So I wanted to devise a post about a deep and fundamental flaw with Elemental's core design but I was having a hard time expressing my message. So, I decided what better way to pass on a message than... to write a fable!? So here it is: The Stallions and the Frog. It's about the philosophical decline of the video game industry, the rise of Stardock, and the current conundrum of Elemental. And yes, it is a bit tongue and cheek. Let's see if you can guess what the moral of the story is at the end!
Once upon a time, there was a realm known as Strategos. For centuries, Strategos flourished, being far from the treacherous empires of Industry and Greed. When the first settlers arrived, they noted with great admiration the Mountain Chain of Creativity to the North and the vast Ocean of Principle to the south for it protected them from the shadow of Greed and Industry. Within this sanctuary, the people crafted all manners of culture and invention, but their greatest pride--- their greatest expression of customs and of innovation--- were their carriages and horses. They bred the grandest stallions and built the finest coaches that stood as symbols to their genius. That is, until the Empire of Greed set its gaze upon Strategos. They built a mighty fleet to conquer the Ocean of Principle, and once upon the shores of Strategos, they unleashed the faceless legions of the Empire of Industry and the land was utterly conquered. The stallions of Strategos were set fallow and their proudest coaches slashed to kindling and set to flame.
In their place, the Empires of Industry and Greed offered them their own creations and at first, it appeared as though all may not be lost. Men in glittering cloaks and shining armor stood atop roofs and spoke boisterously of the merit of their wares. The horses bellowed, their booming neighs drawing onlookers to their painted tails and manes. The coaches, as well, appeared as marvels, studded with gold and silver and all manner of gems. At these sights and sounds, the people of Strategos grew excited indeed of what the Empires of Greed and Industry had to offer. They emptied their savings and bartered away their sacred belongings so that they may all indulge.
But once they mounted their new carriages and steeds, all was not as it seemed. As the Summer Rains of Truth and Time rolled in, it quickly washed away the paint--- the luster--- of their steeds. What’s more, the horses, suffering from a life of little care and frugal nutrition beneath the cruel empires, quickly became ill and frail, their mighty neighs shriveling to coughs and rasps. The coaches, as well, were quick to fail. The frames cracked beneath the weight of gold and silver. The axels became swollen and jammed with gems, carelessly fastened. And once the vehicles had fallen to disrepair and the rains persisted, the gems too became tarnished and worn, revealing instead neither gems nor silver nor gold, but instead lead and brittle coal.
The joy of their life had all but vanished, rare horses and fine coaches gracing their lands only occasionally from traders descended from a dark island off the coast of Strategos, or mysterious merchants that blew through their lands with the harsh winter storms. But it was not enough, and the people of Strategos fell to despair.
But then came a crafty young Frog. He brought with him to Strategos an elegant and beautiful carriage drawn by a team of proud steeds trained in perfect collaboration.
Upon seeing it, the people of Strategos wept deep rivers of tears of joy that would swell with the Rains of Truth and Time. In doing so, the deluge washed away the crust of Greed and scabs of Industry that had grown upon the remnants of their fond memories. It was then that the people of Strategos remembered. In a fury, the people took up arms and drove the peddlers of Greed and Industry toward the Ocean of Principle and the Mountains of Creativity. Because the empires had so meager a knowledge or intimacy of either Creativity or Principle, Greed and Industry were washed away by waves and crushed by boulders. And thus, a new golden age of steed and carriage began, for the marvel that the Frog had brought to Strategos was but only the first.
In time, he would build many more and the people of Strategos would love him for it. One such carriage team he built and trained to honor the stars. He painted the carriage with to match the night sky and enchanted dark stallions so that, as they darted through the twilight, they would glimmer faintly in the dusk like shooting stars and illuminate the imagination. Another carriage team he made for matters of commerce and convenience, the wheels of the carriage forged with perfect balance and the steeds trained to stride ever steadily, so that fragile cargo may never crack or sunder but reach their destination, intact and readily.
And so his many creations came forth for years and the people thought that perhaps they might never end or falter.
The Frog came to love the people as they loved him and to honor these affections, he made them a grand promise. He reminded them of a carriage and company of horses, made long ago in the first golden age, that the people once adored and had almost forgotten. It was a humble creation in many respects. The carriage itself was well built and elegant in design, drawn by a team of disciplined horses. Though it was not as glamorous as some, the team and carriage had carried the people of Strategos through many fond summers and never ceased to fail in its function. At the memory the Frog had inspired, the people cheered and cried and shouted accolade.
Upon this wave of praise, the Frog hopped glibly to the drawing board and began to plan. In no time, he had drawn again the old schema that the people so adored, but into his mind grew doubt. As he examined his work, he began to wonder…
“Yes, the design of old is tried and true. But is this the best that I may do? Certainly, there is wisdom and elegance in the work of the past. But do not the people want more than my prior projects? Something bigger, grander, and faster than the last?!”
At this, the Frog drew his pen and unfurrowed the old design.
