This chapter is provided as a preview. Anybody who wants to can access it for free at http://www.EastCoastGames.com . We ask that no copies, physical or electronic; be lent or given. Offering this portion of the novel is expressly prohibited.
Tuesday, February 21st, 2017, 11:35 am
There was a tremendous variety of action games, but the majority of them boiled down to first-person shooters. The first they decided to try was actually more of a martial arts fighting game simply called Tourney ‘15. While the game was a little out of date, it was the most likely game to have a waiting line in the entire arcade.
Tourney ‘15 was a holographic simulation. At the game’s entrance there was a touch screen allowing the players (Aaron, Yuri, Cleo, Oliver, Keith and Carmen) to identify themselves using the iris scanners. Once they were all identified, they were given a wide selection of game types. They quickly agreed on siege. The players then agreed to play a re-enactment of the Battle of Orléans. They played the French, of course.
After the game was selected, the entrance opened and admitted them. Inside there were 10 battlestations for players. A battlestation was an area the player would play in.
The battlestations were circular railed areas that had a floor made of what looked like a fine mesh. The mesh was actually an array of thin rods that would move up and down according to the terrain in the game. You could walk, even run to some extent, in any direction without moving out of the battlestation when on the mesh. The mesh recorded your velocity and caused your character in the game world to correspond. The mesh could even become rigid to form stairs and hills. It took some time to get a feel for the mesh, as it was not exactly the same as walking normally. It was close but still awkwardly different. A new player often lost the immersion the mesh can allow.
While Tourney ‘15 only had a mesh on the floor, more immersive games had walls and a ceiling made of the same mesh. Those games could be complex enough to allow players to rock climb. In the case of Tourney ‘15, the only mesh required was on the floor.
The battlestation had built in motion detection. At this point in history, motion detection was trivial, but if the players wore colors that did not register well with the cameras, they would have to put on stickers to mark themselves for the camera. In this case all the players were recognized, properly and nobody needed to put on the stickers.
In each battlestation was a VR headset like that of the motorcycle games and most other VR hybrid games for that matter. Also in the player arenas were ‘objects.’ Each station had two objects. A player could take one or both objects before putting on the headset.
After the players put on their headsets, they selected the types of object they had chosen. Carmen had picked up both objects and turned one into a shield and the other into a sword. In the game world, it looked like she was holding a sword and shield.
In the real world, she was just holding two white billowing objects that connected to the ceiling via a thin tube. She chose a shield, specifically a kite shield, for her left hand object and the object expanded in size and weight. When the change was complete, which only took a few seconds, it looked like she was holding a pillow shaped like a fat shield. While the appearance was a bit off from in-game, its mass and volume were a perfect replication of the shield she could see with her headset.
Just as her left object turned into a shield, the right object turned into a sword as quickly. Both objects moved out of game just as the real versions would. It was often joked that had a medieval knight been brought into he room they would go mad from fright.
Aaron, Keith, and Oliver also chose to make their objects into swords and shields. Unlike Carmen, however, Keith choose a tower shield. Oliver chose a Viking-style round shield. While the shield styles varied, the only real option for a one-handed sword was length and width. The bigger players usually took the bigger weapons and the smaller players took the smaller weapons.
Cleo chose to make both of her objects into one-handed swords that were appropriately sized for her. While the game was very good at historical detail, the players often chose objects to use that would be unlikely to have been used in the actual historical battle. Yuri chose to use one object and make it into a claymore, which was a giant Scottish two-handed sword.
Once their weapons were chosen, they entered the battle near the rear of the French forces. This was slightly after Joan of Arc’s recovery from being shot by an arrow above the breast. Most of the French army was made of computer players, including Joan and the bastard of Orleans. The location was an excellent physical replication but scaled down to allow the players a reasonable chance to change the outcome. If the players did nothing, the English would win and force the French survivors, if there were any, to retreat. If, however, the players gave significant help to the French, the battle could be won by the French. Each win would be filed into the online database raising the future difficulty level of the game for those players.
As a simulation, Tourney ’15 presented many ways to cross the river and engage the English at their battlements in Les Tourelles. However unrealistic, a catapult was the players’ favorite option.
All six players quickly got into a catapult and had AI characters shoot them over the river and onto the wall. The flight had a stomach-dropping realism that sent adrenalin rushing. They all landed like rocks, spread over several hundred feet of the wall. From left to right they landed: Aaron, Keith, Cleo, Oliver, Yuri and Carmen. They fought their way to meet in the center. Along the wall between them were several guards, mostly armed with bows, axes, and swords. None of the guards had a shield.
