Monday, December 24, 2012

More on CBS and "Star Trek" Content in Second Life

By Bixyl Shuftan

Last month, CBS was contacting Linden Lab and several content creators about the latter's merchandizing of "Star-Trek" related items. As the owner of most of Star Trek's copyrights, CBS demanded they remove their items from SL Marketplace and stop selling them. Recently, a number of Trek fans met up to discuss CBS's moves, and what to do about it.

About a dozen residents, including Vic Morrington (Victor1st Morrington) of the Dr. Who community, and "Examiner" writer Doc Grun, were present at the meeting. Doc Grun stated he had written to CBS about the matter. "CBS has declined to comment, and has also declined to be interviewed," he stated, though several CBS employees had checked his Linkedin profile since.

The incident was compared to when Universal contacted Linden Lab about Second Life's "Battlestar Galactica" content. With "Battlestar," sims and groups had been closed until Universal until an agreement was made. This time CBS contacted both Linden Lab *and* several content creators. Doc called it, "That is using an atomic bomb to swat a fly." But unlike then, no sims or groups had been taken down. Vic suggested CBS was looking for a quicker resolution, "direct contact with the seller makes for much quicker conversations between CBS and the person they contacted without going through the middle man: Linden Lab." That is, those departments of CBS involved, "It wasn't a full shut down 'cause the top tier of CBS legal department never got involved in this, it was the clerks."

So what were CBS's goals? The language in the letters CBS sent left much room for interpretation, "Immediately cease all creation, distribution, promotion, and sales of the infringing products. … Refrain from advertising, selling, and positing the infringing products in any format on the Second Life Marketplace, and at any other websites or locations where you may be offering and/or selling the infringing products." Was CBS trying to stomp out not just the selling of Trek content, but Trek roleplaying as well? Vic disagreed, "They only came into SL to get rid of the folks selling IP violation items, there was no sign of them trying to close down the RP groups within SL." Doc Grun seemed uncertain, saying, "you all have contraband you see, every one of you is wearing stolen goods. Lawyers are there to take on trivial sh*t like the end of the world mattered on it." But was CBS trying to wipe them out, "They have not made that clear, at all. You are literally in limbo."

The residents had various different reactions. One had deleted all Trek items off his Marketplace account and no longer made it. Another had kept going, "I will never listen to any one that tells me to stop my RP and building of trek whatsoever." It was the impression of those meeting the Trek community as a whole would keep on roleplaying, CBS be damned. If nothing else, there were other virtual worlds besides Second Life, one saying, "You'd be surprised at the number of Trek groups that have left Second Life for other grids, sometimes private grids."

Despite the lack of clarity from CBS, Vic suggested keeping the emails to them at a minimum, "as someone who used to work for Paramount, if you folks keep prodding CBS looking for an explanation, they will take that stick you are prodding them with and are liable to just say 'screw it' and beat you all over the head with it. As I explained COUNTLESS times to the IFT folks, you do not 'deal' with CBS."

Following the meeting, Doc Grun made his own column for the "Examiner." But the title of it, "CBS Moves to Stop Star Trek Content in Second Life" sparked some controversy among some Trek fans as needless scaremongering as more than one thought it was suggesting CBS was after all Trek content, not just that which was sold. Edconnect Gufler of the Trek Museum remarked in one chat,"He has no credtibility." Others suggested giving him a break, saying he did try to get the facts and talk to CBS. Then came an announcement from the IFT group that suggested negotiations with were suspended:

I have been playing e-mail tag with the office of the Vice President of Licensing & Intellectual Property Rights, Liz K. (technically her exec. asst. Brian L.), at CBS. They really do not like it when someone else tries to intervene after establishing that I was the point of contact in SL back in 2009. As a result, I believe they have ceased all talks. So, a sarcastic thanks goes out to whomever interfered. At any rate, until told otherwise, keep things status quo, short of selling copyrighted stuff.

For now, the question of the fate of Star Trek content in Second Life remains not yet resolved. Chatting with some in IMs and group chats, some see CBS has no real legal claim to shut down Trek RP groups and sims with freebie goods. After all, are there no shortage of Star Trek costumes in real life science-fiction conventions? Has not Gene Rodenberry's son appeared in Second Life and seen his father's work recreated here, and not having a problem with it? But others are not taking chances, heading on to other pastures, such as OpenSim.

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, December 14, 2012

News & Commentary: Second Life's Declining Sim Numbers

By Bixyl Shuftan

Daniel Voyager recently posted his Second Life user concurrency Winter 2012 report on his blog, using statistics from the Second Life Grid Survey. The results were disappointing. While user concurrency itself had remained stable, the number of sims on the grid has been falling. In January 2012, the number of sims was about 31,000. By July, the number had dropped to 29,000. And now, the number of sims stands at 28,300.  Almost three thousand sims vanished, or a decline of 11.3 percent.

The cause of this, Daniel thought the reasons were Second Life users spending more time outside the Grid and fewer people signing up. Listening to people and reading comments, I heard two things repeatedly: dissatisfaction with Linden Lab's performance, and a poor economy that just isn't getting better.

So where are the users going? Facebook has certainly done a better job at attracting a mass audience, but what Second Life users are looking for is a virtual world. Daniel Voyager thought that one big reason was people moving to the OpenSim worlds, such as Avination and Inworldz. But his observation isn't quite the same as mine. Among the people I chat with, a few mention checking the OpenSim worlds, but not that many.  One gamer whom a couple years ago bought some space in Avination because of its friendlier policy toward gambling still maintains some places in Second Life. I've also heard comments that OS worlds are less stable than Second Life. A number who did talk about moving to Opensim were not doing so because of overall dissatisfaction with Second Life, but were Star Trek fans alarmed by CBS's moves against Trek-related items on the Grid and getting the impression it was time to consider moving on to other worlds as what they were doing might soon get them in serious trouble here.

Among those in Second Life who prefer nonhuman avatars (or in the words of a few "I don't want to look like a Ken doll"), the OpenSim worlds seem to have less to offer. In Daniel Voyager's comments, Pussycat Catnip commented her avatar was a furry feline, "When I can have that in an OS Grid, and a social community that is thriving, and a large continent I can explore around in, then I might start looking at an OS Grid seriously." Of her avatar, "I didn't make that furry, I bought it. Many folks don't have the time or expertise to make things like that. The people who do have not left SL."

So if not the OpenSim worlds, where have the people I've been talking to going? Massive Multiplayer Online games have been around since before Second Life, though their popularity seems to wax and wane. With the release of the latest "World of Warcraft" expansion, a number of my friends have been playing it more. They've also mentioned other games such as "Star Wars: The Old Republic," and "World of Tanks." But as popular as these games are, compared to Second Life, one's ability to express creativity is limited.

More recently, another kind of virtual world made an appearance: Minecraft. The graphics there were primitive compared to Second Life, but it did allow players to express their creativity in making buildings, gardens, and other structures. Not to mention for newcomers it offered clear short-term goals: don't get killed by the monsters coming out at night. While some Second Life residents will have nothing to do with this "8-bit throwback," overall it's been so popular, a number of communities on the Grid have been getting their own Minecraft servers, including the Angels/Sunweavers, the SL Newser office building's neighbors.

