Future Imperfect – Virtual Transhumanism

So I was talking with a co-worker during some downtime recently, and the speculation it led to was quite interesting I feel.  It started with discussing how we’re in the future already that was talked about back in the 80s and 90s, but we just don’t recognize it(which is a topic I plan to go into seperately), and ended up with some discussion on how things may look in the near future, if we take current trends and run them out to a possible logical conclusion.

To start off with, let’s take a look at Shadowrun – take away the magic and D&D aspects, and it’s fairly standard cyberpunk.  In the original version, the Matrix was this world in virtual reality – VR and you could look like anything you wanted there.  Think Second Life, but with a full body VR, usually via direct neural interface.

As we worked on that tech in the real world, pure VR fell more to the side, partly due to the challenges of such tech versus the demand for such.  Instead, what grew up was a compromise; augmented reality.  Products like Google Glass and the holodisplay that Microsoft has demonstrated mix the virtual right over top of the real.  There are even games using similar tech now, such as the upcoming Pokemon Go.

As the developers of the Shadowrun system and universe updated it, they had to work in modern developments that were not expected back when it was created, such as AR and wireless, that people today might take for granted or see as near-future, and they had to do it in a way that made sense in-universe.  Thus came the wireless Matrix being available anywhere, after a fashion, and overlaid on the real world via AR to interact with.

Well, jumping off that idea, with AR you can overlay images to change how something looks.  What this means, is that fashion may take a sudden dive to the left, as the clothes no longer matter.

For purposes of this thought experiment, let’s assume that computational power is not an issue – cloud computing, etc tied into your visor/glasses/monocle/implants.  In much the same way that the studio was able to replace Arnold or his double in the later Terminator movie with his younger self, in AR your device could edit out a person’s appearance and modify it in real-time. Want some expensive, fancy clothes, but without risk of damaging or soiling them?  Let AR overwrite them onto your body for anyone tied into the network who looks at you.

The fashion world would be rocked, but adapt, and clothes would lose most of their appearance aspects.  Instead of wearing something to look good, you’d wear(or not wear) what was comfortable and affordable.  Most instances of clothes would become drab and utilitarian, while to the everyday folks they would be surrounded by a cavalcade of color and whimsy, full of outfits that are not physically possible.  In warmer weather, to a person not tied into the AR network, it might even seem as if he or she had walked into a nudist colony!

The capability does not stop there, however.  If clothes can be overlaid, so can full appearances.  While flying may not be possible on a personal level, you might end up with a scene looking like a high-resolution realistic Second Life, as the only limits would be those set by the system.  Furries, otherkin, cosplayers, and many others would be drooling over such a capability to truly become their character, or their true self, depending on perspective.

There would have to be limits of course, as their physical bodies still exist, so likely there would be few taurs or other four-leggers running around, or tinies or macro beings for that matter. That aside, on one level this would appear to be a gateway to transhumanism – to become more than human.  Setting aside any social stigma such as exists now for furries and others of a kindred nature, you could be walking down a street and pass a wolf, a faerie, a sumo wrestler, just to enter McDonalds and be served by a tigress whose outfit barely covers her and a robot with visible gears and pistons. People could effectively be anything humanoid they wanted to be.

On the other hand, it’s all virtual.  Turn off the implant, take off the glasses, and you’ll find the boring, mundane, drab grey world still exists behind the glitzy facade, much like Las Vegas.  For some, that may be enough, and with less push behind it from the semi-human quarter, progress and research in that direction may slow or even halt entirely in some aspects.

With less need to take care of themselves physically, there may be increased health issues as well, though possibly less than some would think, as smell is not included in our little thought experiment.  Sound could be, however, providing voice-changers to all and sundry.

This idea however I could easily see being reachable in our lifetime, given the strides networking, parallel processing, and cloud computing has made in the past decade.  Safely gene-splicing to phsycially modify our bodies is much, much further away, I feel.  But with being able to gain the “perfect” body via AR, whatever your definition of perfect, may dis-incentivize  research into actually gaining that body, which may push the end result out even farther.  Then again, there’s no reason that VR couldn’t take off again, allowing people to move in VR and interact with people in the real world via AR, while in the comfort of their home, or maybe even in a computer if anyone manages to solve the problem of how to upload our minds and souls into our creations.

I guess overall I see it as a blind alley that we could easily head into. There may be a door that leads us to someplace unexpected, or we may end up having to turn around and start from zero once more.  Then again, the rumored singularity may happen and we just hop the alley wall into the unknown.

“You can’t always get what you want.
But if you try sometime…
You just might find…
That you get what you need~”

My Two Cents on Dollars

So, first post I’ve written on my tablet, but bed’s too comfy to leave and I got thoughts to chew on before I go to sleep.

It started by thinking about my current “entertainment” budget, then recalling how some friends of mine were scraping by, and how they think about money, and then how I treat money and what I’d found out recently about where I stand.

Maybe it’s best if I start with my situation.  My current job is salaried, and I honestly probably pay less attention to the amount than I should.  For example, there’s a bonus program going on for completing some training that we need to do anyways, but it had to be done on our own time.  I wanted to do it because it needed to be done anyways, and I had some art in mind I wanted to spend it on, but I almost missed the deadline because the money wasn’t that important – and it was half of a single paycheck in total!

Currently my life us fairly comfortable, though not extravagent.  Thanks to my current arrangements, bills are mostly covered, so most of my paychecks go into savings.  These are relatively temporary arrangenents though, so I still treat that money as if it was already spent, and ignore the total amount sitting in savings unless I need to move money. This keeps me from getting used to overspending and having issues later due to that.

My perspective on money is informed by this treatment of pay as well.  I still feel $200 is a lot to spend on anything, and spending $100-ish on single optional purchases still makes me internally cringe a bit. When I’m  using anything that’s triple digits in price, I usually go over it several times before pressing “buy.”  I still try to pay cash for most small offline purchases even!

