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Universes worth mentioning, part 1

First, a serious overture about imagination and kids. Imagination doesn't have borders or rules. Yet in recent times, it is being pretty much repressed (especially in young minds) by this modern world of ours. In my early years I was mainly preoccupied and influenced by Disney, Hanna-Barbera, Warner Bros. and (especially) dr. Seuss cartoons; somewhat later Nintendo (Mushroom Kingdom, Pokemon, Hyrule) came along. Kids nowadays are exposed to a different kind of information overload, as everything tries to be either a mindless parody or a corny tragedy (or both) full of pop-culture references. Kids aren't interested in a fairytale anymore if it isn't at least half horror (Tim Burton, I'm looking at you). Those few that are - don't really have a choice (they will probably end up seeing 9, Christmas Carol, Coraline). I would even say the whole (children) entertainment industry is going the wrong way. Children by they nature want (and need) adventurous stories which develop abstract thinking, healthy imagination and curiosity. Instead they get bombarded by entertainment adults find appealing - war, violence and betrayal.

For the past decade or so, I consumed much of the popular culture and immersed myself into numerous fictional worlds, and they all pretty much revolved around those three things. It is because we, as adults, are not interested in the simple morals of good and evil anymore. We'd rather like to see what happens when fairytales clash with real life and deal with real and familiar problems, which is normal and something we all share.

This will be a list of consistent fictional universes that got most of my attention: I dwelled on their philosophy, memorized the most trivial lore facts, learned their made up languages and customs... I was drawn into them to the extent that their geography, mythology, history and characters became as important and real to me as ancient or medieval facts of our Earth.

I divide them into fantasy universes and alternate universes.

So in this blog entry, fantasy! Some of these worlds are unbelievably well documented. If they ever make a real holodeck, I want these worlds realized. First three universes on the list were born and prospered in literature; the others are videogame based.



Seriously, do I even need to write anything here? I could start with saying Tolkien's saga of the rings was the first fantasy literature I read (not so interesting fact: the old BBC Narnia was the first fantasy movie I saw). I could then list all the books, Jackson movies (& animated movies he drew inspiration from), many videogames, comic books (if you like webcomics and DnD, check this out) and so on. I could end it with a paragraph in elvish. But I won't (not in this post anyway). I will simply use this occasion to adress all the scientists out there and say: I want. My holodeck simulation. Of Shire. Now. What say you??


* The Battle for Middle-Earth series

* LOTR Online

* LOTR Conquest

* Aragorn's quest

* War in the North



One of the three continents in a huge and very well developed medieval fantasy world brought to life by George R.R. Martin. Don't let the name fool you, he is not trying to sound cool and tolkienish. This guy knows how to write and really makes you care about what happens on the next page. The whole 'Song of Ice and Fire' book series is like a drug... too bad the dealer is a bit slow (five years since the last book). Think Sopranos in Middle-Earth - with enough characters on the first 30 pages to shame Dostoyevsky. Just like Terry Pratchett used ridiculous satyre of Discworld to turn the fantasy tropes upside down, Martin stirred up the stale state of affairs challenging every fantasy notion and rule ever established. After all, he did draw inspiration from the English & Chinese medieval histories. Even HBO saw the potential and produced a worthy TV series! The winter my friends, is coming. Or better yet - it already did. What will it take to melt all that snow?


* Game of Thrones

* A Game of Thrones: Genesis



From the pen of a polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski comes an unnamed dark fantasy world of wiedzmins (or witchers in english). Sapkowski asked himself, what would it look like if dwarves, elves and monsters really existed? The answer apparently is sex, drugs and rock'n'roll. The last part not so much, instead we feast our ears with superb traditional irish music that makes us want to drink ale and dance on tables. Great five books, absurd movie in the lines of Conan Barbarian, lame TV series and an excellent RPG series. Geralt of Rivia: "Power, sex. Sex, Power. They both come down to one thing - f***ing others".