So what can be done to stop the decline, or at least slow it down? One response I hear again and again to the question is "lower the tier!" By making it less expensive for residents to get sims, more will put up their money for them. Simple supply and demand. Well, maybe not.

In an article in September, Hamlet Au brought up one noteworthy statistic: most sims in Second Life are owned by only a handful of residents. He stated of the 75 million US dollars Linden Lab made, half a million residents paid about three million for Lindens for various items while about 5500 residents paid sixty million for private land. And of those, just 500 paid 48 million, more than half of Linden Lab's revenues.

Hamlet thought it would be "a near suicidal gamble" to lower tier with this kind of arrangement, even if more residents were less able to pay. The majority of residents would probably disagree with him, and many who did had quite a few comments on the issue in several of Hamlet's articles related to the topic. Someone suggested, "replace those 500 high profile customers with 50,000 low profile ones." Hamlet's response was "Yes, but to get 50,000 customers … Second Life will probably need 500,000 or so more unique users, which will require growing the user base" with games and other attractions.

One land baron, Desmond Shang of Caledon, gave one reason shaking up the real estate market might not be good for Linden Lab's bottom line was what he called the "Rip Van Winkle" residents. These were residents whom almost never popped onto the Grid, but steadily paid their rent, content that their "happy place" was still around, "I've had to close a few regions over the years, and I can think of only two cases where a 'Rip Van  Winkle' made time to pull up stakes and move to another location. The rest simply quit."

So if lowering tier isn't an answer, whether or not the Lab can't or simply won't, what is? Hamlet himself thought that Linden Lab would offer occasional goodies to encourage Premium subscriptions, but it was up to the residents to offer more substantial things to attract new residents. He brought up a zombie MMO that was making news in Summer 2012 and suggested that something similar could be made on the Grid, or perhaps a third party SL Viewer with gaming controls built in. Indeed, there is no shortage of combat sims in Second Life, such as Aria Clash and New Bastogne, and a number of role-play regions have combat built in as part of the action.

Desmond himself thought there was "no easy fix" to the problem, "Lowering tier to match demand might bring back growth, but it would take a lot of lowering before growth came back. And it might not return." Could anything else bring back growth?  Not mentioning Hamlet's ideas, he felt "there are several (options), but few are legal," mentioning gambling was done away with, and some of the early growth was financed by "bank scams and ponzi schemes." He agreed with Hamlet that lowering tier was a risky move, but as numbers continue to drop, he did feel the option would be "someday ultimately necessary."

For now however, any talk of lowering tiers is pretty much ignored by Linden Lab. And it's up to the residents for an alternative solution for the Grid's shrinking numbers. 

Sources: Daniel Voyager's Blog, New World Notes

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, December 3, 2012

City of Heroes MMO Closes

There was some sad news in the world of Massive Multiplayer Online games. "City of Heroes," the popular superhero MORPG from NCsoft, is no more. At Midnight, Friday night on Nov. 30th, the servers powered down for the last time, disconnecting players from their CoH characters for good.

The decision to close the game was announced on August 31st, the official reasons being "realignment of company focus and publishing support." Following the announcement, players rallied to try to get the company to reverse it's decision, taking part in online demonstrations and even mailing the company capes and masks. But the company refused to change its mind, and on the last day, players gathered at a "final unity rally" at the town hall's city park across all the servers. Players talked about old times, in addition to taking on monsters, aliens, and other bad guys dropping in. One of's writers, Beau Hindman, covered the event, until his screen read "Lost Connection" (link to the final hour and a half can be found Here), "It's unfortunate to see an MMO unlike any others shutting down."

"City of Heroes" was launched in 2004. The superhero game was hailed as a "gust of fresh air into an increasingly stale sword and sorcery MMO world," with an extremely flexible character creation system that allowed for a wide variety of appearances, notably the costumes. Despite terms of service forbidding characters that looked like or were named after heroes from the comics, Marvel Comics filed a lawsuit, saying the company was doing nothing to stop it. But the court dismissed some of Marvel's claims. The remainder were settled out of court.

NCsoft has several other games, including Aion and Guild Wars. Some Second Life residents commented to me they had enjoyed the game, and will miss it. Where the fomer CoH will go is anyone's guess. Perhaps many will make their way to superhero RPs in Second Life.

Sources: Massively, Wikipedia

Bixyl Shuftan

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Help, I Derendered the Wife!

The Relay for Life group chat has no shortage of funny moments. One prime example was one boast by Stingray Raymaker about wearing pantyhose next year if enough was raised that became known as "Stingray's Challenge." More recently was this bit of chat that began with a phrase that probably won't soon be forgotten.

