In the year 2032, Awalken of Reminiscence RPG is the premier VRMMORPG, and has been so for the last ten years. However the quality of the official game has declined considerably, at least according to MMO junkies like myself. Most players like myself play Awalken on “shards,” or legally-grey private servers run by volunteers.
My name is Ryo Fujiwara and on my eighteenth birthday I inherited my uncle’s maid cafe. When I am not running my maid cafe, I play on a shard of Awalken called Maid Story Online. Now this is a funny one, there’s so much custom content that it could be considered its own game separate from Awalken.
「LunaKo: There is a new quest in the game, shall we play it, brother?」
It was a message by my little sister, Luna Kozuki, well even if I say little, she’s already 16 years old. Well, she’ll always be a little sister to me anyway. Unlike me she still lives with my parents, so the only way to meet each other is through games.
I finished doing my book-keeping for today’s business, the Valkyrie cosplay event was a great success, and I sent a message on my maid party’s group chat from my flip phone. The group chat is available both in-game and out of game on iMode and as a desktop messenger program.
「FujiRyo: Sure, I’ll be on in a minute.」
I looked at the tea stalk standing in the middle of my cup for good fortune, and then I emptied a cup of green tea into my throat. I connected the VR nervlink gear headset to my computer. I could afford a proper stand-alone VR headset, one which works without connecting it to a desktop computer but honestly if I am just going to lie in bed, it would be a waste of money. The most advanced VR consoles don’t even require a headset, but are rather a reclining chair where players can just lie down on without wearing any special accessories.
Logging into the game happens automatically, when I opened my eyes I was already in the bedroom of my in-game mansion. Incidentally when you go to sleep within the game you just spawn out so nothing can be done to your in-game body. No one else has logged in yet when I reach the dining room, so I make myself some tea. Unlike the official game, this shard doesn’t have proper taste support, so the tea tastes like lemon-tea even though it’s supposed to be ordinary tea.
I could just watch some nito nito douga videos to pass the time, but to logging in into a virtual fantasy world just to watch the same videos and podcasts as people do in the real world, that would be just too sad.
Instead I looked outside the window to see the virtual streets of a destroyed city. The in-game setting for the city of Lucca, is that it was destroyed in a war between humans and robots. I am living in the mansion of the deceased Dr. Kotaro Azuma, the creator of the first androids. The mansion is a castle on a cliff overlooking an abandoned metropolitan city, a city totally surrounded by 80-feet tall renaissance-era red-brick and limestone walls. On top of the walls there’s a wide path encircling the city. Although I don’t enjoy the security of the walls from here, it was a purchase worth it just for the view.
The game has already been officially up for a month and now has a population of over 3000 players online at any time. Players have been trickling in slowly to this city, slowly bringing this dead city back to life. The official name of my mansion within the game is the 「Cybernetic Culture Research Unit」or the C.C.R.U.
I turned around, away from the window, only to be met by my stealthy butler, Baldwin IV, an NPC, picking up my dirty cutlery. Baldwin is twenty-four years old, has blond hair and wears a shiny sombre-looking metallic mask, presumably to hide scars but I didn’t ask him any details since he seems so taciturn. He also wears a large gold cross on his neck. Besides that he wears a light grey butler uniform. Only his eyes can be seen through the slits of his mask, and they look misty, almost transparent.
「Master Fujiwara, I have received a word from Lord British. The new quest is going to start in the amphitheatre of the city of Lucca.」
「Understood. Now if only my maids were as diligent as you are Baldwin IV.」
「I will always be loyal to my pay-check master.」
「As you should be, as you should be.」
Baldwin IV is an expensive NPC butler but I have no complaints about how he does his job. This abandoned mansion was mostly restored into place and kept secure by him.
A notification pops out at the edge of my vision. I open the translucent blue status screen by focusing with my eyes and selecting with my finger tips. There are two messages.
「HimeMiyo: I am sorry Ryo but I have an important assignment for next week so I won’t be able to join today’s session. m(__)m」
「LunaKo: Bro, the manuscript for oreoto is due on Thursday, and the editor has come to get me. P.S. Stop wasting your sister’s time with these games. – Erika.」
The first message was from Himemiya Mio. Well, it’s a miracle I had been able to get my subordinates to agree to do this in the first place. As for the second from my little sister, I cannot say that as an older brother I don’t find those little brother novels she writes not gross, but, well, it is okay. That must have been the editor, Erika at the end, grabbing out my sister’s phone to text me. Scary.
