With thanks to my editors, Alianath Iriad and Lastman416, who saved me from quite a few errors. The end result is much better than it would have been otherwise.
This story is dedicated to Deadduck, if he’s still out there.
– “Daniel!” My mother’s voice carried – down the stairs, through the closed door of my bedroom. She had powerful lungs.
“Don’t forget your Physio appointment! Four o’clock!”
I had to open the door before I called back – I just couldn’t compete in a shouting match.
– “I know, Mom!”
I glanced at the clock. High noon, on the dot. She knew my habits so well.
Once upon a time, I used to read my email first thing in the morning. But I’d discovered that plugging into the computer at the crack of dawn was less than ideal. It was somewhat like starting a bobsled run – hard to stop halfway.
So now I usually began my day with a few exercises, followed by a light breakfast, and a cup of tea or coffee, depending on my mood. I read a book, or a magazine, or chatted with Mom, if she wasn’t too busy – working from home may sound like a slacker’s paradise, but my mother was conscientious and highly productive.
After a mellow beginning, I would tackle some of my online classes. The temptation to load up a game was always there, but I could always do that in the afternoon or evening – and I found that I enjoyed it more if I’d been reasonably disciplined earlier in the day.
By noon, my appetite for work was swiftly declining. I needed a bit of lunch. Mom found a dozen different ways to remind me of the time.
I ate by the computer, checking my email. A light meal, with light thinking as accompaniment. Today, though, was just a little bit different. I had a message from Mike.
That was all it said.
Sometimes, when I finished reading my mail, I still had enough energy to go back to work. Most often, though, I would fire up a game. But today, I was intrigued enough by Mike’s request that I pulled out my phone.
– “Cyrano!” he shouted. That was my email address: CyranodeScarborough@xmail.xxx. Mike was amused enough that he frequently called me by my alias.
No – I don’t have that big of a nose.
– “Hey Mike.” I replied. “What’s up? Why didn’t you just call me, instead of asking me to call you?”
– “Aww, I didn’t want to interrupt anything, in case you were takin’ a dump, or jerkin’ off, or somethin’.”
That was Mike, all over. Classy. Elegant.
But he was also one of my best friends. pendik escort We’d met at elementary school, where Mike had been one of the few people who hadn’t laughed at me, or pretended that I didn’t exist. We didn’t become friends, though, until junior high, when we ended up playing D I almost always played a fighter. The DM (Dungeon Master) was a bit of a dick: we had a TPK (total party kill) which left us all stunned.
Mike and I lived in the same neighbourhood. It was natural enough for him to walk home with me.
– “Well, that sucked.” he said.
– “You’d think he could have planned a more balanced encounter. Or he could’ve fudged a dice roll or two.” I said. “It’s like he wanted to wipe us out.”
– “Got that right, Dan.” said Mike.
From that moment on, we had something in common. It didn’t hurt that we liked the same music. We also played the same online strategy games. Neither of us had much of a social life, so we had plenty of time for gaming.
When we were both asked to be play-testers for a new game, Mike and I bonded. He came over to my house, and typed his ass off as I provided insights and free-flowing commentary.
“Sounds good, brother Cyrano.” he said. “That’s exactly what I was thinking.”
We tested several games together, belonged to a couple of the same forums and communities, and found ourselves agreeing on quite a few issues.
Mike was primarily interested in the mechanics, the nuts and bolts. He often delved into the code, and became a successful modder – a creator of modifications to the original games. I was more focused on gameplay issues: how it felt to play, and whether the controls were player-friendly (a bit of an issue for me).
I also tended to notice things that break immersion, like spelling or grammatical errors. It may seem like no big deal to you, but really bad Engrish can ruin the experience for me. Plot holes, continuity errors, overdone clichés … lots of things can spoil a game – same as with a TV series or a movie.
Now we were talking on the phone, instead of using our usual email.
– “What’s on your mind, Mike?” I asked.
– “I’m, ah … I’m working on a game.”
– “Which one? Titans?”
– “Nah. It’s not a mod, Dan. It’s an original.”
– “What? You’re developing a game? From scratch?”
He laughed. “Sounds crazy, right? But I have partners. One’s doing all of the art – the other is handling the story, and the characters. I’m just doing the coding. But I do have input into everything we put together.”
– maltepe escort “That’s awesome, Mike!”
– “I know, right? And I was thinking … well, I was hoping that you’d play-test it for us. In a closed beta, you know?”
