A fashion is nothing but an induced epidemic. ~ George Bernard Shaw
The other day, after enduring an eight hour power outage (thanks, Debby) and multiple smaller outages, I checked my email and noticed I had an offline from Grace.
Grace McDunnough has offered you ‘Charmed Breedable Fashions SHOES’ in Second Life. Log in to accept or decline the offer.
Grace McDunnough: Cannot make this stuff up!
My initial reaction was pretty much the same as the one you’re probably having and it involved use of the phrase “shut the fuck up” repeated over and over again. It would be silly to say I was offended, but the concept struck me as opportunistic and hinky. Anyone who reads my blog knows my SL fashion/shopping chops and may remember the two articles I did addressing the money to be made in breedables. The concept seemed less game or fashion and more…profiteering.
Being me, I immediately fired off an IM to the contact on the notecard, one Sebastian007 Viper.And yes, I thought exactly what you’re thinking when I saw that user name, too.
It turns out that Mr Viper is a very personable Texan who invited me over to Charmed Breedables HQ for a brief interview. We had a pleasant conversation where I asked many questions and he answered all the ones he could without giving away anything the company isn’t prepared to announce yet. There was no attempt to obscure or avoid, which I found refreshing after dealing with previous breedable companies. Based on first impressions, I have to say my initial reaction to the idea was — if not reversed — at least shuffled to a far more open minded corner of my noodle.
I was tickled to discover there is actually a lore involved with the Charmed Breedable concept. My first thought about a fashion-based breedable was “what do you feed them…fabric softener?” (or Woolite, a friend suggested). But the premise of the breedable game turns out to be somewhat Disneyesque. As a player, you are a prince or princess with an enchanted closet and a magic mirror that help you to care for little fashion wearables. When kept happy, these fashions create/attract other fashions. And if “Be Our Guest” just started playing in your head that is not my fault. I’m unclear if the lore will get much more involved beyond that, but really, it doesn’t take much lore for a crafting game. Even tower defense games can usually be boiled down to something like “keep the zombies from getting into your house and eating your brains” more or less, so crafting games don’t necessarily need heavy lore. I thought it was fun that they’d been able to come up with a lore for breedables based on clothing at all, and appreciated the effort.
Their first clothing-based breeding will start with shoes (for obvious reasons) but it’s my understanding they will also be offering other clothing / accessory items as the game progresses. Apparently the moment of spark for the idea came when Sebastian’s RL/SL partner (they met in SL; carried it over to RL) was looking over his breedable horses in the bewilderment many of us feel with the popularity of the things and commented that the only thing she’d be interested in breeding would be shoes.
For the record, I fully understand the sentiment.
I did not get to see any of the in-progress fashions that will be used for the actual game. The posh, private HQ office featured RL photos of designer shoes (Manolo, Choo, Louboutin, etc) around a meeting table that implied they were considered in the creative process. Sebastian was very clear that they intended their shoes to be competitive in quality with the best names in SL fashion (Maitreya, SLink, etc). Although some of the initial offerings will be sculpted, they are planning to go full mesh within the year (assuming the majority of the SL population continues to transition to mesh viewers). There will be prim foot offerings and non prim foot offerings as well as male and female products. The intention was for the shoes and clothing to be a high water mark of fashion and not just items that were good enough to get people interested in the game. I applaud the intentions and I’m all for more yummy shoes, but I’m afraid I’ll have to reserve my picky prat judgement until I see some of the actual products…erm…offspring.
For business reasons much of the game detail is being held back for the time being and I can’t fault that. Until it gets closer to launch, you don’t necessarily want to give away the guts of your product. Sebastian has been involved in SL breedables as a player for a long time and he expressed an understanding of player concerns. Integrity and quality were mentioned repeatedly along with fairness and fun. He did say that people would be able to focus on the things they like, so if you’re a guy who likes boots, you can focus on boots; if you’re a girl who likes kitten heels, you can focus on those.
There will be some sort of recurring payment system, and it seemed like they were still hammering out the details of the model. Obviously, creators will have to be fairly compensated and databases have to be maintained, etc and a profit has to be made somewhere along the way. The magic mirror in each enchanted closet will need to be powered (fed) but if that would be the result of a flat fee or a food-based unit system wasn’t immediately clear.
