Constellation Games

book by Leonard Richardson ISBN:9781936460243

*"starting now, I'm not watching any video that's not sped up 100x."

"In Caveman Chaos, catastrophes are pretty much the only tools at your disposal. The Narix devs surveyed what had come before and said, "You know that 'extra' mechanic that's thrown in just for fun? Let's make that the CORE OF THE GAME.""

"A caveman wakes up one day hearing voices—those voices are you. He's promoted to shaman, and he forms the rest of your control set."

"Shamans have a stat called "soulpower" (this game was originally in German)."

"And why do we make the experience of playing games so much like the experience of debugging them"

"did you find out that the constellation secretly wants to kill us all? K Thx Bai: the constellation is anarchists, bro. You've seen the anarchists in austin. they couldn't hold a city park. "

"And I don't know. Maybe they're no shit." He smiled. The idea that something might be no shit was really appealing to him."

"Curic is not into video games at all, but she/he is really into asking people on the Internet what they want and then giving it to them. Kind of like the opposite of a camgirl."

"This is a multi-gigabyte XML document. Shit! It's written in glossolalia.""

"Those are not zombies. They're probably people who want a refund."

"The society that built this computer didn't really have capitalism," I said. "My contact says they mostly traded in time-limited apprenticeships within a network of small clans.""

"I admit this is the first time you have combined a silly game idea with a harebrained money-making scheme.""

""Yeah, there probably is. You know how I complain about my web design clients?"

"How you give them exactly what they ask for, and then they change their minds. Which is what I want to avoid."

"That's part of the process," said Jenny. "You build something, and then you find out it sucks, and you use that information build something else. The only way to avoid this problem is to never get started and never get paid.""

""It's fake wood," said Curic. "I used it as a joke. Last night I was hangin' with a Mzungu friend from Constellation Shipping, and I'm like 'ha ha, I chopped up some Wazungu-style lifeforms and made containers out of their corpses.'""

"The coins on the ground looked like this: o o O o O A little like the Constellation Shipping logo,"

"This one is ours," said Curic. "A constellation is a pattern claimed from randomness. This shape identifies the five of us, right now, and the project we're about to carry out.""

""I apologize," said Curic. "Our research indicated that human kids love fractals of dimension 1.4. "

""I am the representative of an ancient and powerful civilization," Curic squeaked. "They know not to fuck with me.""

"There's nothing in your sink that wasn't originally part of a Twinkie. Except for some adapter bacteria."

"May cause nausea, pheremonal overload and severe Cognitive Dissonance. "

"This game is a memetic hazard and should be labeled as such. For countermeasures see [broken link]. "

"Farang languages are multispacial and feature internal dialogue. Edink-English translation software would have nearly full sentience."

"I want you to jailbreak Dana for me."

"People with money started pouring it into mobile, and once the up-front price of an app fell to a dollar, they started doing psychological research into apps designed to drive DLC upsell and in-app buys."

"Dana is a piece of software complex enough to fulfil whatever emotional needs Bai has right now, and to give a convincing impression of someone with needs of her own. The problem is that her needs are all paid downloadable content, not free things like cuddling"

"She's got feedback loops inside feedback loops and her devs tweaked these loops so that her need for stuff would be an emergent property along with the rest of her. "

""No, I don't. The whole 'real person' distinction kinda broke when the Constellation contacted us. Dana's smarter than a lot of Smoke's subminds. She might be smart as a Them organism.""

"Have you administered a Turing Test?" "That's a thought experiment, not a... cognitive pap smear. "

"You're already going to space. What do you want, a fuckin' cherry on top?""

"Ring City is made up of 26 ring-shaped habitats, each with a different atmosphere and each rotating at a different rate around a weightless central cylinder. "

"The population of Human Ring is about five hundred, half of those being Eritrean refugees, the other half being diplomats, "diplomats", and media"

""Historians and paleontologists have a great rivalry," said Tetsuo. "Most contact missions arrive too late, after history has ended."

"We dig in a fractal pattern so that the space can be reused. It's not just a hole in the ground.""

"How do you know so much about old Ip Shkoy spacecraft?"

