Chapter 2 – Player Freedom
Yue Qiang thought that the kinda pretty madame must have had a screw loose in her head for her attitude to suddenly take an 180-degree turn. Eh, who cares. He didn’t think any further. Video games were the most important thing in his life anyway, and everything else came second.
As Yue Qiang returned home, he decided that he would first eat his instant noodles. While he was eating, he also decided that he would force restart his computer. It was obvious now that this malicious ‘demo’ of a game wouldn’t end anytime soon, and since it was impossible to force quit it through the normal way, he had no choice but to reboot and force an uninstall.
Yue Qiang slurped his noodles while blankly staring at his monitor.
Suddenly, Yue Qiang stared in shock at his monitor.
Everything still looked fine when he shut down the computer, but the startup process left him bewildered. Normally when a computer boots, the motherboard manufacturers would first advertise their hardware, such as ‘ASUS Motherboard’ or ‘ONDA Motherboard’ and so on. Next would be the Windows interface where its logo brightens with increasing clarity and depending on the version of the Windows there would be different effects. It is at the end where the users are finally greeted with the familiar Desktop. Depending on the hardware, the entire process may take between half to several minutes, but of course, if you have a Solid State Drive (SSD), then the startup process may theoretically be shortened to less than ten seconds.
But this was a second.
No. Yue Qiang felt that even a second was overstating it. The whole process took only an instant to complete. He hadn’t even managed to swallow his first bite when he saw the game’s icon appearing on the monitor instead of the usual manufacturer and Windows’ logo. There was no doubt in his mind that this was the malicious game icon that had somehow installed itself into his computer. Then, before he could react the icon clicked itself, and after a short tune of harmonious intro music the exact same character creation screen appeared before Yue Qiang’s eyes.
This time, Yue Qiang was shocked down to his very core.
He didn’t even know such a powerful malware existed. Not only it could execute itself automatically upon restart, it even came with the nice ‘perk’ of increased booting speed. Every other malware he had encountered such as Computer Manager or Baidu Anti Virus were dipshit compared to this champ.
But of course there are two sides to a coin, and the downside of it was pretty obvious: Now, he could ONLY play this game.
He didn’t want to.
Yue Qiang is a hardcore gamer, a hardcore single player gamer. Emotionally speaking, he had always held single player video games, especially domestic single player video games he played as a child with nostalgia, therefore he wasn’t actually averse towards this kind of game malware made with such traditional flair. The problem wasn’t that the game wasn’t good enough, but rather a matter of player freedom.
There is a saying that goes: China made video games have no freedom, and every time Yue Qiang saw this he could only sigh helplessly. He was part of the generation who grew up playing these types of games. Back at those times the only games that existed were ‘Minesweeper’ and ‘Solitaire’, so imagine what a boon it was for that generation to suddenly have a scene of Lee Xiao Yao peeking at a bathing Zhao Ling Er, even if the entire ‘Chinese Paladin’ game at the time was only 17 MB huge, or that a single high definition photo of a cute girl might already have exceeded this size.
During the 20 years Windows became the most widely used Operating System (O.S.) in the world, single player video games had been advancing massively in every corner of the world except for China. For example the’Call of Duty’ series of the First Person Shooter (FPS) genre, the car racing game ‘Need For Speed’ series, the stab-everyone-with-a-knife ‘Assassins Creed’ series, ‘Prototype’ Biohazard Bundle, the refreshing ‘Trails In The Sky’ series, the pinnacle of sandbox games ‘Grand Theft Auto’ series, the only game which boasts an infinite map that even a primary schooler could play, ‘Minecraft’, and finally the game where killing a chicken could inflict the entire town to hunt for your head, ‘The Elder Scroll’ series. There were now an endless variety of single player games filling into the PC gaming market, but only China made single player games had completely fallen off the radar and appealed only to a very small, and very niche audience.
There were many explanations as to why China made single player video games had declined, but to a hardcore single player gamer like Yue Qiang, the most damning element of it all was that there was no player freedom. When ‘Minesweeper’ and ‘Solitaire’ were the only games around, a game which boasts drama, monster killing and leveling up was of course very attractive. But after consuming the same thing over and over again, the plots which you could guess the ending from the opening, turn-based combat, one-dimensional character design and so on – they became poison, and no one would willingly consume poison unless they had no other choice.
Nowadays, China mostly made single player video games were adapted from TV series. Some examples would be the recent ‘Chinese Paladin 6’ or ‘Legend of the Ancient Sword’, or even more recently ‘The Gate of Firmament’. However, if all these games had turned into TV shows, then how much ‘gameplay’ was actually left in the game?
If you want to see plot then you can’t have freedom, and the true charm of video games lies in the ability to do all sorts of things in it, and that is a high degree of player freedom.
