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A Glimpse of Egypt

This is a single unedited take of game-play, with a cross fade added to the end of the capture. When you play the gameplay snippet in full screen you will experience approximately one minute of "over-my-shoulder" gameplay. Notes on how this video was made are at the bottom.

I recommend viewing the video with Windows Media Player, just so the terminology used is relevant to your playback environment. Watching it in anything but full screen is like peering through a window when you want to be inside. So come on in! When the movie starts playing, hit <Alt> & <Enter> at the same time on your keyboard to go full screen. Make sure all other audio, such as win-amp, is turned off, your speakers are on, and your volume is turned up.

The scene opens to an afternoon during planting season in a moderately sized city. I have deliberately started the video with the camera at medium height, so you can witness the smooth transition from a camera height where I place houses, to first person mode. I recommend watching the stroll through the city at your leisure, and then examining it with the following guide if you are interested.

As the camera drops into first person mode, hit pause (Ctrl-P). In the distance you see foreign traders and their donkeys coming into your city to sell their wares. They will set up their stalls where they think they will sell the most wares, or enter the merchant center if you have built one. Wherever they set up, noblewomen will come to shop for their wares, particularly if they are made of more exotic materials than those made locally.

Directly in front of you the fields are filled with farmer families. You can tell a lot about your farming community by the makeup of the people that are out planting. If the farmers were unhealthy, short of desired wares, or their expectations about social services were not being met, you would see fewer members (if any) out planting while the rest of the family addressed their more immediate needs. Obviously, this would affect the harvest for your whole city - citizens would have less to spend on shopping, and your government would receive fewer taxes with which to pay its workers.

As the camera moves through the fields, notice the stereo audio, and the way it synchs up with the animations and the camera position. Also notice that people do not work in an artificial rhythm, as they harvest with a variety of animations and positions. It may not seem like a big deal but a lot of effort goes into the audio so that it works with the art, animation and engine to create the proper ambiance, to maximize your immersion in the setting.

As I walked the camera out of the fields, it sweeps by a large area of papyrus reeds and some flowers. Inside the reeds you can see craftsmen harvesting them to make some goods, and on the edge a perfumer is picking flowers. Momentarily a craftsman child will pass through your view carrying reeds on his shoulders.

There is a lot to see as you come out of the fields: the general condition of the farmhouses, the location of a future farmhouse waiting for a family to move in, and a farmer returning from shopping. Here is a breakdown of the three things to note.

As you walk up the floodplain to the city you will see a variety of farmhouses. They all appear to be in good condition, another indication that the farmers are doing well. Farmhouses, or any house for that matter, will fall into disrepair if their occupants can't afford to maintain them.

Just as the camera comes up out of the field and passes through a palm leaf, a foundation for a future farmhouse lies in front of you. This home will soon be occupied by either a vagrant or, more likely, a local villager.

As you come up out of the field, you can spot a farmer's wife walk by with pottery on her head, indicating that she had just completed some shopping despite it being the important planting season. (Had I been playing the game, I would have selected her and then selected her home using the tracking window on the interface. By looking at her home I could get information about the family that could help me recognize if there was a problem or if the family was just settling in as new farmers.) As the video plays, you see more women out shopping, carrying baskets of bread on their heads as they walk to different shops.

As you stroll down the muddy path, notice how the sounds of the harvest have faded. I just happened to stumble on a conversation where a woman expresses concerns for those who fight and die for their country and perhaps now lie buried outside of Egypt.

Turning the corner, shopkeepers are busy making wares for potential customers. As you can see, people interact with buildings and their environments in ways not seen before. Female shopkeepers walk up stairs onto their roofs and begin crafting their wares, sending their husbands and children off to gather more resources such as clay, flax, or reeds to secure a stockpile of raw materials. You can witness in detail every stage of wares manufacture from start to finish. The video catches these shopkeepers in action as they hope to garner enough food from the sale of their wares to keep their families fed, maintain their homes, and have enough left to trade for goods they desire.

As you turn the corner, the temple and palace loom in the distance, but before you is a row of shrines. Shrines are relatively inexpensive worship facilities, and provide you an easy way to alleviate at least some of your citizens' desire to worship the gods. As you see here, each shrine is dedicated to a different god. When different events happen, people may want to make an offering to a particular god. A single priest can keep several shrines functioning well since it does not take him long to make the shrine ready to accept visitors. Keeping a major temple like the one in the background functioning is almost a full time job, and to ensure a large temple like that stays operating, a couple of priests sharing the job is a good idea. At some point a priest needs to take care of his earthly needs, like acquiring goods for his home and participating in leisure activities which are a privilege of his station in society.

Beautifying certain aspects of the city is left to you. The choice of road style affects the appearance of the city but does not affect game-play other than to help you organize in your mind where certain buildings should go and where you plan to expand later. Depending on your play style, the roads might be one of the first things to go down, and nicer roads are a good way of reminding you to keep the farmers and servant homes out of that neighborhood.

There is one last thing to note as we walk down the street. The nobleman shopping on his own may be a reason for concern. If I were playing I might select a noble like this, and then select his home, to see how life in his townhouse is going. Checking to see if there are enough servants in the city might be in order as well. One reason for servants is the nobles' thirst for goods is so great it is hard for them to shop for everything they want without some help. Also, servants not only carry a lot more, they take a fee as well and the more the nobles spend the more you can collect in tax. (Remember: nobles owe you up to half of their income in taxes- the more they want to spend, the more they have to grow, and the more you get in taxes.)

As we get to the end of the video, an appropriate, "Hi there" sends us off to wait for the next video.

This video was captured on 9/3/04 with FRAPS at 25fps and 800x600. The cross fade was done using Vegas Video, and the video was output with an alpha channel. These were the only modifications before it was compressed with DIVX. The computer that did the capture is, a P4 3.0GHz with 512MB RAM and an ATI 9800 Pro with 128MB DDR, was playing the game at 1600x1200.

Hope you enjoyed it!

-Jeff Fiske (9/7/2004)
Tilted Mill Entertainment
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Immortal Cities: Children of the Nile is the trademark of Tilted Mill Entertainment, Inc.
 PC Rated E