Well I was looking at some statistics the other day about salary ranges and was surprised at the ranges.  I had thought I was in the lower-middle class range, but apparently I’m solidly middle class?  My dad before retirement was actually upper-middle, but it never felt like it growing up.  We never really lived like it either.

My friends on the other hand are in a worse situation, though it’s partly of their own making – they have too many dogs and cats to feed and care for, and at least one of them doesn’t really want to get rid of any.  They’be got 4 dogs, 9 cats I can think of, plus 2 more kittens, and then 4-6 people, depending on if either of those last two are covering their own stuff or not.

They’re basically running off two incomes at the moment, with a third partially contributing via rent. Money is tight, and even $3 can seem like a lot at times I think.  They still manage to squeeze in some “entertainment” purchases, it doesn’t feel like they really budget well in advance.  They’re basically going paycheck-to-paycheck right now from my perspective.

Now I’m wondering if I should see if I can help with some electronic budgeting.  At a basic level anyways.

Now I’m not sure where I was going with this.  I try to treat money as if I don’t have it, track my monthly spending on “toys,” balk at big purchases, but a meal out every now and then or an occasional $3-$10 purchase doesn’t seem excessive.  My dad on the other hand will buy a 6-month sub to an MMO he hasn’t even tried yet and think nothing of it.  I’ve got a co-worker who has been subbed to WoW since Vanilla, even though he hasn’t played in years.  And then for the people I mentioned earlier even a month of WoW is a significant cost.

When you don’t have it, money is precious.  If you have a lot and start to use it, your mental scale for what is and isn’t expensive can change, which can then lead to trouble later if your supply dries up, which I guess is all about lifestyle.  Find the lowest lifestyle you’re comfortable at, then put all the extra away in case you ever actually need it. Even if you don’t follow a hard budget, at least track it so you can catch yourself if you start overspending.  At least, that’s what I’m trying to do.

After all, there’s two tips I’ve heard in the past. First, is that to have a comfortable retirement, you want to have around one million in the bank these days.  With inflation that will only go up.

Second, is that you want to aim for putting about half your post-tax paycheck into savings.  Right now that’she not a concern for me, but once my circumstances change as I expect them to, I’ll be using that as one of my budgeting guidelines to aim for.

It just feels odd that despite having the lowest need to be responsible with budgeting currently of those I’ve discussed, I seem to be being the most responsible.  And yet, I still seem to care less about it than others.

Speaking about being responsible, one last tip: credit cards shouldn’t be used as small change loan sharks, but as condoms for your wallet.  If you don’t spend more than you have and pay it off in full, it’s no different than a debit card in convienience.  However, if someone steals you debit card number, that money is gone until you convince the bank to reimburse you.  If they steal a CC number, you still have all your money while you work with the bank to cancel the fraudulent charges.  Finally, if you don’t pay it off, interest rates can lead to you digging a hole for yourself that you can’t get out of. I was headed that direction once, but used my current money-handling methodology to free myself from that trap.

Don’t really have anything else to add to this rambling now I guess, so I’ll call it here and see if I can actually get some sleep now!

Home Sweet Home

Welcome!

So between sufficient amounts of boredom accumulating and a lack of things to do in my various games, I decided to make a return to SL as I was feeling decidedly draconic recently.   When I got back in, I was reminded that one of the projects I had kept putting off was a renovation of my home there.

Snapshot_018

The OG Dragon’s Song, with a few of my touches.

Originally, before Kaitlyn passed on, we stayed in a small castle on the small corner of the Isle of Gazoo that we called our own.  It was a cozy little place more fitting to our tiny-sized selves, and home to many virtual pets that she kept there.  It had been there a while before we got together and once I “moved in” with her, I added a few things of my own, such as a Stargate, an art panel, and the stained glass window from the original Isle of Wyrms’ Cathedral, before it was bulldozed for the current version.

Now we’d discussed rebuilding it to better suit the both of us a few times in the past, but not much came of it.  I’d suggested having the building adjusted so it appeared to be built out of the side of the mountain, and maybe make it a three level tower, but between time we spent doing other stuff, prim allotments and such, nothing ever came of it.

Once it became solely mine however, I was torn between doing something with Standing stones that teleported to a skybox above, or a dragon cave built into the mountain itself.  I got as far as locating a cave building kit and trying to prototype a cave before, but the pieces did not have external textures so I had to build an outside wall, and I didn’t like how it was turning out so I trashed the work, and never got back to it until recently.

With time to kill and nothing better to do, I took measurements again and took another stab at building the mountain and cave.  I threw a ice plain about level with the top of the next plot over, followed by another ice wall angled down to match the slope of the ridge next to it, ending at the rock wall.  With that in place, I added some boulders to make a wall of rock, leaving a place for the cave, which I started on after that.

The cave came together better this time, but I found out due to the size of the plot and the cave pieces that if I made it big enough to accommodate my full size form, it wouldn’t be able to be as large around as I wished.  I also found another issue with it, relating to the former castle.

You see, I wanted to leave some of Kaitlyn’s stuff as a memorial, and among the things i inherited were some of her virtual cats.  They were basically confined to the second floor of the castle(which had been our living room of sorts) and I didn’t want to just remove the castle completely, as I couldn’t move any of the objects she had left, such as the bed for the cats. So the first thing I had done before returning the castle was build a room around the room, so that the cats wouldn’t escape and so everything I couldn’t move could stay where it was.

Anyways, once I placed the cave in, I found it was tall enough it was poking through the floor of the new lounge area, which means I would have to dig it out.  Suffice it to say, that terraforming in Second Life with the in-world tools is a royal pain.

