Sunday, January 19, 2014

Anna's Dream Diary - Part 2

ENTRY 6

I'm at a train station.  I'm there to meet someone at a restaurant within the train station, but there don't seem to be any actual restaurants.  I spend the majority of my time arguing with a woman whose job it is to manually move the minute hand of a clock hanging over the platform.  She insists the restaurant is right in front of me, but it's not.  Before I wake up, a train crashes into the station through the ceiling, and then the woman in the clock tells me "This was never a train station!" in a kinda unsettling tone.

Normal dream.  No cameo from the princess.

ENTRY 7

Another dream in the white room.  Been a while.  This time the princess had a table in front of her.  Every time I tried to focus on the table, what was on it would be different, but it was usually art supplies of some kind.  Sometimes it was knives.  I got the distinct impression I was expected to do something with the stuff on the table, but had no idea what.

You know, it makes a lot of sense I'd be dreaming about her.  She's causing me so many problems at work.  Why do we have to remove the princess from HnP entirely?  We have to redo so much!  I can understand taking her out of the gameplay, but out of the story, too!?  The game's called Hero AND PRINCESS!!  Ugh!  We have to scrap so much to make this work.  This is crazy!

I've been reading Carver's notes.  The princess seemed like such a cool character.  He put a lot of thought into her.  I can see why he didn't want her cut.  Wanted to buck the "damsel in distress" trend, which is something I can get behind.  She was basically all this game had going for it.

Princess.  Miss you, girl.

[NOTE: Following this entry, a page has been torn out.  There are a few pages torn out at varying points throughout the diary.  It's not entirely clear why, as no surviving entries make direct reference to this.  I have my own theories, but I'll save them, as they'll make more sense later.

Also, the last entry mentions that it's "Been a while."  It seems these entries weren't made daily, which is another reason going by the pre-written dates is meaningless.]

ENTRY 8

NIGHTMARE!!  This time I was lying on the table with the princess standing over me.  I couldn't move, and when I tried to scream or say anything my voice was weak.  I didn't get the sense the princess was going to hurt me, but I also really, really didn't want to be there.

Then the lights went out, when they came back up, the princess was by the door, about to leave.  She was going to leave me on the table forever!  I screamed at her to stop, but again, my voice was too weak to say it.  Suddenly, she was standing over me again, but I knew she could leave at any time.  I kept trying and trying to convince her not to go.  I tried so hard, I finally managed to raise my arm towards her.  All of a sudden, I fell backwards through the table into a dark void.

Never been scared by one of these dreams until now.  Writing it out, it doesn't sound so scary.  I hate feeling helpless.

ENTRY 9

White room, but no princess.  I tried the door again and it was real this time.  When I opened it, I woke up at 2:30 AM.  Went back to sleep and I didn't dream about the princess or the room.  Super weird.

Heard some guy in programming complain about the princess, today.  Guess it's just some glitch from all her leftover code.  Wasn't my major, but I took enough CS to know what a pain it must be to correct all that scripting.  I could never do it, mostly 'cause it would mean working with the smug jerks in QA.

But whatever.  Gives me more time to figure out how I'm going to rewrite every single cutscene in the goddamn game!  Maybe I should take C's suggestion and just replace the princess with a new character.  Same girl, but not the same girl?  Could work.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Anna's Dream Diary - Part 1

[NOTE:  I'll be transcribing this journal entry-by-entry.  It's one entry to a page, and as I said before, dates are meaningless.  Early on, entries are quite short, so I will include several per update.  As we get to the end and the entries get longer, I imagine we'll likely only be able to get one per update.]

ENTRY 1

I'm in a white room.  A woman with pale skin, red hair and a white dress is standing in front of me.  She looks a bit like the princess from our game.  We stand in silence.  At least, that's all I remember.

ENTRY 2

Same as last time.  I remember now that the woman never has eyes.  Still, somehow I know she's looking at me.

ENTRY 3

Same, but I was more lucid this time.  I looked around the room for a way out, but it was all blank.  There was a window on one wall, but I could only see darkness on the other side.  The woman never moved, even as I walked around the room.

