Atlas of the Ancients
The Atlas of the Ancients was a plot lasting beginning on 15 October 2009 and concluding on 25 November, with prizes released on 4 December. It featured the return of Roxton A. Colchester III from the Journey to the Lost Isle plot as he travelled with Jordie and Clara Chatham to save Neopia from natural disasters. During their quest, they discovered the underground city of Moltara.
User participation was different from previous and subsequent plots. Players did not fight Battledome challengers or acquire plot points, instead, they earned plot-related items by clicking certain panels in the plot comics, explored the locations the heroes visited, and re-enacted their adventures through certain flash games. The only 'puzzle' step was communal and had to be repeated many times to earn all the items.
The final prizes that were given out varied depending not just on how much of the plot the player completed, but when they completed it: the top prizes were only given out to players who completed each step on the day it was released. This received much criticism, especially as it was not mentioned before prizes were released, and although a similar mechanic was used in site events like the Disappearance of Krawk Island and the Festival of Neggs, it did not return in the next plot.
This was also the first plot to have a Neocash component.
Predicting the onset of increasingly dangerous natural disasters, Master Gnorbu recruits Roxton Colchester and his assistant Jordie to follow the clues in an old tome to save the world. He sent with them his assistant Clara Chatham.
Together, they travelled through hazardous storms to Altador, Faerieland, and Terror Mountain, recovering at each location strange mechanical gadgets. The final clue in the book lead them to an archipelago in the middle of the ocean, where they found an enormous metal door leading down to an underground city called Moltara. The Moltarans explained that they were descended from a mission of scientists, engineers, and mystics who travelled to the centre of Neopia and discovered the planet's core was unstable. They built a core stabilisation unit to counteract this, but the machine had worn down over time and wasn't working as well: this was the cause of the natural disasters.
With the mechanical gadgets they had retrieved and the help of two tribes of Moltarans, they were able to repair the machine and save Neopia. Roxton, Jordie, and Clara returned to the surface, and the Moltarans decided to leave the entrance to their world open to all.
Amidst rumours of fire-breathing monsters roaming the night, Master Gnorbu couldn't shake the feeling that something bad was about to happen. Following the instructions in an old tome, he realised that an adventure must be undertaken that he was too old to make himself. He sent a message to Roxton Colchester, requesting that he come to Shenkuu to lead an expedition that would take him all over Neopia - from Shenkuu to Altador, Faerieland, and Terror Mountain. His only requirement was that Roxton take his apprentice Clara on the journey. Tempted by the promise of "danger, excitement, and the chance to save the world", he agreed to take her with him. With his assistant Jordie and Master Gnorbu's apprentice, Roxton set off in a rented flying boat to Altador.
Although Clara predicted a storm ahead, Roxton refused to divert their heading, trying to save time. The storm was so violent, however, that they were forced to land and seek refuge in a cave. There were paintings on the walls and ceiling - Roxton explained that they were quite common primitive drawings across Neopia. Some of them depicted fiery Neopets: Clara wondered if they depicted Neopets painted Fire, or creatures like the Flaming Meerca, and if they were related to the fire creature rumour. Their ruminations were cut short when they heard a roar from inside the cave and fled.
The storm had cleared when they arrived at Altador, but sea was still fierce: a fisherman was almost swept away by the great waves. Clara had been studying the book and thought she identified a clue referring the founders of the city. She took them to an observatory and looked for an answer in their constellations, but couldn't find anything. Roxton instead took them to the Hall of Heroes, and discovered a strange mechanical watch at Siyana's statue.
Their next destination was Faerieland, which was surrounded by storm clouds. Jordie was struck by lightning and had to be taken to the Healing Springs. Roxton realised the clue referred to the spring, and seeing one of the pumps was different from the others, he pulled it out. Clara distracted the Healing Springs Faerie while they made their getaway.
They returned to their ship, and Clara found that the pump had some sort of steam-powered mechanism to it. They set course for Terror Mountain, although they had to navigate storms, tornadoes, and flying pirates to get there. There they found the ice was beginning to melt. Clara thought she saw one of the fire monsters, but in fact it was a Moltenore, which were normally very rare. Roxton noticed it was carrying a mysterious orchid - flowers they had seen everywhere the book had lead them so far. Realising the clue in the book referred to the Heart of the Mountain, they searched the Ice Caves and found a strange musical instrument encased in ice. Back outside, Jordie tried to play the horn but caused an avalanche that they only escaped by climbing a tree.