The last major addition was the observation balcony, and a third room to go with it.  Since we had a great view from our part of the Isle, I had wanted to have a observation balcony to take advantage of it.  That went in fairly easily, and everything else after that was furnishings and fine-tuning.  But why describe when I can show?

Read more

And we’re back!

So I didn’t get around to writing for a while, and of course when I go to go write, I find out that a technical issue has had it offline since early February.  That’s been corrected now.

I still have a couple post ideas, but I want to give them their own posts. In the meantime?  More art!

The latest piece I won’t share here, as it’s of an adult nature.  I finally found an appropriate YCH I liked from an artist I liked and jumped on it.  It looks good in and of itself, so much that it’s almost a shame it’s explicit as it means it won’t end up on any walls in the future.  Well, except maybe bedroom walls, assuming I could find a way to get it printed properly.

Being Face-itious

Next, another set of stickers for Telegram.  I’ve only got to use about half of them so far, but these were lower priority before because they had less general applicability.  I do like having the ability to post mood pictures of “me” instead of generic smileys though or ASCII ones.

I did have someone ask about using them, which actually feels odd for me.  On the one hand, it’s a compliment in that someone liked the ideas I gave the artist(and her art too!), but on the other, it is “me,” an expression of myself.  There’s nothing that says others can’t use them though, so if they find them, more power to them I suppose!

Why, hello there!

This was from the Giraffle that @FeFairy ran on Twitter!  Entered as a “Hail Mary” attempt, and to my surprise got it!

I’ve also got two more pieces I’m going to commission once the artists I have earmarked open for commissions.  One will be related to one of my upcoming posts, and feature cyberpunk!me, while the other will be more fo an, ahem, risque nature, and will feature a kind of scene I’ve wanted for a long while too.  The only reason I held off on that one was because I didn’t know what lovely female might be interested to be in it, and I didn’t feel right using an existing character for it that was of the right type.

I finally got inspiration however, and in fact the subject I had in mind has become an actual vague character of sorts!  One of the artists on my short list for this pic should be opening up this month too, so if things work out I should be able to get both pictures.

That should about wrap things up for now.  There should be more posts in the near future, this time sooner rather than later!

Honnou Kakusei! (Instincts Awaken!)

Among my various geek interests, I also have a distinct like for toku aka live-action Japanese superhero shows.  One of the long-running franchises, Super Sentai, gets brought over to the US as Power Rangers, but the others haven’t had much success.

This year’s super sentai actually has a furry theme, but funnily enough while the fandom talks up Zootopia I have yet to see any mention of Dobutsu Sentai(Animal Taskforce) Zyuohger outside of the usual toku circles.  While ZyuEagle is human, the other four are actual anthros, potentially with human disguises(they have human actors, need to see how that plays out).  We’ve got a male Lion with dreads, a male Elephant with a bit of a Indian flare, a female Shark who has a mature woman vibe about her, and a female Tiger who so far seems like a feline copy of Amy from Kyoryuger.  The music is hype too, the first 30 seconds of the opening were released, and I can’t stop listening to it!  About the only thing I don’t like is the mecha this time around are minecraftish.

This is probably the first sentai I’ve been hype about actually since Kyoryuger, and that took me a bit to warm up to because of how over the top it was.  Go-Busters was probably the last one I was hype for before it started.  ToQger I skipped entirely after watching the first episode, and Nininger has been just okay.

Speaking of toku, I’ve actually got a few other folk I know in RL watching it now, after using Garo as a gateway series.  I started with using Halloween as an excuse to marathon it, and they were hooked.  SO far they’ve watched everything except the two Ryuga seasons and the recent anime, but for a bit of a break I’m showing them Kamen Rider Gaim,  Turns out the main guy that was watching the stuff actually remembered the US adaption of Kamen Rider Black RX, just called Masked Rider over here.  I had Agito as a safer backup, since Gaim is a bit OTT to start also, but he was good with both, and I kind of want to rewatch Gaim – I’ve rewatched Agito maybe twice already.  Once those are both done, it’ll probably be time for Ryuga’s Garo seasons, then I might try either Gransazer, or Go-Busters.  Given most of those are 48 ep series, and we go through about 10-13 eps a night, that should provide enough for the next few months.

Game-wise because of said people I also re-subbed to WoW using in-game gold about 2 weeks ago. I’ve already made that gold back with alt garrisons, and I’m just a few Apexis dailies away from Draenor flying, so I’ll finish that this weekend probably.  After that, I’ll see what I need to roll to run with them, as that’s why I resubbed – though I also am runnign LFRs to finish my legendary.  I kind of don’t want to do real raiding anymore still, at least for now.  I got a server first on a Mythic raid end boss with a hardcore guild, and as far as I’m concerned I won WoW.  Doing that though killed my interest in raid, which is partly why I let WoW sit while I dabbled in Star Trek Online since April.

I am still playing STO too, just there hasn’t been anything much new since before the holidays.  There’s a anniversary event coming up though, and a new story episode focusing on the Temporal Cold War time shenanigans, which’ll be interesting.

Looking at WoW also reminded me that there was a pet in it linked to Heroes of the Storm – turns out you need to get to player level 20 for it.  I’ve started playing it, purely against low level AI and it’s actually kind of fun that way.  So far I’ve liked most of the heroes I tried, except Stiches.  Guess I’m just not a melee kind of guy in this game?  I didn’t expect to like Tassadar though, since he is support.

I also finally got myself a set of Telegram stickers, though it’s only part 1 of 2.  I didn’t have an idea for a full 22, so I only got 11, and now I’m just waiting for the artist to clear her queue so I can get the second set.  I’ve got enough of an idea now to get the rest, even if a couple of them are a bit weaker.  Even if I don’t use them all regularly in Telegram, in a way it’s like a bunch of smaller basic pictures for a decent price, so it’s not a bad thing at all.

llewelyn sticker set

2015: Running in Place

I knew it had been a while since I really wrote anything, but I hadn’t realized it had been three months!  Honestly, I just haven’t really had anything much to write at length about lately.  Most other quick thoughts either haven’t been worth sharing, or dumped on Twitter where they are a better fit.