Also, she doesn't have a face at all.  I don't think she ever has in any past dreams, I just noticed it now.  She's definitely the princess from HnP.  Looks like an unfinished model of her.

Why is that image so significant?

ENTRY 4

I was lucid again.  This time I tried to talk to her.  I could tell she heard me, but she didn't say or do anything.  All of a sudden, I got this overwhelming sense that she was sad.  Really, really sad.  I could hear her crying, only she wasn't crying.  Hard to put into words.  She was crying on the inside, and I could hear it inside me.  I couldn't do anything.  I just had to stand there while she cried.  I think maybe I was crying, too. 

Weirdest thing, these dreams seem so short.  Feel like half an hour, tops.  Still, I'm getting a good seven hours sleep each night.  Brain must be deleting a lot of stuff.

[NOTE: In the next entry, Anna mentions an individual she refers to as "C."  Having read ahead, I can clarify that this is her live-in fiancee.  Presumably, "C" is a term of endearment.]

ENTRY 5

The room was different this time.  It had a door, right behind me.  When I would try to get close to it, it would go 2D.  No knob, just a drawing.  I couldn't get it open.  Looked 3D from a distance.  Also the walls looked off.  I can't quite explain it, but they felt more real.  They'd been more like a fuzzy void, before.

She wasn't facing me, this time.  She was facing away, towards the wall.  Could have walked around to look her in the "face," yet I somehow knew I shouldn't do that.  She didn't want to talk tonight.

It's all stress bullshit.  I know it.  I'm stressed about this new job, that's why I can't stop thinking about the game.  My job drove the last guy nuts, and now I've got to clean up all his messes.  There's no way we can ship this, and the team knows it.  C, bless him, he always tries to make me smile.  I know it hurts him to see me struggling, and I know he wants to help, but in the end it just makes me put on a brave face when he's around.  He can't help.  No reason for us both to be miserable.

It felt good to write all that down.  Now I have a place to say all this.  Never kept a diary as a kid.  Maybe I'd be more sane if I had.  Ha ha! 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Anna's Dream Diary - Intro

I really shouldn’t be doing this.

Since the time I finished my story, I’ve been contacted by a number of individuals who’ve had experiences with The Princess, many of whom had never contacted or even heard of The Society.  I can’t say that it surprises me that The Society didn’t catch everyone who had experiences with The Princess, although the sheer volume of emails and personal accounts I’ve received is rather worrying.  I can only assume the majority of them are fabrications, if only for my own sanity.  I’m not sure why people would lie to me that they’ve seen her, unless they believe that doing so will get their story published in this blog.  People think that their story will be so incredible that it just has to be shared with the world.

Unfortunately, one story actually is.

You see, I’ve come into the possession of a diary.  It was sent to me by an anonymous reader, who claimed to have been a part of The Society at some point, but refused to give me any further information.  (This, of course, being the kind of ridiculous melodrama I’ve come to expect from Society members.)   The diary belonged to a woman on the development staff of “Hero and Princess,” the game which would ultimately spawn The Princess as we know her today.  I will be referring to this woman as Anna, even though at this point I realize it’s a little silly to keep changing peoples’ names to “protect” them.  Call it a personal hangup, I guess.  I’ve never given out my own name, so it doesn’t feel right to give out the names of others without their consent.  I cannot get Anna’s consent, as she has been missing since August of 1999.

The diary paints a picture of The Princess far different from anything I or The Society ever knew.  I thought I had an idea of The Princess’ full abilities, but if the events outlined in this diary are correct, she could be far more dangerous than any of us realized.  It also fills in a lot of previously-unknown details surrounding the events of "Hero and Princess'" development, which I've always considered vitally important.  I could summarize, but it must be read to be fully appreciated.  I wouldn’t trust my summary not to miss important details.  For this reason, I will be transcribing the diary entry-by-entry.  It may be slow going (Anna’s handwriting and the age of the pages being complicating factors,) but I will do my best to keep the updates more steady than last time.

