CREO: Game of Creation
Fields of snow stretched in every direction, the sun’s light glinting off the white expanse with blinding fury. Pillars of ice jutted into the sky, forming intricate, organic shapes, like a twirling vine encased forever in a frozen tomb. Meanwhile, Adam was making a snowman, interrupting the pristine landscape with one, then two big balls of snow, which were then decorated with a carrot nose and buttons for eyes. I hadn’t intended to bring him with me into Update Alpha, but apparently when I’m in CREO, he is too.
“It needs something else…” Adam said, pacing around his creation with the gaze of an artist at work. Then, Adam grinned and created a big, fluffy hat, which he adorned onto his new friend. “Perfect!” Another unexpected development was his ability to create like any other CREO architect.
“Hey, Adam.” My reason for being there was to investigate, so like any good detective, I’d try asking some questions. “Can you tell the difference between this world and the physical world?” Adam looked thoughtful for a moment.
“Yeah, I can’t quite put it into words, but it’s feels different, right?” I nodded.
“Do you see the creation menu and all that when you create?”
“Nope, I just think and—” an anpan bun appeared in his hand, from which he took a big bite. “Not as good as in your world, but still good.”
“You can’t…” I hesitated to ask. “You can’t make an NPC too, can you?”
“You mean a person?” He pointed at his snowman with a chuckle. “He’s right there.”
“Alright, you’re no fun.” He stuck his hand out and shut his eyes tight… then he opened them again and put his arm down. “Nope.”
“I see.” I was too afraid to try myself or make any living creature after unleashing that dragon. “Adam… when that dragon attacked…”
“You saved me!”
“Well, sure, but I also…” Adam plopped onto the snow and began waving his arms and legs back and forth.
“Come on, you too!”
“But, I’m trying to say—” Adam sat up and stared at me, more seriously than I’d expected from him.
“I don’t like talking about that day. Now come on, snow angels.” There were competing factions in my mind, arguing over whether Adam was nothing but a complex AI whose programming prevented him from divulging too much of CREO’s secrets, or if he was a genuine living being with a consciousness of his own. As I made snow angels with him by my side, the idea that he was a heartless collection of code felt like a distant, far-fetched dream, like something out of a sci-fi novel. “How’s the teammate search going?” He asked, packing snow on top of my avatar’s body.
“I’m not exactly popular anymore. Most of the top players already have teams, so…” A notification popped up, reading:
Want team up? -T3O
Attached was a button for a virtual meet up. Figuring it couldn’t hurt—considering I had no great alternatives—I pushed the meetup button and the two of us were instantly out of the snow, instead in what looked like a high-rise restaurant, overlooking the night lights of a vast city. Hovercrafts zoomed by, each denoted by user icons. We were in the Virtual Hub—the great meeting place of the world, a digital city ‘where all are welcome’. Some call this place home permanently.
We sat across from the mysterious T3O, a user I’d never heard of. His avatar was a hulking figure, with gray skin, what looked like sharp fins along the back of his head, and a sash made of jaguar pelt. He glanced at Adam, who scooted close to me and grabbed my arm.
“Who are you?” I interrupted before he could finish the question. “I can’t exactly team up with someone I don’t know.” He sent me a profile, showing that he was ranked 78th globally in CREO, as well as the Brazilian national champion.
“CREO is not too popular in my country yet. I want to change that. You need a team, right?” T3O said.
“True… alright.” I knew I wouldn’t come across a better offer. “But first, let me see what you’ve got.” I couldn’t help myself. Call me a perfectionist… or maybe just a jerk.
Based on his get-up and home country, I expected his CREO world to be a rainforest, or at least something nature-oriented. What instead greeted me was a very minimalist world—light gray sky with a reflective floor, while an odd ringing noise sounded continuously. Honestly, it looked like it wasn’t even finished yet—I could see some wireframes in my avatar’s reflection.
