In the year 2025, a company known as AetherCorp changed the world as humanity knew it. They developed the world's leading achievement in recreation innovation; a complete second life free of war, poverty, and disease. It was a place of paradise. The game was called AetherSphere and it was a fresh new take on the online roleplaying games of old.
Someone would merely slip on a pair of Interface Goggles and step into a brand new world. The Goggles connected your actual, ethereal form into it's game network so everything you experienced felt exactly as it would if it happened to you in your real life. The possibilities were endless. You could reinvent yourself and go on adventures bigger than your wildest dreams had ever thought of. It introduced your soul into the AetherSphere; a brand new utopia.
AetherSphere became such a smashing global success that only three years after it's creation, the Admins removed a need for NPC characters. To this day, every person you see in the Aether is a real living person. The merchants, the farmers, the people who ask you for your aid along the way. They're all real people just like you. AetherCorp now owns buildings they called Player Spheres in every major city in the entire world. The Player Sphere is full of terminals for people to come and play Aether in a safe environment, whether they don't own their own pair of Interface Goggles or they just like being out and meeting other players.
But even the sun sets in paradise.
The year is now 2035 and an anonymous, underground group known as the NEXUS has surfaced. It all started fairly small, just a few rogue players taking justice into their own hand and eliminating criminals, but the means they used were unlike anything the Admins had ever seen before. Typically when an avatar experienced death in game, the player's account would lock and force the player to wake up. Their account would remain locked for two days while their soul recovered from the strain. The NEXUS had somehow managed to program a new type of virus weapon into the game; the Soulbanes. These weapons severed the connection between a player's body and their soul. When an avatar experiences death at the hands of NEXUS Soulbane weapon, the player would never wake up again. Full blown murder.
They started with people who broke in-game rules in an effort to preserve the purity of AetherSphere. Credit farmers, scammers, hackers, the like. But after awhile, their numbers grew and they started targeting violent offenders. People who committed terrible crimes in real life. They would hack government systems and track these people into Aether. It wasn't long before they started targeting anyone who broke any type of crime anywhere. They called it the Purge, though they were modest. They believed in a quiet operation, to the point that most players think their rumored existence is just a scary story people pass around to scare new players.
As NEXUS gained ground, an equally underground resistance formed. They called themselves ECHELON and it was their mission to investigate and stop the members of NEXUS. After they achieved a few minor successes, ECHELON gained backing from Aether's Admins and not only received reinforcements, but they also received their own Soulbane weapons. It gave them the footing they needed to really pose as a threat to the murderous vigilantes.
Most people don't believe they even exist, but there is a full blown war hitting the AetherSphere and it's only a matter of time before it consumes them all.