August 1, 2019
He spent the whole week in job interviews with none going remotely better than the one at Prestige Properties. He still held out hope that Mr. Kabanagan would decide to give him a chance and hire him for the coordinator role. But he had not heard back. So when his phone rang on the fifth morning since he began applying for jobs, he immediately picked up.
It wasn’t Kabanagan. Shen tried to keep the disappointment out of his voice. “Hey Laaysa.”
“I have some good news and some bad news,” she said. “Which would you prefer first?”
“I’ll tell you the bad news. I ran some numbers for the cost to get the company started. The short answer is it’s going to be expensive. For what you described to me, we’ll need a Tier One AI. Fifty thousand credits to get the licensing that’ll allow us to rent it from the government. Then 300,000 credits a month to run the system. That’s not accounting for the eventual server costs as our player base grows.”
Shen’s jaw dropped and so nearly did the phone. He fumbled and caught it mid-air. The sums Laaysa was describing were astronomical to him. Even if he got a job paying 3000 credits a month, it’d take him about ten years just to save up to pay for a single month of running the AI.
“Hello? You there?” Laaysa said.
“Yeah,” Shen said, putting the phone back to his ear. “It’s so much money, Laaysa, how are we going to come up with that?”
“That is how much these things cost. It used to cost even more back in the day when you had to hire dozens of programmers. Now you only need an AI technician like me and an expensive AI core to run everything. But it looks like we’ll need funding and outside investment to pay for everything.”
“Is the good news that you won the lottery at Royale Casino or something?”
“No not quite that good,” Laaysa said with a chuckle. “But I found the DRMMO Armont told me about. The reason it’s taken me so long to call is because I’ve been gathering the research that you’ll need for the game. If you’re going to find Armont, you’ll need to get up to speed quickly. But more importantly, if my guess is right, Armont should be making a significant amount of money in the game. He might have enough for an initial investment.”
“Invest? Game money? Sorry… what?”
“Aurora’s Blessing’s currency is dual-transferable. You can take real money and convert it to game money and vice versa. You might even find yourself making some money in the game while you’re looking for Armont.”
“Even doing that, I can’t imagine Armont making that much money. Not enough to pay 300,000 credits a month,” Shen said, thinking about the small sum he made from Constellation when it had still been popular.
“Who knows? Maybe he’s just sitting around enjoying the scenery on some in-game mountain peak. But Aurora Blessing’s virtual economy is worth seven billion credits as of last year.”
“Yeah decent sized, but still small compared to Edenfel’s in-game economy. The thing is, Aurora’s Blessing is becoming more and more popular. It’s made by Full Systems, an indie company. The game has become very popular in recent years and Colossus has been trying to buy the company but the owner won’t give in.”
“Glad to hear that at least.”
“Okay, now for the bad news.”
“But you already gave me the bad news! Wait, was that the end of the good news part?”
“Afraid so. Aurora’s Blessing has 30 million players.”
“30 million!” Shen exclaimed loudly, and he heard a knock from his neighbor in the capsule below him to keep the noise down.
“Ah—30 million?” Shen said again, whispering this time.
“How am I supposed to find Armont in 30 million players?”
“I’m sure you’ll find a way. You’ve known him for ten years. You’ll know where to look. I’ve also included some ideas in the research pack I’ve sent your contact card.”
Shen sighed. He, in fact, had no idea where to look. “Okay…”
“Shen, what we’re about to do—getting this game company off the ground, competing against Colossus—is going to be a million times harder than finding Armont. We’ll need several miracles like this to come even close to having a chance to rival them. This is the first miracle.”
“You’re right. I shouldn’t think negatively. I’ll get it done, Laaysa,” Shen said. Then he noticed something about her words. “Hold on… are you not coming with me?”
“I can’t. I have to design our game.”
“But I thought you needed a Tier One AI to do that.”
“No, not in the beginning at least. I can get the game world going just based on our conversation last time. We’ll need to meet again when I get a bit further. As we discussed, I’ll go for a fantasy setting first. I have a Tier Three AI that can help me do that. But to actually run and manage the game, we’ll need the Tier One AI.”
“Alright…” Shen said, feeling unsure. He didn’t like the thought of going at it alone.
“Don’t you know anyone else who can go with you? I can’t be the only person from Capricorn that you have as an MR contact.”
The answer immediately came to Shen’s mind. “Ugh… yeah, there’s one other person…”
Laaysa laughed at that. “I’m sure he will be extremely excited to help you with your quest.”
“Yeah…” This was exactly what Shen was afraid of.
“One other thing,” Laaysa said. “Aurora’s Blessing is free to play but you’ll have a tough time without spending at least a little money in the beginning. On average, players spend a couple of hundred credits a month in the game. You may want to save up before you start or find another source of income to get started.”
“Yep, I’m working on that.”