Digital: A Love Story is an adventure game that uses an interface in the style of an Amiga workbench PC. It was developed by Christine Love and released on March 4, 2010 for the PC, Mac, and Linux operating systems. Using the graphical user interface (GUI) of the virtual computer, the player must log into Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) to send and receive messages from fictional users. There, the player character meets a mysterious female chatter named Emilia, makes illegal long-distance calls, and uncovers a vast conspiracy involving computer viruses and artificial intelligence.
The gameplay of Digital: A Love Story is largely based on navigating throughout BBSes, reading and responding to messages. The player has several options; dialing into BBSes, reading messages, sending private (or public) messages, downloading files, and cracking into some systems. The game is incredibly linear, and progresses based on whether the player has fulfilled a set amount of actions (such as responding to a specific user).
The player never actually sees the messages that are sent out. The content of the player's messages can only be inferred based on the content of others' responses, and based on the title of the message (as it may change as a conversation progresses).
Digital: A Love Story follows the adventures of a young "Amie Workbench" (a fictionalized Amiga computer) owner, and his adventures on BBS messaging boards. The protagonist, named by the player at the outset of the adventure, initially only has access to a few messaging boards, as well as a simplistic messaging client.
The story is progressed in a fairly linear fashion. The game is, in a sense, a "visual novel," whereas interaction with the menus yields responses and progression in the game. The player's responses on BBSes are never actually seen, although the content of the player's messages can be inferred based on the content of the other messages.
The game begins with the player opening their Amie Workbench for the first time. A message from "Mr. Wong," invites the player to visit their first BBS; Lake City Local at 698-5519. This is where the player is introduced to Emilia, the love interest of "A Love Story." Flirtation abounds, and Emilia and the player strike up a private conversation.
At this point, the player is introduced to a more underground BBS. Known as "The Matrix" (220-7683), this is the source for wares, illegal software, and hacking. Here, the player finds a notepad application for the Amie, to store BBS numbers, c0dez (which allow long distance access), and BBS passwords. Additionally, this is a source for an important Amie Workbench bugfix, which comes in handy later during the game.
After some more flirtation with Emilia, the player learns about c0dez and long distance dialing from a helpful user on the Matrix known as RobFugitive. He provides the player with three c0dez (at random times, these c0dez will expire, requiring the player to return to the Matrix in order to retrieve more c0dez from RobFugitive), as well as the long distance dialing number (915-3347), and the number for GibsonBBS (714-402-5691).
Unfortunately, upon the first connection to GibsonBBS, the player is unable to enter in, finding that the message board is password protected. Revisiting Lake City Local (after some more flirtation with Emilia), the board is completely fried, filled with random characters on a command line interface. Users on the Matrix say that it will be a while before the board is back online, but another user also provides a dictionary password cracker, which should provide useful on GibsonBBS.
In the meantime, users from Lake City Local have come to the Matrix. One such user, J. Rook, posts looking for the player. He has uncovered a file on the now fried BBS titled "emilia.core." Within the file, along with random characters, are the words, "LOCAL SYSTEM HAS BEEN COMPROMISED. NO WARNING SIGNS GIVEN. [Player name] PLEASE HELP ME. CONTACT *PARIS HE CAN HELP PLEASE YOU'RE MY ONLY HOPE," followed by a long string of binary characters. The file also lists a long distance number, 212-561-2910, which is the number for The Underground Library, a BBS which is password protected and uncrackable by the dict hacker program.
In the meantime, visiting GibsonBBS will yield the number of a FidoNet node, Sector 001 (614-622-1701). Sector 001 is a BBS for discussing largely science fiction centered topics, but also hosts information on a key BBS exploit, that is, the key to hacking into the Underground Library. It outlines that the CoreBBS system randomly generates passwords sequentially, so if one password is "x7JRiab882" then the next will be "x7JRiab883."
The information hosted on the Underground Library reveals much about the nature of the BBSes and their users. Users prefixed by an asterisk are actually artificial intelligence, traced back to a central artificial intelligence known as "Mother," created at the beginnings of ARPANET. The BBS also has information on "dead AIs," with Emilia being listed as one of these. Suddenly, the sysop of the Underground Library (Delphi) messages the player, demanding that they leave the network permanently. Thanks to the CoreBBS exploit, however, the player is able to stay on indefinitely.
As the player explores more of the Underground Library, it becomes clear that some entity is out to destroy these organic AIs. Additionally, the player uncovers information about Emilia's "brother," known as Paris. Paris has since returned to ARPANET, and Delphi refuses to answer any further questions. Eventually, the player is able to track down the number for ARPANET, which allows the player to communicate with Paris.
Paris is a much more archaic and primitive AI than Emilia, stating things such as "DECLARATION:" and "QUESTION:" preceding its text, but it becomes clear that Paris is also interested in destroying the "Reaper," the entity whose goal is to destroy organic AIs. Paris instructs the player on how to revive Emilia using a C compiler and the "emilia.core" file that was provided earlier in the game.
Once Emilia is revived, she discusses with the player the nature of the Reaper, and how it has been tracking her from BBS to BBS. It is implied that Paris has been destroyed as well, and Emilia expresses hopelessness. Numerous BBSes have been knocked down at this point, thanks to the Reaper, including ARPANET. However, the Underground Library is still up. Delphi has posted a weakness in the Reaper program, which will permanently wipe the program out. However, in order to exploit this flaw, it requires Emilia to sacrifice herself.
After compiling the payload and connecting to ARPANET, the Reaper is destroyed. The closing scenes shows BBS posts from users following the "great BBS crash of 1988." Users remember Emilia and the player's braveness, as well as recounting the events of the game's denouement.
- The Stars Come Out (Brother Android)
- Space Beacon (radiantx)
- Paper Dolls (4mat)
- One cannot love and do nothing (4mat)
- Wake Up. (Sanczo Zapienkaka)
- Disappointment (8-Beat)
- It's dark, raining and the leaves certainly aren't done falling (ninetales)
- Future, and It Doesn't Work (Starscream)
- The GUI in the game is a homage to the Amiga Workbench 1.3 OS.
- Christine Love's next game, don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story, contains several references to Digital. One person mentioned on the GibsonBBS is the mother of a character in don't take it personally, and the computer that the player uses is also branded with the Amie logo.
- "Hacking the Gibson" is a reference to the 1995 film Hackers.
- Love stated that Digital was influenced by the game Uplink.