Time for the 3rd installment in our on-going feature, Figment Player Profiles!!!  I know, you haven’t slept in weeks waiting in anticipation for this latest installment, but hey all joking aside we have a good one for ya!  Tyman is a long-time Figment player having joined the site 2 years ago.  In that time he’s built up quite a stable of bands with a surprising number of musical genres represented.  Whether he’s putting together the latest version of the successful musical video game “The Next Rock Legend” or cutting a record with his metal band Fragile Agony, Tyman is always at work even if it is play.  We talked with him recently to get a better feel for what he’s like on and off Figment.

FigmentNews:  Tell us a little about yourself.

Tyman: Well, first of all, I’ve been a musician for as long as I can remember, and I hate sports. I like a lot of different bands, but the ones I like the most are Dream Theater and Metallica.

FigmentNews:  How did you find Figment?

Tyman: My brother, known as Myoxis on Figment, showed me the site, and I thought it was pretty cool. So, I joined.

FN:  What attracted you to the site?

Tyman: The topic of the site: Fake Bands. That really interested me, because I’ve never heard of a fake band website before. I also liked that you can make you’re own albums and earn fake money. It’s original.

FN:  You mentioned on your profile page that you’re a musician and that you are part of a 2-man band with another Figment player.  So are you like the White Stripes?  Do you play guitar and your friend plays drums?

Tyman: On the first part of the question: Sort of, but obviously we’re not brother and sister (or a divorced married couple, whatever the White Stripes are), and on the second part: It’s actually the other way around. I play drums and I sing, and metallicstone is the guitarist.

FN:  Your album covers and band/album descriptions have really improved over the past year or so.  To what do you attribute this to?

Tyman: Well, I’m not so sure. I just come up with them, but thanks for the compliment!

FN:  What tools do you use to create your album covers?

Tyman: Well, I look up images on Google that look pretty cool, and then I use Microsoft Paint, probably like others on Figment do.

FN:  What’s your band creation process like?  Do you lean on the bands you like for influence or do you simply decide on the genre and go from there?

Tyman: I just decide on the genre and go from there. Nothing special.

FN:  When you create a band do you already have their debut album in mind or does it take you a while to decide what direction to take them in?

Tyman: 50-50, whatever happens. One day, I might plan it, the next it’ll take me a while to put in what direction I want it to be in.

FN:  Your bands run the gamut as far as genres go – Prog Rock, Christian, Alternative, Grunge, Metal and straight up Rock N’ Roll among others.  Do you listen to a lot of different types of music?

Tyman: Not really. I mostly listen to Prog Metal, Rock, Metal, and Grunge. But, I do, sort of, like Slipknot (3 songs only). So, I listen to whatever I like, and nothing I don’t.

FN:  You were one of the first players to have a band break up as well as have a band re-form.  What inspired you to do that?

Tyman: I HATE IT WHEN BANDS BREAK UP!!! That’s how I was inspired. ‘Nuff said.

FN:  Speaking of inspiration, what are some of the real bands that you would say have influenced your fake bands?

Tyman: Fragile Agony and AlphaGhost were DEFINITELY inspired by Dream Theater, The Silver Stones were inspired by Metallica and Megadeth, Aggression of Confusion was inspired by Rush and Trapt, Dark World was inspired by Lacuna Coil, my latest band Homicide Machine was inspired by a new band I like called Fear Factory, as well as inspired by Slipknot and Linkin Park, and I do say cudos to Trivium for inspiration of Apocolantis.

FN:  How about fake bands – any bands on Figment that influenced your fake bands?

Tyman:  Shane Osiris inspired me to make Evan Dumare, and Pusher inspired me to make Decrease Magnum, a small fanbase Glam Metal band I formed. Those are the only ones I can think of at the moment.

FN:  What do you look for in a fake band?

Tyman: A good band description, cool album covers, as well as names, and how interesting it is to me.

FN:  Any Figment players who you’d like to laud for their work?

Tyman:  I want to get started with Crypt_Keeper, he’s been on Figment for a month now, and his band, Werewolf Concerto, has gotten REALLY POPULAR!! I hope he’s enjoying Figment, because I’m really enjoying what he’s making.

