Ace of Spies - WIP

Pleased to share my work on a new ChoiceScript project: Ace of Spies. In it, you play a mid-level tennis player working part-time as an intelligence agent. I hope people enjoy tennis.

Basically I like to joke about the fact that with tennis tournaments dotting the globe and smaller tournaments taking place in small obscure countries a mid-level tennis player provide an ideal cover for espionage. With a few exceptions at the very top of the sport tennis players are seldom famous enough to be recognizable outside of their own country(or in the case of Americans inside of it). They can get into countries that are potentially difficult to get into and are functionally anonymous once they get there.

To be optimistic I’d say I’m maybe 15-20% done, but also the entire thing isn’t sufficiently planned to provide a very accurate completion percentage, and I plan on updating every other month alternating updates with my sci-fi WIP Alphas and Iotas, but I hope to have some updates in the near future while polishing the first chapter and a half.

To play the demo, go here: https://dashingdon.com/play/justhefax/ace-of-spies/mygame/

Should be something around 20-25k words. Covers two or three tennis scenes depending on one’s definition of non-competitive tennis played with other potential spies, one mildly significant espionage section, the very beginning of another, and other assorted introductory things. It’s not as polished as I want it to be, but with the US Open starting this felt like an ideal time to introduce Ace of Spies.

About Ace of Spies:

  • Modern, near future setting(near future basically means plentiful drones for the hacking, better cell coverage and internet access, and not talking about a certain coronavirus)
  • Aiming for somewhere between 200k-300k words when complete, but that is a very rough estimate this early in the process.
  • Gender choice, play on the men’s or women’s tour.
    • On nonbinary characters: I don’t allow for a nonbinary/trans main character because as the main character the act of coming out as nonbinary/trans as a pro athlete would draw too much attention for a covert operative and while there are a handful of nonbinary pro athletes they are usually still competing with those corresponding to their birth gender and I just don’t see a third tennis tour existing anytime soon.
    • Nonbinary characters can and will still appear your character just won’t be one of them. My official view on trans characters is generally that if you want to consider a character trans I do not care, but with the way international athletics are right now there just isn’t a realistic chance of a trans pro tennis player in the near future.
  • Mildly customizable romantic options - You don’t just choose the gender of your ex and your spy handler, you also choose their background so you can get subtly different experiences depending on whether your handler/partner is a marksman/linguist or a wrestler/medic just as with whether your ex is pre-med, pre-law, or an aspiring teacher.
  • Roughly five planned romance options.
    • Best friend, a Portuguese fellow tennis pro and doubles partner. (same sex option)
    • Fellow operative and Canadian tennis pro and mixed doubles partner. (opposite sex option)
    • Coach/partner, retired operative/tennis player(mid 30s). (gender depends on choice of coach)
    • Handler/partner, current operative way worse at tennis than the player. (gender varies according to romantic preference)
    • Ex from college. (gender varies according to romantic preference)
    • Other options for more casual relationships sometimes espionage related, sometimes not are to be determined. Will update as I write.
  • Context specific stats page - My single favorite feature. Basically when your character is doing tennis the stats page defaults to showing tennis stats, when you’re infiltrating an ambassador’s reception it’ll default to showing your espionage stats. If you’re in a section socializing with contacts it means defaulting to your relationship status.(don’t have one of those sections yet)
  • Aiming for 10-14 tennis sequences and roughly the same for spy sequences.
  • I’m not crazy about the title, but it’s the best spy/tennis combo I could come up with. Jokes about Breaking Her Majesty’s Secret Serve didn’t quite land nor did International Forehand of Mystery. I welcome clever alternatives.
  • I’m very surprised that there doesn’t seem to be a dedicated tag for spy-themed works, but there is one for sports.

That was longer than I wanted it to be, hope you enjoy the occasionally rough WIP. Any feedback is appreciated and my apologies for the occasional overly long section between page breaks. It is after all a work in progress.

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I haven’t read this yet but if we’re offering title suggestions my current one is “Double-Cross Court” :v:

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There’s already one called Double/Cross though…It’ll sound exactly like that.

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I’m pleased to see any and all spy/tennis hybrid title options. I’ve mostly been playing with twists/parodies on Bond titles. Bond movies have the greatest/silliest titles. Possibly for use as chapter headings as much as overall titles.

My two favorites so far being:
Quantum of Service
Deuces are Forever

That’s the sort of thing I’m thinking about.

