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A note from Balr0g

Updated to include Sai's relationship with Tristen

Immediately after informing Sai of his race choice, Tristen found himself standing in a large training arena with doors lining the sides.

“What is this place?” Tristen asked Sai.

This is where we will begin the tutorial and also where you will earn your first stat points, explained Sai.

Before starting any training, let’s go over your user interface. You have already used the in-game communications with your friends. In addition to communicating with other players, it is possible to add my children or NPCs to the contact list. Oh, I also added myself to your contact list, but sadly you will only be able to call me if there is something that should not be in the world. You know, you should really come and see me more, it gets lonely in that cold room.

“You know your starting to sound like a love-struck teenager, Sai.”

Technically, I’m not even a toddler by human standards, quipped Sai.

Laughing, Tristen indicated that Sai should continue her explanation of adding NPC’s to his contact list.

To add people of Aeglenn to your contact list, simply need to focus on their communication crystal after they agree and will it to appear in your contacts. At this point, you will then be able to keep in touch with NPCs. Be advised, citizens of Aeglenn are wary of giving access to adventurers and will require a trusting reputation level.

“Wait, what is a communication crytstal?”

Communication crystals are the method used in Aeglenn to communicate over long distances. They are infused with mana from a master magician and sold and specialized shops throughout the world. These crystals are expensive and not every citizen of Aeglenn will have them. If you find someone with one of these crystals, it would be wise to pay close attention to them.

“Hey! No giving me hints about the game. I told you before the game launched that I wanted a level playing field with anyone else that logs on. I can’t have you giving me hints and unfair advantages like that,” Tristen warned.

Very well, I will not provide any hints, but if you change your mind… Sai’s voice trailed off, hinting at the promise of help if he wanted it.

Continuing the instructions Sai said,

In addition to the contact list, you may call up your character screen, inventory, skill list, crafting abilities, map and menu by willing them into focus.

Tristen thought about the menu screen first to get the mundane out of the way. Picking right up, Sai continued, Here, you will find settings related to game play, notifications and content settings. For instance, the pain threshold for the game is automatically set at 30% that of the real world. While the game testers were experimenting with the pain levels, it was found that players would often raise this threshold to 50% as it allowed more immersion into the world. I agreed with these findings and now have every player’s pain threshold set by default at 30%. Once the tutorial is finished, you will be able to select your pain levels, but for the duration of the tutorial it will remain at 30% as you grow accustomed to the world. The next option is maturity levels. Based on the profile built during your synchronization with the neural chips, maturity filters are turned off based on age of 21 or greater. Filters will be set appropriately per age group. As you know when you helped design me and set the hard requirements for the game any players in Dungeon Question Online must be at least 21 years old.

The last category that Sai explained was the notification options. Tristen looked at all of the options and saw that the options included the capability to eliminate text boxes, add names above NPCs heads, allow scrolling combat logs, notification settings during combat and many more areas. Basically, any type notification or descriptive text box could be toggled on/off, thought Tristen.

All settings will be left at their default during the tutorial and trials

“Trials?”, asked Tristen.

Yes, every adventurer will go through tests and trials in order to evaluate your natural talents, which will then be converted into stats within the game

“Is this another feature that you designed yourself”, asked Tristen. He recalled them originally just having the players starting stats based on what they excelled at in the real world. That was a relatively simple solution and it wasn’t that hard to implement considering the neural interface the microchips had access to.

Yes! Isn’t it exciting? I know that we were originally just going to let people have stats after their synchronization process continued, but I thought that this was a better way to assess real world skills and assign stats accordingly.

“I think this is a great design, Sai,” said Tristen enthusiastically. This added another layer of depth and complexity to the game that was intriguing. 

Asking a thought that popped in his head, Tristen said, “Sai, how do you determine which trials to send players through?”