I also want to name TMTYTF. Dude, you come up with pretty cool covers, and I admire you for that. By the way, congrats on the #5 spot in popular bands with Stonekrank. Their fanbase really has grown.

Another player is algoreyou. He has pretty interesting album covers, and I think Old Republic is pretty cool.

And last, but not least, javdoc! Merchants of Metal is really cool, plus, congratulations on winning the album cover contest.

FN:  Have you always created fake bands?  Or is this something you thought would be fun after seeing Figment for the first time?

Tyman: I actually came up with the names Trapzone and Kings of Rock when I was younger. So, yeah, I have always come up with fake bands, and all the others, I came up with on Figment (except Heaven Starz, The Silver Stones, and Spee D I).

FN:  Where did the band name “The People Who Are Made of Plasma” come from?

Tyman: I don’t remember. I think I was thinking about lasers or plasma. Either that, or I just created it for fun.

FN:  If you could make one of your fake bands real and then join the band, what band would it be and what instrument would you play in the band?

Tyman: Definitely Fragile Agony! Except it would be Metal instead of Prog Metal, because my skills aren’t technical.

FN:  What is the band and/or album you’ve formed/released that you are the most proud of?

Tyman: The band I’m proud of is The Silver Stones, because that’s the band I have the biggest fanbase I’ve had. The album I am most proud of is “The Sign of Depression”. That’s the most popular album I’ve EVER made.

FN:  What would you like to see added to Figment in the way of features, improvements, etc?

Tyman: Honestly, I’m fine with how Figment is already. I don’t think any changes need to be made.

FN:  If someone asked you why you play Figment what would you tell them?

Tyman: I’d say “I play Figment because it’s entertaining. You should make a profile!”

The Art of the LP

August 20th, 2010

All of us at Figment are unabashed fans of album cover art, but we’re also old enough to remember when the artists who created cover art had 12 inches to work with instead of the 4.75 of a typical CD cover or the miniscule digital download images sizes that are now the norm.  When the 10″ vinyl record ruled, the 12″ sleeve packaging allowed artists an opportunity to not only interpret the music contained within, but also create pop art on a global scale.  While those days are primarily gone – the vinyl record is having a bit of a resurgence – there are still a lot of people who remember them fondly and one new book in particular that celebrates the art form in a new and invigorating way.

“The Art of the LP:  Classic Covers 1955 – 1995” by Johnny Morgan and Ben Wardle (2010 Sterling Publishing) is a celebration of album artistry.  Whether it’s the smoldering pin-up girl on The Cars’ “Candy-O” or Andy Warhol’s controversial zippered pants on the Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers”, album cover images have long captivated our imaginations and added to the music experience contained within their packaging.  We had an opportunity to talk with Johnny Morgan about his book and his thoughts about the future of album art work.

Figment News:  In your new book “The Art of the LP” you have compiled 350 iconic album covers from albums released between 1955 and1995.  What inspired you to do this book?

Johnny Morgan:  the publisher offering a deal…Actually, this is the second book of album cover art I’ve been involved with (the previous one was The Greatest Album Covers of All Time), and interest in the art of LP covers seems to grow with the passing of time. There are lots of books out there on the subject, most of which give scant detail and little thought to what went into the creation of the art itself. I wanted to compile a book with real editorial substance as well as great art. Hopefully this has both.

FN:  I noticed that in the book the album covers are organized by visual theme, so there are chapters on Rock N’ Roll, Sex, Art, Drugs, Ego, Real World, Escape, Politics and Death.  Why did you choose the approach?

JM:  It struck me that music is inspired by basic human desires, needs and subconscious drives, and that the art work created to package the music is often similarly inspired. So instead of grouping artworks chronologically or by genre, I thought it could be amusing, entertaining even, to select the art according to the above categories. Interestingly the music contained on the albums which the artwork surrounds doesn’t always fit into the same categories—but it’s important to remember that the book is about the artwork only, and not the music.

FN:  I know you’ve written books on groups like The Clash.  How important do you think the album cover artwork was to the various groups you’ve included in this book?

