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A note from Balr0g

Switching back to Tristen's POV for the rest of the book. 

Chapter 5

An A.I. is Born

 

Tristen Alexander - Experiment Test #1

20 years prior to launch

 

  The day finally arrived for the big reveal! Tristen could barely contain his excitement while he waited for his friends to arrive. If all went as planned, the A.I. would become a permanent part of the team. He knew it updates and refinement were necessary and he planned to keep tweaking the A.I. to perfection.

  A.I.... I need to come up with a better name for this thing. It sounded too impersonal for Tristen's liking. It also didn’t flow with a fantasy-based game. He thought about all the A.I. names he’d seen in the past, but couldn’t settle on one name. All the good names traced back to science fiction origins, and he needed something that straddled fantasy and science fiction. So far he had a short list:

  •Jarvis

  •Alfred

  •Adam (first man thing and all that)

  •Icarus

  •Beta

  •Cerebro

  •Mother

  He also thought about names of origin such as "Alpha" or "Genesis". Although an origin name sounded cool, he definitely hadn’t built something original and decided against it.

  I’ll save origin names for when I create the first self-aware A.I., he thought.

  Tristen glanced at his watch, only an hour remained before his friends arrived and he wanted to run through a few more tests. The actual reveal wouldn’t happen until the game began and the A.I. narrated the scenario.

  Before anyone showed up, he double-checked his character build. The group did well on their own, but often survived only through luck because they didn’t have a true support class outside of Natalia’s healer. With that in mind, Tristen created a hybrid support class that could buff, heal, and deal massive amounts of damage.

  The hybrid class was a mix between a Mesmer and Illusionist. Mesmer’s master mental manipulation and have the ability to control a being against their will. In contrast, Illusionist master the skill of physical manipulation, making others believe in something that does not exist. The combination created a powerful hybrid class that complimented both schools of magic. It allowed the caster to distract, confuse, enslave, and destroy opponents without using a single physical weapon.

  His character for Dungeon Quest looked like this:

Mesmer/Illusionist

Armor - +13

Health - +5

The Mesmer is a master of mental manipulation, working from behind his allies to mitigate data, confuse his enemies, and control mobs. Although the Mesmer has one of the lowest armor and health ratings of any other character, their ability to boost the group and deflect damage or convert direct damage into heals, makes him an invaluable part of any group. Mesmer’s can use a one-handed sword, staff, one-handed ax or scepter for attacks. While the Mesmer is part of the group, gain +1 to Armor as a boost to evade attacks. The secondary class Illusionist allows the Mesmer to bolster mental manipulation by reinforcing spells with Illusions.

 

Spell - Deflection

Damage - 0

Cooldown - One round of combat.

Effect 1: Used on an enemy redirects their next attack back at them. Effect 2: Casting on an ally deflects the next incoming attack back at the attacker. Note: Damage is equal to that of the attacker, and all conditions will apply.

Duration - Effect occurs once before removed.

 

Spell - Transference

Damage - 0

Cooldown - One use per two rounds of combat.

Effect - Cast spell on attacker to convert their next attack into a heal equal to the damage of the attack.

Duration - Effect persists until activation and will heal one ally before removing the effect.

 

Spell - Confuse

Damage - 0

Cooldown - One round of combat

Effect - Confuse attacker, lulling them into a stupor.

Duration - Enemy will remain dazed for one round of combat or until damage received.

 

Skill - Replication

Damage - 0

Cooldown - One time use unless special ability re-activates used skills.

Effect - Create two replicas images of caster and move to the top of the aggro list. Replicas cannot attack, and armor/health stats are 1/3 of the casters.

Duration - Replicas will exist until destroyed by enemy combatant.

 

Skill - Phantom Thrust

Damage - +3

Cooldown - One time use unless special ability re-activates used skills

Effect - Using illusion magic, the Mesmer is able to manipulate physical objects ignoring armor for one attack.

Duration - One attack

Requirements: One-handed Sword or One-handed Ax and 13+ roll.

