required for this class, I haven’t played video games once. I have, however, dabbled in video games over the years. I’ve owned a few game consoles, starting with the Sega Genesis, and including the Nintendo 64 and Xbox 360. Yet, not once has any aspect of my life, whether academic, personal, or otherwise, suffered. I play them when I have time, and enjoy doing so.

The games in this class, however, I do not enjoy. Don’t get me wrong; they’re both two great games, but just not my cup of tea. I guess that quests are just for certain people, and I am not one of them. This doesn’t bother me, nor should it bother the game designers, or the professors. After all, you can’t please everyone.

I don’t spend my free time playing computer games. This class  gives us that option, and suggests that we do. Under normal circumstances, this would be a conflict. However, one of the great things about Worlds of Wordcraft is its flexibility. For the most part, we’re only required to spend a minimal amount of time playing them. We’re encouraged to play more, if we desire, but not forced to. Our gaming experience has no effect on our grade, and I like it that way. These games aren’t for me, so I play them minimally. I’ll play them as much as I need to, and won’t forego my responsibilities in the class, but I won’t play them beyond what’s necessary. Therefore,  I don’t feel like playing games takes away from my personal and academic lives.

In fact, only once have I felt like playing these games was a burden. This occurred while I was writing the second paper. I needed all the time I had to write, and during that time was my one opportunity to go on a raid with the class and collect pictures of the old forest. Obviously a conflict arose, and I ended up writing instead. I was forced to compromise, and take solo pictures of the area, and of myself being eaten by the weakest of monsters. That being said, gaming for the class has not been an albatross around my neck.

-Matt Thumser

But is it Art?

Take aside any random person on the street. Go ahead, do it; they won’t mind. Ask them a simple question, “Are video games art?” What will their response be? Unless their either a gamer, a techie, or fairly young, most will answer with the same thing: no. After all, how profound can something like Halo or Grand Theft Auto be when compared to Michaelangelo’s David or Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony? It seems obvious that video games are purely entertainment, and hold little more value, artistically or otherwise. While this may be true, our definitions of “art” change drastically over time, whether it’s caused by advancements in technology, philosophy, the natural sciences, or any of a number of reasons. Because of this, it will only be a matter of time until society’s views on video games change and they are seen as a fine art.

This has certainly been the case historically. Painting, for example, has evolved so much, just in the past 600 years, a wink in the eye of time. Up until the Italian Renaissance, paintings were for the most part limited to flat, two-dimensional Madonnas.

Italo-Byzantinischer_Maler_des_13._Jahrhunderts_001.jpgMedieval Mother and Child

However, from that point on, Artists experimented with many new techniques, including linear perspective, as illustrated by Raphael’s Madonna:

Sanzio_01.jpg
The School of Athens

The evolution of painting did not stop there, though. Impressionism, made famous by Vincent Van Gogh, discarded realism in favor of wide, sweeping, emotional brush strokes. Pablo Picasso’s cubism, which throws reality out the window, borders on absurd. Both movements, like video games, were highly criticized at the time, and yet today they are hailed as some of the greatest works of art known to man.

VanGogh_1887_Selbstbildnis.jpg
Self Portrait - Vincent Van Gogh

Historically, as new forms of media have taken rise, they have not been met with the kindest of welcomes. As feature films grew in popularity, they were seen as a threat to the theatre industry, and hardly qualified as art. Yet today, classics such as The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, The Godfather, and Dr. Strangelove: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb are seen as artful masterpieces. Likewise, many had the same attitudes toward television as it was introduced to the public. However, both fiction and nonfiction pieces alike (Roots, for example) are virtually unanimously agreed upon as works of art. Therefore, it is inevitable that video games will follow this same cycle. Are they works of art today? That’s a stretch, but what about the future? It’s almost certain.

-Matt Thumser

A New Breed of Hate

It’s 1992. You live in Los Angeles. The streets are filled with violence, murder, and widespread looting. Racial tensions have reached their boiling point, and racially-charged riots have broken out throughout the city. The news is filled with accounts of violence between Blacks, Whites, and Koreans. As most know, these events actually took place following the arrest of Rodney King, and scenes such us these were not uncommon throughout America. The inner-city was simply not an welcoming place to live in in early 90s America.

