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Virtualization - 7. A Stands for Amilyfay

Brandon steps forward into the Goblin’s way, crowding it with his barrier bubble. While the bubble’s size means more things can attack him, he quickly realized that they can’t enter the area, giving him an immense amount of control over where the enemies can go. The Goblin attacks him, but immediately regrets it as the damage reflected off the barrier deals the final blow and it disappears.

Wake grimaces and plants a large hand on Brandon’s shoulder, “You’re a natural.”

Brandon looks down sheepishly, “I’m not that great.”

Ardine shakes her head, “I have to agree with Wake. It takes most people a long time to realize that the barriers can also work as walls to block off enemies. You also have a good instinct for when it’s appropriate for you to take the brunt of an assault versus when the number of enemies that could attack your bubble is too large for you to handle.”

“I think you’ve found your calling.” Asa says.

Brandon grins, “In that case, should we go find more mobs?”

“I think I should heal you first.” Wake casts a few spells on him.

“I’ll scout while you do that.” Asa says and then walks off.

Asa returns a moment later. “I found another few Goblins a little ways from here.”

Brandon thinks for a moment, “Before we go, I noticed you haven’t been attacking very often.”

Asa nods, “It’s good you noticed that.”

Brandon raises an eyebrow, “Aren’t we supposed to be practicing our teamwork?”

Asa smiles, “It’s true, and I admit I am holding back to give you and Wake more time. See, the enemies here are weak enough that if Ardine and I went all out, you wouldn’t get a chance to practice your jobs. But there is another reason why I’m staying back.”

“Why?” Brandon asks.

Ardine responds, “Because Asa is what we call an opportunist spike DPSer. His setup is designed not to deal a constant stream of damage, but rather to set up a situation where he deals a large amount of damage in a single opportune strike.”

“So he’s waiting for an opening?” Brandon asks.

Ardine shakes her head, “It’s a bit more complicated than that. You see, his attack is going to deal so much damage in most cases that it’ll draw his target’s attention to him instantly. Even if you had an aggro draw spell on him, it would likely overflow the effect and he still might end up with the most aggro. So the opportunity to strike isn’t simply when the enemy turns their back. How much aggro people have, the positions of the enemies, and whether he can land a killing blow or not are all factors.”

“I think those Goblins can wait. As a tank, Brandon should know the DPS theorycraft.” Wake says.

Ardine nods, “I agree. However, the post combat lull is almost over.”

Wake sneers, “That’s no problem.” He then casts Sanctuary and the group sees a flash of light before they find themselves surrounded by a circular fence with an unlit fire pit surrounded by log like seats and a large tent.

Asa walks over to the fence, “Wow! The instance created by Sanctuary integrates the surrounding topography now!”

“This is quite immersive.” Ardine opens the tent flap and then laughs, “The inside of the tent is almost the same size as the whole fenced area outside.”

Wake snickers, “The first time I cast this spell, I just stared in awe. You know, the spell’s effect lasts indefinitely now.”

Ardine smiles, “That’s interesting. So it lasts until you end it?”

“There is a leave sanctuary option in the menu now.” Brandon says.

“That’s good.” Ardine says.

Brandon raises an eyebrow, “There’s also an invite button. So we can invite more players here if we want.” He them taps a few things and grins, “According to the help menu, you can customize your Sanctuary similar to how you customize your room. Also, the spell is free if you are within an existing safe zone.”

Ardine nods, “So, the Sanctuary spell now essentially creates an outdoor room. That’s interesting.”

Asa moves to sit down on one of the logs, “I should get this spell. It seems really useful.” He looks around, “We could hang out here for a while, but would you guys rather talk to Brandon and get back to practicing?”

Wake sits down next to him, “I’m okay either way.”

Ardine nods and sits down opposite Asa, “I think the latter would probably be better. We can always summon the sanctuary again if we want to explore it more, and we do need to have this discussion.”

Brandon sits next to Ardine, “I’m really curious what you guys mean.”

Asa nods, “Well, to start, what do you know about DPS theorycraft?”

Brandon looks down sheepishly, “What’s theorycraft?”

Ardine puts an arm around Brandon’s shoulder, “Theorycraft is the technical or mathematical analysis of game mechanics. In this case, we speak more of technicals than math, since non statistical concerns have a heavy impact on the game.”

Asa nods, “The term is pretty broad and has expanded over time. At its core, it really just means analysis of how high end, generally hardcore, players use or abuse the various game mechanics.”

“I’d say the term isn’t that important.” Wake says.

Ardine nods, “It’s true, you’ll come to understand what theorycraft is as you go. In many ways it’s more an art than a science, despite the name, and you’ll get a lot of varied opinions on it.”

Asa turns to Wake, “You haven’t really thought a lot about this have you?”

Wake shakes his head, “Not really. I was primarily an RP player, so I only really thought about the theorycraft related to healing, since that’s what I did.”