Anyways, welcome to 2016, we made it another revolution around the sun without the world being blown up.

Looking at my last post, I did finish that story, and you can find it at several different sites:

Take your pick.  In addition, I did get that piece of art of M’Rel, the Captain from the story(and styled a scene after it a bit):

Captain M'Rel of the FSS ExcaliburI’ve got the next story featuring them in mind, but considering it took probably 6 months to get the last one written, don’t expect this one done any time soon.

Related to this, I actually have been considering doing a sort of character compendium, though I don’t know where the best place to do that would be yet.  Basically, my list of characters that I had in different RP universes mostly, with the stories and/or ideas I had for them.  On thinking over who is on that list, they’re pretty much all female too I’m realizing.  Heh, go fig.

I’m also on Telegram now, though I’ve mostly limited that to just a few RL friends.  May change in the future at some point though.  Anyways, I’m looking at getting some stickers coming up here for it, which I may share here, since it’s more little arts.  I’ve also got ideas for a couple adult pics that are looking like they may never happen, and at least one idea I kinda want from watching the new Star Wars.

It was a good movie.  I avoided pretty much all the spoilers successfully, and heck, even skipped most of the trailers leading up to it, so I got some legitimate surprises.  It was also a good Star Wars movie.  I will say there’s no after-credits scene, which I found out the hard way. I also ahve to say that they picked the right trailers to go with it, as I’m at least mildly interested in all but one of the trailers attached to it – the exception being that “Chicago in a cage experiment” one. In IMAX 3D, one of them even did this awesome effect at the end with cinders(I think it was Warcraft) where it actually seemed like it was coming from behind me and I started to turn my head before catching myself.

Lately, I’ve been less in STO, though I got a pilot ship for my Romulan engineer.  Those things are wicked fun to fly!  I had so much fun actually that my Christmas gift to a couple people that play was gift cards to buy a pilot ship(or 3). I’m also sorely tempted to move my other Romulan into a pilot ship too, but I really like the design of the veteran Heavy Destroyer, and kinda want to keep her in that Skyhawk DD descendant.

The reason I’ve not been playing STO is I’d been plowing through Shadowrun.  I needed a bit of a palate cleanser as I was starting to burn out, so I tried Dragonfall, and got hooked this time.  I liked the story and characters enough I ended up playing through it a couple more times with different builds to get all the achievements as well, and see the different endings.

After that I got Shadowrun: Hong Kong during the recent Steam sale and while I like the expanded options, I didn’t feel it as much this time.  Partly from how they limit your background I think – my usual dwarf rigger/decker was a semi-poor fit for their story.  After the first playthrough I then went through again with a mage/face more tailored to teh story and while it worked well, the endings all blended into each other more than Dragonfall’s did.  I did get a kick out of the references, cameos, and callbacks to the previous game, but Dragonfall had a better story I think.  I did complete all the achievements on this game as well within 2015, though I got the last at 11:58 or 11:59pm!

Playing the Shadowrun games got me thinking about an old character concept I never got to realize for that universe – a werefox technomancer.  During the one(and only so far) Shadowrun campaign I played in, I ended up doing a variant of this character due to a rule conflict i found, and I didn’t want to look for a house ruling, so I turned her into a face/sneak using pistols – and then of course our first run was to an underwater wreck.  Plenty of wandering and combat opportunities, but no fast-talking or sneaking required. The party got split three ways too, but then the game got put on indefinite pause.

The idea I had was that since Resonance behaved a lot like Magic, maybe a fox shifter who was born Awakened in a urban area might have tapped into that instead, and become a technomancer.  In 4E shadowrun(don’t know if 5th changed this) you couldn’t have both a Resonance stat and a Magic stat and shifters were required to have a Magic of 1 as I recall, which put the kibosh without house rules. Her Matrix avatar would have been a fox, kind of a clue to her identity as such.

Now if I got the chance again, I’d see if I could get that rule bypassed a bit as I still think it’s a neat concept.  If I re-envisioned her again now though, I’d be tempted to make a couple changes. The slight twists I have in mind are that she’d have a drone “pet,” and that her avatar might instead be a female foxtaur, to combine both aspects of her Awakened nature. Technomancers, from how they should be played, sound like a good fit for a trickster archetype character too.

The main problem is I’m not sure if I could make her good with the drone and with doing Matrix things, or if that would cause her to not bee good enough at either.  There’s also the matter of how to make her drone “pet” work as a pet – having a sprite inhabit it or something.  It’s a concept I like, if I could make it work.  I only have access to a 4E book right now though, and I haven’t read up on the 5e changes yet.  Some incarnation of her would make my “memorable characters” list I mentioned earlier though.

Overall, 2015 hasn’t been bad at all – quite a lot of running in place in various aspects of my life, with only a couple changes here and there.  I dropped World of Warcraft(though I may pick it back up later), got heavy into Star Trek Online, wrote a story, got a few pieces of art, finally got a tablet, got a lot more Transformers(thanks to Combiner Wars being awesome), and changed roles laterally at work.  Oh, and allergies worked hard to kick my butt through large swaths of it.

Whether it’s good or bad that things changed little, I’ll leave as an exercise for the reader, as some old books used to say.  We’ll see what 2016 brings, and if I have more to write about here or not!

More Trekkin’, More Writin’

So I hadn’t realized it had been so long since I wrote something, but I haven’t had too much to write about… at least on here.  My role at work did change a bit, making me busier than before, but not really anything worth sharing.

