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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Pirate101's Book 15: Valencia Part 2 In-Depth Analysis


Pirate101 recently announced that Book 15 (Valencia Part 2) would come in two chapters this summer as the conclusion of the first arc. Three years later, not only is there a lot to catch up on, there's a lot to look back at. Some of this information will be a refresher and other portions will be new. I hope I will make some connections that you did not formerly. 




Laying the Groundwork

There's a lot to talk about with regard to Book 15 and Valencia Part 2 in Pirate101. Sit back, relax, and prepare to read, because some of this information may not yet be revealed in Book 15, or at all. Understanding Valencian culture and politics may go deeper than just the in-game dialogue.

Here's an overview of what I'll be covering this post:

  • Laying the Groundwork: Backstory and hints leading up to our Armada encounters including Marco Pollo, his eighth crew member, Skull Island's golden wheels and the Armada's interest in them, the Scroll of Secrets, and Pollo's relationship with Merle Ambrose
  • Hints, Hints, and More Hints: Hints in the form of art from J. Todd Coleman, a look at Calabria Skyway and Captain Hande, a discussion of stormgates, and how the climate of Valencia will be changing on our next trip
  • Islands in the Sky: A look at what to expect in Valencia Part 2 in the way of islands, including Florenza, Villa Tortellini, magnificent dining rooms and catacombs, a Shipyard, a Venice-based city, and a discussion on the inclusion of Cadiz
  • Historical Context: Where locations in the teasers so far come from, including what their historical references might tell us about Book 15, with an emphasis on the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Calabria, Italy, Florence, Fontana di Trevi, and Piazza San Pietro
  • Characters: Who we may meet in Book 15 and what their role will be, including the Clockwork Queen, Kane, Bishop, Phule, Desdemona, "G", the Toymaker, Cowpernicus, Da Finchi, and King Casimir
  • The End of Arc One: How Pirate101's schedule changed, player reactions, Ratbeard's hints on what all will transpire in this confrontation with the clockwork elites, how Kane uses the machine, and a discussion on going inside

Pre-Valencia Hints and Screenshots

Even before the game was officially released, Pirate101 provided us with some hints that are relevant today. On the Valencia page of the official website are three photos of areas we have yet to see. Some have theorized that these are Cadiz, others have said Florenza, but the more likely suspect is a city based off of Venice, Italy. The waterways are the giveaway. We actually spot this location in the Book 15 teaser during KI Live. I recommend checking it out here (starts about 5:30).


A Brief Review of Marco Pollo

Marco Pollo is one of the most interesting characters in the game. He is the mapmaker for the ever-changing El Dorado, creating the only device which can show you a precise way into this fabled city of gold. We met Phule in Pollo's tomb during the climax of the first part of Valencia. But Pollo is also connected elsewhere - with Merle Ambrose. In fact, he had Ambrose and Gamma's assistance with the star charts and translations that led to a working map to El Dorado. 

Pollo journeyed there with a total of seven known members. At least, that's what we thought, until someone asked Blind Mew a question about who took the photo - opening the door for a mysterious eighth member. Read up more on Pollo's correspondence with Merle Ambrose, the entire crew, and who the eighth member might be here.


Golden Wheels in Skull Island

This topic alone deserves its own post, and it may get one in the future, but one portion of the Armada's plan most theorycrafters have totally failed to address are Skull Island's golden wheels. Why is the Armada in Skull Island gathering them, anyway? Why was Bishop studying one in his lab in Marleybone? We really don't have a lot of information on them.

"The Armada's scouring the isle of Doom for old treasure too. Competition for gold is a pretty big deal among the colonial power, but sometimes they're looking for more than just the gold. I know Kane is... The Armada is definitely interested in the Golden Wheels. Why? That's a very good question, and a very important one."      
- Blind Mew
A lot of what we see in Skull Island is reminiscent of Azteca, which would work well with this story. Some people have even theorized that Skull Island is the remains of Azteca after the comet destroyed it. While it's a cool theory, the timelines do not allow for that to happen logically. 

