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  kako-to-genzaiPast and Present VM  


For those that want to run a darker game than what is presented, this is where the hook hides. Was it REALLY an accident, or was it a fortunate coincidence that the earthquake happened to cover up some...sordid dealings? And just HOW did the children avoid their parents fate? A moment of conscience? Outside Enlightened Self-Interest? Or does this go even deeper into the shadows?





CHAPTER 4: PAST AND PRESENT


The Origin of Virtual Mekton


The origin of Virtual Mekton (VM) can be most directly traced to one person: Choyu Izumi, perhaps one of the most unlikely game designers in history. Born near Kyoto, Japan, in 1977, his family moved to the United States barely a year after he was born. Choyu spent an uneventful childhood in Los Angeles, California, where he developed a keen interest in the mecha popularized by Japanese animation. He graduated high school in 1996, after barely passing his math courses. He went on to college as a film major specializing in animation, with a minor in computer science. He overcame his difficulty with math through extensive use of calculators. At the age of 21, he completed his first "worthwhile" piece of software, an Anime Physics Module for the popular game "Quake II(tm)". The module contained a number of mecha character models, and even two transformables.


Three years later, Choyu debuted a new 3D shooter of his own called "Rumble." This game broke new ground by using an external camera view instead of the conventional "cockpit" view. The game also featured an unprecedented level of flexibility which allowed players to edit weapons, texture maps, and other related features. Rumble was released over the internet as low-priced shareware. Although Choyu only expected to buy an occasional pizza with the proceeds of Rumble, the response amazed him. While certainly not enough for him to live off of, the flow of registration fees from Rumble provided a steady source of income - a welcome relief for a final-year college student strapped for cash. While at college, Choyu met the love of his life, Terry Lorens, a fellow student also worried about paying back her student loans. The two were engaged shortly thereafter.


Three and a half years later, In late 2002, the Izumis officially formed a software company and began selling "Rumble II: The Onslaught" on-line. "Rumble I" was left as it was, and released as freeware. People buying Rumble II by credit card could immediately download it from a secure website, or they could opt to receive a compact disc in the mail a week later. To reach the conventional market, customers could also purchase the game through computer catalogues and software shops.Rumble II was superior to the original Rumble in almost every way. Smoother character animations, higher rendering quality, and an intuitive editor interface all contributed to the game's success. An explosion in hardware technology kicked game speeds through the roof, and allowed a previously unknown level of multi-player capability.

Rumble II's editor also had a rudimentary capabilityto create new characters by combining premade shapes and animations. Although the resulting creations lacked the polish of the default characters, users became instantly addicted to the feature. Sales soared, and Choyu was able to pay over half of his expenses through revenues alone. This left him with more free time for his family and other projects.


A year or so later, Krazpotski Amusement Technologies approached Choyu to do a licensed arcade edition of Rumble. Entranced by the idea, Choyu agreed and joined forces with the Krapotski programming department. There, he directed the team porting Rumble II to arcade hardware. A little over nine months later, the first machines were in the arcades. The new version of Rumble, called "Avalanche" was the first to be equipped with a cartridge drive. The drive allowed players with the home version of the game to save their characters onto cartridges. These characters could then be transferred for use in the arcade.


Sadly, Avalanche was to be the last project the Izumis would complete. The big Easter earthquake of 2005 struck while the Izumi family, together with Choyu's father and both of Terry's parents, were on vacation in their RV touring Japan. The quake threw the vehicle off of a freeway overpass and then buried it under rubble. The only survivors of the disaster were Roberta Izumi, age 4, and her year-old brother (both were named for named for their grandfathers - Bertie for Terrys father and Taira for Choyus). The children were found a few hundred meters from the buried RV. There were no signs of them having climbed out, nor was there any memory of being thrown free. Taira was much too young, and Bertie never could remember anything more than a loud noise and a blur that went on and on. They were found by a middle aged woman who had barely pulled to a stop trying to avoid the debris and wreckage.





