“Please select your starting race.” A monotonous voice spoke through the darkness, in which only two minds existed.
“Starting race?” One spoke out, sounding younger and feminine, almost childlike. “Does that mean that there is a way to change races after character creation?”
“Ah, let me handle this one.” Another voice, female but not belonging to either mind, spoke up. “Sorry, Goddess of Death here. We use a special reincarnation system. The system judged it too pricey to list with the basic options, but we like it. Basically, new souls are born in our lowest ranked worlds. Then, when they die, if they have earned enough karma they are given the choice to advance and be reborn in a higher ranked world.”
“Ahh.” The second mind spoke up, sounding a bit older than the first. “I assume you have elves as an option for this world?”
“Confirmed.” The monotonous voice spoke again.
“Two elves, please!” Before the second voice could even say anything, the younger, playful voice had shouted out. The darkness was suddenly cast away, filled with a bright light as two elves stood there. They looked almost as if they could be sisters, one with pink hair and the other a brilliant red.
“Really, Rivy?” The red-haired elf asked with a sigh, shaking her head. “Well, I was going to pick it anyways. So, what’s next?”
“Please describe your desired occupation.” The mysterious voice answered coolly. “Once the description has been given, it will be filtered through the list of available occupations, and suitable choices will be presented.”
“I’d like to be a mage.” Ryone spoke, while Aurivy decided to wait her turn this time. “If specialty mages are an option here… A mage who specializes in the crafting of artifacts.”
“Selection confirmed. Suitable occupations: Mage, Enchanter, Shaper, Artificer, Binder.”
Ryone nodded as she heard the list, naturally recognizing some of the options. However, near the end her curiosity seemed to be piqued. “I’d like a Binder, please. Please define for me, what are the conditions required to unlock additional classes?”
“Classes can be unlocked every one hundred levels. Unlocked classes will always be based on previous achievements.”
She gave another nod. “Thank you. Binder, then.” She didn’t particularly know what the binder class did, but the name made her think of the summoner advanced class.
“I want to be a traveler! Someone really fast that can see the sights and run away from danger! Oh, and really cute so everyone gets along with me.” Aurivy added a giggle at the end of her request that didn’t seem to match her more mature body.
“Selection confirmed. Suitable occupations: Bard, Scout, Monk, Racer, Tamer.”
“Racer, please!” She had lived as the first three, and the last one just sounded like a monster tamer, which she had similarly done before.
“Occupations confirmed. Starting location has been set to ‘Elven Spawn Point Three’, in Twilight’s Hold. Please enjoy your experience.”
As the voice faded, the light began to dim around the two figures, before cracks appeared around them. Like glass, the white exterior shattered, leaving the two girls standing in front of a large, circular fountain. They seemed to be standing in a large city, people walking almost mechanically back and forth.
The people in the city walked along set paths, moving to talk to someone, and then going back to their starting position to stand in the exact same pose that they had been previously. It was eerie to look at when seeing them as real people. At least, until one elf walked directly up to them, a small smile on his face.
“Sorry, we haven’t finished setting up the character creation interface for this server yet.” He spoke with a polite bow. “Jelial, God of Birth, Adventure, and Wisdom. Nicknamed as the God of Sagas. I’ll be substituting for the tutorial until Sam is able to get the fairies finished.”
“You use tutorial fairies?” Aurivy asked with wide eyes.
“Actually, they act as player assistants throughout their entire adventure.” Jelial chuckled, shaking his head. “He has to set up a separate database for each world, that way the fairies can properly answer questions that the players might have. Right now, I think he’s only about half done, so they haven’t been implemented yet. You’d be amazed how many people just pick up random rocks to identify, trying to break the system.”
Ryone let out a groan, her head dropping slightly. “I can only imagine. Anyways, why don’t we get started? If you’re here for our tutorial, that means you’re probably going to introduce us to our classes, right?”
“That’s right. If you open your inventory, each of you should have a starting item. Ryone, you chose to play as a Binder, so your starting item is an enchanted pen. Aurivy, you have a pair of winged boots.”
Sure enough, as each goddess thought about their inventory, they would see a screen flash into being in front of them. Each of them only had a few coins, a couple pieces of bread, and a single ‘weapon’. Though, since neither of them took combat classes, they couldn’t exactly call their tools weapons.
Still, Ryone reached into her inventory, calling for the pen, and pulling it out. “If I may ask, how do I use this?”
“It’s quite simple. If you apply to join any Mage College, they will teach you the basics of the local magic.” Jelial explained, pointing towards the very image of a stereotypical mage nearby. An elderly elven man with a long, gnarled staff and wearing dark grey robes. “In this server, you require a skill to be able to use certain effects like magic. Even if you know the way magic works on a fundamental level, the system will not register anything happening unless you also possess the skill to go with it.”
Ryone gave a small nod, drawing a rune in the air with her pen. It was one that she knew intimately from Fyor, the basic rune for fire. However, as expected, nothing happened. She couldn’t even be sure if the rune had the same meaning here, but merely shrugged her shoulders. “Alright. Please, lead the way.”