I did look forward to teaching the two of them about the game but–
「It looks like it’s just going to be us again Baldwin IV. Not that I am complaining.」
Baldwin IV opened the door and two maids walked in, although these, unlike Baldwin, were not NPCs. Maid Story Online is totally different from Awalken RPG even if it is based on Awalken.
Awalken is just your run of the mill fantasy setting with dragons, demon lords, and other things which give it the mass appeal that makes it so popular. Well, it’s not like Maid Story Online doesn’t have these things too but…
「Seriously, isn’t this a bit too much boss?」
「Well, no, it is moe. Isn’t this why you work at Voluspa Cafe, Ina-chan? Besides, I can totally see you are enjoying yourself, why else would you pick the elf-ears accessory, huh?」
Ina Ikehata blushed as she pats down the apron of her maid uniform.
Elisa Bartolozzi smiled as she teased her friend and co-worker.
「Welcome to Maid Story Online!」
I said taking in the nice sight in. The butler eyed me wordlessly.
Maid Story Online has maids in it. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say, that it’s its main feature. MSO is one of those mods created for games in order to pander to a specific niche of otaku. Now, I wouldn’t say that I am a maid otaku but of course I do run a maid cafe. There are three classes in this game: Master, Maid, and Butler. Most players play as Masters, like I do, but you can also choose to be a Maid or a Butler at character creation. Maids must obey Masters but they get twice as much XP. Since I am new to this maid cafe business, I thought that making my subordinates act as maids in a game would help them to act as maids in my cafe in real life, thus boosting both my sales and my gaming experience. If you call it perversion, then you must call business acumen a perversion.
My final goal would be to open a virtual maid cafe within the game and use that to advertise my real maid cafe. Of course the taste-support is absent or at best wonky in this game but who goes to a maid cafe for the food anyway?
Ina’s maid uniform was an earthy-green colour complementing her silver eyes and gold hair. The uniform consists of a long, flowing dress with a cinched waist to create an elegant and ethereal look. The hems, sleeves, and neckline of her uniform are adorned with intricate embroidery inspired by nature like leaves, vines, and flowers. Her shoes are rather simple and made of wood. Ina’s elf-ears are a 「Special Perk」 just like Elisa’s subtle crown is. Choosing a 「Special Perk」 affects the rest of the character’s appearance.
The AI is rather capricious and won’t let you look like however you want to look like. The developers, the self-proclaimed 「Revolutionary Knights」who forked this game from Awalken, tout this AI as a feature rather than a bug.
Elisa’s maid uniform is a luxurious blue flowing dress with a clinched waist, adorned with elaborate embellishments, from intricate lace to beading and symbolic embroidery. A contrasting pastel apron, sometimes decorated with lace, added a practical touch for maid duties, while a subtle crown adorned her head. Elbow-length gloves, delicate shoes, and a matching hairpin completed the uniform, while a shawl, crafted from the same high-quality fabric, added an extra layer of sophistication and warmth. It is a good thing that this game doesn’t simulate clothes getting dirty or damaged, broken items just vanish, simulating every detail would probably crash the servers and would make the get up of these two totally impracticable.
「You both look great!」
「As do you Ryo-san, or should I call you Fuji-sama in here? Or how about Master Fujiwara lol」
Saying lol in actual speech shows how well and truly corrupted Elisa is, well I am no better, repeating memes I heard at twelve years old. FujiRyo is my username within this game. The game’s AI wouldn’t accept any weird names like WarlockGazer, which I used in other games, so I went with a shortened version of my name. Elisa’s username above her head in the game is Lisa and as for Ina, she went with TakeIna, names and levels are only visible for members of your party and enemies but not other players. This shard lacked the voice-addon, or module, which allowed players in games like Awalken to change their voices with AI to match their character’s appearance, so this meant that unless you were very good at faking your voice, it was going to be weird if you chose an appearance which did not match your voice at all. In fact the AI was going to reject it probably. On the other hand if the AI thought it would be funny then it would let you do it anyway. By this point I no longer found it amusing to occasionally hear cute fox girls talking with the deepest manly voices imaginable. In fact, I question the in-game “AI-God”’s sense of humour. Is He retarded?
「Fuji-sama should be fine. So shall we move out?」
I explained some basic information about the game on our way to the Amphitheatre. Ina was new to VR games but Elisa was an Awalken “veteran” player, keeping up with every major expansion.
