Game Design Preparation
Tristen Alexander - Sai Enterprises, HQ
7 years before launch
The car slid to a stop at the security checkpoint a mile from what looked like a dark gray warehouse with security guards in roving patrols, cameras mounted every few feet, and multiple layers of electrical fences surrounding the main building. With all the security, it looked like the building housed prisoners on death row, but in reality it was a secret headquarters for Sai Enterprises, Tristen’s company he started out of his apartment building in college. The name didn’t hold the same meaning it used to since the technology Tristen created was much more advanced than a “simulated” artificial intelligence. However, it was nostalgic for him and contrary to his marketing teams' wishes, Tristen insisted on the name. It would be a betrayal to himself and his friends if he didn't keep the name.
Tristen couldn't believe it’d only been four and a half years since he graduated college. Yet here he was, driving into a secret research and development facility for the next phase of his company and the start or a project he hoped changed the face of the Earth.
Throughout the last four years he’d refined the technology and created A.I.'s for many areas. He still had his original creation and S.A.I. was now a better GM than he’d ever been. It had its own personality and, thanks to Tyler, often injected a healthy amount of humor into their Dungeon Quest games. They didn’t get to play often with everyone so spread out after college.
Tristen lived in Silicon Valley after some tech startups he’d worked with rocketed into the spotlight. Aaron continued to play for the Hornets in San Francisco. Tyler moved out of Tristen’s apartment a couple years back and into a penthouse in Vegas. He’d made a “boatload of cash”, as he’d called it, and took up the gambling profession full time. Natalia still lived in New York, but he didn’t get to see her often as her schedule was always busy with performances and practice.
As Tristen drove through the checkpoint, he thought back to the events that led him here. In college he’d managers and executives from big IT companies approached him about his technology, but he’d never engaged them for business. Instead, he struck out on his own, making his own business dealings, and continuing to improve the technology.
Just a few months after graduating, he’d reached out to the startup he’d told his friends about over pizza. The very next day he’d met with the team and showed his technology and how it’d integrate into the camera. They’d hesitated at first, assuming the manufacturing would set them back too much. Then, they’d need to re-program the internals to work with the camera. That’s where Tristen knocked it out of the park. He’d told them, “The processor cost less than ten dollars to manufacture, and it'll interface with your existing software.” They looked at him. stunned and a fierce grin split his face in triumph.
After they’d agreed to partner and let him keep his brand, he created a new A.I. processor to put in the camera and also had them install a speaker, microphone, and wireless network card. Once he finished the prototype, the startup team noted how much it improved the functionality of the camera and allowed for hands free operation.
The camera operated using voice controls, but the wireless connection allowed it to interface with any device the user wanted. One feature that Tristen programmed into the A.I. was its ability to create on-demand widgets for the users device of choice. If they connected a desktop, the processor compiled a small executable module downloaded directly from the camera rather than a website. The same was true for mobile devices. He’d added the ability to compile into any format. If a new format became available, he’d issue a software update for the A.I. and support the new platform.
Besides the camera A.I., Tristen created a second processor for the tripod that seamlessly integrated with the hardware. The camera already had a facial recognition option that would snap a picture when someone smiled. Tristen’s A.I. learned how to track and recognize someone's face as they moved around and took candid pictures at random whenever someone smiled or faced the camera. The camera could do this itself, but it was stationary. The tripod allowed for a full 360-degree rotation and tracking.
When Tristen joined the startup, the team was a few months from manufacturing and a finished prototype. Because his technology interfaced well with the camera and added little cost to the project, they included as part of the original production line for a small up charge. Although the product was ready, they tested the camera, A.I., and tripod for another few months before they instructed the manufacturing plants to begin production. They were breaking ground into unexplored territory and wanted to have a complete and thoroughly tested product.
They’d produced the cameras for nearly six months when a large camera company approached them for an acquisition. Tristen and the team debated internally on their next course of action. They’d done well with the startup and were only a few weeks from production lines starting on the tripods. Eventually, they held off production on the tripods and accept the offer.
