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? 

Kittycats Beta ends..cats released this week?

Well, rumour has it that the Kittycats will be released this week, and I do hope that they receive a fantastic reception because they are pretty darn awesome.

I’ve spoken before about the novel animations and coats textures but take a look at this snapshot-believe it or not, features what happens to the kittens when they get sick! I KNOW!! It’s too cute isn’t it?? This doesn’t make me want to rush out and buy kits to fix them, it makes me want to leave them snuggled up under their blankies! The only way this could have been any cuter is if they had wee thermometers sticking out of their chops. More news on Kittycats impending release when I get it.

It’s been a busy week breedable wise mind; Ozimals have released an update that has significantly change the appearance of the bunnies, adding new improved higher res textures and preparing them for potential Valentine Day elite creation. They’ve clearly put a load of work into this release, with a new trait available as well as the option to opt-out of the Elite creation process, amongst other things.

 

I popped over to my mate Vere’s place to take a looksy, and her bunnies all looked rather resplendent with tons of new coat and eye options on display. It really feels like Ozimals are back on track, and I hope that’s the case.

The bunnies are still an amazing breedable pet to own, and these recent changes seem to make them even more desirable. There is still an ardent bunny-loving community in world, and after the epic crash and controversy of last year I can honestly see a time when things level out for them. 2011 is of course ‘The Year Of The Rabbit’, so let’s see how it plays out for Ozimals. I do hope it goes well.

Bye Bye Bunny…

You know, what with the recent drama and all it would be very easy to dismiss Ozimals Bunnies as being completely over. The virtual craze of 2010 now replaced by mewing cats and kittens in fact, but hold on. Ozimals may be down, but they’re not out just yet and have managed to retain a core of solid supporters to whom, let’s be frank here, they owe their virtual lives. We’ve all heard about their failings so I feel no need to repeat them again here, but it says a lot about Ozimals perseverance that at a time of crisis they are opting to ride out the tide of controversy and dissent by releasing new products to tempt and tease the faithfully bunny-addicted. They’ve just done it again, with the promise of new Elite bunnies, more on that later, but also they’ve played a blinder in the PR stakes by generously handing out a years supply of bunny food to a small band of early adopters. That’s pretty amazing, don’t you think?

I confess, I very nearly placed all my remaining bunnies in my inventory and just walked away from the whole deal. I know many people who have done just that actually; they’ve been so dismayed by various events that they’ve given up on the hoppers completely. At one point I had..gulp..over a hundred rabbits that I bred and adored. I’ve reduced that number gradually; allowing each bunny to retire into my inventory once they’ve attained elder status. I can’t even tell you how many Elders Of Euphoria there are in my inventory, a lot I think, but there they must remain. It’s not cheap to rear breedables, as many people realised when the market madness overtook them and bunnies began to take over the grid in reams.But back to my point, I didn’t give up on bunnies entirely and the reason was simple, I hadn’t attained the goals that I had set for myself. I wanted to create gem-eyed versions of certain breeds, and once I had done that I then wanted to breed the same, but with lop ears. For me this was a great hobby and I was creating my ideal bunnies. By the time I finally did get my stunning Silver Martin Black with Peridot eyes and lop ears the bunny market had practically evaporated, but by then I was beyond breeding for a small profit, but for pleasure. For me there’s just something rather special about a gem-eyed, lop eared bunny, and once the Twilight, Moonlight and Sunlight shades appeared I was again in bunny heaven. But even this was a brief respite, and sadly I’ve come to realise that there will be a parting of the ways between myself and Ozimals in the very near future, purely because I don’t like the new shades or eyes. I haven’t had an Acorn shade bunny yet, but the brownish tinge it offers leaves me feeling cold.

The Sunrise and Sparrow eye shades don’t have the sparkle or the fire that the gem eyes had, and not only that, but the gem eyes were always rather stunning to behold as far as texture and colour went, whereas by contrast the sunrise eyes look, well, I’m sorry to say it, but they look dead to me. I’m not a fan, and the bunnies that I have bred which feature these attributes I’ve sold because they just don’t appeal to me. I’ve held out though, only to see Hydrangea and Iris shades become the next big thing, but sadly not for me. I don’t think it’s a lack of ideas on Ozimals part by the way, it’s obvious that they do have ideas aplenty, but they just don’t work for me as a breeder.

