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Archive for November, 2011

I received the 3D prints of my Druid Signet ring, the Druid Glyph ring and my set of Gearpunk dice.  Shapeways does good work… though it looks like I need to do a little still with the D24 to make it read cleanly.  (So to the one person so far who has ordered the ten die set, I’m sorry!  Please contact me via the contact info up there on the About tab, and once I get this D24 model all happy again, I’ll print out another one and send it to you.  It’s not really Shapeways at fault here, I didn’t design the numbers well enough.)

It looks like I was aiming too small for the detail work, but overall, for custom 3D printing, these turned out really well.  Only a decade ago, this would have been absurdly expensive to do.  Now, for all three prints, it was around $50.  It’s not practical for big stuff, but for little cool widgets and wodgets, this is awesome.

Druid Rings Together

The big ring is size 10 and the small ring is size 6.  Bigger is better for detail work, apparently.

Druid Rings On Hand

Both of those are on my fat-fingered hand.  Note to self:  hands on the same person can vary in size somewhat… the ring almost got stuck on my right hand, but fit just perfectly on my left (it fit nearly as well as my wedding band; it’s quite comfortable).

Gearpunk Dice Set

Dice Size Comparison

I fully intend to dye the dice black and drybrush them with metallic paint to get the proper steampunk feel, but that will come later.

In the meantime, there’s also this little gem that I burned 12 hours on over the last few days.  A World of Keflings, now in Sculpey!  (Based on this promotional poster, direct from NinjaBee, my employers.)

A World of Keflings

Wire, armature wire and tinfoil armature on wood, 2 hours.  This is really the crucial part, because it’s the skeleton of your sculpture.  It needs to be solid (though you can fudge it a little bit with a thin layer of Sculpey you put on and then cook, then put on your detail layer) so you don’t have trouble with the structural integrity.  Like a figure drawing, you really need to nail down the proportions or else all the detail work in the world won’t help down the road.  (Notably, I should have made Doug’s arms longer so his face would be more visible, but once I got the clay on, it was too late.)

Kefling Armature

Tools of the sculpting trade, Super Sculpey and a pair of simple plastic tools.  Yes, this is really all I used beside my own two hands.  You can do a lot with simple tools if you’re careful.

Tools of the Trade

Base and some detailing, 3.5 more hours.  Most applications of the Sculpey are 1/4″ or less.  Thinner layers bake better and faster, and are lighter so the armature doesn’t get overloaded.

Getting Started

Finished product, 6.5 more hours, plus cooking.  45 minutes at 200F, standard electric stove, cooled for 1 hour before I took it out of the oven.

They Probably Don't Need Their Winter Coats

Hero pose!

Grand total, 13 hours or so.  Totally worth it.  Maybe someday I’ll paint it with acrylic paints, but for today, I’m happy with it in this “raw” state.  There’s a certain appeal to the basic sculpture.

In The Soft Daylight

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OK, so apparently, World of Warcraft is supposed to be angling to be more warlike, pitting the Alliance and the Horde against each other as in days of yore.  Actions have been taken by both sides that are somewhat less than tolerant and neighborly, leading to something resembling hate.  Faction pride rests largely on putting the other guys down, and as Raph Koster notes (among other things in this interesting presentation), the service business model (live games, whether subscription or microtransaction) relies heavily on emotional attachment.

On the other hand, there’s this Corpsegrinder fellow, no doubt his moniker of choice indicating his civility and kindness, caught in a recording embodying an attitude we might see as somewhat less than tolerant and neighborly, fracturing the WoW community.  The reaction has predictably been… hostile.

I don’t really intend to speak to the political or social concerns with Corpsegrindergate, other than to note that I think the guy isn’t someone I’d invite to my home.  No, what interests me at the moment is the juxtaposition between the efforts to foster war and division within the game, and the bitter divides that arise out of the game.  How curious it is that hate might be said to drive both (and there’s plenty of hate and anger to go around… Mr. Ranty McGrumpypants Corpsegrinder isn’t the only fellow who needed a nap), yet the former is somehow desirable while the latter isn’t, as if hating someone because they were part of the Alliance or the Horde is somehow less prejudiced than real world bigotry.  (And if we’re going to run the “it’s just a game” excuse, that cuts both ways.)  It’s so easy to demonize the Other… but it’s not paying attention to what’s really there.

I tend to think that driving faction pride and rage-fueled PvP isn’t wise for the community at large.  BBB and his commenters note occasions where die hard Horde players are civil around Alliance players (and why are Hordies assumed to be ruder in general?), so I’m not asserting a full correlation (thankfully)… but I do think that the faction split should be framed more as competition than contention.  There are plenty of threats to Azeroth and its denizens that we don’t need to manufacture internecine warfare.  It’s no longer us as a single player pitting our RTS armies against a computer, those Hordies or Alliance grunts are piloted by real people who have a tendency to take offense, whether intended or not.