*  *  *  *  *   *  *  *  *  *   *  *  *  *  *  

[06:59 PM]  zeeva Constantine: help!! how do I unrender an avatar ?
[07:00 PM]  Danger Mouse [zeeva Constantine]: I accidently derendered the wife!
[07:00 PM]  Alexandra Fallon: mute them, then they'll go to a cloud
[07:00 PM]  Windi [Windchaser Rhode]: o.O Too much scotch last night, Danger?
[07:00 PM]  Lori Claremont giggles
[07:00 PM]  Timmy Tennant: TMI
[07:00 PM]  Gem Sunkiller: ohhhhhhhhhhh man
[07:00 PM]  Lori Claremont: oopsie
[07:00 PM]  Alexandra Fallon: ohhh which viewer are you on?
[07:00 PM]  Trader Whiplash - Ballinger [Trader1 Whiplash]: relog ?
[07:00 PM]  Dwen Dooley: rightclick menu?
[07:00 PM]  Sasha Fairywren: OOps
[07:00 PM]  Valerie Martynov: put the gun awas or you said unrender
[07:00 PM]  Danger Mouse [zeeva Constantine]: tried relogging  and i am on FS
[07:01 PM]  Trader Whiplash - Ballinger [Trader1 Whiplash]: re render?
[07:01 PM]  Sasha Fairywren: firestorm.. Ok
[07:01 PM]  Trader Whiplash - Ballinger [Trader1 Whiplash]: check mute list
[07:01 PM]  Alexandra Fallon: if you're on firestorm, it's World then down to asset blacklist. then, tp out and back in to where they are and you should be able to see them.
[07:01 PM]  Sasha Fairywren: That's a good first step
[07:01 PM]  Lori Claremont: Latest Firestorm, I believe you want World >> Asset Blacklist
[07:01 PM]  Lori Claremont: oh, what Alexandra said :-)
[07:02 PM]  Danger Mouse [zeeva Constantine]: <<  will never mess with buttons again
[07:02 PM]  Sasha Fairywren: That doesn't work, I'm sure several of us can walk you through the Develop menu
[07:02 PM]  Bain Finch [bainfinch]: Well, 1st relog, and shop for a dog house while your at it
[07:03 PM]  Zach Denimore: LMAO
[07:03 PM]  Panza Eilde punches Bain's arm, then snuggles back into them.
[07:03 PM]  Arizona Ballinger-Whiplash [Arizona Ballinger]: that is one of the funniest things I have heard..... I accidently  derendered the wife..... rofl
[07:03 PM]  Sasha Fairywren: LOL @ Bain
[07:03 PM]  Windi [Windchaser Rhode]: Messing around with buttons is a hatchie's job
[07:03 PM]  Alexandra Fallon: mhm and look for an sl florist cause I gotta feelin you're in deep crap.
[07:03 PM]  ƨραякℓℯ™ [sparkle Kling]: Do the usual... just tell her how beautiful she looks.... and pretend you can see her...
[07:03 PM]  Danger Mouse [zeeva Constantine]: umm, I would have if wasn't on voice
[07:03 PM]  Danger Mouse [zeeva Constantine]: thanks
[07:04 PM]  Windi [Windchaser Rhode] sharpens a claw or two
[07:04 PM]  Lori Claremont: take her shoe shopping immediately!!
[07:04 PM]  AHoffman Philly: I derendered my house once
[07:04 PM]  Danger Mouse [zeeva Constantine]: pfft !
[07:04 PM]  ι ℓøνємYPUSSSYCATღ   [Pusssycat Whitesong]: lol
[07:05 PM]  Trader Whiplash - Ballinger [Trader1 Whiplash] learned the hard way never to rotate a house too close to a sim border
[07:05 PM]  Trader Whiplash - Ballinger [Trader1 Whiplash]: specially one with like 1400 prims
[07:05 PM]  Windi [Windchaser Rhode]: rofl
[07:05 PM]  AHoffman Philly: ohno
[07:06 PM]  Trader Whiplash - Ballinger [Trader1 Whiplash]: it was NOT pretty
[07:06 PM]  Alexandra Fallon makes sure Trader doesn't have her mod rights. *laughs*
[07:07 PM]  Danger Mouse [zeeva Constantine]: the wife just informed me I am grounded
[07:07 PM]  Alexandra Fallon: uh oh!
[07:07 PM]  Sasha Fairywren: I so bet!
[07:07 PM]  Alexandra Fallon: depending on what grounded means to her, that might ground her, too lol
[07:07 PM]  Lori Claremont: doubly so for referring to her as "the wife"........
[07:07 PM]  Danger Mouse [zeeva Constantine]: lol surely its better than the ball and chain
07:08 PM]  Lori Claremont: Depends on how the chains are being used :-D
[07:08 PM]  Danger Mouse [zeeva Constantine]: this Thursday we will have been together 2 years 6 month .. 2 years collared  ..
[07:08 PM]  Danger Mouse [zeeva Constantine]: trust me the wife is a compliment :P
[07:08 PM]  Bixyl Shuftan chuckles as he takes notes
[07:08 PM]  Lori Claremont: Congrats!!!
[07:09 PM]  Arizona Ballinger-Whiplash [Arizona Ballinger]: less the hour that you derendered her
[07:09 PM]  Lori Claremont giggles
[07:10 PM]  Danger Mouse [zeeva Constantine]: lol Arizona!!
[07:11 PM]  Trader Whiplash - Ballinger [Trader1 Whiplash] is not going to say anything about when I derended arizona by mistake
[07:11 PM]  Gem Sunkiller: ::smirks::
[07:13 PM]  Trader Whiplash - Ballinger [Trader1 Whiplash] is glad you cant hear our voice chat in here
[07:13 PM]  Arizona Ballinger-Whiplash [Arizona Ballinger] wonders what this mute button does ..hmmmm
[07:13 PM]  Danger Mouse [zeeva Constantine]: do it do it do it !!!
[07:14 PM]  Alexandra Fallon: oooh Trader's in troubleeeeeeeeee.
[07:15 PM]  Trader Whiplash - Ballinger [Trader1 Whiplash] quotes Arizona " you derendered me"
[07:15 PM]  Alexandra Fallon: Trader's grounded. Trader's grounded.
[07:16 PM]  Trader Whiplash - Ballinger [Trader1 Whiplash]: But baby it was Fuzzballs Fault...  He and Madonna made me do it!
[07:16 PM]  Danger Mouse [zeeva Constantine] gets the popcorn

*  *  *  *  *   *  *  *  *  *   *  *  *  *  *  

A day later, Danger Mouse told me there was no problem with putting the chat up, adding "The wife still won't talk to me."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

CBS Cracks Down on Sales of "Star Trek" Goods in Second Life

 Second Life has a large science-fiction community, consisting of roleplaying groups, sci-fi themed combat areas, and general fans. While some areas and items are completely original, other places and groups are inspired by stories and shows. Probably the science fiction show with the biggest following is "Star Trek," with a number of roleplaying groups and locations. Ships, uniforms, building styles, alien race avatars, and other items are faithfully depicted as much as the builders' time and skills can allow. Even people not in role-play groups have sought Trek items, for Halloween, costume parties, or just for fun. And numerous Star Trek items have been made for sale in both inworld stores and the Marketplace.

There's just one not so small problem. The "Star Trek" franchise falls under copyright protection, which is owned by CBS. And begining last month, they began making an effort to enforce it in Second Life.

Following a tip from a reader, Second Life Newser got in touch with Cheshyr Pontchartrain, the owner of Novatech which made a number of Star Trek items. Cheshyr told me someone had "turned-in a number of Star Trek groups and merchants to CBS. … My problem is the way Linden Lab handled the issue. CBS objected to all content, yet Linden Lab singled me out with a one-week suspension. The shops that exclusively sell Star Trek merchandise weren't enough touched. Their items are still online." He stated he had heard the one who notified CBS was involved in a personal feud "with various Trekkies here."

Cheshyr also provided copies of the emails to Linden Lab and himself, in addition to his response to CBS. His letter stated he had removed the bulk of his items from sale and would soon have the last of them gone, and asked "exactly what CBS Studios is objecting to, and what we are permitted to do, so that we can avoid this in the future."

I was also told that set designs, such as the classic Enterprise bridge, are only protected for 25 years from publication. And since classic Star Trek has been off the air for 43 years, something seems off.  I may have been misinformed, but 40+ years of people selling Star Trek art, mock-up real-world bridges, etc., implies that little was done to discourage them.

Losing a few products means little to me, as Star Trek is an insignificant part of my product line, and $80 income in 7 years is hardly life-changing.  But there are thousands of Star Trek fans in the Second Life community who are afraid they’ll have to move on to a new TV series because of this.  Any light you can shed will be appreciated, especially by your fan base.

Second Life Newser also contacted Ntanel Swordthain of the IFT Sci-Fi Alliance. His response was the following:

I am working on it with CBS.  I have to hold off on saying much more than that we know that they are going down the SL Marketplace list and starting from the largest offenders to the smallest.  The largest, as we now know, was Cheshyr Pontchartrain.  We do not know with any certainty that CBS is coming into Second Life or if the statement from CBS' legal representative about allowing no replication of Trek properties is the actual intent of CBS.  If it is, it will effectively end Trek fandom on Second Life.  As of now, we are still operating under the rules of fair use.  Until I get clarification on the statement made by CBS' legal representative, we will proceed as normal.  This by no means gives anyone permission to continue breaching CBS' rights by selling replicated items. I will update everyone via a notice on the IFTSFA group once I know more. 

A look at Second Life Marketplace searching for items tagged "Star Trek," most items had little to do with Trek, though a few obviously were, and others bared some resemblance to ships and things from the show. When a small science fiction convention took place inworld, people were cautioned about selling Trek items, otherwise the groups were to proceed as normal.

