3 The Unique Difficulties of a Shitshow
Remember how I predicted launching the first VRMMORPG would involve unique challenges?
This beta is a straight shitshow and a half.
But this game.
This fucking game.
Take all the world's best inventions—and I mean we're talking seriously rad shit like frozen pizza, lightsabers, PornHub, tagless shirts—and combine all their innate greatness, and then maybe just MAYBE you could understand the overwhelming glory that is this fucking game.
It doesn't matter how many times I end up trapped in a rock wall after a dungeon glitch or one-hit killed by a buggy OP slime. It doesn't matter how many thousands of times the AI system has me roll forward, backward, and sideways in varying gear and equipment. It doesn't even matter that for an entire month, the system force-changed my avatar to female because it wanted more comparison data and there weren't enough female players.
I would take literally any abuse from this machine and come back begging for more.
And I'm not alone. All of us beta testers are obsessed.
From Vir-Tech's standpoint, our obsession is great news. It means that when so many problems pop up in the first two hours that we're force-logged out for six days, all 1500 of us show up without complaint on day seven, pumped to get back to it.
And we seriously get to it. The average skill level of the testers is impressively high. Unfortunately, this means that after every update, there's a slew of skills and weapons nerfed by the system because we'd demonstrated how OP they were. Only in the hands of an expert can a weapon's true potential be seen, after all.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who thought about faking it with a particularly cool (and seriously broken) weapon, but the system is too smart for that. It uses our innate gamer mentality against us. Every time a weapon or skill drastically changes stats, the system shows the name of the player who proved the need for the update and a video of the player kicking too much ass.
For about a month, it became every beta tester's mission to claim the update call for as many broken weapons as possible. My avatar Dregs claimed 3 weapons and 2 skills, and the video of me juggling a Giant Horned Boar with this badass little auto-return throwing dart with way too high an explosive knock-up effect won Best Broken Battle in the player-run poll.
In many ways, the player-run aspects of the game are some of my favorite parts of the beta. The world chat and forums are constantly filled with the kind of pro-level analysis I've really missed since my days with Team Digital Discord. And, naturally, there's the pro-level trash-talk, which I've missed even more.
Nightfury: found a 20-man dungeon
Nightfury: anyone up for a run?
Nightfury: R2 - Karnak
Dregs: Yo! Found a 20-man on Realm 2, anyone up for a run?
Blazing Fists: +1
Ivan the Tolerable: 6-man party r2g
Nightfury: wtf guys?!
Dregs: Sorry bro. About to run a dungeon. Can't help you in Karnak rn
Nightfury: I can literally see you.
Blazing Fists: *waves*
Nightfury: fuuuck all of you!
Lilith: …I didn't think DreamWorks allowed swearing
Ivan the Tolerable: shaaaame shame dragon!
Pliny: Rated R for Language (+11)
Hot Dog: and Violence (+12)
Lilith: but not for Sexual Content
Dregs: Never for Sexual Content
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Ivan the Tolerable: poor lonely dragon
Gentle Rains: 5-man here!
God: I'll join, too.
God: So the crippled dragon rounds us out?
Dregs: God has spoken. So shall it be. Let's go, Nightfury!
Gentle Rains: Is Nf that archer stomping away?
Blazing Fists: *waves sadly*
Spike: Sorry buddy. Goodbyes are always hard.
Nightfury: I'm seriously going to kill all of you.
Dregs: But dungeon first?
Nightfury: fuck it. dungeon first.
Blazing Fists: *waves*
As if understanding the importance of keeping to some of its MMORPG roots, the system's world chat opens a keyboard interface. There's also Party Voice Chat and Party or Friend Video Chat. If you want to talk to someone not on your Friends list who is out of normal speaking range, you can only use the keyboard function. I think this is to limit the sending of unsolicited dick pics.
Now, as solid as the social aspects of the game are, the game itself is of course what makes Viren's Refuge the greatest of all time.
First off, there's the V-Havens. Inside each immersion pod is this bed of blue gel that faintly glows and is always the exact temperature of the cold side of the pillow. It breaks down and filters out sweat and waste, which is gross but useful, and regulates body temperature.
(Unintended side effect: it also leaves skin soft and clear and my hair so silky I could star in a shampoo commercial.
I always kept my hair short so it wouldn't get in the way while gaming, and I refused to be one of those boy band lookalikes always twitching his bangs out of his eyes like a spazzy tool. But now I've let it grow past my ears in a shaggy style that—dare I say it?—looks kinda cool.
