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Sounds Good Ch. 02

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Big Dicks

Mom was willing to take me out to see a junior hockey game. It was fun, fast-paced entertainment, and it didn’t cost us a week’s salary.

– “I’m glad you suggested this.” she said.

– “Thanks for taking me.”

I thought about binge-watching a TV series, or even getting a jump on my reading, but my thoughts kept straying to the Apartment. My resolve faded entirely when Mike phoned.

– “I got your last audio review.” he said.

– “Uh-huh.” I already regretted sending it. I’d been feeling a little emotional that night.

– “You mind if I drop by? Around lunchtime?”

– “Sounds good.” I said. “I’ll get something ready.”

– “You don’t have to feed me, Dan.” he said.

– “Don’t be a dick. It’s lunchtime. I’ll be eating – why shouldn’t you?”

– “Okay. But don’t go to any trouble.”

I didn’t.

Mike said hello to my Mom.

– “I hear that you’re working on a game.” she said.

– “Yes, Ma’am.”

– “Daniel thinks it’s very good – so far.”

– “I’m glad to hear it.” said Mike. He was visibly sweating – as if he’d just bitten into a killer hot pepper.

– “Well, keep up the good work.” said Mom. “I’ll leave you two alone. Daniel – don’t forget – physio at 3:00.”

– “Okay, Mom.” I sat Mike down, and served him two grilled cheese sandwiches.

He ate in silence, for a while. That was quite an achievement: Mike had never been shy about talking with his mouth full. He washed it all down with a full glass of milk.

– “Listen, Dan …” he began. “I wanted to ask if you’re ok with getting email from my partners. Snogg really liked what you said about his renders. Well, he didn’t like losing the opening screen, but you’ve been really complimentary about his work.”

“It’s Patience, actually, who wants to contact you directly. The dialogue, and the relationship scores … that’s all up to Patience.”

I thought about it for 30 seconds. I’d still be anonymous. Patience would only see Cyrano – never my real name. And I did admire his work.

“See …” continued Mike, “you kinda stepped into the middle of it, when you talked about the relationship scores. That was Snogg’s idea. Patience argued against it …”

It turned out that I’d parachuted into a full-blown dispute between the team members. Snogg wanted a scoring system, so that players would always know exactly where they stood with the roommates.

I didn’t think that was necessary. There was already the inventory status check, which told you much the same thing. More important, I loved the visual and verbal clues – by themselves – especially after that conversation with my Mom.

The screen I’d seen: YOUR RELATIONSHIP HAS IMPROVED … struck me as artificial. It was a reminder that the Apartment was just a game – a simulation.

If I went to the store and bought Michelle ice cream, then my relationship with her improved. Of course it did. And why wouldn’t I just do it to make her happy? (Plus the hope that she might eventually like me enough to have sex with me.)

And I should note – the voice actors were so good, I would run errands and spend my money just to hear them say ‘Thank you’. I tried to explain this to Mike.

– “It’s pretty much the same thing, isn’t it?” he said.

– “Yes. No. It’s different. More … natural. More realistic.”

– “And you know this because …?”

– “Because my Mom said so.”

– “Ah.” said Mike. End of debate.

– “So … the voice actors.” I began.

– “Awesome, right?” Mike treated me to a big grin.

– “You have cheese between your teeth.” I pointed out. “But yeah – the voices sound good. Better than good. How did you ever find them? And how can you afford to pay them?”

– “We don’t. They’re all friends of mine, or of Patience. Two of them are actually aspiring actresses. All of them are having a blast doing it. The more lines they have, the better, as far as they’re concerned.”

– “Wow.”

– “Whenever they get together to record dialogue with Patience, it’s like a party.”

– “Is that where you met Angie?” I asked him.

– “How did you -?”

– “The credits.”

– “Damn – you’re good. Change your name to Sherlock.”

– “Which voice does Angie do?”

– “Nuh-uh. Sworn to secrecy. Sorry, Dan. No can tell.”

– “Will I get to meet her?”

– “After we’re done. When the game is finished, I mean. Maybe.”

***

I returned to the Apartment, and resumed my courtship of Heather.

She was impossible to find in the morning, but she was often busy in the kitchen, during the afternoon. I had the opportunity to ask her about her athletics. She wasn’t a basketball player after all.