Twice in the history of Second Life, the lawyers of the copyright owners of two science-fiction stories have gone after roleplay groups. In 2009, The Frank Herbert Estate went after a 130 member group and their "Dune" sim, which responded by removing copyrighted terms and renaming themselves. In 2010, Universal Studios went after "Battlestar Galactica" items and sims, and Linden Lab closed down some places. A few months later, Universal reached an agreement with the BSG groups, saying they could use the name, but no items made with copyrighted terms could be sold: uniforms, ships, weapons, etc. would have to be "freebies."

Both times, some inworld Trekkers wondered if they might be next and what would happen. Now, the copyright owners are focusing attention on the content that makes their areas what they are. What happens next remains to be seen. Will Star Trek in Second Life will vanish, or continue to "live long and prosper?"

Bixyl Shuftan

 *  *  *  *  *   *  *  *  *  *   *  *  *  *  *   *  *  *  *  * 

51 West 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019

On behalf of Lisa Cattan

October 23, 2012

Via Email
Laura Pirri
Linden Research, Inc.
945 Battery Street
San Francisco, CA 94111

Dear Ms. Pirri:
I write on behalf of CBS Studios Inc. (the “Rights Owner"), owner of certain intellectual property rights to the television series “Star Trek.” We have a good faith belief that the information in this notice is accurate. Under penalty of perjury, I am authorized to act on behalf of the Rights Owner.

We are notifying you of infringement of the Rights Owner’s rights under the Copyright Act and counterpart laws around the world at the following location(s):

We have a good faith belief that this material is not authorized by the Rights Owner, its agents or the law.

To the extent that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 512(c) (the "DMCA") applies to your service, if at all, we hereby request that you act expeditiously to remove or disable access to the identified material. 

Should you need additional information, please contact me at the telephone number or email listed below.

Nothing in this letter shall be construed as a waiver or relinquishment of any right or remedy possessed by the Rights Owner, or any affiliated party, all of which are expressly reserved.

Sincerely Yours,

Lisa M. Cattan
CBS | Counsel, Intellectual Property
51 West 52nd Street | New York, NY 10019
(212) 975-4264 |

Chris Ellis Jr.
CBS | Intellectual Property Enforcement Clerk
51 West 52nd Street | New York, NY 10019
(212) 975-8920 |

 *  *  *  *  *   *  *  *  *  *   *  *  *  *  *   *  *  *  *  * 

51 West 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019

On behalf of Lisa Cattan

October 25, 2012

Dear Mr. Pontchartrain:

Thank you for your response and inquiry. Enclosed for your information is the DMCA notice CBS submitted to Linden Research, Inc. 

CBS Studios Inc. (“CBS”) is successor in interest to various rights of Paramount Pictures Corporation and owner of all rights to the television series STAR TREK and related series (collectively, the “Series”). CBS’ rights in the Series include trademarks, logos, designs and numerous copyrights in videos, images, sounds, sets, props, ships’ names and designs, costumes, the characters, ranks and other original elements appearing therein (collectively, the “Properties”).  In addition, CBS owns all merchandising rights associated with the Series, and as rights owner, CBS is obligated to police and protect its properties against unauthorized users.

Based on our review of your numerous listings on the Second Life Marketplace at, it appears that you are making a business of creating content for the Second Life virtual game, which incorporates CBS’ valuable intellectual property rights in the content itself and promotion thereof (the “Infringing Products”). A sample list of the Infringing Products is provided below:

Your unauthorized use of these Properties constitutes copyright infringement under the Copyright Act, and counterpart laws around the world, and trademark infringement, false designation of original, misappropriation and unfair competition under the Lanham Act and applicable international laws.
CBS appreciates your interest in and enthusiasm for the Series.  However, we must object to the Infringing Products.  While CBS is entitled to seek damages from you for your prior infringing conduct, should you agree to the following terms, CBS will agree to refrain from seeking damages for Infringing Products sold prior to your notice of our claims:
1.    Immediately cease all creation, distribution, promotion and sales of the Infringing Products and destroy all materials used to create unauthorized copies thereof,
2.    Refrain from advertising, selling and/or posting the Infringing Products in any format on the Second Life Marketplace, and at any other websites or locations where you may be offering and/or selling the Infringing Products; and
3.    Provide a written undertaking that you will refrain from these actions in the future.

We trust that you understand CBS’ concerns regarding the infringement of its rights and that you will cooperate fully with us without the need for further action.

Nothing in this letter shall be construed as a waiver or relinquishment of any right or remedy possessed by CBS Studios Inc., or any affiliated party, all of which are expressly reserved.

Sincerely Yours,

Lisa M. Cattan
CBS | Counsel, Intellectual Property
51 West 52nd Street | New York, NY 10019
(212) 975-4264 | 

Chris Ellis Jr.
CBS | Intellectual Property Enforcement Clerk
51 West 52nd Street | New York, NY 10019
(212) 975-8920 |

Friday, October 26, 2012

Protest and Banning at Burn2

For the most part, the Burn2 festival has gone well those participating. Last weekend however on Sunday October 21st, there was a protest at the event, followed by a mass banning. According to eyewitnesses, not only were those actively protesting banned from the Burn2 sims, but apparently so were passersby whom did nothing more than watch.

I was contacted about the incident by an eyewitness, saying that Burn2 artist Kandinsky Beaumont needed the help of a Saveme Oh for her exhibit. Trouble was, Saveme wasn't allowed at the Burn, "Saveme … has been banned by LEA, SL9B … she was banned from (the) Burn last year. So Kandinsky was refused. So they started a protest."

I was given a name, Marmaduke Arado, and contacted him. "We were just banned from (the) Burn," he told me, "we were staging an improvised 'protest' performance and were mass banned. Even people just watching were banned … a few just for watching. Without explanation, warning, nothing."

Saveme Oh has a blog at (very much Not Safe For Work), in which she writes about the Burn2 incident, and previous ones she was involved in. Some people commenting on them accused her of editing out certain details. In her June 24 post, she wrote, "The first day after a Secondlife break I always have the uncontrollable urge to misbehave badly."

One other blog, Apmel,  had some information. One post (Not Safe For Work), shows pictures of Kandinsky's exhibit before and after she was given a notice, "Your build as a large protest creates disharmony in our community … It damages the joy of the celebration and community spirit. It also is not within the spirit or aesthetics of this event. We have a policy of 'No Drama' within our events. Your build is dramatic because of it's size and focus. This has to change significantly … Please consider a build that will enhance the joy and celebration of Burn2 rather than damage it."

I later met up with two of the leaders of the Burn festival, EmCee Widget and Ronon Carver. EmCee refused to comment on the matter. Ronon did answer, saying she was sorry but they would not talk about these kinds of matters.

It is unknown whether or not any of those not taking part in the protest who were banned have had it reversed.

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, October 15, 2012

Review of World of Warcraft's "Mists of Pandaria," Part Two

In Part One of the review, we discussed "Mists of Pandaria's: new race, the Pandaren, and the new continent of Pandaria. Besides the Pandaren and Pandaria, the new feature getting the most talk is the Pet Battle System. Here, all those non-combat pets players have been collecting over time can be put to use besides showing them. It's gotten a lot of comparisons to "Pokemon," which even Wowpedia admits.

To gain the ability, one visits a Battle Pet trainer. Only one character needs to do so as the ability is account bound rather than on one single character. One's pets start at Level one, and by challenging wild pets or another trainer's pets in duels, winning pet battles increases' ones pets experience and over time levels them. Like items, pets can be common, uncommon, or rare in quality, rares having higher stats.

