The first test turned out to be a lengthy standardized test. A college admission exam on steroids.
Ten hours ago Alan had found himself in a white space surrounding him as far as he could see, cut off from Eve. It was a bit disorienting. Before him stood a female android or cyborg or something, the only other thing within this world. She, and it was definitely a she based upon certain parts that were emphasized, had metallic plates for skin, black wires connecting its parts, and small cameras with blue lenses for eyes.
She had handed him a questionnaire, asked him to fill it out. A non-descript white desk and chair appeared in front of him, along with a pen. Sitting down, Alan looked at the questionnaire, and filled it out. It seemed rather trivial at the time.
Name, birth date, sex, gender, favorite hobbies, education, etc. Once that was finished however, the tests began.
Math, Science, History, Writing, Programming, Pop Culture, it seemed like every single piece of knowledge that he had ever learned was going to be pried out of him. He was tested on foreign languages, guessing at what words he’d never heard of meant, not recognizing half the languages presented. He was forced to make lists of everything, from programming languages to Pokémon to US presidents.
The questions were multiple choice, short answer and long answer. He wrote essays, he wrote poems, he performed calculations, he drew freaking stick figure portraits when he was asked to draw famous figures.
As soon as he finished a page, it disappeared, and a new one appeared. Somehow the Game always knew when he was done with a page, and kept pages if he wanted to use them as reference. After the first three hours, when his hands began to tire after writing so much, a sleek laptop appeared on the desk.
Concentrating, the laptop shifted and became similar to the desktop setup he was used to back at home. Then the testing resumed. As each subject was introduced and he answered the questions they either grew harder or easier, developing as he went along. Once it seemed like he no longer had any idea what was going on, the next subject would start.
There were portions of the test that taught him new concepts, about various branches of math and science he’d never heard of before, then tested him on what he learned.
Every so often, Alan’s attention began to stray, but then suddenly he’d find himself looking directly at the screen before him, and a message would pop up:
[Please complete the test.]
This reminded him that this was part of the tutorial, thus he should concentrate and do his best, but it was just so mind numbingly boring.
A few hours later, the next subject arose, AI development, and Alan developed an AI as best he could. It would probably do a lot better at this test than he would. He wondered why Eve wasn’t allowed to be used, it’s not like she’d ever be separated from him. Shaking his head, he got back to work, he was probably being timed as well.
Yawning, Alan looked at the time. It was nearly 7 a.m., which explained how tired he was. Still, he was somewhat used to late nights, and was already on a sort of nocturnal schedule. He’d gone asleep at 3 a.m. the night before, far too excited about the game.
While he’d been taking the test the Game had provided him with a bathroom, as well as colored blocks of food to eat and water to drink, but he felt like asking for a bed to sleep in was stretching it a bit too far.
He also wasn’t quite sure how eating, drinking and what not worked if he was in a virtual world inside a virtual world, but didn’t question it. Instead he asked for a cup of coffee, got it, then resumed the test. He hoped the end was in sight.
Three hours later, Alan finished the final question about alien politics, that is to say, he answered every question with “I don’t know,” and a message popped up:
[Please wait while your test is analyzed.]
Sighing, Alan sat back, and a white bed appeared. Not questioning it, Alan climbed in, and fell asleep.
When Alan awoke he found himself in the same white space he began in, although it now had a desk and computer similar to his own, along with a table to eat at, a toilet and bed. Glancing at the clock in the top right hand corner of his vision it was 3 p.m. The female robot remained standing, motionless, in the same spot where it began.
Yawning, Alan got up, walking up to the android to inspect it.
A message has popped up:
[Results gathered. Ready for introduction to the Game?]
Yes, thought Alan.
The android turned to look at him.
Welcome, traveler, to the Game! I am an Administrator, at your service. This introduction has been designed based upon your answers to the test and actions thus far.
Used to Eve speaking within his mind Alan wasn’t too surprised this administrator did so as well. He sat down at the desk. This would probably take a while.
As you know, the Game was created to replicate the real universe. In many ways however, it differs greatly from reality. It would best be likened to a virtual reality MMORPG, where the entire universe was copied and put into the game, many years ago. Since then however, the Game has taken a very divergent path from reality. For one thing, the resources within the Game are virtually infinite, as creatures, materials and entire worlds spawn at various rates, unending in number.
Currently, you are in a capsule within the Game, a virtual space within this virtual space. Where you currently are is known as your Home Base. Any capsule you enter within the Game will first return you to this Home Base, the space you see now.
