Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Any of you who are frequent readers (which isn't many of you, judging by the allmighty Analytics) may have noticed the ever-changing look of the blog. For a while I got kind of fussy over its appearance and bit off more than I could chew. The end result was a fugly template with borked code and a frustrated blogger. So, I've returned to a basic little default template. Is it fancy looking? Not really, no. Does it allow people to actually read the blog without seeing template vomit? Yes!

Simplicity, what a concept.

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Let the Music Move You

Music and Storytelling have always been deeply intertwined, so it should come as no surprise that music can be a great asset to both the creative writer and conceptual artist. Here's a couple techniques I've found useful when looking for inspiration.

The Character Playlist:
Whether you are creating a character for film, comics, animation, or just plain prose, understanding the ins and outs of their personality is crucial. Sometimes attempting to craft a personality out of whole cloth can be somewhat intimidating, especially if the character is a complex one with conflicting motives and desires. This is a trick that will help root out those complex feelings and brainstorm potential plot directions. Its actually ridiculously simple: Create a musical playlist for the character in question. I know it sounds odd and borderline obsessive, but it works. Now when I say make a playlist for them , I don't mean music that they would listen to. Rather, select a group of songs that embodies the characters essence. It helps to have a eclectic taste in music, although it is possible for a character to reside completely in a single genre. Additionally, avoid the temptation to make all the music about the same feeling/aspect. The goal is to create a complex, interesting character, which generally means they have more than one aspect or emotion. If you're getting stuck, start thinking about what the character thinks about other characters or events in the story. Think about their subconscious desires, what do they really need? You can go even further and make several playlists for the beginning and end states of the character. How has the character grown/changed? Remember, the song lyrics don't have to mirror everything about the character, what's important is the feelings it imparts and the bits of the song which stick out at you as resonating with the character. Pandora can be a great tool for this, because it can give you unexpected suggestions, which may give you a stroke of insight.

The Album Concept:
This is a trick for coming up with a concept based off of a whole album. While I use the example of a full world or setting, it could just as easily be used for developing any concept. The idea behind this is that a album is generally a complete set of musical thoughts laid out by the musician. By listening to the album repeatedly and iteratively building your concept from the experiece, you can craft a concept that is personal and moving. Find a full album of music that you can tolerate listening to several times. Ideally, it should be a genre with the general overall mood you wish to convey with the concept. Get yourself set up in a comfy spot with a notepad, and listen to the whole album. In the case of classical music, sometimes its better just to use a complete suite instead of a album, the point is to listen to a full musical thought. As you listen, close your eyes and begin to visualize the world the music evokes to you. When you have a idea, jot it down along with a track title or name. Try to listen through the whole album, writing down notes and refining your vision. Once you're done, take a break. Let the ideas you've thought up sit and marinate in your head. Come back later and sit down again with your notes and a medium of your choice. If you're writing, use another piece of notepaper. Visual concepts should be done on a sketchpad, with a sketching implement of choice. Personally, I find it useful to use a ball point pen for rough sketching, because it removes the temptation to erase a "young" idea. Listen to the album again, keeping your original ideas in mind. This time begin to capture specific imagery. Once you're done, take a break again. Repeat this process a few more times until you're sure about your concept. At this point you can continue to develop it without the music. You can always come back and listen to specific songs as a reminder of certain aspects. Great free resources for this are Jamendo and Magnatune. Both allow free listening of full-length albums in a wide variety of genres.

Hopefully you'll find these techniques useful. Just remember, these are tools, not rules. Feel free to explore your own methods of exploration and inspiration. Additionally, if you create anything cool using these techniques and feel like sharing, please do!

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Monday, August 17, 2009

(Virtual) World Domination Pointers

Alright I've got a serious bee in my bonnet, so please excuse the bluntness. I've been sitting on some of these ideas for far too long. These are some ideas for projects of business ventures in/for the Metaverse. The ones that interest me after this posting might get a more fleshed out dedicated post. Feel free to do whatever you will with these.

SimpleViewer: A Beginner-Friendly Metaverse Viewer
Please, for the love of the FSM, somebody do this. It boggles my mind that despite the myriad of development work being done across the OS viewer scene, all of the development work has only made viewers more complex and feature heavy. If we want the Metaverse or SL to really attract more than the hardcores, we can't keep up like this. Its like giving a industrial-grade metal smelter to a kid who just wanted a EZBake oven. Beginning users don't need or want a lot of power or fancy functionality, they just want to be able to log in and interact with the world without wrestling with cluttered menus and counterintuitive interfaces. Please, someone take Hippo and strip it down to its chasis. Then design a easy, intiutive user interface that won't make granny want to put her fist through the computer. The world will thank you.

MetaJobs: A Job Board for Metaverse Workers
Can somebody please answer me why the Metaverse doesn't have a unified job board? No, XStreetSL's employment section of their forums don't count. I'm talking about something meant to serve both SL and the Opensims. Content isn't quite portable yet, but talent sure is. Anyone who's searched for a job in SL knows what a goosechase that is. Making a one-stop web-shop for all things employment would be a big boon for both potential employees AND employers. It would be pretty easy. So easy it could be done with a PHPbb and a domain name. Yes it could and should be more intricate than that, but its really all you would need to start. I have a hard time believing theres no one out there who doesn't see the money potential.

Convoy: A Secure Marketplace for Pan-Metaverse Commerce
So I just said that content isn't portable between grids yet. That's not completely true, but for the majority of normal Metaverse users its the reality. The truth is the functionality to import/export conent exists. What's missing is the system of trust between content makers and grid operators to allow people to buy things in one grid and move with them to another. This creates a giant mess. So what if a company stepped in with a XStreetSL style marketplace, and a dedication to absolute security? Content creators, trusting the market to not sell to unsafe grids, upload their content to the market and put it on sale. The company accepts applications from grids to gain delivery access to the grid. The company verifies they are running a content-safe server code and enters into a contract with the grid to deliver goods to the grid so long as the server remains kosher. Once verified as safe, customers from that grid can buy from the Marketplace and have the purchased content delivered to their account on their grid. The company could make money any number of ways, including delivery charges, listing upgrades, and other services. Just remember the company's number one service is the trusted bridge it provides for content creaators and grid owners.

I'm sure I have other ideas I've spaced on. I'll write about them later.

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Destroy Perfectionism

Ok, so what was supposed to be a few days break turned into something a lot longer. I'm not going to cry to you about how I'm sorry, and how I'll do a better job in the future. If you've read more than this post you'll see that I've gone down that road before. Instead, I'm going to accept the fact that I suck at keeping a regular blogging schedule. What made me stop last time was trying to make myself look like something I'm not yet, and then getting intimidated by the expectations I placed on myself. To Hell with that.
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