The international games expo was the largest gathering of nerds, geeks, and gamers known to man. Every year, the event brought thousands of these people together to watch their favorite studios announce the next up and coming game. All the big names were there, plus a few smaller companies lucky enough to secure a table.
The first days of the expo passed by normally. The small indie companies revealed their darlings and the giant corporations steamrolled past with excessive advertisements and promotions. The end of the day showcased the "important" (which was whoever paid the most) games in a questionnaire with the PR departments and then everyone went to bed. But it was on the fifth day that things changed.
Somehow a small company had found itself on the panel to advertise their new game, a VR game even.
It was well known that VR games were riddled with "uncanny valley" issues. The equipment had long passed the headset and controller days, branching off into two different paths. The first was the "VR room," a specially made area that allowed the player to interact with the world with their entire body. Unfortunately, a VR room was incredibly expensive and only those with large amounts of disposable income could afford it. Thus the VR room got relegated to the kid's birthday party list of things to do once and never go back to. However, it did make laser tag a lot more intense.
The second path VR took was that of the "full dive." This was where a player's brain was linked to a virtual body and controlled. Initial tests were promising, but problems quickly arose. The first was in terms of equipment. To allow for a link between the brain and a virtual body, surgery had to be performed to implant an uplink. Instantly, fundamentalists rallied together to stop this, claiming the surgery was a way to implant the "mark of the beast" into the population. Alongside them were those interested in privacy, concerned about possible data mining on those who used the product.
There was also the issue of realism. Trials with mice found that the brain would reject the virtual body if the graphics weren't powerful enough, causing the animal to go into shock. This danger, combined with the push against the tech, collapsed the fragile foundations the tech had. Laws were implemented to prevent the sort of implant needed. So the tech was shelved.
Because of this, VR games were stuck on either the VR room or the archaic headset and controller design. So people were immediately interested in this small company's panel on their new VR game. It must be something extraordinary to grab a slot normally held by gigantic companies.
Famous interviewer Molly Martinez sat in a ritzy chair next to the interviewee in question, Arthur Jovanovich. He was a reedy man, with long legs and arms that seemed a tad too short. He sat in the chair opposite to Molly, hands periodically moving to smooth out his khaki jeans. At other times, Arthur's hands would move up to button or unbutton the top of his polo shirt, or move up to push the glasses up his nose. A look of eager nervousness rested on his face, mimicking his frenetic activity.
The crowd surrounding the two shuffled about in much the same way. Excited teenagers who had camped out early for good seats tapped legs impatiently in the front row, reporters stood in the back with bated breath waiting for the next big scoop, and in the middle crowds of enthusiasts sat nervously hoping this announcement would be everything they dreamed of.
The lights around the room went out and a spotlight lit up to focus on Molly and Arthur. The crowd cheered and clapped as Molly stood to address them.
"Welcome everyone to the third major Q and A panel for our sixteenth annual games expo! I'm Molly Martinez, your source for all things gaming, and today we have someone very special with us!"
Molly motioned for Arthur to stand.
"I have the pleasure to introduce Arthur Jovanovich! You may not know him, but Arthur is the leader of Vert. An up and coming VR studio. Please give him a round of applause!"
Cheers and claps continued for Arthur. His lips twitched upwards in a thin smile.
"How are you doing today Arthur?" Molly's clear voice cut through the last of the cheers. She and Arthur sat back in their chairs as he answered.
"I'm doing well thank you. Excited to announce the new product we're working on."
"Aren't we all! You're known for a little gem of a game called Flora. Where players grow a garden of plants while facing off against invading insects. Is your new game similar? Are we all going to be gardeners in a VR world?"
Arthur laughed. "Nothing quite so mundane. No, Vert's newest release is a fully immersive superhero MMO."
Before Arthur had spoken, the crowd had been like all crowds, quiet but filled with whispered small talk from friends and colleagues. Now the room could hear a pin drop.
"That's a bold announcement for a company as small as yours Mr. Jovanovich."
"Please call me Arthur, and I don't believe the claim is quite so bold. Great strides have been taken in immersive technology over the past years and Vert believes the world is ready for a new world of gaming."
The crowd leaned forward, immersing themselves into the conversation.
"Arthur, it is well known immersive VR tech causes significant problems to the user's psyche and as such has been banned in most of the world. How are you going to prevent this?"
"Vert isn't using the normal method people think of when the topic of immersive VR appears."
