Thursday, December 30, 2010

Virtual Worlds in The Black Desert: Combat = A Fate Worse than Death?

          What's the point of having an RPG with virtual worlds if you can't fight in them?  If the Wold of Warcraft phenomenon is any indication, people will be fighting in fake environments with even more gusto than in real ones.  But what will it be like, when the distinction between real experiences and sensations become indistinguishable from virtual ones?

           The primary question is of course, if you "die" in a virtual world, will die in the real one?  Obviously, when it comes to sims and games, the answer would be "no".  After all, game companies can't collect on their subscription fees and sell fake gold for real money if all the noobs die in the real world.  In addition to that, is real death caused by virtual trauma even possible?  My says it's not.  While Gibson had "Black ICE" in his Matrix and Wachowski brothers had "your mind makes it real" in theirs,  I suspect that the technology will not be developed to make lethal virtual environments, even on the black market.  The reason for this is that the machine/organic interface will not involve a physical connection; you can't electrocute what you can't reach.  In addition, exotic weapons such as Medusa programs or the fictional Basilisk have no basis in reality, as cool as they sound (pun!). 

          Theoretically, one could project disturbing images in an attempt to terrify and nauseate, but in the context of The Black Desert, this idea is impractical.  The game is set after a horrible war that killed half of all life on Earth;  I'm not sure how useful horror-show images would be to the survivors.  Just as the truth is stranger than fiction, the harsh realities of war are more brutal than any virtual image could simulate.

          It would seem that I have once again logic-ed myself out of dangerous combat in BD's virtual worlds.  Never fear, RocketFans, I do have an idea of how to make virtual combat important, dangerous, and exciting as it is in the real world: Pain.  If the tech exists to make people feel physical sensations virtually (and it will),  then I suspect sensory overload from too-strong physical sensation will be a major stumbling block to implementation of the technology.  I alluded to this in the first post on this topic; the idea of using this fact to simulate dangerous combat evolved from there.

        So what will this be like?  Let us first imagine our virtual combatant's goal:  To remove someone from the virtual system.  This can be accomplished by hacking them out of the system and other security measures; characters with these skills will find them put to good use as they try to lock-out virtual baddies and keep system access open for the goodies.  But there is also the option of getting someone to voluntarily leave the system by making them hurt.  A lot.  Epically, in fact; in a virtual system that has its pain safeguards  removed, the virtual security can hack, shoot, scratch, stab, burn, boil and otherwise make life hell for whoever hacks into the system via teleoperation.  Even better, the system can be amped-up to make even minor virtual injuries seem excruciating.

       My, doesn't that sound fun?

       In game terms, virtual attacks will do virtual damage in equal portion to their real equivalents; a virtual laser will do 3-5D of virtual damage.  Wound levels will be equal to their real-world equivalents as well.  The differences will be in the teleoperator's virtual "powers" (let's call them Apps).  There will be Apps that increase pain levels (virtual damage) and Apps that allow for exotic and physics violating attacks against virtual targets.  This way, magic and fantastic combats will be a part of The Black Desert without losing it's Hard SF street-cred.  Instead of using Strength+Stamina to soak damage, virtual combatants will use Knowledge+Willpower to resist the felling of being wounded.

      Remember boys and girls, this is all still in it's infancy; ideas are subject to change without notice.  Tomorrow, I hope to have some Skills and Apps ready for perusal.  Here's hoping, anyway.  I will also make an effort to post before 5:00 Eastern Standard (UTC minus 5) for those of you who read this at work or school.  I can't promise that; my wife's on late shifts and I've been having to run after-holiday errands everyday this week.  Again, here's hoping.

         Enjoy, RocketFans!


  1. Interesting.
    I respectfully disagree though.
    Ray, you ever read Peter Watts? His stuff is bleak as hell, but very, very good. Specifically, I'm thinking of his most recent work, Blindsight. He makes some interesting (and frightening) references to brain injuries there - and they can be temporarily induced through ultrasound and magnetic fields.

    So, how are your VW set ups going to get the sensations across without an electrode in your brain? Hmm. I think stimulating specific areas of the brain through magnetic fields is the most likely. Which opens up a host of things you can do to a PC.

    Catastrophically raising (or lowering) blood pressure is only the least of it. Amnesia, blindness (and other sensory equivalents), convincing the person they're dead (and thus making them very easy to interrogate after all - nothing matters any more), seizures, etc., etc. Plus, neurons that fire together wire together (thank you Donald Hebb) and experiencing something nasty in a VW will make you more susceptible to it again.

    Add in that we, as humans, are fairly gullible on a host of things and psychosomatic injuries (sorry, somatoform injuries according to the great Wiki) are possible. And bruising (purpura) is only the start of it. Another option might be a form of Bale's Palsy that marks people that fight in VW's.

    And, Happy New Year!

  2. The idea of using pain to make people leave a virtual world showed up in Inception. I had not seen the movie before posting this article.


Questions, comments, criticisms? All non-Trolls welcome!