* Witcher

* Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

* Witcher 3: Wild Hunt



Ahhh, the world were war is a craft, and it never ends. Nevah. Eastern Kingdoms, Kalimdor, Northrend, Pandaria, faraway Outland, Argus... Its creators are some of the wealthiest game developers on Earth. Their gold mine, world of Azeroth, is a major ripoff of every fantasy universe out there (Warhammer and LOTR to say the least), but the fact is - it started a revolution in both RTS (besides core series, DOTA was crucial for popularizing MOBA games) and MMO genre (10 years later and new fantasy MMO's are still being called WoW clones); and it did so with st yle. It also caused a number of bad fantasy books. For teh horde! Leeeerooooy J-j-j-j-....


* Warcraft I-III

* World of Warcraft



Another creation of that developer...what was their name...something about severe storm condition with heavy snow...nevermind. Sanctuary is a world where Bhaal, Mephisto and their little red brother roam the lands and summon giant slugs with human faces (and other semi-living creatures, often with too few or too many legs). A lot of fire gets started in the process too. Consequences: nightmares of neverending Nilathak's dungeon, adrenaline rushes and left-clicking until your hand berserks and euthanizes the mouse. No rest for the warrior of light (you must cleanse the wildernesss)... The brothers of evil also spawned countless clones in the gaming world, none of which had the quality or appeal of the original Sanctuary (*cough* land of *cough* Ehb or *cough* Torchlight *cough*).


* Diablo + Hellfire

* Diablo II + Lord of Destruction

* Diablo III (huge meh)



Universe of Guild Wars was created through an instanced MMO that brings to life a truly beautiful (and dangerous) place. There are three main continents: colorful Tyria, asian-themed Cantha and african-themed Elona. This universe took me by surprise and didn't let me go for quite a while. Humans are in turmoil while they try to survive fighting each other, beastly Charrs, supernatural entities, even gods. Breathtaking lands, beautiful music, promising franchise. Thank you ArenaNet for the best online experience I had!


* Guild Wars

* Guild Wars: Factions

* Guild Wars: Nightfall

* Guild Wars: Eye of the North

* Guild Wars 2



A part of the Forgotten Realms setting for Dungeons and Dragons. It is described and featured in many fantasy books and often used in pen and paper RPGs. The world is huge and eventful, providing a fertile ground for many fantasy fans. I got to know it through the games made by Bioware and Black Isle. Without them I wouldn't know the shield of Balduran is the best way to scare an ugly beholder. I would never have met the only miniature giant space hamster in the realm, either.

But as awesome as it is, Faerun is just a small part of one truly epic setting. Two words (and a colon) - Planescape: Torment. All the sceptics (dwindling in number) yelling interactive entertainment can't be art should play this game. So weird and bizzare it's ridiculous - so familiar and loveable it's enthralling. Be warned, this adventure RPG really is very close to an interactive book. BUT. If you don't mind extensive reading and want a well thought-out universe with plenty of mental food, don't deprive yourself of this experience. Planescape is a universe with infinite doors to other universes, an intersection between dimensions and time itself. Singleplayer RPG at its best. Answer (but think twice), what can change the nature of a man?


* Baldur's Gate series

* Neverwinter Night series

* Icewind Dale series

* Planescape: Torment



A dark and complex world of Elder scrolls, with complicated politics and many possibilities. The landscapes of Tamriel continent are huge and inviting, full of secrets and quests to solve. High Rock (Bretons), Hamerfell (Redguards), Morrowind (Dunmers), Cyrodiil (Imperials),Skyrim (Norns),Black Marsh (Argonians), Elsweyr (Khajiit), Valenwood (Bosmers), Summerset Isle (Altmers)... Rich history is very well described in the many books scattered throughout the games, so if the player is interested in assuming the role of a digital bookworm, numerous old scripts filled with lore can be found while questing. The reality of the world is strenghtened with its simple yet logical mechanics, since you excell at skills by using them. Sometimes it can get too big though, leaving the player with a feeling of shallowness and repetitiveness. If you let it though, the world will pull you in and make you a part of it.


* The Elder Scrolls I : Arena

* The Elder Scrolls II : Daggerfall

* The Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire

* The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard

* The Elder Scrolls III : Morrowind

* The Elder Scrolls IV : Oblivion

* The Elder Scrolls V : Skyrim

* The Elder Scrolls Online



This universe is somewhat similar to DnD in terms of huge amount of names, places and events that have little real connection, sometimes even making it hard to believe they are a part of the same universe. Science fiction often overlaps with fantasy and the story often revolves around powerful race of space-travelers called the Ancients. Maybe not the best franchise in the world, but it occupied my mind long enough to get on this list. A similar and very close universe is the one of King's Bounty, which had me entertained for quite some time too.


