Episode 1, Story/Gameplay: First Day on the Job
Upon beginning the game, we're greeted with this:
There'll be one of these titles for every season. They only appear once per save file, ever, so I'll need to be sure to get footage of them unless I wanna do a marathon of the game just to capture one of them again.
If the desktop wallpaper and confetti are anything to go by, it's the holidays, or just after them. Seems we'll only have one employee to work with. I can hear the screams of "Tutorial" from here.
And yes, the mouse cursor will be following us throughout our time at work. It's kind of impossible to convey exactly what the hell I'm grabbing or pointing at or highlighting without it visible, so it'll be our little sidekick in this journey.
Also, this will be explained a bit later, but those three stars are our rating for the level; completing everything required, completing everything, and then being a speedrunner. 2-Star ratings are markedly unimpressive in most cases, though there is one level in particular where even a 1-Star rating could be seen as impressive...
Let's begin, shall we?
Weird... this is definitely the address in my acceptance letter!
Pondering how sure she is that she got the address right, presumably, Denise walks further into the... office. Or what's left of an office, it seems.
Hello? Is anyone here?
She manages to draw the attention of a layabout on the couch.
Great first impression, I'm sure.
Ah! It is my sorrow to turn away such a stunning young flower...
...but I'm afraid we're closed!
Whoa, no way!
I mean... how about that!
Yes! A new sexy gazelle in the office! A new challenge... for Mahavir!
Might wanna keep your master plans inside your brainscape instead of outside your mouth, just a bit of advice, Mahavir.
This IS Conkling Associates International, right?
Indeed it is, m'dear. C.A.I. for short.
I could draw attention to that "m'dear," but I think it's far more noteworthy to wonder how classified our work is with a company name so coincidentally close as that.
And I... am Mahavir!
Might've announced that to us and the 6 adjacent floors already, but the proper introduction's appreciated.
Naturally, you'll need a new friend to show you the ropes around here, right?
Uh... sure, why not? My name's Denise, by the way. So does anyone work here besides you?
Oh, it's barely past New Year's. We're a small branch office, and everyone's gone home for the holidays.
Did they take their desks with them? Do we have a closet for those? Do they have to go through the IKEA furniture assembly process every time they come back from vacation or a transfer to disincentivize taking time off?
Either way, we at least know our time frame for sure now. Start of the year, maybe January 2nd or 3rd.
And you're just... here by yourself? Sleeping?
Well, I didn't feel like going all the way back to Bombay.
It's a 23-hour flight, but if I stay here and hang around the office, I get paid!
I see... !
Sounds like a nice deal for ya, but if you're getting paid, won't they still be sending you-
Oops, break's over! They'll start sending tasks for us any minute.
...work. Yes. There it is.
Oh... um, you mean the one over there with the phone?
Yep, that's the one! Let me just find the new employee orientation manual...
Oh, this'll be just riveting, I bet.
Welcome to your first day at C.A.I., Denise! You're joining a team providing industry-leading solutions for... blah blah blah, this stuff doesn't matter...
Seems we're on the same page as Mahavir for once, though that did manage to throw out our one opportunity to learn what the hell this place even does
Ah, Tasks... ingredient number one to the perfect storm that is Denise trying to prevent this entire office from exploding. These'll be around for our entire time working here, and you'll either be praying for them to show up to complete a goal or cursing their existence as they keep pouring down a seemingly endless pipeline.
The central office sent it over, and they want it done pronto! You'd better go pick it up and put it on my desk...
While the office manager's job at C.A.I. getting reduced to being a gofer for the rest of the office is kinda silly, we still have to do as he suggests and click the task, then click the spot on his desk that looks like one of those things you slip a calendar inside, I dunno. Don't worry about being that precise in the future, though, the amount of acceptable space to click expands if I remember correctly; this is just to condition you to click a more accurate spot so you don't shove the task on the wrong employee's desk somehow.
And thus, Mahavir will demonstrate employee work for us.
Every time I finish a task, the central office raises our petty cash budget a bit! If we want money to buy snacks and office supplies, I'll have to keep working...
