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Saturday, launch day, had finally arrived and lines had already started forming to buy the microchips. They wouldn’t be available to purchase for several hours yet, but if Dungeon Quest Online pre-order sales were any indication, it was going to be quite a day for Tristen’s company. Dungeon Quest Online sales had gone through the roof after it was publicly released that Sai Enterprises was releasing in conjunction with the microchips. A list of the game designers, developers and artists were also made public during the marketing campaign, which escalated the hype for the game. Sales had already reached more than 10 million, just since the links went live at midnight. Anyone that pre-purchased the game was able to downloaded to media devices so that when users got the microchip they would be able to upload the game directly to the receiver for faster access into the game. To handle the bandwidth for people trying to download the game, Sai Enterprises had built server farms across the globe. Between pre-orders and collectors additions that came pre-loaded, there shouldn’t be so much traffic that the servers couldn’t handle it. Additionally, many users would likely want to experiment with the chips before they started playing the game. Thankfully, that would also alleviate some bandwidth from so many consecutive downloads.

Tyler and Tristen woke up early and broke their fast in the cafe at headquarters. Limos would be arriving shortly for the two of them to pick up Natalia and Aaron. They were flying in on different flights to maintain the surprise, but also because Tyler and Tristen were unsure what kind of relationship the two maintained after their split. Tristen would pick up Natalia, while Tyler picked up Aaron. Natalia and Aaron, upon seeing Tyler and Tristen, were extremely surprised, confused and happy to see us. Deciding to keep them in suspense about the subterfuge, Tristen used the time to catch up on what Natalia had been doing for the past couple of years. Whenever they chatted online or on the phone, it was usually just formality and they didn’t really dive into their lives all that much. With nearly a one hour drive back to headquarters, they had some time to catch up. Natalia, being the polite person, continually asked Tristen what he had been up to the past couple of years. Tristen, feeling a bit bad, kept redirecting the conversation so that he could maintain the suspense until all of them met up and he was able to reveal the true reason for their meet up.

Natalia was currently in a Broadway show as the lead dancer for a Shakespearean play that had been running for the past year. She had just finished the tour and the production company was deciding on another year or a new play that would begin in a few months. She went on to describe that after all of the performances in college, she had received a lot of requests for auditions, but had held out for one she really desired. Finally, she had auditioned for a well-known producer and made the final cut into one of the lesser known shows on broadway. She performed in a couple of plays that first year after college, until she had received a break by one of the lead dancers in a well-known play getting injured. She had been contacted to fill the role. She auditioned and made the lead dancer and retained that position for the rest of the year. Tristen congratulated her for everything she had accomplished. No longer was she the timid girl that walked through the halls as school with head down, absorbed into one book or another. Tristen felt bad he hadn’t made the time to see her perform on Broadway and said that the next time she performed, he would be there to see her perform. The fact that she had been dancing professionally for two years and hadn’t seen one was a gross injustice as a friend. He would be remedying that during her next show. Perhaps he could rent out a showing for his entire staff at headquarters. It was something to think about, anyway. Just as Natalia finished relaying the events leading up to present day, the limo arrived at the gates to the compound. Looking at Natalia, Tristen could see a bit of surprise and concern etched on her face as she warily looked at the barbed wire, checkpoints and armed guards. Assuring her, this was just a security precaution for the work that Sai Enterprises was working on the limo proceeded to the wing where Tristen’s living space resided. Pulling up to the building, it looked like Aaron and Tyler had already made it back. Now was the moment of truth and Tristen really hoped it wasn’t awkward.

Walking into a little waiting area just outside my room, Natalia saw Aaron and ran over to give him a hug and peck on the cheek. Stunned, Tyler and Tristen shared a confused look and a raised eyebrow. Turning over to the happily re=united couple, Tristen asked the obvious question about their split. Apparently, it hadn’t been a bad split and the two of them kept in really close contact in the hopes that they would be able to get back together. It was a loose, distance relationship right now, but both of them were still very much into each other and neither of the had dated anyone else. Their schedules were just too busy and the two of them were really focused on their careers at present. Relieved that there was no awkward tension in the room, Tyler and Tristen let the two of them have a few minutes to themselves to catch up.

