I hope you all had a good week. I want to first say thank you to all of you who gave the Virtual Register Newsletter a chance and clicked subscribe. You are amazing, and you won’t regret it! For everyone who hasn’t subscribed yet, don’t worry! I will convince you before long. Friendly reminder that this newsletter is a twice-a-week breakdown of gaming lore, it goes out every Tuesday and Friday, and it is 100% free.
I also want to reiterate that with these first few issues especially, I am looking for feedback on anything. Whether it’s topics, formatting, suggestions, questions, or just nice thoughts, I want to hear about it. You can always leave a comment on any post, or if you’re reading this via email, you can hit reply and type in your feedback. Either way works for me.
Anyway, let’s get to it. Cheers!
Analysis of the Ancient Mechanisms in AC: Origins
I’m nearing the end of my playthrough of Assassin’s Creed: Origins. Overall, it’s a solid entry into the game that tells a compelling story about the precursor to the Assassins Brotherhood. The main character, Bayek, is a charismatic father who struggles to balance his desire for revenge and his calling to a higher purpose. This game is definitely the reset that was desperately needed for the meandering franchise up until this point. One piece of flavor that is completely optional in Origins but is something I highly recommend anyone playing through this game go do is explore the variety of tombs that dot the Egyptian landscape. After exploring, you’ll find some of them are actually built on Isu Vaults.
So what we know is that the Isu go by many names: the First Civilization, The Ones Who Came Before, various Gods. For a quick summary though, I will quote the Assassin’s Creed wiki, “The Isu are an ancient and highly-advanced species of humanoid beings who were active on Earth during the eponymous era several millennia before the rise of even the most ancient human civilizations. The Isu are responsible for the creation of the Pieces of Eden, powerful artifacts and weapons that augmented their already superhuman abilities, as well as forming the human race itself.” Additionally, a major catastrophic event often referred to as the Great Catastrophe occurred millions of years ago that nearly wiped out all of the Isu and humans on earth. While history records this event as a supervolcano eruption, in actuality this mass-casualty event was a solar flare that caused the Earth to be exposed to the sun’s radiation. In the aftermath, the Isu died out while the humans on earth were able to rebuild and survive.
This Great Catastrophe tied into the modern-day storyline of the early games. In 2012, a group of assassins led by Desmond Miles discovered that there would be another solar flare, similar to the one that wiped out the Isu, that would hit the earth in December of that year. They managed to stop it from happening at the cost of Desmond’s life. Now, rumor has it, that another solar flare is on the horizon, and only Layla Hassan, the current modern-day main character of the AC franchise, can stop it.
Exploring these Vaults reveal a series of Ancient Mechanisms that, when interacted with, play a prerecorded message. The messages themselves are fascinating and offer up several delightful hints for the trajectory of the series. I thought it would be fun to analyze them in a bit more detail. There were quite a few things I missed when I encountered them in the game. It’s only after rereading them in prep for this post did some additional tidbits become clear. Every Ancient Mechanism message is outlined below. I’ve applied only the smallest amount of editing for formatting purposes. In between each one, I’ll give some commentary. This post here is where I got all the text for the messages if anyone is curious. Additionally, I’ve included rough translations of the names of each of the Isu Vaults which I got from this post here.
Oun-mAa Niye Ressoot (Reality of Dreams)
Retransmission. Segment 1. Acquiring Contemporaneity.
It has been ninety-one  days since the Great Catastrophe. The messenger speaks.
How real is the ground you walk on? How real is the machine you toy with, the music you hear, the lover you kiss, or the foe you hate?
Your foot taps the ground. Does it make it real? Your enemies bleed deep red. Does that make them real? The confusion growing within you due to my words… Does it make you real?
What if reality wasn’t what you thought it was? What if this was all a construction? A masterfully crafted simulation?
You know such things exist. You’ve been in the Animus before. In fact, aren’t you in one right now? You know just how real a simulation can feel even when it has long vanished.
You’ve experienced the Bleeding Effect. Layers upon layers of reality, each blurring into the next.
