A gently lit lobby loaded almost instantly as shifted from the education program to the entertainment setup. He looked down at his new avatar, it was a simple blue humanoid form, but he could see that it was already more detailed than his student incarnation. His arm was jointed and his fingers were fully articulated even in this basic form. He had grown accustomed to ignoring the muddled details of his avatar, it didn’t impact his studies so why should he care if his hand looked like a slice of bread?
Eight viewing screens hung in the air in front of him and off to their side stood another blue humanoid. The name ‘Quinn’ stretched across the humanoids chest. It waved, Andrew returned the gesture.
“I’ll walk you through this part, it can get a little dicey if you don’t know what you’re doing.” Quinn walked over to where Andrew stood and pointed at the monitors. “These are your selections. The top four are the general genres that you can choose from: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Historical, and Social. Each one comes with a few options, but we won’t worry about that right now. The bottom row are for licensed material. Unless you’ve got some money to drop, stay away from those. They’ve got weekly subscription charges, microtransactions, and this thing is linked directly to your bank account.”
“Don’t worry.” Quinn laughed. “We’re sticking to the top row. They’re a bit generic at times, but you earn free time when you do your coursework. So,” the blue form shrugged. “Now when you make your selection, you get two options: Open or closed. Open means that you start in the world of your choosing, but you’re part of a bigger universe linked to the others realms. You can start out in a cyberpunk dystopia and then hope a drop ship to Ancient Rome to fight off the barbarian hordes. Closed, means you stick to your genre.”
“What’s your poison?”
“I’m kind of partial to Fantasy.” Andrew pointed at the screen, it floated forward and a menu appeared as it moved closer.
“Urban, Classic, or Cyber?” Quinn read off the listings.
“I get Classic, but what are the other two?” He put his hand down, just in case he tapped something he wasn’t supposed to.
“Urban,” Quinn used finger-quotes. “Is what they label fantasy set in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. It’s like fantasy, but set in cities. It was really big for a time. ‘Cyber’ is the what future that people thought would be like, but also with Elves and magic and stuff.”
“I think I’ll stick to classic.” He tapped the selection on the screen. “Now what?”
“Now,” Quinn clapped. “I’ll create a character, since we’re linked for this session I’ll pop up once you’re done with the tutorial.”
Andrews virtual finger hovered over the ‘start’ button.
“One more thing,” Quinn stepped closer. “You can see my name, I can see yours, but in the game we go by our character names. Got it?”
“Yeah.” He said the word slowly. “Anything else?”
“Nope.” Quinn stepped back and vanished.
“Alright then.” He pressed the start button.
LOADING . . .
The soft white lobby was replaced by a field of vibrant grass that stretched to the horizon. In front of him stood three forms, not unlike the trio he had to choose from for his student avatar, in the form of a male, female, and unisex selection. Unlike the selections for the educational program, these were fully realized. They breathed, blinked, and even shifted their weight as they stood there. The only thing that was slightly off was their blank expressions. Beside the trio stood an heavily armored woman with long pointy ears and glowing blue eyes. The simulated sunlight glinted off the sharp edge of her shoulder pauldrons.
“Greetings traveler.” Her voices had a smooth tone with just a hint of hardness. “Please make your selection.”
Andrew selected the male. The trio were replaced by a circle of about twelve male creatures ranging from a human and elf to a huge lizardlike creature with horn ridges along its brow. Andrew flipped through the selections with a simple movement of his wrist. He paused at the elf, the avatar stepped forward and two variants took their place on either side. One was tall, statuesque with modest pointed ears, and had hair so white that it was nearly luminescent. Andrew pushed that one back, leaving the two other options still available. The remaining duo were slightly more approachable, the main difference being their height and ear length. The taller selection had ears nearly as long as his forearm, while the shorter had a normal sized ears that came to a point.
He touched the shorter of the two on the chest. The selections blinked out of existence. Andrew looked down at his arm to see a slender limb, he wiggled his new virtual fingers, and examined his hand that actually looked like a hand.
“Are you happy with your selection?”
Andrew looked over at the tall elf, she towered over him now. He had adjusted to the new height without even realizing it. After a moment he nodded.
Please name your character.
“Uh.” Andrew shrugged. “Suggestions?”
“Elvish name suggestions.” The guide nodded. “Maedhros, Eol, Ingwe. Would you like me to continue?”
“Laenil, Valandril, Neudran. Would you like me to continue?”
“No.” Andrew held up a hand. “Valandril. I like that one.”
“Step forward Valandril.” Her armor creaked as the tall elf bowed. She stepped out of the way to reveal four pedestals with weapons displayed upon them. “Choose your weapon.”
He looked at the options: A large sword easily as tall as he was, a sword and shield combo, a bow paired with a dagger, and gnarled staff with a glowing green crystal at the top. All four of the weapons were a bit worse for wear, but then this was the starting gear. After a moment of thought he picked up the sword and shield.
“A fine choice.” The elf took another step out of the way to reveal a training dummy. “Please take a moment to practice.”
He slid the shield onto his left arm and picked the sword up with his right. He took a couple of practice swings before he stepped toward the dummy. The gear was a good solid weight in his hands.