preparing to write chapter 6.1
finally, at last, i am ready to start writing again. shit has happened, and i’m only now turning back to my work. here is the first part of the chapter, in note form. i have finished writing what snippets i could, and ordered what i had, and here it is. the next step is to turn it into fiction.
we open with nathan cleaning and talking to caroline. nathan was alone in the restaurant/booth/kiosk/fastfood. precleaning, wiping down things he’d probably have to use again, but maybe not, like the back of the case, like the counters, the side of the drink machine. the glass. so, Caroline said, lounging at the corner of the display case nathan had just cleaned, wiping off something she found on the back of her neck. i’ve been assigned to work dragoncon this year, didja know that? that’ll be a trip. you ever work dragoncon, kid? i’m not working, i’ve already got my ticket, he said. yeah. everybody works dragoncon. maybe you’ll have to work all four days, she warned. oh, right, i should talk to mr. whoosie. i got my mom a ticket, too. i’ll have a word with him for you. um, he tried to decline. tell you what, tho, they had to pay me extra to do this dragoncon gig. i’m supposed to be retiring, after decades of scaring off bad guys. i’m too old for fat guys in tights. tho i could go for an endless stream of cute young thangs in tights and bustiers, or even less. dressed up as superheroines, i want to see that. she fairly drooled. nathan looked away, embarrassed. he figured she was being like his dad, always having to be told she was the greatest, so he just beamed approval at her and did his work while she talked. she returned to her impending retirement after a moment, and nathan listened to all the bitter, detailed reasons she couldn’t live on her pension.
Kurt called the team together. They met at the secret Dragoncon food court, with Nathan and Caroline hovering in the background and the security cameras keeping up as best they could. then anomia comes up and orders, and caroline departs as fairy comes up, making lascivious gestures to nathan. i’ll be back for dessert, she grinned, pumping her fists. they all wander in and wait for kurt. many of them get something from nathan. anomia’s been over talking to nathan and getting something to eat, and fairy came up, they hugged, tho anomia air kissed but fairy wrapped her in a bearhug. fairy bought a cookie. she winked at nathan.
as caroline leaves around the corner the boys come up, ignoring the girls, and head for the coffee stand. at the milk and sugar counter snake whips out a flask and doctors their coffee, winking. josh and snake show up together, they stopped for a quick one and were tempted to go to the smoking balcony and burn one. then the boys saw them there and came over. they made gagging noises and went off for coffee.
they all sit in the middle waiting for kurt. nathan can see them clearly and almost hear them. then played football with the garnish coffee bean at the table. they all came back to the central tables and waited for kurt. they speculate about why kurt called them, saying what they expect and want. fairy quotes 2001 something’s going to happen. something wonderful. wonder what’s keeping him? he’s acting very secretive. how do you know he’s not always like that. he’s probably just really busy with what he’s doing. well, he hasn’t answered any of my emails. i wouldn’t either, snake said. i mean, it’s not like you ever come to the point. if i wanted missives i’d read a blog. wow, that’s really insensitive, snake, anomia stepped in. sorry. he talks to me, nathan said. they turned to him. so how’s he doing, then? snake asked. fine. with the project, i mean. well, he’s almost finished with the game engine. that’s what i thought. and he was talking about putting it on special devices. do you know why we’re here today? no, he said, round eyed. but you know what we’re working on? isn’t this some sort of security breech? snake. well, you’re working on a game based on that vision you had that gave you special powers. they nodded. and kurt made a quantum computer for it, and now he’s developing a suite of addons. that’s about it. he’s telling everybody. i thought he had some discretion. lots of people would be very interested to know about our project, you know.
