Willow gasped as she pulled the VR headset off, trying to collect her thoughts. She’d just found a blitzed player in HF and she’d seen the broken code behind it. She now knew what made the black ‘blobs’ that blitzed accounts left behind: broken code. She didn’t know if HF hadn’t cleaned this account up yet, as most other games had done after players had pointed these blobs out to them, or if this had happened too recently, or maybe that those in control at HF weren’t aware of it being there at all.
She opened the chat with Soleil.
Willow: I found a blitzed account in HF.
Her heart was still beating way too fast, drowning out the sounds around her. She waited impatiently for Soleil to respond, but when it took more than a couple of seconds, she stood up, walking around her bedroom.
She looked through her desk, which she never used because she was more comfortable sitting on the couch, and found an old notebook and some pens. She’d put them in there when she moved into this place but hadn’t seen the need to pick them up again. They could be useful now.
Willow began drawing what she’d seen in HF on the screen. The broad lines of the terrain, of the rocks, and the way the blitzed account code was sort of slithering right next to it.
After a couple of minutes, she leaned back and looked at her drawing. It looked nothing like what she’d seen in the game, but at least it made sense to her. Her drawing skills weren’t that good, and she’d given up on trying a long time ago, but it was good enough as a visual representation to get back her much clearer memories of the event. And that would be enough as long as she could actually explain what was going on to anyone else seeing the drawing, because this image wasn’t going to be enough, that was for sure.
Then a new message popped up in the chat.
Rotnem: Really? Where?
Willow: Some cave in one of the starter zones, about level five or six area.
Rotnem: Are you sure it’s a blitzed account?
Willow: Yes. I’ve seen it, it was easy enough to recognise.
Rotnem: Wow. I hadn’t expected an account to show up there yet.
Rotnem: Do you have an idea of the code or something? Something we can work with?
Willow: Just a sketch of what it looks like, but nothing too useful.
Willow: It mostly looked like there was structure missing from the code or something.
Willow: Yeah, like it just fell apart right there, nothing holding it up anymore, no backbone.
Rotnem: Okay. Interesting.
Rotnem: Seems to be the same as other games then.
Rotnem: Any idea who it is?
Willow tried to think back, but while she could see code for the player’s race and class, there wasn’t any other identifying information in it.
Willow: No clue.
Willow: Unless we can find out who it is based on class, race and level? Maybe location?
Most games would have databases of that type of information and if Soleil had someone on the inside, they could probably look at it, right?
Willow: Your source inside the game, would they be able to find it?
That way they could directly link a player to the blitzed account, hopefully. Even if the rest of the data was now corrupted, they could go back into earlier versions of the database to find out, right? That’s why backups exist.
Rotnem: Probably. I’m just not sure...
Willow: Why not?
Rotnem: My source may not want to expose themselves like that.
Willow: But they could help. They could help us figure out who this player is. They could help us save other people from getting blitzed. They don’t want that?
Why was this so hard to understand? Why was this so hard to get through to people?
Rotnem: It’s not just about that.
Rotnem: I’ve asked for that information from other games. It was no use. The accounts were gone. All the data from those accounts was gone. All of it, going back to the start of the character someone played.
Willow: How? That makes no sense. Backups should still hold that information.
Rotnem: They probably could have, or should have. But blitzing seems to corrupt a whole account, and as soon as the game database does a backup, the data on that backup also gets corrupted, going back and back.
Willow: Why hasn’t anyone stopped that from happening?
Rotnem: I only found out about it this morning. I’m sorry.
Rotnem: It’s not easy to get access to data like that, to get people to help you when they think you’re just some freak with too much of an imagination.
Rotnem: I hadn’t realised the backwards corrupting thing until this morning.
Willow sighed as she sat down on her bed.
Willow: So we need a freshly blitzed account, find out their character details and then get a copy of the backup data before the game makes another backup and can corrupt the whole system.
Rotnem: Yeah. That would be the most favourable thing to happen now.
Well, that was a plan, at least part of a plan.
Willow: I think I can make that happen, but we’re going to have to trust some other people.
Rotnem: Your friends?
Willow: Yeah. My guild.
Willow: They can keep an eye on things in DoE. They can get to any place in the game that you may need to get to in moments. If they can get you or someone else to a recently blitzed account to grab the character data, would that work?
She crossed her fingers, hoping that Soleil would accept her plan because she had no other ideas on how to get to that information otherwise.
Rotnem: They can’t know about what we’re doing.
Willow: They won’t have to, they only have to know to look out for a blitz and to contact someone. That’s all.
Soleil was quiet for a while and Willow bit on the inside of her lip as she waited, nervous.
Rotnem: Okay. Do it.
Rotnem: It’s the best we’ve got.
It really was. If the blitz also backwardly corrupted data, then they had to get to the data before it could get corrupted and that wasn’t an easy task. Systems hadn’t been designed for this type of corruption, obviously.
It had to work. If they could find people after they were blitzed and could still contact them without the need for BASE, then they could help those people. It was only partially preventive, but it was help, that was the most important part.
If they could find them they could help them and find out what the connection between all these accounts was.
Sage, Juniper and Opal didn’t ask any questions about why they were doing what Willow asked them to do and didn’t ask her to explain more. They all knew that she couldn’t tell, but also that whatever they were doing, it would help them get closer to finding Violet, and prevent more people from getting blitzed, and that was the most important thing, really.
