not even done writing 4.1
very different this chapter, not a section at a time until the end. there’s a demarcation once we get into specifics and snake comes in to destabilize things. but the front of the chapter keeps getting reworked as things fold into it. the original 13 points i had written have collapsed, the first 9 sections are now 1, blended. so instead of starting a new section every couple of days, i’m going over the same ground again and again, which is why my posts are so repetitive. i’m tweaking. but not only that, i’m churning, flipping the material over and over until something occurs to me that will tie it all together in a different form. until then, i’m working everything into a better flow, and incorporating more and more into each pass. it’s going to get to the point where i have to break it back down, and then mix it back up again. and maybe then i’ll hear/see/feel the way it wants to be, and then i can just spit it all out at once. that’s how it works for me. and after 3 months, i’m getting used to it, and can relax instead of freaking out when the words don’t come. that’s the process – first resistance, then consciousness, then acceptance, then flow. i can see this process at work thruout my entire life. and i think i hit on it. so far they haven’t actually said what their game world was like, so here they lay it out for fairy, who sums it up as they go along.
Fairy looked it up on a game development website. “Make a list of the game’s environments and the missions taking place in each.” “General information on the unique characteristics of each mission (i.e., slippery surfaces, low visibility, types of monsters, race vs shooting, etc.)” She went thru the levels and tried to sort it out. “I guess you’ll want a tech tree, where you have to choose between technological advances at any given point, which affects what choices you get down the line.” “That sounds right.”
The first level was the rocky shore of this huge, uninhabited continent, with nothing but the clothes on our backs and our new powers, which weren’t very strong.” “We started with nothing, and it was really hard at first. The most we could manage was drafty huts and weak fires. We were like babies, almost too weak to fend for ourselves.” “That helpful skua, dropping fish into our camp.” “We went thru each level, creating and naming and organizing as we went, choosing places for settlements and arranging conditions, and interfering with the people whenever it was called for.” “Okay,” Fairy said, making notes. “I see where you’re going with this. The first level is your typical stone knives and bearskins era. I’m guessing Animism as the belief system. And your skills all have to do with manifesting food and shelter the old fashioned way. This is magic?” “And learning to communicate with our food,” Anomia said. Fairy stared at her. “We kind of tamed them,” Josh explained. “We talked them into being dinner.” “What, they jumped into the pot for you?” “Well, we didn’t have pots yet. They jumped into the coals.” “Didn’t you feel sorry, or squeamish, or guilty?” “We didn’t shed any tears. We were hungry.” “We thanked them, and did their relatives favors.” “This is too Walrus and the Carpenter for words. Can we move on?”
Every level had different parameters. Every level was less hostile and had more resources as a result of the progress they made on the level before. Their tasks were to build and organize and make sure all their people were happy, and then level up. “Now the next period, that’s kind of Viking, right? Everybody loves the Viking esthetic. Should they be Pagan or early Christian?” She answered her own question, “Gotta have Druids. On this level you learn how to control the waters and the weather.” “We made trees grow.” “Yeah, and they grew everywhere. And the huts grew into mountains.” They looked at Fairy, chagrined.
The landscape went from post-glacial barrenness to a sky-high mountain range that blocked all passage until they leveled up. past it “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.” At the edge of this wilderness grew the rugged hills and mountain fortresses of the hinterlands, and finally a vast, futuristic megacity full of wonders. Beyond that were inaccessible mountains where they had their epic battle and death scene.
Thinking about it in front of Fairy, the main difference on each level was the advance in technology. “We figured out how to make pottery and glass, and learned how to make simple machines and tools.” “We discovered the wheel.” “So that’s the third level,” she gathered. “Medieval. Priest-ridden, with saints and witch hunts and walled cities and serfs and plagues and bad hygiene. You learn agriculture, and I suppose invent writing and math, and become able to support cities and government and commerce.”
“Next level I don’t understand, I’m not really down with the endless fruited plain motif. It’s kind of a mixed metaphor. Like it should be Renaissance, but it’s in the desert. The Enlightenment, with all sorts of exurban social experiments where you harness nature and develop science. But it also sounds like the Crusades meets Genghis Khan and the Golden Horde.” “The problems we had to deal with changed, too.” “Right. Like we didn’t learn with the trees and the mountains.” “Mosquitoes.” They blanched. “Rabbits.”
“Technology really took off after we found iron in the far hills.” “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. Sort of.” “From superstition to science, from everyone for themselves all the way to worldwide government – an evil one.” “Sounds rough.” She looked at her list. “Those Victorian cities on level five, they’re Revolutionary? That’s a stretch, but okay, it looks good visually, and the costumes are cool. This is where you start organizing society instead of tinkering with the resources. They’re Fundamentalist? I guess Revolutionaries can be Fundamentalists,” she said doubtfully. “No they can’t, they’re opposite. Fundamentalists are Reactionaries.” “Hmm, I see a kluge coming on.”
“The sixth level is Totalitarian breakdown, that doesn’t sound very nice. Loads of advances, but way overcrowded and very imbalanced, with a tiny population of super powerful cabals trying to enslave the poor that vastly outnumber them. Society reaches all its limits and they have to rethink everything. As for skills, it sounds like this is where 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.”
“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 of each level.” “And the lessons?” “OWKRPATO.” “Bitch, please.” “All one way, all knowable, all relative, all possible, all alive, all together, all one.” “Well, we can work a lot of the bodymind exercises into rituals in the game. As for the lessons, no problem, we’ll embed them in the theme of each level.”
They broke up the process into three pieces and started designing their game. Anomia was responsible for the graphic bible, which she kept mostly in her head, which was handy because it was a pain in the ass to work up style sheets and pantones for every little thing in every little scene in every corner of every level. All she really wanted to concentrate was drawing detailed level maps, and she spent lots of time laying out environments, especially the backgrounds she wanted to photoshopp for the seven levels of landscape images and textures.
She was also supposed to be storyboarding the intro and the cut scenes and writing the scripts, but she didn’t touch them, altho she insisted they were coming right along when the others asked. They were the least of her problems. She had to think about everything, because nobody else was. The box art, the press releases, the demo and screenshots. Most videogame development teams were familiar with detailed project plans, schedules, milestones, contingency plans, budgets, priorities, but not this one. They were flying strictly on instinct and a quickly aging hubris. It was almost scary, so nobody thought about it. The others assumed these things would happen as a natural byproduct of their work on other areas.
Josh worked 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, types of 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 evil alien vampires.
He handed his level diagram 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 sounds or musical themes and deciding 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 anyway, and because it gave her some leverage to use on Josh later.
Fairy wanted to be indispensable to the design process. She thought of herself as a fairy godmother, and felt obliged to save the project thru crazy hard work and brilliant organizational skills. 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. Anomia and Josh appreciated what she was doing, and she was grateful for their recognition, because of course she was actually the one holding it all together. She thought of the world diagram as hers. When she woke up and thought about it in the middle of the night, she wondered if she should copyright the game herself, in the morning, to keep it safe from the inevitable battle over who owned what.
Josh had to fight Fairy for the right to specify the animations. 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?).
Fairy 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 for a minute, 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 the pages of Vogue, leaving Fairy to explain it away and still take credit for it.