Kurt emerged from his parking deck like a hibernating bear from its cave. He was a mess. People avoided him on the subway, thinking he would hit them up for money. He smelled. He was grimy, with shards of ramen in his hair. His hands were black with graphite and he had several new, partial tattoos on usually unseen body parts, that were definitely homemade. The number of puncture wounds bothered him a little – he must have had one hell of a time. But he was very pleased with the results of his lost weekend(s). he felt he had a new future ahead of him, with his groundbreaking, earthshaking, revolutionary invention tucked under his arm. modest bows.
But first he needed to get cleaned up, so he went for a spa day. Driving forty miles out of town to the outlet mall, he stopped in and took a shower at a truckstop. He fumigated, vacuumed and washed the van, too. Then he bought some new clothes at the mall and enjoyed the buffet at the family diner before cruising back into town. He got his split ends trimmed at a barber shop, then went down the street and plopped himself in a massage chair for a mani-pedi while he had a glass of wine and let the chair rub the kinks out. He joked about a happy ending, but the girls got offended, and the manager forced him to tip them his last twenty to cover his embarrassment.
He tore his new shirt ripping the tag off, and felt better once he spilled coffee on his pants.
kurt was a little nervous, because this was his baby and he was attached to even the trailing ends of ductape. but mainly he was very pleased at what he’d come up with, despite everyone’s opinion that he’d turned out badly. cuz he didn’t have a day job in a mighty corporation and didn’t make 6 figures and didn’t have great benefits and didn’t control an army of peons and droids.
upon seeing kurt – ah, that’s why he’s late – he was taking a bath. kurt, who’s the kid? he’s my apprentice. that shut them up. he saw them exchange looks. what, do you think i talk about this stuff with everybody? i never talk to anybody.
If anybody noticed Kurt’s geek-casual look, they forgot to tease him about it when he handed around a bunch of android tablets. snake turned his over in his hand, suspicious. is this new? i guess you’d call it refurbished. i made a lot of special modifications myself. you’ve been waiting since the seventies to use that, haven’t you?
kurt with 4 tablets and his android phone. he passes them out, extolling the virtues of future products and advances as if he’d incorporated them into his quantum tablet.
kurt’s built a rendering engine that takes the most basic of input and intuits what you’re trying to build. then you just tweak it. so you design the textures and just have to tag them and the kernel places and adjusts them, and you list the features and they appear. you just need to put them on the computer, and hte kernel does the rest. and updates and builds are automatic and seamless.
all the code you need to represent a scene goes into the kernel and gets streamed directly to the locale scene graph where it can be composed and altered dynamically as needed. to alter it you invoke an instance and jigger the settings, and save it back down to the node. you can’t really program the kernel, but you can get it to change other things. the renderer constantly traversing scene graph and displaying visible geometry onscreen in multistage/multipass scanning.
with quantum tablets, the process is more like making a comic book. we all know how to do that, right? the girl’s never made a comic book but everyone else has done it at least once. she tried to make a newspaper at that age, but couldn’t figure out how to make copies. easy. 6 panels a page, as few words as possible, thought bubbles. not really good comparison. like comic book. boy and fairy have worked on comic books; girl wasn’t allowed to read them (mom said stunt intellectual growth). comic book jobs: writer, artist, inker, colorist, letterer. how does the quantum tablet affect that? but inker? letterer? okay, they’re not the same.
you’re whining about all the subplots and miniquests you have to write, but not any more, because the quantum kernel is going to take the one example that you give it, and make endless variations to choose from, and if you tweak one and send it back, the kernel will give you endless choices on that model as well. and it’ll assign experience points to all the quests and reroute all the paths and rerender the scene, automatically, every time you change something. i’d better read the manual, then, hadn’t i? yeah, what manual? you just have to get in there and figure it out. yeah, later.
that’s just a regular 10 inch android tablet with freeware, a handbuilt game engine app, solar batteries, and admittedly cool reactive touchscreen. the real difference is in the quantum software kernel i developed, the features of which i’m only just discovering. it’s pretty, uh, intuitive. the others didn’t understand him; he let it pass. did you buy this? snake asked. they came off a truck, right? did they bounce? he nudged josh. fairy glared at them.