Asa nods, “Okay then. I guess I’ll start.” He turns to Brandon, “Though technically there are six different general DPS types in this game, in practical terms there are essentially four. Ardine is an example of what is probably the most common DPS type: a front liner. Front liners are any DPS build who fights in close proximity to their targets. It’s common for front liners to have an off tank build, but there are plenty who don’t. What separates front liners from most other DPSers is they need a larger focus on survivability since they are innately in a place where they will take damage.”

Brandon nods, “Okay. So front liners. Pretty self explanatory so far.”

Asa nods, “Really, they all are fairly self explanatory.” Asa turns to Ardine, “Shall I continue?”

Ardine smiles, “By all means.”

Asa smiles back, “Okay. The second most common type are blasters. Blasters are simply the ranged equivalent to front liners. Blasters are capable of dealing damage faster than front liners in many cases, but they usually give up survivability in the process. Both front liners and blasters are DOT DPSers, in that they aim to deal a steady amount of damage over the course of an entire battle. In general, you want the majority of your DPS to be DOT rather than spike damage.”

“What’s spike damage?” Brandon asks.

Asa nods, “The term spike comes from graphing things. A sudden alteration in either direction in the data appears as a spike in the line. So a damage spike is simply when a large amount of damage is done at once, as oppose to spaced out.”

Brandon thinks for a moment, “Okay, and why would you want less of that?”

“Because it’s easier to manage aggro.” Asa responds.

Brandon nods, “Oh.”

“Anymore questions?” Asa asks. Brandon shakes his head, so Asa continues. “The next most common type is probably cannons. A cannon is oriented around using buffs and debuffs to set up single large explosions of damage. Cannons will often use elemental weaknesses to their advantage and typically have a large portion of their build devoted to what they are doing. There is a lot of overlap between cannons and blasters, and though you can only really specialize in one or the other, a lot of blasters off cannon and vice versa. While most cannons are ranged, hence the term, you can be a cannon that attacks in melee. You play it mostly the same way, you just close in to do your attacks.

“My build is an example of the last common type, the opportunist spike build. Opportunist builds are highly varied, but the goal of an opportunist is to generate high levels of damage while using less overall build space by utilizing the combat mechanics, like blindsiding or critical hits, leaving build space open for other things. For example, I have a number of support spells. The weakness of the build when compared to a cannon is that a cannon build doesn’t need to worry about the situation, since the build itself produces all the various damage modifiers.

“The last two builds that you rarely see are front line spike builds and opportunist DOT, mostly because, outside of a critical hit based opportunist build, they aren’t very practical.” Asa finishes.

“Hmm… I see how opportunist DOT doesn’t really make much sense. But… what’s wrong with a front line spike build?” Brandon asks.

Asa shrugs, “Nothing in theory. You could quantify my build, or any melee cannon build, as a front line spike build since I attack in melee, but to be a front liner you have to stay on the front lines, and if you aren’t hurting the enemies then they won’t stay near you. But the bigger issue is simply: what are you doing in the mean time?”

Brandon thinks for a moment, “Couldn’t you do support stuff? Or off tank?”

Asa thinks for a moment, “Non opportunist spike builds usually require a large orb investment. And a DPS off tank generally just wants to split their DPS with their tankiness. Since DPS produces aggro, most off tank front liners just have a little less damage in exchange for more survivability. You could do support stuff, I suppose, but most support stuff doesn’t require you to be near the enemies, so unless you are doing something odd like a caster off tank that generates aggro by casting within a target’s weapon range, you really gain very little by being near the enemies.”

“May I cut in?” Ardine asks.

“Thank you.” Asa responds.

“Well, simply put, the only reason to be near an enemy is to control what they can do. Either to prevent it from reaching people behind you or to prevent it from escaping. If you aren’t doing one of those two things, then it’s generally better to be a safe distance away.” Ardine shrugs, “People try to do anything of course, but really, like most opportunist DOT builds, front line spike builds just don’t function. If you don’t do anything, enemies won’t stay near you, and most things that aren’t attacking or tanking leave you too vulnerable to retaliation.”

Brandon nods, “That makes sense.”

“So, while I’m primarily a spike DPS build, I actually spend most of my time in battle off DOTing, healing or supporting,” Asa says.

Brandon grins, “And watching the enemy positions and life gauges.”

Asa grins back, “Yep.”

“I’d like to input something,” Wake says.

Asa turns to him, “You don’t have to ask for permission every time you speak.”

Wake looks down sheepishly, “Ardine did… I just...”

Ardine smiles, “He’s not saying you should just interrupt people willy nilly, but you don’t have to ask to speak every single time you interject.”

Wake smirks, “Okay.” He takes a breath, “Brandon, you should be watching life gauges too. The job of a tank is to mitigate the damage a party takes. But don’t forget that your allies have HP too. You shouldn’t try to take all the damage for the entire group. The group sum of HP is more than yours. As long as no one’s HP is reduced to zero, you’ve done your job.”

