Kitty Quicky- What is this feline sorcery?

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Now here’s a thing; recall a blog post back in June that I posted about the STRAY CATS? I decided to indulge and got myself a male and a female just for shiz and giggles. If you remember at one point I was a total virtual critter addict, but I weaned myself off the habit and saved myself a small fortune in the process. However, because these cats are the descendants of the WILDWOOD BREEDABLES that I so loved I felt I had to give them a try, just for nostalgia.   I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect much but here’s the thing, these cats are actually TONS of fun, and I really do mean that!  For a start, they have some kind of mad cat voodoo that means they genuinely do seem to interact with you.  When I rez into my skybox they tend to amble over to greet me, or plonk themselves right in the middle of what I am doing, just like real cats. It was actually unnerving the first time that they did it; now I just accept it as being a quirk of virtual cat ownership. By their doing this they’ve provided me with some stellar cat moments; case in point when I rezzed in earlier and just started taking a few snaps.  Onion, my female, decided to join in…bathtime_006

.and then when I started to try different poses, my little black lad Mylo (named after my RL black lad, obvs) also decided to get in on the action, as the picture at the top of the page shows.   Nothing has been posed in any of these shots other than myself. It is totally bizarre, but incredibly cool.

STRAY CATS are fun cats; for example they have this mad animation where their ears go back and they run around in the mad half-hour style of a real life feline friend, and they flop around, curl up asleep and jump all over things too. But they have limitations, for example you can’t interact with them like you can KITTY CATS.  I have had quite a few kittens from this pair but I’m planning on just letting them breed out until they become perma-pets, but as it stands food for both of them isn’t expensive and they really do add something to my virtual abode.  They aren’t perfect, I wish we still had the old Wildwoods back because I still don’t like the ear shape (that point on the ear tip does nothing for me!) but in general I’m finding them to be a lot of fun, and that’s precisely what it’s all about.

Right, back to lounging around and taking pretty pictures for me, hopefully without any feline assistance this time! I just had to share this with you:)

Stray Cats: Have they got cat class, and have they got cat style?

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For a time I was well and truly bitten by the breedable bug in Second Life. You only have to scan the archives of this site for the evidence, along with my Flickr feed. It was a HUGE part of my virtual existence. I started with the OZIMALS Bunnies, then I went into breeding the ever-amazing KITTYCATS and then the AMARETTO Horses too.  I enjoyed it immensely and gained a lot of pleasure from breeding and selling at auction, making some Lindens to feed back into my burgeoning habit.  Unfortunately, I started to find myself seriously out of virtual pocket and after realising I had an addiction to the whole breedable gamut, I stopped.

The thing is, I miss it.  There’s nothing more exciting than mixing a couple of traited bunnies or cats and waiting in anticipation for those baskets to be delivered. I can recall the excitement that very nearly tipped me over the edge as my first ever bunny was born, and don’t even get me started on the Kittycats! For a time I curated a fabulous collection of stunning black cats, and when the market was thriving I even found time to blog bargains and beauties that I’d found during my time wasted wandering auction after auction. I was even an auctioneer for both horses and then cats, and then the moment was lost.  The bottom seemed to fall out of a vastly over-inflated market, and as is the way of Second Life the focus shifted onto the next big thing, and my breedable days were no more.

Out of all the breedables, I held a very special place in my heart (and still do) for the Wildwood Cats

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They launched in 2010 and looked utterly sensational.  I was lucky enough to beta-test them, as I had the Krazy Kitties before, but for me they were the first real quality breedable cat launch in-world and they had fantastic accessories, traits and a really authentic feel to them.  It was so hard not to fall in love with these amazing critters, and I was for a time obsessed. And then I wasn’t, and they melted into the background and the Wildwoods became sadly no more:(

