Bitter 224

“Hello, Britta? It’s Dr Reedy here.”

“Hello,” said Britta, not sure if she should mention that Dad was listening in.

“Did you get the file I sent you?”

“Yes, thanks,” said Britta. “I’ve only had a quick look at it, but it looks the same as what I saw in-game.”

“Good, good. So what appears to have happened is that the game has installed a prototype we’ve been working on for a more advanced character progression system. It hasn’t been integrated into the source code, at least not by us. In fact, to be totally honest with you, all attempts at uploading it in a workable format have failed miserably, until now.”

“You couldn’t get it to work?”

“No. Not in a stable manner. From what I’ve been told, they were on the verge of scrapping the whole project until they heard you had somehow managed to migrate the code into the live version. Everyone here is quite shocked, and not a little excited.”

Britta couldn’t really take credit, but at least they knew where the code had come from, if not how it had ended up in the game. “I haven’t actually tried using it yet. It might not work.”

“Yes, of course. That’s certainly a possibility. But just getting it to show up in an active condition is more than anyone’s achieved so far, so that’s already a good sign.”

“But wouldn’t adding something so major to the game require a lot of people?” asked Britta.

“Normally, yes, it definitely would, and most likely also a raft of bug fixes. But let me hand you over to someone who would like to talk to you about this. His name’s Jack Dougal, he’s the lead designer.”

“Oh, he designed the game?”

Dad nodded at her and gave her a thumbs up while raising his other hand over his head to either indicate Jack Dougal was very tall or very high up in the company. Possibly both.

She should have told Dr Reedy she was on speakerphone. Now she was stuck with Dad doing charades.

“That’s right,” said Dr Reedy. “Here he is.”

“Hello? Britta? It’s Jack Dougal here.”

“Hello. Nice to meet you.” She felt like a complete dork. What did the lead designer want to ask her?

“I just wanted to tell you that the whole team is behind you. We’ve been watching some of your gameplay, and it’s already given us plenty to think about. Changes we can make and how to improve the game going forward.”

“Don’t you think you should fix some of the bugs first?” she found herself saying.

“Of course, but that isn’t really my depa—”

“And maybe finish some of the things you started, like the gnome class quest and the Garbolum Family questline.”

“Yes, you’re right. We are working—”

“And why is the gnome village so hard to get out of? I’m stuck down there with no way to reach the surface? Was that intentional? Doesn’t really make sense. Would it be so hard to put in a door and some stairs?”

“Actually, that wasn’t supposed—”

“The whole status screen is really hard to navigate, you know. And if someone ties up your hands, you can’t activate it. And the trail that guides you to a map location thinks people can walk through walls. It’s terrible.”

Once she’d started, it had been easy unloading all her frustrations with the game. She felt a lot better once she’d got it off her chest.

There was silence on the other end of the phone. Britta had the awful feeling she’d gone too far.


“Ah, yes,” said Dr Reedy. “Jack had to go. Emergency.”

Britta couldn’t imagine what an emergency at a game company consisted of. Maybe Donkey Kong had escaped from his cage.

Dad was shaking his head at her. She hunched her shoulders and mouthed, “What?” at him.

Dad put his fists to his eyes and turned them. Was he saying she’d made the lead designer cry?

“I’m sorry,” said Britta. “I didn’t mean to sound like I thought the game was bad or anything.”

“No, no, we want you to tell us what you think is wrong with the game. That’s what we’re paying you for. Haha.” Her laugh was brittle and mirthless. “I just wanted to confirm the skill tree you saw was the same one as ours. We still need to run some tests to see how it ended up in the game.”

“Am I the only person who has access to it?” asked Britta.

“As far as we know. Jack will be investigating further.”

“One other thing,” said Britta, sensing Dr Reedy was about to end the call. “I wanted to ask if you could change my respawn point. When I log back in.”

“Oh, let me think. It may be possible.”

“Would Jack know? Is he still there? Actually, I just remembered some more bugs I could tell him about.”

Britta thought she heard a faint ‘No,’ but she might have imagined it.

“I’m afraid not,” said Dr Reedy. “But feel free to include it all when you send in your report. I’ll find out about the respawn location and let you know.” She ended the call rather abruptly.

Britta turned to Dad. “What did I do?”

“You can’t be so blunt with people. You’ll just upset them.”

“But he’s a grown man, isn’t he?”

Dad shook his head slowly. “Sweetheart, he’s a game developer.”

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