Bitter 545

Britta wasn’t sure what Dad would do about Rick, but she was happy he was handling it. There was no good way to deal with Rick that she could see, and many ways to make things worse. The last thing she wanted was an irate teenage boy hounding her at school.

Her focus was her school work. She had decided that was the important thing; now was not the time to get distracted by boys and video games.

It was, Britta knew, not a terribly proactive way to deal with the situation. She wanted to be the sort of person who faced her problems and took care of them quickly, not leave them to others. Delegating was all well and good, but dumping a problem in someone else’s lap and running away was not how great women earned the respect of the people around them.

Fortunately, she was able to immerse herself in her classes and forget about the game. Until lunchtime, that was.

There was a rise in background noise as chatter increased, suggesting something had happened. Everyone had their phones or other devices out, and were excitedly checking something. Britta did likewise but had no idea what she was supposed to be checking for.

She looked around for someone to ask, but there was no one. Rashida was eating her lunch oblivious and Lewis was in the middle of a crowd of boys.

His group seemed more excited than most, which suggested it might be related to the game. Britta looked up the biggest gaming sites and found that the source of the commotion was the announcement of new helmets being released, with no limit on the number and half the price of the previous batch.

It seemed the game was going wide in a big way, and in less than a month. New World would soon be a changed place.

As she looked over the news, the release of more helmets wasn’t the only announcement. As well as the hardware, there was a list of new features coming to the game. They included a lot of cash shop items to help new players, including XP boosters. That would mean you could level up a lot quicker, if you were willing to pay.

It sounded like the sort of thing Dad and other hardcore gamers would rage about. Had the whole point of slowing player progress been to force them to buy boosters?

There were more new items, too. New dungeons, a season pass (she wasn’t sure what was included with that), and various packages of fashion items and mounts.

There seemed to be a change in how the game was being presented, from a visual novelty to a fully-fledged money-making exercise. The game was definitely no longer in beta.

Everyone was excited right now, but it was more than likely their excitement would change to frustration if the game remained as difficult to level up as it was right now. It was all very well offering boosters, but you still had to get experience points in order to boost them. Casual players would not fare well against the monsters as they currently were.

Did that mean they would start to make fights easier?

“This is great, isn’t it?” said Lewis, sitting down next to her with his laptop open. “We can all play the game now, at the same time.”

Even though Lewis had found a way to play using Rick’s helmet, it had to be shared between four of them and they couldn’t play at the same time. Soon each would be able to have a helmet of their own. Would they hack them? More than likely if it meant they could stay ahead of everyone else.

Rick may have got lucky with the changes he made to his own Anderson cradle, but if he tried again with the new helmets there was a chance he would make a mistake that could leave one of them injured in some way.

“Yes, should be great,” she said. “It’s going to be a bit mad in there now, though. All those people. And it looks like there’s going to be a lot of people paying to win.”

Lewis was surprisingly sanguine about it. “That was always going to be the way it ended up. You can’t really blame the company. They invested a lot of money in making this thing, they’re going to want to recoup their investment. The important thing is that we have a way to keep things fair.” He grinned at her.

Yep, they were definitely planning to fiddle with their hardware. And if they were, so were a lot of other people. It would quickly devolve into a world dominated by cheaters, hackers and people willing to pay large amounts of money to keep up.

Was that really how they wanted New World to evolve? Perhaps now that they had fine-tuned the software, they planned to move on and use the game to print money. Lewis was right, they had invested a lot, and they would want it back plus interest.

“At least it isn’t like those Asian MMOs. They just make you grind for everything and microtransaction you to death.”

Maybe it was more like those Asian MMOs than Lewis realised. It was owned by a Chinese company, after all.

It made no real difference to her, Britta told herself. She would continue to do her job and use the money to level up in the real world. She did, however, send Lin a text asking her if the game’s difficulty would change. It seemed a small but relevant question that affected her directly.

She received an immediate reply.

No. The marketing is being handled by the gaming arm of the company. They have a very aggressive approach to making money. Nothing will really change.

Was that really possible? It seemed unlikely you could sell items in the cash shop that were advertised to make the game easier, and then not deliver. Technically, they were only offering boosters, not actual XP, but the implication was still there.

Next time she logged in, it might not be the same world.

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