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Author Topic: EP547: Ride the Dragon  (Read 1316 times)
eytanz
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« on: October 28, 2016, 02:44:48 AM »

EP547: Ride the Dragon

AUTHOR: Bojan Ratković
NARRATOR: Steve Anderson
HOST: Norm Sherman
---

We were a band back then, in the bat-shit Wild West days of the game. We held our court at the Gentleman Boozer, the loudest pub on the big map. It was Haru, Flygirl, Black Boris, and me. And we had floaters, part-time comrades. Mostly kids who wanted to be like us, who did us favors. But Tony Rem was there too, the one that rode the dragon.

It’s hard to believe now just how big it was, when they launched True-Fantasy. It was the first MMORPG with MaTRiX immersion headgear―it jacked you in, made you really live it. Most of the players were funboys―kids who played for fun―and they paid the bills. But you could make RL coin if you were good enough―real life currency―and the rest of us wanted a cut.

Punchers punched the clock, putting in RL hours to work as barkeeps and innkeepers and helpdesk clerks. Gougers sold rare items for RL cash; there was a big black market and bigger gray area, and you could make a killing. We were glitchers―beta testers, top players. Exposing glitches in the game was our business, and admins paid top dollar to help them fix whatever bugs we could find. But it wasn’t about the money. All the top glitchers, the real cowboys, were after big scores. We proved ourselves by exposing the wildest glitches, the ones that got the map talking.

There was a group of mercenaries in the Boozer the day Tony came to us about the dragon. They sat across from us, up by the stain glass windows. They were the wrong kind of mercs, cutthroats. They helped the funboys on their quests, for a fee, but then they’d turn on them, cut their throats and take their items. And poof, back to beginner’s village. It wasn’t exactly legal, but they used proxies, rented avatars. Admins kicked them, they came back.

Tony strolled in like a breeze, letting the doors clap shut behind him. He walked over to the back and took the chair Haru wasn’t using, on account of his horse’s ass. Haru’s avatar was a centaur with a black leather jacket and shades, and his game was speed. He made his name by galloping vertically along the walls of the White Palace as the whole map watched. It took less than an hour for the admins to fix the glitch that allowed Haru to defy virtual gravity, but the stunt made him famous.

“I got the ticket, boys,” Tony spat out like he’d been holding it in for days. “The big one.”


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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Thunderscreech
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« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2016, 08:55:32 AM »

Fun story, the only thing that pulled me out of it was the depiction of security as an in-game beast that could be fought using in-game weapons.  Also, at the risk of sounding pedantic, a firewall is a filter.  The butterflies would probably be more accurately described as an intrusion prevention system.  A firewall just prevents/allows connections from going through and makes sure they fit defined parameters.  If you're reading a story where the doctor is taking blood pressure with a glass thermometer or a car mechanic changes the oil in the tire it's kinda distracting.  Other than that, though, fun stuff.  Did I get the twist at the end correctly, Flygirl is actually Tony?

Non-story note: I've had a weird audio thing with this and the preceding episode, the surf-rock intro was significantly quieter than usual.  On Recollection, I think I almost swerved off the road because I turned up the volume based on the music then robot lady's voice hit at about 1000 decibels (+/- ~1000db margin of error).  Comparing it to a few recent episodes it looks like it's a difference in the production and I've checked on a couple devices to make sure it wasn't a problem on my phone.  Didn't know if it was intentional or not and it's certainly possible I'm the only one who got soundblasted but I figured I'd drop a mention in case it wasn't on purpose.
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acpracht
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« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2016, 10:09:01 AM »


Non-story note: I've had a weird audio thing with this and the preceding episode, the surf-rock intro was significantly quieter than usual.  On Recollection, I think I almost swerved off the road because I turned up the volume based on the music then robot lady's voice hit at about 1000 decibels (+/- ~1000db margin of error).  Comparing it to a few recent episodes it looks like it's a difference in the production and I've checked on a couple devices to make sure it wasn't a problem on my phone.  Didn't know if it was intentional or not and it's certainly possible I'm the only one who got soundblasted but I figured I'd drop a mention in case it wasn't on purpose.

