Darren spent the next six days and several hours in a funk. He barely ate and spent the majority of his time sleeping trying to get the hours just to pass a little faster so he could log into AoG just that much sooner. It could be considered a blessing, or perhaps a curse, that he didn't have anyone in his life that would worry about his behavior. His parents had died many years ago and he had no significant other. Despite the more open-minded views of people in this day and age, telling a woman that you just lived a mediocre life of playing games while living off of the interest of your savings wasn't exactly a desirable trait in a man.
His wasted time finally came to an end, a little under half an hour before the official midnight launch of AoG he stripped down into just his boxers and climbed into the pod. With a quick button press, the pod's door closed and sealed him in darkness, the display showing the countdown until he could officially log into the game.
|Game Begins in: 27m:33s|
Darren grit his teeth and tapped his foot impatiently as he stared at the slowly ticking down counter. They say a watched kettle never boils and right now Darren felt like time had slowed to a crawl with the sole purpose of making him wait even longer for the game to launch.
While he waited he thought about everything he knew about AoG, which honestly wasn't much. Karonite Industries, uncharacteristically, had kept extremely quiet about what players could expect from the game. All Darren knew was that the game, like many, took place in a world of swords and magic with a pretty typical looking medieval setting. The preview trailer had shown two massive continents and a large island to the north, as well as some of the cultures that resembled various cultures from the world, only ancient versions. Of course, they had taken the time to show breathtaking footage of devastating and beautiful magic being executed just to tease people interested in being spellcasters.
Still, they hadn't mentioned anything about the possible classes or their game system in the least. They had entirely avoided peoples questions on the matter and simply said players would find out when they started to play the game. Karonite only promised it would be an entirely new experience and that it would be up to the players to make the most of it. Darren couldn't help but get his hopes up, the desire to explore the new world and, more importantly, the new ways to make items was driving him mad.
As the saying goes, time waits for no man and finally the last few seconds on the timer ticked down. As soon as the counter hit zero the display shut down and left Darren in the pitch dark silence of the pod. With a light hum, he felt light-headed for a very brief moment before streams of light flowed past his eyes. As the lights streaked past Darren felt like he was flying, naked, through hyperspace.
As the light streaks finally faded Darren found himself standing in a small white room with a chair and a desk arranged neatly in it. The chair was in front of him, with the desk in front of the chair. Standing on the other side of the desk was a feminine figure. It could only be described as feminine because of the curves of its body. The figure was made of soft blue light with white light making up the eyes and lips. The figure smiled at Darren and gestured to the seat for him, "Please, take a seat and we will get started with making your character." The voice was definitely female but had a distinct timbre of a machine to it, an AI for sure.
Darren pulled out the chair and took a seat looking at the AI with a smile. The AI made a gesture with her hand and on the desk appeared a small stack of papers and an old-fashioned fountain pen, "First, we need you to agree to the terms of service for Age of Gods. I should point out that there are a few clauses that are very different from the usual standards. The most important one is the single most important rule for Age of Gods."
Darren glanced at the papers before focusing on the AI again and gesturing for it to continue. The AI nodded and spoke, "No players are allowed to inform the NPC's within Age of Gods that they are NPC's in a game. Even the tiniest infraction of this rule will result in you and your account being banned while your character will 'die' within the game. The NPC's you inform will also be... taken care of by the game system to prevent any spreading of the information."
Darren frowned deeply at this. Usually, NPC's were pretty simple-minded and would generally ignore anything unless you said specific keywords or performed certain actions to get their attention. A single question came to Darren's mind so he asked it, "Why?"
The AI continued to smile as she explained, "All NPC's withing Age of Gods are individual AI's. They are singular existences and, for them, the world of Age of Gods is their reality. If you try to treat them like NPC's within previous games they will treat you like a babbling idiot. The system is constantly observing every players interaction with the NPC's and will know instantly if you attempt to directly, indirectly, or accidentally inform them of what they are."
