Sunday, 30 May 2010

I have a new Pooch - Harvey a mini Dachshund

This is Harvey, he's my 4 year old Miniature Dachshund and we have had him for just 1 week.

They say you're either a cat or a dog person, well I am a dog person wanting one from the age of 9 but never actually getting one until I was 28

As a child I would fish for newts and frogs in swamps and keep them in empty large margarine tubs.
I would collect frog spawn and tadpoles in the hope that the tadpoles would magically turn into tiny perfect frogs. They never did.

At the age of about 7 I went to the Blackpool Illuminations with my family and was fascinated with the Mexican Jumping Beans they sold on the pear.
A man had a load of them "jumping" in a tray strapped around his neck as he tilted the tray back and forth to make the beans "jump"

I bought two and was curious how they moved like that.

My Mum told me that little mexican fleas lived inside the plastic pill type encasements and it was these jumping fleas that made the beans move in the manner they did.
She also added that I wasn't to open the pills or the fleas would jump away and I wouldn't get them back.

It took 3 days before curiosity and fear of them starving got the better of me and I took them both to the privacy of my bedroom and carefully twisted the 2 halves of the plastic shell open holding them in a cardboard box so the fleas couldn't jump away.

The disappointment I felt was tangible as a tiny metal ball bearing dropped out and into the cardboard 
box bouncing twice and rolling into the corner.

Of course, I know now that there are actually real Mexican Jumping Beans but they weren't sold in "Sunny Blackpool" that's for sure!

After that,  I had a cold water fish tank of 8 Gold fish.

Once a year a fairground attraction would come to the local town of Blackburn and you could very easily win goldfish in bags on the "hook a duck" fair ground game.

After winning 2 and releasing them into my big tank within a week they developed some kind of fungus that grew on their bodies. Once that fungus grew over the gills they died.
Each morning I would run downstairs to see if the treatment we had put in the water was having an effect only to find one morning a dying fish swimming at the surface of the water, upside down and gasping for oxygen.

I was crying and scared so I fished it out of the water and gently laid it down on the table and tried to scrape the fungus off with a dinner knife. Obviously, it died.

In my teens, I sneaked into the biology lab at school and stuck my hand into the cage full of wild mice which where there for "experiments"
Rummaging around blindly and being nipped and bitten by over 10 wild mice I grabbed the soft warm body of one and pulled it out to inspect it just long enough to discover my new pet was black, then I gently put him in my satchel and ran home.
The excitement I felt running home that day was wonderful and I decided to call him Mickey, as in Mickey mouse (lol)

At last, I had a real warm furry pet I could call my own and I placed him in a shoe box with tissue paper for a bed and fed him a lump of cheese before I slid the box under my bed so my parents wouldn't find him.

I would take him out when the house was empty and one night I let him explore the window sill as I made myself a sandwich. When I came back he had chewed a huge hole in the curtains so I re arranged them hoping my Mum wouldn't notice and kept him hidden in my room for days.
My Mum did notice and I just played dumb when she asked me why there was a 3 inch hole in the bottom of her curtains.

The shit hit the fan one night when my parents returned home from a night out.
I had let Mickey out as usual in their absence and he ran up and down the chair arm, my Dads chair arm.
I watched Dad as he sat there chatting slightly merry with ale, absent mindedly rolling mouse shit between his forefinger and thumb.

I tried to distract him to dust the poo pellets away but needless to say he eventually picked one up to examine it as he went over to turn the main light on and then declared:

"This is bloody mouse shit!"

They knew instantly it was down to me and after 20 minutes of giving me the opportunity to confess, he went to my room and dragged out the shoe box with the now 3 mice I had accumulated over the weeks.

They didn't make me get rid of them, instead they told me they had to live outside in proper wooden mice houses and the rules were I had to clean their boxes out and be responsible in feeding them etc.
I think they thought if I was forced to do all of the work that came with owning any pet, I would soon get bored.

Long story short, they bred and bred fast and we had little bundles of pink piglet like baby mice appearing almost every month.
The whole affair got out of hand so I then had to use my spending money to share the rent on a local garage and kept them there along with my friends rabbits.

Those same rabbits bit me tearing a huge 2 inch of flesh off my hand which still leaves a scar today.

I have also been bitten by a wild horse and chased by a herd of cows which had me cornered behind some barbed wire throwing stones at them and shouting "shoooo!" so I could get home. It took hours!