The company wanted to buy full right to Tristen’s technology, but he declined the offer, wishing to maintain full ownership of the technology. Instead, he gave them an exclusive deal to that A.I. processor and informed them he aimed to expand into other types of technology.
Throughout the acquisition, he ensured that his A.I. creation remained under lock and key. To make sure that this new company didn't try to swindle him, Tristen contracted a new manufacturer and produced the microprocessors separately. He then shipped them to the camera company himself. It slotted into the camera just like a normal storage card so it caused no delays, and everyone agreed to the additional requirement.
The deal they landed netted Tristen just shy of eight figures and gave him the capital to build up the infrastructure for Sai Enterprises. He hired several new programmers to develop more A.I. devices. Before he let anyone work with his technology, he hired a team of lawyers to create binding documentation that prevented his employees from divulging any intellectual property outside the company.
His first course of action with the new team involved many brainstorming sessions to build out the foundation for the companies direction. He wanted the technology integrated into anything that ran electricity, no matter how small. Creating specialized A.I. processors allowed Tristen to keep costs low. If he tried to build it all into one device, it would increase in size, cost, and require more processing power. Instead, if he created an A.I. whose job was to turn a light bulb on and off or change the color of an LED. It required minimal programming and hardware.
All the processors leveraged existing application programming interfaces for seamless integration. Tristen also wanted to create a main A.I. controller that could manage these devices. However, the uniqueness of his technology was the ability to integrate and use any existing technology that had smart functions. It didn’t need proprietary controllers or “brains” to operate. Conversely, Tristen saw the value in creating one for greater control and interaction.
He planned to incorporate a lot more capability than others controllers he’d seen. For instance, it would have voice control and automatically create widgets on demand for various tasks and ease of use. Any new device that had his processors in them would automatically show up on the controller when turned on. He wanted a streamlined solution that required zero setup time. Plug the device in and receive immediate connectivity and control over the device.
Tristen remembered a smart home startup he’d backed in college that tanked after its debut. When he got the device it worked for a short time and then just stopped responding. He’d tried troubleshooting the device with the manufacturer, attempted multiple resets, and even sent the device back for refurbishment. Still, they could not get the device to work. As a result every other piece of equipment such as light bulbs, outlets, camera, glass shatter detector, and carbon monoxide tester failed to work. It’d been a massive waste of time, energy, and money and inspired him to create a solution to the overly complex problems.
Tristen recalled a conversation he had with one technician working on that first project to create home automation solutions.
"Imagine if you had an A.I. installed in all the devices in your home, including your key fob for your car, your smartphone, your car, the garage door opener, the door to your house, lights, heating and cooling, radio, coffee pot, and television." He had the technicians undivided attention.
"Now, follow this scenario. You inform the A.I. that's built into your alarm clock, or maybe it's a smart watch, that you need to wake up at 7 AM the following day. Just before 7, the automated window shades slowly creep open, or perhaps your lights incrementally increase in brightness."
Tristen pulled out all the theatrics, using big gestures and tone of voice changes to emphasize his points. “Right at 7 your A.I., in a friendly voice of your choosing, says, Good morning, the time is seven o'clock.”
“Now, you may have already roused from the light changes, but by this point your eyes have adjusted. As you get up to stretch, you smell the fresh cup of coffee waiting for you downstairs. Not wasting any time, you grab the coffee. While walking through the house, your window shades pull back, the television turns on to the morning news, and your personal A.I. rattles off the appointments on your calendar. You then head back up to shower, and on your way the shower heats to your desired temperature.”
Tristen saw the gleam in the technicians eye, but he kept going to enslave the poor guys' heart and soul. He wanted all of his technicians and employees to adapt the same passion he felt for this field of study. He wanted, even needed passionate people willing to invest their everything into the work.
Tristen resumed his story, “Finishing a shower and getting ready to walk out the door, the LCD next to your door starts the camera outside as the garage door opens and your car starts. Grabbing your keys, you walk to the door, the deadbolt auto-unlocks, and then locks behind you as you exit. You walk up to the car which unlocks due to proximity, and as you drive out of the garage, it closes behind you and your home alarm activates.”
