the game as a graphic novel
having just now decided to do the game as a graphic novel, while the rest of the story is in prose, i want to think about how that would work. how to show the game. the artwork and style will vary between the bare wireframe engine, the spartan alpha stage, the glitchy art-pass beta stage, and the final beautifully fleshed out game the players experience. this is no problem, because both jim and i will be doing the artwork.
what does the kernel look like? it’s a quantum object. a superposition of possibilities for a start, so it’s probably fractured, the way an astigmatic sees the moon. is it nut shaped? does it look like cell division? how could you see kurt’s presence in the kernel, does it resemble him?
when ex kurt is at home in the game, it’s in wireframe. is he in wireframe too? is he pixelated?
the development of the game is skewed from the beginning because of the kernel. usually the art pass is made before alpha testing. but in this case the art is delayed compared to the building of the game, and they have to catch up.
when the boy and girl test levels 1 and 2 they’re in block mesh without placeholders and keep changing position.
when the alpha testers go thru levels 1 and 2 the architecture is finished with placeholders, add disorientation (things like a special texture being used everywhere). props are wireframe, the arcade games are rudimentary and need lots of tinkering and retesting by players, so sometimes they play the same thing over and over with tweaks.
when the beta testers go thru levels 1 and 2 the games have their final artwork but things are still being swapped out and adjusted, sometimes mid-scene. the games have glitches. they are very rushed and lots of bugs make it thru to the gold master.
the cloud levels are expansive flat areas with fog. thumbnails of horizontal level / !n worlds can be visible in the background.
at go-live, the game is magnificent. the kernel has been making adjustments to the final art and it’s spectacularly detailed and lifelike. the walker and viewer (glove and glasses) give feedback that wasn’t designed but that comes from the kernel and the energies being produced by the entanglement of the millions of players that have join the game.
when the boy and girl join forces and leave the game thru a black hole, the game becomes an order of magnitude more real. players can smell suddenly. colors are brighter, images are sharper, sounds are more intense. players get hungry. sex is a blast.
when the kernel is destroyed, the game goes black and cold, and nothing moves. it freezes over. the girl, trapped in the game, gets so cold she lapses into a coma inside her avatar.
when the first players come back into the game thru sleep or meditation or imagination, it has a filmy, obscure quality, and sounds are muffled. everything is fuzzy and unformed. as more players return, the gameworld grows sharper and more substantial, until it’s more real than the game as hosted on computer, and more dreamlike, in that more skills are available and almost second-nature to learn.
when players build their own worlds on level !n, they are all different, in every different artistic style and scope, finished and neglected, created using varying levels of competence and variously stable substances.
antarctica. the boy and girl arrive in antarctica along with the testers and the live players.
ring 1. they all arrive at once, and the background is dramatic and the effects are realistic and the avatars are way cool and mostly freshly from wardrobe. they wonder why it’s all bare rock and fear there’s not going to be enough to go around, a nascent movement toward violence and coercion, and the boy and girl intervene to teach them about cooperative germination. they invent a tradition to teach the best way to be mindful and together. players have very few props and few options in their personal environments, the grinds are to satisfy their basic needs.
ring 2. taiga and tundra, meadows and birch forest. the avatars are more in the spirit of the game, homespun and skin, fashion touches of fur and bone. the boy and girl try to stay in the background, but players ask them questions all the time. they have a glow about them. the boy decides to transform the tendency to fear-based gameplay thru using it, harnessing it and transmuting it to quantum energy, so he plays pirate and teaches quantum techniques used to dominate and gain loot. the girl decides to embrace the role of teacher, and acquires experience in all the ways to use quantum skills. players use basic skills in innovative ways and learn advanced skills involving props.
ring 3. gently rolling, fertile and well watered lands, shallow and fish-filled waters, rudimentary communication between isolated communities ready to be organized and connected. the boy does this by conquering and then having to run everything, the girl does this by helping to build networks of independent centers. players explore a few daily grinds and have to use props in multiple objectives.
ring 4. vast plains with little arable land but an abundance of migratory wildlife and wandering tribes, at the end of which are impenetrable mountains and rumored fertile shores. the boy foments a war between the tribes and eliminates one foe after another until he controls them all, at the expense of a way of life. then he goes after the shoredwellers and their rich stores. the girl builds another network of tribes and links them to ring 3’s network in the beginnings of a meta-network. players explore lush but distant landscape with limited props, as well as limited and spartan personal environments.