To this day I don't like walking in the middle of an open field full of cows or horses. They can sense your fear!

At 28 I got my first dog, a Basset hound called Bessie from a rescue centre.
Three years later we got another Basset called Boris, again from a rescue centre.
Bessie lived to be 17 years old but Boris was only with us for three years.

He had been found dumped in a hole up the moors in Leeds. A walker had heard him barking from the bottom of a 6 foot pit and rang the RSPCA.
He was 1 week away from death and nothing but ribs and huge paws.
He had never been loved or lived in a house and we suspected he had been used by a breeder as a stud dog.  He only had one testicle too which was probably why the breeder dumped him.

Due to the crappy standard of health he had, he was a troubled dog with constant rashes on his tummy and he never managed to put much weight on. He was always a "ribby" hound.

One day I woke up and found his tummy was all swollen up like a balloon. The swelling did go pretty quick but then his back legs started to fail possibly due to the pressure from his swollen stomach on a nerve in his spine.

We rang the vets who came out to see him and gave him an injection and advised us if he didn't get up and walk in the next 24 hours he would never walk and we would need to put him to sleep.
He wasn't in any pain but because he couldn't walk he would whine and whimper when he needed to urinate, all we could do was lay a blanket under him and assure him it was OK to "let it  go" and he did, soaking the blanket on which he lead.

I couldn't bear to watch him suffering and went to bed hoping he would be OK in the morning, my then partner stayed up with him all night and slept beside him.
By morning there was no change so we had to carry him on a bed sheet to the vets to have him put to sleep.

I won't go into the whole affair but after leaving him snoring on the floor in the vets (who had given him a shot of Valium to calm him) we just sat in the car outside both crying our hearts out in grief.

It wasn't fair. He only had 3 good years out of his short life.

So, lol lets lift the mood a little eh? I have a new pooch and I adore him. He's like my baby and unlike previous dogs I have owned, he's small enough to cuddle on the sofa and he gets spoilt rotten with love.

It's been 2 years since I had a dog and I didn't miss the extra house work and cleaning the poo up out of the yard, but there's something missing in my life when I don't have a dog. My dogs are my family I suppose.

I have always been more maternal to animals than babies and even as a child I had no interest in baby dolls preferring the more womanly dolls like Cindy or Pippa.

I have no maternal instinct for babies at all in fact if I am honest,  I don't feel comfortable around them.
I don't "get" them.

But show me a cute mutt and I am on my knees all "cooing and kissing" lol

And As If By Magic..

How ironic that at the same time I post my previous blog about the general ignorance of Copyright in Second Life, I get two emails on Xstreet.

This one is in response to a letter I wrote asking the person to remove from sale my textures which they had  bundled up with thousands of other artists textures and was selling for 25 Linden Dollars:

 [Start] just got a message from someone else about this....Like I told them, as far as I know all the textures I sell are full perms. However, I already stopped selling them as a kindness to the other person who wrote me....If indeed the textures were not full perms, I apologize. I didn't mean to ruffle any feathers or do anything wrong. [End]

Thats a typical copyright ignorant SL user. Nothing unusual about this response and it's actually a good result because at least they removed the textures.

Then I saw another letter titled "Terrain" I assume they have purchased some Terrain textures from me.

[Start] Hi Lilly, i read just your terms and they looks like  a joke, if i buy anthing fukk permission, i use it where i want and not only in sl.
if i buy a chair in New York, i can use the chair around the world not only in New York. Not Linden Labs and not even you can tell me where i use my  stuff. i have outside from sl 42 sims and you can be sure i use all what i buy on this sims too. and why i sould not do this ? linden labs is not the founder from copyrights  this is international right, and when i use your stuff on other grids is the copyright the same. i aczept, respect and i protect your copyright and from all other creaters, but no one tell me where i can use  what i buy. if you now block this Nerido ava, its ok for me because i have some alts too. if you now report me to linden labs, it would be great because i got never an answer, when i ask  who give them the rights to tell me what i can do or not . and at last   you can be sure  linden change the new TOS again, because they are wrong. please dont go mad with me , this is nothing about you, i wish you a nice day Lilly and a good busines. [End]
Ah well different day same old shit.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Second Life ALL New SEO and other ramblings PART TWO


And so I grew up. 

I researched different license types those that did allow derivative use and those that didn't and IP law in general.

I threw away all of the crap free textures other stores also sold and the textures I had bought over the years from other residents and kept only what I was 100% confident were mine by creation.

