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Battle Angel Valerie


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Poll: Story Concept Reception Survey (5 member(s) have cast votes)

Do you want more?

  1. Yes (3 votes [60.00%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 60.00%

  2. No (2 votes [40.00%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 40.00%

How good is this opening?

  1. 5 = Best (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  2. 4 = Good (2 votes [40.00%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 40.00%

  3. 3 = Average (3 votes [60.00%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 60.00%

  4. 2 = Bad (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  5. 1 = Worst (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

What do you like about this opening?

  1. Its theme/tone/setting is interesting. (2 votes [28.57%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 28.57%

  2. It may be a fun game to play. (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  3. It may be a meaningful story. (3 votes [42.86%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 42.86%

  4. It has good writing style. (1 votes [14.29%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 14.29%

  5. Nothing. (1 votes [14.29%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 14.29%

Do you want to work on this design?

  1. Yes (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  2. Yes, but I have to work on something else (3 votes [60.00%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 60.00%

  3. No (2 votes [40.00%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 40.00%

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#1 Wai   Members   -  Reputation: 1002

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Posted 08 February 2014 - 03:27 AM

Eight years ago, I joined a group of fellow graduate students to form a company to develop a game that would use the live data collected by a large social network. The key technology of our development was an engine that would express the live data into coherent and responsive characters for the game. This technology allowed the game to emulate millions of unique and realistic characters without us creating a single one. We believe that such a game would be revolutionary and would bring the world a lot closer when people could understand one another better.

 

The game was launched six years ago as a life simulation game but it was a failure. The game could not draw enough players and got entangled with a horde of legal issues, leading to the bankruptcy of our company. After a year of despair and litigation, a client contacted each of us and recruited us to work on a similar system for him.

 

Our client had his own private life data network for us to use, and relocated us to a secluded location for the development. We were assigned to develop an arena combat platform using the data. Using various informatics gathered from the data, we developed an interpreter to translate them into combat attributes, and created an engine to visualize the fighting for the client to see.

 

Since the system did not allow any human interactions, thus had no players, it could not be called a game. It was more like a fish tank where periodically, some of the fish would be selected to fight one another. The system was never released to the public and remained unknown outside the client's circles. From what we understood, our client most likely used the closed system to allow gambling to entertain his circles to make a profit. We believed that his business model might be similar to that of a horse-racing organization.

 

After the project was completed, the client continued to pay us a sizable dividend every two weeks. We effectively became retirees.

 

Some of us had found other job or endeavors since. Some decided to enjoy life and travel the world.

 

As for me, I decided to settle down.

 

Since I was small, I had always been a quiet loner. My family had moved a few times. In each time I lost my friends and a part of myself. Over time, I developed a tendency to not have friends to avoid the loss. Now that I no longer had to worry about my living, I decided to settle down at the small university town where I spent my academic years.

 

 

At the edge of the university town, I brought a small house overlooking a wheat field.

 

"Congratulations on your first home! How do you feel to be a home owner? Aren't you excited?" My real estate agent asked me as she handed me the keys.

 

"Not really, I feel rather normal," I replied honestly.  "I am at the age where I should be having a home. It feels like just a normal part of life."

 

I was such an emotionally neutral person that if I were a character in that game, I would probably have no combat attributes.

 

The game was designed to simulate the instantaneous emotional attributes of the characters to determine the skills they can use and the effects of the skills at any given moment. I still remembered the long nights we stayed to design and balance the skill sets to give a good show with great varieties. To balance the combat mechanics, each of us had a favorite archetype that we used for play test. Since I did not strongly identify with any emotion, my archetype was a combination of emotions that was never found in the data pool. We designed the rules to balance that archetype anyway, just to cover the theoretical loopholes.

 

 

We named that character archetype Valerie.

 

 

Not to break the mood too much, I smiled momentarily for my real estate agent, to ease the diverted chain of thought happening in my mind.

 

Although we knew that the system we created was not a game, we developers still fondly called it a game. By calling it a game, we could pay homage and reincarnate our lost dream. This gave us closure for our shared chapter.

 

 

"Well, in any case, this is a great investment! You should be excited about it! I am excited for you!" My agent said, bringing me back to the present.

 

Perhaps I should be excited. I thanked my agent again for her help.

 

As I watched her drove off, I acknowledged that a new chapter in my life had started.

 

Starting tomorrow, I will reconnect to the community and find my new role.

 

 

~ End of Chapter 1 ~


Edited by Wai, 08 February 2014 - 03:50 AM.


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#2 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 5056

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Posted 12 February 2014 - 10:04 PM

I had to mull this over for a few days before I could decide why I was reacting to it the way I was.  My reaction was mixed, and I couldn't communicate that well through the straightforward poll questions.  The content is mostly interesting, but I think there is a presentation problem; the presentation problem isn't what I would usually call "writing style" though.  It's more an issue of what content needs to go into an introduction to orient and hook a reader.

 

As far as the content goes, I like stories about starting over at life.  I just finished reading a novel about a similar topic - a female lawyer living in New York City realizes she hates the city and her life in it and needs to flee and find time to relax and think so she can decide what she wants to be different about her future life.  I am also interested in systems that analyze people and represent them with archetypes.  I was confused why emotions would be converted into fighting characteristics; this is one of the two points that made me unsure whether I would want to play the game or work on the design.  The second point was that I have no idea what genre the game would be or what it's main activity would be from this intro.  Would the player be in the role of the emotionally neutral narrator here?  This is an interesting character, I do want to hear more about him(?) but might be an awkward fit for a player who isn't emotionally neutral.  I strongly wanted more clues about what the theme or moral was going to be, since it seems like a story where there will be a strong theme.


Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


#3 Wai   Members   -  Reputation: 1002

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Posted 13 February 2014 - 04:12 AM

High Concept

The main character acquires the emotion archetype "Valerie" by risking his own life to fight personified consuming emotion so that he could save his friends trapped by a system he helped create.

 

Theme

There is an emotion that prevents a person from being consumed by strong emotions. Those strong emotions include Despair, Greed, Grudge, Guilt, Lust, Rage, Self-righteousness, Vigilance. In the story, the archetype that prevents a person from being consumed and saves others from being consumed is named "Valerie".

 

Genre

The genre depends on what can be finished in reasonable time. If I am the only one working on it, then the genre is a short story with no illustration. The short story would have about 12 chapters, so perhaps 10K words total. If I get that done, then I either upgrade it or work on a different project. In terms of upgrades, it can be turned into manga, interactive story, turn-based RPG, action RPG, etc. Since I cannot finish those in reasonable time by myself, I work on the common asset, which is the short story.

 

As a short story, the genre is drama with fighting. The fighting does not occur in the real world but in the world of the game the protagonist created. The link between emotion and combat was created to visualize and test the emotional strength of individuals. For the plot, the link exposes the true feelings of the characters. For the storytelling, the link dramatizes the display of emotion. The dramatization of emotion is used to help the audience remember the characteristics and effects of the emotions. The story follows the perspective of the protagonist trying to save his friends who had become trapped by the system he helped create. To save his friends, he will fight in the system with them. They will fight all 8 of the strong emotions. They are saved when one of them gains the strength to become a Valerie.



#4 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 5056

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Posted 13 February 2014 - 05:49 PM

Ohhh, ok! :)  A battle against being consumed by overwhelming emotions sounds like a good topic to me, and people getting trapped in a game they made is a good workhorse of a plot; has been done well a few times, so there are some examples to look at, but hasn't been done a huge number of times or recently.  I think it would work better if you started in a different place; buying a house doesn't seem directly relevant to the heart of the story.  Instead I'd start either with the team excitedly creating the game, or with the main character finding out people had gotten trapped in the game.


Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


#5 Wai   Members   -  Reputation: 1002

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 04:30 AM

Emotion is the urge that affects one’s decisions. In the live data, Greed was the most common emotion.It describes urge to get more for not reason other than to satisfy the urge to get more. It is in the bargain shopper who likes to shop for good bargains when they don’t need the merchandise. It is in the gambler who could not resist betting when they had just won a bet. Greed is probably in all of us to some degrees.

In the game, the archetype of greed is a treasure hoarder. The archetypical traits include a huge backpack, a searchlight, digging tools, and various treasure-hunting gadgets. Characters with high level of greed would also have an aura around them, where they could archive and retrieve objects that would not fit in their backpacks. They fight to get what they want and to keep what they have. The outcome of their fight is mainly determined by the items they possess. The more powerful items they have, the better chance they have in winning a fight. However, it is important to note that winning the fight is not their goal. Their goal is the items. Fighting is just a mean to achieve that goal.

There is a difference between fighting to get an item and fighting to take an item away from someone.

 

The first emotion focuses on self-gain, they care less where they get the item from as long as they get it. The second emotion focuses on harming others, they are willing to destroy the item so that the others cannot have it.

The first one we call greed.

 

The second one, jealousy.

 

“I am glad that you are still the philosophical type. I can count on that to never change.”

Sitting before me was Lea. We were classmates back in college when she studied mathematics. She had become a high school teacher in town. I met her by chance at the farmer’s market. We sat down at a café to catch up. She made that comment when I told her about my goals to settle down and reconnect.

“You certainly have changed quite a bit,” I said.

She had lost her dorky look of big glasses, pigtails, and hoodie. She had now learned to style of her hair, to put on elegant clothing and on cosmetics. By her changed appearance, I would not have recognized her if not for the way she startled when she saw me.

“I am happy for you,” I added, noting her engagement ring that she seemed to unknowingly touch as she wrapped her hands around her warm cup of drink.

Upon hearing that, she became self-conscious and hide her hands under the table in embarrassment.

 

“He is a banker. He is really sweet,” she said, “We are getting married in June.”

 

She said so with downcast eyes, as if recounting the sweet but embarrassing moments with her fiancé. I had no doubt that they loved each other very much.

“Am I invited to the wedding?”
“I'd love to! But it will be out of state….”
“I don’t think that will be a problem for me.”
“If you come, you will be one of the few people I know!”
“The more reason for me to go,” I said.
“Thank you, this would mean a lot to me.” She said as she reached and held my hand.

 

Lea did not have many friends. Since she was small, she had always had good grades and good manner. She became a target of jealousy among her peers. She was the one that her classmates wanted to defeat. They watched her, wishing for her failure. She had always found herself alone and isolated. I was one of her few friends.

“I am sorry,” I said.
“What for?”

 

I closed my eyes to look for a way to verbalize my reason.

 

“I am sorry for not being there earlier. This time I will see it through.”

 

Time seemed to have stopped for a moment. All I could feel was the warmth of her hand on mine.

Eight years ago, I left to make a game to bring people closer. Eight years later, I had just started to regain one connection I lost. My life was a joke.

I opened my eyes when she withdrew her hands to dry her tears gently. Her bittersweet smile carried a sense of serenity that her hardship was understood, and an acceptance of the irrevocable decisions that brought us to the present.

“How about you? Are you seeing anyone?” She asked.
“Nah, I feel as if I had been living in a prison,” I said casually.
“It couldn’t be that bad!”

 

She said with a chuckle.

