Chapter 1 – Side Purchase
Arwyn walked into the electronics store, telling herself, I'm just going to buy a new laptop. Her old one was old, and had finally broken down. She had done her research online, and knew exactly which one she wanted. A quick word to a saleslady, and she had a box with the laptop in hand within a few minutes. Business done, she could not resist drifting over to the video game section.
The first thing she saw was a huge sign proclaiming “Fantasia: Fantasy Life” in glittering, fancy lettering. Underneath the words was a video screen showing an attractive blonde girl lying down wearing a sensor-helmet, which faded into the image of the girl, now a powerful cleric, blasting undead monsters with holy light.
A new virtual reality game! Fantasy-themed this time. Arwyn had always loved fantasy and video games as a child, a passion she had not outgrown in her teen and now young adult years. (She was still really a child on the inside.) She had tried other virtual reality games, but as they had been based on real life, or been some first-person shooter, she had quickly lost interest. She looked at the ridiculous price for the game and sensor set, and tried to convince herself not to buy it. Okay, this price tag is ridiculous. You should never buy electronics when they first come out; the prices always drop so much after the first few weeks. Anyways, it's tax season; I'm totally swamped at work, and I obviously don't have time to play.
Smaller writing on the sign caught her eye: “Play in your Sleep!” Oh my. Unable to resist, she quickly did the calculations in her head. Having known from a young age that she was very reluctant to spend money, she set aside a small fraction of her income that she labelled 'guilt-free spending.' If she spent every cent in that fund, plus most of what she would have put in this month, she could afford it.
The employee she asked for help this time was much friendlier. Probably thinking about the huge commission he's about to earn. She ended up buying the reclining chair that went with the helmet as well. The employee went as far as to help her carry her purchases to her car. Wow. Just how much am I earning this guy? Driving home, she felt a growing sense of excitement. This is going to be fun!
It took two trips to lug everything into her house, one for the recliner and one for everything else. First things first, she thought. Feeling virtuous, Arwyn opened her new laptop, and, placing it on the coffee table in the living room, started setting up a user account and installing the programs she would need for work. While she waited for the programs to load, she read the instruction manual for Fantasia:
Welcome to Fantasia! You're about to enter a world full of magic and excitement. Become a warrior or a mage, an elf or a beastman. Whether you want to reign as lord of a city or become the most famed craftsman on the continent, it can all happen here. Fantasia's revolutionary gameplay allows you 99% realism and the ability to play in your sleep. Your adventure awaits!
Wow. I can really play eight hours a night without taking a second away from anything else. Is this really possible?
Arwyn flipped the page to the setup section:
Fantasia consoles require virtually no setup. Simply unfold the legs of the recliner and attach the helmet to an Internet connection and power source, and you're ready to play!
Well, that seems easy. Arwyn cut the tape on the boxes and pulled out the recliner. It was matte black with three pairs of shiny chrome legs, each pair connected in a U shape. The legs were hinged and snapped into place easily. Hmm. Where do I put this? Either in my room or the games room, I guess. Since her bedroom held a queen-sized bed and had not much room for anything else, the games room it was. Snapping the legs back in, Arwyn dragged the recliner to the next room over. It was supposed to be the dining room, but she could never understand why one would have a table for breakfast in the kitchen and a separate table for dinner. Thus, she had converted it to a games room (she had her priorities straight). It held nothing but a TV, a couch, and shelves for her large collections of games and books. She set the recliner up in an unused corner and went back for the helmet. It followed the same black-and-silver theme as the chair. At first, Arwyn was alarmed at the number of wires attached at various places on the helmet, but was reassured when she saw that they all merged into one Internet cable. Back in the games room, she plugged it in. Resisting the temptation to jump into the game, she looked at the clock: 7:00pm. Okay, dinner, set up the laptop, finish reading the manual, get ready for bed, and then I can play. Going into the kitchen, she heated up some leftovers from the night before and ate them. Starting the file transfer from her old laptop to her new one, an instant message popped onto the screen:
Leah-IfIHadAMillionDollars... - Hey, Ari, what's up? How was the laptop buying?
ArwynTheElf – Well, I kind of made a side purchase...
Leah-IfIHadAMillionDollars... - Really? What?
ArwynTheElf – It's called Fantasia.
Leah-IfIHadAMillionDollars... - *squeal* Oh my god, it's out?? I've wanted to get it ever since I saw it on VirtualRealities.com! I'm going to go get it right now, and we can play together tonight! See you in Fantasia!
Leah-IfIHadAMillionDollars... is offline.
