The Uncanny Valley Traveling Guide - Chapter 1
Melancholy Song (1)
Gregorian calendar 2301, the city of Nova.
The translucent light paths traversed across the sky above the entire magnificent city with all kinds of aircraft shuttle quickly on it, bringing bursts of brilliant sparks. The streets were crowded with people, the metal-colored precision buildings glow in the sunlight, and a huge three-dimensional half-length portrait was displayed at the very top of the city center, allowing people to hear and see the image above with unparalleled clarity no matter where they were—
——“The city of Nova, where dreams and future are shaped by you.”
It was the projection of a virtual woman. As early as half a month ago, the top of Nova City was still displaying the portrait of international superstar, Alan Nabel. This superstar who was handsome enough to make women and some men all over the world scream, seemed to have signed a long-term contract with Nova City. He shot dozens of different sets of images for this giant city, flickering in the sky for half a year. But just a dozen days ago, he disappeared, and was replaced by the bust of a nun.
She was wearing a snow-white eternal devotion veil. Her eyes and forehead were blindfolded with intricate white lace. Not even a trace of her hair color could be seen; however, even if she only showed half of her face, her high nose bridge, ruddy red lips, and her fair skin were enough to show what a beauty she was.
The nun’s slender hands were clasped in front of her chest, and the backs of her white hands were painted with bright red complicated patterns. After billions of light dots gathered in the sky to form her face, she spoke in an ethereal and sacred voice: “Good day, brothers and sisters, may the father’s kingdom come, and may the father’s will be carried out on earth as it is in heaven. I am Sister Theresa, your eternal guide and companion.”
After that, it suspended in the sky until today.
Wen Zheliu was standing at the intersection of the street diagonally below the statue of the nun, his slender fingers flipping an electronic name tag.
He had been waiting here for a long time, until his lips were a little dry. With a sigh, he turned around and walked across the new and bright zebra crossing. He walked around the busy street corner and found a drink shop.
“A glass of lemonade, thank you.”
“That will be six copper coins.”
He counted six copper coins one by one. At this time, he noticed a man in black sitting on the chair next to him, covering half of his face with a mask. He was looking at the drink shop menu, and his hands involuntarily touching the side of his waist.
Forgot his wallet? Wen Zheliu thought that the man had a pair of very beautiful eyes.
After thinking for a while, he counted another six copper coins and gave them to the shopkeeper.
“Another drink please, thank you.”
Suddenly, a cold and wet feeling came from his shoulders. The man turned his head to look at him. Wen Zheliu smiled at him, holding the glass of cool and refreshing drink in his hand.
“Friend, you forgot your wallet?” He smiled brightly, “The weather is hot today, so the real-time temperature here is also adjusted to be hot. Drink something, I’ll treat you.”
The man was stunned for a moment, and then the pair of light colored peach blossom eyes were filled with smiles. He was not polite, and simply took it, saying, “Thank you.”
Wen Zheliu waved at him and continued walking to the former place, drinking lemonade as he waited.
“Wen Di!” A voice suddenly came from behind him, and before he could turn his head, a man vigorously grabbed his shoulders, pressed him into his arms for a good rubbing, “You bastard, why are you standing here!”
The man twirled his fingers that were holding the lemonade and raised his eyebrows gently.
Without turning his head, Wen Zheliu just bumped the person’s chest with his elbow, creating a dull metallic sound. He laughed and said, “Cut it out! I just can’t think of anywhere to go!”
The person wrapped his arm around his shoulders was in fact a tall and old-fashioned robot. The steel front chest was sprayed with red and white lacquer lines that were mutilated due to wear and tear. When he was talking, you could even see the gears protruding from his cheekbones, creaking and twisting under a bunch of rusty and mottled metal wires. Wen Zheliu glanced at him and said strangely, “What kind of skin painting is this? How come each one is stranger than the last?”
The robot proudly raised a finger, and the rust stains on his knuckles fell apart, “You don’t understand, now this feel1 is very popular, it’s the nostalgic steampunk, specially designed for players who have verified their mechanical identity. I have to invite someone to design it! I waited for a month before I got to queue, how about it, don’t you think it’s quite unique?”
Wen Zheliu glanced at his friend with disgust, and said, “Just don’t be swept away by the cleaning robot as scrap.”
“F*ck you!” White pretended to be angry and slapped him. Just as the two were talking, there were many pedestrians of different shapes and sizes passing by, a tall girl with golden pupils carrying a bow and arrows; a muscular bare-chested primitive warrior carrying a beast bone spike club on his shoulders; a teenager flying over the street on a jet skateboard; as well as a mechanical being stepping across the street at a uniform speed and exact same distance of each step……
When a blue-skinned sea race riding a large and gorgeous giant beast disappeared from their sight, the two of them exclaimed in unison.