When I returned home, a heavy feeling brought me to lie down on the floor. I opened my phone to see Lea’s old photo taken ten years ago, which I had just linked to her new phone number.

The thought of us shopping for furniture, and falling asleep in a cuddle after furnishing the living room filled my mind. If I had stayed with her, the present would have been very different.

I closed my eyes to let the emotion pass.  
 

~ End of Chapter 2 ~



#6 Wai   Members   -  Reputation: 1002

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 05:23 AM

Alternative Openings

 

1. Start with a celebration where the team had concluded the project with the client, and the team members are going separate ways. In the celebration, the team would watch the archetypes fight, and in their conversations, they will talk about what each of them will do. The conversation then leads to the main character saying that he would settle down at the college town. To have this opening, the length of the opening would increase, because I would be expanding a description into a scene. The design of the developers would need to be complete. This might distract the player too much because the developers are not main characters of the story. This might introduce too many characters that the player does not need to know. This opening might show too much about the powers of the archetype, and reduce the surprise when a power is used for the first time against the player

 

2. Start with the main character finding out people had gotten trapped in the game. I think this opening might draw too much attention to the game and trying to survive it, but not enough on what the main character and others are doing before they are trapped. I think I will know whether this can be done when I continue chronologically to the point where the main character finds that people are trapped. Then I can rearrange that section to the beginning and check.



#7 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 5056

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 09:48 PM

How about starting the story with the main character observing how the emotions of some of the other team members have changed dramatically when the first game fails and then when they are hired by the mysterious guy to rework the concept?  Then skip ahead.

 

Emotion is the urge that affects one’s decisions. In the live data, Greed was the most common emotion.It describes urge to get more for not reason other than to satisfy the urge to get more. It is in the bargain shopper who likes to shop for good bargains when they don’t need the merchandise. It is in the gambler who could not resist betting when they had just won a bet. Greed is probably in all of us to some degrees.

I tend to think bargain hunters and gamblers are more addicted to the thrill than greedy; I'd personally characterize greed as being inability or unwillingness to understand that one doesn't need to own everything that catches one's interest.  Also being unable to mentally redefine what constitutes a collection to remove that one item which is 100 times more rare than the others.  Greed is a compulsion, but not the same kind as making bets or seeking bargains, I don't think.  YMMV.


Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


#8 Wai   Members   -  Reputation: 1002

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Posted 18 February 2014 - 04:48 AM

Self-righteousness is the urge to protect one’s own decision or perspective. This urge is not about finding the truth, but to maintain one’s image of being correct. In the live data, self-righteousness was the most persistent emotion. While other emotions might override a character at times, self-righteousness tended to stay with the character when the other emotions subside.

In the game, the archetype of self-righteousness was a knight warrior with heavy armor, tower shield, and heavy melee weapon. We referred to this archetype as the paladin, same as how this combat archetype was called in other games. The paladin draw their power from their conviction, which is displayed as a symbol on their equipment. At high level, this archetype had an aura that debilitates those with less resolve.

For this archetype, fighting was their normal way of existence. They would fight to protect their convictions, and to eliminate those with contradicting convictions.

“Do you believe in karma?” asked Jeremy.

Jeremy was one of the developers of the game. He was a colleague with many talents. He was the architect, both in the development of the game as a software, and in the visual design of the arena. Our client gave us the design freedom for the arena. The final design was a network of Gothic towns connected by catacombs. In each town, the sky was replaced by a stone dome, where stairways and dwellings were craved into the dome. By the end of our development, we had only created one of the towns. The arena was the plaza of that town.

Tonight, we met again at a local bar in downtown for the first time after leaving this college town. I had known Jeremy since I was first year in college. We met in the laundry room of our dorm discussing random philosophical questions. The question he asked was a typical kind of question we would discuss.

“If by karma you mean an external force that rewards good deeds and punishes bad deeds, then no.” I said, anticipating him to further clarify the topic.

Jeremy seldom asked questions merely to get other opinions. He asked questions to test his conclusions to make sure that his conclusion could withstand counter arguments. He would not disclose in the beginning what conclusion he had reached, so that he could see whether others would reach the same conclusion.

“Do you mean that you believe in karma in some other way?” Jeremy said.

“I think that a person who believes that their action is correct could find happiness regardless of the outcome, and that a person who believes that their action was wrong could be tormented by their own guilt.” I said.

“Very well,” Said Jeremy, “What about a person who did something wrong but finds happiness because they thought they did the right thing, and a person who did something good but is tormented because they are misled into believing that they were wrong? Should society do something about them?”

I gave his question some thoughts. On the surface, I would like to say yes, that the society should do something. However, I did not believe that that was the complete answer. Humans are prone to various forces that affect their judgment and decision. A society might act, but how would society know that it made the right judgment?

In our play test, his archetype of choice was the paladin. If we were in the game, I would have been stunned by his aura, giving him the opportunity to strike me at his discretion.

“It depends on the action,” I said, “I think each of us has a responsibility to set things right, but punishment goes beyond what it takes to restoring a situation.”

“But how could a society set things right if they don’t have a way to tell what is right?” Jeremy asked, “Whether there is punishment or not, society needs a way to judge.”

I felt that I was stunned again. I felt that I was trying to oppose his conclusion out of fear even though I did not know what it might be. Was I afraid of being judged? Had I already done something wrong?

“The way to judge could involve all the stakeholders,” I said, “It is a way to decide how to restore a situation that everyone involved would agree. This way, the ‘judge’ is not a single perspective and does not need to know everything to make a decision that would work in all situations. The ‘judge’ is everyone involved, and they only need to decide on an agreement for their particular situation.”

