more writing chapter 4.1


In their game, Josh and Anomia went thru each level, creating and naming and organizing as they went, choosing places for settlements and arranging conditions, and interfering with the people whenever it was called for. Then they moved on to the next level, with different parameters, and built and organized and made sure everybody was happy, and moved on to the next level. Thinking about it in front of Fairy, the main thing that was different in each level was the advance in technology.

“We started with nothing, and it was really hard at first, and the most we could manage was stone huts and fish weirs. We were like babies, almost too weak to fend for ourselves.” “That helpful skua, dropping fish into our fire.” “Then we made trees grow.” “Yeah, and they grew everywhere. And the huts grew into mountains.” They looked at Fairy, chagrined. “That was a problem. Things happened the way we wanted, but we didn’t know how to stop it, so we had to kill all the trees after awhile.” “That’s why the lowlands were agriculture-ready.” “Yeah, but it also meant thousands of miles of grassland and desert.” “Anyway, eventually we figured out how to make pottery and glass, and learned how to work with wood to make simple machines and tools.” “We discovered the wheel.” “It really took off after we started finding iron in the far mountains.” “Steel, engines, the industrial age.” “Electricity.” “Nuclear fusion.” “Fission.” “Whatever. How society was organized, that was the other difference between each level. Each level was bigger and more organized, so we went from tribes to nations, and from serfs to citizens. From superstition to science, from everyone for themselves all the way to worldwide government.” “The problems we had to deal with changed, too.” “Right. Like the trees and the mountains.” “Mosquitoes.” They blanched. “Rabbits.”

“Okay, I see where you’re going with this. Let’s take the first level, your stone knives and bearskins period. I’m guessing Animism for a belief system. And your skills are all to do with making food and shelter.” “Now the next period, that’s kind of Viking, right? Everybody loves the Viking esthetic. Should they be Pagan or early Christian? Gotta have Druids. Learn how to control the waters and the weather.” “Then you’ve got your Medieval level, they’re all priest-ridden, with saints and witch hunts and walled cities and serfs and plagues and bad hygiene. You learn agriculture, and invent simple machines and commerce.” “Next ring, I’m not really down with the endless fruited plain thing. Part of it sounds all Humanist and Enlightenment, with all sorts of exurban social experiments. But it also sounds like the Crusades meets Genghis Khan and the Golden Horde. You harness nature and invent science.” “Then those Victorian cities, they’re revolutionary? That’s a stretch, but okay, it looks good visually, and the costumes are cool. This is where you organize society instead of tinkering with the resources. They’re Fundamentalist? I guess revolutionaries can be Fundamentalists. No they can’t, they’re opposite. Fundamentalists are reactionaries. Hmm, I see a kluge coming on.” “The next one is Totalitarian breakdown, that doesn’t sound very nice. You reach all your limits and have to rethink everything. Here you start to take baby steps in your new quantum reality.(later snake and josh mock this attitude) The antichrist, huh? O-kay.” “And what happens in the inaccessible mountains? Oh yeah, nothing. I find epic battles totally uninteresting.”

“And what are the players doing in all these different environments, what are the objectives? The disciplines you want to teach?” “Well, first you need to master your mind, and your body, and then you develop your consciousness, and after that you learn to control your subtle body. Once you’ve built up your muscles, you learn how to move and fly, you develop your intuition and clairvoyance, and you learn how to manifest things, how to create.” “We learned a mnemonic – CNNGSPP.” “That’s not a mnemonic, it’s a collection of consonants. What’s it mean?” “Create, name, nurture, guide, share, preserve, pass on. Those are the ultimate goals.” “And the lessons?” “OWKRPATO.” “Bitch please.” “All one way, all knowable, all relative, all possible, all alive, all together, all one.”

Anomia was responsible for the graphic bible, which she kept mostly in her head, and that was handy, because it’s a pain in the ass to work up style sheets for every little thing in every little scene in every corner of every level. She concentrated on drawing up detailed maps of the rings, and spent lots of time laying out the environments. She spent most time on the backgrounds, photoshopping landscape images and textures. She didn’t have time to storyboard the intro or the cut scenes and scripts, but said she was coming right along on them when the others asked.