  Although the class only had one direct damage attack, the rest of the spells and skills made up for the lack or armor and physical attacks. Overall, the builds paired well with his friends chosen character classes. Tyler already had high DPS, or damage-per-second, with his assassin build. Using her Bard, Natalia was the groups healers often using buffs and HoT, or heal-over-time, spells. Aaron acted as the groups tank with his Dwarf warrior.

  Tristen acted as GM from the moment they played Dungeon Quest. Today marked the first time he would play as a party member and he was very excited. 

###

  It wasn’t long before he heard the doorbell that declared his friend's arrival. He quickly covered up the A.I., which looked a whole letter better than the first version.

  Tristen found a discarded square computer box with a transparent viewport. Whatever the box housed before he didn't know, but it made it easy for him to retrofit his creation inside. The A.I. looked a lot more glamorous than the original iteration. With the transparent viewport, it was easy to see the innards of the A.I., and it looked pretty dang cool, even if a little too science fiction for the occasion.

  Tristen ran to the door and found Aaron was the first to show up. That made sense because he only lived a few blocks away in a trailer park. Tristen’s neighborhood was in a middle-class area but often appeared run-down on account of the characters that trafficked in and out of the trailer park. Aaron didn’t complain since his current home situation was much better than any of the previous foster homes he’d lived at.

  Natalia and Tyler lived across town in the upper-class neighborhood; their parents were well off financially. Tristen liked to visit their homes, but his parents were much more reluctant to take him across town; Aaron was in the same boat. Natalia and Tyler’s parents either dropped them off or called a car for them and fully supported hanging out with friends. Sometimes they showed up a little late to game day, something about people enjoying sleep...

  Who likes sleep? thought Tristen. I hate sleeping… it’s a waste of time.

  He greeted Aaron at the door and they hung out on the porch for the rest of the gang. Spring was in full swing and all the snow melted. Not that it mattered to Tristen, he spent his time indoors behind a computer screen. It also didn’t affect game day since they would spend most the day cloistered around Tristen’s gaming table.  Only a few minutes passed when Tyler and then Natalia arrived at his house. Moving to Tristen’s room, they secured soda Tyler brought in the mini-fridge and snacks provided by Natalia’s parents went on Tristen’s desk. Everyone knew the drill and pulled out the game box to begin setup. His friends pulled out their characters, character sheets, and phones to see the picture from their last game. Every week they snapped pictures of the game board and spent nearly thirty minutes every weekend setting up the game to reflect their last “save”.

  Before his friends set up the old game, he stopped them-

  “We will start a fresh game today!” said Tristen.

  “I knew it!” Tyler pumped his fist in victory, “You have a new scenario and we are all going to die, aren’t we?”

  “Can we at least set aside the last game until later?” Aaron looked longingly at his character sheet and all the progress they made. “We already spent several weeks on it and I want to see how that next encounter pans out.”

  “All right, take pictures of your characters and current stats before we wipe them clean. We can revisit that gamer later,” instructed Tristen.

  Pictures snapped, they shuffled all the decks and board tiles. They also wiped their characters sheets clean. It wasn’t often they chose a new build, but occasionally a new one surfaced. This week was no exception as his friends set up the same characters they’d used the previous few weeks. While his friends occupied themselves, Tristen secretly set up his character behind the GM screen. His friends knew not to peak beyond the screen since that was where all the villains and boss monsters lived until they appeared in the dungeon. They didn’t want to spoil the intrigue of the game by seeing what Tristen had in store for them.

  ###

  Preparation complete, Tristen looked around at his friends with a solemn expression on his face. Then, he began the scenario.

  “You have entered the forbidden forest where the spiderkin hold dominion and serve the goddess Lolth. Your task is to eradicate the spiders and find their brood queen at the heart of the forest…”

  While he spoke, he reached under the cover placed over the A.I. and triggered the right sequence to launch the scenario. With no preamble or delay, the A.I. picked up the scenario where Tristen left off. The A.I. explained the scenario, what to expect, and the purpose of the adventure. The A.I. also explained this game used hardcore mode where every encounter and monster effect doubled. Tristen figured with his Mesmer's addition into the game they could handle the difficulty.