“What should society do when someone refuses to subscribe to that kind of resolution? Do you mean that society should never enforce any rule because all rules should only be followed voluntarily?”

A fight against a paladin is typically a war of attrition. We continued the conversation for longer than I intended, until Jeremy was too drunk to continue. At the end of the conversation I still did not know the conclusion he had. However, I gathered that after the end of the project, he continued to work with the client to expand the game for Phase Two development. In the conversation, he neither disclosed the details of Phase Two, nor asked whether I was interested in joining. Perhaps I was being interviewed, and I flunked the interview.

As I was carrying Jeremy to his hotel room, I thought about whether I would work on Phase Two if Jeremy asked me.

 

At that moment, the thought of Lea flashed in my mind.

To me, the thought of her meant that I did not want to go unless Lea would go with me. However, I did not want to acknowledge that meaning because it was an unreasonable desire. I had no choice but to dismiss that pointless thought. Maybe I should go, just to help me let go of Lea.

“By the way, you have only been back recently, right?” Jeremy asked, in his drunkenness.

I said yes.

“You should go aboard for sight-seeing until next month,” Jeremy said.

I found Jeremy’s comment odd, even though I knew that he was drunk.

“Well, any place I should visit in particular?” I asked, to play along with him as I lowered him in his bed.

“How about Japan?” Jeremy said, “You don’t know anyone there, right? You won’t recognize anyone, and no one would recognize you….”

I stepped back in an unexplainable apprehension. The sudden disorientation made the room seemed bigger in a heartbeat. I noticed myself in the mirror. There was a feeling of watching a stranger from another world.

Driving home through the empty downtown, I saw no moon and no star.
I had an eerie feeling that the night sky was really a stone dome.
 

~ End of Chapter 3 ~



#9 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3966

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Posted 18 February 2014 - 06:06 AM

High Concept

The main character acquires the emotion archetype "Valerie" by risking his own life to fight personified consuming emotion so that he could save his friends trapped by a system he helped create.
I miss the simple old days. There was the dragon and the princess. You took your sword, slay the beast and marry the princess (or slay the princess and marry the dragon - a nice twist if you watched Half-Dragon anime :D)

Today everything is so complicated and psyhological :D

 

Genre

The genre depends on what can be finished in reasonable time. If I am the only one working on it, then the genre is a short story with no illustration. The short story would have about 12 chapters, so perhaps 10K words total. If I get that done, then I either upgrade it or work on a different project. In terms of upgrades, it can be turned into manga, interactive story, turn-based RPG, action RPG, etc. Since I cannot finish those in reasonable time by myself, I work on the common asset, which is the short story.
Don't get me wrong, I totally disliked the story and would not play the game, but... I was able to understand what you wrote (rare thing), it was clear and decently well written (and I'm picky), and, even through it's completely unappealing to me, I can see some people wanting to play such a game.

 

Turning it into an interactive story (with some illustrations) sounds worth a try.

(but really, there should be slying dragons and a princess in my opinion :D)


Europe1300.eu - Historical Realistic Medieval Sim (RELEASED!)

PocketSpaceEmpire - turn based 4X with no micromanagement FB


#10 Wai   Members   -  Reputation: 1002

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 02:17 AM

How about starting the story with the main character observing how the emotions of some of the other team members have changed dramatically when the first game fails and then when they are hired by the mysterious guy to rework the concept?  Then skip ahead.

 

The story is not about the developers. They are mostly part of the back story. I think it would make sense for the narrator to mention them, especially when the narrator encounters the corresponding archetype in a fight. However, it would not make too much sense to associate an archetype strongly with a developer because people aren't normally strongly emotional. Even if a developer identifies themselves with an archetype, they are still far from the strongest instance of that archetype. For the emotions that they go through during the failure, I think it is enough to take the narrator as a representative.

 

The main protagonists are:

 

1. The narrator, who was one of the developers, and the one telling the story

2. The narrator's old friend, who the narrator left to make the game

3. An investigator who is trying to solve the case

4. A friend of the investigator recruited to help solve the case

 

In the high concept, 'friends' refer to these four characters, not the developers.

 

 

but really, there should be slying dragons and a princess in my opinion biggrin.png

 

There is a dragon.

I think there is no princess.


Edited by Wai, 19 February 2014 - 02:21 AM.


#11 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 5056

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 04:41 AM

 

How about starting the story with the main character observing how the emotions of some of the other team members have changed dramatically when the first game fails and then when they are hired by the mysterious guy to rework the concept?  Then skip ahead.

 

The story is not about the developers. They are mostly part of the back story. I think it would make sense for the narrator to mention them, especially when the narrator encounters the corresponding archetype in a fight. However, it would not make too much sense to associate an archetype strongly with a developer because people aren't normally strongly emotional. Even if a developer identifies themselves with an archetype, they are still far from the strongest instance of that archetype. For the emotions that they go through during the failure, I think it is enough to take the narrator as a representative.

 

The main protagonists are:

 

1. The narrator, who was one of the developers, and the one telling the story

2. The narrator's old friend, who the narrator left to make the game

3. An investigator who is trying to solve the case

4. A friend of the investigator recruited to help solve the case

 

In the high concept, 'friends' refer to these four characters, not the developers.

 

 

but really, there should be slying dragons and a princess in my opinion biggrin.png

 

There is a dragon.

I think there is no princess.