Asa nods, “That’s a very good point. Fortunately, that’s something the lightning build is especially good at. Not only are the shields AOE, making it easier to manage who takes damage, especially from enemy AOEs, but the aggro siphoning and giving spells can be used in combination to transfer aggro from one ally to another. For example, if Ardine is in front of the enemy and I am about to break a threshold, you could transfer my aggro to Ardine. Chances are my spike damage would overload the spell, but with the aggro she already has, splitting the aggro between us would likely split the party aggro enough that someone else, especially you if beacon is off cooldown, could steal it away from me.”

Brandon thinks for a moment, “So… why don’t you have more survivability in your build then?”

Asa nods, “In the past, it would have been mostly wasted orbs. But now, I probably will sacrifice some support for some survivability. But I actually don’t want any aggro at all if I can help it. It’s not just a matter of survivability. It’s much harder to blindside an enemy that’s paying attention to you, so except for right after a large spike, my survivability usually isn’t helping the party any.”

Brandon tilts his head to the side, “But don’t you use flash steps?”

Asa nods, “Yes, which is why I can afford to off DOT on single enemies, like bosses, a bit more than other similar builds. But flash steps tend to have high cooldowns, so being able to function without them them is important for dungeons, large groups of enemies, or bosses with large numbers of threshold locks.”

Ardine nods, “I think our team is going to have little trouble managing aggro.” She turns to Wake, “It did occur to me though that you should probably get the aggro transferring spells. With both of you transferring aggro from Asa, he should be able to spike with relative frequency, and I’m fairly certain your build will already have the skill ranks for it.”

Wake nods, “I usually do that. Being able to make anyone off tank is really useful.”

“So, we’ve talked about channel and redirect aggression… but you mentioned Beacon. Is there anything I should know about it?” Brandon asks.

Ardine thinks for a moment, “Beacon is quite useful, but you won’t use it all the time. It generates huge amounts of aggro from every enemy in range, which can be problematic even if you have all the shields up. However, as Asa pointed out, our party has a particular use for it. If you time it right you should be able to use it to take heat from Asa. And Asa’s strike should be so powerful that even with Beacon you won’t take all the aggro in the area. Which you probably would do otherwise.”

“What about on bosses?” Brandon asks.

Ardine shrugs, “On a single enemy, Beacon is a powerful taunt, one of the strongest in the game, but it’s MP cost makes it impractical to spam and it still may generate too much aggro for you to deal with, especially if you already have aggro left over for some other reason.”

Brandon nods, “So it’s dangerous, but it could save us one day.”

Ardine nods, “That’s a good way to look at it.”

Brandon thinks for a moment, “So Wake. We should stick together like glue.”

Wake raises his eyebrow, “You mean so I’ll be in your shield?”

Brandon grins, “Whenever you need to be, but it’s way more than that. You can heal me whenever I need it and if enemies are attacking me, you can stand next to them and use melee casting to generate aggro right? If you need to take some heat off me then, you can just step out of the barrier and step back in when you are in danger.”

Ardine grins, “That’s remarkably well thought out! I actually don’t think I’ve heard that particular synergy between a lightning tank and a healer before.”

“I have.” Asa says, “Normally, it’s not as good as it seems, since it focuses attention on two mages. It’s also highly reliant on the shields remaining intact to function.” He thinks for a moment, “In our case it’s probably stronger than normal though. Between the aggro transferring spells and having two DPSers, we should be able to trade aggro around with relative ease, so it’s a way for Wake to generate aggro and utilize his HP total without putting himself in too much danger or stopping his primary duties.”

Ardine turns to Wake, “What do you think?”

Wake thinks, “As long as Brandon doesn’t make any sudden movements, I think it’s a good strategy.”

Asa nods, “It’s true. Wake would be putting himself at risk. If you move your shield moves with you.”

Brandon nods, “I know. But that just means we have to coordinate. It could be me moving Wake out of the shield to take some heat off me, and then moving him back in. We’d be a team. I wouldn’t leave him hanging, just like I know he wouldn’t leave me low on HP.”

Ardine faces Brandon, “And if we have to run?”

Brandon turns to Wake, “We stick together. Or Wake could carry me. That would move my shields right?”

Wake laughs, “Carry you? Wouldn’t that bother you?”

Brandon shrugs, “Nah. Especially not if we’re running for our lives.”

Asa smiles, “You know, the more we talk, the more I think this’ll work. The A team is gonna be really good.”

Ardine nods, “I agree. We click quite well.”

Wake sneers, “I’m glad I can help.”

Asa laughs, “Ardine, Andonbray! Meet Akeway!”

Wake’s eyes widen, “What?”

Brandon shakes his head, “The A team right?”

Ardine grins, “Well, it isn’t as if we take ourselves that seriously.”

Wake raises his eyebrow, “Akeway?”

