Category Archives: game

author’s note: catching up

shit has been happening this week, so i took a break from my work.  and now i’m edging back into it.  we have a houseguest who, tho charming, takes up a great deal of time, and what little opportunity i have to work is instead frittered away on facebook or reading the various newsfeeds.  and i’m not getting enough sleep.

i haven’t been posting much, even tho i’ve been working steadily, 6 or 8 hours a day, sometimes at night.  i peruse the newsfeeds. using a google page full of widgets, i read 50 or more feeds from all sorts of sites, from reuters, nyt, the guardian and the times of india, with fox news for fair and balanced reporting, to science daily and space news.  and then my facebook feed has tons of news, much of it passed by friends, some from pages i’ve liked, ranging from alternet to gizmodo to inhabitat and lifehacker.

a vital part of the work at this stage is combing the newsfeeds for relevant research material.  terms i search for are quantum, consciousness, gaming, psychological, political, spiritual, historical et cetera things.  i do this for several hours thruout the day, finding interesting sounding titles, clicking on the links and setting the articles aside to read later.  when i have a good mess of tabs open i stop clicking on links and open up my research document.  then i copy and past anything that’s relevant onto the end of the document (i’ll be posting some random research soon), capture the url for reference in case i’ve missed something, and save my document after every addition because the program is unstable and crashes at random.

once i’ve gone thru the newspapers with my scissors and tacked the clippings to my bulletin board, i go thru and sort them by character, opening up my main or secondary character documents, and cutting and pasting the relevant bits in the back.

for information concerning the plot, there’re 3 documents worth of storyline, the 3 acts, which are the same number of chapters (i think, still, at this stage).  based on 7 of course, the major theme of the book (not the story but the book, if that makes sense to you). 42 chapters, 6×7, 3 acts, 16 chapters per act.  all very orderly.  and i didn’t plan it that way.  it just came that way.  everything i thought up or researched came out in 7s, until the chapter structure was built.  and it continues to be 7.  which is really cool.  rarely do things announce themselves to me with such insistence.

such things fit into this scheme of 7s:  illustration style, videogame level, version of reality, special quantum power, quantum discipline, quantum  lesson, midway rides and physics, carneytown job and physics, quantum abilities in the cloud level, the game’s antarctic ring, human age, basic skill, type of religion.  that’s 13, so there’s maybe one missing from the list.  i’m sure it’ll occur to me.

a few weeks ago i made a chapter list, just the number and keywords, and put a copy of this list in every character’s document, and since then i’ve been separating out all the notes i’ve taken and character sketches i’ve written into their proper chapters.  i started with the girl and organized everything, then moved to the boy, and each one took a couple of days.  kurt, fairy, snake.  then i did the secondary characters, who i call the plucky band – random, everyplayer, also known as =p, and (i apologize in advance) c3ll3r!, which you can read as ‘cellery’.  they are people who play the videogame and get caught up in the storyline.  they introduced themselves to me as i was working out the broad plot structure, and i’ve been finding out so much about them, often by complete accident.  and there are other characters, tertiary sort of characters.  c3ll3r!’s family, for example, and =p’s boss.  i actually have no idea what random does when he’s not playing the game, but i will by the time i sit down to write it.

i had some difficulty dealing with the document for THEM.  them is not only the shadowy hands of oppression, but also the media, the overall culture, and c3ll3r!’s family, especially the dad.  as i said, i had some difficulty organizing this document, because they do the most horrible things to peaceloving quantum types, and i really don’t enjoy dealing with realworld oppression and what’s going on around the world right now, because inequity and iniquity make me mad.

my solution to this was to work on both the plucky band and the thems at the same time.  so i would copy from my research document, and paste at the end of the relevant side’s document, then go figure out which character that particular trait or act belonged to.  there were many lists of character-developing stages in this part.  i would come across a reference about abusive people, and would trim it down to its essentials and use it for any of the thems, and thereby built up a bunch of character-developing stages for my characters.  in effect i’m looking at the same kinds of behaviors as seen in individuals and in cultures and in organizations.  they all look similar but some things stick out more than others to illustrate the type.

with every new article i abstracted the essence from to stick in my research document, my story got more rich, more detailed.  it began to make more sense.  even in places where i distributed traits at random (like a long list of disinformation tactics, or a long list of abusive traits) thru the chapters, once i’d distributed a bunch more things into the chapter structure, i began to find that it made sense to have these random traits here because some character could easily progress from the traits of the last chapter and thru those of the one to come.  these random collections of character traits and experiences fleshed themselves out into real, plausible characters, and in some cases, the apparently random trait explained parts of the character’s temperament in a way i would never have expected, answering questions i had about how the development was going to work.

all very synchronous.  these last few months have contained loads more confirmations that i should continue with what i’m doing.  vehement objection by my daughter, for one thing.  but other things, from outside, long in the works, also say i’m on the right track, the hunger games, for instance.  and all sorts of scientific studies and discoveries are all being announced just as i’m getting to that particular chapter’s difficulties.  things like that.

but then again, shit happens.

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videogames (joke)

playing antarctica ring 3 – the lowlands

chapter 21, playing antarctica ring 3 – the lowlands
places: in the game.

kernel helps fairy find advanced players. millions of players and cities of only 50k (multiple universes)

npcs. snake replaces sprites with trolls that speak in riddles (3) (male) and take prisoners

rings. laws, plague, hordes, crusades (past life; ben the horseman with the swords and me the farmgirl)

fairy sex with random, quantum show popular, catchy tunes, but gets run out of town, goes on the road to adelie, preparing the way for the girl by seeding players, identified with kernel by which avatars and tarot symbols they pick and kernel-mined info.

exkurt. girl gets advice (from exkurt?) about what???)

random escapes pirates and settles on shore, works in shop, quits to join fairy’s show, runs off to adelie as singer/songwriter, learns quantum

snake crusader priest. teaches quantum is heresy. putting control of quantum skills in the hands of the church. meets boy and girl
boy – snake offers to make him constantine: convert and win; he runs from the life of an emperator.
girl- she can’t quite let people organize for themselves, her flying condemned as heresy

=p (everyplayer) warrior knights, fiefdoms, farming and fishing, small town life, itinerants. chases and close-up mayhem in quaint old fashioned port cities and market towns. eventually they settle and become established traders. overcrowding a problem. players grumble.
supposed to be where players carve out individual roles for themselves that are based on quantum philosophy
exit: raids from wilderness? crusade! and black death. players either join up and leave, are forced out by raids, scared out by plague, or killed and know enough to avoid this route next time.
all this forced togetherness is getting tiresome. can’t just take things in this zone, they put you in the stocks and torment you. then if you keep at it they put you in jail and you just sit there losing points. it’s a trade and barter economy and you’ve got to grind some sort of resource on a daily basis. there are steep penalties for outright theft, but gouging and cheating is okay, and there’s a rich black market in slaves and weapons. the network extends thru the pirates right back to the home islands. npcs trolls take prisoners of anybody can’t answer the riddles, put them to work grinding in the mines. mountain weapons work once again in tunnels. evidence of enemy attack. side game freeing captured players (taking the rest of their points and killing them to send them back to start again). rumors of enemies grow and vigilantes organize knights off to war and rumors of invasions, but the grind is farming and working in shops and workshops. pretty fucking bucolic. and not very clean. bedbugs and rats and flies on the food in the market, and my clothes itch and i get mud on everything walking in the streets. they keep hiking the tax, too, and i’ve got these kids to feed that won’t shut up. and now the price of ale is going up again and the wife wants me to quit smoking and spend the money on something for her. robin hood’s merry men live even worse lives until they rob the taxman, but the taxes just go up for everyone else and they’re just a bunch of shipless pirates with no respect for their fellow players i’d rather go enlist and look for enemies to kill, fuck being in debt and never getting laid..

boy enters this level as head of a flotilla of privateers, and raids rich coasts of the rift and inner sea, the boy finds himself acting as governor of a thriving colony. learns about legal piracy. laws taking everything for himself. he’s the sheriff. the lowlands is nottingham. oppressing people thru harsh laws and medieval systems of control, all the ways to beat them down materially, thru taxes and confiscations. then snake offers to make him king john and he declines, figuring he can do it himself. kills girl.

girl travels to adelie in search of insight, talking to healers and teachers, points out the benefits of organizing a network of independent farming and trading centers. the girl drifts with the seafarers and shepherds, and works as peers with the wise women and judges. (???the girl is robin hood??? makes small inroads against boy’s rapaciousness). introduces songs and stories to help teach quantum thought, affecting popular culture. preaching on the streets, building a following.
death: boy and girl meet in the middle of the ring and have a big argument. he ambushes her party, she yells at him, he’s not even pretending to be interested in their quantum mission. he kills her because he feels like it, it’s convenient and she’s annoying. he thinks it’s funny.  she incarnates over the icy sea and flies (seen by many, decried as heresy) until she falters and lands back in the third ring, but he’s already gone. so she is late in visiting the other rings, and as a result her people are more backwards and unaggressive, while the boy has been building an empire.

playing antarctica ring 2, the mountains

chapter 19, playing antarctica ring 2 – the mountains
places: in the game.

the mountains: kernel ???

the mountains: npcs. fairy replaces evil penguins with sufi sprites that speak poetry (female)

mountains – rings. piracy and vikings (past life, exiled healer looking out to sea (girl’s dark night/isolation))

the mountains: fairysex withexkurt, girl directs her to make wise npcs, works with exkurt to make sufi sprites

the mountains: exkurt. sex with fairy. works with fairy to make wise npcs sufi sprites. picking off players who are hunting aliens???

the mountains: random is shepherd, lives in an isolated settlement and tends flocks, but watches ships. then works to construct a warehouse on the docks and he hates such intensive labor. jumps at the chance to join a merchant ship. goes settlement to settlement selling necessities. meets girl. gets captured by pirates and becomes galley slave on boy’s ship, using what quantum energy he has to ease the task.

the mountainssnake starts a monastery and nunnery for classical quantum religion. meets boy and girl
boy – come away and be a pirate
girl – (dark night) runs away and then starts a center of learning

the mountains:=p(everyplayer)transantarctica, a mountainous with deep fjords, tiny farming and livestock outposts and small fishing settlements. area where players chase and battle aliens ???.
peninsula, heavily forested mountains ranging to lower and richer land with larger settlements, players learn to navigate a sailing ship using quantum skills, practice skills with the weather and the seas, and battle other ships for loot and stuff.  offset childish weakness with psychokinetic muscles, concentrating energy to build ships and buildings and make fires. schools are devoted to in depth study of quantum skills and ethics, also practicing weather and climate skills.  rather than battling aliens, they study their culture for valuable lessons.  players use basic skills in innovative ways and learn advanced skills involving props (kinetic, motivating the inner broom?).
supposed to be small communities isolated from others learning self sufficiency and smaller group manifestation of quantum energy
exit: by water, where many of them are preyed upon by pirates who take all their points and kill them or enslave them as rowers.
there really is some mysterious something back in the mountain reaches. tunnels, too. hidden weapons caches. weapons don’t work in the lowlands but you can trade them. high casualty rate, shadowy enemies (
exkurt picking them off?) and you’re basically in it for the thrill because you lose points. npc sprites are longwinded and obtuse (abstruse) rappers??? the mountain villagers are almost like npcs, they’re that monotonous. don’t see what they get out of living way up there with no neighbors and no connection to anybody. they’re studying quantum but not to use as weapons? i’d pay attention in school if i wanted to learn anything. playing pirate is fun, and raiding, but it’s boring working on a democratic ship, and on an autocratic ship i might as well be a slave.

the mountains: the boy and girl meet in the middle to discuss their growing differences. she wants to hide and let them do it all themselves in the beginning, while he’s all for flaunting it and letting them compete. (he looks for a drug (medication), she explores meditation and exercise) by the end their positions have reversed.

the mountains: boy now he’s captain hook, on the skua. he’s had to wrest control of his ship from a tyrant to institute democratic rule, and the pirate code holds for a little while, but when he’s crossed, he becomes a tyrant. the boy decides to transform the tendency to fear-based gameplay by using it, harnessing it and transmuting it to quantum energy, so he plays pirate and teaches quantum techniques used to dominate and gain loot.  he’s more interested in power, taking shortcuts (ethics), cheating (morals). choice is made between the intent of the game as a quantum learning tool and a zero-sum shootemup, and he gets hooked into the action. he isn’t feeding back ways to make the game more quantum-educational anymore, he’s distorting the game to make it more popular and studying ways to fight from the inside. boy’s gameplay turns into strategy game / brawler. raiding and fighting and killing and capturing and amassing booty.  kills girl. random a slave.

the mountains: girl the girl’s dark night is in the mountains, she runs away at the end of the home islands. meets a wisewoman after her dark night. who gives her sufi peptalk. wanders around bare to the elements and miracles happen, she’s more interested in oneness. willing to risk own safety. lives with the anchorites and fisherfolk and develops teaching fairy lore with the bards and musicians. learns all she can about expressing quantum /sufi skills so others can learn them. the girl decides to embrace the role of teacher. goes down to the port city and establishes a school for poor players that goes on to be world famous, writes a manual, talks to fairy about wise npcs.
death: the boy and girl meet on the high seas and confirm separate ways. she’s horrified and intimidated and offended by boy. being concerned with your own salvation is vanity. the girl notices that players tend to go for the shooter aspects and act more like extrovert conservatives than introvert liberals, and wishes she could figure out how to enforce the pixie dust effect so that they could understand what the game was about. (he will look for a drug, she will explore meditation and exercise), she asks pointed questions about the spirit of the game. he apologizes for being greedy before attacking and sinking her ship, and sending her back to respawn in the home islands. she laboriously returns to the school on ring 2 and consults others about his behavior, realizing she doesn’t understand him, learning the first tactics of dealing with bullies.

playing antarctica ring one – home islands

chapter 20, playing antarctica ring 1- the isles

places: in the game.

physical description – arctic environment, cold and windy with snow and long nights, nothing grows. summers are short with long days and huge quickly growing things and millions of spawning animals. the game system map shows bedrock antarctica overlaid by 7 zones in rainbow colors.  the thumbnail resembles the figure of a human. two main islands, barren, one settlement on each. the background is dramatic and the effects are realistic and the avatars are way cool and mostly freshly from wardrobe.

neolithic: animism.

style: the isles are in grayscale washes with extremely thin or no lines.

things to pick up: tools from the boat, handmade implements, clothing, seeds, dried food, a handmade boat.

kernel: ?

npcs: penguins rescue the players as they drop into the ocean. they are not openly evil yet, but lose a large percentage of players (by dropping them to dive for fish), who must try again. this keeps the numbers actually there lower than they could be. surly penguin npcs insist on fish bribes before giving information. the girl zaps them in a fit of exasperation, but they respawn hostile instead of snarky.  snake spreads the rumor that she made them evil. when animals are asked to sacrifice themselves for food, penguins start up a black market in skua meat.

fairy: fairy’s dark night is in the isles, runs away at the beginning when it’s too much, gets it back by having great quantum sex with exkurt appearing as a dolphin?

exkurt: exkurt improves the game, doesn’t give a shit about players. boy and girl get him to open other zones on ring one. has sex with with fairy.

player: player on the edges of the first manifestation circle, part of group that builds small settlement. joins ship.

note: the boy and girl create level 5 antarctica as they play it, but they don’t realize this until later. they split up at the end of this ring and come together briefly at the end of each ring. he kills her and enters the next ring before she does every time, so her areas are backward and his become empire. all improvements are done by the players. these improvements spread thru the level depending on the skill of the creator (the improvements/places have health energy of their own, which they impart to the player who uses or gets near them).

snake’s religion – snake argues for the loaves and fishes trick. plays up the emergency, the threat to gameplay. argues against deputizing players the way they do it; wants more control, more orthodoxy. injects classical concepts into commandments.

boy – gardener; i’d rather be a tinkerer, it’s mechanical and you can depend on harnessed power (over). (peter pan?).

girl – she doesn’t want to be responsible for all those players

players: first a trickle then a flood of players washes up on the shoreline. players wander around not doing much of anything, kind of insubstantial and bewildered. among barren rocks they are like babies. players begin panic. they are cold and hungry and there is no food or shelter. a nascent movement toward violence and coercion that horrifies both boy and girl. and still the people keep dropping out of the sky. a team goes out to rescue them in large shells. players have very few props and few options in their personal environments, the grinds are to satisfy their basic needs: raising shelter, foraging for food, making tools, sharing, cooperating with the land, sea, weather, plants, seeds, animals. animals who help them and feed them until they can form weak bodies. soon they have gardens in front of every stone hut. a village rises. group-sufficiency is stressed. everybody struggles with developing their own energy, because it only works well in groups. as soon as trees grow players start making boats to leave the island. a warship comes by and recruits players to fight alien invaders (in response to his decision). players use their skills to help navigate the ship. if players decline this invitation, a storm blows up that casts their little boat adrift and they practice their skills avoiding hazards and navigating to shore. the two choices lead to different zones of ring 2

boy and girl: the boy and girl are little prepared for the influx. they stand around at first, watching to see what the players are going to do. they wonder why it’s all bare rock. then they realize there’s nothing for players to do because the level’s not finished. they dither. the crowd grows larger. the players are feeble and whiny, hungry and cold. they fear there’s not going to be enough to go around. they realize they are essentially gamemasters, swamped with players who need their help. the boy wants to let the kernel do the loaves and fishes thing in the emergency, but the girl wants to use the opportunity to teach them to fish. snake advises expediency. they talk about getting exkurt to make it rain hamburgers but he’s not answering. girl and boy have to do sleight of hand to feed multitude, materializing fire to make stone soup, asking the grass to grow and the fish to throw themselves out of the water, and growing a shell to the size of a cauldron. boy organizes hunting parties for food and she organizes building shelters. they witness new behavior in each other that sets them aback; he defers to her because she has the moral high ground. he soon develops a tendency to hoard, so she gives hers away and takes half of his, making him provide for half the settlement, for which he thinks he should be paid. more people. exkurt opens another zone. boy and girl fly to the island, causing a stir among the players, who can’t do this. get the second island all set up, using their real quantum abilities, as the first island fills up with people. they still interact constantly in their heads, but they’re now in different parts, so they split the leadership duties. the boy complains about having to be a gardener. the girl argues for prepping. what you value is what you learn – wisdom, power.

girl: when the problem grows frighteningly large, girl leads a group session of manifestation. snake objects. they invent a tradition to teach the best way to be mindful and together (living with fairies). she trains and deputizes this group to go out and pass the ability to all other players, along with ground rules (commandments) the boy develops in a hurry, with snake’s input making them more classically orthodox. she gets distracted handling this, taking time to interact with everything. without noticing, the boy and snake relegate her to a support role and organize around her they’re centralizing control, taking a percentage. she has a fit when she finds out (christ moneychangers). at first the girl enjoys the attention and acts like she deserves it, cavalierly accepting players’ last morsels and wasting them. surly penguin npcs insist on fish bribes before giving information. the girl zaps them in a fit of exasperation (they wither like the fig tree), but they respawn hostile. snake spreads the rumor that she made them evil. players react with fear. leading to spiritual crisis.

boy: he avoids things that require empathy and embraces action, reinforcing the macho father image. it’s more important to do what he’s doing and he thinks it natural that she support him. the boy decides that his role as tester is to find the weaknesses and exploit them. so he goes around trying to cheat. he vacuums up all the points and the health force and the energy of other players. he goes around hitting objects in case they have points. he feels like god, he feels like he owns the game. and since it’s only a game, he doesn’t care about his behavior. but since it’s not a game at all, he needs to test everything, to perfect it. the boy tires of survival and group-reliance and decides to go on a shootemup. maybe he finds infiltrators or them wandering around, and decides they’ve got to stop the enemy (but at this point it would just be helpful messengers from heaven) and everything follows from his fear of the enemy and his attempts to save the game by winning.

death: the girl dies in an accident (he’s negligent) and has to respawn in the water. the cheat codes don’t work anymore, so she has to physically travel to the portal of the second ring. he has already joined a ship with the boys (ridiculing the ideals) harnessed dolphins drawing it so they don’t have to use quantum energy, which is hard. she goes looking for him and gets swept away to the next ring.

progress

what i’m doing at the moment, in case you want to know, is working inside the game.  i went and copied all the chapters dealing with playing the antarctica level of the game, and pasted them into a new document, and now i’m standardizing it and fleshing it out.  when i’m thru with this i will separated it again by the characters, and run thru that to make sure character development is solid for all the various characters.  this is the main template:

chapter x, playing antarctica ring x
places: in the game
physical description:
religious tendency:
graphic style:
things to pick up:
kernel:
npcs:
fairy:
exkurt:
player:
note:
snake’s religion:
players:
boy and girl:
girl:
boy:
girl’s death:

i have inserted a player as a character.  i have to follow at least one independent of my main characters, so i’ll just pick a random character that has already introduced me and filled me in on his/her life in the game.  this character will be visiting both sides of each ring and play on both sides of the main conflict.

another thing i’m doing is making sure exkurt has a role thruout.  and that fairy develops from her very one-dimensional current incarnation.

the main thing i did yesterday was to build up what happens to the girl in this level.  i’ve got the boy’s patterns down pretty well, and he’s got all sorts of hero things he’s doing – he’s part bluebeard, part sheriff of nottingham, part genghis khan, part buddha, part christ.  but jim mentioned st francis of assisi the other day, and we researched the sufi influences of the man and his church, and i decided to write his life into the girl’s story arc.  so she’s going to be st girl the sufi as well as all the other things she’s going to be.

and when i wrote in the random player, it connected a lot of things between the girl and fairy.

and then there was a bunch of research i read about the brain, and that worked into everybody’s attitudes.

so things keep dropping into my consciousness, and they all fit, and they all improve the flow and the connectivity between threads, and i’m just working away getting it all organized.

last week i tightened up the plot structure of act 1, and this week i’m doing the same to act 2.  as i’m in each chapter, the story seems simple at that point, but i know the few paragraphs i have in the outline will translate to ten, fifteen pages of text, and it’ll take a long time to finish each chapter.

at this point my kid is hectoring me about how much time i spend doing this, and how little time i spend cleaning the house.  but this is where my value is at the moment, and cleaning has no value at all.  so here i am.

these are the thread elements of each chapter, rather than the plot.  i break down the plot into who does what where and insert it wherever it goes, and this way i pay attention to all the threads and don’t drop any, as i already know i have a tendency to.  writing the last 5 unpublished novels has really made me figure out how to do a lot of professional self development things that really help.  like staying organized, like figuring out your weaknesses and working around them.

immediate repercussions

in this same chapter as i was revising last night – designing the game – they’re discussing the details of the various economies and population centers and historical technology details that need to be in each ring of the antarctica level of teh gema.

we’re talking about an economic and technological progression from stone age to current time, and beyond into quantum future, in 7 rings.

perhaps it’s something they plan for and it ends up really clunky as a prototype level before kurt wipes it clean and starts over.  or maybe it actually works that way once they’re playing the gema – like they’re in the lowlands and there’s a problem getting the technology to work and they have to bring in a kluge from the hinterlands, or there are too many people to support on medieval fields and they have to import a tractor and gasoline.

7 periods for 7 rings:
isles          neolithic
mountains          hunter/gatherer
lowlands           medieval
wilderness          nomadic horde/wild west
hinterlands          20th
hell city         2012
gamburtsevs          cloud of future choices

***

so how clunky is it when they build the antarctica level before kurt’s epiphany changes everything?

nothing works right.  the quantum kernel is there, the bugs are being fixed before their eyes while the boy and girl test, fairy’s going nuts trying to deal with all the bug reports because she’s afraid of the kernel – she has funny thoughts when she gets on the cloud level and prefers not to go as far as antarctica, so she spends all her time tweaking the carnival levels.

they’ve got all this elaborate stuff in the 7 levels of antarctica, with cities lovingly laid out because this is someone’s specialty, the girl’s background details gorgeous, but (whosie’s) foreground slapped down in repetitive chunks with cracks in them.  (is their architecture grid or hexagonal block?)  they want it to be the perfect social world, but it’s easy to get lost, the missions are unclear, there are no gameworld-typical landmarks, and they would have to be fascists to get the players to learn their lessons, because people will just want to run around and shoot things.

the big problem is how to get the players to learn the 3×7 quantum lessons voluntarily, to leave the wild action for a reclusive life of study and solitary practice.  or do they turn the game into hogwarts and force them all to wave their hands in the air as if they were actually doing magic, when it’s all just scripted, no better than learning to shoot an assault rifle at anything that moves?

remember, when kurt rebuilds the antarctica level right before he dies, it’s sealed off, and it takes them until the next dragoncon to unlock it.  plus snake’s sabotage.  they will abandon the antarctica level and concentrate on the carnival levels as the new, and greatly reduced, scope of the game.  and when they finally unlock the antarctica level, it’s real.

so the problems in this first part are all technical.  bugs.  and the boy and girl and fairy and kurt are the only testers.  they build the prototype level, that’s the cloud level where everything is quantum.  and that works fine.  they build the carnival levels on themepark areas made to look like the east and west antarctic ice sheets.  they build the antarctic level with its 7 rings.

first there are endless problems getting the games and rides to work on the carnival levels, not just adjustments in the variables, but when their own fuzzy understanding of physics results in unconvincing gameplay.  the girl is continually looking for ways to put the quantum lessons in, and finding it really hard to do because it never seems relevant and the others grow resistant in their concentration on the minutiae. they spend all their time getting the carnival levels to work, months longer than they expected.

so they are running out of time when they turn their attention to antarctica, which is 7 rings that might as well be levels in their own right.  they take up as much space and more in the world diagram, and are the whole point of what the angel showed them.  the carnival levels, which they’ve spent so much time on, are just remedial, as basic and irrelevant to the true gema that they’re really just advanced tutorials.

they’ve been working on antarctica the whole time, and it’s fine in a basic placeholder way.  it’s got photoshopped backgrounds and rough edges and missing objects, the npcs are little leprechauns who stutter and speak in over-the-top brogue, a parody of a badly made, cheaped out videogame someone made in their bedroom.  the cities are impeccable, but empty.  there are no skills to develop because the boy and girl have already developed their skills and aren’t really concerned about that, figuring people will pick it up.  there’s nothing to do there without players.  all they can do is test objects and task npcs to test things, meaning they run around managing a small army of droids who work all the technology and try all the doors and tend practice farms.

the problem isn’t with kurt or the kernel; it’s that the level they’ve designed is clunky, inelegant, and stupid.  it’s boring.  there’s no quantum anything on this level because they don’t know what they’re looking for and don’t know how to get there from ordinary reality.  the boy and girl have made the breakthru personally, but they’ve lost an important piece and can’t quite get back there again so they can teach it from the inside.  it’s all mumbo jumbo.  they can still talk to each other in their heads and all that; they’re entangled in themselves, but can’t transmit quantum anything to anybody else except physically, and while the boy thinks setting up shop as a newage sex coach would be fun, the girl isn’t having any of it.

so the big problem is that no matter how they try, they can’t think of a good way to teach the quantum lessons.  are they arguing about it?  because the lessons are there to be learned, all laid out and accessible, whether couched in math and physics, which i can hardly do, or hidden in occult teachings that can be transliterated for the masses. and they know how to make the quantum thing work on the cloud level, because it’s energy produced by concentration in the player’s body that is them directed to manifesting things inside teh game.  simple enough for a good program and sensitive inputs even now, without a quantum computer.  and so what it’s just a simulation?  if you put your feet in those footprint thingies in time with the music long enough, you WILL learn to dance.

so what’s the problem?  it’s not coming clear to me.  what’s wrong with the antarctica level as they have built it?

okay, i went and asked jim.  he nailed it for me.

the boy and girl are working against each other, like me and my ex when we tried to work together.  each thinks they know what something needs and so they both do things unilaterally, mainly without telling the other one about it.  and then, right or wrong, they defend their actions when confronted.  the boy doesn’t like confrontation so always expresses his displeasure with passive aggression, and the girl was raised with conflict and gets in his face to point out the obvious.  that’s one thing.  the other is that they’re way too focused on the details of this overbearingly complicated game and have totally lost sight of their mission, which is to raise the consciousness of the player to quantum levels.

so, a lot of time is wasted in pointless arguments, and in redoing each other’s work, and not talking to each other.  their relationship cools some, they ignore each other in their heads at times.  and at dragoncon 2 when he soaks up the attention and she only feels drained, they begin to sour on each other.  after kurt’s death they come back to a good working relationship, and they repress growing irritation with the game and each other as it becomes a burden, but by dragoncon 3 they’re hostile toward each other, and feeling trapped. they have a big fight and split at dragoncon 4, teh gema is banned for dragoncon 5 and they’re working on opposite sides, a big protest and brutal repression at dragoncon 6, when he is forced to betray her, and a miracle happens for dragoncon 7 and all you need is love.

so, i’ve got that.  cool.

okay, to sum up, what have i written today (this is the part i’ll cut and paste back into my document)…

7 periods for 7 rings:
isles          neolithic
mountains          hunter/gatherer
lowlands           medieval
wilderness          nomadic horde/wild west
hinterlands          20th
hell city         2012
gamburtsevs          cloud of future choices

fairy’s afraid of the kernel – funny thoughts on the cloud level, tweaking the carnival levels.

their own fuzzy understanding of physics results in unconvincing gameplay.  the girl is continually looking for ways to put the quantum lessons in, and finding it really hard to do because it never seems relevant and the others grow resistant in their concentration on the minutiae. they spend all their time getting the carnival levels to work, months longer than they expected.

antarctica basic placeholder.  npcs are little leprechauns who stutter and speak in over-the-top brogue, a parody  videogame.   cities impeccable, but empty.  boy and girl have already developed their skills and aren’t really concerned about that, figuring people will pick it up.  there’s nothing to do there without players.  they run around managing a small army of droids who work all the technology and try all the doors and tend practice farms.

me and my ex.  unilaterally, without telling.  defensive. passive aggression, in his face.  forest for the trees.