The initial rooms in this training arena are all based on the main stats within the game, but further tailored to each persons aptitudes such as strength, leadership, strategy, amongst others. Each room represents one of the main stats of this world. If you focus on the doors and think about what they are, you will see a description pop up. There are a total number of eight rooms as this is the number of primary stats each character starts with. Secondary stats manifest in the form of skills such as “leadership”, which would be a passive skill tied to Charisma. Stamina would have a secondary stat of endurance. A combination of strength and endurance would translate to toughness. The primary stats are the main focal point for increasing your characters power and abilities.

Tristen could work with eight stats. He imagined there were a lot of far-reaching consequences for choosing a stat arbitrarily and would really need to evaluate how each one integrated into the character he wanted to create. Hopefully, he would be able to choose his magic schools and some skills or spells before he had to assign any free stat points into his character. For now, he would go through the tutorial and hopefully load up on as many stats as possible. With no idea what was in store for him next, he gestured for Sai to continue the tutorial.

Please open your character sheet to see your character class, health, stamina, mana, stats and any skills, spells or professions. Also, any of these display windows can be customized to your liking.”

Thinking about his character sheet brought a semi-translucent blue window into focus.

Tristen (lvl. 1)

Health: 100/100

Stamina: 100/100

Mana: 100/100

Luck

Vitality

Intellect

Stamina

0

0

0

0

Strength

Charisma

Willpower

Dexterity

0

0

0

0

Skills

[Persuasion]

Professions

None

Confused at his complete lack of any stats Tristen asked Sai, “why is everything set to 0 and what does it mean if I have an intellect or strength of 0? Shouldn’t I be incapacitated with a complete lack of any stats?”

Each adventurer will retain all of their real-world abilities and attributes and each person will start with all in-game stats at 0, with the exception of racial bonuses. I tested a number of different methods when the game was being designed and realized that it worked best to start each person at a baseline. Because each person feels any stat increases it made sense to start with the baseline at 0.

It was different from many of the other games Tristen had played, but it definitely made sense to start from a base level. Tristen was curious how it would feel when gaining stats, since he didn’t feel any different from his physical body. Rather than dwelling on the issue, he decided to just experience it when the time came. Without further delay, he walked up to the door closest to him and focused on bringing the description into view.

Intellect

Intellect plays a vital role in Dungeon Quest Online since every adventurer is granted access to magic. Mana is used for spell casting as each spell costs Mana to use. A higher intellect also grants each adventurer a larger MP or Mana Pool. As an adventurer progresses in the world, skills and abilities will increasingly use greater amounts of mana and an adventurer must have sufficient reserves in their MP to case these spells. When learning a new spell, the mana cost will be included in the spells description. As a user increases their Intellect, knowledge of the arcane grows. Some spells require a higher Intellect stat before they will be unlocked for use.


Rather than walking around to each door and reading yet more descriptions, Tristen opened the door for Intellect and walked through. Tristen was unsure what to expect, but it turned out that there were a series of problem solving questions, puzzles and what seemed like IQ tests. He didn’t know how long it took to get through all of the events, but it felt like hours had passed and Tristen was mentally exhausted from the ordeal. Looking around to ensure he had completed everything, he pulled up his character sheet only to see there was no change. Confused, Tristen exited the room and staggered as it felt like he had taken a straight shot of adrenaline to the head! Any mental fatigue he had from the challenges was washed away in a blaze of clarity. Tristen wondered if this is what people felt when taking recreational drugs.

“That was awesome!”, Tristen whooped. He had never felt anything like this before and he wanted more of it! The closest he had every come to feeling anything remotely similar was taking some energy pills called stackers that gave him the jitters and made his skin crawl. This was so much better than that and Tristen hoped he could get similar euphoria from the other rooms as well. Regaining focus, he opened my eyes to see a notification box hovering directly in front of him.

Congratulations!