And she had to, because nobody else was thinking about all the other things that have to be created for a videogame, like the box art, the press releases, the demo and screenshots. They assumed these things would happen as a natural byproduct of their work on other areas. A detailed project plan, a schedule, milestones, contingency plans, budget, priorities – these are familiar to most videogame development teams, but not this one. They were flying strictly on instinct and a quickly aging hubris.

Josh was working on easter eggs, incorporating such details as alien vampire zombies and hidden tunnels. He was also putting in pirates. He was supposed to be in charge of level design, specifying the climate and geology of each level, how much rainfall, flora and fauna. Things that actually bored him to tears. But it was part of the level diagram, and that was his baby. It was almost fun – he got to say where the desert started and where to limit the glaciers, when the seasons changed, what the prevailing winds were like. But it was tedious and repetitive, so he kept coming back to the pirates.

Then he handed it off to Anomia for an art pass, but she’d already been proceeding with her own plan for the assets, so they had an argument and he spent the night back home at his parent’s house. It was the first time in awhile.

Fairy tracked all the assets – every thing -in the world diagram, giving each of them a universally unique identifier, determining their place in the game’s flowchart, specifying their qualities, deciding if they had associated sounds or musical themes and determining what those would be. She was responsible for the non-playing characters, too, and listed their functions and actions, and drew up a list of animations that she and Josh could argue about. Josh approached her early on to keep Anomia from knowing about his easter egg assets. Fairy said sure, because Anomia didn’t seem to care about the details at this point, and thought about how this gave her some leverage with Josh later.

Fairy wanted to be indispensable to the design process. She thought of herself as a fairy godmother, and felt obligated to save the project thru her insane hard work and brilliant organizational skills. She thought of the world diagram as hers. She had a good grasp on where the game was supposed to go, and it was her job to make it happen by taking charge of all the assets. Since Snake wasn’t around, she had no opposition; Anomia and Josh appreciated what she was doing, and she was gratified for their recognition, because of course she was actually the one holding it all together. In idle moments she wondered if she should copyright the game herself, to keep it safe from the inevitable fight over who owned what.

Josh had to fight Fairy for the right to specify the animation of each avatar. She got to create the avatars, and Josh made it sound like he wanted to do it, but he really didn’t care about design, he just wanted Fairy to appreciate that he was in charge. But he really wanted to list the animations and determine what 3D models and what textures were needed (and why is that?).

She was also supposed to design the avatars, but she wasn’t as interested as she’d let on, she just wanted to wrestle something essential from Josh. Anomia originally made a stab at NPC and avatar design, but Fairy complained about everything from her drawing skills to her fashion sense, so Josh took it over, but he didn’t know anything about style, so they fought over it, and Fairy ended up being responsible for the avatar’s shapes and appearance, their skin textures, their clothes. Now that she had the responsibility, she realized what a huge task it was. Millions of players meant infinitely customizable avatars, and that boiled down to thousands of costume parts and body types in hundreds of styles and periods. She was great with individual styles, based on her intuitive knowledge of whoever she was styling. But working up 86 textured fabric swatches was not her thing. So she opened up a child account and secretly handed it off to Radhu, the entire avatar portion of her workload. She chatted with him a lot, and they became good work friends, but he didn’t have access to the collaborative document, or the ability to chat with the others, and Fairy kept her world diagram to herself. Anomia and Josh had forgotten all about him, so Fairy kept him as her little secret. Radhu’s avatars turned out more Bollywood than Vogue, leaving Fairy to explain it away without taking credit for it (yet).

in our game there was no cost to create things. stuff just flowed when we needed it. if we do it that way, we’ll end up with infinite wealth and power. we’ve got to limit it. no, resources can’t be scarce, because that leads to profiteering, but everything has to cost energy points. you could take it away from them once they’ve got it, but nobody likes taxes, and if you just issue a cap, people will get frustrated and quit. you can give them item converters and let them bootstrap their environments. true, Everyone owned the things they had, their houses and businesses, and they had jobs, and responsibilities. they were all invested in managing their resources, which is good for retention. sense of ownership. and they all involve energy points. so you have it coming in, and being paid back out, like water coming in from the faucet and going out down the drain. what about the effects of all this on the environment? if each player has a life and a family and a community and infrastructure, then you get pollution and the resources run out and it gets overcrowded and there’s crime and wars are declared, and the whole planet destroys itself. we should know.


About jeanne

artist, grandma, alien

Posted on October 19, 2012, in Dailies, fiction and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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