Chapter 3. A class you can play alone (1)
2010 was the era of smartphones. They changed the lives of millions of people.
But technology continued advancing, and in year 2030, the smartphone era came to an end. It was now the new era of virtual reality. Peach Corporation’s virtual reality connection device, V-Gear, gave way to the beginning of this era. For just 20,000 dollars, any household could dive into the world of virtual reality.
The smartphone era was nothing in comparison to the VR era. Virtual reality did not just absorb the technologies of the real world, as new content developed just for the virtual world.
Among them, virtual reality games were the most popular.
Game companies didn’t hesitate to invest millions or even billions of dollars into developing this new technology. As a result, they could release higher quality content than any other business in the world.
At the same time, it was the start of a war.
Due to their investments and preparedness, their games had similar quality, and none stood out as the best.
It was the beginning of a warring era.
Game companies experimented with new methods of raising their market shares, and many went bankrupt as a result. The one that put an end to this warring era was not a game company, but an AI developing company called Tobot Soft. It was with their AI program that Warlord was created.
With a typical fantasy setting, the game was not too different from the other games in the market. In fact, it was much tamer compared to games where the players battled in space or flew in the air with wings.
It was the scale of its world and its stability that made it unsurpassable by others.
Tobot Soft’s secret lied behind a management artificial intelligence program called M.I.
Simply put, the game wasn’t controlled by the company but an artificial intelligence program. Its initial development cost was huge, but the management cost was ground-breakingly small. At a time when the price of VR game programmers was soaring to the sky, the method proved to be especially efficient. A.I.s didn’t need a salary.
Plus, it was easy to copy and mass produce an A.I. Hiring a thousand professional programmers took at least six months, but obtaining a thousand copy of an A.I. took only about a month.
Countless A.I.s worked to control and manage the server, and as a result, Warlord became a game that surpassed any other game in existence.
March 11th, 2035, a year after the game made its debut, the player base was well over one million. By its 4th anniversary, the number rose to over ten million, worthy of the game’s title as the greatest game to ever exist.
Ten million was not a small number.
To play a VR game, one needed a VR device. Peach Corporation controlled 70 percent of the VR device market and its cheapest VR device, the Level 1 V-Gear, cost 20 thousand dollars.
In addition, one needed 2,599 dollars just to create a Warlord character. Upon creation, one could play the game free for 3 months, but afterwards, there was a monthly fee of 799 dollars.
In Korean standards, it cost 20 million won to buy the gaming device, another 3 million to make a character, and 800 thousand more every month.
There were ten million people who could meet such requirements.
An economist once said,
“If you calculate the average income of a Warlord player, it would be about 80 thousand dollars. A game with over 10 million players and an average income of 80 thousand. That’s enough purchasing power to match a country’s.”
Businesses smelled the money just as easily.
Numerous companies and corporations became sponsors of Warlord players that had fame and influence. Famous rankers, especially the official top 100 rankers, were walking advertisements, and their bodies were worth at least a billion won.
Most importantly, Warlord was fun.
Players with superhuman powers killing monsters with different skills and magic was more exciting than any movie, and the fact that a player could die at any time made the game more thrilling than any sports in the world.
Someone once said,
“The proliferation of virtual reality games had the biggest impact on sports and movie industries. No matter how thrilling a sports is, no sportman puts their life on line, but in the game world, everyone fights with their life on the line. No matter how well-made a movie is, at the end of the day, a movie is a movie. It has a set scenario, while gamers create their own scenario. A game character is one’s second life, and in this world, a movie can never beat a real life.”
In this era, one could gain the wealth and prestige of a professional soccer player or a major league star just by gaming. As a result, countless people sought to become this era’s protagonist.
“Becoming a famous gamer? Only one out of every thousand can do that. Right now in Warlord, there’s only about 3,000 people who make over a 100 million won. Considering Warlord’s player base, that’s less than the top 0.01 percent. Plus, imagine the amount of money you have to spend to maintain your ranking that high. Take any one of these 3,000 people, they probably spent just as much on Warlord as they earned.”