Mike wanted me to be one of a small group of people who would try out his game. I felt a little flush of pride, that he valued my opinion that much.
– “What would you need me to do?”
– “Everything.” he said. “Whatever you notice. Proofreading, constructive criticism, feedback of any kind, whether it’s the gameplay, or the story …”
– “Story? Did you say ‘characters’, too? What kind of game is it?”
– “Well … it’s not a strategy game.”
Mike knew that I didn’t like FPS games (first-person shooters). They were too frenetic. My reflexes weren’t quick enough. I didn’t have the energy to play for a long time, either.
I much preferred turn-based strategy games, or simulations that had a pause button, so that I could think before I made a move. A ‘save’ function was a must for me.
“Actually …” said Mike. “It kinda is a strategy game. Sorta.”
– “It’s like a strategy game, but it’s not a strategy game?”
– “Yeah. That’s it.”
– “I don’t have a clue what that means.” I said.
– “Well … it’s more of a … dating simulation …”
– “A dating sim?”
– “Well … a dating sim slash porn game … kinda.”
I didn’t know what to say. Sure, I’d played a few of those types of games. Okay, maybe more than a few. But I did that in private, and washed my hands afterwards. I certainly didn’t write a critique of the experience …
There were a number of things that Mike and I had never talked about much: politics, religion, girls and sex among them. I wasn’t really comfortable having conversations about … those things.
“Dan? You still there?”
– “Yeah. I’m here.”
– “Hey – I’m levelling with you, bro. It’s an adult game. There’s sex in it. You ever play anything like that before?”
– “Yes.” I wasn’t about to lie to him.
– “Well, if I know my Cyrano – and I’m pretty sure I do – you like games with a decent story, with real characters, right? I mean, if all you want is to see tab A inserted into slot B, you could just watch porn. Know what I mean?”
– “Yes. But …”
– “Okay. Listen: I really need your help. Your feedback. ‘Cause my partners are really, really good, and I think this game could be special. Especially if we catch the glitches and the bloopers now, so we can fix ’em.”
“It’s kartal escort still early; we’ve finished the first two builds, and we’re well into 3.0. It’s going to look good. That’s for sure. Snogg is a frickin’ genius -“
– “The artist. Wait ’till you see his stuff. Un-believable. It’s going to look amazing. But it’s going to sound good, too. We’ve got voice actors lined up, and … okay, I don’t want to give too much away. But I really need your help, Dan.”
– “I don’t know, Mike.”
– “Look – I know that you’re a bit shy about this stuff. And I know you can’t type pages and pages of comments. But what if you just jotted down a few notes – and then recorded yourself speaking your feedback?”
“You could just send me an audio file – your very own podcast. No conversation, no embarrassment …”
Mike did know me well. In addition to all of my other problems, I wasn’t just shy; I damn near went catatonic rather than talk to girls. I couldn’t even talk about girls. I wasn’t just a 22 year-old virgin; I was probably a virgin for life.
But could I actually talk about that sort of thing – if it was just with a microphone?
“You have a feel for games, Dan.” he continued. “We want this to be fun, with a challenge, too. You’ve got great instincts for games – and … it would mean a lot to me if you could help us.”
He had me, there. I didn’t want to disappoint Mike. And I was a little curious about this game of his …
– “Okay. I’ll give it a try, Mike.”
Alea Jacta Est.
The very next day, he sent me a file to download. It was surprisingly big – the artwork was probably the culprit.
I didn’t expect anything particularly NSFW at the very beginning, but you never know – I waited until Mom was out on an errand before I opened the exe. file.
The very first screen was … a letdown.
It looked a bit like the album cover from Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti. A run-down building, but without anything interesting in the open windows.
The title was in big letters: THE APARTMENT.
The menu offered me the usual choices: start a new game, load a saved game, options, credits, and quit.
Options would allow me to change the screen resolution, or the sound effects. At that point, I realized that I should put my headphones on. But if Mom came home …? I compromised by putting the left headphone over my ear, while leaving my right ear free.
I regretted it almost immediately. The music was … ouch. It sounded like some techno geek was sampling Ravel’s Bolero .Repetitive – yes. Hypnotic – no. Sensual … not at all. It was just … awful.
I clicked on ‘Credits’.
ARTWORK a new screen appeared, asking me to choose a ‘role’ for each girl.