Prologue

It had been 12 years since they appeared and started Prime Energia Inc. An independent company located on an island in international waters, their first action was to revolutionize the world by producing a way to provide cheap, clean energy. Though there was opposition early on, the fact that they could provide energy for 5% of the cost of any other method, which was clean and had no adverse affects on the climate had pushed them to the leading energy provider in the world. Even now, 12 years later, the exact how of the energy they provided was a closely guarded corporate secret. Now over 60% of the world’s energy was exclusively provided by PEI, and they continued construction efforts in the rest of the world, steadily gobbling up more and more of the energy industry.
At first, their energy solution was large and bulky, only allowing them to provide energy for cities, but within the last 4 years they had introduced smaller versions that could be used to power airplanes and ships, and then smaller vehicles like cars. This had generated another fight with the oil industry and the nations that produced it in large quantities, but it was a fight they were losing to the convenience of never having to stop at a gas station.
PEI hadn’t stopped at providing energy, however. Being the sole energy provider for major 1st world nations such as the US and the entirety of Europe generated massive revenues, and the leaders of the corporation used the money well. They started in the medical field, producing new and varied medicines for a variety of conditions. They proceeded into the waste management industry, producing improved recycling methods that could recycle any non-organic material, so long as it wasn’t radioactive. Finally, in just the last 2 years, they had produced what many considered their 2nd greatest innovation, actual functioning teleportation technology. It was extremely limited, but in just two years, it was possible to teleport from almost any major city in the world to any other major city in a matter of seconds; well, after standing in line, passing through security screenings and customs and everything else required to travel from one country to another. Air travel was still cheaper of course, and best if you wanted to take large amounts of luggage, but for businessmen who travelled light and needed to cross the world as quickly as possible, teleportation became the preferred method.

In the 12 years since 2021, the entire world had been changed by Prime Energia, but none of that mattered, because earlier in the year they had created a subsidiary called E-Prime Gaming Ltd, and announced they were having a conference at this year’s E3.
Everyone wondered what their plan was, but the entire world was interested, as every previous time they’d announced something like this, it had changed the world.
There were months of discussion and argument and predictions, and most of them were right. What EPG announced was a device for what they called ‘Alternate Reality’.
The term Virtual Reality had been appropriated by devices that projected images directly on the eyes, which had been used for games since the mid-2010s. EPG’s new device, which they called the Dreamcuff, was something altogether different, and they wanted that to be immediately clear with the naming.
Rather than a helmet that covered the head, eyes and ears, the Dreamcuff was pressed against the back of your neck, then closed over your eyes. Rather than projecting images onto your eyes, it induced a state of lucid dreaming, where it projected sensation directly into your brain.
There was an uproar from the millions of observers who watched as the people who got to attend the conference did so, not just in the building rented for the conference, but in a shared virtual space. The graphics were state of the art, but the descriptions from the industry veterans and reporters who had attended the conference said that the images displayed didn’t tell the true story.
The Dreamcuff put you into a dream state, and because of this, the graphics created were more guidelines than exactly what you saw. Anything missing or imperfect, your brain simply resolved in the way of dreams. From the perspective of someone watching, it looked like high level graphics, but from the perspective of someone playing, it was indistinguishable from reality.
All of this was revolutionary, but EPG wasn’t done. First, they assured everyone at the conference that this was not a future product, but one that would be available within the next week in all major regions, and within the next month in the secondary regions. What’s more, nothing in the hardware was patented or secret, only the software was secured, and they encouraged people to tinker with it, understand it, and produce their own content.
Of course, as the creators of the technology, EPG had a headstart, and their next reveal was a trailer for their game, Chronicles of the New World.

Chronicles of the New World would be a fully immersive, alternate reality, massively multiplayer online game, set in a fantasy world with swords and magic, and it would release on December 18, exactly one week before Christmas.
Chronicles of the New World would not be just like any other fantasy RPG, however. EPGs focus in creating this game was to create a truly alternate reality, where people could live a new life, without limitations. To do this, they altered the typical RPG formula in several ways.
First of all, there was no character level. While different classes would have a class level, and your skills would each have their own skill rank, there was no overall level to limit you.
Secondly, rather than choosing a class when you created your character, classes would be freely available to pick up or drop at will, and would level independently. Want to be a wizard one week, then a warrior the next? You could do so, and switch back and forth every week if you felt like it, without losing any of the skills you gained, though you might have less access to spells as a Warrior than as a Wizard.
Finally, general restrictions on equipment were determined by your stats or your skills, rather than your class. Wizards could wear plate mail, rogues could use bastard swords, and warriors could sneak around and disarm traps. A class would give you benefits with certain skills, but it wouldn’t stop you from using any.

