"Die," said the world-maker to the traveler who had left the Golden Lands to buy or steal a way to end his quest, "if you can." And then the anonymous developer left the chat.
HeirOfSorrow (his real name, not the fake one he had used to contact the developer, nor the meaningless one he was saddled with IRL) briefly pondered this advice before rejecting it. He pondered in more depth what the developer had told him about the nature of his problem. He had become lost due to his own errors; he was much too experienced in online worlds to reject this diagnosis or to avoid the burning embarrassment of it. Why he remained lost, why the rolls and draws had fallen against him in such a way that the return phase of a difficult quest had become a ridiculous mess of delays and displacements - that was more interesting as a game problem (and much more pleasant to his ego).
There were game AIs that didn't rule but <i>were</i> the game. The oblique acknowledgment by the developer that there was no randomness or true fairness -- that everything was subtly nudged by omnipotent optimizers deep in the fabric of the game to maximize whatever metrics the designers had considered worthy this quarter -- was on itself worth the indirect ripples of money HeirOfSorrow had sent their way. It was a suspicion long discussed but seldom believed, and now it was, to him, a matter not of game design but of his character's fate. Something in his wandering seemed to serve the blind goals of the AIs; what, the developer didn't want to speculate about.
Killing his character had been the developer's advice - if the AIs found a situation useful enough, there was little the individual players could do about it. If you can had been the offputting coda. Could the AIs prevent any game action that would result in his death?
The player pondered some more while returning to the game. If he could figure out what role he played in the AIs goals, he could play them in a way that would give him advantages nobody else had ever had in the game. There was literally no limit to what the AIs could give him if he maneuvered them into it now that he knew he had their attention.
With superhuman detail and speed and less awareness than the drowsiest mouse, the intelligences that were the game observed the change in his behavior patterns, compared it against previous extrapolations, and found them adequate. The dice of the world were carefully reweighted, and the chosen character was hurried along to a dark end with consequences that would keep players engaged for weeks.