Contributed by Paypabak Writer
In the spring of 2007, the LemonYellow sim began “The Dune Project,” a place where residents could honor their love of the Dune novels by Frank Herbert, living and roleplaying in the city of Arrkeen, on the planet of Arrakis. (A good explanation of Roleplaying and early years of Dune RPG can be found [in my article] Roleplaying and Dune in Second Life.) What stands out for those endeavoring to simulate the world of Dune is that it’s really interactive and full of intrigues . . . not a lot of fighting, though there is plenty of opportunity for that as well. What really challenged the creators of the Dune Project were the mechanics of a desert planet where the economy is based on spice and water. And of course, there is the matter of the native Fremen people and the giant sandworms that rule the vast empty deserts where the spice is harvested.
The Dune Project had static sandworms, very impressive but hard to get excited over. As the various factions grew and stories began, everyone got very tired of waiting for the roleplay system to be finalized. This system would work out water depletion (strength of a character) with spice addiction and other factors. As a Bene Gesserit sister, I helped work out various rituals that derive from the books like the gom jobbar and the water of life test. We had great interactions with training sessions and rituals just within our own faction, but then the challenge was to interact with the other factions.
We had a large core group at the LemonYellow Dune sim but it all turned sour when the owner tried to close the sim, then auction it, and basically jerked us all around. It broke the principle players into three groups that spawned three Dune-based sims: Splintered Rock grew out of the old LY sim, Dune Imperium was founded by another group, and Dune Apocalypse (DA) was built by the group that I stayed with. We had a good core group with a good mix of talents and hired two very talented architects, who took the Dune miniseries as their model for the sim. The screenshots should attest, we had a beautiful place in which to play. We had the best costume designer; another essential aspect of roleplaying is looking the part. And our scripter was also the owner and very talented.
It’s funny how these things work, but DA, arguably the most active and strongest of the sims, just melted down and fell apart by the spring of 2008.
Dune Imperium took their own approach and appeared to have been doing well. Their Web Forum site was very active with transcripts of stories and scenarios. A visit to the attractively built sim could either disappoint with lack of activity or confuse you with its layout. They may have been the purest enactors of roleplay since they would at times just chat RPG and didn’t need deserts or sandworms to tell their stories. The sim lost steam and support from the owner. I think they made it into 2009 but Dune Imperium is no more.
At last, we can look at the saga of Splintered Rock (SR), which retained the LemonYellow sim and so very likely remains among the oldest sims dedicated to non-Gorean RPG in Second Life. This group of revenants from the LY Dune Project formed a partnership and attempted to run things as democratically as possible within the strictures that single-ownership necessitates per Linden Labs estate rules. Cooperation with the Dune Imperium sim helped since they weren’t recreating the same places on Arrakis and therefore could cross over. Over the years, the buildings of Splintered Rock may have changed when new creative people joined and as others left, but one thing that remained constant was the desert, which is the heart and soul of Dune.
Earlier this year, I did a number of articles on Dune RPG sims and interviewed owner Vooper Werribee about how Splintered Rock was maintaining. The biggest challenge of any RPG sim is paying tier. Vooper told me: “We actually hired a SL Marketing consultant to try and figure out where we needed to go (Fleche Xeno of FX Marketing) and he suggested implementing a ‘game’ economy to try and pay for the tier. We also spoke to Helga who runs Little Mos Eisley and she gave us some clues about how RP is run on Little Mos Eisley. The ‘game’ economy … [is] going to be introducing a ‘spice mining’ system . . . where players need to spend some lindens to get the equipment to be able to mine spice . . . and also make the spice something that is valuable in ‘play.’”
All that remained was getting the infamous sandworms and sand storms going, and they were set to give Dune one more chance. While I haven’t met one yet, I have it on good authority that sandworm avatars are used to good effect on SR. They support a variety of combat systems on SR as well as supply a HUD that measures your water and vitality as well as spice addiction. It’s also an excellent RP gadget for handling just about any variation on chat channeling you’d care to utilize. And you can now buy spice mining equipment and use various gadgets to find spice blows in the desert. (They actually demonstrated spice mining at their booth at SLB6. And I now get weekly reports on who’s mined the most spice!) The storms are still in development, but this sim is delivering after more than two years of promises what we all hoped a Dune sim could be. One of the nice touches I really appreciate is as you walk along the pathways of the city, you get chat text telling you where you are and which way to go to get to nearby places. You feel like you are already part of an ongoing story via this narrative device.
Alas in April of this year, the estate of Frank Herbert, the late author of Dune and father of Brian Herbert, who carries on the franchise, decided that Splintered Rock was infringing on their copyright and SR had to strip out any mention of Dune-related places, characters, artifacts, etc. (Let’s be clear that they were! But if you know anything about SL, you know that copyrights are flaunted and many big franchises seem to be allowing “fans” to honor and, for free, to promote their industry. None of them profit in the least for all of their “exploitation” of copyrighted characters and places.) This looked like the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Undeterred, and in a way, unburdened now by floggers of Dune Canon, Vooper and some great creative builders have not only continued roleplaying in Splintered Rock, they have expanded to three sims, two of which are almost completely desert! The Spice Must Flow! (Or something like that which won’t bring on litigation!) The port docks are full with ships paying rent, shops and residential units are flourishing, and SR is part of a network of sims that carry on RP based on the Joss Whedon “Firefly” TV series. What that means, however, is that that Firefly roleplayers can visit and play in Splintered Rock, but the SR sim admins are not beholden to managing roleplay canon for Firefly.
Anyone else can look for sandworms, mine for spice, and check out the usual attractions of a beautifully built science fiction themed sim. For instance, there’s an arena for holding melee or ranged weapon tournaments or to just hone skills, outposts in the desert where you may find blue-eyed natives thereabouts, a group called The Sisterhood (OMG! Bene Gesserit-esque Companions?!!) and the multistoried Cafe Caphay, a wonderful club for IC or OOC interactions. I am very pleased to proclaim that Splintered Rock appears to be entering it’s third year of existence very well positioned to thrive and grow even more!