It's a free browser game with wonderfully simple rules. You check in once or twice a day, move your ships, upgrade your stars, then let the galactic war play out over hours and days. Previously, Graham betrayed Kieron, then Graham betrayed Quinns, and that was pretty much it for Quinns. Now, the grim, dialogue-heavy conclusion!
Phill Cameron/Poisoned Sponge, Rock Paper Shotgun Affiliate - DECEASED
Tom Francis, PC Gamer - DECEASED
Kieron Gillen, Rock Paper Shotgun
Hentzau, Freelance Soldier of Fortune - DECEASED
Chris Pelling, Inventive Dingo Games - DECEASED
Quinns, Rock Paper Shotgun Affiliate
Jim Rossignol, Rock Paper Shotgun
Graham Smith, PC Gamer
This diary went up in seven parts, one a day, both here and simultaneously over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun. We've just called everyone wusses at the end.
Graham: Apparently I'm a street kid who lives for revenge. I'd had a choice between sending fleets while Kieron was offline in the evening, or waiting till bedtime. If I waited till bedtime, I was fairly sure it would be too late. I sent them earlier, without really thinking about the why of Kieron being offline.
I spent the night squirming, waiting for the moment of discovery. I even pictured the reaction: Anger? Frustration? An acepting laugh? A weary sadness?
Kieron logged on to MSN. I knew he was home, and I immediately opened up Neptune's Pride and started refreshing. That's when I noticed Kieron's stars started to switch to my side. He was just giving them to me! No no no no. Not like this! I didn't want it to end like this.
I opened up a chat window.
[01:01] Graham: :(
[01:03] Kieron:There you go.
Kieron logs off, and a cold weight drops from my ribcage, slides down my legs and into my feet. It might be the small chunk of black coal that sits where my heart should be. I feel fucking terrible, just unspeakably guilty. I've played the game with a single-minded focus towards gaining the only meaning Neptune's Pride has: those 93 stars, and victory. I've betrayed everyone - and I've been betrayed plenty, including by Kieron - but this time is different. We'd explicitly talked about our tiredness of betrayal, our desire to work together properly, and our hope that we could make it work, if only for the hopeful message it'd add to the end of the inevitable story we'd write based on the game.
But I'd gone and done it anyway.
For the five weeks this game had lasted, I'd been speaking to my fellow players via instant messenger every night. While we were called AdaLovelace, swiss and Graham in game, in real life we were Kieron, Jim and Graham. I'd invested so much time and thought and energy into playing this game, that somewhere along the line, it stopped feeling like a game and started feeling very personal. People's betrayals of me didn't hurt. But now betrayals of them did. The 93 goal stars wasn't the only meaning the game had anymore; by working together, we'd imbued it with something far more powerful.