* Might & Magic series

* Heroes of M&M series

* Crusaders of M&M

* Messiah of M&M



Last but not the least, universe with a little too much kawaii and generally a lot of very weird stuff (please stop with the emo protagonists?). Still, you gotta love it. The series really evolved and both the gameplay and lore vary so much now, it's almost impossible to connect all games and movies into one big universe. I tried though, and here is the result: my attempt at a Final Fantasy timeline.


* Final Fantasy I - XV

* loads and loads of spin-offs and FF inspired series by the same company

Possible Final Fantasy Timeline (original idea by James M., written by Ermhm)

Some time ago I found an awesome timeline of Final Fantasy universe on the net, written by a guy named James M. Thank you James (whoever you are) for starting it. This here is my heavily edited and expanded version which includes all the Final Fantasy games. First of all, let me say it probably isn't true, because developers themselves didn't have any intention of weaving it together into one big story like this. But let's have some fun, because why not? ^_^

I'm dividing the known history of the universe into three chapters.


A) TERRA with two moons:

1 ---> 2 ---> 3 ---> 4

In the first chapter of Final Fantasy (known as the ORPHAN ERA), we get to see bits and pieces of how it all began and witness the chaos that ensued. We don't learn all of this directly but it can be read between the lines: why people of Cetra arrived to Terra, how they brought crystals and magic to this world, and why they eventually left.

B) TERRA with one moon:

12 (+ Last Remnant?) ---> Spirits Within ---> 8 ---> 10

Even though Cetras were gone, magic was not. Remnants of old powers and shattered crystals were hidden throughout the world as Terra continued to struggle. The second chapter will be known as the WANDERER ERA.


5 ---> 9 ---> 6 ---> 7

While Terrans tried to cope with the chaos left behind, Cetras found themselves a new home - planet Gaia. This started the third chapter, also known as the MAGICIAN ERA.


Now, on to details. Long, LONG time ago, a planet between Mars and Jupiter is engulfed in war. One of the races coexisting on the planet are Cetra. They are physically similar to humans but their lifespan is much longer. They predict the destruction of their planet is inevitable, and decide to flee before it happens. They take their powerful artifacts and travel to Earth (which they call Terra) but find humans already occupy it. Terran civilization is still too primitive to interfere with, and not all Cetra agree on how the situation should be dealt with. They influence the planet to some extent (becoming known as Lunarians) before they decide to go into a long sleep on the asteroid-like vessel they used to travel here, which is now orbiting Terra as its second moon.

Zemus, an especially powerful Cetra, manages to wake up earlier, and decides to establish himself as the ruler of Terra before other Cetra wake up. He comes down to Terra, bringing three orbs (perfect crystals) of light, dark, and time. He introduces magic to Terra, summons fiends and other monsters. He secretly constructs the tower known as Mirage tower or Babil, using the orbs to connect it with Terra's lifestream. Through manipulation and deception Zemus gets Lufenians and other humans to join in his efforts (many of them learn magic as well). In his great thirst for power however, Zemus underestimates human potential to wield magic and summon Espers. Terrans eventually turn against him. Another powerful Cetra called Fusoya wakes up and helps humans in the fight against Zemus. The tower of Babil is breached and his orbs of light and dark are shattered into four pieces of crystal each (representing fire, ice, water and earth). The dark crystals wind up scattered underground while the four light crystals are scattered above ground. Fusoya captures Zemus and imprisons him on the Red Moon, then continues to guard the Cetra people in their sleep.

The events of Final Fantasy II and III occur in the decades and centuries that follow.

400 years after imprisoning Zemus, events of Final Fantasy I are about to transpire. Even though he is restrained, Zemus continues to scheme and influence Terra by using mind control time and again. Zemus uses an especially powerful mind control on Garland, the princess's faithful bodyguard. The new Garland then captures Princess Sarah, a great summoner, and brings her to the orb of time, so that Zemus can extract the power from her and possibly break from his prison.

