How old are Dales and some gnomes?

So yeah, How Old dot Net is all the rage, and I’m sure I’m not the first person to point it at various digital-realm avatars, but here we go!

Girl Dale and Boy Dale both seem to be mid-20’s, which is plausible:

Boy Dale looks 26?

Girl Dale looks 27?

Even drowed-up for Fantasy Faire (see Michele H’s very nice coverage although given how late I always am it is probably over by when you read this):

Drow Girl Dale, too

On the other hand Spennix is, well…

Spennix, on the other hand...

as is her alternate-realm self, the Arcane Mage Tashalorum (now level 100 also with her own Castle; I think we may have seen her here or on Flickr before, at like level 12; leveling is sooo easy these days):

Tashalorum, too...

The human PNC architect there is handled more plausibly, so probably we just need a different version of How Old dot Net for each of the races of Azeroth. (But what of the half-gnomes??)

Amusingly, the male version of Tashalorum (two words: Transmorphic Tincture) is apparently an even harder problem:

Male Tashalorum ; no face??

Maybe facial hair isn’t supposed to be pink?

That’s all for now. :) All various things have been occurring as always, but I have been lazy and not weblogging them or anything. Which means they didn’t really happen yet at all!!

Speaking of vanity…

Meanwhile, over in WoW, I’ve been playing various of my 90s through the brief pre-expansion quests to get the level 515 item and whatever achievement or title or thingie one gets (oh, right, it’s the “of the Iron Vanguard” title, and you really only need to get it once with one character and then they can all use it), and then doing other random things.

I played Spennix just a tiny bit, then my shadow priest for awhile (wicked DPS), and various others, then settled on Spennatrix the healer for some time, including trying to complete all of the Pandaren raids (at mere Looking For Raid difficulty) before the expansion comes out and makes all the existing content easy. (Still have just one to go! The wait-time for raid healers is always really short, I am just lazy.)

Y’all will doubtless remember Spennatrix’s simple white outfit from the other month (okay, the other year). As she went up to 90 and did Timeless Isle quests and got that gear, I didn’t re-transmog every upgrade she got, so eventually she was looking a bit more baroque again:

Spennatrix Ornate

although not awful; the Pandaren gear is much less bizarre-looking than the stuff that inspired her to do a set of transmogs in the first place.

But so anyway, I was in the white transmog again, standing around with a raid group buffing up to take down the Council of Elders in Last Stand of the Zandalari, when I notice this other Night Elf Priestess, and she’s wearing like omg TOTALLY the same transmog!!!

Mooncloth Robes

That’s me on the left.

Of course it’s not really exactly the same transmog, mostly it’s that we both have Mooncloth Robes, and generally non-ornate other gear. She’s got this High Councillor’s Circlet for a nice blue gem matching the blue hair, whereas I have hair matching the robes, and an unmodified Amaranthine Cowl of the Impatient on top (not really a cowl despite the name, more a little top extension with a hairpin) because it looks good, and matches the (also unmodified) belt.

Neither of us quite have the shoulders right, I’d say; I have the White Woolen shoulders or whatever that is, and they’re simple but kind of a weird shape, and actually too white for the white outfit. On the other hand her I think Shadow Council Mantle is a little too ornate for the overall look (although they do go nicely with the gloves). I’ve switched back to the Silver-Threaded Amice look for the shoulders since, and I think I prefer it.

I was thinking about some evil-looking dark transmog for the Shadow Priest, but then I realized that since she spends 99% of her time in Shadowform, no one would hardly ever see it.

And if no one sees it, what’s the point, eh? :)

Three Poems

My RL self did National Poetry Writing Month in April; 30 poems in 30 days. I thought I’d post three (at least) of them here, because they have some Virtual World content.

This first one, from the 29th, is notable for having inspired a machinima as noted the other day.

Dactyls are Dharma, too

Here in the midst of the ten thousand thingummies
Hearing the voices of ten million throats,
Feeling compassion for those who have aching knees,
Those who build bridges and those who dig moats.