“It’s the sea race dog tag, and [The lost soul of Atlanta], a B-grade ornamental mount that cost 888 gold coins in the mall.” White shook his head slowly, “Man, that’s rich.”
Wen Zheliu also shook his head: “The life of a local tyrant is very happy ah.”
The year 2301 of the Gregorian calendar, the city of Nova, a virtual paradise.
In the world hundreds of years later, with the rapid development of science and technology, holographic devices had replaced electronic devices and become an indispensable and important part of human’s lives. Relying on the research and development of holographic games, N-star company established a virtual network domain called Nova City on the optical network. This huge city known as ‘leaping across time and space’ had experienced long development and changes. Now it had become a universal network that included dozens of major functions such as gaming, social networking, and shopping, etc. It used precious metals such as gold and silver as the circulating currency, and copper was used as the conversion point under gold and silver. Up to present, the currency of Nova City could be exchanged with the real world currency, and hundreds of millions of professional players had emerged at this historical moment and became active in the Nova City.
People living in this era usually had three most important documents, one was an ID card, the other was a license to connect to the virtual network, and the last one was the electronic name tag of Nova City, which was called a dog tag by players. It was used as a racial certificate and residence permit.
Those who owned real estate in the real world could be certified as bird race and dragon race in Nova City, those who owned real estate at sea could be certified as sea race, and those who owned properties on mountains could be certified as Elf or Dryad race… The residence address determined what kind of fantasy ethic group you could become in Nova City. Although most people still chose the more comfortable human race, or the more imaginative aliens, goblins, orcs, and so on, there were still rich people who chose specific ethnic groups that could symbolize their identity, such as the sea race they saw just now.
As for White, he was a mechanical race specially designed by N-star for patients who had undergone surgery and people with disabilities. He could change his appearance for free once a month. Now the skin he had changed into was the nostalgic steampunk that was currently popular among the mechanical race.
“Let’s stop talking about this.” White turned his head, “what are you waiting here for?”
Wen Zheliu chose the most common human appearance. Of course, given his economic conditions, he could only choose this. Fortunately, he was tall and handsome, plus his skin was also fair and warm. When he smiled, he looked like a small sun that warmed people’s hearts. If he chose a different race, it wouldn’t highlight the advantage of his appearance.
He sighed while looking at the magnificent building not far away and complained: “Don’t mention it, I came online early this morning originally to earn some lunch money in World, but when I came up, it was a team reservation again, I have no words.”
The game he mentioned was a shooting escape game developed by N-star company half a year ago. The full name is ‘Survival World’. Because of its intense and exciting game mode, cutting-edge and avant-garde weapon and equipment design, it had been enthusiastically sought after once it was launched. The popularity had not subsided until now, and a large number of players shuttled back and forth every day, including the team that was born specifically for this purpose.
Compared with solo players, the team that had honed its tacit understanding and developed tactics in multiple games clearly had an advantage, which led to a situation: whenever a game becomes popular, some teams take the opportunity to fish in the troubled water, relying on this opportunity to bring newcomers with the large influx of people.
Most of the players who could form a team were old players with high level, rich experience, and long hours of gameplay. Novices were not qualified to go to places they(the old players) could go. Therefore, when fresh blood2 was needed, there would be teams in the current popular games specialized in opening trumpet3 to abuse low-level players who were not familiar with the rules of the game, sending heads, and brushing experiences for new players in their team.
In particular, the game mode of ‘Survival World’ was very special, which opened the door to such conduct, and made idle players dare not speak out. Even if it was reported to the regional administrator, it was impossible to completely ban them, and the punishment was quite superficial–after all, the rules of Nova City were like this, the law didn’t prohibit freedom, which in itself provided enough lenient conditions for player’s disputes.
“Just wait,” White said disdainfully, “When Uncanny Valley goes on sale, who will remember what Survival World is?”
Wen Zheliu raised his head and glanced at the nun portrait in the sky. Various aircraft and mounts passed by her, and some even deliberately passed through the eyes, mouth or chest.
“That Sister Theresa,” Wen Zheliu said, “It is said that she is the main figure of the Uncanny Valley, is that true?”
“Eight or nine out of ten.” White said, “Just think about it, this is the product that N-star Corporation intends to release on its centennial anniversary, and it will definitely be promoted with unprecedented resources. At that time, all the other games will become secondary in front of this game.”
“So, you have already started to prepare?” Wen Zheliu teased him amusedly.
White patted his chest confidently, and with a ‘bang’, the rust rustled and fell down, “Of course, since the press conference, I’ve been roaming around the horror zone, and basically got a thorough understanding of the existing game mode. When the Uncanny Valley opens, I will definitely rush to the top ten ranking list!”
The ranking list he mentioned was a list in which every big game would make a statistical ranking of the players’ combat power and achievements. In addition to the main game battlefields that cost a lot of money, the unexpectedly popular games like “Survival World” would also set up a ranking list. Seeing his friend’s fighting spirit, Wen Zheliu smiled and encouraged: “Then good luck, I have to politely say no to horror-themed games, so I won’t work hard for it.”
