The Return of Dr. Sloth
The Return of Dr. Sloth was a plot set on Kreludor and the Virtupets Space Station, featuring Dr. Sloth. It was first slated for release in 2004 in conjunction with its trading card game expansion, but was shelved in favour of the Hannah and the Ice Caves plot due to artist scheduling conflict. It was finally revived four years later, beginning on 29 January 2008 and concluding on 15 March. Prizes were released on 1 April.
This plot coincided with an update to the Space Station's layout and graphics.
When Dr. Sloth took over the Space Station again, a case of mistaken identity united Cylara, a Cybunny visiting the Space Station, with Gorix, a member of The Resistance, a counter-Sloth secret society. Together, they uncovered details of his plan to mutate all Neopets and set out to defeat him.
They united two warring factions of Grundos who joined the Resistance in battling Sloth's army. Cylara and Gorix then infiltrated the enemy flagship, found the Space Faerie's Token, and trapped Dr. Sloth inside.
Gorix is a member of The Resistance, a secret organisation aboard the Space Station that was founded after Dr. Sloth was first defeated in order to be prepared for his return. They sent Gorix to rendezvous with "the Scout", a female Cybunny spy. She had vital information on Dr. Sloth's latest attempt to return to power, and was chased through the station by a bounty hunter in his employ - Ylana Skyfire - before she managed to escape into the crowds. Although he used the maintenance tunnels to get to her faster, before Gorix could meet the Scout, Commander Garoo and his elite Blumaroo soldiers arrived and captured the station in the name of Sloth.
In the confusion, Gorix mistook Cylara, a Cybunny tourist on holiday with her parents, for his contact, while the Scout concealed her identity by pretending to Cylara. Making a diversion with a fire extinguisher, he dragged her away from the soldiers - only then was she able to explain she was not the Cybunny he was looking for, much to his horror.
Cylara revealed that she saw a Cybunny about her age pretend to be her when Garoo's soldiers entered, and Gorix realised that must have be the one he was looking for. Gorix explained that they would need help from The Resistance to save both the Scout and Cylara's parents, and takes her inside their headquarters. Although he needed some convincing, Commander Valka was eventually persuaded to allow Cylara to help them rescue the Scout and find out what she had learnt about the invasion.
The civilian prisoners - including the Scout and Cylara's parents, who were covering the Scout's presence in return for her promise to help find their daughter - were under guard by Garoo's Blumaroo soldiers, waiting to be loaded aboard transport shuttles. Garoo radioed Commander Gormos, who passed on the news of the Space Station's capture to Dr. Sloth. Pleased that this time had come at last, Dr. Sloth ordered the initiation of "Phase 2".
Ylana told Garoo, who had just begun to usher the prisoners onto the shuttles, that she was looking for a "certain Cybunny" - the Scout - that Dr. Sloth was eager to see. Garoo let her inspect the prisoners, but warned her not to take too long. From the grate behind the Acara, Cylara and The Resistance looked out across the hall. Gorix sent a team, lead by Xaner, to take out the guards, and Conicks and two others to reprogramme the shuttles' computers to fly to a safe place on Neopia instead of their intended destination. To Cylara, who had spotted her family, he merely said, "It's time to rescue your parents." Ylana Skyfire meanwhile finally tracked down the Scout, and Cylara stayed behind to defend her.
Gorix, the Scout and Cylara returned to the Resistance Headquarters, where the Scout relayed her intelligence. She claimed that a Sloth spy had caused the Orange and Purple Grundo factions on Kreludor to fight amongst themselves, allowing Sloth access to the Kreludite mines below the surface. Sloth's plan soon became clear, to use the radioactive properties of Kreludite to mutate the population of Neopia. The Space Faerie, meanwhile, had been send on a wild goose chase to another galaxy - the Resistance were on their own. As the Resistance mounted an effort to retake the station, Gorix and Cylara set off to Kreludor in the hopes of putting an end to Sloth's plans.
