The Let's Play Archive

In Search of the Most Amazing Thing

by ManxomeBromide

Part 4: Mire's Vault

Part 4: Mire's Vault

We finished the last update at the door of a Master Trader's hut. Before we go in, though, we'd better do our homework. And where better to do our homework than on the B-Liner's on-board B-Computer?

We start the game with TRAC4—the manual refers to it as "mystery software"—but we had to buy all the rest. All of these are necessary for getting the information needed to deal with the Mire Folk.

The first program is Map-H. This provides maps of the Mire in each culture's region. We concluded, based on our consultation of the main maps, that we were in the territory of the Torbion culture. Let's make sure that's true.

We do need to know the name of the culture we're asking about.

And there we are, right at the border of R12 and R13. This is the right place all right.

We move on to check the CULTS program to see what information we'll need to know about them:

And, again, we enter the name of the culture directly.

This gives us that culture's exchange rates, and also tells us what kind of Musix they like ("simple" or "long and complicated"). The Torbion like long Musix and will let us freely exchange our chips to any color we want.

On to DICTO:

Yet again, a free response prompt.

And here are the things that the traders can say. I write this down for future reference.

CULTS told us that the Torbion like long, complicated Musix. What is a Musix, anyway? Well, it's the fourth entry on our list.

It opens with New/Load...

And once we pick New we get a little cursor we can move around in the space. Every time we hit "draw" it draws a line from the previous point to the place we are now and plays a tone.

This ought to be long and complicated enough to keep the Torbion happy.

The last program, Trac4, just draws and erases pixels at random points on the screen and plays random tones. It is pretty much The ChokesWare Seizure Inducer but with much less risk of seizing since there's usually just a couple dots bouncing around.

Here is a video of Trac4 in action.

OK, homework done. Let's go talk to the Torbion head trader.

If for some reason we didn't have our map, or a list of the 25 mire culture names, we are informed immediately what we should have been looking up.

: Wait, you're not one of us. You don't even look like you're even from Porquatz. What are you doing here?

: OK, checks out. Now, what is a clueless, antennaless weirdo like you doing here?
: Being clueless, mostly. I heard you sell clues.

: Sure do. Best clues around. Only 15 yellow chips.
: Crud. That is, like, three times my budget. Um, what will you trade for chips?
: Other chips, mainly.

: Which chips were you wantin', again?
: Uh, yellow, so I can buy that clue?
: Right, right, just leave them on the table, we'll sort it out.

: Well, here's everything I've got.
: OK.

: Here's what it's worth. Enjoy your six new yellow chips.

: That's still not enough to buy your clue.
: Yeah, well, it's a tough life out in the Mire. Have you considered selling useless trash to the Metallicans up north? They seem to like it.
: Most of those rusty Metallicans have never been outside.
: Hmm. I'll just be going now. See you later.
: Not if we get advance warning you won't.

I haven't actually mentioned this before now, but it does turn out that the tarry surface of the Darksome Mire is safe to stand on. You can't walk on it, but your jetpack will let you out and you don't really sink or anything.

Back in the B-Liner, we have some decisions to make. We could go back to Metallica, sell some stuff for green chips, and then swap them at par for yellow chips back with the Torbion traders. Or, we could look at the exchange rates at the neighboring cultures.

That looks extremely promising.

And they're right next door, too. Too bad doors on Darksome Mire are 400 miles apart. Also, while that exchange rate from green chips to yellow chips is favorable, we currently have zero green chips. We could go to Metallica for some green chips. But we're parked right outside a Torbion trade hut right now.

: You again? I don't have time for this. I'll be farming this out to my assistant. Answer his questions properly and everything will be fine.
: What if I don't answer correctly?
: Then you are cast into the Mire of Eternal Peril and we will refuse to deal with you again until you perform a sufficiently entertaining song and dance routine.

: Traders will not talk to you if you ever give a bad answer.
: If a Trader won't talk give him a Musix to soothe him.
: Don't ever waste a Musix with a Trader. You may need it.

: Sounds good.

: What is your name?
: What my name is is not important. What is important is...

: OK.
: Want to trade chips?

: What is your quest?

: We covered this. I seek the Most Amazing Thing.

: What is... your favorite color?
: ... green. Definitely green. And not yellow. Here, take all these yellow chips.