– Swimming. I do the individual medley – 200m and 400m.

– You must be really good.

– Not really. she said. That’s why I do the medley. Freestyle and backstroke are my best. My butterfly is ok, but I really need to work on my breaststroke.

I bahis firmaları had three options for an answer to that set-up line:

I find that hard to believe

I could help you with the breaststroke

I’d love to see you swim sometime

Option 3, obviously.

– Really? she said. Well, if you wanted to … you could come down to the pool any weeknight – that’s when we practice. And Thursday nights, we have competitions.

– Sounds good.

Well, that solved the mystery of why Heather was rarely around in the evenings. I went to the college that very night – it happened to be a Thursday – and chose the ‘Pool’ option.

There was a generic illustration of an Olympic-sized swimming pool, with bleachers for spectators.

Heather has seen you. She waves.

Then I got the screenshot that made coming to the pool more than worthwhile: Heather in a swimsuit.

Snogg must have gone through life without ever having seen a women’s swimming competition, live or on TV. Or maybe he just didn’t care. For whatever reason, he had Heather in a two-piece swimsuit. A bikini, really.

He didn’t bother with swimming caps, either; Heather’s long brown hair was simply tied in a long ponytail. Completely unrealistic – but I wasn’t about to complain. If Snogg was going to produce renders like these, he could do whatever he liked.

There was a box of text, describing Heather’s race. She finished second. After the event, she asked me if I wanted to wait for her, and walk home together. I wasn’t even given the option to decline; of course I was going to wait for her.

– That was awesome! I chose to say. You seemed to be really moving well.

– I was. Tonight was a personal best for me. She smiled, shyly. I think maybe it was because you were there.

– I’m glad that I was there to see it.

– Me too.

Heather took my arm on the way home. There was a very nice illustration of her leaning on my shoulder (Tristan would’ve had to be over 6′ tall for that to happen, but I liked the image). She had a lovely smile.

– Thank you. For coming to see me. And for walking me home.

And that was it. I would’ve liked to have had the option to take her out, for a celebratory drink, or a bite to eat. It had the feel of one of those magical evenings, when you just don’t want things to end. I’d heard of such nights, and read about them, even if I’d never experienced them firsthand.

But I did have the option to check my computer before I went to bed. Inventory, of course.

Heather – Close Friend

***

Private time with the girls, I soon discovered, was going to take planning – or perhaps some opportunism – and a little luck.

Heather was in the kitchen again on Friday afternoon, but I didn’t get any time alone with her because Michelle came in and joined us. I had the chance to say something nice to each of them, but it wasn’t quite what I’d been hoping for.

If Heather was going to be busy every weeknight, my only chance to ask her out on a serious ‘date’ was going to be on the weekend. But could I ask her, and then take her out on the same day?

Apparently not. The option just didn’t arise. Was it the limits on ‘Close Friend’? Maybe Tristan (me) needed to do something else to let her know that I was interested.

So I nipped out to the store, and bought her some flowers.

Girls like flowers, don’t they?

– Umm … thank you. said Heather. She looked a bit flustered, rather than pleased. And I could tell from her voice that she was surprised, but not delighted. Maybe ‘Close friends’ don’t give each other flowers.

So I consulted the Oracle.

– “Mom? What would you say if a guy gave you flowers when you weren’t expecting it?”

– “This is your game again, is it?”

– “Mom – what would you say?”

– “Some guy is giving me flowers. Okay. Do I like this guy? Oh – probably not, if I wasn’t expecting it. Umm … thank you?”

I sat there with my mouth open for a moment. That was … uncanny. The tone, as well as the words, sounded exactly like Heather in the game.

***

In real life, I spent part of my morning in the shallow end of a pool. That afternoon, I tried to do some school work at home, but my mind kept wandering to the game. By evening, I was back at the pool – the virtual one, at the college .

I enjoyed another illustration of Heather training in her (completely unrealistic) swimsuit, sans bathing cap. Sometimes, realism is overrated.

She was pleased that I was there, and that I walked her home.

– This is really nice of you.

– It’s my pleasure. (that was the only reasonable response). There was no option to ask her out, though.