Two things: one, I'm not gonna mention the specifics until writeups, but rest assured Mahavir does Tasks in anything but an expert manner. Two, that amount of cash it mentioned from finishing the Task? It's inflated a bit. Normally we'd get $1 from this tier of Task, but the game would like us to have a bit more cash than normal for something later. Since we have no idea where to get "snacks and office supplies" as of now, you can probably guess.
New tasks will keep showing up on your desk until closing time! They definitely like to keep us busy.
A blue Task appeared on the desk, by the way.
Just keep 'em comin', cute stuff!
Fiiiiine. We have him polish off that blue Task, and...
Are you sure about that
Drudging away at this busywork is not what's important in life, is it? We all have other goals. Personally, my plans for today involved sleeping on the couch over there. I know... you can help me take a break!
Translation: "You can authorize my workplace naps." ...well, anyway, we can click an employee to begin controlling them instead of Denise, and then click a location for them to go to. Don't worry too much about deselecting Denise; if you click something only she can do, like picking up a Task or walking to her own desk, the game will automatically reselect her and tell her to do that.
And now for our first instance of a message from the game itself:
Employees like Mahavir get a little stressed out when they work on tasks, but they have ways of relaxing, too.
Ingredient number two of the perfect storm: Employee stress levels, lowered by sending them to take breaks.
To finish an episode and move on in the story, Denise has to help her fellow employees finish their goals.
Number three: Goals we need to complete, separate from the average work-stress loop.
When we mouse over each of the Goals, we see...
...that Mahavir has some very simple ambitions for now. This will stop being the case rather quickly, I assure you.
I rarely wind up using this feature since the mouseover feature works so well, but there's no denying that someone out there must've found it useful, since it allows you to read up on all the Goals without any time passing.
It's even displayed in such a way where you can see what the progress indicators for active Goals are in the background. Very nice. Speaking of those indicators...
Goals that require a certain amount of time to be spent doing something are sectioned off into four segments; each one will give you a small notification when you reach it. You can't see it in the gif, but you can certainly see it in the video, and I have a visual ready to demonstrate one of them later on for those of you uninterested in the video.
Oh and, uh, while we were busy staring at that, a green task appeared on our desk and is now flashing red.
...oh. Well then.
Ingredient number four: Denise's own stress level when Tasks are left incomplete. Her stress level gradually rises when an overdue Task is in the office, stacking with multiple overdue Tasks. That can get lethal very quickly if you choose to ignore it.
If she becomes totally stressed out, you'll have to start the day over!
And I do mean lethal. Starting the day over means you lose all progress towards goals you made that day, and the day count still progresses. If you're going for a 3-Star rating, you might as well restart the Episode if you let Denise have a meltdown.
Don't freak out, sweet cheeks! I guess we can deal with that pesky task before I get back to more important things...
Sure. More important. Anyways, there's a second line here that's bugged and disappears almost instantly. I couldn't get a gif of it since it's on screen for literally 1 frame, but I managed to get a picture of it thanks to YouTube's single-frame advance/rewind features.
In any case, we can bring Tasks to our employee's desks, no matter where they are.
Taking note of our employees' lack of agency, we send Mahavir back to his desk, and...
...we take note that the Task is no longer considered overdue when it's being worked on. Whenever a task gets work done on it, it buffers its time to become overdue by a few seconds, even if it's already overdue. The timer also freezes when it's being worked on. When no overdue Tasks remain in the office, Denise will calm down over time.
I only got through part of my nap... but that's OK, I'll just pick up where I left off later.
Here, we're introduced to how Goals are affected by the day ending.
Some goals are the kind of thing you have to get done in one day...
Pictured above: a lie. Well, for now it isn't, but it sure as hell is gonna become one eventually, you can count on that.
...and that's all there is to it!
Hmm, I think I get how it works!
Good job! We got through the day and the office finally has some petty cash again!
So were you not doing work while you were here on your own? ...well, I guess it's the office manager's job on the line when the work's not getting done, not yours, so... guess they couldn't do much about it...?
Tomorrow I'll show you where to buy donuts... Donuts are half the reason I stay in this country!
Probably gonna find out reasons contributing to the other half later on, just saying. Anyways...