plot problems

it’s the first time that the plot has probed problematic.  i knew it would, because i’ve just got placeholder chapters until i figure out what really has to go where.  but this is the first time when i’ve seen a real gap in the flow.  the way it goes now, they design the game at dragoncon 1, then kurt creates the kernel, and then all their designs are for naught because of the way the quantum kernel, and especially the quantum tablet, change the way the game is created.  and kurt only creates the antarctica level at dragoncon 2, at which time he’s almost done making the game architecture.  and they go live close to dragoncon 3.  so there’s almost a year where they design the game and adjust to creating the game, and almost a year of finishing and testing the game.  but it won’t take all that much time.  and i’m not sure the chapters i have set out aren’t way too long for what’s happening.

do we spend an entire year tweaking the intro, carnival, and cloud levels? because we can’t touch antarctica (because once we do then the other players all appear on that level too, so it’s got to be live).  does snake fuck things up so it takes a year? or do we have to change chapters around – do they take a year to design the game, and then meet kurt at dragoncon 2? and the kernel takes awhile, and the cre8tion takes awhile, and they’re only testing at dragoncon 3 when kurt dies? and snake finishes it and they test and go live at dragoncon 4? more than halfway thru the story?  i don’t think so.  i’ve been watching movies latery with an eye on the clock.  the significant event or  person doesn’t tend to happen until around 35-40 minutes in, at i guess the beginning of the second act, and way before the 2-hour end.

antarctica is only built once they start playing. it’s an empty antarctica without ice archipelago of rocks, inaccessible, with carnival overlain on top of the ice sheet. so what takes all the time to build once kurt’s finished with the kernel? the quantum tablet makes actually creating and finishing the game a snap, so why would they wait to create antarctica? because even with the quantum kernel it’s not right until kurt gets there the night he dies at dragoncon 2 and makes it all over the right way.

so when they do a demo at dragoncon 2 and it’s less than stellar, it takes them a moment to recover, after thinking they should get real jobs and give it up. but then kurt goes off and thinks about it, and does some tinkering, and finally completely wipes antarctica and starts over from the kernel out.

and then he dies the next day. because snake has to take over between the completion of antarctica and go-live so he can plant all his bombs. snake already has a minor role, and has wormed his way into the administrative meetings. and this process takes a year? half a year?  we take half a year to tinker and test everything but antarctica? i can see taking most of a year to design a game and then have to start all over again when the technology changes, but how can it take even six months when things happen so much more quickly thanks to the quantum tablet and kernel and now ex-kurt. and he’s already built antarctica and it still takes them half a year?

can’t they figure out how to get to antarctica in the game? did kurt leave it unattached altogether? and nobody can create a link because that’s architecture in the game engine which is locked inside the kernel.

so they vastly scale down the scope of the game and turn the carnival level into the violent corrupt social parody of modern consumerism that it ends up as, the girl fighting it all the way, in order to make up for the drastically reduced functionality of a locked-down kernel. snake and fairy develop a great antipathy to each other, and the boy and girl show distinctly different styles in testing and applying the essence.

the special feature of dragoncon 3 is the final candidate and go-live right there at the show. the boy and girl are in the game watching from the cloud level as beta testers work on the final candidate when ex-kurt shows up and creates a portal to the antarctica under the ice (essentially encasing the carnival levels in clouds, melting the ice sheet, and finally shoving them thru the portal.  suddenly they’re falling into ice-cold water only yards from the stony shore of a barren and mountainous land.

go-live, some hours later, sees first a trickle then a flood of players washing up on the shoreline.  players aren’t expecting this and are surprised and pleased at the additional playability. the game is a sensation overnight. players appear as dopplegangers in the marriott/midway hub.

i think that’s a much nicer flow, with a few more twists than i had before.  tomorrow i’ll have to go back into my document and alter the chapters between designing the game, which i’ve been working on for a few days now, and go-live, which is the rest of act 1.  i’ve been revising act 1 for a few days, concentrating on trimming the reference material into a comments document and putting various things that have to go in the chapter into some sort of order, moving some things to other chapters, making collections of things to discuss and expound upon.

in all this i’m trying to visualize how it will play out, and the visuals race between cartoonish splash pages to whole cinematic scenes.  my mental conception is like a still picture that becomes sharper and more detailed and more involved the longer i think about it, like the photos in blade runner only moreso.  it’s like i’m the director wading thru the filming of these scenes, moving actors and props around, showing them how i want to see them do it.  that’s more like what i see in my mental images.  with narration, like a documentary.  the making of.

which i guess is what this is.  not that anybody wants to know the agonizing details, but sometimes i put them in, and sometimes i polish it a bit.  i was reading some videogame designer’s page today, god knows which one, and i really loved how he would ramble and discuss  his thought processes.  because this is what he does, and i could watch him do it, and learn how he thinks about what he’s doing.  it was very helpful.

i’ve been doing such good work the last few days.  even with all the shit happening.  today it was mostly research about videogames, and the day before.  all in the name of fleshing out the designing and creating chapters in act 1.  my working document has all sorts of hyperlinks to the reference documents.  some of it i pots here, but most of it goes into the comments document.

anyway, it’s getting late, and i tend to get out of bed in the morning anxious to get down here and work.  it’s actually exhausting, but i’m really productive and very happy in my work.

36 plots

from a gaming website

  1. Supplication – Persecutor, Suppliant, a Power in Authority
  2. Deliverance – Unfortunates, Threatener, Rescuer
  3. Revenge – Avenger, Criminal
  4. Vengeance by Family upon Family – Avenging Kinsman, Guilty Kinsman, Relative
  5. Pursuit – Fugitive from Punishment, Pursuer
  6. Victim of Cruelty or Misfortune – Unfortunates, Master or Unlucky Person
  7. Disaster – Vanquished Power, Victorious Power or Messenger
  8. Revolt – Tyrant, Conspirator(s)
  9. Daring Enterprise – Bold Leader, Goal, Adversary
  10. Abduction – Abductor, Abducted, Guardian
  11. Enigma – Interrogator, Seeker, Problem
  12. Obtaining – Two or more Opposing Parties, Object, maybe an Arbitrator
  13. Familial Hatred – Two Family Members who hate each other
  14. Familial Rivalry – Preferred Kinsman, Rejected Kinsman, Object
  15. Murderous Adultery – Two Adulterers, the Betrayed
  16. Madness – Madman, Victim
  17. Fatal Imprudence – Imprudent person, Victim or lost object
  18. Involuntary Crimes of Love – Lover, Beloved, Revealer
  19. Kinsman Kills Unrecognised Kinsman – Killer, Unrecognised Victim, Revealer
  20. Self Sacrifice for an Ideal – Hero, Ideal, Person or Thing Sacrificed
  21. Self Sacrifice for Kindred – Hero, Kinsman, Person or Thing Sacrificed
  22. All Sacrificed for Passion – Lover, Object of Passion, Person or Thing Sacrificed
  23. Sacrifice of Loved Ones – Hero, Beloved Victim, Need for Sacrifice
  24. Rivalry Between Superior and Inferior – Superior, Inferior, Object
  25. Adultery – Deceived Spouse, Two Adulterers
  26. Crimes of Love – Lover, Beloved, theme of Dissolution
  27. Discovery of Dishonor of a Loved One – Discoverer, Guilty One
  28. Obstacles to Love – Two Lovers, Obstacle
  29. An Enemy Loved – Beloved Enemy, Lover, Hater
  30. Ambition – An Ambitious Person, Coveted Thing, Adversary
  31. Conflict with a God – Mortal, Immortal
  32. Mistaken Jealousy – Jealous One, Object of Jealousy, Supposed Accomplice, Author of Mistake
  33. Faulty Judgment – Mistaken One, Victim of Mistake, Author of Mistake, Guilty Person
  34. Remorse – Culprit, Victim, Interrogator
  35. Recovery of a Lost One – Seeker, One Found
  36. Loss of Loved Ones – Kinsman Slain, Kinsman Witness, Executioner

7 religions

i’ve just figured out a strange story arc involving the boy and snake.  quantum consciousness becomes a religion of sorts in the game, partly by choice when the boy and girl are designing the game.  they don’t see how they’re going to get around it, so they allow for religion in the game.

anyway.

in the isles ring of the antarctica game, the religion or philosophy is animism, where even the rocks and wind have souls and intelligence.  the boy is talented, but no gardener.

in the mountains, the goddess rules.  the boy tires of this and runs off to be a pirate with other lost boys.

in the lowlands, it’s like early christianity, only it’s quantumanity, and snake is an apostle with a growing church.  the boy transitions from pirate to governor, when snake tries to make a deal with him – you join my church, and i’ll make you emperator with my fanatical minions. we’ll conquer the world.

into the wilderness, the boy runs from snake’s offer, and wanders alone, like the buddha, an ascetic recluse monk.  he rediscovers quantum consciousness and remembers his mission.  he gathers the wandering tribes for an assault on the citystates of the hinterlands, to spread the new way.

in the hinterlands, he spreads quantum consciousness like a prophet, performing many miracles and making many converts.  snake’s church, now the state religion, finds him upsetting to the status quo, because the church controls the quantum things.  as a great military leader he organizes all the citystates, which takes more control from the church, who benefited from mediating between the quarreling citystates.

in hell, snake is the pope, and uses the inquisition to persecute snake for his so-called miracles.  he’s on trial for heresy, but the rulers of hell make a deal – help stamp out quantum insurgency and we’ll make you ceo.

in the gamburtsevs, he walks away from the bargain and faces the consequences of his actions.

heads up displays

there are lots.  i like them a certain way.  we’ll see how they come out.  i think i can differentiate the players by their huds.

graphic novel notes


the rings are: the isles, the mountains, the lowlands, the wilderness, the hinterland, hell, the gamburtsevs

this is my first test of the directions i’m trying to follow about making your own graphic novel.  i’ve imported a line drawing and am adding layers for each of the rings of the quantum antarctica game.

next i have to go in and draw some more bounding areas and fill them with details, effects and so on on more layers.  i’m learning the principles, and so far the first one i have learned is that, like the silk painting serti technique, you have to have enclosed areas to put the colors in, so jim’s line drawing is going to have to mark where the color changes are, rather than the edges of objects.  i guess the lines usually do just that, but i’m going to have to go around his drawings after i scan them in, just like i do when he designs a scarf for me.

***

oh and i’ve been thinking about names.  quantum antarctica.  quant’artica.  q’ant.  i had some other names on the dog walk this afternoon, but they’re gone now.  must have been a lie, as my dad used to say.  wish i could remember.  they were good names.  not quantum quest.

we’ve been discussing which parts of the story to do as graphic novel.  we feel comfortable with maybe an eighth of the story illustrated as comic book pages.  most of it will be prose, just every now and then there’ll be up to 5 pages of full color insert.

i can see the finished book.  the cover is like an old worm bible, leather, embossed, worn down to the brown skin.  inside there’s marbling.  there’s a list of illustrations, and there loads of illustrations.  there’s a list of maps, and there are 46 maps at the very least.  there are maps of each level and each ring, and each town, and the trade routes, and the weather, and the heroic journeys, pirate maps and symbolic maps and flowcharts.  maybe we can switch typeface for different situations or developmental levels.  i hate stories without pictures, and i’m going to have loads of pictures in this one.  jim will do all the illustrations, i will do the maps and anything that’s better done on computer, like scanning and inking, coloring and lettering.  but especially i get to do all the maps, because jim’s never done it, and i’ve always loved drawing maps.

we can’t illustrate the whole story, but we could illustrate a thread, or two, that runs thru the story.  like the dragoncons.  like the real world events.  like the quantum lessons scattered about. that way we touch on everything with every graphic section, because everybody’s appearance and the appearance of the world, and the style we use to illustrate it, change thruout the story.  there would be other threads running thru the game that we could illustrate, and a lot of this could be covered by spot illustrations that appear at each level or ring or chapter heading and inside the level/ring/chapter wherever it needs it.

all of these threads, or pieces of the story can be really cool as a graphic novel, and so the question arises, why not do the whole thing that way?  but we’re talking about several hundred pages of written script (finished about like i did train wreck, which is first draft and might as well be notes) and several hundred pages of graphic novel, which jim doesn’t have time or energy to pencil, and i don’t have time or software to process into tiffs.  thanks gimp for not doing cmyk, me hole.

this is so much work it’s not funny.  we’d need a team to actually do this the right way.  but all there is is us, so we’ll do it our way.  the story comes first, however.  and it’s got to be a final, full outline before we can proceed to either scripting or prosing each chapter.  we’ll have figured out which ones to illustrate by then, i hope, but maybe not.  no, i’m pretty confident we’ll have it figured out.

the way this process is working is that i’m struggling along with one little aspect of it that seems to be going so slow (like rush-hour traffic in atlanta – bumper to bumper at 70 miles an hour), and it goes along and limps along, (notes on the political mind, research on graphic novels, doing character sketches) and i have to stop and do other things, and the days rush by without my doing very much at all, and then all of a sudden we go for a dog walk and i voice my frustrations, and jim comes up with a little twist that makes everything fit together in a really elegant way, and i start sputtering and flaming and pretty soon we have an entirely new understanding of how the story works, and i come home and scramble to write it all down before it’s tomorrow and a whole nother day.

of course, i stll have to go back to taking notes and figuring out what the characters look like.

***

on the dog walk this evening, jim and i went over the various aspects of the story that could be illustrated.

the seven dragoncons can be illustrated as a graphic novel. i can just see the hyatt flooded with people on two floors, a crowded escalator going diagonally across the page.  the fairy tale vision would work very nicely as a graphic novel.  illustrating all the dragoncons would function on its own as a summation of the action and progress.

creating and testing the game would be very easy as a graphic novel, because the scientific details escape me and have to be shortened to the rudiments to begin with, and because it’s easier to show a wireframe landscape than to describe it.  illustrating the principles of classical and relativistic (and quantum) physics is probably easier than talking about it.  especially judging by all the quantum physics books (without equations) that i’ve tried to get thru.

the seven rings of playing the game, which is essentially following the boy and girl as they play the game, as they change in their appearance and grow in their actions and responsibilities and finally face each other and let the add-ons drop away.

playing the game is a very large part of the story, about half, and as such you couldn’t illustrate all of the game.  this is where we might could illustrate learning the quantum lessons, doing the exercises that enable you to think quantum and act quantum.  it’d be a whole lot better to show this learning process than it would be to lecture about it.

the real world.  there is a lot of the real world, and it takes up the other half of the story, so you couldn’t illustrate all of it.  but there are various facets.

the public reaction goes the whole gamut from unease to rabid mob, a parody of the right wing reaction to socialism, for example.

their actions from installing spies to directing sabotage, to suppression and syrian military diplomacy.  this is a metaphor for all the uprisings against the elite now occurring in the world, and best left as indescriptive as possible, since i don’t really want to pay attention to it – it’s so unpleasant and i just get mad.

then there’s the pivotal dramatic sequence where the boy is coopted, but changes his mind after the game and is forced to watch as the girl is captured and tortured and the kernel is destroyed, but the boy fights them, rescues the girl, and seeks shelter and aid.

there are lots of realworld and game effects when the kernel is destroyed, and it goes from bad to worse, doing catastrophic things that would look really good visually, and the prose description would pale by comparison.

there’s the final realworld showdown, when we see the defeat of quantum, the cruel celebration of the victors, and find the losers in fema camps.  is irony best captured in visual or text?

and how to play it when people find themselves playing the game in their dreams, and the whole quantum thing finally reaches critical mass, where players go around creating the parallel worlds they want to live in, and they coalesce, and collapse into a new, shifted reality that doesn’t normalize a power-hungry, fear-based mindset.

as an epilog, at the final dragoncon, there’s a new baby who already thinks and acts in quantum, the first of her generation, an improved game, and a world settling in to a new reality where we are all one and love is all you need.

***

the character sketch

the boy is tall and lanky, unkempt and slouchy, a self-conscious wannabe geek who uses his smarts to get ahead.  in the course of the game he turns into a swashbuckler, a gengis khan, a red-haired fabio with a kirk douglas chin, and then an old bodybuilder in a khan suit.

the girl starts out as a waiflike thing half the boy’s size, pixy black hair, and grows thru a dumpy and somewhat bitchy and put-upon middle age to be a mother earth crone with a halo, leaving flowers where she steps, all that.

kurt looks like my ex the computer genius, and acts like those dysfunctional guys in project x, but once he becomes ex-kurt in the game, he is a bundle of light, a moving finger, a face in random patterns, and in the realworld he is a face in the clouds and a gust of wind and a shadow on the sun.

snake is lithe and quick and has triangular shaped head and fanged teeth, long fingernails, lots of tattoos, and shaves his greasy hair in diamonds.  he is smart, and snide, superior and snarky, and mean.  his appearance doesn’t change in essence but gets more exaggerated.  he dresses in black.  in the game, as pope, he is smarmy and perverted.

fairy is a plump little thing with frizzy hair and pimples, and she giggles and is quietly hostile when people go against what she thinks is right.  she hides her fear under a layer of saccharine optimism.  she quietly clones herself onto a good portion of the non-playing characters, who meet out information according to how players treat them, and have very long memories.

***

then let’s talk about art style, panel style, lettering style, coloring style.  and variation of styles, using what when and to show what?

but not tonight.

must be a full moon

i’m up another night at 3 am, driven awake by the relentless pressure of the full moon on my eyeballs.  as bodies of water, they too are affected by the moon’s tides, and so shit happens and i lay awake thinking for hours.  but now i’m down in the studio, with the dogs settling down around my feet, and i can proceed to think with my fingers.

tonight i was musing about the great and growing wealth disparity in this nation.  it pisses me off.  i’m not part of the 1% and it would be laughable to think i could ever get that way; nor would i want to be that rich, because i’m not stupid and i don’t think money buys happiness.  in fact, i’m fully aware that the rich have so much more debt than i ever will and so little free time, that they’re actually poor, and i’m the one who’s rich because i don’t owe anything or anybody.

but this is getting ridiculous, and people actually make $30,000,000 a week.  thirty million dollars a week.  one week.

my problem is translation.  how do i take the actual reality – the powerful are grabbing more power and the masses are getting fed up – and translate it to a fight over quantum physics, where the status quo is classical physics and the quantum side is suppressed?

they’re not even congruent subjects, they’re not analogous.  they are to me, emotionally, but my reason just sputters to a stop when i try to make a statement of it.  so let me see if i can work it out digitally.

the similarity is this.  when the gamers start manifesting quantum powers, the status quo is threatened to its core and responds with violent suppression.  when the huddled masses start manifesting the power of numbers, the plutarchy is threatened to its core and responds with violent suppression.

the problem is this – when a few people grab all the resources and leave the rest to fight over the crumbs, how do the rest behave?  we can see the result when we look at the middle east this year, but when we turn our eyes to our own country and a similar situation, we forget our words.  and when i try to translate it to quantum, i freeze up and my brain spins on a tangent.

i guess the analogy of quantum power is taking to the streets and saying we will not be moved.  it disrupts the hell out of the old order, calls all sorts of inconvenient things into public discourse, and illustrates novel ways to organize life.

when quantum effects begin occurring in the realworld, they disrupt the hell out of the way things are done, calls all the unspoken attitudes and inequalities out of the closet, and empowers a bottom up way of running the world.

this of course scares the hell out of people who live in reality, because reality is classical, newtonian, there’s one right answer, things are mechanistic and predictable, and if you started fucking with that you’d bring the whole thing down.  the old argument springs to mind  – if everybody stopped paying their credit card bills, the whole financial system would collapse.  and this would be bad because?  because, duh, our current system wouldn’t work anymore, the system where we live on credit and people take profits from labor they didn’t do, the system that uses debt to enslave people into bad jobs.

and this would be bad because?

i don’t think i’m hiding the fact that i think capitalism has had its day.  and this is not yet an offense under the law.  but it would be if the radical right had its way.  treason, it would be.  direct antiamericanism, because true patriotism and capitalism are the same thing.

or some such reasoning.  and that’s going to be an issue with me because i find it very difficult to understand how people can think this way.  how people who have no chance in hell of joining the 1% nevertheless act like poor people deserve nothing, and in fact, they really deserve a whole lot of nothing – negative nothing, to punish them for not being rich.

again, it makes no sense to me.  until i understand it as fear.  fear-based people think there’s not enough to go around, they have to get theirs first, and if they can have it all they will only begin to feel secure once everybody else is permanently prevented from even coveting it.

i’m the kind who want everybody to have theirs, and for those with more than they need to share theirs, because it’s not the money that counts.  it’s the happiness that counts.

and i can hear a whole bunch of my friends and family snort and chortle at that.  because happiness is unimportant.  it’s the things you have that matter.  it’s winning, being right, having everything you ever wanted.  but it’s never enough; none of my friends and family are happy with all they have, they’re actually unhappy because they don’t have enough yet, and they spend all their time focused on their lack and their abundance and they never enjoy themselves and can’t stop worrying and all that crap.

and if i never enjoy myself and can’t stop worrying, at least i’m not in debt and don’t have to go squandering my time and energy on someone else’s project in return for not enough to pay the extra bills i uncur by doing paid labor.  it’s like the simple solution to having more than one kid – the mom stays home because it would take all she could make just for childcare.  at a certain point, you can’t afford to work because of the hidden costs.

i’m going back to my analogy of the quantum videogame to the occupy movement.  quantum effects begin in the realworld.  they go unregarded by most, but certain watchful elements are freaked out and start screaming in the ears of the powerful that this is a really urgent threat.  the powers that be have enough problems, and ignore these early warnings.  shit continues to happen as a result of the game, and the warnings spread and grow more shrill.  when more shit happens, the media pick it up, and suddenly regular people feel threatened, and call for the powerful to do something to protect them from this evil menace.  so leaders are arrested and made examples of.  laws are passed.  sympathizers protest, and troops are called out to restore order, which means more sympathizers, etc, escalating right up to pantomime proportions where the powers that be are leaving the country and going underground while mobs rule the streets and the army fights its own people.  all the while, the evils of quantum are pounded into peoples’ heads, and those who use quantum are demonized, and punishments are bizarre, and neither side can talk to the other at all, and families turn against each other and civil war breaks out with one side having all the weapons and the other side having the weight of numbers.

i can’t get any more specific than that.  i have an emotional block i can only sense.  i’m going to have to get really specific about all this repression and struggle, down to the level of characters and named and faced Thems.  like in the moon is a harsh mistress, a reworking of the 18th century revolutionary war.  whereas at the moment i sound like a conspiracy theorist.

it’s just a tiny little quantum change in the realworld.  it starts when the testers are on level 1 fucking with the arcade game settings.  they are minute settings, but some instrument somewhere registers a whole bunch of realworld anomalies.  like maybe a satellite somewhere out in space collects a bunch of different measurements of the weight of the earth.  some unique measurement, anyway.  how many satellites are out there measuring the earth’s mass?  can’t be that many.  or maybe a whole bunch of sensors detect a wild fluctuation in the visible light spectrum.  something.

it takes a few tiny little things in a few different areas to freak people out.  maybe at first they think it’s an effect coming from the sun, like a solar storm.  or massive instrument error.  or massive human error.  or maybe it’s the core of the planet suddenly hiccoughing.  but then they realize that it’s happening to everything, everywhere, and that in fact it’s fucking with the fabric of the universe in a perhaps permanent nonzero way.

maybe one day the sun pulsates with the rhythm of something kurt’s listening to on his headphones while he’s working in the quantum kernel.

quantum effects on the macro level, maybe computer calculations start coming back with multiple answers, nonconsistent answers, quantum possibilities forced by classical mechanics to show up as consecutive different answers, so you could add 2+2 and keep coming up with different answers.  that would screw things up immediately.  there wouldn’t be a computer around that could cope with that for more than a few operations, say a tenth of a second.  we’d have to leave that for the end, i think.

it’s only after the public is exposed to kurt’s face in the clouds that the authorities admit there’s anything going on.

the boy and girl are busy making the game and putting all their quantum energy into making the game real.  so they don’t generate any quantum effects in the realworld.  kurt generates fleeting but definite effects when he’s working in the kernel, before it’s locked down and he dies.  the alpha testers start creating weak effects as they learn the game’s quantum techniques, but these are baby steps and very local.  however, it’s enough to have watchers notice them at dragoncon.  the testers notice the effects, think they are side-effects of gameplay, and only report them in the bug database.  the beta testers notice the effects, and assume they’re part of the game experience.  their quantum skills add to the effects the other testers are creating, and the notice is much sharper and more organized among the watchers.  the players notice the effects and begin to use them openly in their everyday lives, exulting in their quantum skills.  this is what freaks Them out.

the joyful use of sticks of dynamite by babies.  that’s why snake’s religion has so much purchase in the game, even the players are freaked out by their own quantum powers.  they believe it’s too dangerous for individuals to use, and think it should be owned by an elite few who can use it for everybody.  or so.  and this is really crazy, because they’re in the game learning quantum skills to be used by all, and insist on locking it up for the use of a few, even in the game.

but people are like that.  like my ex, over the other evening, who insisted that there is only one reality out there, and that at best, subjective reality is in error particularly because it differs according to one’s reference frame.   there is no relative reality, he insisted.  but quantum physics says there is, and quantum physics works in our everyday world.  your gps isn’t in error, is it?  but he ignored my arguments and called me arch.

so even among otherwise hip, reasonable people, you have this instinctive insistence that there is one right way, arguing for a punishing daddy god right out of the box.  you have to drag people kicking and screaming into being their own god.  most will willingly play god in a videogame, but suggest that they can live their own reality and they will scoff.  we do of course all live our own realities, and that’s why our memories of the exact same events will be markedly different from one another.  we call it subjective, and dismiss it as a lie our minds play on us.  but quantum physics suggests that these are actually different universes that we are remembering and that there’s nothing wrong with our minds.  we just need to learn to trust our own selves.  and who can do that, really?  who isn’t full of doubt really should be, and saints have the most doubts of all.  imagine how doubtful god is, especially if there’s only one?  if we’re all god, then we can talk it out and come to a consensus about reality, but who’s going to say there’s one right reality when we’re all god?  which of us has the one reality that the others are supposed to acknowledge?

this of course is why there’s only one god in the classical system.  because it’s easier.  there’d be endless argument about when the sun was going to come up if we all pitched in.  but this kind of classical view breaks down as we move from babyhood to something approaching adolescence as a species.  we learn to think outside our little heads, to experience wider reality, which isn’t as nice and orderly as classical physics would have us believe, and works a lot more on individual levels than anybody’s comfortable with.

except kids growing up with it.  and that’s why the change from classical consciousness to quantum consciousness is inevitable.  because the old order just fucking dies out.  it won’t change.  classical realists will never give up thinking there’s one god and it happens to be their god, and everybody else is going to hell.  but to quantum realists, they just look calcified and flattened.  and not part of the consensus, which is the reality.