Back on the ship, Clara had trouble translating where to go next. The book had star information they had been using to locate their destinations, but the constellation information accompanying the next clue didn't make any sense. Based on the clue, Roxton took the map in the book and drew lines between the locations they had been so far. The lines crossed at an unexplored archipelago in the middle of the ocean. They set course for there, but discovered as they got nearer their compass didn't work. Clara recognised a volcano from a picture in the book and knew they were in the right place.
In the archipelago, they discovered an enormous metal door surrounded by more of the mysterious flowers. One of them was metal: Roxton realised it was the key - but if the key was right next to the door, was it meant to keep people out, or something else in? Behind the door was a deep shaft. They parachuted down, finally reaching the bottom near the planet's core, and discovered a hidden underground city.
Roxton rushed down to the city and demanded to see whoever was in charge - all of Neopia was in danger. Cog took him to the Mayor, who explained that long ago, a team of scientists, engineers, and mystics determined that a spate of natural disasters was due to the planet's core, which was unstable. They travelled down to the centre of the planet and built a machine to stabilise it. The team who built the machine remained underground and founded Moltara.
The stabilising machine had worn down over the years and needed replacement parts - Clara realised that the strange gadgets they had been collecting were the parts they needed. Cog used them to repair the machine, and started it running again. Suddenly, a jet of magma burst out of the machine. Cog realised what went wrong but the only way to fix it was to keep the magma out of the way. The Mayor told Roxton that after Moltara had been founded, a group of separatist colonists left them and settled deeper in the caves - he thought they might be able to help them.
Using Cog's mechanical wings, Cog and Roxton travelled over magma rivers until they found the other colony and defeated a magma monster. Igneot explains that he predicted they would need his help, and agrees to return to the others in Moltara. They returned on the back of a magma-swimming creature. Igneot and his people willed the magma jet away from the machine while the others repaired the pipe. Cog fixed the mechanism and the machine began working again. Neopia was saved.
Igneot announced that his people would return to live with their Neopian bothers, and Moltara remained open to the world. Roxton, Clara and Jordie returned to Master Gnorbu. The stories of fire-breathing Neopets were just stories of Igneot's Magma Neopets, who occasionally visited the surface to forage for supplies. Jordie, meanwhile, was busy showing off his souvenir - the magma-swimming creature from the Moltaran Caverns.
Each step of the plot rewarded the player with a plot-related item. A quest log at the main Atlas of the Ancients page recorded which items had been awarded. Some of these items can still be claimed today, but the trophies and final prizes were only awarded to people who claimed them while the plot was still running.
Most of the steps involved clicking certain frames of the plot comic, a couple involved exploring the locations Roxton and his friends visited. Four steps involved four special flash games that were released during the course of the plot. These games - two of which were remakes of existing games - re-enacted parts of the plot. There was only one puzzle, the last step, which was also a communal activity.
Chapters 1 to 10
In order, the items that could be claimed from chapters one to ten were:
- Ancient Map of Neopia
- The first item to be claimed was an Ancient Map of Neopia, and became available following the release of chapter one. This was awarded for clicking on the picture of the map in the ancient tome in chapter one of the plot comic.
- Wind Up Pocket Watch
- The second item was a Wind Up Pocket Watch, and became available following the release of chapter three. This was awarded for visiting the statues of King Altador, Jerdana, and Siyana in the Hall of Heroes, in that order. This is the order they are mention in the riddle, "The selfless hunter remains, one step ahead of the wanderer, and the guardian of the dawn."
- Shiny Mechanical Faerie Fountain
- The third item was a Shiny Mechanical Faerie Fountain, and became available following the release of chapter five. The user was awarded it for clicking on the animated picture of the fountain in chapter five of the plot comic.
- Build Your Own Flying Ship
- This item became available following the release of chapter five. Scoring 1,000 points or more in the game Cloud Raiders awarded the player with a Build Your Own Flying Ship.
- Mysterious Orchid
- After visiting chapter six of the comic, one of the locations in Terror Mountain will reward the player with a Mysterious Orchid. This became available when chapter six was released.
- Steam Horn
- The Steam Horn was earned by clicking on the picture of the Steam Horn encased in ice in chapter seven of the plot comic.
- Sparkling Icy Winterscape
- Mechanical Molla Flower
- With the release of chapter nine, users could click on the mechanical flower in Roxton's hand in the plot comic to earn a Mechanical Molla Flower for themselves.
