Bitter 340

The gameplay footage wasn’t from actual players. Six journalists from various websites were invited to APE headquarters and given access to the game for an hour.

Journalist was probably a flattering term. They were more like fanboys with a megaphone. They got to tell everyone what they thought first, and loudest. But their opinions wouldn’t really make much difference. People who were interested would go ahead with their purchase, people who weren’t would continue to believe it was all hype over substance.

What the world wanted to see, though, was what the game could do. And no one was a better conduit for showing them than a group of their own.

Seeing real people — all the journalists were limited to playing human characters — fighting monsters, casting magic and performing impossible feats of athleticism blew minds all over the internet.

They were given high-level classes to try out, so they were leaping over monsters, throwing fireballs and taking brutal hits, before rising from the smoke to continue the battle.

Invisible cameras swooped around them as they made their way through a dungeon Britta didn’t recognise. They met enemies at every turn, and demolished them.

It seemed to Britta like a carefully orchestrated PR exercise. She was more impressed by how smoothly it all went, something the game had been missing when she played it. Someone was making sure things went exactly to plan.

The gear they were using and the spells they had were far more advanced than anything Britta had seen, but then she had kept to herself mostly. Her time had been spent in low-level areas and any players she’d seen in combat hadn’t been that far ahead of her.

These players were how you imagined heroes to be. Which felt a bit like false advertising, unless progression in the game had been majorly overhauled. It would take a long time to get to that level of powerful.

All six of the journalists gushed about the experience in the post-game interviews. Their faces after their short taste of the game said more than their quickly-released articles possibly could, although that didn’t stop them trying to outdo each other in the amount of hyperbole they could squeeze onto a page.

The footage was replayed everywhere, including news sites.

It was news, it was entertainment, it was business.

Even as someone who had played the game, Britta was impressed. Seeing people play the game with a massive advantage over the enemy creatures looked like a lot of fun. Had they made it so the game was easy mode, now? Did that mean she wouldn’t get one-shot by every goblin she met?

“Ridiculous,” said Dad as he watched it again and again. “They’re making it look like anyone can smash up the place. They must be using level-capped characters with endgame gear.”

“Maybe they want it to be easier,” said Britta, “so people can have more fun.”

“Fun? Pffft.” Dad hadn’t been in-game for days and he’d spent most of his spare time salivating over the images coming out, just like every other gamer. He still had his rig, but it wasn’t letting him log in until launch day. Britta assumed the same was true for all the other beta players. Everyone would get let back in at once. Dad confidently predicted the whole system would crash within minutes.

“Isn’t that why they’re only letting a few people in?” asked Mum.

“Four million is not a few. And all starting at Level 1. The beginning zones are going to be chaos.”

That was another bone of contention for him. Everyone would start with a fresh character. Which was normal for a game coming out of beta — a full wipe so everyone started together — but it was still a pain to have to go through the early levels again, especially when stopping to smell the very accurately depicted roses came very secondary to getting geared up and into high-level dungeons before everyone else.

The journalists had all given the game top marks, but they had also added the obligatory words of caution. What nerd ever praised without trying to make it sound like they had better insight into the subject than the creators?

Grinding for rare items, loot boxes, locked content, griefing, health and hygiene issues. They tried to look at the possible negatives from every angle. Which was their job, but they clearly had no idea if any of those points were valid. It was pure conjecture on their part.

It looks amazing, but how many times have we been here before…

They did, however, all agree that if the full game lived up to half its potential, it would revolutionise the face of gaming forever.

Britta was sure it would change more than that. If what Nigel had said was true, it was the whole world they were aiming to turn upside down. If the game actually worked.

“Can you imagine the amount of bugs they’re going to have to face?” said Dad. “You don’t completely reformat a game and then immediately pile on the heaviest load its ever had to deal with. Not without breaking something. It’s going to be a disaster.”

“Does that mean you won’t be playing on the first day?” asked Mum.

“Of course I will,” said Dad. “I’m not going to miss out.”

“But I thought you said it would be chaos,” said Mum. “Won’t it crash and leave you all with nothing to do but stare at a blank screen.”

“It’s not a screen, Mum,” said Britta, finding herself defending Dad in spite of herself. “It doesn’t work like that. It’s more like a picture in your head.”

Or maybe it wasn’t Dad she was trying to defend. For all the flaws with it, she did actually hope the launch was a success. Even though it was bound to be immediately overrun by bullies and trolls, it was still an amazing achievement.

It was the pinnacle of technological innovation, like the car or the plane. Or the nuclear bomb.

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