Some of the most prominent piracy during its golden age happened in the Caribbean, just a hop, skip, and a jump away from South America, also home to the Incans. El Dorado is often depicted as being architecturally similar to Incan, Aztecan, and Mayan temples and structures. This could explain a relation between the golden wheels and El Dorado. Blind Mew semi-confirms this line of thinking: "There is a link between El Dorado and the Aztecosaurs, as we've hinted elsewhere. The precise nature of that link I'll leave vague for now. Much will be revealed about El Dorado... but it may be a while before we get there."


Lost in Translation - Hole in the Plot

One of the most important notes from Pollo's letter to Ambrose was that the Scroll of Secrets from MooShu was essential to unraveling the mysteries of El Dorado. However, when we visit Khotan Skyway, we learn that the Scroll of Secrets was supposedly stolen by the Amber Horde, and we never end up recovering it. What happened to it? And why didn't the Armada take it?

If we have no Scroll of Secrets, would Ambrose and Gamma need to assist our pirates? Would we need to visit Wizard City? Would the Armada do the same? In my post here, I talk about the possibilities, including offering one theory. The Armada may not need translations because they do not intend to do the translating themselves. Imagine this - in the epic conclusion to arc one, we break back into Valencia and steal one or more pieces of the map from Kane, and prepare to begin translations. Kane, keeping a close eye on us, follows to El Dorado or some essential point in the story at which he can steal back the map without having to translate himself. Why else would we be able to steal pieces of a map from the Spiral's most powerful military presence?

"He's not letting you ruin his plans - he's playing a long game. Sending Deacon to hunt you down didn't work, so why try again? Besides, from his point of view, his map pieces are as valuable to you as yours are to him. Why not simply wait for you to get the rest, and just be ready for you when you come to steal his? Besides, as I've said before, he's busy. With what? I expect you'll find out in good time." 
- Blind Mew 


Hints, Hints, and More Hints

Unlike Wizard worlds such as Zafaria, Azteca, and Khrysalis, there are a lot of hints for this expansion. We can trace these back several years, often released under circumstances where the viewer might not even gather that they're Valencia hints!

J. Todd Coleman's Trail

Before leaving KingsIsle, J. Todd Coleman posted a number of concept pieces for both games on Facebook, some of which may be a part of Valencia Part 2 (or if not, will be seen on our third trip).

JTC posted several images that weren't revealed in Valencia part one. First, of some crab merchants. These don't at all fit with the theme in Argon Skyway. Besides some Armada fortresses, the skyway is made up of Granchia and Sivella, the former of which is literally being torn to shreds by Armada machines, and the letter of which is under extreme scrutiny to the extent that the Academy has been shut down. Merchants just don't fit, and we haven't met many crabs in Valencia, anyway. Instead they belong some place vibrant and wealthy - like our newest Valencian skyway. We also get a three-tiered image of a unicorn Musketeer, presumably a companion in this next update.

The most important concept, here, though, is the shipyard. It was September 19, 2012 when JTC posted it, saying, "Yarr! In honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day, here's a few cool images for my facebook peeps. This one is a Valencian Shipyard, it turned out even cooler in game." I believe that this may be one of the islands we see in the KI Live preview.


Captain Hande and Calabria Skyway

On a bit of a more recent note, we've got some newer concepts to look at. Across Producer's Letters, social media, and newsletters, there have been three conceptual hints at Book 15, and one screenshot.

Captain Hande was explained in the most recent Producer's Letter, named officially as Barnabus Hande, a ferocious Skull Island pirate. Based on the image of what we presume is his cave, we can guess that he's found himself a spot in Devilfish Hollow. Whether or not he'll have a direct tie to Book 15 or simply be a side quest NPC or vendor we do not know.