The poor guy didn't know the passion Tristen brought to the table, but after that conversation he shared Tristen's fervor. Based on general feedback from his small team, the tech had taken the conversation back to the team and it percolated throughout the ranks. He could see that everyone ramped up their own efforts and a small seed of passion bloomed. He didn't want to squash this vigor and avoided micro-management. Tristen fueled that passion and stoked the flames into a raging inferno whenever the opportunity presented itself.
It was this passion and drive that pushed Tristen and his team for the next year. After that year of development and preparation, it was time to market the project to any and every vendor, company, manufacturer, and government in existence.
Tristen had no qualms about doing business with any person, business, or organization under the sun. He’d continue to hold ownership and ensure he maintained sole decision making powers for reproduction and resale of his technology.
He had an entire fleet of lawyers on standby, expecting his technology going mainstream and resulting in quite a few legal battles. Tristen’s first target was the technology giants. He wanted to offer them the first stab at larger contracts and priority for manufacturing.
Due to the minuscule overhead for production and a minimal amount of programming required, it would be a tasty morsel for any technology company to buy into. Based on the initial sales from the smart camera endeavor, Tristen had a good market analysis on the usability and need for his A.I. processors, so he didn’t plan on getting fleeced by greasy sales teams and lawyers.
Tristen had spent the next few months refining his sales pitch and demos before he reached out to five of the largest technology giants. Three of the companies denied him straight out, but two of them asked him back several times for repeated demonstrations. The final demonstrations included the entire executive teams.
Both of the companies held different sides of the market with different products and platforms. The best part of Tristen’s technology, it was platform independent, and so long as the main operating system had an API, the processor could integrate flawlessly.
With some coaching from his legal team, Tristen played both companies against each other in a bidding war. His legal team expertly wove clauses into the contracts to avoid any kind of exclusivity. Tristen promised to give these two companies a six month head start with the technology before they agreed to purchase without exclusive rights.
After a few weeks of back and forth, they signed multi-billion dollar deals with both companies. The contractual language specified Tristen would maintain sole ownership, branding, and manufacture for the technology, but the company would integrate and distribute themselves. The six month head start offered to the companies allowed them to work it into production for all of their technology and they’d have a massive advantage in the market place.
Immediately following contract signing, Tristen enacted a plan he’d drawn up to expand his business significantly. He already had requisitions drawn up to hire an entire team of executives, marketing teams, and developers to continue with the microprocessors. He took another six months to on-board all the management personnel and get the development teams producing additional microprocessors.
Tristen spent a few weeks in solitude as he worked on the next phase of his plans. The next stepping stone for Tristen involved virtual reality. He knew technology was quickly approaching the point where virtual reality would be immersive enough to experience tactile sensations and scent, but there were limitations in equipment and, once again, affordability.
The current level of technology allowed for minimal immersion into video games such as body suits with haptic feedback or dive pods that allowed simulated scent, wind, heat, and cold. Positional tracking sensors allowed for realistic in-game movement. Eye tracking in some augmented and blended reality products projected pop-up menus and overlays in the environment. Some startup companies began development on uni-directional treadmills for running and crouching.
As Tristen added up the cost of all the devices needed to experience a modicum of immersive virtual reality, the price climbed to untenable levels for most consumers. I’d have to sell a kidney to afford a whole kit…
Few people could afford all the needed equipment, especially since most, if not all, of the products are beta or alpha releases. There was one company he followed that released a virtual reality headset requiring the latest graphics card, at least ten feet of open space for game play, tons of bulky cords attached to a larger computer, and tracking equipment installed throughout the room.
The worse part about that system is it only simulated visual and audio senses. All the setup and requirements resulted in a small percentage of people opting to make the leap into VR gaming. Most people preferred the comfort of sitting on their sofa playing console games. I need to create something that will change peoples view of VR!
