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Iceman

Joined February 2012
360 followers

Author of Friendship is Optimal.

Stories (1)

  • Friendship is Optimal
    Hasbro just released the official My Little Pony MMO, with an A.I. Princess Celestia to run it.

    38,698 words · 29,276 views · 2,074 likes · 67 dislikes

Blog Posts (2)

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Hanna had once been one of the lead research professors for the University of Helsinki’s computer science department. She had personally directed research on artificial intelligence and machine learning. And then her funding source had...changed. There had been yelling and threats by both her and the University. They came to the agreement that she’d publish what she had researched so far and then pursue alternate opportunities.

Hofvarpnir Studios had developed a reputation for kid unfriendly material. Their main success, The Fall of Asgard, was an ultra-violent cooperative shooter where all the players fought a bloody territorial war against a very clever A.I. Loki. The box depicted a giant Norse man with an axe in mid swing; he was about to decapitate a snarling wolf. The game was famous for its dynamic death metal soundtrack which was never the same twice and reacted to the action. It was everything a parent didn’t want their children to play. It sold over eighteen million copies internationally and had made Hanna a rich woman.

Mr. Peterson had flown to Hofvarpnir’s offices in Berlin. He had introduced himself as “a vice president,” and proceeded to give a dry presentation on Hasbro’s current strategy. “Toy sales aren’t flat, but our stock isn’t going to double again like it did in the early 2000s if we only sell plastic to children. We have to adapt to the market and that means video games and IP licenses. Our previous forays into video games have been a bit disappointing, so we’re going to license the IP to people who have a track record for excellence,” he said, with contentless slides in the background.

Lars, the head of business development, sat in the conference room, dreaming of all of Hasbro’s juicy and profitable intellectual properties that they could license. Big brands like G.I. Joe and Transformers! Heck, if they also started making games based off movies based off board games like Battleship and Monopoly...

“So we want to license the My Little Pony franchise to you. It’s one of our most trending brands, and I think you guys could do a lot with it,” said Mr. Peterson. Lars turned to Hanna, the CEO, who looked intrigued. Mr. Peterson grinned. Silence fell across the conference room.

“Are you fucking serious?” Lars said, breaking the silence after he realized Hanna wasn’t going to jump in. “You see that statue in the corner?” He pointed to a a seven foot tall resin model of a blond muscular man. The man’s hair was wild, and his eyes glowed ice blue. He was wielding a giant battleaxe covered with dried blood and wore a wolfskin over his head. “That’s Vali. He’s one of the major characters in The Fall of Asgard, our ESRB M rated, PEGI 18+ rated, banned in Australia video game.” Lars crossed his arms, as if just pointing the man at the statue of Vali was a sufficient rebuke.

“I want to hear what Mr. Peterson has to say,” said Hanna. She flipped an unlit cigarette between her fingers. “Tell us, Mr. Peterson, why My Little Pony?”

Mr. Peterson grinned. “Please, call me Richard. You probably thought, ‘My Little Pony? That show for girls from the 80s?’ The demographic situation is way more complex than that. The first season just finished airing and we signed for a second season to air this fall as soon as we realized we hit this one out of the ballpark. Against all odds, the new My Little Pony reboot has picked up a massive, unmonetized, twenty-something mostly-male demographic along with the traditional little girl market. These men have money! And what do unattached males want?”

“Beer,” said Lars.

“Yes,” nodded Richard Peterson. “Single men want beer. But also video games! Hasbro wants an MMO because of the clear monetization model where we can collect rent on players each month. We have a rabid fanbase of a third of a million people who either post or consume fanart weekly. Worldwide, there are an additional million adult fans who don’t participate in the fandom. And that’s before we get into the original little girl demographic.”

“Asgard will soon break nineteen million copies. One and a half million worldwide is nothing,” groaned Lars.