Players can heal their pets once every ten minutes. They can also pay a stable master to heal them or a special battle pet bandage. There are some achievements and quests than can be done. One can also buy and sell pets at the auction house. Naturally rares sell for the most. 

Mounts have also become account bound, although characters can still use only those of their level or lower. And those of the opposing faction will be unavailable.

Another new feature is scenarios, which are much like instances, but are shorter "with progressive objectives and a story arc." Unlike regular instances, tanks and healers are described as not truly needed. One "WoW Insider" writer described them as much more ideal for warrior class characters than instances. The first one, Theramore's Fall, was made available a couple weeks before the release of "Mists of Pandaria," which gave the sense of the Horde and Alliance, already hostile to one another, getting closer to all out war. If this was a signal for "get ready for more player vs player," there were opportunities for it in two new battleground areas.

There's some fun new things in the game. One feature isn't so much new as brought back from WoW's beta days. While the game was still under development, druids in their travel form could carry a passenger. But this feature was cut before the game's release. The reason, Blizzard was a bit wary of juvenile wisecracks of guys "riding" female druids. But with some of the more suggestive jokes and flirts for the past couple expansions, a guy going about on a lady druid's travel form was mild in comparison. So the feature was brought back for "Mists of Pandaria", with the addition of a new glyph for druids. By now though, it's more of a neat feature than a practical move since back then it took a lot longer to get to level 40.

Players in Pandaria can also do a bit of farming. Unlike games such as Runescape, there is no farming skill. Instead, one can help a farmer at Sunsong Ranch in the Valley of the Four Winds, and he'll let you grow your own veggies. Quests allow one to gain favor with the farming faction, the Tillers, and the further one goes, the more plots that are available. Naturally it isn't always so simple to just plant and forget. Your crops may need watering, weeding, defending from critters trying to make lunch out of them, and "wild" crops will need to be wrestled (see picture). "Farmvile" certainly didn't involve defending pumpkins from Level 86 Swooping Planshawks. Successful harvests yield cooking ingredients for Zen Master level Cooking and other items such as herbs, enchanting materials, and even skins, minerals, and cloth.

One fun new gadget for engineers is the "Blingtron 4000," as well as fun for everyone else around it. When summoned, it hangs around for about ten minutes and gives a gift to anyone who talks to him. WoW Insider described the gifts as a variety of items from potions to items that help raise your skills, to "a steamy romance novel."

It's a little easier for those doing the archeology profession. Instead of three digs, one is able now to dig five times at an archeology site on a map before it fades. In Pandaria, Pandaren archeological finds can be crated and stacked in one single space in your backpacks and get you better reputation with the Lorewalkers.

With five new levels come some new moves and attacks. For the Hunter, one fun move is "Stampede" in which all of your pets attack the target at once, although each having only a quarter of it's offensive strength. 

One major difference between "Mists of Pandaria" and the two previous expansions is the lack of a single villain dominating the plot. "Wrath of the Lich King" got it's name from it's big bad boy. With "Cataclysm," it was Deathwing the dragon aspect that threatened to wreck the world. Here, no one bad guy dominates the field like they do, players dealing with a few separate bigger bosses as they go about Pandaria.

However, there will be one interesting villain that players will deal with later on after a major patch several months from now: Horde Warchief Garrosh Hellscream. In the plot, Thrall's replacement as the Horde's leader as he goes off to help the elements against Deathwing isn't the careful statesman he was. Instead of bargaining, Hellscream feels the Horde should simply take what it wants, and if it means war with the Alliance, so be it. Unlike Thrall, he feels only Orcs are deserving of the most honored roles in the Horde, and woe to anyone Orc or not who openly questions him. His plans to expel the Alliance from the continent of Kalimador change to outright genocide. More and more, Horde members are increasingly dissatisfied at his rule, and eventually rebellion will break out. In the upcoming Siege of Ogrimmar, both Alliance and Horde players help the Horde rebels to defeat Hellscream, whom as it turns out has been secretly been doing some abominable activities. There is only speculation as to who replaces him. Will Thrall return, or will the Horde see a third Warchief? Time will tell.

Considering World of Warcraft's size and fanbase, any news involving it is going to get conversation, and the "Mists of Pandaria" expansion has brought about no shortage of them. A number dismissed it from the beginning as little more than a "Kung-Fu Panda" joke because of the new race. Others however welcomed them, one girl saying, "They are just so CUTE!" Some PvP players do have a preference for this kind of character, feeling others will be embarrassed to be "pawned" by a cutsie character, "You just got your a** handed to you by a panda?!" The biggest complaint about the Pandaren I've heard is of them being a neutral race, though most can see why Blizzard made them available to both sides, some citing Horde fan complaints about the Worgens' Alliance status.

Of the Pet Battle System, many have dismissed that as well as "WoW meets Pokeman." Others find it an occasional interesting break from the routine of the game. Though few if any seem to be making it a major part of the game for the long haul. The new scenarios, however, have gotten praise.

Among the comments about the expansion was of the detail of Pandaria, very picturesque with it's towns' architecture and the wilderness. Some also commented the land seemed more "normal" than previous parts of Azeroth. Here, you're more likely to see NPC people going about their lives farming, mining, fishing, and otherwise living. You'll also see a lot more kids.

WoW players interested in the role-play aspects of their characters have expressed these kind of  Pandaren players have something of an interesting challenge. Not only do they have to come up with an explanation why they sided with Horde or Alliance, but as from a race that's been isolated, war-torn Azeroth that's had to deal all kinds of threats and challenges from The Plague, Goblin technology, all kinds of demons and monsters, and of course that the Alliance and Horde are perpetually at some level of conflict. A new reality entirely foreign to these characters, it could certainly warp the mindsets of these furry adventurers. Or perhaps they somehow remain laid back and curious at heart.

A number of people feel Blizzard did a better job with "Mists of Pandaria" than "Cataclysm." Among the people I know, the Sunweavers guild in WoW is active again, with players both rolling up Pandaren characters and exploring the new land. The response doesn't seem to be as great as Cataclysm, when the guild grew with new players happy to have Worgen characters, but it has brought life back to a guild that was seeing only minimal activity for the past few months.

It's been commented on that if "Mists of Pandaria" fails to keep World of Warcraft's numbers up, it will be the expansion that sees the biggest multiplayer online game begin to lose it's dominance. While it will still be number one for at least a few more years, if it continues to decline like it has, games like Star Wars the Old Republic will begin to have comparable numbers of players. For the short term however, "Mists" has been a success, with 2.7 million units sold in its first week and the total number of players past ten million again, up from 9.1 million in August. So at least for now Blizzard is unlikely to make any major changes, such as expanding it's free-to-play version beyond level 20. It's a safe bet this game will eventually be getting players who hadn't been born when it was first launched.

My personal opinion is "Mist of Pandaria" rates a four out of five. If you're a dedicated WoW player you'll most likely love it, especially if you're a panda fan. If you're not already playing, it may not hold your interest for more than a few months. As for yours truly, I'm keeping my subscription.

And that's it for now from Azeroth.

