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Plot Intricacies [A thread filled with major spoilers]

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It's more creepy to try and marry off teenagers than it is to whoop and cheer while feeding them to monsters? The game is a creepy game! :)

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It's more creepy to try and marry off teenagers than it is to whoop and cheer while feeding them to monsters? The game is a creepy game! :)
Well that's a different kind of creepy.

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Hmm. I think you're projecting creepiness. Just because something abominable exists in the game world, doesn't mean the game condones it. Plus, I don't think I was imagining something quite as insidious as you...

The Maidens are shuffled off the "Mog" ship, and find themselves in the polluted, grey world of the Plague Dam. It's pretty dismal. The town's occupants watch on.

PLAGUE DAM ELDER

Welcome, welcome.Don't be afraid. You're no doubt a little confused and disorientated, so please let me explain the situation to you as quickly and clearly as I can.

MAIDEN #1

(looking around disdainfully)

Yeah, that would be appreciated...

MAIDEN #2

What IS this place?

MAIDEN #3

Well, it's better than a monster's stomach... but only just.

PLAGUE DAM ELDER

This is the Plague Dam! As our unfortunate name suggests, this little town was hit by a plague. It was hundreds of years ago, but we're still suffering from its malignant effects.

The Maidens simultaneously cover their mouths in horror.

PLAGUE DAM ELDER

No, no, please don't worry. The plague only affects those raised here. For some reason outsiders are unaffected by it.

MAIDEN #1

Well, that's something, but you're still a town of gross plague victims...

MAIDEN #2

And you still haven't explained what we're doing here.

MAIDEN #3

They probably want us to change the bandages on their oozing plague sores...

MAIDENS

Ewwww.

PLAGUE DAM ELDER

Nol, no! The plague has but one single effect: All the women who were raised here cannot conceive girls, only boys. That's it.

MAIDEN #1

Wait a minute...

MAIDEN #2

Are you saying we sacrificed ourselves for our towns -- only to become plague victim brides?

MAIDENS

Gross!

MAIDEN #3

I take back what I said about the monster's stomach. This IS worse.

PLAGUE DAM ELDER

Well, it certainly sounds worse when you put it like that, but our town has plenty to offer. Really. We have music, fine food, and good company. We also have a top notch theater company that performs every Wednesday, an exciting bowling league, and the Endless Barren Fields of Greyness really are quite pleasant at sunset. (the town folk murmur in agreement) It is hoped that you might find a way to love your new home...

MAIDEN #1

Gee, a bowling league...

PLAGUE DAM ELDER

And once you do feel happy here, and have grown accustomed to our ways, it is hoped that each of you might fall in love -- we have plenty of boys your age to choose from -- and then help continue our society.

MAIDENS

Gross!

PLAGUE DAM ELDER

Oh dear, I swear this went better 14 years ago. Would it help if I told you that, as thanks for the sacrifices you've already made, you will live as royalty here?

MAIDEN #1

Royalty?

PLAGUE DAM ELDER

Oh yes! We have a grand palace, where you will all live. Your every whim taken care of by your personal handmaidens, uh, handwomen. You will know only opulence and luxury for the rest of your lives.

MAIDEN #2

Hmm...

MAIDEN #3

Well, I sure wouldn't mind a hot meal and a warm bath after being cooped up in there for the past few days.

PLAGUE DAM ELDER

Of course, it will be taken care of immediately! We will provide you with the finest food and clothing our humble town can bestow. And, as I say, we really do have quite the pick of young men. You will be showered with gifts and attention from suitors, day and night. I hope you like being wooed!

MAIDEN #3

Let's see the "palace" first, then we'll talk about this "wooing" business.

Would something like that work in the game's world? I think it would.

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yeah I guess youre right that it *could* be written fairly tastefully, if needs be.

but that cant be all there is to it. in that scenario (which I realize you only made up off the top of your head) theres no need for a 14 year cycle (if its about those kids kids then theyd need more time and itd be more like a 20 year cycle, or why not just go every year. still creepy enough to go for young girls if there are other options. and theyd need a reason why they just cant ask nicely.

edit: and if theres a community beyond the dam why are the boys being raised in solitude aboard their incubator vessels?

one thing that speaks for that something creepy IS going on is the whole thing about deceiving shay. he s being trained as a hero all his life, and the whole maiden-snatching bit is also disguised as rescue missions. so whoever designed Dandelion seems to know that the boy needs to do something really bad, but still have him be "the good guy".

