I've been doing world-building for the Seven Realms of Steel in my free time (such as it is). I'd like to write a few more shorts which carry the plot along from the initial post. Since this isn't a full novel, there's not a lot of ways of getting all this info out. Hence this post.
Please enjoy some facts I about the game The Seven Realms of Steel that I can share so far...
The Seven Realms of Steel (7RoS) is a wuxia-style fantasy VR MMORPG which provides a full immersion experience for players. It sells itself on the promise of living in a kung-fu drama. The game was made by western developers but claims many consultants on eastern martial arts practices and culture. Players' opinions on its authenticity vary.
What makes Seven Realms unique among VR MMOs of its time are two features,
The martial arts, while magical, are as realistic as can be for a game. There are promotional videos of Shaolin monks practicing, split-screen with a character from the game doing the same movements only as part of PvP.
The game uses a cultivation system of progression rather than levels. Warriors must develop their bodies, Ki (mind/soul), and techniques in order to achieve breakthroughs. There are Seven Realms below Heaven, which are the realms player-characters can participate in. The heavenly realms are reserved for epic heroes who shake the world with their footsteps.
The Seven Realms-- and the journey through them-- are grouped and divide as follows,
The Earthly Realms
Valley of the Verdant River - aka the Valley Realm. This is the realm most people of 7RoS inhabit. It is the lowest power level in the game for players though and it would-be levels 1-10 in most other games. The Valley is often called "The Tutorial Realm." Less kind souls call it "The Goldseller Account Realm" as this part of the game is F2P.
Stone Rising from the Land - aka the Stone Realm. Anyone who obtains basic proficiency in a martial art or above-average physical prowess can achieve Stone Realm rank. Getting here as a player is sufficient to be deemed an orange belt by most IRL standards. At this rank, the game's systems are greatly facilitating a player's combat movements. Only players who've bought the game can enter this realm and above.
Mountain Reaches for the Sky - aka the Mountain Realm. Attainable by "Those who possess the pinnacle of mundane martial arts and physique" and "are said to stand atop the summit of the Mountain Realm as they reach for the heaven." The mountain realm is also known as the "lose your IRL friends" level since the combat-assistance drops off a lot and players are forced to perfect/grind their techniques a lot in order to progress. Players who don't love the game enough to put in the work either stall or drop out at this point.
Cloud-Transcendence - a special realm which floats between the sky and the earth. Those who stand upon the summit and who can discern their inner ki will rise up to this transitional rank. While considered a realm in and of it's own, due to the blending of mundane techniques with hints of ki-empowerment, the Cloud-Transcendence is really the boundary between domains.
The Soaring Realms
The Sky Between - aka Sky-Realm. Aka The Sky Between Heaven And Earth. This is where those with fully unlocked Ki begin their new journey as it is the lowest of the Ki-using realms.
Most players consider the Sky-realm to be the real beginning of the game. Though progression greatly slows down at this point. Also, the combat-assistance system support vanishes completely. From here on, a player's fighting and technique execution are 100% based on their own abilities. Characters achieving this rank are effectively black-belts.
Still, once Ki is involved, the game gets a lot more flamboyant with players throwing around elemental attacks and super-human martial arts techniques. Everyone who gets here agrees that, while it's super-grindy, it's also tons of fun.
Moon illuminates the Sky - aka Moon-realm. A famously hard to reach realm due to a combination of hard grinding requirements for techniques and physique points. Moon realm is called "The Subtle Realm" by the game's lore as practitioners reaching this rank have mastered the obvious execution of all their class's combat techniques. Instead, the game forces players to learn non-intuitive, sly, or obscure uses and applications of said techniques.
Many players have tried to take the skills they've learned in-game and test them against IRL martial artists. The results have been extremely mixed and often comically bad. ("Amazing Kung-Fu go! Oh wait, I'm out of breath and pulled a muscle.") Critics are quick to point out that what players practice at this level is not authentic in any way and has been mistraining them in dangerous ways (injuries abounded).
To ascend from the Moon realm, one must complete the most dreaded task in the game - the Trials of Eight Phases [of the moon]. The trials are famously skill-based. They demand total perfection of technique execution and ki manipulation while under grueling endurance conditions. A famous online guide for the trials simply says, "Practice your ass off."
The trials are widely panned by the community for creating an end-game that is artificially restricted to only the elite most players. A lot of players get stuck here and eventually quit in frustration. The company famously doesn't care though and steadfastly refuses to compromise on the qualifications. There are no few videos titled, "How the Trials of Eight Phases will be the death of 7RoS."
Stars Announce the Heavens - aka Star-realm. aka The Seventh Realm. Officially this is the end-game rank. Getting here is something that only 3% of the player base (so roughly 180,000 out of 6 million players) has achieved. Star-realm accounts can be sold for massive amounts of money, but so far only five have ever been put up for sale. Given the levels of grind, raw martial skill, and exceptionalism needed to get here, it is no wonder that Star realm players are unwilling to part with their accounts.
There are realms above the Stars, of course, players just can't get to them yet.
Heavenly Ascension - A boundary realm like Cloud-Transcendence. It has been teased as the next progression tier in the upcoming (and very long-awaited) first expansion to 7RoS. Everyone has been quick to point out that they will have to rename the game to Eight Realms if this happens.
The even bigger teaser is that the company running 7RoS has claimed to have been training AIs to mimic real enlightened monks (not that anyone believes this claim) and they are saying that special NPCs powered by these AIs will be used to generate truly unique trials for players wishing to knock on the Heavens' gates. The promise is "You won't be able to look up a guide for your trial. Every player will have to overcome their own demons to ascend. It will be the accomplishment of a lifetime."
Little is known about the actual Heavenly Realms beyond their names (as follows).
Gate of Heavens
Terrace of Heavens
Halls of Heavens
And lastly, the Divine Throne Realm - theoretically the highest rank a person can have and not be a deity. The lore says that no living character lives within this realm currently. It also hints that the Divine Throne might be a realm limited only to 1 player at a time and will be competitive once released. Rumors are rampant and the company is tight-lipped.
In the end,
The Seven Realms of Steel are called such because combat, martial techniques, and open-PVP are the mainstays of gameplay to advance. It's a game whose plots and story-lines are loaded with the intrigue and bloody competition of a mythical Imperial empire. It frequently pits players against each other over the cultivation items and quests needed to advance their characters. No one gets high in 7RoS without besting many of their peers.
"The Seven Realms ring with the clash of steel as warriors strive for their dreams. Whose dreams and wishes are strong enough to propel them to the Throne of the Heavens?" -Ad from the Game.