Aaron quickly got to Keith. Only two guards were between them. As Aaron got to the first guard, who was armed only with a sword, the guard took a swing at Aaron’s left side towards his throat. Aaron had his shield on his left and his sword on his right. Aaron easily blocked the sword by slightly lifting the shield. As the sword clanged against his shield, Aaron took his own sword and cut deep into the English guard’s torso. As Aaron’s sword passed into the guard, the guard’s body slumped to the ground. Even though the game was violent, the blood was kept to a minimum, showing only a red line where Aaron’s sword entered.
Stepping over the guard, Aaron continued toward Keith. Facing the second guard straight on, Aaron was the first to swing. He went low for the guard’s unshielded right leg. The guard, however, quickly lowered his sword to parry the blow. After Aaron’s sword collided into the gauntlets that the guard was wearing, Aaron deftly brought his sword back up and around to cut deeply into the guard’s chest just below the armpit.
Keith nodded to his father, “What took you so long?”
Aaron shrugged, “I’m getting old.” Then in one of those deep all-knowing voices, he added, “And some day, you will too.”
Keith was close to laughing, “That’s great. Got a plan?”
Aaron pointed to Carmen, “She’s good, but if we don’t meet up soon she’ll have a problem behind her. Let’s push forward.”
Keith looked over and saw what worried his father. Several guards were climbing ladders up the wall past Carmen. If help did not arrive quickly, she would be overwhelmed.
Keith agreed, “Let’s do it!”
On the way to Carmen, Aaron and Keith stopped to join battle with Cleo. Cleo had already downed two archers but could not rush the third as he shot from behind a pillar
Aaron and Keith quickly cut through the three guards between them and Cleo. Each guard fought solo while Aaron and Keith worked as a team. With the first guard, father and son swung their swords simultaneously at opposite sides of the guard. The guard was so overwhelmed he blocked neither and became another red-lined body lining the top of the wall.
The next guard charged Keith and sliced towards Keith’s head. Keith, who had been holding his sword at an angle in front of his forehead, lowered it to block. As Keith parried, Aaron cut into the guard’s left side.
The final guard between them and Cleo had a crossbow. A small stack of crates behind the guard had prevented him from noticing Cleo. Once the second guard fell, the third guard had a clean shot and aimed at Aaron. The bolt shot straight toward Aaron’s heart. Aaron’s shield was ten inches in front of his chest. The bolt went through the shield stopping only five inches past.
Aaron and Keith quickly ran toward the shooter. Before they arrived, the guard took another shot, which whizzed past Aaron’s left ear. Keith arrived first and cut into the guard’s neck.
After Aaron and Keith got past the crates, Cleo turned from her hiding spot and said to Aaron, “I see I’m not the only one having trouble with archers!”
Aaron replied, “We can take out this guard for you.”
Aaron and Keith advanced on the archer, who fired a shot at Keith. Keith blocked the shot with his shield. The arrow did not even dent Keith’s shield. When they arrived at the archer’s position, Aaron pushed aside the guard’s bow then finished the guard with a blow to the chest.
Oliver, who had been out of sight up to this point, was surrounded by three guards. One was behind him and two in front of him. As Cleo, Aaron, and Keith ran to Oliver, Oliver was hit from behind. Like the bodies of guards, his body fell to the floor with only a red line remaining. With Oliver out of the game they would have a tough time winning. If they lost anybody else, it was doubtful they could win.
Cleo, Aaron, and Keith arrived where the three guards had fought Oliver. The three guards, armed with swords, lined up to fight. Aaron and Keith stood together with Cleo at Aaron’s side. Cleo swung her left sword into the blade of the guard that stood before her. Before the guard could regain control of his weapon she swung her right sword into the guard’s unprotected chest.
The two remaining guards hit Aaron and Keith. They blocked the guards. Keith swung at his guard’s head, but the guard moved back and avoided the attack. Cleo was at the side of Aaron’s guard. She finished the guard with a cut in his back. The remaining guard knew it was hopeless and jumped off the wall hoping the water would be more merciful.
Yuri, who had just dealt with some guards, got to their position just as the final guard took his swan dive. Cleo smiled, “Ha-ha, my man has come to aid us with his mighty sword.”
Yuri replied with the one piece of the few French phrases he still remembered from school, “Á votre service!” He added a bow after the phrase.
They all turned to see that Carmen, who was only one guard away, now had a dozen guards behind her. The guard ran toward Carmen. When the guard and Carmen arrived together he took a swing, which she adeptly blocked with her shield. Then Carmen swung, hitting the guard’s head.