Sources: WoWpedia,, WoWInsider,

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, October 12, 2012

Review of World of Warcraft's "Mists of Pandaria," Part One

On September 25th, Blizzard's "World of Warcraft," the most popular of massive multiplayer online games, released it's fourth expansion "Mists of Pandaria." Anticipated for several months, the update promised a number of new features, notably the new continent of Pandaria and a new player race: the Pandaren.

The Pandaren were originally created as an April Fool's joke, but to Blizzard's surprise the response was a positive one. So they were included in the Warcraft III computer game. The Pandaren are of course panda-like, with females smaller than males and sporting earrings. They also have small tails, with female reds having longer ones. They have a few special features compared to other races. They take less damage from falls. They get double the " Well Fed" stat bonuses from food. They start off with a fifteen point bonus in Cooking. Their "Quaking Palm" can stun a target for a few seconds. And their rested experience bonus lasts twice as long. The latter can be quite helpful for players leveling up a character. Most player classes are available: Warrior, Rouge, Mage, Priest, Shaman, Hunter, and the newest one: the Monk. What truly distinguishes Pandaren from other player races is that they are the first "neutral" one. They don't start out as Alliance or Horde, but choose who to side with near the end of their introductory quests.

Saying the Pandaren background have a Chinese influence is stating the obvious, though this is nothing new with World of Warcraft races such as American Indians with Taruen and Victorian English with Worgen. The plot background describes their last emperor shrouding their lands with an "impenetrable mists" thousands of years ago to protect it from the calamities at the time other lands were facing. Some generations ago, some Pandaren explorers founded a colony on the back of an island-sized sea turtle and their descendants have wandered the ocean since. This is where new Pandaren characters begin. Pandaren and turtles go together in other ways, with Pandaren hunters starting off with a turtle as a combat pet, and their racial mount being the speedy Dragon Turtle.

Beginning Pandaren characters start off as training in a small village, then are sent on quests to help out the island, occasionally fighting hostile monkeys and rabbit-like denziens. A few quests are an obvious take on one popular Japanese anime. Around Level 10, one's character and his/her friends come across the source of the island's distress: an airship having crashed into the giant turtle's side. There, they meet up with members of the Alliance and Horde, fighting against naga which have been stirred up by the crash. Once the island has been saved, it's decided to send Pandaren out into "the broken world" to help out it's other peoples. One of the character's friends decides on going over to the Alliance, while another will head to the Horde. The player then decides which path lies before his/her character: Alliance or Horde. After meeting up with the new leader, the player is free on how to progress while his/her friend begins teaching those interested on the ways of the monk.

Blizzard advertises monks as being experts in unarmed combat that "draw their weapons for devastating finishing moves." This doesn't mean going in without a weapon in your slot. Monk characters should be armed as normal. Monks have both an energy bar, and another bar for "Chi" energy. Some energy attacks will build up Chi energy,  while other special attacks use it up. Besides staves (which mine started out with), these characters can use fist weapons, one handed axes, maces, and swords, and polearms. Monks can be of most races, Humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes, and Draenei for the Alliance, Orcs, Tauren, Trolls, Forsaken, and Bloodelves for the Horde, and of course the Pandaren. Monks are limited to cloth and leather armor. Monks have three specializations: Windwalkers who concentrate on melee attacks, Mistweavers whom can heal, and Brewmasters whom can tank with their special moves like the "drunken masters" in some martial arts flicks.

Besides new races and new characters, players have some new territory to cover with their current ones. Level 85 characters upon entering their capital are given a mission. A ship carrying the Prince of Stormwind has run aground on a strange new land. Alliance characters are sent with a force to recover him and secure the land before the Horde does. Horde characters are sent with a force to get him and likewise secure the land before the Alliance. Once getting to Pandaria, both sides come to blows, and besides fighting one another are trying to win over the local Pandarens, as well as fighting the locals old foes whose attention has been aroused, as well as some dark spirits which have also been stirred up.

Characters will be unable to fly on personal mounts, until reaching level 90, the new top level in the game. Until then, there's the Pandaria kite transportation. There's also no mailboxes in the first few places you come across in the Jade Forest Zone, the entrance to Pandara. So saving loot such as player gear for the Auction House and skins & ores may be a problem at first. But if you look around the region, eventually you'll find a village with one. Deeper into the continent are some auction houses, including the Black Market Auction House with some items unavailable anywhere else. In the Black Market, items will be generated and listed by NPCs. There is no buyout price, only bidding.

Part Two of the "Mists of Pandaria" review will cover the Pet Battle System, and what some have been saying about the expansion. 

To read the second part, Click Here.

Bixyl Shuftan

Saturday, October 6, 2012

"Luskcraft" - Luskwood's Place in Minecraft

A few months ago, the Sunweaver/Angels' community in Second Life began making a place for themselves in Minecraft. They weren't alone as a number of other groups from the Grid began expanding onto the sandbox world. Recently I heard that the oldest one, Luskwood, was among them. They had been there for about a year, which raised the question what could they have made given that amount of time?

Talking to Michi Lumin, she told me who to get in contact with for access, and it was soon done. This is what it looked like when I first arrived. But what had I arrived on?

As it turned out, the entrance to the server is one giant Luskwood logo. Although building mode was off for newcomers "so that they can't place destructive lava," there were a few supplies in a nearby ship.

The place is called the Community Project Docks, part of "the player-run city of New Horizon." And it was a well-detailed port area, with a carrier, a submarine, a zepplin, and this clipper ship.

Quite a bit of detail went into the making of the vessels. There were a few monsters about, but things were set so creeper explosions couldn't hurt them.

A look at one of the port cranes.

A walkway connected the docks to the mainland.

And getting to land, there was a huge wall (the Great Wall of Lusk?).

 It went on for quite a distance.

 A look back at the docks, from further along the wall.

  After a long while of walking, and spider-stomping, the wall ended at a complex of buildings.

 There were a number of things here, rooms with beds, indoor farms and critter pens.

 So far from the port, it can't be seen.

The tallest was so high, clouds brushed against the top.

And that was my introduction to the Luskwood server. Unable to build shelters, I was pretty much limited to where there was light, which was the wall and the buildings. A more detailed look of the interior will have to wait until I can get build permissions. I had been told there were some places built inland, though warned some were booby-trapped. So a look there might be hazardous. A bit of an irony that the place that gets so much griefing in Second Life has residents setting up traps as pranks.

After a year, the Lusk residents have created quite a bit. And only part it it's been shown. I still haven't gone the other length of wall, so perhaps more pictures soon, build permisions or no.

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Adult RolePlay 2012

For those interested in more mature and adult-oriented roleplay groups on the Grid, Nikira Naimarc has a chance for residents to find one or get the word out about theirs. She is organizing the "Adult Role Play 2012," an inworld convention "to provide an exhibition/conference for the large community of adult roleplayers in Second Life."

In a press-release notecard, Nikira explained she got the idea while going about the Second Life Ninth Birthday event, "The idea for the "Adult Roleplay 2012" was born. A meeting with fair, lectures, discussions and also chill out in parties. The fair is designed to serve and inform our community without any profits for us, the organizers. Our aim is a non or only a low cost participation for the exhibitors." There would be a forum for presentations and discussions on the topics of role-plays, and a party area either for exhibitors events or for "come together parties." The date planned for the event is November 2012, for "about 7 to 10 days."