Perhaps by default,  I grew to be a stronger artist and a more confident business.

I started taking my own photographs to use as derivatives in my own work and now I truly appreciated the work and skill that went into the creation of original texture art.

This lead onto me selling my artwork outside of SL on and more recently training for a TIGA diploma in Game Art & Animation.

I also opened up a texture stock site not associated with SL were other texture or game artists can buy our stock as derivatives (or a texture resource) to make their own textures too. 
Some of SL texture stores and artists are using my photos in the creation of their own textures within SL now.  (It's complicated and I do wonder sometimes if I am insane for allowing that but anywho, thats another story)

Bottom line, you have to change with the times and SL isn't the same SL it was even 2 years ago but at the same time there are still hundreds of people selling content they shouldn't and doing so in total ignorance.

But back to competition. What I mean are real texture artists who actually own a paint program and know how to at least create alpha channels and convincing seamless work, use their own photo stock or are able to create a texture from scratch.

Either way, we are all taking a slice out of the same pie the talented and the not so talented are all selling art in exchange for Linden Dollar and in this economy the pie isn't growing but there are more mouths to feed as more people grab a chair to feast at the table.

So, back to Second Life and its wonderful "All Search"

As soon as All search was introduced TRU remained on the first page. Cool.

But then after a few weeks we found ourselves on page 25 and have remained there ever since.

Now, heres the thing, we have over 5000 vendors all set to show in search and all with the word "textures" in the name.
If you bring up the TRU store in the All Search you can see thousands of items from our store all for set for sale and all named to include the word "Textures"
As the largest texture store in SL with over 80,000 textures and 80 artists, that alone should count for something.
Additionally, we also pay 20K a week for a classified advert (the highest amount paid within our genre)
That too should affect our standing in the new ALL search.
We have a group with just less than 1000 members, that also (in theory) should affect our rankings.
Our traffic is true and genuine, no campers or bot poppers, no gaming what so ever and averages at about 5000 - 6000 daily.

We hired the services of a very well known SL SEO company that has had great success with Titan Textures (who is my business partner, Martin from pushing him into the number 1 slot in less than a week. Other texture stores are listed as using the same service and apparently it works for them too as they are on page one also.

I warned the owner of this company about our problems with static rankings and she assured me it had worked for other stores and to just try the service for a short period of time to see the results. 

I did. And I saw no results. We didn't move up or down. We remained static.

Wasn't her fault, I knew it was likely to fail but I guess I needed to try it as a test too, just to confirm once and for all it wasn't because of something we were or were not doing.

I wrote to All Search Feedback and Linden Labs even came out to the store/sim.

I followed their advise by placing 100 empty prim boxes out and set them for sale. I ticked the box named "Show in Search" and named them all "textures" just to see if anything moved us in the rankings even just a little bit.  Nothing, we didn't budge one bit so we deleted the 100 boxes.

Around this time, I bought some land in the then highly desirable Linden Lab owned area called Bay City and heres the final slap in the face.
That tiny little store with less than 60 vendors and 100 traffic is on page eight! 
How can that be?
Same vendor system, same key words, less traffic, less items set for sale, and yet our little store DID move up a touch during the SEO service we paid for.

This is proof to us that the Textures R Us main sim is "broke" and somehow we're not locked into the SEO search system in Second Life.

It's a good job we have a good "WOM" turn around thanks to our customers because if we were depending on NEW customers finding us, we wouldn't stand a chance.

Following a customer survey we launched some months ago, 85% of our customers found us by a friend referral. This is of course fantastic and something we work hard to maintain.

So what can I do about this issue with All Search?

Well, despite my better judgement I am trying a different approach.

I have begun a Profile Picks promotion which has worked wonders for one texture store and again, in theory the more people who have us in their profile picks the higher up the rankings we will go. And if that fails at least we get people who see us in friends profiles and who otherwise would not of found us to perhaps pay the store or the website a visit.

Time will tell if Profile Picks promotion will aid us, but I am not holding my breath. 

Second Life ALL New SEO and other ramblings

Theres nothing new about SLs "All" search which was introduced by Linden Labs just over 2 years ago.
There's nothing neat, clever or special about it either.
It doesn't work. 
Well, it doesn't work for us at least. 

Now I know what you're thinking:
"It does, YOU just don't know how to manipulate it to work in your favour!"