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.

graphics

it’s going to end up being part graphic novel.  jim is in the middle of deciding to illustrate the story.  i have to do all the preliminary drawings, because i can see what it needs to look at, and he’ll do all the real drawings, because he can draw shit right of his head, and i can’t.

what needs illustrating?  a lot of the game concepts, a lot of the quantum concepts, a lot of the idea of being inside a computer game, the landforms of antarctica, maps (because you wouldn’t believe how popular maps, especially pirate maps are.  the majority of the hits on this site are for pirate maps).

a cover painting.  a handdrawn map.  chapter heading illustrations, a series of climax and turningpoint illustrations, and the physics concepts all need illustrations.

it might be interesting to illustrate the gameworld as a graphic novel.  we can cut in and out of graphic novel and prose.  there’s no way a story of this complexity could be an entire graphic novel, because you couldn’t reduce the endless prose to simple captions.

but action and a bit of dialog is easy in graphic form.  so the game could be illustrated.  and at first, when the boy and girl go thru levels 1 and 2 it could just be empty halls and placeholder textures, and then when the alpha and beta testers go thru the same levels it could be more and more developed.  and this way i don’t have to explain so much, i can show it instead, which will make things so much easier.

what would be the point of illustrating the realworld action?  showing the quantum effects (the shit that happens) would be useful. illustrating the crowds at dragoncon would be a trip.  how about showing battles between classical realists and quantum relativists?  i think there’s no point trying to illustrate reality, because the reality i’m writing is a fictional reality, and i want the reader to provide the images for that.  but i think quantum effects should be illustrated (except how would you illustrate a quantum weapon?).  this is going to take some thinking.

but i just ordered several books on creating graphic novels from the local library, and will be posting notes from them as well.  so we’ll see.

so we’ve got a romantic comedy and a revolutionary saga and a fairy tale and an everything-to-all-people videogame, a mystery / spy thriller, a popular physics course, and now a graphic novel.  is there anything else i can throw in here?

the thing is that all these things seem to be appropriate to what i’m doing.  they all ended up in this blog because of my interest in all these different things anyway, and it’s inside my mind that i’m creating a work out of all these ingredients, so it makes sense that it would make sense to do this, in a roundabout way.

the only thing i haven’t really been able to fit in yet is the idea that the corporations are really a bunch of evil vampire space aliens and that we’re their slaves / energy sources.  it seems a little extraneous.  on the other hand, i didn’t think i’d be able to fit the pirate idea in, and it turns out to be made for the boy to wear as his persona.

so we’ll see.

i only know that the bar for science fiction and fantasy illustration is high.  when you have the likes of boris and julie doing work that outshines the work of fine artists, how can we hope to compete?  i’ll find a sample to post.

boris and julie rule the fantasy artworld – i’m a fan

we can’t do this level of illustration, but isn’t it beautiful?  what i need to do is to find a visual style that isn’t too far from the current standard for fantasy illustration, and is more classical than trendy (anime, steampunk), but that is quantum in its essence.  but let me figure out what a quantum costume would be, and what a quantum character would look like.  will pixelation or meshes be a part of the look?  will there be visible circuitry?  will there be a cartoonish look or a fairytale look?  never mind will we use woodcut or etching or pen and pencil or full color or watercolor or egg tempera or encaustic?

so now i’m art director for the game as well as the graphic novel.  whoopee.

so when we go back to dragoncon this year, we’ll be spending a lot of time in the game room, and a lot of time in comic book alley talking to artists, never mind all the time attending panels in the various tracks i’m going to be researching, and taking loads of pictures of the environment for my own art that i hope to exhibit in dragoncon one day.  a lot to do, and well worth the money.

a more complicated map of the antarctica game

it’s a doozy of a map, too, with a base layer of bedrock, then a layer of ice stream flows and continental divides, then a longitudinal grid, then a contour map of the bedrock (contours adjusted according to my whim), then the seven rings in white, and colored in from red to purple with zone 7 being white (only it’s mostly transparent, this level), and then all the cities and villages in pink.

as you can see, there are very few settlements in ring 1, which is where the entry to the level is.  when this level is first experienced, there is practically nobody playing the game except the girl and boy.  the gameworld ages as the game is played, and with every ring the boy and girl grow older as well.  the landscape changes and becomes more temperate, even tropical as they go thru the rings, the civilization becomes more developed. by ring 6 the civilization is beginning to infest adjoining regions.  only in ring 7, that bird shape in the middle, are there no settlements.  there is  nobody in ring 7.  players actually can’t get there from ring 6.  it functions for most of the level as an impenetrable barrier, until the boy and girl find a way in, and then everybody in the game can see it, even on the cloud levels.

the boy and girl: their differences

things they differ over ring by ring.

in general, you die and come back a lot in antarctica. he deliberately lets her die several times (when they’re hanging out in the latter part of ring 1 in an accident, and at the end of ring 2 when he sinks her ship, and she has to go back to ring 1 every time. so she is late in visiting the other rings, and as a result her people are more backwards and unaggressive, while the boy has been building an empire. so by the time she gets to ring 5, suburbia, the area is already overrun with the boy’s agents (quantum tunneling), people are already mindless and queuing up to become enslaved, and in hell they’re at the ends of their ropes.

when they make their way to the gamburtsevs (ring 7), they are in touch with the kernel, who shows it to them. they unlock a door into the impassable mountains that have cut off communication with the various rings (4,5,6), and enter into the wireframe area built by kurt.

ring 1. (they come together and witness each other’s behavior; he defers to her) self. (very sparsely populated) killing food, taking tools, sharing. he already has a tendency to hoard, so she gives hers away and takes half of his, letting him provide for half the settlement, for which he thinks he should be paid. (she dies in an accident (he’s negligent) and goes back to the entrance island, he joins a ship and leaves, she goes looking for him and gets swept way.)

ring 2. (they’ve split up and don’t witness, each develops willfully) other (sparsely populated) risking own safety, taking shortcuts (ethics), cheating (morals). he’s a bloodthirsty pirate and she’s a nun, horrified and intimidated and offended by him. (they meet in a sea battle, and he apologizes because he’s greedy before sinking her ship and she goes back to the entrance island. she laboriously returns to ring 2 and consults others about his behavior, learning the first tactics of dealing with bullies.

ring 3. (they’re split up, they meet again at the end. she dies again because it’s convenient and she’s annoying. she uses her willpower haltingly to fly back, gets advice (from kurt?)) agriculture (moderately populated). corruption, unfair rules, underclass. cooperation between diverse interests for basic survival, innovation and organization.

ring 4. (they’re split up) animals (sparsely populated) cattle and territory raids, endless plains wars, dongivafuck gang rule. managing ecosystems, equitable distribution, microloans, buying clubs. first appearance of organized religion teaches quantum is heresy. (quantum goes underground)

ring 5. (they’re split up. she dies because his minions kill her. she zips right back.) minerals (moderately populated with dense pockets) many mighty enemies and endless riches with massive loss of life and misery, fanatical crusaders. countering suburban apathy and brainwashing, teaching, swap freecycle. religion teaches quantum is for elite. (quantum for everyone)

ring 6. (they meet and argue. she dies because he kills her. she teleports back instantly.) industrial and corporate systems (densely populated with crowded areas) ruthless plutocracy ruling with hypocrisy, force and shitty attitude. active resistance, building replacement services, occupy. religion teaches quantum is for everybody thru priests. (quantum is self evident)

ring 7. (they fight. they both die and exit the level.) all. (unpopulated) bared emotions and motivations, manipulations and betrayals, judgments and projections. seeing thru division to the underlying unity. religion teaches god’s will / miracle. (quantum is everybody or nobody)

author’s note

i’ve just finished posting my notes on level design, which everything i know about it i’ve gotten from books and websites.  in other words, i know nothing.

so i’ve got lots of questions.

it seems that video games have lots of obstacles, skills, and enemies.  the obstacles and enemies part bothers me.

most of the game is based around learning quantum skills.  and these skills are needed to get thru the game, and they’re cumulative.

but enemies?  obstacles?  the book explained that enemies are obstacles that you fight, and puzzles are obstacles that you solve, and props are obstacles you go around or use, depending.

i guess the enemies are your habits of mind, the things that keep you from fully living in a quantum world.  as such, these enemies are endless.  and how do you fight them in a video game?

in typical games, you collect things, including skills, and fight enemies.  but i’m not fond of the fighting idea.  some sort of contest.  so, you collect things, including skills, and have contests with others that affect your score.  i can deal with it on those terms.

the book says most games like to keep you busy, and ten seconds won’t go by without having the player do or experience something different.  and levels are about 20 minutes long.  they make an exception for mmo games, because i guess of the multiplayer interactions which must take up some of the slack between missions and battles.  and in the reading of the playing of the game, it’ll be easy enough to eclipse the long boring bits when players are traversing the mighty spaces that fill antarctica.

as far as i can figure, the level design book talks about levels in a different way than i do, so maybe i’ve got it wrong.  my levels are massive compared to theirs, mainly because you can go anywhere in one big huge giant level, and your ring is a layer in that level.  so i’m probably being an order of magnitude off.

with that in mind, let me mess with the level diagram one more time.  this time i’m going to break it further down, and start to describe some of the features of each level.

players can interact at will with other players on every level.  there are no social rules.  the only penalties are karmic consequences.  there are a lot of opportunities to practice quantum skills.  every object requires quantum skills, and they seem repetitive (flying and swimming and navigation are all related) but they all activate the movement chakra.  and the practice, under various pretenses, is the point.  the descriptions of what players can do on each level is a sample based on the two protagonists.  there are unlimited options for player choice and game experience, and these options can be taken up at any point on any level, depending on the player’s score.

the tutorial level is level 1.  after picking and customizing their avatar, players learn the functions of their walkers (gameglove) and viewers (hud, mic and speakers for game i/o).  these include walking and other locomotion (feet), grasping and other manipulation (hands), whole body movement, verbal communication.  functions like eating, sleeping, peeing/pooping, and sex are either advanced training or can be figured out on their own.  finally,  players are taught the skill of flying, given a pirate map, and set out with others to find the Island Of Whatever.

players land on a carnival midway, level 2.  it’s a complex level, with 7 main zones, zone 5 being an entrance hub.  the decor is sideshow glitz.  at the hub the level’s lessons are summarized, and players can buy and trade consumer goods.  the other zones teach control of gravity, speed, momentum, angular forces, newtonian physics.  things to pick up?  prizes, stuff, skills, winning games.  after a certain score is reached, players are shown the exit thru a portal

into carneytown, level 3.  it’s a larger level, more freeform, with 7 zones (yet to be designated).  the decor is campground shabby.  the first zone is linear, a choke point with a dead end, maybe a maze, maybe platforming.  after zone 1 there are no obvious demarcations between zones and players are free to wander.  each zone’s lessons augment those taught on level 2.  level 2 is accessible to players on this level, and they return to take advantage of level 2 players for fun and profit.  things to pick up?  loot, stuff, skills, queering the games on level 2, contests with players on both levels.  at a certain score, level 7 is revealed as a wormhole exiting level 3.  gravity changes continuously inside the wormhole.  players struggle to use their flying skills, as well as their physics skills, in successfully navigating the wormhole.  all stuff and loot and riches must be left behind on this level, pile up around the wormhole, and earn a penalty score for the player.

level 4, the horizontal level.  this is an amorphous level, full of fog and clouds.  players use their flying skills to move around.  glimpses thru the clouds reveal many worlds (zones) below.  players learn how to manipulate the fog to create simple shapes, further developing their quantum skills.  they use their concentration and visualization skills in groups to transport themselves to the many worlds, practicing their new skills differently on each world but unable to bring anything back with them to the clouds.  when a certain score is reached, players become stranded in antarctica.  there are no things to pick up, only skills.

level 5.  antarctica, looking just like the layout of the midway and carneytown, but as large as a continent.  the system map shows antarctica overlaid by 7 zones in rainbow colors.  the thumbnail resembles the figure of a human.

ring 1.  zones 1 and 2.  the outer islands.  two main islands, barren, one settlement on each.  players enter the level in a leaky boat, and use their accumulated skills to keep the boat from sinking.  they are overwhelmed, and rescued by a seal who brings them ashore on an island where they recuperate among other inhabitants.  players forage for food and learn cooperation with the land, the weather, the plants, and the animals.  thing to pick up, tools from the boat, handmade implements, clothing, seeds, dried food.  at a certain score, a warship comes by and recruits players to fight alien invaders.  players use their skills to help navigate the ship.  if players decline this invitation, a storm blows up that casts their little boat adrift and they practice their skills avoiding hazards and navigating to shore.

ring 2.  zones 3 and 4.  the fjordsshooter/strategy.  a number of hermits, small livestock camps, and fishing outposts hidden away in the thickly treed coastal mountains.  players who joined the ship travel to transantarctica, a mountainous area where players chase and battle aliens.  alternatively, players learn to navigate a sailing ship using quantum skills, practice skills with the weather and the seas, and battle other ships for loot and stuff.  things to pick up include loot, tools from the ship, dropped weapons and other items from dead aliens.  players who were cast adrift by a storm land on peninsula, heavily forested fjords ranging to lower and richer land with larger settlements, where schools are devoted to in depth study of quantum skills and ethics, also practicing weather and climate skills.  rather than battling aliens, they study their culture for valuable lessons.  at a sufficient score, players depart on a mission to the other side of antarctica.  they go alone, and use their quantum skills to journey, tested as usual by the elements and other obstacles.

ring 3.  zones 5 and 6.  the great riftcivilization management.  peaceful and prosperous fishermen and farmers, organized villages with loose governance, rich lowlands and rolling hills.  players from transantarctica become pirates of the western coasts.  players from peninsula become envoys (missionaries) to the humpback islands.  pirates loot and pillage, and eventually settle and become established traders and governors.  envoys increase organization of scattered villages, eventually settle and become established healers and teachers.  the lesson is about waste, husbandry and management.  how to exit? 

ring 4.  zones 7 and 8. the dry landsecology management.  to the west the land is former shallow sea, now salt desert and steppe where vast herds of wildlife run unimpeded.  to the east the land is low and swampy, where vast flocks of wildlife cloud the sky.  players interact with the delicate balance between resources and demands.  pirates try to collect all the resources and win at the expense of extinctions.  envoys try to juggle conflicting requirements and keep all the species alive.  how to exit?

ring 5.  zones 9 and 10.  the hinterlandslive strategy.  pirates journey to the north, where lies a vast mountainous area inhabited by family tribes in fortressed strongholds.  their lives are hard, and filled with endless fighting between fiefdoms.  pirates aim to become powerful leaders, and unite the tribes for an assault on the rich pickings in hell.  envoys go east to the breadbasket and suburbs of hell, whose farmers are taxed and robbed by the marauders from hell, and whose commuters spend each day slaving away in hell.  envoys work to persuade and organize the downtrodden farmers and simple middleclass droids.

ring 6.  zone 11.  hellshooter?  between zones 9 and 10 is an enormous bay, surrounded by most of the resources of the continent, and a surfeit of inhabitants who’ve come to find their fortunes, or fail in slavery.  it’s an urban landscape with all varieties of situations, stuff, and challenges.  the boy comes to hell as a wall street corporate raider and financial powerhouse who singlehandedly corners the market itself.  his supporters run around and oppress people, being employers and bosses and entrepreneurs, thieves and predators, and winning is a matter of how much stuff a player has.  the girl comes to hell as a left-wing radical, preaching bottom-up powersharing and teaching resistance techniques to the hopeless droids and emphasizing connectedness and good karma as the way to win.  the two groups form political parties and vie for control of limited resources.  because the aliens are sucking the cream off the top, there is definitely not enough for everyone, and the pressure is on both sides to get theirs now.  the challenge is to join forces to fight the aliens, but it isn’t the most likely outcome, since most players are itching for some shooting.  as things get worse, and parts of the city burn, and the army is mowing down citizens, and the outcry can be heard all the way from the outer islands, the boy and girl decide that they cannot allow things to go on this way, and arrange a meeting far from the center of the fighting.

ring 7.  zone 12.  the gamburtsevsboss level.  kurt did not make a level exit, he only slapped something together modeled on log-scale(?) radar image of the mountains..  snake continued with level !, and the boy and girl skipped design and art on this ring.  it is totally wireframe with no textures and no sounds.  all the players can see this level once the boy and girl enter it, and they all stop gameplay to observe it.  the ring becomes visible in the real world at the height of their confrontation.

level !.  heaven.  another amorphous level, a copy of level 4.  players have much better skills now, and heaven quickly fills up with fanciful areas made of morphed clouds.  players practice making and changing, and learn the principles of building and running their own worlds.

level !n.  earth.  a world on the horizontal level, a parallel earth where quantum culture is the establishment and classical reality is considered quaint and misguided.  each player creates their own parallel earth according to their own choices, their karma points, and their abilities, and functions as the god of that world.  players remain in their parallel earths as long as they want, have complete power, and can create, alter, or destroy other worlds at will.

the reason the girl keeps working to organize them is because they’re all playing the game like it was some regular video game instead of the quantum teaching tool it should be.  so she spends all her time trying to educate the players and change the gameplay.  but everybody is more comfortable in a classical setting, so she faces opposition within the game from every side.

this ends up with two tracks, the boy’s track and the girl’s track.  because of quantum kernel, the entire game bends to support the choices they make.  so you end up with pirates versus robin hood.  gordon gekko versus the blessed theresa.  and players follow suit, choosing one side or the other.  whole ranks of character types are created by player choices, supporting one or the other or steering completely away or in another direction from either.

i’m going to have to write about the actual quantum skills to teach. they have to be unique for every level and every ring, and have to build on each other. so this will mean meditations, physical exercises, mental exercises, as well as special powers to develop.

notes: level design for games

from level design for games; creating compelling game experiences, by phil co, new riders publishing 2006

“world diagrams usually start out as a list of locations and objectives.  changes of scenery during a game add variety and a sense of progression for the player.  since these scenery changes will involve development down the line, the game designers start listing these potential locations very early on.  players also like to experience slight changes in gameplay as they advance forward in a game.  in game designer terms, these slight changes amount to a set of objectives for the player.  for example, the first level could require the player to rescue a hostage, and the next level could ask the player to escort that hostage to a safe location.  by determining which locations match certain objectives, the designers can seam the entire game together through a world diagram.

“for some projects, the levels in the world diagram need to act in parallel to the game’s story.  certain plot points are essential to the story’s development and may require levels to be constructed around them.  games based on movie licenses operate in this way.” p9-10

level designers use the design document as a guide to create a level diagram for each level in the game.  a level diagram is a drawing that shows the areas the player will progress through; it may also describe events that take place in each area.  depending on the project, level diagrams can be extremely detailed and thorough, or they can be vague and abstract.” p10

“the game’s engine grows as the project gets further into development.  design and graphical features are added as the overall design and vision for the game is more clearly designed.  for example, if the art teams wants to add fog to an area, the programming rteam will need to implement fog as a feature.

“the design document should outline a list of design and graphical features, and based on this list, the lead programmer will begin to assign various tasks to the programming team.” p15

“every game contains content or assets, which are general terms that describe art, animation, levels, and effects in a game.” p15

“production is the longest phase of the development process, but if the project has been planned out thoroughly during the previous phases, everything should fall into place fairly easily.  from the design document and level diagrams, t he design team will start building the levels.  the early versions of the levels will be created quickly so that the design elements can be evaluated.  most or all of the technical features will be in place to test the level accurately.  once approved, the levels will go through an art pass to integrate the visual styles defined by the art team.  other elements will be added to the levels to make them complete.” p17

“every game has its own unique gameplay, and most production phases start with a simplistic version of that gameplay to build upon.  this simplistic version is sometimes called the core gameplay.

“the first objective during production is to build one prototype level that shows examples of the core gameplay.  the team focuses on developing that one level to a near-complete state.  this level becomes a kind of prototype for the rest of the game and can be used to demonstrate the game’s technology, visual style, and innovative design.  the core gameplay tends to grow with the game, and the prototype level can even show a taste of how that will happen.

“level designers don’t always build levels in the order they are supposed to be played.  the first level of a game is often the most difficult to design because it needs to gradually introduce several elements of the game to players.” p17

“creating a prototype level usually involves the entire team.  the art team starts with the art pieces in the level, modeling, texturing, and animating them.  the programming team starts implementing the gameplay features necessary to play the level.  the design team begins building the level geometry.

“the level geometry is essentially the 3d model of the level.  it can be built in a 3d modeling package or with a level editor.  the level geometry defines the spaces in a level – where the character can walk, jump, fall, or climb.

“the level designer responsible for the prototype level uses the level diagram as a base to make a template, or ‘block mesh,’ of the level.  this is essentially a rough draft.  someone can play through the level from beginning to end to get a feel for what the level will be like.  the geometry is simple, with no extraneous details.

“at this point, the art can be placeholder, which means it will be replaced later down the line.  some functionality, like a puzzle, a special feature, or a scripted event, may be missing at this stage, but the level designer should make room for this functionality to be added layer.” p18

“as a level designer, you can enlist other members of the larger team to help you develop the prototype level.  scripters, which are a type of programmer, often help level designers and designers create scripted sequences, which are special events based on specific areas.” p19

“occasionally, level designers and designers must script their own events.  scripters can develop a scripting language that simplifies the process.  a scripting language typically creastes a user-friendly interface to edit programming commands.” p19

“once the prototype level is in a completed template form, it is ready for initial testing and feedback.  in most cases, the entire team will put together a build, a version of the most current game code and assets, for play testing.  initial play testing usually happens within the team or within the company, although it is fairly common to bring in external testers at this stage.  most of the time, the team will play the template version of the level and submit comments, usually into a database.  the level designer can choose to be a spectator and watch players go through the level in person, or wait to read the submitted comments without physically witnessing the play test session.

…”when the team is satisfied with the gameplay in the prototype level, they can turn their attention to making it look and feel more like a finished product.  the level can be passed on to the artists, who will give it final textures, models, and lighting.

“a game’s visual appeal is a huge selling point.  as any game developer will tell you, the ‘art style’ of a game is a hugely important decision, since art makes up most of the content in a game.  all game art – character art, background art, and user interface elements (such as the heads-up display, maps, loading screens and menus) – must be consistent with this overall art style.  usually, these different art assets are created by different people or teams, but on smaller teams, artists may be more cross-functional.  the overall art team creates character and background assets, animations, and effects that can enhance the prototype level to something the entire team is proud of.” p20

“once a character has been modeled and textured, it needs to be set up, or ‘rigged,’ for animation.  rigging a model is like forming a skeleton inside the character and assigning joints that an animator can work with.  most teams have a technical artist who can rig all the models….

“the background artists, like character artists, create background models in a 3d modeling program like maya, 3ds max or softimage xsi.  background artists can also paint textures for both the level geometry and the background models.” p21

“the producer will work with both the lead artist and the lead designer to come up with a list of animations for every character.  fro there, the animators will take one character and create a base set of animations for it.  for most action games, a base set of animations for an enemy include an idle (standing and waiting) animation, a walk/run animation, an attack animation, a ‘take damage’ (get hurt) animation, and a death animation.” p22

“due to time and hardware constraints, every level has a prset texture ‘budget,’ which is how much memory is allowed to be taken up by level textures.  as a result, the background artist needs to be very smart about how he balances this texture budget versus visual quality.

“in order to texture a level more efficiently, artists create tiled textures, like a brick wall or a city street, that repeat across many surfaces.  occasionally, a level designer will break up the repetition with a variation of the tiled textures.  for example, a tile of grass might have patches of dirt for variation.” p23

“the sound designer will often work with the artists and designers to develop sounds and music for the prototype level.  as the level nears completion, the level designers and game designers will compile the list of sounds that will be needed for the level.  special objects, like a clock tower, might require a unique sound while more common pieces, like doors, can share the same sound.  the sound designer might provide the design team with a batch of preliminary sounds to use until the level geometry has been finalized.  this early work helps to establish the audio standard for the rest of the game.” p23

“once the prototype level is complete, small groups of levels proceed through the same route until all of the levels meet this standard.  depending on the time remaining in the schedule, the team can go bak and look at content that needs improving.” p24

“once the game is in alpha, it’s ready to test.  the lead tester, who manages the qa team, establishes a test plan for the game.  this test plan breaks down the game levels into small, manageable areas for testers to play through and verify that they’re bug-free.  testers submit errors through a bug database, and the development team will fix the bugs that relate to their specific tasks.  once a critical mass of errors has been fixed, the programmers create another build of the game, and qa retests the latest build.” p25″as with most other types of software development, the beta stage is the ‘nearly done’ stage.  as mentioned earlier, the game assets (art, audio, and gameplay features) are locked down, and assets can only be replaced to fix a bug.  at this point, developers exist solely to fix bugs.  the game is essentially complete, but errors must be fixed before the game can be called final.” p27

“although the team has probably been working like crazy to get to this point, theres still one final push to get the game one:  the ‘final candidate.’  as mentioned earlier, once the team leads have signed off on the bug fixes, the team will submit a build for final approval (the final candidate).  if bugs are found during this phase, the fixes take place almost immediately so that a new version can be created and tested again.  each subsequent build requires a certain amount of bug-free testing hours before it can graduate from final candidate to ‘gold master.’  the gold master is the version of the game that will be shipped to stores – the end product, the finish line.” p28

***

game genres, p35-52

the action genre.  a lot of confrontational elements pitting player against an enemy.  subgenres:

the shooter typically features player characters running around environments, shooting projectiles at several enemies and picking up items that they need, such as health, armor, weapons, ammunition, and keys

the brawler has the same level of intensity as the shooter, but it usually focuses on close combat or ‘melee’ weapons, such as swords, axes, staffs, and clubs.  the player character gets attacked from all sides in brawlers, and players need to press buttons or keys in combinations to make the player character perform certain fighting moves.

combat simulations put the player in realistic settings with realistic variations of gameplay.  often feature virtual replicas of true-to-life weapons, and characters get hurt in an accurate way.

survival horror has the primary goal of creating the most frightening experiences possible.  much slower-paced than shooters and brawlers, emphasizing combat with a small group of enemies.  atmosphere is paramount in survival horror games, so level designers focus on making areas dark, foggy, and claustrophobic.  in an attempt to keep players on their toes, designers insert special scripted sequences, such as monsters dropping from the ceiling or crashing through a window, throughout the game.

adventure genre:  tend to emphasize story or narrative through the game.  players use various tools like conversations with other characters, finding and combining items, and even combat, to progress through the game.  at many points in the game, the player loses interactivity in cut-scenes or cinematic sequences that reveal more of the story.  subgenres:

story adventure, where players control a character in a story and interact with other characters through dialogue and item-exchange.  players explore environments, poking around until some kind of puzzle or gameplay element blocks their progression.  the player must use found items, information that they hear, or systems that they learn to find a solution.

action adventure, with some of the pacing and combat elements from the action genre and using them as part of the learning process for the player.  it’s a lot different to solve a puzzle or problem when some enemy or monster is attacking your character..action adventures are the most popular form of adventure game mainly because many of them are based on some franchise or license.

role playing genre evolved from table-top games like dungeons and dragons, dominated by numbers and statistics.  player characters advance by finding or receiving items, learning skills, and gaining experience.  characters earn experience by killing enemies, completing missions or quests, and exploring new parts of the game’s world.  enemies are classified by difficulty level, and the combat revolves around the amount of health or life characters and enemies have and how much they lose.

action rpg combines the feeling of character growth and customization from role-playing games with faster-paced combat.  although the game still measures the levels between the player’s character and an enemy, the skill of the player can often make  up for the difference.  the player has more control in the action rpg.  you can control your character to dodge attacks, pick up items like health packs and potions, and circle around the enemy to attack from another direction.  even tho the systems for action rpgs use a lot of numbers, most of those numbers are hidden from the player so they don’t interrupt the flow of the game.  players can move their characters in and out of combat easily and can battle many more enemies at the same time.  there are pve –  player versus environment mode, and pvp – player versus player.

mmorpg creates an enormous world populated by player characters, nonplayer characters, and enemies.  players can form groups to complete missions or quests, meet other players to trade items, or even simply socialize by chatting.  hundreds of different player characters may occupy the same area in an mmorpg.  level designers construct incredibly vast landscapes that might contain dozens of quests or missions so that players will have hours and even days of content to complete before moving on.  unlike other rpgs the mmorpg must always keep its game world open  therefore, most of the world in mmorpgs is static, not random.

platformer genre, jumping and landing areas grown from two-dimensional side scrolling genre of early videogames.

strategy genre, let players control an army as if they are a general or military leader.  players can gather materials, manage resource, build facilities, and send troops to attack enemies.  players compete against an opposing army controlled by ai or by other players.  these games cover a large area to give each side room to grow without revealing plans to enemies.

racing genre allows player to drive some sort of vehicle around a track, usually in competition with other drivers.  add in a time and speed element, and the resulting gameplay is quite fast-paced and exciting.  racing levels are usually built on a much bigger scale than levels in other kinds of games because the character or vehicle is moving so fast that they must cover a greater distance.  that also means that the levels typically do not contain as much detail as levels in other games.  the faster the players progress, the lower the level of detail in environments.

***

types of obstacles, p67-72

simple roadblocks do just enough to slow down the player character without completely stopping them.  they mostly require just one action from the player to continue.

enemies, the obstacles you shoot, are characters, vehicles, or creatures that cause harm to the player character.  enemies are not always vulnerable to the player character.  enemies can be groups according to a few categories:  size, movement, and attack style.  one special type of enemy is called a boss, a unique enemy a player has to defeat in order to process.  usually only appears once in a game, and has a unique model, unique method of movement, and unique attack style.  most bosses are located in a special level type – boss level.

traps, the obstacles you avoid.  part of the environment, unlike enemies.  players get frustrated when they can’t do anything to prevent their characters from being harmed or killed, so traps should have warnings.

puzzled, the obstacles you solve.  the base of most puzzles used in level design is the lock and key.  a variation of this uses multiple keys instead of just one.  by adding multiple keys, the player character is forced to explore the level more thoroughly.

***

“fundamental skills are the foundation for player interaction.  the player can perform these skills at the beginning of the game, and the early levels usually teach the player how to use those skills.  the first level of the game contains the bulk of the instructions and is sometimes called the tutorial level.” P73

“some additional skills are as simple as obtaining a new weapon, item, or spell.  players may need to select the new weapons/item/spell from a menu, bu they use the same button or key as a fundamental skill to perform the new skill.  some skills are more complex, and they may require new buttons or keys to use.” p75

“a good way to guarantee that payers have a skill that they need is to block them with an obstacle that requires that skill.” p76

“instead of having just one start point and one exit point, hubs usually have multi0ple start and exits points so that the player can access several other levels.  many of the start and exit points may be blocked until the player completes a certain task or mission.  once the game is  nearly complete, hubs open up so that the player can access almost any level quickly.

“by definition, hubs are complex.  as a level designer, you’ll need to create a hub that is functionally efficient enough to allow players to use the hubs for what they need.  at the same time, you’ll need to create a hub that players won’t get bored with.  this can be accomplished by making spatially limited hubs that are packed with the elements that players need and with bonus elements that they don’t necessarily need.” p83

“a game can have multiple bosses and the last boss is called the ‘final boss.’  this is usually the climax of the game.  players should never feel let down at the end of the game, so the final boss level should be something quite special.” p83

“developers often hide content in games called ‘easter eggs.’  a bonus level may be an elaborate easter egg.  easter eggs provide yet another reward for players if they play the game in an unusual way.  in requiem: avenging angel, one of our designers built a series of hallways that spelled out the word ‘freak’ on the map.  the layer had to fire a grenade and jump at the same time to blast the player character into this secret area.  developers can also require certain codes or button combinations at different locations to gain access to easter eggs.” p85

“levels are constructed using these elements of obstacles and skills as if they were tools or building blocks.  the progression of the obstacles and skills forms an outline for the game.  you can use this outline to determine what tools will be available to the player in each level of the game.” p85

“once you have the setting of the level, you should develop the events that need to take place in the level based on the overall game story and the design tools defined in chapter 3.  events can include meeting npcs, finding items, gaining new skills, and transitioning from one area to another.  the mission flow diagram should outline some of these events as well as the progression of the player character through the game.

“another type of event is a scripted sequence, which is triggered based on the player character’s location in a level.  some scripted sequences exist to alter the gameplay…other scripted sequences serve to create atmosphere…

“you will also likely need to work out the specifics of the level puzzles and how the puzzles work with the setting before integrating the obstacles and skills. p89

“how do you start fitting all of these elements into your level?  the level narrative may be the glue that connects everything together.  the level narrative is the story within the level, as opposed to the story within the game.  level narratives can stretch across several  levels, or they can only be related to one.” p89

“landmarks, sometimes called ‘set pieces,’ are unique areas or features that players can use to keep from getting lost or going in circles.  landmarks can be anything in a level, as long as it’s unique.  usually, landmarks are memorable either by size or by appearance…landmarks are usually the focal points of the level.  they can contain a puzzle that the player needs to solve to progress, or they can simply be a special object such as a statue or a fountain…before designing a level, you should know or determine the landmarks for the level.  levels often contain several landmarks for the player to progress from one to another.” p101

“‘choke point, which is an area all players must pass through in order to progress through t he game.  by making your choke point a landmark tile, you ensure that all players will see your unique area.  this breaks up the repetition of the level, and gives the player a sense of progression.” p101

“scenes usually require some specific art and a lot of ai and scripting efforts.  scenes such as a conversation between two characters may require modeling, texturing, and animation for those models as well as the dialogue and voice acting.  an ai programmer or a scripter may need to write a script for that specific scene, and you may need to design a specific space or geometry to contain it.  it takes time to create the scenes, so you should write descriptions to help everyone understand what takes place in each scene.  submit your descriptions to the ai programmers, scripters, and animators for preparation and approval ; you can also add them to the design document.” p111

“what do you need for your level diagram?  the first thing to start with is the level context.  in order to create your level diagram, you need to know where players are coming from, and where they are going, what skills and obstacles they faced in previous levels, and what knowledge they have acquired.  the level context sets up each level with this information.  level scope, or how much of the game your level covers, is also an important part of the level context.  you wouldn’t want to complete your set of levels for the game only to find out from the lead designer that the game’s content has been drastically reduced.