JM:  I haven’t written a book on the Clash, but worked with them to create their own book. During the creation of the Art of The LP it became clear that some groups and musicians had very little input on the sleeve design for their records—UFO, for instance, who have several sleeves included, and all in the How Not To Do It category insist that they only got to see their nasty, childish, sexist sleeves when the records hit the stores. Music artists, like writers in Hollywood, were often treated with total disdain by their record companies in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. and their art work would be slapped together by the in-house art department who sometimes did amazing jobs and other times appalling ones. On the other hand the involvement of egotistical musicians can result in atrocious artwork—see Bob Dylan’s ‘Saved’ for a good example of that. There are plenty of others in the book.

FN:  In the case of The Clash, how involved were they with their visual identity?

JM:  Completely. Bassist Paul Simonon and Joe Strummer particularly liked to be involved with how their records looked and always worked with people they knew and trusted on all aspects of their visual representation, including newsprint ads for singles and tours.

FN:  Do you think album artwork has an effect on an album sales and the success of a group in general?

JM:  It seems to me that it can do. It’s hard to explain the enduring popularity of all those dreadful prog rock bands in the 1970s otherwise, is it? One has to assume that people bought them for the pretentious artwork on their covers (all inspired by Roger Dean’s work for Yes and others), because the ‘music’ was dire. Although a really bad album cover design never stopped people buying a really good record—see most Stevie Wonder albums, all but the first two REM albums and any Elvis Presley album released after 1960 (excepting ‘In Memphis’).

FN:  What criteria did you use to determine if an album was iconic enough to make the book?

JM:  The process of deciding what covers made it into Art of the LP involved much argument, near fist-fights and sneaking around by the authors and editors.

FN:  Do you think the move to CDs and now to downloadable music has diminished the value of album artwork or is it opening up new avenues for artists and groups?

JM:  It’s definitely diminished and will continue to do so, since a new generation of music consumers are buying individual tracks as virtual items and not albums. The concept of an ‘album’ came about because of the limitations of technology—an album could hold 20 minutes of music on each side (roughly) and artists worked within those constraints, sometimes making a whole out of the two halves of an album. That technology also meant that albums were 12 inches across, so the package it was housed in had to be 12 inches etc. Album sleeves were tangible objects (which proved remarkably useful, especially gate-folds, when rolling joints) that could hold a work of art which sometimes kept buyers almost as occupied (trying to work out ‘secret messages’ on the cover) as the music did. Designers today have to work on a tiny ‘canvas’ the size of an iPod window at best, and some show great invention, but really, any visual for a new record release today has to be pretty blatant, and all subtlety is being lost (along with irony) it seems to me. How does the cover of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band look on an iPod nano?.

FN:  Why did you choose to stop the book at 1995?

JM:  That was roughly the year that major record companies stopped pressing vinyl records and concentrated on CD production instead. It also made a nice, round 40 years for the sub-title of the book.

FN:  What current album covers would you consider iconic?

JM:  There are no current album covers, only CD covers. Wait for ‘Art of The CD 1990—2010’ to find out…

FN:  Figment is a site devoted to fake bands and their visual identity.  Do you think someone could be fooled into believing a fake band was real if the album artwork for the band was strong enough?

JM:  Definitely. Hopefully Art of The LP can help someone to construct a good-looking album cover for a long forgotten but highly regarded American punk band called XXXX who toured once with the Replacements in 1986, before falling apart at a diner in Ames Iowa amid a storm of ketchup, beer and amphetamines, just as their debut album ‘Pick Your Noise’ was being pressed on a limited run of 1000 copies.

Anyone interested in taking Johnny up on his challenge?  If so, create an original cover for XXXX’s “Pick Your Noise” and send the file to us using the feedback link at the bottom of every Figment page.  We’ll pick the best cover and post it here on the blog.  Please don’t release it on Figment, just send us the file. If you post it on Figment we’ll delete it. The deadline for entries will be Friday, September 3rd.  We’ll send the winner a copy of Johnny’s book courtesy of Sterling Publishing.