On the following evening (game day Tuesday), I went to the pool again. Same illustration, but a different dialogue when I walked her home.

– You don’t have to do this, Tristan. (Of course, she didn’t use kaçak iddaa my name)

– I want to. I like spending time with you. (That option was a no-brainer)

– Well … I’m glad. I like it when you walk me home.

That sounded promising. Before bedtime, I checked the inventory on the computer.

Heather – Intrigued

Progress. I wondered if she would accept a gift, now. Or if I could ask her out on a date. The answer to both of those questions, I discovered, was yes.

On Wednesday afternoon, Heather was in the kitchen. I brought her flowers.

– For me? That’s … that’s really sweet. This dialogue was accompanied by an illustration of Heather blushing very fetchingly. She looked adorable, to tell the truth. The actress managed to sound like she was blushing as she spoke the lines.

Normally, when I went into the kitchen, I had the option to a) speak to Heather, or b) go somewhere else. But this time, I was granted a third choice:

c) ask her for a date

Bingo! When I clicked on that option, I was offered four choices: the museum, the cafe, the pub, or a restaurant (AFAIK, there was only one restaurant).

The first option – the museum – didn’t strike me as her style. I didn’t want to spook her, either, so I chose the cafe.

– That sounds good. she said. Is Saturday afternoon okay with you?

– Looking forward to it already.

I was, too. I saved the game at that point.

***

Much as I wanted to, I didn’t get back to the game the next day. I had a meeting with my counsellor, and then had an online test for one of my courses. The test was less stressful than the meeting, for me.

I survived them both, but was too exhausted to play that evening. Mom suggested an early bedtime, and I had to acknowledge that she was right.

It was the next afternoon (real-life) before I got back to the game. It was Wednesday evening – so I went to the pool to see Heather, and to walk her home. The picture – and the dialogue – were exactly the same as the last time.

Maybe they would change after our date. In the meantime, that left me Thursday and Friday with nothing to gain in my relationship with Heather. I could work at my computer, and make money during the day, and in the evenings I could talk to one or more of the other girls.

Laura wasn’t home. As the bartender, she worked many nights. Michelle was out, too. I’d made her the artist – she had some sort of class to attend. Ronnie was the waitress – she seemed to be out every night.

That left Nalani. I’d given her the student role. She was home, so I clicked on her.

– Oh – hey Tristan. Sorry. I’m trying to get this paper finished.

– Ah. I won’t bother you, then. Sorry, Nalani. (That was the best option – trust me – and like true Canadians, we both apologized.)

– That’s ok. Oh – wait – you know a lot about computers, don’t you? she said. Could … could I ask you something? I mean … could you help me?

– As you wish. (That line was too good to pass up.)

Her difficulties were well within Tristan’s (my) range. I wondered what would have happened if I’d been the salesman, or the athlete.

On Friday evening, I found Michelle watching television in the living room. When I clicked on the screen, I was presented with the option to ask if I could join her.

– You don’t have anything better to do? she asked – but the illustration showed her smiling. I wasn’t meant as a cutting remark. There were options for me:

Don’t you?

I love that program

What could be better than spending time with you?

No – I have no life

Tempting as the last choice was, I decided to go with option three. I heard Michelle’s laughter, warm and engaging.

She made popcorn, and we watched together. Really, though, the encounter was all about the dialogue she initiated.

– How does a handsome guy like you not have a date on Friday night? she asked.

That came as a surprise. So did my choices for a response. One of them was Actually, I have a date tomorrow – with Heather.

Honesty being the best policy (sometimes), I chose that answer.

I heard Michelle’s laughter in my headphone. I know. She’s been talking about nothing else all day.

Very interesting. The girls talked. At least one of them was aware that Heather and I had a date. Did the others know, too? This game had depths that I hadn’t even begun to suspect.

***

I was impressed enough to compose another audio review. I commented on Snogg’s inappropriate (but glorious) swimsuits, the fabulous renders of Heather at the pool (and on our walks home), but also on the difficulty of working out where the girls were going to be, on any given night.

It was a bit of a pain to save the game, and then search all of the available locations to locate the girl I was looking for.

As their roommate, wouldn’t I know where they were – at least some kaçak bahis of the time? Or … wouldn’t they tell their friends? I should be able to ask Michelle – for example – where Heather was.