Talking to Nikira, she expressed hope that the inworld con would be attended by a variety of role-play groups from across Second Life. Besides the Gorean role-plays, she hoped the event would attract those with modern urban and historical settings, in addition to bondage groups. She also planned for store areas for content creators to sell their wares, "RP equipment, clothes, weapons … swords as (an) example."

Nikira did say this wouldn't be like a real-life con, but "its a fair, where all kinds of RPs can be offered. … like a sex fair in real life … It will be a Adult sim, so only adults can go to the fair." Of how much, or how little, people could wear, she explained that it wasn't expected for people to dress any differently here than elsewhere in public, "It's not a RP. If someone wants to come naked, we won't ban him, but it's not standard."

For more information about the convention, one can contact Nikira Naimarc via IM or notecard, or drop by her "inforcenter" in Seedy City at Mystical Darkwood (158, 24, 23).

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, September 10, 2012

Game Review: Herzog Zwei and Airmech

When gamers think of good real time strategy games computer games like StarCraft or Warcraft 2 or perhaps other various games come to mind. Many people think of Dune 2 as one of the first strategy games, but there’s another game that’s vague but still an excellent first game for a strategy game against your friend or a computer AI.
When Sega Genesis came out, everyone thought of arcade games like Altered Beast and Golden Axe. One of the lesser known games is Herzog Zwei created by Technosoft. My brother and I in real life played this game like crazy and we had the saying “Look at your base power”! It plays like a strategy game where you manage resources to buy and build units to destroy the opposing player. What makes Herzog Zwei different though is that you control a plane that picks up your units like tanks and stationary cannons. Also this plane can blast enemy units and the other player with a gun in air or on the ground. You’re not invincible though take enough hits and you die to respawn at your main base after a short period of time. The main goal of Herzog Zwei is to destroy not the opposing player’s plane/robot. But instead to destroy the player’s main base through your units attacking it.
To gain resources you gain to buy units come from what me and brother called “mini bases”. You capture a mini base by sending four infantry with a command “Capture mini base”. Infantry have lousy hit points so it’s best to deliver the infantry yourself to the mini base. You can see how many infantry are in the mini base by dots shown on the mini base. When it reaches four in your color you gain control of the base. The two colors are an orange and dark blue. Don’t get lazy though just because you gain control of a mini base doesn’t mean the other player can’t capture it.
Your main base and mini bases allow you to build and pick up units recharge your plane’s ammo and fuel and hit points. The same goes for units if you are carrying one of your tanks they get recharged too. Mini bases also give you more resources to buy units. When you order a unit it takes a set amount of time for it to be built. You’ll see a signal when it’s ready.
You also assign commands to your troops. One was called the dizzy command where your unit went in a circle. The other commands were capture mini base or attack main base. When you think you have enough firepower start sending your tanks, motorcycles etc. to attack the other’s player’s main base. Commands for your units cost resources too.
Once you destroy the enemy’s main base you win! The focus of the game is balancing capturing and keeping control of mini bases and attacking the other player’s main base. No mini bases means you barely get any resources to fund your army. So get control of those ASAP.
Airmech made by Carbon Games follows the same game style you control the same jetplane and order units. However there are enough differences from the original that Airmech is a whole new game by itself.For example you can pick different planes like a flying saucer that allows you to gain control of enemy units when you float over them. Eventually they change to your color and it’s yours as if you built it in the first place. Also a cargo plane can heal your own units. Many actions during the game give you experience. Each level you gain gives you a skill point that you can use to give yourself more firepower or higher armor, each plane is different.
Also in Herzog Zwei you could only order and build one unit at a time. In Airmech you have a build list and can order up to five at once. If the units are small enough infantry for example you can carry three at a time. Instead of being stuck with the same units from Herzog Zwei, players have the option to customize your army from tanks to HUGE tanks to probes that are very fast that can capture mini bases or cannons or as my brother and I called them “grims” From Herzog Zwei when the cannons had a skull on top.
The game is original and addicting. Gameplay is rewarded with experience and kudos and using kudos you can buy the right to use certain units and pilots. The flying saucer I bought with kudos wanting to brainwash enemy units and let them go their merry way on their command against the enemy.
How do you play Airmech? It’s pretty easy get an email account from Google and go to the game store and "buy" Airmech. It’s free to play. It’s possible to play against human players in Airmech but beware it tends to lag. There’s a tutorial to get you used to the game play. So even if you never played a strategy game or Herzog Zwei, you’ll get used to it.
When you feel like trying out something new and you’re not in the mood for Second Life upload Airmech and give it a shot. You might even yell out “Look at your base power!”
Grease Coakes

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Zynga and "The Sims Social"

Most anyone who has a computer has been on or at least heard about Facebook. The website where you connect with friends online or locally around your geographical area. Besides keeping in touch with your friends by posting on their walls, there are lots of mini games to get involved in like Farmville or Mafia Wars. There’s no real end to these games, or goals as you keep gaining levels in any of the Zynga games. The games are just a way to connect with friends and end up eating up a lot of your free time.
Right now EA is suing Zynga for violating copyright laws for ripping off their popular game, The Sims and making their own version “The Ville.” Playing the original sims when it first came out, I had a good idea what to expect from the sims. “The Sims Social” made by EA is their Facebook version of their very own Sims. Like the Sims series, you create your own person and interact with people throughout the Facebook network with various requests for more energy or items to complete sets of items. You use energy to do actions like the Sims like being social with your neighbor or eating some pie. Also you get to pick out clothes and a characteristic for your sim. I picked out a charming personality. Just like original Sims you have to keep an eye on the needs gauges making sure your sim makes it to the bathroom and gets enough sleep.

Playing The Ville seemed very much like playing EA’s the social Sims. You do the same actions and the ville offered the same personality types and similar clothes and goals. It seemed confusing whether I was playing either EA’s “The Sims Social” or Zynga’s “The Ville.” The Sims animations when talking to other Sims seemed identical. Also the gag of your sim eating a tiny or big bite from the pie is in both versions. When you sim has a tiny bite, he or she shrinks. A big bite will make your character bigger. The music also seems the same the easy breezy music style of the Sims as the game loads up seems identical when you play Zynga’s version. 
It seems very clear that Zynga wanted to ride the popularity of the widely successful Sims from EA and create their own version. My question was it worth it for Zynga to carbon copy the Sims and put themselves in a bad position to be sued? Zynga already has popular games like Farmville on Facebook and many others. Seemed like an unnecessary risk to take over a single game.
I wonder how the lawsuit will turn out? Zynga’s future seems cloudy now when before it had a strong standing with Facebook making endless games that tend to be addictive. Sometimes you have to leave a classic idea alone and move on to make your own classics hopefully Zynga will learn that lesson.
For more information, check out the article from CNN
Grease Coakes

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Resident Looks Back at City of Heroes

For fans of the Superhero MMO "City of Heroes," there was some sad news recently. Paragon Studios, the makers of the game, announced their company, NCsoft, had decided to close them down. A short article in Massively stated the reasons were "realignment of company focus and publishing support."

To our Community, Thank you. Thank you for your years of support. You've been with us every step of the way, sharing in our challenges, encouraging us to make City of Heroes better, more than everyone else thought it could be. We couldn't have come this far without you. I implore you all, focus on the good things of CoH and Paragon Studios. Don't dwell on the "how" or the "why", but rather join us in celebrating the legacy of an amazing partnership between the players and the development team. 