Traders have a slightly randomized but predictable protocol. When we first come in they challenge us with a question which we must answer correctly ("I am a friend" or "I seek the Most Amazing Thing"). Assuming we do, they say "OK" and we can ask for clues or to trade chips. If we ask to trade chips, they might ask us what color ships we want, or they might rechallenge us. We have to pay attention. If we ask for a clue, they compute a price based on their appraisal of our total net worth in chips. Unless we're carrying seriously implausible numbers of chips, they will usually end up asking for just about everything we have, or maybe a little more, as we've seen here. Once a price is set, though, it's fixed—across all cultures—until we buy the clue.

So let's go meet that price. The nearest trader of the Sloping culture is in sector V13. We can get a good east wind at a relatively low altitude, so this trip won't cost much fuel.

Which is good, because I didn't bother refueling before I took off.

Off we go.

As we reach sector V13 we drop down a bit so we can head more directly towards the hut.

Much more directly. I bring us down before we smash through their roof.

See? We totally didn't need to refuel for this.

Radar is one of the two remaining B-Liner controls I haven't shown off. It gives occasional blips for huts in range. This chunk of V13 is the only place in the Mire I've found where you can even see two huts at once, and they're both the same culture and thus interchangeable. 90% of the time if you check your Radar it will just say NO HUTS FOUND because they're more than like 50 miles away. Radar is useless. Hut 1 has infinite range and is basically always what you want.

Speaking of huts, here we are, after five minutes of travel including refueling, and it's a much better view of one from the driving screen. Let's go pay them a visit.

After learning their language, of course.

If you compare these gestures to the ones the Torbion use you'll find they're very similar. This is almost certainly an artifact of the way Trader talk is procedurally generated, but I like the idea that neighboring cultures are in the early stages of a dialect divergence here.

We can see their beady little eyes when the doors open; apparently upon seeing an 11-year-old kid with a jetpack they then all dive under the table once you show up.

: Hey, we heard there's a farsider buying Amazing Thing clues for yellow chips.
: That's me. I'm here to trade chips. I've got some green chips right here.
: Great. I'll dig out our store of yellow.
: Oh, there must be some mistake. I want red chips.
: Buying a clue in pennies, are you? Rude. Well, here you go. Don't let it sink you into the Mire.
: No worries. Off I go!

Now we've got to make the long trip back. But we don't have to go all the way back to the one we started at. Looking at the Torbion map in MAP-H, we can see that there is a much closer Torbion hut in the southeast corner of T12. That's only a couple map sectors over. Let's just drive it.

OK, and we'll get a snack along the way.

Mire Crabs are going to be a problem, though.

: Those Mire Crabs can never leave their zone. You'll see.

It's true. As idonotlikepeas observed, Mire crabs cannot cross the parallel or meridian lines on the map. They're summoned by us going fast, but there's nothing stopping us from getting directly on a parallel and just gunning it.

And it's not just that they can't cross the line...

...hitting the line vaporizes them. If they start out on the line, or if they manage to intercept us perfectly, we can still be attacked by Mire Crabs, but driving like this is much, much safer than most of our other adventuring has been.

Here's a feature we haven't seen before. The manual doesn't have anything to say about these, but by process of elimination they must be what Smoke was talking about here:

: Look out for those Bunchmarks on the ground. They're soft.
: Bunchmarks are the biggest mystery on this planet.
: Tar around the Bunchmarks is very soft. Be careful.

These aren't impediments to our travel, but I have occasionally noticed that my sleep or hunger timers are much higher than they should be. I haven't found anything that would cause this effect, but who knows.

I don't know what went wrong with the bunchmark rendering here but it went horribly wrong

Anyway. Eleven minutes later, we have completed the drive. This has been your lesson in why flying is the correct way to traverse the Darksome Mire. Also...

I hit the wrong direction while flying over to the trading hut, and the game will happily scroll you off the screen from the B-Liner. Hope you remember which way you went because you're going to have to drift right back over to do anything...

: You're back.
: Sure am.
: Still 15 yellow chips for a clue.
: Since when do you guys care about the color of chips, anyway? Here, take these red chips instead.
: Sorry, kiddo. Union rules. What I can do, though, is trade 15 of those red chips for yellow chips, and then accept the yellow chips for a clue.
: OK.
: There is one thing left you must do:

: You must dance. Dance for me the dance of your people!

The Torbion like "long, complicated Musix." This turns out to mean "has 31 or more line segments in it". Simple enough to ensure.

