Monday, April 30, 2012

and I dream of the sea, broken machinery

"We have found an unknown branch of the tree of life that lives in this lake. It is unique! So far we know of no other group of organisms that descend from closer to the roots of the tree of life than this species," study researcher Kamran Shalchian-Tabrizi, of the University of Oslo, in Norway, said in a statement.

Really amazing. And if new scientific advances prove out, they'll be able to cultivate already discovered strains of eukaryotes, and see if they fit this new discovery's pattern.

I came across this post yesterday, which is essentially an open letter to Wizards of the Coast, who are the current publishers of Dungeons & Dragons. And it's a really, really good letter--if you're interested in paper gaming, or even gaming as women in general, it's well worth the read.

But it started me thinking about portrayals of women in gaming, in general. For example:

(from the media album)

(You can see the huge version on Diq's wallpaper site, or you can see more examples of game art on Runes' official site.)

Push aside anything you might know about the game. What are you looking at? Gladiator on the left; wizard on the right; some sort of sorceress in the center. So how are they attired? The gladiator has full golden armor--full helm (with what looks like a dyed horsehair-brush crest), detailed cuirass and pauldrons, vambraces, relief-work tassets, cuisses, kneeguards shaped like the heads of lions in full roar, greaves, sabatons, a relief-work groinguard, and a circular wooden shield. Oh, and those silly little silk pieces fluttering from the groinguard.

Likely he also has a full chain hauberk--it's not visible, but we do see chain hose, so it's likely.

He's carrying at least a broadsword, though more likely a longsword--it looks long enough to qualify as a two-handed cavalry weapon, but this is a fantasy realm, so it's likely enchanted to make him capable of swinging it with one hand, on the ground.

On the right, some sort of court wizard. He's holding an orb of fire and a very ornate staff; there's no visible runes on his robes, but let's assume it has all that metalwork because metal's easy to enchant. He doesn't really need armor (and in many games, wearing armor actually drains a wizard's endurance, so it's in their best interest to ditch as much weight as possible), but he's got a hood to protect against inclement weather, a full robe to cover him in all conditions, and sturdy walking boots.

Which brings us to the sorceress. It could be an energy orb she's holding, or a charged ball of water waiting to be thrown at an enemy to distract or destroy. That doesn't so much matter as what else she's wearing--or not, as the case seems to be.

This is essentially a bikini with ornamentation. For some bizarre reason, she has full greaves, detailed in some white metal and brass with wings--or perhaps, that's white leather. Looks more like enameled metal to me, though. Then, above that, she's got purple enameled pauldrons, embroidered gloves, and...um...what else is she wearing? She's got sort of a companion piece to the wizard's belt, so we'll go with the theory that that's a runestone in both, keeping their energy charged and contained. But above that, she's pretty much got a corset comprised of a center piece (possibly to protect against direct chest strikes, but I have doubt) and several metallic strands. You'd think those would start to cut into her torso if she moved at all during combat.

Above that, she has a formed breastplate...if we can even call it that, because it's essentially two cups, out of either enameled metal, or leather with metal chasing, and a collar. No idea why the collar is there. Is she in service to some court? We can't tell from the image.

She also has some pretty nifty stockings, apparently held up by metal wings, and...a very minimal pair of purple leather panties. Joy. And hanging from either the belt or the back of the bikini are four trailing cloth strips. More joy.

She couldn't have been dressed like the druids, for instance? That's a very feminine outfit, and manages to enhance her waist, hips, and cleavage while being fully covered. Why couldn't that have been the symbol for the game?

(from the media album)

This is the Sorceress class from the Pathfinder RPG. (You can see the full-size version here.)

Now, whether or not this depends on any particular racial privilege, most gamers cut tribal cultures a bit more slack in terms of attire. Tribal societies, in our minds, need to move more, be able to run, leap, climb trees, shoot arrows, kill with hunting knives, track down game...whatever it is that that particular society needs, heavy robes and heavier armor generally just gets in the way.

Plus, as previously established, this is a magic-user. A priestess of her people, one might say. This may be her society's version of clerical robes, or what shamans wear in whatever culture this is supposed to represent.

Save for a couple problems. First, she's not wearing anything under that loose robe. It's held to her body by virtue of a fitted, yet extraordinarily stripped-down corset (which, with those sharp edges, looks positively lethal for bending forward, or even sitting down), a thin black leather belt, and a heavy collar comprised of folds of fabric and, mysteriously, armor bits.

Maybe vampires and ghouls are more prevalent in her world than in most fantasy realms. Consider the left side of the wallpaper, after all.

But everything else is bare--tattooed, but bare. And I just don't buy that the tattoos have to be exposed to air and sunlight to work. That's not feasible.

The other immediate problem I have is the leggings. Or rather, the half-leggings. They look like someone made a pair of harem pants, then chopped them in half, and retained only the bottom legs of the pair. In fact, the same thing's going on with her sleeve--both half-sleeves and half-pants are belted to her, as if having bare shoulders and bare knees is more important.

And yet this is from the same game. There's a hint of cleavage, there's a suggestion of shape; there's a visible (and reinforced, and studded, and belted!) corset; there are attractive little details that both hint at gender, and hint at femininity. But she doesn't have to lose ninety-five percent of her attire to do so!

What about World of Warcraft? Not surprisingly, WoW is rife with examples, both in terms of animation as well as actual costume options. But I'm still mostly talking about what they choose to release as the main images of their game:

(from the media album)

(You can see the full wallpaper version here.)

Again, put aside any preconceptions you may have (if you play in WoW, say). Just to hazard a guess, looking at her, I'd assume sorceress, again, save that she has a tri-bladed weapon. Which makes the standard magic-using lack-of-all-weaponry stance confusing, to say the least.

But let's say magicians in this world can use bladed weapons. Nifty (save that she seems to be wearing it as a shield). What else is she using? It seems predominantly quilted armor pieces--shoulders (I don't quite have the gall to name those pauldrons; they're essentially just archaic shoulder-pads with metal bits), greaves (they at least seem decently protective), high quilted boots with kneeguards...and...yeah, that's pretty much it. Everything else is in the wisps-and-nothingness fantasy lingerie camp.