what, no ipad? android is open source, apple is overrated, microsoft sucks. it’s a no brainer. anomia uses a mac. snake wants windows and get it over with, wants autodesk. josh happy working on a tablet, cool to be hauling around, sleeps with it. fairy linux user hates microsoft. kurt cheap and unimpressed by slick. radhu doesn’t care, has ancient dialup computer at home, uses years old windows at work all stolen software. nathan windows admires mac envies linux, learning how to partition. caroline doesn’t know how to turn on computer, they tell her she needs one (that’s in chapter 7).
touchscreen got the idea from instabuttons, permeable touch screen with gel substrate that oozes up when needed, little electric differential, then you have buttons, keys, screen edges, even 3d viewscreen, still working out kinks. (instabutton screen kinks to show later, gel problems, oozing, puncturing, 3d thing wonky animation problematic. save early and often, what you thought it would backup automatically? duh. add it to the list. rsn.)
it’s photoshop? well, the gimp, actually, but the functionality is the same. it’s a little glitchy. let me know if there are any real problems. i don’t know the software, i’m used to windows, but it has a lot more kick. maybe it’s the system i wrote. what’s it doing? it’s kind of anticipating what i want to do. after a time or two, it lines up the steps as if it’s a macro. hmm. well, play with it and see how far you can go is all i can suggest. i just wrote the operating system, and i didn’t write it to fuck around with other people’s work.
i wrote a game engine app. i could have used the one in blender or some other freeware engine, but i thought i’d start from scratch, and take advantage of the unique features of the quantum kernel. truth was he was sleep programming, and had the engine up and bug-free before he woke the next morning with his face in a bowl of hot ramen.
i wrote a level editor to assemble the gameboard and place the various objects, you still have to assemble the characters and animate them using blender, animation and physics and mechanics, storyline, quests, npcs. steps: modeling, audio, texturing, game engine. i haven’t modified any of the software, but you have blender and the gimp as well as open office and firefox, and you’re running linux for handhelds, just so you know. it all runs a bit differently with the kernel, anyway.
i did a demo. just to mess with the features. you know, i took one of your landscapes, he nodded to anomia, and rendered some terrain with it, and animated it with day and night plus shadows. i got the textures from an online library. he thumbed the demo onscsreen and zoomed around it, a beautiful 3D rendering of some flat place fringed with mountains, tiled with fakey rocks. now, i haven’t looked at the physics, or collision detection, or any of that complicated stuff. so it’s pretty basic, but i’m happy with it.
then what good is this? snake muttered, lifting a corner of his tablet and letting it thump back onto the table.
i’m not an artist, okay? i haven’t touched animation, yet, either. all i did was make a height map, sculpt some terrain, and apply a day/night cycle to it. just to show it works. operate seamlessly across a range of viewing devices:
it was clunky. josh was dubious. snake kept going on about how ugly everything was – but wow was it sharply rendered. anomia couldn’t wait to input better landscapes.
hey, you guys are responsible for the characters and the models and the textures and shit. you all the animation and the scripts. i’m giving you tools to do all that and more, and you’re supposed to have already sorted out who does what.
glad i’m not the only one slacking off, josh remarked sheepishly.
for now the ai is just a placeholder sprite. i’m having a little trouble descending it from the kernel, he explained.