A little history:
Before Linden Labs introduced the new Google based SEO into Second Life,  TRU Textures was always on page one under the general listings and at that time I think that was about right. 
After all we were the number one texture store in SL at the time with very little serious competition.

Things have changed in just over 2 years.

We have more competition for a start. 
And by competition I don't mean your "retro texture store" that sell freebies off the web. 

The ones that sell textures for 10 Linden Dollars because thats all it cost them to upload after saving them from some website with no personal work or skill applied in the creation. 

I try not to judge them too harshly. By and large these types of stores are ignorant and believe that if it's freely available on the internet then its theirs to do as they wish. 

A classic example of this was when I was recently informed someone was selling/giving my textures away. When I went to check out the location sure enough some of my very new and very good game textures were being handed out as traffic boosters. 
The only difference between mine and these copies was the size.
Mine are sized 1024 x 1024 pixels by default and these were a very low resolution of 250 pixels.
After speaking with the person who was giving them away,  she assured me she had got them from a "free texture website"
After a long discussion as I tried to figure out which site had been giving these textures out, it turned out it was my own. lol 
The lady said (and I quote) "I got them from here *URL linkI see what you mean and I am sorry, I don't mean to cause trouble or steal, but they were there for the taking and free, you advertise as free"  

What she had done is saved the thumbnails from my texture stock site which are sized 250 pixels and are not watermarked "because" of their low resolution size.

This is classic typical nooby ignorance.

People aren't born with copyright knowledge so why assume logging into SL will make them automatically knowledgeable. 

Of course there are people that know full well that they are stealing and do it regardless but I dont attribute these kind of people to texture store owners.
These people are usually copybot users and people that rip skins (or other textures) out of SL using software designed specifically for such use. 

Even these people see SL as "Just a game" They don't seem to understand (or care) that behind each product there is the cost of the software used to create it, the hours spent training and creating it and money lost as their skins are copied and sold for 10 Linden Dollars to thousands of other ignorant customers. 
And these customers then follow suit and go on to resell the same content to more people and on and on the chain goes until the issue is so widespread you would have to hire 30 people to work full time just to keep on top of the sale and resale of unauthorised content. 

But your average person starting to sell in SL will not understand copyright, EULA, IP, Creative Commons, etc unless they were in the business before they joined SL.
They may have a vague concept of it, but it's a very grey area.

And by noobs I don't just mean new to SL I mean new to owning a store or selling content in SL

Back in 2004 when SL was new these "retro texture stores" were not only the norm they also set the standard. 
Success in the texture industry wasn't so much about what you created but rather what you "found" on Google and that was considered OK and acceptable (back then)

I, like others followed suit and scanned the net for unique, hard to find freebies but by 2005 it ended up where we were all selling the same freebies found on the internet.

I had no real experience of Photoshop at the time,  so I decided to try a different tact and would offer to buy textures from builders. Most declined but some didn't.

Over the 12 months that followed I must have spent over a million Linden Dollars buying other peoples textures without thinking where they may have come from. I just assumed they had made them, or if I am honest, I made assumptions to suit my requirements.

A2J Textures sold me 1000 textures as he was leaving Second Life. I bought textures from customers who said they made them only to find 12 months later they were made very easily by a Photoshop plugin and I could have made them myself had I known about the plugin.

I bought them from where ever I could as long as they were not the recycled freebies found in every street corner texture shop in SL. 

I made some stupid naive mistakes in buying textures without knowing their origins and later discovered some of them had derived from commercial games and of course it reflected bad on me and rightly so. 

These same textures that I paid hundreds of Linden Dollars for, are now all over SL having now been made more freely available on the internet and are uploaded by numerous people either for profit or to share with friends or building groups.

I removed everything that wasn't 100% mine by creation a few years ago. 

There comes a time when you have to grow up and take the time to research the industry you represent. So I did. I also started to spend more time in Photoshop and joined NAPP to follow Photoshop tutorials.

Click Here For Part Two

Thursday, 27 May 2010

EVE Online: Scanning Guide Tutorial

OMG! I have just spent 1.5 hours writing a "War & Peace"blog post to accompany this topic and got an error message saying "tough titties your post is lost"

I couldn't even press "back" to try and recapture all I had written!


Medieval Stone Textures Volume 3 3D

Another 3D texture collection released for Content Paradise and Textures R Us (Second Life)

Complete with Normal, Diffuse, Displacement and Specular maps.

Medieval Stone Textures Volume 3 3D

Thursday, 20 May 2010

It's 1.10am GMT and I am goosed.

