A boy sits in front of a television, eyes fixed on the screen, while costumed characters dart across it. His hands hold a controller, across which his fingers dance, pressing buttons in a strange concert of keys, an orchestra of motion instead of sound. One thumb expertly maneuvering a joystick, the other hovering over a large button that it occasionally presses for brief moments. Suddenly, the boy leans forward slightly, growing tense. The room, already silent save for the murmuring cacophony that blares from the television, grows even more so as the sounds seem to dull, muted ever so slightly. The atmosphere is almost palpable, a weighty air fills the room as though gravity itself is increasing in strength. The tension skyrockets higher and higher, until finally, in a crescendo-
Greg cheered as the words 'YOU WIN' scrolled from the top of the screen. Finally! He had been playing 'The Reclamation of Kyushu' nearly non-stop for the past week, taking full advantage of the winter break to really accomplish something. Something meaningful. Truly, he couldn't think of a more worthy goal that he could have spent the month on than making his way through the backlog of games, repeatedly receiving that oh so satisfying 100% on four different titles. He finished those games by the 24th, in anticipation of this, the newest, the greatest, the most beautiful game that would ever exist. At least, until the next in the series came out. Since he opened the game on that holiday morning, he had been thinking about the challenge that the developers had set. "The Reclamation of Kyushu has so much content, it would take at least a month to beat the game on every difficulty that we have to offer." Well, if he wasn't mistaken, he had just blown that estimation out of the water.
He got up and stretched, which popped the bones in his shoulders, making him wince. Then, he padded over to his laptop, swiveling the chair 360 degrees before facing his trusty computer, he awoke it from sleep mode and chugged a can of soda. Quickly, he made his way to the TinkerToy forums, where he would post his grand achievement and bask in the admiration of all the lesser- He paused, taking in the titles of some of the top threads. Oh, some guy in South Dakota had beaten the game in 3 days, suffering from dehydration in the process. He'd be out of the hospital in a few months, according to the most optimistic estimates. Greg saluted the man, honoring his dedication. He closed the webpage and almost instinctively began to type in the address of his other favorite forum before stopping.
Oh yeah, he was still banned from PHO for another week. Oh well, it would seem that he didn't have anything else to do but play another game. Sighing, he shut down the laptop and pushed away from the desk, rolling his chair a few feet across the floor. Rocking back in the chair, he managed to get himself out of it using the momentum. Tapping his chin, he sat on the floor next to his game tower, cross legged. Let's see, He'd beaten 'Surviving Zurich', 'Machine-God of Wisconsin', 'Escape from Ellisburg'... He'd even beaten 'Nolodie', a dinky little indie game with decent gameplay, but a terrible plot. He continued down the tower, and when he reached the bottom, he froze. No, it couldn't be, he must be hallucinating, it just wasn't fair.
Greg fell backwards and lay flat on the floor, heedless of the game tower he knocked over in the process. Then, he wailed. "I've beaten all of them."
Greg's sour mood followed him to school the next day, and he continued to ponder his plight. The next game he had his eye on didn't come out for three weeks, what in the world was he supposed to do after school until then? With a practiced ease, he slipped his way through the halls of Winslow, orbiting jocks, slinking past preppies, and circling cheerleaders. However, he had gotten within three halls of his first period class, when he heard a certain phrase. "Ugh, Daniel, I don't know what I'm gonna do man. I've beaten all of my games, and 'Journey to the Center of the Earth' doesn't come out for three weeks." The voice was plaintive, almost, dare he say... whiny. It was also a phrase that resonated with his very soul. After a few moments of standing still while he tried to angle his head and learn where the voice came from, he located his blood-brother, and honed in.
"You too, huh? You've beaten 'Reclamation of Kyushu' already?" Greg cheerfully interjected. The other boy became startled, nearly falling off of his perch on the desk that sat outside the science room.
He answered warily. "Uh, yeah. I beat it last night. Who are you, exactly?" The way he asked was very pointed. Greg, however, didn't understand the concept of barbed conversation.
"I'm Greg. I'm in the same boat as you. I beat it last night, and I just can't figure out what I should play for the next few weeks. You guys have any ideas?" Greg leaned on the desk slightly, causing the boy to shift a little to escape the invasion of his personal space.
The boy standing next to the door was the one who answered this time. "Not yet, though I might be getting one... I'm Daniel, by the way. This is Graham." Daniel's voice was quiet where Graham's was firm. Graham grunted at his introduction, but remained silent. After a short hesitation, Daniel continued. "I think I might have an idea."
Graham looked up. "Oh? What do you think we should do?" He stressed the word and glanced back at Greg, eyes narrowed. Greg simply smiled brightly, and looked at Daniel who, sighing, spoke again.
"Well, we couldn't do this with just the two of us, Graham, but remember how last year you were interested in game design?" Daniel folded his skinny arms, and did his best to look determined.
Graham shifted uncomfortably, and spoke, slowly. "Well, yeah, but... What can Greg here even do for that?" The look he shot at Greg here was not as scathing as before, but instead measuring, as if he was trying to gauge Greg's talents based on appearance alone.
Greg perked up. "Oh! Game design? Let's see... I can draw pretty well. You need art, right?" Daniel smiled at this.
"Yeah, that's great! I can do the programming, and Graham can do the music. All of us can help design it." He elbowed Graham, who looked plaintively at him, but Daniel stood his ground, until Graham finally sighed.
