Monday, July 7, 2008

A rough guide to the Kingdom of Sand

(story written by Daisy Brandis)

One day shortly after I had become resident in second life I stumbled upon a role play sim called Kingdom of Sand. I had role played for a long time in the past, and loved it, but that was text based, which allowed one time to build a character, a back story and to consider events calmly and make decisions based on rational thought, well most times at least. I had always worried about role play with an avatar, how exactly did it work, and what would I have to master in terms of skills, after all I was, still am, a novice resident, and there are things that are perhaps obvious to more seasoned residents that are still mysterious to me. From that perspective I took a look at Kingdom of Sand ( hereinafter called KOS )
And found something so amazing that it literally took my breath away.
Anyone reading this blog will know what KOS is about, but it does merit some explanation to set the scene, and much praise, because KOS is much more than just another role play sim. In fact it is worthy of becoming a second life tourist attraction in its own right, because, in my humble opinion it is just so beautiful. Quite how those who play there would view masses of tourists watching their play is something to be considered perhaps.
Set in a medieval age perhaps, there is no attempt to pander to twenty first century influences, either in the relationships between those who play there or in the architecture and technology. This means quite simply that once you find yourself there, it is an all enveloping experience and as realistic as it is possible to be. I do have some issues with the game play, a certain lack of information for example about some points, but these are slowly becoming clearer as I increase my number of visits as a player, although it would have made life easier had I known more at the outset. That is not a criticism. Lessons learned the hard way are more likely to be remembered.
KOS is centred on the city of Ireem, set among rolling sand dunes and an arid rocky strewn landscape above the desert lands and beside the vivid turquoise sea. The city is a walled fortress, it gates guarded but seemingly open to all on request. Once inside the high sandstone walls, the intricacy of the place becomes clearer, and confusing to the first time visitor, a fair analogy would be that the walls are the skin of an onion, and each successive layer reveals more detail about the architecture and culture of the place. Within the immediate city walls are market places, inns, shops and stalls, all outside the inner wall which forms a protective barrier for the palace of the Sultana. It is not difficult to suspend belief and imagine the narrow streets bustling with activity and commerce, both open and legal, and hidden and dark.
I have yet to explore the outer grounds of the palace in any depth, but it seems largely composed of decorative plants and intricate pillars, and leads at various point to the palace itself. Within the palace you are free to wander and explore, provided that you do not wear your role tag and do not engage in play, at least that is my understanding and please correct me if I have this wrong. I have decided that it is good manners to try and remain unobtrusive, after all those inside the palace who are playing have a right to do so, and to do so without some bystander gawking at them, good manners really, and it ensures that the role play is allowed to flow with realism. After all was Desdemona murdered while a tourist looked on and took photos for the family album, and the play taking role place might be just as dramatic, and yes, Shakespeare would probably have written a play set in Ireem had he had a computer.
For the present though I have hardly begun to peel the layers off this lovely onion, yet my eyes do prick with tears already at the wonders so far revealed. Before long I will explore more of the land and the city, I mean just what happens in that building over there, which looks like an amphitheatre, I long to poke my nose in there. The thing is I am at risk whenever I am in KOS, because I am prey, which is so exciting and quite scary, and that amphitheatre is close to the port, and the port just has to be a place for prey to avoid. That though is part of the excitement of KOS, the danger and the not knowing what will happen next. I speak from a position of ignorance of course, I have yet to be captured, so I have no idea what is likely to happen to me when I am. Will a knight rescue me, or will I be sold as a slave, and if so, who will buy me, its sort of scary but very exciting.
All the elements of role play though fade before the truly amazing setting that has been built by the architects (n.d.r. Zhella Nishi), and if I were a religious person, I would drop to my knees and praise them to the clear blue KOS skies for the lovely thing they have created for me to play in.
If you take the time and trouble to explore, and how can you not, then you are sure to find many simply wonderful examples of the love, care and sheer skill that has gone into KOS and Ireem. This picture of what I take to be a weather station on the roof of the Royal Palace is just one example that are found in profusion almost everywhere one cares to look.
I look forward to exploring more of this wonderful stage that has been created for both my entertainment and my aesthetic delight, and to writing more of my experiences as a very naïve prospective slave.

Daisy Brandris

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