There's a similar wallpaper out there that seems to feature an elf with slightly more clothing...at least, until we break it down. That high-collared coat only features a high collar around the back of the neck, and the coat itself is comprised of brassiere cups and jeweled straps. We have no idea what she's wearing below the waist, but considering the long arrowing-in along the hips, I'd assume not much.

The men of Warcraft get much more in the way of coverings, and I'd even add an additional regarding that particular image--there are at least three women in that picture, or two and a very lithe male; but of those three, the only decent detailing is on the men. The women, all of whom are wearing fully covering robes, or full quilted armor and hauberk, are pretty much slapdash simplicity that I guarantee the player characters are going to want to ditch as soon as possible.

That's the other thing I've learned about fantasy gaming, at least in terms of video games. The higher your character level, if you're playing a female, the less clothes you get. That's pretty much standard across the board, as if your armor class goes up as a woman the less you wear.

Do I even have to mention T.E.R.A. Online? It's become pretty much the laughingstock of fantasy gaming, in terms of how they handle female modes of dress. Watching this video for instance (it's twelve minutes long in total, but trust me, before you're two minutes in you'll see all you need to see) initially displays a male elf character, who's clad in modest, simple robes. Then the gender is changed. While the very next image shown is that of someone wearing a full gown, it's very thin, and cut very close to her figure, showing very deep cleavage. And that's as good as it gets--every outfit on every character class shown after is more revealing, comprised of less material, and involves steadily increasing stripper animations.

In TERA's world, the sorceress wears as little as possible (and rides side-saddle); the berserker wears even less (and prances when she walks); the mystic minces and wears a shift dress; the archer...dear gods, the archer. But the archer isn't the worst of them--the heavy fighter is pretty much a battle poppet. Practically nothing on the fighter is designed to protect or injure save for the pauldrons, and even then, the fighter herself would get more injured by them than any opponent.

(from the media album)

I can't imagine they gained any new female players with this campaign.

Two women shown with traditional fantasy trappings in the background. The one on the left I'd take for a sorceress of some kind, considering the staff. She has horns, she has not-quite-as-huge elven antenna ears, a coat that barely qualifies as "coat", with a strappy set of panties and laced-up, heelless stocking boots underneath. I think we can definitely categorize this under stripper couture.

The second female is even more problematic. She's wearing a catsuit, which my brain refuses to excuse out of some mystic fetish-y fantasy element; it's a catsuit, goddamn it, it doesn't go with the theme in any way. Beyond that, she's pretty much clad just in exotic metal adornments. And while her white lips aren't blowjob-preparation parted, the way she's holding the hilt of the whatever-it-is she's holding (...sword? Your guess is as good as mine), it's definitely suggestive as hell.

But that was just the intro image. What about when TERA formally launched?

(from the media album)

Yeah, that's not better.

(from the media album)

And now we're pretty much talking pedophilia.

Even in Skyrim things get crazy now and again. Note in this video how a character with a high pickpocketing skill can take everything but the underwear from males, but takes absolutely everything from females. Inevitably, this tells the player character one of two things--either women don't wear underwear (thus painting them as sluts or tramps), or women just don't matter enough to leave them with even thin, fragile underwear layers (thus demeaning them as characters worthy in their own right).

Not to leave the guys out entirely, though, I want to bring up Hennet.

(from the media album)

Hennet surfaced in the 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons books, as pretty much the only male who's presented as pure eye candy. He's wearing straps. A whole lot of straps. There's a sketch of Hennet in the same pose that shows the straps off to better detail. There's a lot of straps--straps along his abdomen, straps along one leg, straps along his ankles, straps along his upper arms. But he's pretty much just wearing pants under that, and they look like harem pants, at that, if tied down (and, on the one side, heavily buckled) ones.

They even take it farther, and feature Hennet being seduced by something awful later on. I don't care who you are, having your nipple licked is pretty much a sexualized image. What is unusual is that it's an image of a male.

What does all this tell us? Nothing we didn't know--namely, that games are still being marketed to straight males, and pretty much the female demographic is still mostly ignored. Which is a shame, because we're becoming a vocal--and significantly financed--contingent.

Want to have more females in your games? The best way to do that is to give us costume options. Because if we're being presented with the choice of playing a game that makes no gender choices (like Farmville, like Bejeweled, like Angry Birds, like TripleTown) and games that do (like TERA)...especially if they're gender choices that we profoundly cannot support...guess where we'll be.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

my ship is sinking but it's all good and I can go down

Remember what I said about the particles?

(from the Minecrafting album)

Yeah. Where blazes are concerned, less really is more. Trust me, you'll want to turn particles down.

(from the Minecrafting album)

On the other hand, full particles or not, they have their own odd beauty.

At least, until they realize you're there and try to burn your face off.

(from the Minecrafting album)

Transition points between biomes are sharply delinated, as with all things in Minecraft. (There are no curves, after all, unless one makes the curving object very large.

Still, even with the blocky construction of ecologic zones...there are times it all comes together into a perfect shot. This was one of those times, I think.

(from the Minecrafting album)

Let's get back to exploration. Also understanding. Now, a few days after the original Nether portal was built--long before the blaze generator was up and running, which took about a week--two other residents set up Nether portals of their own very near the main village.

This was not a good idea.

Both of them remapped, causing linkage, which is why it's not good. You see, when a Nether portal is built, it acts as a two-way channel--the fixed spot on the dayside world, wherein one enters to travel to the Nether, and a generated point inside the Nether (which will be marked by the same obsidian-and-swirling-glow that marks the initial portal). That's all well and good, but when another portal is built too close to the first one, it will map over it, causing one of several effects. These can include:
  • walking into the portal resident A built and coming out of resident B's portal (either entering or leaving the Nether);
  • walking into the portal resident A built and coming out at some random disconnected point (either in the Nether or in the dayside world);
  • walking into the portal resident A built and not going anywhere at all.
Upon researching, we discovered that many believe (though there's no concrete surety) that Nether portals must be built at least 1,024 blocks from each other to be effectively disconnected. Learning this, I set to digging out a passage, to ensure that any portal we built would be a sufficient distance away. This took a great deal of time.