Again for those that are a bit darker minded, you can see the origins of both corporate rivaly, and corporate bad blood here, with a hint of personal emnity for the suits that lost the case.




Despite this early tragedy, both children grew up relatively normal. Adopted by their savior, Katrina Solan, they found a new home. The investigation of the childens' origin was a brief one as DNA testing had advanced significantly over the years. Once their identities had been firmly established, trust funds were set up as had been specified in their parents wills in case of disaster. Into these funds went insurance payoffs, and other investments. The only exception was Krapotski Amusement Technologies refused to pay out another credit of royalties on Rumble III (arcade), nor would they pay on the (short-lived) sequel they made after Rumble III fell behind the technology curve.

Katrina tried to fight them in court, but ambiguous wording in their parents contracts let the KAT defense team put up a convincing case. The crux of the case came down the fact that the royalties were only to be paid personally to Choyu Izumi or an agent explicitly designated by him, and he had never designated such an agent. Terry had been a business major and was a sucessful member of a securities brokerage firm - she reasoned that it didn't make any sense to pay someone for something she was perfectly capable of doing herself. A wise decision at the time....but it ultimately cost her children.


As the years passed, Roberta showed an unusual aptitude for electronics as she grew, asking for (and getting) one of those "250 projects" kits for her ninth birthday. She was also constantly messing with Katrina's somewhat-aged computer, and the equally old (but more powerful)machine that belonged to her father. Taira, more often than not, helped Katrinas' pet grooming business when he was old enough. Yet his real interest was not in the electronic aspects of games, but in the playing of those old games. Bertie, seeing his love of the old games, decided in 2016 to take the old source code for Avalanche (inherited with her fathers machine) and update it to modern standards. After the restructuring of Avalanche, several more characters and arenas were added. Hardware features weren't neglected either, with the advent of small holographic generators the game took on (literally)new dimensions. The completed package was rechristened "Rumble IV: Tsunami". Her brother got the first copy on his birthday and promptly became oblivious to everything for the next few months. Roberta then proceeded to release Tsunami over the Lightweb, the third-generation evolution if the old-style internet that crashed in 2000 due to a combination of glitches and sheer overload.


Unfortunately, the release of Tsunami got the attention of KAT, whom promptly sued for copyright infringment. KAT lost the suit, as their father had never licensed future developements of his code or the Rumble name to them. The long, public, messy court battle drained most of Katrinas savings, as well as her wards trust funds. The settlement againt Krapotski Amusement Technologies only made good a portion of their losses, and ensured that KAT would not try to file another frivolous lawsuit for a long time.

Roberta came out of the trial a media darling - the little girl who trimmed the giant's whiskers at 15 (16 by the time the trial closed) with Taira being the quiet, supporting presense, He had been seen in numerous photos, but seldom recorded saying anything. Katrina herself did what she could to stay out of the limelite as well, trying to keep a semblance of a normal life at home for the children. Unfortunately, Katrina was not happy that business at her pet salon had picked up due to the publicity surrounding the childrens fight againt a corporations predation. The trial had also attracted the attention of one of KATs comptetitors: The Blackhand Corporation (TBC). TBC had seen (and wanted)Tsunami, but was forced to wait to make an offer until the controversy from the court battle had died down some. They presented their idea, and with it a contract that was THAT close to promising the sun, the moon, and the stars in the sky. It also included full tuition to any college desired. All she had to do was write for them and work for them full-time after graduation.


Roberta was against the idea, having had more than her fill of corporate types, but Taira, a huge fan of Quantum Gate (made by TBC) was in favor of going in with TBC. He dug out all sorts of favorable things about TBC, both on-line and off-line. Katrina was undecided also , had had more than enough of Big Business, but she also knew that even with her stepped-up business she would not be able to help them afford a good university - not with the pounding that their accounts had taken. In the end a mid-point was found, Bertie redid the Tsunami code with numerous tweaks and extensions, including an infinitely better avatar creation set-up that took advantage of the commercially available hardware. In return she and her brother got full tuition, royalties and a private set of pods with lifetime state- of-the-art upgrades.