Then a few years ago in 2013  I heard whispers that they were back in a new incarnation as ‘IMAGINALS‘.  The name was a poor reflection of the previous incarnation, and the website and the product were very different too. The basic ear shape had changed into something akin to Mr Spock on a very bad day, the pelt and eye textures weren’t as good (lacking the depth that they had before in my opinion) and in short they weren’t as nice as I recalled the Wildwoods to be.  Despite this, I treated myself to some but lost interest and gave up. They just weren’t the same. I sadly accepted that was that, and my Wildwood and Imaginal’s forays were totally at an end…

Cut to today.  For some reason, I found myself mooching around OZIMALS, looking at bunny things and getting nostalgic and misty-eyed.  Looking at the new bunnies, and the horses for that matter makes me feel that in the beginning we had it so much better. These updated ones just aren’t my bag at all, with different eyes and patterns that just lack a certain warmth and panache that the originals had. As I was pondering the past I noticed a link to a market where I saw a sign for ‘Stray Cats.’  What the chuff are they I thought? I took a closer look with my mouth gaping, and a sweep by the website confirmed it: they’re back again!

In fact it would seem they’ve been around for a while (at least since November 2014) yet  I’ve heard NOTHING about them at all, which to me indicates a somewhat subdued release.  Remember the days when we’d be queuing around the block to beta new breedables? Yeah, I don’t think this had quite the same buzz sadly. That could be because people were wary of what had gone before with these breedables failing in their two previous incarnations.  People lost lindens, and they’d be foolish not to be hesitant to commit again.

I decided to take a trip over to see what the Stray Cats HQ was like. For me, when I think of the name I think of an urban backdrop, festooned in swirling litter and empty beer bottles, cats in dustbins and burned out cars, that kind of thing.  For selling a breedable that would be a really original sim design and a refreshing change from the pastoral scene-setting that seems to be de rigueur. Alas, Stray Cats have opted for a safer location design and to be frank it’s a huge disappointment. The location is functional but lacks the environmental structures and landscaping that works so well for OZIMALS and KITTYCATS.  It doesn’t make me want to explore any more than I have to, and this is surely a no-no when you’re selling a product in SL.  Again I can’t help but think back to the glorious WILDWOOD BREEDABLES early days and wonder who was it in that team that they clearly don’t have anymore, because someone with a real flair for eye-catching texture and design  is missing from the whole enterprise.  I did discover some truly smashing and interesting looking cats in all kinds of pelts and sizes.  There are dragon themed pelts, as well as husky and more traditional looking styles, although they still have those damned pointy ears. Stray Cats_003

The other point to note is that the website, although competent, doesn’t have the design pizzazz that the original Wildwood Website had.  That was a dream to visit because it was seriously well-designed and a colourful treat for the eyes.  This website is adequate but nowhere near as enticing or professional looking. (Like the HQ it has a slightly vintage Second Life feel to it, and not in a good way!)  It’s more Imaginals in presentation, and I don’t think that should be something that is repeated.  Call me a stickler for content but too many different font types do not a positive impression make.  Fortunately,  there’s a Facebook page too which looks better by comparison.

You could forgive me for being overly harsh in my criticism here. I don’t think I am, as a passionate beta tester, early-adopter and someone who genuinely loved WILDWOOD BREEDABLES I want Stray Cats to do well.  Wildwood’s were (initially for me at least) the most pleasingly shaped cats that were available in our metaverse; the animations were great and they just had ‘it’ by the bucket-load.  KITTYCATS are just as wonderful too of course for both an amazing product, design and customer service, but for me it was always the WILDWOODS that just had the edge.  I just loved their look, and for that reason alone I’d love nothing more than for them to flourish again.

But it would seem that this is the company’s third shot at the breedable game, and what will they do differently  to be successful this time? I honestly don’t know.  When I checked out the HQ I noted a marketplace area with a few vendors selling different breeds and prices were mostly reasonable. I DID see a cat priced at L$35000 though, which I balked at and quickly moved past.  There was also an auction area with at least ten patrons in attendance which got me interested, but when I fully rezzed I saw that there was just one podium with any actual auctionable stock upon it. (It seems the dragon pelts are very popular..)Stray Cats Collage

Yet in my heart I want to give these cats another go. 

