Posts Tagged ‘travel’

No Man’s Playing

Posted: August 25, 2016 by Jaden C. Kilmer in Article
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

There’s two questions on the lips of thousands of people who pre-ordered No Man’s Sky.

“So… now what?” followed by “is that it?”

There may never be another game like this. The idea is extraordinary. If you haven’t heard, then I’ll let creator Sean Murray pitch it to you; here’s what he said in an interview on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

What we are trying to do is generate an entire universe… and set players loose in it… something like eighteen quintillion planets.

Eighteen quintillion planets.

Eighteen quintillion.

That’s over three times as many planets as there are grains of sand in the world.

The game’s intention was to be the pinnacle of sandbox gaming. An entire universe, simulated in one sixty dollar bundle. Colbert then replied:

“Wouldn’t the game get boring after the first trillion planets?”

It was a joke, a little good-natured teasing, really. But behind many good jokes is a basis in reality.

Because Colbert’s joke appears to have come true.

In the last two days, the game has seen its active player count drop… a lot.

… A LOT.

 

That’s somewhere between 80 and 90% of its players jumping spaceship. But why? There’s an entire universe to explore!

And that’s kind of the problem.

Again, I’ll let Sean Murray explain it to you.

Even if a player discovered a new planet every second, we would still all be long dead before they were all discovered.

Ever heard the expression someone’s bit off more than they can chew?

The game comes in-built with an existential crisis, free of charge! Because the whole point of the game, to discover new planets, is defeated by the very idea that made the game so intriguing. He’s right. The game can never possibly be fully explored.

And that would be okay if there was something else to do.

“I guess providing a game with no missions, growth as a character, or a story means people get bored pretty easy,” says redditor /u/Mtfilmguy.

Seeing as this a writing blog, let’s hone in on the word story.

Perhaps the easy retort to Mtfilmguy’s comments is that Minecraft is an open world sandbox with millions of players and no story or arc to follow. But there are stories to Minecraft. Players just create their own.

In Minecraft perhaps you set your mind to building a large mansion for yourself and decorating it however you like, or perhaps simply an unassailable fortress to protect yourself from the griefers, a word I totally didn’t have to ask my twelve year old little brother on. There’s an element of danger to the game once nightfalls and the monsters come out that provides conflict. Because that’s what stories are.

Let’s forget about character development and setting and rising and falling actions for a moment. What are the absolute basic elements to a story? Conflict, and resolution. A story is a series of events that revolve around a conflict until that conflict ends.

There’s no conflict in No Man’s Sky.

You fly to a planet, you name it, you name the animals, you collect stuff, you fly off to another planet. There are some “dangers,” but if you happen to die from, say, a planet with dangerous weather conditions, you respawn with all your belongings and no real punishment. That’s not really a conflict. The closest the game comes to making conflict is the “sentinels,” robotic forces that come to attack a player if they kill too much wildlife on a planet. But reviewers and gamers are complaining that the Sentinels are too easy to defeat and besides, the goal of the game is to accumulate scientific data. In order to trigger the Sentinels’ appearance, you have to be doing the opposite. So in a way, there’s no conflict at all. The Sentinels aren’t their to put a stop to a players’ goals, they enable them.

There’s also no Player versus Player interaction, because the game is just so enormous.

Contrast to a game like EVE Online, which is basically meeting No Man’s Sky halfway. Players inhabit a galaxy, not a whole universe, and are free to do whatever they please, not following a rigid storyline or battle lines. But players do interact with each other, and create conflict with each other. A few years ago EVE made headlines when a player cheated another out of over ten thousand dollars worth of materials while operating completely within the legal means of the game. (That’s ten thousand real US dollars, mind you. Not in-game currency. That total is much much higher.)

But that doesn’t quite sound like the dream of Sean Murray. His dream seems to be create a zen-like utopia of gaming. To make a game without conflict, but instead using that instinctual drive humans have for knowledge and exploration as the focal point of the game. Which is admirable and surely ambitious.

But that’s not how games work.

You don’t play Monopoly to peacefully strut around the board and build pretty houses for the hell of it. No one says “no, please, you take Yakutsk” in Risk. Even in Minecraft people don’t just fly around in zen-mode looking at the surroundings forever.

There’s got to be something to do.

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Prologue 

Part One
Quest for Atlantis Logo

Part Two: Lost Souls of Atlantis

I opened my eyes and still only saw lightning and clouds, but now they were overhead rather than all around us. I pulled myself to my feet, breathing a sigh of relief. The storm clouds went from the horizon to the sky beyond us, but it looked as though it had passed up over.