The first finished Virtual Mekton system shipped Christmas of 2019, an eight-pod unit was sent to Ben & Robs Arcade at westgate mall (San Diego), these were linked to Berties pair for testing and networking purposes. B & R had advertised this event for weeks, and it was a smashing success.....the game pods were always full from open to close. The lines to use these eight pods never seemed to go down, and immediately orders started to come in for extensions in other arcades. An editor suite was sold over the counter at the arcades, this also went well, allowing the players to construct their game avatars at home. Six months later, B & R added 24 new pods and started linkages with other, growing arcades that had the pods as well. The game spread quickly overseas, Germany, Japan...within five years the Blackhand Corporation formed the Virtual Mekton Association to manage the various sites and allow for league games.




Remember, VM is, when all is said and done, a business. The Izumis and Ms. Solan have not lost sight of that fact. What they have kept in mind though, is that you don't HAVE to squeeze every centicred out of the customer to enhance profits - be good to the customer and they will come back. Again and again and again. There are those out there who do think that every bit of money should be milked, and they are part of the corporate structure. The Izumis and Ms. Solan might need help if these types try to wrest control of the VM name from them.



The LightWeb


<excerpted from a convernsation in the Intron High Computer Orientation Class>


What allowed the Blackhand Corporation to link their Wunderkind game is the LightWeb. The LightWeb is the third-generation evolution of the old telephone network Internet.

The FirstGen internet crashed horribly at the turn of the millenium. The dreaded Y2K threat had materialized and crippled parts of the net, and cut off access to other parts that were still viable. After the recovery, the various governments and corporations rebuilt the internet into the SuperNet. The corporations, despite bean-counter protests, rebuilt the the existing global telecommunications network into a more efficient, modern set-up that was purpose built to handle the Information Ages needs... The SuperNet was able to handle data, voice and video with no strain, and a capbility to evolve the hardware to take advantage of tech improvements in capabilities. Unfortunately, the SuperNet did not forsee the evolution of commercial holographic technology. Holotech required an inordinate amount of bandwidth, something the SuperNet could provide, but slowed to the point of old internet capability.

WIth the foresight the designing engineers planned for, a "Sub-net" was installed to parallel the SuperNet using high transfer light processing equipment. Since this sub-net was built alongside the SuperNet, it was dubbed the "LightWeb", an obvious reference to its light processing equipment. The Lightweb soon supplanted the SuperNet, but the SuperNet never faded, instead it became the primary (tandem) carrier for audio and non-holo based information.

The supporting computers are organized into three categories, with each computer filling only one of the three categories. There are also some limitations that are category-dependent: (NOTE: this was edited for VM relevence)


Client: These machines are the Pods, they provide a connection to the rest of the LightWeb


Servers: These maintain the arenas and run the majority of the software. These are the big machines that do all of the make-work and provide access to the rest of the world. These machines are also the only ones that arena-construction can be done on - the home machines simply don't have the power or memory to handle them.


Net Servers: These handle the routing and control of the LightWeb nodes. Their purpose is to provide the direct linkages between the servers. These machines are owned by other corporations and are not sold to outsiders - not out of proprietaryness, but out of a need to keep hackers from disrupting services across the web.


The Agents


These are the ones who own the Net Servers. The various corporations who manage the LightWeb can be looked up in the local phone listings, but they all have one thing in common: They are strictly controlled by the World LightWeb Council, whose purpose is to prevent mompolistic control of information. The Council is, in turn, controlled by the UN. In order to keep information flowing, the corps lease out light frequency ranges for moderate prices, but anything above the blue frequency is strictly regulated because that is for governmantal use only. Before the Blackhand Corporation spun off its Virtual Mekton Association, they bought the entire green range for world-wide LightWeb links for the VM game system (and, of course, their own use).