Look at the world through the eyes of Neal Stephenson.

t’s 1992. You live in Los Angeles. The streets are filled with violence, murder, and widespread looting. However, the cause of the violence is not racial tension. In the Los Angeles of Snow Crash, genetic race is no longer the source of deeply sown hatred. Racism as we know it no longer exists. Hiro Protagonist, the hero & protagonist, is a Japanese-American. His roommate is Russian. He works for the Italian Mafia. For all of these, race plays no factor in violence. The burbclaves, or suburbs, are the only places in which racism is tolerated in the least, as one burbclave is designated as “apartheid.” However, the residents in the burbclaves are portrayed as rich, lazy, stupid people. All of the teenage boys take steroids, everyone drives minivans, or “bimbo boxes” and care nothing about the outside world. It’s obvious that Neal Stevenson is sick of the racism prevalent in today’s world.

Racism as we know it is virtually nonexistent in Snow Crash. However, a new form has arisen to take its place. In Snow Crash, citizens are not identified as Black, or White, or Hispanic. Instead, they are identified by the company they serve, and these companies do not like each other one bit. People are identified as “citizens” of the Mafia, or the Clink, or the Hoosegow, or any other company they work for. They even have passports issued from their respective companies. It’s almost as if companies had filled the holes left by the absence of ethnic identity. However, this also seems to suggest that when one form of hatred and violence (in this case, racism), is gone, another will fill its place, always leaving us with some form of violence in the world. Snow Crash attempts to be very prophetic. Will this prediction prove true?

I, for one, think the answer lies in our hands.

-Matt Thumser

Technology… You’re a Double-Edged Sword.

Matt Thumser

Hello. My name is Matt Thumser, and I am a Mac. I am not a PC, nor do I wish to become one. However, every so often I feel pressured by others to do so. I’ve been feeling it a lot lately. Worlds of Wordcraft is a brilliant class; that can’t be denied. I’ve never been in a class so forward-thinking, one that is so technologically advanced that has encompassed so many different media. In a single class period I’ve used books, movies, and computer games to make a point understandable. Obviously, the class is brilliant. It is also, however, very demanding in terms of technology. Again, I am a Mac. Lord of the Rings Online does not like this. Therefore, I was forced to become a PC as well. This in itself was no easy process (I’m looking at you, Boot Camp). It’s tough installing new drivers onto your newly installed copy of Windows when those drivers are on a disc in a bedroom hundreds of miles away. I guess you could say things are okay now; Windows has been installed, and I’m now a combination Mac and PC.

Needless to say, I haven’t fully immersed myself into the world of LOTRO. The story arc is yet to fully reveal itself; after all, I have only completed the intro. So far I’ve seen Blackwolds lay siege to the town of Archet, and nothing more. The actions I’ve witnessed bear no resemblance to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Names are familiar, however. I’ve stumbled into Bree-land, and into the Shire. I’ve traveled into Hobbiton, and visited with Bagginses. This, I can relate to, and appreciate. I almost feel proud to see these names in the game, because these are the names I’ve grown up reading. The feeling’s not that different from what I imagine it must feel like for a parent to watch their son score a touchdown in a football game, or see their daughter hit the hardest notes in a choir concert. It’s a great feeling to have.

My experience in LOTRO is just beginning. Maybe the story will change to follow the books, and maybe it won’t. Who knows? Either way, I’ve got a world to explore.

Face to Face

Matt Thumser

The difference is personal. Board games and console games are really not all that different, if you look at it. Sure, console games like Halo and Madden may be more immersive; but with a little imagination, board games like Risk and Monopoly can place us in their own world for hours on end. Both types of games follow Jesper Juul’s definition of a game. They both pit us against each other, making a winner and a loser. They both serve to entertain us.

I have no preference when it comes to playing each type of game. I’ve had great experiences with each type, and I’ve had really bad experiences with each type. Who hasn’t felt the adrenaline rush fueled by the cash you earn at the end of a grueling game of Life; and who hasn’t grown frustrated with the tediousness of a game of Monopoly that drags on for hours? It’s the same with console games; the joy of scoring a touchdown to win as time expires in Madden, and the anger of an unbeatable level of Super Mario Bros.

Indeed, console and board games are very similar. The difference between them, however, is personal. The interactions between players are vastly different in the two media of games. Board games are personal; you know all of the players in the game. This isn’t present in console games, where you can just shut off the console if losing. In most cases, your friends won’t let you do that in the middle of a board game.