I gasped in a breath of air and opened my eyes as life and consciousness bloomed, seeing only blue sky. I was flat on my back, and the ground felt soft beneath me. A musical chime sounded, and words faded into view, floating just overhead.
Welcome, player! You have entered into the game world of Archipelago as a level zero Pilgrim. Every player begins as a Pilgrim, and must travel to the distant Temple of All Gods to become a Paladin. Heed this warning, only one God will appear to you in that temple, and the choices you make on your pilgrimage will have a direct impact on which God deigns to accept your service.
As soon as I finished reading the words, they rippled, vanished, and were replaced by more.
Heed this warning, you are a level zero player. You cannot progress to Level One until your pilgrimage is over. Level zero players cannot gain EXP. Level zero players cannot advance skills beyond level one (the lowest skill level). Level zero players have no formalised stats, stats will be formalised according to game play during the pilgrimage. Level zero players cannot engage or be engaged in combat by other player characters or NPCs, but can be attacked and must defend themselves against monsters and animals.
These words rippled and vanished and more appeared.
You are a Rakkshi. Your choice of race affects your pilgrimage in definitive ways. Rakkshi are often feared and mistreated. Until your Renown grows, you will find travel difficult. People will not trust you or treat you well. You will often be an outcast. Remember, outcasts stick together. You will find friends amongst the downtrodden and the deprived.
More ripples, more words. How much more was I expected to read?
You have survived a shipwreck. You have survived the worst storm the wild sea can form. You have gained the skill: Survival: At Sea. Level One. You will no longer panic in stormy waters. You know what to do in the worst of storms, and you can weather them. As your skill increases, you will be able to survive for longer periods of time adrift on makeshift rafts and, eventually, in the open water. Combined with the skill: Sailing, you will be able to cross any outer sea.
Those words faded, and were replaced once more. This was getting ridiculous.
You received a head wound during the storm. You now have no memory of your past before waking on this beach. You must choose a new name for yourself.
The words didn’t waver when I finished reading them. They just floated before me, waiting on a reply.
“Gemmell,” I said.
The words changed at that, rippling and being replaced.
You have chosen the name Gemmell. Do you wish to keep this name?
The words rippled, faded, and weren’t replaced. I lay there for a moment, staring up at the perfectly blue, cloudless sky above me, just marveling at the game. I could feel my body, this body here on the beach. It felt like the only one I had. There was no apparent connection to the real world.
I thought about the game menu, and it appeared, offering me options:
Transfer Cash Into Game
Transfer Cash Out of GameFind Friends
I moved to the next menu. My stats were greyed out, and most of them were set at zero, though Agility was at 3 and Charisma was -2. The natural ability and penalty of the Rakkshi, my chosen race.
Next up, my inventory. All I had was the rags I wore, and a small, dull grey globe. I selected the globe, and it appeared floating in front of me. It was about the size of one of those mini-footballs, and had cost as much as an IRL house. In game, only I could see or interact with mine, and there was no easy way to tell who else had one.
It was also the only piece of equipment people were allowed to pre-buy, and the most important thing I would ever own in game. What was it? A floating personal camera, the best way Archipelago had to share gameplay.
I went back into the original menu, and found that Share Gameplay could be selected now. I sat up, picked it, and now I was live streaming from the game.
“Hey there, I’m Chris Gemmell, and I’m live streaming from inside Archipelago. There’s very few Arch live streams yet, probably due to the cost of the camera, and I want to say a special thank you to everyone who helped me crowdfund mine. I’ve just started the game – as you can see from my ears and the slight fuzz of fur on my skin, I decided to play as a Rakkshi. A female Rakkshi.
Everything about Arch is still pretty new. People aren’t buying it in as large a number as I’m sure the developers had originally hoped. The full immersion virtual reality equipment required to do this is ridiculously expensive. I’m sure that price will fall, and more people will come online, but until then it is a barrier. I can say that I’ve never felt as fully immersed in a game as I do right now. Previous full immersion VRs seem to have only been about a quarter immersion, compared to what I’m experiencing here.
The Pilgrimage system is a secondary barrier. People are unhappy at the idea of playing level zero for an extended time. There’s been a lot of negativity online, most from people who haven’t played the game. It seems an interesting and novel approach to me, but I’m open-minded, and if I decide this is the biggest game fuck up I’ve ever come across, I’ll definitely say so.
The third barrier to the game is racism. You cannot play as a white or black human in Arch. The islands flora, fauna, weather and temperature are based off the Philippines, well, the non-magical parts are, and the only humans, either as PCs or NPCs, are Asian. This has seriously upset a lot of people, and I’m sure you know that already. In addition, the playable non-human characters are all new races. There are rumours that dwarves and elves do exist, but can’t be played.
I chose a Rakkshi, a race of cat people, well, essentially, Panther People. We have a natural affinity to agility and a penalty to charisma. I’ll let you know more about playing Rakkshi as I learn it. I can say that whilst most of my level zero stats are set at zero, my agility is at 3 and my charisma is at minus two. Should make my interactions with NPCs interesting, at least. Oh, and the full immersion? I already mentioned how amazing it is. There’s one weird thing, though, and that’s having a tail. I can feel it, but I can’t control it like an arm or something. It’s just floating behind me. I can feel it move.
Just a few more things before I set off to explore my starting area. There were a lot of system messages that came in as soon as I started here. It explained the level zero concept in more depth, and the Pilgrimage. I am at least a hundred miles from the temple of All Gods, where I will be accepted into the service of a God, gain my first level, and become a Paladin.
The choices I make on my pilgrimage will apparently decide which God I get. I know there’s been some complaining about that, what if you are forced into the service of an evil god but want to play good? If your choices are good, you will get a good god, and vice versa. I’m fairly certain you can also use this to pick a class. If you want to play as a rogue, then steal shit and the God of Thieves should appear. Prefer to be a warrior? Fight things. I have no set goal, and there is very little out game information on the variety of the Gods. The developers have stated that not all available Gods have appeared in game yet. So one of the first things I want to try and do is determine if there is in game information on the available Gods.
My starting location is on a beach. Apparently, I survived a storm at sea. I even gained the skill survival at sea in response to my backstory, so that part was pretty cool. Lastly, I apparently suffered a head injury during my shipwreck that has left me with no memory, and resulted in me having to choose a name. As always in games, I chose the name Gemmell. I like the amnesia, it explains why an adult character with no skills or experience or history can suddenly appear in the world. But if they give it to every player, half the world’s going to have amnesia. Also, I’m wondering if I have a discoverable back story. That would be interesting.
Okay, I’m going to explore my surroundings. I’ll be setting the camera to continue live streaming for the next two hours. It will follow discreetly behind me, so you’ll get to see everything I see and do for that period. After that, it will record but not broadcast.
When I finish playing today, I’ll make a video of my first days thoughts, and showing the highlights.
Gemmell, a Rakkshi Pilgrim in Archipelago, out for now.”