I did finally max all my Star Trek Online alts, giving me 8 characters at 60, and 1 empty character slot.  I actually have a character in mind for it, but since there’s no appropriate ship yet for her I’m holding off and working on filling out my alt builds completely.

I do like the fact that each one has a different build and ship type, with different armaments.  On paper this means they all play differently, but in practice there is a some overlap between my Romulans, as they both use forward-facing setups with narrow arcs. The same applies to my Federation ships, as despite one being a DPS focus, one a tank, and one a drain boat, all three are broadsiders and thus are piloted somewhat similarly, despite the difference in what and how they handle things.  My KDF toons are probably the most disparate, as one is a carrier with a focus on fighters, one is a siege-style ship based on sitting in one place and broadsiding, and the last one is a torpedo/Wave Motion Gun type build with very little pure energy weapon damage.

In the case of all my STO toons, the ship is as much a part of their character as the toon itself, extending to their bridge officers as well. At the moment, I’m finishing the bridge crew and away teams of a couple captains, then it’s on to ground gear and upgrading everything.  In some cases, I’m not quite as happy with the actual bridge crews, but I’ve been able to justify them so far, with a bit of creative thinking:

  • My Caitian Federation captain has a melting pot of the “best” space and ground boffs.  Federation inclusiveness is a go, even if it is a bit of a stretch.
  • My Draenei Fed captain runs an all-Draenei ground crew.  The bridge crew is 2 Draenei, a Dwarf(using the Alien race), 2 semi-Night Elves(using Romulans) and the Heirarchy officer from the Delta stories. 1 non-Warcraft race is probably fine, I feel, as I could see them allowing a token representative to observe the Alliance in action.
  • My Borg Fed captain has a ground crew of 2 borg, a borg-looking Android, and a hologram, and most of them are on the space crew, plus a couple Romulans as it is originally a Romulan ship.  One of the easiest to justify and have good boffs.
  • My Gorn KDF with the carrier has an all-Gorn away team and an all-Naussicaan bridge crew.  In my mind they’re not truly KDF, so the Nausicaans are probably rebels as well. They do look similar in some ways, as well.
  • My Talaxian KDF is a pirate, with a Orion(looking) ground crew and Nausicaans above, though I’ll be adding a couple Romulans and a Hierarchy.  Pirates explains it all!
  • My Ferasan KDF is actually loyal to the Kzinti/Lyran state(noticing a pattern?) and will have an all Ferasan ground crew when I’m done.  Space crew is again the ubiquitous Nausicaans-for-hire.
  • My Fed-aligned Romulan is a Romulan supremecist and has a pure Romulan crew, apart from a Romulan-looking android and hologram, both fo which I consider Romulan-programmed.
  • My KDF-aligned Romulan was originally based off of Clan Jade Falcon from a different franchise, but I couldn’t really make a theme work on that so he’s another “Rebel” of sorts, his ship being crewed by Romulan and Gorn. (Which amuses me since they were enemies in Star Fleet Battles and it’s derivitaves.)

Setting aside STO somewhat, I’m also finally getting my first piece of art in several months – a picture of the chakatverse version of my STO Caitian, M’Rel, as she is the star of the chakatverse story I’m writing.  Originally she was created in STO as a stand-in for Swiftwind, as I just couldn’t see the chakat as a starship captain, but she’s grown into her own and the story that originally was going to focus on Swiftwind pivoted around to a slightly different concept and crew.

Now, the original story idea I had may still ahppen after this one, but I’ve been writing on and off on it since April or May probably.  I’ll write a bunch, then let it sit a while, then come back to it again.  It’s back to slow writing at the moment I’m afraid with my focus on STO and not being in a writing mood, but hopefully I’ll finish it within the next few months – I’m hoping the picture may help my inspiration.

I’ve also been sorely tempted to post it part by part on this blog, which may help in getting me to finally finish the thing.  My one fear in doing that is that with how long I’m taking writing it, that I may not pace it appropriately, or for that matter if I don’t actually finish it.  I am close enough to the end though that that should not be a concern.

Either way, we’ll see what lies ahead, especially with a new STO “season” starting in two to three weeks, which is also when my picture will likely be finished by…

Creative Gender-Bending: Flutterself

Well my birthday is well-past, but when you hit your 30s it doesn’t mean much until you’re 39 or so.  I used to always go see a movie with my mom, but she passed last year, and there was no movies in the theater I wanted to see, so I ended up spending it playing Star Trek Online.  It was fairly productive though, especially since I got a double XP weekend happening then!

Anyways, before I get distracted, to the meat of the post!  I was just reading some posts on Allsparkle about how people saw themselves in the various ponies. Yes, I watch the new MLP, but Allsparkle is really the only place I ever go for anything to do with it, since I was already there for Transformers anyways.  To get back on track though, Twilight is the one I see as closest to how I am.  That said, there’s a few elements of Fluttershy mixed in, and that got me thinking.

Fluttershy is my favorite of the Mane 6, as there’s something about her personality I really like.  However, from the discussion int hat top[ic, it made me think about how much of that might be from it being traits I’m attaracted to and how much are traits I might visualize in myself?  And then it got mixed up in the memories of the usual fan conceptions of how Fluttershy might look as a furry-type, and the mental blender went to frappe.

To finish setting the stage, let me describe how furry Fluttershy tends to end up.  Take her existing personality, and then combine that with a shapely, large-breasted(but conservatively dressed) anthro equine.  Best example I could find that wasn’t overly risque:

Fluttershys

So, while I do undoubtedly consider myself dragon, it set me to thinking how I would symbolize my feminine side if that were fully dominant?  Which then reminded me I did experiment with that a bit many years ago, before I awoke as(or became, depending on your aerspective) dragon.