Sitting in zazen and counting the in-and-out
One and a one and a one and a one,
Mind somehow caught in this insistent rhythm, I
Tick like a clock sitting here in the sun.

Dharma is silent but Dharma is noises and
Dharma is stillness but Dharma is speed,
Why should I think that the circling second-hand
Isn’t precisely the sound that we need?

One commenter (commentor? commentator?) somewhere said they’d learned two new words from it; I’m guessing “dactyl” and “dharma”; both good words to know.

The second one, from the 9th, is very relevant to lil Spennix:

A long way from Kharanos

Well it’s a damn’ long way from Kharanos
To th’ Gate o’ th’ Settin’ Sun,
But the beer is good an’ the beds are soft
When th’ daily slaughter’s done.

I left a dagger in Thermaplugg,
All those long hard years ago,
Took a bit of his gear as a souvenir,
Of Gnomeregan below.

But that crazy old coot was nothin’,
‘gainst the things that they’ve got ‘ere,
Bugs an’ Mogu an’ lizard men,
And hungry ghosts o’ fear.

Someday I’ll go back t’ ol’ Col’ridge,
An’ sit on the porch with ‘em all,
But ’til then I’m out here in the Vale,
Killin’ bugs up on the wall.

Well it’s a damn’ long way from Kharanos
To th’ Gate o’ th’ Settin’ Sun,
But the beer is good and the beds are soft
When th’ daily slaughter’s done.

… and here is an Action Shot of “Killin’ bugs up on the wall”:

Fightin' bugs up on the Wall

(Click through to the shockingly-redesigned flickr for the same picture larger, and in a confusing interface.)

And to close, this one from the 17th. Note that it’s not actually about Second Life, since that has real people in it, not just simulated ones. But still…

Walking Cross-Country

He says he’s writing a computer program
to simulate
walking cross-country
in an unknown place.

Where you might follow a brook upstream
and be surprised by
a forest lake
sparkling in the sun,

And follow a path around it
to a ramshackle house
at the end of a dirt road
where a woman with dark hair and soft eyes
opens the door
and smiles a welcome.

And I say that that sounds cool,
and I also say,
that the real world has surprises like that, too,
and even soft-eyed women,
and he should maybe go for real walks sometimes.

He turns to me,
like he’s about to say something,
but then he just shakes his head
and goes back to the keyboard.

Bored with WoW again :)

So the periods during which I get interested enough in WoW to play it relatively regularly seem to be getting shorter, and less frequent.

The latest one, of course, happened when the Kung-Fu Pandas expansion came out. Spennix got to level 90 pretty quick:

Spennix in Pandaria

At least I think she’s level 90 there; anyway, she is now! And she got to 90 without doing a single instance, or very many dailies, just questing about. More of the “everything in WoW up to but not including advanced raiding is now dead-easy” effect.

She also has maxed-out Engineering and stuff now, and is very fond of her Mechanical Dragonling pet:

Spennix's Mechanical Dragonling

One new thing I haven’t yet done in WoW is the “Pet Battle” stuff. ’cause, I mean, y’know, sheesh?

I also have a Pandaren Brewmaster, as seemed pretty much required, considering.

Chiuling

He’s level 50-odd now, and wow Brewmaster tanking is easy so far! :) But since after the first rather fun Pandaren start zone he’s just doing the same old levels, I find it hard to get really interested.

Spennatrix has also been Holy Priesting around the first few levels of Pandaria:

Spennatrix in Pandaria

But again I find it hard to be fascinated, since Spennix just did all these areas not so long ago. Instance healing might be fun, but I dunno shrug.

Spennix has done some Golden Lotus and Tillers and insect-dudes dailies, and they can be diverting, but I always come away feeling like I’ve just wasted a big chunk of time.

