writing chapter 4.2
here’s what i have done today. it’s not polished, who said what is missing, but i thought i’d get it up there and move on.
They were in their usual places, working on the usual things. Anomia was drinking free coffee and eating out of the vending machine at work, shuffling between revising a proposal and mashing up tudor and thatched cottage styles for the market towns on the third level. Josh was tinkering with weapon designs for battling evil alien vampire zombies and drinking beer with pretzels in his local wifi bar. Fairy was propped up in bed eating microwave popcorn and guzzling energy drinks and working on dragon NPCs to replace Radhu’s Ganeshas.
As a further burden on her voluptuous back, Fairy found that creating an NPC wasn’t just a matter of designing a character’s appearance. She had to write scripts and dialog to reveal its functions, and then had to flowchart all the player choices that came from meeting an NPC.
Why did she want dragons instead of Hindu gods? Because she hated Babar as a child, and frankly couldn’t explain why it should be talking elephants handing out information, quests and rewards. Her choice was friendly dragons, zen dragons with ancient wisdom and knowledge; believable characters who would teach skills and quantum thinking, and startle the wayward minds of the player, keeping them on track and directing them down the paths they needed to follow.
That doesn’t answer why dragons, the boy pointed out.
No reason, Fairy fudged. I like dragons.
Their ideas were vague, their objectives being simply to train minds and bodies. But they took comfort in the fact that all the mystery schools they could think of were vague. They all agreed, tho – Dune, Star Wars, Harry Potter. Zen was obscure on purpose, just like the Sufis, just like the Christian mystics. When the student is ready, the teacher appears – how vague can you get?
Okay, and after players interact with a given NPC, Fairy continued, what do they do then? Go on the quest or go off somewhere else to explore? Or some other independent behavior? There are a lot of choices.
Behaviors aren’t independent, Josh reminded her. Games are linear. Players only think they have a choice.
Not in this game, Anomia insisted. Real choice is a feature of the game, not an illusion. Everything depends on what players do from moment to moment. It’s cumulative.
But you can’t script that, Fairy protested. You can’t flowchart it, you can’t possibly tell what players are going to do with real choice. It’s just too complicated.
You’re obviously going to have to set limits, Josh agreed. But where you put your limits influences – determines – the flow of the game. A game with no limits means accumulations of infinite wealth and power with nothing to balance it.
Yeah, and if you have too many limits, you end up with profiteering and slavery. But if you take wealth away or tax it then players get resentful. And if you cap it, people will either cheat or quit.
With limits or without them you get pollution and overcrowding.
Scarce resources, crime, wars.
So where do we set the limits?
Everything costs something, let’s call them energy points. Your supply and your costs balance out. You can let them use item converters to make their own assets, or trade for them in shops or with other characters. That’s good for game loyalty, too. The more they own, the bigger the investment.
Resource management leads to player involvement.
Then Snake showed up out of nowhere in the chat window of their collaborative spreadsheet. He appeared in the bar where Josh was working on the game, and Josh gave him an account and started bringing him up to speed.
Fairy and Josh were arguing over NPC attributes. She was in favor of completely defining every NCP – stats, skills, gear, appearance, moves. Josh wanted to use general descriptions and draw from a pool of random attributes as needed, later. Anomia was away doing something else.
SNK: y flesh out npcs at all?
FER: wtf who r u?
BOY: old programr frend gonna wrk on gema
SNK: nobdy cares npc dtails. + mprtnt wrk
FER: realer npcs = ++ vivid gema. s/b photoreal
SNK: southpark. dont wste time
BOY: wat he sed
Anomia picked up on Fairy’s distress and looked at her chat window. Her stomach went instantly sour around the latest candy bar as she saw them dumbing down her game. She wanted photorealistic NPCs, personally, and was okay with Fairy’s ideas about dragons. She would use unicorns and pixies if it was only up to her.
SNK: fuk hello kitty brony shit. y not use evil vampire aliens?
Josh elbowed Snake and reminded him it was a secret.
GRL: angel sed no evil. n fact we shd use angel npcs.
Snake winked at Josh and they changed the subject.