 

 

Oh, that's a different plot than I thought it was going to be.  Honestly, I'm not personally interested in hearing about the narrator's old friend.  Nothing wrong with stories about fixing neglected relationships or repairing breaks with the past, just not my kind of story.  Sounds like you have a Dramatica Type 3 story (blue on the chart linked below) in mind, while I was expecting type 4 (purple), which is your typical "philosophy/mystery/adventure" or, less likely, Type 1 (red), which would be more of an action adventure.

http://home.comcast.net/~wickeddelite/BigFourLarge.png

 

(Might be possible to mistake the old friend for a princess, in that set of symbols.)


Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


#12 Wai   Members   -  Reputation: 1002

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 04:50 AM

Despair is the urge to act assuming that personal loss is inevitable. It is the typical emotion behind deciding to give up or to harm one’s self to avoid further pain. In the live data, despair is pervasive on the low end of the spectrum. Almost everyone had given up on something, be it a childhood dream, a school subject, a skill, or a broken relationship. Given the right context, a person would readily refuse to try again or become apathetic toward those specific aspects of life. On the high end of the spectrum, despair is less common, and are generally self-destructive. Compared to the other emotions, despair is the most contagious. A character in despair tends to induce despair in characters around them. In the live data, despair can spread like a contagious disease and cause an epidemic.

 

In the game, the archetype of despair was a dazed child aimlessly wandering alone with a teddy bear. This design was based on the same type of character as they appear in apocalyptic movies, where everyone they knew was dead. Their only companion was their imagery friend—the teddy bear. This archetype did not consciously decide to fight, but their presence would induce horror and hallucination in others enough to distort their sense of reality and hurt themselves. At low level, the character could animate inanimate objects and use them as scapegoats. At mid level, they could summon dead characters. At high level, a character of this archetype could emit a wide-area aura that would turn the stage into an apocalypse, where the imaginary and reality would become indistinguishable.


“If you recall anything suspicious, please let us know.”

 

Handed to me was a business card of Special Agent Kate Kisaki of the FBI. I took her card and stepped aside to recompose myself as I watched the coroners removed Jeremy’s body.

 

This morning, after waking up from a bad dream, I decided to ask Jeremy about the comment he made last night. When my phone call was not answered, I returned to the inn. His phone was ringing in his room. I found the maid to open the door. Jeremy was lying motionless in bed, the same way that I set him down last night. His skin was pale. He was not breathing. Although our instincts told us that he was already dead, I lowered him on the floor to start CPR.

 

Jeremy was pronounced dead by the emergency crew. After telling the police what happened, I noticed that the FBI also came. I saw Kate checking the room and the surrounding. She seemed to have found nothing out of ordinary. That was when she introduced herself and left me her business card.

 

“Sir, if you need a ride home please let us know,” Kate said, “It must be a stressful day for you, we would like to make sure that you are safe.”

 

I must be looking stupefied. I told her that I was fine and returned to my car. Only when I started driving home did I realized how tired I was. My mind started to drift off. I was reminded of the few times when I was driving home feeling lost or dejected. Perhaps I should not have returned. I should have simply gone somewhere completely new, anywhere but here, then my life could really start over.

 

At the last turn on the way home, I decided to turn toward the fields instead. I drove along the country road stretching between the fields and stopped at a graveled rest stop. I reclined in my seat. Through the moon roof, I could see that the sky was completely covered by dense cloud. By the time I would wake up, it would be raining, I thought.

 

But a beeping noise kept me from falling asleep.

 

My phone had received a new message. A message from Jeremy.

 

~ End of Chapter 4 ~



#13 Wai   Members   -  Reputation: 1002

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 10:09 PM

The Dramatica descriptions reminds me of horoscopes. When a person reads the description pertaining to your astrological sign, they will find something that matches them, but that is also true if they read the descriptions of the other signs instead. Its effect is to make a person focus on one aspect. It might be helpful when someone starts with nothing and so that they could follow it to complete something. But when someone starts with something, the scope of that could be bigger than the individual description of the types. Trying to classify the story into types would be like slicing a pie into quarters and just keep one quarter instead of telling the whole story as it exists, which naturally includes all four aspects.



#14 Wai   Members   -  Reputation: 1002

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 01:04 AM

Guilt is the urge to blame one’s self for an event. It causes a person to reflect, to self-doubt. It traps the person in futile attempts to change the past or in a fantasy of an alternate present, preventing the person from moving forward in reality. In the live data, guilt most commonly existed as a transient emotion. People tended to forget about their wrong doing or to shift the blame to others. Nonetheless, the effect of guilt could be intense while it lasted.

 

The in-game archetype of guilt was a blindfolded prisoner. Characters of this archetype would isolate and imprison themselves. At low level, a guilt character would become blindfolded and shackled but gain remote vision. The first two effects would render the character defenseless, while the third effect allow them to observe themselves in third person, and to identify someone else to place their blame. At middle level, when the level of guilt exceeds what could be resolved by the death of the character, a resurrection stigma would manifest on the body of the character. With this stigma, the character would self-resurrect for the character to die multiple times. At high level, the character would have an aura that would indefinitely replay tragic events. Other characters that were caught in the aura would become the reenactors of the tragic loop.

 

 

I went to the university library after receiving the delayed message from Jeremy. The text message pointed me to check under my passenger seat, where I found a coaster from the bar we visited last night. On the back of the coaster was a call number pointing to the archive at the basement of the library. In this age where most information had been digitized, printed archives were a thing of the past. Walking through these dense collections of archives predated me by decades, I felt as though I was walking through a catacomb.

 

The call number pointed to an unmarked leather portfolio hiding behind two sets of archives at the bottom shelf. Inside the portfolio were sheets of documents and manuscripts. I brought it to a private study room to carefully read what Jeremy had left me.

 

According to the printed documents, another team created a mechanism to allow a player to select which profile to turn into a game character for the game. When we were working on the game, there was no player, there was just the life data repository. Every profile could be turned into a game character. Typically, we searched the repository for profiles we want to test and just activated them.