ring 5. mountains and fiercely disputed valley kingdoms offer mineral wealth but little food, and the boy struggles to control jealous and bellicose subjects and makes raids on the outskirts of ring 6. the girl fails in her attempts to break thru the suburban stupor of the inhabitants, and has to settle for teaching the tactics of resistance to refugees from ring 6. players explore a limited variation of personal environments and ‘mass-produced’ props, as well as alternatives to the daily grind.
ring 6. a mega-city, with a vast port, endless industrial areas, massive skyscrapers, huge slums, dirty and crowded and expensive, loud and irritating, brazen and sleazy. the boy owns vast corporations and vies to become the most powerful player ever. the girl has a breakdown trying to rescue so many pitiful creatures by herself. players explore all varieties of city life from homeless sewer dweller to penthouse ceo. there is no end of zone configurations, daily grinds, textures and props in this ring.
ring 7. the incomplete wireframe architecture of the gamburtsev mountains, a natural amphitheater in which the boy and girl act out their final drama visible to all players everywhere. they explode and implode and leave a black hole in the middle of the ring, connecting it to level !, which kurt then explains is the new exit of the level.
what’s this got to do with a graphic novel besides describing the background and not even the basic activities?
in the first ring we watch how people come ashore, we learn how little prepared they are for an influx of people, we see the boy and girl discuss the problem, we see the people panic, we see the boy and girl step in and explain, we see the girl teach, we see the boy consider the problem of fear and violence. we see the boy and girl have an accident and watch the girl die and reincarnate back in the water before the first ring. she swims ashore and looks for him, then gets swept away in a storm.
in the second ring the boy is a swashbuckling pirate, so we see raiding and fighting and killing and capturing and amassing booty. we see the girl learning all she can about expressing quantum skills so others can learn them. she writes a manual, she consults wise npcs. we see them meet in the middle. he attacks her ship and she dies, landing in the water in the beginning of the first ring. she summons help and speeds to the second ring, where she asks pointed questions about the spirit of the game.
in the third ring, the boy is head of a flotilla of privateers, and raids rich towns, so we see chases and close-up mayhem in quaint old fashioned port cities and market towns. the girl runs around to all the hamlets and points out the benefits of organizing a network. they meet in the middle when he ambushes her party, she yells at him, and he kills her because he feels like it. she incarnates on the leaky boat and flies for awhile until she falters and lands back in the third ring, but he’s already gone.
in the fourth ring, he hunts the mighty beasts, he conquers band after band of roving tribes, he subdues the rich shores, governing the whole region from horseback. she exposes and runs off developers and poachers and runs a whole ecosystem of wildlife being despoiled by overuse and pollution.
in the fifth ring, he runs a mob operation and gradually corners all the services and organizes a criminal underworld that works in the sixth ring. the girl rides in a beat up car, works as a waitress, bangs her head against the wall trying to talk sense to the zonbies in this ring, struggles to pass on her message to the few who will listen. she thinks maybe the boy’s methods might be better and questions love as a motivator.
in the sixth ring, we watch the boy run an empire in an expensive suit, witnessing ruthless displays of power and uncaring of the consequences or harm to others. we watch the girl struggle and fail to make headway against the numbing conditions and incessant messages that run counter to the spirit of the game. we see the boy and girl have a big fight, and watch the boy kill her in real anger. the girl incarnates high above the first ring and flies straight back to confront the boy; they decide to spare the sixth ring, and create a way into the seventh ring.
in the seventh ring, it’s just the boy and girl in the wireframe architecture of the gamburtsev mountains. the boy and girl are huge compared to the mountains. they argue, then they fight, using their quantum powers. they can be seen by everyone in the game – the ring hovers in the air above all the players, and can be seen in the clouds in the real world. they see each other as they have become in the game – overblown, overwrought, too serious, real assholes in the name of their principles and zealots in their defense of what they want quantum to mean. they realize the fighting is silly and put it aside for more tender feelings. they embrace and experience a cosmic and sexual union that lasts for eternity and during which they become an explosion of light that contracts into a black hole. kurt feels obliged to appear as the biblical god to reassure the players and reveal the level’s new exit.
then on level !, after the kernel blows up, we see the girl trapped and freezing. then we see kurt helping, loosening the damage, rebuilding connections, giving the girl a way to continue her quest. we see the girl greeting players as they awaken to a new manifestation of gameplay, showing them new skills, forging new links inside them. we see players creating experimental objects.
on level !n, we see players creating worlds out of cloud and willpower, using their skills to manifest a unique reality. we see myriad worlds coming into being, and a million games being played on them. we see these worlds interacting with the real world, and manifesting in the real world.
we see a changing real world, with fear-based systems breaking and fading, pixellating and rusting away in real life.
okay, it’s the end of the day, and i’m going to trail off here.