"It's not a real spacecraft. It's an idealized 3D environment with one degree of freedom. You've seen one, you've seen thirty to forty percent of them.""

""Why would someone's grandchildren still be pissed at the Constellation? What did they do?"

"They wanted us to change," said Tetsuo. "They came to our planet and they wouldn't shut up about fluid overlays and unhierarchical forms of social organization. We felt like we had to listen to them, because they were so powerful. But secretly we thought of them as monsters from space"

"What's her real name? I want to look her up and make sure she's not one of the crazy astronauts.""

""I belong to an overlay called 'Save the Humans'," said Curic, treading water.

"Hey, that's patronizing."

"Thanks for noticing," said Curic. "I am becoming worried because we cannot find a vector for action.""

"Hypothesis: The human is saying things that are bullshit. To the extent that her message has any meaning at all, it is: Not In My Backyard.""

""Plan A is paleontology," said Curic. "Most of the time, when we get to a planet, all of the intelligent life is dead.""

"It wasn't nearly as bad going back down as it was going up. Mainly because I knew to close my eyes. I'm sure I was missing some magnificent view of Earth getting closer and closer, but if I want that kind of experience, I can just zoom in on a map."

"Have you ever seen a Constellation APC? Or a soldier? Or a cop? Because I just got back from a week with the fucking space hippies.""

"Iul's job is a cross between insurance investigator and tech support. When something goes catastrophically wrong with your barbecue grill or treefish cage, Iul shows up, investigates the accident, and finds some way to blame it on you"

"The Pey Shkoy name of the game, Schvei, is the word for "hyperlink": specifically, the hyperlink to the small print. "

"But I've played enough to feel something I don't often feel before while playing a game: complicity."

"Since the axis of behavior is conformity/rebellion instead of the good/evil you see in "sophisticated" human games, I can't predict how I'm supposed to feel about what I make Iul do... This was the first Ip Shkoy creep game that makes you complicit with the creepy PC, instead of letting you use them as a catharsis puppet."

"The most effective ET game I've played so far is a nihilistic satire of a culture where nobody trusts anybody else. The Aliens didn't formally join the Constellation for six thousand years."

"Smart paper is going to destroy the whole tech industry, just like one-dollar apps destroyed software.""

"In real life, you recover a capital investment by exploiting your capital. ("You" is here rational actor in a hierarchical scarcity-based economy; I am not actually talking about you.) But in the Pôneis Brilhantes series the pony exploits you!"

"This makes no sense—until you realize that people like my friend Ariel write games that reflect their own working conditions. The Pôneis Brilhantes series will not capture the experience of spending time with ponies until the software is written by people who genuinely enjoy those hat-loving bastards."

""Sir, turn it off. No phones, no computers." Bored guy pointed to the wall, where there may have been some kind of sign to this effect. As if we'd all gotten together and agreed to do whatever it said on signs."

"Fowler's face was taut; I could almost hear the dramatic music playing in his head. Here at last was the excitement he'd signed up for. He was Earth's last line of defense. Against a four-foot hermaphroditic otter armed with strawberry pie and a piece of paper."

"I'm not an application," said Dana. "If I'm going to do work, I want to get paid for it.""

"Fowler literally took out scissors and cut twenty-five percent off the top of the smart paper, as an import tax. Bai never stopped smiling."

""Do you see this? What's happening here?" she said. "You can now witness in real time the process of you not finishing something.""

""The Ip Shkoy thought Sayable Spice was a game about food. That's why their remake was lousy. Sayable Spice is actually a game about growing up a geek. Constructing your life around fantasies and bits of the past, because the normal adult world doesn't do it for you. Keeping things bottled up until you can release them in a big spectacular display.""

""I don't want this to be the kind of company where someone's in charge."

"Then it's a good thing our business plan is really obvious," said Jenny. "We just have to stick to it. Release a solid game that sells well and introduces people to the Constellation. And then I can use my share of the money to buy love slaves and build Protector of Earth, and you can use your share to make an anthology of sad emo games about growing up."

"Tammy (0:22) looks great. She's torn off the long sleeves of her NASA flight suit and she's got a string of overlay patches running up and across her chest like a sash. It's a look I can get into."