The Virtual Mekton Association (VMA)


The VMA was formed to give direction and control to all of the various VM arcades sprouting up all over the world. It set up the rankings and standardized the arena protocols so that they could be played internationally, they also (thanks to dues paid by member arcades)provide prizes and such for the monthly tournaments. Once a year, the winner of the local annual tournaments are brought to the VMA headquarters for THE annual tournement. These individual players are given some state of the art advice for VM (re)construction and compete in the most state-of-the-art pods available. The winner (singular) is given FULL tuition (plus books and fees) to the school of choice. They also have a very good chance of getting a job with the VMA after graduation, but that comes much later...

The VMA is a very people-friendly corporation, above and beyond the public relations that are expected of corporations. This comes about very easily, because the Izumis and Ms. Solan are the major shareholders, the rest is split between the public and TBC. While they are in control they will not allow the VMA to become what KAT did, and they all sincerely believe in the fact that the game was meant for having fun, not just making money (that it does is a BIG bonus).

Dues, as mentioned above, are paid for by the major arcades, who pass the cost on to the consumer. The consumer (thanks to good business) pays 2-3 dollars (or equivalant) per game. Some of the arcades allow for a "buy-in" for those that are eliminated before a certain amount of time has run in the game. The drawback for buy-ins is that, when used, they don't provide anything but the fun of playing, the players earn no reputation after getting killed out (and being killed out by someone already dead could affect your rep as well). On the other hand, the player get their money worth of time, so everyone walks off happy.




Rep points are awarded by the GM, based on whatever criteria (s)he desires.

The main recommendation is for the GM to develop this table to fit the campaigns needs. The only criteria here is:
BE CONSISTANT.



Now for a word or two on rankings:


The VMA set up the ranking system to classify pilots according to their skill and experience. This system also, in a VERY general way, describes the power level of the VM typically piloted by a person of a given ranking. These rankings are official, and are recognized internationally, another benefit of membership. Rank points are assesed, for the most part, by the computer systems running the arena (the criteria are set into the mainframes, and are adjusted for and based on the difficulty of the arena). Outside of the virtual battlefields, the crowd watching (monitored by the computer systems, of course) can add or deduct REP points, based on cool moves, gutsiness, and attitude diplayed by the pilots. A good loser won't lose as many REP points as a poor winner gains, and may actually come out ahead if (s)he fought the good fight. On the other hand, the message "MECHA TOTALLY ANNIHILATED, YOUR RANKING DROPS 25 POINTS!!!" is a common one, so beware "easy" fights, they can mess up your REP if you lose.


REP can never be lost, only gained for the first two ranking levels, as those are considered "learning levels". Once the player has crossed the line as a "Regular", then REP can be lost, but ranking never goes below Regular.

VMA Ranking Table
Ranking REP Range Typical
Piloting Skill
Typical
VM CP
Typical
VM type
Starters 0000 - 0099
0 - 2
up to 150 stock VMs
Novices 0100 - 0299
3
up to 350 modified stock VM
Regular 0300 - 0599
4 - 5
up to 550 Custom VMs
Expert 0600 - 0799
6 - 8
up to 750 Custom VMs
Master 0800 - 0999
9
up to 1000 Custom VMs
Legend
1000+
10
up to 1440 Custom VMs
(Be afraid)

NOTE: These are the OFFICIAL Company Rankings for worldwide comparison based on the REP of a VM player. It means, if you have a certain REP, you're entitled a certain Rank. The other columns of the table are just TYPICAL ranges of what can be expected, but be on your toes out there... More than a few Novices have had their buddies whip up a custom VM, and not all Masters will have 1000 CP monstrosities going after all others. Bottom line comparisons can be done off of VM Piloting skill and Rep.