It's not intentional and apologies. I'm two episodes in on doing this part of the production job, and I'm still working to figure out the translation from how it sounds in my earbuds once I've prepared the final mp3, and how it sounds once it's been uploaded to our audio server. Something between those steps is strange, still, and not turning out asintended.

I'm planning to bug Mat for a bit today and see if I can figure out what the trick of it is.

I'll get there. Thanks for the concern.

-Adam
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Frank Evans
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« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2016, 03:15:41 PM »

I really enjoyed this story. I'm not much of a gamer, the last game I played was Skyrim and before that ... probably the Ocarina of Time or something. That being said, I love the idea of open world immersive games like this (see, Skyrim) and I can guarantee that if this kind of virtual reality world ever becomes a possibility I'll be first in line to ride the dragon.

I hadn't picked up on the idea that Flygirl was actually Tony but now that it's been pointed out I'm intrigued by the possibility. Although wouldn't that mean that Flygirl would be controlling two players in the simulation at the same time? I feel like that would up the degree of difficulty pretty significantly.   

One thing I wondered about was the introduction of the rival band of mercenaries only to have them pretty casually dismissed towards the beginning. I kept waiting for them to come back into the story somehow. As it stands, they seemed like a bit of an unnecessary plot thread, unless I'm missing something.
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acpracht
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« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2016, 04:57:21 PM »

I hadn't picked up on the idea that Flygirl was actually Tony but now that it's been pointed out I'm intrigued by the possibility. Although wouldn't that mean that Flygirl would be controlling two players in the simulation at the same time? I feel like that would up the degree of difficulty pretty significantly.   


My understanding is that this exists currently. It's called "multi-boxing." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-boxing

Though it does seem it would be a whole new level of difficulty in VR. After all, most people only have one set of eyes...
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Zelda
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« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2016, 05:10:52 AM »

I got the impression the narrator was the one who had taken care of the mercenaries. Perhaps that was to establish that he was a real fighter. The spell casting he did while he was with the group was clearly important but it seemed a little passive.
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DerangedMind
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« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2016, 02:03:43 PM »

Did I get the twist at the end correctly, Flygirl is actually Tony?

I thought about that, but decided that they were two distinct characters, but that she had been working with him.  I thought it would just be too difficult to control two characters at that level of play...
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DerangedMind
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« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2016, 02:06:48 PM »

I got the impression the narrator was the one who had taken care of the mercenaries. Perhaps that was to establish that he was a real fighter. The spell casting he did while he was with the group was clearly important but it seemed a little passive.

I believed he did as well.
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DerangedMind
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« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2016, 02:08:45 PM »

One thing I wondered about was the introduction of the rival band of mercenaries only to have them pretty casually dismissed towards the beginning. I kept waiting for them to come back into the story somehow. As it stands, they seemed like a bit of an unnecessary plot thread, unless I'm missing something.

I felt like they were there to show that the narrator was willing to break the rules of the game too, and to show that the difference with Tony and the narrator was only scale.
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DerangedMind
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« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2016, 02:15:50 PM »

Also, at the risk of sounding pedantic, a firewall is a filter.  The butterflies would probably be more accurately described as an intrusion prevention system.  A firewall just prevents/allows connections from going through and makes sure they fit defined parameters.  If you're reading a story where the doctor is taking blood pressure with a glass thermometer or a car mechanic changes the oil in the tire it's kinda distracting.  Other than that, though, fun stuff.