Before each day, we get a report on what Goals we've completed, what Goals are remaining and what we need to complete the remaining Goals, our amount of petty cash, and what day number it is today. This helps keep you up to date on how on-track you are to getting a 3-Star rating.
Now, once we begin...
You'll notice that a "HALF WAY THERE!" appeared over Mahavir. At the start of each day, notifications for the progress towards an Employee's goals will appear over their heads, assuming you've at least reached the first milestone in their progress. Helps nudge you towards Goals you've gotten started on. Anyway, we all know Denise is gonna see what Mahavir's favor he wants is, so let's try to make the most of it.
Sure, what's up?
I don't think I'm going to be able to make it through the day without a donut... can you go pick us up some? Pleeeeeease?
I counted the number of Es, by the way. That's exactly as it's typed in-game.
As you can see from the post-its above, Mahavir still has a couple goals he wants some help with.
More gentle reminders about what Goals are left unfinished, and helps fill some possible dead air in the day.
He wants to nap some more, and eat a donut. You have as many days as you need to finish the episode, so there's no rush! However, if you can finish every single goal fast enough, you could earn a bonus for your performance...
You know what that means.
SUPER SPEEDRUN TIME
Never mind the fact that it's impossible to do the tutorial level faster than the 2 Days mentioned due to eventing
We get most of our snacks and office supplies from OfficeTown, across the street. Take some petty cash and check it out!
Denise can use the office budget to buy various items that can boost productivity and lower stress, among other things.
And thus, once we click that button...
Welcome to the office's number one source of boosted productivity, powerups! It may not be much right now, but things we'll see here later on will be invaluable to
breaking the game over our fucking knees keeping everyone working well and at manageable stress levels. When we mouse over the Donut...
We get a rundown of its effects. I'll do a full writeup of OfficeTown once we unlock all the items, which will be... a while, but don't worry, I'll still tell you exactly what each item does when it gets its "Unlocked" blurb. The Donut will have to wait until next time for that since it's just here for tutorial purposes, but rest assured it lowers an Employee's stress significantly for its price at this point in the game. Not the most efficient, but still useful.
For our purposes, we buy three of them. It'll make sense shortly after we return.
We click on the Donut, click on the empty front-facing portion of Mahavir's desk (again, the valid space to click increases after this), and...
...we complete a Goal, simple as that. Simplicity will cease after a while, so appreciate it while you've got it.
Whenever an employee finishes a goal, the entire office gets a morale boost, which reduces everyone's stress. Right now, there's not much effect since Denise and Mahavir are pretty relaxed... but it'll come in handy later!
The above couldn't be more true. You feel less tense in real life whenever you get a Morale Boost at the right time, honestly. Sometimes I try to save Goals to be completed explicitly for the Morale Boost they'll give.
I don't mouse over it in the video, but that goal predictably reads "Eat another couple donuts. (2 Donuts)" This is why we wanted those extra Donuts. Saves time for myself. Anyways, each Optional Goal is tied to the completion of a specific Required Goal. Not all Required Goals unlock Optional Goals, but I'll make a note at the end of each gameplay update about the Goal list and what unlocks which Goals. ...it should be pretty clear what this one was unlocked from, right?
You don't have to finish optional goals to complete an episode. But if you get every goal in the episode done, you'll earn a bonus star!
1-Star ratings are for doing the bare minimum, the Required Goals. 2-Star ratings are for doing everything. 3-Star ratings are for getting good and managing the office efficiently. Needless to say, a lot of the enjoyment in regards to gameplay comes from improving your efficiency and going for 3-Star ratings, but for people who just wanna do the story, 1-Star ratings exist, and for people who wanna complete all the goals but aren't into time limits, 2-Star ratings exist. It's rather inclusive in that regard.
Thanks, cute stuff! That really hit the spot. Although now that I think about it... I guess I could squeeze in a couple more if I really tried!
That does sound kinda silly, but... how big are these Donuts, anyways? They cost $3, more than any individual regular, chocolate-frosted donut with sprinkles I've seen. They must be pretty big.
...I'll take a baker's dozen for, uh, research purposes.