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Yeah, you're probably right. There's another aspect to it, or (most likely) an entirely different explanation behind it all.

Both stories are really creepy if you ask me -- the game does a great job of hiding their creepiness behind sweetness. If you stop and think about what's going on, it's all very messed up.

With regards to Shay, though, I wonder if his "incarceration" was a mistake? He got separated from the other ships and was raised by machines in a perpetual loop, long after they were supposed to have arrived at their destination? (Or maybe, again, it was something nefarious -- he's the prince of the Plague Dam, and someone send him off into space so he could never claim his throne?)

So many questions!

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I dont know about it being a mistake - everything seems very meticulously designed for the purpose of raising a boy. (and in a certain way)

hadnt thought about him possibly being a prince or someone important - was too caught up in the idea of many ships being sent out through spacetime (or across the planet) or whatever, like seeds. maybe thats something...theres certainly a lot of tech just for him.

and it would make sense for tim to write some form of subversion of a prince/princess story, raising a young princess-obsessed daughter as he is.

yes questions! :) impressive to reveal so much about the story and still have everyone baffled. I wonder if we ll be having these discussions after act II as well...tim does mention a lot that he likes to leave a lot of backstory and lore unexplained...

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Well it just strikes me that the ship was designed to be challenging and interesting to a child -- but definitely not a teenager. Consider the mobile in the captain's chair, etc. It looks like it was aimed at a toddler -- and he got stuck there longer than anyone planned.

I agree re: the questions. It's actually kind of nice that we get to pore over all these questions as a community. It's something we would never have had a chance to do if it had all been released at once. I'm also amazed that Tim hasn't managed to tip his hand in Act I -- something tells me he carefully held back any clues. We'd have months to spot them, and undoubtedly would, so it seems he left a lot of questions hanging in the air.

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Well it just strikes me that the ship was designed to be challenging and interesting to a child -- but definitely not a teenager. Consider the mobile in the captain's chair, etc. It looks like it was aimed at a toddler -- and he got stuck there longer than anyone planned.

I figured that was deliberate, to make it more likely he'd go along with things when the Marek phase of the plan began.

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I figured that was deliberate, to make it more likely he'd go along with things when the Marek phase of the plan began.

I don't know... Has Marek really been hiding in the ship for 15 years, waiting for this exact moment? And why? Couldn't he do this stuff alone? It's an interesting theory that Marek is all part of some larger plan, but I'm not sure of it yet...

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Okay, how about this...

Vella's planet is Loruna.

There was a catastrophe, some cataclysmic event that threatened the whole planet.

A plan was set up to bring colonists to other planets by having automated ships collect survivors from various places.

The inhabitants survived the cataclysm, but the event left them without technology.

People forgot about their past and only fragments of it survived in stories and legends.

The automated ships continued to take inhabitants away.

For some time, people fought the ships, mistaking them for monsters.

At some point, people would start offering maidens as "sacrifices" instead of fighting.

This tradition continued until it became an accepted way of dealing with the monster.

Eventually, only a few people such as Vella's grandfather and her late grandmother were against appeasing the monsters.

Sacrificing a few so the others may live became the new way of life, eagerly embraced by people like Levina Clench.

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Okay, how about this...

Vella's planet is Loruna.

There was a catastrophe, some cataclysmic event that threatened the whole planet.

A plan was set up to bring colonists to other planets by having automated ships collect survivors from various places.

The inhabitants survived the cataclysm, but the event left them without technology.

People forgot about their past and only fragments of it survived in stories and legends.

The automated ships continued to take inhabitants away.

For some time, people fought the ships, mistaking them for monsters.

At some point, people would start offering maidens as "sacrifices" instead of fighting.

This tradition continued until it became an accepted way of dealing with the monster.

Eventually, only a few people such as Vella's grandfather and her late grandmother were against appeasing the monsters.

Sacrificing a few so the others may live became the new way of life, eagerly embraced by people like Levina Clench.

