One couple, two perspectives, tons of geekery

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Review: Second Life Gaming

Online gaming has certainly come a long way since back when the Princess used to play in the chat rooms of Q-Link. Rather than just relying on text based encounters with other players, we have visual representations via customizable avatars. While many of these online gaming platforms can be considered a glorified chat room, the level of detail and visual appeal they offer certainly raises the bar from what online gaming used to be like.

One such platform is Second Life. While many may argue that Second Life has lost its appeal and is old news, it still offers a variety of RPG sims for players to engage in. Like any game/system/platform, roleplaying on Second Life has its ups and downs. After over four years of experience playing and being involved in a number of sims, we’ve had a chance to see ups and the downs.

1)      On the good side, it can be much cheaper than many other MMORPGs out there.
There is no monthly fee and if you are a savvy enough user, you can create a good looking avatar for cheap (if not free).  Paying for Lindens (Second Life’s monetary units) is purely optional. To create a perfect representation of what you envision for your character, you might have to shell out a bit. But you can likely make what you want for under $10.

2)      You don’t have to worry about rounding up your friends and working with everyone’s hectic schedules – you can just log in and play wherever there are players. And with players located all over the world, you are bound to find plenty of people on at any given time. It can be hard to wait in between regular game sessions. Second Life game sims offer a great way to get a gaming fix in to pass the time.

3)      You can find sims that offer a deeper RP experience than a regular WoW style dungeon crawl. Many MMORPGs are focused more combat oriented games that leave out the role play aspect many of us are looking for. There are plenty of sims that offer a more enriched RP experience while still having combat, so you can get the best of both worlds.

But then we come to the dark side. These issues are not unique to Second Life gaming, but they are certainly quite present.

1)      Anonymity breeds poor behavior. This above all else might be the one thing we cannot abide more than any other of the problems inherent to an online gaming experience. For some reason when people log in to online platforms they think they have the right to become complete jerkwads. Some use the argument that “It’s the internet. Deal with it.” While others claim that while they are being blunt, they are only being honest. No. You’re not. You’re being a jerk. All because you are hiding behind an avatar doesn’t make you any less of a jerk. In fact, it makes you pathetic on top of being a jerk. Being online does not excuse poor behavior. You will encounter MANY players that think it does. So be warned, because you will be sure to encounter these types. The only way to deal with it is to calmly confront the person one-on-one via IMs, ignore them, or leave for greener pastures. Whatever you do, don’t take what they say to heart because odds are they have more issues than Time Magazine.

2)      You may be looking for RP but they are looking for cyber.  Yes, we know what type of RPing is often associated with online gaming. And, hey, if that’s your thing, then have a blast. However, if you are looking for an actual RP experience that doesn’t involve tentacles and leather whips, then you need to make that clear in your user profile and steer clear of game sims that advocate that style of play. Even if you are playing in sim that doesn’t allow it, you still may run into players who are looking for that type of experience regardless of the rules. If you feel uncomfortable about it contact the player or else a staff member to make your feelings known. 

3)      Poor internal game structure. After participating in a number of RPG sims on Second Life, we’ve noticed that it is rare to find one with decent and organized leadership. Whether it is that the rules are not clearly laid out, a lack of leadership present in the sim or the leadership exerting too much control, don’t expect much professionalism. We’ve played in some drama plagued LARPs and table tops in our day, but we’ve never seen the level of immaturity like we have in these sims. Like any game, the underlying problems are specific to each sim. Just be aware that you are likely not to encounter a stable game structure in this environment.

So would we recommend Second Life as a gaming platform? Well that depends on what you are looking for. As a quick fix for something with more depth than a standard dungeon crawl, it’s good. But only if you can ignore the drama that goes along with it. If you want it as a means to just kick back and play on a casual basis while waiting between LARPs, yes, it’s a good filler. But if you are looking for a group of like-minded individuals that share your style of game play, you may become frustrated. Sims are often made up of 60+ players. With so many players and the often poor game structure, most players have conflicting ideas about genre so it can be a feat to find any who share your game style. Pair that with the fact that generally speaking, these players tend to be in the late teens to early twenties, and hopefully you get the picture that, as a veteran gamer, you may not be able to find players with enough experience that meets your expectations. The lowdown is, if you set your expectations low, then yes, you can potentially have a fun time, but don’t get caught up in the BS. Do we have fun? Sure! But only after we learned that it really isn’t worth sweating the small stuff.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Gamescience Dice

Yeah, this may be old, but it's very interesting and we thought it would be appropriate to share with our readers in case they've never heard of these.