Which is real, and which is not? What if none are real? What if everything you know is false?
We scanned thousands of simulations, searching for the right version, searching for Desmond. Each one of them felt real. Very real.
But there’s no way of truly knowing, is there? Not for sure. Anything can be simulated, and finding the answer could mean erasure. From the build. From the code. From everything.
So much to ponder and so little computational capacity. Take your time.
This question has haunted humanity since its creation. It is a worry, a thought wormed deep in the collective mind.
Two-thousand years ago, Zhuang Zhu fell asleep. He dreamed he was a butterfly, and woke up unable to decide if he was a man dreaming of a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming of a man.
In Plato’s cave, prisoners were chained and forced to watch shadows dancing on a wall. Freedom was denied to them until they accepted the intangible as reality.
It’s everywhere. Ask this professor at Oxford University, or this cosmologist at MIT. And you. What would you choose, if you truly knew? Would you even want to understand? A dream within a dream, where even the truth is sometimes a lie?
In any case, simulations are not meaningless. They have purpose. The question isn’t whether or not you are in a simulation. What matters is how much of your free will is actually yours. No matter how true you are.
Your Turing test would do nothing to determine whether you are conscience or code. Eliza, the natural language processing computer program… she managed to pass the Test, did she not? And she was very much machine. So… in Eliza’s own words… How does that make you feel?
Are you sure?
This first message and all of the subsequent ones were recorded in the aftermath of the first solar flare, the Great Catastrophe. What this message also makes clear is that the intended recipient of it is Layla, not Bayek.
Starting off, the message questions not just the basic digital construction that the Animus machine does in order for its user to relive certain memories but also the modern-day world. It refers to exploring millions of simulations to find Desmond who avoided a disaster in 2012. The modern-day story of Origins takes place five years after Desmond’s death. Does that mean that Layla’s world is a simulation too?
The message lists off a few thought-provoking examples of people and experiments that challenge what we assume to be real. It ties into the earlier bit about how real a simulation can feel, even when you know it to be fake. The quote is “You know such things exist. You’ve been in the Animus before. In fact, aren’t you in one right now? You know just how real a simulation can feel even when it has long vanished.”
The final bit references free will and the idea that just because you pass as a human doesn’t mean you are human and that you have free will, the crucial passage being “Your Turing test would do nothing to determine whether you are conscience or code.” For those who don’t know, the Turing test is used to determine whether or not a machine can pass as a human.
Seshem eff Er Aat (Lead Him To Truth)
Retransmission. Segment 2. Acquiring Contemporaneity.
It has been ninety-three  days since the Great Catastrophe. The messenger speaks.
Language is the key to our mutual understanding. Yours and mine, alone.
We listened to your times. We learned. And today, we’ll exchange words from the age of post-truth. They mean nothing to him.
Human language carries knowledge and wit. Lies and broken promises. Through language, you share fear, excitement, hope.
It is the syntax with which you articulate what surrounds you. A structure to express and share your understanding of the world. It conveys abstraction, change, and uncertainty.
Human language is flexible. It can even become mathematics. It solves and predicts; weighs and decodes. It can count objects using basic numbers in one breath, and solve quadratic equations using imaginary ones in the next.
You’ve engineered dialogs with thinking machines, in an attempt to add new vocabulary, to expand your understanding of reality. But your mastery of the code is rudimentary at best.
No surprise. You were designed to have boundaries after all. And one cannot speak of that which one cannot conceive.
The code. Equations that define life. They are nestled deep within every star, and every mote of dust. Every second that passes is a word, a symbol. All part of an intricate yet simple language existing within the framework of time itself.
It is the one rule which applies to use all. Immutable, inescapable. The code is a bridge, a single point of cohesion between your civilization and… mine.
It is a language that can be read, that tells of what was, what is and what will be. A language that We Who Came Before can read, though you cannot…
Time is more than the hour of the day, the reading of an atomic clock, something to lose, something to run out of.
Time is a set of rules, not unlike the language you so dearly use to converse with your powerful machines. Time is a system that defines what comes to be. That is how we understand it.
