Nobody here was moving. The only sound was the sound of breathing.
The Yones were off in the distance. Must’ve been Dumb AI, which meant they wouldn’t even notice a PC unless he got too close.
The speck continued to grow, and I realized the thing must be huge. It was near some trees in the distance, and those trees weren’t recognizable as individual trees, but as a forest. For this thing to be above them…
The speck had wings. It’d taken me a while to realize it, but I finally recognized that something was flapping in the air. And it wasn’t taller than the trees — just higher up.
As it grew closer, it finally became clear what it was: a dragon. You could tell just by the general shape: massive wing, serpentine head. What made this specific dragon unique was unidentifiable from this distance, but no doubt about it. The crowd had come here to fight a dragon.
At this point, something interesting happened. The crowd stopped acting like a faceless mass; individuals began to do their own thing. Most of us still stood there, watching the dragon. But a few began drawing their weapons. Arrows were nocked, swords unsheathed.
It was still way too soon, given how far away the dragon was. But some people liked being prepared. There were all sorts of reasons for it, but I guessed it was mainly about confidence. You keep the weapon in your hand for a few minutes before you have to use it, and you’re reminded what it feels like. How heavy it is, the shape of it.
Not that you ever forget. If you play most fighting VRMMORPGs right, you begin to feel like you’re one with your weapon of choice. A big part of these games is instinct and reflexes — not insight and rationality.
That’s part of what makes them so fun, really.
The dragon got bigger. The less of a blur it was, the more clearly I could see its colors. It was green and brown and gray, an ugly mix of earthy tones. The lines of its wings could be seen more clearly. It was a big, ugly thing.
More people drew their weapons.
Now the dragon was only a couple hundred feet away, and I noticed the dragon wasn’t coming here by itself. There were Stone PCs hanging all over its body. Most of them hung on its back, while a couple were on the wings. The PCs on the wings were struggling just to stay on. The power of those things — those PCs were hanging on for their virtual lives.
The dragon grew closer. At this point, most people had drawn their weapons.
I felt dumb to have taken so long; I drew my sword.
The archers began firing their arrows at the dragon. The crowd began dispersing — some people running a little left of the clump of people, others running a little to the right.
At each spot where an arrow hit the dragon, the HP report floated for a second. Then, quickly, it would disappear.
The arrows rained down on the dragon, and it became a mess of -1s and -2s. It barely made a dent in his HP Bar, though.
When it came to small creatures, the HP report would tell you how many health points the monster had started with and how many it had remaining. But when a creature was big or a lot of people were attacking it, the HP report would only tell you how many HP points it was losing — I assume because that put less pressure on a system that was already working hard to create a virtual world for so many people.
The dragon’s HP Bar flew above its head. It was bright blue to represent the HP points left, dark blue to represent HP points it’d lost. Its HP Bar was more than half-gone already.
It was sort of mesmerizing to watch the HP Bar move down so slowly. Sometimes I would think the game had glitched, that the HP Bar had stopped moving. But then I would squint and realize that it was nudging ever-so-slowly downward.
The progress was slow enough to feel like paint drying, but progress was being made, and it was beautiful to watch this mass of people come together to achieve a common goal.
Something was going on with the dragon, too, though it was hard to tell quite what. It was an ugly, angry looking thing. Its body was covered with what looked like moss. In the spots that weren’t completely coated by mossy green, I thought I saw brownish bits of skin.
It was the mouth and the eyes that were really interesting. Eyes might not even have been the right word for it — really, there were holes where the dragon’s eyes should be. Each of the eye sockets had light pouring out of it. You couldn’t see that in the sky itself, since we were all standing here at roughly mid-day.
But inside the eye sockets, where it should’ve at least been dark-ish, you could see the brown edges of his eyes. It looked craggy — not like what you’d expect a living creature’s eye socket to look like.
The light poured from its mouth, too.