 

However in the context of these documents there were players called Activators. Activators could activate the profiles of people they knew. The document did not mention the reason of this activation mechanism, but stated the factors that the mechanism used to tell if a profile should be activated.

  1. The activator had eye contact with the target person.
  2. The activator had heard the voice of the target person.
  3. The activator knew the last name of the target person.
  4. The activator intended to include the target person.

Using existing content in the life data, an inference engine could identify entities outside the network and try to get them added as new users. Decades ago, such engine would prompt the existing user to send an invitation. As people became more accustomed to social networks, the boundaries between different networks dissolved, and the protocol to add new user also became less discrete. The vast interconnected data network evolved into the life data we had today.

 

In our development, we had only completed inferring behavior and high level desires of the characters. It appeared that this other team had solved some hurdles we couldn’t, if they could infer a person’s intention at this granularity. When I read to that point, my focus was besides the technology. I was troubled by the context.

 

The document never mentioned the game or what would be done with the activated profiles. The team that worked on the activation system might not have known anything about the game, just as we knew nothing about this activation system. There was something wrong when the two systems were considered together.

 

The system we created had no good ending for the characters. They would fight and they would die. There was no goal. It was kill or be killed. If the activation system described and the game were parts of the same system, then the player would be a person trying to add people they knew in real life and to have them kill one another in the game.

 

That could not be right. That would be sinister.

 

“Do you mean that it would have been okay if the player added people they did not know instead?” In my mind, I could imagine Jeremy asking so if we were discussing this.

 

“No, it was the intention to see people killing each other.” I would have said.

 

“Then regardless whether there was the activation system, what we made was already sinister.” He would have said.

 

“But most of the game were like that…” I would say. But then I remembered one thing.

 

It was only us developers who called it a game. Our client never did. Back in our minds, perhaps we knew that something was not right, and the only thing we could do to make it more right, was to call it a game. Calling it a game was our moral excuse.

 

Jeremy, did not know this all along? Why did you work on the project?

 

Jeremy was the most righteous person I knew. There must be something good in what we did. He would not have stayed with the project. Even if he was wrong, he was not the type of person who would just leave alone. He would have done what he could to make things right.

There was no point in guessing what Jeremy thought. I held my thoughts and kept reading.

 

After the documents about the activation were hand-written maps. Having seen his drafts for the battle arena, I was confident that these maps were also drawn by Jeremy. However, unlike the drafts that I had seen, these maps appeared to serve a different function. The lack of a defined perimeter and the numerous corrections suggested that these maps were not drafts of a design, but records of an exploration.

 

Jeremy got into the game. That was my interpretation.

 

I followed his records of exploration. The records ran for a couple weeks, and ended in a building labeled ‘The Library'. On the map of the third floor, there was a marked doorway. That was the last of his maps.

 

 

The light had turned itself off a while ago as I continued to stare blankly out of a window on the third floor of the library. The uncanny resemblance led me to believe that the library he was mapping was based on our university library. However, the doorway that Jeremy marked did not lead to a room in the actual library. Instead, it led to a window overlooking the courtyard, where a big tree was kept in the center. The dark limbs of the tree stretched over most of the courtyard. With its leaves already shredded in last season, it stood like a scarecrow in the rain.

 

The room behind that marked door was the most probable place Jeremy went next.

 

Something beyond that door killed him.

 

Although the floors of the library was quite high, a fall from this height was probably not be lethal. Besides, Jeremy died in his hotel room. So it was not the case that he sleep walked out of this window thinking that there was room. Why did Jeremy leave the notes for me? What did he try to tell me? What did he do? How did he die?

 

Even though I knew how a character could die in the game, there was no physical feedback between the data and the corresponding person. To believe that a character death in the game would cause corresponding death in real life would be irrational.

What if there was a third team working on such feedback?

 

That would be impossible. If there was, everyone I knew would be in danger. But that would explain why Jeremy told me to go to some other place where I knew no one. The portfolio in my hand felt like a biopsy report telling me that I had a transmittable disease. According to it, every developer was an activator.

 

“Ahh!”

 

In the reflection of the window, I saw the librarian who was caught off-guard when a flash of lightning abruptly revealed my presence in the dark aisle. I motioned to turn on the light.

 

“I'm sorry. I was resting and the light went off…” The thunder that followed muted my words.

 

For a split second, our eyes met when she was waiting for the thunder to pass for her to speak. I turned away and pretended to be reading my notes.

 

“The library will be closing in five minutes,” she said.

“Thank you,” I said.

 

Eye contact, voice, name, intention. If the activation system was using an inference engine, it would not need to know that our eyes had met using an active lens or an implant. The location, time, and her role as the librarian might have already allowed the system to guess that we had met and she had spoken. It was true that an inference engine was a matter of guesswork, but a guess that was 99% correct was no different from a measurement that was 99% accurate. Since its beginning as the backbone of search engines, the word inference had almost become a synonym of intelligence itself.

 

My concern should not be how accurate the inference engine was, but what thresholds it used. The system was in place only to limit the number of profiles activated by an activator to at most one per day. The required accuracy might not be very high. I closed the portfolio and headed for the elevator at the opposite side.

 

I had seen her, I had heard her voice. I did not know her name, but I could picture her as a character in the game. I did not know how far the system might have guessed, but I wanted to feed it some data to reject her as a candidate, but without knowing how the system would guess, it was difficult to know how I should act. With my mind going in all directions imagining the possibilities, I could not tell whether I wanted to add her to the game. I was too curious to have no such intention. My only defense was that librarians here did not have name tags. The system should not assume that I knew her name.