Garland is confronted by Warriors of Light (a band of heroes investigating the darkening of light crystals) but even though they think they kill him, he actually uses the orb of time to escape 2000 years into the past, to a time before Cetra even arrived. This unexpectedly causes the consciousness/spirit of Zemus to be split in two. The one in the past fears his suddenly shortened life span, becoming obsessed with his own mortality. He also fears using the orb of time to travel back - what would it do to him next time? He is Zemus, but he's not Zemus; he is Garland, but he's not Garland. The only sure thing is - he doesn't want to cease to exist. He devises a plan, summoning four fiends and sending them into the future. The fiends darken the four light crystals and open a time portal for him to feed on this energy. Fiends cause the Warriors of Light to emerge, who in turn defeat Garland and so a time loop is created, allowing Garland to become immortal. Through this constant flow of dark energy he transforms into a being named Chaos. In the end Warriors of Light find a way to travel back through the portal and confront him once more, defeating him for good and breaking the time loop.

This results in erasing the darkening of crystals (as well as emergence of Warriors of Light, and other events in Final Fantasy I) from history - as far as everyone is concerned none of it ever happened. The whole last paragraph = poof! This didn't affect what Zemus has done though - when using the orb of time while mind controlling Garland, a part of his consciousness stayed trapped within it. This prevents Zemus from uniting his consciousness ever again - he is unable to make himself whole. Garland is trapped in the orb of time, and Zemus is severely weakened.

The events that follow are described in FF IV, where Zemus continues to scheme. Unsuccessfully, as he is finally defeated, once again with the help . Cetra who are awake realize they have caused a lot of harm to this once peaceful planet. They decide to leave Terra forever and find a new planet to colonize. They use the Red Moon orbiting Terra as a mean of transport once again, leaving Terra with only one moon. They find Gaia and settle there, this time landing their vessel instead of leaving it in the orbit. The orb of time is left behind on Terra and forgotten.

In the future, FF V happens on Gaia (followed by anime Legend of the Crystals 200 years later).

On Terra, FF XII and later Last Remnant happen. Magic begins to fade (as seen in the ending of Last Remnant) and monsters and dragons begin to disappear. Thousands of years pass and we arrive at present day Earth. There is no magic or monsters, the world is as it is today... but the ghosts of the alien Cetra planet so long ago destroyed return to haunt our world. Tortured spirits unable to return to their planet's lifestream arrive through an actual asteroid (in reality a chunk of the planet that broke off in the destruction). This new threat almost exterminates the human race on Earth. Events of the movie Spirits Within occur here.

And so it happens that foreign magic is brought to our world in a post-apocalyptic future. After absorbing the alien spirits into Terra's lifestream, people gradually learn how to summon Guardian forces (Espers) and use magic by tapping into the planet's lifestream directly. The events of FF VIII occur centuries later. Queen Ultimecia manages to find the long lost orb of time and attempts to harness its powers. She is defeated and the orb of time is finally shattered.

Garland is free and he learns of Gaia, a young thriving planet that had been colonized by the Cetras many thousands of years earlier. As the events of FF IX describe, his attempt to merge the two planets and exact his revenge on the Cetra fails, and he is killed.

Centuries pass and both Terra and Gaia go through fundamental changes. Events of the past are now myths and tales; people no longer remember the Terran high-tech civilization that preceded, or if they do - they fear the technology that brought about it's doom. FF X and FF X-2 occur on Terra (now known as Spira). These major and world-changing events will be remembered as the War of the Magi. During this period (or soon after), a gifted Terran engineer named Shinra conceives and masters space travel. Following this revolutionary technological leap forward, many Terrans leave the planet and settle on Gaia.

Some time after Terrans arrived in great numbers, Jenova lands on Gaia, having traveled through space on a meteor. She approaches the Cetra, using her mimic abilities to glean the memories and emotions of the Cetra. Victims of Jenova are infected with Jenova's cells and mutated into monsters. Quickly, Jenova is able to destroy most of the Cetra civilization. The Terran immigrants, who now called Gaia their home, hid from Jenova while the Cetra were nearly wiped out. The few surviving Cetra band together to defeat Jenova and quarantine her inside the Northern Crater.

