a boy and girl at dragoncon do too much partying. saturday evening after the ball (?), they pass out and wake up touring around the inside of a huge mmorpg, being shown around all the levels and told about all the secret hacks. it is a haunting dream, and when their hangovers subside they decide to recreate the game. so they write it out quickly before it fades, but it still reads like a dream even tho their memories of the event are very sharp.
they decide to make a combined game that caters to everybody, a free to play, massively multiple, emergent, shooter, adventure, driving, role-playing party and puzzle game. the idea is to get as many people to play the game as possible.
they decide to make it open source, so anyone can add modules and make modifications. they want the skills to be learned by the player, rather than the avatar, and possessions don’t transfer between most levels, so there won’t be much to trade or sell, but the money to run the game will be coming quantum skimming of transaction fees and stock market activity worldwide, so they’re not bothered about income except to keep up appearances.
they decide to make the game emergent, non-violent and exploratory, with a voluntary set of guidelines instead of rules governing players’ behavior. they want to make a game that rewards cooperation and inclusiveness, and where karma dishes out the punishment for players’ sins.
they want to base their character set on the tarot, first choosing a face card from one of the four suits as their personal avatar, then a card from the major arcana as the tribe they belong to. that’s 352 possible characters in 22 tribes. then the players can do what they like to modify their character’s appearance, using their webcam to model their character’s face, voice and gestures. their tribal attributes are given to them at the start, and they can spend time learning how to use their skills in groups, taking tutorials, listening to the npcs’ advice and tales. the different tribes learn much of the same information, but the character of the missions each tribe sends its players on differs according to the dominant characteristics of the tribe.
karma is a hidden tally of each character’s actions and the other players’ reactions. the karmic score is increased by unkindness, abuse, cruelty, cheating, theft, violence, waste, selfishness. karma is returned directly and down the line by npcs, who treat the player in a like manner, and adjust the mission difficulty to reflect the karmic score. karma can be lessened by moderating behavior, doing favors unasked, helping other players. under these conditions, karma bonuses can alter the fortunes of the player, sometimes thru agents from levels ! and !n.
they decide to develop players’ knowledge of quantum physics by introducing graduated exercises. these exercises will produce quantum effects in the game that can be learned and practiced, and certain knowledge is necessary to proceed to each level. these exercises teach the principles of relativity, uncertainty, entanglement; all the skills they were shown in their vision.
they show their story to a programmer who is working on a quantum computer in his bedroom. the programmer gets very excited and points out how easily their world could be brought to life.
he explains that an entangled kernel would use a minimum of space on any device, and would run on a browser, a cellphone, all standard platforms. a coherent entangled universe would exist both in the individual device and in the overall cloud of the internet. quantum encryption and quantum entanglement would allow for secure, cheat-free playing and transfer of information, bypassing the internet, because the kernels transfer information at a distance –every copy of the game is entangled with every other.
the girl writes the music and does the artwork, the boy designs the levels and missions, the boy and girl write the lessons, figure out the missions, design the npcs, write dialog and cut-scenes together.
the programmer creates the engine, invents and creates a kernel of code that takes advantage of quantum physics to work faster and more efficiently, and also produces quantum effects in the real world.
the quantum kernel solves the problem of time synchronization as well as bandwidth by bypassing both. bandwidth because of the entanglement that saves downloading every little change to every single user. and synchronization because time is relative anyway, so if you want to race against somebody on the moon, you just build a quantum simulation covering all the possible moves, and let your avatars duke it out. then you play it back and find out who won.
the passage of time will differ from world to world, as will most everything else, and the time the player spends away from the game will pass at a quantum-generated rate that depends partly on weather conditions and the positions of the planets.
the kernel is finished and encrypted, and is the vital core that makes the game possible.
with the kernel finished, and the levels mostly constructed, and in the middle of working on the AI, something happens to the engine programmer, and a replacement programmer happens along almost miraculously.
it takes some time for this programmer to decipher the engine programmer’s work, but he is able to pick up the loose ends and finish building the game, with some special modifications. he can’t touch the kernel, because it’s encrypted, all he can do is fuck with the AI, so he creates a bunch of evil npcs and he screws up the levels and the quests and subverts the teachings.
the others pick up the slack and everybody does each others’ jobs until it’s finished. certain features aren’t right, and testers report them, but particular bugs survive. the girl’s and boy’s quantum skills grow as they invent the game and pioneer the practices. so does everyone else’s, but the couple have spent the most time exposed to quantum energy, and their brains have changed to make them more sensitive to it, and others have to catch up.