“Yes,” the Frog said to himself with a nod, “I can do better.”
Through the night his pen flit across the canvas and he laughed with delight:
“A turret here, an axel there, my finest work indeed shall have flair! And yes, the stallions of old are fine and fair, but for my best work they shall be bigger, faster, bolder! When at last it is unveiled, all the people of Strategos will gape and gawk and stare!”
Nothing could shake the Frog’s confidence. Through day and night the Frog and his tadpoles worked tirelessly. They gathered the largest and fastest stallions of the realm and the finest materials. And when the people of Strategos offered their help with great enthusiasm the Frog and his tadpoles proudly accepted. But as the project barreled forth, a few of the people grew nervous. While they marveled at the stunning horses the Frog had gathered, they noticed that each creature, though paragons of perfection in their own solitude, could not be more different from one another.
There was Broncade the Black, who was unrivaled in not only his strength and fortitude, but also his temper. There was Mustor the Swift, a horse who could close any distance in a shorter time than any other, but who’s patience was equally as short. And then there was Equos the Steady, the most loyal and disciplined stallion of the realm whom never stepped beyond the wishes of his master. And last, there was Gelden the Fair, a mare who’s beauty was unsurpassed but suffered bitter vanity. Yes, each horse was better at their class than any other, but what would happen when they were forced to work together?
And it was not merely the horses that bucked fear in otherwise confident minds. The coach, as well, was of concern. While elegant at its core, it paid homage to the golden age of old, piling upon its foundation what the Frog saw as the best parts of every innovation.
But those amongst the Strategos that helped and were fearful buried their doubts, for after all, the Frog had never failed them before.
The days and nights grew heavy as the people waited in giddy anticipation. At last, one day, the Frog announced that the time had come. “My creation is complete,” he said with the steepest confidence he could employ, “it is ready and waiting, for all to enjoy!”
He invited the people to the plains of Strategos to witness that which they had so longed and waited for. When they arrived, the Frog stood atop the marvelous coach with his loyal tadpoles. He beamed with pride, certainty and… arrogance?
The crowd that gathered called for demonstration, but before the Frog could take a seat at the fore, a knot of onlookers, bristling with impatience, spurned the horses into action. The mighty Broncade, angered by a few of the impetuous crowd, reared upward in irritation, his mighty hooves quickly becoming mired and snared in the reins. The coach lurched forward prematurely, spooking Mustor the Swift. He darted away without prompting while Equos the Steady planted his hooves, refusing to move until hearing word from the Frog. The carriage twisted and turned until finally as the horses clashed and the crowd gasped, the coach toppled over in a terrible crash.
The Frog brushed himself off and assessed the damage.
A few uttered doubts and others complaints, “This is not what was promised, is that error we saw?” said one, and another chimed in: “No being is perfect, neither man nor Frog, so perhaps it is flawed?”
The protests were brief and quickly grew quiet for his fans spoke up, “Silence, agents of Greed!” shouted the Frog’s supporters, still drunk with revelry. “Begone you dastards; soldiers of Industry!”
But from agents the protests were not. They were believers like the others, merely speaking what they thought.
“Fear not!” the Frog spoke up and though the horses still bucked and pulled and huffed, he declared. “It was merely a rough start!”
With the help of his tadpoles they hefted their work. They tightened the wheels and steadied the reigns. But before it was perfect, again, there came another upstart. Broncade buckled and Equos grunted. Mustor sprinted away and again threw the carriage off balance, leaving the Frog and the tad poles dazed and muddled. Gilden could have stopped it had she planted her fair, white hooves, but before her on the ground was a terrible puddle. So the carriage pitched over and again the Frog tumbled, but this time, as he climbed to his feet, he said with a yelp, “Yes, that bad start is still the trouble, but I know what will help!”
He ran toward Broncade and dodged a hoof or two, “The reigns are too tight, you see, I think this will do!”
But it was already to late, and many in the crowd shook their heads, sighed, and left.
“Nonsense!” said Frog. “And I’m willing to bet! In a year, you’ll see, this is our finest work yet!”
But the carriage tore away across the plane, swerving to and fro with the Frog and tadpoles in tow. Eventually, the Frog lost his grip, and fell in the grass with a thud.
“Dear Frog!” an onlooker said, walking to where he lay. Indeed, this was one of the earlier helpers… and doubters. “The reigns may be tight and the bolts might be loose. But if I suggest… there may be a different truth: the problem is far deeper than bolt or reign or minor adjustment. You, and us as well, were dazzled by Broncade and Gilden and Mustor and Equis. Taken by the sight of ribbons and turrets and flashes and chalice. But together they are, I’m afraid, making the carriage terribly unbalanced. But all is not lost, we believe in you yet. Have humbler goals, and plenty will return of those whom are upset. Yes, Equis is loyal and Broncade is mighty, but were you to let one go, there would be far less fighting. And while we love Gilden’s Glamour and Mustor’s zeal, two horses, more obedient, might work better…at least that’s how I feel.”