Whereas in Second Life, when I look at the clock and discover it’s hours past bedtime, I almost never feel like it was a waste. :)

So expect to see me around the grid a bit more than I have been! (Except of course that this weekend is Thanksgiving so there are RL things going on, and then next week I’m out of town on business and may not have connectivity, and and and…)

Fashion comes to the WoW battlefield

There’s always been a bit of fashion stuff in World of Warcraft; certain items of clothing or other gear that you could buy or get that were valuable not because of their stats, but because they looked cool (or unusual, or weird, or extra-ugly).

People would make up elegant or funny or whatever outfits out of these sometimes and stroll around in town showing off, or wear them to RP (Roleplaying) events, or costume parties or whatever. See for instance the famous picture of Spennix in the pimpin’ Crimson Felt Hat, which is actually useful for about twenty minutes at level 48, if you’re a Priest, but looks good on anyone:

Spennix's Town Hat

On the battlefield (or out in the wilderness or the necromancer’s tower or whatever), however, you generally wore whatever you could get your hands on that had the best stats, with little or no regard to how it looked. (’cause of otherwise you would like die an’ all.)

The Blizzard folks did put some thought into gear design, and there are various sets that go together thematically at both high and low levels. But even at that if you’re a holy priest or a warlock or a retribution paladin or whatever at a certain level, there are a very limited number of things that are Best In Slot (BiS) for you at that level, and at most a couple of different integrated outfits, and even those will have been designed by, well, by Blizzard.

And they ain’t exactly fashion designers.

But now that is all changed!

Using Transmogrification, you can make any piece of gear look like any other piece of the same sort of gear (with various complicated rules like you have to own and be able to use both, both must actually have some kind of stats bonus, etc, etc), and that has completely opened up the WoW fashion scene, both in town and in the fray.

(Well, not completely-completely as in Second Life, because you still can’t quite make your own stuff, but you can combine various of the lots and lots of existing-looking stuff in multiplicative ways.)

For instance I hadn’t taken pictures to speak of of Spennatrix, my healer Priest, or even played her all that much lately, at least partly because she looked stupid in her gear.

Here, for instance, is the Mask of New Snow, the best healer headgear she’d come across and/or been able to afford to that point:

I mean, yuck! And also, eek! Is that a look you’d want to trust your life to in battle? More like something you’d expect to be battling against.

A bit later she upgraded to the Cowl of Destiny, which looks like this:

Again, omg and/or wtf rofls. Blizzard’s style choices at high levels have always run to more or less elaborate more or less dark and threatening things, which is fine if you’re a necromancer warlock or a mage or even warrior or whatever, but Spennatrix is a humble Priestess of Elune, the WoW Moon Goddess, and is not really interested in looking like any of those things, thank you very much.

(And her staff, for that matter; Chelly’s Staff of Dark Mending isn’t exactly In Character, but it’s what she’s got.)

So, transmogrification! Being an Illustrious Grand Master Tailor and a Night Elf, it was no problem to cleanse some Felcloth into Mooncloth at the ancient Moonwell over in the mysterious Twilight Grove over in Duskwood, and make a lovely set of Mooncloth robes. Then taking out the elegant Imperial Red Circlet she’d saved from her early adventures, and the Moon Staff of Elune that she quested for in her novitiate (if priestesses of Elune have novitiates, I dunno), and then down to the Ethereal’s place in Stormwind for th’ Transmogrifying (not to mention a trip to the barber for a little magical dye job), and viola:

Now there’s someone you want at your back when you’re tanking Mannoroth at the Well of Eternity, eh?

(Her next robe upgrade, to the Robes of the Cleansing Flame, didn’t look too bad:

but still too much like a Fire Mage or a UPS deliveryperson or something (not to mention making her bottom look huge; what were they thinking with that pattern on the hips??). Much better in Mooncloth:

don’t you think?)