(from the Minecrafting album)

Along the way, I discovered the greatest hazard in all of Minecraft...over and over again. We call it the "chunk error".

Part of what made Minecraft so revolutionary was that it used a new world generation system. Put plainly: if I'm not in a given block, or "chunk", of Minecraft code, it doesn't exist. If no one's there, it just doesn't load, end of story. This allowed Notch to create incredible, spanning vistas, because--for the most part--the world you're not in is imaginary; it's not draining your system's memory, it's not fighting for control of your computer's graphics card. If you're not there, it's not there.

How'ver, on occasion this backfires. The glitch is this: sometimes chunks won't load for you. This isn't a constant happening, but it does happen a fair amount, and the main reason it's so dangerous is because, if you forget to stop, and happen to walk into the chunk error, it confuses your computer terrible. The world is telling your computer you're no longer on solid ground. Your computer is trying to insist that you are on solid ground. No one wins in these fights.

The only successful traversing of a chunk error happens in a boat. Because your forward movement is being handled by a separate object (the boat, in this case), you can sail right over the nothing where the chunk's gone invisible, and come out safely on the other side.

Unfortunately, this only works on waterways. You can't just flip out a boat and slide across sod, for instance. Or stone, or ice, or lava. Can't be done.

Also, this trick doesn't apply to minecarts. If you ride a minecart down a section of track and hit a chunk error, you're toast. And the only way to fix the eternal falling that happens then is to disconnect, quit the game completely, the restart the program and log back in.

And even then, once you log in you may be relocated to another area, because the server "forgot" where you were before. (It's kind of like SL that way.)

More to come; having some annoying comp problems (on the loaner comp now, yay...), so that's delaying things a tad.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

and like a long distance love affair, soon you've got to pay

There's a large part of me that's thinking, I really should let this one go....but you know, this is about the third time on this blog someone's responded to me, forgot which entry they responded to, then yelled at me because I'm "censoring" their views.

So, here we go again, Incident #4. It starts in a reply to this entry:

Anonymous said...

See, that right there is your first mistake. If these hadn't come in under Anonymous, they likely wouldn't have been delayed.

i was making some vintage tattoos you know..Russian criminal, Sailor Jerry, Maori, etc..then me and my friends watched american history x..it took me some time thinking if i should put them on marketplace or not..

Putting aside the assumption that use of Maori tribal tattoos means "vintage", and not "cultural appropriation"...You thought about whether or not it's a good idea to go against the Linden Terms of Service and upload tattoos that qualify as hate speech. That's good to know. But then you did it anyway, so...back to being confused.

(Just in case you're also confused? Let me point out where the problem is:
8.2 You will not post or transmit prohibited Content, including any Content that is illegal, harassing or violates any person's rights.
You agree that you will not:
(v) Post, display or transmit Content that is harmful, threatening or harassing, defamatory, libelous, false, inaccurate, misleading, or invades another person's privacy;
(vi) Post, display or transmit Content that is obscene, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable;
I think that's pretty clear, don't you?)

I'm Asian and I definitely don't support nazism..

Which is good, and yet...you're still offering those tattoos for sale.

i also try not to sound a bitch even if i don't like something. I really don't know how to explain it properly..

No, that's okay, I've been called worse, believe me. I don't mind.

if other players see those who bought my Nazi tattoos, well..they will most probably hate my customers first right? and it would also lower my sales :3

And gods forbid you should lose sales when the Marketplace is tottering around like a wounded wildebeest. You're not the only merchant who has good cause to worry about the problems with the Marketplace code.

my goal when i started making tattoos in rl was to try and make all sorts of tattoos..i think sl aims to make the game as close to rl as possible..

And while that's true, does that automatically then mean that Second Life has to reflect the worst of real life? Is that the connecting line you really want to draw, here?

my sl friends sometimes advise me since i'm relatively new to sl and some say it's okay, some say it's wrong..i get your point:3 i know i need to edit my items and i will..after summer classes..

Of course you will. Why should I doubt you?

i was about to pay my rent when a friend sent a link to this blog..i'm not offended or angry or want to punch you etc for blogging about my items ^_^

Well, how does the saying go, any publicity is good publicity? I'm not entirely sure how that applies to this situation, precisely, because I certainly am not painting your work favorably, regarding the Nazi tattoos. On the other hand, I do like a lot of the rest of your work, which is why the Nazi symbolism is such a shame.

But who knows? Maybe they sell really well for you.

one of the reasons i uploaded some posters was because i know people who couldn't edit the proportions from the picture to an sl version :P

Um. So...you uploaded copyrighted poster work because you thought people wouldn't be able to upload copyrighted work themselves? Well, aren't you just a sainted angel?

Except it's still copyrighted work. And, well, you're still selling it.

i'll check and edit all my items when i have enough time.. :3

Of course, of course.

if you want, you can reach me by sending a notecard to 'annamolly06' :P

Oh, I think we'll communicate just dandy like this.

Now, today was busy--I was trying to tie up the last of the Fantasy Faire coverage, plus I had other things to accomplish beyond the screen. Some days are like that. But apparently this delay was somehow unconscionable, so Miss Anna responded again--on the wrong entry. This one came from way back in March:

I already commented here but it seems like you deleted it..

Nope. Try again.

i find that very unfair.. *sighs*

Very melodramatic, kudos to you. Let's take this point by point though, since you brought it up:
  • I didn't delete the comment. It's on the blog, on the entry to which you commented. Plus it's here. Technically, I'm responding twice.
  • You didn't comment on the March entry first, you commented on an early Aprille entry first. If you can't be bothered to remember where you commented--when I have published both comments--this is clearly not my problem.
  • You find it unfair that I'm not being absolutely egalitarian about publishing comments? My blog, sweetheart. I can publish what I want--and, just to reinforce this? I published both comments. Again, not my problem if you don't know which entries you grabbed to snark in.
it's okay if i get more hate because of that comment..