I would like to submit the following:

The Server Who Loved Me

Moonball (which is an extremely cheap way to make a joke about Thunderball)

Volley Royale

No Time To Hold

Groundstrokes Are Forever

Failing all that (because it turns out I, too, suck at tennis and spy puns), you could also just go for Break Point, which works as both a tennis term and as a spy story title for folks who may not be familiar with tennis lingo.

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I think there is something wrong with choosing splice and drop shot as my best tennis skill

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I thought this was definitely interesting, though I know zilch about tennis. Will you be including a glossary of tennis terms for people who have zero clue like me? I manage to figure out roughly what was going on in the tennis scenes from context and mad guesses, though I still have no clue what drop-shots are except that they are apparently fun? I would totally try and keep Rustamov to the back of the court except I have no idea which move would do that, lol.

  • I do like that the languages you know change depending on your choices. When I chose to be Asian I did think it was a little unusual to be so specific as to brag about my penmanship in Cantonese in particular. While there are differences in grammar/idioms/usage in written Cantonese that can make it unintelligible when spoken aloud in Mandarin for example, the actual characters on paper would seem to be traditional Chinese characters when it comes to penmanship. It just seemed so needlessly specific as to come off as insecure bragging to me? I would have just said my calligraphy was good when writing traditional characters though I understand that sentence was to bring up the fact that you know Cantonese.

  • Is choosing French and Spanish as your minor switched because it’s not done? I know I got the flavour text about French when choosing French but then afterwards it was listed as Spanish in the stats and treated like I selected Spanish. Vice versa with Spanish when I checked.

  • Having limited fluency in “conversational languages” is kinda funny, heh. Which languages? Oh, you know, the sort you use for having conversations.

  • I didn’t realise that making the coach a particular gender would make my character the same gender, it seemed a bit strange to me to choose the coach’s gender first seeing as there wasn’t any clue that this would happen. I guess the existence of single gender …opens? (Are they called opens?) Would work as a clue but I honestly had forgotten that those were a thing so I was completely blindsided.

  • I love your little title card for The Recruit with little bouncing tennis ball, it’s just very charming. That being said, I get an error (recruit line 18: Non-existent variable “linguistic”) when trying to choose linguistics for what my instructor did there.

  • Got an error (startup line 1893: invalid @{} at letter 275; there should be a space after the first word) when choosing drop shots as my dominant tennis skill.

Promising start overall, will be watching this for sure.

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Absolutely love sports and spy stories so this WIP scratches alot of my itches, Very keen to see how this develops.

Just out of curiosity, Are custom names something you plan to add? If not I can definitely learn to love Charles Armstrong which at first glace stuck me as a spy name for sure.

Hi, sorry it took me awhile to respond to all you nice people.

On chapter titles:
Volley Royale is excellent and I greatly approve.
No Time to Hold is also excellent.
My spy who loved me parody was The Spy Who Lobbed Me
I was leaning towards Deuces are Forever for Diamonds are Forever. I’ll include one of those when I make my quick fix later tonight.

Sorry about the errors, will fix them immediately. Should’ve checked earlier, should have them fixed by the end of the night.

Can definitely include a better glossary of tennis terms for those unfamiliar with the sport, sorry about that.

About slices and drop shots, when I start a project like this the variables are always something I struggle with. I was considering adding speed/power to give an impression of physical abilities separately from skills, went with spin instead because if your character is really fast/crushes his/her forehand I found it implausible to combine that with the outstanding mediocrity I view the player character as having.

Discussion of Spin/Drop shots as variable choice

There are players that play with a lot of spin, if you choose a sort of trickster that focuses on spin I view it as a sort of Fabrice Santoro/Hsieh Su-Wei unorthodox players that often can’t stand up in a rally, but play with a sort of style that I really enjoy watching.

In his early years Andy Murray was famous for overusing his drop shots and Roger Federer loves his slices though at their best neither are defined by them. The two players that most recently beat Naomi Osaka, Marketa Vondrousova at the Olympics and Leylah Fernandez at the US Open both made the most out of spins and drop shots.