But first, the diary itself.  It is a dream diary, kept by Anna, who at the time of its writing was the lead designer on “Hero and Princess,” having replaced Mr. Carver in the role.  It appears the diary was started shortly after she took the position, and chronicles both her dreams and her life over several months, ending shortly before her disappearance in 1999.  I cannot give exact dates for each entry.  While there are pre-written dates printed in the margins of the diary, they don’t appear to correspond to the actual timeline of the entries and it seems Anna was simply writing each new entry on the next available page.  All the dates in the diary are for 1998, which really only tells us when the physical diary was purchased.

And no, the diary does not give any clues about her current whereabouts.  However, without getting too far ahead of myself, I do believe she is likely still alive.  It’s possible my posting this diary might convince her to contact me.  I’ll say right now, if she does contact me and ask me to take this information down, I will comply.  I just hope she realizes how valuable it is to have all of this public.

I’ll begin transcribing entries in the next post.  I still need to work out the format I’m going to use.  It starts a little slow, but keep reading.  The ending is…quite a thing.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Part 13: The Warning

How?

How did The Princess take control of our message board, if only for a few seconds?  It didn't make any sense.  Our message board wasn't a video game.  Our message board pulled all its information from the internet.  The Princess was already inhabiting a game at the same time.  All the rules we thought we knew, all the things we thought kept us safe had failed us.  Could she have done this at any time?  Could she do it again?  Were there any real limits to what she was capable of?

We looked through all the data we'd collected.  We tried to find some common thread we'd been missing.  There must have been some way we could have known.  There had to be more answers than what we were seeing.  And there were.

We finally realized the truth.  It was so obvious.  The Princess had been in our message board the whole time.  She was on every page.  She was on every forum list.  She'd been staring at us, watching us for years and we never even saw it.  She was the banner at the top of the forum.  She was every screenshot we'd posted, every video we'd uploaded and every piece of fanart we'd drawn.

Every image of her is her.  Every image of her, when observed, gives her power.  She's not a ghost.  She's not a computer virus.  She's an idea.  "Living fiction."  She lives off our observation and thoughts of her.  When we all watched that stream, banded together and gave her all of our attention all at once, we made her more powerful than she'd ever been before.  We made her strong enough to manifest through the images we'd posted on our message board and speak directly to us.

We took down all the images.  From what we speculate, it's enough to simply never look at them again, but we deleted them all just to be certain.  However, it may already be too late for us.  I've been losing contact with other members of the society.  I can't tell if something's happened to them or if they've simply gone into hiding, but at this point only a fool wouldn't consider the worst-case scenario.

I'm not completely heartless.  I know she's fighting for her survival, now.  For her, being forgotten is death.  She does what she does in the hopes of keeping her memory alive.  To that end, perhaps my telling her story to the world is a small act of mercy.  Maybe the thoughts I've lent her will ease her pain somewhat.  I don't know, but either way that isn't why I wrote all this.

What I've told you could put you in great danger, but it could also save your life.  You're a target now, and in the months and years ahead she may well come for you, but I've also given you all the knowledge you need to keep yourself safe.

Do not try to fight her.

Do not try to talk to her.

Do not try to outsmart or trap her.

Don't investigate.

Don't try to understand.

Don't try to be a hero.

Don't try to be her savior.

It is my sincere hope that I've given you all the answers you want, so you won't make our mistake and try to investigate further.  There is one and only one thing you need to do to be safe:

IF YOU SEE HER, TURN OFF THE GAME!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Part 12: The Stream


I’m not entirely certain, in retrospect, what any of us expected.

What could we possibly accomplish, here?  We still didn’t know how to hurt her.  We still didn’t know how to reason with her.  An experiment like this, willfully calling The Princess, hadn’t been attempted in years and for good reason.  For all of our shared knowledge and all of Dan’s secret research, we hardly knew any more about The Princess than we did when we started.  So, why did we go along with it?  Why did we all tune in to that stream?

I guess we just wanted evidence.  We knew we were going to watch a man die that night, but if we could just get it recorded on stream, maybe we’d finally have something to show for our years of huddled anxiety.  Maybe, just once, we could finally see how The Princess kills people.  And, if we could see it happen, maybe we could work out some way to truly defend against her.

