writing chapter 11.1
After a million false starts, the game was ready to be tested by people who weren’t directly responsible for it. Fresh blood was needed to try everything the team wouldn’t think of, find all the ways to break the game, and then try to break it again after it was fixed.
The team broke the carnival levels down into ride islands and gave each area a group of testers, who would play their area thru and report any bugs. The kernel got the bug reports and fixed whatever it was, and the testers tested it again. It wasn’t as easy as it sounded. There were user errors, lots of user errors. From not knowing they were supposed to do this, and not knowing they weren’t supposed to do that. From trying to game the system to trying to kill each other. They wouldn’t follow the game objectives, they wouldn’t play all the way thru, they abandoned one quest and started up another.
And their reports were ludicrous. Illegible, bad spelling, bad grammar, little more than text speak. Very hard to be subtle and thorough when you didn’t use vowels. They even had individual definitions of a bug. For some it was a clear glitch, and they let the merely klunky areas slide. For others every little irregularity was noted and flagged urgent. Their task was to find the bugs, fix the bugs. But the testers were in touch with the kernel, and the kernel wanted to tailor the game to every player. So even as the first alpha testers came online and started to wander around, the kernel was making little alternations that nobody noticed.
Among the least qualified alpha tester was Caroline. Caroline was old enough to vaguely remember Pong, but she had no experience of modern videogames. At first she complained that the game didn’t work, then that the game crashed the tablet. After a few more tutorials, she reported that the game was broken (while she was actually watching a video demo and kept pressing the replay button).
More experienced players (everyone else) chose their avatars and mingled with other players in the Tutorial Hall. They customized their avatars, many of them using their own images and gestures like the development team had. Others wanted to be outlandishly individualistic, even abstract. Their choice of avatar placed them in a pod of players with similar attributes. They all learned the same basic skills, but each pod learned appropriate skills based on their future quests.
Caroline, her avatar a young prepubescent girl, was still having trouble with the gamegear. Then it took her forever to learn to move around and pick things up. She detested the controls, the displays, menus, folders, and resolution tools. Other, higher functions, like eating and drinking, peeing and pooping, sex – players either went for advanced tutorials or figured out on their own. Caroline was like an infant. Finally the testers were taught how to fly, given directions, and sent off to find their way to Themepark Antarctica. Even Caroline, who had to be pushed.
Josh and Anomia stood on top of the Transantarctic mountains (the roof of the Hub) and watched the first testers approach, just as the angel had watched them. They felt like new parents watching the baby’s first accomplishment (Look, he drooled!) Even tho the game was nothing like the angel’s game.
They’d scaled back the scope of the game the angel told them to make, and turned it into a violent and corrupt parody of a pop culture shopping mall. But at least they’d gotten this far. One day they’d figure out how to unlock Kurt’s rebuilt Antarctica level, restore all the quantum functionality that was frozen inside the locked down kernel, and force the game back in the direction they had intended from the beginning.
They stood around in the biting wind and stark sunlight, watching the testers getting closer and closer. There seemed to be many more of them than they’d remembered signing up.
They had developed a fine sense of the kernel at work all around them, generating and managing the simulation. They’d become entangled with it after so many months of communication with it. They decided to greet the testers the same way the angel greeted them, and flew up to the cloud level, which was anchored just under the skydome on the top surface of the clouds. From the edge of the clouds, they could see the whole amusement park beneath them, surrounded by a ring of ocean, deep blue and cold. They could see individual testers now, all kinds of customizations of the avatars they’d (Radhu’d) designed.
The testers landed around them on the clouds, with various degrees of gracefulness, and stood around the couple,
not doing or saying anything. Just looking at them. A multitude of shadowy, foggy testers in their strange looking avatars.
A little unnerved, Josh and Anomia changed scale and disappeared into the clouds, something none of the testers knew how to do yet. They materialized at scale back in the carnival level, and waited to see what the testers would do. Why were they acting so weird?
Up on the cloud level, testers were happy to have arrived at their destination, but weren’t sure what to do. They talked among themselves, but were really waiting for someone in charge to give them their next quest.
Josh and Anomia waited.
Caroline came limping along, flying with an awkward gait, flapping and kicking like she didn’t understand the principle of flying from her gut, and was trying to pull herself thru the air. She grew closer to the cloud, It looked solid, with people standing around looking stupid. She wriggled toward them, trying to slow down so she could land. But she didn’t know how to slow down, so with a scream she went tearing thru the clouds and plummeted thru the air down to the surface.
Caroline fell like a meteorite into the ocean surrounding Antarctica. And died.