Survivors start rebuilding towns and cities, in time becoming an industrialized civilization fearing magic. Espers are now forbidden from being summoned and magicite (the form they take after 'death'), known to be a source of powerful magic, is hidden, destroyed or forgotten. The events of FF VI occur here (one thousand years after the War of the Magi), and the world is almost completely destroyed in another war. After that, the Espers are freed from magicite and live peacefully on the moon.

Time passes and the world changes once again. People learn to store magical powers from the lifestream into materia which is used to power advanced technology. Materia is very similar to magicite in terms of it's properties: it is widely tested and soon utilised in order to use magic and summon powerful beings living on the moon.

By now ancient history is very much forgotten and Terrans greatly outnumber all other self-aware lifeforms on Gaia. They discover Jenova (she was dormant for two thousand years) and start researching her potential.

About 50 years later, Crisis Core and FF VII happen. Once again the world is nearly destroyed, this time by a giant meteor, but Aeris (the last living Cetra) manages to cast the final summoning from beyond the grave, stops the meteor, and all materia is shattered and returned to the lifestream. The events of Advent Children and Dirge of Cerberus occur soon after.

The secret ending of FFVII gives a glimpse on how Gaia will look 500 years later. Shinra's motionless symbols of dead splendor are ancient ruins hidden in the green wilderness that now covers a healthy, completely renewed planet. Hoorah!

~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~

What's next? Who knows.

Probably something that makes this timeline completely false :D

A quick thought about what makes the world go round

As I wrote in a comment somewhere on gamespot, it's what happened to all of us at one time or another. Being involved IRL to the extent that it caused the lack of time or even motivation to sit in front of the screen and be a gamer. I also found myself spending more time thinking about gaming than actually playing games.

Maybe that's normal when one is dealing with a lifelong addiction.

And yes, tastes change in those new situations... I will rarely have the time to immerse myself into a huge world of Forgotten Realms or Tyria; more often it will be some flash game on Kongregate or some mindless FPS.

This is where I see the core explanation of today's gaming industry evolution: gaming isn't something 10000 people over the world do in their basement, it's something everybody do, in the brief breaks between work and work (and sleep sometimes). So what do we get? More instant fun, and lack of quintessential substances that make gaming fullfiling.

Hear ye, fanboys od Lost

As Pratchett would say, Lost and me are like old highschool friends - we've got this hate-hate relationship. Sometimes I use it for my lower needs and urges but in the end we go our separate ways. Everything happens for a reason? Well the last four seasons of Lost did, and the reason was money.

Talk about an overrated show. I used to recommend these series. I could barely wait for the next episode. Then I realized - the writers didn't have a clue what they were doing. I can imagine them sitting in a circle and going: ooh ooh what if this happens?! I bet they really did that, just made it up as they went. And now, when all is said and done and Kate, Jack and Sawyer are a little less lost, a lot of things just doesn't add up. This system of not-very-thought-out-mistery could work for the first 2 or 3 seasons (and it did, mind you), but after that too many things in the screenplay went wrong.

In the end they couldn't fit it all in the same story framework. It's full of loose ends that give us a hint in which directions they planned to take the series. It's full of them because they were too lazy and unimaginative to do a proper job. Cheap tricks for the masses; pretty much comparable to a similar phenomenon among books, the all-praised Dan Brown and his DaVinci Code.

The strong point of the series is not the acting, it's sure as hell ain't writing, and it really isn't directing (except for a few episodes). It's the emotional impact and the bond which viewers have built with the characters over time. That is not enough for the hype this series has been getting.

I watched it all and understood it all. It just isn't very intelligent. Even the basic human relationships are often laughable or at least not believable. Same goes for character development. (I mean, I guess you could say the same thing about Star Trek, but at least it doesn't take itself too seriously.)

And by gods, killing a hobbit is not a good way to boost ratings.

If you want a random guys more eloquent opinion on Lost, read this.

If you want a truly deep series with great acting, watch Wire again.

Weirdest games I have played

A short list of the games I played and went WTF all the time.

