you the player log on, pick a character, make modifications, and begin exploring.
you incarnate at a carnival, with lots of games and puzzles, lots of nooks and crannies, lots of other players to chat up, plenty of npcs to talk to. or ignore. there doesn’t seem to be any rush to hand out quests or suggestions that you might want to learn something.
so you play all the games, win some prizes, take all the rides, walk around and interact with other characters. the puzzles and games all have straightforward rules, and are familiar enough that you know without being told how to play them, tho they’re still challenging. the rides feature controls that let you compensate for or increase gravity and angular motion, and experience whatever kind of ride you like, within safe limits. the funhouse is a VR world you control…the hall of mirrors is a glimpse at multiple universes…the tunnel of love is the place to go for cybersex…the house of horrors lets you fight the real badguys – vampire alien creatures bent on enslaving humans.
the other players behave as they like, and there is nothing preventing you from being mean or cruel or violent if that’s how you like to play. certain other players can be seen beating people up, robbing them, dragging them into the bushes, killing them. all ranges of behavior are permitted, however your profile will reflect your personal behavior for all to see, and it will have an effect on your health and longevity.
eventually you become proficient at all the games, have explored every nook and cranny available to you in the amusement park (there are lots of things you can see but not explore because they’re off limits to customers), and talked to everyone, friending a number of other players who will keep in touch with each other thruout the game. there are things to buy, tho they’re very expensive because they include usually hidden costs.
money and points are important here, as are game rules, and you learn very real-world mechanical skills and financial lessons playing this level. you’re not entirely happy with the game at this point, because it seems as if the only purpose is to cheat the customer. players aren’t that nice to each other, there’s a lot of violence in certain sections – even the effects look cheesy at this point.
eventually you collect enough points, and a member of the amusement park staff asks if you would like to apply for a job. you are given a battery of tests where there is obviously one right answer, draw a diagram of everything in the amusement park from memory, and give a couple of interviews where you discuss your game scores, and talk about your skill levels. you are confident you respond correctly, you feel that you impressed them, and are not surprised when they offer you a great job with a good salary and terrific benefits. you quit your day job at once and pack your things for a new life in show business.
you renter thru the gates of the amusement park, but now there’s a door you can go thru into the areas that were off-limits. it’s much different than what you knew when you were on the midway and strolling thru the public areas; it’s more like a construction site. you are shown to your tent and outfitted with equipment and a manual, and given a quick tour of the area by your new best-friend, an npc.
there are more rules on this side of the amusement park. you have a job, you have a schedule, you have responsibilities, there are people telling you what to do. but you are part of an elite family busily fleecing its prey, and are glad to be learning such practical lessons. the rotations of your job mean you get to run all the games and puzzles and rides. you control who wins, you manipulate the game’s statistics, you push the hidden buttons that change the odds, you fleece the customers who are expecting to be fleeced. when you have mastered the game, you move on to another job, again seeing the hidden workings of the game.
players discuss ways of improving your take, better lines of patter to use, which marks have more to lose.
when you have time off from your duties, you explore the amusement park on both levels. you find an added dimension to all the games and rides you played when you were on level 1, in that you can now predict them. a group of 2nd level bettors are attracted to you and you form a group, calling the games while they bet on them. you learn more game theory and statistics from them. the stakes are higher, and you grow enormously richer as you master the rules. you become a professor of sleight of hand, a con artist, an expert manipulator, a jack-of-all-games, a trickster. you are also immune to being conned, cheated, or tricked.
then an npc comes to you with bad news and an important mission, so you collect your immense riches and embark on your quest thru the a secret tunnel entrance between worlds, where you must swim thru a wormhole.
you try to take your possessions with you, but immediately sink and die. for the next few lives, you struggle with swimming, breathing, seeing and hearing. all of your personal attributes take constant attention to retain. at one point your arms and legs detach and you have to find and reconnect them properly while holding your breath and fighting the current.
finally you reach the end of the wormhole and come out into a brand new world – one of multiple worlds on the horizontal level. you make a few tentative steps and try to interact with something, but are snatched back into the wormhole and deposited back at the amusement park.
clearly you’re missing something. so you scour the amusement park, trying different tactics on all the npcs, asking other players about their experiences. some players have been on the first level forever. you start to lose interest in playing the game, but you figure it gets better, so you persist, and finally uncover another wormhole. your swimming abilities improve with practice.
you come out into a different world, but again you get snatched back before you can save your game. you keep doing things differently at the amusement park. you run across a stranger that you help without being asked, or you pick up a piece of trash, or straighten a mess, or tend some work left undone, or go out of your way to improve the amusement park or its inhabitants, and an npc then tells you what you’ve been doing wrong – a unique weakness in your gameplay – and sets you on a final task that teaches you why it’s wrong and lets you work out strategies to overcome your weakness. when this is done, you find another wormhole – there all along – and swim thru it easily with your skills.
you have briefly seen several of the multiple worlds of the horizontal level before being snatched back, but when you emerge from the wormhole you are in a world of fog. shapes harden, shift and dissolve in the mist. every now and again a tunnel opens, just like the ones you’ve been thru. there are many tunnels. you can go down them if you wish, and vaguely see the worlds at the ends, but you can’t get thru by yourself.
your challenge is to master the physics of the level. you learn to exercise your mind, concentrating on the fog to make shapes, making pixels wink and change color, making sounds. you learn how to manifest, how to create meaning out of randomness, you absorb quantum thinking and quantum rules.
players show each other the ropes and teach newcomers. there are lots of creation and shaping games, playing with light and music. npcs offer vague advice but don’t suggest quests. there are no rules, nothing to stop you from doing anything you have the power to do. but things are hard to manifest, so shows of power are fleeting. nevertheless there are players who find ways to sell things, and hurt others, and groups that make and hurl lightning bolts down wormholes into other worlds. again, your actions affect your progress, with npcs mirroring you and exaggerating your responses.