So that’s fashion in WoW! None of my other toons (haha, “toons”) have made as much use of it as Spennatrix, although my necro warlock did use it to color-coordinate a piece of what was really Priest gear that he was using for awhile, and Spennix has used it to get back the look of her very very cool goggles from awhile back. But Spennatrix is definitely my most fashion-conscious WoW character. :)

And back in SL, boy Dale has a rather new look, too! We’ll see how long that lasts. Fortunately, no annoying raids or prolonged quests or tedious grinding are required to change looks in SL; just shopping!

Bunnies vs Argaloth!

Just to show that WoW isn’t all battles and fighting and stuff, here’s a moment of silliness, where most of the 25-person guild raid waiting for the last two members to show up before taking on Pit Lord Argaloth decided to turn each other into bunnies and get out our Spring Rabbit pets, and hop around for picture-taking.

Bunnies vs Argaloth!

(I really should have turned off all of the floating nametags, ’cause they sort of clutter up the picture…)

I am happy to see that the picture has already been favorited once on flickr. :)

I wasn’t actually planning to be in this raid at all, I just happened to be doing Tol Barad when it was time for my guild‘s weekly “Raid Boot Camp” run, so I got included in the invitation, and I thought “What the heck!”.

The raid was fun (even not counting the bunnies), and the Boot Camp part consisted mostly of following directions (something I am generally pretty good at). And I was rewarded richly, in that as the only rogue there I pretty much by default got the nice rogue PvP legs that dropped, and they were a good upgrade to my PvP set.

(In fact they’re enough better than the legs currently in my PvE set that I’m thinking of swapping them in there also; but wearing PvP for PvE, even when justified by the numbers, is sort of a WoW Fashion Faux Pas…)

So see! What WoW is really about is (a) silliness, and (b) fashion. Now you know! :)

Gamificationing

Little people with letters on themI think I’ve figured out why I so often disagree with Hamlet Au‘s opinions about how Second Life should change. As I speculate here, I think Hamlet is talking as an investor or a business consultant, saying what he thinks will improve new-user signups, or retention, or profitability in general; whereas I’m talking as a resident, saying what I think would make the world a better place to be a resident in, for people who are at least to some extent like me. Of course the world has to continue to exist :) in order to be a good place to reside, so I am somewhat concerned with profitability, but it’s not primary.

So for instance when Blue Mars decided to give up development of the actual virtual world, in favor of an “is my AV hot or not?” app for cellphones, that may have been a great decision in terms of bottom line, but presumably was not great news for those who enjoyed the actual virtual world.

And when Hamlet praises the new “Rank” system on the Second Life official forums, and hopes that it will soon have an equivalent inworld, I think he means that he believes (based on his knowledge of similar systems in places like the 2.5D Habbo Hotel (“Habbos Like: army cool diceplaya elite police force financier football friends fun funny habbo habbo government job justin bieber lol love music nypd pays police white house”)), that this would increase new-user retention, concurrency, profits, etc; but when I say I think it would be an awful idea, it’s because I have a really hard time imagining how such a thing would actually improve my experience of the world, aside from any profitability impacts it might have.

I remember when I briefly tried “vSide” awhile back, there was some system of “Creds” or something, based on something like a ranking system or achievements or friends or money spent or something, and various items that I might have wanted to buy were only available if you had enough “Creds”, and I didn’t. And this turned me off, and was one of the reasons I stopped going there; one thing I don’t want a virtual world telling me is that I Am Not Good Enough!

On the other hand I do appreciate the value of a constant little stream of validation in any activity. So maybe it would be possible to imagine some sort of “Gamification” of SL that would, rather than telling you that you are currently Not Good Enough to get some particular item or upload some particular kind of content, instead give you little attaboys, little blips of praise or accomplishment. Might be worth thinking about.

World of Warcraft has (at least) two almost entirely separate reward and rank systems, one of which I think is completely inappropriate for SL, and one of which might actually be interesting.