Most theorized that we would be journeying to Cadiz Skyway, a name mentioned frequently by characters in-game. Historian Gonzago says that it's "the center of Kane's power" and that going there would be suicide. We do not know for certain whether or not Cadiz is a location or an entire skyway, but Blind Mew had hinted that the name of the Book 15 skyway would begin with a "C". Turns out it's Calabria, as revealed in a recent Twitter post from Pirate101.


Blind Mew's Musings

Blind Mew is infamous for his message board story threads, and he has provided some hints to ponder over that I'll leave you to interpret:

"...getting the rest of the Map is a big part of it, (and getting the pieces Kane has will be quite an obstacle). There's another major storyline and quest that is NOT map related that offers a little diversion from that. There will be twists and betrayals along the way, the consequences of actions taken in haste, lots of attention will be paid to the mystery surrounding the PCs parents, and El Dorado features prominently in the climax."
"I'd expect [the clockwork elites] to betray each other before they betray Kane. If you listen closely to the dialogue, Kane's created quite a competitive atmosphere among the elites." 
"Oh yeah - betrayals outside your crew will continue to be very common - this is still a pirate game, after all..."
"The whole reason El Dorado ended up the way it did will be one of the key revelations of the plot up ahead. As to the implications that might have on Celestia, it's a little early for me to say too much about that."
"The Elites are a very interesting bunch - there's definitely some dysfunction goign on between them. Also, bear in mind that Phule's a bit... off. Hopefully we'll get to see a bit more about his..."
"Yes, there will be (book 15 will have a non-combat sigil that's a doozy!)"
"Whenever we return to Valencia, you can bet that the Resistance will be a major thread of the story."
"Presuming you want to go to El Dorado (and what Pirate wouldn't?), Kane is counting on you bringing the last pieces to him when you make your inevitable but foolhardy attempt to get his pieces from him. The more pieces he has, the sooner you'll be doing that."
"I have a gag (as we call them) coming up in Book 15 that I'm still not entirely sure we can pull off as first written - but if we can, it'll be the coolest use of talk to and explore goals I've ever seen." 
"We will be returning to Valencia, and the relationships between the peoples will be made clearer. Don't forget the Guinea Pig custodian in Sivella, and the Crab the scholar had as a servant on Granchia."

Getting There

Whatever the case may be, we've got to get to this new skyway in Valencia somehow. It could be either through Mooshu or Port Regal currently, both of which, I believe, require a red windstone. But where will our pirate obtain one of those? Before we could go to Marleybone and Aquila, three very long dungeons were required to obtain access.

Alternatively, we might go back through Avernus and into Argon Skyway, then somehow sneak our way past the blockades into Calabria. But we know that we're using all of those stormgates eventually thanks to Blind Mew: "All the gates introduced so far will be used eventually."


"As Book 13 revealed, I'm a big fan of the adage that "getting there is half the fun." - Blind Mew

Brighter Side of Valencia

One thing we know for sure based on the teasers so far is that we're definitely seeing a different side of Valencia. There's a reason we have to take an incredibly long path to get to Argon - it's the back end and the dark side of the world. Here, the Armada's influence is incredible. They are already destroying islands and uprooting Sivella Academy.

This new area of Valencia will show us the nobles and the wealthy. Valencia is a high-class society, at the center of trade. Calabria, however, will also contain some major clockwork influences, but perhaps in a more political way. I won't go too in-depth here, because I've covered Valencian politics extensively in this post.

"You haven't come anywhere near the heart of Kane's influence. Why on earth (or whatever) would he build his Clockworks off int he middle of nowhere?"
 - Blind Mew


Islands in the Sky

One-Eyed Jack's video on KI Live really gave us some insights as to what we'll be seeing in Valencia part 2, particularly what's in the skyway. We know there are lots of islands and villas we don't recognize that will be totally new locations, but some we know about.

Florenza Unveiled

Florenza is perhaps the most major location in this latest update. It's absolutely massive - full of famous buildings and structures that the historians of the Spiral will recognize. I'll touch on that more later on. Florenza is not only a city of nobility, it's also where the ruler of Valencia sits - King Casimir is located in the throne room shown in a concept below. We also know that the city has catacombs we may venture into, shown in another concept.