Asa turns to him, “Have you never heard of pig latin?”

“I’ve heard of it,” Wake responds hesitantly.

Asa nods, “It’s a silly thing. You take the first consonant group of a word, put it at the end and then add -ay. So Brandon becomes Andonbray, Wake becomes Akeway, etcetera.”

“What would Asa become?” Wake asks.

Asa shrugs, “It’s more boring when the word starts with a vowel. Asa just become Asaway or Asaay.”

Wake frowns, “That is more boring.”

Brandon turns to Asa, “So… Ardine is in front. Wake and I stick together. Where does that put you?”

Ardine grins, “Wherever he needs to be. Asa has been playing for a while, and he knows where he needs to be.”

Asa nods, “It’s what being an opportunist is about, but that doesn’t mean I’m perfect. If you need my help, don’t be afraid to call me.”

Wake sneers, “Always.”

Brandon smirks at them, “So, things went well?”

Asa looks at him, “What do you mean?”

Brandon’s smirk become a grin, “I mean between you two.”

Asa grins back, “Things are great between us.” He ruffles Brandon’s hair.

“Hey! I’m bigger than you!” Brandon yelps.

Asa laughs, “There was a time when that would bother me.” He thinks for a moment, “Or maybe it only ever bothered me with Luke.”

Wake raises an eyebrow, “So, you didn’t tell me a lot about that.”

Asa turns to him, “What?”

“With Luke. When you talked to him.” Wake responds.

Asa looks contemplatively as the empty fire pit, “It went the way it needed to go. We’re still friends, at least, I think we are.”

“What do you mean?” Wake asks.

Asa sighs, “I mean we’ve needed some time apart for a long time.” He looks up at Wake, “We’d been living for each other. Taking each other for granted. I… I loved him. And I don’t mean that I was that gay guy pining for his straight best friend. I did love him like that, but I also loved him as a friend, as a brother; but, I didn’t love me. It was like, Luke had been my protector for so long that I’d forgotten it could be any other way. I thought that loving Luke was more love than I’d ever need. And I think he felt the same about me. Maybe not love, but that his feelings for me were all he needed. But one’s own feelings for a single person isn’t enough for anybody. I hope Luke joins our guild when he’s ready, but more than that, I hope he finds himself.”

Asa smiles up at Wake, “I hope it doesn’t make you jealous.”

Wake shakes his head, “I always knew you loved him. I know if he felt that way about you, you’d have been with him ages ago. I’m just glad to be with you now.”

Ardine shakes her head, “Now I’m definitely jealous.”

Brandon nods, “I wish I could find a girl like him.”

Asa grins, “So, I think we’ve veered sufficiently off topic that we’ve been here too long.”

Wake grimaces, “We can stay longer if you want.”

Ardine stands up, “I think Asa is right. We do need to get some practice in.”

Brandon stands up, “Fine by me.” He walks over to Wake, “So partner. Whatddaya say?”

Wake laughs, “I think we’ll be a great team.”

The four of them stand up. “So… what exactly happens when we exit this place?” Asa asks.

“I remember reading about this,” Brandon responds. “I think we’ll end up where we were, and unless there’s another group in active combat around there, there will be a combat lull.”

Ardine raises her eyebrow, “And if there is an active combat?”

Brandon thinks for a moment, “I’m pretty sure it gives us options then. We can wait until combat is over and it’ll automatically drop us where we were as soon as combat is inactive. We can drop into the combat. Or we can let it choose the nearest non combat area and drop us there.”

“That last one sounds dangerous.” Asa says.

Brandon shakes his head, “It counts safe zones as non combat areas, so the furthest you’ll end up from where you are is the nearest safe zone. Oh! And any inactive mobs will despawn.”

Ardine grins, “So, no time like the present. Wake? Care to do the honors?”

Wake nods and selects to end the Sanctuary. They end up in the same place they were when they first cast the spell.

“I’ll go scout us some mobs.” Asa says before walking away.

“So, we should stick together right? That way if we’re ambushed I can quick cast a shield and protect both of us,” Brandon says.

Wake nods, “That sounds great.”

Ardine laughs, “I think it sounds like a good plan in general. Asa and I are just as protected by your shield, and it’s a simple matter to step out of it to engage the enemy after we get our bearings.”

Brandon nods, “It’s a lot of responsibility.”

Ardine smiles, “Feels good doesn’t it? Having a bunch of older people putting their trust in you?”

Brandon grins, “It does!”

Wake sneers, “You can do it. And you’re not alone.” Brandon responds by giving Wake a quick hug.

Asa’s smiling as he returns, “So I found a couple of elite goblins. Seems like a good place to start.”

Ardine takes a place next to Brandon, “So we decided to stick to Brandon, since his quick cast roulette skill can get a barrier around us in case of ambush.”

Asa nods, “Sounds good.” And Asa leads the group towards their quarry.