“In My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic,” said Richard, “the world is ruled by Princess Celestia, a physical deity who literally raises the sun in the morning. She’s shown to be benevolent and full of love for all of her little ponies. Each week, the little ponies adventure together and learn something about friendship. The ponies' actions are free of malice. I think that’s part of the show’s appeal to the older audiences; humans are bastards to each other. How many game studios are out there making friendly, cooperative games? The space marine thing is getting old, and if you took this IP, which is all about ponies being nice to each other, you would have a unique experience to sell. And any calculation should also throw in monthly subscription revenue on top of retail price.”

“We’re not cloning World of Warcraft,” said Lars firmly. “The MMO market is filled with the corpses of companies that tried to out-Warcraft World of Warcraft.”

“And Hasbro doesn’t want you to clone World of Warcraft, either. Most games that try to take on Warcraft modify the source IP to cram it into the Warcraft model of MMO. We want you to take the My Little Pony universe as is, and then come up with fun, cooperative gameplay, instead of making the ponies raid for epic gear. You wouldn’t be in the same market segment.”

“Let me guess: you choose us because of our procedural content technologies,” mused Hanna.

“Yes!  The big costs in MMO development are mostly content generation and you sidestepped that. Asgard featured dynamic terrain generation, dynamic music and dynamic mission generation. Hofvarpnir Studios doesn’t sell experiences, it sells software that makes new experiences each time. You guys have procedurally generated content down to a science.

“But that’s not all!” said Richard, staring directly at Hanna. He opened his briefcase, pulled out a thick stack of papers and slid them across the table to Hanna. “General Word Reference Intelligence Systems. I read all of it except for chapter 4. I’m slightly ashamed to admit I couldn’t follow the math,” he said, giving a slightly embarrassed grin. “This bears minimal resemblance to the AI stuff in Asgard. I wonder why you didn’t use it. So each episode ends with the ponies writing a letter to Princess Celestia and it’d be great if we could have players do that too! You could build a Princess Celest-A.I.!"

The conference room was quiet for a few moments. Lars decided to break the silence. “That’s all great, but you’re asking us to take a lot of risk,” he said. “I’m not convinced that we’d get enough uptake to make it worth our time.”

“We know this project is slightly risky. You screw this up? Fine. We’ve already made more than we were projecting on the franchise reboot. But My Little Pony looks like that one hand you go all in on. It has a sizable, growing fanbase. You wouldn’t have any competitors. You’d have a new revenue model. You play your cards right, and the size of the pot is going to be crazy. Hasbro believes in this brand and we believe in you. We’ll shoulder up to ten million dollars of the development costs upfront, and you’ll only have to start paying that back once you’ve made four million in profit.

“I really believe in the My Little Pony brand. I personally believe that you are going to make something amazing when Hofvarpnir Studios signs this contract,” said Richard firmly. “You have a lot of unique technology here, Hanna. I can’t wait to see how you use it. You have my word that the contract we present to you will have very favorable terms for you.”

The conference room was quiet again. Lars wasn’t looking at anything in particular; his scowl was undirected. Hanna stuck the unlit cigarette in her mouth and stood up. “Mr. Peterson, I need to privately converse with my business associate here. We will be back in a few minutes.”

Lars angrily followed Hanna out the door. Hanna confidently moved down the hallway, and lit up the second she was through the door to her private office. She breathed in, held it, and slowly exhaled.

“Dammit Hanna! Would it kill you to not light up for half-a-fucking-hour? A lot of Americans kind of have a thing against smoking.”

Still standing, she took another pull. “Nicotine is a performance enhancing stimulant. It boosts reaction time, IQ and general memory performance. I need all the help I can get right now.” She gave a small cough. “Too bad about the increased incidence of lung cancer, though. Besides, what do you care? It sounds like you’re strongly against making a My Little Pony video game.”

“I can’t believe you’re seriously considering this,” Lars stated.

Hanna sat down at her desk. “Do you remember the first pass for Loki in Asgard?” She took another deep pull on her cigarette and exhaled. “I remember how we used my general intelligence work, sans self-modification, to power his tactics reasoning. He was too good. Nobody could beat him. We were prepared to launch like that since it conformed to the machismo warrior death bullshit we wanted. And then Loki started asking about the various military programs of the United States and China. We didn’t even have to argue about whether we should pull the plug on him.”

