Category: Special Requests


3/30/11

…And we’re back.

After a power nap, I’ve changed into a new orange and blue wetsuit and rounded up the gang to take the Minow II out on a refresher excursion to Gatama Atoll. We’re going to find the rest of those creatures, damme, and there are no less than three right in our own backyard. My yellowed notes tell me that two small fry can be found in the “F” column of the map. I take Oceana with me and dive at sunset.

Oh man, now I’m beginning to regret coming back. This is tedious work, combing the sand for shiny spots, scanning side to side looking for something I haven’t seen before. Yet I’m still amazed at how gorgeous and detailed everything is, and I’ve picked up a few coins along the way, so it’s not a total waste of time. Finally, after going in circles just south of Donut Reef, hiding inside a clump of magenta elkhorn coral, I find a pair of oblong gobies.

The unostentatious oblong goby

Next we turn south, making a detour around Gatama Gatawa’s Island (and getting lost–shameful how rusty my compass skills have gotten on dry land) to grid F6 at the northern edge of the Cabbage Patch. This search is even more frustrating, as I keep revisiting the same coral nests over and over again only to find the same clownfish, keeping house in the same dusty anemones. The sand flats are no less fruitful, as all I find are all-you-can-eat baskets of pistol shrimp and their watchman gobies. Out of sheer boredom and disbelief, I click on one of the watchmen. Ah-hah! Sparkles! Question marks! It appears I’ve just found the monster shrimp goby, which far from monsterous is virtually indistinguishable from a regular old watchman goby.

The not-so-monstrous monster shrimp goby

Next on our list is something in the Deep Hole region, somewhere around A2, B3 or B4. It’s notoriously hard finding things in the Deep Hole because it’s, well, so deep. Those coordinates can be on any level of the hole, from 20 feet to 100. After nearly an hour of useless searching and much harassment from Sluggo, the insomniac tiger shark, we go topside. Waking refreshed at dawn, we make another go at it. Dawn over the Deep Hole is always a welcome sight, with its squadrons of Japanese eagle rays sweeping across the brightly lit coliseum. Ah well, back to work. Following every shiny glint, turning over every inch of moss and sponge, cursing every familiar anglefish and baby grouper. Really, I’d given up trying to find things with my eyes anymore, now I’m just sweeping the cursor back and forth until an “A” button tells me I’ve hit on something living. That’s just how I found this:

The unmistakable orange and black sea slug (obviously)

Do you see that there? Not the blurry clownfish, to the left, lower, just beyond the tip of its nose. That! Right in the center there. See? That is the orange and black sea slug. That is how small and inconspicuous it is. That is what I’ve been up two hours past my bedtime trying to find.

Is it too late to go back to Legend of Zelda again?

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But their treasure wasn’t gold. It was knowledge. Knowledge was their treasure. — Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

6/3

Cortica River—My indifference to the Cortica River part of the game is well-documented (i.e., repetitive and  boring), but lately that’s were some of the most interesting things have been discovered.

I was on a routine salvage hunt a couple of weeks ago when, after finding the Diamond Telescope, I decided to amble downstream with the  multi-sensor to see what else I could pick up. Scanning the Cortica riverbottom turns out to be some fun, as it’s often a challenge to reach through a thicket of roots or electric eels to get at your glittering prize. At one point I picked up an unassuming canonball and took it home. Polished off, it proved to be a crystal skull, and while it didn’t glow, buzz, read my mind or turn into a super-magnet, it drew a respectable 10,000 Pelagos on the collector’s market.

The next discovery began a few days later, when I awoke from a nap and passed Jean-Eric on the way to the beach. “Perfect timing,” he muttered, folding his newspaper. You can always tell something’s up when Cappy’s been reading the paper.

“It says here a monster’s been sighted in the Cortica River. Witnesses say the creature is pitch black, is seen only on rainy days when the river is running fast. Something about a gigantic black thing. You should check it out.”

For various reasons, I didn’t get around to looking for it until last night. Rain was pelting the river, as it usually is, and you can see the little rings made by the raindrops from under the water—a nice effect. Heading upstream, I kept stopping to announce that I thought something was watching me, then I turn around and nothing’s there. It’s all very ominous—is there some new maneater or Creature from the Black Lagoon I’m going to meet up with? 

My path eventually takes me to Queen Lake. Suddenly…rising from the depths…a black form takes shape…and materializes into…a big fat manatee. Oh Cortica, once again you disappoint me! Mama Cortica, so we’re told, is a benevolent spirit on the river, saving capsized fishermen, uniting young lovers, and frying up cassava cakes for all the children. Very nice, but what was all that about a big black monster? Who reported that story, Don Knotts?