I confess that all this disillusionment on my part has left me out of the bunny loop. Once an active poster on the official Ozimals forum, I’ve left it behind to become more involved with the cat breedables, being a beta tester for both Wildwoods and Kittycats, and somewhat poignantly, I haven’t missed spending time in my barn with my bunnies at all. I’ve still held by my non-bunnyburying values (but then again I don’t see the point of doing that anyway because as far as I’m aware bunnybury is still not live) choosing instead to place all my retired bunnies gently into a ‘Sleeping Bunnies’ folder that resides in my inventory.

It leaves me feeling sad moving them there; even though these aren’t fluffy balls of fur but just a bunch of pixels on a screen. The emotions that I have attached to them are very real.

Last night I was moving another bunch of newly retired bunnies into this folder, when my friend Vere pinged to tell me about the latest round of Ozimals Elites (special bunnies that can only be bred within a specific timescale and are by no means guaranteed) Vere is a complete breedable addict, and completely demented about her bunnies, and horses, and cats..and, well you get the picture. To be honest, I wasn’t madly enthused about what she was telling me because every single time I’ve tried for an elite in the past I have never gotten one, so what would be the point of trying now? That said, I did have an especially nice nest that I was going to kindle to sell, a Rhinelander Blue lop with Peridot eyes in fact, so there was no pressure on me either way. If I got one it would be a bonus, if I didn’t no worries. I’d still have a great bunny with which to hopefully make a few Lindens. I clicked the nest to kindle, then got back to the task in hand – reducing my flock with a heavy heart.

And then an hour later I noticed a tiny scarecrow with bunny ears was hopping round my barn….(click to enlarge)

Oh it’s hard NOT lo love Ozimals when they get it right, and they really have gotten it right with the styling of these special bunnies. Credit where it is due then, because, one of their successes has always been their Elite hoppers and as this Scarecrow bunny proves they still make the right decisions with regards to texture choices. I’m totally in love with this little ‘Worzeletta’ as I have named her, but will I be keeping her? No. I need the Lindens and I’ve already decided upon the bunnies I will continue to keep as pets once my breeding programme finally comes to an end.But here’s a point to ponder, am I the only one looking to a future without the bunnies? Obviously there’s the whole Amaretto Vs Ozimals court-case looming in the middle-distance, but what about Ozimals themselves?

The reason that I ask this question is due to a photograph posted on the Official Ozimals website, under a post called ‘The Other Side Of The Yellow Brick Road’.

It’s an intriguing photograph, featuring a creature surrounded by fungi in the foreground, looking skyward as various constellations shine down. It’s hard to determine what the creature is; it has an almost Pikachu-like quality to it but one thing is for sure it has large ears, so large in fact that this particular critter’s tabs seem to be sporting icicles! Go and take a look and see what you think. I think it looks like some sort of fox, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be some sort of fantasy-type breedable of which we’ll see many more appear on the grid during 2011.

I must warn you now however that a new breedable venture from Ozimals will not be warmly received by everyone upon the grid. The hardline bunny enthusiasts, of which there are many more than you may think, will no doubt use the posting of the photograph as further evidence that the priorities of Ozimals have shifted perhaps resulting in promised developments being shelved. But look at the bigger picture. It all comes down to the profits of course, and if Ozimals aren’t making the dollars they used to with the bunnies then of course they’re going to move onto a different breedable creation. They’ve proved they’re capable of delivering the product and let’s be fair to all concerned here, the bunnies are an incredible breedable game. The issue that Ozimals MUST address in future is how they relate to their audience, and in future they must take care that they are more cautious in their approach when it comes to making promises, that for whatever reason, they cannot keep. For some reason most avatars have the memories of elephants, and couple this chat logs aplenty and you have more than enough headaches for Candy and everyone at Ozimals HQ to deal with, so effective PR is a must for 2011. We’ve already seen them taking steps towards this (see the first paragraph to this article) which is a good thing in the long-term, and I am pretty sure that they are working hard behind the scenes to ensure that they don’t fall into the same traps that they did during 2010.