Gorix and Cylara were soon captured on the moon by a faction of Grundos led by Xarthab. Gorix recognised one of Xarthab's aids - Parlax, a Split Grundo traitor working for Dr. Sloth. As Parlax was taken away, Xarthab and his brother Zorlix were united at last. Unfortunately, Dr. Sloth decided to turn his full military might on the moon, and with the Space Faerie away in a distant galaxy, it seemed there was little hope. The Space Faerie did have one suggestion: Sloth was in possession of her magic token, and its abilities would be able to stop the fleet.
As the Grundos on Kreludor began to prepare their weapons, Parlax escaped. Gorix and Cylara made their way straight for Sloth's flag ship in the hopes of finding the Space Faerie's Token, and on the Space Station, Valka and the Scout launched an attack on the remaining soldiers of Sloth's empire. As the battle turned against Commander Garoo, another bounty hunter, Sophix II, arrived with an army of robotic Grundos that evened the odds.
On board Sloth's space ship, Gorix and Cylara found the Space Faeries' token. In the bowels of the ship, they encountered a disgruntled Commander Gormos. Sick of Dr. Sloth treating him like an errand boy, he allowed them to pass. Gorix and Cylara then continued to Sloth's chamber. There, Gorix fought Parlax while Cylara prepared the chant to activate the Space Faerie's Token. The magic soon had an effect, sucking in Sloth and trapping him within. In his last act before disappearing, Sloth activated the mothership's self-destruct. Gorix and Cylara fled just in time, though Parlax also managed to escape.
With Sloth seemingly destroyed, the rest of his troops gave themselves up. Ylana realised there was no one left to pay her bill, and so escaped before the Scout could apprehend her. All that was left of Dr. Sloth was the Token, floating silently in space...
Commander Gormos, having escaped the explosion of Dr. Sloth's space ship, vowed to create his own empire where he would answer to no one. Arriving on Kreludor weeks after Sloth's defeat, he found that they had learnt that he had let Gorix and Cylara go, and hailed him as a hero.
A Series of Tubes
Following the first comic's release, the Space Station was updated with an image link to the Maintenance Section. This link led to a cross-section of corridors, with the far left door open. Through this door, the user reached the maintenance tunnels and was required to guide Gorix through five different map puzzles. Open air locks prevented safe travel through the tunnels, requiring the user to position the gravity generators correctly and closing every pressure door before moving to the exit or Gorix would die, resulting in the puzzle resetting. Some of the levels contained maintenance robots (specifically the Robot Petpet Buzzler), which would also kill Gorix if he came into contact with them.
In each puzzle, every pressure door must have been passed through (by Gorix or by a robot) in order to close it, which would open the gate to the next puzzle. Once closed, a pressure door could not be passed through again. Gorix was guided by the use of gravity generators which changed his direction at cross-sections. One of the four ports onto the generator was marked with an arrow Gorix would follow down a corridor. Every time a generator was walked over (by Gorix or by a robot), it would rotate ninety degrees clockwise. Generators could be set up to point in a specific direction at the beginning of each level by clicking on them with the mouse to cycle through the different orientations.
Breaking the Code
Players were next asked to help decode a message intercepted by the Resistance from Commander Garoo at a DOS-like terminal. There were many messages, but there was no way of telling which one was the message they needed.
Each message came with a key made from seven cryptic characters - in fact the symbols from the basic Codestones. In order to decrypt the message, the player had to find the correct modifiers to change that key to a target key. Each modifier was a string of alien characters of the same length, and like a maths sum, the characters of the key and modifier were combined in each column to make a different character: each symbol corresponded to a number from one to seven, and for each column, the numbers corresponding to the symbols in the key and the modifiers were added up (rolling over after seven) to work out which new symbol was generated.
The correct modifiers had to be inserted to produce the target sequence from the message key. Once decoded, Commander Garoo's message read:
We've begun moving the civilians to the transport shuttles as planned. The public decks are all secure although we've had some trouble finding our way around the maintenance levels; there could still be traitors hiding in that maze. Nonetheless, the shuttles should be ready to launch shortly, and then we won't have to worry about the civilians any more.
