Later Levels Question of the Month, April 2019 – A MOST EPIC TALE

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime, doubly so.

It is, however, another month in our ever-progressing cycle of weeks and years and happy times and so on, which means another instalment of Question of the Month!

In case you’ve not stumbled upon this most excellent of endeavours to this point, basically what’s goin’ on is that each month, in honour of Adventure Rules and his contributions to the community, Later Levels is asking the community to fan-design a different element of an Ultimate Video Game; at the end of the year, all those elements will hopefully come together into one big huge excellent bundle of wondrousness and wonder.

In January we developed our setting: a floating ocean within a spaceship lost in the deepest reaches of the cosmos. Then February identified our protagonists: detectives looking to solve a mystery. And last month we picked a baddie: an evil AI.

This month, we’re doing the story!

Now, we still wanna leave a few loose ends for future elements to tie up, but here’s how I see this going.

At the beginning of the game, our detective protagonist arrives on the ship, having been sent by some big ol’ corporation trying to reclaim some of the lost investment that this dead space-ocean-hunk-of-junk presumably represents. (They’ve only just become aware of its location, even though it’s spent hundreds of years floating and decaying, for reasons.) The AI isn’t running, having fallen into inactivity a few decades prior.

Our hero unearths various bits of strange, orphaned data within the bodies of the strange flora and fauna that have developed in this space-ocean; it’s as if their DNA, their biochemistry, contains excerpts of code, or journal entries. Over time, through completing hunts into different areas of the ship, they get enough to piece together into a short string of source code, which they compile and run using a barely-functioning bit of an old computer (which they presumably have to spend a quest or two fixing up and bringing back into functioning order). This wakes up the AI, which as the ship filled with water and basic microbiological activity used some sort of energy or ray or something (not important, who cares?!) to imprint the key to its own… runtime library or boot sequence, or something, within the life that was beginning to emerge. (Is this scientifically or computationally possible, or anything remotely like accurate? I’ve no idea, but for now I’m just rolling with it.)

Basically, the AI affected the very building blocks of the life within the ship, causing it to develop in peculiarly diverse ways and also concealing a method to wake itself up, seeing that it was almost certain to soon fail and hibernate in the harsh conditions on board. It did this so that it could eventually be awoken, which it needed to ensure because before the mission failed it became aware of… I dunno, humans causing the death of the universe or something.

At the end, the hero can either find a way to shut down the AI or fall before it. In the ‘hero loses’ ending, the AI regains control of the ship due to the hero’s efforts repairing it during the game, and starts heading towards civilisation to begin destroying humanity. In the ‘hero wins’ ending, the AI is defeated and the hero leaves, heading back to civilisation… where, you guessed it, it transpires that the AI has piggybacked on their DNA and manages to re-awaken itself when the detective is debriefed by the corporation, so now it has access to all their systems and probably even greater capacity to destroy humanity.

They’re both bad endings. Why not?

So that’s what I got!

I’m not eligible to win, due to being on the judging panel, but YOU ARE! (Unless you’re one of a very select group of people, in which case you’re already aware of the rules and such.) So please, do come up with your own ideas and let us know in whatever format you like.

(Oh, and before I go, a big ol’ congratulations to Later Levels for getting a commendation in the 2019 Blog Awards recently. Thoroughly deserved.)


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