I've got kind of an approximation of the paths walked in the KI Live teaser, as well as what we saw there.


Villa Tortellini, Dining Rooms, and Catacombs

In the Valencia Art Book, we see a concept of this island. Based on what we can see in the small portion of the skyway One-Eyed Jack showed in the KI Live preview, my guess is that it's included. It seems to be similar to Steed's Villa in island structure with a different building. In fact, it looks like Mercenaries101 got an image of Villa Tortellini for their teaser, shown below. (Also pictured - catacombs teaser courtesy of Edward Lifegem)

Some of the other concepts included in the art book are of Valencian estates and noble houses. Beyond just providing a feel for this next portion of Valencia, they also tell us about the types of places we'll be visiting. Hopefully the large homes on the outskirts of the skyways are accessible. As for Florenza, looks like we won't just be in it, we'll be under it (what's new?).



Cadiz

Cadiz has been mentioned frequently in the dialogue as being the center of Kane's power. It's where you'd be kept prisoner if you were caught... and also a suicide mission to go there according to Sivella's scholars. Many have theorized that the city with the singular tall building arranged in a circular shape will be Cadiz. Another theory is that it might be inside the machine. This is perhaps one of the few recognizable names for Valencia, but whether or not we'll see it in this trip is still up in the air.


Historical Context

A lot of what we've seen in Valencia so far has some cool history behind it - it's not just a bunch of buildings! I want to take a brief look at what some of the things you see in the KI Live preview and other screenshots and images represent.


Calabria

Calabria is a region in southern Italy. Just looking at the images and the skyway concept make it clear why this new skyway is named how it is. Rich in culture, Calabria is the "heel" of Italy, and includes cliff-side structures identical to Pirate101's Book 15. It's capital city is Catanzaro, and it wouldn't be a bad guess to say that Cadiz is a worth replacement in our Pirate version. Agriculture in the region is common, but manufacturing trumps all other industries. A surprisingly close match to Valencia.

Florence and Venice

The Italian region of Tuscany contains this capital city. Florenza is most likely based upon the area, which was one of the wealthiest cities in its time, the birthplace of the Renaissance, and "the Athens of the Middle Ages." It was a center for trade.

The round city made in Calabria skyway that is completely manufactured and contains no land and the has the large center building is most likely a city based on Venice. Both have waterways used for travel throughout the city and as a tourism option (though Kane may not be offering tours). Venice is actually made up of 117 different islands, making it the perfect candidate for a Pirate101 skyway.


Leaning Tower of Pisa

This is one reference that anyone can pick up in Valencia - and almost everyone who watched the KI Live teaser video has. The famed tower in the city of Pisa is a Roman Catholic bell tower whose construction was completed in 1372, though its only three-meter foundation began to give way long before that.

Fontana di Trevi and Piazza San Pietro

Fontana di Trevi, or Trevi Fountain, is located in Rome, Italy and became the inspiration for of Florenza's buildings seen in One-Eyed Jacks' teaser on KI live. It is shown in the image above.

Piazza San Pietro, or St. Peter's Square, is the large plaza located in front of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. I wouldn't be surprised if we run into that as well in Florence. In fact, it looks like it's right around the corner. The plaza is replicated very closely in Florence's street layout. It is a sort of centerpiece of the area, and is also shown in the KI Live teaser.


Characters

Perhaps the most exciting thing about Book 15 is the characters. In the latest teaser from MMORPG, we see Kane, the Queen, and Bishop, the three major remaining elite clockworks, ready on what looks like a black-and-white marble board. The general consensus? We'll be fighting all three in a giant game of chess. My guess is that Kane and the Queen will escape, and we'll actually defeat Bishop this round (third time seem to be the charm with these guys - I'm looking at you, Malistaire).

