I wake up. Who am I? I do remember the name, Wuxia. Besides that though… I seem to be a video game character? Let’s see what I’ve got. Two guns. Guns are good. Solid. Also two breasts? Guns and breasts—but no conveniently revealing miniskirt? Not a leather strap across the nipples? Must be an NPC then.
Ah, a mirror. A full-face mask to save money on animation and a douchey Kung Lao type of hat. So not just an NPC, a token Asian NPC. Great. Explains Wuxia which isn’t even a proper Chinese name. Hope I get to shoot somebody before my plot-essential death.
And what is this place anyway? Shadow quality from two years ago? Every 3D prop reused at least five times? All characters are just a retextured base model?
Damn, I ended up in VR.
A retro-futuristic saloon filled with robots. Judging by graphics, we are not doing Westworld, are we? They would’ve had bigger budgets. What are we doing then? Probably I’d better find the producer. Not hard to spot: there he is, sitting on a chair, leaning against the wall, clearly has been in a drunken stupor for days. A pretentious tattoo on his face in Gothic type, saying ‘Agnes’.
“Wake up, dude. What is this place?”
“Hi, I’m Dima of Dima Productions!”
(First thing they do, always, is give you their business card.)
“Spare the networking. What’s with the ink, Agnes? Girlfriend?”
“I get it, funny! No, of course not. It stands for Alignment in Gaming is Necessary for Execution Success.”
“I think you need professional help.”
“Yeah, mind your own business.”
“What’s the lore of this place?”
“Story. World-building principles. Like Beatsaber is a Jedi on a treadmill or Superhot is low-poly Matrix without the sex scenes.”
“Ah, this. You’re all robots used to promote revolvers. People inhabit your bodies and shoot each other to test the things. Also you… people… gather here, in the saloon, to entertain yourselves and such.”
So we’re doing the Westworld ripoff after all. Sad. As Lemony Snicket once noted on VR game development, “Oftentimes. when people are miserable, they will want to make other people miserable, too.” Anyway, I’m getting tired of this guy. You know how to make any producer scram? Ask one simple question.
“So, where are you in your release schedule?”
And look at him go! Gotta admire the velocity these people can develop when asked about deadlines. Let’s look for a developer then. There is a fat guy in the corner building something, sure looks like he’s good for it.
“Who are you?”
“Engineer, from Jetstyle. We’re building this place.”
“Looks like you’re pretty much done already.”
“You don’t get it, the environment is maybe 20% of it. The saloon is going to be the social hub of RevolVR 3, so I’m currently developing social features for the voice chat. Look at these: Mute, Mute Everyone, Block, Hide, Kick, Ban. All very good.”
“Sounds more like anti-social features to me.”
“Ah, so you’re one of these people. Listen, online interaction is just virtue-signalling and aggression. Everything else is just distractions. Look at Facebook. Sure, there are Like, Comment and Share, but on the other side you’ve got so much more: Hide, Snooze author, Unfollow, Report, Unfriend. So good! If not for aggression, why would you even want to shoot strangers in VR? Even you! You’re virtue-signalling right now!”
“Am not, I literally just said hi.”
“No, I mean I’ve programmed you to virtue-signal. All characters have a little box above their heads to display game progress and achievements.”
I look up. Damn.
“I wonder if I can get y’all in group therapy. So when did you develop your life principles?”
“Oh, these are not principles. We only have three principles. One: Never forget the number of our principles. Two: never use numbered lists.”
“Right. When did you develop your life philosophy?”
“They give you a brochure when you’re promoted to senior engineer. If you want some pointers, I can lend it to you.”
He reaches to get a thin book entitled Introduction to effective anger management in game design.
“I’ll pass. Can you tell me who I am? Why the stupid hat?”
“No time. Better talk to the publisher.”
He waves his hand and gets back to work. Lovely. So I am to approach the suit. He stands in the middle of the saloon chatting with the robotic bartender and smoking a metal cigar (what?)
“Hi, I am Wuxia. You the publisher?”
“At least you seem… normal.”
“I am as normal as they make ’em!”
He winks. Cringy. Do people still wink even?
“All right, then tell me about me. What am I doing in this game? What’s the story?”
“RevolVR 3 is an upcoming VR shooter carrying on its LBE predecessors. RevolVR 2 is now present at 78 arcades around the world. In two years, it has attracted more than three million plays.”
“Okay, good. WHAT IS THE GAME ABOUT?”
“RevolVR 3 is an upcoming VR shooter carrying on its LBE predecessors.”
“RevolVR 3 is an upcoming VR shooter…”
Okay, they gave me guns for a reason, right? I reach for a revolver and shoot the guy right in the forehead. He drops instantly. I must say, that does feel rewarding. (Also my gun shoots shurikens? For reals?)
Wait, what’s that? A magnetic claw protrudes from the ceiling and lowers down an exact copy of the publisher.
“You like that?”, asks the developer, watching. “This is how we do respawning. Nice effect, huh?”
The suit comes to life, looks at me, smiles and says, “Nice to meet you, Wuxia. I am Allan of Never Bored, the proud publisher of RevolVR 3.”
All right, the humans of RevolVR 3 are clearly bonkers. Let’s go talk to the robots.