Mama Cortica

Yes, the Cortica River is a queer place, but I’ve saved the best and queerest for last. I was taking a woman named Lisa on a trip to see the Piraibo catfish at the mouth of the temple. Bored, I decided to investigate a rumor that there was a secret hole in the riverbank. This isn’t part of the story, but apparently a glitch in the game programming that was reported by several witnesses on the GameFaqs message board.  In first-person view, you swim up to the left of Spirit Falls, just where there’s a clump of vines growing in the corner. Then you surface, turn to the left, and there it should be—a rent in the space-time continuum. I’d attempted this trick several times in the past, but hadn’t had any success. I was beginning to think this was an anomaly on only some people’s games, but tonight there it was—a jarring, jagged hole in the screen, and through it I see…OH GOD! IT’S FULL OF STARS!

A rabbit hole in the riverbank.

Not exactly, but an endless stretch of open water under a clear Amazonian sky. Dive again and you’re faced with the riverbank, but here’s the cool part—you can penetrate through the wall into the open water on the other side! Swim in any direction, it seems to go on forever and is impossibly deep. Turn around to look back, and below and above the water you see paradoxical vistas of twisted pixellation, semitransparent walls, and cutaway sections of the river.

Looking back on the rabbit hole (arrow)

Hello, Dali!

It’s like an out-of-the-body experience. I can see Lisa staring uncomprehendingly at the empty space where I used to be. Jean-Eric frantically shouts that I’ve lost my partner, but I don’t care—I’m free! I’m transcendent! I’m outside the game looking in.

The riverbank and the 'other side'; Lisa left behind.

After a few minutes of this I pierce the wall again and return to the game, then disappear through the portal once more to see if it still works. It does, and I can reenter the game through King Amaru’s Aqueduct, or I imagine, through any point I choose.

X-ray view of King Amaru's Aqueduct

There’s really no point in looking for fish and treasure now, so I drag us home to develop the pictures I took on the other side. Lisa is sorely pissed that I left her behind; she reads me the riot act and leaves in a snit with no tip. She’s right—I’ve violated my principle of always satisfying the customer—but honestly, I couldn’t care less. I’ve just passed into the twilight zone, and saw that it was awesome.

The Cortica River has just become a lot more interesting.

5/4

Zahhab Region—After several less-than-exciting days on the game, I passed three milestones at once today: One hundred hours, three quarters of a million Pelagos, and twenty dolphin shows!

The day began, as always, with dolphin shows. First Pinky, then Frodo, then Lilly. Elena, Francisco and Jessica nearly fell out of the boat as my little divas performed sick combos to their complete satisfaction, then returned to report back to Finley.

Next, I went after a salvage request from GG’s foil, FF. He’s promised us this would be his last. Once again, our map scavanger had only a cartographic scrap to go by without a place to reference it. And once again, by doodling it on a piece of  notepaper and thumbing through the Marine Encyclopedia, I was able to pinpoint it without trouble, somewhere in the Zahhab Region. About five minutes later, we had the Platinum Sword in our hands.

Since I knew the payout on this put us past the three-quarters mark, and there was no deadline on the treasure (believe me, I double-checked), I decided to explore the Zahhab Region a bit more. GG and I visited the Chamber of the Gods for the first time since we left it, casing the joint out for our imminent return. There wasn’t much treasure to be found outside the entrance, but investigating a crack in the cavern ceiling, I discovered I could peer through it to the sea’s surface! Apparently, the long fissure that snakes down the Zahhab reefs is directly over the Chamber of the Gods. I don’t know if that’s useful knowledge, but it was fun to learn.

Peering through the fissure

Leaving the Chamber and its ponderous sentinels, we explored the Long Fissure from the top side, but it was too dark to see down into the cavern. We found riots of fish around the huge basket sponges south of the fissure and I stopped to pulse and photograph them.

Then I returned to the boat and set the clock ahead to take a midnight dive with Hayako. Climbing up from the Super Dropoff, our lights spotted what looked like a nest of sparkly eels with their heads poking out of the sand. Upon getting closer these proved to be some kind of finger-shaped soft corals. I couldn’t identify them, and Hayako was mute about what they were. Later, we came ashore to see dozens of sea turtles sprawled in the sand, but not laying eggs, as far as I could tell. I turned to ask Hayako what she thought they were doing. “What this place needs,” she said,  “is a party!”  Now yer talkin’!

What are those things?

I wanted to stay another day at Zahhab, but I was out of film, so I decided it was time to return to Nineball Island.  FF received his treasure gratefully, paid us 20,500 P and jet-skiied into the sunset without another word. And so the GG/FF feud/romance ends with a wimper. A word of advice to the Arika game developers working on EO 3: CLOSURE!!

Just before turning in, I decided to check my records. I found I’d completed 19 dolphin shows. I wonder if I tried just one more? I had Pha put on a show for Elena, and immediately after, we received a visit from Finley, who’s concluded that he trusts us now, so he let us know about a beluga in the arctic ocean. So that’s my answer: all your previous dolphin shows count toward the twenty, and it doesn’t matter if they say it was excellent or crap and Oceana jumps up and claps her hands or not. As long as you don’t totally mess up and the dolphin doesn’t physically attack the judge, a show is a show—it’s all good. I’m not the worst dolphin manager after all!