A note from Balr0g

A small cessation from the party to catch up on Tristen's real-world activities

Logging out of the game, Tristen sat up from his gaming chair, a design of his imagination, complete with all the bells and whistles one could ever want. It had a built-in massage roller, perforated seats for heating and cooling his body temperature. Heck, he could even set a designed temperature for his body, and the chair would adjust accordingly. He also had a small refrigeration unit in the armrest, tall enough for a two-liter if he desired. Sure, it was frivolous, but he had more money than he knew what to do with at the moment. He had even commissioned to have some built for all of his friends, their family, and his parents. He also had collectors units of the chips and game sent to all of his friend's families.

He also planned to invest a lot of personal funds in the schools he had attended all the way up through college. He planned to donate a large number of chips, microprocessors, and resources into the schools to help create a better education for the next generation. He quickly drafted up an email to his production and marketing leads and asked them to get a headcount of all the students at the various schools he had attended. He then instructed to have a chip created for every student and staff member and shipped out. Tristen also told them to extract the funds for the chips directly from his account.

While he was thinking about education, Tristen decided to draft an email to the product development, engineering, and medical teams to get started on the practical application of using the chips for knowledge augmentation. He wanted to start testing with public trials as soon as possible to see if any of the projected information into users minds would have a lasting impact and develop skills faster.

Tristen thought back to the skills and spells that he had learned in the game. He could remember vague ideas and some general information about using them, but the majority of the information slipped through his grasp. It would likely take much longer and sustained immersion into the game before he started bringing anything meaningful back into the real world. Tristen would evaluate his knowledge and skills retained from Dungeon Quest Online, and he also wanted clinical trials to start documenting all of the data.

The trials would focus on knowledge people typically gained through school. In his email, Tristen made sure to list two items that he wanted to test. The first of these was education using the time compression that Sai had engineered. The test should focus on groups of users learning information through ordinary means and where users will be immersed in a virtual space using the time compression. The primary goal of this would be to find out which test group would retain the knowledge best and how long it took for each to pass an exam at the end.

The second test would then focus on abilities far outside the norm of any tester. For instance, someone such as Tristen having combat abilities uploaded to his brain. Engineering and development would need to create a receiver for the chips use. Right now, the only receivers in production were for the game, bus some of the original designs could be repurposed for use. He also told the team to set up a network all over the headquarters compound with receivers throughout that would allow chips anywhere on the premises to receive direct feedback. If the first method of retaining new skills failed, then they could test constant access via wireless signals.

Tristen would likely never condone pushing technology that required a connection permanently to the net, but perhaps the ability to learn new skills via the chips required getting that neural feedback for extended periods. When people are training themselves to perform a new skill or memorize a new piece of information, they repeat it again and again. The repetition then creates new neural pathways to store the data. Perhaps by continually projecting knowledge of new skills into a users mind, they will develop those neural pathways at a much faster rate.

Having completed his brain dump, Tristen thought that perhaps he would be more tired with the hours spent inside the game. Surprisingly, he felt completely refreshed, as if he had just awoken from his customary six hours a night sleep. Pausing, Tristen shook his head ruefully as he once again pulled up his email to fire off a note to the medical staff. He wanted them to evaluate the physical and mental health of users that substituted sleep for immersion into the game. One of the concerns that doctors had voiced regarding this technology was the addictive nature they had seen during testing before launch day. Any of the users that spent prolonged periods of time in immersion couldn't wait to get back in, almost as if it was a drug. As a result, Tristen had demanded they implement some lockout or automatic logout if the user ignored personal needs.

This mandatory feature was part of the reason Tristen had been suggesting he and his friend's log out for short periods of time or save more complex tasks for other game sessions. Getting back to the email, Tristen wrapped it up by adding in marketing to let them know if the current tests. He wanted them to start working on a campaign informing users about using the chips during regular sleep cycles. He would send the marketing out regardless of a positive or negative outcome.

Since Tristen had already emailed half of his entire staff, he kept up with the trend by adding his chief financial officer, design lead, a couple of his most trusted lawyers, and head of research and development to another email. Some people didn't understand why Tristen used email so much instead of picking up the phone, but it was because he liked a paper trail. He would always follow up by scheduling in-person meetings, but that first "paper" trail helped keep people in line with deadlines. He was letting his mind wander now and shook his head to clear those thoughts away. For this next email, he wanted to broach the subject of currency exchange, from and to the game world.

Ideally, he wanted to give people the ability to make a living by playing the game. That would involve frequent transfers between the game and the real world. So as not to give his CFO an early death by heart attack, he noted they would be taking a profit for any currency exchange made. Sai had already managed to incorporate a 5% tax on players using the Adventure Halls. In fact, thinking about that fee is what prompted Tristen to write this email now rather than later. The game already had mechanics in place to extract taxes from players, and it only made sense from a business standpoint to capitalize on that. It also adds a level of realism to the game.

It wouldn't be a favorite move for sure, but players would make the exchange just as Tristen had in agreeing to the 5% fee in Castille. While thinking about the taxes, Tristen became curious about the funds and what Sai was doing with them. She can create whatever she wants at any time. It's all 1's and 0's after all.

Dang, Tristen had a real concentration problem ever since first logging into the game. His mind kept wandering while he was trying to take care of business. He decided to go for a walk and clear his mind. After walking around the grounds a few times and relieving himself, Tristen dove back into the email he had saved.

He tasked his CFO to look into crypto-currency as a way to solve the currency exchange issue. The problem with most of the digital currencies is their volatility. They fluctuated too rapidly to use as a steady source, and they also tended to crash in epic proportions. Furthermore, digital wallets could be stolen, sometimes a lot easier than a physical wallet with cash in it. Tristen left a lot of the decision up to his CFO. He had a lot of experience and knew exchanges like the back of his hand. If he couldn't find a way to navigate the market, it was likely a lost cause anyway.