Been sat in Photoshop since 8am, took 1 hour off to sit in the sun and do some course work for my Game Art and Animation diploma.

The knots in my shoulders are pinching a nerve in my back causing the familiar pain and pins and needles in both of my arms.

The good news is I got my mojo back, or at least I am on the right track.
Was hard at first getting back into the work flow but like most things the longer you spend the quicker old habits and routines come back.

I have uploaded one set of seamless architecture into Second Life and on Xstreet too and I feel a little more relaxed now I have created something.

The longer you get a block the more stressed out about it you get and the worse the block gets. These type of textures are more about technique than creativeness but it's a good way to re-familiarise yourself again with tools and techniques.

Will be working on the next collection tomorrow. The texture above is the first from the additional collection I will be releasing tomorrow or Saturday.

And this second texture is one from the collection I completed today. :)

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

OMG! Massive Attack Paradise Circus


I was working today on new seamless architecture which I will include specular, normal and displacement maps for ( Yay! Determined to beat the creative block ) as I was listening to Chill Out Lounge radio as I always do, and this tune came on, within 60 seconds I had found it, downloaded it and have been playing it ever since.

Its in my itunes list to the right of this blog - One of the very few songs that I latch onto almost immediately.

I Have always been a fan of MA since their first hit Insomnia 

So thats Insomnia.. but THIS is genius - 

Listen and buy! 

Friday, 14 May 2010

Eve Online - Missions Mayhem and a Murderous Creative Block

So, thats me (above) in Eve Online.

I started a 14 day trial account 13 days ago and today purchased an annual subscription which should reflect the absolute and instant addiction to this game.

When your on a mission in Eve, it's not like if you die your avatar is spawned at some virtual grave yard were you just run back to your corpse and all is well again. (Like World of Warcraft)

In Eve, if your ship gets blown up, you not only loose your ship but any cargo it holds, all of your ships modules and add ons that you purchased from the in game market or were rewarded by completing various agent missions.

And if your actual "self" or avatar gets killed you stand to loose all the skills you have spent 12 hours a day for days/weeks/months developing.

Lets put it this way, being "podded" in Eve is that much of a likelihood and fear for a player you can (and should) buy insurance for your ship.
I took out insurance when I was prompted by the rookie tutorial but could only afford 60% so it's with much trepidation I undock out of each space station.

The immediate attraction to Eve concerns me because it's been years since I was so drawn to an escapism like this and I don't know if the game has become a much needed distraction in my life or it's just a very compelling game which distracts me from my normal day to day working routine. (and that's the issue here for me)

I am a "doer" I want things done yesterday, a typical Type A personality and I have come to realise I cannot control sales they swing up and down with a will of their own it seems and I cannot find the "key" to why people from all over the world all decide to start and stop spending money.

I find it ironic that for 2 years I have been driven like a woman possessed to make new textures in a bid to keep our heads above water to now find during a period of personal low productivity,  sales have increased by 15 - 20 percent, the first long term sales increase in over two years.

I had always attributed good sales to new content, so if there is no direct connection between my work load and the amount of sales... wheres my incentive to keep creating?

Also,  having recently moved from a Windows PC to an iMac and Photoshop CS3 to CS4  (which makes me feel like I am wearing someone else's skin) and this has prompted a creative block.

I can't seem to get my act together. I literally open Photoshop and stare at the monitor.

There was a time when I was so worried with the continued loss in sales during this historic recession,  I would be pushing myself and working from 8am to 3 am, pushing plans and changes and spending money to improve search and navigation at the store or making new textures each and every day.

Friends have called me a texture machine due to the rate I would create texture sets, with a new collection created almost every day.

So, to find I have created very little recently and sales have increased makes me wonder if I even need to be there. What difference do I make?

Sure, we have over 90,000 textures now and some might say the 5 years of hard work has now afforded me time to relax a little. But if you snooze you loose as the saying goes and I never sit back and take sales for granted. You have to improve your skill and quality of stock to stay ahead of the game. Long gone the days when there was only a hand full of good texture stores and we were one of only a hand full, it seems everyone and their dog is making and selling textures in SL these days.

These days SL is that big with many stores and new members that when I stand in my own store  customers sometimes approach me asking "do you work here?"
They have no idea I own it.