Some players will always take things personally, and some jerks are simply jerks.  Some people are incurably ignorant.  Few will conflate real life with the game… but hatred leaves its prints on attitudes and learned behavior, no matter the venue.  It’s a burden on the soul that weighs in at the most inopportune moments.  Yes, drama and games tend to be based on conflict of some sort, someone winning while someone else loses, but the attitudes behind that drive can vary.  It’s always interesting to me to see how devs try to mold player actions and attitudes.

Hate is a powerful, driving force.  It’s also a potentially hazardous thing to use to fuel your game.  Competition and contention aren’t the same thing.  Much like it’s silly to piddle around with various poop harvesting quests while Deathwing is in the wings, Azerothians have better things to do than engage in a deadly version of “he said, she said”.  If we’re supposed to be heroes in Azeroth, petty squabbling isn’t going to help.

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My kindergarden daughter is improving her reading abilities in leaps and bounds.  One of the interesting things that she started doing on her own is to read a sentence backwards.  She can read it perfectly well forwards, but she reads backwards on occasion more to really get a good look at the words than anything else.  I’m not sure why she started that, but I told her it was a great idea.  (She might have picked up on the quirk I have of reading perfectly fine upside down or sideways when I’m holding a book so that the kids can see it, even if it’s off kilter for me.)

In high school, my art teacher had us take an illustration of a human, flip it upside down, and replicate it as faithfully as we could.  This was her way to train us to draw what we saw, not what we thought we saw.  Flipping the source short-circuited our tendency to just draw what we thought we needed to draw.  The shapes were unfamiliar enough (though familiar, which made for a curious mental perception loop) that we resorted to drawing shapes and hoping we got them perfect enough that they would fit together correctly when we turned them right side up.

Y’see, whether in art or in reading, we tend to think ahead a little bit and anticipate what we’re going to be doing next… and sometimes, we anticipate incorrectly.  We know that a human eye looks like this, our own mental visual shorthand for what an eye should look like (it’s worth noting that everyone has a different mental image).  We’ve seen so many of them over the years that we just assume that we know exactly what we’re doing.  And yet, everyone’s eyes are different.  Everyone’s features are a little quirky.  The vast majority of people don’t even have a perfectly symmetrical face, but since we know that human faces are symmetrical for the most part, we tend to miss the subtler details of the individual.  This is true when it comes to race or age as well; if we know that a fellow with dark skin has thicker lips and a broader forehead, or a Middle Easterner has an aquiline nose, or an older Asian lady has hooded eyes, we may well ignore what we actually see.  Caricatures play strongly to the cliches, largely because that’s what people expect… even if it’s not accurate for the subject at hand.

When someone reads “Rudolph the Red…” they almost reflexively put in “Nosed Reindeer”, no matter what is actually on the page.  When we read “Democrat” or “Republican”, “liberal” or “conservative”, “religious” or “atheist”, “Christian” or “Muslim”, “male” or “female”, our learned mental patterns fill in the gaps and anticipate what comes next.  We know that those (x) are evil corporatist pigs, or that those protesters are unwashed hippies who live in their divorced mum’s basement.  We know that those religious guys are hypocrites, or that rich people cheated the system somehow.  Our brains shut off once we have the sketchy outline, and we fill in the gaps the way we always know they get filled.  It’s obvious, so there’s no reason to actually pay attention.  Why swim upstream against the meme when it’s more efficient to go with the flow?

We know something… that ultimately turns out to be untrue.  This, not because we are wrong to try to anticipate, which is useful, and not because we are uneducated, for we are all very familiar with the human face and common communication patterns… no, we are wrong because we assume instead of observe, we label instead of listen.  We jump ahead to the response instead of reading what’s on the page, we formulate counterarguments and questions instead of listening to what’s being presented.

It’s a survival tactic.  It keeps us from thinking too much, from wasting time.  Assumptions and prejudice help us function in the absence of perfect knowledge and incomplete comprehension and the lack of will or time.

And yet, sometimes… if we miss what is actually in front of us, we make mistakes.

Authors, artists and game designers tend to take advantage of this, and some consumers love the “twist” to stories and art as well.  Humans are very good with patterns, and creative sorts love to tweak those expectations.  Less innocuously, so do media moguls and politicians.  If there are no details presented, or if the patterns might suggest something that doesn’t quite represent reality, well, we’ll just leave that up to the individual, hm?  Certainly the audience can make up their own minds, right?

Allusions, aspersions, assumptions… very useful tools, in the right hands.  Stage magic is all about tricking the natural anticipation and pattern recognition systems of the audience, even if they have to establish a pattern that they then subvert, rather than relying on an existing framework of assumptions.  It’s the old shell game philosophy; establish a pattern, add a little razzle dazzle and sleight of hand, and the mark’s own brain does the bulk of the trickery for you.  Classic Inception-style mental Judo.

So it’s interesting to me that in a world that sometimes seems upside down and backwards, the best solution can often be to look at it upside down and backwards.  Maybe you had it right the first time after all, but taking the time to really look at what you see, really listen to what you hear, and really comprehend what you read, well… that can make a world of difference.  Sometimes we have to look beyond the things we know into the things we really should be learning about.

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