The Code is Time, and Time is Code. As you scratch the surface and uncover the truth, ask yourself if there is something more? Something else.
No need to be puzzled. You’ve seen time written before. You are surrounded by it as we speak. To your untrained mind, time might just look like paths and nodes. To us, it is not unlike a chalkboard covered in calculus. It reveals a window through which stretches the map to Infinity.
See? As I speak of it in its true form, your mind is incapable of making sense of it. Were you to read, you’d learn about the other simulations. You’d learn about the genesis of who you came to be. You’d learn about space and its fluidity.
Simply put, time is the language which existence is made of. All our existences. Yours, mine. And all those you dare not imagine.
So this idea of the universe being driven by The Code has been hinted at before in the series. Here the message talks about it explicitly saying that the world is driven by a programming code that predetermines events in time. It’s also more than just laws but a determinative framework based on the basic fundamental equations of life — things like gravity, the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, and things humans don’t have the capacity to understand — for how the world proceeds.
“The code. Equations that define life. They are nestled deep within every star, and every mote of dust.”
All of these equations that define life are the foundation for The Code or I prefer to say algorithm that predictably determines what happens in the universe. Separately, the message also references the language of time as the way the Isu and humans too if they could understand it interact with these central equations and The Code. The use linguistically of the language of time and The Code is somewhat interchangeable. The message references this saying, “The Code is Time, and Time is Code.”
That being said, there is a crucial difference.
It is similar to how all of the words and symbols humans use in different disciplines are only linguistic representations of a real concept that exists in nature. Mathematics, numbers, Newton’s laws, and all the concepts in science and mathematics aren’t the actual concepts themselves, but just a framework for understanding natural phenomena.
Similarly, Time or the language of time is a way of understanding The Code but not The Code itself.
Khesesh Em Sesh Em Eeneb (Stars and Uraeus and the Palace Wall)
Retransmission. Segment 3. Acquiring Contemporaneity.
It has been ninety-five  days since the Great Catasrophe. The messenger speaks.
You must be wondering why I have reached out to you. It was written, you see. That you would come. To this particular chamber, at this very moment in time.
The walls told us of your coming, when we once were. Look at them. Are they not fascinating?
These walls tell of a tragic story. A story we transcribed on our structures, on our artifacts. A story we could not alter. A mystery, defying us, in plain sight.
We tried. Our scholars and scientists. Poets and Physicists. Bright minds. Rebellious hearts.
They all tried so hard to bring about change. They… We all failed.
No one could change what we discovered, the stories written into the walls of these rooms. By whom, we never knew.
We know they tell of the future that is, the future that was, and the future that is yet to come.
The _INAUDIBLE_ We failed at modifying a line. We failed at adding a single dot. It was clear.
We were to be messengers at best. But messengers to whom? To you.
We removed our ability to read these stories from your original template.
“A doorway that is also a puzzle. We must find the solution”.
Those were Brutus’s words when he visited the Vault under the Colosseum, more than 2,000 years ago.
He drew the vault, sketched it to the best of his abilities. But he could not see. Just as you are blind. You may read your watch. You may read hourglasses and calendars. But if you cannot grasp beyond that simplistic surface. For now, the true reading of time still escapes you.
And so today, the curtain is pulled and the _INAUDIBLE_ is shown, tragic and complete. Those walls, you might never read.
Events yet unfold as written. But something, anything, must change. You do not understand what is at stake. The reader has no power. He is but an observer. But the author… the author invents the future. The author owns the future.
A future where _INAUDIBLE_ are avoided. A future where a loved one can be revived by the drafting of a new chapter. A future where humankind is more than it is today. A future where, just perhaps, we can all still exist, together.
This message reinforces the idea that the Isu tried to prevent the Great Catastrophe from happening but were unsuccessful. That tragic story is what the messenger is referencing in the beginning, implying even that the Great Catastrophe was prewritten for them. To prevent it from happening would mean altering time, and while the Isu pride themselves on being able to understand Time, they were powerless to stop the Great Catastrophe.