Later That Day

Asa hangs back, watching as a Goblin swinging at Ardine fruitlessly hits Brandon’s shield as Wake heals the damage almost immediately. Asa could blindside it at any time, but he hasn’t really done much during the time they’ve been practicing. Since he can effortlessly one shot almost all the mobs there, he’s been insurance in case anything went wrong.

Once again, his services aren’t needed as Ardine casually deals the Goblin its final blow. She could have killed it a while ago really, but she has been holding back as well; mostly to give Brandon a chance to practice since, true to Collin’s word, Wake is quite an effective healer.

All and all, the whole afternoon has been a generally chill experience and the truth is, Asa kind of misses this. He’d been playing hardcore with Luke for so long that he forgot how much fun it could be to just casually smite helpless goblins.

But that of course must come to an end eventually. “It’s starting to get dark. The night mobs are gonna be coming out soon,” Asa says.

Ardine looks at the sky, “Do we want to stay around?”

Brandon thinks for a moment, “I dunno.”

“We’ve been practicing for awhile. I think we could use some rest,” Wake says.

Brandon looks at him, “But we don’t get tired.”

Wake responds, “Not physically no, but we’ve been doing this for a while.”

Ardine nods, “Monotony is a form of tiredness too. Do the same thing too many times and you start to lose focus. Continue and you’ll make mistakes, or worse, start to form bad habits.”

“Shall we head back to town?” Asa asks. Wake and Ardine nod in response.

“That sounds good to me,” Brandon says.

Wake smirks at Brandon, “You did good today.”

Brandon looks down, “Except for the one time I got your blindside hit.”

Wake shakes his head, “It’s okay. That’s why we were fighting weak enemies, because we knew someone was going to make a mistake at some point.”

Brandon sighs, “You mean me.”

Asa puts an arm over Brandon’s shoulder, “It could have been any of us. Its true, you are learning a new role, but there’s nothing wrong with that. We’ve all been there. Heck, I’m sure you’ve been there.”

Ardine throws her arm around Brandon from the other side, “All and all, I was quite impressed. The few mistakes you made were of the oversight variety. You didn’t run out of MP at a crucial moment or miscast a spell, and those are the mistakes that are likely to get us killed. Accidentally moving someone out of your shield is something that will happen from time to time. It’s like managing aggro, to say it’s the tank’s job is woefully inaccurate. Aggro management is something the whole party needs to do. Similarly, it’s our responsibility as much as yours to make sure we are in the shield when we need to be.”

Wake sneers, “Yeah. I shouldn’t have been facing away from that Goblin anyway. That was on me.”

As they enter town, Wake turns to them, “So, I guess this is goodbye until tomorrow.”

Ardine raises an eyebrow at him, “Do you want it to be?”

“I dunno. Aren’t we done for the night?” Wake asks.

Ardine frowns, “And what, pray tell, will you do until tomorrow then?”

Wake shrugs, “Go to my room.”

“Rubbish!” Ardine says, “You have spent enough time alone in your room. You are coming with us to my room where we will decide what to do with our shared living space!”

Brandon raises an eyebrow, “Shared living space?”

Ardine nods, “We have four rooms worth of living space, but that doesn’t mean we have to live separately. If we organize we could, for example, use Asa’s room as a lounge, my room as an apartment, your room as our guild HQ and Wake’s room for anyone who wants their privacy.”

Wake’s eyes widen, “You think we should live together?”

“That was my intention, but if you’d rather live alone that’s perfectly understandable,” Ardine responds.

Wake shakes his head, “I’m just surprised.”

Ardine grins at him, “I think by now you should have realized that we are not going to turn away from you for a petty reason like your appearance.”

Wake sighs, “I guess I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

Asa jumps up on his back, “You aren’t getting away from me that easily!”

Brandon laughs, “And you’re my partner. We gotta stick together.”

Wake looks down, “Aren’t you afraid of me?”

Brandon moves beneath him to meet his gaze, “Yeah, a little, but that’s what courage is right? Not giving into fear? So please, let me be courageous.”

Wake shakes his head again, “I’m just… so shocked.”

“It’s understandable, given what you’ve told us, but let me assure you that I wouldn’t have turned you away regardless. I’m pretty sure you know Asa enjoys your company. And Brandon, well, Brandon is maturing little by little. I hope you’ll humor him in the mean time,” Ardine says.

Wake nods, “Yeah.” He turns to Brandon, “Fighting alongside you is one thing, but we’d be living together.”

Brandon nods, “I kind of want to. You see, I’m kind of jealous.”

Wake’s eyes widen, “Jealous?”

“Yeah, jealous of you. You’re such a nice guy. I don’t want Asa to have you to himself. You’re the cool brother after all.” Brandon says.

Asa turns to him, “And what am I?”

Brandon grins, “The sensible brother.”

Wake shakes his head, “So I’m not sensible now?”

Brandon turns to him, “I mean!” Asa and Wake laugh in response. “Hey! You’re teasing me aren’t you?”