That's roughly my theory at the moment, though there are some small hints that some people may know what's going on. Still leaves the questions, why every fourteen years? Purposeful intent by tech civilization? Computers gone mad? Babies stored cryogenically? What exactly is the Plague Dam? Is Tim cackling with glee that we all have exactly the wrong assumptions he's hoping we'll have?

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That's roughly my theory at the moment, though there are some small hints that some people may know what's going on. Still leaves the questions, why every fourteen years? Purposeful intent by tech civilization? Computers gone mad? Babies stored cryogenically? What exactly is the Plague Dam? Is Tim cackling with glee that we all have exactly the wrong assumptions he's hoping we'll have?

14 years because that could roughly be how long it takes for the trip.

"Abducted" people were first put in the Quarantine Zone. As years passed, it could have morphed into being taken beyond the Plague Dam as the story was passed on. Logically, since people were taken there, it follows that's also where the monsters came from.

Shay could be the offspring of one of the sacrifice girls from one of the colonies. He is being taken back to Loruna, but the AI got corrupted/hacked.

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Right - and I do think 'Plague Dam' = 'Quarantine Zone' sounds probable - but childbirth isn't that predictable and 14 is young to be having a kid - for either sex. Which is why having babies being awakened from cryogenic sleep seems likely to me. If there are just a bunch of people that are descendants of the abducted girls and boys, how do you guarantee 14 years per kid - and wouldn't there possibly be more than one kid?

Fourteen years with that regularity just seems to need further explanation of some kind.

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I don't think the colony people are regularly sending their kids back to Loruna. I think that Shay's parents hacked into one of the returning Operation Dandelion ships and repurposed it as a nursery.

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One thing that keeps being ignored or forgotten: MUM was a Sacrifice Girl. I just played that bit again, and it appears possible that the Maidens are captured so they can be placed into computers, so that they raise children... Damn. That doesn't quite make sense. I do feel it's incredibly important to unravelling this mystery, though.

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Regarding the different sizes, it's a video game, most of them are not supposed to be accurate or make sense on a closer view. But thinking in games logic you could argue that a spaceship/whatever is divided into a core and a shell, resizing teleporters (although it wasn't done by intention in the game) could enlarge/shrink objects whenever you leave/enter the core/certain areas, this way (and ignoring what we know about physics) you could enable a much larger place inside an otherwise too tiny space, if it's physically and not just a projection/portal/..., a little bit like in Seron's Les petits hommes (meteors ftw) or in quite some SF stories.

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There's a freeze frame in the voice casting episode of the documentary that explains a little bit more about computer-mom, I'll avoid elaborating because it's technically an Act II spoiler, but it does invalidate some of the theories presented thus far. I still don't think Marek and Mom are working together; perhaps Marek- whoever he is- somehow gets onto each ship each cycle? I'm not sure.

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There's a freeze frame in the voice casting episode of the documentary that explains a little bit more about computer-mom, I'll avoid elaborating because it's technically an Act II spoiler, but it does invalidate some of the theories presented thus far. I still don't think Marek and Mom are working together; perhaps Marek- whoever he is- somehow gets onto each ship each cycle? I'm not sure.

Intriguing -- to look or not to look, that is the question.

Of course, Tim may have changed his mind since the spoiler, anyway... Hmm. Whereabouts was it in the episode?

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I can't remember the exact episode number so I can't find you a nice exact time, but it's around when Kris is talking to Tim over skype about the auditions. There's a couple brief shots of the casting document containing brief summaries of the characters for the actors.

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I just finished my second playthrough (took five hours when trying to explore every nook and cranny -- I missed quite a bit on the first playthrough) and noticed that the ship is called the Bassinostra -- another clue (to me at least) that Shay was on the ship longer than intended.

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I can't remember the exact episode number so I can't find you a nice exact time, but it's around when Kris is talking to Tim over skype about the auditions. There's a couple brief shots of the casting document containing brief summaries of the characters for the actors.

Holy ....! Good catch.