  Even though Tristen programmed the A.I., he listened with rapt attention as the scenario unfolded. Peeking a glance at his friends, Tristen watched their jaws drop and eyes bulged as they looked from Tristen to the disembodied voice under the sheet. He reveled in their shocked expressions and watched them listen to the A.I. After it finished speaking, silence descended as the reveal became known.

  "Holy Balls!" Tyler looked at Tristen, unbelieving.

  Aaron and Natalia nodded their heads in agreement and lent their voices to the excitement. Tristen’s mom poked her head into the room asking what the commotion was about. Assuring his mom all was well, He turned back to his friends to see a mixture of awe and skepticism on their faces. Well, only Tyler looked skeptical, while Aaron and Natalia wore excited expressions. While they were thus at a loss, Tristen dropped the GM screen to show his character setup that resulted in a new round of exclamations, and they crowded around to see his character.

  Natalia shook her head, "I can't believe you did all of this!"

  Aaron looked at Tristen’s character, muttering under his breath about the different spells for damage deflection and damage to health conversions. He was the beneficiary for most of these spells as he took the bulk of attacks. These skills allowed him more leeway in battle and the ability to take more risks that otherwise left him open to attack. His friends shook their heads as they returned to their seats.

  Tristen removed the covering of the A.I. and explained what it did and how it would be the GM, at least for this game.

  “It is the lowest form of A.I. And requires massive amounts of data to function. This A.I. type is a Reactive Machine. All it can do is ‘react’ to external stimuli. For instance, if I say ‘new dungeon tile’, then the A.I. knows to respond with a monster spawn and also keeps track of which player activates.” It can’t function on historic data such as ensuring a different monster each time unless explicitly instructed to do so. It also can’t predict what might happen based on player level-ups or an encounter evolving into a larger conflict. The A.I. lives in the present and only responds to the immediate circumstance. I’ve spent countless hours programming data into the database so it should work for this scenario we started."

  “Dude, if this works I don’t care how basic it is… it will be awesome!” Tyler’s words encouraged Tristen and he really hoped it worked.

  If it performed well, he planned to develop it more for future games. Maybe he could look into the next A.I. type, limited memory. That A.I. type stored historical data and formed responses based on past information.

  Tristen could sit and muse about A.I. for hours, but they needed to get moving and come up with a name for it. He then listed the names he compiled. After mulling them over for some time, Tyler threw out another one, "S.A.I.". He explained that it stood for "Simulated Artificial Intelligence." Not only was it a catchy abbreviation, but it also worked for a fantasy culture.

  Tristen quickly opened his computer and looked up the name. According to some websites, Sai, in Indian culture, meant Saint, Master, or Lord. The pronunciation sounded like "sawyee," but they all agreed to alter that slightly. Tristen changed the pronunciation to "sye." Hardly needing a vote, the group agreed to call Tristen’s first A.I. creation, S.A.I..

  The surprises finished and the A.I. named, Tristen and his friends crowded around the table as they dove headlong into the Forbidden Forest!

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Balr0g

Bio: This is the section where I'm supposed to write how I have always dreamed of writing books and that there are dozens of five star books out there with my name on them. Reality? I am brand new to writing, and worse, I'm not a creative writer. Most of the stuff that I have written is technical, cyber-related stuff. So, how in the world did I start down this path? The best way to sum it up is D. Rus and Vasiliy Mahenenka. These two Russian authors created books in a new genre called LitRPG, which falls under a more broad category called Gamelit. I devoured any and every book created by these two authors and quickly realized they were not alone in their endeavor. The series they created were translated from Russian to English, but it wasn't long before American authors started pushing their own series. Since starting with the Play to Live series (D.Rus), I've read hundreds of books and dozens of stories on Royal Road. I started posing questions and conversations about plots and book directions in various groups and forums. Eventually, I got the idea to start keeping track of my ideas and instead of giving them away, write my own story. Herein, is born a writer (or at least a wannabe writer)... not a writer to grab a paycheck, and not even for the sake of a job. I am putting this first story together purely for my enjoyment and it has been a fun ride so far.

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