It seemed a little suspicious to Britta. She had just been thinking about how annoyingly inconvenient it was to find a checkpoint, and all of a sudden the game notified her of the existence of saving totems. In the cash shop, no less.
She hadn’t said it out loud, though. Did that mean the game could read her mind, and apply appropriate adverts in-game? It raised all sorts of questions if they could, and a lot of interest from large web companies looking to target their products at people who’d rather not be targeted.
There were regulations against that sort of thing, but when had that ever stopped anyone from making loads of money? Easier to pay the fines and keep raking in the cash.
Then again, maybe she was jumping to conclusions. If everyone got a free daily sandwich from the Adventurer’s Guild, it wouldn’t surprise her if it wasn’t quite as free as all that. A little cash shop promotion on a food wrapper was hardly an unbelievable thing to happen.
This was her first sandwich, maybe they all had this kind of message on them. You didn’t need to be a telepath to predict saving the game would be an issue for players. Especially if you were the one who had made it that way.
She touched the tab on her screen that said ‘Player’s Store.’ It had always been there, but last time she tried to use it, there had been a message telling her the store was closed during Beta.
It was open now, though. The screen shifted to a bright and colourful display full of small icons. Dozens of items, most of them on sale.
5% off. 10% off. All the way up to 80% off in some cases.
She clicked around. There were various items of clothing you could buy. Some simple one, some extravagant to the point of stupidity. Why would anyone want to wear a dragon mask with giant feathers sticking out in all directions?
The prices were all in rubies, a currency that wasn’t in the game, and not one used much in real life. You probably had to buy rubies with real money, and then use the rubies in the store. That way it wouldn’t feel like you were wasting cold hard cash on digital nothing.
The mounts were interesting. You could buy a pig with a saddle, or you could go for the unicorn with wings. A bargain at one million rubies. She hadn’t done the conversion to real money, but it was bound to be over a hundred pounds. The interesting thing, though, was that the mounts were level-locked. You couldn’t buy one until you were Level 3, which was when she had been given access to Donald, and the more exotic creatures didn’t become available until much later than that.
At least that meant you couldn’t just buy your way to a massive advantage straight away.
The saving totems mentioned on her wrapper came in a number of types. They looked like little wooden dolls on a stick, a bit like a scarecrow. According to the description, you stuck them into the ground, and that became your respawn point. The prices went from as low as 10,000 rubies up to 100,000 rubies.
The difference was in how long they lasted. From an hour for the cheapest to a week for the longest. She looked up the price of rubies and did the calculations. One English pound got you one thousand rubies. That means the cheapest totem would cost a tenner, and last for an hour. It was the sort of thing you would use if you were in a fight, and didn’t want to get respawn miles away if you died.
It also meant the unicorn with wings would set you back a cool £1000. Once you reached Level 50, that was.
She found it all very interesting. You could easily waste a lot of time browsing; a lot of money, too. Was it pay-to-win? There weren’t any weapons or armour for sale, as far as she could tell. No potions to help you stay alive. There were potions to change the colour of your outfit, but she had seen those already, the free ones she got when she levelled up. Free and temporary. The ones in the shop were permanent, and cost a fiver a pop.
The saving totems were clearly a useful item if you planned to travel around, but were they necessary? That seemed a bit much. There had to be more naturally occurring checkpoints around. Ones that weren’t as hard to find as the one here in the Gnome Village.
Her instinct was to find the whole idea of being forced to pay for the privilege of saving an affront to her gamer’s dignity, but she wasn’t really a gamer. That was just Dad’s relentless moaning rubbing off on her.
She had money. She had the game maker’s money. Why couldn’t she spend it on their game? It wasn’t actually clear to her who would be outsmarting who if she did that. The company who paid her, only to have her hand the money back? Or the player who used the companies own money to finance her gameplay.
Either way, she was sure Dad wouldn’t approve. But it was her money, and a few hundred quid was hardly going to make a difference. She might even buy herself a cloak in the shape of butterfly wings. It was purely decorative, but it looked nice.
She ate the last of her sandwich and couldn’t remember what it had tasted of. She had been too engrossed in the cash shop to notice, and she’d barely got past the front page. If this stuff was accessible on the computer Lin had given her...
She looked up. The gnomes were standing around, looking at her. She wiped the crumbs from the corners of her mouth. Maybe she should have offered them some of her lunch. There wasn’t enough for everyone, but it might have put her in their good books.
“You don’t seem very worried,” said the Captain.
“No,” said Britta. “Should I be?”
“The Feared One is not someone to take lightly,” she said. The men around her nodded.
“Oh, I’m not taking her lightly. But if she’s the person I think she is, it should be fine. She seemed quite nice last time we met.”
“You met before? When?”
Britta realised her mistake and winced. She had met the Wise One in another world, not this one. And it might not even be the same person.
“No, I mean, I met her… in a dream?” The Captain gave Britta a doubtful look like she was doubtful Britta wasn’t an idiot. It was weak, but it was the best she could come up with on the spot. She really needed to watch what she said in future.
There was clanking and the sound of marching feet. The men quickly got into formation, lined up by the entrance the noise was coming from. A group of gnomes entered led by one in full plate armour, shined to a high polish. It would have been intimidating if it had been full-size, but the armoured knight was slightly shorter than Britta. Not really fearsome. It was, however, very cute.
Book 1 of Bitter is available for 0.99c on Amazon and epub outlets for a limited time. LINK.
Afterword from Mooderino