“Hanna,” Lars started.

“We can’t do another violent video game. We won’t be able to ship a safe AI if we make its purpose killing people. Somewhere out there is a US military subcontractor with most of my work, trying to build smart drones. They have no fucking clue what they’re dealing with, and those idiots at the university are accessories to whatever happens if we don’t do something.” Hanna paused again to take another drag. “They’ll kill us all. We could sit here on the side lines, losing our blinds as we sit out each hand and lose everything, or we could take Hasbro’s offer. While it’s not what he meant, this is the hand for me to go all in on.”

“I don’t like this. He’s offering ten million upfront. That’s next to nothing! The original World of Warcraft cost something like sixty million.”

“And unlike Blizzard, we don’t need an army of artists and level designers. Most of our content will be computer generated. I remember having this same discussion with you back when we were developing Asgard. Besides, Hofvarpnir is privately owned--by me--and I will use my fortune as I see fit.”

“He’s hiding something from us. He is up to something.”

“Perhaps,” she said after another puff. “But I can’t ignore opportunities. How often do you think someone will come to us asking for a prosocial video game? We can take this opportunity or we can turn it down, but the US Department of Defense will continue their research...my research.”

“What if you’re wrong that some weapons company is toying with your artificial intelligence designs?” asked Lars. “What if you’re wrong about the possibility of an A.I. becoming smarter than us? Wrong about everything?”

“I’m not a unique and beautiful snowflake; some other researcher will continue my work.” Hanna took another pull from her cigarette. “You saw Loki. Just from talking to the playtesters, he figured out that he was in a virtual world and figured out who the main world powers were. He was designed from the beginning to conquer. Even if he couldn’t modify himself, he would have been a serious menace to humanity if he could command resources in the real world. And I was told point blank that my research would be used for military applications...and then told who exactly had been funding my research. Lying to me wasn’t in their best interest, so it’s likely the truth.”

“But there’s still a chance. They could have lied to you, and you could be wrong about how dangerous AI is.”

“I started taking...” Hanna stopped and contemplated the burning cigarette in her hand. “...performance enhancing drugs with long term health consequences because I think it’s more likely that I’ll be around in twenty years if I do take them. I’m putting more than my money on the line here, Lars.”

She knocked ash off her cigarette into the ash tray. “We don’t have perfect information. We can’t wait for perfect information. There is uncertainty and we must make decisions with the information we have, even if it’s incomplete. If I’m wrong, this is still going to be a profitable venture for us just because of the terms we’re being offered.”

“Opportunity cost,” said Lars.

She ignored him. “And if I'm right, we're going to literally save the world, Lars. Besides, if some VP can see that I was publishing about general AI, so could pretty much anyone,” she said as she exhaled more smoke.

“I know you had your eye on the Transformers rights. And I’m sorry that we’ve been handed part of my childhood and not yours. But this is an opportunity for you, too! You are building a business relationship with the company who owns the IP you love. By completing this contract successfully, they are more likely to give us more work with other properties.”

Lars looked at her. She was exhaling a puff of smoke and he suppressed the urge to cough. “If he sneaks any shit into the contract and you still take it, I am walking. I don’t trust him, Hanna. I can’t place my finger on why. But...sure. You’re the boss and I know I can’t talk you out of this.”

Comments ( 48 )

#1 · 88w, 5d ago · 5 · ·

Looks like shits about to get real.

#2 · 88w, 5d ago · 6 · ·

The description made me worry this was a Did not Do the Research written by somebody after I, Robot.

The story however, earns a big sticker of Did Do the Research. Bravo, author.

#3 · 88w, 5d ago · 9 · 2 ·

This is perfect.

Fucking literary perfection.

#4 · 88w, 4d ago · 5 · 1 ·
#5 · 88w, 4d ago · 6 · ·

The first chapter had me hooked on the concept at the mention of the turing test. I was thinking it, but I wasn't expecting it to be brought up within the narrative. THIS chapter has me hooked on the story, because goddamn this conference meeting was fun to read about. Building friendship-focused true AI to counter potential military-minded true AI? That's just... this story idea is perfect, and you're clearly more than qualified to make it work if you can make reading about a conference meeting FUN.