Tristen’s A.I. microprocessors already had the potential to change the way the world interacted with technology. It was time for Tristen to set his sights on revolutionizing the gaming industry and virtual reality. Gaming and VR were the sparks that ignited Tristen’s passion and intrigue into the field of artificial intelligence, and he now had the means to make it happen. How awesome would it be if we could interact with a game world in the same way we did the real world, with all of our senses experiencing the simulated environment? Even thinking about the possibilities excited Tristen, and he furiously worked on a plan to bring his dreams to life.
As Tristen’s car finally pulled into his parking space next to the building that housed his private residence and lab, he returned his thoughts to present day. Periodically, he reminisced on his journey to this point and often couldn’t believe everything that’d happened. He'd accomplished so much because of the feverish way he drove himself. He relentlessly pursued his objectives, often going without sleep as a particular project consumed him.
The facility he now owned, marked the first stage of building a virtual reality and gaming empire. Tristen almost felt a little guilty pleasure as this project began out of a desire to bring his childhood pastime to life. He knew it would also bring joy to the millions, even billions, of gamers around the world. If the technology panned out the way he planned, it’d have much farther reaching aims than just a fully immersive game.
Stepping from his car, a security guard greeted Tristen as he walked up to the door and a biometric retina receptacle scanned his iris. He then placed his palm against the door and walked inside as the bulletproof door slid to the side. Maybe I’m too paranoid…
Tristen thought to the recent limelight for Sai Enterprises and quickly dismissed that line of thinking. In the few weeks he’d been planning and out of the spotlight, his lawyers continually turned away journalists and reporters seeking an audience on his next project. It was fairly obvious he had other plans with his absence from the spotlight so shortly after making his A.I. debut.
Therefore, he needed to have the extra security and desperately wanted to keep this project obscured in secrecy. The building that was now almost renovated used to be a Federal prison in the middle of the Arizona desert. There was no civilization for at least 50 miles in any direction. This had been the site of a maximum security prison that had lost funding by the government. The government shipped the prisoners out to many states and any illegal aliens deported to their originating country, leaving a fortified building standing vacant.
Tristen purchased the building at a steal from the government as they were bleeding money and needed to get rid of it. Using a healthy chunk of his recent influx of cash, he sunk a small fortune into it, converting it from a “keeping things in” to “keeping things out” facility.
Tristen also paid astronomical funds to have the best and highest grade security system installed, complete with biometrics, multi-factor authentication and redundancies. Direct fiber optic lines installed into every research lab, provided high bandwidth data transfers and Internet. Heavily secured internet gateways ensured that any critical database or system sat behind multiple layers of redundant security like firewalls, boundaries, isolated segments, and virtual private local area networks. He also contracted two different security companies to monitor network communications and a separate provider for their corporate email security. He planned to do everything in his power to keep this project secretive.
This plan was years in the making and as soon as he’d gotten the funds to make it happen, his plans shifted into drive. Tristen spent countless hours scouring the globe for experts in cryptography, neuroscience, virtual reality, computer programming, engineering, marketing, and game development.
He contacted none of those he identified yet. Tristen had compensation packages that were insanely competitive and he doubted most of them would turn him down. Before sending any of the background information on the project, he’d worked with his lawyers to set up fully binding non-disclosure agreements. They were so restrictive that it eliminated many rights they had for privacy. Even if it meant some experts declined his offer, he wouldn’t change the agreement. This work was too important to slack on security and allow any Intellectual Property to leave the research facility.
After everything was in place, he sent out a list of pre-prepared letters and emails to the individuals chosen. Most of them were graduates from prestigious technical schools, but he’d had also identified a list of retired experts in various fields along with a list of backups. Tristen wanted to bring up some flourishing talent and revitalize retired professionals to mature and grow the rest of those he’d offered a position.
Although virtual reality was nowhere near the level, he planned to take the technology, he had a very aggressive timeline of five to seven years. If they could get the project to a state of stability in five years, he’d launch the technology then, but he fully planned to work the seven years for a viable product and game.