As part of the glossary I’ll include examples of players for the archetypes I have included which are Big Hitter(Serve+Groundstroke), Defensive Baseliner(Groundstrokes), Serve Volley(Serve/Spin+Volley), Counter puncher(Return + groundstrokes), and Trickster(a catchall for anything else especially loving spin)

On the languages, oh dear they have been annoying to deal with. I like the system but it’s a headache. There are two language selections, the first fluency is based on an active decision to minor is a language or to take specialized training available later in the story. The conversational knowledge section is based on training your character gets from the Co-op and that training is based on the race decision(ie the Co-op wants your character to have language training for regions where they can blend in) which unfortunately means that because French is very common in Africa as a legacy of colonialism so it’s a default language for a character expected to spend time on that continent. The same way that Spanish is a default language for a latinx character. So if you make a latinx character with a French minor you’ll have expertise in both languages just as if you chose a Black character with a Spanish minor, you’ll have expertise in both, one by learning in school and one by training. I will grant that it’s a little confusing.

Also yes, I did get French and Spanish mixed up, should be fixed by the end of the night.

I’m not good with languages,(any French teacher I ever had will attest to that) so doing languages as a coherent skill that will make sense is a struggle for me. It’s also one of the reasons that people that actually have a facility for language intrigue me. As far as the conversational vs fluent thing, again I’m not a language person but my understanding is conversational is a lower bar than fluency which implies better knowledge of the written language. IE I know enough Spanish to talk to someone in it, but not to read Don Quixote in Spanish and I know enough French to not embarrass myself too badly in Marseille but not enough to read the Count of Monte Cristo in French.

About names, I’ll probably add another page of name options. I don’t like custom options due to the fear of someone choosing a name I’ve already used elsewhere in the story, the idea of sharing a name with someone without it being mentioned later is bothersome to me as a writer and as someone with a very common first name.

Also yes, of the available options Charles Armstrong is definitely the one that screams spy the most. I mean after Ajara Quon obviously, that’s a truly classic spy name right there.

Sorry about the length, trying to cover my bases. Be back soonish with completed bug fixes.

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Hello, first of all I did fix those bugs, most of them at least. Should’ve come back with an update, always get sidetracked with additions that are just close enough to being done.

At this point I expect most people interested in tennis are familiar with the Peng Shuai situation out of China and the WTA’s response to it. A distressing time for the tennis world, but also a time of inspiration for someone writing in my weird little niche seeing tennis and geopolitcs collide.

What you may not be aware of is that as the scandal was gaining widespread attention the WTA was holding their season ending championships in Guadalajara, the doubles championship was won by the Czech pair Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova. Coming near an anniversary of the Czechoslovakian Velvet Revolution they used their victory speech to applaud the Czech revolutionaries from 1989 and offer thinly veiled criticism of China and that speech is worth a listen if you’re familiar with the Peng Shuai situation.

From the Actual Tennis World - Lighter Stuff
  • There is a Transylvanian Open Women’s Tennis Tournament, it’s final was held on Halloween this year.
  • After the year end championships the roughly top 100 players take the next month or so off before the Australian season.
  • The Tennis Channel doesn’t take the month off and is currently airing minor league tennis from Sao Paulo, Brazil. The seating capacity for their main court appears to be about 200, with maybe 20 fans. It has made me realize that I may be overselling how exciting lower level tennis is.

So here’s a brief list of what I hope to have in the next update -

  • A better ambassadorial reception, after switching priorities I’m only just getting back to dealing with the Irish ambassador herself and interactions with the businessmen at the event.
  • The Summit: Am polishing off the version of the summit where you and Moreno approach with the marxist revolutionaries.
  • Your first tournament as a professional: The Altoona Tennis Challenge, which features five matches with less detail than the match with Rustamov/Murzaeva.
  • Introduction to the Co-op: Choosing a coach/handler, meeting some of the characters at the Co-op and a shooting competition if your character has prior firearms training.
  • More names to choose from for your character.
  • More interactions with Izzy/Moreno/your ex/friends from agency training.

Coming after that:

  • Another tournament chosen by the player either in Austin, Dubrovnik, or Valletta.
  • Improvements regarding your character’s clandestine training.
  • First operations with the Co-op.
  • More things, which are not likely to arrive imminently

And let’s meet some of the members of the spy side of your agent’s world:

Top Figures at the TSRC

Yves Demare - Director of Operations - TSRC
French National - Former Major semifinalist and #18 in the world(long since retired)

Dr. Kirstern ‘Kiki’ Sawyer - Chief Medical Officer - TSRC
Chief Athletic Trainer for Harlem Globetrotters Overseas Tours
Handler/Commanding Operative - Washington Generals Covert Ops Squad
Senior Active Operative TSRC

As ever sorry about the length. Hope to be back with an update next week.