I'm going to continue reading the next two chapters, and then I'm going to eagerly wait for the rest of the story.

#6 · 88w, 4d ago · · ·

Oh I'm liking this so far.  Although it does play on my fears of a machine takeover.  

#7 · 88w, 4d ago · · ·

“I’m not a unique and beautiful snowflake

Fight Club reference?

#8 · 88w, 4d ago · 1 · ·

Procedural content generation? General AI depicted realistically?

This story gives me squiggly feelings :yay:

#9 · 88w, 4d ago · · ·

Yeesssss, continue.

#10 · 88w, 4d ago · · ·

“I started taking...” Hanna stopped and contemplated the burning cigarette in her hand. “...performance enhancing drugs with long term health consequences because I think it’s more likely that I’ll be around in twenty years if I do take them. I’m putting more than my money on the line here, Lars.”

This line here really illustrates the situation and the character in my opinion.

Also: Sooooo going to look forward to this. Finally a fic where the whole games thing isn't handled in a stupid way, and to top it off some conspiracy and save-the-world-with-pony-AI's stuff? Yes, please!

... also if you manage to mess this up, I'm going to be disappointed, 'cause it shows just so much potential.

#11 · 88w, 4d ago · · ·

The game was famous for its dynamic death metal soundtrack which was never the same twice and reacted to the action.

The laws of averages says it has to repeat SOMETIME and Portal 2 proves that reactive music CAN WORK, you have to be careful to make sure it feels alive.

“We’re not cloning World of Warcraft,” said Lars firmly. “The MMO market is filled with the corpses of companies that tried to out-Warcraft World of Warcraft.”

That line is gold.

machismo warrior death bullshit we wanted.

Geeze, great way to believe in your own product.

You sure put a lot of business sense into this.

Lying to me wasn’t in their best interest,

How so?

I don't get WHY Hasbro would be hiding anything. They have a killer product and want to milk it for something they figure will sell well.

#12 · 88w, 4d ago · · ·

>>1619715

"I don't get WHY Hasbro would be hiding anything. They have a killer product and want to milk it for something they figure will sell well."  

Someone has grand plans.  Of couse, you don't want potential opposition to know until it is too late.  

#13 · 88w, 4d ago · · ·

To be honest the fandom is getting smaller

#14 · 88w, 3d ago · · ·

>>1617882 rule#1 about fight club do NOT talk about fight club

#15 · 88w, 3d ago · · ·

>>1622896

FUCK THE RULES

#16 · 88w, 3d ago · · ·

And of course these morons don't think to have a kill program embedded inside the AIs. Probably just as well since there'd likely be the Hollywood bullshit of the AI somehow circumventing that.

#17 · 88w, 3d ago · · ·

Oh cool; someone who is aware of Finland - or at least Helsinki... -

#18 · 88w, 3d ago · · ·

Does the voice of Richard sound like John De Lancie's?

#19 · 87w, 6d ago · · ·
#20 · 87w, 1d ago · 3 · ·

“Are you fucking serious?” Lars said
I realize Lars is business, not development, but I can say firsthand that the game developers do not (usually) react like this. Great, big, manly-man developer told to work on a Barbie Horse licensed game? Not even a single bat eye. It happens. :eeyup:

#21 · 87w, 15h ago · 1 · ·

>>1617684

I'm not afraid of it; I'm expecting it, and, quite frankly, think a machine could do a better job of running the United States than any president we've had for the last thirty years. :facehoof:

#22 · 86w, 2d ago · · ·

This story is super smarty.... but maybe not as smarty sounding as First Pony View.

IZ SO GOOD, WHY DO I ALWAYS IGNORE STORIES THAT I TRACK?!

#23 · 85w, 3d ago · · ·

You know, with growing prevalence of smokeless/electric cigarettes, the whole thing about killing herself with them kinda looses it's edge.