Tyler briefly went over what Aaron had been up to lately. Aaron was one of the leading running backs in a professional football league and had just signed a massive contract with his current team. Tristen knew that Aaron had single-minded focus to make it big in football, but to be at the top of his chosen profession and landing a coveted contract was just astounding. Tristen though back to the hard life that Aaron had endured losing his parents and jumping around to different foster homes. To finally make his way into professional football and the ability to control his own destiny was inspirational. Tristen mentally kicked himself over and over again for missing out on the last couple years and being absent for such momentous occasions in their lives. He vowed to never again be so estranged from them and would do everything in his power to support his friends careers. After getting everyone settled and in Tristen’s sitting room, the group immediately fell back into old routines. It felt great to Tristen be back with old friends sitting around my table chatting about their lives and accomplishments. Granted, it wasn’t the table in Tristen’s childhood room and they weren’t 13 anymore, but to them it didn’t feel any different from years earlier. After everyone had time to get re-acquainted, Tristen gathered everyone around the table and dove into the reason why they were all present.

“As you all know, Sai Enterprises released some microprocessors a couple years back that installed an A.I. core into virtually every piece of technology we own today and paved the way for technology advancements. Those advancements have set me on to the project that’s about to launch in the next couple hours. Myself, along with a very dedicated team from around the world have worked the last two years on two projects. The first project is a microchip that will interact with the brain in such a way that every neurological response sent to and from the brain is filtered through the chip. The chip communicates with a wireless receiver that will come as part of the package when purchasing the chip. The receiver will not only send and receive neural signals, but can also be used to wirelessly charge the chips so that anyone using them can do so in whatever environment they desire. We designed these so that they wouldn’t be intrusive in any way. Initially, they will be used in homes, but we’ve also worked up some initiatives where we can install “public” devices so that the chips can continue to work in public environments and will enable anyone with a chip to mentally control electronic devices. Obviously, there will be restrictions in play so that someone is unable to randomly control a vehicle or some other device and cause harm to someone. The public aspect of the mental control needs some groundwork laid, but my company will work on implementation of public implementation down the road. For now, the devices are designed to work within the periphery of a home and all of the electronic devices that have our original microprocessor can be quickly programmed into the new receiver. This will allow a person to control all of their devices with a thought and create complex home automation instructions.” Tristen game his friends a moment to absorb this information and could see wonder on their faces.

Before anyone could asked questions, he continued, “We have also looked into using the chips in medical applications such as controlling artificial limbs. The applications for this technology are endless and we have a lot of projects that are going to be spawned from it after we move forward with the public launch today. Thus far, no one outside my team and this room really have a full understanding of what we have been working on for the past two years. Yes, there have been some hints and rumors floating around, but no one has been able to guess at the magnitude of what we have been able to accomplish. In each of the packages we release today, the users will get the microchip, an easy to use applicator with instructions on how to implant the device, a receiver, and a manual explaining the use cases for the chips. The chips themselves are in sealed, sterilized packages, and contain small hypodermic needles that numb the skin on contact. The user simple presses the chip to the back of there neck and with sufficient pressure, it clamps down. For release there are two small locations on either side that can be squeezed, causing the needles to retract.” Tristen could see a bit of concern on Natalia’s face as she unconsciously reached behind her to message her neck. Seeing the moving, Tristen was quick to reassure them that he had already tried it out and it was painless and easy to remove. He also let them know that he hadn’t really used any of the chip technology because he wanted to experience it for the first time with them.