To give an indication of where your REP stands here is a sample table to guide you:

  • 0000 - 0099 totally new to VM,no real REP at all
  • 0100 - 0199 a few know about you, but most just don't care who you are
  • 0200 - 0299 You have started to make a name, you are recognized at least by the Staff, if no one else
  • 0300 - 0399 All of the reguler players know you by sight.
  • 0400 - 0499 School-wide fame, anybody working with you (that knows about VM) will recognize your playing style
  • 0500 - 0599 Famous across the city, anyone who follows VM there will know you by sight.
  • 0600 - 0699 County/Province famous, as for city.
  • 0700 - 0799 State-wide fame, as for city.
  • 0800 - 0899 Nationally known, might have won the Annual tourney.
  • 0900 - 0999 Everybody around the world who is playing on your same Regulation knows you.
  • 1000 + You are feared or respected (your choice) by every player all around the world. Be afraid. Be VERY afraid of anyone with this rep. (currently only Taira Izumi, Isamu Daiba and Kyozo Iwazaky holds this level)

Keep in mind, that when you enter a VM arena, if you LOSE, your REP loses one half the REP the winner gains -modified by the circumstances, of course.

Aside from demonstrating your relative standing with the rest of the crowd, REP does have other uses (and a drawback). REP can be used to assist in Intimidating your opponant, (gives a bonus of REP/100 to Intimidate), It can be used to keep you from getting Intimidated, (same REP/100 bonus to resist). It can help you get help to build a VM if you are going up against someone who is either much better than you or is known to be trouble (bonus up to the GM). The drawback to having a REP is that others know what your moves are, so they know what your capabilities and tactics are. That means it will be hard to suprise them, unless you do something radically different.




Here is where the children of Geocity gather in their off-hours. At this place
they trade program modules, compete against one another, and occasionally fall in love.The mini-autofactory is controlled by a completely independant computer system that has NO outside access, no hacking here chummers. The retinal scanners are impossible for an average teenager to beat (most shouldn't even try, this is on the same order as having a child try to physically crack a bank vault in real life)



The Arena VRcade


"The Arena" is the biggest VRcade (VM arcade) in Geocity. It was one of the first follow-on franchises that were let out after the success of B & R, and it has hosted more than a few of the Major Tournaments by Big Names. With its success, the Arena invested in the VMA and has become the most self-sustaining VM center in the VMA. The Arena boasts thirty VM pods five dedicated arena-servers and 3 Reflex Chambers (for use by those who have Reflex Control suits). Additional facilities include: Dual 3 axis x 360 degree dogfight simulators, which are VM-compatible (built by the same company as VM pods) but costs 2-3 times as much per game and has a control layout that makes it difficult to use for anything but aircraft forms, three starship battle pods, which do not move around but each seat two people, a pilot and gunner. These are not VM compatible but are linked in their own network to provide their own matches and dogfight tournaments.There are also 38 traditional upright arcade machines, some 2D, some with shallow-angle holographic displays to provide diversions for those that want a more "classic" video-game to play. Further details are provided on the map and in the legend.


The Arena is also always open (however, anyone that has not graduated high-school is not allowed in/on the premises after 10 PM (2200)). They do check IDs on entrance, and this is strictly enforced.

International matches are arranged by the VMA and will always coincide with week- ends or holidays, so the youth of the world can compete. Every month there is a Major Tournament; the tourney's conditions change every month, some require co-operation, others require survival, and yet others only require the extermination of all opponents. The conditions are never comletely revealed (only hints and teasers), and part of the challenge is to figure out what needs to be done.... Before It's Too Late.


Due to the players skills at both playing and creating VMs, the Arena supports the VMAs guidelines for challenge matches. These rules were put into place to keep newer players from getting arbitrarily obliterated by higher ranked players, more on these rules will be shown in chapter 5.

Prizes for winning the monthly tourney range from Gift certificates to a model of the winners VM in a victory pose (perhaps over the rubble of vanquished foes), to the FULL tuition offered by the VMA/TBC.