Well that convinces us enough. Maybe we will pick up a set of the mint gem dice he has on his site.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Geek Chic Furniture

Looking to complete your gamer lair?
You might want to head over to Geek Chic and check out their awesome wares, including some very nice looking game tables.

In addition to gaming tables, the company also offers nice storage solutions as well.
The Sultan is definately on the wishlist for our castle!

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Princess's Garden: Incorporating Lolita Fashion into LARPs

When my friend Victoria of Lolita Charm was planning to try out her first LARP experience in a local boffer LARP, she wasn’t sure quite what to expect and came to me for advice on how to incorporate Lolita fashion into her character’s wardrobe. I felt that this would be an ideal topic to discuss here, since I know many other lolitas who are also gamers, or lolitas who are interested in getting started in LARPs.

LARPs (Live Action Role Playing) can be broken down into two basic forms – demonstrative and salon. Demonstrative LARPs include “Boffer” style LARPs in which the actions of the characters are played out. The combat is done in real time with fake, boffer weapons. These types of LARPs usually take place in campgrounds over long weekends. You will be expected to remain in-character the entire time and will have to actually perform anything you want your character to accomplish. For example, in a table top game, you might play a bard and explain to the DM that your character sings a song in the local tavern to earn some money. In a demonstrative LARP you would be required to actually sit and sing if that’s what you wanted to do.

Salon style LARPs are more theatrical in nature. These include the MET (Mind’s Eye Theater) and Cthulu Live systems. In salon style LARPs, your character can perform actions you may not be able to. If you are playing a thief, you could make an ability check to see if you can open a lock rather than actually have to open the lock yourself. While dialogue and basic movements are all acted out, combat and abilities are determined by a system, often using rock-paper-scissors and dice rolling to determine the outcome.

In Demonstrative LARPs, you will likely be spending a lot of time outdoors being physically active and getting dirty. It is not an ideal LARP form for strict Lolita fashion, and in most cases demonstrative LARPs tend toward historical and/or fantasy genres, so straight up Lolita fashion is really not the way to go (you don’t want that Angelic Pretty OP covered in sweat and mud, do you?). However, you can create a wardrobe that is “Lolita inspired”. There are two ways to go about this; create your own outfit or shop around and build up a costume.

If you want to wear Lolita in a demonstrative LARP, I would advise staying away from brand and keep with inexpensive offbrand that you will be okay with possibly getting dirty or damaged. You may wish to consider delving into mori girl or dolly kei fashions which may be more appropriate. However, if you prefer to stick with Lolita, then I would suggest wearing more classic lines like the Innocent World JSK shown above. Since, as I mentioned, the majority of demonstrative LARPs are more fantasy based and take place in forest campgrounds, you will probably want to stick with more muted, natural tones. You can wear a faux-fur wrap or cloak over your dress. To add a touch of whimsy consider playing a fairy or an elf and add elf ears, fairy wings and/or a crown of flowers. Pair this with leather arm bracers and a good pair of comfortable boots as you can easily portray an elven archer or a fairy enchantress.

In Salon style, it is much easier to wear regular Lolita fashion since you will not be asked to participate in simulated combat nor will it be as physically taxing. Additionally, many salon style LARPs setting take place in modern times.

However, in cases of historical games taking place before the Victorian era, I would caution against wearing Lolita fashion in favor of working with the game’s aesthetic. In these cases, it’s best to just wear a costume of the appropriate time period to help with being consistent with historical accuracy. Likewise, a sci-fi or futuristic game setting may also not be appropriate. But for games taking place from the Victorian era to modern times, you should be all set.

The majority of salon style LARPs tend toward gothic and steampunk aesthetics, therefore classic and gothic Lolita attire will likely be the most appropriate. You can easily wear whatever attire you would normally wear out around the town for a salon style LARP since you will not be in any more danger of damaging your brand any more than you would going out on a shopping excursion.  If you’ve never delved into steampunk, often times just adding a pair of goggles and a pocketwatch  to your outfit will do. Character concepts like an occult scholar or an airship captain could be ideal for these type of games.