Only a very small minority of players could enjoy the life of wealth and fame.
“Not to mention, VR games are completely different than PC games. You can’t get better by just leveling up. It’s about talent. Even though it’s an RPG game, you can’t become a ranker with just levels and items. If you start playing with that mindset, you’ll end up quiting within a month. You just have to enjoy it. Warlord is the world’s most unfair game. If you compare yourself to others, you won’t win over your inferiority complex.”
Right, virtual reality games were more unfair than any other games.
Even in PC games, there are good players and bad players. In a VR world, where everyone has superhuman powers, the difference was even clearer.
That’s not all.
In Warlord, the best way to earn money was through live broadcasts.
However, only 30 channels were given permission to broadcast Warlord-related content. In the past, when problems began to arise from gambling and swearing in private broadcasts, most countries began to require licenses for broadcasting certain content. In the case of Warlord, only 30 channels were given licenses.
That was how the Top 30 Guilds were created. Guilds that obtained broadcasting channels received no small benefits.
Furthermore, these guilds used the money and influence gained through live broadcasts and live tickets to prevent other guilds from challenging their authority. Although everyone aimed to become one of the Top 30 Guilds in the beginning, the gap between a Top 30 Guild and a non-Top 30 Guild only grew wider over time.
They were in a league of their own.
By the time Warlord entered its 4th year of service, no one could threaten to close this gap.
The Hahoe Mask Guild.
Its members all fought wearing hahoe masks. Despite a majority of them having started a year after existing rankers, they showed incredible skills and results. In time, they even started to threaten the positions of the Top 30 Guilds.
And in the middle of this storm was Hyrkan.
His nickname, the Hero Slaughterer.
The nickname was given to him because he effortlessly slaughtered the rankers that represented Warlord.
He was a monster that defied logic.
“Hyrkan? He’s a real monster, the kind that disrupts an ecosystem. He throws a 150 km fastball, then throws a 250 km fastball right afterwards. Plus, he games harder than anyone else. That’s what VR games are all about. No matter how much time you invest, someone without talent can’t beat someone with talent. Even if someone with talent achieves something by investing time, it becomes nothing in front of greater talent. I assure you, Hyrkan is at the top in both talent and effort. If he started just a year earlier, no one would be his match.”
A monster that disrupts an ecosystem.
It was an apt description.
It was also the reason why Hyrkan was ostracized.
“Why Hahoe Mask Guild betrayed Hyrkan? It’s simple. They would’ve been ostracized by the Top 30 Guilds otherwise. At first, they all fought to recruit Hyrkan, but they soon realized it wasn’t going to happen. Hyrkan isn’t the type to bow his head in front of others. A tiger can grow up drinking a dog’s milk, but a tiger is a tiger, a dog is a dog.”
The Top 30 Guilds were already making enormous profit in their own ecosystem.
There was no way they would stand still and watch a monster like Hyrkan ruin it. Even so, they suffered more harm than good trying to take him out.
Hyrkan. Although he was nicknamed the Hero Slaughterer, he never actively sought out to kill others. It was always three or four rankers that attacked him first, and he only retaliated. Hyrkan never wanted to become a “slaughterer.”
So when Stormhunter Guild absorbed Hahoe Mask Guild and declared war on Hyrkan, the rest of the Top 30 Guilds promised their tacit support. It wasn’t anything unexpected.
“Hahoe Mask Guild is probably thankful to Hyrkan, but their inferiority complex must have been equally big. Betraying Hyrkan and joining the Stormhunter Guild or fighting against the entire Top 30 Guilds. The choice was obvious.”
No matter how amazing Hyrkan was, he wasn’t capable fight against the Top 30 Guilds by himself.
“In the end, Hyrkan was too amazing for his own good. That’s why he was betrayed from Warlord.”
Shunned by the whole world, Hyrkan was left with no choice but to quit Warlord.
Of course, all this…
“I can’t believe this is happening to me.”
Hasn’t happened as of now.
“I returned to the past…”
An Jaehyun, he returned to 2036.
With all his memories intact!