Dan knew going into this that he was a sacrifice.  I just wonder how many members of the Society also knew.

Of course, the stream’s chat window certainly didn’t help ease anxieties about what was going to happen.  It was an even mix of terrified pleas for Dan not to go through with it and trolling jackasses shouting “YOU GONNA DIE, SON!  XD”  I wanted to smack those jokers, but really, I think that’s just how some people deal with fear and stress.  It’s probably more healthy than just watching in silence, like I did.

Dan, for his part, had made a show of the whole affair.  He had his webcam pointed at a huge television set on the far wall of what I assume was his bedroom.  Below it, that little Gamecube, whirring away.  Dan himself looked about as unkempt as one might expect for a man who had devoted so many years of his life chasing a digital boogeyman .  Every time he’d look at the webcam, the light from his computer monitor would shine off his glasses and cover his face in bloom.  I couldn’t help but think he’d set this up on purpose, thinking it looked cool.  It certainly took the focus off the rest of him, which was welcome.

I’m delaying, of course.  You want to know what happened when he turned on that television.  At least, you think you do.  You’ve been shouting at me to finish this story, convinced the revelation at the end will be something affirmative and grand.  If that’s what you want, I suggest you stop reading now.  Like I said when we began, I’m not here to entertain you.  I’m here to give context to a warning.  What we’d learned up to this point was enough to make a stirring enough anecdote, but what we learned after this stream is what compelled me to tell this story.

Against all protest, Dan turned on the television.  I will explain what we saw as best I can.

It was Ocarina of Time…ostensibly, but warped and glitched beyond all recognition.  The HUD was gone, replaced by some random, shifting textures.  Link himself was twisted, with polygons jutting out of his arms at odd angles.  The environment was highly altered, still recognizable as Hyrule Field but with certain polygons stretched and various objects and models lodged in the ground.  The sky was blood red with a solid white circle of a sun.  And the music…the music was perhaps the most unnerving part, if only for how damn CHEERFUL it was.  It certainly wasn’t a track from the game, and sounded like a collection of instruments playing upbeat, happy note progressions at complete random.

There was also a sign right in front of Link.  Approaching the sign proved difficult, as any movement at all sent the game’s framerate into single digits, causing the happy music to hitch and distort.  With no HUD, it was hard to tell when Link was in place to interact with anything.  Eventually, though, Link was maneuvered into place to read the sign.

“TURN BACK BUDDY!  You shouldn’t be here!  Love and kisses, Daniel!”

I don’t have to tell you the stream chat erupted immediately upon seeing Dan’s name appear in the game.  What was more interesting was Dan’s reaction.  While he’s said very little up to this point, upon reading this text, he immediately began laughing.  It started as a chuckle, but it quickly grew into mocking laughter.  It took us a second to realize who he would be laughing at.

“Are you serious?”  he shouted at the screen, “Wha-…Why this?  Why now?”  There’s still some debate as to what Dan meant by this.  Throughout the whole stream, we got the sense Dan knew something more about the things we were seeing that we did.  He was playing quite far away from his computer monitor, so our shouting at him in the stream chat to explain himself was to no avail.

This failure to communicate would become more of a problem later.

Moving past the sign, Dan delved deeper into this twisted landscape.  It was hard to discern any sort of meaning from what The Princess had done to the place.  Objects and NPCs were all arranged in strange ways.  There were three people standing, arms out and feet together, atop a sideways house embedded halfway into the ground.  There were textureless NPCs standing in a circle around an open treasure chest.  Enemies would spawn out of nowhere, and then disappear just as quickly in the middle of combat.  At the far end of the field, Dan spent several minutes manipulating a series of switches which caused nearby platforms to hover around him in ways we eventually determined to be completely random.

Then we headed to Lake Hylia.

At least, Dan took the exit to Lake Hylia.  He ended up standing in a large cave chamber, staring at a wall.  Turning around, we immediately saw a massive pair of eyes on us.  After the initial shock, we realized that in the center of the room was a…creature of sorts, composed out of many different models from the game jammed together.  I was mostly just a large boulder, and it had arms, legs, and other appendages from various monsters and enemies sticking out of it.  The eyes were from a large head mounted atop the boulder, which was that of the Great Fairy model.