My only other important goal for the day is to finish my beauty rest... But heck, you're the new office manager, you can decide when it's time for a break!
And with that, we're given free reign to play and complete these Goals. This is where the video picks up the pace a bit. Other notable bits include:
This Task looks a bit different from the others, doesn't it? There's 3 little wi-fi bars on it instead of 2, making it a 3-Bar Task. You might gather from this that it'll take about 1.5x as long, but... well, it's close to that, but that's a topic for another time. It's longer, that much is certain, and it gives us $2 of petty cash upon completion compared to the usual $1 for 2-Bar Tasks, which is far and away more efficient for building up funds for
bitter liquid that can make us taste sound supplies!
Several things worth noting here. Firstly, you get a little notification of your progress on goals where you give Employees a certain number of items, as seen above Mahavir's head. Second, and more importantly, giving them items interrupts their work. When they get an item, they'll put their current Task back on their desk. However, they'll put it on the bottom of their pile of Tasks, making it so that they'll do other Tasks first.
You can get overdue Tasks to be worked on more quickly like this, and you can even take a Task an Employee was working on to give it to another Employee for them to finish it, counting it toward their own Goals. This is the only way you'll ever see 1-Bar Tasks or 0-Bar Tasks. Of course, the Tasks retain the amount of work they've had done on them; I'll get into specifics another day, but rest assured that they aren't just waiting a certain amount of time to suddenly trigger an event saying "Remove 1 Bar from the Task." Work on Tasks is additive; the Bars are simply there as a general indicator.
Anyways, we have Mahavir polish off a few more Tasks that come in, give him another Donut in the process to complete that goal, then have him take a nap to finish things off.
Great, I've finished all of my most important goals! Ahh, nothing beats the satisfaction at a job well done.
Welp, head office better hope these Tasks weren't too important, because no one's gonna finish those like this.
Don't worry, they disappear harmlessly, no penalties or anything.
Besides, all that matters to us is the satisfaction of the game telling us we did a good
So as you can see here, the game will track how much petty cash we have at the end of an Episode for a high score. I don't care too much about petty cash scores as much as I care about the number of days they're paired with, and believe me, I'll be doing everything in my power to keep the recorded runs as quick as possible.
Next time in the office... we'll get introduced to someone new, and bear witness to the last factor that turns the management loop into a perfect storm that needs to be handled carefully. See you then.
- Financial Tasks: 50%
- Technical Tasks: 50%
- 1-Task Burst, Applies Delay of 10 Seconds: 100%
- 2-Bar Tasks: 100%
- "Finish napping on the couch. (10 Seconds)"
- "Eat a donut. (1 Donut)" Unlocks Optional Goal #1
Checking Status: Online
- "Eat another couple donuts. (2 Donuts)"
You getting this? It better be working by now.
Yeah, yeah, we all know how you feel about the past week, scrambling to get this set up, don't we?
Try to avoid personal jabs, nicknames, and I shouldn't have to say this one, but our names in general. I've gone to a lot of trouble to get this integrated as an anonymous chatroom. Even had to call in a few favors, for once. I'd rather not ruin it with you carelessly joking at my expense.
Fiiiiine. I need this thing to stay the way it is, anyway. If anyone up top finds this and has evidence of who's talking, we're done.
Good. Now, how do you want the surveillance to proceed? I don't see much reason to keep heavy watch on her.
She's new. That's exactly the reason. Someone outside the politics of the company might be the only way I can eventually get things set straight. I'm sure as hell not gonna get anything done by trying to impress the board, especially not with their cronies breathing down my neck at every move.
Okay then. I'll keep you tapped into the footage as long as you need. With any luck, no one else at the company will even know how to tell someone's watching besides security, if they even think that's possible. Doubt it, honestly, considering how often tech support has to go upstairs for the most basic, time-wasting garbage.
So we're safe. Good. Still, remain cautious, but that's good. I'll keep you posted whenever I notice something worth mentioning.
Whatever you're planning, I hope you know what you're doing.
I always have, since day one. Worry about yourself more, with all the poking around you needed to pull this off.
Heh, fine. Talk to you later.