「Unlike the other game, there’s not going to be any major expansions to this game. Only weekly updates, some big, mostly small. Currently there are 23 skills in total in this game. All skills are available to all classes, but maids and butlers get vastly more experience points per hit. Of course, the price for this power is that you have to obey a master or you will lose your maid status and become a regular master player.」
The real game, Awalken, has already over 46 skills. This game is based on leaked source-code from five years ago, when an angry developer at Atlas-Axia, the company which developed Awalken before Atlas-Axia got bought out, leaked the source-code on an anonymous text-board, in protest to the changes to monetisation and content being done to the game.
「Honestly, it sounds like a game that a pervert came up with.」
「Well, I wouldn’t be so quick as to judge but it does sound like a Master Pervert or a Perverted Gentleman came up with this.」
「If they are perverted, how could they be a gentleman?」
「Well, Ina, what does that make us then, who are playing this ero game? I told you that you are under no obligation to play this game for your employment. It’s just an experiment.」
「That’s easy for you to say, boss.」
「Ah, your master is hurt.」
We finally arrived at the Amphitheatre at the centre of town where about a hundred of other players are also gathered around the diamond-studded statue of the boy turned robot hero, Kikero, who chose to fight against the machine Andro-Force to defend the Human city-republic of Lucca. The ruins of the Amphitheatre had long been turned into a player housing project due to its prime location, players had built four storeys of flats on top of the Amphitheatre’s seats leaving only archways to enter the into the round plaza now surrounded by the green windows of apartments. I could see Lord British along with his butler Robespierre, up on the balcony of one the apartments preparing to speak to the crowd.
「They aren’t going to announce the removal of the log off button, are they?」
「Don’t even joke about it, Lisa.」
「Yea, boss is right about that.」
Cheeky little… Why add 「about that?」
Ten years ago, back when Awalken was a wee flat screen game, another game had taken the world by storm as the first true VRMMORPG experience, but its creator went insane and trapped its users in the game during the game’s first event, killing many players who died in real life as they died in the game. All VR-development was banned until Atlas-Axia, Awalken’s original game studio, created VR-headsets which couldn’t trap its users in the game like that. VR headsets which are at any rate certified by the government to be safe. Who knows if it’s true though? The government invested quite the pretty penny in VR and AI to be ahead of other governments and corporations.
The other players here in the Amphitheatre were a mix of maids, masters, and the occasional butler. While Maids and Butlers costumes are variations on maid and butler uniforms, most Masters look like generic adventurers from any other fantasy rpg, and I am sad to say I am not an exception to that trend of fashion. They were all having conversations like our own probably. Although this isn’t the first event in this game, it’s the first event in this city.
The sound of trumpets playing echoed in the air. Lord British, a veteran player from the game’s beta test and now the ruler of this city walked up to to the large window. It was finally time. A well-dressed middle-aged man in a dark tunic started to speak.
「Greetings, everyone – it has been some time since I last stood behind a podium and made a public announcement, so you’ll have to forgive me if I’m somewhat out of form. The reason I stand here before you is to make an important announcement for our city. Thank you all for your time…」
Just then I received an SOS request on The Drunken Peasants’ clan-chat. The DP was the clan which I had joined to initially when I first joined the game, and although I have had some disagreements with its fat basement-dwelling leaders I still stuck with the clan since it was the first I joined. I am part of many clans now, though none of them have my total loyalty. I came across the DP on a hot summer day, on an ill-conceived promotional video with barely 240 views they had made for nico nico Douga.
「YoshiKawa: Help! I am being gank-stalked in teh Nemesis Vallley by a bunch of f***ing gankers. Probably. 」
The *** are due to the in-game chat’s profanity filter. I could turn it off but why would I want to hear what every retard in the game chat has to say while sounding like they are on the border of having a mental breakdown? And while this message could easily be the plea of a player-killer getting what he truly deserved, that「probably」piqued my interest… It also sounded a bit noob-ish, not an attempt to get someone in a remote region to loot their inventory.
「FujiRyo: Possibly? Have you tried logging out or changing worlds?」
「YoshiKawa: Yes, I am in world 003.」
I got everyone’s attention.
「Change of plans, the old man’s speech can wait.」
「What? Don’t look at me like that. The fun thing about this game is that you don’t have to follow someone else’s script.」
「Let’s go to World 003 and save a newbie player.」