The Administrator gestured about, pointing at the few pieces of furniture that had appeared when Alan had expressed his desire for them.
Uh, can I rename my Home Base?
Certainly, your Home Base may be customized as you desire, however apart from basic amenities, additional environments and furniture will cost additional credits.
Uh, great rename it to um, uh… Damn, can’t think of any cool names… just call it Home.
Very well. Additionally, death within the game is never the end. Instead, you will be respawned within a capsule, wherever you set your last spawn point, minus a number of credits, and various other penalties depending on the circumstances of your death. Please set this capsule on board the Titan ship as your spawn point now. Simply do so by expressing your desire to set this capsule as your spawn point. Any capsule may be set as your spawn point once you are here at Home.
Alan started to think his affirmation, Um, I want this capsule-, wait hmmm if I keep respawning here, couldn’t the Haxlards keep me here indefinitely, trapping me on their ship? Eh, well, then the others would be trapped here as well… Oh well, I guess I’ll trust Pharaoh. I want this capsule set as my spawn point.
Spawn point confirmed. Upon death in the Game you will now respawn aboard the Titan in the Capsule Room. Now, in addition to where you set your spawn point, your Home is also where you may spend ability points. Please note that you are also able to set spawn points and spend ability points while in a medic bay, or at various other places within the Game. However, the Home is typically considered by most players the most convenient place to perform either task.
You are awarded with 5 ability points for every level you gain. These ability points are able to be spent to develop abilities and increase attributes. The primary attributes are strength, agility, perception, endurance, intelligence, willpower, luck and charisma.
While certain primary attributes are fairly straightforward, for instance leveling up strength will increase your physical strength, others are not. Increasing your intelligence may improve your ability to remember things, or it may improve how quickly you are able to think, or it may do something else entirely.
It should be noted the names for these attributes are imprecise translations into your language, English. However, the result based upon which attribute you wish to invest in will be the same as far as you are concerned.
What? Alan asked. The Administrator simply ignored him and continued on.
Experience and attribute increases will now be awarded. From this point forward, experience, attributes and abilities will be granted based upon your actions.
A slew of messages popped up.
Alan wasn’t quite sure why he was being awarded various bonuses, but he was fairly sure alerting people to the bomb, getting aboard the Titan and the test he took had something to do with it all.
I wonder what level I am now…
You are now level 12. Eve answered.
Oh, so you’re back. Alan could somehow tell the difference between Eve and the Administrator speaking to him in his mind. Eve somehow sounded easy going, expressing various emotional inflections in her thoughts while the Administrator was completely monotone.
Add my level to my display in the top left. Alan had set it so that he would see his stamina and health if he started thinking about his display, which faded in and out based upon his thoughts. He didn’t want some screen no one else could see blocking his vision, after all.
Please spend your ability points now. The Administrator added.
A new menu appeared before Alan, displaying hundreds of pages of various abilities available for purchase. Under a separate tab were his attributes, and the points he could devote to them.
Alan began by browsing the various abilities, which seemed to include every talent, skill and bonus he’d ever heard of. He decided to sort the list by popularity, only including the abilities he could currently purchase, as the majority of them either cost too many points or had various prerequisites, some hidden, that he didn’t fulfill.
There were generic superhero abilities like flight, super strength and super hearing, each costing around 50 ability points. There were skills such as increasing his expertise at wielding a blade or gun, with sub-categories for specializing in various types of weapons.
Becoming a decent sniper would only cost him 25 ability points, although he didn’t know where he’d get a sniper rifle. He also wondered if the Game would just implant the information into his brain or somehow train him. The list continued to abilities that would influence not his physical body but the rewards he’d receive, increasing quest rewards, the chance he’d find items, his status with various factions.
A few especially caught his notice. Gifted, Skilled and Talented. They each cost 50 ability points. Gifted gave an additional ability point to spend on attributes every five levels, Skilled did the same but the ability point needed to be spent on abilities, while Talented, which had Skilled and Gifted as a prerequisite, simply said that it gave you talent in an area that suited you, and cost 100 ability points.
Of course, since he would reach level 260 before either Skilled or Gifted paid themselves back, their usefulness would depend upon the level cap of the game.
Alan turned to the Administrator. What’s the level cap of the Game?
There is no level cap.
What is the highest level player at the moment?
That information is classified.
What is the average and median level at the moment? Alan asked, determined to get an answer out of the Administrator.
The average and median level of players who have chosen not to hide their levels is approximately 3460 and 1337, respectively.
Um okay, hide my level. What’s the highest level of a human who chose not to hide their level? Alan thought it would be better to be safe than sorry. Who knew if people targeted lower level players.