I liked the dialogue and the interactions with the roommates – there was variety, and challenge, as well. Some conversation choices were obvious, while others … I didn’t always know how I stood with the girls.

But it wasn’t frustrating. I found it appealing.

I’d played games like this before. Dating sims, porn games, and many things in between. Many of them stretched my credulity too far. Really? Every single girl in this game wants to have sex with me the moment we meet?

Really? My sister, my mother and my aunt want to have a foursome?

Honestly – I had far less trouble believing in Santa Claus and Tom Bombadil.

The Apartment, though, had yet to shock me – or, more important, to disappoint me. The illustrations continued to be top-notch, and the sheer number of them was very impressive.

The voice acting was still amazing.

But so was the dialogue, and the story-line. If a player has to work too hard, or too long at repetitive tasks to make progress, that’s known in the gaming world as ‘grinding’.

I hadn’t felt like I was grinding at all – yet.

***

Snogg’s illustration of Heather on our first date was perfect. Her long brown hair was undone, flowing over her shoulders. Her light grey-blue eyes were bright, almost sparkling.

Her smile was the best, though. She had excellent teeth, but her expression seemed perfectly natural. I didn’t know if Snogg was working from a photograph, or from memory. Either way, the result was … wonderful.

I was quickly presented with options.

Tell Heather about yourself

Ask Heather about herself

Check out Heather’s cleavage

Check out the barista

Of course I saved the game, and then picked the 3rd and 4th options. I was already a fan of Snogg’s art. He didn’t disappoint. Then I reloaded, to make a real choice.

Who wants to hear someone talk about himself? It’s different, of course, if the other person asks – and seems genuinely interested.

Option

, then. Heather told me about herself. She was a small-town girl who’d done well in school, but also in athletics – to the point where she’d won a scholarship for swimming.

– I didn’t like it here, at first. she said. I was intimidated. People seemed cold. The only friends I made were on the swim team. But then I met my roommates … and you.

There weren’t many options in the actual date. Order her a coffee, listen to her tell her story … and I had no complaints. Heather’s voice was lovely.

I’d never been on an actual date, so I had nothing to compare it to. But it seemed like a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. My only regret was that it was so short.

After the date, Heather said: I had a lovely time. Thank you.

Then she kissed me on the cheek.

***

“We have to put you back on steroids, Daniel.” said the doctor. As usual, he was looking at my Mom when he said it.

I’m 22 years old, I wanted to shout at him. You can tell me – to my face. But he’d been one of the doctors on my case for years, so I guess he still thought of me as a kid.

– “He’s been doing his exercises – and we haven’t missed a physio appointment.” said Mom.

– “I know.” said the doctor. “But steroids are necessary, at this stage. Dr. Collins agrees.”

We drove home in silence. Just before we got out of the car, Mom spoke.

– “I’m sorry, Dan. I know you hate the steroids.”

– “I’m not worried about the long-term effects.” I said. “But they make me hyper. Emotional. And short-tempered. I think.”

– “We’ll get you off them as soon as we can.” said Mom.

***

The next day, at noon, I discovered a new email, from a new source.

Hey Cyrano

Hope you don’t mind, but I asked SBD (Mike) for your address, so that we can communicate directly. He’s a little behind with the coding, anyway.

I’m very intrigued by your comments about locating the girls. You’re right. 75-80% of the time, you probably should know where they are. Or you should be able to find out from one of the other roommates.

I’m trying to come up with a simple but believable mechanic to solve this problem. It would be too much coding to have an option to ask (every day) where each girl is.

You noticed earlier that the dialogue spoken by our actors doesn’t always match the words that show up onscreen. That’s because we let our actors ad-lib a bit, and sometimes we liked what they improvised better than what I’d written.

If time permits (and if Angie leaves Mike alone long enough), we may be able to go back and fix those discrepancies.

We’ve really appreciated your audio critiques. Looking forward to your next one.

Sincerely,

Patience

Everybody likes to be praised; no doubt Snogg and Patience enjoyed hearing me tell them how good they were. I didn’t mind at all. They deserved it. And if it encouraged them to keep working on the game, then that was all to the good.

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