"Alright, alright. Let's meet up here after school. We can set up a time and place for all of us to meet up later then, alright? For now, we should probably get to class though." Greg grinned and agreed. Graham swung himself off the table and Daniel straightened up, before they started walking into the science lab. Daniel waved to Greg as he left his view.
Then, the bell rang. Greg's eyes widened as he realized that he was going to be late to class, and he dashed down the hall while calling back towards the open classroom door. "Alright, I'll see you guys then!"
A week later, they all sat around the dinner table at Greg's house. The three had made a schedule of where they would work on the game each day, and Greg's mom had been ecstatic that he would be working on something instead of 'Lazing around the house like a sloth.' Daniel sat on a bean bag that had been dragged in from the den, laptop on his knees. His eyes were firmly focused on the screen in front of him, and the sound of typing filled the room. Graham sat at the table across from Greg, with headphones in his ears and a device in front of him that Greg couldn't quite remember the name of. He, too, was focused on his task.
Greg stared down at the paper in front of him, looking at the character he had drawn with a critical air, before nodding. He carefully picked up the paper and added it to a neat pile of similar drawings. Then he popped his neck and pulled another clean sheet from another pile, and paused. "Hey, Daniel? Had we decided on whether or not we were going to have different enemies at night?"
Daniel, shaken from his concentration, looked up. "What? Oh, uh," He clicked something on his laptop a few times before staring at something on the screen for a few seconds, and continued, "Yeah, could you draw up a zombie? Maybe a few different types, you know, like, a couple different sizes, maybe one with some arrows in him."
Greg nodded. "How about one with one of the Gel Monsters on his head? He could drop some slime, like they do." Daniel considered the idea, and then looked back up.
"Yeah, that sounds awesome! You can draw all of that?" He had one eyebrow raised, as though uncertain that such a task was feasible.
Greg simply beamed in return. "You bet I can!" At this, Graham looked up, and took out a headphone.
"What's up?" He asked, curious of the conversation he'd missed.
Daniel waved him off. "Nothing, Graham, we were just talking about some enemy types." He looked back down at his computer and started typing again, while Greg put his pencil to the paper once more.
Graham's eyes narrowed.
"Look, I'm not saying that Bats don't make sense on the surface, it's just that the way we designed them, they're a bit too powerful for that area." Daniel was speaking to Graham, hands together in a pleading gesture. "If we put them on the surface, players wouldn't be safe at night for ages, we don't want them to have to depend on shelter for too long."
Graham was unswayed. "Then why can't we just add another type of bat that's weak enough to be on the surface without unbalancing the game?"
At this, Greg stepped in. "I don't know, we already have a flying enemy for that area. Demon Teeth wouldn't be as special if there were other flying enemies that early." Daniel smiled at Greg and looked back at Graham.
He wasn't happy, and it was obvious, but he caved from the combined stares of the others. "Ugh, fine. Bats can stay as an underground enemy." He sighed, while Greg and Daniel whooped and high fived.
After another hour of work, Daniel closed his laptop with a click and made an announcement. "Hey, my dad gave me some money for some snacks, do you guys want to grab something from one of the shops?" They were at Graham's house that day, and he lived near a street that was filled with small stores that sold all manner of treats.
His head whipped up so fast it was a wonder Greg didn't get whiplash. "Definitely! You coming Graham?" Greg turned to the third member of their group, and Daniel leveled a questioning stare on him as well.
Graham was quiet for a moment, but then he answered. "Of course. Why would you even ask?" He said, tone jovial. The other two, satisfied, went about packing up their work. Once their gazes were elsewhere, the smile on Graham's face died, and his face went blank as he put away his sound board.
"Argh, how could we be so stupid!" Graham huffed, running his fingers through his hair. "We put way too much stuff in since the last test. We should have done it sooner!"
Daniel was quiet. "I'm sorry, I wish I was a better programmer, this is probably my fault. I should have run it more often, and then we wouldn't be in this mess." Graham's eyes went wide as he realized that Daniel was taking it so personally. His mouth froze as he tried to think of what to say to reassure his friend, but Greg beat him to the punch.
"It's not your fault man, we're a team. Right guys?" Daniel nodded, and Graham followed. "Still, it's not ruined, we'll have to work on getting the game to work on older computers, but in the meantime, surely we can find a computer somewhere that we can run the test on? Maybe the public library?"
Graham shook his head. "No way, have you seen those things? They're even worse than our computers. Argh..." The three were silent for a time, wracking their brains for an answer.
After a few minutes, Daniel began to speak, voice measured and low, as though trying to make sure he didn't spook his idea away like a frightened rabbit. "You know... my dad works for an advertising firm downtown. I'm pretty sure they have some pretty good computers. I could ask him, see if we might be able to borrow one of their computer labs for a morning?"
Greg grabbed both of his friends by the shoulders. "That sounds great! This is going to be an awesome game, I can feel it. Definitely ask your dad. Right Graham?" He glanced to his right, where Graham was chuckling.
"Yeah man, go for it." He had a small smile on his face for the rest of the afternoon.
Author Note: Woohoo! The rewrite is on its feet, and here we go! If you're a returning reader from the old version, thanks for staying on! If you're a new reader, welcome! I hope to make this story a much more satisfying affair than the last. As always, criticism and notes are welcome. Please, review!