One aspect I liked was that the shoes on display in the enchanted closets would be low prim representations (or well done textures like you would find in a store display), with the shoes you wear being the full prim versions. This should keep in-play prim counts and scripts down, which is a win for players and sim owners.
Lastly, I asked about one of things where most other breedables fail — customer service. Having been a customer and player himself, Sebastian said he was eager to keep the need for customer service at a minimum while making certain help was there as needed. Again, the proof will be in the pudding, but it’s nice to hear someone putting forth customer service as a priority from the start.
What I did get a look at was some of the enchanted closets (three of which were on display at SLB). The game closets are more or less like small one-room skyboxes that are designed to need only a 512 to park on. They can range from 50 to 100 prims and had the usual compromises you would find in low prim designs. There were multiple offerings for everything from vampire boudoir to art deco salon to gentleman’s study. The closets were big enough to sit and play with the game, but not so big that they would take up too much residence space on a parcel. They would also serve as handy backdrops for blog photos.
Sebastian confirmed that there would be support items when I asked about them, which I was disappointed to hear. Boost items are one of the hardest things to balance in most of the breedables I’ve looked at and they are generally where most players’ pockets get picked by the creators. Still, they are a staple of this type of game play and it was repeated to me that the game was going to be as balanced and fair as possible. Being a player, Sebastian expressed that he understood where players get discouraged from boost items being abused, and seemed to be focused on making sure that didn’t happen here. I am skeptical this model can support that, but the intentions seem, again, to be in the right place, so time will do the telling.
Because I could see a third market arising out of this situation (especially if the fashions are desirable enough for the fashionista sect to take notice) I asked a number of follow up questions about how the wearable versions would be acquired from the in-play breeding displays. What seems to be the case is that the display can be in-play for breeding until the owner chooses to request wearable item(s). So, if you breed a cute pair of shoes you can continue to breed them with the display unit, or you can opt to trade in the display unit for a wearable version. Once the wearable trade in is complete, there’s no going back. These wearables will then be transfer/no copy. So, a very rare item that was in fashion demand could fetch quite a sum on the third market, potentially.
I am not sure how I feel about this concept. I do not question the validity of the idea, nor can I deny my own curiosity at seeing how it plays out. Many designers in the past have claimed limited editions and unique products in order to hike prices, but in terms of virtual goods those types of things are largely meaningless. But the way most breedables work, something is rare or unique for only so long and then everyone tries to breed that “in demand” trait out. A person can pay big money for something one week, only to have the item be worth much less a week later. In terms of breedables that is the appeal for many of the players — the gambling element. But as a consumer just wanting a pair of cute pumps, I don’t like the idea of paying a high dollar fee for something “rare” that everyone will have a week later for far cheaper. Yes, I know that no one is forcing anyone to buy anything, etc, but it seems to me I’d want to have more information about how long something rare will likely stay rare before deciding whether or not to buy. Assuming this project offers quality goods, I will be very interested to see how this part of the game evolves and entwines with the fashion markets.
One interesting little gimmick associated with the game will be the awarding of a pair of designer shoes to any player that breeds out a pair of “Glass Slippers.” And when I asked about designers, Sebastian did not hesitate to clarify he was referring to names like Manolo, Choo, Louboutin, etc. The winning player will have to provide their real name, mailing address and, one expects, shoe size, but that is optional and need only be provided if they wish to claim the prize. It has always been my belief that 95% of the “fashionistas” in SL have never owned a designer anything, so I think this will be a unique point of interest. I’m not sure if it will boost the game, but I think this particular form of epic loots is an interesting move.
All in all, I will be adopting a wait-and-see attitude. I’m not sure I’ll play the game — largely because so far I’m not all that into the breedable format. But I can see buying a pair I really like from someone who has bred them — and that would be, one suspects – a motivation for breeders. It will all come down to the quality of the fashions.
But I play to keep my eye on this project and see what…hatches.
If you wish to learn more about Charmed Breedable Fashions, I suggest joining the in-world group where announcements regarding release dates and beta testers will be announced as the project evolves.