Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

Sometimes you stumble across things you had no idea about and end up rather blown away by it.  For me, history especially does that.  I love to find out new things about the past that I had never dreamed of before.  One recent example of this was when I discovered the existence of the Kingdom of Makuria.  And I had a computer game to thank for it.

That games is Crusader Kings 2, in which you guide a dynasty through the early and middle medieval period, in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, India and the Steppes.  While poking around in it, I came across the Kingdom of Makuria and looked further into it.  I was fascinated by what I found.

Makuria was one of three Nubian nations which rose in the forth of fifth century, the other two being Alodia and Nobatia.  They were situated in what is today southern Egypt and northern Sudan.  By the end of the 6th century all were Christian nations, converted after a series of missions were sent by the Byzantium Empire, eventually becoming part of the Coptic Church.

At some unknown point, possibly before 642, Makuria absorbed Nobatia into its kingdom.

Then the Muslims struck.

In December 639, the Muslims invaded Egypt, then a part of the Byzantium Empire, and had conquered it by 641.  They gave the native Christian populace three choices – convert, be killed or become second class citizens with a heavy tax burden.

In 642, the Muslims turned south and attempted to invade Makuria.  The exact event are unclear, as all sources come from the Muslim invaders, but at what is called the First Battle of Dongala, the Muslim were repelled with heavy losses.  It appears that the Makurians fought a guerilla was against the Muslims, using their renown Nubian bowmen and superior light cavalry.  The Muslims withdrew, claiming that they had not lost, and that the land was poor with no treasure worth fighting for, despite Makuria possessing fertile farmlands along the Nile and a gold mine.

In 652 the Muslims tried again, and once more suffered defeat at the Second Battle of Dongala.  They besieged the capital of Makuria, Dongala, but were defeated by its walls which were defended by the Nubian archers.  After heavy losses again and the refusal of the Makurian king, Qalidurat, to surrender, the Muslims struck a treaty with the Makurians.

The treaty was called the baqt, and was unique in regards to Muslim relations with non-Muslims.  It was the duty of the Muslim world to conquer the rest of the world and force it to convert to Islam.  Unable to defeat the Makurian, instead more pragmatic heads prevailed.  According to the treaty, neither side would attack the other.  The Makurians would send slaves to the Muslims with the Muslims would send manufactured goods south to Makuria.  The baqt was to last for seven hundred years, making it the longest lasting treaty in history.

With its sovereignty safeguarded, Makuria grew in strength and wealth, reaching its zenith in the 8th to 9th century.  It was a land of art, architecture and literature, though what literature has been found to date is mostly of legal and religious nature.

When the Fatamids were replaced by the Ayyubids in Egypt in 1171, fortunes began to decline for the Makurians.  Internal difficulties began to afflict the Makurians and the Muslims began to interfere in the nation.  Eventually the Mameluke Egyptians invaded and in 1312 occupied the kingdom, ending Makuria as a nation.  Under the weight of the occupying Muslims, the natives began to convert.

Alodia clung on until 1504 when it too was conquered and converted to Islam, ending the long history of Christian Nubia.

It is a fascinating piece of history, and one still little understood.  Sadly, much of ancient Makuria is today beneath water after the damming of the Nile, which means there may be lots we may never find out.

There doesn’t seem a lot published on the region, but I intend to track down as much as I can and obtain copies of it.  Who knows, someday I may write on the subject, or use it as an inspiration for stories.

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As I have mentioned in the past, I would love to have the chance to explore places that no one has ever seen before. Given the lack of options available in reality, I do so through writing, and through gaming, especially games which feature exploration.

A new game is coming out soon (well, hopefully soon), which will cater for that desire for exploration like no previous one has. No Man’s Sky is a space exploration game in an infinite universe, or at least as close enough to infinite that you can see it on a clear day. Featuring some 128 quintillion worlds, there are so many that a single person will only touch on a fraction of them and many, probably even most, may never be seen. The chances that you will come across a planet already discovered by another are low, so you will be the first to ever see many of these places. And that appeals to me.

 

The whole thing is procedurally generated, from planets to plants and animals and everything in between, and it looks stunning. It may very well be the last game I need to buy for a long time – I will be playing for years I can foresee, just puttering around the universe, visiting new planets, seeing the new creatures and landscaped there and generally just exploring.

 

Around 90% of the worlds you come across will be barren worlds, covered in deserts or ice, toxic or irradiated, and not bearing life. 10% will bare life, but only 10% of those, or 1% overall, will be flourishing. Finding those gems will be a big part of the game. Even so, all worlds will be interesting and unique and worth a visit – as long as you have upgraded your suit to survive them.

One thing I do plan on doing when I get the game is documenting my journeys through it.

I went to school during the 80s, so as a result I heard a fair bit of Metal – I even have a collection of it still on my old cassettes, which haven’t been played for years.

Yesterday I came across this – Doctor Who Meets Metal.

Needless to say I was deeply impressed – one of my favourite TV shows with the music of it done in metal style.

Took a further look at the guy doing it, and he has over 100 videos of various metalised versions of TV shows, movies, games and of course other forms of music.

Some of my other favourites so far are Skyrim, Lord of the Rings and BBC Sherlock.

I have mentioned before how much I’d enjoy to explore a new world, where none had set foot before, and how it was unlikely to happen in my lifetime.

There is of course Mars One and its plans to sent one way colonisers to Mars by 2023, but I doubt it will happen, and even if it did, the fiance would never agree to it. if not for those two facts, I’d probably jump at it, even if in effect it is a suicide mission. It’d give me plenty of time to write, for starters.

The closest I think I will come is a Mars colonisation simulator I found yesterday, called Mars Colony Challenger – I haven’t tried it out yet and it is still in alpha, so there are still probably bugs to iron out.

It is also a simulator, not a game.  As such, you are trying to establish your base and keep it running, to find water, grow food and the like.    It can be played multiplayer, and you can even take the rover out for a spin to explore the surface of mars – just watch out for storms and don’t forget to keep it charged.

When I have a moment I will have to grab a copy of the demo and give it a whirl – sounds like the kind of thing that might interest me.

One of my all time favourite movies is Blade Runner, perhaps the quintessential movie of the cyberpunk style and theme.  For those unfamiliar with cyberpunk – and who haven’t seen Blade Runner – it is a dystopian sci-fi genre, one of high-tech and low society.  Governments are generally weak and/or corrupt, while power lies in the hands of megacorporations, ones with their own private armies, who have been known to go to war with each other.  The street is a dirty, crowded place, where many cultures and ideas meet in a vast melting pot, and where people upgrade their bodies with cybernetic and genetic augmentations.  It also is always raining.

The cyberpunk genre had its height in the 80s and 90s, with various books, games and movies, and though its popularity has waned, it has not completely gone away.

One example of that is the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 computer game, by Polish company CD Projekt Red, not due out until 2015 at the earliest, alas.  It is based on the old classic pen and paper Cyberpunk 2020 RPG.  A few details have been revealed over on its website, as well as the first trailer.  I haven’t played any of their games, but they have a good reputation, and if they can pull off what they state they want to do, it should be a great game.

And for a teaser of what we can expect, here is the trailer.