The First Game

 
Art by:  Johnson Ting

Art by: Johnson Ting

 

New message icon blinks on screen.

-Dude, you see what Linear just put out?
-No. What?
-Check this shit out—link

The video is thirty seconds long. A twenty second montage of character silhouettes followed by a five second fly-over of three maps, the last five second is the game’s name: LBR: Linear Battle Royale.

-They’re making a BR? Wow, that’s the last thing I expected from them.
-Right? Guess what.
-Huh?
-I’ve got it half installed.
-How?
-An hour after that video was posted they put a download link on their site. Didn’t advertise it, just stuck it there—link
-Okay, that does seem like something they’d do. I’ll give it a try.

—x—

"Alright, alright, alright. Hot damn. What a wild twenty-four hours, huh?” Markus clicks his remote, the room’s lights dim, the massive OLED screen at one end lights up with figures. Number of players since launch: 1.9 million. Number of hours played: 10,462,400. Shots fired, deaths, ultimate abilities used, list of Heroes played from most to least…etc. “You know what those figures have in common?” Markus asks. Todd senior game designer, bouncing on a ball-chair—boing, boing, boing—raises his hand. “Todd?”

“They’re all higher than any other BR to date.”

“That’s damn right. Maggie.”

Maggie, 30’s, maybe early 40’s, dark bob, taps a tablet, her face lit by the blue glow. “That little teaser we released received more views in the first twelve hours than any game trailer since Grand Theft Auto Five. Our customers trust us. We’re still one of only a handful of employee-owned developers in the industry and our loyal following shows we’ve done something right.”

“Which brings me to the subject of today’s meeting, but first let’s give ourselves a round of applause,” says Markus and the room bursts into cheers, clapping, hugs, smiles, high fives. Beyond the glass walls members of Linear respond to emails, engage with their player base on Discord, take calls from media outlets hoping to land interviews. “Alright, let’s talk serious. Now that we have nearly two million people playing our game we need to figure out a way to make some money off this thing.”

—x—

New message: PandaNam

-Dude. I don’t think I’ve had that much fun in a game since… Fuck. I don’t even know
-Seriously
-It’s like Linear said, “Oh, okay, Battle Royale, huh? Yeah, that’s cool. But here’s the thing, you’re ALL doing it wrong” then put this out. Holy shit
-I can’t remember the last time I woke up and actually wanted to game, like really wanted to. Not just because I didn’t have anything else to do
-And the monetization system..What the actual fuck? When I saw it I literally shook my head and thought How has no one else done this before?
-It’s really smart
-No kidding! Why doesn’t Netflix do something like that? Base rate of $1 and you add what you want with the option to buy a pass for stuff that isn’t part of your normal package. What’d you go for?
-Just the base, nothing extra
-Really? That doesn’t surprise me. I’m too impatient for that. I want access to the new Heroes the day they release, so I went with that, the 50% EXP add-on, and Overflow
-Overflow?
-Yeah, that’s the one where a percentage of the EXP you earn for the Hero you’re playing is shared with the others. I don’t know who I want to make my main yet.

Dropping in 3…
”Where do you want to go? Crash Site like last game?”
2…
”No. Looks like there’s already at least five teams headed that way. Let’s go Vineyard.”
”Ugh, I never find anything there. Fine, fine.”
1…

They start looting. Ac1d finds a medium backpack, shotgun shells, and a crossbow. “Let me know if you find bolts. I’ve got shotty ammo if you need it.” A little more looking and he finds a Grouter, a pistol decent at close ranges, but garbage beyond 25 meters. Footsteps on the roof. “Above me. Two.” A quick press of “1” and his Hero throws a viper rod into the ground. The rod goes turns flexible, a spear become snake. Any enemy that comes within line of sight will be hit with poison that eats through armor but does no character damage. As long as the damage ticks the enemy appears on the mini-map.

“I’m coming,” says Panda. “All I’ve got is a base AR, only twenty shots for…Two dropping from your roof now.” He opens fire, but the first opponent jumps through a window into the building Ac1d is in.

The moment the glass breaks the viper rod spits poison. Ac1d jumps out the window, spins—checks his mini-map mid turn—locates the enemy and opens fire with the Grouter before his eyes see the player. As visual cortex registers what’s happening the shots connect. The opponent moves out of view towards a door—towards Panda. “He’s coming your way.”

“I see,” Panda starts shooting the moment the door opens. “Knocked him. Where’s his bu—Ah shit.” Hands appear to cover his face, there’s a crack, and Panda drops. “He’s playing Shade. I’m down, man.”

Ac1d’s viper rod ability comes off cool down, he drops a rod outside the house. Panda tells him the guy is going inside to rez his buddy. Ac1d’s mini-map pings as what Panda says becomes visually clear. The viper inside the house poisons the opponent. The moment it does Ac1d vaults back through the window, shoots the enemy three times, then melees him twice for the kill. Before looting he returns to Panda and revives him.

“Thank you, hot damn. That Shade came out of nowhere.”
“That’s what he does.”
”You ever tried playing him?”
”Nope.”
”Just Euryale, huh?”
”Liked her the second I saw her. Almost no one plays her.”
”I still haven’t decided on a main. I’m not sold on this guy.”
”Lancer? Seems broken if you know what you’re doing. I have a feeling they’ll nerf him sooner or later. I’ve seen some good players 1v4 and win with him—his ult is nuts.”
”I know, I love it. If I get to use it once a game I’m lucky, but when I do, oh man. Bam—you’re dead; bam—you’re dead; bam.”

—x—

Owen says “Knock-knock” as he raps on the glass door. “You got a minute, Todd?” Todd lifts a finger, continues typing for another thirty seconds then sighs.

“Owen, hey, what’s up?”

“I was giving some thought to the issue of balance.” Todd's brows lift, a subtle degree, but enough. “Not my wheelhouse,” Owen says, “I know, but hear me out. I play a few collectible card games and that’s what got me thinking.”

“Okay.” Todd closes his laptop, leans back in his chair, giving Owen his full attention.

“So…Well how familiar are you with Magic?”

“Enough. I haven’t played in awhile, but I know the game.”

“Okay, so you’re familiar with some of the formats and how new sets are released, how there’s a rotation of whats legal and isn’t?”

“Yeah. That’s not uncommon in card games.”

“Exactly. But it’s unheard of in a BR.”

Todd nods, gears begin to turn.

“What if we did that with our Heroes? Had a rotation. Why do we have to keep all the Heroes in all the time? But what if we went a step further.”

“How? A whole reset?”

“No, no. Picture this, we release…Who’s coming out next? Cryptid?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, let’s say when we release Cryptid we remove the most played Hero. Last I checked that was Lancer.”

“Been Lancer since two days of release. We made his ult. way too strong,” Todd laughs. “I’ve seen some bonkers highlight reels on YouTube.”

“Okay, so when we release Cryptid we remove Lancer. Not nerf him, flat out remove him from the game.”

“Players would lose their shit.”

“What do you think is better? Nerfing him, or taking him away entirely?”

“Fair point.”

“But that’s not all.”

“Uh-oh,” Todd smiles. “No?”

“What if we gave players a way to earn Lancer back?”

“Okay, now I’m curious.”