Swiftwind used to be a fursona I used, rather than a seperate character.  Looking back, symbolically, it could be considered a way to let more of my feminine side out why still retaininging my maleness, as chakats are herms.  And RP-wise, that’s exactly what I did with that fursona, pretty much.

Now though, as shi doesn’t represent me, but a seperate character, shi’s developed a bit of her own personality – mostly cocky pilot, rather than the techhead I had originally envisioned hir as.  It’s still kind of a stereotype, as I haven’t gotten to play hir in a real RPG or really write hir into a story(beyond a prologue that may or may not get used as I switched gears to writing about M’Rel) but it’s something.

There are elements of hir though that I would definitely put in that fem!me.  Snow Leopard for one – that is 100% unquestionable.  There’s something about them that just seems fitting as a softer me.  I blame Sonique’s art though there for putting them into my head. And vixen just seems too slutty to me, to be frank.  I know it’s a bad stereotype, but mentally I could not see myself as one at all.

Physically, she’d have large floofy tail and somewhat large floofy breasts.  Yes, I am male and attracted to them, which may be biasing me somewhat, but they are an archetypal symbol of femininity.  Also, we’re talking idealized here, so you can toss this in the same category of girls(and guys!) giving their male selves large wangs.

Again, going with the Flutter-parallels that started the whole shebang, she’d be wearing comfortable but conservative clothes too, but when she dresses up it’d probably be a corset(but not too tight) in a fancy medieval dress, instead of some slinky thing.

Also, long purple hair.  I don’t know why purple for sure, when whenever I picture a snepfem, I see purple hair.  Yes, it’s not natural, but in a furry world, you don’t think they wouldn’t have invented dye early on?

Also also, glasses.  Picture the being I’ve drawn here and you know it fits!

Personality-wise, she’d be a bit of a tech-head, and a bit studious, and shy as well.  A bit oblivious to when she’s getting hit on unless they get more obvious, or until well after the fact.  A bit of a joker too, but throttled by the earlier shyness.

Secretly though, she’d also be a bit of a nympho, but keeps herself sated at home with various toys she’s collected, and other media; using them to control her urges lest they control her.

As to what name to give this bundle of fluff I’m not sure.  In the past I’ve used Jasmine as a default name for female felines, much as Llewelyn is a default name for my male characters and fursonas.  It really fits better though with the tigress I originally chose it for than this gal, so I might have to think on it.  I admit though, I’m sorely tempted to see about getting art of her now.

But another thing to think on again.. did I just describe a female me, or did I describe what I’d dream of in a mate?  Is there much of a difference between the two? Should there be?

Heck, maybe that’s something to look at within yourself, if you’re not already in a committed relationship.  Is your ideal mate a reflection of you, whether idealized or not?  Are you looking for a compliment, a reflection, or a supplement, to borrow a bit from geometry here?  For that matter, those of you already bonded, which of those categories do your mate or mates fit into?  Did you find a female version of yourself, the exact opposite, or somewhere in-between, where most of their attributes mesh with yours or not?

Still I think I may do something with Something Snowblossom at some point, if I can figure out a first name, and what exactly.  After all, I have been confused for female online multiple times in the past, in some cases despite using a male name!

Assuming the above is not just my own libido talking…

Too Many Games!

Or not enough time?

Long time no write!  I hadn’t had anything really to sort out or talk about that couldn’t be summed up in one or two 140-character posts, and this takes more time than tweeting all the things… though if I’d realized I’d probably have written something last month.

Anyways, I was going to tweet this too, then realized I wouldn’t be able to get all my thoughts out easily on the tweetscape, and the blog was a better location.  Then I saw how long it had been since I wrote something and figured now is as good a time as any!  But on to the actual topic…

This morning I found out that WoW patch 6.2 is due out on Tuesday.  My first thought, unlike patches past, wasn’t “Finally!” but “Wait, now?  But I don’t feel ready for it.”  Where I looked forward to other patches with anticipation, this time I just felt trepidation and disintrest.

The past couple months, despite my original plans to log in once a week for the garrison, I actually haven’t touched WoW at all.  I’m still having fun in Star Trek, though I admit I’m settling into a grind a bit or alt-itis, which I think may have been part of my problem with WoW in the end.  I finally got to experience the full hardcore, er, experience in WoW and it was killing my enjoyment of the game trying to keep up with all the alts and garrisons and everything, on top of Mythic raiding. (As a side note, I was surprised to find the guild I had been running with is still 8/10M… I thought they would have cleared Blackrock by now.) On top of that, I’d been playing WoW for 6-7 years straight, and not touched other games much during that apart from my last break during 5.4’s year-long content drought.

My plan had been to go back to WoW on 6.2, but a bit more casually, but now that it’s here, I kind of don’t want to.  At the same time, I kind of do just so I don’t fall too far behind.  I also don’t know who I’ll want to run with – I’m not interested in Mythic this time around really, but I’m already kitted out pretty much at Normal level.  I know my previous raid team is probably going to hit Heroic, plow through that, and start Mythic, while from what I see the other guild I was running with hasn’t made much progress on Heroic Blackrock, so they’ll probably be running Normals.  There’s folks I like running with on both teams, but one is more hardcore than I’d like(and I’m bound to be rusty anyways after a couple months off) and the other doesn’t seem like it’d be too worthwhile if they haven’t made that much progress by now.

Basically, I get enough stress already from work and life in general, and adding the Mythic Server First lifestyle just kills my enjoyment.  It’s not the competition, so much as progressing my character and running with folks that I like.  Given that, Clearing Heroic is about the right speed I think for me, and any Mythic fights after that are just bonus. the problem is one guild is higher than that, and the other is lower, and there’s folks I like in both, and no other guilds really out there.  I do like the two day a week raid schedule for the weaker of the two though.