- Deployed Parachute
- Silver Gear Table
- Charred Steam Wings
Moltara Meltdown Cavern
This cavern was accessed by clicking on the last panel of chapter eleven. It was a communal activity: the player joined a group and they had to work together to balance the pipe on the top of the machine. This step was available over five days between 19 November and 23 November inclusive, and the player could earn a different item each day by completing it a certain number of times.
A ten minute cool down was enforced between attempts at the puzzle. On the second day, this was cut to five minutes, and remained five minutes for the rest of the plot.
- Molten Rock
- This was awarded for completing the game six times on 19 November. It could also be obtained on later days by continuing to complete the activity after the item for that day was awarded.
- Fire Muffin
- This was awarded for completing the game 12 times on 20 November.
- Molten Pile of Dung
- This was awarded for completing the game 18 times on 21 November.
- Rock Mote
- This was awarded for completing the game 24 times on 22 November.
- Underground Explorations
- This was awarded for completing the game 30 times on 23 November.
Alongside the main plot, players could join in a Neocash Challenge: these were a series of four quests set by Jordie that rewarded exclusive wearable items. Quests involved treasure hunts as well as getting minimum scores in certain games. To begin the challenge, players had to obtain an Atlas of The Ancients NC Challenge Quest Ticket, which costed 600 Neocash from the NC Mall.
The four quests were available until the 2 December, and completing all four qualified the user for an extra prize. Each quest started with a hint from Jordie, which led the player to one or more locations. Next, the player had to beat a certain score in a flash game. Each quest awarded one or two items.
The first quest was released on 22 October: users had to click on the Magical Marvels shopkeeper then score more than 450 points in Crisis Courier. This awarded the user with an Altador Courier Bag. The second quest was released on 29 October: users had to visit the Rainbow Fountain, Jhudora's Cloud, and the Healing Springs, then click on the Springs' water. They then had to find Jordie in the Faerieland colouring pages, then beat a score of 160 in Extreme Faerie Cloud Racers. These steps would earn the user a Healing Springs Foreground and a Magical Faerieland Painting.
The next quest was released on 5 November. The user had to click on the shopkeeper of the Ice Crystal Shop, the score more than 100 points in Snow Roller. This rewarded as Sparkling Ice Caves Background. The final quest was released on 12 November. The user had to visit Cog in Cog's Togs, then score more than 650 points in Tunnel Tumble. This awarded a Pipe and Gear Crown.
The bonus prizes, Jordies Adventure Hat and Golden Atlas of the Ancients NC Challenge Medallion, were awarded by visiting the NC Challenge hub from 12 November if the user had completed all the other quests.
In addition to the items earned in the plot, prizes were given out on 4 December by visiting the main Atlas of the Ancients page. Different prizes were given out for those who completed more of the plot (that is to say, acquired more of the items), with the best prizes only being available to those people who completed all the steps on the day they were released. All users who had completed at least one step earned an avatar and site theme.
There were four tiers of prizes, each one associated with its own trophy. The higher tiers earned all the prizes from the lower tiers as well. The lowest tier - with a trophy of a rock - was awarded for completing at least one plot step by the 24 November. The next tier - with a trophy of a silver cog - was awarded for completing all the plot steps but not the Meltdown Cavern puzzle. The next tier - with a trophy of two golden cogs - was awarded for completing all the plot steps and the Meltdown Cavern puzzle. The top tier was awarded for completing all the plot steps and the Meltdown Cavern puzzle on the day each step was released, and had a trophy of a cog embedded in a molten rock.
- Before the plot began, it was speculated that Lutari Island would be the focus of this plot. This was due to the now defunct Neopets Mobile service (the only way to visit Lutari Island) shutting down, and the Lutari Island page suddenly sporting a new blurb.
- The release of the plot was foreshadowed on 12 October in an e-mail newsletter, saying "The journey begins October 15th. See where it leads...".
- The premise of this plot is similar to the novel and film The Core, where a series of natural disasters forces a team of scientists to travel to the centre of the Earth to repair its core.
Goofs and inconsistencies
- While renting the boat, Roxton refers to Clara Chatham and "Miss Cheltham" instead.
- Although Clara knows about the constellations of Altador's founders, suggesting this plot takes place after the Altador Plot, The Darkest Faerie's statue is intact when they visit the Hall of Heroes.
- Also when they visit the Hall of Heroes, Florin's statue is in Kelland's place, and Kelland's statue is missing all together.
- When Roxton finds the location of Moltara by connecting the places they have visited on the map, the cross marking Altador is in fact over the Lost Desert.