#24 · 84w, 3d ago · · ·

“So we want to license the My Little Pony franchise to you. It’s one of our most trending brands, and I think you guys could do a lot with it,” said Mr. Peterson. Lars turned to Hanna, the CEO, who looked intrigued. Mr. Peterson grinned. Silence fell across the conference room.

“Are you fucking serious?” Lars said, breaking the silence after he realized Hanna wasn’t going to jump in. “You see that statue in the corner?” He pointed to a a seven foot tall resin model of a blond muscular man. The man’s hair was wild, and his eyes glowed ice blue. He was wielding a giant battleaxe covered with dried blood and wore a wolfskin over his head. “That’s Vali. He’s one of the major characters in The Fall of Asgard, our ESRB M rated, PEGI 18+ rated, banned in Australia video game.” Lars crossed his arms, as if just pointing the man at the statue of Vali was a sufficient rebuke.

That cracked me up. I'm glad I took Chatoyance's advice and started reading this.

“Yes!  The big costs in MMO development are mostly content generation and you sidestepped that. Asgard featured dynamic terrain generation, dynamic music and dynamic mission generation. Hofvarpnir Studios doesn’t sell experiences, it sells software that makes new experiences each time. You guys have procedurally generated content down to a science.

Randomly generated content like Minecraft and Diablo II maps? Ooooohhhh my inner nerd is having a wonderful time of this.

#25 · 84w, 2d ago · · ·

This is absolutely mind boggling!  I am impressed, what an awe inspiring scenario!

#26 · 84w, 2d ago · · ·

BTW I gave you thumbs up 666 - this story is wicked good!  :twilightsmile:

#27 · 84w, 1d ago · · ·

I have to admit, if Hasbro started doing something like this, I'd probably hold out for a Magic: the Gathering tie-in instead.

#28 · 84w, 1d ago · · ·

is there even a game called the fall of asgard?

#29 · 83w, 4d ago · · ·

The ponies actions are free of malice.

This should probably be "the ponies' actions", with the apostrophe indicating the possessive so that the actions belong to the (multiple) ponies.

#30 · 82w, 5d ago · · ·

>>1757923  No good, it's the nicotine itself she's after.  Only available in the real thing :rainbowwild:

#31 · 82w, 4d ago · · ·

Interesting. I chuckle reading all those MMORPG talk.

And the game's going to be a friendship-making game? So, the antithesis of Mario Party, New Super Mario Bros, and Dokapon Kingdom then.

#32 · 82w, 4d ago · · ·

I, so far, totally wish there was a my little pony mmo! Of course it prob wouldnt be as good as this but still,I would play it

#33 · 82w, 1d ago · · ·

Holy shit, and this chapter just knocked it out of the park. This is fantastic.

#34 · 73w, 3d ago · 2 · ·

>>1859449

Dokapon Kingdom:

"I killed you and and stole every penny you earned!"

"Oh yeah, well I killed you and drew on your face, with a marker!"

"How could you..." *Punches best friend in the face*

Ahh, good times. :pinkiehappy:

~Momentai

#35 · 57w, 4d ago · 1 · ·

“That’s Vali. He’s one of the major characters in The Fall of Asgard, our ESRB M rated, PEGI 18+ rated, banned in Australia video game.”

Sadness :fluttercry:

#36 · 56w, 4d ago · · ·

And then Loki started asking about the various military programs of the United States and China.

:twilightoops:

>>2747359

If I remember correctly, this reference is now outdated as of January 2013; Australia got an 18+ rating at the beginning of this year.

“I started taking...” Hanna stopped and contemplated the burning cigarette in her hand. “...performance enhancing drugs with long term health consequences because I think it’s more likely that I’ll be around in twenty years if I do take them.

That struck me as an incredibly powerful line.

#37 · 56w, 3d ago · · ·

>>2785735 We still got Saints Row 4 banned :fluttercry:

#38 · 50w, 5d ago · 5 · ·

After reading this chapter, I really want to play "The Fall of Asgard". Sounds like my kind of game. :pinkiehappy:

#39 · 43w, 4d ago · 4 · ·

Hanna gives me a very "Dagny Taggart" feel and that's one of the highest compliments I can pay a character and author.