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That was with the top option

You know, I’ve been thinking about this, and it seems unlikely that a woman’s player with top 50 potential wouldn’t try chasing a Grand Slam. Obviously, all of the guys have been blocked by the big 3 (and are likely about to be blocked by Medvedev), but the woman’s game has seen many longshots go all the way. Again, just random food for thought.

I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned this, if so, apologies for not catching it ><
Will there be a choice to customise the name of the MC? I don’t exactly like any of the preset ones ;w;

This isn’t my cup of tea at all but the idea of a tennis spy is great and I wish your project the best of luck!

Hi, I’m still at least a few days away from a significant update, but just wanted to check in and deal with some of the things that have been mentioned.

Names: The update with a second batch of names isn’t coming to the actual build until I finish the section on the summit, which again should be soon. I don’t like custom names because in a piece like this there will just be a lot of random names popping up and it’s a pain to make sure they either don’t conflict with a custom name or acknowledging the conflict. Out of curiosity does anyone know if James Bond ever met another James? I certainly don’t remember one from the movies. Here are the additional names that will be added.

Last Names

Schmidt
Meacham
Powell
Velasquez
Aguilar
Cordova
N’Diaye
Traore
Muguna
Kraisorn
Zhang
Sakai
Kim
Zapheer
Yaseen
Haddad
Thornton - Any Alpha Protocol fans out there?

Female Names

Sienna
Piper
Gwen
Camille
Shahnaz
Zaina
Opa
Najiat
Hye-ri
Yasha
Moeno

I get most of my random region specific names from the National Soccer/Football Teams in the country in question which makes it super annoying in an area like the Middle East where so many countries still don’t have women’s national teams, it just makes things inconvenient.

Male Names

Sean
Pierce
Gareth
Camilo
Saad
Odai
Erasto
Saimon
Junmin
Hyeon-Woo
Kyogo

Women’s Tennis: Firstly, I don’t view the main character as someone with top 50 potential I think top 50 is more of an aspirational best case scenario and top 75 is a more accurate appraisal of the MC’s potential, more Jil Teichmann, Coco Vandeweghe, and Vania King than Belinda Bencic, Madison Keys, and Jen Brady. Granted in a year where Emma Raducanu played Leylah Fernandez for a US Open and Barbora Krejcikova won the French Open is a bad time to say anyone in the top 100 can’t win a slam. I’ll go on in more detail below, but I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about this.

Women's Tennis World in AoS

Firstly it’s true that being say the #75 player in the WTA would probably earn way more than most female pro athletes from soccer/football to basketball and basically anything else I could think of.

I mentioned earlier that I’m setting AoS in the near future mostly to avoid having to deal with the virus, but it also allows me to place it in a world where the world of women’s pro sports is in a much better place than it is today where the #75 women’s soccer/basketball/hockey player in the world makes more than the #75 tennis player. Mostly it’s just for my ease in only adjusting serve speed and height when making gender specific tennis references.

Secondly, I try to make it very clear that your player will reach a point where the Co-op backs off and can win whatever matches he or she can win. It’s really a matter of sacrificing the first five or so years of a tennis career before going all-in on tennis. One of the potential coaches did reach a major final in doubles, your character’s boss Yves/Yvette Demare made the semis of a major in singles once they went all-in.

Thirdly, I can’t really provide a lot of great examples of the type of player(barely top 50 more likely top 75 to top 100) I’m hypothesizing your player to be just because they’re that anonymous. Laszlo Djere, Taro Daniel, Liudmila Samsonova, Magda Linette, Greet Minnen(who I hope frequently introduces herself saying ‘I am Greet’), they’re the sort of player that will likely win a minor tournament or two but outside of the countries they’re from just won’t ever be that memorable.

Fourth, I’m not saying that a lot of other players with the MC’s skill level wouldn’t go all-in on tennis, a lot of them would and do, but the MC is well educated, driven, ambitious, and adventurous, and in this fictionalized near future I think the decision is reasonable for the character.

Sorry about the length hidden behind those arrows, hope to be back with an updated build soon.

Anybody have a good tennis version of The World is Not Enough? It’s bugging me that I can’t think of a better version than The Serve is Not Enough.

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