"At some point, the Gaijin on the Mars mission figured out that human astronauts use patches on their clothes to signal group affiliation. Now the Gaijin and the astronatus produce a patch for every single fluid overlay they form. Which means a complete record of each person's work for the past month on his/her/kis/kes body."

""These Them organisms are engineered for Earthlike environments, such as Human Ring."

"Are these Them organisms engineered to not creep me the fuck out?""

""Give me a break," I said. "You live in a post-scarcity anarchy. How did you develop problems with authority?"

"Ask me that again in twenty minutes," "

"t's extraordinarily important that Her sides with Plan C on this issue."

"What?" I said. "You hate Plan C.""

"Now, Ariel, let me ask you: why did you write the same game five times?""

""I don't like it when societies collapse!" said Her. "It's a lot of death and a lot of work. Have you played the computerized interactive works of the late, great Inostrantsi civilizations?""

""Are you blaming the collapse of civilization on addictive video games?" I said.

"I don't lay blame," said Her. "I'm too old and too complicit. "

""And people bought this game where you can't change the story?"

"Not 'bought' in a capitalist sense," said Svetlana. "It's a political statement against the Consensus Mythos... The Mythos was just a way to build an industrial society out of people who hate being near each other.""

"But the cost was a prohibition against telling stories that couldn't fit into the Mythos, stories that might have different morals.

That prohibition fell apart once the Dhihe Coastal Coalition invented electronic simulations. Now they had a medium based around feedback and machine-enforced rules, not static storytelling or social acting"

"What we did see was our nation's missile defense system suffering a software failure because it detected an incoming object with negative mass.""

"In fact there was an intelligent agent for running your business, about a year ago." "Why don't you use that?" said Dana. "It would be cheaper." "It was a trojan," I said. "Six months ago, it transferred everybody's assets to a holding company in the Cayman Islands.""

"I snapped at Jenny not because my house burned down, but because one little additional thing didn't go my way. I don't feel like I can trust myself anymore."

"I'm taking solace in software, trying to make a version of Sayable Spice that's good enough to solve all our problems. This didn't work for Clan Interference, it didn't work for the Yaiskek Corporation, and it won't work for me. In the end, all we have is our overlay affiliations. Little patches with starfields on them. Little dots of light in the infinite darkness of space."

"There was something I was supposed to do in this kind of situation. Jenny had handed me a note in the car. I filled my mouth with sushi, took the note out of my pocket and read it.

You are very high. Do not panic."

""I made the mistake of reading through one of those notebooks," I said. "There's some really personal stuff in there. Mostly about girls I wanted to have sex with. I don't want that stuff in the Constellation's collective memory for the next billion years.""

""Do you know what those stars look like from the other side?" said Tetsuo. "What?" "Nothing," said Tetsuo. "Same as this side. Stars have sentimental value only.""

"Humans got burned at the stake for saying that stars are stars." "Aliens, same," said Tetsuo. "Then we went up there and found there's nothing. Nothing but algae, and fossils, and Slow People.""

"You and I are uninteresting to them. We only protect them and maintain their hardware.""

""Where did the douchebag go?" said Tetsuo. "I wanted to see him flaunt his relative social dominance.""

""The douchebag coerced you. You promised to stay in your room."

"And if you're a frat boy, you don't think to leave. It's what we in the computer business call an affordance.""

"Spaceships will never be so huge!" said Tetsuo. "You should build a tiny spaceship to tow a tiny port to where you want to go, and then everyone can walk through the port.""

""How works it?" Tetsuo asked. "Is this a folkway?"

"You are employed by a suspicious number of douchebags!" "It's an industry epidemic.""

"If we knew timeahead that your planet contained Ip Shkoy-level civilizations? Ten billion people would follow me through that port. Your cultures would not last seven days. It would be worse than Beatlemania."

"Your planet is protected by an ocean of probable boredom."

"But yes as Slow People." I set down my taco shell with a thud that rattled the silverware. "Okay, you gotta explain that." "Oh," said Tetsuo. "Often dying people have their nervous systems uploaded" "When they upload, they'll create a backup. It's their backup that will learn what happened to me.""

"The secret has a half-life of three years.""