“You said you wanted big brothers. Big brothers tease.” Wake says.

Brandon laughs, “Okay, okay.” His expression flattens, “There’s more though. We laugh and joke, but this is really scary. Maybe being with you can help me deal with fear better.”

Wake sneers at him, “If that helps you, I’ll be happy to live with you.” He turns to face everyone, “I’ll be happy to live with all of you.”

Asa steps forward, “So, is it too soon for us to share a bedroom?”

Wake raises an eyebrow, “You want to share a bedroom with me?”

Asa nods, “The truth is, this could end at any time. And if it does, it probably won’t end well for us. I’m not gonna waste what time I have left worrying about pleasantries.”

Wake turns Brandon and Ardine, “Are you guys okay with this?”

Ardine nods, “Of course.”

Brandon grins, “Go for it.”

Wake grimaces at Asa who grins back, “Then I guess I’m all for it.”

When they reach Ardine’s room, she places a table between two couches so they can sit down.

“You know, I know this was meant to give us customized rooms, but the ability to spawn and move around furniture on a whim is really convenient.” Asa says.

Ardine nods, “It is quite convenient. It makes me wonder how we’ll see the real world if we get out of here.”

Brandon raises an eyebrow, “What do you mean?”

Ardine responds, “I mean, as time goes on, we’re getting more and more used to the… physics, for lack of a better word, of the game. The fact that we took the real world for granted will undoubtedly combine with that to make it extremely alien feeling to us. In fact, we might even be past that point already.”

Wake nods, “It’s strange to think about, but you’re probably right.”

Asa sighs, “She’s definitely right. Especially since we’ll have been unconscious for who knows how long. We’ll be used to having supernatural capabilities, when our bodies will be weaker than we were before this whole thing started.”

Brandon looks down, “You’re making me think we’ll wish we were back here once we wake up.”

Ardine sighs, “We very well might. We’ll have missed large portions of our lives. For the adults, it may not be that big a deal, but for younger people, especially middle and high school students, it could have immense consequences.”

Brandon’s eyes widen, “What do you mean?”

Ardine shakes her head, “I mean that you’ll be older, but you aren’t exactly getting a standard education here. You’ll end up behind in school. And if you are too far behind, it might stunt your futures.”

Asa thinks for a moment, “There may be another concern too. Brandon isn’t fully grown, and some people are as young as thirteen. Unless our avatars aging is implemented, which I highly doubt, you could end up in a body that’s completely alien to you.”

“I’d end up with an adult’s body. But doesn’t that happens to everybody?” Brandon asks.

Asa looks at him, “Not like this. Most people end up there gradually, so they adjust to their growth over time. You’d be suddenly thrust into an adult’s body, but you’d have the coordination and sense memory of your current body. I don’t know what the consequences of that would be.”

Wake puts an arm around Brandon, “This is a lot to take in. And the chances of us being in here for that long are slim.”

Brandon looks down, “Right. Because we’ll all likely end up dead before that happens.”

Wake’s eyes widen, “What? That’s not what I meant.” He thinks for a moment, “Why do you say that?”

Ardine looks at him, “Oh right. You weren’t here for that conversation.”

“What conversation?” Wake continues.

Ardine sighs, “We think that it’s very likely that this will end with our deaths. Assuming that we’re even in tubes still.”

Wake raises an eyebrow, “How could we not be in tubes?”

Ardine shakes her head and shrugs, “I have no idea. There are just a lot of things that don’t add up, and the longer we’re in here, the less plausible it all becomes.”

Wake looks down, “I guess you’re right.” He turns to Asa, “That’s what you meant when you said this could end at any time.”

Asa nods, “Yes. But let’s not worry about it. There’s nothing we can do but live our lives as best we can. If we get out, we can deal with that then.”

Ardine crosses her legs and puts a smile on her face, “Which brings me back to our rooms. Asa and Wake want to share a room, and I presume that would include a bedroom.” She turns to them, “Do either of you have a room preference?”

Asa shrugs, “Not particularly.”

Wake thinks for a moment, “Asa, do you mind if we use your room?”

Asa shakes his head, “I’ve got no problem with that. Is there any particular reason though?”

Wake looks down, “I don’t like my room.”

Ardine looks at him, “Then do you mind if we make your room our staging area?”

Wake raises an eyebrow at her, “What do you mean?”

“I mean, it would be quite convenient for us to have an area that is set up for planning and strategy and business. A place for us to work rather than live or play. It would also be a good place for us to meet other guilds in a more formal setting.” Ardine responds.

“So, like an office?” Brandon asks.

Ardine nods, “There it is! That’s the word I was looking for. Exactly, an office.”

Wake nods, “I’m happy to oblige.”

“We still have to decide which room to use as our main living space,” Asa says.

Brandon shrugs, “I guess the question is, whose least likely to miss invites?”