“Well, that was a close call,” I said, looking at Demetrios and Megalos, “but at least it’s over.”

Demetrios looked at me. I don’t think I’d ever seen anything to match the wonder and fear mingling in his eyes.

“Look behind you,” he said.

I looked and was struck breathless.

Sandy beaches stretched up to walls of white stone. City streets wound inwards, towards a central point: a tower of glistening bronze and glass, shining as the lightning flashed around us.

The storm wasn’t behind us. It wasn’t over us.

It was all around us. We were trapped in a spherical storm.

And the island shore we were stranded on…

Megalos said what we were all thinking.

“Atlantis. The crazy girl was right. Atlantis.”

And there it was: gleaming spires and winding roads. The lost city.

“Look!” Stamatios shouted, pointing to some nearby rocks. “People!”

Smoke was rising from a small campfire. Gathered around it were a ragged-looking lot. Some wore togas. Others wore uniforms of sailors from the last century.

One of them ran towards us. He was a young man, perhaps eighteen at most. His sailor’s garb was completely drenched.

“Kavanaugh!” he shouted.

My heart stood still in my chest.

“How does he know?” I asked.

Nobody could answer.

As the sailor came closer, his face drooped. It was a look of disappointment as intense as any I’ve ever seen.

“You’re not Kavanaugh,” he said.

“I am,” I replied. I extended my hand. “Celeste Kavanaugh.”

He shook his head. “No. I’m looking for the Captain. Old Thunder. I fell overboard when the storm hit. Just an hour ago.”

I stared.

“Jonathon Kavanaugh?” I asked.

The sailor nodded. “That’s him.”

Demetrios looked from him to me. “Wasn’t that your –”

I nodded. “My grandfather.”

“But how can it be?” Megalos scoffed. “An hour, he said. Your grandfather would have been here –”

“At least fifty years ago,” I said. “But look at those buildings and that tower.”

“No rust,” Demetrios said. “No decay at all.”

“So what?” Stamatios asked.

“Time passes slower here,” I said. “For them, thousands of years have probably only been months.”

“But that means…” Demetrios’s face froze in horrible realization.

I worked out what he meant and I could feel my own visage taking on a similar appearance.

“It’ll be going faster out there,” I whispered. “If we don’t get out fast…”

“We’ll be trapped here for centuries,” Megalos finished. “We’ll come back out to find the Americans and the Russians have blasted us back to the Stone Age with their atomics.”

What would it be like? I wondered. What new world would await us? One of death? Or one of new wonders? With the way the world was, it was difficult to picture anything short of Armageddon.

“We need to leave,” I said. I cast a wistful look back at the gleaming tower. “As much as I want to stay, we need to head back into the storm. If we go now, maybe – ”

“No!” The sailor shook his head. “I saw some people trying to get out just after I came in. They…”

He shuddered.

“The lightning took them,” he said. “The lightning takes everything.”

As he spoke, lightning flashed across my vision and thunder boomed like a revolver. I looked at the others.

“We could risk it,” I said.

Stamatios shook his head. “Better alive here than fried out there!”

“I agree,” Megalos said. He turned back, gesturing to the city before us. “Why, here we have a great city. A beautiful island to begin anew. What better place could a man be stranded in?”

A sound split the air, louder than the thunder. It billowed through the city, echoing over the storm.

It was the roar of a horn.

“The Queen!” the sailor cried. “The Queen is coming!”

He ran, streaking across the sand.

As he did, a great gate of bronze and silver opened in the white walls of the city. Light shone out – blinding light. We all covered our eyes.

And then came the warriors, all glistening and sharp spears. They were upon us in seconds, running us down like hounds leaping upon a fox. Their spears struck, but it wasn’t just metal biting our skin. It was something else: a flash of greenish light, a glow like fire.

“Electricity,” I muttered as I fell into the sand. “They have electricity.”

For the second time, darkness took us.

From the journal of Celeste Kavanaugh

Quest for Atlantis Logo

Prologue: Fragments and Maps

Imagine for a moment that you were me. Imagine that you walked into the bookshop, heart full of hope and mind full of doubt. You knew this will probably be another in a long line of disappointments. Another wasted journey.

You spoke to the man at the counter and he directs you into the back. You looked over those shelves, knowing you won’t find it…

There it was. You could see the corner of the folded yellowed parchment sticking out of the torn lining of the battered book.