"No, we have designed our own technology that requires no surgeries for an uplink chip."
Murmurs rushed along the crowd like waves on the shore. An immersive VR set that didn't require surgery? How was that possible?
"How can that be?" Molly asked, mimicking the crowd's reaction.
"I won't bore you with the specific details, but recent scientific findings have found it possible to link with the brain without surgery through the use of a quantum computer. Apparently, the brain emits a signal that we can tap into. What we've done is create a headset that accesses that signal while you sleep and connects you to a virtual body."
The wave of murmurs churned in the crowd, swelling into towering questions by reporters and gamers alike.
"And what about all the issues with graphics!" Molly surfed above the wave of questions, her microphone enhanced voice drowning out the others.
"Well Molly, I think it would be better to show than tell."
As Arthur spoke the spotlight dimmed and the large screen projecting him faded to black. The words, "All footage of this trailer is direct gameplay footage from the VIS," appeared in bold white letters before fading to black once again. A blue sky appeared onscreen, panning down to a thriving metropolis. Towering skyscrapers dominated the sky as the camera sank lower to street level. Civilians, looking every bit as real as Arthur onstage, milled about.
The crowd watched as they turned the corner on the street and walked into a bank. Golden chandeliers hung above the ornate desks as men and women in suits performed transactions. And then the doors to the bank blasted inward. The crowd flinched backward as if the glass would strike them. The camera turned to show a man dressed in combat armor holding a gun. On each of his sides were two dogs the size of a small pony.
The man walked over to a cowering woman at the desk and pointed the gun at her. Panicked, the woman opened the till and shoved as much cash as she could at the man. Tears ran down her face as she pleaded for him to not shoot. The man ignored her in favor of stuffing the cash into a backpack on the dogs. Once the last bill entered the pack, he turned to leave.
The camera turned as well and the audience found a floating woman dressed in the iconic tights and cape of superheroes. The man barked and the dogs rushed the woman while he raised his gun. The woman responded by flying straight towards the man at supersonic speeds. She stopped inches from his face, fist raised in a threatening gesture. Mollified, the man barked another order to his dogs, who walked back with their tales between their legs. The woman flew over to each dog and ripped the packs off, tossing them back to the sobbing woman.
The hero turned to arrest the would-be bank robber but the whole screen shook with the sound of an explosion. Quickly, the camera followed the supersonic woman outside. There, a giant robot half the size of a skyscraper was making its way across the city. The camera cut to a woman dressed in overalls in the pilot seat. With a manic smile, she slammed her hand down on a big red button.
The camera cut back to the flying hero. The mech's shoulders opened up, firing salvos of missiles that all targeted the woman. She dashed forwards, nimbly dodging the deadly explosives and readied a punch. The camera cut back to the overalled woman, who was pulling a rope dangling next to her. The mech shifted and prepared to throw a punch. The camera split in two as the characters' faces appeared onscreen. The words, "World of Supers!" in excited font smacked itself between the two.
The screen above faded to black and was replaced by Arthur and Molly sitting.
"So Molly," Arthur said. "What do you think?"
Instead of an answer, the crowd stood and cheered. The game was more than many had hoped for. It was a dream come true!
"Arthur I think we can safely say we love the idea!" Molly cried over the din. Cheers erupted to emphasize her point.
"World of Supers won't be your ordinary MMO either!" Arthur said as the cheers died down.
"What do you mean Arthur?" Molly asked.
"We at Vert have been working hard to allow for any choice of superpower to work in the game. When someone purchases a copy and logs in, they'll be prompted for the type of superpower they want. Vert will then work with a neural network to design and balance the specific power players want for their characters."
More cheers of surprise erupted from the crowd. Free choice in a videogame? This was unheard of! Reporters furiously jotted down notes and ecstatic teenagers messaged their friends. But Arthur wasn't done.
"Players in the game will be under a reputation system. Heroes and villains alike can perform quests to gain reputation. The greater your reputation, the more content you can access. We even have a prize for those who reach unprecedented levels of reputation in the game. Some players who perform extraordinary feats in-game will be able to become permanent raid bosses! Those chosen will be hired by Vert to work with us directly on designing a specific scenario for players to tackle!"
It was like the crowd had been turned up to eleven. Every gamer's head filled with the idea of winning Vert's favor and getting paid to play their game. Friends contacted friends to tell them the news, reporters called their bosses to announce the next headlines, and in the middle of it all, Arthur smiled happily.