It's Episode 11: Ship It at 19:57

And because I'm a bastard, I'll attach the cropped screenshot. It's not legible as a preview though. You'll have to click on it to spoil yourself ;) I don't really know why 2PP blurred part of the image though.

mom.png

mom.png.b70ef7021294454ede86ba0a862f82be

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Thanks! It doesn't really reveal a lot, but it certainly was interesting to keep in mind as I was playing, and it has interesting consequences if Tim doesn't change it out of spite of the spoiler being discovered. :P

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I haven't looked at the mom spoiler image because that's cheating, so here's my theories on what's going on:

Loruna, the plague dam and interstellar travel:

I don't think Shay is actually from another planet. I think he and Alex are from Vella's world, and came from beyond the plague dam, whatever that is. Why they're being tricked into thinking they're on an interstellar mission is unclear, but perhaps it's to keep them in the ship until they're of age. If they knew of the world outside they'd want to explore it.

The mom and dad:

"Why do computers need to sleep?" - Shay

Because she's not a computer, is the obvious answer. But are she and the dad on the ship? I doubt it. I think they're remotely operating the ship from beyond the plague dam. And they're lying to Shay about their being computers and the whole situation so that again, he doesn't try to escape or go to them.

I also don't believe the Dad and Marek are the same person. The Dad was shown to be asleep when Shay snuck out of bed and went to visit Marek. Their voices are different, their mannerisms different... There's simply nothing that indicates they are one and the same person.

Who is Marek then? And how did he get on the ship? I have no idea. I am inclined to believe him though when he says he is a recent stowaway. He doesn't otherwise appear to be a good liar. Shay - "I'd better go check on them..." Marek - "Uh... no! I mean..." "That's enough! Uh, I mean... enemy ships are approaching!"

The surprise:

The mom has a surprise for Shay. Is it the maidens? I don't see how it could be. Not unless she were working with Marek and she doesn't appear to be. She tried to prevent the ship from even traveling to the other systems.

So what is the surprise? Perhaps the surprise was to learn the whole truth about mom and dad?

Alex and Mog Chothra:

Did Alex inadvertently cause the whole Mog Chothra sacrifice schtick? I don't think so. First, I believe it's been said MC has been visiting for 100 years. But Alex has been in cryosleep for 300. And while it is conceivable his ship could be seen as a giant monster, it's clear that even though we can't see his ship that it is of a different design than Shay's, thanks to the dead eye god's "pyramid" which forms the observation deck.

Mom:

Was she a sacrifice girl? She indicates she made a sacrifice. And Shay refers to the story of the sacrifice girl. But I think this is Tim misdirecting us as he dd with Alex. Mom may have had to sacrifice something... and like Vella may have rebelled causing some terrible calamity... but I don't think she was a girl that was sacrificed to Mog Chothra.

As for how they're going to wrap all this up neatly in Act 2, I have no idea. It seems like there's enough mystery and intrigue here that it would take a third act to tie it all up nice and neat without rushing it. End of Act 2 we learn the truth about mom and dad, and what's really been going on. Act 3... we fix everything. We could have Vella learn from the mom, dad, and Marek what's really been going on early in the second act, but then Shay's left in the dark. He gets to realize the same thing we have, that the alien creatures were actually maidens, but where will he learn about what's really up with mom, dad, and Marek? From Alex, and his ship? They've been out of the loop for 300 years and he doesn't seem to know what's really going on either. And the townspeople sure as heck don't know.

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ARGH!

I wish I hadn't looked at that spoiler -- because it IS a spoiler. (When will I learn???)

It's not just something incidental about "Mom", like I was expecting, it's actually described as a "critical plot point" -- and it clearly is. It's a SURPRISE for the player.

If you want that surprise spoiled, then go ahead and look -- but this is a bona fide spoiler that will do nothing but make one part of the game a little bit less special.

Be strong. Imagine how you'd feel if someone spoiled the ending of Act 1 before you'd played it -- would it have been worth it to know the ending before you experienced it? I think not. And while this spoiler isn't at THAT level, it IS something that won't be special afterwards.

BE STRONG.

Also: Curse you, DPP.

And also: Curse me and my weak will.

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..Suppose I don't really think it's much use getting hung up on the assumption that all the characters are from one planet. Seems fair that if interstellar travel actually takes place, there are at least a few or these "Ark" ships, and many planets that each of these ships abduct people from. What possibly makes Vella's homeworld unique is that they once fought one of the ships and won over it. That being the downed and damaged ship that in turn is used to shoot down Shay's ship. Probably strengthening that theory is that Vella and Shay don't talk to each other at the end. Either because we're supposed to entertain the idea that they really are from different worlds a while longer. But also possibly because they really are, and if they understood each other, there'd be a plot inconsistency.