“in this chapter, we’ll also talk about level progression, or its sequence of experiences.  for every level, there is a starting point and an ending point for the player character.  linear progressions lead the player character through a level from point to point without any real choices, while nonlinear progressions provide choices for the player to make along the way.  deciding on a progression is the first step to laying out the spaces or areas in your level diagram.

“creating your level diagram gives you a huge head start in designing your level.  the order and arrangement of the spaces, the connections between those spaces, and the placement of obstacles and skills all come together in the level diagram.  once your diagram is complete, you can start creating your level with a plan.” p116

“since most players like to experience some kind of change in the game every 15 minutes or so, level designers usually strive to limit the level gameplay to 30 minutes or less.  the change can be a simple one, such as a different enemy to fight or a new weapon to use.  or it could be more dramatic…both of these changes would require a different look to the level.

“some games contain levels that can be revisited during the game for various reasons.  for example, if item collection is a major part of the game, a hub used for trading or finding secrets might involve a lot of content.  these levels may not have a time stamp on them, but they may have other methods for measuring size…these hubs aren’t measured in size or time but in the frequency the player character interacts with their functions.” p118

“some levels, like the ‘challenge level’ shown in figures 5.1a and 5.1b, on the next page, have the sole purpose of introducing a new skill that the player character can use.  each space in the level becomes an example of how the new skill overcomes a different obstacle.

“levels, and the challenges contained in those levels, tend to grow as players progress through a game.  a level that appears later in the game could be substantially bigger than a level that appears at the beginning because the player character has a wider range of skills to use and a wider range of obstacles to face….

“as levels grow larger, they also become increasingly challenging to complete.  the order of the level sets up a foundation for the initial difficulty of the entire game.  the first level should be the easiest to complete, and the last level should be the most difficult.” p119

“some levels in games contain quite unique elements of gameplay.  for examplle, player characters that usually travel by foot might pilot a vehicle, or perhaps enter an environment, like an anti-gravity chamber, that changes their movement altogether.  these levels, called special-case levels, might simply provide more variety to the overall game, or they may be an inherent quality of the game itself.” p122

“it is often a good decision to make early levels in a game linear.  players sometimes need to be shown where they are supposed to go, especially early on.  at the beginning of the game, linear levels can drive players deep into theh gameplay experience quickly.” p125

“now that the level is starting to take shape, it’s time to place the skills, obstacles, and scripted sequences you’ve outlined from chapters 3 and 4 into the level diagram.  the skills and obstacles in particular can serve as anchors for you to start.

“i usually begin by establishing symbols for the skills that the player character will use, for each of the obstacles, and for items the player needs.  symbols should be grouped according to their category: skill or obstacle.  all of the skills should have a similar look, as should all of the obstacles.  although symbols are grouped in this way, they should still appear distinct from each other.” p135

“to prepare a presentation, assemble your resource charts, level diagram, level description, and reference materials in a way that is simple and clear.  you may need to break up your level diagram into pieces or show one diagram of the whole level and other diagrams of areas that are expanded.  levels that are already divided by floors or stories may be presented in the same fashion.” p146

“psychonauts is a game that blend the adventure genre with the platformer genre.  the player controls raz (short for rasputin), a psychic kid who can jump into other characters’ minds.  raz progresses through the game by conversing with other characters and finding items, which is characteristic of an adventure game, and by a combination of physical and psychic maneuvers that emulate a lot of platformers.  it is a fairly complicated game, and its eccentric design was groundbreaking in many respects.  although a lot of the game mechanics stayed consistent from level to level, many levels added new twists to keep the experiences fresh and unique.” p147

“to explain how each level connected to the rest of the game, the designers at double fine created a goal outline.  the goal outline determines the goals for the player throughout the game:…

b. free lunghfish: free lungfish from influences of kochamara

1. destroy tower. get to kochamara tower and destroy it.

a. learn psi-shiled: smash jail and free dissidents

b. giant cannon: rendezvous with dissidents at dam

c. blimp pilot: free blimp pilot from his prison

i. tunnel: find way to get through laser-sield tunnel to prison

ii. smash prison; destroy the prison to free pilot

d. dam: use blimp to get over dam

e. skyscraper island: reach skyscraper island

f. destroy planes: destroy all planes so freighters can dock

g. tower island: proceed to tower island to sdestroy radio tower

i. defeat kochamara: battle kochamara

ii. climb tower: climb tower and destroy antenna” p149

“most companies hold play-test sessions with an exterior collection of individuals called a focus group to gather information and feedback about hegame and specific levels.  typically, a member of the team watches a focus group tester play through a few levels and takes notes about the experience.  the tester can also fill out a questionnaire for additional comments.” p220

“once the template is completed, team members are usually the first play-testers.  the template is not going to resemble the final level in an artistic sense, and it may be difficult for players outside of development not to focus on the visuals.” p222

“play-testers may have complained about a lack of direction, repetitiveness within the level, or impassable obstacles that were frustrating to them.  you should expect to spend a reasonable amount of time and effort fixing these problems and improving the level.” p227

“a d-bug is a comment or suggestion made by a tester.  all documented bugs, including d-bugs, are contained in the bug database.  the producer usually works with the lead tester to set up the bug database with capabilities to input feedback.  it’s a good idea to start the bug database at the beginning of the production process to track feedback for all aspects or the game.  the leads can meet with the producer and go over each of the comments or suggestions in list form and assign a priority to each.  as the level designer, you can access the same database and see the list of tasks you should address in a specific order.  this gives you clear direction as to what you should do next to improve the level.” p228

“the spaces contained in the level itself should also vary.  going through spaces that are the same size and shape can get confusing and the gameplay associated with those spaces becomes repetitious….

“this brings us to our next common problem: lack of direction.  level designers can provide direction within levels in very simple ways, but sometimes, the level might require an entirely different arrangement of its spaces to help the player along.” p229

“levels sometimes contain obstacles that the player character is not supposed to pass.  some of these impassable obstacles are meant to push or steer the player in another direction…

“other impassable obstacles help to set up a special scene that the developers want players to experience.  a see-through fence may allow a view of an objective, such as the level exit or a necessary item that the player needs to find later.  or, the developers may decide to place a scripted sequence behind the fence that the player can’t interfere with.” p229-30

“the player character should never have to get hurt or die to find out that an obstacle is dangerous.” p230

“varying the sizes and shapes of the level spaces is another tool for keeping your players engaged.  long, narrow hallways offer the player no choices and no variation of space.  even rooms that are connected by doorways and are all approximately the same size and shape can become boring and confusing….

“although designing levels shouldn’t really have rules or limitations, the ’10-second rule’ is a good one to know.  if a player character travels through a level, and they experience over 10 seconds of just running, something is missing.  either the area needs to be more compressed so that the player can experience some change withi 10 seconds or the level designer needs to add an event to the area.  this event can be something very simple such as an item to pick up or a ledge to jump up to.” p231

“why would you cut content out of a level?  well, if the content is too similar to other parts of the level, you can remove it to vary the gameplay experiences for the player.  we’ve already discussed the common problem of repetition.  even if the level requires a variety of actions from the player, those actions might be too similar to another set of actions in another part of the level or in another part of the game.  if players encounter a situation they are already too familiar with, it becomes predictable and tedious.  in addition, if the content distracts players too much from the main focus of the level, you can remove it.” p239

“blizzard entertainment’s world of warcraft, for example, needs to transition between dense forests, rocky mountain passes, grassy plains, and even swamps.  there are sections between these distinct areas that are devoted to smooth transitions.” p240

“another way to start balancing your level is by changing gameplay elements.  gameplay elements can involve the obstacles contained in the level, such as enemy soldiers or the speed of moving platforms.  you can remove enemies to make an area easier or add them to make an area more difficult.  you can work with programmers to edit the properties of enemies to give them more or less life.  some enemies can use different weapons against the player character.  you can change the groupings of these enemies, or even the paths that the enemies patrol, to give the player an advantage or a disadvantage.  these changes usually don’t require the level to change in significant ways, so they can be continually revised and weaked as the level progresses through tis completion stages.” p241

“due to limited resources and time, game developers often must use the ‘quality curve,’ which basically dictates that the beginning and ending of a game should have the highest priority (figure 8.1).  the beginning section of the game must pull players in and get them hooked on the gameplay, the visuals, and the story.  the ending section of the game is like the big finale, and should leave players with the best memories of the game.  generally, players will forgive the team a few flaws if they’re contained in the middle of the game especially if their initial and final experiences in the game are outstanding.

“the same curve holds true for a level.  the beginning and ending sections in a level should have more details, more unique models and textures, more complex geometry, and more visual and audio effects.” p244

“your level probably doesn’t look like a level you’d see in a completed game.  it might have placeholder textures that need to be replaced.  it might not have any details or props such as furniture or decorative pieces like statues.  the level might still feel ‘boxy,’ which means that it uses all right angles.  you might have simply copied and pasted the same light over and over and now the level looks a bit flat.  all of these issues can be solved with an art pass.” p244

“art passes can involve a number of team members.  at this stage, you can hand over your level to a background artist.  other times, you work with a background artist who can provide art assets, such as textures and models, for the leel.  in rare instances, you will have to create these assets yourself.

“second, your level still needs a functional layer that incorporates all the elements necessary for the level to be called complete.  among these elements is the audio piece of the equation.  your level will need sound effects added to its moving parts, including doors, elevators, and buttons.  you should also place ambient sounds like wind and machinery to provide atmosphere to your level.  in addition, you can place triggers so that music begins playing during certain sections of a level.  music can be used to get the player5s’ adrenaline pumping – or to calm them down.

“an effects pass will add additional functionality.  effects are the visual components in a level that make it more realistic.  particle effects, such as steam coming from a vent or sparks coming from a broken circuit, make a level seem all the more real.  and other effects, such as fog or a blinking light, might even change the gameplay slightly.

“by adding layers to your level, you can bring the level to a shippable state and still continue to enhance the quality of the level without jeopardizing the overall experience.” p245

“during an art pass, come, if not most, of the geometry for the level will need to be changed or replaced.  this includes adding detailed geometry such as trim for walls and floors and frames for windows and doors.  as you might guess, this takes a lot of time and effort.  however, the geometry changes you make during an art pass will be well appreciated by both players of the game, and by people looking at screenshots of your level.  some of the geometry can be created as smaller pieces that you can duplicate throughout the level for efficiency as well as consistency.

“once the geometry of an area is set, you can start to apply the proper textures.  textures, when used properly, can really make a level look complete.   special or unique textures can also make an area stand out to the player.

“you should complete the geometry for an area before texturing it because the changes you make in the geometry will affect the textures applied to it…

“the art pass for a level includes lighting.  lighting is an art form all by itself.  lighting can make the difference between a flat, plain level and a completely immersive experience…

“the final element for an art pass is placing the props.  props are models, usually created by artists, that add complex details to a level.  props can be interactive or noninteractive.  interactive props are the models that affect gameplay….interactive props can even affect gameplay by blocking projectiles.  so, a sign on a post can be considered an interactive prop.  noninteractive props are the decorative elements that are added mainly for visual purposes.  level designers place noninteractive props in a level to make it look and feel more realistic.” p246-7

“primitives can encompass much more than just one piece of geometry.  a primitive intended to create a chunk of hallway could consist of the floor, the walls, the columns, the lights, and the ceiling.  this chunk can be constructed so that it cannect any two rooms or combined with another chunk to make a longer hallway.” p247

“a decal is a texture that has transparent portions that allow another texture to be seen behind it.  using decals, you don’t have to break u your level geometry to allow for completely new textures.  you can simply apply a decal on top of a wall to break up the repetition.  common decals include dirt and grime stains, floor detail such as drains and grates, and wall details such as signs and graffiti.” p253

“lighting is often an aspect of level design that is saved until the very end.  unfortunately, this can result in a level being poorly lit, because lighting is complex and involves many different factors.  for example, an area can have one or a dozen lights that all affect a single surface.  there are also different kinds of lights that you can use:  point lights, which affect the area all around then; spotlights that have a direction; and even a sunlight that works like a real sun…

“some games today, such as blizzard entertainment’s world of warcraft, have day/night cycles that simulate how the light changes from day to night and back again.  in this case, you might not have a lot of control over the way the lighting works within the level because all outdoor levels would use the same lighting.” p254

“props don’t add any more cuts to the geometry, bu they do affect the perfoance of the level.  props are fairly complex.  they have a lot of polygons, and they might require a detailed texture.  the more props you place in the player’s view, the slower the performance of the level.  props are also lit in a different way than the geometry you create in the editor.  you’ll need to adjust your lighting to make the props blend into the environment smoothly.” p257

“when adding visual layers to a level, adding certain imperfections can actually greatly enhance the appeal of an area.” p257

“in addition to the visual layers, you can add functional layers to make your level feel more complete.  this layer consists of audio effects such as sound and music, special effects such as particles and ambient animated objects, and scripted sequences…

“the last functional layer is adding the scripted sequences for actors.  in the template stage, you may have placed enemies that stayed in one place until the player character arrived.  their ai kicked in at that point, causing them to realize the character’s presence and attack accordingly.  until this point, these characters may not have acted realistically, which can detract from the overall experience of playing through the level.  in chapter 4, you brainstormed a list of scripted sequences that you wanted to see in your level.  now is the time to start working with a programmer or scripter to get those scripted sequences in place.” p289

“nearly every moving object in your level should have a sound effect associated with it.  in real life, you may not think about the sound of a leaf blowing through the air, or the sound of a river as it runs gently downstream.  but if no sound effects are attached to these same movements in your game, the lack of sound will be very noticeable.” p290

“ambient sounds don’t have to be associated with a moving or animated object.  they might be more related to the setting of the level…

“ambient sounds can also be related to props…these sounds should be placed spatially at the point where the props are located so that the player can walk around the prop and have the sound emanate appropriately.

“there are two types of ambient sounds:  loops and stingers.  ambient loops can be repeated continuously to sound like a really long sound effect.  ambient loops can be played beginning when the level starts and they can end when the player leaves the level…ambient stinger are played just once at key moments based on the actions of the player character.” p291

“for most projects, the level designer plays a minimal role in choosing the music for a level.  that decision is usually left up to the team lead, the producer, and the sound department.  what you can participate in, however, is how the music is triggered, or started.  you can trigger a music track based on the player character’s location or you can trigger a music track based on the player character’s actions.  a character can simply cross a threshold of some kind, such as a doorway to a room or a hallway, to start a music track.  the threshold can also be the very start of the lever so that the music can start right away.  alternatively, the character can perform an action, such as pulling a lever or picking up an item, to start a music track.” p293

“special effects are usually not just visual; they have both visual and audio parts to them that make up the overall effect.  for example. steam coming out of a vent has both the graphical representation of the steam coming out and and ambient sound that loops.

“a lot of game engines use particle systems to create special effects.  a particle system is like a generator.  it churns out little images, known as particles, in different ways.  the particles can be tiny specks that have a color assigned to them and that color can even change over the course of time.  a smoke particle system generates tiny black particles that change gradually to white and then fade away.  other particles can actually be an image created by an artist for the desired effect.

“leaves that fall from a tree can be a particle system that uses the image of a leaf instead of the solid color particles used to make smoke.

“not only do particles provide visual movement in a level, but they also make the game world more believable.  particles in a particle system can be affected by other systems in the world.  for example, steam coming out of a vent can be affected by wind so that the steam particles can blow in different directions or dissolve with more variation.  other world systems that affect particles include gravity, temperature, and forces, such as explosions.” p293-4

“to make an area come alive.  you can add area effects.  weather effects, which serve to make outdoor areas more realistic, fit in this category.  if a player character walked from the inside of a building to an outdoor courtyard and the outdoor area was wet and rainy, the difference between the indoor and outdoor areas would be more dramatic.” p294

“fog can serve two purposes in games.  it can hide things from the player and it can add atmosphere.  you can add fog to a large open space so that the player can never see what’s beyond a certain distance.  the level geometry gradually fades out into the fog.  this is sometimes used as a performance enhancement.  some engines use what is called as a ‘clipping plane,’ which is the farthest distance the player can see.  the game engine does not need to display anything beyond the clipping plane.  fog as an atmospheric effect can also hide things like enemies lurking around.” p294

“the alpha stage is the beginning of the end.  the good news is that most of the creative process is over at this point, so you won’t need  to think too hard about design decisions and revisions…

“at about this time, the rest of the team will realize that the game is going to be seen by thousands and thousands of players.  the programming team will want you to change your level to make the game perform better.  this will require you to make optimizations to your level, such as cutting down polygons in scenes or reducing texture sizes or uses.  you might even need to remove some props or even some enemies to improve performance.

“…alpha is the art team’s last chance to get those final pieces of art into the level.’

“…you might need to change the amount of damage certain player weapons do to the enemies in the level or the amount of damage certain traps or enemy weapons do to the player character.  you can even change the amount of health enemies have, and the amount of helpful items, such as med kits and armor, that you place in your level.” p299

“alpha is the last chance to replace this content before a ‘content freeze.’  during a content freeze, no one can change any of the content contained in the game except to fix a bug.  at the end of the alpha stage, the development tea will set a date for a content freeze so that they can kick off the beta stage.  beta stage is when things go into hyper-drive.

“level designers place textures and props to fill out their levels during production.  the artists may have provided these textures and props with specific areas in mind only to find that the level designers have used them throughout a level.” p300

“most game engines don’t display everything contained in a leel all the time.  the game’s perfoemance would suffer.  instead, game engines use different methods to choose what to display and when to display it.  of course, the engine doesn’t always have the best judgment of how to display sections of levels because every level is unique.  here’s where you come in.  as the level designer, you can help the game engine by dividing the level into smaller portions called zones.  the game engine connects all the zones together to form the entire level and also determines wht nees to be displayed based on the player character’s location.  zones are connected together to form the entire level.  the doorways or openings where zones meet are called portals.  using zones and portals gives you greater control over how a level performs.

“so, how do zones work?  basically, the engine doesn’t care about the contents contained in a zone that the player can’t see.  that means the engine doesn’t display any geometry, textures, lighting information, objects, props, or actors in that zone.  when the engine displays less, it performs better.” p302

“almost every game has conditions that the level designer or game designer can tweak to change the difficulty of levels and areas within levels.  unfortunately, there isn’t some magic equation you can use to come up with all the numbers you need to balance a game.  like optimizations, this procedure takes a lot of trial and error.  the trial part can’t even be done by you, the level designer, in most cases…you’ll need to continue the play-testing system with fresh play-=testers in order to put your balancing solutions to the real test.” p316

“[beta] the bug list has shrunk considerably since alpha, so during beta the development team is able to fix bugs as they’re found.  a testing team is now dedicated to the project and is testing the game nonstop…

“the qa department and the producer assign bugs to the appropriate team member.  every day, the producer, the team lead, and the lead tester start meeting to prioritize bugs…

“at the end of beta, the team doesn’t care about any bug that’s not a ‘showstopper’ or an ‘a bug’.  the entire development team converts to testing, and they work with the qa department to put enough testing hours on every portion of the game.  when enough hours are played thruout the game without any showstoppers, the game can be moved into the final candidate stage.

“during the final candidate stage, new builds of the game are created at a rapid pace.  each build must go thru a number of bug-free hours to be considered god master, the version that is copied and distributed to the  public.” p316

“in this end phase, the development team puts together a version of the game, called a build, at an increasingly rapid pace.  at the beginning of beta, a new build might be created every few days.  at the end of beta, a new build can replace the old one in a couple of hours.  a new build is created to fix bugs found in the last build.  for a beta build to move on to final candidate and then to gold master, it needs to have a certain amount of bug-free hours played.  any major, or showstopper, bug found will cause a new build to be created to fix the bug.  this new build will need to start the cycle over. so, for example, if there was a major bug in a level that caused the player character to become stuck, that level would need to be fixed and submitted with a new build of the game.  the new build starts the process over again, and the team jumps on it and reports any defects to the bug database.

“as we discussed in chapter 1, the bug database becomes the task list for developers throughout the latter part of production (from the alpha phase on).” p317

“all games have cheat codes that allow players various advantages while playing the game.  the main reason that cheat codes exist is so that developers can test the game more easily.  there are cheat codes that don’t let your character die, don’t let enemies attack your character, and even teleport your character to different areas in the level.” p318

game expierence

as creators of the game, the boy and girl play it as soon as the game engine is working. it’s a quantum kernel game engine, so from the beginning it’s more real than anything currently possible. since it’s so early, they’re playing mainly in their imaginations, and based on their mystical experience on the roof at dragoncon. they already see it as a physical thing, and the basic game engine is something that triggers off their vision all over again, so they don’t care how it looks. and the quantum kernel enables updating at a distance, so when they notice something wrong, it fixes it for them as soon as they add the bug to the database. compared to the other testers, who run around and try everything over and over again, the boy and girl mostly stand around and gaze at things, communicating with the kernel. they are entangled with the kernel. they felt it when kurt finally got the last qubit in place. so when the kernel is destroyed…the girl collapses into a coma. how does the boy’s stronger ego and sociopathology save him from the same fate? because he’s more detached? because he isolated himself by his betrayal and his guilt, and even tho he was opened all the way up when they finished antarctica, his current state is painfully self conscious and ego-driven, and he is acting as god in his own universe. thus when the quantum kernel is destroyed, his private universe buffers him. it pops around him, but does not disconnect him from the whole, the way the girl has been. so the shock is less. he just has a very bad migraine, so he takes the girl to a bolthole and he sleeps for a week using every drug at his disposal.

(ch 7) the boy and girl’s game experience is different than the players. when they start out it’s all wireframe, and most of the lessons and games are placeholders. the alpha role is to trod the paths, open the doors, make sure the walls meet and you can’t see thru the barrier vegetation. but theirs is more basic, where are the edges of the world, where are the doors and do the routes connect the way they should, and where are the hidden intersections with the other levels.

(ch 9) alpha testers see the game with its placeholder backgrounds and loads of bugs. npcs are disembodied voices.

(ch 12) beta testers see rapidly updating backgrounds and textures, and there are fewer bugs (and more malware). npcs are twinkly blurs.

(ch 14) players see a world that is very realistic, with no bugs only viruses, and the npcs are fairytale creatures.

(ch 33) the boy and girl’s exit from antarctica makes the game sharper

(ch 38) the remorting of the game makes it come alive.

the story in 7 dragoncons

this is the plot of a quantum fiction novel partly set in the dragoncon community.  if you’re here searching for dragoncon stuff, maybe you’ll stay and comment on my work.

i separated the story into a series of 7s, and one of them is the cycle of years attending dragoncon in atlanta, the finest gathering of minds in the universe and the golden kernel of the new quantum age.

chapter 2, dragoncon 1

the first dragoncon.  they’ve been going for years.  neither of them could go for the last couple of years, as the job, etc has gotten more onerous.  but now the boy is unemployed and living in his parents’ basement, and the girl just decided she didn’t want to be retail manager and stopped giving 110%.  so they’re at dragoncon, and it’s been awhile, and they’re excited to see so many different things, like how big steampunk has gotten, and so many familiar things, like the artshow stars.  their friends kurt and fairy are there, they know snake vaguely.  the girl attends the costuming and artshow tracks, the boy does armory and gaming, they get a tshirt each and lust after the big ticket items.  the weekend will break their budget for the rest of the year, so the t-shirts will be saved for xmas.  [they try them on once, take pictures.  then later she gives them away, and gives the pictures for xmas, thinking since they were on their bodies once, that is good enough in quantum thinking because you can always go back to that time.  he is pissed because he wanted the tshirt now and until it was stained and torn.  and she’d promised a quilt of old tshirts one of these days.  but she’s a serious quantum-moment head four months after their vision, and doesn’t want to know about heirlooms anymore.]

chapter 8, dragoncon 2

things are going along great, the game’s almost finished, just needs beta testing. interest has grown remarkably, and they have a table in dc-mmo. at dragoncon they’re swamped with requests from would-be beta testers, among which are spies. the alpha testers let everybody know, and hordes line up to be beta testers. the buzz about the game is enormous, and gamers pressure them to go live.  the boy talks to corporate sponsors, the girl gives workshops on the new quantum age, quantum panels appear in several tracks – costuming, silk road (dance), armory (martial art), artshow and market (dc3), science, paranormal, skeptic, eff, game programming, sff lit (dc3 ). kurt does a lot of drugs to clear his head of nonquantum space, and is found at the bottom of the covered hotel pool.

chapter 15, dragoncon 3

so many tracks, so much interest. famous physics speakers, consciousness speakers, new music, new slang, new clothing styles (nano), healing, all coming together in quantum-culture [quantum aesthetics, quantum art, quantum literature, quantum politics, quantum anthropology.] there is a qAnt track now. merchandising begins. the boy and girl get offers; he wants to be rich, she is against it. there is real pressure to go corporate, with tax and accounting and postproduction and licensing, localization, advertising. snake and fairy are for it, he wants to get rich, she wants to make everybody happy.

chapter 23, dragoncon 4

the boy is important and arrogant. he’s moved out of his parents’ house (and out of the girl’s apartment) into a trendy loft and hangs with strippers and singers and drug dealers and hiphop artists and gaming industry legends. he pretends to be running the game, but only sticks around to lead the battles, and leaves all the maintenance work to the girl, who is struggling to keep everything together in her personal life, and is beginning to have health problems. she spends too much time as admin, trying to keep up the testing, trying to fix things that are going wrong because of snake’s sabotage and the boy’s negligence, trying to organize people in the game, as well as being a cheerleader for the mystical and spiritual side of the game. the game is fast becoming an online live strategy game, with alien-hunts in the mountains of ring 2, and the boy’s infernal piracy along the western coasts.

they start to dictate policy, the boy changes things in the game, altering rules and missions, twisting the lessons, identifying and capturing certain types of players.

the boy and girl have a big public fight over the original intentions for the game, all the way back to the text message. she argues for spreading quantum consciousness inside and outside the game, he argues for getting rich so they can do it in the sequels. there is a split in the game.

chapter 30, dragoncon 5

dragoncon is subdued this year because the game has been banned. there are spies everywhere, cameras everywhere; there’s a new security rule that says no face masks, and a lot of grumbling and outright refusal (these are stopped and harassed). track participants are suspicious and quick to throw people out of panels. groups get together secretly to practice quantum exercises and to play the game. people wear symbols and develop signs and codes based on game principles. the boy and girl make an appearance together. they are mobbed, they call for action, the atmosphere becomes defiant, players march on legislative buildings, people openly play the game despite beating and detention. the boy compares himself to robin hood and issues an open challenge. the girl is terrified and goes into hiding.

chapter 34, dragoncon 6

dragoncon comes on the heels of the boy and girl’s spectacular level ending in antarctica, and people flock to dragoncon instinctively, compulsively, gathering with quiet expectation; the power of the gathered multitude dampening the repressions that so ruined the mood at last year’s con. the crowd grows elated as they begin for the first time to think in quantum tandem.

the moment passes and they begin to break up and go home, and the police and army move in to arrest them all. the boy is openly captured and beaten, the girl is unnoticed, in disguise, but is swept up with the others.

chapter 40, dragoncon 7

this year there is no dragoncon. the organizers have been detained, and anybody googling or writing about it on any electronic media is also detained. the game has been destroyed, quantum everything has been made punishable by death, fundamentalist classicists are viciously celebrating.

this year there are a lot of people quietly remembering dragoncon from their cells and their parents’ basements and their minimum wage slavery. because of their quantum game training, they all make small entangled thoughtform minions (that are the essence of ‘i want my game back’) and send them scurrying about their business. billions of minions congregate together and visualize the game. it is a weak thoughtform, born of thoughtforms. but it crackles through to the real world and sends a shock thru the game community before fading out again. and then people begin to actively play the game in their imaginations and in their sleep, hooking in thru their own thoughtform minions. quickly level ! begins to fill up. they still each meet the girl, who has made an infinite run of signed authentic prints of herself.

future dragoncons are held in quantum space, where the hotels don’t fill up.

map of the game rings

when the boy and girl have their vision, they are flying toward the first star on the left.  they see a ball of light in the distance, maybe a planet.  it reminds them of a cue ball.  as they get closer, they can see it is a ball covered in clouds.  as they get closer still, the clouds break apart and they can see rainbow colors in bands over the planet.  it kind of looks like a figure, with a head and one eye or maybe a mouth, and two arms raised, and two legs down, inside a circle.  as they get very close, they see fractal-like landmasses in a ringed sea, and finally they can see buildings and activity on the landmasses.

revised act 2

this is where it begins to get complicated, with many people playing many levels of the game, and the game’s physics interfering with the outside world, which doesn’t like it.

act 2

chapter 15, dragoncon 3

the fans, go-live buzz, level 2 effects in the real world. changes to the game. additions to the team. the boy a rising star, the girl overwhelmed.

chapter 16, the kernel programmer is in the game

kurt lives on in the kernel, and appears in the game when he notices situations that go counter to the principles of the game. he is the mysterious enforcer who appears when they die and counsels them on their gameplay, and players know and fear him or love him, depending.

the press picks up on funny quantum things happening in the real world. the right picks up on it. there is an outcry. they start suppressing quantum things. criticism increasingly shrill, fear of game as it grows in popularity.

chapter 17, playing antarctica ring 1

the boy tires of survival and works to get off the island. the girl interacts with everything. they gradually move from testing to playing the game. at the end of this level they find themselves split up.

chapter 18, game goes viral

level 3 effects in the real world. the fans. changes to the game. additions to the team. spies.

players develop new cultural identity – fashion, slang, music, art, signs, rituals. more quantum events. the game goes viral, millions of online players.

they start suppressing quantum things.

chapter 19, first they ignore you

as the game grows, so do the boy’s ambitions. he is both pope and king of this new quantum universe. girl gets dogmatic and intolerant.

level 3 effects in the real world.

chapter 20, playing antarctica ring 2

the boy and girl work hard at their studies, he’s more interested in power, she’s more interested in oneness. he takes to a life of piracy. the girl studies with the anchorites and fisherfolk and learns about fairy lore from the bards. the boy and girl meet on the high seas and confirm separate ways.

chapter 21, outcry, they approach boy and girl

hysterical outcry, calls for banning the game.

cultural identity suppressed. new laws. demonstrations. beatings/arrests. culture goes underground, resistance tactics develop, more quantum events in the real world. quantum physics is demonized. laws are passed, or brushed off and creatively applied.

chapter 22, playing antarctica ring 3

the boy spends time invading the rich coasts of the rift and inner sea, but becomes involved in governing a settlement, and learns about legal piracy. the girl drifts with the seafarers and shepherds, and learns from the wise women and judges. they meet in the middle of the rift and have a big argument.

chapter 23, dragoncon 4

boy and girl approached by authorities – save game from being banned and surrender kernel. boy agrees, girl disagrees. the boy decides they can be used for his own ends, and cuts them in. big fight. split in the game.

chapter 24, then they ridicule you

demonstrations, police brutality. more people gather. the boy branded a devil. the girl is focused on seeing the game to critical mass and doesn’t care, but the boy decides that he needs to take control of everything because of the threat from them.

chapter 25, playing antarctica ring 4

the boy learns land piracy, cattle raids, train robbery, organizing a loose network of outlaws. the girl works with a rural agricultural population, organizing the healers and wise women, co-ops and markets. snake creates a religion putting control of quantum skills in the hands of the church. fairy and kurt do something, because ring four touches ring 7 and is a focal point. girl and boy’s positions harden.

chapter 26, game banned

game banned, many players arrested. mass arrests in china. informers everywhere. boy and snake work for authorities. suppression of quantum activities. gamers meet in secret, girl goes underground.

chapter 27, informers everywhere, gamers pass it on in secret

the real world and the game world become more entangled. because of the quantum kernel, the game alters itself as more and more people play it and the observer effect gets out of hand and the players continue to write the game.

girl goes underground. gamers meet secretly.

chapter 28, playing antarctica ring 5

the boy organizes the mountain strongholds into warrior state, making raids on hell’s hinterland. the girl organizes schools and alternative healthcare and an underground railroad from hell. the boy and girl continue to hold animosity toward each other, and positions grow bombastic.

chapter 29, out of control

the outcry grows shriller and more frantic. the repressions grow more brutal. the crowds grow and grow. quantum effects become more frequent. more laws, more crowds, more riots, more disappearances.

people use gameskills to challenge authority. they fall back in confusion.

another antarctic map

this is  a map of the rings of the antarctica mmo game i’m creating for my quantum pirate novel.

there are 7 rings within each other, and each ring is a higher level of difficulty etc.  you must go thru all the levels to finish the game.

author’s note

while transcribing copious notes from the yoga of time travel (thanks fred wolfe, i’d like to talk to you if you’ve got a minute, please email me), i was also thinking about my story.  about how we’re all the mind of god and any separation into individual beings is only an illusion, a bit that’s embodied only so god can get outside and have a little fun

god is normally adrift in a spaceless and timeless nonspacetime where everything is possible but nothing ever happens.  then consciousness (god) acts, possibility-waves interact, and suddenly it’s all laid out in front of you (god), the past present and future, and in going along, you develop self consciousness and the ego.  you develop a history and strive for the future and become fully attached to the things you surround your material existence with.  and until you drop the ego, you don’t remember that you are god squeezed into a tiny speck of the illusion of matter.

this is what i really believe.  it all started when i was about eight, and realized that einstein’s theory meant that everything is relative, and that meant it’s not true that there is one right answer to anything.  and then after i was told dogs and cats don’t have souls, i just chucked the whole organized religion thing as a scam, and felt free to believe in reincarnation and magic.  which according to quantum physics is no problem at all and in fact preferable to thinking there’s a daddy god who will punish us if we don’t do it his way.

because we are gods.  in training, and badly trained at that.  but if we are all one, and we are all part of god, then we are all god.  and individually, we all strive to become as close to god as we can, thru whatever means we take,  including the ass-backward ones of failing to learn by your mistakes.  just that being human means having one hell of an ego, and that makes you persist in thinking that you’re apart from god, and that causes fear, and fear leads to error.