Surely you have noticed the lack of concepts here for sweet lolitas. That is because sweet Lolita style generally will only work in salon style LARPs set in modern settings.  In that case, there’s not much you will need to do to adjust your outfit to the setting.

So in conclusion, if you are a Lolita wishing to get involved into LARPs and want to incorporate your fashion into the game, the key things to remember are the type of LARP it will be and what the game’s setting will be. It may simply not be appropriate for you to wear your frills at game, but there are plenty of times you can. Just do your research before jumping in.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

We're Back + New Poll

We apologize for the long hiatus, but as you can see from our last post, we plan to kick things back into action. Thank you for your patience.

The results from our last poll "Which monster would you prefer to fight?" is in. With 75%, you guys choose 'vampire'. A new poll is up on the sidebar for you. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Character Integrity vs Compromise

So you’ve written up a 3 page background for your character. You’ve researched the specific form of anemia they have. You’ve drawn up a whole family tree. You’ve filled out ton of those character Q&A surveys. You know what they wear, how they speak and what makes them tick. You know who this character is. You have become connected to who they are.  The problem? The GM has something else in mind…

We all have our own distinct and varied sensibilities and aesthetics. And when we create characters, we are tapping into that inner well of inspiration to form something we really want to express. It’s only natural that at some point, your ideas are going to come into conflict with a GM.  So here you are with all the research and character development you’ve painstakingly gone through and the GM wants to make changes that you feel are essential to your character. What do you do?

To avoid this unpleasant situation, the first step, even before you make your character, is to talk with your GM and to find out exactly what genre they will be portraying in the game. Many times character concepts conflict with the setting of the game. It can be frustrating to GM and player alike to learn you are playing completely different games. Always make sure to sit down with your GM and find out what the theme and setting is and also what their expectation of the game is. This may greatly help you figure out what type of character will fit.

Okay, you did that and went ahead and created your character, but now there are all these changes the GM wants to make. Changes you feel go against the nature of the character you created. What now?

Don’t be afraid to start an open dialogue. As a GM, it’s usually a primary importance to make sure their players are having a good time (Or at least it certainly should be).  Take that first step to explain your concerns. Usually a good conversation can resolve any worries and both parties can come to a suitable compromise.

But what if it doesn’t? What if they seem to understand, but when you go to play you realize that your GM hasn’t actually taken in anything that you’ve said? Or worse, what if they feel the changes are essential for the character to be in the game?

In the instance where the GM still doesn’t seem to get it, it’s time for another round of discussions. Try to sit down with the GM and reiterate your concerns in a calm and polite manner. At this point be sure to go into a more lengthy discussion about your character’s ideology and details of the concept. You can even try to find close archetypes in popular media that you think your GM might be familiar with to illustrate your point (ie – “Hey Bob, I’m a little concerned because it seems to me that you are viewing this character as more of a Starbuck type character, when actually I feel she’s a bit more of a Wash but with the upbringing and background of Simon”). Break down each change they want to make and explain why it doesn’t work with your concept. But be sure to listen and be receptive to their ideas as well. Perhaps that Aunt Julie that you strongly feel shouldn’t be present has been placed there for an important plot point the GM wants to involve you in. Or maybe they don’t agree with a rationalization for a skill or talent your character has. Whatever the specific conflicts are, try to talk it out and be receptive.

If it doesn’t work out, then you might have to make a different concept. Sure, it’s not ideal, but sometimes it’s necessary. It’s difficult when we put so much effort into the creation process, but at the end of the day if it becomes clear that you are not on the same page, it might just be best to start from scratch (this time working very closely with the GM). In this way, it might be better (and less stressful) to play a concept you can both agree on rather than force yourself to play a character you are not satisfied with.

After exhausting all the options and finding you just don’t see eye to eye on your character and you don’t want to go through the process of making another one, then you may wish to consider dropping out of the game. There’s nothing wrong with this. Gaming is a hobby that should be about having fun. If you aren’t enjoying yourself there’s no point in forcing yourself to do it. Maybe the setting isn’t right for you. Or maybe you and the GM just have a different style of gaming. Just be sure to understand what your expectations are and what type of experience you are looking to get out of the game. If you don’t feel you are going to get that, it’s okay to step down and look for it elsewhere.
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