Turns out there is a rare kind of fun in utter ignorance, and a breathless sort of adventure in clicking a .exe you are simply unable to identify.*
There was the .zip file: vs_v3.5.zip and inside it, a few resource files and the heart of the riddle: vs_v3.5.exe. Could anything be less descriptive? A few oddly-named sibling files only made it sound stranger...but I will not mention those. I would not rob you of the privilege of replicating my experience in full. Here is the zip, if you want it (pity I cannot fully conceal the domain name, but I may hope that it will mean as little to you as it did to me when I found it...or, let's make a friendship promise where you'll download the file without looking at the url yet).
Download it, play it, it's probably? not a virus! You should try it, sight unseen, so you can be just like me. =)
It was weird; I mean, apart from the actual game. I won't say anything about that except that it seemed like the right kind of game for this kind of circumstance.
But clicking a program, an hour or so after you really should have gone to bed, knowing that it will be a game but not even knowing where it came from -- a very incomparable experience. I knew I downloaded it, and I knew I sort of trusted my forgotten judgment, but beyond that was all blankness.
It reminded me of ordering floppies from Software Etc. magazine -- but even then there was a blurb to go on. Then, I at least knew the name was "Lemonade Stand" or "Capture the Flag". Even playing something from the Pirate Kart or the 99% Bundle starts you out with a few minimum preconceived notions and tells you its name. But "vs_v3.5" is not a name designed to seize the imagination, unless you are a passionate supporter of all things 3.5.
This all happened months ago, but I finally remembered to tell you this story. ;)
It made me wish there was something I could sign up for, where once a month, someone would randomly send an email with a link to a zip, or drop one into Dropbox, with only the promise that it contained a sort of game -- and you would open it, and run it, and only when the game started up would you discover its title or anything about it.
It might not match the eerie feeling of finding it ALREADY on your hard drive, but it would still be exciting. =P So...just so you know, if anyone wants to go and...do that...I'll sign up. (After a few months go by, if nobody else has gotten viruses. o_O)
* (But you will think I'm stupid for running a mysterious executable. Never fear -- it was in the folder I keep purely for free game installers, so I knew I must have downloaded it at some point. Probably back in some previous link-following binge, hoarding up games against a day of boredom. I delete each game as I play it, unless it wins a special and permanent place in another, more elite directory. On this occasion I had mostly emptied the folder, and could no longer ignore the mystery.)
P.S. It's probably safe to assume spoilers if you read any replies =) depending if anyone has thoughts about that timeless classic, vs_v3.5
P.P.S. I eventually remembered how I found out about this game, but as that's a semi-secret, it is in white text below that you can avoid if you wish to reenact my historic playing experience.
it's this game!It was from this old post (here) by Wulf about Legends of Fae...I went to the site and was not super interested in Legends of Fae itself, but found links to these other free games and decided to try the one that wasn't a shoot-them-all-up because I am not a huge fan of shoot-up-all-of-thems. After downloading it, I must have moved on to download and play other games first until it became something akin to that weird old picture of yourself on facebook where you have unrecognizable hair and you're standing in front of some wallpaper you don't recognize and you spend days wondering if someone photoshopped you in there and tagged you as a joke...