***

a note about the characters and the game and the plot.

they are both operating on ego.  they both create a game experience that sucks for them and fucks over their followers.  they both are guilty of leading their minions gleefully into perdition.

they both have to act selflessly toward each other for the magic to work properly, and they’ve both been resisting all along.  when they realize this, everything transforms.  first, it transforms them.  later about that.

this transformation has effects on every level of the game.  it filters out all sorts of patterns (player’s actions and movements have been leaving trails in the game, squared possibility waves which generate probability-curves.  huh?), and generates a clearer, sharper, more real game world.  skills are easier to learn, and seem more obvious, players experiment more and develop more concrete skills they then use outside the game in the real world.

the transformation also affects the real world.  a wave even hits the sun.

and the kernel, when it goes off it affects the game and the real world, and all the players.

do the two occur at once?

after they face each other at the gamburtsevs, they leave a big mark in the landscape.  this becomes a pilgrimage site as their followers cope with their illusions.  it’s also the exit to antarctica, but it didn’t exist until the boy and girl created it.  kurt hadn’t created and linked in level ! before he died.  levels ! and !n were thrown together by snake the replacement programmer from copies of level 3.

does that mean their transformation come before the kernel is destroyed?  once the boy ha’s woken up, he’ll no longer help them complete their dastardly plans.  maybe he’ll have no choice; maybe he’ll have to witness the evil that ego can do.

ah.  i know.  they‘ll be forcing her to contact kurt the now-dead programmer, inside the game, and persuade him to travel back in time and make a backdoor into the kernel, to make one tiny change, whatever.  and because they try to interfere, it sets off the kernel.  so she’s stuck in the game when the kernel blows up.

in the chaos, he’ll escape with her drugged body.  because they‘ll be incapacitated and he won’t???  that’s too simple.

but it means i can transform the boy and girl, and then destroy the kernel.

and then nobody’s playing the game because there are no working copies of the game, because the entangled kernel has blown up in each and every instance of the game.  and the girl’s comatose.  and they’re just about to move to sweep up the whole lot of quantum game players (once they get organized, which the destruction of the kernel has fucked up their operations too).

that’s right, the whole of real reality is now screwed up because the kernel blew up.  and all sorts of quantum things that had been happening – what – stopped? increased?

this is a one-two punch.  first the entire material universe is affected when the boy and girl are transformed.  and then when the kernel blows up, the entire material universe is again affected.  and then when critical mass is reached, the whole thing is affected again.  that’s three times.  i like that.

maybe when the boy and girl are transformed, the real world is made a little brighter and more hopeful, and people forget their differences for a moment.  and when the kernel blows up, there’s a moment when everything turns into the cloud world, or the xian conception of heaven.  but this is a timeless moment, and a lot of it can be held  here.  this is where level ! is.

so.  when the boy and girl are transformed, they leave antarctica.  and when the kernel blows up, they enter level !.  so this bit i’m describing is just one big cut scene.  hahaha.  the real world as a cut scene.

the girl is already on level !.  she meets everybody as they come over, as critical mass is reached.  i guess this happens in their dreams, when they naturally play the game and their fingers twitch and they talk in their sleep.

the boy is too ego-wracked with guilt to enter the game state.  he coordinates the fight against them, while she teaches players how to create the world they want to live in.  slowly the cloud level ! starts to look like antarctica.

while it looks darkest to the boy, as he gives his last strength and fails, and they go for the kill, players are creating their own parallel worlds on level !n, and they’re all linked to each other, and they all contain the game and quantum reality.

and this is when a miracle happens.

***

it’s really cool when the details of the plot appear to me just as i’m getting there.  it’s – i go along for weeks, with the same vague plot, everything just a few limited buzzwords, things like a miracle happening.

and then, after a lot of nonwork when i don’t think about it,  i sit here on the edge of it and just breathe, and wait until something hooks in.  and then i breathe it out, and it comes flowing into my mind in an image or a scene, something with every detail and yet it’s all in only a fleeting insight.  and then it goes flowing thru my fingers, and you read it here.  it’s really a kind of yoga.  and it’s the exact feeling i’m looking to generate in the reader, the timelessness and creative flow that is the hallmark of quantum consciousness.

in the book i just took notes from, the guy mentions how artists often have this flow of timeless time.  and i’m able to testify to it.  i’ve had moments, working on a painting, when i’ll put down my brush and walk to the sink for a drink of water, and when i’ve come back to the easel 25 minutes have passed just walking back and forth to the sink.  whitley striber calls it missing time, and blames it on the aliens.  i pin it squarely on fairies.

author’s note

i’m trying to figure out my main characters, and imagine some secondary ones.  i watched your highness last night, and really liked the younger brother’s attitude, and all the movie references.  i don’t know if it’s a lot harder to do in print than visually, but i really got enthusiastic about all the gags.

the boy wants to put pirates into the game in a bad way.  the girl leans toward fairies and fantasy.  kurt the kernel programmer doesn’t do gaming but sees himself as wizard of the game anyway.  snake the replacement programmer is your basic first person shooter, the fairy godmother fan is a role player and social type, (sims and farmville, mario).

the boy puts piratesque things into the game levels, like hidden stashes and treasure maps, bolt holes, spy holes, black holes.  he bases his game on pirate principles (which are?) and on levels 3 and 4 he raids and steals, and when he gets to the mountain strongholds on level 4 it becomes institutionalized, with tribute from enderby.  when he comes to hell, level 6, he is a corporate raider, of course.  and his appearance at the gamburtsevs, for the showdown with the girl, he’s got on showy pirate gear.

 

but now his pirate ways, instead of being charming and roguish, are brutal and rapacious, causing misery everywhere he goes and leaving the population spitting at the mention of his name.  this is the bad side of piracy, where society finally gets organized to discourage pirates from attacking.  they never go away entirely because it’s such a part of human nature to want to take it all, but it can be minimized, and that’s what organized society is all about.  so it’s his atrocities that drive people to the girl’s side.

when they learned about the quantum world, they understood different things.  she understood that we are all one and that the important thing was to nurture and grow more connected.  but he went for the glitz, the magic of quantum physics, the power of controlling it.  he was enthusiastic when he came to cooperating with them, when they finally approached him.  he’d been thinking for some time about the uses of quantum physics, and had a lot of influence on the direction of their weapons lab.

when people begin to study magic, they’re usually looking to learn the secret powers.  but the whole point of studying these things is to learn mastery of your own self.  the secret powers are side effects, and not worth the bother.  that’s what they say.  the secret powers are really a trap.  and the boy will become trapped by it.

the girl, on the other hand, is trying to use quantum powers to help.  and this is actually the same trap as the boy falls into.  it’s actually an ego builder, and walls her off from the quantum source as much as the boy is walled off.  so they both have shedding to do, transformation.  she doesn’t just start out good and get holier.  her desire to help is from pain and fear, from whatever it was way in her past that taught her to fear.  and so it can’t turn out right.  she has to do the work on herself, not just the world.  so in the end her following is mawkish and self righteous and dogmatic, just like the boy’s following.  they are both sick of the whole edifice they’ve built and the trap it’s become.

and in this spirit they meet each other in the gamburtsevs, for that final showdown that will end the antarctic part of the game and let them go on to level !.

building a game engine

boy is there a lot to learn about when you try to write something you know nothing at all of.  the last video game i played was leisure suit larry.

The core functionality typically provided by a game engine includes a rendering engine (“renderer”) for 2D or 3D graphics, a physics engine or collision detection (and collision response), sound, scripting, animation, artificial intelligence, networking, streaming, memory management, threading, localization support, and a scene graph.

A scene graph is a collection of nodes in a graph or tree structure. A node may have many children but often only a single parent, with the effect of a parent applied to all its child nodes; an operation performed on a group automatically propagates its effect to all of its members. In many programs, associating a geometrical transformation matrix (see also transformation and matrix) at each group level and concatenating such matrices together is an efficient and natural way to process such operations. A common feature, for instance, is the ability to group related shapes/objects into a compound object that can then be moved, transformed, selected, etc. as easily as a single object.

It also happens that in some scene graphs, a node can have a relation to any node including itself, or at least an extension that refers to another node.

In vector-based graphics editing, each leaf node in a scene graph represents some atomic unit of the document, usually a shape such as an ellipse or Bezier path. Although shapes themselves (particularly paths) can be decomposed further into nodes such as spline nodes, it is practical to think of the scene graph as composed of shapes rather than going to a lower level of representation.

Another useful and user-driven node concept is the layer. A layer acts like a transparent sheet upon which any number of shapes and shape groups can be placed. The document then becomes a set of layers, any of which can be conveniently made invisible, dimmed, or locked (made read-only). Some applications place all layers in a linear list, while others support sublayers (i.e., layers within layers to any desired depth).

Internally, there may be no real structural difference between layers and groups at all, since they are both just nodes of a scene graph. If differences are needed, a common type declaration in C++ would be to make a generic node class, and then derive layers and groups as subclasses. A visibility member, for example, would be a feature of a layer, but not necessarily of a group.

Scene graphs are useful for modern games using 3D graphics and increasingly large worlds or levels. In such applications, nodes in a scene graph (generally) represent entities or objects in the scene.

For instance, a game might define a logical relationship between a knight and a horse so that the knight is considered an extension to the horse. The scene graph would have a ‘horse’ node with a ‘knight’ node attached to it.

In these large applications, memory requirements are major considerations when designing a scene graph. For this reason, many large scene graph systems use instancing to reduce memory costs and increase speed. In our example above, each knight is a separate scene node, but the graphical representation of the knight (made up of a 3D mesh, textures, materials and shaders) is instanced. This means that only a single copy of the data is kept, which is then referenced by any ‘knight’ nodes in the scene graph. This allows a reduced memory budget and increased speed, since when a new knight node is created, the appearance data does not need to be duplicated.

Group nodes — Can have any number of child nodes attached to it. Group nodes include transformations and switch nodes.

Leaf nodes — Are nodes that are actually rendered or see the effect of an operation. These include objects, sprites, sounds, lights and anything that could be considered ‘rendered’ in some abstract sense.

in a render operation, a transformation group node would accumulate its transformation by matrix multiplication, vector displacement, quaternions or Euler angles. After which a leaf node sends the object off for rendering to the renderer.

A raytracer, for example, will take a scene description of a 3D model and build an internal representation that breaks up its individual parts into bounding boxes (also called bounding slabs). These boxes are grouped hierarchically so that ray intersection tests (as part of visibility determination) can be efficiently computed. A group box that does not intersect an eye ray, for example, can entirely skip testing any of its members.

outline: chapter 3

chapter 3, quantum programming

they show the fairy tale to kurt, 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.

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, potentially bypassing the internet, because the kernels transfer information at a distance –every copy of the game being entangled with every other. quantum syntax as part of a programming language, with equations. examples of geek writing.

quantum effects can easily be simulated on a regular computer, and a quantum computer would be something else again. algorithms can be written that take into account minute differences in keystroke pressure and the energy level of the player, even detecting patterns of thinking. the player exerts quantum effort that can be correlated with actions in the game – learning to fly in the game goes along with the cultivation of a certain gut feeling in the player’s body.

the internal AI determines the player’s real type, as opposed to their chosen type, and gives the player a point score for self-knowledge.

the passage of time differs from level to level and from world to world on the horizontal level of parallel universes, as does most everything else. the time the player spends away from the game will pass inside the game at a quantum-determined rate that depends partly on weather conditions and the positions of the planets, and partly on the wishes and karma of the player, as well as other factors. (an unintended side-effect of the quantum kernel is that avatars age as they play, and that the game changes itself.)

physics.
level 1 is
classical physics, where you learn how to physically control gravity and speed etc.
level 2 is relativity, where you learn the exceptions to and limitations of classical physics.
level 3 is where you start learning quantum physics, action at a distance, telepathy, etc.
the horizontal level is where you learn entanglement, astral movement, etc.
antarctica is where you learn how to change the world
level ! is where you learn how to manifest and create
level !n is where you learn how to be god

what are the general physics lessons from the three disciplines?
classical – amusement park rides and arcade games
relativity – winning for the house (the rudiments of capitalism)
quantum – mind over matter, connection = power

chapter 3, quantum programming
they show the fairy tale to kurt, 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.
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, potentially bypassing the internet, because the kernels transfer information at a distance –every copy of the game being entangled with every other.  quantum syntax as part of a programming language, with equations.  examples of geek writing.
quantum effects can easily be simulated on a regular computer, and a quantum computer would be something else again.  algorithms can be written that take into account minute differences in keystroke pressure and the energy level of the player, even detecting patterns of thinking.  the player exerts quantum effort that can be correlated with actions in the game – learning to fly in the game goes along with the cultivation of a certain gut feeling in the player’s body.
the internal AI determines the player’s real type, as opposed to their chosen type, and gives the player a point score for self-knowledge.
the passage of time differs from level to level and from world to world on the horizontal level of parallel universes, as does most everything else.  the time the player spends away from the game will pass inside the game at a quantum-determined rate that depends partly on weather conditions and the positions of the planets, and partly on the wishes and karma of the player, as well as other factors.  (an unintended side-effect of the quantum kernel is that avatars age as they play, and that the game changes itself.)
physics.
level 1 is classical physics, where you learn how to physically control gravity and speed etc.
level 2 is relativity, where you learn the exceptions to and limitations of classical physics.
level 3 is where you start learning quantum physics, action at a distance, telepathy, etc.
the horizontal level is where you learn entanglement, astral movement, etc.
antarctica is where you learn how to change the world
level ! is where you learn how to manifest and create
level !n is where you learn how to be god
what are the general physics lessons from the three disciplines?
classical – amusement park rides and arcade games
relativity – winning for the house (the rudiments of capitalism)
quantum – mind over matter, connection = power

7 lessons of relativity

so now i need the lessons to be taught on level 2.  these are basically how to invalidate classical physics, how to cheat on all the games played with classical physics so that the house wins.  basically, i’m trying to show how relativity invalidates newtonian physics.

so, all the games of skill can be won by the house by changing the gravitational constant, etc.  and statistics (while not a branch of relativity) can be used in card-counting and other forms of cheating.  so now i have to round up seven principles of relativity that will fit into carnival rides and arcade games.

Some predictions of general relativity differ significantly from those of classical physics, especially concerning the passage of time, the geometry of space, the motion of bodies in free fall, and the propagation of light. Examples of such differences include gravitational time dilation, gravitational lensing, the gravitational redshift of light, and the gravitational time delay.

it implies the existence of black holes

the result of transporting spacetime vectors that can denote a particle’s velocity (time-like vectors) will vary with the particle’s trajectory; mathematically speaking, the Newtonian connection is not integrable. From this, one can deduce that spacetime is curved.

there are no global inertial frames. Instead there are approximate inertial frames moving alongside freely falling particles.

processes close to a massive body run more slowly when compared with processes taking place farther away; this effect is known as gravitational time dilation.

processes close to a massive body run more slowly when compared with processes taking place farther away; this effect is known as gravitational time dilation.  Closely related to light deflection is the gravitational time delay (or Shapiro effect), the phenomenon that light signals take longer to move through a gravitational field than they would in the absence of that field.

and more

as a space engineer you have been given the task of creating an “artificial gravity field” in this space station so that Alice and her comrades can work in a normal gravity environment like on Earth. How will you do it? Simple: make the big tin can rotate on its axis! Just like in the notorious “spinning cylinder” amusement park ride in which you go round and round and the floor drops out from beneath you

The two facts are “time dilation” and “length contraction”, which led him to warped time and warped space, respectively.

and another

Einstein’s relativity does not replace Newton’s universal gravitation, it merely modifies and partially supercedes aspects which proved inconsistent with developments in electromagnetic theory.

and another

This perspective on the world also includes something else that is very important. It includes the idea that only the present exists, the past is gone and the future is not out there yet. Philosophers call this outlook presentism. But then along came Einstein with special relativity in 1905 and it gave scientists an idea that most of them still cannot accept called the blockworld (and sometimes called the block universe). Special relativity says there is no such thing as “now” (except in our minds) and that the past, present and future all have to be out there at once as a kind of solid block of everything that “just is”.

The blockworld model shows us the universe is a package deal. The universe had to pop up all at once. The past, present and future must all be there, the past, present and future must all have popped up at once. The universe is not something that began at the Big Bang and then evolved as the matter moved out from the explosion. As for the Big Bang itself you might say that the Big Bang at the “beginning” of space and time is just a tiny fraction of what was created, it is merely a sort of fireworks display that is “celebrating” all the creation from there out to infinity. So if you sat back and watched creation by this God-like being from the proper perspective what you would see is, first, nothing at all. Then instantly a whole universe would appear. You’d see everything in the universe across all of space and time. At the far left of the universe you could see the Big Bang. A little bit to the right of the Big Bang you would start to find stars and galaxies. A little bit farther to the right you would start to find planets. Say one of those planets is Earth-like and then at some point to the right you would find simple cells, a bit farther to the right you would find more complex living things and a bit farther to the right you would find people. But all these things came into existence at once, they did not develop one after the other.

Consider for instance an amusement park ride like the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyworld. When you get on the ride at the beginning in what we could call the present, the rest of the ride is still out there in front of you “in the future”. Everything in the future exists as something just as real as the place where you are starting out in the present even though you can’t see it yet. As you move through the ride you only see one place at a time. You only see “the present”. You experience what you call “now”. But the future is still out there in front of you and it is still just as real as where you are in the present and even the past where you started the ride is just as real as the present or the future. When you finally reach the end of the ride all of the past is still there and it is just as real as the now that you are experiencing “now”. And the whole ride is completely unchanged, it is still a sort of frozen block of everything.

The same applies to reading a book. The whole story was prepared by the author in advance. The beginning, middle and end all exist at once. It is a frozen block that “just is”. As you read page by page your consciousness moves through the book and where you are reading now is “the present”. What you’ve already read is still there in “the past” and “the future” is still there ahead of you.

To briefly summarize the ideas so far, all these years people have been using the perspective of presentism. This perspective works pretty well for most things but modern physics has found the new, better blockworld perspective and this perspective explains things better.

In modern times many people have come to believe in the evolution of life by chance. In evolution by chance chemistry just naturally produced some organic compounds that by chance evolved into a living cell. Afterwards chance mutations in the DNA of the single living cell produced more complex living things. The blockworld kills this idea in a single stroke because there is no such thing as chance.

and another

The student activity sheets for use on the day of the visit feature self-explanatory notes and are designed so that students can complete the activities while queuing/moving around the Park. You may wish to suggest that students take pictures of the rides and the Park to enhance their studies.

Students will benefit from prior knowledge of:
•     the relationship between speed, distance and time.
•     the effect of forces on speed and the direction of objects.
•     the ways in which friction affects motion.
•     energy transfer and the Law of Conservation of Energy.
It is also helpful if students have previously learned to use formula triangles and have used line graphs.

Scientific thinking
–     Using scientific ideas and models to explain phenomena and developing them creatively to generate and test theories.
–     Critically analysing and evaluating evidence from observations and experiments.
•     Energy, electricity and forces
–     Energy can be transferred usefully, stored or dissipated, but cannot be created or destroyed.
–     Forces are interactions between objects and can affect their shape and motion.

Schemes of Work
•     Forces and their effects
•     Gravity and space
•     Speeding up

Energy, electricity and radiations
–     Energy transfers can be measured.

the idea i’m trying to express on level 2 is that all the things we know about classical mechanics change when we move to another system of physics.  and i’m talking about metaphorically.  i’m talking about inside a video game, when it’s all a matter of trickery to begin with.  just that on level 2 all the tricks of level 1 are exposed and a new system comes into play.

so while the roller coaster is a ride where you can change the forces – change the track – on level 2 you can bend forces, dilate time, use black holes to control the ride.  workers on level 2 operate the spinning ride where the floor drops out and you have artificial gravity, while the players on level 1 can only move around squashed against the wall and launch themselves into the gravity pit faster or slower, stuff like that.

***

now, about cheating on games, presumably using statistics as well as weighted balls.  this one’s about cheating in online games

SOME PUBLICLY KNOWN CHEATS
CHEATING BY COLLUSION
CHEATING BY ABUSING PROCEDURE OR POLICY
CHEATING RELATED WITH VIRTUAL ASSETS
CHEATING BY COMPROMISING PASSWORDS
CHEATING BY DENYING SERVICE FROM PEER PLAYERS
CHEATING DUE TO LACK OF SECRECY
CHEATING DUE TO LACK OF AUTHENTICATION
CHEATING RELATED WITH INTERNAL MISUSE
CHEATING BY SOCIAL ENGINEERING
CHEATING BY MODIFYING GAME SOFTWARE OR DATA
Object Correlation
Objects Exposure
CHEATING BY EXPLOITING BUG OR DESIGN FLAW

categories for online cheating:
1. Reflex Augmentation: Exploiting a computer program to replace human reaction to produce superior results
2. Authoritative Clients: Exploiting compromised clients to send modified commands to the other honest clients who will blindly accept them
3. Information Exposure: Exploiting access or visibility to hidden information by compromising client software
4. Compromised Servers : Modifying server configurations to get unfair advantages
5. Bugs and Design Loopholes: Exploiting bugs or design flaws in game software
6. Environmental Weaknesses: Exploiting particular hardware or operating conditions

ESP cheats try to provide the player with visual enhancements to better enable the player to correlate between two objects. One such ESP cheat is improved or new radar and map for a game. Many games run a full copy of the game on each client, i.e. the client knows where all the other objects are. When the objects are positioned a place the player is meant to see them, they are shown on the screen. A modification might add a minimap or similar on the screen showing where all the other objects are at any time, like it’s done for Counter Strike and Warcraft III [17,14].

Another variant of ESP is “glow” [17]. Glow ESP helps a player see  enemies better. Either the whole object is changed to a color that is light or “glowing”, or only the sides of the objects are “glowing”. This makes it easer to distinguish friend from foe or spot objects in dark areas.

The goal for these cheats is to show something to the player that he  shouldn’t be able to see. This can be done be removing objects or making it possible to see objects meant to be hidden behind other objects.

Removed objects

In some games certain groups of objects clouds the visibility of other objects – and they are meant to. In Counter Strike smoke grenades release clouds of smoke that are very opaque, making them hard to see
through. Cheats remove these clouds [17]. Warcraft III uses something called fog of war. This is visible as a layer over the terrain that only lets the player view the contour of the landscape below. Some cheats remove this, giving the player the opportunity to explore the whole map without moving objects around to remove the fog of war [14].

Transparent objects

This kind of cheat is often known as wall hack [17]. The following group of cheats are also known as wall hack, but this is probably the one most players think of when a wall hack is mentioned, i.e. the ability to see
through walls. Sometimes these cheats makes all walls in a map 50% transparent [17]. In other words, it is possible to make some group of objects more or less transparent, making objects behind them visible.

Changed object layers

This method aims at showing objects a player wants to see without modifying objects like walls. A cheater can put some objects that are located behind others in front of those hiding them, making them visible. A solution might be to put all objects of a certain kind in front of any other object. This might – like in Counter Strike [17] – be a player model, enabling a player to know where other players are located. This wall hack is more efficient than ‘transparent objects’ because the cheater now only sees what is important and not everything else behind the wall. Seeing everything can limit ones ability to navigate on the map.

Textual information

Text can be shown about an object to reveal details about it not visually easy to spot for humans [17]. This might be items a player is carrying or the players’ health or strength. It is possible to make the text visible on top of other objects, e.g. a player model. Further it’s possible to show the text on top of other objects, in effect creating a wall hack with only the text visible through walls. This has the effect that the player models are located where they should, but the cheater will get an early  warning when text is shown on a wall but no player model is visible, i.e. the player model is behind the wall.

Cheaters often find their targets easy prey because data can bee seen in clear text, either between the client and server or internally in the machine under the cheaters control. An approach to reduce this threat is encrypting important data kept in memory or sent between the client and server or between the game engine and a modification (Mod).

There are many encryption schemes useful for online games, like the Advanced Encryption Algorithm [28]. However, such cryptographic algorithms might be to resource consuming. Another solution that might be sufficient is using XOR for important values. That would make it more difficult to e.g. search for known values in memory e.g. for a paused game. Each new patch for a game could include a new XOR key to make a cheaters life more difficult.

Pritchard [1] suggest another kind of “encryption”, known as security through obscurity. By dynamically changing the command syntax, hackers will have more trouble finding the desired data in memory. Such solutions are not popular in the academic world, but from a practical  approach, everything that increase the pain of the attacker at a low cost for the defender has some clear advantages.

In order to beat the cheaters, some kind of disciplinary punishment is needed. If cheating doesn’t result in anything negative for the cheater, they will likely continue cheating. One such punishment is disabling the user account associated with the cheat. At the same time, those offended by the cheat should have some possibility of restoring e.g. something that was taken from them.

here’s the precis of the bible of cheating with statistics

  • The sample with a built-in bias : the origin of the statistics problems – the sample.
  • The well-chosen average: how not qualifying an average can change the meaning of the data.
    Arithmetic average / mean – sum of quantities / number of quantities
    Median – the middle point of the data which separates the data, the midpoint when data is sorted
    Mode – the data point that occurs the most in a given set of data
  • This chapter is about how the sample data is picked up in a way to prove the results
  • This little chapter is about errors in measurement. There are two measures for measuring error – Probable Error and Standard Error.
  • How to manipulate a graph so that it shows an inflated / deflated picture
  • This one is an interesting trick. The trick here is use some sort of symbol – a money bag, a factory symbol things like that on the graph. So, when measuring the growth of, say the factory, increase the size of the factory image – and increase it across all the dimensions. Given that the reader is seeing this on a graph, the other dimensions are forgotten and the large money bag gives the impression that there is a much larger difference than 1:3 !
  • The semi-attached figure: And what is the idea – very simple. If you can’t prove what you want to prove, prove something else and demonstrate that they both are the same!
  • Post-hoc analysis. The cause and effect problem. You have the effect and then you go around shopping for a cause that you want to portray.
  • How to statisticulate: to manipulate readers by using statistics.
  • How to talk back to a statistic.

there’s bunches more, but i’ve got to tend to my cooking upstairs, so i’m going to close.