Anyway. Regardless, all of this is designed to fit with the always recurring theme of infinite loops, and the wish to break them. While then inadvertently continuing the cycle. All the puzzles are designed like that, encouraging you to break out of a loop that seems to completely trap you. Always with the imagery that reminds you of any daily task in life, and your wish to change the pace just for the sake of changing how things work.

And frankly, the best part of Act 1 is how the abduction ship and the beauty contest fits together so lovely with growing up, dating and getting married, etc. That there may or may not be some other comprehensive logic to the space-travel and the abduction cycle really doesn't subtract from that in any way. Instead, the more intricate it is, and more invested the people in the world are in the cyclic events, the stronger the imagery becomes. Either when it is on some time-scale of right now, like Vella has, or maybe Mom&Dad;, in terms of a lifetime, or others (gods, etc.) over 300's of years, etc. Either of these don't necessary have to even fit with the actual events from the same planet to make sense between them. In fact, some of these events probably shouldn't in the end, if the abstractions are well made.

For example, the guy in the Wolf suit could be an abstract explanation for how Shay actually feels at the time from a larger perspective. While also being an outlet from Shay's point of view for any of the wishes he has to simply get away and change his life. But he has to be unaware of the havoc he's actually causing, and definitely be unaware of Vella's perspective. Etc., etc.

So what I'm guessing is the spoiler with Mom could just as well be another problem with assuming that all of the characters actually come from the same planet. It could be there's a cycle that makes the ships turn up at the same spots regularly. So some of the people on the Ark ships could happen to be from the same places because of that, just from different times - or maybe a later generation, with each of their distorted views of what actually went on. Where they do everything from worship the gods, to being willing participants just from their own sense of achievement of winning, to obey tradition no matter what. People create cults as asides to this without knowing the actual story and background, etc.

And no one has any specific knowledge of where the ships actually come from in the first place. So I wouldn't write in a huge pile of story to make all of the characters fit in the same narrow planet-system like that. I mean, I'd be willing to bet a great deal on that while, at the end of the game, there's going to be one very plausible explanation for all of it. There's still not going to be a single casual thread going through all of the events that have happened "historically" (read: in the game). That'd be a very.. choosing my words carefully here.. very preaching kind of ending, a dictat, to something that begs for a more dynamic "journey of life" ending. After all, the game definitely won't actually end until Vella and Shay makes up their own rules, and potentially escapes to their own planet. By design or (imo, at least, hopefully) otherwise.

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I'm still working my way through Act 2 (loving it!) but looking back over this old thread: sswift got a lot of stuff right. Well predicted!

I only have one question right now: Why on earth would Shay's Mom and Dad forgo any physical contact with their son for 10+ years? I see how Tim tried to twist it around, and that it was Shay's perception, but seriously... why wouldn't Shay's Mom just open the door and give him a hug? There's a million reasons Tim could give in the script, but so far none has been forthcoming. (Maybe it will be explained later.)

Anyways, so far Act 2 is perfect, IMO. The puzzles are great, especially. It's great being stuck on things instead of racing through the story like in Act 1. In fact, the way the game is balanced out will be great for future players: Lead them into a great plot point, and then ramp up the puzzles/story.

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ARGH!

I wish I hadn't looked at that spoiler -- because it IS a spoiler. (When will I learn???)

It's not just something incidental about "Mom", like I was expecting, it's actually described as a "critical plot point" -- and it clearly is. It's a SURPRISE for the player.

If you want that surprise spoiled, then go ahead and look -- but this is a bona fide spoiler that will do nothing but make one part of the game a little bit less special.

Be strong. Imagine how you'd feel if someone spoiled the ending of Act 1 before you'd played it -- would it have been worth it to know the ending before you experienced it? I think not. And while this spoiler isn't at THAT level, it IS something that won't be special afterwards.

BE STRONG.

Also: Curse you, DPP.

And also: Curse me and my weak will.

In game it isn't really that much of a spoiler or revelation as by the time we get to Mom we've already met Dad and know she's real and on the ship.

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