Asa nods, “That is true. We can’t enter a room without an invite, even if they are on our top friend list.”

“There may be a way around that,” Ardine says. “Even in the original game, you could set up teleportation circles in instances. Even boss rooms can be entered and exited using this method. I also happen to know that one of the furnishings is a teleportation circle. We may be able to establish teleportation circles between the rooms, in which case you’d only need to be able to get into one room to enter any of them. I cannot guarantee this is the case, but it’s worth a try.”

Brandon thinks, “I’ll scour the settings. There may be a setting for always accepting invite requests from top friends or guild mates, or even friends, though I’d never turn that on.”

Asa shrugs, “Since the rooms are all the same anyway, why don’t we just use this room as our communal space?” He turns to Ardine, “You don’t have any objections do you?”

Ardine shakes her head, “None at all.”

Asa thinks for a moment, “Wake and I’ll be using my bedroom when we want privacy, but maybe we should use the rest of the space in another communal way?”

“Well, if this is gonna be where we live. Maybe that could be where we play?” Brandon suggests.

“Play?” Ardine asks.

Brandon stands up, “I mean this place will be practical right? If we’re gonna be doing day to day stuff here. But we could set up Asa’s room to be fun. Make it artsy. If there’s any game furnishings like a pool, we put them there. We could use it for parties too.”

Wake grimaces, “That’s not a bad idea.”

Ardine nods, “I agree. It would also save us the trouble of having to redo the room each time we have company.”

Asa smiles, “So that’s three out of four. Maybe we should leave Brandon’s room empty? So we have a space we can customize for specific uses? At least until we find a better use for it.”

“That seems practical.” Ardine responds. “Any thoughts?”

Brandon shakes his head, “That’s fine by me.”

Wake nods, “Yeah. That sounds good.”

Asa nods, “Then I guess we should start setting up this space?”

Ardine stands up, “We don’t have a lot to work with at the moment, so anything we do is going to be preliminary. But why not?”

Brandon grins, “Then let’s go.”

So there you have it! The A Team has found its place. The next chapter is going to be a shift away from the A Team to the community at large! I hope you guys keep reading.

I know I have been choosing the Stuff You Might Want to Know for each chapter myself, but I'm curious if there's anything you ACTUALLY want to know? I have done a lot of design work on the game, and can answer most questions about the mechanics, so if any of you have any questions you'd like answered? I'd love to let you guys decide what the next chapter's "Stuff" section entails!

Stuff You Might Want to Know

Mechanics – Furnishings: Furnishings are special items that can be utilized to spruce up the room in the lodge, houses, one’s sanctuary or any shops one opens in the bank. Each furnishing only needs to be acquired once, and can be placed any number of times, within the limit of the space available. Furnishings can be locked if one owns the room, which causes them to be permanent fixtures. Unlocked ones can be moved around, but will return to their original positions each time the room instance loads. Unless the owner has forbidden it, anyone can place furnishings they own into a room as a guest, however they cannot lock them. If the owner leaves the room, the furnishing will remain until it is removed by either the owner of the furnishing or the owner of the room or the room despawns. Furnishings can be acquired through various means, but most are gained as quest rewards.

Copyright © 2020 Nightlit; All Rights Reserved.

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Posted (edited)

Interesting game theory--fun to read about, but I have no questions (being spoon fed is just fine).

Yay for Pig Latin! (Otherwise, I'd be monolingual. 😂)

Love the depiction of Sanctuary--and it's customizable!

Fascinating discussion of what may happen on returning from their avatars to their real bodies--especially as regards the younger kids, and depending on how long they've spent in the game.  Of course, it's too soon to PANIC!

Communal living? Why not? (Teleportation circles would really give the feel of a four room apartment.)  And little by little, the A team is turning itself into an amily-fay! 😊

Edited by travlbug
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1 hour ago, travlbug said:

Interesting game theory--fun to read about, but I have no questions (being spoon fed is just fine).

Yay for Pig Latin! (Otherwise, I'd be monolingual. 😂)

Love the depiction of Sanctuary--and it's customizable!

Fascinating discussion of what may happen on returning from their avatars to their real bodies--especially as regards the younger kids, and depending on how long they've spent in the game.  Of course, it's too soon to PANIC!

Communal living? Why not? (Teleportation circles would really give the feel of a four room apartment.)  And little by little, the A team is turning itself into an amily-fay! 😊

The game "physics" are important to the plot. So expect that stuff to never disappear.

What started at something that Asa did just to make Brandon feel more involved? HAPPENED to work out! I didn't even know it was going to happen myself when I wrote it because Wake wasn't even a character in the story yet. I moved him from a different story that would probably never get written when I realized I wanted Asa to have a love interest, partially so I could write it but ALSO to make it so that people didn't just keep wondering when Asa and Luke are going to get together. And come on! If Wake didn't exist? Everyone would be expecting Asa/Luke whether it was going to happen or not! But then Wake's name (which the character already had) ALSO happened to start with A in pig latin... AND SO A MEME WAS BORN!

