Waking to Another Sky Ch2 bit – Cutscene

“A cutscene,” Kirito got out. “That….” Made sense. In an awful, twisted way. “Why do you think…?”

“He told us Aincrad was there to be conquered,” Agil replied. “And then he set you up to be his big hero.”

Kirito shivered. “I’m not.”

“Doesn’t matter what you think. Doesn’t matter what any of us think,” Agil said bluntly. “You were the Hero, he was the Final Boss. And the hero can’t die before the quest is over. He wasn’t going to let that happen.” Agil glanced between them. “You want my guess? He was setting you up on the fly, but damn, can he GM a plot fast. I bet if you hadn’t beaten him, Kayaba would have zapped your avatars back together and taken you with him to the top level. After he told the rest of us if we kept fighting, we’d get you back. Alive.”

“Put it another way,” Argo stated, “fits in right with what I thought. You’d be hostages.” The sheet cast her whiskers in shadow, but didn’t hide the anger in dark eyes. “You spoiled his game of play the noble paladin, so you’d be a whole new game. He could leave a trail of breadcrumbs for twenty-five levels, laughing up his sleeve while we tore the dungeons apart searching. And you two? Locked in a golden cage, if he was smart. Or maybe he’d dump you in some Forest of Wandering, with the areas set so you could only meet at dusk and dawn. The whole star-crossed fairytale lovers plotline. He could have all kinds of fun with that.”

It fit so horribly well. Kayaba had lived to bring Aincrad into existence. And what he’d said after the duel, when the three of them had been watching the logout lights as the castle shut down….

Asuna leaned into his shoulder. Kirito smiled back, gathering his courage. I don’t want to think about it. But we’ll have to. Soon.

“Crazy bastard,” Klein said with feeling. “So why the hell did you do it? We could have pulled back. Would’ve been smart to-”

Kirito swallowed. “What if there was a level cap?”

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43 thoughts on “Waking to Another Sky Ch2 bit – Cutscene

  1. Oh. Oh wow, a level cap would have been nasty. I wasn’t thinking in terms of one because it’s a Japanese RPG and a lot of them are heavily inspired by Dragon Quest and the creator’s philosophy, which involved a dislike of making games unwinnable – a very common thing at the time, but he used leveling as a way partially so that if anyone invested enough time they could beat the game, even if they were not the most skilled (or just you know, a child).

    But although I don’t really play MMOs, a lot of them have level caps partially as a way of stretching out the endgame content, don’t they? So they don’t lose as much as the player base before the next lump of content comes out, which costs them revenue. Only Kayaba wouldn’t be looking at a percentile loss if someone beat the game, but the end of his game/fun.

    I know if I was trapped there, I would have been grinding well out of the more dangerous areas and investing quite a bit in non-optimal stats because permadeath makes playing a glass cannon a major potential waste of resources and my brain doesn’t react very fast so I’m going to get hit regardless and need the def (then there’s how much trouble it has learning physical motions, much less repeating them the same way twice). But in a lot of games if your offense is just a little too low, you can end up doing scratch damage. If the glass cannon players were the only ones who could do damage at the top of the tower, but they got shredded? If all the experienced players started to find they couldn’t do damage and getting out meant they needed to force people who hadn’t been finding to grind stats w/o defense, which meant their survival would be based on a skill level they wouldn’t have as much of due to less experience… Or if it got to a point where defense became more or less useless regardless, so they couldn’t even have people tanking to reduce the danger to the glass cannons?

    I haven’t read up on SAO, but if he was planning his character’s Face Heel Turn as a way to demoralize the best players and keep them from trivializing the top floors once they’d gotten over their situation and gotten good, a level cap would have added a lot of very horrible drama, since it would have required high level players dictating what stats low level players took in order to get out, making people who might be traumatized fight…

    Liked by 4 people

    1. There’s one more level of nightmare fuel to this scenario that I can think of. The low-level players that wouldn’t do general grinding might still refuse to fight when they’d have to become glass cannons. The few who would be willing to go against their instincts and help out *would be* glass cannons and could very easily be killed off during the learning process of how to get to the final boss.

      Eventually, there could be only two kinds of players that would be able to develop the kind of power needed to take out the final boss: the players who were so scared of fighting that they’d rather live out the rest of their lives in the game, and the kids who had ignored the age restriction and were only low level because everyone had decided they were too young to fight. Kids who are young enough aren’t all that aware of their own mortality, and it’s easily possible that there is only one group that could be talked into helping get everyone out of the game.

      I would not put intentionally creating child soldiers past Kabaya. For that matter, I wouldn’t put intentionally creating child martyrs past Kabaya.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Kayaba had a fantasy about how the end would play out, involving him as the big bad. The revelation he fantasized was probably more to leave people guessing until the very end. If Kayaba was operating with the psychology of a spree killer it makes sense that he killed himself once his fantasized path got blocked.

      If the SAO games are canon, SAO did not have a level cap. One purpose of a level cap in an MMO is to limit how far ahead of the playerbase a player can get by simply adding time. This keeps the time cost of entry manageable. That is not necessary in canon SAO, because everyone starts at the same time, and they can’t go off and do other things.

