Noah is a tester of fully immersive video games, and one of the best, though his personality makes him rather difficult to work with. In fact, his only friend (and serious crush) is his manager, Malik. And when Noah suspects that Mal has been working with someone else, he crosses a line that could ruin even that.
It turns out that both men might be keeping their share of secrets, and it might take a very special game for them to be able to open up. With everything on the line, though, can Noah level up his game and find a way to show to Malik exactly how he feels, or will it be game over for his career and his romantic aspirations?
"Fine," he said, and walked to the bar. In the press surrounding the bartender, he opted to sub-vocalize just in case the people around would react to him talking to himself. So what's the objective?
Depends on how far you want to take it, was Mal's cryptic reply.
Noah ordered a bourbon on the rocks and the bartender hurried to comply. Noah didn't have enough experience in clubs to know if the speed and efficiency was realistic or not, but he couldn't help but admire the way the young man's hands danced ice into glass, the bottle of bourbon spinning into a pour, the laugh that escaped his lips, the way the crowd swayed to his motions.
How far does it go? Noah asked, not wanting to be the one to back down first. From what he heard in rumors, these sorts of games could get rather ... adult. And it wasn't like his immersion box had blocks in place. All he needed to do was activate the features and he could get full immersion.
Bedroom scenes are available if you progress far enough down a romance branch, Malik said. How far you have to go changes from person to person.
And who exactly is available for romancing? Noah asked. First order of business was to establish the parameters of the game, and he was already at a disadvantage, not being fully familiar with the type of game. Were people expected to be only interested in getting to the bedroom scenes? Would the game break down if he got hostile, or if he was too aggressive? Unfortunately, he hadn't been provided with a shovel, so breaking things down was likely going to take some original thinking.
"Oh," Noah said, before he realized it was out loud, and the bartender gave him a careful smile as he handed him the drink.
I mean, how does the game support so many independent AI? Noah asked, knowing that even with the capabilities of the current gen immersion boxes it would be impossible to produce hundreds of unique individuals to interact with.
The club is actually divided into a number of subsections that house the active AI only when you're present, Mal said. The rest of the time, they are only rendered on scenery. You may notice a slight lag between certain areas, but the game is designed to make such transitions minimal and organic.
Noah pursed his lips. He had to admit, the technical specs of the game sounded just as complicated as any shooter or strategy war game. Thinking back to how many times he'd seen ally AI run straight into enemy fire, though, Noah hoped the actual personality simulators were robust enough to be interesting and challenging. Dating an obvious bot would hardly be satisfying. What the fuck was he even talking about? He was here to break the game, not enjoy himself. Shaking his head, Noah aimed for a group of dancing men.
First thing was always to try and use the tools at hand as they weren't intended. Tapping one of the men at random, Noah watched him shift and smile, face perspiring and smile radiant, the picture of fierce joy in the freedom of body and music. Noah splashed his drink in the man's face.
It took him a moment to realize he was on the floor and that his jaw was an aching fire. He had to admit, the ceiling was quite well rendered.
Well, that could have gone better, Noah said, more to himself than to Malik.
"You need a hand?" a voice asked, and Noah craned his neck to see a man standing over him, an amused expression slapped across an almost-familiar face.
Mal, I think I found your evil twin, Noah said, and took the man's hand, pulled himself to his feet.