The Clockwork Queen

We have no name yet, but you can bet it'll be something pretty close to "Queen," likely beginning with "Q" and having five letters. Blind Mew has been purposefully tight-lipped about this character, but says that we'll get to know her up close and personal in coming updates. This would be that update. With the MMORPG teaser, we know that the Queen's model is finished and functioning. Not only that, but we'll be encountering her in this next update.


Because of her positioning on the board and her role in chess, we can guess that she is actually much more powerful than the Kingpin, Kane. My guess would also be that the queen has a very prominent role in Valencian society. Kane may be portrayed as the chess king, but suppose this clockwork female is also the queen of Valencia.

"The Female Elite: She's very sociable, and very poised. The Evil Queen from Snow White comes to mind."
- Blind Mew 

Kane and Bishop

We'll be meeting up again with Bishop this update and meeting Kane for the first time. The iconic line is that he's "smarter, stronger, and faster than any living being in the Spiral." How that plays into his connection to the queen and the game of chess given the king piece's relative weakness will be interesting to see. I'll also be curious to get a sense of the political climate with how Kane and Casimir interact and what they do and do not know and what they think of each other.


The Wildcard: Phule

Calling Phule the wildcard is hardly far-fetched - I'm not the first. He seems to show up in all sorts of odd places. Bruno Chapel makes sense given that Pollo's map piece might have been there, not to mention that it could offer hints as to what to do in the El Dorado process next.

However, Fort Elena was a bit odd. Blind Mew did note that Phule is likely no longer there. That encounter was mid-Cool Ranch during the Port Regal storyline, which means Phule is free and on the move. So why doesn't he appear with Kane, the Queen, and Bishop? Do we defeat him earlier in the book? Or is there more to Phule than we know? The conflict with Phule is that he seems to sometimes be a friend and other times a foe: "The elites each have their own personality. Phule has at least one." 

Blind Mew, as usual, sheds some light on the subject: "Phule was captured by the Marleyboneans, in response to the abduction of Governor Stanley's daughter in Port Regal. Given the state of Fort Elena as the PC was leaving, I doubt he stayed locked up much longer. ... Deacon's destruction had put a bit of a crimp in Kane's schemes. How he compensates will be a factor in future Books."

Desdemona

Aquila seems far removed from clockwork interaction and Armada happenings, but the immortals gave some interesting hints in a side quest:

"Remember the Trident. It is the key." 
"When Hand, Eye, and Heart are rejoined and work as one, then I shall be appeased." 
"Two spirits shun the underworld, waiting to speak to thee. You are Fated to find them."  
"In the struggle to come, wisdom lies in the Heart, not the Mind." 
"Remember the name Desdemona. Your Fate hinges upon her love." 

Desdemona isn't any old character. She has ties to Othello and to Valencia, where we've found several other Othello characters. There is no one more qualified to discuss this subject, however, than Sonja in her post here. It's funny that she says that Desdemona is the key to the next arc, as she may very well be as we wind down arc one in Valencia part 2.

Cowpernicus and Da Finchi

An artist and a philosopher known to come from Valencia, these two are characters we have yet to meet. Given their status, it'd hardly be appropriate for them to be in Valencia's "back alley" (Argon Skyway). But meeting them in some place like Florenza or a country villa? Much more likely. And these aren't just random characters who can provide side quests. Da Vinci created the clockwork wings model, and probably a lot more in his pirate form. There's even a model that he made that looks like a replica of the machine. For more on him, check out Sonja's post here.



"G" the Toymaker

We know that we are to seek Caligostro, most likely based upon the famed Alessandro Cagliostro. Here's where it gets interesting. Caligostro is assumed to be a connection to the Toymaker "G", but take a look at this: Cagliostro was the alias of the occultist Giuseppe Balsamo. The clockworks are described as puppets, right? The puppetmaster and woodcarver in Pinocchio was named Geppetto... a diminutive form of Giuseppe! That means that Caligostro is a cover name for the Toy Maker, Geppetto / Guiseppe! We will likely be meeting him in Valencia. Perhaps he will pull a One-Eyed Jack with regard to his identity.