- Commander Garoo
Shuttle Bay Rescue
The player had to help Cylara get across the Shuttle Bay, through five rooms, to reach her family and the Cybunny Scout. Each room was arranged like a grid, and each turn, the player could move Cylara one step in this grid, and Garoo's guards moved a step as well, at random. The guards would catch Cylara if they saw her - that is, if they were facing in her direction in the same row or column. Cylara could hide behind the civilians - she has to be in direct line of sight to be caught.
If Cylara was caught, the player had to start the level over.
The game plays out similarly to Escape to Kreludor.
For this part of the plot, the player had to help the Resistance battle Dr. Sloth's army in the Battledome. The enemies came in three waves, on consecutive days. The first day saw the Garoo Elite troops, the second day saw Sloth's Minions, and the third day saw the Grundobot enter the Battledome.
|Garoo Elite Troops||Sloth's Minions||Grundobot|
|Garoo Elite Junior Squadron||Garoo Elite Strike Commanders||Garoo Elite Specialist Riilan||Mutant Grundo Scouts||Virtupets Militia||Primary Grundo Bot RZ894|
To access this step, the player had to click on Gorix's space ship, found on the Kreludor map page.
Arriving on Dr. Sloth's ship, Cylara and Gorix had to try and find the real Space Faerie Token amongst the millions of duplicates Dr. Sloth had made, trying (and failing) to duplicate its power. This was a communal step, where players had to work in collaboration with each other to test each token to find the real one.
Each testing station held a token which had to be correctly subjected to three tests, an acid test, a gravitational stress test, and a heat test. Testing took place in collaboration with four other players within Flash applets. Additionally, the player could gather materials to perform these tasks on their own.
Some guidance in these tasks was given by Yurbot - this was a nod to the angry Yurble stock character from previous plots: The Foreman from the Lost Desert Plot, The Janitor from the Altador Plot, and The Caretaker from The Tale of Woe. Another similar character would later appear in The Faeries' Ruin.
|Control Rod Masses|
The heat test was performed with heat generated from a nuclear control rod the player had to manufacture from scrap metal.
To make a control rod, the player had to melt down three pieces of scrap metal from a selection of ten - in each selection of ten there was at least one group of three that would work. For each piece of scrap metal, the player was told a mass and a percentage purity of each metal it was composed of - from this they could work out the actual mass of the metals in the scrap. A control rod had to be made of a certain mass of one type of metal, which differed depending on which type of metal it was made from. The three pieces of scrap the player melted down had to contain a quantity of metal equal to this mass. No more than ten kilos could fit in the furnace at a time - putting more in would temporarily break the furnace.
To test a token, it had to be exposed to high temperatures from a plasma field. Four control rods were used to contain the plasma around the token, but they had to be positioned manually by the four players. They had to be correctly placed for three rounds of heating in a row - if one player made an error with their rod's position, the heat test would have to start over again.
Both the control rod and the plasma arc it contained had to be positioned at the same point on a 1 to 100 scale, with 1 being furthest away from the token and 100 being closest - e.g. if the plasma arc was at position 50, halfway between its most proximal and most distal positions, the control rod also had to be set (and locked in) to position fifty. However, the player could only see the numerical value for their control rod and had to estimate the arc's position. This was complicated as the arc's distance was not on the same scale as the control rod's.
For this test, the players attempted to dissolve one of the tokens in acid.
To create the acid, the player was given a cylinder of metal and told its dimensions and its density. They then had to calculate how long to soak it in a "dissolution solution" to produce the acid. This calculation was based on the mass of the metal - which could be worked out as the product of its density and its volume. Its volume could be worked out from the dimensions given. The proportion of mass to time immersed was different for each type of metal, however. To successfully make an acid, this time had to be correct to ±1%. The formulas for converting mass into required time soaking had to be worked out by the community by trial and error.