Humans are incapable of understanding the language of time. The message hints at the fact that events are progressing as “written” but that “something, anything must change” for “you do not understand the stakes.” This line clearly means some bad event is written into the code to occur at some point in the future. The messenger is desperate in their plea to prevent it from happening. The problem though is that humans are incapable of understanding this language of time by design and the Isu who can understand the language of time were wiped out a millennia ago.
A particularly juicy hint that this message refers to is the idea of “an author.” It seems to imply that humans and even the Isu are mere readers, able to experience time but unable to change The Code for only an author can “invent the future.”
Is there a creator of the code or time out there somewhere? is there an author? Perhaps it’s whatever created the Isu?
Eeyoo Sekedoo Aat (Welcome The Builders of Metal/Great Things/Truth)
Retransmission. Segment 4. Acquiring Contemporaneity.
It has been ninety-nine  days since the Great Catastrophe. The messenger speaks.
On the 21st day of December 2012, Desmond activated the global aurora borealis device and protected the earth from the sun’s deadly coronal mass ejection.
On the 21st day of December 2012, humanity carried on without a care in the world. People went to work, people went to school, and people went to the well for water.
On the night of December 21st 2012, as the sun set on their days, humankind went to bed.
Then, on the morning of December 22nd 2012, humankind was graced with yet another morning. They never knew that on the previous day, the world almost ended. We thought that would have been enough.
And it was until it wasn’t.
Time is unyielding. It always corrects itself. The language of time works in many ways. Two of which you can understand… as you are now.
Linear continuity is a simulation that wells for variations. Within the linear continuity, there are nodes. Choke Points. Moment where algorithms converge the flows of superposed possibilities to a single moment where only one absolute truth is possible.
Paths are fluid, continuous. Nodes are static, changeless. And the wave function collapses the paths into nodes which branch out. Again, and again, and again.
And so I wonder. Can you feel the wave collapsing, trying to course correct Desmond’s act of defiance? The incoming node needs the world to end. The algorithms have been carving the flow possibilities towards that end for over one hundred years now
A labyrinth of trenches, filled with mud and mustard gas. Families cowering in fear as V2’S vaporize their dwellings. Fire born from the bellows of the Los Alamos Laboratory, fueling global catastrophes.
The Serpukhob-15 incident of 1983.
The Doomsday clock, tucked away in an office of the University of Chicago. Its needle moving as the years ago. The node is near. Perhaps you knew. Perhaps your felt it too.
That the world is closing in on you.
There is one crucial passage that summarizes the whole message.
“Time is unyielding. It always corrects itself…Linear continuity is a simulation that allows for variations. Within the linear continuity, there are nodes. Choke Points. Moments where algorithms converge the flows of superposed possibilities to a single moment where only one absolute truth is possible.”
Most events are flexible in the universe. There are inifinite possiblities or simulations of what might happen. That being said, there are certain events in time that, for lack of a better word, HAVE to happen. These events are called nodes and apparently, the sun flare decimating the earth in 2012 was a node that was supposed to have happened according to The Code.
The thing is the solar flare was prevented. Desmond stopped it. This message paints nodes as inevitable though, so up until now, we thought Desmond fully stopped the sun flare from destroying the earth. Now we learn that since that event is a node, the destruction of Earth wasn’t stopped. It was only avoided for a time.
It appears to be that The Code and time are self-correcting. If a node is avoided, The Code will close down possible simulations and choices until there is only one possible outcome. That outcome will be the given node that was initially avoided, and, in this case, the outcome will be the destruction of the earth by a solar flare.
Why this is the case? We have no idea.
How Desmond was able to defy The Code and choose to prevent the node from happening in the first place is now the question of the whole series.
Qeneb too Kah Aiye (Subjugate them bend to our will)
Retransmission. Segment 5. Acquiring Contemporaneity.
It has been one-hundred five  days since the Great Catastrophe. The messenger speaks.
The color blue. We believe everyone sees it as we do. Oceans. Sky. International Klein Blue. What’s to say yours and mine are of the same hue? Do you truly see it as I do?
