Page 28. " at the touch of Rick’s hand the pointed feminine face of the new avatar looks back at him from the screen "

An Xbox360 avatar, which represents a user on Xbox LIVE
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumAn Xbox360 avatar, which represents a user on Xbox LIVE - Credit: Xbox LIVE official avatar

An avatar is the graphical model of the character that a player controls in a game. These are often fixed, but can sometimes be customized to allow a more unique image. This is especially the case in role-play games. The image that represents a user in internet forums and chat rooms can also be referred to as their avatar.  The term was coined by the designers of an online role-playing game called Habitat in 1985.

Page 28. " Latest location was Knossos Palace "
Part of the Minoan palace at Knossos
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikePart of the Minoan palace at Knossos - Credit: Lapplaender/wikimedia commons

 Knossos is a very large archaeological site on Crete, and was probably the capital of the Minoan civilization. It is a huge palace made up of many corridors, living areas, workshops and storerooms, as well as larger palace rooms. It was not a palace in the modern sense of the word, but a huge centre of administration, religion and storage for the whole community.

 

The palace of Knossos is associated with the myth of King Minos, a legendary king of Crete. It was King Minos who instructed Daedalus to build the famous Labyrinth for him, in which he imprisoned the monstrous Minotaur, which was half man and half bull. There are many references in this book to the myth of Daedalus. We have already been introduced to the Maze, which surely references the Labyrinth that Daedalus created. Watch out for more allusions to classical mythology to come.

Page 32. " beware! wyrmlings’ nest! "

Dragon's head.
Creative Commons AttributionDragon's head. - Credit: Philip Andrén on Elfwood

Wyrmlings are a common staple of fantasy games, and usually appear as small dragon-like creatures. The name is derived from ‘wyrm,’ an Old English name for dragons.

Click here to see the wyrmlings of the game Second Life.

Click here to see a 'Mana Wyrmling' on the game World of Warcraft.

Page 36. " Rick, your HP’s critical "

A representation of hitpoints in a game
Public DomainA representation of hitpoints in a game - Credit: Decoy/wikimedia commons

HP in this story stands for ‘health points.’ In other games they are often called Hit Points or Damage Points. These are a common way for games to measure how much life a player’s character has, and how much damage they can take before they die. Different kinds of attacks might cause more damage, so a punch might take away one health point, whereas a fireball or stab with a dagger might take away ten. In some games the damage inflicted will have to punch through all the player’s armour points before it begins to take away health points. Killing an enemy usually consists of hitting them until all their health points are gone, a necessary game mechanic, but not a very realistic way to fight. Rick will discover for himself the differences between real world and game fighting later on in the story.

Page 38. " Something makes a noise like a portcullis dropping. "

A portcullis at Castle Rushen
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeA portcullis at Castle Rushen - Credit: Shazz on Geograph

A portcullis is a gate made of metal or wood that can be lowered to protect the entrance of a castle or important building. It is usually raised and lowered using chains and attached to grooves in the castle walls. The bottom of a portcullis is often sharpened into points. Portcullises were used to defend castles in times of attack or siege, and are not often found today. A few working portcullises still exist in some historical buildings such as the Tower of London.

Page 41. " ‘Enable PvP,’ Rick says "
A sword fight
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeA sword fight - Credit: Ed Schipul on Flickr

Most MMOs have at least some aspect of PvP (Player versus Player) interaction in them. In most roleplay MMOs, the main storyline and quests consist of killing non-player enemies (often referred to as mobs) and doing quests for NPCs (non-player characters). However, although most of the gameplay comes from killing computer generated enemies, there are also opportunities to fight other players. Sometimes characters can belong to rival factions, and in other games all characters are out for themselves and can choose to kill any other character that is getting in their way. Even in games where players are not encouraged to think of other players as rivals, the opportunity to enter battlegrounds or take part in duels allows for PvP. This is an extremely popular element of online gaming, as real people will often offer a better challenge than a computer generated enemy, and are usually considered a more satisfying kill.

Page 42. " What guilds do you belong to, anyway? "

A real-life Elizabethan guild hall
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeA real-life Elizabethan guild hall - Credit: David Dixon on Geograph

 Guilds are a common feature of MMOs. A guild is a group of players who join together, sharing a guild name, and often also sharing a special chat channel that only the guild members can read. Guilds are a way for players to get to know each other, talk and socialise, and help each other out with quests and group instances. Guilds might also be based on a particular ethos, or on common goals, for likeminded people to join and help each other. For example, guilds might focus on ‘raiding’, which means completing very tough instances in large groups, or they might focus on PvP. Some guilds take the game very seriously, whereas others are created for more casual players. Guilds are created and run by the players themselves, usually with a guildmaster who is in charge of recruiting and the general running of the guild. Depending on the game, guilds sometimes share a guildhall and a communal bank. Many players make very good friends in the guilds that they join, and will form lasting friendships, arrange meetings in real life, or even find their partner online in this way. People who do not play online games often do not appreciate this social aspect of online gaming, and that it is this that helps to make the games so compelling.

Page 49. " In the Assassins they call it Bondvillain Syndrome "

This is a reference to the often mocked tendency of James Bond villains to gloat before they kill their enemy. In the James Bond series, the villains will often catch James Bond and secure him, then boast about their success, revealing every detail of their secret plans. This will either give the hero time to escape, cut through the ropes binding him, or distract and confuse the villain further. The villain’s folly is often made worse by the attempt to kill James Bond using some ludicrous method designed to kill him slowly and cruelly. Inevitably, this only gives James Bond the time needed to cleverly get away. By this point he now knows the villain’s full plan and can thwart it easily.

Below are a video about James Bond villains (left), and a clip from Austin Powers (right) that mocks the preposterous methods Bond villains like to use to kill their enemy.

  

Page 50. " He says, slowly, ‘Daedalus.’ "

 Daedalus is an extremely talented artisan of Greek myth. He singlehandedly created the Labyrinth that housed the Minotaur. Here Herkules refers to a man called Daedalus who supposedly singlehandedly created the Maze. At this point readers might guess that he is referring to Rick’s father Daed, whose name surely must be short for Daedalus. Other names throughout the book also reflect characters in the myth of Daedalus. Rick is perhaps a modernised form of Icarus, Daedalus’ son, and Paz could reflect Pasiphae, the queen of Crete who loved a bull and birthed the Minotaur. The name of the corporation that runs the Maze, Crater, reflects Crete, the island on which Daedalus’ myth begins. The names Perdita and Asterion also reference aspects of Daedalus’ myth, but will be discussed in later bookmarks.

Page 50. " a hell of a lot of AI code "

A good AI stops computer controlled characters from having perfect aim
Creative Commons AttributionA good AI stops computer controlled characters from having perfect aim - Credit: Cavin on Flickr

This is the code that runs the game’s artificial intelligence (AI). AI in games gives the impression that non-player characters, monsters and enemies are acting intelligently and independently. For example, this might involve a non-player character remembering that a player has previously spoken to them, an enemy adapting to a player’s fighting style and tactics, or the toning down of the computer’s skill so that non-player characters do not have perfect aiming. This helps players to immerse themselves in the game and feel less like they are interacting with a computer.

 

Creating code for a game’s AI is an extremely time-consuming process, as every action or dialogue of every character or enemy controlled by the computer will need to be coded, including every possible alternative that depends on players’ choices. For a massive online world, populated by thousands of non-player characters and enemies, the amount of code needed is mind-boggling. Herkules is correct in stressing the improbability of something on this scale being created by one person.

 

Click here for a very detailed article on AI in games, which demonstrates how complicated coding it can be.