What hate have you gotten so far? I looked up both entries--obviously--and (at least, until I respond to both comments after I publish this) you're the only comment on either entry. If you're getting hateful comments it's not happening on my blog.

i tried to explain my side and apparently, this blog is one sided..

Well, I do have a bias, but again, I published both comments. So I'm mystified where this outpouring of wounded innocence is coming from.

like i've said before, i'm not offended by your post and you should leave it to me what i do with my store :3

I am. It's not like I have any power in this whatsoever. I posted an opinion. I happen to believe it's the correct opinion, especially considering Linden Lab's explicit Terms of Service, but at the end of the day, it's just an opinion on a blog. I haven't gone around in world and sent out notecards bearing your name and whatever horrific things my febrile imagination can possibly dream up.

Why? Do you think I should?

i will consider all the comments here


What comments?

but i won't say i'm sorry..some fuck wolves and horses..all sorts of weird sexual behavior..maybe you should also post about that..

On occasion, I have. But then, you wouldn't know that, because...

( i didn't read all your posts)

...right. Also, obviously.

live and let live :P

Well, I do try.

we should all have fun in sl.. i don't really care much what you say here but i believe people should see the other side of the coin..

I'm sure you do, though if you truly didn't care you wouldn't have bothered to respond. That being said, I believe people should hear both sides of the argument as well. Yours is that you have every right to violate copyright, and also encourage racism by use of insensitive and charged symbolic use.

For pay.

Personally, I think I have the moral high ground, but I'm willing to accept I've lost some of that height due to my replying here.

have fun deleting this one :P


Well, I would, save that I actually have criteria for deleting comments. To wit:
  1. if it's directly abusive
  2. if it seems to indicate a larger familiarity than I'm personally comfortable with publishing as a comment
  3. if it's spam
Other than those three things, I tend not to delete comments. And, just so we're absolutely clear on this, I didn't delete either comment that you made.

that's all :P

Good to know. Now, unless there was anything else, I think we're done. Do feel free to write back, though, if I've missed anything.

then with his earthy hands he pressed sweet woodbine to my chest

Quick little entry, because I want to get this out today: tomorrow (Sunday, Aprille 29), starting at four pm SLT (Pacific Standard Time), will be a live auction of many of this year's Fantasy Faire builds. This is on the phenomenal side, people.

The early announcement of what's up for grabs (more might be added later):
  • The unique Fantasy Faire Jails (each auctioned individually)
  • The amazing Steampunk Elephant from Devil's Locket, and the Blue Genie statue (both by Lauren Thibaud)
  • The "Pure Imagination" build--a one-of-a-kind setpiece including poses for both Petite and regular-sized avatars (ten poses total), in dreamy oversaturated colors (built by Mayah Parx)
  • A three-butterfly windmill build from Marcus Inkpen and Sharni Azalee
  • The ENTIRE Shifting Sands build by Kayle Matzerath (this includes both buildings and landscaping)
  • The ENTIRE Devil's Locket build by Lauren Thibaud (this inclueds buildings, steampunk/seaside landscaping, and full volcanic kits from Elicio Ember)
  • The ENTIRE Nu Orne build by Elicio Ember (this includes all buildings and full landscaping packs) 
  • The ENTIRE Siren's Secret build by Elicio Ember (this includes all buildings)
(from the Charity efforts album)

I can't guarantee than this is what you'll get if you buy the butterfly mills, but this shows you what they look like if you haven't seen them yet.

(from the Charity efforts album)

Part of the Nu Orne jungle ruins build.

(from the Charity efforts album)

Part of the Siren's Secret build.

To get to the live auction site, go to Fairelands Junction. And bring your Lindens! It all goes to a good cause, and the builds were really phenomenal this year!

through the crowd I was crying out, and in your place there were a thousand other faces

This is almost tempting me to get involved with Guild Wars 2. I don't know if I will, mind, but...damn, that's just such an odd character class.

Recently, a picture archive compiled from various news and police sources was released to the public. It's an amazing, in-person look at life at the turn of the century, to the 1940s, in terms of fashion, architecture, city life, crime, and punishment. Absolutely worth looking through; it's amazing, and it's huge--870,000 photos in all.

Also, clearly from the NSFW front...an art student came up with a rather intriguing casting class final project--namely, that of embedding a small toy Tardis inside a silicon...er...well.

Prompting many of us to wonder, is it bigger on the inside? AND WE MOVE ON.

More from Minecraft? Why yes!

Now, you may have seen the Tesla tower in the distance of the last image. I don't know if it has an official name, but here's a better look at it:

(from the Minecrafting album)

This is the view from another, taller watchtower behind the village. You can see many of the animal pens, and about center-left, by the Tesla tower, you can see the L-shaped structure that's the main community center. Inside that, on the first level, are chests for supplies, crafting tables, book shelves, and a small forge area; below that are more forges (looking eerily crypt-like, set into the stone wall) and the main Nether portal for the village.

(from the Minecrafting album)

Another view. You can see the reed farm (on the lower left) and two of the three gardens.

(from the Minecrafting album)

The last shot I got, pretty much by hanging on to the crenellations of the tower, and inching out as far as I could to snap the shot. Scary, but it shows you more of the lay of the land, so to speak.

Now, this next one's going to take a bit of explanation. While I was excavating undermountain--specifically, under the mountain base--Fawkes was plotting out the parameters for an XP spawner in the Nether. Specifically, for blazes, that would work to help folks level up much faster, much easier.

Well, as "easy" as any XP generation system is, I suppose.

For those who don't know, the Nether was introduced to Minecraft on Samhain, several years back. It was a dark and spooky landscape, lit by hellish red light, its natural stone being either meat blocks, or shifting sand that was able to slow forward progress to a scary extent. At first, the only denizens of this hellscape were zombie pigmen (decaying pigs armed with gold swords), maniacal slimes (brighter and more ferocious than their cavebound brethren) and ghasts (giant floating tentacled nightmares that launched fireballs and giggled like mutant children).

(from the Minecrafting album)

Later were added blazes.