There is another guild or two I could probably run with, but I only know a couple people in them, and I don’t know their schedules.  They’re on other servers too, so Mythic would be out of the question without forking over cash for transfers.

I’ve got a lot I want to do still in Star Trek though!  I have some tweaks to do to my main’s build, and I got a lot of stuff to do to get my Gorn’s carrier built out.  I’ve also got a planned build for my Romulan Dinaes HDD, but I kind of want to do that on a different toon I just created recently.  On top of those, I just made a Talaxian pirate queen that I want to level up, and the summer event is still going on.  Besides gathering resources for all those, I’m also trying to save up so I can get an upcoming ship 3-pack that was leaked, as well as a pilot ship for my Romulan character that’s currently flying the HDD.

Adding to that, there’s folks I basically only see once a week now in Second Life, and land that I used to share that I’ve barely been able to fund in-game.  I’ve barely touched it as I haven’t been spending time there like I used to, and have been thinking of letting it go.  Would be nice to poke on there a bit more, but first WoW, and then Star Trek has eaten my time for that.

To add another activity to the pile, I just found out there was another official campaign released for Shadowrun Returns, and I still haven’t played through the second one yet!  I still need to do that at some point.

I also meant to play Civilization: Beyond Earth at some point because of fond memories of Alpha Centauri, but have yet to buy it.

Add all this on top of work and my weekly gaming group, and there ain’t enough hours in the day!

I think my main issue at this point is how I’m going to break down time between Star Trek and WoW mostly, since the rest is all stuff that is already in limbo pretty much.  Going more casual with WoW will help with that, and to that end I’m probably going to have to neglect most of my alts, and set limited goals for WoW to keep it contained. Basically focus on things like unlocking flying and checking out the new Garrison Campaign and Tanaan Jungle. See if that rekindles my enjoyment of WoW while I zoom around the galaxy.

There’s only one problem then.  How, with all of this, am I going to find the time to do any writing on the stories I have bouncing around in my head?

All we need is time, time, time…. time is all we need

So I’ve been trying to get this written for the past several days, but kept pushing it back since I didn’t have enough time with all the other things going on.  It seems to be something you can only ever have too little of or too much of; and once it’s spent, it’s gone.  All sales are final, no refunds or exchanges allowed.  As we only have a finite amount of time in this existence, that’s why we have to decide on what we actually want to spend it on.  Thus, the concept of opportunity cost and so on.

While I didn’t plan this to be my original topic, I actually think this might be worth further expounding on a bit, as it leads into what I was originally wanting to talk about.

Basically, opportunity cost is something people will tend to ignore quite a bit, especially in MMO games, and almost certainly in F2P/microtransaction-based ones.  Heck, I’ve done it myself in WoW.

The Auction House in WoW is a living example of this.  I used to play the auction house for a while, and I know when I crafted something and tried to sell it I usually compared it to the cost of the mats when pricing things.  If it went below the cost of the mats, I sold the mats instead.  There are enough people out there that do not do this however that sellers have complained for ages.

You see, for some people, they might spend 5 hours mining(this is all pre-WoD) and gather a bunch of stuff, craft it, then throw it up.  They get undercut, so they super-undercut to try and sell their stuff first, with the end result of the market for that item “crashing” to the point the major sellers either leave it alone, or buy up all the cheap items to reset the value and resell them.  The original seller though?  He didn’t care, because he considers all the materials he mined “free” since he didn’t spend gold on it, so any gold is profit.  What he neglects to account for is the 5 hours he spent gathering it, when he could have been doing something else like running dungeons or old raids.  heck, beyond a certain point he might have made more gold just doing that instead of mining and crafting.

Until recently, this was less obvious as gold in WoW did not have a (legal) fixed value in real money.  With the time tokens available now however, that gold can be quantified against the money you actually make working.

Now working is something we have to do whether we want to or not, at least in the US.  We give up some of our limited time in exchange for the resources to do all the other things we actually want to do.  Still, say you make $15/hour working a specific job.  That means you can quantify an hour of your time as $15, just for arguments sake.

Now a month of sub time for WoW is $15.  Last I heard, a sub token costs around 22k gold, so there’s a rough equivalency there.  So, if you were doing it purely for gold gain and had other things you would have preferred to do with that time, paying real money for X that was around 22k might be a better deal than trying to farm and craft it yourself.  Of course, this also doesn’t factor in that there’s other competition for your work money, and that there’s still a limited amount of time spent working, compared to time spent doing something else.  If you work your MMO gaming like a job though(and not enjoying it) and aren’t making the equivalent of your work salary?  Well, you’re just plain doing it wrong, by the numbers.

Note also that you can’t get the money back out of the game(unless you’re looking at Second Life) – once it’s sunk into the game, it’s gone, period, and you’re left with whatever you got back from it e.g. gear, enjoyment, etc.

Now WoW has added the follower mini-game in WoD, which allows for offline progression.  For example you might spend 5 minutes logging in and setting up missions, and then spend 5 minutes later that day collecting 500 gold(or more, depending on follower traits).  There usually tends ot be little bits of dead time here and there in people’s schedules(such as eating breakfast before work) so you can take advantage of things like this without much of an opportunity cost.

Now WoW is sub-based, in that you need to pay every so often to keep access to the game, so if you’re not having fun, most folks would cancel their subscription or just stop playing. F2P games on the other hand don’t have that barrier.

Instead they have Microtransactions.  Little things here and there that can add up to the cost of a sub or (much!) more. Say there’s a “Gotta-have” item in the cash store.  Someone might look at it and go “$10?  Pff, this is a free game, I’m not paying that!” and then spend 10 hours grinding some currency to use instead for the same thing.  Without that initial barrier, many people won’t even look at how long something might take, but instead just grind it in an effort to keep it “free” while spending way too much time on it.  On top of that, some games(especially Korean-originated ones) turn that grind up to 11 to try to entice these people into paying instead without (quite) driving them off.