I won’t be one for over-spending and breeding to excess like I did before, those days are long gone, but I’d love nothing more than a pair of these cats again.  The whole point of the breedable game was enjoyment, and nothing was as fun as logging in-world to find a new nest waiting  to be birthed and discovering what was lurking inside.  On closer inspection it would seem that there have been many improvements in the animations and functionality since the old days, and although they don’t look quite as good as they did back then (in my opinion at least) they do have something about them that makes them appealing.  I think that they look much better than the Imaginals though (thank goodness!) I doubt people will be as prepared to invest again like they were

But my gut feeling tells me that people will need to be seriously impressed if they are to invest again like before, especially as the Wildwoods seemingly left a lot of folks stranded.  I checked the group membership listings  and observed that the in-world group has 561 members. That’s not a bad number until you realise that the current membership of the Kittycats Addicts group is 15291!

How could the STRAY CATS approach that number? Well, what I want to see is a quality breedable product in both body-shape and trait that is aesthetically pleasing and offers plenty to the aspiring  breeder to get excited about. Not too much to ask really is it? I  want the animations to be entertaining and offer some avatar interactivity, but I don’t want the food and add-ons to cost an arm and a leg.  I just want a quality breedable cat that offers an extra dimension to my Second Life. Is that too much to ask, and can these kitties provide that?

I’m late to the party but what I’ve seen of the actual cats themselves makes me think that they could have potential again.  Certainly a quick look at the in-world group and the Facebook page assures me that the interest is there, and noting the latest FAQ and the fact that there are Youtube tutorials suggests to me that this is being taken seriously as well it should; there was never anything wrong with the product after all.  But execution is all, and it is that alone that will move STRAY CATS into the breedable big league if there is even such a thing anymore.

If I was part of the creative time behind this product I would want to work on the main store location as a matter of priority, along with refining the website and getting the branding absolutely right.

 To be given a second chance with a product of this nature is unheard of so a third is an absolute gift, and with the  breedable zeitgeist fading into the past now it is the perfect time to give this product the success that it always deserved. 

Can the STRAYCATS team make it this time? Only time will tell, but you know what? Here’s hoping they can. 

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Click HERE to visit the HQ in-world and let me know what you think in the comments.  

Has the time for breedables completely passed these cats by? Or do you think they could make it this time? 

The Imaginimals Cats Have Arrived!

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To be honest, the buzz was somewhat subdued and limited to the chat group rather than the feverish  all-encompassing excitement that has greeted Breedable launches before, but I think this is partly to do with past history of the Wildwoods and also because they’ve launched in open Beta.

Obviously launching a product in Beta is a risky move. Imaginimals seem to have made sure that their bases are covered for this with a hefty disclaimer on their website, but I did notice that the chat group was very busy when I logged in this morning with reported issues.

As for the cats, well they don’t appear to have changed much since I last reported on them.  The appearance seems to be much the same, and there’s no doubt that they look good (although the ear shape is a little too Elvish for my liking!) I opted for a pair of Bi-Colour and was very pleased with the colours of the kittens that I unpackaged. They’re incredibly pretty, and the animations/positions are very cute and natural looking. I confess, I really do love their styling.   (NOTE: I am NOT going full on cat breeder again, I get way too carried away by it! But I indulged in these critters for the sake of blogging and also because I wanted to experience them for myself)

Pricing for kittens is reasonable-L$300 each, L$600 per pair (obviously) There are lots of vitamins and add-ons that can be purchased but the basics that are required, as far as I am aware, are food and water, which is purchased as a combo unit. One bowl lasts one cat one month, and costs L$200.  I laid that out with the addition of some cream and a ‘Feeshy’ for  mood.