The cost to hide your level is 500 credits which you do not have. The highest level human from Earth is currently 2045.
Oh, great. Why did you specify human from Earth?
There are multiple species that share enough similarity with humans from Earth they too could be specified as humans. Please spend your ability points now.
A timer appeared in front of Alan, 10 minutes counting down, while he tried to process the information he was given.
Alright, so if I assume higher level players hide their level, the max level and average level is probably higher, thus making Gifted and Skilled amazing abilities. At the same time though, this next part of the tutorial will probably require me to use my abilities, so if I want to do better I would be better off getting other abilities…
Eve, do you think it would be a wise decision to purchase Gifted or Skilled?
Alan scrolled down on the menu and purchased Skilled, as the points accrued could then be spent on purchasing Gifted.
He used his remaining 10 points to purchase a basic Sneak skill, figuring he’d probably be better off sneaking around as a scout rather than directly fighting people, as he had little to no actual combat experience. He’d leave actual fighting to others, or kill off enemies before they detected him, hopefully.
The sneak skill appeared on his character sheet, with a rank of G. Skilled didn’t have a rank.
The Administrator brought another menu up in front of him.
Another way to increase your abilities, apart from spending ability points, is by installing implants. There are two categories of implants, biological and mechanical. Biological implants as their name imply change you biologically, such as giving you the strength of a Predecessor by infusing your DNA with theirs. Mechanical implants instead make the use of technology to improve your abilities, for instance increasing your strength by enhancing your muscles with metal.
Please note that along with the benefits provided, most implants also have drawbacks. The Predecessor DNA may increase your strength, but it also might leave you vulnerable to Predecessor diseases you would otherwise avoid. Mechanical muscles may be effected by EMP shockwaves or need to be tuned on a regular basis.
As a human, you are limited to one biological and one mechanical implant for each power of 10 levels you have. At level 1, you may have one of each, at level 10, you may have two of each, and so forth. For a significant cost, you may have implants added and removed. Please review your implants now.
Alan looked at the menu. It displayed a blue outline of a human body, along with two implants that had apparently been implanted already. The first implant was labeled mechanical with a rank of C, named Computer-Human Enhanced Interface, which according to the tooltip enhanced the ability to communicate with AI, explaining how he was talking to Eve. When selected, the brain of the blue outline was highlighted.
The second was biological, a General Status Enhancer, giving all of his attributes +20, explaining why he felt stronger, faster and smarter in the Game. It seemed to encompass his entire body. Where these implants came from however, he wasn’t sure.
When did I get these implants? From where?
When you initially entered the Game. They were approved by your AI, a benefit of entering the Game with a rank B capsule. The Administrator replied.
Wait, Eve, you accepted these for me?
Affirmative. This was before you set up permissions. I chose these implants as I felt they would benefit you the most.
Okay, they have helped, just, please follow the permissions I set up earlier. Ask me before you make any decision that would influence the Game in any matter, unless it’s a dire situation that doesn’t give you enough time to consult me.
Well, that answered the question of where the time went when Alan had first entered the Game. Eve had decided without him to have these implants installed.
Oh well, he probably would have agonized over the choice and never have picked the Computer-Human Computing Interface, anyways. Alan briefly browsed the other choices, which now cost thousands of credits, various materials and even ability points.
The implants generally granted the same things the various abilities he could have purchased gave. Increased strength, enhanced senses, flight. Interestingly, it looked like he could become a cyborg of some sort, which allowed for increased mechanical implants, but fewer biological ones. It also made him more susceptible to anti-machine weapons, though, and Alan wasn’t sure how much he liked the idea of becoming half-machine. He already had an AI practically living in his brain, after all.
Like the list of abilities, the list of implants was pretty much endless. After looking at about 20 pages of the most popular implants, Alan got bored, and looked over at the Administrator.
I am done reviewing my implants. Boy, that sounded a bit strange, good thing I’m the only person hearing what I’m thinking.
Another important action you may perform in your Home is teleportation, with a fee depending on how far you wish to be transported. Teleportation is generally only feasible within approximately 10 light years and is disabled on ships. For the sake of the Tutorial however, teleportation has been temporarily activated. Note that teleportation is generally not instantaneous.
Please teleport to the Tutorial destination, where your next test will begin.
A third menu opened up in front of Alan, this time a list of a single place to teleport to, titled Tutorial destination, with a fee of 0 credits, and a question mark for the picture.
Teleport me to the Tutorial destination, Alan thought, and off he went.