Town Trip: Darwin



By the time Darwin reached town, he was a solid halfway into Level 28. The road to the town had been long, and random Ogres had kept popping up here and there, but they were easy enough to kill. Killing them had helped break up the monotony of what was an otherwise uneventful trip. If there was any downside to building a beautifully-rendered, realistic world with proper dimensions, it was that the thing was bound to be huge. People might have complained that ‘the scales didn’t match up right’ when he played other games, but at least they didn’t have to spend an hour–that felt like two–putting one foot in front of the other just to get back to town. Life must have been awful before cars were invented.

When he finally approached the large wooden gates of the town, one of the two guards in chainmail holding spears and standing duty approached him, blocking his path. “Greetings, citizen. What is the nature of your visit to Valcrest?”

“I’m here to turn in a quest and sell some axes. I killed a few hundred White-Horns, and I need to find a place that might be interested in buying them.” Darwin smiled to himself, knowing this time he was definitely speaking to a NPC. Players had white names, while friendly NPCs had blue names. It was a distinction he wished he had known to check for when he first got to this world. That king was way too weird and human to have been programmed. Who wears a purple suit? It had to be a player pretending to be a pimp.

The two guards each exchanged a look between them that Darwin wasn’t able to catch. “How many axes?”

“Around seven or eight hundred. Why? Is there a limit to how many you can sell?” Darwin probably would have had more since he had somehow gotten most of the drops, but he had shared his spoils with Kass every now and then to keep the numbers balanced.

The guards exchanged another glance. “You said White-Horns? You killed a few hundred White-Horns?”

Darwin frowned. Is this an error in the programming? Is this like when the iPhone came out, and Siri needed to have a question repeated over and over again just to understand a simple sentence?

“Yes. I killed the legion that was about an hour that way,” Darwin said, pointing in the direction he had just come from. He wasn’t sure what the exact direction was without pulling up the map again. God, I miss those little blue quest markers and the compass at the bottom of the screen. They made everything in life easier.

“Go make a report. Take the summoning circle,” the guard that had approached him said to the other, at which point the other immediately departed.

“Did I do something wrong? Was I not supposed to kill them?”

The guard chuckled to himself before answering. “I think most people would have asked that after the first kill, not the first 800. But no, you didn’t do anything wrong. If you’re interested in selling your wares, go straight down this road until you see a fountain that marks the center of the town and then take a right. That’s where the merchants are. Once there, take a right, and the richest blacksmith you’ll find will be the third shop on your left. Can’t miss it: it’s got the big pillar of smoke behind it.”

“Thank you for the help. Have a good day!” Even though it was an NPC, and Darwin knew it, he just couldn’t help but treat the guard like a person. The AI in the game was so creepily life-like that he couldn’t tell the difference between an NPC’s behavior and a person’s.

As he passed through the gates, the guard called out to him one more time, making Darwin worry. “Sir!”

“Yes? Did I forget to do something?”

“No, it’s just . . . Thank you!”

“Umm . . . No problem? Have a good day.” Thank you? If metal was so in demand that the guards would thank me for just bringing my axes to sell here, then I am definitely going to make a killing. But how does food work? I know it’s a game, but my stomach is killing me, and I’m so thirsty. Where is iced tea when you need it?

The town was utterly lacking in style. The shops seemed to bleed into one another so well that, just walking down the road, one might confuse himself with a hotdog that had lost its way in a very large hallway–the shops were just two continuous walls of storefronts, not a series of individual stores. The blacksmith’s shop was hard to spot, regardless of what the guard had said. If it wasn’t for the tell-tale sign with an anvil hanging above the door, he might have missed it and gone into the fourth or fifth shop on the row.

“Greetings!” A burly, beer-gutted man with a beard that hung from chin to belly button said as soon as he opened the door. The man didn’t even bother looking up as he said it. He just continued working on whatever it was he was fashioning behind the desk where he stood. The entire shop was filled with tall stands that blocked Darwin’s vision, each holding a series of weapons which were mostly made out of wood. Thanks to all the staves, bows, and arrows, one might not recognize the fact it was a blacksmith’s shop and not a carpenter’s.

“Hey,” Darwin said, paying beer-gut the same indifferent respect he received. He was about to ask him to buy the axes when he realized he not only didn’t know what a good price was for the axes, but he didn’t even know what currency was worth in this new game world. “How much is a double-bladed iron axe worth?”

“A passable one would be worth about two gold coins and fifty silver pieces. Iron is in shorter supply than my patience, boy, so if you want me to make you one, it’ll be six gold coins,” the grumpy man said, pausing what he was doing for only a second to scratch the top of his bald head.  

“Could I sell one?”

Beard-belly put down whatever it was he was holding and looked up at him with squinted eyes.

“I’ll take a look at it, but you won’t get more than two gold coins.”

“Fine, but how long will it take you to look at around 800?” As soon as he mentioned the number he had, a clatter came from behind one of the weapon racks.

“Did you say you had 800?” a female voice called out from behind the wall. “You think you could sell fifty to my guild instead of the old man? We’ll pay you the 2 gold and 50 silver pieces they are actually worth.”

“I don’t see why not.” Money is money, after all, and I need to get some badly and buy a burger.

Elaine has requested to trade with you. Would you like to Accept or Reject the trade invitation?

Accept. When he accepted the trade request, a window popped up with an Items and Gold section on both sides. Add fifty double-bladed iron axes to the trade. She added her gold to the currency section of the trade and the deal was made.

You have gained 125 Gold!

Great. Now I just need to sell off the rest of them. “So, interested in the rest of my axes, old man?”

“Yeah, come on and show me what you got, kid. Don’t expect no two gold and fifty silver from me though,” the bald man grumbled at him.

After selling off all but ten of the weapons, Darwin’s hunger finally got the better of him, and he dashed outside to the first tavern he could find. He didn’t know when Kass would log in again, but he did know that he needed some food and water if he intended to keep going once she did. He wasn’t entirely sure if his character would ever fatigue and need sleep, but he didn’t exactly want to leave that part to chance either.

He sat down at the first wooden table he could find and ordered a meal and a drink. The tavern wasn’t anything like what he expected from stories and movies. It was just like an empty diner with wooden tables. Lots and lots and lots of wooden everything. Even the waitress who took his order had that same cordial, friendly attitude that he had grown to expect from the restaurants back home like IHOP.

As he ate, Darwin reflected on everything he had to figure out. He didn’t exactly know how the friend-tracking system worked, something he should probably figure out before Kass showed up again, and he had a lot to do: get a Job Class, turn in a quest, get another quest, find out what is going on with his unknown game Race and, of course, finish the tutorial. No, actually, on second thought, I don’t need to do any more of the tutorial. I’m not about to break one of the cardinal rules of gaming while stuck in a gamer’s world. Darwin knew that you could excuse tutorial use if it was a necessity, but not if you chose to take it just because you had the free time.

So much to do. I wonder when Kass will get back on and if she’s actually a girl? Darwin wasn’t certain on that last part. After all, for all the things that Darwin didn’t know, he was at least aware that this was a video game. And every gamer knew that GIRL stood for Guy In Real Life more often than not. Even in the raid group that Ser NightVale was a part of, at least two of the ‘girls’ were guys pretending to be girls. He never understood why some guys liked to pretend they were the opposite sex, but the phenomena was well documented, with a thousand anecdotes, to the point that most gamers just accepted it as fact. Those brown eyes of hers were so realistic looking. This game is amazing.  

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