The game Tristen wanted to create required his to secure the rights to the Dungeon Quest board game he and his friends played ever since grade school. He wanted to revamp the game and bring it to life with full immersion into the world of dungeon diving. Tristen had done a lot of research into different fantasy, science-fiction, and steampunk worlds in preparation.
The one problem with using Dungeon Quest was that the entire game revolved around dungeons, There was little to do worthwhile that wasn’t part of a dungeon. While most game genres involved a dungeon or instanced areas throughout the game worlds, none of them centered on dungeon diving alone. This game would change that. He planned to model the virtual world with an open sandbox model, but any events that took place or quests generated would be within a dungeon, not necessarily a dark, creepy cave, but an “instanced” area that had virtual boundaries.
There would definitely be other adventures, but the bulk of activity within the game would require dungeon diving to progress and achieve anything of prestige within the game. The second issue he faced with using the Dungeon Quest design was the branding itself. He needed to first buy the rights from the parent company. He’d prepared a formal request to buy the rights to the game and buried it under a bunch of nostalgia so that the company didn’t get wind of his desire to revitalize into an immersive virtual world. If they knew his plans for the brand, the cost would soar to an exorbitant price. The board game hadn’t been in circulation for many years so he hoped they’d have no issues parting with it.
None of the experts he reached out to knew what the project was he’d asked them to join. He only gave them an offer and waited to see if they accepted. Once they did, he’d send them an NDA. Only after they signed it, and a lawyer verified the signing, would he divulge the details of the virtual reality or game design projects. The sequence of events was intentional so that people on found out about his goals when he wanted them to. Once Tristen recruited the top talent, it would be blatantly obvious what he’d set into motion.
Thankfully, the process to gain the rights to Dungeon Quest went smoothly and after a short back and forth, the company agreed to sell for a very reasonable price. There was an initial inquiry into why he wanted them. Tristen told some of his childhood adventures and that he wanted to look at re-introducing the game someday. He didn’t tell them how he wanted to re-introduce the game, though.
Tristen and his lawyers worked for the next few weeks going back and forth with those he’d sent offer letters to. One clause in the contract required them to move to the facility he’d prepared, and some had questions and required clarifications about the contract.
Tristen looked beyond the electrical fencing and roving guards and saw a dozen of the pre-fabricated houses he’d contracted to build nearly finished. After much discussion and finagling of terms, he secured all but two of those he sent offers to. The main reason they’d declined involved personal situations that prevented them from re-locating.
Tristen was a little disappointed as one individual was the leading expert in neuro science and he'd have been a great asset to the team. As soon as all the NDA’s were in place and verified by legal representatives, he set the start date for everyone to re-locate and be on-site in six months time. That’d be plenty of time for the contractors to finish the housing and the facility would be fully functional at that point.
It’s happening! I’m about to work toward my dream! I can’t wait to see the look on my friends faces when it’s finished!
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Bio: This is the section where I'm supposed to write how I have always dreamed of writing books and that there are dozens of five star books out there with my name on them. Reality? I am brand new to writing, and worse, I'm not a creative writer. Most of the stuff that I have written is technical, cyber-related stuff. So, how in the world did I start down this path? The best way to sum it up is D. Rus and Vasiliy Mahenenka. These two Russian authors created books in a new genre called LitRPG, which falls under a more broad category called Gamelit. I devoured any and every book created by these two authors and quickly realized they were not alone in their endeavor. The series they created were translated from Russian to English, but it wasn't long before American authors started pushing their own series. Since starting with the Play to Live series (D.Rus), I've read hundreds of books and dozens of stories on Royal Road. I started posing questions and conversations about plots and book directions in various groups and forums. Eventually, I got the idea to start keeping track of my ideas and instead of giving them away, write my own story. Herein, is born a writer (or at least a wannabe writer)... not a writer to grab a paycheck, and not even for the sake of a job. I am putting this first story together purely for my enjoyment and it has been a fun ride so far.