Lacuna: Docmument 11

Extracts from Eva Marie’s blog, these mostly concerning her ideas for various video games. Though they may seem irrelevant, they are included because many of the ideas she describes strongly resemble several very popular IOs within the VRAIN (a primary aspect of the potential future referenced in Document 8) and one resembles an Omega-scenario potential future, and others resemble various alternate realities explored by agents.

Why are there no games where you get to be a dragon? I mean, there are all sorts of games where you can fight dragons, but not one allows you to actually be a dragon. What about a third-person, single-player open-world action game, in which you were a dragon developing from a hatchling to a fully-grown adult?¹ At first, you would hide from humans and find food where you could. Perhaps during the “demo” period you would be watched over by your mother, a great wyrm, who would be killed by human knights, leaving you to wander the world alone. You would learn to hunt, then to fly, then to breathe fire. You would grow strong enough to assault the strongholds of the humans, and would discover in time that it might be possible to reawaken the most ancient dragons.

And what about vampires? For all their recent popularity in the mediaverse, you would think there would be more good games that let you play as a vampire. Maybe the problem is that they have so many different images associated with them. There’s the suave, sexy vampire, the damn’d creature of darkness, the mental manipulator, the monstrous predator, and probably lots more I can’t currently think of. Well, here’s an idea that gets vampires away from being sparkly and back to their roots: terrifying monsters who feast on human blood. Imagine a massively multiplayer first-person game. The whole world is a two-level city.² During the day, the streets are safe, and human characters can walk about, buy supplies and equipment, etc. However, the vampires live in the labyrinth below, shielded from the light. At night, they swarm up from underground, and the battles begin. Humans have access to medieval technology: swords, shields, crossbows, torches, that sort of thing. They must eat food, drink water, and breathe air. Vampires need only blood. They can see in the dark, and their weapons are their many-fanged, shark-like maws and their clawed hands. They can use extra blood to become stronger or faster, to heal wounds, to climb sheer surfaces, and even grow wings. However, they have no ranged weapons, and are destroyed by exposure to sunlight, decapitation, or a stake (or crossbow bolt) through the heart or head. A random but important point: both humans and vampires would “sleep” when the player leaves the game, but the body of their avatar still exists in the world. Therefore, it is important that people find a safe place to sleep or have companions who can keep watch.

What about pirates? Everyone loves pirates and there are lots of pirate stories and pirate movies but I can’t think of more than a handful of video games that let you be a pirate. What about a massively-multiplayer online game set in a historically-based fantasy world where players were either pirates or privateers? Privateers would protect the various settlements and hunt pirates, who would try to raid the settlements and their ships. People would start out by serving on a crew until they earned enough to pay for their own vessel and crew. You can customize and save your character, but if they die you must make a new one.

That really bugs me, by the way. The way death is dealt with in video games.³ It’s just accepted that you can save and restart if you fail. But life doesn’t work like that. If life were a video game, it would be a massively-multiplayer RPG, but there’s no demo or instruction manual, and you can’t save and you can’t restart and you only get one life. Why are there no contemporary games (besides some Rogue-likes) that only give you one life, or at least make you play as a different character after you die? I mean, I understand and accept that medium is different, and that it requires the creation of certain conventions of play. But what if a game explicitly recognized those conventions and the tropes that go with them, and even made the the central story and gameplay element?

What about a first-person single-player game which explains the video game trope of being able to save your game and keep retrying a sequence until you get it right. You play as a scientist in the near-future, involved in developing a suit that can transport a person back along their own time-stream, but only as far as when they first put on the suit. You begin the game in your apartment, learning the controls by doing mundane tasks such as dressing, brushing your teeth, and making breakfast. Then, you drive to work, learning how to operate vehicles. You arrive at the lab, but it is raided and destroyed by an organization trying to steal the suit prototype. You manage to grab it and go on the run. You can activate the device at any time, “saving” your place. At any other time, you can use it to “rewind” to any saved point, which you can select from a screen showing the onscreen images and titles of the various times. This screen also comes up automatically if and when you die.