Continuing the explanation, Tristen informed his friends that the manual bundled with the receivers was similar to a dictionary. It had massive list of options, with an index so users can find specific actions. It is like a car manual and also lists hundreds of different common home devices that can be used with the microchips. The marketing that Sai Enterprises has done so far only scratches the surface of its capabilities. Tristen told his friends that he wanted users to drive the media hype for the technology rather than his marketing team. The marketing team put just enough information in the advertisements and brochures to lure people in, but everyone would be in for a huge surprise as they started digging into the manuals. Tristen paused to answer some of the questions his friends had, but they mostly just sat in stunned silence not believing what they were hearing. Tyler as usual, injected a healthy dose of skepticisms into the conversation. Assuring him the technology was legitimate and that he had brought them all together before launch so that they could familiarize themselves with the technology before the actual launch.

Tristen’s friends were already reeling from the reveal, aside from the idea of needles in their neck, and were excited to try it out. “This bring me to the next project that we have been working on”, Tristen explained. “There’s more?”, all three of his friends asked in unison. Laughing at his friends reaction, Tristen replied, “yes, there’s a whole lot more! I hardly need to remind you all of the epic Dungeon Quest games we used play. I also know that none of us have had time to play it in the last few years.” Tristen paused for dramatic effect and he could see his friends eyes glaze over as they recalled the hours spent huddled around the table shouting out attacks, drinking soda, and being scolded by Tristne’s mom for being too loud. Tristen continued his reveal, “we have been working to bring the game back to life, but in such a way that will change gaming forever. First, we purchased the rights to the original game and have been working on a game we call Dungeon Quest Online. This game is not just going to be a console based game, it is going to be full virtual reality immersion, or FVRI.” Tyler gasped, Aaron looked confused, and Natalia seemed deep in though as the information was revealed.

Not allowing time for more questions, Tristen began again, “We have been working to on the full immersion into the game world we loved so much as kids. Do you all remember when we were kids that I vowed to make a self-aware A.I.?” Tyler, Aaron and Natalia all nodded their heads as they recalled the vow he had made so long ago. “Well, we have done exactly that,” Tristen declared. “We first started with making a game world that imported all of the original Dungeon Conquest scenarios, themes, characters, professions, skills, and monsters. Then I started work on an A.I. that would be able to fully manage the game and generate new content.” Tristen explained that he did not want a game that would become stale by reaching the end of the game. He wanted a game that would be forever changing, offering new adventures and story progressions. There also needed to be consequences for player actions in the game. All too often in online games, some players would kill for the sake of killing with little to no consequences. In this new world, there needed to be consequences for player actions. This new world would be unique and every character unique. Therefore, killing an NPC, who would be unique, should have dire repercussions. In this game, each NPC would be generated by the A.I. And take on a personality of their own. The NPCs would adhere to some of the preset game constructs, but ultimately they would be independent and live their lives no different than a real person. They will have a life, backstory, profession and each one is unique. The A.I. Is able to create unique characters by evaluating data input from the original game as well as every game that has ever been released. Additionally, every fantasy book published over the last few years was uploaded to the A.I.. By evaluating all of the information uploaded, the A.I. Then populated the new world with new and unique characters, locations and monsters. The A.I. is aware that it is a computer and that it’s sole responsibility is the governance of the game world and everything in it. It has sole discretionary rights to change, modify and create within the world. Because the A.I. has complete control over the game world, it can make incremental changes as players learn how to do new things. The game is every dynamic and always changing so that every person will have a different and unique game play.”

Tristen continued to explain the dynamics of the game and went over the usual game mechanics such as crafting, professions, skills, politics and theology. The most important aspect of the game Tristen wanted to ensure they know is that everything in the game would be tied to dungeon diving and that to get anywhere or accomplish anything of note would require joining a party and exploring a dungeon to acquire quest items. These items would range from simple crafting materials, to unique weapons and even items that will elevate a characters position in the world. If someone wanted to join a noble house or become magistrate, then they would have to find an heirloom or item that would grant the title or verify a claim. His friends were becoming more excited about the game as he explained everything, but that’s when Tristen dropped a bomb, “Each person will only have one life!” The looks on his friends faces ranged went from shock to confusion and then concern. “Why on earth would you not have respawns!” yelled Tyler. Natalia and Aaron seemed to agree with the both of them so Tristen explained that he wanted to remain true to the original Dungeon Quest, where a wipe resulted in having to re-roll characters. Tristen firmly believed it was a necessary game mechanic. He also explained that there would be major consequences for disrupting game play for other players. That included killing NPCs. Tristen was unsure how the A.I. would implement the punishments, but it could vary from incarceration to character deletion and temporary ban from the game world. In order to alleviate some of the blowback for creating a game with hardcore mode the default, there would be a few game mechanics to keep players and parties alive in dungeons or instanced areas . Only within a dungeon would this be allowed. Any death outside of an instanced area would result in the character being rolled back to level one with all skills, equipment and reputation gains lost.