I suspect this was such a tough connection to make because you have to start at two different points and the end result of each one is useless without the other. Fun fact about the Blind Mew quote below: He failed to spell the name it is in-game and instead provided the spelling for the real person!

"Whoever or whatever Cagliostro is, Valencia is where you'll look for it."  - Blind Mew 

King Casimir

Casimir is a character we've heard a lot about, but never really gotten to know. Many people theorize that the email image below shows the King himself, awaiting your arrival. I talked pretty extensively about Casimir in one my posts that I linked above, but a lot of it was theorycrafting. We're going to discover some more concrete details about Casimir very shortly.


The End of Arc One

With the latest teaser from Pirate101 on the official website, they announced not only that they'd be releasing Book 15, but also that it'd be the end of the first arc. This had quite a few players confused given that an entire arc in Wizard101 stretches only one villain and overall story. It seems a bit soon to end the Armada arc.


Change in Schedule

This was not the original plan. Let's be clear - there was no intent to do the story in two arcs to my knowledge. Blind Mew notes that the total should be about twenty books: "20 is the target number for the El Dorado story. See, when I said we went live with 60% of the Main Story, my math was, in theory, quite accurate! Each Book will split into 2 or 3 Chapters (we're aiming for 3 as the standard from now on). Going forward, we're aiming for the Books to be about the length of the MooShu Books. This will vary, but we're aiming for long Books. Once we wrap up El Dorado, we'll spin up a new main story (much like Wizard did)." 

He also said that he didn't ever want a book shorter than three chapters. Naturally, this is concerning. However, some of his other quotes seem to suggest that this is not the end and that the remainder of the arc was not scrapped: "We've never thrown a world out. Some of our milestones have hit later than we had originally planned, but the kinds of wholesale "back to the drawing board" stuff you're talking about doesn't tend to happen. ... The Armada Arc has an end point - the pirate will go to El Dorado. All in good time . . ."

He also noted the following: "The real questions for the back half of the Main Story is: what does Kane want? Where did the Armada come from? Why is Kane building that Machine - what's it for? Why does Kane want what he wants? Can he be stopped?" 


A Final Confrontation

Because of the MMORPG teaser, we know we'll run into Bishop again, the female clockwork, and Kane, and they'll be guarding some sort of windstone. It seems a bit odd given that we already have every windstone in that color range, so it'll likely be some sort of surprise.

Blind Mew seems to further confirm the fact that this won't be the end of the Armada arc with this statement: "It'd be kind of lame to only meet him for the final battle. He's so central to the plot, we definitely need some quality time with our Big Bad, and not just people talking to/about him. It's great for the story, so you can take a glimpse inside the enemy's mind."   

The All-Seeing Eye


One of the biggest questions that will hopefully be answered in Book 15 is what exactly the machine is for. We know it's a means and an end, so perhaps the Grand Design is a world totally made of automation, with no room for living beings or natural islands at all.

Kane's influence stretchers far and wide, and Blind Mew suggests that many Valencians believe that the clockworks are benign. Perhaps Casimir is also under this impression. Or perhaps he turns his back knowing that he does not have the power to compete with Kane.

Here's something to notice about the machine in the new skyway: It has what looks more like a windmill than gears made for destroying islands.


Into the Machine

It's no secret that there's a skyway of sorts inside the machine. Here's something to think about - of all the art we've seen so far, we only have images of what we know is in Book 15 and previous Valenian areas and NPCs... plus one oddity. We have the machine interior. Plus, J. Todd Coleman has released a concept or two of the machine breakout. If I didn't know any better, I'd say it houses a small island or central processing area inside. This also appears on the interior concept. Will we take a peek this time around, or in the future?

Only time will tell. The Test Realm draws near!

If you made it this far, thanks for reading and see you in the Spiral! Credits: Thanks to the many who asks questions on the forums prompting Blind Mew's responses. Thanks to Mercenaries101, Edward Lifegem, and Autumn Walker for allowing me to share their teaser images. Thanks to Sonja for allowing me to use some post images.


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