It is very hard to describe what 'The Caves' is about for the intended intelligent target audience. The best description of what I've done in making 'The Caves' was that email I sent. Here it is with a couple of small redactions, since leaving those parts in would spoil a bit of the story and make part of the puzzle a little too easy.
This is going to take a bit of explaining. I promise you an interesting story worthy of your time to read this email; potentially worth significantly more.
There was a fellow named Jim Schwaiger who wrote a computer game named "Oubliette", originally for a PLATO mini-computer at the University of Illinois in 1977. He eventually adapted it and sold it as a stand-alone game for the Commodore 64 in 1983. That was about when I encountered it, and played it thoroughly when I was a teenager.
I had always enjoyed the experience of playing that game and remembered it well. In 1998 I started a project to rewrite the game for myself in C, just for the fun of it. I had to shelve the idea since life got a little hectic around then.
I started re-visiting the idea in 2012, but first I began poking around the internet. It seemed that in the intervening years, a weird kind of time portal was forming in that, as we went further forward in time, we were better able to access with higher fidelity things further back in time. Specifically, a very good Commodore 64 emulator had been written called "Vice" that was able to play the old Oubliette game. Such a thing definitely did not exist in 1998. So I found myself in 2012, back in a dungeon (virtually) that I hadn't visited since 1985. Strangely, after 27 years I remembered just about everything, so much so that I could navigate without reference to a map and cast spells in an arcane language without reference to a manual.
But the truly interesting aspect of the experience was that the levels of play of the experience of Oubliette; the mechanics of typing commands on the keyboard, the tactical considerations for battle, the feel of dungeon exploration, and the experiential mindset of being "in" the game were reproduced with perfect fidelity on a completely different substrate. That is, a modern PC computer running a Windows OS as opposed to a Commodore 64.
I was reminded most startlingly of your book "Metamagical Themas", which coincidentally I had read in 1998. Reading your book was one of the most profound philosophical experiences in my life in that, afterwards I knew what I was; a very strange loop of multi-level symbols banging around in the 'careenium' as you put it. I don't mean to imply that you achieved some kind of weird guru status, no not at all. No, the idea just made perfect sense. Intelligence is such a wonderful emergent property. Here was the explanation I was looking for that described that emergence as a natural phenomenon, accessible to scientific and mathematical scrutiny without recourse to the supernatural.
Shortly thereafter, I read "Godel, Escher, Bach". Again, I gained wonderful insight. I pondered about whether Godel's Incompleteness Theorems could be applied to the universe as a whole, in that maybe there are truths about our universe that we can't prove (know) from within. I also pondered whether my strange loopy consciousness could be reduced to code, or indeed a single Godel number.
So all that brought me to thinking, that if Oubliette could be reproduced with perfect fidelity on a different substrate, preserving all the salient aspects of the experience; couldn't I, as a potentially codable entity, similarly be capable of reproduction on a different substrate? That is, maybe our consciousnesses can be thought of as Godel code for which the universe itself is the interpreter. Could something true yet unprovable outside the universe, a different substrate, 'run' the code? Could we 'live' again after death?
Who knows? But it was an intriguing idea.
So I decided to go ahead with my resurrection of Oubliette except now I was working in 2012 with C++ and Windows API, and now the point wasn't to simply recreate the game, the point was to tell the story of the combined philosophical revelation.
So I did. It took a while, but 6 years later it is done. The game/story is called "The Caves of Janxrathra" and you can find it here. The story is hidden inside the 'dungeon' of the game in snippets like chapters of a book so you really have to work to put it all together; but that's part of the experience. Another part of the experience is that I level-mixed like you did with Achilles and the Tortoise. I truly love that technique for exposition, so inside the game is actually 3 levels working at the same time, converging at the climax of the game. REDACTED ********************************************** REDACTED
Additionally, to finish you must solve two relatively difficult puzzles. REDACTED ********************************************** REDACTED
No, I'm not selling the game. It is available for free in full-functional form with an included manual that tells you everything you need to know; so no upsell. Yes, I will take donations. No I don't expect much. This is far too esoteric and strange and frankly intelligent to have any kind of mass appeal. Just getting the word out is pretty much impossible with thousands of indie games produced every year. Money is not the objective; describing the philosophical concept in an entertaining engaging way is.
And by the way, in order to assuage any possible copyright heartache, I did get a hold of Jim Schwaiger after a lot of work and explained what I had done in an email a lot like this one. We ended up talking on the phone extensively and became friends. He enthusiastically supports my game/story and, by the way, is a huge fan of yours as well. Smart guy.
So why send you this email? Because I wanted you to know sir, what your tremendous work in part inspired. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for the work you have done.
As for my game/story, you can play it or not, spread the word or not, it doesn't matter. I'm just a little guy doing his little part to help the universe understand itself.
This is my message in a bottle. I'm curious to see if anything comes back.
Brian Rene Morrissette
So, on the surface, 'The Caves' is a D&D type game straight out of 1985 with a very simple 3D engine but some fluid and engaging game-play. But that part is just the book-binding; the real story is inside. I can't just publish the story on its own because part of the message comes from the medium itself. In other words, you have to play through the game to get the full meaning of what I'm trying to convey.
It is in my signature block, but here is the link again.
This is my humble message in a bottle. I think this forum is a great sea in which to throw it. I'm very curious to see what comes back.
P.S. If you are going to play, I strongly recommend you read the manual first. Like most projects, the most difficult part is getting started.