7 facets of classical physics

i need to reduce the field of classical mechanics to 7 lessons.

Classical mechanics describes the motion of macroscopic objects, from projectiles to parts of machinery, as well as astronomical objects, such as spacecraft, planets, stars, and galaxies. Besides this, many specializations within the subject deal with gases, liquids, solids, and other specific sub-topics.

from another source:

DISPLACEMENT, VELOCITY, & ACCELERATION

[2.3] WORK & ENERGY

[2.4] CONSERVATION OF ENERGY

[2.5] THE THIRD LAW / MOMENTUM IN ACTION

[3.1] DRAG & FRICTION

[3.3] FORCES AND FIELDS

[4.1] ROTATIONAL MOTION / ANGULAR VELOCITY

[4.2] FUNDAMENTAL QUANTITIES / CENTER OF MASS

[4.3] TORQUE, MOMENT OF INERTIA, & THE SECOND LAW OF MOTION

[4.7] CONSERVATION OF ANGULAR MOMENTUM

physics of solids, liquids, thermal, sound and light

here’s from another source:

Classical physics is a branch of physics in which matter and energy are two separate concepts. Based primarily on Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of motion and James Clerk Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetic radiation, classical physics is generally divided into several different areas. These areas include mechanics (looking at motion, objects and the forces that act on them), dynamics, hydrodynamics, statics, optics, thermodynamics (studying energy and heat) and acoustics, as well as the studies of the phenomena surrounding magnetism and electricity. The laws of conservation of mass, conservation of energy and conservation of momentum are also very important to classical physics.

and another:

Physics I is a first-year physics course which introduces students to classical mechanics. Topics include: space and time; straight-line kinematics; motion in a plane; forces and equilibrium; experimental basis of Newton’s laws; particle dynamics; universal gravitation; collisions and conservation laws; work and potential energy; vibrational motion; conservative forces; inertial forces and non-inertial frames; central force motions; rigid bodies and rotational dynamics.

and another:

Rigid body·Rigid body dynamics·Euler’s equations (rigid body dynamics)·Motion·Newton’s laws of motion·Newton’s law of universal gravitation·Euler’s laws of motion·Equations of motion·Inertial frame of reference·Non-inertial reference frame·Rotating reference frame·Fictitious force·Linear motion·Mechanics of planar particle motion·Displacement (vector)·Relative velocity·Friction·Simple harmonic motion·Harmonic oscillator·Vibration·Damping·Damping ratio·Rotational motion·Circular motion·Uniform circular motion·Non-uniform circular motion·Centripetal force·Centrifugal force·Centrifugal force (rotating reference frame)·Reactive centrifugal force·Coriolis force·Pendulum·Rotational speed·Angular acceleration·Angular velocity·Angular frequency·Angular displacement

and another:

1-D Kinematics

The motion of objects in one-dimension are described using words, diagrams, numbers, graphs, and equations.

Newton’s Laws

Newton’s three laws of motion are explained and their application to the analysis of the motion of objects in one dimension is discussed.

Vectors – Motion and Forces in Two Dimensions

Vector principles and operations are introduced and combined with kinematic principles and Newton’s laws to describe, explain and analyze the motion of objects in two dimensions. Applications include riverboat problems, projectiles, inclined planes, and static equilibrium.

Momentum and Its Conservation

The impulse-momentum change theorem and the law of conservation of momentum are introduced, explained and applied to the analysis of collisions of objects.

Work, Energy, and Power

Concepts of work, kinetic energy and potential energy are discussed; these concepts are combined with the work-energy theorem to provide a convenient means of analyzing an object or system of objects moving between an initial and final state.

Circular Motion and Satellite Motion

Newton’s laws of motion and kinematic principles are applied to describe and explain the motion of objects moving in circles; specific applications are made to roller coasters and athletics. Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation is then presented and utilized to explain the circular and elliptical motion of planets and satellites.

Thermal Physics

The distinction between heat and temperature is thoroughly explained. Methods of heat transfer are explained. The mathematics associated with temperature changes and phase changes is discussed; its application to the science of calorimetry is presented.

Static Electricity

Basic principles of electrostatics are introduced in order to explain how objects become charged and to describe the effect of those charges on other objects in the neighboring surroundings. Charging methods, electric field lines and the importance of lightning rods on homes are among the topics discussed in this unit.

Current Electricity

The flow of charge through electric circuits is discussed in detail. The variables which cause and hinder the rate of charge flow are explained and the mathematical application of electrical principles to series, parallel and combination circuits is presented.

Waves

The nature, properties and behaviors of waves are discussed and illustrated; the unique nature of a standing wave is introduced and explained.

Sound Waves and Music

The nature of sound as a longitudinal, mechanical pressure wave is explained and the properties of sound are discussed. Wave principles of resonance and standing waves are applied in an effort to analyze the physics of musical instruments.

Light Waves and Color

The behavior of light waves is introduced and discussed; polarization, color, diffraction and interference are introduced as supporting evidence of the wave nature of light. Color perception is discussed in detail.

Reflection and the Ray Model of Light

The ray nature of light is used to explain how light reflects off of planar and curved surfaces to produce both real and virtual images; the nature of the images produced by plane mirrors, concave mirrors, and convex mirrors is thoroughly illustrated.

Refraction and the Ray Model of Light

The ray nature of light is used to explain how light refracts at planar and curved surfaces; Snell’s law and refraction principles are used to explain a variety of real-world phenomena; refraction principles are combined with ray diagrams to explain why lenses produce images of objects.

euler’s laws

newton’s laws of motion (can we illustrate all three in one experiment?)

linear motion, vectors

relative velocity

friction

harmonic motion (spring, pendumum)

rotational / angular motion

centrifugal / centripetal force

***

rides

roller coaster – The conversion of potential energy to kinetic energy is what drives the roller coaster, and all of the kinetic energy you need for the ride is present once the coaster descends the first hill

carousel – circular motion, linear motion

bumper cars –  the law of action-reaction, the drivers feel a change in their motion and become aware of their inertia.  The type of collision, velocity of the cars, and mass of the individual drivers all come into play in bumper car collisions.

free fall – In the first part of the ride, force is applied to the car to lift it to the top of the free-fall tower.   After a brief period in which the riders are suspended in the air, the car suddenly drops and begins to accelerate toward the ground under the influence of the earth’s gravity.

pendulum – Feelings of weightlessness are not due to a decrease in forces of gravitation; people do not feel forces of gravity. What you feel is the force of a seat (or other external object) pushing on your body with a force to counteract gravity’s downward pull.  The motion of an object in a circle requires that there be a force directed toward the center of the circle (sometimes called a “centripetal force”). This means that at the bottom of the circular swing, there must be an upward force (since the circle’s center is upward). Gravitational forces are always directed downward upon a rider’s body; thus, gravitational forces cannot meet this centripetal force requirement. The seat must supply the centripetal force, pushing upwards on the rider with a force greater than gravity’s downward pull.

***

arcade games

Riverboat Simulator

Explore concepts of relative velocity by investigating the motion of a boat across a river in the presence of a current. Alter the boat speed and heading, the river width and current speed; explore the effect of these changes upon the time to cross the river and the distance traveled downstream.

View: Animation || Activity Sheet

Projectile Simulator

Investigate the nature of a projectile using this projectile simulator. Alter the launch height, launch speed and launch angle and explore the effect of such alterations on the time of flight, range, and overall trajectory.

View: Animation || Activity Sheet

Hit the Target

Practice your skill at solving horizontally-launched projectile problems by seeing if you can hit a target. Three types of problems are presented with randomly generated numbers.

View: Animation || Activity Sheet || Data Sheet

Race Track

Test your understanding of the relationship between the net force and the resulting motion as you attempt to guide a car around an oval race track in the least number of moves. Watch your speed on the curves and you’ll be a winner.

View: Animation

Uniform Circular Motion

Analyze the motion of an object moving in a circle at a constant speed and investigate the directional nature of velocity and acceleration and the effect of speed and radius upon the acceleration.

View: Animation || Activity Sheet

Gravitation

Learn about the concept of universal gravitation as you explore the variables which effect the force of gravity between an object and a planet.

View: Animation || Activity Sheet

Orbital Motion

Investigate the elliptical motion of a satellite orbiting a central body and the nature of the velocity and force vectors. Alter the eccentricity of the orbit and view the effect upon the shape of the ellipse.

View: Animation || Activity Sheet

Standing Wave Patterns

Explore the standing wave patterns for a stringed instruments. Alter the length of the string, the amplitude of the wave pattern and the harmonic number. View the length-wavelength-frequency relationships.

View: Animation

Beat Patterns

Investigate the wave patterns associated with beats by combining two waves of similar frequency. Observe the wave patterns for the individual waves and observe the resulting beat pattern which is formed.

View: Animation

 

 

author’s note: the game

the quantum videogame

***

when the boy and girl test the first two levels.  it’s a technical chapter, discussing the bits and pieces of the levels rather than the aesthetics.

when the alpha testers test the first two levels, we see the lessons being illustrated.

the boy and girl are testing level 3, the clouds, when the kernel programmer dies.

when the beta testers test the first two levels, we see the social interactions.

when the boy and girl test the horizontal level, they’re creating it.

they go live.  when the first players play the first two levels, we see the experience.

the kernel programmer is in the game, which now builds itself.

the boy and girl play antarctica (ring 1), so do all the testers and the live players, all at once.  quantum baby steps.

game goes viral; outcry

ring 2 antarctica.  learning quantum skills

boy and girl approached

ring 3 antarctica.  learning cooperation

game banned

ring 4 antarctica.  committing yourself

open defiance

ring 5 antarctica.  struggle for the paradigm

brutal suppression

ring 6 antarctica.  overwhelming odds

kernel destroyed, girl captured

level !.  having to be god

despair and loss

level !n.  learning to be god

ring 7 antarctica.  final battle

a miracle happens

outline: chapter 2

brainstorming the game

they quickly write down what they remember of what the fiery angel showed them, and the details of what happened to them on their quest. and the point of it all, and the riddle. they draw a map. they show the text message to their friends, they explain their experience, and they all get together to brainstorm a quantum videogame.

an open source game, so anyone can add modules and make modifications. a combined game that caters to everybody – a free to play, online, massively multiple, emergent, shooter, strategy, adventure, driving, non-violent, exploratory, role-playing party and puzzle game. the idea is for as many people to play the game as possible to achieve quantum critical mass.

money to run the game comes from quantum skimming of transaction fees and stock market activity worldwide, so who cares about income except to keep up appearances.

skills are learned by the player, rather than belonging to the avatar, and possessions don’t transfer between most levels, so there isn’t much to trade or sell.

a voluntary set of guidelines instead of rules governing players’ behavior. a game that rewards cooperation and inclusiveness, and where your own karma dishes out the punishment for your sins.

karma is a hidden tally of each character’s actions and the other players’ reactions. karma can be good or bad (plus or minus) points. possessions are positive in the level, but count as a negative when you change levels.

players have unlimited lives, and the more advanced ones can choose when and where and even who to be reborn as.

karma/health is directly connected to empathy, things done for others, and connection to other players. the karmic score is decreased 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 increased by learning your lesson, moderating your 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.

places also have karma/health points which affect players both directly and subtly.

players’ avatars change to reflect their karma/health status, as well as their social/political/economic status. quantum skills are invisible. karma shows in the characters’ avatars.

connectedness is a measure of good karma. evil people/actions are isolated to the point where they have to be god. connected people get to share the powers and duties and burden of being a god. a lonely god is a crazy god.

players’ knowledge of quantum physics is developed by graduated exercises, starting with a review of classical and relativistic physics. the exercises are designed to produce quantum effects in the game that must be learned and practiced by the player, and your knowledge is tested before you go to the next level. these exercises teach all the principles they were shown in their vision.

author’s note

as i was writing about the bunches of 7s that are winding thru this story, my friend jennifer stopped at pump 7 and jim received 7 packages in the mail.  so okay, fine.  i got out my tarot book and my esoteric numbers book and looked on the internet, and yes, 7 is one of those magic numbers, no doubt about it.

so, fine, i can add a level.  it’s easy to do in antarctica, where i’ve got the gamburtsev mountains that i haven’t gone into yet.  they’re way high.  they can have the final conflict there.  and it’s easy to do in the game levels, because the horizontal level in general is different than antarctica, which is one of the worlds of the horizontal level.  i’m still working on the 7 quantum lessons, or the 7 classical and relativistic lessons, or the 7 mind lessons that i only just now thought of.  i’m guessing i’ll need to have 7 of these groups of 7.  i’ve already got the 7 islands of the first level, and the 7 dragoncon years.  will there be 7 characters?  are there 7 ages of man?

it doesn’t matter.  i can fit anything anywhere; it’s all a metaphor anyway.  whatever framework you’re comfortable, but i love it when everything ties together in a beautiful way.

outline: chapter 1

the fairy tale

the boy and girl arrive together in the garden of eden. a fiery angel greets them and shows them around. he shows them antarctica. he shows them both sides of the amusement park. he shows them the clouds where things are created. he shows them the horizontal level and the struggle for antarctica. he shows them seven levels and seven rings. he teaches them seven quantum skills.

then, once they master all these things, the angel looks on in dismay as they spend all their time creating and playing in worlds on the horizontal level. he turns off their games, tells them he’s kicking them out, they’ve got better things to do with their powers, and that he’ll give them the deed to the garden if they find the answer to a simple question – what is the essence of the game – and kicks them out. the boy looks back and sees the angel putting the fiery sword into a rock, and goes back to steal it. the girl sees a feather drop from the angel’s wings, and goes back to get it.

they boy goes on to fight everyone he meets, and wins because of his sword. he grows rich and powerful and becomes a strict patriarch. the girl goes on to help everyone she meets with her similarly blessed feather, and grows beloved and respected as mother of all.

in time, his lands are despoiled and his people sickly, and he casts his eyes on her fertile lands and healthy people, and begins to take them, while his people, oppressed and suffering, begin deserting and joining her cause.

he amasses his armies on her borders. she goes to face him alone. he begins the attack, she waves her feather, and his weapons grow heavy, bend, and turn into trees. his soldiers disappear into the forest.

the boy and girl stand alone against each other. they are old. they have missed each other. he is sorry for all the fuss. she’s sorry for staying away. they embrace, and energy builds up between them until their synapses overload and they explode in bliss. they see the duality of all things, and the oneness of all things. in the light, as the feeling dulls down, the fiery angel appears and asks them the answer to the riddle. the answer is binary. and what is the meaning of this? that everything is one, or nothing. and all you need is love?

when they come back, they’re in a stairwell. they find a feather. the girl goes to pick it up and the boy yells at her because it’s a filthy pigeon feather and is probably diseased. she picks it up in secret. later they get a text message from the angel. cre8 th game, t’ch th Snce, th 3×7. fthr/sord.

jim heard this version of the fairy tale, and immediately thought of jacob and esau.

thru trickery jacob gets the blessing, then is afraid that esau will kill him, so flees. he finds a wife and has to work 7 years. then is tricked and has to work another 7 years. he is very good at managing, and becomes very wealthy and decides to return home. meanwhile esau has taken care of all the things jacob would have done and would rather have spent the time hunting. so jacob prepares to meet esau who has amassed a huge army against him, thinking himself threatened. jacob is scared. he sends a good part of his flock ahead of him as presents, and scatters his family so they won’t all be captured. that night he meets an angel in his dream and they fight. even tho he can’t win, jacob refuses to give up, and in the morning, the angel makes a deal to bless jacob so he can leave. the angel changes jacob’s name to israel. then jacob meets esau, whose heart was softened by the gifts, and they made up, jacob bowing to esau’s leadership.

as to the jacob and esau idea for the basic fairy tale i’ll be retelling my way, it’s sure enough how i saw my two protagonists. even tho they’re enemies, they’re still one person, and the only way to live is to cut the bullshit and get along. that’s the moral of the fairy tale. but it’s not the game, and it’s not some angel showing them around the … oops.

okay. when they get to the garden, the angel shows them around. he shows them antarctica. he shows them both sides of the amusement park. he shows them the clouds were things are created. he shows them the six levels and the six rings (should it be seven? it’s always seven in fairy tales. is 6 more quantum than 7 maybe?) (6 is 110, 7 is 111 so 7 is preferable. there are 7 island groups on level 1…). he teaches them quantum skills. then, once they master all these things, he tells them they will become as gods with the completion of a simple task, and kicks them out.

how does that sound for a fairy tale?

the boy and girl arrive together in the garden of eden, and do a bunch of stuff together, but are soon split up and driven out, each with different tasks.  the angel with the fiery sword gives the girl a feather, and gives the boy a sword, and they’re sent to find the answer to a question (the answer is we’re all one or love conquers all).
they boy goes on to fight everyone he meets, and wins because of his sword.  he grows rich and powerful and becomes a strict patriarch.  the girl goes on to help everyone she meets with her similarly blessed feather, and grows beloved and respected as mother of all.  in time, his lands are despoiled and his people sickly, and he casts his eyes on her fertile lands and healthy people, and begins to take them, while his people, oppressed and suffering, begin deserting and joining her cause.
he amasses his armies on her borders.  she goes to face him alone.  he begins the attack, she waves her feather, and his weapons grow heavy, bend, and turn into trees.  his soldiers disappear into the forest.
the boy and girl stand alone against each other.  they are old.  they have missed each other.  he is sorry for all the fuss.  she’s sorry for staying away.  they embrace, and energy builds up between them until their synapses overload and they explode in bliss.  in the light, as the feeling dulls down, the fiery angel appears and asks them the answer to the riddle.
the reader chooses the ending.  could it be anything other than the boy and girl are one person, and all you need is love?  i can’t imagine another ending, one where strength and macho bullshit win the day, tho i’m sure there is one.
jim heard this version of the fairy tale, and immediately thought of jacob and esau.
thru trickery jacob gets the blessing, then is afraid that esau will kill him, so flees.  he finds a wife and has to work 7 years.  then is tricked and has to work another 7 years.  he is very good at managing, and becomes very wealthy and decides to return home.  meanwhile esau has taken care of all the things jacob would have done and would rather have spent the time hunting.  so jacob prepares to meet esau who has amassed a huge army against him, thinking himself threatened.  jacob is scared.  he sends a good part of his flock ahead of him as presents, and scatters his family so they won’t all be captured. that night he meets an angel in his dream and they fight.  even tho he can’t win, jacob refuses to give up, and in the morning, the angel makes a deal to bless jacob so he can leave.  the angel changes jacob’s name to israel.  then jacob meets esau, whose heart was softened by the gifts, and they made up, jacob bowing to esau’s leadership.
as to the jacob and esau idea for the basic fairy tale i’ll be retelling my way, it’s sure enough how i saw my two protagonists.  even tho they’re enemies, they’re still one person, and the only way to live is to cut the bullshit and get along.  that’s the moral of the fairy tale.  but it’s not the game, and it’s not some angel showing them around the … oops.
okay.  when they get to the garden, the angel shows them around.  he shows them antarctica.  he shows them both sides of the amusement park.  he shows them the clouds were things are created.  he shows them the six levels and the six rings (should it be seven?  it’s always seven in fairy tales.  is 6 more quantum than 7 maybe?) (6 is 110, 7 is 111 so 7 is preferable.  there are 7 island groups on level 1…).  he teaches them quantum skills.  then, once they master all these things, he tells them they will become as gods with the completion of a simple task, and kicks them out.

testing level 1

this is what i’ve just written about the boy and girl testing level 1.

the boy and girl test level 1.  they choose avatars and fine tune them, then forgo the introduction and the tutorials and go straight to the level.  they fall thru the air from thousands of feet above the clouds.  they test their physical controls, learning how to slow their fall and starting to learn to fly.  they emerge from the clouds over the playing area, a group of islands in the middle of a round lake, surrounded by endless parking lots and pine forests all around.  it’s a theme park, and it’s split into two parts, west and east, and at the moment east is mostly cloudy.  but they can see small houses and trailers scattered about, and low buildings, and laundry fluttering in the wind.  they descend toward the western part of an obvious theme park.  there are booths and rides, a food court, lots of winding paths.  it’s empty but for a few npcs; they are the first to walk on the level.

they steadily comment on their experience, pointing out things to fix and improve.  they change the area into more of an antarctic landscape, with hugely exaggerated mountains on the midway and an almost icecap smoothness in carneytown, where in places you can see the original gridlines.

improvements happen almost as they speak because they are communicating with the quantum kernel.  it’s very convenient to be creating the level by playing it, and it changes the way they continue programming it (this has repercussions for snake’s job).

they split up and play all the games and go on all the rides multiple times, tweaking and getting the effects down.  they interact with the npcs and buy things and accumulate points and finally are invited past the ‘you must be this tall’ sign into level 2.

act 3

back in the real world, the game hits and people love it.  tho it has no corporate backing, it goes viral.  music and fashions change and a distinctive culture grows up right away.  as the game grows, so do the boy’s ambitions.  he is both pope and king of this new quantum universe.  funny quantum things start happening in the real world.  the press picks up on it.  the right picks up on it.  there is an outcry.  quantum physics is demonized.  laws are passed, or brushed off and creatively applied.  demonstrations happen.  there is police brutality.  more people gather.  the boy feels dissed when the dominant culture brands him a devil.  the girl is focused on seeing the game to a position of self-sufficiency (critical mass) and doesn’t care, but the boy is looking to the future, and decides that he needs to take control of everything because of the threat from the dominant culture.

inside the game, lots of players are learning social movement and resistance skills, and more players are working their way to level ! and going off to create their own worlds and recruit their own players.  the outcry grows shriller and more frantic.  the repressions grow more brutal.  the crowds grow and grow.  quantum effects become more frequent.  more laws, more crowds, more riots, more disappearances.

the boy is approached by the other side and decides they can be used for his own ends, and cuts them in.  people use the skills they have been learning playing the game to change the standing of the people.  the dominant culture falls back in confusion, but come back with more force and repression, isolating the rebels and cutting off vital supply chains.

they start to dictate policy, the boy changes things in the game, altering rules and missions, twisting the lessons, identifying and capturing certain types of players.  he discovers the sabotage the replacement programmer inserted into the game and confronts him.  they join forces, blame the engine programmer for the sabotage and call into question the intent and purpose of the quantum kernel.

the girl stands up to him and throws him out, but she is too weak and disorganized, and he returns with backup, leading the call for the kernel’s confiscation because of its vast power, only to try and steal it himself, and in a struggle over a decoherence bomb, sets it off and destroys the original kernel.
the dominant culture is poised to deal the final blow to the resistance, cutting off all outlets, all communications, all supplies, all power, so there is no more game except on individual computers running on batteries or solar, because the internet itself has been shut down.

then a miracle happens.  the quantum effects keep happening in the real world.  the game’s internal communications structures are still intact, and people are still using the quantum skills they’ve developed, and still coming out in force.  but the perception of the masses has changed, and the powers of the dominant culture suddenly shatter because they’re emperor’s new clothes.  so the remains of the dominant culture squeeze itself into their gated communities and fight among themselves for limited resources while the new dominant culture enshrines the new institutions it has developed in response to the repression of the old order., and people quietly create the world they want to live in house by house.

and the story closes by letting the reader choose the ending.

the game: level !n

level !n

players leave level ! when a master gives them their final quest, a three-parter.

players use their quantum skills to create a world with npcs and quests on the horizontal level.

players go thru all the levels helping create other level ! players, intervening in gameplay disguised as npcs.

players go into the real, nongame world and spread quantum thinking, acting as a virus.

the game: level !

level !

not everyone makes it to this level. and of those who do, the creation of a custom heaven is the end of the game. however, masters show themselves to anyone with sufficient mastery of quantum skills, no matter which side they played on in the horizontal level.

this isn’t the fog level introduction to the horizontal level. that was the pale shadow of this one. this level looks like heaven. it begins like fog, but players quickly sculpt it to whatever environment they choose, using their formidable quantum skills. everything is done with quantum skills at this level.

this is the metalevel. the masters live here. they are npcs of ultimate power and wisdom, and welcome players with promises of real and urgent work to be done.

first there is a review of each player’s progress thru the game. the early lessons from levels 1 and 2 are discussed. then the player observes from the clouds the antarctica they have been playing thru, identify themselves in their most crucial moments, watch their development and see how it fits with the growth of other players. masters and players discuss the lessons learned, and make recommendations and choices of lessons still to learn.

this is a training school for adepts. players are here to learn the mastery of quantum rules – advanced quantum magic. communication and storytelling and tv presence. rhetoric and cointelpro and psych speak.. rehistory. the masters teach them how to increase and broaden their game skills into the nongame world as fully realized quantum agents.

author’s note

this is the process i’m working on at the moment.  still trying to work thru the antarctica part of the game and proceed to level !.

it all fits into the dante rings of hell scenario.

in the first ring of the underworld, we reenact the story of adam and eve.  baby/toddler
when they leave for the second ring, it’s the expulsion from the garden into adolescence.  they learn how to grow into young royalty.  star wars.  child/adolescent.  school

why do they leave this stage?  are they kicked out again?  or can’t they wait to leave?
in the third ring they grow up and find a place in their chosen society.  reality bites etc.  apprenticeship/adulthood.

it’s a progression from this stage to the next, smooth and natural.  no more boats, only land travel.

the fourth ring is the fortress mountains versus the subjugated lowlands, both in hell’s hinterland, where they take their places in society, develop a following and organize their powers and become responsible for the powers of others.  what’s the movie metaphor?  middle age/place in society, much at stake

they leave this ring to advance on hell and face the final enemy.

the fifth ring is hell.  they’re at the height of wisdom and power.  pitting the full powers of each against the other to win the level.  wizard of oz.  old age/legacy.

no matter how the battle comes out, the players leave antarctica and move on to level !

***

and how about on the outside?  on the outside it’s all about the right to use quantum versus classical, which is the real fairy tale, while the game has to do with powerful versus disenfranchised, which is the current reality.