: ...
: Worth it. OK, here's the story as we've heard it. You are not the first farsider to seek The Most Amazing Thing. Many years ago, there was another. He sought it with the assistance of one of the Mirefolk... Merton, of the Girfleez. If the stories we have heard are true, Merton and this farsider actually found The Most Amazing Thing, but for some reason they could not travel the Mire while carrying it.
: Too much weight for the A-Liner to lift, eh?
: ... wait, have you heard this story?
: That farsider is my Uncle. Like him, I travel the mire in a hot-air balloon.
: Those words are unfamiliar to us.
: The farsider in the story is my father's brother. Like him, I cannot walk on the Mire. Like him, I fly over it with a big bag full of hot air.
: Oh, wonderful! Much is explained. You, like your kin, are clearly of the same culture and this is why your ways are so similar.
: Well, I guess that makes sense.
: I will let the network know that you, Bailey of the Floating Gasbag People, have joined some kin in the area. They should be less terrified of you in the future.
: That's... that's great. I suppose that's a better name than the Sarsparilla Cow People.
: What?
: Never mind. Another story for another time.

: All right. Now, Merton visited us for supplies on his way back to Girfleez territory. They're to our southeast, so the Most Amazing Thing must have been lost somewhere to the northwest. The locals there should know more.
: I guess that's a start.
: Your best bet will be the Muhill. The northwest is a bit less advanced than we are here in Torbion territory—Metallica's our only spaceport and they're a lot further from it—so they're also a little more dubious about strangers.
: I'm pretty used to that by now.
: Right, but here's your in: we happen to know that they've just finished upgrading their power generators. They'll be looking to import higher-tech items in the very near future, and the Metallicans stock a lot of computerized educational software. Pick up some of the self-contained educational computers they sell and bring them as an offering to the head trader. That should get you in good enough with them to learn what they know.
: Perfect. Thank you so much.
: Anything else you need?
: Yeah. It sounds like I'll be trading with the Metallicans soon. The only thing they want from me is green chips. Can you hook me up?

: You know it, Gasbagger.
: I sincerely hope that sounds more dignified in your native language.
: Not really. I've got some books on ancient languages in the back, though. I'll let you know if we find anything good.

I wasn't expecting this. At any given time, only one culture actually has a real hint. Every other culture would have given us the hint "Go to TORBION. They know more than we do." But here, the closest hut to Metallica actually had the real hint. That is in no way guaranteed, but it gets us off the ground faster here.

And speaking of getting off the ground, I guess we'd better head back to Metallica to buy that AbCdE.

: Aaaaaactually, we've got one last request for you, as you go.
: Yes?
: Can we watch you take off?
: Sure!

Video of the entire trading session

There's one last control we haven't tried yet; the AutoP function. This flies us back to the exact screen Metallica is on. It won't land us on Metallica—we do have to drive over to the entryway—but it'll get us close enough that the trip is trivial.

: Coooooooooooool.

We can't do anything else while the Autopilot is on, though; changing any controls, or even leaving the control panel, will disable the autopilot and leave us drifting at wherever we were located. The BURNER and DROP switches alter themselves as needed. It's kind of cute.

90 seconds later...

Let's go buy some overpriced gadgets.

: Greetings, Gorthaur of the Forthel!
: Hey.
: Greetings, Falbot of the Paelazia! We are pleased to see folk from so far away.
: Much obliged.
: Greetings, Bailey of the Slylandro! We hope your travels have brought you wealth.
: Howdy. I'll allow it.

The manual does a rather clever trick here. The Catalogue is divided into three sections:


FLIGHT CONTROL PANEL METERS: These terrific meters will help you fly the B-Liner.
METALLICAN HOUSEHOLD ITEMS: These items could be fun to own but are not necessary for flying the B-Liner.
COMPUTER SOFTWARE: These are practical programs you can buy for the computer on the B-Liner.

It's true. The Metallican Household Items are not necessary for flying the B-Liner. That doesn't mean that they might not be necessary for solving the game. Which culture needs the gadget, and which gadget you need, is randomized on each playthrough.

For us, though, we need the ABCDE. ABCDE is an "educational game for robot children." I assume that it would be effective for young Mire Folk as well.

Hm. I think I will auction off a few more of Uncle Smoke's doodads before heading off to the Muhill, though. I'll want trade goods besides just the educational toy.