How Random Babbling Becomes Corporate Policy (t3knomanser) wrote,
How Random Babbling Becomes Corporate Policy
t3knomanser

David Crane : MMORPG Private Eye

Recently, I had an idea. It was inspired by hearing about Kling Klang Klatch, a graphic novel. It's a gumshoe story, revolving around a set of grisly murders- and it's set in Toyland. A world of dolls and teddybears. Neet, right?

Well, that inspired another idea in my little brain. What about someone who had a character in an MMORPG, and used that character as a PI? Investigating the theft of Rare Items, or tracking players in-game to record their actions for someone else. All that basic PI stuff, but in the world of an MMORPG.

Ideally, I'm not ever going to step out of the game into the "real world", though I'm not sure if that'll be possible. At any rate, here's the first bunch I've written.
	It was raining out. A regular dark and stormy night. I didn't  
mind the rain so much; I was perpetually dressed for it. Long black  
oil-cloth slicker. Battered fedora, the brim just long enough to keep  
my cigarette dry so long as the wind didn't kick up too much. Beneath  
the coat was a white shirt in need of laundering, a half unknotted tie  
around the neck.
	It was late, but I usually worked late. In my coat I had a  
handful of screen-shots, proving to an angry wife that her husband was  
seeing a brothel-avatar on the side. The sort of work every gumshoe  
has to do, and the sort that every gumshoe hates.
	I went up the stairs of my building; this was a low-rent  
district; they were pixellating around the edges. Maybe someday, I'd  
be able to afford enough processing to anti-alias them properly, but  
that was hardly a priority. My door was good enough, a graphic I had  
Photoshopped together very, very carefully. Torn from the pages of  
Dashiel Hammet, there was faded gold lettering detailing my name and  
player class, "David Crane, Private Eye".
	I didn't need to key the door, it recognized me. The front  
part of my office was neat and clean, with a healthy looking potted  
plant off to one side. That was all courtesy of the NPC secretary I  
used during business hours. There was no reason for me to keep her  
running all of the time; again, it was expensive in processor time,  
and I could barely keep the rent on this place as it was.
	I walked through the door in the partition, and entered my  
office, which was as disheveled as outside was neat. Most of the mess  
was window dressing. But it reflected the file structure underneath,  
the actual space on the server where I stored my files. I was fairly  
lazy, and just dropped everything into the root directory, without  
using a nice folder system. Still, there was a reason to it; and I  
could find things when I needed them, and if I couldn't, my secretary  
could, though she'd complain like the dickens. So would my bill for  
processor usage.
	I dropped the screenshots onto my desk; to me, they looked  
like black and white photographs. As they landed, all of the data on  
them was saved to my share of disk space on the server. A red aura  
flashed around them, warning me that my quota was almost full. I made  
a note to have my secretary delete anything untouched for two years,  
and archive everything that hand't been handled in six months. 
	Wasted from another night tailing some game-addicted loser  
through the city for a few hundred Clams, I collapsed into my chair.  
Through the window, I looked outside, at the glowing cityscape that  
was Metro-City.
	Metro-City was an MMORPG, a Massively-Multiplayer-Online- 
Roleplaying-Game. Metro-City was unique; as the other MMORPGs were  
dying out, attacked by disinterested players, distributed gaming that  
allowed for people to get the same experience without paying monthly  
fees, and legal battles over real and imagined property, Dale Torrins  
came up with a new business model for the MMORPG. They were going to  
stop selling a game, instead, they'd sell gamespace. Anyone who wanted  
to could stake out a sub-universe in their network, and all it would  
cost them was a set of fees; bandwith consumption, storage space, and  
processor usage. They structured thier terms-of-service in such a way  
that they had no responsibility beyond providing the software and  
hardware it ran on.
	It was an elegant solution, and solved the biggest problem  
that had been plaguing MMORPGs since they were born: leeches. Leeches  
were people like me, that saw MMORPGs as a way to make _real_ money.  
Some games were all but destroyed by controversy as things like  
brothels started to appear, and people turned real-world profits on  
them. Is cybersex for cybermoney that can be exchanged for real money  
prostitution?
	Dale Torrins' company, Electric Artistry, didn't care. If  
someone decided that it was prostitution and wanted to prosecute, they  
charged the people running the brothel. There was some legal grey  
area, but Electric Artistry had good lawyers.