So, in light of all of the above, sitting around my home with no sense of control or direction leaves me feeling bored and depressed which of course leads to a creative block and worrying about a creative block becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

My routine has all gone to crap and I have no creative ambition anymore. So thats playing on my mind as it's my drive to succeed that got me where I am today, but anyway, lol enough of my anxious rambling and back to Eve...

Eve requires a Hell of a lot of initial learning and researching and your often left stuck with a mission way above your skills and your ships capabilities.

I have lost 9 hours of my life I'll never get back today alone. But the things that hold you back in Eve are the same things your driven to overcome.

Eve can be annoying as Hell leaving me feeling blind and alone to the point I want to log out vowing never to return.
But then like a woman possessed,  "The Lord Jesus Christ compels me!" and I am logging back in for another 6 hour shift.

I have unfinished missions (which if left unfinished will really mess my progress up) because I don't have the correct ship equipment or high enough skills and all of that is fine IF I knew which skills I needed and what ship add ons I should obtain.

The learning curve of Eve makes look like a walk in the park and World Of Warcraft a joke in all honesty and the fact new none paying members do not have access to the official forum has got to be the strangest decision ever.

Eve is definitely a "grown up" game were practise, patience and above all tons of research is an absolute must to succeed.

Like most games I play, I suspect Eve is just a novelty for me right now and the shelf life will pass in time and my creative drive and ambition returns to my previous level because nothing compares to the pleasurable pastime of creating digital art when your hearts in it.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The Essential Brick Texture Collection 3D

The Essential Brick Texture Collection 3D

Seamless English Medieval Stone Textures

Seamless English Medieval Stone Textures

It's Just a Movie right?

It's a movie and a sound track that was later released as a song and remixed to death and re released into different music genres.

In fact, I had the song before I saw the movie. So one night when I was sleeping with my bedroom TV still on,  I recognised the music and glanced at the TV still half asleep.

Something about what I saw woke me up immediately and had me rigid with interest for almost 2 hours and left me crying in the dark after that movie ended and I turned out the light with some vain hope of sleep.

Course, I couldn't sleep. Thoughts whirled around in my head about what I had stumbled upon my TV screen and how my previous life experiences reflected some of the issues addressed in this movie.

Whilst discussing my wild youth to someone in a "one a one" situation would be OK I guess,  I am not sure I am quite comfortable  publishing it to the www the ups and downs of my less than squeaky twenty somethings. 

What I will say is I have bore witness to almost everything in this movie and I mean everything. (Ok 'cept for the last scene with the girl being paid for a live lesbian sex scene.) 

Requiem For A Dream haunted me then, and still does today.

It's not only a compelling story in which both extremes of drug addiction from illegal to prescribed are played out from the beautiful first hit to the very last teeth grinding, electric shock treatment, septic arm amputation, selling your ass for drugs - end.

In my troubled youth, I have known young people who died from an over dose.

People who had their legs amputated because of septicaemia caused by using dirty needles.

I have watched "normal" good people turn into thieving slimy low lives in less than a year.

I have had cash stolen from my purse by my best friend (at the time) and my flat robbed by friends of friends who had heard of my recent cash windfall and I can only assume they thought I would hide 8K under my mattress. (?)

I recall that last issue vividly. As the police say, 9 times out of 10 when your house is burgled, it's by someone you know.

I remember being in a club and seeing these smack addicts in there and thinking to myself:
 "huh? they don't socialise. They stay in peoples flats and drool on sofas all night... what are they doing here?"

The answer become apparent when I got home that night to find my flat trashed and bits of jewellery stolen, my bed turned upside down (looking for my 8K of cash! lol) and the place generally wrecked.
 I remember thinking to myself :"Why haven't they riffled through my underwear drawer!! Thieves always do that!"

Drug addicts aren't interested in sex or anything related to sex. All they care about is their next fix.

I have seen it, being involved in it to a small degree and thankfully escaped from it.

Then there's the flip side of the coin in Requiem For a Dream, and that's prescription drug addiction which in my opinion is much much more damaging than elicit drug use.

When someone buys drugs off the street, they know what they're buying and that its risky and may result in addiction and loss of any quality of life. But no one starts taking any class A drug with the intention of becoming an addict. 

But when someone goes to their Doctor, someone of great respect in the community, someone whom you trust and gets prescribed a bottle of slimming pills or sleeping tablets, those people are the real victims, we trust Doctors... 

The movie covers the life of a lonely ageing housewife (played by Ellen Burstyn) who wants to loose a few pounds for her dream of being on her favourite quiz show, which she had recently been accepted for.