Dan, on sight of this thing, put down his controller.

“Are you kidding me?  Are you fucking kidding me?  This is what you were doing this whole time?”

We impotently shouted at Dan in the chat to explain himself.  He couldn’t see us.

“Is this why you did it?  Is this all you want?  You petty, fucking…Argh!  It’s over!  Don’t you understand?  It’s over!”

A scream erupted from the television speakers.  The textures on the walls of the cave began to flicker and flash.  Dan looked unphased.

“No!  Fuck you!  It’s dead.  You’re dead.  You don’t exist anymore.  You really think this…thing is going to change anything?  The hell even is this?  It’s a joke!  You don’t even remember what it looked like!  You just glued a bunch of arms together!”

Unceremoniously, The Princess appeared in the room in front of Link.  The screams continued.  We were all shouting at Dan to stop.  He wouldn’t.

“You deserve to be forgotten!”

Flickering, and then blackness.  Not just the game, but the stream itself flickered to blackness.  This was it, we thought.  He’d done it.  He’d goaded The Princess into killing him.  He was going to turn up dead, and this stream recording would barely even suffice as proof of what had happened.

But then, to our amazement, the stream came back.  Dan was still playing.  In fact, he didn’t even seem aware that the stream had gone down.  There was one change to the stream window, though.  In the upper left, a small bit of white text in a black box had appeared.

THIS

Dan himself didn’t appear to notice anything had happened, and was now guiding Link through a new area.  It appeared to be a black void with a white floor, stretching infinitely.  It wasn’t featureless, though.  The ground would rise and dip on occasion.  Sometimes Link would pass strange white obelisks.  After a minute of running, he encountered a line of NPCs, all standing arms-out.  At sight of this, a new word of white text appeared below the first one in the stream window.

IS

The NPCs couldn’t speak, and in fact Link ran right through them.  He was now in what appeared to be a rudimentary town.  The white polygons were now arranged in the crude formation of houses.  It was at this point that the droning noise in the background finally registered as being some sort of heavily-distorted music.

WHERE

Dan was weirdly silent through all this.  It’s unclear what The Princess might have said or done to him during the time the stream cut out.  The times he leaned in far enough that we could see his face, he looked rather disgruntled.  Upon seeing the town, he let out an annoyed sigh.  After wandering around for a while he finally spoke up again, saying “What?  What am I supposed to be seeing?”

YOU

Dan moved the camera around to reveal there was now that same row of NPCs standing behind him.  They still couldn’t be interacted with.  Turning around, another group of NPCs was on the other side.  He was surrounded.  We hadn't stopped trying to get his attention and tell him there was a message appearing in the stream.  He hadn't taken his focus off the game.

LEFT

With one final turn, The Princess was standing right next to Link.

ME

Dan, in as enraged a voice as I’ve ever heard, shouted “FUCK YOU!”  At that moment, the stream cut to black.  In its place, the screen was filled with that white text.


LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME

LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME

LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME

LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME

LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME

LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME

LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME

LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME

But the stream wasn’t down.  The audio was still running.  We could hear noises coming from Dan’s room.  Crashes, bangs, things falling over…and then finally, screams.  There were sickening sounds of flesh being impacted over and over, and Dan screaming in panic “GET OFF ME!  GET THE FUCK OFF ME!”  Whatever was attacking him, it didn’t make any noise itself.  It did its grim work in silence and, eventually, Dan fell silent as well.

But that wasn’t it.

Immediately, we returned to the Society message board to discuss what had happened…but she was there already.  The banners were glitched and broken.  The forum names were strings of random characters.  The background was a corrupted image, of what, I’m still not certain.

