The Gestalt is capable of improving itself via its Blue Axons. As mentioned in Part I, Blue Definitions (geometric structures of Blue Axons) produce a resource known as Paradigm. This represents the Gestalt's slow modification of its own nature.
These modifications are handled via the Paradigm screen. On this screen is a list (with visual cues to the right, just before the Custard Bar) of different possible developments, each marked as an Evolution or a Paradigm (and highlighted in green-blue and darker blue respectively). One can be selected at any time and this will fill at a rate related to the amount of Paradigm resource produced, however all of the entries on this screen will very slowly fill over time regardless of being selected or not.
Once a requisite amount of Paradigm resource has been gathered, the result differs.
Evolutions unlock instantly, allowing some new possibility for the player - examples include 3-legged Axons (called 3-Axons), new Assemblies for Reds, and so forth.
Paradigms, on the other hand, remain on the Paradigm screen. They must be selected again to become "Active", in which case they begin to have an effect. Once this occurs, they turn steel-grey and can no longer be deselected. However, once this occurs, a new Paradigm will appear that has the capacity to reverse the effects of the previous one.
Paradigms act as selectable "powers" for the player. The player may decide to leave a number of Paradigms charged and ready to be activated if needed, and several Paradigms will be designed around that role (Survival Mentality Paradigm is a classic example).
While most Evolutions provide only simple incremental improvements in the player's capacity (in a manner similar to Tech Trees in other games), Paradigms serve to allow us to almost entirely change the way the game is played based upon the player's decisions.
Enemy AIs in Gestalt currently come in three forms:
Other Gestalt can come into existence, and these will generally be the most common enemies. They operate in the same way as the player's Gestalt, including Axons, Paradigm and so on. Much as with the player, they can only be defeated by destroying their Yellow Axons.
Rapidly moving enemies that piggy-back the natural data packet traffic on the network (represented by occasional pulses of brightness along the link lines). They slip by most defences, steal resources (which can cause Axons to die), and then flee before they can be attacked.
3) Deus Ex
Monolithic intelligences can arise that are based in a single conscious process on a single Node. These opponents are extremely difficult to directly take on, but have limited ability to affect the network beyond their home Node. They can take over the processing of other nodes and weaken them, and can with great effort move their entire selves to another Node to gain better strategic position.
Suggestions for other kinds of opponent AI are gratefully received. Variation in this will be key.
The simplest play mode is called Conquest Mode. The player is let loose on a network and wins by dominating every Node. There will typically be a number of enemy AIs of the three kinds mentioned above.
Slightly more complex is Singularity Mode. This presents the player with a couple of wrinkles on the basic structure laid out in the Conquest Mode. Firstly, many of the Nodes in the network will have some oddity or special property that might help or hinder the player, and secondly, the game will be accompanied by a relentless red ticker counting up as the game progresses. After a pre-defined period, counter-actions will be taken by the humans running the network; deadly viral counter-agents and worse will be released into the network, and Nodes will begin to disappear. The player can prevent this by controlling certain Nodes that will allow the player to keep the human watchdogs away from their own network.
Multiplayer is intended to be effortless and seamless. If it is enabled in the options (which it will be by default), the game will permit other instances on the same local network to connect to it silently and without mentioning the fact to the player. The game will only stay actively able to host for a few minutes after a game is started, however all games will perform this check on game start.
The maps of players in Multiplayer are connected at their edges, so when the player explores outside of their starting area, they will eventually discover their Multiplayer opponent.
It will of course be possible to whitelist, password control, or turn off this feature entirely.