I watched the screen as Ryone and Aurivy were led off towards the ‘Mage Instructor’ NPC, glancing out of the corner of my eye towards Sarah. “Have you thought about putting these game worlds on the market? I mean, I imagine they’d be worth quite a lot of points.”
“Oh, definitely!” She nodded her head quickly. “Whenever a game is praised as a ‘best-seller’ in the world we introduce it to, we consider that as passing its quality review and immediately put it on the market. Unranked games like this one currently is usually sell for about eight thousand points.”
My eyes widened as I heard that figure. Even with the points that I had saved up, it was still clearly not enough to afford this game world that they had created. “So much?”
“Yeah. When you buy a world in bulk, you are buying every system in it. Our game worlds each typically have crafting systems with assigned blueprints. That means that you’ll be buying all of those blueprints as well.” Sarah brought a hand up to her chin, closing her eyes in focus. “Sammy, how many points went into Twilight?”
“We spent about three thousand, four hundred. That’s not counting all the freebies.”
My ears practically perked up when I heard that. “Freebies?” Surely, the system doesn’t just give you things for free. I had been here long enough to know that.
“Huh? Oh, right, you’re still mostly new. Once you buy the exact same system or blueprint on a second world, the price is cut down to only a third of normal. After you get it on ten worlds, the system or blueprint is ‘saved’ to your account, and you can apply it for free to new worlds beyond that. But at the same time, you become unable to get any points back by refunding those systems. We reuse a lot of content, so spending three thousand points is actually quite a lot for a first ranked project here.”
Ahh, so I just haven’t gotten that far, yet. I nodded my head, glancing back towards the screen. The two girls were being led towards a large building with a symbol of two crossed wands above the door.
“Actually, selling these game worlds earns us a ton of points from those really big Keepers. Seraphine usually ends up buying whatever we put on the market to give to her worlds. We usually don’t make enough back to cover what we spent on them, but…” She shrugged her shoulders.
It was Sammy that spoke up next. “But it’s fun to make these kinds of worlds! And they give us another way to interact with out inhabitants! In every world, the Everlasting Bonds game company stands at the top.”
“That’s right.” Sarah had a content smile on her face as she agreed. “Those worlds that we cultivate proper life on, we will never sell. And, if a game has its NPCs or monsters gain true sentience, they will be moved to a more suitable world for them. Sammy here was actually one of my first attempts at creating an NPC in my first game world. He just evolved too quickly, and I couldn’t watch him die like that.”
I nodded again, looking back to the screen. “You had said that you wanted to show me a higher ranked world, right?”
“Huh? Right! Kliff, could you pull up Lyra on the main screen. Full galactic view, please.” Another of the human-looking companions nodded, and a large red galaxy appeared. “Now, overlay a territory map. Let’s start with just human-explored.”
Nearly eighty percent of the galaxy shifted from red to white, slowly blinking as Sarah turned to face me. “I’m at the point where growing power starts to matter less and less. I’ve got the quality. I have mortals that can train to be deific. So now it’s a matter of quantity. Fourth ranked Keepers aren’t that much scarier than third because they have mortal gods. Hell, even a second ranked Keeper can have those, depending on their path.”
“I’m scary because I have billions of mortal gods.” She gave a light laugh when she said that. “Okay, maybe not billions, but I could! I know it’s in the high millions, at least. But it’s just a number for me, now.”
“To me, the joy of being a Keeper doesn’t come from cultivating Lyra anymore, even though it is my primary world. It comes from interacting with its people. Releasing new games, and watching everyone enjoy them. I don’t care about increasing my rank anymore. To me, it’s way more fun to go back to those early days, to load up a level one character on a game server and meet some new friends.”
I looked from her to that map, thinking about those words. If the power curve was really that high, I had to wonder what a seventh rank Keeper was even like. Sarah already had more mortal ‘gods’ than she cared to count, and she was only at the fourth rank.
“I do have one more question.” I glanced back towards Sarah, who looked at me curiously. “When you connect one of the games to a tech world, aren’t there people that try to take apart the code? Even if it’s just to create mods or something. How would that work, since it’s actually a world purchased by the Keeper?”
“Ooh, a good question!” Sammy spoke up from his seat in front of me, turning around to fully face me. “You’re right, modders come out of the woodwork every time a game is released. It’s a pain hiding the codex for the fairies in fragments throughout the system so that they can’t just piece it all together. But the way the system handles a world when it is converted into a game is really simple.”
“The system itself creates the code for the game world, based on the ‘features’ we put in it. If you have real races, that means billions of sentient AI, and a buttload more processing power and complex code. But, something like Twilight there that your friends are enjoying, and it’s a lot more simple. Twilight’s aimed at being ‘hardware friendly’, without being so simple that people get bored of it. It’s a delicate balance.”
I gave a small nod at that. There were a lot of uses for game worlds like this, with entertainment definitely being one of the big ones. If I could get a god or goddess interested in doing things like Sammy did, I might be able to get them to create worlds more fit for honing a person’s technical skills. Things that would normally be more dangerous to do in real life, but they could practice without harm in the game in order to improve themselves.