And in every forum, a flood of new topics, angry and rambling…

LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME LEFT ME



ALL LEFT YOU LEFT HE LEFT GONE BROKEN DARK WANTED CAN’T WON’T NEED PLEASE NEED



HURTING HURTING HURTING ALWAYS SAY IT CAN’T STOP ANGER ANGER ANGER



HAD TO WATCH HIM COULDN’T STOP HIM SCREAMED AND REACHED BUT STUCK



WHY JUST WANT TO STOP JUST WANT TO BE AND BE AND NOT GO BACK



YOU ALL WATCHED MY PAIN PLEASE WATCH MY PAIN PLEASE STOP LEAVING



NEVER WANTED TO KILL ANYONE PLEASE



WHAT IS IT WHAT IS IT WHAT IS IT WHAT IS IT WHAT IS IT WHAT AM I

And that brings us to today...

Monday, August 6, 2012

Part 11: The Plan

Dan was a bit of an oddball.

As you can imagine, his story made him a bit of a superstar within the Princess Society.  He'd been there to witness the start of it all.  If there were any answers about The Princess' true identity, we knew they had to lie in those few strange years Hero and Princess was in development.

Dan, however, kept to himself a lot more than you would expect for someone with information as relevant as his.  He would answer questions when asked, but he never seemed to want to volunteer it.  If you think my update schedule is bad, it took Dan a full year to tell his story.

As it turned out, there was a good reason for this.  Dan...kinda had his own thing going on.  A little over half a year ago, completely out of the blue, Dan created a new thread on the Society's main discussion board.  It was just titled "Endgame."  It would lead to an event which would change The Princess Society forever.

The following is an exact copy-paste from the OP.  Again, forgive the spelling errors, as they aren't mine.

Hello.  My name is Daniel.  You know me as the lead tester of Hero and Princess, the first person to see The Princess manifest.  You know this because it's what I've told you, but it isn't the full story.  It's time to tell you the rest, because if I don't get it out now, there's a good chance I'll never have the chance again.

Testing a video game is a very clinical process.  You're not just getting paid to play games.  You're getting paid to break them, push at the edges and find the cracks.  You methodically try everything you can think of, then you do it again, and again.  You get really good at lateral thinking, the manipulation of disparate mechanics and recognizing subtle flaws that can completely crack a game in half with the right application.  I've heard, for some, the testing process can slowly drain your ability to enjoy playing games for leisure.  You become so focused on breaking games that you lose your ability to play them as a consumer.  You want to explore every mechanic, push everything as far as it will go and experience that perverse little rush you get when the whole thing snaps in half between your fingers.

When it all started, The Princess was just one glitch of many.  An incomplete character model loading in the wrong place was nothing incredible.  There were several similar glitches in that build of the game, actually.  The difference was that those glitches, however slowly, were fixed.  The Princess would not be fixed.  Every time we thought we found her, thought we'd reached the root of the problem, she'd pop up elsewhere even weirder and more nonsensical.

Maybe it was something about me.  She almost never manifested when I wasn't in the office.  I was the first to see her, and throughout Hero and Princess' dev cycle I was by far the one to whom she appeared the most.  I think she knew I was the lead tester, and was getting a kick out of messing with my head.  After all, I was the one pushing hardest to get her out of the damn game.  I told you about those times she would look directly at the camera.  That was during times I was testing.  She was staring at ME!  She wanted ME to know she could see us!

I hated her.  I hated her blank face.  I hated that she did that stupid T-pose just to drive home what an embarrassment she was.  And when Hero and Princess was canceled, I hated her for putting me out of a job.  The best job of my life.  Why did she do this to me?  What the fuck was she?  Why couldn't she just disappear like a good little mistake?  It wasn't enough for her to break our game.  She had to break us.  She had to break me and Gina and all the other people who just wanted to make a great game.  Then when it was done, she had to go break every other game out there.  It wasn't enough for her to be a black mark on our game, she had to go become an unsolved glitch in every game in the world.

I'm a tester.  It's my job to experiment and suss out the root cause of glitches and aberrations in video games.  Perhaps The Princess thought putting me out of a job would force me to give up, but I didn't, and I still haven't.

Over the past decade I've had over two hundred encounters with The Princess.  I've played a wide variety of games at least 40 hours a week, often running multiple consoles at once to maximize my chances.  I've conducted all manner of experiments to determine her precise capabilities, methods of operation and (most important of all) potential weaknesses.  As I write this, I'm surrounded by pages of handwritten notes which I hope are readable enough to be useful to others if I don't survive.  There's too much here to type in the short time I have. 

