For five months after his death, development of Hero and Princess went on without incident. The working title was a relic at this point, as there was no “Princess” in the game anymore, but you can’t tell your investors you’re working on a game that’s just called “Hero.”
At least, officially there was no Princess in the game.
The AI and graphical data for The Princess, rough concepts through they were, remained in the game code many months into development. It was only when bug reports started coming in that the developers even considered deleting her entirely. According to testers, on rare occasions the game was loading the unfinished model of a girl with red hair and a white dress in place of various NPCs. This girl would always have no AI, collision or any method of interaction, and if she replaced a quest-critical NPC she immediately made continuing impossible. Somehow the graphical data of The Princess was still being called and the developers tried a number of fixes for this.
But nothing worked. As time went on, reports of The Princess’ appearances in-game became more elaborate and, to the dismay of the development team, more frequent. She was starting to spawn with NPC AI routines, sometimes even offering random dialogue options from other points in the game. Additionally, she would occasionally behave in ways that didn’t directly match any known AI routines. One common note was that she would turn and face the camera no matter where it was moved, rather than looking at the player avatar. There was also one recorded instance of her displaying a line of text that did not appear anywhere in the game.
The text read “Please.”
After three months of this, development was slowing to a crawl. The “Princess Glitch” was making it very difficult to get actual work done, as it would frequently disrupt any attempts to test if game elements were working properly. Even test areas with no NPCs weren’t safe from the occasional manifestation of this glitch. Around the office, with the testers in particular, rumors were starting to spread about The Princess and the idea that their game might be haunted by the spirit of Mr. Carver. Apparently one such conversation occurred during testing, and resulted in the test build immediately hard locking with an image of The Princess front and center. The testers decided not to report that one.
The problem came to a head when the development team came in one morning to find their chief character modeler, who we’ll call Gina, passed out on the floor of the office with a crumpled piece of paper in her hand. The staff, completely unsuited for such a crisis situation, proceeded to poke at her until she awoke. At first, she claimed to have no memory of the events of that evening. She had been working all night, but remembered nothing after midnight passed.
When her co-workers unfolded the paper that has been in her hand, they realized it was an image of The Princess, hastily scribbled in felt-tipped pen. Upon seeing this, Gina immediately reacted in panic and attempted to flee the building. The staff’s attempts to calm her down were met with cryptic cries of “You don’t know her!” and “We can’t stay here!” Gina left the office and returned home, calling to turn in her resignation the very next day. Apparently, she and the Executive Producer had a very long and very heated talk over the phone. At its conclusion, he ordered any and all data pertaining to the “Princess Feature” to be removed from the game entirely. All the models, all the scripting, everything.
The problem was…the dev team already had, weeks ago.
After two years of development, Hero and Princess was canceled. Ever since the incident with Gina, people had been leaving the project steadily, many under similarly cryptic circumstances. Testers, in particular, had a high turnover rate, and the bugs they were reporting often failed to make much sense at all. The project had been deemed a money-sink by company investors, and the decision was made to cut their losses and move on to something else.
Two years later, the Executive Producer of the project committed suicide by jumping from his second story window. No one knew why he’d done so. He’d moved on to a new project and was actually doing quite well for himself. However, despite a thorough search, no signs of foul play were discovered, nor any signs that anyone else had been in the house at the time. The only unusual element was that he’d left Ocarina of Time running on his television while he went upstairs to do it. It wasn’t even paused.
And that’s the story Dan told us. He had been a tester during the development of Hero and Princess, one of the few who had stayed from the project’s early stages all the way to its collapse. He himself had many tales of The Princess’ exploits during the development of the game, but that wasn’t why he came to the Society, and that isn’t why I’ve posted his story here.
What Dan wanted was a record. He wanted the history of The Princess to be known. He was the only one willing to talk about it, and he didn’t want it to die with him.
Why might he die? Dan had decided he was going to confront The Princess, and he needed the Society’s help.