The pods are arranged in three tiers of 10 and in the center of them all is the Viewing pit that contains a twenty foot holo projector and seating for fifty (standing room is available by the Pods). The Arena has a snack bar and all of the usual amenities, so some folks (Read: High schoolers) come here for dinner and to watch the players battle it out, others come to hang out and watch..so all types can be found.


The employee areas are off limits, controlled by a retinal scanner to keep out those that would cause mischief. Tours can be arranged, but it is not suggested to try to use the tour as a means of breaking and entering. Inside the employees areas there is a video conferance room (for 5),the main computer center, A locker/changing area, the management offices and the mini-autofactory that produces prizes and trinkets for winners and for those that want souveniers.





The VRcade floor plan


 

 

 

 

VRcade floor plan
The "front" wall is to the left of the image, "left" is topwards, "right towards the bottom, and "back" to the right. It's much, much, much easier to visualize with the picture in front of you.

Beginning at the alcove for the main doors, there is a rack of bubblegum/ vending machines on the outside of the arcade proper. On either side of the double doors are slightly angled windows, the doors being mostly glass as well, and the right hand side of the alcove is glass to show off the starship battle pod in that corner. The front wal that the pod faces is also a window.

Just inside the doors is a dual 3 axis x 360 degree dogfight simulator, which is VM-compatible (built by the same company as VM pods) but has a control layout that makes it difficult to use for anything but aircraft forms.

To the right of that are the other three starship battle pods, which do not move around but which each seat two people, a pilot and gunner. They are VM compatible but costs 1.5-2 times as much per game.

Going towards the back of the arcade, there are 38 traditional upright arcade machines, some 2D, some with shallow-angle holographic displays. A fire escape door is on the back wall about even with the main doors. Turning left from the arcade machines, going under the dining area on the second floor, there are a line of six 2D mobile car racing stations against the back wall, and along the middle of the are six more motorcycle racing stations, all of which can be linked into one game, but which are not VM compatible.

Against the wall closest to the front of the arcade, and acting as the seperator from the VM area, are two 3x360 full-body "true VR" rigs, which are usually hooked up to a Avalanche game, but can with a lot of effort be tied into the VM net. The normal game on these is about the same price as the other pods, but to tie into the VM net will cost about three times THAT price due to the hassle involved. The pro part is that they are a bit more eficient for reflex-controlled VMs (the pilot gets the normal bonuses, but also gets the reflex bonus aplied to Initiative, added to MP). There is also a fire door from the VM area on this wall, located at the foot of the stairs on the VM side of the wall.

To the far left of this area, under the kitchen and rest rooms, is the management area.

The dining area has 12 four-place tables and 3 six-place booths, with railings along the sides open to the VM area and the arcade floor, as well as along the shallow ramp that leads up to it. at the left end of the hallway leading to the rest rooms is a second fire escape door. The accoustics of the dining area are such that while the sound from both the VM area and the arcade area can be heard, neither one really penetrates to the other area.

Now, what you've been waiting for, the VM area. To the left of the dogfight pods is the attendant's desk. Behind the desk is a sunken section, about 4 feet below the floor level, with six pods and the 22 flat screens that constantly display the rankings and kill sheets. Rising from this column, and spreading out once it gets above head iheght, is the main display holoprojector, which is typically set up to show six beehive-cell shaped displays from as many as six different games, located roughly above the six pods.

The clear floor around the pit is the main veiwing area, and is equipped wth several reasonably comfortable couch-style benches. A railing prevents people from falling into the pit. The front wall of the arcade is another display window here behind the three pods that lie along that wall.

Three stairways lead up to the second level of pods, the floor 8 feet above the main level, with a secondary viewing area and railing along the rightmost edge of the platform. A staff-only maintenence area extends behind this, but does not have an access from the arcade floor. This level of the VM area is still about 2 feet lower than the dining area.

The VM area is lit a little less brightly than the rest of the arcade, with colored mood lighting played against the walls. The cieling is high, about 17 feet above the second floor level.

 
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