Carmen ran forward to meet her teammates. As she ran, the group of guards closed in on her. Just as Carmen reached her friends, the closest guard took a wild swing at her back, missing by inches. Carmen got in line with her team. The couples grouped with Keith and Carmen on the left and the Stefanos on the right. Aaron took the middle. The guards regrouped to form their own line. The players mistakenly waited for the guards’ attack. These guards had come from below and were far better equipped than the previous guards. These guards mostly had swords and shields, but a few had giant axes. One had a spear. The guards placed their shield men in front; their axmen and one spearman stood behind the shielded guards.
The shields the English held were tower shields. They formed a phalanx and moved as a turtle. When they got into range, the guard with the spear thrust through the shield wall protecting him and struck Yuri. Yuri’s body fell to the ground with a red dot.
Cleo screamed, “No!” As she screamed one of the giant axes swung down into her head causing her to join her husband.
Aaron shouted, “Run back to the crates to regroup!”
They turned and ran, all three of them barely escaping swings of axes and swords. They arrived at Cleo’s refuge from the archer. The crates created a choke point so that at most two guards could get through at a time. Aaron, Keith, and Carmen got into position quickly. When the guards arrived, two of them tried to get through with their tower shields. The shields were so bulky that they overlapped. When the guards arrived, they had no way to avoid being dispatched by Keith and Carmen. The next set dropped their shields but met the same fate. Next, two guards with axes stepped through. With his ax, one of the men took a swing at Aaron. Aaron caught the axe with the top of his shield. He then thrust his sword into the unprotected guard. The second guard swung at Carmen and met the same fate.
A guard with a sword and shield attacked next with the spearman. The pair worked well together. The first guard protected the spearman. The spear thrust forward at Aaron. Aaron blocked it with his shield. The spear made a solid hit into the shield forcing Aaron back a few steps. As the spearman pulled his spear back, Aaron regained his position. The next thrust was shoulder height, so Aaron ducked down and let it go over him. As it did, he grabbed it with his hand. Before the spearman could recover his spear, Keith beheaded the guard with the shield, and Carmen killed the now defenseless spearman.
At this point, there was a pile of eight guards, and only four guards were left standing. One of them had an axe; the other three each had a sword and shield. One guard dropped his shield and went forward with a guard that had a sword and shield. These two were killed by Aaron and Keith. The remaining two climbed the pile of corpses to fight. The guard with the axe was in the rear, and the guard with the sword and shield was up front. The shield blocked Aaron and Keith. The axe was swung down at Carmen, who blocked it with her sword. As the axe was pulled back, Aaron struck the foremost guard in the head. Carmen then got the remaining guard.
They looked around to see how the rest of the battle progressed. At this point, the AI character playing Joan shouted, “Glasdale, yield, yield to the King of Heaven!”
A husky reply from below shouted, “I yield to no witch!”
The three players stepped forward to the edge of the wall and looked down to see Glasdale and a few remaining English on the remains of Les Tourelles’ drawbridge. The drawbridge burst, and the English fell to their deaths in the water . . . and the game ended.
The game played a brief celebration video. When it ended, the headsets went dark. All the players took off their equipment and put their objects down, including the three who died but stayed to watch.
“Wow, that was close,” Keith panted, as they removed their gear.
Cleo said, “Blah, sorry I lost it in there.
Aaron said, “You did well with that first guard. It’s just a game.”
Yuri said, “Easy for you to say. You three saved the day!”
Aaron wanted to end the conversation, so he said, “It’s about time for lunch. Let’s go.”
Even though they all knew he was just managing the situation, they went along with it. When they arrived at the café all but the children and Michelle were there. When asked, Jared said, “Michelle’s getting them now. Hopefully they haven’t abused the staff too much.” The last sentence he laced with sarcasm.
When Michelle returned, the youngest kids were upset they had to leave. Some of them cried, but the tears were as much from being tired as from being upset.
They ordered huge pitchers of soda and pizzas. They got six round pizzas, because round is best. The pizzas were a variety including one cheese, two meat, one vegetarian (with no cheese for the resident vegan), and two supreme pizzas which had black olives, pepperoni, green peppers, onions, and sausage. The pizzas were covered by the toppings: not just a few pepperonis or sausages on a slice; there were so many pepperoni slices on a pizza that almost all of them touched other pepperoni pieces.
Everybody ate silently. It was only 12:30, but they were all very hungry from the games, which were far more athletic than their predecessors at the start of the century. The young children were the most tired. Spencer fell asleep in his father’s arms after eating baby food that Michelle and Jared brought with them.
Because they were all so tired, they decided it would be best if they left at 6:30 and ate at the colony. Therefore, they all agreed to meet in the children’s area at 6:30.
When they were done eating, they broke back up into their gaming groups. Jared, however, remained in the café to let Spencer continue to sleep. The rest of the kids went back to the children’s area.
Copyright (C) 1998-2001 East Coast Games, Inc. and 2001 - 2006 Forest J. Handford