That was the end of the conference, but not the end of the information on Chronicles. Shortly afterwards EPG started a twitch channel where they broadcast information, discussion and actual gameplay of Chronicles of the New World every week, going more in-depth on the things that made Chronicles unique not just as a game, but as an experience.
Of course, what they showed of the game were only snippets, and most of it was created explicitly for the stream. EPG wanted everyone to go into the game on roughly equal footing, so they even avoided doing a beta test.
Of course, while they were doing this, Dreamcuffs were selling to gamers in the millions. Though there was an early rush, because EPG had started sales six months before any games would be released, there were very few shortages, and by November 18 over 80 million Dreamcuffs had been sold.
This date was important, because in August EPG had announced a worldwide contest to give one lucky person the first access to Chronicles before the game actually released.
While the contest was ongoing, those who were lucky enough to purchase a Dreamcuff were able to play around with the features and tech demos built into the system. It was completely independent, so a player didn’t need a computer to use the Dreamcuff, although they needed a computer to actually download the Chronicles of the New World software, or to acquire updates, but those could also be done at most stores that sold the hardware, and as soon as the Chronicles software was loaded you could create an account, though there was no way to access character creation or the game until it went live. EPG promised that Chronicles would support streaming to the web, and would be built with all the most commonly used sites in mind, but that a computer would be required to serve the streaming from the Dreamcuff out to the world.
The winner of the contest was a Swedish woman named Ebba Anderson, and she was flown out to New York to meet with employees of EPG, and to log into Chronicles on the weekly show. EPG chose to start their stream at 6:00pm in the time of Ebba’s home city, Uppsala, which meant it was 11:00am in New York. Of course, people could watch the stream later, and probably would several times, but many skipped work or class to watch it live.
As winner of the contest Ebba not only received a free Dreamcuff, but her first 3 months of the game would be free. The two hosts of the weekly show that had come to be called Prime Chronicles, talked with Ebba for a while, teasing her and drawing out her excitement for the viewers.
Tory was usually the one who played parts of Chronicles and commented from inside the game, while Lee responded to the chat and commented from outside the game. This time, they produced a special unit for Ebba to enter the game and Tory to go with her to provide advice. They revealed to the audience that they would be going through the tutorial section for Chronicles of the New World, which was again different from most RPGs in that the tutorial was done before character creation.
The world watched, studied and commented as Ebba made it through the different parts of the tutorial with Tory’s help and encouragement. Meanwhile, Lee answered comments in the most cagey way possible, which was his job, while stressing that every player should play through the tutorial at least once. A person could only have one character per server, per account in Chronicles of the New World, and death was permanent. Skipping the tutorial completely would almost guarantee a failed character build.
Finally Ebba completed the tutorial, and the world got its first look at character creation in Chronicles of the New World. It was the most elaborate character creation in any game ever, allowing the player to choose the species and race, as well as their gender, then modify their character’s body in a host of ways. Part of this segment was censored, as it actually displayed your character’s avatar completely nude during the first part of creation, so that the player could make any changes to their body they desired.
After that, Ebba chose her starting clothing, and the world got to see Ebba alter her stats, choose her starting traits and finally choose a name: Luneth Friggsdötter. Finally, as the first to create a character in Chronicles, Luneth received a special reward, a Skill called Dancing Chain, as well as special equipment which were thin chains that wrapped her body decoratively.
Finally, Ebba and Tory logged out, and they discussed some other things with the audience and each other. Tory and Lee both lamented that EPG employees were not allowed to log into the game until Ebba did once it went live, since Ebba’s reward as the contest winner was to be the first to get into the game. All the employees had already done the tutorial, so they could skip it. There were probably other players who would skip the tutorial, but that would put them at a disadvantage to everyone else. For her part, Ebba said she’d already made plans to log in as soon as the game went live, since it would be midnight her time.

Finally the broadcast ended, and Chloe, who had been watching it, barely able to contain her excitement, finally climbed out of bed. She debated skipping class for the day, she was too excited to pay attention, really, but the semester was ending soon, and she had to be ready for exams.

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