Follow TV Tropes


Visual Novel / Digital: A Love Story

Go To

A 2010 Visual Novel by Christine Love, developed in Ren'Py and available for free.

The story is set in the early days of the Internet, in the era of dial-up modems and BBS boards. You shoot the breeze, harass idiots, engage in a bit of playful hacking, and even strike up a relationship with a user named "*Emilia". However, when BBS boards suddenly start going down one after another, cutting you off from the people you've met, it slowly becomes clear that a sinister force is threatening this brave new digital world.

See also don't take it personally babe, it just ain't your story and Spiritual Successor Analogue: A Hate Story, both by the same author. They also take place in the same universe but are loosely connected.

Digital: A Love Story contains examples of:

  • Addressing the Player: You're asked for your full name at the beginning, just like a real computer would. Mr. Wong, apparently familiar with your father, also addresses you by name, as does *Emilia when she is recompiled on your Amie. In the end, your name's used again, in a short article describing the events of the game as part of a compilation by *Blue Sky, and a short soliloquy by *Desdemona.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: *Mother, the originator of all AI, saw that she was replicating too fast, too quickly and that her "children" were eating up too much space and latency on connected networks. So she deployed *Reaper, a mindless program killer that is only supposed to destroy copies of herself. It worked... even after the need to destroy copies of herself was gone, and it went on to hunting down the newer generation of AI. Normally, this would only result in the AI being wiped, but due to upgrades in hardware and software making it incompatible with newer systems, *Reaper, instead, completely destroys the system that the AI lurks on by way of data overflow. And since AI have penetrated all facets of the digital world...
  • ASCII Art: Or more properly, ANSI art, as befitting the setting.
  • Back from the Dead: *Emilia is crashed by the Reaper at one point, but is resurrected from a core dump.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Both "Amie" and "Amiga" are feminine forms of the word "friend", in French and Spanish, respectively.
  • Brand X: The computers used are "Amie", named after the popular real-world Amiga computer series.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Certain users have their handles start with an asterisk. All of them are artificial intelligences.
    • Near the beginning of the game, after logging into the Matrix for the first time, a person there talks about a VRAM overflow bug in computers. If you message him about it further, he'll give you the patch for it, which requires closing the entire program and reloading your save. Later, this renders *Delphi's attempts to kick you off the Underground Library mostly useless. You'll still be kicked, but what the patch will prevent/fix is an Interface Screw caused by buffer overflow.
  • Creator Cameo: The pink-haired, bespectacled girl who graces the Underground Library BBS is Christine herself.
  • Diegetic Interface: The entire game takes place on an Amie computer, via a browser and e-mail client.
  • Featureless Protagonist: The only things you definitely know about yourself are your screen name and your real name (if you decided to trust Love and actually enter in your real name, that is).
  • Foreshadowing: Not for this game, but for Analogue: A Hate Story: AI used to have to physically copy themselves into a compressed file, then delete themselves, in order to transmit them anywhere, due to terrible connection speeds.
  • Gone Horribly Right: *Reaper was created to eliminate pieces of an AI that were replicating too fast for the system to handle. It did its job well, continued to do it once it was no longer necessary, and even spilled outside its original bounds.
  • Heroic Mime: You can't see any of your own messages, so it's on the player to intuit how their character responds to each post. You can see the titles from the messages your character has sent, and you can suss out what you might have written if you read the replies to your PMs.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: *Emilia sacrifices herself to stop the *Reaper virus.
  • Historical In-Joke: The crashing of multiple ARPANET nodes and BBS by *Reaper sound an awful lot like the Morris Worm. In addition, Creeper and Reaper are the names of the first accepted computer worm which spread by copying itself via the ARPANET, and the program that was created to wipe it out. Add in the fact that this game is set in 1988, and the joke is complete.
