The advertisement spurred a childish excitement within the crowd, that excitement continued on for the remaining duration of the party.
A month passed, and the advertisement went public, it differed slightly from the product shown at Arthur's party, but most of the changes were simply last minute polish. The advertisement took the internet by storm. Within an hour of it being made public, it had racked up a couple million views, several hours later the view count had reached a quarter of a billion views.
The internet was flooded with videos and articles talking about New Genesis. Reaction videos, trailer breakdown videos, even videos theorising all the possible things you could do within the game world. It became the top trending topic on social media, the hype around it refused to die down, even after several days had passed.
The company hadn't released any more information about the game aside from the trailer. They were constantly being spammed with requests from reporters and game journalists for interviews, a game demo, and such, but received no response. They had gone dark, causing everyone to be even more curious. Each unrelated social media post by the company was bombarded with questions asking about the game, the comments section was a mess, but this was an indication that the advertisement was a great success.
Several more weeks had passed, the hype was still simmering, the crowd was ready to gobble up any and all official content related to New Genesis. There were some groups who lambasted New Genesis as over-hyped, others who claimed that the naming sense of the game was disrespectful.
The company Christmas party went off as expected, excessive yet enjoyable. Donovan had gotten scolded for drinking too much and passing out in one of the medical rooms.
Eventually the new years had arrived, and after being radio silent for so long, at the peak of the hype, the company made another announcement. The beta test was announced to the public.
Various tidbits of information was provided. Such as the six phase roll-out, every two weeks for six weeks, two hundred new players would be allowed to join the world. The beta test was hosted within a large facility owned by the company, with medical staff on site and the developers there to collect information in real-time.
One thing to note was that they would only be allowed to play during the weekends during a strict time block as the game was hosted on-site. But this was fine with their audience as most of them were busy during the week anyway, whether it be due to business or school.
The most important piece of information however was how they were going to decide the twelve hundred beta testers. Fortunately, this information was very easy to find.
The first wave of players, starting at day one of week one. Several spots were handed out to major investors of the company, or more specifically the children of major investors. Naturally Arthur earned himself a spot in this category since his father practically owned the game. The remaining spots were put up for auction, a massive bidding war commenced, with some spots costing up to three million dollars.
The second wave of players were starting during week three. Lesser investors, certain VIPs and major personalities were invited, with the rest being auctioned off.
The third wave, which started at week five was also auctioned off, although the price had dropped dramatically.
The fourth wave, starting at week seven, consisted mostly of invited reporters, game journalists and influencers such as game reviewers, streamers and lets-players. Arthur made sure to step in here and give some advice based on his knowledge of the past, weeding out some of the fake journalists who didn't really care for gaming culture and who spent their time pushing political agendas.
Arthur picked out a couple smaller reviewers and streamers who he felt would appreciate the invitation more. The remaining two slots for this wave were given to Arthur as a gift. This didn't happen in the last timeline, but due to circumstance he could now bring his friends into the beta with him.
The last two waves, five and six, set to start during week nine and eleven respectively. These spots were prizes in a raffle, not auctioned off like the first three waves, this made them more affordable and prevented their sample of testers from being exclusively tycoons and trust fund kids.
Excitement filled the internet once more, especially for those who earned a spot in the beta. In two weeks the first group would be allowed to start, and on the first week of February the next group, then the next, until finally they could be allowed to play. Each group's start time was separated by a four day gap to prevent spawn from being overcrowded, something they didn't really figure a proper solution out for when it came to the full release.
Eventually the day had arrived, two hundred people were brought into a large facility. Although it felt more like a repurposed aeroplane hangar due to the sheer size of the building. It shared a similar colour palette to the main building, industrial white with cobalt blue details. As the group walked through the facility, they passed several large rooms, each containing several rows of VR capsules lined up like soldiers performing a ceremonial drill.
There were groups of people working with cables in some of the other rooms they passed, it appeared they were still setting up the capsules in preparation for the other groups.
The group of testers was brought into a briefing room, where they were taught the basic operations of the machine, such as how to log in and log out, and how to contact the outside world in the case of an emergency. A major part of the briefing was safety, although the technology was revolutionary, the thought of your mind being trapped in a digital world was terrifying.
They made sure to emphasise the safety precautions their machines took to keep you safe, ejecting you at the slightest hint of danger. Arthur had experienced all of this first hand, especially being unable to fall asleep in the capsule. They really were excessive when it came to safety, and it wasn't just because Arthur's father made sure no harm would come to his son, but there obviously was that influence, and threat, looming over every discussion the developers made.
Eventually it was time to start. The group was lead over to the first room they walked past while entering. There were two hundred VR capsules in this room, but it didn't feel cramped in the slightest, rather the room almost felt empty. As the group walked around they were told that each VR capsule had a plate with their names written on it, everyone eventually found their own capsule.
Arthur knew upon entering the room which capsule was his... Not because of his past, but because unlike the silver polish every other machine had, his was a faint metallic purple layered with white runic designs, it looked as though his capsule had been wrapped like a car. The most glaring detail of all was that the word "Merlin" was printed in large rune-looking letters on the front.
This was the birthday present the development team had given Arthur. In the previous timeline Arthur had received a painted 3D model statue of Fluffernutter, the local cat in the beta test world's beginner village.
Due to Arthur's actions, he had changed the timeline in an unexpected way, which left him a little sad he loved that statue. Although he didn't hate the custom wrapped capsule, he felt it was a little gaudy, and brought some unwanted attention upon him. He figured it was probably due to some of the things he talked about when the developers visited him while he was hospitalised.
Arthur made a mental note to get a statue of Fluffernutter made at some point in the future, although he would see the real Fluffernutter real soon.
Eventually everyone entered the capsules as instructed, each capsule started lighting up. Arthur could feel his hair began standing on end as he entered the capsule. As he rest on the seat within the capsule, a slight tingly sensation ran through his body. It wasn't uncomfortable, in fact, Arthur found comfort in the sense of familiarity this sensation brought him.
A holographic projection appeared in front of Arthur, showing the current diagnostics of the machine. The word "syncing" was written in large bold letters, and along side it was a loading icon, this indicated that the machine was adapting it's connections to the new user.
This was a major reason why each capsule was designated a single user and labelled, not all brains operate the same, so the machine has to spend time calibrating to the needs of a specific user. Over extended and repeated use, the machine would better establish connections, giving the user more freedom and comfort in their digital avatar.
Eventually the synchronisation was complete, Arthur could feel a warm feeling run through his body, this was a sign that the machine linked up correctly, when the probing electric currents changed from a tingling sensation to a comforting warm sensation.
The holographic projection on screen changed, the next word was "scanning", with yet another loading icon. A green mesh of lasers slowly scanned his body, this was building a 3D model of their general appearance to use as a base for their avatar.
Within New Genesis, there were rules during character creation that helped with adapting and being comfortable in your digital avatar, one of those rules was that your height and general size could not be changed drastically from within the game. But this would update to fit your real body to keep consistency.
The capsule finished scanning Arthur, the next word to appear on the hologram was "instantiating", as soon as that word appeared on screen, the capsule tilted back forty-five degrees, causing Arthur to be in more of a laying down position than a seated position.
The words on the hologram changed once more. "Instantiation complete. Would you like to log in?"
Arthur closed his eyes, took a deep breath in to calm himself before confidently speaking the word, "Yes."