And that is the full reason why Yue Qiang didn’t feel like trying out a new China-made single player video game.
As he stared at the familiar antique interface, Yue Qiang suspected that this was a virus developed by some unnamed domestic game developer, forcing players to test out their new game. Yue Qiang let out a sigh, but in the end, he gave in and clicked the ‘Start’ button.
Might as well give it a look. At least the graphics looked better than even triple-A games out there.
As the background faded in and out an antique style room appeared before Yue Qiang. It looked just like a room in a China made game, such as the one where Lee Da Niang pummeled her son, Lee Xiao Yao blue and black in Chinese Paladin. The room was incredibly small, and there was a person who looked just like Yue Qiang kneeling in front of a low table and holding a bamboo slip, bumbling and wagging his head about as he read.
The protagonist, that is, Yue Qiang’s in-game character, looked like a thief. He looked as if he was reading, when in fact, he was constantly glancing about the corner of his eyes towards the teacher standing beside him. When his teacher looked at him with stern eyes, his character would act as if he was studying seriously; when his teacher’s attention was placed somewhere else, his character’s expression would loosen and relax.
The characters’ facial expressions were incredibly lifelike. Without a doubt, the game’s physics engine and its dev team’s dedication had reached unbelievable heights. Yue Qiang had never heard of a video game that could synchronize both expression and action together to such a degree. Combined with its inherently exquisite graphics, an interior design that was obviously created with a lot of hard work put into it even at first glance, exquisitely drawn layers, object shadowing, air flow, dynamic avatars; Yue Qiang almost could have believed that this wasn’t a game, but a movie starring him as the main character.
Yue Qiang tried to move his character tapping WSAD on the keyboard, and in the game, his character too started as if he was about to stand up and move around. But the second he moved he was discovered by the teacher standing beside him, and a dialogue box popped out of the interface. Inside the box was the teacher’s preaching,
“Young sir, you should not be distracted and study the Analects seriously.” The border of the dialogue box vibrated constantly as if to indicate that the teacher was speaking in a very loud voice.
Immediately Yue Qiang formed a notion about the game inside his mind. This is a product made in the veins of China made single player video games. The game barely started and already he was treated to a long winded story scene with no freedom whatsoever. If this was a foreign open world single player video game, they would probably acclimate the players with some combat or tutorials first to get them familiar with the flow. On the other hand, domestic games did it by first introducing their players to the plot.
Confirming once more that this is a game with minimal freedom, Yue Qiang felt an immediate surge of disappointment. Feeling bored, he began randomly clicking at every furniture he could see in the room, and at the same time his character too sneakily squinted about here and there. But his actions were spotted by his teacher, and again a dialogue box popped beneath the screen,
Teacher, Mr. Chen Zi Han: “Young sir, how could thou not study the Analects seriously and be quizzing about?”
Oddly placed archaic words and more border shaking. Yue Qiang let out another sigh in his heart. Really? Am I not allowed even to click at my leisure?
Amidst boredom, Yue Qiang brought up the system menu. In comparison to the wonderful interface, this system menu, on the other hand, was unusually simple. Even the good ol’ ‘Chinese Paladin’ had four options to choose from: Status, Items, Spells, and System Option. This game actually had only two options. One was Items, and the other was Character Status.
Is that it? No Spells, no Cauldrons, no Dictionaries, no Attributes, no Equipment, not even BGM or SE or Resolution or Shading or Frame Rate options NOTHING? How fucking lazy could you possibly be, dev??
Yue Qiang opened the ‘Items’ tab, and found that it contained only a single book, ‘the Analects’. Clicking the book, the first line he saw was,
“Is it not pleasant to learn with a constant perseverance and application? Is it not delightful to have friends coming from distant quarters? Is he not a man of complete virtue, who _____ though men may take no note of him?”
He found many more such quotations beneath this line, and there were many blank spaces in the sentences as well. Yue Qiang noticed that, when he clicked open the book earlier, the teacher standing beside him began stroking his beard looking incredibly pleased with his actions.
He closed the ‘Items’ option and opened the other ‘Character Status’ tab. Immediately his initial stats from the character creation interface was displayed on the screen. Yue Qiang was about to close this option too idly and check out what’s truly behind this game, when suddenly, he noticed something that made his eyes bulged round and wide. He reopened the character stats screen again and reread it thoroughly in disbelief.
Character Name: Yue Qiang.
Class : Student
Strength : 12 (You’re so weak you can’t even slaughter an animal)
Vitality: 6 (Your body is pretty weak, and you most likely won’t live past thirty)
Wisdom : 14 (Your attitude is barely passable, but you’re still far from hitting the average)
Wealth : 2 (You’re pretty damn rich)
Charm : 15 (You’re not particularly liked, but not particularly hated either. Excluding Teacher Chen Zi Han that is.)