Willow thought about going into DoE for a while, play a game she actually knew she enjoyed and which she could play comfortably. But instead, she went back into HF. It wasn’t just her friends who could find a blitzed account. If she kept playing and got into areas with more people who were playing, she’d also be able to record data from any blitzed accounts she may run into. And in the mean time, maybe she could find out things from other players about the people who went missing as soon as they logged onto HF.
It was a long shot, but now that she’d found one blitzed account, she knew that it was possible for people to get blitzed later in HF and that meant that she could potentially find blitzed accounts later on in the game too. Finding people and hoping to be able to do good was a much bigger drive than playing something comfortable was right now.
If they could identify the people who got blitzed, if they could find them, they could figure out why they were getting blitzed. If they could talk to those players, they could ask them what happened, they could ask them what was going on. And that was information that they desperately needed. If they could find out the ‘why’ they could prevent this from going on any longer. Hopefully.
After she’d handed her quest in with the ‘main captain’, telling him it was trolls who had probably killed those NPCs, she got a new quest from him to go and report to a different captain in a new place. Probably the next town, which meant that there was a bigger chance of actually running into players, unlike in this small corner of the game.
Before she left, she killed the final three goshawks and finished all the other small quests, she hated leaving quests unfinished. Hated it.
Just as she handed in the last of the quests, she gained another level.
[You’ve reached level 8!]
[Iris has reached level 8!]
This game was really pretty slow when it came to levels. The quest rewards XP were low but the XP needed to get to the next level was also quite high. Both of which didn’t help. It slowed the game down quite a lot when you had to do so much work in the same small zones before you could move on.
But she was finally able to get to the next area, to the first real village or city or whatever it was.
She quickly sold off the useless items at the general supplies seller, and then walked to the gate of the encampment. There, she looked back one last time, looking at the area she’d been in for way too much time. And she was pretty glad to actually be out of here, it was depression how much she wanted to get to the next area.
She started walking down the road, past the wolves and the forest where she had been to collect herbs and skin some rabbits, then she crossed a small bridge. This was where the previous area ended, but as she stepped over it, the map around her filled up with new things.
To her left, she saw more wolves, though, these looked a little more dangerous, than the previous ones.
They were a few levels above her, and she didn’t want to find out what ‘rabid’ implied in this game. With the cruel sense of humour of this game, it could just as easily mean that a bite from those wolves really gave you rabies in this game, even for a short amount of time or it would just put an annoying bleed debuff for 10 seconds. Not anything she was keen on testing, not really.
The right side of the path was mostly empty fields, though she did see something in the distance, probably more mobs to fight.
She kept following the road, trusting that it would get her to the city she had to get to. The area around her changed some, a thick forest now on her left side and on her right side she could see a lake. A huge lake.
Willow stopped, looking over the surface of it. It was beautiful. Most of the lake was frozen over, especially around the edges and it reflected some of the light, creating beautiful colours everywhere. It was so amazing to see.
She could barely believe it. For a game that seemed to enjoy death and torture so much, they would also put in something so stunningly beautiful.
Then, as she followed the edge of the lake with her eyes, she could see a city in the distance. It was still going to be quite a walk, but instead of following the road, which seemed to go through some mountains next, she stepped off the path and went down to the lake.
She could walk over the edge of the lake, it would probably be faster, but it would definitely be more beautiful than the inside of caves.
When her feet hit the ice, she could feel how slippery it was under her ‘shoes’. She grinned, this was great.
She pushed off and then slid over the ice, trying to stay up straight and not fall flat on her face. Next to her, Iris didn’t seem to have as much trouble staying up, she just put her claws into the ice to get a better grip.
At the very edge of the lake, she could see the plants trapped under the clear ice. She could see the mud and the plants growing under it. The ice had frozen all the way to the bottom, not leaving any water.
But as she got away from the edge, she could see the bottom fall away and the layer of water grow, and with it came moving plants under the ice. She kept going, the bottom no longer visible, the water under the ice now a black hole with nothing in it, the bottom was even too far away for plants to get close enough to the surface.
She stopped, not sure if she should keep going... She started to get a bad feeling about this.
Games tended to put creepy things in lakes, really creepy things with big jaws and sharp teeth that she didn’t really feel like encountering right now. Especially not since she was in a higher level zone and she had no idea if she would even be able to fight whatever could find her.
She slid back towards the edge in the direction of the city. She wasn’t going to tempt fate. Even though Iris would warn her if she was getting close to a mob, she didn’t feel like escaping from a big evil creature on this ice and slipping away... That was not an image she liked.
As she got closer to the city, she could see people moving around it. She wasn’t sure if they were NPCs or players, both would make just as much sense.
But she felt excited and scared at the prospect of both of those.
She was so done with being the only player in the area, but she also didn’t really feel like meeting new people... Especially players who were going to be all loud and over excited and everything.
She wanted there to be more players around, so she didn’t feel so alone, but she also didn’t want to have to play with or talk to those other players...
Willow approached the city, conflict still going inside her and she didn’t know what she wanted or dreaded more.
She was going to have to find that out by actually getting there. Sooner, rather than later..