When one goes through the Nether portal--and survives the run to the spawner--well, this is somewhat typical of what you might see, once in the generation chamber:

(from the Minecrafting album)


Here's the down side--as with any XP generation system, your best bet for highest XP gathered is to let whatever mob the spawners spawn build up--so waits of two minutes, up to half an hour (for those with really robust computers) is considered fine--before wading in and slaying left and right. With most XP generation systems, the goal is not whatever drop the monsters have; that's considered a bonus. The goal is to gain XP and level up to enchant better, more protective, or more dangerous items.

(from the Minecrafting album)

With any other mob, that's pretty much the end of us. Build around the spawner, build a staging area, off you go on your quest for XP. But with blazes, even in the best of conditions, they still have an effect on those near them. Partially because of their higher-than-average temperatures (both ghasts and blazes breathe fireballs), partially because of the smoke particles they spew, just being near blazes slows you down, in terms of reaction and moving out of the way.

Put simply: even when trapped inside a spawner, blazes can hit you. And they drain endurance (read: increase your hunger) just by being near them.

(from the Minecrafting album)

Believe me, if I could have held the camera absolutely still I would have, but these things have a push factor that's equal to large slimes. And when several of them gather in the same place, they're not only loud, but, if you're not careful, they can push you right out of the room!
And that's before you get close enough to hit them!

The reason to go through all this? Well, because the XP's higher. Killing skeletons gets you on average two XP orbs. Kill twenty or so, you have a level. Whereas killing blazes gets you ten XP orbs, per blaze. Believe me, it adds up.

(from the Minecrafting album)

There is a setting to turn down particles seen in Minecraft. I'd definitely do so. Also, if you're interested in gaining XP this way (either on the Caledon server, or in your own private worlds), I'd consider turning down your sound, as well.

Because blazes sound like nothing less than ancient, mutated horrors trapped in iron lungs. And believe me, in the Nether, surrounded by that dim, reddish light, listening to metallic wheezing all around you...Well, I don't know about you, but it gets to me, plenty.
More when I get more time to sort!

Friday, April 27, 2012

blue ribbons in the apple sky

Interested in the state of the web (spring 2012 edition)? So was the Oatmeal! (He also has editions out for summer 2011 [now with downloadable Tumbeasts!] and winter 2010, if you want to check them out as well and bask in the occasionally fetid glow of net nostalgia.)

(from the Minecrafting album)

Meanwhile, back in Calecraft...

(from the Minecrafting album)

While finishing the final few blocks of the tunnel, and making sure everything worked, Des came up with a four-block variant of the Caledon flag. That's it you see above, by the little temp storage/forge/crafting table section Des had thrown up during building of the sheep pens. (You can also see the pens for lavender and pink sheep to the right of this picture.)

Not all the work, of course, but most of the work on the sheep pens, and the layout of the tree farms, was done by Des. We'd mentioned that sheep persisted in color once dyed, and--with the latest update, sheep could eat grass again--the wool would grow back. I saw a quirky little detail of animal husbandry; Des saw an opportunity for industrial textile production.
]
(from the Minecrafting album)

It's going pretty well, too. It's lit enough by torches that no aggressive mobs spawn near the animals, and things are running pretty well. Above you see the pens for the lavender sheep, and the blue ship. Past this are a selection of tones of green, then a pen that holds cows.

(from the Minecrafting album)

Of course, with any major project, there can be glitches; in the case of mass sheep farming, occasionally there are too many sheep in the pen and they pop up to walk unsteadily along the rail for a bit. Rarely this results in an escape, which is why on occasion you'll find blue, or red, or orange sheep wandering in the wilds.

To the right of this picture you'll see the barn Des built. There are no horses in Minecraft, so on occasion it holds cows, overflow sheep, or pigs, when it doesn't stand empty.

(from the Minecrafting album)

Another view of the barn structure, and--at this point--the new watchtower guarding over the western desert.

Wandering back to the village, we noticed new things had been added.

(from the Minecrafting album)

Like this. The sign says Town Pool! Jump in! And yes, it was raining the day we wandered back.

So I peered in, and found myself feeling in equal measure appalled, confused, and baffled beyond all reason.

(from the Minecrafting album)

This is the so-called "Town Pool".

(from the Minecrafting album)

Just look at all that broken water. What on earth happened? Did a creeper blow up this section, and someone decided to make the best of it? Did someone start to dig out a real pool and gave up? Or dug too far down? Was this the leftover remnant that someone decided to fill in?

How does anyone break water that badly?!?

(from the Minecrafting album)

The village entrance again, with newly positioned flagstones. Well, I say "stones", but they're actually wool blocks.

More later!

I only saw her once, but that was all I needed

This from Cryptic Studios:
At Cryptic Studios, your privacy and security is important. As part of our ongoing efforts to monitor and enhance security, we recently detected evidence of an unauthorized access to one of our user databases. The unauthorized access occurred in December 2010, and evidence of this has just been uncovered due to increased security analysis.
The unauthorized access included user account names, handles, and encrypted passwords for those accounts. Even though the passwords were encrypted, it is apparent that the intruder has been able to crack some portion of the passwords in this database. All accounts that we believe were present in the database have had the passwords reset, and customers registered to these accounts have been notified via e-mail of this incident.
While we have no evidence that any other information was taken by the intruder, it is possible that the intruder was able to access additional account information. If they did so, the first and last name, e-mail address, date of birth (if provided to Cryptic Studios), billing address, and the first six digits and the last four digits of credit cards registered on the site may have been accessed. We have no evidence at this time that any data other than the account name, handle, and encrypted password were accessed for any user.
So, essentially, while it may only be my username and password that was hacked, it might be my real name, identifying bits of my credit card number, my email address, my date of birth, and my billing address.

Wonderful. People, this is not making me want to download and play Champions again, just so you know.

Also, I love that they're just getting around to telling us this happened now, when the original break-in was in December of 2010! Way to stay up to date, guys!

In a bit of RL news--and I love this idea--there's now a mobile hangover recovery service operating in Las Vegas, Nevada. The staff on the bus--which resembles a large RV or touring bus on the outside--are all registered nurses or doctors, and no walk-ins are taken. These are regularly scheduled appointments, they're simply appointments on a bus--or, for an extra fee, the doctor and his staff can come to your room.