What starts off as a few "innocent" uppers to suppress her appetite end ups on a cocktail of uppers for the day and downers to help her sleep at nights and she fast ends up loosing her mind and purpose for why she took the pills in the first place. 

It ends with her found in her dressing gown on the tube station crying and gibbering nonsense to passengers. The last scenes shows her head shaven, in a padded cell and having daily doses of electric shock treatment.

Sounds over dramatised? Think again, I know personally of one man who was in and out of psychiatric wards as doctors mixed and remixed his cocktail of medications trying to make him stable and when that failed, he had EST too.

The point is this, the man above went to his doctors with a little life trouble initially 20 years earlier, perhaps some work stress or insomnia and like most doctors, a prescription was the quickest, cheapest and easiest fix. 

The doctors just want you in and out of their practise ASAP. Your just a ticket number.

Had that same doctor prescribed a course of counselling INSTEAD of pills, this poor man would never have ended up in and out of hospitals and classed as insane.

The medication threw gasoline on what was a relatively small fire and that man lost his mind, family, dignity and most of his adult life and is now a very bitter angry man having finally got off all of the prescription drugs which were messing his head up,  and trust me getting off these prescribed drugs is harder than getting of Heroin and takes months or years to be finally free.

Requiem For a Dream is not some over dramatised movie designed to shock and scare people into not taking drugs. It is a very realistic portrayal of how fast the highs become the lows in both illegal and legal drug use.

That aside, the sound track is totally mind blowing and apparently used by 34% of YouTube users for their own personal video uploads for that reason alone.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Seamless Welsh Valley Stone Wall Textures And Maps

Seamless Welsh Valley Stone Wall Textures And Maps

New textures with Displacement, Normal and Diffuse maps specifically for use within 3D applications and software.

$9.99 for the collection from

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Eve Online - The Forgotten Species

I would like to apologise in advance if I mis quote or make suggestions that are already in place or about to be put in place within Eve Online. 
My experience and knowledge lies not with Eve as much as with 3D social network type games that by default appeal to more female players than male.

Eve Online is a long standing MMORPG game which was first developed in 2003 by CCP Games.

Its core users are primarily male, with ages ranging between the mid twenties and forty somethings.
This is probably due to the game play format that being one of spaceships, stargates, space stations, planets and worm holes etc.

The object of the game (from what little I know as a trial member) seems to be very much RP based fighting the good (or bad) fight both alone and in fractions.
Podding, (blowing a fellow players ship to bits) looting said ship and mining with of course the ability to skill up in order to advance reputation and personal inventory such as the type of ship you own and ISK (Eves currency) accumulated.

Now forgive me, the above is probably over simplified and I have no doubt I will of failed to grasp the important fundamentals of game play within Eve Online, but having only played it for a few hours and as such not even left the tutorial area I know very little really about Eve. But what I lack in Eve experience I most certainly make up for in playing online games and 3D social networks as a woman.

I was first introduced to Eve several years ago when my then partner was a hard core player.
I would bear witness to intergalactic wars between factions (is that even the right word?) and it all looked very exciting from an armchair point of view.
He would spend 6 hour shifts in "teamspeak" with a bottle of beer chatting about tactics and laughing with his fellow players.
I could see Eve online extended much further than that of typical PC/Online game. There was an obvious social element to it also.

Many game developers have began to realise they have been overlooking 50% of their potential market, women.
CCP Games are now looking into ways to make Eve more appealing to female game players according to this Eve Blog post.

No easy task if you look to the two images below.

(Depending on what browser your using) )The first is a screenshot from Eve Online (space image) which has a majority of male members with only 5% of members being female. The second screenshot is from (Virtual girlies on a shopping spree) which has a majority of female members of around 2/3s.

However, having played Eve for only a few hours this week-end,  I can see the appeal, even from a womans stand point.
But I can also see why women would shy away from Eve too. Even from a glance it's clearly a "boys toy"

Since the release and subsequent success of games such as Wii Fit and The Sims, developers have come to realise there is a gap in the market for female based games which by and large have been overlooked by most game companies until recently. (By the way, The Sims is "the" best selling PC game of all time and has the highest female to male ratio of players)

Now, as I have already explained, what I lack in experience and knowledge with Eve Online, I certainly make up for with 3D social networks and virtual world use with over a decade of game play with titles such as The Sims Online, (TSO - no longer available) (Which closed in March 2010 due to the recession) and more recently which I have been a member since 2004.