As many of you know we announced last Thursday that we were raising the lucre levels needed to earn rewards in our Lucre Store.  Some of our players were irritated by this move, while others took it more in stride.  Let me start by saying that we appreciate all of the feedback we received on this issue, both positive and negative.  Having said that, I want to be clear – we didn’t raise our prices to deny anyone an opportunity to cash in their lucre for a reward prize.

So why did we do it?   As you know, Figment is a free online game and as of now, the prizes we supply all come out of our operating budget, so to keep lucre prize levels artificially low while simultaneously increasing your opportunities to earn lucre would be suicide for the site.  We also feel the players who play the game consistently have received a fair opportunity to cash-in their lucre for rewards, and to my knowledge there aren’t many sites that even offer rewards of this kind without some kind of monetary outlay on the part of the player.

So that begs the question, why did we create the Lucre Store in the first place?  When we began developing Figment we were unsure how many people would actually share our love for creating and role playing with fake bands.  In our research, we could only find 2 previous examples of web-based music-related role playing games, and both had collapsed after only a year or so of operation because they weren’t very well regulated and provided no incentive for players to create a successful community.

In an effort to avoid the pitfalls that doomed those two sites, we set out to create a game that had relatively easy parameters, allowed for creativity and provided an incentive to various levels of players.  The lucre rewards store was the incentive – a way to engage new players who might otherwise have dismissed Figment as a waste of time, and reward committed players who created successful bands.  In both regards, I think the lucre store has been successful.  The problem is that the Lucre Store was never meant to be how you “won” at Figment.  It was merely designed as an incentive to encourage and reward players for helping to build the Figment community.

While many of you have helped to do that, and we’re proud of the vibrant community we’ve built, it’s still a small community.  The costs of acquiring new players and maintaining a free site that gives away physical prizes merely for participating is not sustainable unless it ultimately leads to a community that supports itself through advertising, direct sponsorship or even the development of a subscription model.  Advertising and direct sponsorship are very challenging models due to our relatively small size.  The subscription model is interesting and probably the best model because it allows the contributions of the most dedicated players to guide the further development of the game.

So how does increasing the prices in the Lucre Store help?  First of all, I think it’s important to remember that we (the game’s administrators) don’t introduce lucre into the economy, Figment’s players do.  So as thehoseman pointed out in his comment on the original post, by introducing more lucre into the economy you do in essence diminish the individual value of a piece of lucre.  This is why I’m always preaching against buying anything and everything that is released.  Not only does this tactic diminish the quality of submissions on the site, but it also diminishes the actual value of a piece of lucre.

Another thing to keep in mind is that we’ve yet to employ any type of market forces in our game (charging you lucre to release an album, lucre losses for not getting enough fans of a tour – which could connote poor ticket sales).  We haven’t done this for a variety of reasons – some that are platform related and others that have more to do with keeping the obstacles to entry and the rules as simple as possible while we build a base of players big enough support a virtual economy that includes those types of market forces.

In the meantime, as new players join Figment (we added 65 in July) and begin to play the game more lucre flows into the economy.  When you combine the lucre created by new and existing players it’s easy to see how the growth of the Figment economy was fast out-pacing the Lucre Store pricing.  So as our Terms and Conditions clearly allow, we raised the artificially low Lucre Store pricing to be more in line with what we felt the Figment economy could now support.

So what plans do we have for the Figment Lucre Store going forward?  Well, we’re very pleased to hear some of our more established players express an interest in moving to virtual prizes/goods in our Lucre Store.  We have been planning a move to virtual goods for some time, and should be instituting the first wave of these goods in the near future.  We see this as a more sustainable method of incentivizing and rewarding our new and established players.

With that in mind, we’d be interested in hearing what types of virtual goods you’d like to see in the store.  You can leave a comment on this post, but we’d prefer if you would add your ideas to our User Voice forum by clicking on the red “feedback” tab on every page on Figment.  By posting your ideas in User Voice other users can vote on each one and we’ll do our best to incorporate those ideas that make the most sense and receive the most backing.

We’d also like to know what you think of the idea of a premium version of Figment and what you’d be willing to pay for such an enhanced version.  I’ll be posting it as a User Voice idea, so let us know what you think.  We think it’s one of the key ways that we’ll be able to keep Figment solvent and growing into the future, but if you don’t agree we want to know that as well.

