After pressing the button, I close my eyes and feel my entire body going numb, the dim light through my eyelids fading to complete black. A couple of moments pass, until I can feel my senses coming back to me together with the return of light. Okay, that felt really strange.
When I open my eyes, I find myself lying on the floor in a completely gray room.
I open and close my hand to test my body. “Wow, it feels exactly like real life,” I murmur, feeling my slightly longish nails softly digging into my hand. After my successful grip test I try standing up, but as usual I stumble in the process. Even though I’m not unusually tall with my 180 cm, I’ve always felt incredibly clumsy trying to maneuver my body around. Well, I suppose VR wouldn’t fix that either.
I look around, finding the game selection screen floating a couple of meters away from where I had been lying. Next to some demos that came with the console, it prominently displays the game I was given, Turn of Destiny XIX. I cautiously touch the thumbnail and the game selection screen disappears. Almost immediately the map of ToD’s world — Haurchefaud — is being projected around me, a bit like those old globes you see in museums, but from the inside.
“Welcome to Turn of Destiny XIX, adventurer!” a woman's voice excitedly calls as the title of the game pops into view. “Please note that Turn of Destiny uses one-to-six time dilation — for every six hours you spend in the game, only one hour will have passed outside. While this will greatly extend your gaming time, it may lead to some temporary discomfort when quitting. Enjoy your time in Turn of Destiny XIX. Your destiny awaits!”
A couple of moments later the globe background starts to change, leaving me in a nicely decorated wooden room. In the middle of the room stands a perfect yet basically naked copy of myself. I cringe. Ugh, this game is way too realistic.
When I approach my clone the character creation UI pops up, with on the first tab the race selection.
Hmm, which one should I pick…
Like many of the previous ToD titles, this game has a very broad selection of races: from the typical humans, called ‘Ulusu’; ‘Langor’, which are the elves; and a gigantic list of beastkin races. Some are very humanlike, replacing only a couple of traits; others — while still keeping a somewhat human form — go a lot further.
My eyes fall on two races in particular: the ‘drakone’, creatures who are part-human, part-dragon, and the ‘nekote’, which are basically your catgirls and catboys. Although I do feel drawn towards picking the Drakone, my anime soul pushes me towards the Nekote instead.
I select the nekote from the list and my mirror image begins to morph. Two cat ears grow up from underneath its scraggly black hair to replace the human ears. A black cat tail appears at the back, snaking through a specially designed hole in the underwear.
Curious, I lean closer to my image and touch its mouth — Wow, this feels too real — pushing up its lip to reveal a slightly longer canine tooth. “Incredible detail…” I murmur.
The next part is the part I’m most interested in — the ‘choose-your-gender-tab’.
“Wow, they even added intersex as an option!” I can’t help but exclaim. Yet pretty impressive for an MMO, this was not the option I would choose.
I select ‘female’ from the list. My mirror image immediately shifts to leave a catgirl standing in front of me, a catgirl which bears an uncanny resemblance to my sister. That was to be expected — I smile — they do use your genetic code just in case you want to swap genders. And I did, already more comfortable with the avatar staring back at me.
Now it’s time for the real work to begin.
I’ve always been one of those people who can spend hours trying to perfect their character, and I do it in any kind of game I play — from making characters in ‘The Pims’ to picking or creating skins for ‘Tunnelcraft’, all of it is just so I can play a character I enjoy. In nearly every case, this is a girl.
I start by changing the general body structure of my avatar: shrinking her down to 155cm; slightly narrowing her shoulders; adding a tiny bit of hip; settling on a C-cup for the breasts. I make her perfectly proportioned — I dislike those clowns that put all the sliders to max.
Next is her face, which, to be honest, I quite like already, probably thanks to the resemblance to my sister — it just feels right. I only do small tweaks to my face, but I do change her eyes. I’ve always liked characters with heterochromia and — seeing that the game has that option as well? — I can’t resist. I turn her left iris light pink and her right light blue.
The last change I make to her body is her hair. I lengthen it until it falls to her collarbone, choosing a long, layered hair style with the upper layer tied at the back in a wide braid. For the colour, I choose to match it with her heterochromic eyes, making it pink for its majority, with some light blue highlights.
“Wow,” a contented sigh leaves my lips — I’m incredibly happy with my work. “Just a couple more things and I’m done!” Specifically, to give her a voice, and then afterwards choose a class and tweak her stats.
I’ve never played a game before that lets you customize your character’s voice to this level, but for a FDVRMMO it’s definitely not a minor detail. The voice you choose is the voice you’ll have for the entire time you’re in the game, after all. Millions of people running around speaking in the same seven presets would get old fast. After a long time spent messing with sliders, I decide to go with a fairly deep and smokey voice for a girl. A high pitched voice just doesn’t fit my personality at all.
Next up are the classes. My hand immediately goes towards the healer section of the list, since I’ve always been drawn to support roles. I just really like the satisfaction I get from helping people, I guess.
There’s a couple of different archetypes on offer: some kind of alchemist who does most of his healing and buffs through potions; an engineer archetype who uses contraptions and healing sprays; the ‘idol’ who uses song and dance to heal. I don’t choose any of these, instead going for the lunar mage class. According to the description, the class gets its power from the moon to perform healing magic.
After selecting the lunar mage class, the UI brings me to the stats list, where I see that Nekote have higher base stats in dexterity and perception. Makes sense, felines are more perceptive than humans. The UI suggests I put the majority of the points in faith and intelligence to increase my mana, its regeneration, and the amount of healing and damage my spells do. I do mostly follow this suggestion, but I also put some points in dexterity, perception and constitution. I don't really plan on getting hit, rather relying mostly on dodging, but if I do take a hit I don’t want to get one-shot.
“Want to finalize your character? Warning: It is not possible to change your character’s appearance after finalization!”
I quickly go over all options again, then press the confirmation button.
This brings me to the end of the character creation, what rests is to pick a name and where to spawn. I’ve been thinking about a nickname since my sister told me hers; I want something similarly themed. Hmmm...Amicia...Yes, that’s a good name! And for the second part...Lightbringer? Nah... Candlelight? Almost...OH! Auxchandelles! I fill in ‘Amicia_Auchandelles’ in the box prompt and continue to the world map.
“The Vinanian Empire will do. It’s pretty centered so meeting sis there shouldn’t take much time at all.” I highlight the nation on the map and...
That’s it. I’m finally ready to start my first FDVR experience! I press the spawn button, and my vision goes black.