This was it. The thing you’d searched for for so long. The thing that had consumed your every waking thought, had dominated your mind. The thing that had almost driven you to madness. The thing that had ruined your life as you pushed everything, everyone, away in pursuit of your obsession.

And now…

Now you could just reach out and take it, folded up so nicely in the old book. It almost seemed to glow.

For a moment, you held back. What if after all this searching, there was nothing?

But you knew there was only one way to find out. You stretched out your hand and pick up the battered book, running your fingers along the ancient spine.

It’s just lain here in this dusty bookshop for fifty years. Nobody had any idea what it was. Just an odd little volume with a loose page tucked inside.

Carefully, you opened the cover and saw the words that make your heart leap.

Property of Sir Jonathon Kavanaugh.

This was his book. His last secret.

You pull out the parchment, pushed up against the spine. The map.

Tears stream down your face as you read the word at the top of the page, sprawled in black ink.

Atlantis.

***

When people are gone, all we have left are the fragments. The things they left behind, the memories we have, the stories they told.

That was the way it was with my grandfather. Sir Jonathon Kavanaugh. In Africa, they called him Thunder because of the roar of his gun. Most of the museums in London owe their collections to him: little pieces he collected, taken from around the world.

I can barely remember him now. It’s only through the stories, through the artefacts, that I feel close to him.

There was one memory, when my parents brought me back from India for a visit. His house was old and creaking, full of relics and shadows. The walls were hung with the heads of big game. Swords and guns glistened behind glass. Everything was piled up with dust.

And there he was, sitting in an armchair. He was ancient, his skin wrinkled as an elephant – we had a lot of those in India – and his mustache white as snow – which we didn’t have. He peered at me through his glasses and smiled.

“Hello, Celeste,” he’d said, “I’m your grandfather.”

He’d taken me around the house, leaning on an old walking stick, and told me all his stories. I listened to every word and I knew that when I was older, I wanted nothing more than to be like him – not a proper lady like mother and father wanted me to be, but a digger and a fighter. I wanted to be in the trenches and the jungles.

I can remember bits of that day, but he’s fading. When I picture him, I’m not picturing what I saw. I’m picturing the photograph from the museum. And his voice… I can’t hear it at all. I can’t even remember if he sounded Irish or English.

This is what happens when someone dies. You lose them, piece-by-piece, and you struggle to hold onto what’s left.

I remember the one thing in the house he wouldn’t talk about – the map and journal I found in a library, tucked in a drawer.

“Leave those be, Celeste,” he said. He suddenly sounded so old. “Leave them be.”

I did as he said, but I remembered the word at the top of the map: Atlantis.

Years passed. I grew up, in the heat of the sun and the revolution. And my grandfather died. I wasn’t there. I was a continent away, at the edge of a crumbling empire.

The empire fell and we came home: mother, father, me. We came to an England that was changed, an England broken by bombs and fire. When you walked the streets of devastated London, when you tasted the rationed food, when you listened to the radio, you knew that this was a world that had left us behind. No more empire. No more adventurers. It was a world of harsh realities.

I searched endlessly through grandfather’s thing, looking for that map and that journal. I never found either. It seemed that his books had been sold by my father – a piece of paper signed a continent away dispersing an entire library across the country.

It had to be in one of those books. Everyone told me it was nonsense, the imagination of a child, but I knew it was more. It had to be more.

And then I found it, in some tiny, cramped bookshop. His map, shoved unceremoniously into an encyclopedia. I had the map. My legacy.

Getting the money wasn’t that difficult. Father had passed away as well, not long after we returned. His money had come to me – thousands of pounds at my disposal.

I told Mother what I’d found and where I was going. She shook her head.

“Find a husband,” she said, clasping my brown hand in hers. “Have children. Be happy. Leave this madness to someone else.”

I couldn’t. I didn’t want to.

I was – I am – Celeste Kavanagh. Nobody told me what to do.

I didn’t know then what lay ahead. Perhaps if I had…

But there is no use dwelling on “perhaps.”

***

I had waited years for this day: a childhood spent hoping, six years of searching, an agonizing nine months of planning. I felt as if I were being stretched upon the rack by some Elizabethan torturer. Each day had seemed to last forever.

Here it was at last. The day we began.

I put a hand on the side of the plane. It seemed so surreal to think that at last we would be underway: first to Greece and then…

Then there. Following the faded map in the old book.