Darren couldn't help but suck in a cold breath at that. Every NPC was an individual AI that believed it was a living person and acted like one? That was simply unheard of, the processing power alone... He simply couldn't imagine just how many resources Karonite had sunk into AoG. Thinking for a moment though, this rule didn't matter to him, he didn't have a habit of trying to tell NPC's what they were, so he nodded.
The AI continued, "In this same vein players will be referred to as 'Travellers', 'Otherworlders' or 'Immortals' by the NPC population. The reasons for this will be made clear when you finally enter the world. No player is allowed to use the term 'player' anywhere near an NPC unless appropriate to specific situations. All NPC's will know you are not from their world. Don't ask me how, find that out while playing." The AI gave Darren a mysterious grin before she continued, "As long as you can agree to this please sign the papers and we can continue with your character creation."
Darren nodded, it was pretty simple, it all boiled down to 'don't let the NPC's know their lives are a lie and their whole world is just digital information'. Picking up the fountain pen Darren quickly scaned over the documents and signed his name on each page to agree to the terms. Once he finished the papers, pen, and table vanished. The AI smiled and gestured for Darren to stand, and when he did the seat he had been sitting on vanished as well.
With a wave of her arm a 3D model of Darren's physical body appeared in a simple T pose wearing nothing but a pair of boxers. He was an okay looking man, if he had to say so himself. His body was slightly out of shape, he didn't get to any gyms very often so he was slightly overweight but wasn't straight up fat. His height was just under six feet at five eleven, something he was often annoyed by. His face was nicely shaped with a thick black head of hair and crystalline blue eyes that he always thought were his absolute best feature.
The AI took a moment to examine Darren's body on display then turned to face him once more, "Unlike many games before, Age of Gods does not allow you to pick a race. All players start as humans, though that can change as you play. You may make minor modifications to your physical body, but only small ones. As for your face, you may change that as much as you wish to protect your identity or give yourself the face you have always wanted."
Darren frowned at that. One of the biggest draws to most VR games was customizing your avatar to your perfect ideal. Or perhaps to your partners perfect ideal. Fat ugly men and women could transform themselves into perfect specimens with the proper editing tools. A lot of people were going to be upset about this so Darren couldn't help but look at the AI and ask a simple question, "Why can't I edit my body?"
The AI smiled mysteriously, "It will change as your character stats change. Every player of Age of Gods has starting stats that directly correspond to their real-world bodies. As your stats change, so too will your body."
Darren arched an eyebrow, this was very unique. Seeing no point in asking more Darren ignored the majority of his body and instead focused on his avatars face. He didn't think he was bad looking, but he had no qualms about improving his looks. Even if he started as an overweight nobody in the game, he was determined to have at least a good looking face. Using the sliders and tools at his disposal Darren sculpted his face into something with more apparent angles. A rather handsome and masculine look that would appear radiant when he was smiling, and vicious when he was angry.
After cycling through the various emotion emulations to check his work Darren couldn't help but grin. With a face like that if he could get his body into shape in the game he would be a real lady killer. Finished with his adjustments he pressed a button to confirm his changes. The 3D model interposed itself on his body and changed his features to match what he had created. No one in the real world would be able to recognize him by his face now.
The AI gave a curt nod and waved her hand again, this time a new table appeared. Sitting on the table were three machines with levers that looked strikingly similar to slot machines, only with a single wheel covered in question marks instead of multiple wheels with various symbols. Darren looked them over for a moment then turned to the AI, "What are these?"
The AI smiled and walked over to the table to gesture to the machines, "These are the wheels of fate. Over the top, I know, but the lead designer has some... unique tastes." The AI gestured to the first machine, "Every player gets a single pull of this first machine. When you press the stop button and the wheel stops you will gain a special ability. Think of it like a special ability that a hero gets in a novel where the hero is summoned, or reincarnated, into a fantasy world."
Darren nodded, he'd read a few stories like that, the summoned heroes always had a broken cheat-like ability. The AI continued, "The abilities in this wheel range from D grade, the lowest and weakest, to S grade, the highest and most powerful, some of the S grade abilities can be quite broken. Everyone has a chance to gain any ability on this wheel, it's all fair and simply up to your luck." She gestured to the second machine, it was slightly smaller than the first machine, "This machine is special, every individual that pre-ordered gets a pull on this machine. However, the abilities on this machine only range from D to A." She gestured to the last machine, it was the same size as the first machine, "This last machine is a special reward granted to individuals, like you, who have helped Age of Gods develop in a positive direction. Please be aware that this is not something singular to you as many people were consulted for the creation of Age of Gods."