Using a combination of liquid vitamin supplements, rehydration saline drips, and small amounts of drugs to combat nausea and body pain, the treatments won't kill hangovers, but they do alleviate most of the symptoms. Quite honestly, there should be a set-up like this in every major vacation destination. It's inspired.

Back to Second Life announcements--so far, I don't know if it's a bug or if it's a permanent, Linden-based change, but it's now no longer possible for estate managers and sim owners to filter objects by owner name. I'm actually hoping this is just a bug that will be fixed soon, because if you're on the ground trying to track down 150 screaming headcrab zombies that are lagging your sim all to hell, and you're not able to track down how many of them are owned by the given juvenile idiot who dropped them? It's going to make your job as a manager insanely harder than it needs to be.

Even better? Top scripts no longer refresh when you hit that button, say if you just want to see if the info's changed, or have moved to another part of the sim. Both of those two JIRAs need to be watched, because these are serious problems that need to be addressed.

And back to CaleCraft. In these early establishing days, we were dividing our time between exploring and mining, or in the case of the residents in the main village, dividing their time between building and organizing the village, and expanding their reach.

Every few days, Fawkes and I would make the somewhat lengthy trek back to the village, dropping off resources: sand, glass, cobble, coal; clean stone, stone brick, stone slabs, wooden planks, dyes; even on occasion baked clay bricks and ducken eggs (at least until the ducken pen was built), and seeds for wheat to grow. Other residents were also dropping off resources, and soon the community center had chests nearly overfilling with supplies for building and creating.

So, this is a Minecraft chicken. In the main default game texturing, they have white feathers, yellow beaks, a bright red wattle, and beady little chicken eyes. So why do I call it a ducken?

Well, that goes back to the Painterly texture set. One of their options is a pixelated version of the mallard from Duck Hunt.

(from the Minecrafting album)

You must admit, the body style on this particular critter does approximate "duck" more strongly than "chicken".

(from the Minecrafting album)

This is from one of my private worlds, by the way--this is not from the CaleCraft server. Not because CaleCraft doesn't have ducken--they do--but it was easier to hop in to a solo and stalk the mighty bird on my own.

(from the Minecrafting album)

Of course, that did have a down side. Most ducken do not like to be followed, and this one rushed me several times, ruining the shots I'd lined up.

Off to cull through more pictures, for future entries!

your eyes still haunt me to this day

Overheard on City of Heroes:

[Help] MidnightStrike: how do you get to first ward?
[Help] MyndSwap: Practice, practice, practice... oh wait.


And, from Minecraft...Three weeks in--though before I began work on the village/generator corridor, mentioned earlier--word passed down in chat that another XP generator had been built (again, skeleton flavor). This one was off to the southeast from the village, behind the patch of land Storm had claimed for his own. It was a small, strictured space when we found it, compactly laid out, and our only problem was that night fell while we were still underground.

So--considering there were other folks on the server that night--we pretty much had to wait for dawn in a small glass corridor, one block wide. Which is where we saw this little guy:

(from the Minecrafting album)

Fawkes finally told me it just wasn't done for a fierce fae explorer to be cooing at a skeleton who really just wanted to shoot us dead.

But I couldn't help it! He was so cute!

(from the Minecrafting album)

Eventually, the chaos sun rose, and we went back to the mountain base by way of the spawn. On our way we discovered something untoward in the desert.

(from the Minecrafting album)

It seems that while we were wandering, Dr. Mason was in town crafting fiendish and terrible forms of artificial life in his underground laboratory...Well, perhaps "fiendish" and "terrible" is going a bit far. Let's substitute "dim" and "absent-minded" instead.

Why? Because--just like the villagers had, earlier--the golem simply wandered off into the desert. We're not sure why, exactly; one would assume that golems, designed to guard villagers, would guard them--but then, they'd all wandered off into the desert a few days before this, so maybe the golem was just trying to find them.

At any rate, this was someone's attempt to corral said golem, and keep him from wandering around. I suppose it works--until golems gain the ability to phase through solid matter, at least.

(Keep in mind the undeveloped area to the upper left of this picture--that's where I began building the corridor from the village to the first XP generation station. All of that, at this point, is structural stone brick, hieroglyphic sandstone, wood plank and glass pane corridors, now.)

(from the Minecrafting album)

Note placement of arrow. Though I usually try to remove visible HUDs from my screen for photographic purposes, this was literally a spontaneous chance snap of a moment in time (likely never to happen again). Namely--Fawkes swimming under all that fierce orange stuph.

And I quote:

[Fawkes_Allen] You can breathe underlava
[Fawkes_Allen] Hee
[Fawkes_Allen] Don't try this at home


And now the explanation. We'd begun investigations of the substantially large cave system underneath the mountain base. A chance mishap--while mining redstone, I believe--opened up a section of lava nearly at Fawkes' feet. Thinking quickly, he drained a potion of fire resistance, and then...well...went for a swim.

In lava.

Downsides to this? Well, apparently--with fire resistance--one can actually breath liquid magma, so that's on the plus side. Unfortunately, on the minus side--pretty much all of the minus side--is that once having been engulfed in lava, one continues to burn until the amount of time one was wading in lava has expired.

See, potions only go so far. Fire resistance will save you in a pinch, but if you do more than run quickly through it, you'll burn for the number of seconds you were exposed. And--say, if your potion wears off while you're still swimming underlava--well, you'll burn for quite some time.

Fawkes did not die from inhaling molten rock. No, Fawkes died because, on the other side of the pool of molten rock, his Minecrafted body still burned merrily for several seconds afterwards. The fire resistance potion expired, having protected him from the laval effects, but still, his body burned.

Finding where he'd died and quickly throwing everything I could rescue into a chest--well, that was the hard part.

And now, one of the most disturbing things I've seen in Minecraft:

(from the Minecrafting album)

Again, we'd discovered another ravine. (The damned things just keep turning up in this world!) Navigating our way (carefully, yet still not without mishap--I believe we both died at least once each) across a treacherous mix of water rapids and lava falls, I noticed some coal underneath the water. I busily mined it out, because we needed the coal for torches, and I drowned as Fawkes overbalanced and slipped into magma.