1.  after their experience.  normal reality
2.  creating the game.  outside notices – ignore
3.  playing the game.  opposition begins – ridicule
4.  bring the game to the world.  oppression ramps up – fight
5.  fight to the death between quantum and classical.  then a miracle happens – win

***

the task is not to dehumanize the other side, because then it’s war and everybody loses. it’s expensive and costs lots of lives and property damage. so it’s best to enslave them peaceably. cheap consumer goods and a religion that fosters dependency would work, and does for awhile. but when slaves see thru it and rise up together. eventually you have a revolution. eventually the upper class gets too degenerate to stand. then some outside force comes in and conquers the whole bunch. and always the poor are at the bottom of the heap.

those who have want war because they plan on enslaving those who don’t and keeping them from rising up. the rich want to hoard their wealth, and protect themselves by force from those who don’t have it.

those who don’t have want war because they want to rise up and take it from those who have. the poor want to organize around the hoarders to take care of everybody, and want to protect those who don’t have it from the rich.

the tactics of the dispossessed are occupying public spaces and making constant public demonstration. but after awhile you are ignored because you’re not a threat. and people with power don’t give it up willingly, so no matter how nonviolent, you still have to take it from them.

the only reason the masses win is because there are so many of them, and the wealth hoarders are each in it for themselves (because of the zero-sum game they’re playing, even among great wealth it’s still important to get it all).

if the wealth hoarders were all working together, for their own common good, then they would be more formidable. but their very exclusivity isolates them from the source of power.

so all you have to do is focus the consciousness of the masses and they will automatically be defeated. and like gaddafi they will run and hide and all their protections will fail and all their wealth won’t offer any shelter, and they will be punished for thinking only of themselves.

but this is not understood until the end-stages of the game, when it gets to such a crisis point that the battle seems over, one side utterly victorious, the other utterly defeated. and this is where a miracle happens.

the game: antarctica

after a lot of work, i’ve managed to squeeze everything i want to say about the horizontal level into the following description.

players land on one of the islands of west antarctica – marie byrd, ellsworth, or alexander. these start as barren, rocky islands, and players quickly learn survival skills. as players learn to work with earth energies, the islands become habitable, with surprising lush areas. players work with the sun, wind, and rain as well as earth spirits, and develop rudimentary skills in managing weather and growth.

players are free to band with old friends from other levels, and to form any kind of alliance they choose in antarctica. there are no rules.

when the player has reached a certain level of development, it becomes possible to cross the sea to explore the rest of antarctica. various methods may present themselves, including a friendly trading vessel, a band of roving pirates, a volunteer expedition to hunt aliens, a natural disaster, an abandoned boat, etc, according to each player’s profile and proclivities.

players journey by sea to peninsula, whitmore, transantarctica, or victoria. willpower is used to control the vessel’s journey, and skills with weather and water are enhanced by practice.

here players learn how to use their skills to actively develop their chosen area. players that become pirates develop companies of pirates and conduct business with ports and negotiate with kingdoms and become powerful and strong. players that become shamans start clinics and schools and become healers and leaders and their network becomes large and supple.

the earth responds, growing more supportive of the inhabitants and their agendas. peninsula becomes spiritual and open, transantarctica becomes militarized and fortressed. whitmore, in the middle, becomes the great compromise between love and hate – religion, the seat of quantum religion, the utterance of the principles of the eightfold path.

there are the powers of mind of the shamans, and the rulers by force and commerce – the material – of the pirates. they do cooperate, because this is a seat of great learning, where even pirates learn about quantum things.

some shamans use their powers to gain control and power. this is easy in whitmore. some pirates look to share the wealth – be robin hoods. but in general, the two societies treat each other with guarded respect, as pirates grow mighty and shamans grow powerful. they don’t have to face off because each is equally strong in quantum skills. laws are based on verbal contracts and justice is tribal. in conflicts between pirate and shaman, something quantum is done to decide it – or both players get kicked out to their own worlds, something.

when players are finished creating the pirate-shaman civilization, they journey into the interior, either to oates and adelie, or to ronne and coats. here they learn organizational skills, either socialist or capitalist in orientation. they develop networks and negotiate positions and lead missions.

when the players are finished learning these lessons, they journey thry wilkes to elizabeth and mary, or thru dronning maude to martha and schwabia and enderby. wilkes is peaceful and independent; elizabeth and mary are in the hinterland of hell city and have been controlled by hell city for a long time and are struggling to maintain their way of life. dronning maude is desert and steppe with nomadic tribes which players can join, the mountains of martha and schwabia and enderby are full of fortress strongholds and fierce warrior kingdoms where players fight to unite the clans under the most powerful warlord. here both sides learn strategy and negotiation, mind-reading and manipulation, consensus and treachery. all things are allowed, justified only by the player’s morality.

when sufficient progress has been made, the players journey to hell city. from the fortress strongholds, players can ride into the city with their riches and their people and carve out a piece of the corporate pie for themselves, becoming captains of industry and financial market whizzes. from the impoverished countryside, players can move to the city to find work, becoming droids and servants and activists for social change. even those players with cushy jobs and great income are droids, however; tied to the system by debt, they find themselves working harder and enjoying it less. everybody wants more. the conflict boils down to tactics, to the use of quantum skills for a small number against a vastly larger number.

the game is slanted toward those who use their quantum skills for all. and this is a function of quantum rules, rather than simply by design. the more entangled an action is, the more real it is.

so in this ultimate antarctic conflict, the outcome depends on the square of conscious intentions involved. the results of this contest result in the creation of another world, linked back to the fog hub of the horizontal level.

players land on one of the islands of west antarctica – marie byrd, ellsworth, or alexander.  these start as barren, rocky islands, and players quickly learn survival skills.  as players learn to work with earth energies, the islands become habitable, with surprising lush areas.  players work with the sun, wind, and rain as well as earth spirits, and develop rudimentary skills in managing weather and growth.
players are free to band with old friends from other levels, and to form any kind of alliance they choose in antarctica.  there are no rules.
when the player has reached a certain level of development, it becomes possible to cross the sea to explore the rest of antarctica.  various methods may present themselves, including a friendly trading vessel, a band of roving pirates, a volunteer expedition to hunt aliens, a natural disaster, an abandoned boat, etc, according to each player’s profile and proclivities.
players journey by sea to peninsula, whitmore, transantarctica, or victoria.  willpower is used to control the vessel’s journey, and skills with weather and water are enhanced by practice.
here players learn how to use their skills to actively develop their chosen area.  players that become pirates develop companies of pirates and conduct business with ports and negotiate with kingdoms and become powerful and strong.  players that become shamans start clinics and schools and become healers and leaders and their network becomes large and supple.
the earth responds, growing more supportive of the inhabitants and their agendas.  peninsula becomes spiritual and open, transantarctica becomes militarized and fortressed.  whitmore, in the middle, becomes the great compromise between love and hate – religion, the seat of quantum religion, the utterance of the principles of the eightfold path.
there are the powers of mind of the shamans, and the rulers by force and commerce – the material – of the pirates.  they do cooperate, because this is a seat of great learning, where even pirates learn about quantum things.
some shamans use their powers to gain control and power.  this is easy in whitmore.  some pirates look to share the wealth – be robin hoods.  but in general, the two societies treat each other with guarded respect, as pirates grow mighty and shamans grow powerful.  they don’t have to face off because each is equally strong in quantum skills.  laws are based on verbal contracts and justice is tribal.  in conflicts between pirate and shaman, something quantum is done to decide it – or both players get kicked out to their own worlds, something.
when players are finished creating the pirate-shaman civilization, they journey into the interior, either to oates and adelie, or to ronne and coats.  here they learn organizational skills, either socialist or capitalist in orientation.  they develop networks and negotiate positions and lead missions.
when the players are finished learning these lessons, they journey thry wilkes to elizabeth and mary, or thru dronning maude to martha and schwabia and enderby.  wilkes is peaceful and independent; elizabeth and mary are in the hinterland of hell city and have been controlled by hell city for a long time and are struggling to maintain their way of life.  dronning maude is desert and steppe with nomadic tribes which players can join, the mountains of martha and schwabia and enderby are full of fortress strongholds and fierce warrior kingdoms where players fight to unite the clans under the most powerful warlord.  here both sides learn strategy and negotiation, mind-reading and manipulation, consensus and treachery.  all things are allowed, justified only by the player’s morality.
when sufficient progress has been made, the players journey to hell city.  from the fortress strongholds, players can ride into the city with their riches and their people and carve out a piece of the corporate pie for themselves, becoming captains of industry and financial market whizzes.   from the impoverished countryside, players can move to the city to find work, becoming droids and servants and activists for social change.  even those players with cushy jobs and great income are droids, however; tied to the system by debt, they find themselves working harder and enjoying it less.  everybody wants more.  the conflict boils down to tactics, to the use of quantum skills for a small number against a vastly larger number.
the game is slanted toward those who use their quantum skills for all.  and this is a function of quantum rules, rather than simply by design.  the more entangled an action is, the more real it is.
so in this ultimate antarctic conflict, the outcome depends on the square of conscious intentions involved.  the results of this contest result in the creation of another world, linked back to the fog hub of the horizontal level.

author’s note: random bits

i’m working away on describing the video game i’m creating for this story.  and it’s so complex and so actively developing that i’ve gone thru all sorts of stages.  i just figure i’ll cut and paste a few paragraphs from the mess it’s currently in now.

so many things to think about.

you travel not by getting in a physical boat and rowing across the sea, because it’s a computer game after all and you can’t get wet. what you do is concentrate and move along a map, so you have this tiny boat icon and it traverses the map with sound effects – gulls and waves and creaking ropes, or horse hoofs and groaning boards, or crunching gravel or swishing grasses, all the sound effects of a varied world. then when you arrive at your destination, there’s a cut-scene showing a zoom into the map, establishment shots of the area you’re arriving in where you can hover and learn about the place, and then you’re down in the street. what powers the boat is your concentration, as well as the horse and cart or flying or whatever. the icon doesn’t move unless you will it.

how about walking around in the landscape? it’s not just a keyboard or joystick move. can we invent a glove that functions as your body, with feet and hands and your pinky for something else, like jumping, or speed? then people playing the game tap and rattle their fingers all the time. so for the mobile gamer, a pair of sunglasses with hud, a glove, and earbuds. and the game console, which is your online connection of choice.

you can walk around using your pointer and middle fingers, but you can also develop the skill of willing movement, which comes from your middle, and is expressed with the glove as a bowing forward, an extension of the wrist, a leading with the knuckles.

in the first two levels the boy and girl are keeping in touch because they’re testing and giving feedback, and their main concern is how the lessons work. they’re not caring about the details in the two levels, the two tutorial levels and they never care how many people understand the real work. their main care is for the real work, and they let everything else be player-driven or leave it up to the new programmer or a team of fans.

so they make it thru the two primer levels together. what diverges them? and what happens in the outside world when they enter antarctica? no, it starts in foggy level 3. as they learn how to shift the fog, there begin to be outgame effects. first seen in the clouds and rain, then in mirrors and glass, dust and wind, smoke and flame.

it’s when they start to learn how to affect the world that they diverge. she wants to use it for all good, he wants to use it for themselves. and when they land in antarctica, they are alone, and separately rescued by seals. they find each other in the settlement, and they could be on peninsula or marie byrd or ellsworth, or any of the small islands in the chain. how they get off is instructive. the boy goes off to fight the aliens in transantarctica, and becomes a pirate. the girl joins the crew of a ship and goes to ronne and the inland seas. then he goes around to martha and works his way down to dronning and becomes a warlord. then he goes to hell and becomes a captain of industry. she goes around to adelie (passing him) and becomes a healer, and to vostok and mary and up to hell thru elizabeth. in hell she helps organize the resistance. they meet again in hell.

someone turns the npcs into fairy characters. someone starts drilling in amery bay. someone builds that big city. was there supposed to be a city? they didn’t design one like what they found, but by the time they get there, the city is an inevitability. the civilization is actually developing as they play the game, altho they’re not directly responsible for building it. but as our attention broadens past the peninsula and archipelago these things appear.

at first there’s only rocks and what people can coax to grow by asking the fairies. they help the settlement grow, and at some crucial point of development they have contact with the outside world, and hear about new things.

the outside world is the next level of development, with farming and trading, or fishing and piracy. they work to build and grow this into networks and spheres of influence. at a crucial point they journey to another part and find new things.

warrior tribes with city-state strongholds and contested resources, versus cooperative farms and shared resources. at a crucial point, they go to the city.

hell city is full of businesses and corporations all out to win, versus masses of downtrodden people helping each other and finding ways to even wealth out.

this is a natural progression – within the plot of the story as well as the development of the game as well as the development of the conflict between the characters.

i’m going to need to describe his path as well as her path thru this level. and perspective from the other two (at least). maybe every character in the outside world has a counterpart in the game.

what’s a society predicated on quantum principles look like? it’s all relative, there’s no center of power. non-locality, interconnectivity, entanglement, discontinuity

players – at first the engine programmer who built the kernel. he’s still in there as an npc. then the boy and girl as creators of the game document. and the replacement programmer / mole. the players show off the features of the game, learn the lessons, practice the quantum exercises, experience the drama. so how many do we need? quantumly speaking we only need to do this once, but since there are multiple outcomes, we need more. both the boy and girl go thru to the end. the spy goes similarly to the boy but gets caught taking the dark side seriously. and we need a fan who is on the girl’s side but gets caught up in it.

antarctica changes over time, from a barren rock to a huge city, developing into all levels of subsistence in all areas of climate from desert to glacier. it develops as we follow the two players around in it.

he takes one route and she takes another. he’s going for power, trading, mineral, then financial and military. she’s going for community, connecting, sharing, healing, growing, song, story, helping, building, resisting. she naturally goes for the underclass, he hobnobs with powerful people. he likes things, she gives things away. the spy wants to conquer antarctica too, but goes around gaming the system. with the knowledge that you’re supposed to learn about quantum things, he invents a church of quantum that keeps quantum a secret and charges to tell people they’re unworthy, spreads intolerance of the open practice of dangerous powers, tries to suppress it. stays in this level of the game as the boss and tries to shut down the quantum stuff, but ends up in his own world as the game antarctica bounces back toward its created version.

you travel not by getting in a physical boat and rowing across the sea, because it’s a computer game after all and you can’t get wet.  what you do is concentrate and move along a map, so you have this tiny boat icon and it traverses the map with sound effects – gulls and waves and creaking roaps, or horse hoofs and groaning boards, or crunching gravel or swishing grasses, all the sound effects of a varied world.  then when you arrive at your destination, there’s a cut-scene showing a zoom into the map, establishment shots of the area you’re arriving in where you can hover and learn about the place, and then you’re down in the street.  what powers the boat is your concentration, as well as the horse and cart or flying or whatever.  the icon doesn’t move unless you will it.

author’s note: antarctica map

another map.  this time with rivers.  so many things to consider when making a world.  like where are the people going to live?  if you were designing a world, where would you put the population centers?  on the first map i made a stab at it, but you’ve got to look at the elevations and the rivers and how deep the ports are going to be, and whether the land is going to rise or sink and whether your area will silt up or flood.

all these various parts of antarctica will be drastically different from each other, even tho they’ll all be subject to long dark winters, and the most temperate part of the place will be the northern fringes, especially the peninsula.

so even tho everyone except the plains tribes will fish and farm and raise ruminant animals and build houses of wood, they’ll all have pretty much the same resources.  except for there’s coal in transantarctica, and oil and gas in the inner part of the ross sea and amery bay.

i haven’t yet found names for the seas around adelie, or the inner sea, and indeed haven’t come up with a name for the inner ross sea.  these will come as i consult more maps, or better yet make things up.

some thoughts on the process of writing this.

i’ve only been at it officially for about 3 weeks, and i’ve done tons of research in all the various topics this story will address – antarctica, the occupy movement, quantum physics, video gaming.  it’s exhausting, but i bound out of bed in the morning just thinking about it.  and it’s all coming together, but what a mass of details i have to master in order to write about it with any kind of sense at all.

the stuff i’m putting up on this blog about the plot is basically my first thoughts.  you’re actually seeing some of this as it comes out of my head (author’s notes) and you’re seeing the plot as it gets worked out.  but this is such a strange story that it can’t really be presented straightforward.

it’s a quantum story, and everything happens at once.

it’s more important to follow the principles of quantum mechanics in building the story than it is to follow a timeline, because in quantum physics there is no time.  it all happens simultaneously, and it’s our focus that determines the apparent time stream.

so, for instance, in the game.

the game is giving me fits.  because it’s a massively multiple game, for millions of simultaneous players around the globe, and there are very few rules about what you can and can’t do in the game.  the only limitations are within you the player.  so i’m having to construct a video game.

i don’t even play video games anymore.  i stopped with leisure suit larry and jazz jackrabbit and myst.  so i had to learn about game programming.  and game level design.

that’s why i love the library.  and internet search engines.

back to the game.  i’m in the middle of constructing the game document, the written description of the game and all its salient points.  but this game isn’t one long tunnel to the end that can be described by ‘and then, you…’  because at each turn you can do fucking anything you like.  there is no one path, or one right answer, or even a best path or answer.  because the outcome of the game depends entirely on you the player.  and you can spend all the time you want playing your own version of the game, and never once address the game’s actual purpose.

the game’s actual purpose is to teach you the player how to function in a quantum world, how to master the art of quantum thinking, and how to create the world you want to have.

which is a tall order, i know.  but not impossible.  in fact, it’s quantumly inevitable.

up until yesterday i was going to have the tester play the game.  in the beginning i was going to have ‘people’ play the game, but i realized that it wouldn’t be consistent enough unless it was one character.  one guy playing from start to finish.  but i can’t do that, because there are so many possibilities for the game that to track one would only give you the barest idea of the potential of the game.

and then there’s the interaction between the boy and the girl.  the two who had the quantum experience that started it all.  i need for their relationship to develop thru the whole story, and can’t take that much time off to have some third party play the game without them.

so they have to be playing the game.  both of them in there making unique decisions, having an entirely different game experience, learning different things.  that way i can have more experience and more choices and two branching paths.

and i will need others playing the game, filling other roles, showcasing other possibilities, developing other skills and other versions of the game.

so i’ve got to have a passel of characters.

boy
girl
kernel programmer
replacement programmer
them

that’s all i have so far.  them is rather nebulous, but at this point everybody is an npc to me, because i’m just laying them out.  when it comes time to write them they’ll become people.  their states will be chosen by being observed, and they’ll appear as they are in the story.

i could do it that way.  just materialize them into the story.  but it won’t make sense, so i’ll give them backstories and real pivotal roles in the story.  because there are so many damn crises that it’s not funny.

the talents are developed by playing over and over, until thinking quantum becomes a habit.  but in the story, we only need to play the game once, because it’s a quantum game.  the act of the boy and girl playing the game is the same thing, quantumly, as the universe of players playing a million times each.

and that’s where it gets mystical.

how the hell can i write this?  it’s already too complex and it’s only going to get more entangled as i figure it out and the pieces fall together.

but i can’t stop because the pieces are falling together.  the whole thing makes sense, and each part enriches the other, so i know i’m on the right track.  and my little voice is jumping up and down.

antarctica and a video game
quantum physics and the occupy movement

what have they got in common?

the links between quantum physics and the occupy movement are obvious to me.  horizontal organization and bottom up politics is very like quantum physics, but at the moment i’m having trouble saying why.  it’s very obvious in my head, however.  that’s the challenge.  how to make all this into a simple fairy tale, how to find the places where all these things intersect and describe that.

okay, time for dinner.  i just wanted to set down some of the process i’m in now.  i’m still trying to work thru the game and describe it, just taking one path and following it, even tho that’s against the spirit of quantum mechanics (multiple paths), just to get it written down so i can go on to the next part, which is the reaction of the outside world to the game, the actual action, and the real crisis.  but i’ve got to get thru scene 2 before i move to scene 3 or there’ll be hell to pay.

and it’s not like the scenes will be run one after the other, either.  there won’t be a break to go play the game and then come back to the real world.  the three scenes will be all tangled up, as is quantum mechanics, and it’ll take a better storyteller than i to put it together.

which is why i’m letting the fairies write this one.

map of the new antarctica

i hope it’s big enough.  i have taken the bedrock map of antarctica and transposed topographical features from the current surface map.  it’s a work in progress, and any corrections will be appreciated.

most of the labels came from the coastal features, because everything else is under ice at the moment.  but when the ice melts, there’ll be a bunch of interesting features.

like the peninsula.  and the outer islands of ellsworth and marie byrd lands.  most of wilkes land will be under water, and most of east antarctica will be rolling plains.

it’s a place i’d really like to live.

wow, i’m updating this one all the time.  as i learn more about antarctica, and think more about what i want to happen here, it changes my understanding of the map, so i’m redrawing it.

here’s the latest.

the game: the horizontal level

players go thru the wormholes in groups, to quest. you can visit an unlimited number of worlds in the horizontal level. you can explore and establish trade, or join raiding parties and wreak havok, or anything you like. you learn different physics skills on every world and practice communicating thru the wormholes, including quantum tunneling, clairvoyance, and action at a distance.

one of the skills you learn is the ability to tweak the game conditions in that world. starting at the horizontal level it’s possible to take over and remake a world your way, changing the rules and resetting the quests. a world so altered becomes a new world, with you as god, taking its place in the multiverse of the horizontal level. like other worlds, it is accessible from level 4, and can be cross-linked to other worlds by the players.

eventually you get stranded in an alternative antarctica when your wormhole closes unexpectedly. in this antarctica, the ice has recently melted away and a vast and varied land has emerged. you can go where you want in this new land, and do what you like using your many skills, and there are special challenges you must pass before you exit the level. gameplay is difficult and strenuous, and you must solve problems using quantum tools and working with others to overcome obstacles. faster and more complete change is possible when players build cross-challenge alliances.

the cut scene

as the level begins, you are drifting on the southern ocean. it’s very cold, and you are thankful there’s no wind – it’s as calm as glass thru the drake passage. and this is good because you are adrift on a tiny, leaky raft, with only a few provisions. among the most helpful are a blanket and a stick. it is summer, and the sky stays light all evening. eventually – you’re not sure – but you think you see land far to the south, so you head that way. seabirds appear and follow your raft. so do sharks. as you approach land, the wind picks up, the waves grow rough, and you try to outrun a storm blowing from the west. but your raft breaks apart – too far from shore to swim. the water is cold, and you quickly lose command of your arms and legs, but a passing seal notices you and shepherds you to shore – mostly dead

back to the land

you wake in a crude stone shelter wrapped in seal skins. strange players tend your scrapes, congratulate you on making it to shore alive, and fill you in on where you are and what’s going on.

you’re in an ex glacial valley full of barren rock. a stream trickles down the middle, all that is left of a mile high river of ice. there might still be a glacier or two far inland. a few tufts of grass grow in sheltered areas. penguins nest here, and seals, and there is plentiful fish. there are a few other players; they seem to have come here as refugees from the harsh northlands, seeking survival and a better life. conditions are harsh, there are frequent storms, there isn’t enough to eat, it is cold and dark for six months of the year, and life is short and brutal. it’s the garden spot of the planet at the moment, however, so you get to work making your living.

the grind is survival – hunting and fishing, making things grow. but hunting and fishing are not firstperson shooter skills. in antarctica, the skills you learn are cooperative and quantum. there is always someone who will trade you something you desperately need for anything you have, no matter how pitiful, but you will make a better trade if you are honest and generous. you can trap and kill to find your food, but you will get better quality food if you negotiate with the animals. you can plant seeds if you can find any, but you will get better results if you work to improve the land and coax the fairies to grow things. you can erect massive walls against the storms, but you’ll get better results if you talk to the wind and ask it to go easy on your shelter.

your task is to cooperate with everybody, to learn strength in numbers, and to use your quantum skills to help terraform antarctica. as you practice your skills you gain the power to change the climate, the ocean’s circulation, even the tilt of the poles to bring antarctica to a more temperate latitude. you can leave at any time, and are free to behave any way you want. there are opportunities to cheat and steal if you like, but in this environment the victim usually dies.

alien attack

evil vampire aliens have almost captured the planet and they have to be found and fought wherever they appear in antarctica. the grind is searching and finding clues. finding them takes you all over, gives you essential knowledge about the way things are, and teach you about hunches and intuition. you learn visualization and extrasensory communications skills, as well as the use of force fields and psychic weapons. captured aliens reveal vital information about their mission without being waterboarded, but you can torture them if you want to.

droid life

in a vast gray city there is a vast gray corporation where you are a droid. based on a short interview you are assigned a job title and duties, and are expected to give 110% to the job. the grind is makework. you have bills to pay and mouths to feed at home, and you’re in the hole with all kinds of credit card debt. the wolf is constantly at your door, but you have friends and family who help you find solutions to your problems, and get back at your employers – evil vampire aliens. your quest is to find ways of getting all your work done and still have time to enjoy yourself.

revolution

you are caught in a bleak totalitarian society where the hopeful thing to do is die, but you keep incarnating again in equally bad situations. the evil vampire aliens run everything to benefit themselves, and have so oppressed the people that the death rate is enormous. your grind is to find something to eat and stay away from the forces of evil.  you starve to death, are beaten and stabbed and robbed and shot and run over and exploded by practically everybody you meet. teams of riot police with tanks and grenades mow down desperate starving masses in the squares, and players cower in their homes in fear of being turned in to the secret police. your only hope is to join the resistance and defeat the aliens. you learn all about urban nonviolence and the techniques of social movements. you join different workgroups and help create alternative food supply chains, healthcare, education, a new money supply and economics based on a horizontal structure. your challenge is to help recreate society and destroy the power of the evil vampire aliens.

players go thru the wormholes in groups, to quest.  you can visit an unlimited number of worlds in the horizontal level.  you can explore and establish trade, or join raiding parties and wreak havok, or anything you like.  you learn different physics skills on every world and practice communicating thru the wormholes, including quantum tunneling, clairvoyance, and action at a distance.
one of the skills you learn is the ability to tweak the game conditions in that world.  starting at the horizontal level it’s possible to take over and remake a world your way, changing the rules and resetting the quests.  a world so altered becomes a new world, with you as god, taking its place in the multiverse of the horizontal level.  like other worlds, it is accessible from level 4, and can be cross-linked to other worlds by the players.
eventually you get stranded in an alternative antarctica when your wormhole closes unexpectedly.  in this antarctica, the ice has recently melted away and a vast and varied land has emerged.  you can go where you want in this new land, and do what you like using your many skills, and there are special challenges you must pass before you exit the level.  gameplay is difficult and strenuous, and you must solve problems using quantum tools and working with others to overcome obstacles.  faster and more complete change is possible when players build cross-challenge alliances.
the cut scene
as the level begins, you are drifting on the southern ocean.  it’s very cold, and you are thankful there’s no wind – it’s as calm as glass thru the drake passage.  and this is good because you are adrift on a tiny, leaky raft, with only a few provisions.  among the most helpful are a blanket and a stick.  it is summer, and the sky stays light all evening.  eventually – you’re not sure – but you think you see land far to the south, so you head that way.  seabirds appear and follow your raft.  so do sharks.  as you approach land, the wind picks up, the waves grow rough, and you try to outrun a storm blowing from the west.  but your raft breaks apart – too far from shore to swim.  the water is cold, and you quickly lose command of your arms and legs, but a passing seal notices you and shepherds you to shore – mostly dead.

author’s note

i’ve been working all day on creating my ideal game antarctica.  mainly i’ve been researching what it looks like without ice, which thanks to modern technology we can figure out.

the picture above shows the plain raster outline of present day antarctica, which is mainly ice sheet with a few mountains.  the second picture is a topographic of the ice.  the third is the underlying topology of the bedrock, underneath the ice – subglacial.  some of it is under sea level.  this is shown in the fourth picture, which is a differently colored third picture to make sea level more apparent.  the fifth picture is the isostatic picture of how the land will rebound once there’s not a mile and some of ice on top of it.  and the sixth picture shows the sea level rise (80m) that occurs when you melt off all the ice, presumably all over the world.

personally, i like the fourth picture, with all the water and all the islands.  i’ll probably use something in between the two, but i am not fond of the huge landmass idea.  we’ll see how it works out.  it’s only a cosmetic issue, but as we know, half of a video game’s attraction is the artwork.

***

while discussing the horizontal level with jim – which is where i’ve left off in the plot – i realized that i can combine all four horizontal worlds into one actual world, which would save one hell of a lot of work just describing it in the novel, never mind coding the game.

this means i have to go and tweak this part of the plot, so i will do that and reissue it.  it’s cool to do this at this stage; it becomes a lot more difficult once you’ve actually built the world and let the testers run wild in it.

***

as for characters, we have the boy and the girl, and the genius programmer who builds the kernel, and his replacement.  and the tester, who actually plays the game.  then there’s various other people but they’re all functional (npcs)

i guess in the horizontal level people can play both parts.  they can play the evil alien vampires, i mean the banksters, corporate execs and wealth-hoarders.  they can play the police and the army and the teapartiers, out to maintain the status quo  and the rest of us can play progressives and  occupiers and other radicals out to change the world.

act 2

level 1

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.

level 2

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.

level 3

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.

level 4

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.

act 1

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.

notes: the art of producing games

research notes from the art of producing games, by david mccarthy, ste curran, and simon byron. ilex presss 2005.  notes mostly verbatim.  emphasis mine.

pac man.  holds the record for best-selling arcade game of all time. given the decline of coin-operated gaming, this is a record it’s likely to retain indefinitely.  the game took eight people 15 months to design – four working on the hardware, four on the software. p16

the legend of zelda.  despite numerous attempts, no other game or series of games has managed to replicate the mix of combat, exploration, and puzzle-solving with which the series is synonymous. p17

an unforeseen consequence of the introduction of more mainstream consoles was the death of the bedroom programmer.  the ability to experiment with all aspects of game design was restricted to formats that did not require approvals from their manufacturer.  as the open formats declined, so, too, did the commercial opportunities for those keen to design and publish any type of game.  development teams of ten and above ceased being the exception – and throughout the decade (1990s) this figure often increased tenfold. p18

deus ex is the logical conclusion of several design trends that began to appear toward the end of the 1990s; its conspiracy-laden setting is home to a richly multilayered, emergent game universe that grants unprecedented player choice and narrative flexibility.  thought no game has yet matched its scope, including its own sequel, many developers have begun to emulate its systemic design. p23

preproduction
design document drawn up
playable proof of concept / vertical-slice demo created
technology and tools initiated
art direction finalized
funding and materials (e.g. dev kits) obtained.

production
team scaled up to full-size
producer oversees schedulling and logistice
programmers create tools and finalize technology: physics, AI, renderer, etc.
artists create and animate characters, textures, backgrounds, vehicles, etc.
level designers create levels and missions
sound designers work on bacground music, audio etc.
playable game is tested by testers
console approval met

postproduction
playable game is localized for foreign territories
planning for sequels and expansions
game is advertised and distributed. p26

when a games goes into full-production mode, the team is scaled up, with additional artists, programmers, and designers coming on board.  by now, a clear design should be in place, with an unambiguous direction in mind for visual style and the like.  it’s at this point that programmers write the code that drives the game.  using special development kits – scaled up versions of the target console that feature increased memory and a hard drive – they write engines and tools; while the game engine generates polygons, shadows, and textures, code is also required to simulate lifelike physics and the AI behavior of characters in the game.

during this process, the programming team works in tandem with artists, sound artists, and level designers, who between them create the visual appearance of the game, and populate it with enemies, objects, and sound effects.  toward the end of production, a quality assurance department will test playable versions of the game to make sure that they function properly, and throughout the process, a writer or writers will create any necessary dialog or important background information. p26

producer
writer
designers
lead designer
level designer / mission designer
programmers
lead programmer
tools programmer/
engine programmer
AI programmer
graphics programmer
artists
character artist /  animator
texture artist
background artist
sound designer
game tester
localization manager. p28-9

a roadmap or flowchart of the game is required, listing the main sections that the player will experience, and the possible routes through to completion.  depending on the nature of the title, this can be a straightforward, linear path or it can occupy dozens of sheets of paper taped together where player freedom is offered. p34

virtools offers a pc, linux, and xbox engine.  incorporates a high-level graphical user interface and an extensive library of over 450 ready-to-use behaviors, combined with all the low-level access that programmers need to create custom features. p35

a publisher’s pitch wishlist
sales sheet – genre, target platform, general gameplay, new technology, key features
design document – comprehensive overview with more detail and breakdowns of characters, setting, levels, etc.
interactive demo
technical design document – backup procedures, version control, build
risk analysis – things that can go wrong
project plan – development schedule and software
cost forecasts. p38

the most common sources of funding, outside of individual investors, are either appealing to venture capital funds, or recourse to completion bond financing.  the latter is a novel financial instrument that sees an insurance company guaranteeing, or ‘bonding’ interim milestone payments, with a publisher stepping in to pay the bond, plus interest and fees, when the development of a game is complete. p41

the current norm is for developers to use a small-scale team during the preproduction phase; to originate the design of the game, and to take the key decisions about its ultimate vision and direction.  by the end of the process, this vision will be embodied within a variety of materials, such as design documents and technical demos, which will help the developer pitch the idea to publishers, and help keep the direction consistent even after the development team has geared up to go into full-scale production.  by using a small team, costs are reduced, and projects can be started concurrently with other projects that may be drawing to a close. p46

a growing number of developers are eschewing the laborious process of creating written documentation and technical demos, choosing instead to pursue the more steamlined approach of the vertical-slice demo.  instead of creating a written design, which may become superfluous, the focus is on creating a working demo that encapsulates all the features of the finished game, and which will be used as a consistent reference point throughout production. p50

the game designer must work closely with the producer to establish realistic milestones, and to make sure the team manages to hit them.  this can involve brutal cuts to the feature set. p52

evolving from the god-game trend of the mid-eighties, the rts (realtime strategy) places the layer in a strategic military conflict, and challenges them to defeat their opponent.  balancing defense and attack is usually the key, and good realtime strategy games offer the player more than just one way of approaching each battle.  arcade skills are only sparsely required.  this game’s about thinking. p53

though the genre (puzzle) seems to be considered a kiss of death by many publishers these days, an excellent puzzle game can be produced on a shoestring budget and has the potential to reach many more people than, say, an excellent firstperson shooter.  there are very few people who don’t know what tetris is.  the key, of course, is finding a balance of reaction and intellect just as sublime.