To his head of R&D, Tristen tasked him with looking into all of the existing crypto-currencies and any new initiatives that were trying to get introduced. Tristen hoped that something already existed they would be able to adopt, but if not, he would leave it up to the R&D team to come up with a digital currency that was foolproof and secure enough that users wouldn't need to worry about the theft of their digital wallets.

Finishing up the email, he explained that there was no rush and to take their time. He gave one last instruction to his lawyers. He wanted them to reach out to large financial institutions and some governments around the world about their acceptance of digital currency. If he couldn't get those that mattered on board to accept and standardize a solution, there was no point in pursuing this side project. Tristen also told the group there was no point in trying to keep this project under wraps. Instead, he didn't mind this getting out to the general public. It would drive users into a frenzy and may help to push a solution through.

All his responsibilities taken care of, it was time for Tristen to peruse his favorite forums and see what was trending. Tristen had been following various virtual reality forums for as long as he could remember. Some of them explored multiple theories and possibilities for full virtual reality immersion technology.

Most of this technology included dive pods where someone would immerse themselves in a vat of viscous fluid that could break down human waste and keep them alive. In a twisted sense of humor, some theories involved shoving tubes in places that ought to be free and clear or foreign objects. Granted, many of these approaches included prolonged immersion such as a month or longer at a time. Maybe one day he could explore that type of immersion, but he enjoyed coming back to his life in the real world. He suspected some people would prefer the virtual world over their real lives, but he wasn't prepared to work on technology that encouraged people to leave reality for a make-believe one.

Some of the more wild theories even included scenarios where peoples minds get uploaded to digital reality, and their physical bodies die. Yea, some people can be a bit morbid thought Tristen. He understood the appeal to live in a world where physics often didn't apply, age was a nonfactor, and anything was achievable. It made Tristen wonder about the makeup of humankind, was he just 1's and 0's in someone else's design? Could he exist without a soul? Was his soul part of his brain, those 1's and 0's?

All of these questions had plagued Tristen over the years, and he was confident that some things would never transfer into a digital world and that to do so he would lose a part of himself and become nothing more than an advanced A.I. capable of being exterminated with the flip of a switch. Tristen knew from experience he would just continue to spiral down these rabbit holes as he thought of these questions and forced his mind to move on from the subject.

He pulled up some of the forums that were explicitly talking about Dungeon Quest Online. There wasn't a single commonality or official post across any of the sites he usually read. Everyone's experience was different, and the features that were common for players had mostly positive feedback. He did have an ulterior motive for visiting the forums. He was curious what people thought about the training grounds and if other players also found them a bit too cramped.

Tristen searched for the name of the game and "training grounds."

There were thousands of posts talking about the grounds ranging from the lack of space to the break in immersion for learning skills. The break in immersion complaints spawned from the fact players transported to a different location, and it seemed more science-fiction than fantasy. It seemed a bit contrary to some of the earlier threads he had read about each person's starter rooms. No one had complained about that transporting players. Tristen suspected the complaints stemmed from people not expecting the transition and no explanation before entering.

With an amused expression on his face, Tristen searched for news about Sai and how she appeared to other players. Everyone seemed to love the representation of Sai and based on the descriptions on all of the forums; she was, in fact, a ten-foot-tall goddess, resplendent in shining white garments and flowing golden hair. Shaking his head at Sai’s antics,

Tristen continued reading the posts about the training room. Overwhelmingly, gamers were ecstatic about the time-dilation. Tristen knew first hand, one of the hardest choices in any game like this was choosing a path and gaming style. Whenever he started a new game, he would spend countless hours figuring out which character path to take and how to assign stat points. Sometimes it would take him days to settle on the right build. By using time-dilation, each person could take their time making a selection. 

As Tristen was nearing the end of the forums, he saw a post that jumped out at him. It just read "Darren." No way this was the same Darren that had been a nitwit while Tristen was there. This post was one of the last in a series about the training grounds so it could be the same person. Tristen was curious why a Mountain Dwarf would even be in the training area in Castille. They had their starting location in the Orax Mountains.

Sure enough, after Tristen read the description, it was an exact accounting of the red-headed rat he had wanted to deck. The post droned on and on about the trouble he was causing for players. It got so heated that the town guards had come and nearly arrested a group of people. The game had only been out for a week, and already some players had almost been banned and had their characters deleted. Tristen wanted to teach this guy a lesson. This guy was just like some of the rejects he had to deal with in grade school. Tristen wasn't a huge fan of PvP, but at that moment he hoped to one day run into this bearded midget in a PvP zone with his friends.

Tristen forcefully closed out the forum he was reading and sat in silence for a moment. Someone out there was ruining the experience of people playing the game. His game, the game he had dreamed up his entire life. He was furious and would tell his friends to keep an eye out for him. Tristen would forever go out of his way to ruin this guys experience as well.

Still seething, Tristen felt like doing something or perhaps trying to find this guy in the game. He had nothing to do at work and had already set his people to difficult tasks. He wasn't tired and was itching to get back in the game. He decided to get a slight head start on his friends and check out the quest board. He would also see if there were any quests around the town he could find. He would stay in Castille for now, but tomorrow morning the group would meet up and finally leave Castille. The plan was to visit Kiyll Woods for Natalia's gear and then set out on their first adventure!

A note from Balr0g

Thank you for taking the time to read Dungeon Quest Online! If you are enjoying reading this adventure as much as I am writing it, I encourge you to let me know by leaving a review and following the story as it progresses.

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About the author


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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