In other words, take a good long look at how long it might take you to get something in-game, and if you really want it, before trying to grind it out when playing F2Ps.  It might be a much better use of your limited time, if you can afford it, to reward the developers with a bit of cash, as long as you don’t go overboard and turn into a whale throwing their entire bank account at a game that could potentially disappear within a few years.

That said, it brings me back to the more personal part of what I was wanting to talk about, Star Trek Online.  F2P, and I started playing it a bit a month or two ago during some WoW downtime, as I believe I mentioned before.  Well I’m enjoying it enough and WoW little enough that my limited non-work time has gotten totally flipped around!

Before, I was spending most of my idle time in WoW trying to find things to do and doing my few-times-per-day/week “chores” for more resources.  A few weeks ago now I actually totally stopped logging into WoW except for raid nights, and the last couple I’ve actually not even done that – I just logged into the battle.net client to see if they needed me to fill out the 20 spots.

It’s kinda funny.  Raiding with Prestige was fun, but as we got deeper into Mythic, the pressure and stress just kept building to keep performing at peak constantly.  It was still a good rush to get a new boss down ahead of everyone, and even bigger to get a Server First on a Mythic end boss, but the push and pressure to try and get it down ahead of everyone were making me start to dread raid nights.  I could see that performance-wise, while I was never top material, I was getting towards the bottom compared to the excellent players already on the raid team.  While I’m fairly sure we’d still get them down with me there, there was an impression, whether mine or among certain people, that I might be holding them back from staying on top.

My mindset in raiding has always been to push progression, but at the same time to focus on our own and ignore what everyone else’s progression is.  Compete only with ourselves.  While when I started running with them that may or may not have been the main mindset, with how long we stayed on top of the listings it seems to have taken over in large part, especially among leadership.  That’s not what I’m playing for(though it is an ego boost) and I just plain wasn’t having fun with it anymore. Still, I was showing up because I knew we were short on players and I had implicitly agreed to be there.  Recruiting has been working out better recently however, which has allowed me to start stepping away from the game finally, especially since I have other things I can do now(like STO).

The main downside has been getting people I know to play!  With WoW, there’s multiple people there I know, but STO was a blank slate in that regard.  A large part of the game there for me is the story missions which are easily single player, but when I went in to try and pug for the first time I found myself missing having guildmates or othersuch on vent to coordinate with and learn all these instances.  I was able to stick with the easiest one since I was just farming it for marks, but eventually I’ll want to see the others.

At least there’s maybe 3 people I know RL I’ve gotten to give it a look, so if they like it and stick around that would be a start.

Either way, with STO it’s all still fairly fresh, and I’m mostly enjoying even the grinds still.  When it started to feel a bit annoying to do one(such as when I was grinding Tholian marks on Nukara) it’s easy enough to just hop over to do something else for a bit.  Since it’s almost all time-gated, once you get a certain amount of buffer you can just keep it to a minimum, or grind it out in one big go(like I mostly did with Nukara).

To bring my earlier points into this though, STO actually has a very leniant implementation of F2P.  Paying for just a race unlock(for cosmetic reasons – busty feline captain ahoy!) and using just the free stuff I was able to hit level cap and play though most of the content.  I could have kept on going, but I’ve taken a “time-out” from following the story to beef up my main’s ship and gear.

Needing pay content and wanting pay content, however, are two very different things, as shown by my race unlock.  Looking around, it’s easy to see how you can spend a lot of money in that game, even if none of it is required.  Cosmetic options, “gambling” for gear via the lockbox-key system, and the highest end ships are all behind the paywall, as well as unlocking additional slots for inventory, bridge officers, followers, and so on.  Skill respecs are even nominally behind it.

At first glance, it looks like a lot.  However, there’s a time-gated in-game currency that’s tradeable for the cash shop currency in much the same way as WoW’s time tokens – one person buys the cash shop currency, then trades it for the time-limited currency to speed things up(since it’s tied to a lot).  Most of the prices are low enough that you can get what you want after a couple weeks of just playing normally.You see, this currency may be time-gated in how fast you get it, but you get it from doing almost anything in the game, and you can buffer it up!  Right now I have enough that if I did nothing but log in for 5 seconds to refine it, I wouldn’t have to do anything else for 2 weeks to use up my stockpile.  On top of that, the limit is per-character, so the more alts you play, the faster you can get the currency and the less time it takes – although to be fair, at that point it might turn into more grind than fun beyond a certain point.

Pretty much the only thing that takes a huge amount of time is new ships.  Given this is Star trek, the makers know that’s the high demand item, and it’s priced appropriately – $20-$30 for a high end ship.  Using the exchange I was talking about? 3-4 months with only a single character’s limit. Obviously that scales down with multiple alts, but as I’m new and don’t have the “alt support structure” I have on WoW, that’s outside the scope of what I was looking at for myself.

They also have regular sales of 15-20% off, which helps as well.  So this past weekend I took advantage of that to dump around $60 into the game, since my “entertainment” budget for this month had barely been scratched.  In fact, the only other expense on it was paying for one month sub for STO, as it unlocks a LOT more stuff that you normally have to pay a lot more for separately. Even better, you get to keep almost all of it when you go back F2P, and if I resub later, the character-based benefits will also apply retroactively.

Basically STO, while it may have its own issues with power creep and has a lot of monetization, is also extremely fair to the casual player and nowhere near “pay-to-win” in my books.  I chose to give them some cash, as I was enjoying the game and helps make sure the game continues – and I shouldn’t need to spend any more in the near future as I get more established and better able to take advantage of things like the cash shop exchange.

As to what I’m going to be using the money I put in for?  I’ve got my eye on a couple ships, and last year around this time they had a 15-20% off ship sale…