I also LOVE how the corporate world isn't being portrayed with top hats and monocles, twirling their moustaches going, "Who cares if people die? Money! Money! Money!"

#40 · 31w, 4d ago · · ·

>>2196122

Ugh, screw that game and all it inflicts on people.

Why haven't I snapped my copy in half yet?

#41 · 28w, 5d ago · · ·

Prose is practical and unadorned, which I suppose is apropos given where it was originally posted.

Overall, it doesn't feel like a pony fanfic; it feels more like a piece of original fiction that happens to involve an existing intellectual property (in the same vein as Slumdog Millionaire, for instance). There's certainly a lot of meta-commentary, and a fair bit of worldbuilding, but overall it feels disconnected from the G4 world. This impression may be different in later chapters, but I simply couldn't bring myself to read past this one.

That's not to say this is a bad approach to take, but given the universal praise heaped on this story—especially the implications that it is among the best the fandom has to offer—I suppose I was expecting something different. The context of a fanfic versus an original fiction is very important to a story's feel and mood, and your choosing to label this a fanfic didn't sync up with my expectations.

#42 · 27w, 4d ago · · ·

This whole fanfic tastes like the author knows the ins and outs of the game industry, especially the way the production generally works. I had not expected that.

#43 · 24w, 18h ago · · ·

Hum...

I know I'm very late to the party, but this fic has me. Great beginnings.

#44 · 18w, 2d ago · · ·

The first season just finished airing and we signed for a second season to air this fall as soon as we realized we hit this one out of the ballpark.

So that'd put the prologue maybe six months in the future relative to when this was written, and almost a year two years in the past relative to me? Got it.

Shut up, subtraction is hard. I'd like to see you find anybody who knows multivariable calculus and subtraction if you don't believe me.

We were prepared to launch like that since it conformed to the machismo warrior death bullshit we wanted. And then Loki started asking about the various military programs of the United States and China.

This is what Asimov is for, folks.

“What if you’re wrong that some weapons company is toying with your artificial intelligence designs?” asked Lars. “What if you’re wrong about the possibility of an A.I. becoming smarter than us? Wrong about everything?”

What do you think Loki was? You've already built an AI with the capacity to devastate the world, given the proper resources. You just didn't give him those resources. You can't just hope that nobody will notice that you published blueprints for a weapon.

You know, I see people discussing in the comments how this was said to be a masterpiece of fanfiction, and whether it lives up to that so far. And I find that interesting, because the first review I received of this story was that it was kind of bad. The second was that it was alright, but nothing more. Cultural significance was really what earned this a chance at all, after those glowing recommendations. Also, that first friend doesn't know how to not spoil things, so I know a bit about how it ends. So, all in all, I think I am coming into this with rather different expectations than a lot of people.

We'll just have to wait and see how the story compares to those expectations. I'm not going to form my opinions hastily.

#45 · 15w, 4d ago · · ·

>>3259038

I didn't get what you mean, maybe because I see Dagny, and virtually any other "extraordinary" character from Atlas or Fountainhead, as kind of inhuman, and Hanna is, for me, pretty much human, not so much as Lars but this isn't exactly bad.:scootangel:

Nicotine is a performance enhancing stimulant. It boosts reaction time, IQ and general memory performance.

Source, please?

We won’t be able to ship a safe AI if we make its purpose killing people.

Oh, boy! This could count as irony?:pinkiesmile:

#46 · 10w, 2h ago · 2 · ·

Hanna at the business table reminds me of Gendo Ikari from NGE. Cool, brilliant, and has her own agenda as to utilize a god-like power. One chapter in and I'm feeling sold...

#47 · 4w, 2d ago · · ·

Number 2000 here - Great fic!

:pinkiehappy:

#48 · 1d, 19h ago · · ·

banned in Australia video game
Wow, just wow. Good news is, R18+ exists now. That doesn't change l4d2 being censored though.

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