My reflection burst out at me—grabbing my leg and dragging me into what I now recognized to be water. Under the surface was a black void, lit by neon shapes and patterns. My avatar had been converted into a collection of wireframe polygons, which struggled to keep shape. The ringing noise was distorted, becoming unbearable screeches. A kick—I was sent flying and crashed into an invisible wall, shattering the void, morphing me into more concrete polygons. It was difficult to control, like an old, glitchy video game. I flew through a storm of morphing, jittering 3D shapes, trying to look out for my enemy.
I blocked his attack with the sticks that had become my arms. We flew downward, which became upward, then sideways, then back down, flurries of color raining down on us from all directions, 2D, 3D, somewhere in between. Ringing, loud and clear and constant, like bells in my skull. I pushed him off and got a moment of rest, my avatar now appearing to be a hand drawn outline in a giant chalkboard. Silence.
Think, there’s a trick to this. He’s just trying to confuse me…
He was playing with dimensionality, or at least my perception of it. There was no truly 2D CREO, just a 3D world he confined to the x and y axes, like we were flattened onto a grid. That meant…
He came at me from the side, but I was ready for him. After all, he only had so many places to attack from—he couldn’t come from my front or back, since there was no play space there. I know it’s all kinda weird, but I appreciated the unorthodox approach. This time, I led him out of the chalk area, back into the world of neon lines, and finally past the water into the gray void. We landed on the water without a splash, but ripples—facing each other from a distance. We were going to samurai movie this thing.
We charged at each other, swords drawn.
My challenger staggered and fell. His world evaporated, and we were once again sitting in the virtual restaurant across from each other, Adam at my side.
“That was awesome!” Adam said, bouncing in his seat. He’d watched the whole thing from a viewing room, kinda like how the audience watches in the virtual stadiums during tournaments.
“Well played…” T3O stood as if he were about to leave.
“Woah, woah, where are you going?!” I said. There was no way I was letting him slip through my fingers. “Sure I won, but your world impressed me. With some further development, we could really have something here.” T3O sat back down.
“Th-thanks.” He said.
“What should I call you? T3O is a little awkward.”
“Teo is my real name.”
“Let’s win this thing, Teo.” I offered my hand, and he shook it. “Oh, and this is Adam.”
Adam shook his hand too, though Teo still looked puzzled by him, due to him not having a user icon and his sudden appearance with me most likely. “Now we just need one more, right? Any leads?” Teo shrugged.
“You were the last player in the top 40 without a team, so…” Well, that was concerning and mildly insulting. I took a deep breath and pulled up social media. There was a sea of CREO nobodies pleading for inclusion on a team. I didn’t blame them—it was probably the only chance most of them would ever have of getting into an international championship, and at least one team (us) was very desperate. I projected the feed onto the table for us all to see.
“Let’s split this up between the three of us. All of the somewhat serious ones have sample reels of their CREO worlds, along with their ranks and win-loss ratios. Holler if you see someone promising.”
We were there for a while.
“Say Teo, what time is it for you?”
“I contacted you first thing in the morning, so mid-afternoon.” I glanced at Adam, who was sound asleep, his head resting on the table.
“Middle of the night for us.”
“What… is he?”
“Long story. For now, let’s just say he’s my cousin.” Teo shrugged his avatar’s broad shoulders. The video playing under Adam’s face caught my eye, and I brought it before me. The CREO world in the video was a series of games and puzzles the player has to get through. Those sorts of CREO worlds aren’t common because they’re hard to do right—but if successful, win or lose, the time bonus alone would be a major boost. The video ended with a girl donning cat ears and anime eyes flashing peace signs.
“Like, follow, and add me to your team if you want more from the puzzle witch. Mwahaha!” Her presentation was… lacking, her global rank… 90. Honestly, we’d be lucky to find another top 100 in this field.
“What do you think?” I asked Teo.
“Wasn’t she the one who took a selfie in the middle of a match during the UK nationals? It went viral.”
“I vaguely remember that, but…”
“We don’t have much choice.”
“Exactly.” I checked the time—it’d be evening in Europe, perfect time to pay WhiteWitch a visit.
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