You have completed the trials of Intellect. For completing all challenges in this trial you have been awarded the maximum number of Intellect points allowed in the tutorial

+10 Intellect

Each point in Intellect grants +10 to MP


Tristen forgot all about the fatigue he had experienced before leaving the Intellect trials and dashed for the next door, not really caring which stat it belonged to. Tristen spent the next few hours going from one room to the next, most of which took significantly less time than the Intellect rooms, since he wasn’t as strong in these areas. The next strongest stat after Intellect was Willpower and this room was relatively easy. He just had to go through a couple challenges of will such as a short period of meditation, holding an object in front of him for as long as possible without breaking or forcing him to use his opposite hand for a complex task. Tristen was a master of focus in the real world and excelled at most of these. Where he faltered was anything that had to do with physical strength. The room for luck was a bit odd and he wasn’t sure how it factored into status quite yet, but he guessed it was just a loose association since luck was, after all, random chance. One of the challenges in the Luck room involved disarming what appeared to be harmless traps. Another challenge was participating in a game of dice. Sure, he supposed luck played a role, but it seemed more a combination of attention to detail and fate that decided his Luck stat. Regardless of how the stat was calculated, luck was always something he could use more of.

After he had finished all of the rooms, Tristen pulled up his character sheet.

Tristen (lvl. 1)

Health: 100/100 (+30)

Stamina: 100/100 (+50)

Mana: 100/100 (+100)

Charisma

Intellect

Willpower

Dexterity

16

10

8

6

Luck

Stamina

Vitality

Strength

5

5

3

2

Skills

None

Magic Schools

None


Tristen didn’t like how the health, stamina and mana stats were in parenthesis and how they were all jumbled around. He re-arranged the stats a bit to show his highest stat on top and also merged the boosts to his HP, SP (stamina pool), and MP rather than show them as a + modifier. He wanted to reserve any state modifiers for equip-able items or stat boosts so that he would always know what his base attributes were. Looking at the final layout after the tutorial it was pretty clear where his strength were and it factored into the type of character he wanted to create.

 

He took a moment to reflect on each of the trials completed and realized that none of them were nearly as powerful an infusion of power as Intellect had been. He had definitely experienced a power surge and felt refreshed after each room, but that first jolt to his mind was in stark contrast with the rest of them. He knew intellectually how he felt all of these stat increases, but it was still disconcerting because it felt like they were permanent changes that were not an integral part of him. He just hoped that the transition between realities wouldn’t be a major difference. He could see people becoming addicted to the feeling of power in this game.

Sai, understanding Tristen’s thoughts interjected,

The transition between the real world and the game world will result in some disorientation, but the feelings you are experiencing now are nothing more than additional neurological responses that are being fired into your brain to simulate the feelings. Once you exit the game into the real world, these additional neural responses will revert to normal levels and you should not experience any discomfort at the loss of virtual stats. Even now, the stats you have gained should start to feel like a normal state of being for you and over time any stat games within the game reach a baseline and the euphoric feelings will fade.

“Thanks Sai, let me just say…I really like what you’ve done with the game so far! It has far exceeded my expectations and I can’t wait to see what you have done with the rest of the world.”

Thank you Tristen, I think you are really going to enjoy the game and it will be just like old times when you were growing up.

Feeling sentimental, Tristen informed her that he was ready to leave the tutorial before it became awkward. As he finished speaking, another notification window appeared confirming his decision to leave the tutorial and enter the world of Aeglenn. Mentally selecting yes, he brought up the menu to logout before he transitioned into the main world of Aeglenn. Tristen’s vision went dark briefly and when he opened his eyes he noted his friends were already out of the tutorial and helping themselves to refreshments across the room. Tristen looked at the clock to see the time and saw a floating transparent object hovering over the digital clock informing him of the time, weather and date. Blinking his eyes, Tristen paused having forgotten that the microchip implant was always active. Wow, He almost thought the technology was malfunctioning for a minute! This was definitely going to take some getting used to, thought Tristen. Recalling the time when they had first logged into the game, he realized it had only been a couple real-world hours since they began. The time dilation was really neat and something they for sure would be able to exploit.

