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.