Darren nodded in acknowledgment, it would figure that several people prominent in the world of professional gamers had been consulted. So far AoG had been nothing like any game he had played before, and he hadn't even made it to the game world yet! The AI gestured to the first machine once more, "Once you pull the lever the wheel will spin. At any time you may press the stop button and the wheel will slowly come to a stop and grant you your first ability."
Darren walked over to the machine and gave the handle a yank. Since he had no control over what ability he would get he saw no point in wasting time, so he pressed the stop button almost immediately. Slowly the wheel came to a stop, all the spaces on the wheel were question marks so he had no idea if he got a low ranked D grade or a high ranked S grade ability. With the wheel stopped a small card popped out from a thin slot. Picking it up Darren read a single word printed on the card, "Transmutation."
Darren had a suspicion of what this ability could potentially do, Transmutation was a common thing for alchemists in many different games and had an intricate connection to Alchemy. So it seemed pretty good to him, maybe he would become a potion master this time around? He still turned to look at the AI inquisitively, but it said nothing and simply gestured to the second machine. With a sigh, Darren took a step to the side and pulled the handle on the somewhat smaller machine.
Again the question mark covered wheel spun around rapidly. Darren simply hit the button immediately again to bring the wheel to a stop. Another white card popped out. Darren picked it up and read it out loud once more, "Quick Learner."
Flipping the card back and forth he looked for more information but found nothing but those two words. He looked at the AI again, but once more it gestured to the last machine, as mum as before. Darren sighed once again and stepped to the side once more to pull the final lever. The wheel spun rapidly and Darren simply slapped the stop button once more. The third, and final, card popped out so he grabbed it and read the words written on it, "All seeing eyes."
Holding all three cards in his hand Darren turned to look at the AI, finally, it spoke, "Transmutation, class A. While Alchemy as a skill is capable of small-scale transmutations, it's not true transmutation. Transmutation allows the user to change the shape, quality, and even the structure of anything using mana. The more complex the change the more mana, skill, and knowledge required. Quick Learner, class C. Allows you to quickly learn and more easily level skills and abilities, it does not apply to any other innate abilities you might possess. All Seeing Eyes, class S. The All Seeing Eyes have a myriad of impressive uses, the most basic of which is the ability to magnify vision and see much further than an average person."
Darren stared for a moment, he was pretty happy that he managed to pull out a class S skill, but he wasn't too sure about the other two. Transmutation might be pretty helpful, but it seemed like he would need to know a lot about the game world in order to use it properly. Research is a boring ass way to spend time in a game. Quick Learner, despite being C grade seemed useful, but it raised a question and Darren asked it, "What's an innate ability?"
The AI chuckles, "The abilities you just got are referred to as innate abilities."
Darren nodded and thought about his last innate ability. It had a domineering name and was S grade to boot. The All Seeing Eyes. Though the description of just being able to see farther didn't seem to justify it being an S grade rating. Darren addressed the AI, "Why is All Seeing Eyes rated as S grade?"
The AI shook her head, "The descriptions I have given you are all I am allowed to tell you of your abilities. The rest you will have to discover and explore all on your own."
Finished speaking the AI once more waved her hand. The table with the slot machines and the cards in his hand disappear while a mirror simultaneously appeared in her hand. She held it up, "You should take a look at your eyes."
Darren walked forward and looked into the mirror. He didn't notice anything at first, but upon closer examination, he saw that there is a small change to his eyes. Around his black pupil is a thin line of sparkling blue light. It was somewhat hard to notice with his blue irises, but it was definitely there, "Is this because of All Seeing Eyes?"
The AI nodded in response and the mirror vanished into nothingness once more, "With this your character creation is complete. There are just a few more things we need to go over before you can join the game though."