Yep! The Sanctuary is awesome. And they already have the programming to do that, since rooms exist, so it makes sense that they'd do that for Sanctuary too, because the whole point of the spell is to give players a place to rest, recuperate ans strategize when there isn't a safe zone around. It would completely defeat the purpose if, you know, it wasn't, RELAXING!

Yeah. It's one of the bigger plot holes in Sword Art Online (and many other similar stories). Put a bunch of kids in a digital world for years, and they... somehow... DON'T grow? And has no lasting impact on their physiological development? o.O

Yeah. The title of this chapter may be my favorite in the entire story! Since it's a triple entendre with a lot of subtle meaning.

Glad to hear from you as always!

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I know there are still many chapters I have yet to read, but here are my thoughts so far:

I was intrigued by the story description and wondering how different this would be from popular stories like Sword Art Online and Log Horizon, which I enjoyed. So far I like that you try to fill any plot holes that similar stories leave gaping open. I can see that the game uses mechanics which would be found in a real MMO too (unlike for example SAO). I have some experience playing MMORPGs myself, so I recognize most mechanics. That said, it seems the way aggro or tanking and healing works in this game is different from what I am used to. In the games I have played, the tank is faaar more tanky than the other roles and you wouldn't want to split the aggro at all. But I guess this might lead to some interesting battles.

The plot and pacing so far seem mostly fine. I don't really get how Asa and Wake can "like like" each other after what seems to have been only two conversations (the first meeting in Wake's room and the walk to buy potions) - this seemed implausible to me. But other than that, the actions and events seem credible.

Overall I am more interested in the fighting than in long talks between characters, but you already said this story focuses more on the mental stress that is put on individuals, so I guess I will have to live with that. Still an enjoyable read. :)

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8 hours ago, Scary said:

I know there are still many chapters I have yet to read, but here are my thoughts so far:

I was intrigued by the story description and wondering how different this would be from popular stories like Sword Art Online and Log Horizon, which I enjoyed. So far I like that you try to fill any plot holes that similar stories leave gaping open. I can see that the game uses mechanics which would be found in a real MMO too (unlike for example SAO). I have some experience playing MMORPGs myself, so I recognize most mechanics. That said, it seems the way aggro or tanking and healing works in this game is different from what I am used to. In the games I have played, the tank is faaar more tanky than the other roles and you wouldn't want to split the aggro at all. But I guess this might lead to some interesting battles.

The plot and pacing so far seem mostly fine. I don't really get how Asa and Wake can "like like" each other after what seems to have been only two conversations (the first meeting in Wake's room and the walk to buy potions) - this seemed implausible to me. But other than that, the actions and events seem credible.

Overall I am more interested in the fighting than in long talks between characters, but you already said this story focuses more on the mental stress that is put on individuals, so I guess I will have to live with that. Still an enjoyable read. :)

Understandable. And you are in luck! Cause the story is about to shift to being more action oriented (though the long talks never disappear).

As for tanking. That's mostly because the game uses a free form stat customization system, inspired by things like the Sphere Grid in FFX and the Lillium Orb in Tales of Xillia, rather than locking stats and builds together in jobs like most MMOs do, which means that there are a wider range of stat balance/build setups, since you can do wonky things like make a spellcaster who has tank stats (and thus WANTS to get hit out of their casting, because they are using said casting to generate aggro rather than actually complete spells) and mixed builds are common, so it's not uncommon for a group to not have a truly dedicated tank, and instead to have multiple tanks and off tanks that trade around aggro. And many battles are designed with this in mind, with enemies able to shift around aggro, either their own or even other enemies, like how the lightning tank mage build can move aggro around.

As for Asa and Wake "like liking" each other? I don't see it like that. It's not "love at first sight." Its more them both being lonely, and interested in a relationship, and upon finding out the other is potentially available? Taking a leap of Faith. Asa, in specific, had recently decided to live in the moment, and so when the opportunity presented itself he went for it, without worrying about the consequences. And Wake, for the first time in a long time, was approached by someone who wasn't just trying to get in his pants for superficial reasons (or, at least, wasn't being overt about it). In short, they both had personal reasons independently of their interest in each other for starting the relationship. That it ended up working out positively the way it did? Is because they are both generally nice people who want to support others who were also looking for someone to support them. Meaning, at least some of it was just lucking into being in the right place at the right time to fit their individual needs.

They also just clicked platonically, independently of any potential romantic feelings, which helped them connect faster than they might have otherwise.

Believe it or not, I actually thought about this vary question when I was writing it to begin with, I was like, "This is a bit fast. Do I want to make it happen this fast?" And I ultimately decided that I did, because I did have IC and narrative justifications for it, and I didn't want to waste a huge amount of time on preamble for something that's ultimately tertiary to the overplot.

Edited by Nightlit
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