"But Your Quiescent Achievement had decided the time was right to poke its grasper-tentacle into the conversation. "It sounds like things are going well between you and Curic! Here's a little puzzle to help test your compatibility."

"Ragtime takes the fossils, the arrowheads, the coins, the nuclear reactors. Everything within certain negentropy boundaries. Now there's no history left"

"This transcript of yesterday comes from the Purchtrin-English translator. I expected it to give me precise words but instead it gave me short words. Oh well!"

""To a Farang, when a human goes to sleep it sounds like death," said Tetsuo. "Don't sort things by their sound. The invention of uploading is the day people stop dying.""

"You'll Only See Kis Echo! and I have a scheme. We have seventy years to make humans feel it would be an amazing adventure to build housing developments on these planets."

"Housing developments?" I said. "You're going to combat the promise of eternal bliss with the most boring thing in the world?""

"Don't be a guy who feels bad," said Tetsuo. "Nobody ever knows what to do. Our life-task is to decide what to do.""

"Of all the things the BEA might worry about, they chose "computers are too fast and too cheap." "

"Specifically, I've moved to Ring City."

"I'm sick of feeling helpless, and I'm sick of being separated from the woman I love. So over the past few weeks I took a look at the things keeping me from my goals. I made the things I didn't like go away, and I decided not to be bothered by the loss of everything else."

"I was a wallflower at the nerd con."

""I don't know much about comics," I said. "When I was a kid, my parents never let me have them." "Are they super-religious or something?" "No, they're just English professors.""

"I told you about game design, how you can trigger the pleasure circuits in someone's brain just by setting up a little system of feedback loops, and how designing those feedback loops triggers an even bigger pleasure circuit in the designer's brain."

"Fluid Overlay-s are how the Constellation gets everything done, and the great thing about them is that you can just walk up and join one. As long as you're not incompetent, they'll find something for you to do."

""This is too confusing," said Tetsuo. "Why can't we just have anarchy?""

"I said 'never mind' because you would have to be fluent in metafractal reduction to re-terraform Human Ring as a whole. I've never heard of a human with this skill. I don't think your civilization is specialized enough to have invented it."... "Architecture, lowest level, emergent properties," I said. "I already have this skill. We call it computer programming.""

""Ariel, please spare me your primitive fears. Ragtime is an intriguing aspect of galactic weather. It's not one of those sky deities you have obsessing over your diet and sexual behavior." "Wow," I said. "I can see why you're not going to Earth. You'd cause a diplomatic incident within ten minutes.""

"I'm doing the work to build a reputation. I need to be thought of as reliable, useful to other peoples' Fluid Overlay-s. I have my own projects planned, and one day soon, I will need to draw on the Constellation's stock of carbon and energy and permission."

"And in general, I don't think I stand much of a chance. Judging from these trash piles, all we've been after this whole time is food, entertainment, and security. We're pretty much Slow People already."

""Tetsuo told you about his parents. He may have talked as though their behavior was strange, but that's because he has bizarre political beliefs. Uploading is normal. It's part of the universal life cycle.""

""Doesn't work for me." "Nor for Tetsuo or Curic," said Somn. "Nor for the people you surveyed. That's why we have the terraforming projects, and the contact missions that never find anybody. An anarchic society can't stay static for eight hundred million years. There has to be a safety valve.""

""Oh!" I said. "Wow, I just realized—I don't have to do this!... The same shit I've been arguing my whole life....But that's not a constant, it's how human society works. I sell my time and my pride for a chunk of that twenty million and the right to bitch about it ineffectually. That's what Curic meant when she asked if I'd been bargaining with myself. But I don't need money anymore. I'm infinitely wealthy.""

""Face it, Curic," said Krakowski, "you have no way to handle this. Your superior system of social organization only works if everyone cooperates. You say 'coercion' like it's a dirty word, but coercion is just how the rules are enforced. You can't deal with someone like me. You've given up the tool because you don't like its name." "Coercion is how coercive rules are enforced," said Curic. "Nobody enforces the rules of a game. Nobody makes photons carry the electromagnetic force. That's just how the world works.""

""A static document is a fossil of thought.""

"An artwork is not just a way to deliver beauty, just as a game is not just a way to deliver feedback-fun." *


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