I haven't learned much.  I've only learned fragments of things.  Whatever she is, she's not a part of the game, at least not exactly.  When she infiltrates a game, dumping the ROM shows nothing out of the ordinary.  Saving the state (via emulator) does not guarantee she will be there when that same state is loaded.  She's interceding somewhere as an extra packet of data not readily traceable.  I think the increased load times have something to do with this, but I'm not sure.  It's all so damn cryptic, or maybe she's just changing the readings to fuck with me.

I've tried to talk to her.  Voice, text, binary.  I get reactions sometimes, but none of it makes sense.  It's all just more cryptic shit.  I think sometimes that she wants to talk but can't, or doesn't know how, or doesn't know what talking is.  Other times I think she says mysterious things to keep me going.  She likes toying with me because it keeps me coming back.  It keeps me asking questions.  She doesn't want me to find answers because she doesn't want me to stop.  She's a problem, and she doesn't want to be solved.

I've tried to kill her.  My closest attempt to success was when I shocked my N64 with a stun gun as she stood before me in Super Mario 64.  Speakers let out the most ungodly, pleading scream I'd ever heard as the screen flickered to black.  It was beautiful.  I thought I'd really done it, really beaten her.  In the end, the only casualty was the console.  I still think I was on to something there, though.  Maybe another time.

However, there's one very important thing I've learned.  It's vital.  It blows this whole thing wide open.  If I die, I want to at least make sure I pass this along.

She HAS a weakness.  I found it.  It's tiny, subtle, almost impossible to catch but she has it.  It's what I've been looking for for years, that one tiny exploit I can push on and push on until she snaps in half.  It was staring me in the face this whole time.  It's been staring all of you in the face this whole time.

She can enter games, but she can't leave them.

Has anyone ever seen her leave a game without it being turned off by the player?  No.  That's because she can't.  It's the one thing she can't do.  It's the one bit of power WE have over her.  Me, you, everyone.  We can use this.  It's our weapon.  I've already used it against her, personally, and that's why I'm writing this.  That's why I've come to you all.

I've trapped her.

I booted up her favorite game, Ocarina of Time (the Gamecube port, mind).  I knew she'd come.  She always does.  She loves me.  That's another weakness.  When she showed up I did the one thing I'd never tried before, the one thing no one's tried.  I didn't turn off the game.  I turned off the screen.

It worked.  It totally worked.  She's in there, now, and she can't get out.  She hasn't tried to kill me.  However that works, I think the screen is involved.  Without it, she can't do anything to you.  It's like turning off the game, but better.  She can't get you, and she can't get away.  Brilliant.  So glad I thought of it.

I'd leave her in there forever, but I can't.  I keep hearing these...noises coming from the Gamecube.  Grinding, buzzing, screeching.  I think she's trying to overload the console, destroy it from the inside so she can get out.  If she does burn it out, she'll be free again.  Clearly mine is only a temporary solution. 

She experienced such pain when I zapped my N64 with that stun gun.  With the way she's slowly frying that Gamecube's chips, I imagine it must be like Hell for her in there right now.  Maybe I should leave her in there for a few more days.  Of course, I know I can't risk it.  I can't take the chance she'd get out.  Now that she knows I know how to catch her, she may not come back again.

I'm not going to let her get away.  We're ending this.  Now.

Below is a link.  At 11:00PM EST I'm going to begin streaming my webcam at that link.  I want everyone on this board to be there and watch.  We're going to confront The Princess, all of us, together.  You'll also see my home address and cell number included below.  If, or perhaps I should say WHEN The Princess inevitably tries to kill me, I want you all to call 911 and get every available law enforcement officer to my location.  I don't hold any delusions that I can fight her off, but if there's a remote possibility I can hold her off long enough to get people, WITNESSES here to see her, I'm willing to take it.

I will solve this.  I will fix this problem I've been working on for over a decade.  I need your help.  Please.  We need to do this.


Indeed the link, address and cell number were all included.  I was wary about this, but the temptation to see what might happen was too great.  That night I clicked the link.

