The field stretched out, one long grey expanse. There were a lot of areas like this, lately. Just showing off the limits of the game without working too hard. Gray shook her head. What was the point in making tiny, detailed things to try and fill a world? She wanted big. Mountains, rivers, anything to really explore. If they all had to be these damnable deserts, why couldn't they have dramatic dunes? That would be fun, clipping the tops of sandy hills with her jet, listening to the GM warnings, "Please do not interfere with the scenery! Repeated actions will lead to player removal from the field!"
To be fair, this was still a limited server. Once it left testing, there would surely be more to see. They'd be obligated to add in a hub area for players to enter, somewhere for the NPCs to huddle around offering quests. In the meantime, it was just this expanse. The quests were in place, they'd all listed themselves neatly into her HUD. Fetch quests, mostly. You could infer the area's story from it. A new settlement, recruiting the players as saviors: collecting building supplies and food from this wasteland. She scrolled through them. Boring. Boring. Boring. Ah, there the plot made a turn towards her kind of game. Hunting quest. Advanced rank. Solo play required. Typical sort of items in reward, point bonus dependent on completion time and damage taken. She mouthed the words of the title as she read them, "Broken Defense."
It was rare for the game to require solo play for a hunting quest. The government preferred that Avalon focus on fostering cooperation. Occasionally the Nine Sisters would subvert that, perhaps that would explain the desolation. If pressed by the government they would be able to shrug, "You see the destruction? That represents what happens when you work alone. That's the meaning of the place. Didn't you understand that?"
And they wouldn't understand. The feeling of victory. Standing alone above a kill. Returning to the root town and cashing in the points that finally push you a rank higher on the leader boards. It was what made the game good. There was enough cooperation in the world. This was a world where you didn't have to function as part of a machine. You were yourself. You could prove that that "you" was better than the other "you"s playing across the world.
Gray lived for that struggle. This was her third character, a melee/sniper build based on her favorite movie. It had been easy to run through the beginner server's quests, amassing as many points as possible.
She'd played almost nonstop for weeks, amassing a hodgepodge of cheap equipment, mostly common drops, and selling everything of value. Her transport had been the first purchase made, once she could afford it. The fighter pilot image was really the basis for the whole character. It got easier from there. She'd worked as a gold farmer when the game was new, and her friends from those days still kept her informed on easily exploitable quests and areas.
Her rapid rise up the leader boards of the beginner server had attracted the attention of the Nine Sisters. Not immediately in a positive light, she found out later that she'd been investigated as a hacker for 3 months. Eventually, though, she'd finally gotten her character to the image she wanted and had found her way onto the Sister's short list of beta players.
It was a huge honor, of course. Both having earned such a level of personal attention and the ability to see these new areas before any of the decidedly average players wandering most of the game. They were opening this field up only 7 at a time. Gray had been chosen for group A. She could easily be the first player, therefore, to log in to this field. She grinned at the notion. Here she was, the first. Number one. It must be a lucky omen.
She selected the quest, and carefully studied the map. The starting point was actually rather close, another stroke of luck. She'd even be able to hoof it, and save some of her transportation usage time for the area. Probably a good idea, but it really was a boring area still. Better to get it over with quickly. She left immediately.
The area was a little more filled out in this quests's area. There were a few larger rocks, with small lizards slipping across the surface and disappearing again between the cracks. She scanned for signs of the game she was perusing. Maybe the lizards were a sign? Something reptilian? Dragons were always a big hit, but rarely suited to a solo-only quest. It was hard to really predict the structure that would be built over this skeleton. She equipped her mask and her favorite melee weapon: a slick pair of gloves that matched her outfit seamlessly. It practically looked as though she had no weapon equipped at all while using them.
Her strategy was simple. She'd move into the area until the quest triggered and the enemy spawned. Then she could evade it until she could put enough distance between them to get a good shot with her rifle. With any luck, it'd be over fast, and she'd have a huge points boost that was unattainable by anyone else she knew. Really, this could be the quest that would finally immortalize her reputation within the game.
She pushed forward, cautiously. Her stealth stat was high, but scripted events like this had a bad habit of ignoring player's levels. Her melee ability would easily buy her the time she was counting on in a cheap kind of ambush attack.
Suddenly, a block of greenery clipped in to view. messy, messy graphics work, even for a beta. It was also a dead giveaway.
"Quest begin. Your party has been disbanded." Gray smiled. The little glitches in this quest were really becoming charming. With a deep croaking sound, the monster rose its head out of the bushes. It was a deep black animal, almost bat-like in appearance. It lunged forward, surprisingly fast Gray noted. The attack brushed through her, a miss. The animal stumbled, and recollected itself behind her. The open made her grin. She turned and sprinted for the spot she'd chosen for her ultimate sniping attack. This was looking like fun.