While the two of them were talking, they heard loud noises coming from the portal hall ahead. Wen Zheliu cheered up: “It’s out!”
“Do you have to wait for them to come out? Why don’t you go to other halls?” White was very puzzled, “There aren’t 10,000 portals in Survival World, but there’s at least 8000. Why are you so fixated on this one?”
Wen Zheliu said helplessly, “It’s because I took a gold task. As long as I kill 500 enemies in this room, a gold coin will enter my account. It’s hard to make so much money these days! ”
According to the exchange rate between the virtual currency and the real world, Wen Zheliu would earn nearly 10,000 yuan4 in the real world after completing this order. In the case which system tasks generally used silver coins and copper coins as the monetary rewards, it was indeed very rare.
“Good luck then!” White waved at him, “After finishing the task, we will meet at the revolving restaurant!”
Wen Zheliu didn’t turn his head back. He raised two fingers together in the air and walked into the hall with the flow of people.
White whistled, “Cool.”
When he entered the hall, Wen Zheliu realized that the situation was not as pleasant as he thought.
A red-haired woman wearing military boots and sleeveless camouflage clothes with her hair made into the latest [Mysterious Lady] appearance on the mall shelves, and another man in the appearance of an orc were blocked in front the portal, surrounded by a circle of angry players.
“I’ve made it very clear,” the woman helplessly spread her hands, “It’s just that the two of us have something to do, so we decided to quit automatically after one round is over, but it doesn’t mean that our team will also quit in the next round. What’s the use of blocking us? Do you want to provoke a fight in the peace zone?”
“You guys are clearly cheating!” a player said angrily, “It was you who said that you didn’t want to play anymore and quit, so everyone went in, but in the end only two of you left, and the rest were tricked in by you! ”
Wen Zheliu roughly understood what was going on. The woman smiled again, her amorous eyebrows showed an arrogant sharpness. The orc beside her moved his two curved fangs, spewing two streams of hot air from his nostril, and rudely said: “Whoever has an opinion, leave your starnet ID, I’ll see you at the slaughterhouse!”
The surrounding players suddenly quieted down.
The slaughterhouse was different from the arena for official competition. It was a private fighting venue for players. Voluntarily stepping into the portal of the slaughterhouse was equivalent to signing a life and death contract. One would face the risk of gold coins and experience levels being reset to zero. Except for the risky events that were regularly held, very few players who played the game peacefully were willing to go in there.
The woman was a level 55 senior player, and the orc was only two levels below her. There were at least tens of thousands of game worlds in Nova City. Naturally, it couldn’t be calculated using the conventional hierarchical system. Remove the highest-level worlds that have participated in, then remove the lowest-level worlds participated in, and take the remaining average, was the player’s comprehensive level. Level 50 wasn’t that high, but it was already a threshold that many people find difficult to cross.
“Lei Xiao team, Late Night Breeze, Crazy Blade Sweeping the Street5…” Wen Zheliu frowned, and a player next to him said, “Brother, do you know these two?”
Wen Zheliu shook his head with a smile: “Survival world ranked 32th battle team, you can see it at a glance.”
The player sarcastically said, “Only ranked 32nd but still jump around like this…bullying small players, why don’t they find the team in the front row to challenge?”
Wen Zheliu looked at the time displayed on the terminal, and he really couldn’t care less about these people. Before the game started, he pushed away several players in front of him and said, “Excuse me, please excuse me.” while walking towards the direction of the portal.
“Hey, bro!” The player behind him wanted to stop him, but Wen Zheliu dodged a few times, and stepped over to the entrance. He took out a thin translucent dog tag, raised his hand and swiped it in the card slot beside the entrance.
Late Night Breeze was quite surprised, but seeing that this player named Wen Di was only a poor level 15 player, she only regarded him as a hotheaded young man who wasn’t afraid of death. She couldn’t help but sneer: “Little weak chicken.”
Wen Zheliu was not angry, instead he smiled at her in a good temper. At this moment, a slender and powerful arm stretched out from the side, and immediately after that, Wen Zheliu’s card slot was swiped and made a ‘ding’ sound.
Wen Zheliu was taken aback. He turned his head and found that, at some point, a tall and slender man was standing behind him. It was the player he had invited to drink lemonade earlier. He himself was nearly 1.8 meters tall, but now facing this man, he could only reach his eyebrows. He didn’t know if it was real data or fake.
“It’s you?” While Wen Zheliu was surprised, the man embraced his shoulders with familiarity.
After a click, the man’s starnet ID flashed in the air and slowly emerged in front of his sight.
“Why look down on low-level players?” He said, his tone laced with smile, his voice was magnetic, like the kind of person who didn’t care about anything by nature, “Let’s go, I’ll take you through this game.”