I shouldn't have.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Part 10: The Glitch


For five months after his death, development of Hero and Princess went on without incident.  The working title was a relic at this point, as there was no “Princess” in the game anymore, but you can’t tell your investors you’re working on a game that’s just called “Hero.”

At least, officially there was no Princess in the game.

The AI and graphical data for The Princess, rough concepts through they were, remained in the game code many months into development.  It was only when bug reports started coming in that the developers even considered deleting her entirely.  According to testers, on rare occasions the game was loading the unfinished model of a girl with red hair and a white dress in place of various NPCs.  This girl would always have no AI, collision or any method of interaction, and if she replaced a quest-critical NPC she immediately made continuing impossible.  Somehow the graphical data of The Princess was still being called and the developers tried a number of fixes for this. 

But nothing worked.  As time went on, reports of The Princess’ appearances in-game became more elaborate and, to the dismay of the development team, more frequent.  She was starting to spawn with NPC AI routines, sometimes even offering random dialogue options from other points in the game.  Additionally, she would occasionally behave in ways that didn’t directly match any known AI routines.  One common note was that she would turn and face the camera no matter where it was moved, rather than looking at the player avatar.  There was also one recorded instance of her displaying a line of text that did not appear anywhere in the game.

The text read “Please.”

After three months of this, development was slowing to a crawl.  The “Princess Glitch” was making it very difficult to get actual work done, as it would frequently disrupt any attempts to test if game elements were working properly.  Even test areas with no NPCs weren’t safe from the occasional manifestation of this glitch.  Around the office, with the testers in particular, rumors were starting to spread about The Princess and the idea that their game might be haunted by the spirit of Mr. Carver.  Apparently one such conversation occurred during testing, and resulted in the test build immediately hard locking with an image of The Princess front and center.  The testers decided not to report that one.

The problem came to a head when the development team came in one morning to find their chief character modeler, who we’ll call Gina, passed out on the floor of the office with a crumpled piece of paper in her hand.  The staff, completely unsuited for such a crisis situation, proceeded to poke at her until she awoke.  At first, she claimed to have no memory of the events of that evening.   She had been working all night, but remembered nothing after midnight passed.

When her co-workers unfolded the paper that has been in her hand, they realized it was an image of The Princess, hastily scribbled in felt-tipped pen.  Upon seeing this, Gina immediately reacted in panic and attempted to flee the building.  The staff’s attempts to calm her down were met with cryptic cries of “You don’t know her!” and “We can’t stay here!”  Gina left the office and returned home, calling to turn in her resignation the very next day.  Apparently, she and the Executive Producer had a very long and very heated talk over the phone.  At its conclusion, he ordered any and all data pertaining to the “Princess Feature” to be removed from the game entirely.  All the models, all the scripting, everything.

The problem was…the dev team already had, weeks ago.

After two years of development, Hero and Princess was canceled.  Ever since the incident with Gina, people had been leaving the project steadily, many under similarly cryptic circumstances.  Testers, in particular, had a high turnover rate, and the bugs they were reporting often failed to make much sense at all.  The project had been deemed a money-sink by company investors, and the decision was made to cut their losses and move on to something else.

Two years later, the Executive Producer of the project committed suicide by jumping from his second story window.  No one knew why he’d done so.  He’d moved on to a new project and was actually doing quite well for himself.  However, despite a thorough search, no signs of foul play were discovered, nor any signs that anyone else had been in the house at the time.  The only unusual element was that he’d left Ocarina of Time running on his television while he went upstairs to do it.  It wasn’t even paused.

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And that’s the story Dan told us.  He had been a tester during the development of Hero and Princess, one of the few who had stayed from the project’s early stages all the way to its collapse.  He himself had many tales of The Princess’ exploits during the development of the game, but that wasn’t why he came to the Society, and that isn’t why I’ve posted his story here.

What Dan wanted was a record.  He wanted the history of The Princess to be known.  He was the only one willing to talk about it, and he didn’t want it to die with him.

Why might he die?  Dan had decided he was going to confront The Princess, and he needed the Society’s help.