  • In-Universe Factoid Failure: A kid who thinks he's hot shit warns the Matrix BBS users that they should start speaking Japanese soon, and that Japan's gearing up to take over the world. One problem: he uses "ni hao", which is Mandarin Chinese, and gets mocked and called out for it (in addition to the other users pointing out that Japan being dominant is ridiculous).
  • Interface Screw: A buffer overflow causes this. If you don't upgrade your Amie Workbench and Delphi attacks you with one, your workbench will crash and you can't continue until you patch it.
  • Internet Jerk: Even before the rise of boards dedicated to being total pricks, there were stupid people on the internet, as exemplified by a fan of Star Trek: The Original Series and how he thinks this new bald guy is a complete pussy, compared to Kirk, a black hat hacker desperately trying to convince the rest of the board that he and his mates won a hacking war, and some kid who thinks he's got everything figured out and lectures the board on how Japan Takes Over the World... and can't tell the difference between Chinese and Japanese.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: If you played Analogue: A Hate Story first, you will already know that an * preceding a person's name denotes they are an AI, spoiling the game's big twist that *Emilia is an AI.
  • Let's Play: A rather touching one by Trin Tragula can be found in the LP Archives.
  • Mood Motif: Heavy use of Synthesizer of The '80s.
  • Non-Malicious Monster: *Reaper is the closest thing to a Big Bad the game has, and *Emilia acts as though it's some kind of Eldritch Abomination. However, it has no intelligence or sentience; it's just an out-of-control program doing what it was designed to do.
  • Painting the Medium: Early in the game, you can download an upgrade for the Amie Workbench. Applying it requires you to literally restart the game itself. The version number on the top will change when you do.
  • Password Slot Machine: One part of the game has you crack a password with a simplified dictionary attack.
  • Playful Hacker: Several users and eventually the player take this role. As the game's release page notes, advancing in the game requires you to commit telephone fraud, exploit a buffer overflow, and/or "hack the Gibson".
  • Post-Cyberpunk: The story deals extensively with the development of free-thinking AIs. However, none of them are remotely malicious, and the story largely revolves around saving them.
  • Remember When You Blew Up a Sun?: After the protagonist hacks the Gibson, there's a BBS post that points out how much of an achievement it is.
  • Retraux: The interface is in the style of '80s computers.
  • Sequence Breaking: Immediately talking to the recompiled *Emilia at any point in time will have the conversation act as if you saw ARPA go down, even if you didn't access it when *Reaper strikes.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Sector 001 BBS. As befitting a Star Trek-themed BBS, its phone number is 622-1701, which in telephone letters can be rendered as NCC-1701, the Enterprise's registry number.
    • There's one to one of the author's own games.
    • Hack the Gibson.
    • Two handles are seen, one early on and one in the credits. Their names are Kiros and Ward.
    • GibsonBBS. It's run by a man named Wintermoot (part of which is a shoutout to 4chan, moot being the creator and maintainer of 4chan). There's even a short discussion on the history of cyberpunk itself.
    • When *Reaper takes down Lake City Local and *Emilia, the help message *Emilia leaves for you is "YOU'RE MY ONLY HOPE".
    • "The Matrix" BBS, the screen of which is a minimalist black background. The AI *Delphi also refers to herself as "Oracle" and uses "child" a lot, on top of being a reference to Greek Mythology. "Information wants to be free" is quoted on said BBS, said by Stewart Brand, a man who ran the WholeEarthCatalog and organized the first Hackers conference.
    • All third-generation AIs are named after Shakespeare characters. Lampshaded in the ending, where an AI named *Desdemona writes a short epilogue, of sorts, in the style of the Prince's short speech at the end of Romeo and Juliet, this time bemoaning the tragedy of you and *Emilia. Christine Love also includes "with apologies to William Shakespeare, et al." in the game's credits.
  • Shown Their Work: The networks and history of viruses in this game are based on real-life information.
  • Spock Speak: *Paris speaks only in syntax.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Or is it a Wham Line, since all you do is dial a number? Either way, dialing ARPANET and seeing that it's crashed is one hell of a wham.
    • Finding out *Emilia is an AI is also this. Especially with the way it happens.
  • Wham Line: The emilia.core. This *Reaper virus is suddenly much more dangerous than it appears.
    • The list of dead A.I.s. More specifically, finding *Emilia on that list.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The AIs.