The group of four players at a testing station had to produce a certain volume of an acid solution in litres. Each player was told to add a volume of an acid in millilitres to make it up to a certain percentage in the final solution. To complicated matters, the stock solutions weren't labelled: the players had to figure out which acid was which by trial and error or by remembering the icons from the acid synthesis step. All four players had to get this right to correctly test the token.
This test was performed using the gravitational pull of singularities the player retrieved from a singularity farm.
In order to retrieve a black hole, the player had to click on a completely black image (the Juppie Oaks Singularity Farms® Singrowlarity®-brand singularity-generation field, a black hole farm). There was a 50% chance that the player would be sucked through a wormhole and dropped somewhere else on Neopia, a 30% chance that the player would be crushed by tidal forces and could not return to the farm for three minutes, and only a 20% chance that they would successfully retrieve a black hole.
To test a token, the four players had to correctly position their singularities around it on a grid. There were three rounds of placing, where each person places one singularity per round - only the third round counted, where all four players had to put their singularity in the correct place to successfully test the token. The first two rounds were used to triangulate the correct position for round three: after placing their token, they would be told how far away it was from the correct co-ordinates, but not in which direction. Placing two singularities in different locations gives two values of displacement, and the correct position of the singularity is narrowed down to where the loci of the distance displaced for the first two singularities intersect, a maximum of two points.
Prizes for this plot were released on 1 April 2008. Players can redeem the points they were awarded for participating at Jorax's Discount Space Prize Emporium. Visiting the shop also rewards participants with a site theme and a trophy.
|Defender of the Cosmos||Resistance Commander||Neo Elite||Covert Operative||Space Cadet||Annoying Sidekick||Sidekick||Tourist|
Behind the scenes
- The first puzzle "A Series of Tubes" is a reference to a speech made by U.S. Senator Ted Stevens, in which he states the Internet is "not a dump truck, but a series of tubes".
- The decoding puzzle step is reminiscent of a step in the Neopet Version 2 puzzle.
- Some of the Neopian themed metals from the token testing puzzles may be recognised from Chemistry for Beginners.
- The Grundo robots Sophix II brings to the battle are featured in the game Typing Terror.
- On 7 February, The Neopets Team put up a warning that using a programme to automate the decoding sequence was against the rules and would result in the player being frozen.
- The user may see the Space Faerie's Token drift past The Coincidence in one of the Random Events generated there.
The 2004 version of The Return of Dr. Sloth was cancelled before any plot comics or storyline were released. However, the tie-in Flash games and Gallery of Heroes entries were slowly released following its cancellation anyway.
Dr. Sloth took over New Features on 18 November 2004 in order to vent his frustration at Hannah and the Ice Caves being produced instead of his plot. When the final part of Hannah and the Ice Caves was released, a mock ending briefly appeared where Dr. Sloth mutated Hannah in revenge.
The original design notes for the Return of Dr. Sloth plot described the Space Faerie as having been enslaved by Dr. Sloth, whereas in the released version she couldn't help the resistance because she had been sent to another galaxy. Gorix and Cylara were originally intended to arrive on Kreludor by accident after triggering the Space Station's garbage disposal while trying to escape Sloth's troops, landing in a rubbish dump full of redesigned and replaced items.
In the released plot, Parlax the Split Grundo was a double agent working on keeping the Orange and Purple Grundo factions at war. The original plan was that their dispute had escalated from a childhood disagreement in which the Purple Grundo had been left with an orange scar - and this was why Purple Neopets had had orange spots. Although this was not explained in the revisited plot, the orange spots were removed from almost all the Purple Neopet designs at plot's conclusion on 15 March 2008.
When Cylara and Gorix had reunited the Grundos, they were originally going to lead them to the Kreludite mines and fight the S750 Kreludan Defender Robot. The robot's part was cut from the final version of the plot. At the end of the story, rather than be trapped in the Space Faerie's token, Dr. Sloth was originally going to be transformed into a Petpet.