But, the inevitable has happened as well, and I also have become rather tired of Roryn and her world; at least temporarily. I still plan to pull some of the characters and situations from it to create a more appropriate narrative for a novel - possibly a young adult novel, which the project itself most definitely is not. I am also planning to set up a new LJ to put the project in when I finish it and do some minimal cleaning up. Otherwise, my mind has naturally turned to other things. To pull myself out of the Sita Roryn rut and have another try at a pre-planned story arc, I've decided to begin a new writing project, tentatively titled Guildmaster.
Before I basically took the summer off to write Sita Roryn, I was a pretty regular World of Warcraft player. Now, that franchise has many novels written about it, much fanfic I'm sure, loads pf original works based upon the MMORPG idea. So far, however, I've seen very few stories written from 'outside' the gaming world, although I'm sure you can supply me with oodles I haven't read yet. Lately, I came across a Web TV series about gamers, but that showed the life wholly from the outside. Something much closer to what I'm thinking of is the .hack franchise, and I'll be hard-pressed not to have Guildmaster echo it too closely.
To get to it, then, Guildmaster will be the story of a twenty-something man (for today, let's call him Mark) who has a serious back injury from a previous job as an on-site commercial architect, and so is on permanent disability as a partial quadriplegic and is plagued by chronic pain. Like me, he has been 'given' the dubious pleasure of free time and enough money for slim luxuries like internet access. He is not a gamer, however, and is talked into joining the ranks by an online acquaintance who will figure more prominently later on.
Mark begins the story as a social site lurker and LJ community poster, pretty much as I was before being introduced to the WoW crack. Having left video games long past in high school and never having gotten heavily into role playing, he is nevertheless persuaded by an online friend (who we'll give the moniker Aurelius160) to try his hand at the new, flashy MMORPG Nephilim Arisen. This game is one of about 30 which are on the meta-gaming domain, the Universal Patch Grid. I introduced this idea in my short story, "Shabti", as I think that may be what many online gaming groups evolve into over the next decade.
At first, Mark plays mostly alone, but gradually gets pulled into a guild (which for the moment I'll call "Imp Grinders" fpr an in-game joke). Unfortunately, the guild officers have a falling out and the Imp Grinders begin to break up within days. When the arguing factions alternately join a rival guild and start a new one, the latest guildmaster gives the Imp Grinders to Mark, who is the only one of six members left who happens to be online. Before the next week is done, Mark is left alone in the guild, which was said to have been quite successful and highly placed in the game's early leader boards. Left with a bank of vendor trash and a guild 'island' hardly worth its monthly fee, Mark is ready to officially disband it when another player, who had once been the master of another guild, joins Imp Grinders to help raise his spirits.
From here, much of the story will be about Mark (as "Sharpie") rebuilding the guild with "Dawntreader", the more experienced woman whom he met earlier. As he is still rising in levels and proves to be a 'slow' player thanks to his injury, Sharpie relies heavily on Dawntreader to carry out much of the guild's activities. Eventually, although he gains a reputation as a fair, if distant guildmaster, Sharpie realizes that he is not right for the job and offers it to Dawntreader. She refuses, also realizing that she has in effect become the master, a job which she had grown to hate in her former guild.
As a result, for a short time Imp Grinders is effectively without a master until the role is filled by another player, Brutalsoup. Happy to make him an officer and give him the responsibility, Sharpie and the guild are shocked when Brutalsoup empties the guild bank, 'liquidates' the guild island, and disappears. Through rumors and informants, Sharpie finds out that Brutalsoup was an alternate character of a former member from before the initial breakup who had vowed revenge, not caring that all of his enemies were long since gone from the guild. Sharpie is unable to prove the theft to the game's administrators, but regains the guild's possessions and money through a mysteriously quirky junior member named Aria.
Unknown to the other players, Aria is the emancipated AI from my short story, "Shabti". Now over three years 'old' and a veteran player at the highest level, she has taken on the role of helping newbies while exploring new game-spaces. Still unsure of her own nature, Aria instantly becomes a hero in the guild and quickly assumes the leadership role which Sharpie and Dawntreader have shied away from. Struggling to keep Dawntreader from leaving the guild or quitting the game, Sharpie reveals his personal problems to her and the two meet offline. Aria is surprisingly affected by this and has an existential crisis, which finally threatens the guild with another mass exodus and dissolution.
Meanwhile, Mark has been learning the scripting languages of the Universal Patch Grid games and has begun to find interest as a programmer for a few of the gaming companies. Torn between not wanting to lose his guild, friends, and history in the game and a new-found desire to return to a working life, he finds one last curiosity in Aria. Having lost her first friend in the UPG, the man who freed her from being a shabti, Aria goes to her guildmaster (who she considers to be the 'elders' of the games, regardless of their experience levels) with her insecurity. Not understanding her problem at first and suspicious that she is lying, Mark takes her proffered account information and investigates, soon realizing that she is not a real player.
He tells a few of his gaming friends this, including Dawntreader, and the group decides not to report it to the administrators. Instead, the group swears to secrecy, both Sharpie and Dawntreader decide to quit the game, and they leave the guild to Aria, who is the only 'player' guaranteed to be able to keep it going indefinitely. Now given responsibility as well as an ongoing purpose, Aria overcomes her crisis and devotes the Imp Grinders to being a newbie 'leveling' guild. Mark relinquishes his post and the name "Sharpie" with feelings both of accomplishment and a strange sense that he has left the game unfinished. However, with his companion, Rachel (Dawntreader), he feels that he can return to a fuller life outside of the internet.
I mean to divide the story into four parts. First, from Mark's conversation with the friend who gets him to join until he is left with the guild. Second, the period of building, when a few characters, including Aria and Brutalsoup, are introduced and Mark becomes accustomed to the gaming experience and begins to learn programming skills. Third, from when he asks Dawntreader to take over the guild to Brutalsoup's theft and Aria's seemingly miraculous recovery of the guild's goods. Finally, from Aria's reaction to Sharpie and Dawntreader forming an offline relationship to the end. I've come up with some of this on the fly, and it doesn't reflect much else I plan to bring out in the story, so any pointers are welcome at this early stage, as always.
This story is from Mark/Sharpie's perspective, but it should show some character progression in Rachel/Dawntreader as well, with a small window opened on Aria's continued growth into a more 'alive' person. As background, I'd like to make the game, Nephilim Arisen, and the UPG as a whole, believable as an online gaming venue. If I can, I'll give the games within the UPG the air of real places, both compelling and sometimes tedious. With luck, perhaps I can give the characters a place rich enough that they will be reluctant to leave, as would the reader. I plan to write in a few different styles, reflecting in-game GUI chat, voicechat while the guild is growing, and in depth narration for over-the-shoulder character movement and action. There will be action (PvP battles, dungeon runs, etc.), more hopefully than is seen in .hack, which I hope can coincide with some of the more dramatic moments of the story. In short, I'm thinking of something very ambitious for my meager talents; a good, solid learning experience. Stay tuned for more.