“You ready, Miss Kavanaugh?”

I looked up to see my pilot – Arthur Caine – sitting in the cockpit, flight jacket on, goggles sitting over his thick mustache. That was when it really hit me. This was actually happening.

So rather than saying something fittingly noble and heroic to mark the occasion, I simply muttered a meek “Uh-huh,” nodded, and climbed into the plane as if in a daydream.

The sound of the propeller filled my ears as we started down the runway, speeding past green fields. In a moment we were soaring over houses that seemed like scale models.

We were on our way.

And Atlantis was waiting.

To be continued…

By this time tomorrow, I will be in another country. Not (this time) because I’m running away from the madness, but because I’m going traveling through Europe. I think I have excellent timing, because I’ll be an eyewitness to its complete and utter collapse. (Joke. Well, hopefully. We’ll see.)

What this means is that I don’t know how much time I’ll have for blog-writing. My Internet availability will be… questionable, to say the least, as will my free time. Maybe I’ll be able to do a few challenges, but I wouldn’t count on it.

But stop the wailing and gnashing of teeth that I imagine you’re all doing! (I mean, you’re probably actually just vaguely shrugging, but let me have my deluded fantasy of a legion of devoted fans.) The moment has been prepared for!

Yes, I have set up posts in advance, including some Flash Fiction, some poetry, and something new and very exciting…

I am pleased to announced a Living Authors Society serialized story by yours truly:

Quest for Atlantis Logo

In this exciting serial adventure, Celeste Kavanaugh chases clues from her grandfather’s old map, searching for the fabled lost city itself. What she finds is something beyond her wildest imaginings…

This originally came from a couple of Flash Fiction prompt responses I wrote. People suggested that they could be a longer story and I decided that they were right.

This story consists of a Prologue, eight parts, and an Epilogue, with one part put up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, starting on the 29th. (There will be a separate Flash Fiction on Monday). I hope that you enjoy it! I’ll try to reply to comments if I get a chance, but it might take a bit longer than usual.

My co-bloggers will also still be here, though I don’t know how much they intend to post.

I wish all our subscribers an excellent summer!

– J.A. Prentice

 

100_7227-1

The sun’s rising and there’s a plane waiting. Direct flight to anywhere.

I don’t have to see the rotting rafters. I don’t have to feel the cars roaring past the paper-thin wall.

I just close my eyes and think of the plane.

Red-orange light shines over the black runway. I get on the plane and we start to move.

Faster. Faster. Past buildings, past grass, past trees.

Then…

Past clouds. Past sky.

The whole world is spread out like a map below. I can go anywhere.

A car alarm goes off, but I don’t hear it.

I’m on the plane.


Word Count: 100

This is for Friday Fictioneers. Thanks to Rocelle Wisoff-Fields for running the challenge and Rich Voza for the prompt photo!

tltweek18

Racing through the rain, the world becomes a blur of grey and green: sky and trees. She lies back in her seat, hood pulled low so she becomes invisible: only a jacket, not a face. It doesn’t matter where the train is going as long as it’s away.


This is my entry for Three Line Tales, Week Eighteen. The challenge is run by Sonya from Only 100 Words. Photo is by Wilson Lau.

plane

I had waited years for this day: a childhood spent hoping, six years of searching, an agonizing nine months of planning. I felt as if I were being stretched upon the rack by some Elizabethan torturer. Each day had seemed to last forever.

Here it was at last. The day we began.

I put a hand on the side of the plane. It seemed so surreal to think that at last we would be underway: first to Greece and then…

Then there. Following the faded map in the old book.

“You ready, Dr. Kavanaugh?”

I looked up to see my pilot – Arthur Caine – sitting in the cockpit, flight jacket on, goggles sitting over his thick mustache. That was when it really hit me. This was actually happening.

So rather than saying something fittingly noble and heroic to mark the occasion, I simply muttered a meek “Uh-huh,” nodded, and climbed into the plane as if in a daydream.

The sound of the propeller filled my ears as we started down the runway, speeding past green fields. In a moment we were soaring over houses that seemed like scale models.

We were on our way.

And Atlantis was waiting.


 

Word Count: 190

This is my entry for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner #18. Thanks to rogershipp for holding the challenge. Picture is from pixabay.com.

While I tried to make it standalone enough to not be a serial story – and I think I succeeded – this is a sequel (of sorts) to “The Adventurer’s Book.” I’ve finally done one of those many follow-ups I said I might do.