I rezzed my kittens without any fuss, but immediately upon birthing there were substantial stat decreases. Also, movement seemed laboured too.  It’s early days, so hopefully these problems will be ironed out swiftly.  The website does offer the ability to log support tickets and there is also a forum that owners can join, there’s barely any activity on the boards at present but I anticipate that they will start to become pretty active within the next few days.

So will these new breedables take the shine off the existing pets that are available on the grid?

Obviously the main competitor to Imaginimals cats are Kittycats. Personally I don’t actually see that they will be a threat as such as both offer a very different product experience and cater to different fanbases. for example, I know people who don’t go for the ornate appearance of Kittycats, but prefer the more down to earth appearance that the Wildwoods had. Taste is an individual thing, and in my opinion it’s good to have a variety of similar pets on the grid.  Competition isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But  I would be very surprised if legions of Kittycat owners defected to Imaginimals, and to be frank, I don’t think it will happen.  If anything, I think you’ll find breeders indulging themselves with both kinds of cat.

Of course, Kittycats do have the upper hand in that they are well established by now, and they excel not just in terms of product but also due to their exceptional support system. If Imaginimals want to succeed, then they will do well to aspire to the same standards of care offered by Kittycats  for their customers.

Breedable launches are never easy. But cats are always a popular pet, so let’s see how Imaginimals fare. It’s a fresh start, so perhaps it’s time to leave the memories (both good and bad )of Wildwoods behind and look to the future. Doesn’t everyone deserve a second chance after all? I’ll keep you updated on progress…

If you want to join in the open beta then here’s a link to the Imaginimals Sim .  

You’ll need a spare group slot, because only group members can partcipate, and bear in mind there are costs involved. Good luck with your cats!

Cats and lemurs living together? Mass hysteria!

Well, it’s not quite Ghostbusters but I needed a catchy title for this post where I’m going to have a quick natter with you about some new virtual breedable pets that are on the grid. 

Back in the mists of time, when breedable pets originally launched on the grid,  I got really into the Ozimals Bunnies and Wildwood Cats. Then I got heavily into Amaretto Horses and Kitty Cats..and then I realised I was being a little bit too crazy with my addiction and nipped it in the bud. I was spending way too much real life money on this hobby that I couldn’t actually afford to spend.  I’m more sensible now and I tend to give the breedables a wide berth because I’ve realised that for me they are just too dangerously addictive , but I still love them.

Well, I checked out a couple of new virtual breedable pets this week and they couldn’t be more different to each other. 

First up are ‘Imaginimals’ which the perceptive among you will realise at first look are re-branded Wildwoods. If you don’t remember Wildwoods they were pretty awesome, as I hope this picture from 2010 demonstrates.. (Click here for some of my old Flickr cat piccies!)

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The name change is to reflect  that the focus  is not just on cats but about future releases too which will be other animals.  I’m not going to get into the politics of what happened to Wildwoods, but I will say that I loved the product.  I adored the way that they looked and I really enjoyed owning them, so I was keen to see what the re-launch had in store.  I trotted over and had a look around.  There are a few cats out in beta that you can take a closer look at there.

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My first impressions are somewhat mixed.  I love the shape of the body and I really like the majority of the textures that are being used for fur.  But the eyes aren’t a patch on the ones that the Wildwoods had; they seem duller by comparison.  The shape of the eye itself has changed too and it’s far less effective than the previous Wildwood eye shape.  I also dislike the ear shape that I saw, it is a bit pointy whereas the previous ear was more cat-like, in my opinion. The cats I viewed were of course in beta test so they may well change..I almost hope that it does.