Every one of these masterpieces has a unique feeling and atmosphere, original ideas and a lot of work and love put into. Originally I meant to include the 'Oddworld' series, 'Dungeon Keeper' series, 'Startopia' , 'Heart of Darkness' , 'Beyond good & evil' , even 'World of Goo'... I went wtf alright, but they weren't THAT weird. Also, all the Lucas Arts adventure games were very quirky, but the weirdness was mostly based on pop-culture references etc. Btw, if I was considering MMO's one would definitely be on the list: Dekaron (aka 2Moons), a korean grindfest with wtf all over it. I should mention I have never played 'Katamari Damacy' , 'Giants: Citizen Kabuto' or 'Armed and Dangerous'.

So here it is


10. Rez [2002]

09. American Mcgee's Alice [2000]

08. Earthworm Jim [1995]

07. Penny Arcade Adventures: On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness [2008]

06. Chrono Cross (2000) / Legend of Mana [2000]

05. MDK [1997] / Messiah [2000] / Sacrifice [2000]

04. Psychonauts [2005]

03. Planescape: Torment [1999]

02. The Void (a.k.a. Tension) [2009]


and finally, the weirdest game ever:


01. Woodruff and the Schnibble of Azimuth [1994]

(a.k.a. The Bizarre Adventures of Woodruff and the Schnibble)

Origins, genres and all that jazz

NES was a gateway drug for me. Tiger-Heli, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Track & Field 2, Battle Toads, Super Mario... Good times! Influencing me before I even knew how to read. Then, a few houses from mine a guy opened a place where you could rent VHS casettes, and something else. I soon discovered the beauty of PSX, SNES and his big brother Nintendo 64: friendships were made and broken at that place, kids swarming to compete in Street Fighter, Mario Kart 64, GoldenEye...paying for one extra hour to beat a few more Donkey Kong levels or collect a few more Super Mario 64 stars. Soon a cousin of mine got a PC. Commander Keen, Prehistorik, Alladin, Bumpy, Doom, Wolfenstein 3D! I spent hours immersed in those fascinating new worlds, huge and captivating to a young mind.

Some years later I finally had my own personal computer, a magic box full of possibilities. Wonderful and brutal RPG worlds feeding my wildest imaginations, strategic games teaching me micromanagement principles, FPS bloodbaths sharping my reflexes, racing games laying foundations for a better driving in my future real life. Among the last gaming gems I discovered were adventure games, perfect combination of storytelling and logic. All of these inevitably led to a short field trip through the MMO department in my later gaming years.

What is the point of all this nostalgic rambling? The answer lies in a question; a direct result of a sudden revelation I had a while ago.

What is THE king of videogame genres?

I know what you're thinking. And that is not what I am thinking.

No, no and no, it's not MMO. That double-edged binding-on-equip sword of mental masturbation is a world on it's own.

No, the answer lies not in the end, but in the very beginning of my gaming. Throughout the years I had a few gaming phases. Wannabe hardcore gamer at first (with those oldschool console games you had to... try to be), I was becoming more and more satisfied with a casual experience the new games provided: a little story turning point here, a minor adrenaline rush there... All of the best gaming ingredients were present, but rarely at the same time. Some games even gave a sense of work, relying on mechanics that required a lot of repetitive actions which required barely any effort, except the time spent. The satisfaction of accomplishing something is proportional to the effort put into it. Spice it up with with wonder, and you just might reach the gaming nirvana.

So where is this proportion of effort and satisfaction combined with wonder best achieved?

In platformers. 2D, 3D, 2.5D...

In hardcore platformers, every moment is a decision between making it or failing completely, every second of gameplay a test for our skills. Finishing or even mastering a game like that gives a true sensation of thrill. In casual platformers, the world is filled with wonders, open for exploring its physical and metaphysical limitations.

Beyond good and evil, Psychonauts, Braid, Cave Story, Mario Galaxy; all fine examples the gaming community can do it. It can grow flowers in an industry filled with competitive (first or third person perspective) arenas, hack&slash fireworks of blood and massive multiplayer online drugs. It can confront the majority that almost forgot how to captivate our attention without the naturalistic and over-realistic, without blood and gore, without shock!

Because imagination is always superior to the linear and blatant. Long live the creativity of game developers!

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