Arwyn sighed at her friend's exuberance. If Leah did not make such a huge amount of money as a PR representative, she would worry about her friend's finances. As it was, Arwyn was glad she had set up a bank account that automatically saved a certain sum of money every month on Leah's behalf. She turned her attention back to her file transfer: Loading... 1% complete. This is going to take all night.
Glad to have an excuse to not work, she picked up the Fantasia manual:
When you first log onto Fantasia, a biometric reading will be done of your body. Your character's appearance will be based on your own appearance, with modifications depending on the race you choose and a limited range of options. Appearance modules can be bought on the VirtualRealities website to further alter your appearance.
This I have to see, thought Arwyn, bringing up the VirtualRealities website on her laptop. Choosing Fantasia from the many games on the website, she found the items you could purchase with real money. Ignoring the legendary weapons and armour, she found the appearance modules:
Beauty – increase your overall attractiveness by 1
Hair colour – expand the allowable hair colour range by 30
Eye colour – expand the allowable eye colour range by 30
Skin colour – expand the allowable skin colour range by 30
Height – change height by up to 5cm
Proportions – change body measurements by up to 5cm in total
Age – change apparent age by up to 10 years
*Special modifications can by requested by emailing VirtualRealities. Prices will vary depending on request.
Each of the regular modules cost ten dollars. Wow. Just cheap enough that I'm tempted, and just expensive enough that you pay through the nose if you want to dramatically alter your appearance. Meh, I'll create my character before deciding whether I need any of these. She went back to reading the manual:
Choosing a Race
There are many races and sub-races to choose from in Fantasia. Choose carefully, as to change race after starting the game, you must delete your character and start back at level 1 for all skills.
Human – the most versatile of the races, humans are a balance between all attributes. The youngest and most populous of the races.
- no sub-races available
Heh, of course there are no sub-races; that would be like printing 'SUE ME' in bold across the front of the game. Making generalizations about race... Bad idea.
Elf – Elves are magical creatures at home in nature. They are naturally faster and more dexterous than humans, as well as having more affinity with magic, at the cost of brute strength.
Arwyn already knew that she would choose to be an elf, having been fascinated with them ever since she could read.
Dark elves – distant cousins of surface elves, dark elves moved underground millennia ago and have developed the ability to see in pitch blackness with infrared vision. Their eyes are so sensitive to light that their sight must be shielded at all times above ground.
Sun elves – originally from desert areas, sun elves are a race of extremes, from vivid coloring to highly specialized talents. There are no shades of grey amongst these people.
Moon elves – The original race of elves from which the other sub-races evolved, moon elves are at home in the forest, always in harmony with the trees and especially the Mana Tree that is their main source of magic.
Avariels – Upon attaining level 50, all elves (regardless of sub-race) may embark on a quest for the Mana Tree, and upon completion, be granted a set of wings to soar in the sky.
Eee! Wings! I'm not stopping until I hit level 50 and finish that quest!
Impatient to start playing, Arwyn just skimmed the rest of the races: dwarves, goblins, beast-kin, celestials, dragonkin, elementals, undead, and merfolk. The manual also said that new races would soon be added, but Arwyn doubted that she would come across something more appealing than a winged elf.
Ever felt frustrated at having to keep and train separate characters to play different classes? Fantasia is the game for you! Learn all the skills and abilities you want, as long as you can find the NPC or manual with the knowledge. Some skills can even be taught from player to player. It is recommended that low-level players focus on one or two classes in order to gain combat levels quickly, as each class's skills must be learned separately, from the beginner level. Only one character can be created per player.
The four main classes were warrior, mage, archer, and rogue, each with countless sub-classes and skill sets. After some deliberation, Arwyn decided to first focus on becoming a warrior wielding dual blades, like her favourite elven character, Drizzt Do'Urden[i]. I really hope I can actually coordinate two swords; it would be painful (and pathetic) if I ended up cutting my own hand off.
If fighting does not appeal to you, there is still much to do and explore in the world of Fantasia! In addition to the various combat skills and abilities, there are many non-combat skill sets to master, including several crafting skills, enchanting, art, cooking, and trading. Unlike in other games, the items you create are only limited by your skill level and imagination. Make highly customized items that are absolutely unique!
Cool. I'll definitely try that.
The rest of the manual was about advanced gameplay and standard navigation common to all games of this type, so Arwyn decided to jump into the game without reading further. Getting ready for bed, she lay down on the recliner in her pyjamas. Wow. This is actually really comfortable. Putting the sensor-helmet on, she set the time when she wanted to wake up, and then turned on the game.
[i] Drizzt Do’Urden, dark elf from the series Legend of Drizzt by R. A. Salvatore