 

As I walked into the elevator and turned around, I saw the rental lockers on the other side of the waiting area for the elevators. I saw that at the ceiling of that waiting area was an omnidirectional security camera. In the dark cover dome of the camera, I could see my reflection. My right hand was reaching for the elevator button. My left hand was holding the black leather portfolio.

 

As the elevator doors closed, I suddenly remembered that I met another person earlier today. It was Kate the FBI agent.

 

~ End of Chapter 5 ~



#15 Wai   Members   -  Reputation: 1002

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 01:36 AM

Vigilance is the emotion to act with discretion. It is in the runner waiting for a gunshot to signal the start of a race. It is in the sharpshooter shooting targets as they appear randomly. Vigilance is the emotion that restraints an explosion of energy until the right moment.

 

Compared to the other eight archetypes, vigilance has the least positive feedback. Other emotions tend to intensify itself at the onset.  A person starting to be greedy tends to grow in greed until the circumstance changes to dissipate the desire. Vigilance, on the contrary, is self-dissipating and requires constant effort to maintain.

 

In the life data, a dichotomy in the population existed for vigilance. The normal type of people could almost never maintain vigilance. The emotion would dissipate as quickly as a transient. The other type of people could maintain the emotion for hours or days. Although we could not deduce what type of people they were, we created the in-game archetype based on this second type, and called it the “Vigilante.”

 

Vigilante was an agile archetype specialized in bursts of precise and acrobatic attacks. These characters were equipped to travel in stealth to reflect their ability to engage an opponent at their discretion. In other games, Vigilante covers characters such as the assassin, the rogue, the ninja, and the duelist.

 

Vigilante was one of the three archetypes that included a symbol in their representation. The archetype of self-righteous, the Paladin, had a divine seal to signify the conviction that they held above others. The archetype of guilt, the Sacrificer, had a stigma to signify the debt that they could not repay with their deaths. The Vigilante carried an insignia to signify their allegiance. Unlike a Paladin, a Vigilante did not consider themselves to have higher moral believes than their opponents. They saw themselves as equal competitors, and they fight out of the necessity to survive and to protect their allegiance.

 

Low level Vigilante traits of a character were expressed with the allegiance insignia and side-arms. At middle level, they gain communication device that relayed the status of other members in their allegiance. Their weapons would also become specialized as their communication allowed different members to target specific types of opponents. At high level, their ability to combine fellow Vigilante attacks were represented as a tactical aura. We developers called characters with Vigilante traits at that level the mob bosses.

 

In the life data, we had only seen three people that could command a battle like that.

 

“I'm sorry that so much had happened today, but we believe that you are next.”

 

The speaker was Kate Kisaki, the FBI agent I met earlier on the same day. She and her partner had been waiting for me at my house when I returned from the library. They were there to bring me the news that including Jeremy, six of nine of us developers had died in the past few months. The cause of death were all unknown. Of the remaining three, two other than myself were traveling aboard. One went to Egypt. The other went to the Himalayas. Both of them had been missing for over a month. They were presumed dead.

 

Over the coffee table were the photos of my fellow developers and a projected map showing clusters of mysterious deaths around them. Kate had showed me in explaining our connections to the epicenters.

 

“We have been trying to find a pattern that among the clusters. A pattern we found was the founders of Pegasus. …”

 

Pegasus was the name of our company, the one we founded, and failed, before working for the client. Among us developers an unspoken creed kept us from mentioning its name, as if doing so would unearth the pain and hopelessness.

 

“… Five years after Pegasus dissolved, the founders started to die one by one, along with some people connected to them.”

 

Kate paused momentarily to observe my reaction. A collage of memory filled my mind like the images spread over the coffee table.

 

It was a replay of a memory not long ago when we completed our project with the client. In our celebration, we talked about what we would do with our sum of money. Tyler, in his boastful tone, would announce that he would climb the Himalayas, and would invite Antony to go together. Antony, citing that the days in the lab had made him lazy, would say to just travelling the world. Jeremy, in his typical reserved and calculated manner, would tell us that he had not decided. Having been with him for so long, I would have guessed that he wanted to keep working, but could not say so knowing that we all intended to leave. I would tell everyone that I just wanted to settle down, and told Jeremy to find me if he needed anything.

 

The images on the coffee table confirmed that they had fulfilled their wishes. When Kate asked me whether I knew of anyone who might have a grudge against our company, I reclined with an absurd feeling of relief as I recognized that my wish was also fulfilled.

 

The similarity between my posture and someone who had passed out alarmed Kate. I asked Kate to give me some time as I tried to articular what I felt, staring at the blank ceiling.

 

I was letting a barrage of swords raining down on me. It was a divine attack of the paladin archetype. I let my body be shredded as if I had been waiting for this all along. Deep down, we knew that we had sold our souls to the devil in order to fulfill our broken dream.

 

We engineered a way to let people watch one another fight to their deaths, stripping them of humanities and civilizations. We were far from being innocent victims. We sheltered ourselves in the comfort that what we could imagine was impossible, and implemented the part our client requested. We were his accomplices working with one eye closed. We worked on it like virologists working on a virus strain that could only be applied as a mass-casualties biological weapon.  

 

What was killing us was not an avenger, but the embodiment of karma. We were being punished for implementing a vision of carnage.

 

I vaguely remembered a paper ten years ago about the weaponization of social networks. Unlike other military uses of social networks, it talked about using it as a direct weapon for assassinations. Perhaps a decade old pipe-dream had evolved into reality.

 

If that was the case, we the nobodies might be killed because we knew too much. The culprit was the client. He did not have a grudge on us. We sold ourselves.