Again.

Only without fire resistance potions this time.

When we reconstituted, I found myself treading water in an air pocket that seemed...tenanted. Before I thought it through, I affixed a torch to the wall and screamed aloud, because I was face to face with a creeper.
Which then proceeded not to blow up, thereby shattering my conceptions of just what it is creepers do.

After some minutes of investigation, Fawkes told me that according to him, I was standing waist-deep in the air pocket alone. Only I could see the Ghost of Explosions Past.

So, air kraken, adventurous golems, pens of rainbow-colored sheep, and creeper ghosts. This is shaping up to be a very odd world.

More when I get time!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

an ancient grand hotel of Persian thread and ivory

So, there's been a lot of heat and pressure around female gamers lately. Not just female game characters (that's from 2011, but seriously, with TERA Online, it still stands), but actual harassment of female gamers. I've watched some of the source footage, and read some of Super__Yan's Twitter feed, and the entire thing is just appalling, start to finish.

(from the media album)

But there's something that was pointed out in response to something Miss Pakozdi said. I quote:
@Super__Yan the entire time you were giggling and enjoying the attention. someone mentions harassment and not until then do you complain?
For those who don't know, there's some socializing and psychology behind this, and it all comes down to male vs. female perception and reaction. To wit:

Males will laugh when:

  • happy 
  • amused 
  • angry 

These laughs will generally be perceptively altered so that a happy laugh sounds happy, an angry laugh sounds angry. This is the way most males are trained to react.

Conversely, females will laugh when:

  • happy 
  • amused 
  • nervous 
  • embarrassed 
  • angry
  • hurt 
  • confused 
  • fearful 

Why? Because we are trained to, by our mothers, by media, by women around us. We are overwhelmingly trained that our first response to something that makes us uncomfortable should not be stand up for ourselves and say that--it should be to laugh, and smile, and play it off as if it's not something that is embarrassing us, or discomfiting us, or angering us, or even scaring us. This, I think, is what most males cannot seem to grasp.

Much of the heat that landed firmly on this lady's shoulders was because of how she reacted to Aris Bakhtanians' comments to her--live, on the air, on a site streaming such content out to the internet at large.

Here's another problem that I don't think is being adequately understood--while I believe strongly that Aris was simply a jerk beyond all reason, for the most part he can--and does--honestly claim that it wasn't him, it was the live chat alongside the gaming stream to which he was reacting.

While the "fighting game community", or "FGC" as it's now being called, has never really lacked for abusive behavior, this should be well understood--most of what he said to Super__Yan was simply repeating and reading off what the chat was typing at the time. Asking for her bra size--that didn't come from him, that came from the chat. Deciding to rise from his chair and "smell" her--that didn't come from him, that came from the chat. Offering to buy a skirt for her, so camera shots could be zoomed in on her bare--and presumably spread--legs, that was a suggestion from the chat.

What I'm saying here is pointing all our ire at Aris himself does nothing to fix the larger problem, which is the incredibly racist, abusive, horrific things a lot of male gamers spew on a daily basis--on voice, in chat, in person. I want to be clear, here--it's not Aris himself we should single out, it's the entire male gaming culture where this kind of abuse is considered okay.

Worst of all, there's this attitude in a lot of game blogs where this incident was concerned--most well put on the Sonic Hurricane blog, where the author tells us that anyone can be a "stream monster", it just happens.
As Extra Creditz asks, why does it just happen? Why can't we stop it? Why can't we shut these idiots down, and make online gaming welcoming to anyone, not just the racist bigots who want to slam anyone who's not them--women, gays, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, transsexuals...I agree: this is not right. And it needs to stop.

Meanwhile, in the world of quantum mechanics, something many of us have long suspected has turned out to be true--namely, that simply making the decision to change the state of a photon changes its state under early observation, before the experiment. The only way this doesn't happen? Is if the later experiment does not change the state of the photon in question.

In this case, cause is preceding effect. Me personally, I'm fascinated by that.

Also, Minecraft's hit the world of textile patterning in a huge way. Is it a sad thing that now I want to track down who made what and make plans to acquire it? Well, some of it. I don't think I could live with the chair...

And I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the Digital Twin concept, originally discovered on NWN. Granted, there are programs collating all of our data online anyway, that's not the part that bothers me. (That djinni is long out of the bottle, frankly.) Instead, what worries me is the concept of teaching it through random interactions:
You can interact with this Pet You - ask it questions, push it around, introduce unexpected elements like warm apple pie or a swarm of bees.
Yeah, that way lies madness, believe me. I know this, because I used to play Sims, and there was always that great temptation to build a deep swimming pool, watch my Sims go swimming, then remove the diving board. Or usher them all in to a small room with two fireplaces and watch them burn.

While I do on occasion consider myself a cruel person, that line being uttered in such an uninvolved, matter-of-fact tone speaks to a larger subset of behavior. While we may not do terrible things to a baby (at least, those of us who have a strong ethical base), would we automatically do terrible things "just for fun" because it's a digital creation? Because it's been classified as "not us" from the start?

In that case, does that explain some of the horrifying things that happen in SL? Because it's "just a game"? Because it's not like anyone really cares what happens to their avatar, right?

Except we do.

More from New World Notes: a brief glimmer of a larger problem at the very end of this article on the prevalence of linked SLUrls on blogs and websites. I link SLUrls frequently on the blog, so discovering those user metrics are so lo is making me ponder whether or not I should continue to offer SLUrls so people can visit. However, that's not the larger problem mentioned. The problem, in a nutshell, is that seventy percent of all SL residents never leave their home location.

They don't go to clubs. They don't shop in-world. They don't go to events. They don't port around the grid in any way. They just stay home.

While I understand that, generally--you have a home you spent time and/or Lindens to decorate and acquire, you want to enjoy that home; possibly with your SL spouse/your partner/your SL family/your clan....whatever. I do understand that.

But, that paired with the overwhelming catastrophe of the Marketplace coding, means there are seventy percent of residents, on average, that now can't go online to buy things and have them delivered. If they never go walking around, flying around, teleport to various sims, drive or boat or swim away from their homes...and Marketplace no longer works...seriously, how long is it going to be before they figure, screw SL, they'll just go back to IMVU? Or set up a new account in the first place?

