writing chapter 2.9
At this point their room was needed for a scheduled panel, and the audio/visual techs chased them out. After consulting their pocket program, they realized there was a ballroom empty, so they went over there and settled in around the speaker table, a small clot of people in a big room full of chairs.
“So, what do we want in our videogame?” Josh started. “What do we have so far?”
The list quickly became a jumble. But certain things were circled.
It would be an open source game that ran on every platform and catered to every player. Mods would be encouraged.
It would be an emergent sandbox, exploratory, role-playing, social game.
An action, action-adventure, adventure, role-playing, simulation, strategy game.
A music, party, programming, puzzle, sports, trivia, exergame
And it would also teach superpowers and quantum consciousness.
Someone wondered why shoot ’em ups weren’t circled, or brawlers, or even sports or racing games.
Portia consulted with Josh and agreed that the angel warned them about making a violent game.
“The trouble with that,” said a guy they knew as Snake, “is if you want a wide audience, you’ve got to include the most popular genres. You’re missing three quarters of the market when you limit the violence.”
“But violence hurts in the game we played. You actually suffer when you get hurt.”
“We can go thru the motions of suffering if you insist,” Snake offered. “But players get more satisfaction out of being bad.” A lot of people agreed. “If a bunch of FPS-haters limit the opportunities for violence, players will figure out new ways. A bored player is a destructive player. Just look at your demographic – boys from their teens right thru middle age. They all want to shoot things.”
Fairy spoke up, reminding everybody that girls now made up almost half of all gamers and that social gaming was taking off. Snake replied that MMOs weren’t for serious gamers, anyway. Fairy said something ugly and Snake said worse back, then looked at his phone and left abruptly while Fairy was still spitting her drink.
Snake: Sam Smith, 27 year old white male, C++ programmer contract, Buckhead area, Atlanta, GA
Portia quietly insisted that the game they played didn’t have battles and wars and competition and killing. But we killed each other in the end, the boy reminded her. Remember how awful that was? she retorted. “Any violence in our game was brought in by us,” she explained. “Player error.”
“So everything was fine until we got there and acted like stupid humans?” Josh sneered.
“And got kicked out,” she said. “We got kicked out for wasting our time playing with toys when we should have been out in the world, using our abilities for the good of all.”
“The good of all,” he scoffed. “Well, I spent all my time leveling up, and you spent all your time in social gameplay and ended up with a really low point score.”
“But don’t you remember,” she pleaded, “scoring and winning was just a distraction. The real point was to share everything and raise everybody up.” She looked at him with scorn. “Not to be the last man standing on a field of bones.”
In the end, they compromised. They would stick to the angel vision, and have the majority of gameplay be peaceful. Violent play would be restricted to easter egg levels, which Josh planned to have lots of, all very well marked.
The group made a list of character attributes and a list of superpowers, which were mostly regular abilities with ‘superhuman’ in front of them.
Taken from all the genres, they were the basic abilities – strength, agility, intelligence, and magic, with some physical and social markers for hunger, comfort, and fun. The godlike powers fell into three categories – omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence. Then there were special interest powers, like sex, psychic powers, and personality dysfunctions.
Then they decided that players should have unlimited lives.
They decided to count karma points rather than health or experience, with a player’s karma determined by their quests as well as their attitude, their situation, even the food they ate and the quality of their ingame relationships.
And what about rules? There would be no rules except the golden one. Karmic score would lessen with everything from waste and selfishness, to abuse and cruelty, to cheating and violence, and would rise with empathic responses and thoughtful actions. At this point a bunch of macho first-person shooter fans walked out grumbling to themselves about furries.
They talked about level design. They talked about game engines. They talked about animation and character design and sound production. Portia wrote a lot of it down.
They took a show of hands to see who had experience working on videogames, and an impressive number of them had. Most of the hands went down when they asked about working on games to completion, and pretty much everybody left when they asked for volunteers willing to devote a couple of years of work to a project with no budget.
They were left with a rag-tag bunch of misfits, including a guy from India, Randhir, who wandered into Dragoncon from another convention entirely. He wasn’t available to volunteer, as he had a day job back home, but his last job was as an educational game tester, and he’d briefly ended up on the development team, and helped with normalizing the finished product for international release, so he was an expert. As Portia and Josh flagged, Randhir and Fairy charted out the whole development pipeline. Several others held a deep conversation about the physics of the various game levels, and there was a small but vocal group discussing the philosophies of the mystery schools. Portia’s map was taken up by an excitable bunch who decided that it looked just like Antarctica without ice, and this generated a twitter feed of its own. Somehow Portia and Josh finally agreed that there were seven levels to the game they played, with distinct cultures and historical periods, and Fairy drew all this up into a complicated, cramped little chart.
Finally enough was enough, even tho Portia and Josh could still hear people in their heads, and there was a lot of talk about them in all the hotel lobbies. But they couldn’t take any more excitement. They went upstairs to their room and fell asleep on the floor next to the bed while 67 of their best friends gathered to get tanked up for the masquerade ball.
Randhir Trivedi, 25 year old Hindu male, call center technician XYZ Services, resides Bangalore, India.