Tristen explained the methods for surviving within a dungeon, “Within the dungeon there will be a few different ways to prevent a full wipe, but if every party member dies and no one has equipment or items to resurrect, then the entire party dies. In order to avoid the penalty of a permanent death, the party must beat the dungeon. One of the options to prevent a character re-roll included an option for the group to lose a level and respawn just inside the dungeon instance to re-attempt. The other options for resurrection in a dungeon would be a resurrection spell only available to a character that chooses the Divine magic school. There are items within the game that can be collected to grant a second chance at live, but they will be very rare and later on in the game. In addition to these options for resurrection each character gains the [Last Stand] skill. The skill will activate automatically when the player reaches zero health. They will then be incapacitated and only able to use support skills and spells that do not require mobility. Any enemies that were targeting that player would then switch to another active player unless all players are incapacitated. The incapacitated player would slowly lose health until there were no enemies around at which time they would then be allowed to sit and recover health or use a potion to heal themselves. After explaining the intricacies and the planning for this, Tristen’s friends better understood the mechanics and why they were necessary for this game.

Looking at the clock Tristen realized just an hour remained before launch and when the game servers would go online. Not wanting to waste any time, Tristen ushered the group of them into the gaming room he had prepared for today. There were four comfortable reclining chairs with packages sitting atop three of them. Tristen indicated his friends should open the packages and explained that these were gifts for each of them. Each of his friends had a collectors edition of the game and chip in the box so everything was pre-loaded and ready to go. His friends offered to pay for the game and chips, but Tristen declined and insisted that they were gifts. The price of the systems cost a little less than a regular gaming console. The collectors versions were a bit more, but still very affordable compared to any other virtual reality setup that required the VR gear and a high-powered computer to run. Based on the market research Tristen’s team had done, it was going to fly off the shelves at it’s current price point. Based on pre-sales for the game being in the tens of millions and the requirement to have the microchip technology to play, profit from sales was already going to exceed $6 billion. This far exceeded the expectations set by the sales and product team and launch was still an hour away.

Everyone grabbed their equipment and began reading instructions to implant the chips. With the chips in position, the instructions said that it would take 30 minutes for calibration and that basic actions should be performed for the chips to be calibrated. After 30 minutes of activity, the receivers made a chime indicating completion. “Wait!”, Aaron exclaimed. “Did you all hear that voice? I don’t think it came from the receivers!” Thinking about what Aaron had just said, Tristen recalled the voice he had just heard and he was absolutely right! The voice had been projected directly into his thoughts! Reading the manual some more to get familiar with use cases, Tristen suggested they move to a room that had some electrical devices with his original processors in them so they can practice interacting with them. Once in the room, all of the devices started to come to life! Aaron was messing around with the radio on Tristen’s nightstand, while Tyler was adjusting the thermostat on the wall,. Looking to his TV and computer, Tristen was able to turn them on and use them with his thoughts just like a mouse and keyboard! “Wow!” Tristen exclaimed. This technology was awesome and would usher in a new age of technological advancement the likes of which the world had yet to see!

Having worked out the shock and awe, Tristen and his friends moved back to the game room and took their seats. At this point there were only had a few minutes to wait before the servers would go online for the game. Quickly pulling out the game manual, Tristen read the instructions on how to initialize the game and informed his friends. The instructions were very simple as Tristen said,

“Dungeon Quest Begin!”

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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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