Also from New World Notes: the somewhat astonishing fact that Linden Lab will not be involved in a Second Life ninth year anniversary celebration. This just confirms what I've said many times on the Train Wreck--Linden Lab as an entity no longer cares about community in Second Life, and is now refusing to sponsor anything that doesn't make them direct cash. Which is a) depressing as hell, and b) explains why they're targeting the sims and businesses featured on the Destinations page (many of which subsequently get featured on the log-in screen)--it's not that Linden Lab is ethically advocating those businesses, sims, and clubs; it's just that those sims, businesses and clubs directly pay them Lindens, through tier fees, advertising, or more direct interactions. While I still don't think you have to be a huge business to get linked, you have to have a lot of traffic, or a lot of virtual acreage, to get linked.

Couple more things from New World Notes, since this seems to be turning into a clip entry, over another Minecraft entry. I disagree with Daniel Kaplan's assertion that there are more males playing Minecraft than females. Why? Break it down: not every woman will "like" a Facebook fan page for a game, nor will they automatically interact constantly on Mojang's Twitter feed. Females as a rule also won't plunge into cooperative multiplayer server worlds (at least, for the most part).

What they will do is purchase the game, download it, pick out a non-Steve skin, and play in single-player mode. Planting orchards, getting pets, farming, building incredible structures, discovering the world. I think there are a great number of female Minecraft players; they're just not players that have a desire to interact with the bulk of the online (male) gaming community.

Minecraft gives them the gaming experience without the "tits or GTFO" mentality that established online communities (Eve Online, SW:ToR and its predecessors, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty and every other FPS on the planet, seemingly...even Team Fortress II falls into this on occasion) seem to develop, because of the aforementioned small-minded men in those established gaming communities. And isn't that a good thing? I'm not saying every woman on the planet has to eschew shooting games, military games, survival horror games--if it's what they like to do, they should feel they have a right to play. We're no longer in that Farmville-or-nothing world; there's a lot of games out there for everyone to play.

But seriously, if a woman's already feeling excluded from the gaming world, Minecraft just reinforces that--if she's going to be alone anyway, and not interacting with the social aspects of the games she likes, then hell--why not be alone virtually, too? She'll still get to kill things, she'll still get to stake her claim, make her home, scavenge for materials. She just doesn't have to do it while the men around her are either asking for pictures, calling her a bitch, or telling her girls can't play these games, and to just leave before she stinks up the place. That kind of continual, dunning pressure--as Super__Yan rightly points out--is deeply damaging to our self-esteem and our sense of self-worth.

And it shouldn't be this way. But since it is...yeah, I think Minecraft is a great alternative for female gamers, hands down.

when your man would turn his head, I'd see you look at me

More from CaleCraft!

(from the Minecrafting album)

Yes, I had to combine some of the pics into another gif. But they were so perfectly processional!

And yes, even though it was a game, even though it was a virtual monster that could in no way get to me, I still creeped out when the skeleton was RIGHT NEXT TO MY FACE OH RUN SAVE THE CHILDREN--
(from the Minecrafting album)

About the time I'd completed the tunnel by half the length, the monsters figured out they could walk down the ENTIRE length and follow me as I go. And then they started...clustering, is the only word I have for it.
This shot features an Enderman (holding a sand block), a creeper, and three--yes, THREE--skeletons, all grouped in that tiny little zone.

(from the Minecrafting album)

We're now up to three skeletons, four creepers, and a spider.

(from the Minecrafting album)

And we now add a zombie to the previous mix. Why yes, monsters were packed in there like sardines.
All watching me.

(from the Minecrafting album)

Watching me a whole LOT.

It's a zombie party!

More when I get upload time.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

pools of brown and seas of red, and demons in your pocket (part II)

Good news for Minecraft players! Unfortunately, Silk Touch as an enchantment is frustratingly difficult to get at times. But at least, should you acquire the rare and exotic Silk Touch pick, you can now acquire glass panes and ice, as in days of yore.

And this is a beautiful statement. I'm very nearly tempted to link it in my profile somewhere, save...I'm not doing the dating thing at present. (Be advised that while the treatise deals with sexuality, it is not sexually explicit; how'ver, since it comes from a sex-positive blog, it is counted as NSFW.)

Now, then, picking up where we left off...

(from the bizarre album)

Neck tattoos and sewn-over nipples? But of course. Because both of those things just scream kawaii as a concept.

There are kawaii tattoos. But these? Aren't them, again.

(from the bizarre album)

WTF IS THIS DOING AT THE KAWAII FAIR?!? NO I'M NOT APOLOGIZING FOR YELLING. WTF IS THIS?!?!

(from the bizarre album)

No. No no NO no no no no. Not only not kawaii but bad piercings to boot!

(from the bizarre album)

Here's how bad it is--when May's Soul--far more well-known for her Gorean bondgirl attire that does not shrink from revealed flesh all over--turns out a comfortable, cute hoodie? The Kawaii Fair is seriously skewed.

(from the bizarre album)

And I'm not even saying you have to restrict it to PG items only: this, for example, is perfectly well done. It's a great little sleep set on an appropriate avi with perfect hair, perfect nails, and--barring the heavy black eyeliner, which seems to be SL-default for adults of all genders, as well as children--perfectly appropriate makeup.

It can be done, so what was wrong with nearly everyone else?!?

(from the bizarre album)

And, as I said in the last entry, these aren't bad outfits. In the right mood, I'd wear two out of three of them (the center pantsuit gets a pass, just for me personally, because I'm not comfortable with the plunge). They've got good shading, they look well-made, and I admire the conceit of the white go-go boots with the pink strap-halter outfit.

But again--kawaii, they're not, so why are they at the Fair??

(from the bizarre album)

And this is where I left the Fair and stormed off in loathing and disgust.

All of the above were found at the Kawaii Fair. If you want to see for yourselves, there's the link, it runs until Aprille 30th. Me, I'm so done, because that was ridiculous.