The suit actually works by allowing the wearer to “jump” to alternate realities which exist alongside the point in time they are jumping into, timestreams in which that moment and its past were identical but in which a different outcome occurred. However, the more they use the suit, the more reality will start to change, first names and little details, and then it gets really weird. Only a “cooldown” period will allow them to jump back to a more normal universe. The game would center on, or at least begin with your attempts to evade the agents of a nameless but ruthless and relentless organization, which is constantly pursuing you. Your success would depend on you effectively using the suit’s abilities. Perhaps it might be upgraded to manipulate time/reality in other ways, such as freezing/slowing local time. But these abilities would all also come with limitations and cost, the “snap-back” effect of distorting reality. Perhaps the time-slowing ability, for example, would give those it affected a burst of speed once it was over, for example. The point is that the ability to alter reality in that way shouldn’t be taken for granted, and that limitations create meaningful choices. Sure, you can always come back if you die, but you still have to be careful, because if you overuse it you could end up in a world without cheese, or one ruled by lizard people (I’m not sure which is worse).

Another pet peeve: why do games all build their physics engines on a model of real-world physics? Our Universe is way too complex. Sure, you can make it look pretty similar, but the system always breaks down if you push it. You can’t design a truly open world because you have to keep the players within certain preprogrammed paths in order for the game to work. There are games that break this model, but by and large it’s the standard. All three of the games I described above would almost certainly need to be coded according to standard physics/graphics systems. But what if a game built itself around a new, simplified physics system to create a procedurally generated world meant to encourage open-ended collaborative experimentation?*

Instead of the elements of the periodic table, the world of the game is made of a single kind of particle, groups of which can behave as solid, liquid, gas, plasma or light, depending on their energy level. Players observe the large-scale patterns as earth (opaque solid), water (translucent liquid), air (transparent gas) and fire (radiant plasma). The computer stores information about where each particle should be if a player happens to be looking at it, but only renders what the player is seeing at any given time, in a simple representation of quantum states. Groups of particles are large enough that they can be changed and rearranged by players, either by hand or by using other groups of particles as tools. Each game takes place on a sphere of fire with a randomly generated skin of earth, water, and air, orbiting a much larger sphere of pure fire. Living beings are liquid skins surrounding a solid skeleton and protecting a fire in the belly fueled by air. Players also have a fire in their heads. Living beings must consume water and earth to build their bodies and air to sustain their inner fires. There are many games being played simultaneously, but players must join a game by being “born” into it. Two players must agree to remove part of their inner fires and combine them. One places the fire into themselves, and waits for a player to join the game. When this happens, the carrier must give air, water, and earth to the new child. The baby develops as quickly as the carrier can give it resources, and the player must in fact build their own body. The body can be in any shape, though there are default designs, and when they are finished, they are born into the world. If the players of a world ever work out a way to develop space-flight, they can fly off the edge of their game-world and into a neighboring one.

¹This almost precisely describes one of options within one the most popular VRAIN Lacunae (according to our operative embedded within that potential reality), except that it is nested within a larger, multi-user fantasy environment (populated mainly by the creatures similar to those described in another excerpt from this document). This world also resembles AR-4213.

²This is again an almost exact description of a very popular VRAIN Lacuna, called “Lux/Nox”. There is also a version of the game called “Lux/Nox 2342”, which sets it on a ruined, post-apocalyptic Earth, in which humans are outnumbered by vampires but have access to firearms and other technology commonly available in today’s world. This second situation also resembles a possible Omega-scenario future agents have encountered.

³Death in a VRAIN Lacuna is generally handled in the following way. Each player has a personal, permanent avatar. This is their actual personality, the contents of their mind stored on the VRAIN servers, which is downloaded into organic, inorganic, or cybernetic bodies in Realspace as needed. However, to join certain Lacunas, the player must create a secondary avatar, and many games will delete this avatar permanently if it dies. In addition, the game she describes in this passage is very similar to a popular single-player IO, and the physics system strongly resembles that of AR-617 (unexplored, observed only).

*The environments of the various IOs are rendered using a system that is much more complex but otherwise almost identical to the one described here.

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A Magical Mystery Tour Guide View all posts by MysterMe

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