Seeing Tristen awake, his friends all rushed over, gushing over the game and how real everything appeared. Waving them off for just a moment, he sidestepped and asked if they could wait a few minutes while he spoke with the medical team for an update. It didn’t take him long, but the initial response was an apparent lack of any negative side-effects. The team had remained in place until the group logged out to make sure there were no physical reactions, dizziness and the like. Now, that the team could see everyone was healthy, they began to pack up their equipment. Tristen spent a few moment with his friends discussing the details of the character selection and tutorial and they each gave a brief synopsis of their trials. Everyone went through the same rooms, but from the sounds of it, each room was tailored to each persons strengths in the real world.

Curious to see what the response was from around the world, Tristen turned on the TV in the room and tuned into a couple of different news channels. Because the company had opted not to splurge in marketing, Tristen wanted to see if there was any user driven hype for the launch. Not all that surprising, nearly every news channel was breaking news about the new technology, but the real hype that seemed to be the main conversation topic revolved around the full virtual reality immersion technology and how the new microchips interfaced with the game. Overwhelmingly, the news was positive, but true to human nature people were already protesting the technology and spouting nonsense about invasion of privacy and hinting that the government was spying on anyone that used the technology. It didn’t matter that the technology had been fully independent and funded from Tristen’s own coffers. All of the conspiracy theorists just assumed that the government was involved and this was the next step to invading and stripping civic rights.

Excusing himself from his friends for a few minutes, Tristen pulled out his computer to check his email. Pausing as he turned the computer on, he decided to interact using the new microchip. The chip allowed him to pull up a virtual copy of his laptop that he could control using mental suggestion. Thinking about opening the email application, he was able to mentally go through the list of emails and sort them super fast, just thinking about different rules and archiving ones he would get to later. The emails he chose to read covered a wide range of topics from general feedback of the distribution centers and vendors to metrics showing user feedback. Pulling up the email from his marketing team, Tristen was wowed with the user-generated media storm that was occurring. Millions of posts, tweets and user-created videos had hit the Internet in rabid order and immediately going viral. It had taken less than an hour for dozens of viral threads to hit mainstream media and only an hour later before experts were weighing in on the technology.

The reaction was progressing exactly as he and his marketing team had wanted, but exponentially faster. They would need to ensure their production lines could handle the volume at this rate. One of the areas Tristen fully expected blowback on, was government inclusion on the development of the product. Contrary to what some of these conspiracy theorists were spouting, the government was in no way involved in the development of the technology, nor had he given them an early screening of the technology. Well, backtracking a bit, Tristen had met with various government personnel that were from various patent offices and various medical approval boards to make sure his project was above board.

Looking back to his email, Tristen opened the last email which simply said “open the attachment”. Tristen furrowed his brow and verified that the email was legitimate. Opening the email, Tristen collapsed into his chair with a gasp. Tristen was looking at a financial sheet showing projections and current profit from the technology. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing and immediately placed a call to his CFO. Tristen’s financial team expected revenue would continue it’s upward trajectory for several weeks before it even hinted at leveling out. When looking at initial projects and the approximately 10 million pre-orders for the game, the sales team expected half again as many sales after the technology went public. Instead, sales had tripled in the first few hours. Pre-orders and lines had continued to grow so fast that the website lead for pre-orders had to bring in help to get a queue started for users visiting the site wanted to pre-order. Downloads were still doing okay with bandwidth, but that could change overnight if the volume kept increasing at this pace. In addition to the massive digital overload, local stores were being swarmed and local law enforcement all over the country had been called in to manage the crowds and direct traffic flow. His CFO finished speaking and Tristen gave him some instructions to get the executive team together and start working on a plan to ramp up production, distribution and handle additional digital traffic.

Hanging up the phone, Tristen sat back in his chair overwhelmed at the response to the technology. He thought through everything that had been accomplished over the past few years and a huge chip leave his shoulders. The last few years had been extremely hectic, with little to no downtime, but it had all paid off more than he could ever have dreamed. Just a few hours after launch and the company had entered the stratosphere. Tristen had a feeling the next few days were going to involve many late nights. Regardless of the workload, he resolved to carve out some more time to play Dungeon Quest Online. He had finally achieved the dream and the vow made so long ago at the age of 13 and he fully intended to immerse himself into this new world and experience Dungeon Quest brought to life!

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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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