But when it comes to the bunnies they are without a doubt one of the most endearing things to ever come out of Second Life, and for that alone they should be proud. Alas, for me the time is fast approaching when I will be bidding a fond “Adieu” to my floppy-tabbed furballs.

120 bunnies at my peak. Now down to 12.

Many of these are on their final generations as well, so by this time next week that number will be reduced even more. Once all my bunnies are retired, I plan to resurrect a few particular favourites from my inventory to keep as pets because a life without virtual bunnies would be a sad one.

But I am resolute in my decision to move on. That said, I have enjoyed every minute of my Ozimals adventure, and even though I’ve gone as far as I can with it, I know there are still more avatars out there on the grid who are persevering with the hoppers and hoping for great things.

To those concerned I wish you all the very best of luck, and can say that even though I am bidding a gradual but final farewell to these beautiful virtual objects, I will always be grateful to Ozimals for bringing them to Second Life and allowing me the chance to attain some amazing virtual goals via these wonderful creations.

Note to readers: I am accepting offers for the following bunny:

Elite: Scarecrow Bunneh 2010
Fur: Rhinelander Blue
Eyes: Peridot
Ears: Lop Ears
Shade: Classic
Elite: Scarecrow Bunneh 2010

Please IM in world with offer if interested! ( Bear in mind this is a Rhinelander!)

The Battle Of The Breedables Part 2…

Amaretto, the horse company have responded to the Ozimals statement and you can read it here: http://amarettobreedables.com/?p=309

I’ve been thinking even more about the Amaretto v Ozimals drama. It’s hard not to, now that Hamlet Au (http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2010/12/fluff-enemies.html#more)  and Tateru Nino (http://dwellonit.taterunino.net/2010/12/16/ozimals-responds-with-statement-on-amaretto-copyright-case/)esteemed bloggers both (Perhaps THE most esteemed) have followed my lead and covered the issue on their blogs. (I jest of course, it’s impossible NOT to write about it).
You would be foolish to think that the breedable community, whatever their choice of pet,  are not starting to worry. Look at the comments section for my previous post on this matter for evidence of that.  The grid is awash with rumour and hearsay and as Hamlet so rightly pointed out in his blog-post, this case could have huge ramifications elsewhere, not just in Second Life.It does make me wonder what Linden Labs are thinking about all this right now; and whilst I don’t think it will be blind panic, I do think they will be very concerned by the matter.
Why? Well, as I mentioned before, breedable pets rake in the Linden dollars (and then some), and Linden Labs would be sure to see a fall in profits if they were to completely vanish from the grid.  I’m not just talking about from commission charged on Lindex purchases etc either (obviously you need to buy Lindens to buy the pets, their foodstuffs and assorted peripherals in the first place) but supplementary income, such as the fees charged through the Second Life marketplace. It’s a fact that when people buy breedables they like to buy accessories: with horses that’s meant the finest stables and saddles, with bunnies that’s meant hutches and vegetable patches, and with cats so far it’s been baskets, scratching posts and even special Christmas cat sleighs..I kid you not.

Each purchase on the marketplace means money in the pockets of our ‘evil overlords’ and THIS is why I don’t actually think there is any point in panicking about this issue, not just yet at least. It is going to take an age to sort out, not just because it is going through the court system, but because in these trying times any potential loss of revenue for Linden Labs is something that they will surely fight virtual tooth and nail against.
Please keep your comments coming on this topic. I”m especially interested to know if this is going to impact the way you continue with your breeding programmes. (I’ll make my own thoughts on that clear over the coming weekend.) (Note- apologies for the long links that I’m having to include in text at the moment, for some bizarre reason I cannot use hyperlinks since WordPress implemented a recent change..just copy and paste in the old fashioned way for your browsing pleasure:)