[scene graph has nodes for entities/objects including layers, child nodes branch off from each node, leaf nodes are rendered (visible)] a regular screen graph is just a big database containing everything in a scene, all in this big family tree. parent nodes have children nodes who have more children nodes, ending in leaf nodes. the leaves are the only things that get rendered, the rest of it is all sorts of information about those leaves which stays invisible. there are nodes for everything. representing the shapes, positions, lighting, materials, sounds, timing, special effects, behaviors. graph traversals occur constantly as pov changes, also including rendering activities related to transformations, clipping and culling (preventing objects that fall outside of the user’s view from being rendered), lighting, and interaction operations such as collision detection and picking.
geometry, geometric property, appearance material and texture, child grouping, lighting, environmental/user sensor, animation interpolator, time, bindable children, navigation, background (ground/sky textures = panoramic backgrop shortcut to skymap). Aggregation and Transformation (organizing and grouping nodes that support hierarchy in the scene graph); Navigation, Interpolation, Text, Sound, Pointing Device Sensor, Environmental Sensor, Texturing, Prototyping, and Scripting components. Behaviors embed program logic into a scene graph and can be thought of as the capacity of an object to change in response to input or stimulus. tablet: painting tools, road and lot layout, routing (and nonroutable areas (character and camera)), objects, distant terrain, trees, effects, spawning time. level editor, terrain editor, model viewer, particle editor, and shader IDE. Character models, props, materials and textures, landscape painting tools, game creating tools, audio effects and music, visual programming solutions, scripts and editor extensions. “[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. ”
after the meeting, when kurt says goodbye to nathan in passing (he’s just going over to say hi to the team). so, what are you going to do now? huh? now that you’ve got a working game engine? (nathan wants a tablet of his own so bad he’d like to steal it. caroline says she’ll cover him. but when it goes missing and snake points to theft and they ask caroline, she points to nathan. this follows him right thru the story.) i’m not done. i’ve only got the shell of a working game engine, even tho it’s pretty awesome just as it is. i’ve got to finish with that, and add things they need for awhile. i’m also working on a total immersion rig for playing the game. glasses, and earbuds and gloves (actually version two is an induction field emanated from a tiny badge or earring or something and version three is a pill. version four is all in the imagination). oh my. yeah, you’ll be able to make it yourself. listen, i want you to know that the important thing isn’t the silly software i dashed off one night, or the next generation quantum-powered gamegear that will totally change the industry (kurt talks really big, as if he’s going to be the next bill gates, but he never does anything about it, so when snake suggests he patent it we can explain it (or here actually) how he’s all talk), the important thing is the quantum kernel, but none of them care about that because they’ve got a game to create. but it’s really hot under the hood. it’s all the hype they’ve ever uttered about quantum computing, and you can do anything you want with it, but so far there’s just my game engine. it’ll be awhile before i can release a ???. is it an operating system/machine code/??? wrapped around a tiny quantum kernel, but size doesn’t matter, it’s larger than any computer in existence even as a speck. it’s…alive, he almost said. he shrugged. i’m not sure exactly what it is. the fairies made it while you were sleeping, huh? he paused a beat and looked at him sharply. how did you know about Tesla and Reich? no, that’s a saying my mom uses, that’s all, he said, flustered. it just means you must have spaced out and don’t remember having done something. right, that’s the point. i don’t remember writing it. it was all finished and locked down when i woke up. locked? yeah, and i don’t know the password, and because the encryption is way quantum, i’ll never break it. (it’s open sesame, of course. 0b3zS3SVi). oh. but you must have written an interface/operating system for it. it kind of has a virtual step-down converter so you can to connect to silicon. there’s so much to learn, i’ll never be able to write a manual, that’s my main problem. i don’t have a fucking clue how it works. and, he leaned closer and sounded worried, i’m not sure it isn’t changing, he stopped and pursed his lips. getting smarter. you mean, like Hal? kurt waved the thought away. nah, i don’t mean to scare you. Joshua in War Games? no, stop. not like that. more like the Oversoul in the Homecoming Saga. maybe. tho how i can possibly know at this point…he trailed off. well, anyway, it’s locked, and there’s only one of them, so what harm can come? (the microphones above the space in front of the booth picked up all this, of course. but they weren’t looking yet, and when they found it later, after shit started happening, hey were interested in it for a minute, and gleaned what they could of his accomplishment.)
nathan and caroline meet up afterwards and exchange more.