We look forward to hearing your ideas and thoughts on how we can keep growing Figment.

Lucre Store Changes

August 12th, 2010

You may have noticed that we changed the lucre amounts in our Figment Lucre Store.  Why you ask?  Well, because we have more players on the site and as a result our lucre economy is more robust than ever.  So we’ve raised the lucre totals needed to buy each level of prize by 5,000 pieces of lucre.  We have more changes in store for the Lucre Store, so be on the lookout.

Donuts Kick Ass

August 10th, 2010

Eccentric Arcade is working on a new album and if it’s anywhere as good as this video, then…damn!!  Time to make the donuts!

The Reviews Are In

August 5th, 2010

On June 17, 2010 I posted some new guidelines and rules for Figment here on the blog.  I know it’s hard when you first start playing the game to really get a grasp on what is and isn’t allowed, and a lot of you find out via a copyright ban, so I’m going to be working on a rules document that we’ll try to put at the bottom of every page so you can consult it.  If you are looking for help on how to play Figment, I would recommend for the time being that you consult our Terms & Conditions, IP & Copyright Policy, and Lucre Program documents which you can always access via links at the bottom of every page or click on the Help category here on Figment News.

In the meantime, I wanted to talk to you a little more about how to properly promote your bands on Figment.  Lately, we’ve been noticing a lot of players, new and old, promoting their bands and albums in the review box.  The review box is there so you can critique the album you are currently looking at, not promote your own, so please don’t use it as a billboard for your own bands/albums.  If you want to promote your band or new album, use the shout box.

The review box is also not a place for you to write personal messages to the player who created the album, unless it pertains to the album you are reviewing (i.e.  wow, great job Tyman!).  Again the shout box is the proper place for those types of messages.

It is also not a means of communicating with the Figment staff.  If you want to ask a question, have a beef to air or just want to drop us a line, please use the Feedback link at the bottom of every page.  This will allow you to send an email directly to our customer service department.  If you want it directed to a particular person, heavyweight, etc. please make that clear in the email and it will be forwarded to the appropriate person.

So now that we’ve told you what you can’t do in the review box, how are we going to deal with those players who don’t heed the rules?  Easy, we’re going to be fining them in the same way we do abuses of shout box etiquette, a 50 lucre fine for every transgression.  You will be notified via email the first time you break the rule to inform you of the fine, but not for subsequent violations.  So let’s all try to use the review box for what it was intended for and not for more marketing noise.

As for the shout box etiquette rules, I’d like to clarify a few things regarding that as well.  First of all, it’s fine to market your bands to other players on their band pages using the shout box.  What we’re trying to minimize is the type of messages that blatantly break the rules such as:

  • Payola Offers – I’ll buy/listen to your record if you do the same for mine.
  • Excessive Noodging – constant shouts asking the player to fan, buy, listen to your band/album
  • Threats – threatening another player/band with some type of action (i.e. dropping them from your label, removing yourself as a fan, boycotts, use of threatening language).  You can let someone know you’re not happy with something they’ve done without having to threaten them.
  • Shout Box Noise – leaving tons of messages on a band’s page in an attempt to dissuade others from becoming a fan of the band or to encourage others to leave messages of the same kind.  If you don’t like the band you can express your feelings, but try to limit it to one post & don’t be obnoxious about it.
  • Profane language – please refrain from using swear words in the shout box.

I hope this clears things up a bit as to what is not allowed and will earn you a fine, although I’m sure I’ll have to update this in the future.  Now, what what can you say in a shout box?

  • Check Em’ Out – ask another player to check out your band/album/tour.  Just don’t be a noodge.
  • Personal Messages – talk to your fellow players, get to know them, collaborate, laud their work.
  • Reviews – let them know what you think about their band, without being a jerk.

I think most of this is pretty self-explanatory, but if you want further clarification drop us a line using the feedback link.  I know that marketing your bands is getting harder as more and more users join the site and activity increases, but shouting amid the noise doesn’t really help, it just makes things louder…and more annoying.