I have also played WOW, (World of Warcraft) and Entropia, (which by the way, I did not enjoy for reasons that would require a complete new post of its own)

The success of WOW is no secret, and whilst I don't know the statistics of the male to female ratio, I do personally know of lot of female friends who play and enjoy WOW.

I do not know of any women who play Eve however.

What all the above "games" have and Eve Online doesn't is an avatar.

You have a ship, a bio, an information page showing your skills and achievements and a static image of your character (or avatar)  - (See main image above)

Now call me shallow, but I think I speak for most female game players when I say our virtual physical appearance is just as important (if not more so in some cases) than our real appearance.

After all, the attraction of any game for either sex is the ability to live out a fantasy and thus create escapism from the daily grind and stresses of your "real life"

I may be accused of being sexist or even pretentious here, but here's how I see it.

In this technological age, our primal instincts are denied or deemed as inappropriate but we are still animals which ever way you look at it and gaming allows us to act out and release pent up primal instincts without the risk of humiliation (or being arrested!)

I think it's important to clarify there is a huge difference between human instincts and animal instincts so lets not get our knickers in a twist about the two descriptions below! 

A mans animal instinct is to hunt, kill and provide, challenge other men to gain the "alpha male" recognition within a group and of course to pro create.

A womans animal instinct is to feather her nest, prune herself and "shake her tail feathers" to attract the attention of the alpha male and again, pro create.

Both genders have a need for social interaction, whether that be romantic or platonic.

Video games provide us with the ability to at least role play some of these most basic of instincts.

Games aimed at men are often based on winning or achievement in genres such as sport, fighting and war which all enable a man to feed those subconscious primal instincts.

For the female gamer however, game play is more about creation whether that be home, clothes or avatar design, keeping house (The Sims) or keeping fit (Wii Fit) for cosmetic reasons, either way women tend to be less competitive and more creative.

With that in mind, here's where I see Eve fails to appeal to the female audience.

Avatar Creation and Identity.

From a womans POV I enjoyed the character creation process in Eve it was intuitive but short lived.

Your character is your virtual representative. It's the one thing that visibly separates you from thousands of other players and the software used by Eve for this process is both advanced and limited at the same time.

I felt there were very few options available such as shape and size of your nose, eyes, chin, forehead, hair styles and colour and make up.

There is no body at all, just head and shoulders so the outfit choices although attractive, were seen only from the upper chest to the neck.

If Eve had a full avatar with a lot more options to customise, this alone would appeal to more women.

Maybe the ability to "upgrade" your avatar when certain skills, tasks, and achievements are met which unlock more detailed and "rare" clothing, cosmetics and hair styles,  showing other players at a glance where you stood in the rankings of the game.

I have seen this game play method used in other games with success.

It's human nature to want to compete, even for women. We just compete in different ways to men.

Online games promote snobbery and cliques. You only have to hang out in one of WOWs many watering holes to see all the level 80s showing off their gear and epic mounts.
(it's with some sadness and realisation that I even know what "epic mount" means)

Currently Eves signs of success and achievements are the ship and the associated equipment a player owns which clearly works for current male players, but as a woman I would be also be driven by more avatar/identity related rewards.

Female Warriors 

Now, I am not suggesting CCP Games should release pink ships with "Play Boy" bunny decals for female players, but maybe the introduction of a female only race/breed with a good RP story line as to why only females exist in a particular race.

This would instantly appeal to women from a competitive edge. Women don't like being told they can't do a mans work or play a mans game, so create a platform to allow women to prove their skill and worth. It's obvious really, the age old "man verses woman" thing.

Both of the above changes would not be costly in either man hours or cold hard cash and neither really mess with the existing game play or the RP story line.

Of course, I don't know the budget or the lengths CCP Games want to go to.

Would it take too much away from the current game theme if there was a place players could undock, jump out of their ships and meet each other in a true 3D environment with an animated avatar, even long term?

Would the ability to allow players to also become independent developers, creating and selling avatar peripherals be going too far?

What about a home from home, "space place" of their own were players could invite other players over? Is that too much like

Hell, even the ability to stream and share players music play lists with other players/groups would appeal to both men and women alike whilst also allowing a player to develop his or her sense of identity.

It's that fundamental key thats missing for me as a woman, the ability to create and display my sense of identity and any move in that direction, big or small is a move in the right direction.

I'll resist the urge to end with a cheesy line about a small step for woman kind....

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