Back in high school, Xiuying said that with my pale skin, light grey eyes, and black hair, I could be the Google image result for 'Hot Biracial Boy.' I was too scrawny and unkempt for it to be true then, but now…
*flips hair in mirror like absolute tool* -- *resolves to work out more so looking in mirror is less depressing* -- *flips hair again for good measure*)
Outside, the V-Havens are sleek silver pods straight out of Star Trek, emblazoned with the Vir-Tech logo: a hybrid Celtic/Norse-inspired World Tree with a Celtic knot trunk, gnarly, intertwined branches, and roots that form a human brain outline. The center branches curl into a V and R, for Viren's Refuge as much as Virtual Reality, I'd guess.
The Nine Mythic Realms of Viren's Refuge are located on the in-game World Tree, just like the nine realms of Norse mythology hang out on Yggdrasil. But this game isn't based on Norse mythology; or at least, not solely. Each of the Realms is based on a completely different mythology from human history.
The full map hasn't been officially released, but I've pieced together enough clues to make solid guesses about what's to come. Celtic, Egyptian, and Greek for sure; those Realms were open during the beta. And Norse is a sure bet, given the abundance of references throughout the game.
As for the others, looks like they'll be based on Hindu, ancient Chinese, a Mesoamerican empire like the Mayans or Incans, Japanese Shinto and folk traditions, and an arctic indigenous culture. I'm also fairly certain that legendary heroes and monsters from all periods and regions of history could make special appearances at pretty much any time.
Plus, just because there are only Nine Mythic Realms now doesn't mean there won't be dozens more in the future. The scope of this game is literally as limitless as the human imagination.
According to an interview with Zhao Jianyu that was aired a couple months into the beta, "By understanding sacred myths and gaining wisdom from folk legends, humanity can evolve. Only by truly knowing ourselves can we learn what is necessary to grow. And only by understanding the stories that inhabit our world can we find a place to belong."
Every time that man speaks, it's natural to want to shake your head and mockingly say, "That's deep, bro."
It's human nature to be uncomfortable in the face of great truth.
But there's something about him, about his dream of creating something important that shakes the foundations of society. In anyone else, it would be narcissism, a god complex, hubris.
But he fucking did it.
Viren's Refuge might be a mess at the moment, but it has the potential to change the course of the world.
And I have the potential to help it lead the way.
Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking: "Speaking of god complexes, does this guy even HEAR himself?"
I'm not just speaking out of my ass here. I really am good at this game. Scary good, even. At times, it almost feels like this game was designed for me.
Which yes, I know sounds even worse. I'm a narcissistic jackass. I get it.
But check out where I'm standing. This is the in-game replica of the fucking Roman Coliseum during its prime, and I'm standing tall in the very center of the arena.
What does that mean? It means that when the initial beta ended after four-and-a-half months of insanity, I officially ranked in the Top 100 Adventurers, based on in-game accomplishments and overall contributions to the success of the beta. A separate list ranked the Top 5 Lifestyle Players (of the 70 total) , since they had a very different beta experience from the rest of us.
For the next month, we top adventurers clashed again and again in a series of randomly-generated Team and 1v1 Battles, individually accumulating win-loss records to determine the best combatants. Everyone who participated in the beta was invited to watch the spectacle, and NPCs flocked to the stands as well, so we were constantly battling in front of a hundred thousand screaming spectators.
Highlight reels were posted online throughout the month-long event. Dregs featured prominently in every release.
At the end of the month, I was firmly in the Top 16. I would have ranked higher, but I struggled more than I thought I would in the early rounds of the team comps. It didn't happen every time, but the familiar feeling of the team battles sometimes shook my concentration, and memories of emptiness, of brokenness, of sterile walls and too-bright lights and muffled crying would crash my brain. Worse, during two of the individual battles, flashes from oncoming mage attacks brought me straight back to the accident, and I saw only blood and fire and the end of everything.
PTSD's a bitch, folks.
But I learned methods to counteract the lesser attacks and convincing ways to fake it til I make it back to my full senses. If the players knew how many times I'd bluffed and stalled when they for sure could have destroyed me in seconds, I might spontaneously combust from the murderous rage aimed at me all at once.
After a rest week, those of us who made the Top 16 entered a two-day single-elimination 1v1 championship tournament. These fights were live-streamed to generate even more interest before Viren's Refuge official launch. The beta-long steady stream of extremely well-edited teasers and promo vids, coupled with the infrequent sanctioned posts and updates from the beta testers, succeeded in hyping Viren's Refuge in a way no game had ever been hyped. Millions of people worldwide tuned in to watch the game's capabilities in real time.
Day one of the championship, 16 became 8, became 4, became 2, and still I remained standing.