The inappropriate one is the obvious one: every character has a level, and the most obvious driving force behind the entire game is leveling up. You level up very very fast at the beginning, which provides a steady stream of little rewards to start with, while you’re still perhaps finding out what-all there is to do in the game. Low-level characters can only go to low-level places, and use low-level items, and fight low-level monsters. A high-level character can kill a low-level character of the other faction with a single blow.

Importantly, it’s a ranking system among characters (“toons”), but not among players; in general each player is expected to have a number of toons, and the level 15 druid that you’re talking to is quite likely just the latest toon of someone who also has two or ten level 85 characters of other classes and races.

And this would all be completely inappropriate for Second Life. SL isn’t about some ubiquitous overarching story that everyone is taking part in, some set of predefined ladders that everyone goes up and that everyone is interested in. It’s not about creating a character, leveling it up one of the available ladders, improving one’s gear, and then starting a new character with different abilities, to climb a slightly different ladder. SL can be this, if you get into one of the RP systems, but that’s entirely up to the player; it’s not baked in. And it shouldn’t be; changing SL to be that way would be like making it into an “is my AV hot or not?” app for cellphones, or for that matter into a sales platform for dishwashers. It might be profitable, but I (and I think most residents) would lose all interest.

On the other hand, WoW also has the more recently-added “Achievements” system. Achievements are things that you do outside of the level system, and that get you at most little decorative rewards, like a new title to display over your head, or a pet that will follow you around but doesn’t actually do anything in the game. And the vast majority of achievements don’t even do that; it’s just another achievement that you’ve achieved, the game makes a cool little noise and informs anyone standing nearby and anyone in your guild who happens to be logged in at the time, but that’s it. There’s a “compare achievements” mechanism that you can use to compare your achievements with those of anyone nearby, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard of anyone using it.

Could we have a similar system in SL? Maybe. It wouldn’t be like the thing on the forums at all, with every person having one single rank-like title (“Honored Resident”, “Member”, “Advisor”, gak); instead there’d just be alot of checkboxes that you could either ignore entirely, or work more or less hard on getting them checked off. Having checked off alot of them would not get you any special powers on the forums or in the world. I can’t emphasize this strongly enough; tying them to special powers leads to cheating and hacks and drama and destruction.

There could be a bunch of very easy checkboxes, so that new residents get a nice welcoming stream of validation messages when they start out. And it should be easy to ignore those checkboxes you never intend to check off; someone who has no interest in combat games should not be constantly prodded by the viewer because they have not yet checked off the “kill or be killed in a combat game” box. (I really hate the thing on Facebook or wherever it is that’s always reminding me that I’ve provided only 47% of the intimate personal information that they’d like me to reveal; that’s all I ever intend to provide, thank you very much!)

So what would be some fun checkboxes? I’m sure people are making lists like this all over the SL web even as I type. :) Maybe:

  • Find the Friends List panel
  • Find the IM and Group IM panels
  • Say something in open chat
  • Walk!
  • Fly
  • Teleport
  • Find the world map
  • Teleport to somewhere on the world map
  • Receive an IM
  • Send an IM
  • Offer friendship to someone
  • Be offered friendship by someone
  • Buy something / spend Lindens
  • Sell something / receive Lindens
  • Rez a cube
  • Change the texture of something in Edit mode
  • Create a new piece of clothing / body part / notecard…
  • Join a group
  • Create a group
  • Take a snapshot

And so on and so on. :) Most of those are newborn sorts of things; I think I’ve done all of them but “create a group”.

We could argue that once someone’s been inworld for awhile, they will have found other sources of validation and fun besides the little achievements. On the other hand it’s easy to imagine the occasional olderbie achievement: “Rez your 500’th cube” or “delete your 10,000th thing from inventory” or “make your 100th friend”. Even “own an entire sim”. How about “be hired by Linden Lab”? :)

I dunno. I think I can convince myself that these things might be fun, and might increase new-user retention some. On the other hand I’m not sure, given all of the things that might be fun and might increase new-user retention, if this is anywhere near the top of the list. (Get sim-border-crossings working first, ffs!)

:)