 

At this point, I needed to decide what I would tell Agent Kisaki.

 

It might seem logical to tell her everything including the notes from Jeremy. However, if we the developers were the target and the others were merely collateral deaths, the more we talked, the more likely that Kate would become one also.

 

Not knowing the truth, the safest way I felt was to let Kate know in a way that the system would not infer that we had met, or that I had told her anything.

 

How would I do that?

 

~ End of Chapter 6 ~


Edited by Wai, 27 May 2014 - 01:37 AM.


#16 Wai   Members   -  Reputation: 1002

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Posted 08 August 2014 - 05:10 AM

Lust is the emotion to act to gain sensational pleasure. In our design, this included sexual urge, the urge to taste, and other urges for physical thrill. This emotion, deeply rooted in physiology, was probably the one of the earliest emotions of being alive.

 

In the life data, lust was the most suppressed emotion. The suppression appeared necessary for civilized behaviors. Due to the discrepancy caused by that suppression, when we were making the game, we asked whether the characters had knowledge if they were in a civilized world. Our client’s response, was to inference the true level, to make the characters closer to their true selves.

 

The combat archetype paralleled the stages of attraction, addiction, and death by overdose in real life. At low level, the archetype would take the form of a lymph or a beast master, whose presence would disarm and lure the opponent toward them. At middle level, the archetype would get a companion monster, which was a dealing agent of the sensational pleasure. The monster varied from plants, to golems, to ride-able beasts depending on the sensation type. At high level, the monster would get an arena transformation aura that would help it deal pleasure to the area and kill those that could not withstand the dosage.

 

 

“This way, please.”

 

Claudia said and gestured the way for Kate and me, who for a moment were lost in the vast collections of taxidermied predatory animals and medieval arms exhibited at the client’s residence, which, as a castle carved in a mountain in the heart of an alpine forest, was an extraordinary sight in its own right.

 

Claudia, whose identity was only known to Kate, was the contact person when we were developing the game for the client.  She led us through a long corridor with tall windows overlooking the alpine treetops. The refreshing sight was in drastic contrast with the previous hall we had just passed.

 

The double doors at the end of the corridor opened to the client’s bed chamber. As Claudia had explained to us, the client had a hereditary illness that eroded his nervous system. He had been paralyzed for more than ten years. In this past year, his condition had rapidly worsened, affecting his ability to communicate even with the interfaces attached to his body. By now, he had lost all of his physical sensations and muscle control. If not for the interfaces that were implant to his brain, he would have no way to communicate with us at all.

 

The arrangement and color of the life-sustaining equipment reminded me of attendants kneeling around the death bed of a king. An aura of nobility and dignity seemed to transcend the fragility of the life. Through a speaker, the client greeted Kate and me. He expressed his sadness to hear the tragedies about the other developers.

 

“Thanks to your work, I could continue living in a virtual world. I could not express enough my gratitude to you and your fellow developers.” The client said.

 

The option of copying one’s mental workings had been achieved for a couple decades. Although the cost was prohibiting for people of normal status, I could imagine that our client could afford such option. Technically, such option would not prevent one’s death. The original person would still die, but the copy would live on. The life extension companies were careful not point out this detail. Philosophically, it was the difference between the desire to survive for one’s self, and the desire to survive for others.

 

“Could you tell us about the virtual world you live in now?” Kate asked.

 

Although Kate identified Claudia and requested a visit, she did not go as an agent of the FBI. The case for the mysterious deaths had been closed because there was no evidence of crime. The hypotheses we made and my dreams of the Gothic town amounted to nothing more than speculations and imaginations. Full body scanning of Jeremy and me had revealed no foreign objects or implants that could have killed him, or could kill me. With the chain of mysterious deaths stopped after the death of Jeremy, there were no further leads. This visit might be our last chance to get any new clue.

 

“Oh the virtual world. It has a model of this castle and other places interesting to me. It is populated by models of people I knew once.” The client said, “The world itself is quite similar to the real world with the exception that abilities and appearances depend on the emotions of the individuals. That exception was the part I requested.”

 

The client paused for a moment, then asked:

 

“Have you ever wondered how humanity would have evolved if natural selection is not based on physical survival but the moral standing of the individuals?”

 

“Do you mean karma?” Kate asked.

 

Karma was the last topic that Jeremy and I discussed the night he died. I had recounted that conversion for her.

 

“There are several schools of thoughts about karma, but I think there is a difference between karma and the concept I have,” the client said, “The concept of karma focuses on the consequence of actions. A person is rewarded after performing a good deed, but not empowered to do so at the moment of action.  That is a fundamental difference between the two.”

 

Upon hearing the client pointing out this difference, I could see the immediate relation between his concept and the mechanics we developed.

 

“In the real world, the skill sets and attributes of a person is the result of resource and preparation.” The client explained:

 

“The more resource and preparation a person has, the stronger and more survivable that person could become. In this equation, morality is not determining factor. A stronger person has better chance to gather more resources, forming a cycle based on pragmatism instead of moral. From pragmatism derived the practices of dominance, control, and manipulation. The result is a world of wasteful contests that pits one against another, relegating morality as a secondary consideration after self-survival.

 

“Imposing laws and trying to maintain civility against this natural reality is as tiresome and never-ending as bailing water out of a leaky boat. The root of the problem is the disconnection between intention and empowerment. The solution is not to impose laws to define how people should behave, but to rewrite the laws of nature to empower intentions so that the moral standing determines the skills and attributes of a person.”

 

~ End of Chapter 7 ~


Edited by Wai, 08 August 2014 - 05:11 AM.





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