I hear where you're coming from, but remember that the narrator isn't a SysAd -- to most non-techies, the IDS / IPS are lumped in with the same category as the firewall.
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tpi
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« Reply #10 on: November 10, 2016, 03:30:32 PM »

I didn't like this story at all, one of the most irritating Escapepod stories ever.  Almost everything happens just in a game. There is no real threat and it feels just like a transcript of a gaming session. Could there be anything more boring than read other people's game transcripts? Also, unbelievably bad software design.
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MooG
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« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2016, 11:22:02 PM »

I guess I'm not the target audience for this one - I have never player a MMORPG and have a certain law abiding streak so found it impossible to get on board with the 'hooray for the terrorist and his successful extortion plan' vibe. ( I know the narrator didn't know that was the plan in advance; but he still sees Tony as a hero 'riding the dragon' rather than it being bad he threatened to inflict brain damage on players unless he was paid off, afterwards.)

Actually I have read a few good stories involving game playing but the players here were so good that the fight descriptions hardly stirred the blood either.

Like a few others I also couldn't see why security in the game is part of the game. In order to track the fight with the butterflies that occurs (and even if that's the way it has to be why aren't the butterflies invincible?) the computer would have to know who's where and what they are doing, so why not just freeze them in place rather than playing along with their intrusion?

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Fenrix
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« Reply #12 on: November 20, 2016, 07:28:30 AM »

This one had a nice Ready Player One feel, although the IRL portions felt even more banal and jarring than in RPO. Fun little heist story.
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I always lock the door when I creep by daylight.
That Hirschman Guy
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« Reply #13 on: December 01, 2016, 03:24:47 AM »

This was so great. I have heard RPG or DnD-based stories which really work the format well to make their story grab the listener and I think this one did it quite well.  I felt a pang when the players were sent back to Beginner's Village, as we all know how that sucks.
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Unblinking
Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2016, 10:53:44 AM »

This was fun.  I liked the environment, based around prestige in this environment, and how fun to have an occupation where you spend all your time trying to exploit game cracks.

I did think that the butterfly security thing was more than a little contrived.  If the security is meant to actually be effective security, then why manifest as an in-game presence that is allowed to be defeated?  Just sever a connection, introduce lag to the player, strip players of vital stats or experience, disable their accounts.

I didn't like this story at all, one of the most irritating Escapepod stories ever.  Almost everything happens just in a game. There is no real threat and it feels just like a transcript of a gaming session. Could there be anything more boring than read other people's game transcripts? Also, unbelievably bad software design.

It's true that the stakes were not as high as if they had actually been on a quest against a dragon with no simulation layer would be.  But there were stakes--they were taking risks with their livelihoods, and in the end they did end up losing their jobs in that that kind of player was not allowed anymore, though the cashout they got made up for it for them personally.  What they did had real-world consequences in that everyone else who did that job is suddenly not able to make a living anymore because of the exploitation of the system. 

Anyway, FWIW, I feel that there were real-world stakes based on the outcome of the entirely fake game. 
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Piet
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« Reply #15 on: December 13, 2016, 12:57:15 AM »

Relatively interesting gaming adventure story, but no profound breakthroughs. Kudos to the author for descriptions that effectively evoke a spatial sense of navigating through walled passageways, stairways, and subterranean corridors, and for tight dialogue that conveys the intensity of the action.
« Last Edit: December 13, 2016, 01:23:48 AM by Piet » Logged

It's not the destination...it's the glory of the ride.
Devoted135
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« Reply #16 on: January 26, 2017, 03:06:21 PM »

Really bad software design here, but a fun narrative... so I enjoyed it while listening but wouldn't come back to it or recommend it to my RPG-playing friends.
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esanderson
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« Reply #17 on: September 18, 2017, 02:48:25 PM »

I really enjoyed the narration on this one. Anderson gave the protagonist a kind of cowboy/outlaw swagger that I thought meshed really well with the character.

Also, agree with Unblinking and disagree with tpi re: real-world consequences of events. After this stunt, the game isn't the same anymore, which is kind of a shame, particularly for the people who make their RL living from it.
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