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But then again, check out the picture above. Doesn’t this guy look great? When the cats are rolling around on the floor or in a seated pose they look rather grand and very regal, in the way that only cats can, but the walking movement was a bit of a letdown; it is best described as a strange forward-moonwalk trot/shuffle combination. I think the product needs a little more work but that’s the blessing of beta-testing, you can iron out the quirks before launch day.   One final positive that I noted from my visit to the Imaginimals sim were the kittens.  They actually birth kitten shapes, rather than boxes. These would look great in a basket and I envision that’s how many breeders will choose to sell them, they’re not especially detailed although I do I think it’s a nice touch.

I really rate some of the animations in the cats.  The sleeping pose is really incredibly sweet as I hope the shot above demonstrates.  I watched a Siamese slumber and it looked very natural for a stylised virtual cat! (If I was being hyper critical I’d say that it was breathing a little bit too fast..but perhaps it was dreaming?)

Do I think Kittycats should be shaken by this new feline competitor?

Absolutely not. I think Kittycats are well-established and successful for a number of reasons, not just because of their excellent product. They offer the full package, the cats look sensational, and the team behind them is justly proud of their excellent customer service and have a dedicated Kittycat community which would prove hard to break. I certainly think Kittycats have the edge when it comes to animations as well. That said, a bit of competition is very good for the consumer, so I don’t begrudge Imaginimals giving it another shot at all.  This time I just hope that they have a more structured customer service in place and will be able to deal with their clientele more effectively, but I do wish them well and look forward to seeing the finished product at launch.

I sincerely hope however that a fresh start with a re-imagined product means they will be more respectful to their customers and provide a full customer support service which is keen to respond to questions when asked.

This has not always been the case, as this post from the excellent Breedables Inc. blog clearly proves.

When people pay money for a product, service is paramount, something that Kittycats CSR reps prove time and again. I hope Imaginimals can endeavour to follow that example so the past does not repeat itself.

In total contrast are the Zooby Lemurs.

Now, I love lemurs.  There is an amazing wildlife park within driving distance to me that has a  walk-through lemur enclosure, and it is outstanding. (There’s also a very good one at Blackpool Zoo of all places, my father-in-law got licked by a very affectionate Red-Ruffed Lemur while we were there!)   Being surrounded by lemurs chilling and basically enjoying themselves is a very enjoyable and humbling experience. They are truly amazing animals and to see them brought to the grid as a breedable pet is really quite exciting.  Team that with the fact that these are made by Zoobys and you have a dazzling breedable prospect. I mean, let’s face it, Zooby’s creates the best animals on the grid; they are always beautifully built and rendered and the textures that are used to coat the creatures are just bang on.

For me Zooby’s is the epitome of virtual animal creation in-world. 

But I felt a bit disappointed when I visited the sim and just saw a lot of boxes and information and a couple of gorgeous, but static lemurs…

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Don’t get me wrong, the location where the lemurs are located  is great and the builds fabulous ( I love the temple styling and the way the product is boxed and presented) but if I’m  going to spend money on these  I need to see them moving around and doing Lemur stuff..

As gorgeous as they are, and believe me they REALLY are outstanding looking things, seeing them in a static pose does not encourage me to want to buy them.

Fortunately  I bumped into a guy who was carrying his new Lemur and he told me that they were great virtual pets; they move about beautifully and follow you around at home too. He was really satisfied and excited by them.  It was great to see him so enthused, so please Carrie Tatsu and Zooby Vella, let a few of the little fellas loose on the sim so we can get a better feel for these stunning virtual critters! Because I mean, just LOOK at them..

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A tempting prospect aren’t they? Click HERE to visit Imaginimals and see the cats, and HERE to visit Zooby’s and see the Lemurs.

What do you think? Post your comments, how do you feel seeing the Imaginimals beta-cats and what do you think to the Zooby Lemurs? I’d be really interested in your thoughts, please add them below!

(A final note: I found a FANTASTIC BREEDABLE BLOG when I was mooching around the interwebz seeking links for this article. If you’re at all interested in Second Life Breedables, you must check it out.  It’s curated by a lady called Aywren Sojourner and it’s an incredibly useful resource and interesting read to boot.)