      Here, a level cap would also function as a stat cap. We know stat gain is correlated with modifying the RL bodies to have similar qualities. Pseudo-realistically, there would be some hard physical limit to how far the modification could go. Furthermore, whatever tech Kayaba is using probably isn’t fully optimized. It is not clear that he has working modifications for all the higher stats. It’d suck if someone got their stats high enough that the system gave them a mod that caused impairment instead of enhancement. Or if logging out after a post boss level up caused things to jam mid modification.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Wow, I wasn’t really drawing the parallels, but that sounds _exactly_ like what Pegasus or Bakura would do. After all, we know Ryou and Bakura are into TRPGs…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. And a lot of the video/computer game RPGs designed to be totally unwinnable if you hadn’t already played and lost them enough times to have messed up every way it was possible to mess up and taken careful notes were based on TRPGs.

      …which means we can hope that some of the people who weren’t leveling were veteran game players who were a little busy teaching things like map-making classes. Or even the current gen RPG fans would have had visions of Etrian Odyssey dancing in their heads (Even In Aincrad, FOE?) Another heavy research need would have been figuring out how stats work: there are a lot of things where stat gains drop off in percent effectiveness per points invested in different levels etc. I’d assume a guild like Asuka’s had at least a couple members in charge of measuring damage dealt by different people and doing the math. I’d assume a lot of habitual Munchkins were waiting for the data before investing valuable stat points.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. That would first require watching SAO, which never really grabbed my attention (outside of reading about it in your fics), so… Bunnies say “No thank you”.

        …or they would, if their teeth weren’t full of giant robot carrots again. *wanders off to polish giant robot fic*

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Voltron has tempted me a few times… But currently, GaoGaiGar is eating me (again). Have a fic I’ve been sitting on for a year that I think is good to post, even if it does have the “dreaded OC”.

        Random tangent: Did you see they’ve got the YGO game up for free on the app store of your choice? For those who enjoyed the card game and want to play it online again.

        (Other random note: Kaiba’s VA did Brock in the original Pokemon TV show. I scared my cats I laughed so hard when I realized that.)

        Liked by 1 person

      3. …arg. The Bunnies are pointing out in the 2016 Voltron, the Blue Lion’s arrival on Earth might have corresponded with the Shadow Games. Also, Mokuba as a space cadet.

        Bad bunnies. Bad. No more carrot juice for you.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Does Kayaba know about Shadow Magic before or after the game starts?

        Before has some interesting, if terrifying, possibilities.

        After has hoisted by their own petard type possibilities.

        You can’t say that having the King of Games involved wouldn’t shake things up.

        Through I suggest that if Mokuba gets involved in this mess that everyone stay out of Seto’s way.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Though a level cap wouldn’t necessarily mean a automatic game-over for the players. But that would depend on how much better equipment etc ends up modifying their DPS, damage resistance and so on.

    So perhaps for the final 25 levels the main goal for the players would be scavenging the materials and recipes to create equipment strong enough for them to survive and win.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. >It’d still be horrible. *Nod*>
      Yep. It would be like those survival games where you have to dash out, quickly gather the materials and then sneak back to safety before a gribble spots you and decides that you would be wonderful with a little chutney garnish.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think you’re right about the players having to look for better equipment/recipes/materials once they were past floor 75. There’s a short story that was being translated where Kirito and Asuna meet a crafter who’s maxed a couple of unusual skills, and become the only person in SAO who can make a ballista. Something like that would have been really useful in boss fights, and I’d assume that maxing out combinations of other rare craft skills would have similar results.
        It’s perhaps the crafters’ equivalent to unique skills like duel blades and Heathcliff’s shield and sword combo.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Hmm, I dunno about the ‘star crossed lovers’ but. I don’t think Kayaba would have had a big enough audience to make that entertaining enough for him.
    Now, running off to the final level with just Kirito/just Asuna? So he could keep one of them as a captive audience and have the other one tear themselves to bits to find them? Yeah, that seems like a Kayaba thing to do…
    I kind of want to write that fanfic now… bad Toxic! I have too many things to do already!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Re: Possibilities

    Kayaba is certainly nasty-minded enough to do all those scenarios . . . might have started off with one sit and then switched to another after that first one got boring or something. Depends on how long he wanted to keep them in there. In theory, he could have lead everyone by their noses for a while.

    He also sounds nasty-minded enough to put in level caps.

    It’s hard to say just exactly what he was doing or wanted to do. Especially for the SAO players who don’t know what some of why he started this mess and some of his possible motivations (Stargates, friendly but frustrating aliens, sometimes unhelpful aliens, very unfriendly aliens).

    Not much easier for SGC either since while they have some idea of the motives, since they don’t know what went on inside the game, that limits their ability to figure stuff out too.

    As noted before, it would help both sides in figuring out this . . . person or at least what he did and some of the whys . . . if they could compare notes with each other. But that require both sides being honest with each other and THAT is running headlong into stuff being classified and entirely understandable trust issues and both sides stomping on each other’s buttons.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s a huge bureaucracy and hence absurdly screwed up, but that many people doing whatever would also be screwed up.

        The top players are pretty fresh off the revelation of Kayaba’s sick mind games.

        The difference between calculated distrust from analyzing risks and reflexive distrust from experiencing personal betrayal.

        It may actually be possible for SG1 to deduce the mind game. I think there’s been a lot of silence about the Commander of the Knights. I guess Tea’lc figures it out first.

        Liked by 2 people

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