	"Excuse me?"
	I whipped around in my chair, ready to call the "Draw Weapon"  
command. Mentally, I kicked myself for not locking the door. There  
were at least a dozen people who wanted to see me dead, and all it  
took was one high level hitman, and I'd loose a few thousand  
experience points, and all the equipment on my person. Plus, if they  
had a reshak script, they could loot my office.
	Instead, I was staring at a leggy female avatar. And busty.  
And well... your standard female avatar in a computer game. She was  
definitely in town from one of the Fantasy Provinces of Metro-City.  
Not many other places will you see someone wearing a leather bikini  
and have them showing an armor class of fifteen.
	"I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't mean to startle you."
	I leaned back in my chair, but kept the "Draw Weapon" command  
ready. "No, don't worry. I just wasn't expecting anyone. Please, have  
a seat."
	The avatar's head whipped around and the body spun full  
circle. The player was checking behind her. Expecting someone. It's  
hard to tell if that means nervous or they're just habituated to  
slaughtering some wandering monster whenever one pops up. I've seen  
players that can't stop twitching, looking for something to kill. "I  
can't really stay."
	"Why not?" Most likely, mom or dad was going to kick them  
offgame for hogging bandwith.
	"I need your help."
	"I would assume so; I can't see any other reason to be here,  
except for my smashing good looks."
	"I need you to investigate a murder. My husband, Aikenhal has  
been killed."
	I frowned out-of-character. Murders were almost as disdainful  
as suspicious wives. "Listen, I don't do murders. You and the victim  
should just go and hire a bounty hunter after the victim respawns. I  
mean, I can find the killer, but what then? I'm an investigator, not a  
killer."
	"Please? Will you accept this quest?"
	That didn't sound right. "What's your name?"
	"Will you accept this quest?"
	I thought for a moment. "My fee is a hundred Clams a day, plus  
expenses."
	"Your reward will be one hundred Gold a day, plus expenses."
	I hesitated longer. Something didn't sit right. I ran a finger  
command on her. It's the sort of thing I avoided; it's an illegal  
script. The first business in Metro-City was game-hacking scripts. The  
second business was the Hack-Hunters, or more euphemistically the  
Jackboots. They busted hacker's heads open until they stopped hacking.  
That aside, most players will get an alert when you try that, and it's  
just plain rude.
	The results came back. "Elf1705513lvl17:Forestshire".
	"I'll take your case."
	"Thank you, and may the Lord of Elvenkind guide you."
	She turned and walked away, while I brooded. Trying to stop  
her to pump more information was pointless. Only one group in Metro- 
City had names like that; Non-Player Characters. NPCs. But there were  
a few things wrong with that.
	One: NPCs don't leave their province. She was a Forestshire  
elf. Which meant she should be in Forestshire, sucking up Forestshire  
processor resources. She should only interact with players in  
Forestshire.
	Two: NPCs don't actively approach you. NPCs are just to add  
some color and background to the game, not be players in their own  
right. A few years back there was a craze for Interactive AI NPCs, but  
it sucked processor resources. There were enough players in the game  
that you could have plenty of action and adventure without ever  
needing an NPC to add "color".
	Three: NPCs don't exhibit player behaviors, like the hokey- 
pokey dance she did when she came in. They're essentially robots  
following a script.
	That meant someone had hacked the NPC.
	I picked up my usage bill for the month off of my desk. It was  
updated every minute, and sure enough, there was a hefty charge for  
running a "Level 17 Forestshire Elf NPC". Figures; this case was  
already costing me money. However, I already had recieved the first  
hundred Clams, so at least I knew I'd be getting paid. The bill I had  
received was in Clams, so I added that fee to my client's bill under  
expenses. I was curious to see if an NPC could pay those fees.
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