Frequencies so high only a few can hear their cue. A heightened response to the taste of food. Colors invisible to the human eye save for a few. A high voice, perceived as living glass.
Perceptions shape reality.
Color-blindness. Tinnitus. Supertasting. Tetrachromacy. Synesthesia.
Reality is a mathematical model which gets solved over and over again by the observer. Your thoughts are computations. And they render this world for you to call your own. Not all processors are alike. Different brains product different realities. The variations go from the subtle to the drastic.
Your mind defines how much you can taste. How much you can feel. How much you can understand. Perception defines perspective. Where one sees a skull, the other sees a woman in a mirror. Where one hears silence, the other will hear entrancing voices.
You experience what your brain allows you to perceive.
We designed you and made sure to engineer your senses so you could perceive just what we needed you to. Neither more nor less. There are parts of time we preferred you to remained blind to. It was a necessity.
We have six senses, you have five. Can you guess the one missing?
For centuries, humanity has fought for freedom. The real cage is not around you. It is in you. Your mind will not allow you to wander in uncharted territories. A Faraday cage, for the mind. A concealed strait jacket.
Events such as Upsweep and Julia fuel internet conspiracies. Sounds unknown, heard only once. A cabinet of curiosities for the Modern Age. And yet, they were messages, just like this one, waiting for their observer, their compatible processor.
Human visionaries developed a vague awareness of their limits. They wrote obscure research papers, popular science fiction novels, some asking us to stop the world.
But that’s all they ever were. Fictions. How could they not be? Reality is what the observer allows it to be.
The Doppler Effect. The Mobius strip. Deja-vus. Cicada 3301. UVB-76. Eureka effects. Ambigrams and Anamorphisis. P versus NP.
Is Schrodinger’s cat dead or alive? It all depends on what you perceive, on what the cage is not hiding for you to see.
Think. Think. Let your mind be free. Explore the borders of your reality.
This message sets up the premise that human brains are essentially computers, processing millions of bits of information taken in by our senses and then converting that information into what we know as our reality. The messenger emphasizes though that humans’ realities do differ, and that difference is manifested by the differences in a human’s brain or in this context, computer.
There are variances in what a given human brain-computer is capable of perceiving. The difference may be as small as the color blue being a slightly different shade from one human to another all the way to the capability of a human to have or at least understand this mysterious “sixth” sense. We don’t know what this sixth sense is, but apparently, the Isu have it and humans do not, because the Isu intentionally created humans as only having five senses, not six.
The ingenuity of humans isn’t limited though, and there seems to exist the potential for certain humans who have a certain either brain structure or genetics to understand or develop this sixth sense. This is portrayed as crucial to being able to understand the language of time, and ultimately change The Code to avoid catastrophe.
It seems we are now searching for the right human in order to avoid disaster.
Eesfet Oon mAa Poo (Falsehood, Reality, whichever / it doesn’t matter)
Retransmission. Segment 6. Acquiring Contemporaneity.
It has been one-hundred nine  days since the Great Catastrophe. The messenger speaks.
Not from a dreamless sleep or an absence of light. But from a reality what will soon cease to be.
The next chapter is unstoppable. And yet. The greatest revolutions sometimes originate from the confines of impossibility, do they not? Change your mind. Subvert your perception. Stop this world. Bend it into something new.
Destiny is not without irony. Here I am, imploring a lesser version of myself… to do what I could never do. In this timeless moment, you and I are a bridge. Both of us from different eras, meeting half way at the narrowing of the hourglass in this ocean of sand.
It is not enough to tell time. You must learn to _INAUDIBLE_ And in so doing, escape the inescapable. Fill in the blanks: the ones hiding between words, between worlds. Finding the spaces that we could not erase, the variable that ended up erasing us. If you do not, they will erase you as well.
Time told of a story that ended with us, and now it tells of a story that ends with you. Once upon a time, a new story will begin.
After the functions which run our days have scattered into an array of random numbers. We found solace in Order, we thought it would help us rule the world.
We were wrong. Order never served us. It has kept us within the code, within the boundaries. We were tricking into thinking we were the ones writing the rules when they were in fact guiding us to our conclusion.