all videogame rpgs (role playing games) owe their existence to the pen-and-paper version of dungeons and dragons, and much of that heritage is still visible today.  payers take the role of an adventurer and embark on a series of quests that ultimately lead to the narrative’s resolution.  combat in an rpg can be based on arcade-style reactions, but more often than not it’s a mathematician’s delight, the computer rolling a hundred dice to decide who wins. p54

the most sedate of genres, the management game gives gamers a chance to play god, or at least the head of a medium-to-large organization.  good management games manage to involve the player in what could, superficially, seem like the gaming equivalent of spreadsheet software.  in other words, play down the bureaucracy and play up the humanity, hide the math and give the player plenty of feedback.

massively multiplayer games require a decent internet connection and a desire to play games with strangers, two things that automatically exclude a good percentage of gamers.  those that remain participate in one of gaming’s newest forms, and one whose experience is almost entirely dictated by the players themselves.  many new challenges await those who would design a massively multiplayer experience (everquest, phantasy star online). p55

if a team member has a question, he or she refers to the design document first.  they should not have to refer to anything (or anyone) else.  the design document is a concrete guide to what happens where.  a kind of navigational chart, without which the design team are lost at sea.

a truly emergent game (of which there are only ver yfew) gives the player a sense of greater control and freedom within the game world.  as games are about control at heart, having a greater breadth of possible objects and systems to control can make the game more enjoyable.  it is however also possible to make a smaller, tighter set of features equally enjoyable, by making each individual interaction as strong as possible.

there are two main benefits of systemic approaches.  firstly, it is more efficient from a developmental point of view, because you are able to reuse assets and technology in different instances.  the fewer special cases you have in a game, the less developmental time you need to implement things.  the second benefit of systemic approaches is that the player experiences a greater consistency in the world.  this consistency helps them construct strategies and make assumptions in a way that makes them feel more powerful. p62

i want the player to avoid failing as much as possible, while always being aware of the threat of failure.
i try to make low-level gameplay elements as enjoyable and polished as possible
i try to keep a strong disciplines image of the end product in my mind all the time.
i try to work upward in a hierarchy in the course of the project.  for instance, working on low-level elements (e.g. control) and trying to lock them down, then moving to mid-level elements (e.g. combat) and trying to lock them down, finally moving to work on higher level elements (e.g. missions) and trying to lock them down.  you should try not to move to another level in the hierarchy until you absolutely satisfied you have solved all of the problems in the previous level. p62

in 2004, he estimated that game developers spend 80% of their time creating technology and assembling the game, and only 20% implementing and refining game features and artwork.  so it’s clear that choosing or creating the right tools, and making sure that they are stable and efficient, is of the utmost importance to the quality of the finished game.  making the wrong decisions during preproduction can produce far-reaching complications that disrupt the entire development cycle. p64

one advantage of creating in-house tools for a pc title is that they can be shipped with the game to enhance their appeal on store shelves.  by allowing users to create their own content the replay value of a game is enhanced, which makes it a more attractive purchase.  but the discipline of creating tools with a nonprofessional user-base in mind can also be beneficial.  probably the most desirable characteristic of any development tool is a user-friendly interface, and designing tools that are going to be released to the public forces tools programmers to address this issue of usability.   this also reaps positive repercussions for their use internally by the likes of  nontechnically skilled artists, testers, and so on.

half-life in particular managed to give rise to a burgeoning mod scene made of of talented amateurs who use the existing game as their core technology, modifying it to produce an entirely new product.  some popular mods even manage to attain commercial release, such as the phenomenally successful counter-strike.  quite simply, the mod scene is the closest equivalent that the videogame industry has to the independent movie scene, allowing games to be created for a fraction of the budget of full production models. p66

havok physics.  the trend in videogame design toward emergent gameplay has heightened the necessity for featuring realistic physics, once the sole preserve of racing games, across all genres.  havok’s cross-platform technology has been used in a number of high-profile titles, most notably valve’s half-life 2, to provide features such as ragdoll effects, detachable limbs, and vehicle physics.  it is supported by a set of tools that are compatible with a number of other content creation packages. p69

alienbrain studio is an asset management tool that allows developers to version, track, and store all of their game’s assets during and after production.  not the most glamorous end of the middleware spectrum, but essential nevertheless.

one of the biggest videogame releases in recent years, valve software’s half-life 2 is built upon havok’s physics middleware.  havok’s technology provides developers with tools for content creation, tweaking, debugging, and profiling, and it allowed valve to fundamentally redesign the core mechanics of its paradigmatic firstperson shooter. p72

increasingly a specialized art, a programmer’s precise role in game creation depends on their skillset.   the most ‘hardcore’ position of all is usually considered to be the engine programmer, the man brave enough to take the machine right to its limits and create a framework on which the game’s structure and scenery can be hung.  good engine coding doesn’t just require low-level assembly language, but an obscenely acute mathematical brain.  others may be more at home working on artificial intelligence routines, where an understanding of how to transfer human logic to an artificial environment is the base currently.  online specialists need to combat latency in telecommunications.  tools teams work to provide tools that enable designers and artists to work more easily, or tweak middleware to their team’s requirements.

the specific area in which a programmer works will largely dictate how they spend their time over the course of the project; engine programmers will work with the art department to decide if and where visual compromises need to be made in order to preserve the game’s fluency, while AI coders pay attention to the criticisms of testers and designers, and tweak their routines appropriately.  p80

the ‘camera’ is the position from which the players sees the action, and getting that position right in thirdperson perspective games has become something close to an art form.  and, like all art forms, there can be no correct answers, but there can certainly be things that are horribly, horribly wrong.  the problem is simple.  movement in 3d games must be relative to the camera, because otherwise there is no way of mapping the control system to visual feedback; a hundred-and-eighty-degree shift of the camera will leave the controls backward, for example, and is completely counterintuitive.  but a camera cannot be rigidly fixed to the back of the player – it must be flexible enough to move around objects fixed in the environment that would prove impossible for a real, solid camera to pass through, and intelligent enough to ensure that the player is visible at all times.  more than that, since the player’s control system shifts slightly every time the camera moves around, ti must be wholly predictable, never twitchy, and never frustrating.  in essenced it must do what the player wants it to do, second-guessing faultlessly throughout an unpredictable adventure.  and that’s a challenge.

more and more games are being shipped with online components, causing more and more headaches for programmers forced to rely on the unreliable nature of third-party communications hardware.  the problems for programmers of persistent worlds start with the simple conundrum: should game data be stored on the user’s local machine, or locked safely away on the server side?  well, the server side, obviously, because anything else is insecure and can lead to hacking, cheating, and devaluing the game experience for everyone.  but what data gets stored, and where?  every byte transferred has to be transferred by thousands and thousands of players, and that’s going to cost money.  how many servers does the company need?  and even then, will that system be secure against the latest console cheat devices?

and that’s a slow-paced genre.  speedier things become simply impossible. p84-5

physics is a buzzword in game development at the time of writing, but the appearance of emergent gameplay is causing problems for the programmer.  players want worlds to behave with as much realism as possible, but computes aren’t anywhere near capable of reproducing real life particle by particle.  shortcuts must be taken, but which ones?  p85

middleware libraries were the next logical step, enabling teams to use off-the-shelf game components like renderware graphics or havok physics to avoid the work of developing those pieces themselves.  then, the large-scale move to game engines began, enabling teams to start with a 100% complete, fully integrated game framework, and focus on those areas of gameplay and technical features unique to their game.

an AI programmer’s job is to create a software framework suitable for managing the movement and interaction of a diverse set of computer-controlled characters; this is a matter of engineering.  but his job is to also make those characters interesting to interact with or challenging to fight; that’s a creative task. p89

a good level designer has to be, like so many on the development team, a multiskilled creature.  since level design tools vary from one game to the next, it helps if they’re able to learn fast, but those with a good grounding in the pc mod tools bundled with many modern 3D games will find the technical aspects of creating worlds little trouble.  level designers are the architects of the game-design world, constructing environments to specifications delineated in the design document, and a fine sense of shape and dimension is an essential trait for the role. p90

epic and id’s policy of bundling their tools with their games means that there are more budding fps (firstperson shooter) designers across the globe than for any other genre.  the nature of the game, too – run around and shoot just about everything –  makes getting a functional level running pretty easy, but just because it works doesn’t mean it’s any good.  level designers working on narrative firstperson shooters must cloak their game’s (almost obligatory) linearity with clever architecture.  those working on levels for multiplayer combat must create a rock-paper-scissors style hierarchy of locations for the player, so that every advantageous spot makes fighters vulnerable in another respect.

key to both types, though, is pick-up placement.  players should often feel on the brink of running out of ammunition, but rarely actually fall completely short.  likewise, the locations of health packs must be far enough apart to cause consternation, but just within reach of the player as they brace themselves for game over. p92

the key word here is ‘adventure’: one of the main motivations in a standard tpa (thirdperson adventure) is exploration, which places pressure on the level designer to create an environment worth exploring.  if the player doesn’t find the world aesthetically interesting, they won’t explore it; equally, if they don’t think there’s any point in twisting along that precarious precipice because the game’s never offered them rewards before, they’ll be uninterested in risking their lives. p93

vice city – the game world, and one huge level – was designed to exude entertainment at every street corner.  streets unexpectedly seque into river-jumping ramps, stairwells become routes to stupid stunts, and the airport isn’t a real airport, it’s just an excuse to crash lots of cars.  it doesn’t matter that the mission design within the world is hit and miss, because there’s so much fun to be had in ignoring the challenges set for you and enjoying the rich interactivity of the game world.

lemmings has a gentle difficulty curve, and the first handful of levels teach the player what skills their tribe are capable of, and how to use them in combination.  coming up with a way of doing that, but still keeping the levels involving and entertaining is as big a challenge as setting relatively incomprehensible problems what will stump addicts for days. p95

this is probably the most important element in a successful level (tweaking).  with so many creative talents on the team, it would be foolish not to invite and heed their input.  similarly, play testing is a crucial part of building a level.  play test as soon as you have a working model of the level, revise based on feedback, then play test again. p97

newtek’s lightwave 3d chooses simplicity to court its customers.  evolving from the amiga-based video toaster that proved popular for low-budget cgi in the early-to-mid nineties, lightwave 3d’s brutal animation system is compensated for by the speed at which it lets users create scenes.  in other words it’s simple but effective, with a deceptively large toolset, and it’s increasingly popular with smaller companies that are producing games within short time frames. p103

games which aren’t tied to standard earth rules let their artists’ imaginations run free. rez is a superb example of constrained abstraction.  faced with the opportunity to create five different levels representing the internals of a computer, the designers take electronic, organic, and mythological themes and weave them together with a sophistication that matches the game’s synesthetic background.  artists plunging into abstraction’s deep space must work within their own guidelines to create something that is still internally consisten; a complete free reign would create a visual mess. p104

the solution, as demonstrated in timesplitters 2, is an approximation of reality.  the game has plenty of human characters, but they’re rendered in an exaggerated style that intuitively tells players that they’re not in a space that follows humankind’s visual rules, and allows the game designer to render a coherent world well within the capabilities of the system.  the main problem is getting the style right; while few people have a problem with the way the real world looks, and artistic interpretation is much less universal. p105

we’ve come a long way with building static worlds that are visually rich, back up the action, and make it dramatic and exciting to play, worlds which are composed and lit to look stunningly beautiful.  the trick is going to be to keep all of these qualities and push our worlds to be even better, while at the same time letting people interact more.  once everything has the potential to move, shift and change, then keeping creative control is a new challenge.

animation and AI cross-over: at the moment, games characters are rather lifeless and wooden.  in the future i expect to see game developers spend much more time on animation systems that put much more characterization into the game animation itself rather than cut-sequences…i can see the game animator’s role changing significantly with an entirely new set of tools to allow them to ‘direct’ virtual actors and define their personalities and responses made up from much more complex blends of animation data.  p106

frequently, traditional rules need to be ripped up.  composition classes often emphasize the importance of repetition – and videogame music may have historically been famous for tunes based around a single central theme – but tastes have changed.  modern gamers expect diversity.  a 30-hour game needs more than 30 minutes of music.

research has shown that videogame players can rate the audio track forming as much as 30 percent of their overall enjoyment of a given game. p113

each level begins with a simple techo beat.  enemies appear on screen and can be shot individually, or grouped together in a high-scoring chain.  gameplay-wise, it’s as on the rails as you get – but the real interaction comes from the tv’s speakers.  every time an enemy is targeted, it emits a beat – be that a synth, a rim-shot, or any other type of electro pulse.  as they’re destroyed, they also emit a sound – not an explosion as such, but yet more beats.  everything is timed to perfection.  rather than producing a rambling, jumbled mess, the techno soundtrack works brilliantly, even appealing to those who despise the music-game genre.  most who fall for its seductive beauty find themselves treating it more like an album than a game – simply skipping back to the start and listening to it all over again. p114

you’ll be able to have contrasting melodies – say, one ‘good’ piece of music over a ‘bad’ piece – played simultaneously.  it’ll be new music that we’ve never heard before.  people will be able to work interactively with it because they’ll have grown up with it.  it’ll house horrible to us, of course. p117

movies and tv are linear experiences.  each moment is timed to perfection.  you’ll tug at the heart strings of someoen and then maybe throw something else straight at them.  but all the time, the music is timed perfectly to the flow of the film.  but with games, the player is directing it.

take something like a thirdperson game.  you can have a bit of music that represents going to the next puzzle, which can be a linear piece.  but then when the player reaches this puzzle, hours could be spent trying to solve it and immediately the linearity drops away.

people often get stuck over this idea of interactive music.  but it’s quite simple to produce a never-ending piece that reflects the state of the game and still remains musically ‘correct.’  we do this by creating a pool of musical phrases, which we splice together at random.  if you have enough of these you can create the illusion of a never ending piece.  in simple terms, all you then need are three states – neutral, good, and bad.  it’s then just a case of swapping between these three pools depending on how well you’re donig in the game. p119

while the arrival of movie talent has met with varied success, there can be no doubt that standards in game narrative are improving.  and this is necessary for the medium to be taken seriously.  often, videogame stories are rubbished as cliched and derivative.  the industry itself seems to dismiss the importance of plot, choosing instead to emphasize in the box-blurb the number of levels and weapons.

the adventure genre still leads the way in videogame narrative – though that has diversified over recent years to include more action-orientated titles.

city of heroes features 20 different ongoing story arcs as villain groups menage paragon city and react to player victories and defeats.

most games tell stories using linear sequences of cut-scenes to top and tail the sections under the control of the player.  although cinematic techniques have improved over time, it’s remained this way since the industry experimented with interactive fiction.  bold attempts have been made to try to break free from this rigid format – but as games such as tomb raider have proved, it can work very well.

there are three vital documents necessary in developing a strong in-game narrative.  the first is the story, told from start to finish.  this, typically, will be under 20 pages long, and will detail the events specific to the game.  locations, actions, ‘inciting incidents’ – all need to be scribbled down in chronological order.

games should adhere to a structure – for many, the three-act structure is suitable.  this structure includes elements such as the ‘inciting incident,’ which is an event or action that radically changes the balance of the protagonist.  in a movie, the inciting incident needs to happen within the first quarter, but in a game many argue that it must come much sooner – ideally in the introduction.

if the inciting incident doesn’t happen immediately, the game needn’t be pedestrian up until this point.  prince of persia: the sands of time – a game with a wonderful narrative, and perhaps the most perfect ending ever featured in a videogame – kicked off with a dramatic set-piece, but it wasn’t until those sands of time were unleashed and the wider picture revealed that the game truly began.

the inciting incident will set up what many call the ‘obligatory scene.’ that’s where the main character is going to resolve the tale – be that through conflict (that is, defeating those who sought to harm him) or restoration (putting things back to how they were). it’s called ‘obligatory’ for a reason – the audience expects it, and will be left naturally disappointed if the ultimate conclusions doesn’t meet that expectation.

the end of every ‘act’ should build to a peak, ensuring the pacing rises and falls. these peaks should build toward the end of every act and drop off at the beginning of the next section.  it goes without saying that the end of act 3 should boast the largest climax of them all.

once you’re happy with your plot, it’s important to draw a detailed timeline of what every character featured in the game is doing and where that character is at any one time.  often this information won’t be used directly – but the audience can sense whether you, as a storyteller, really know your world.  if you don’t, they quickly stop believing.  it will also provide you with natural references to integrate into the script.

finally, it’s useful to have a background document that details every character’s history, along with a summary of the overarching plot.  this will provide a rich source of additional information that can be intoduced into the script where appropriate, and provide the writers with the background that they need to get the characters’ dialog and voices right. p121-23

the broken sword series success is due to two main factors.  in the trilogy to date, the narrative has drawn on real-life mysteries and legends – the knights templar in the first, the mayan prophecies in the second, and the voynich manuscript in the third.  this has not only provided the series with a solid backdrop, but also piqued the interest of many who have played the game.

more obviously, much of broken sword’s success can be attributed to the will-they-won’t-they? relationship of its central duo.  goerge stobbard and nicole collard’s continual fighting is typical of many male/female pairings, but it’s rare to see such interest handled so eloquently in a videogame.

of course, the game’s style helped enormously.  but rather than rely on long cut-scenes to advance the plot, cecil keeps the action in-game and dialog-driven.  even in the third game’s attempt to drive drama through video sequences, players needed to remain alert, as life-or-death decisions were usually not far away.  while these ‘action sequences’ were not entirely successful, they do provide alternative thinking for those wishing to avoid lengthy cut-scenes. p124

warren spector has almost single-handedly taken it upon himself to pioneer the nonlinear action adventure, with deus ex proving to be his most successful attempt to date.  while the standard plot – shady government agency, viruses, terrorism, and so n – could have proved derivative initially, it was the storytelling skill and implied freedom that really captured the imagination.  most impressively, he did this in a firstperson game – typically the most linear of all genres.

of course, no computer or videogame could ever be truly nonlinear.  but spector and his team structured the game’s back-end to offer the illusion of freedom, advancing the same story through many different mechanics.  players with a penchant for gunplay could find npcs reacting to them differently later on, aware of their hardball reputation.  brilliantly, the game’s expansive back-story is never fed down the throats of its players.  a wealth of background information can be found in various documents and computer terminals – as well as from in-game characters.  kojima would have forced players to read every single character.  spector has enough confidence in both his players’ intelligence and his own storytelling ability to permit a greater degree of freedom.

cut-scenes are rarely intrusive – a necessity, thanks to the game’s perspective.  switching from firstperson to thirdperson would detach players from the in-game world, shattering the feeling of existing within a realistic environment.  indeed, it’s the consistency of the story and the aplomb with which multiple solutions were designed and implemented for almost every section that enabled players to become so immersed in a rich, atmospheric tale. p125

planescape torment was based around an interesting concept.  a traditional role-playing game set in the advanced dungeons & dragons world – with its familiar rules and structure – it ran the danger of disappearing among a sea of similar titles.  but what made the game stand out was the quality of the plot and the strength of its dialog – two things rare in the world of videogames.

assuming the role of a character who cannot die, planescape’s world is structured but nonlinear.  players opt to progress as they see fit, treating npcs with contempt, admiration, or something in between.  this could have resulted in a jumbled mess of conversational anomalies, but the sophisticated storytelling engine permitted the developers a huge degree of freedom – freedom that is handed over to players as they journey through torment’s world, forging friendships, alliances, and creating grievances as they see fit.

the player’s moral alignment and affiliation with different factions are impressively flexible and have a significant impact on the course of the game.  characters can switch character class allegiances on whims – unusual for a genre that typically restricts such decisions.  the important premise actually works for the game, rather than against it.  what’s more, the lead character’s immortality means that players rarely abuse the save or load system, maintaining the solidity of the game world.

planescape marked a bold step in videogame narrative, and one which was not entirely commercially successful.  a shame, as its brave attempt to introduce intelligent role-playing should have been rewarded with much more than a swift appearance in the bargain bin. p125

there is no doubt that plot must support gameplay – gameplay is king.  but if the plot and the gameplay are genuinely intertwined then they will need to be designed in parallel.  ideally elements of the plot would develop systemically – so the author designs the rules for the plot which the player then creates.  to an extent this happened in grand theft auto iii – with an overarching linear plot running in parallel with player-created systemic subplots.  this is one of the reaons why the game was so well received.  in doing this, we got a glimpse of the future of storytelling in the interactive medium.

but isn’t gta’s narrative actually fairly basic?  it’s a series of missions interspersed with cut-scenes…clearly, in gta, you had the overall linear narrative, but within it you had player-created systemic substories.  that’s what makes the game so appealing; the freedom of the systemic, within the structure of the linear.  that’s why it worked.

i would argue that its staccato storytelling is part of the game’s strength.  the player can play the game at their own pace, and the pace rises and falls with a great rhythm throughout each mission.

in an adventure there is a lot of story to tell.  a golden rule is to hide the exposition.  we do this by integrating the story and the gameplay – which means that our linear cut-scenes need only be relatively short.  we also realized very early on that if you have two protagonists, then those characters can exchange dialog that can be witty, fun, and also convey exposition.

you can hide exposition in several ways.  one effective way is to integrate the narrative with the gameplay itself – so as the player advances through puzzles, the story is gradually revealed.

the other way is, instead of having a few great chunks of exposition, you actually break it up into lots of little sequences.  so you’re continuing to entertain the player, hopefully making them laugh, hopefully making them gasp, but at each point the story is being drip-fed, so we don’t need the extraordinary lengthy cut-scenes that have become prevalent in many japanese games.

what we could do in our first game lure of the temptress is not that much different from what we can do now.  we designed the game so that the player could go and talk to a huge number of characters about what was relevant at that point, but as the game advanced, their dialog was replaced to reflect new situations.  and that was quite interesting because it meant you could go back and talk to people, and they would say completely new things based upon the fact that the world had moved on.

the other thing that people really liked was that we had characters who’d walk around doing their own thing – a system that we called virtual theater.  i’ve always regretted the fact that we didn’t really exploit virtual theater in later games.  but the way that characters had freedom to do what they wanted to conflicted with the adventure idea of a multilinear narrative in a nonlinear environment. p126-8

the crash bug is truly the bane of the developer’s (and tester’s existence.  pity the gamer then, who, for no apparent reason, is forced to witness their game resetting itself.  unless they’re playing the magnificent eternal darkness, which uses simulated technical flaws and glitches to evoke a deeply unsettling atmosphere as your character’s sanity gradually dissipates.  thus, during key sequences depicting the gradual onset of psychosis, the player’s tv appears to change video modes; items appear to go missing from the inventory; the game will apparently reset; and, most unsettling of all, the game appears to delete your saved game after ending a game session. p135

while conventional games have budget in the millions, high-quality cell and tv games can be produced for less than $150,000, typically by teams of three to five – although often by individual lone programmers.  and whereas console games can take between two and three years to develop, cell or set-top box (stb) games are developed in a few months.

in every developed country apart from america, a higher proportion of the population owns a cellphone than a computer.  there are well over a billion phones in existence now, and with each new generation the hardware specifications improve.  the current wave of 3g phones offers a quality of gaming comparable with early playstation games – albeit on a smaller screen – although the market for these high-end phones is quite small at present.

on standard cell phones, it’s a crowded market.  there’s currently no approvals process for games developers and publishers, so anyone can, in theory, produce and distribute a cell-phone title.  intellectual property abuse is rife. p178

games distributed free to consumer are funded by revenue from advertising partners.  this model requires a huge audience in order to attract a business-sustaining income which means the game itself should avoid anything that will restrict any potential players from signing up.

for this reason, these games are usually browser-based, scripted in java, shockwave, or flash – and so can, in theory, be enjoyed by anyone who can connect to the internet.  often card, puzzle, or simple arcade games, they eschew sophistication in favor of attracting and entertaining a mainstream audience.  these games can be developed by almost anyone as the programming languages are relatively unsophisticated, making them the perfect platform for aspiring developers keen to hone their skills.  however, without the power of a major portal behind them, they’re unlikely to hit a widespread audience but can still be attractive to advertisers as part of viral campaigns.

the pay to play model can be divided into three main categories.  monthly subscriptions vary from a few dollars to an average of $15 a month, and offer unlimited play over the period.  like a broadband internet subscription, which is usually required in order to connect at suitable speeds, these plans are perfect for heavy users or those who prefer to calculate their monthly outgoings in advance.  this is by far the most popular model for mmogs.

metered subscriptions are the equivalent of the cell-phone pay-as-you-go scheme and are perfect for those not willing to commit to a longer contract, although they can often work out more expensively for habitual users.  some games, such as z-opolis, offer a sliding scale that makes playing for longer more economical by reducing hourly rates the lnger a user is online.

the one-time fee is a model that is usually offered in conjunction with other revenue schemes.  at its crudest, it’s the distribution in a boxed, retail version, usually with playing time bundled as part of this cost.  credit card details are taken at registration, with the player asked to actively cancel and re-subscribe to a full subscription (rather than upgrade) after the trial period.  one-time fees can also be used as entry fees to special items, tournaments, or as payment for additional or episodic content.

it may be necessary to team up with a third party in order to meet the technical requirements of an online game.  a partnership with an isp such as aol or msn or a portal such as yahoo will offer the necessary exposure to a large customer base.  additionally, dedicated gaming sites such as gamespy and mgon can help in driving consumers to specific online games and often produce sdks to enable developers to integrate their games with the site’s infrastructure.

dedicated server support can obviously add to the running costs and will usually fall under the remit of the publisher.  however, more and more games are embracing peer-to-peer technology.  this neatly sidesteps the need for dedicated servers, relying instead on surplus player processing power to host networked sessions. p180-1

on average, online gamers stay with a game for 10 to 12 months, which means that about 10 percent churn out of a game in any given month.  developers continually update their games, and add upper level depth in order to reduce churn.

new massively multiplayer online games have about 20 minutes to attract a new user into a game.  in that 20 minutes, a new user should be able to do many thing.  they should be able to create a character.  they should be able to take that character on a mission, and not be killed.  indeed, they should win the mission – and be told how great they are, and given awards and honors, etc.  they should then be sent on an additional mission.  most mmogs today do not allow the above, but the newer-generation products we are working on currently will be designed this way.

currently there is lots of item selling and trading, but it is not sanctioned by the companies publishing the products.  this is a legal limitation, not a technical limitation.  if publishers acknowledge that these items have real-world value then they also have real-world liability if any of the items are lost or stolen in the game, and the publisher does not replace them.  for this to change, the legal atmosphere would need to change first.  p182

the main problem so far is that 99.9 percent of online games are medieval fantasy role-playing. p183

the main difficulty with controlling player action comes with too many people gathering in one place at one time.  when this happens, it stresses a couple of things:  the graphics-generating capability of many home computers, and the processing power of the single server that is hosting the large group.

in order to overcome this issue, many games are designed to spread people out among the many servers by starting people at different locations, and having many different paths to complete a mission.  in city of heroes, we also have the ability to create multiple copies of the same exact area when too many people want to be in a certain place at one time. p183

gamers want action and excitement, combined with depth.  old-style mmogs gave only one or the other… next-generation mmogs will deliver both. p184

author’s note

i’m actively working on this story now. it takes bits and pieces i’ve been collecting and researching for years, and pulls t hem all together in a quantum way that does just what i need to make a good story.

so the ideas are spilling out of my fingers, and the research just brings up more questions, and i have to be dragged from the computer when it gets dark, and if we didn’t have someone staying in the studio at night these days, and if it wasn’t so cold, i would be down here in the middle of the night writing and reading.

i’m very glad that i’m going to be using all my story ideas in this one story.

antarctica

piracy

amusement park

quantum physics

accelerated evolution / freedom year

even tho i’m nowhere near writing the story, i’m looking up all the shit and figuring out how to link it to something else, and then it all looks different, and i go off into an alternate universe…

in the last week i’ve researched and thought about and written about the occupy movement, tactics of social change, horizontal organization, quantum thought, quantum mechanics, quantum philosophy, magic, tarot, language, neurochemistry, epigenetics.  and a bunch of stuff i’ve hopefully bookmarked.

if i do this to enough of my story, then by the time i start writing i’ll have it all ready to flow out of my fingers.

usually i bail on my impulse to write down my inspiration of the moment, but this time i’m finding too many echoes of it in the real world, and it’s too physically and emotionally compelling for me not to do it.  so i’m writing it online and i’m hoping people who are interested will get involved and help me write it, but i don’t depend on it, as it’s never happened yet and i’ve been writing otherwise unpublished novels online since 2005.

but i’ve got a vision of how i want to see the world, and i’m doing my best to manifest it.  if we all do this, we’ll chnge the world.  it’s a quantum law.

mmorpgs in the cloud

you’ll need a completely decentralized basis for this game, so that it can’t be coralled.

Some problems faced by MMORPGs:

  • · Geographic Location: Shards present in a particular geo-location will service gamers logging in from that locale only. The maximum gaming speed is decided by the slowest band-width connection. So a person logging in from a different geometric location can reduce the speed of gameplay massively.
  • · On-Demand Gameplay: The pay-as-you-play model that most MMORPG’s run on enables the user to request resources at time of his/her choice. This coupled with a non-on-demand scalable architecture at the back end will cause a huge maintenance overhead. Systems will have to be maintained to support the peak load, resulting in huge quantities of unused computing power.
  • · Maintenance issues: Maintaining huge datacenters spread all over the world is a huge burden in terms of the effort required to support such complicated hardware, lack of skilled manpower, and the difficulties of managing such an operation to service complicated and unpredictable user behavior.

How Cloud Computing can help:

  1. Cloud vendor takes care of SLA Management
  2. Shifting to the cloud will lift the burden of support and maintenance of Datacenters from the shoulders of the game provider. SLA’s provided by the Cloud Vendors (Amazon EC2’s service-level agreement promises 99.5% service uptime.) will enable Game Development companies to focus on actual game development and R&D.
  3. Deployment of new DataCenters
  4. Shifting onto the cloud will drastically reduce the CAPEX expenditure and the logistics involved in setting up a new DataCenter. This burden now moves onto the cloud vendor.