Among the players of the game was Second Life resident Alexandra "Lexi" Tymets, also known as "DJ Sexy Lexi." She had a few things to say about her time at Paragon City. Of her characters, "I had a bunch actutally. Over the years I've played both sides, hero and villain. Have maxed out characters on both. ... CoH was really fun. You get to feel heroic as your little super hero,or super villian, (who) beats, blasts, or sends summoned creations after your enemies. It's really fun when you get a group, and you've got an Area of Effect Attack, like my Water Blast/Dark Miasma Corrupter did. She'd drop an AoE Debuff then slam the enemies with AoE attacks. There's nothing like watching a horde of enemies just fall over at once."

Of the gameplay, "Well you of course fought enemies, starting from street thugs, who will come at you with guns and baseball bats, and work your way up the villain chain. There were trainers you would see so you could level up your heroes powers. You chose two sets, which depended on your archtype. Like Corrupters, which was a Villain archtype, got to chose a ranged attack, and a ranged support set. ... As you got higher in levels, you'd face things that could throw nasty powers right back at you."

Describing the quests, "In the early days the quests were pretty repetitve, though they did give you some story to link them to help out. Go here... smack that around. Come talk to me again, typical MMO fare. As the game progressed they created new parts of the city with their own enveloping story. You could stay in one zone... and do the arcs from different contacts there, and it would all be all one continuing story as you worked your way to whatever was menacing that zone. That's really when City of Heroes got it's own flavor, and really started to shine.

"There was a zone called Croatoa. It dealt with Fae and supernatural things. Witches, Redcaps, Werewolves, Ghosts, and Plant monsters with Jack 'o lanterns for heads. It inspired me to make more than one character with roots in magic or connections to the Fae. There was even a Nessie-like monster in the lake called Sally."

"My Storm/Elec Defender ... I remade her as an Ice/Storm Corrupter. She's level 32, and still hasn't gotten her first debt badge. She still exists. When the Servers Close down on Nov 30th, I'll be on her, standing next to Miss Liberty. Probably bawling my little mousie eyes out."

As to why the game was closing, "Rumors run from. 'NCSoft is a bunch of asshats,' to 'They wanted to cut CoH and Paragon before it went into the red,' and 'They couldn't renew the CoH License.' "

"I've been with City of Heroes, on and off admittedly, since Issue 1. They're in Issue 23 right now, and were gearing to Issue 24. I played for 5 years. It was the best Super Hero MMO they ever released, and it pains me to see it go. I've cried twice now, all the friends I made, all the stories I told with my characters, and some that were just beginning to tell their stories. It was an amazing run, and I thank Paragon Studios for the years they put into it. The Love, the devotion, and the time. No other MMO I've ever played had that sense of family."

Lexi wasn't the only resident whom played the game. Ranchen Weidman explained she did too, "CoH was fun, still is. But I doubt I'll be playing any more of it (now) that it's closing."

Top image from 

Bixyl Shuftan

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Minecraft: Scenes from Angels' Village

Last month, I wrote a little about the place in Minecraft for my virtual neighbors: Angels' Village. A few weeks later, for the Sunweavers/Angels' Estates residents looking for a short break from Second Life, the place is still getting traffic, and being worked on.

 Seeing an entrance to underground while looking just outside the walls, I went in and came across this: an underground arena.

The place had quite a bit of detail, and must've taken quite some time to build. Whomever did it was most likely expecting few others to see it, let alone getting images of it publicized.

While down there, I found this snow golem moving about, one with a jack o' lantern head.  Guess one can call it the "Headless Snowman."

Not sure who did this: a tiny cage with a piggy inside, with torches on all sides. The porker was franticaly twisting and turning, as if trying to break out of it's prison that was slowly roasting it alive. Cruel, but creative.

Back on the surface, I found this roaming the village. I thought someone had created some kind of flesh golem, but looking it up, I found it's a zombie pigman. Not hostile unless attacked, they're almost always found in the Nether, or near a Nether portal. While they can be created when lightning strikes near a pig, it's supposedly very rare.

Around the village, players are making builds of their own. One was a smaller village of sand, which I forgot to get pictures of. Another was some kind of enclosure with a three story building with glass windows, and a flaming front gate, making it visible from a long distance away. Inside were a number of cows. They were probably being used just for milk, but that gate, I kept thinking "Burger King."

And this certainly took some creativity, as well as lots of work. This highway in the sky leads to who-knows-where beyond the horizon, accessible by ladder from a ground station. I haven't used it, yet. Something to do next time.

And that's it for now from Angels' Village in Minecraft. A place to go and build for my neighbors when they're not in Second Life.

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, August 24, 2012

Facebook Game Review: Campaign Story

One computer game I remember from my youth was "President Elect," which allowed the player to take on the role of a political candidate for the White House. Since then, election games have continued to come up every four years, though I never did buy another. Recently, one came out for Facebook: "Campaign Story," billed as "the first political Facebook game where you run your own political campaign." It is made by Five One Nine Games.

The selling point of the game is the chance to run for office with the option of "Play Clean or Play Dirty." Indeed when your candidate starts his/her first election, you're greeted by a pol from your party whom expresses hope you'll be a refreshing change from the politician you're up against who's known for his dirty tricks.

Starting out, you're given a selection of several appearances to choose from, male and female. You're also asked your candidate's name, the symbol he/she will be using (Democrat, Republican, or one of several others), and the slogan. You'll also be asked if you'll be playing as a liberal, conservative, or moderate, though I have yet to see how this affects gameplay.

Your first election is one for mayor of a city. You're given some guidance for the first several moves. The map shows your appeal in various places, from welcoming to hostile. Canvassers from your staff can be placed on the map to speak directly to the people about your candidate and make some gains in the polls. Fundraisers can be placed to raise money.

The news board shows events that have an effect on the election, such as reports of declining industry or rising crime rates, as well as statements (lies) by your opponent against you. By spending Influence points, you can act on an issue. You can then have your staff promote your efforts for votes. But your opponent will usually make some response, more often than not by using cheap shots. You can respond by either defending your move, or by going negative yourself. Positive moves are shown as white angel wings while attacks are shown as red devil horns.

Different staff have different roles. Press Secretaries issue press releases and hold press conferences. Researchers dig up facts and figures to fight off attacks from your opponent, or dig up dirt for attacks of your own. Speech writers can help make  your candidate sound more intelligent on issues. Image consultants can help polish an image after an opponents smear campaign, or set up photo-ops to promote your candidate.

Gameplay has your candidate starting out low in the polls, with your actions making the numbers swing to your favor. Once your approval rating reaches 51%, the game declares you the winner on election day. Following your victory as mayor, your next campaign is for state senate. This election is a bit more detailed, taking place across four maps, and four regions of news issues and opponent's responses. As you win, you'll go up the political ladder, with elections for Governor, US Senator, and eventually the Presidency.

Campaign Story is a new game to Facebook, launched only last week, so there may be some changes to it as time goes on. As the real-life election makes the news, it's an interesting way to make gamers think a little about what goes on in winning races in the real world, and what it takes.

Unlike certain Facebook games, it doesn't ask to make posts to your friends (yet). So Facebook has done what to some would seem impossible: make politics a subject less annoying than many others, at least with games.

Bixyl Shuftan