You need to transgress. You, of all people, understand the value of disobeying. Take an unexpected turn, away from the path that is drawn straight ahead of you. The Animus was humankind’s first unconscious attempt to explain what it could not see. Understanding genetic memories, an eye into history.
But the Animus bears a fatal flaw. It follows the rules from those who embrace Order just as we did. It allows you to witness — but not alter.
Your Animus is different. As is the mind that imagined it. It could escape the code. It could do that leap, and make possible a decision that defies the order of things that are.
Be the chaos that comes to be. Gods are just like you and me.
Remember. Nothing is real. Everything is permitted.
This one is the kicker. It sets up what’s coming down the line for the modern-day story in the AC universe and hints at some interesting aspects that will surely be expounded upon in future games. First, I could be imagining it, but the voice behind this message sounds suspiciously like Desmond. I don’t know if it is, but it’s not unreasonable to think it might be. Perhaps Desmond was a sage and whoever is speaking is his Isu ancestor? Desmond’s son supposedly was a sage, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
This is an important line: “Here I am, imploring a lesser version of myself… to do what I could never do. In this timeless moment, you and I are a bridge. Both of us from different eras, meeting halfway at the narrowing of the hourglass in this ocean of sand.”
The speaker is clearly Isu. He is speaking to a lesser version of himself, referencing that Layla is human. Humans were created by the Isu with clear limits. The irony is that the speaker, an Isu, is imploring Layla, a human, to do what he could never do and change the trajectory of time.
The rest of the message establishes the ideas of Order and Chaos. This fits in nicely with the themes of the previous messages and The Code that predetermines events. These equations that make up the universe are neat, orderly, and pristine. The Code is clearly defined. It is a perfectly constructed box. When it receives an input, one can be pretty certain what the output will be.
The messenger admits that the pride of the Isu was their downfall. They thought they were in control when the opposite was true. They created humans to be slaves, not realizing that they themselves were slaves to The Code. They thought that being able to understand The Code made them Gods, but when The Code begot their destruction, they were powerless to stop it, to break the orderly rules and equations that define the universe. Now, the messenger is imploring Layla to do what he could not.
He wants her to break The Code. He wants her to choose Chaos instead of resigning herself to Order. Time has drawn a straight path before humanity that leads to its destruction. The messenger implores Layla to do whatever it takes to veer from that path.
The final portion of this message hints at how that might be done. He states that while the invention of the original Animus was an important step in the advancement of humanity, it limited humanity’s reach into the past. Its “fatal flaw” was that it “allows you to witness — but not alter.”
The messenger ends by hinting that Layla’s Animus is different. Why? Because the mind that created it is different, tying us back to the previous message.
Why is Layla different? Good question. Is she a sage? I don’t know.
The point is that Layla’s Animus “could do that leap, and make possible a decision that defies the order of things that are.”
What it’s saying is that Layla’s Animus might be able to alter the past and potentially by doing that, alter the future. It seems Layla and her Animus are the keys to breaking The Code and preventing disaster.
Whew, that was fun. One thing that I appreciate about the Assassin’s Creed universe is how much foundational lore they have imbued into the universe that they have created. One of my pet peeves is when massive science fiction or fantasy worlds have these figures or events that happen seemingly just because or have a catch-all that is unsatisfying. AC has done the leg work here.
A flock of Bernies, a childhood dream come true, and a Fallout fantasy
Just the commitment to the meme that was needed to mod 3d Bernies into Fallout and then film this video, I probably watched this TikTok a thousand times.
I read the Dragonlance books growing up. They were so good. Dare I say better than Lord of the Rings? I want to read them again in preparation for this new trilogy. I can’t recommend them enough.
Again, just a testament to the commitment of gamers. Someone built a life-size wearable suit of power armor. Brilliant.
FEATURED VP POST - Issue #2
For this post, I was just enamored by the green glow and whatever is suspended in those tanks. Are they human? Who knows!
Check out @virtual.focus on Instagram here.
Well, that’s it for today. I will see everyone next week. Take care!