formerwageslave recently emailed me to share this great piece of news for anyone on Figment who might playing with a tight budget and an older computer.  Adobe is now offering their Creative Suite 2 Premium Plus for free to anyone who has or sets up an Adobe account (accounts are free).  While CS2 may have issues with newer computers it’s perfect for those of us soldiering on with older PCs or Macs.  You can read more about it here or go straight to Adobe to download CS2.  So thanks formerwageslave for bringing this great free download to our attention!

While we’re at it, we’d like to draw attention to something formerwageslave just did.  As you might have read in his recent player profile he’s a musician, and he just released his first solo record in almost a decade under the moniker iSv.  It’s all 8-bit/chiptune/video game sounding stuff, and it’s available for free or a “name your own price” download via Bandcamp.  So check it out and support a fellow player!

Top Band Chart Ch-Ch-Changes

February 13th, 2012

I know that a lot of you have been clamoring for some changes to the Top Bands Chart for some time now, and I’m happy to say we have now obliged. The new Top Bands chart reflects those bands with the greatest album sales over a rolling 1-year period (365 days.)

You’ll notice that we’ve changed the focus of the chart from “fans” to “album sales.” We did this for a couple of reasons. First of all, we wanted the chart to better reflect those bands that are at the top of their game. With “fans” as the metric, you saw little movement, and the chart didn’t really reflect how active a band was within the game. Plus, we felt sales was a better metric given where we hope to move our lucre economy, etc. We also supplied the number of releases those sales were based on. Why? Because we felt it provided some context to that band’s sales figures. Some bands release a lot of albums that don’t sell that much, others release fewer albums but sell a lot. By providing the number of releases we allow you to see more clearly how that band achieved their chart position.  After all, there is more than one way to rise up the charts on Figment, and we didn’t want to diminish either release strategy.

Let us know what you think of the new chart!

Sumo Paint

July 8th, 2011

I recently got an email from Figment player frizbee, who wanted me to know about a new “free” online image editor called Sumo Paint.  I checked it out and it’s fantastic.  It’s very similar to Photoshop and completely free to use unless you want to upgrade to their Pro version.   The basic version of Sumo Paint can only be used on your browser, but the Pro version allows you to download it to your computer for offline use.  You don’t have to install anything except Adobe Air, which is the platform on which the software was built.  You also don’t have to create an account if you don’t want to, just simply click on the Open Sumo Paint link at the top of the page.

It’s got 3D filters, blur and smudge tools, clone stamps, selection tools (magic wand), etc., and there are plenty of tutorials on their official YouTube channel.

There are other free open source image editing tools like GIMP and Paint.NET, but Sumo Paint is nice because you don’t have to download yet another program on to your computer.

So go check it out and when you get a chance take a minute to thank frizbee for bringing this to our attention by buying or listening to one of his band’s albums.

GoMediaZine – Design Process

November 23rd, 2010

Since we had such positive reaction to our new “Cover Stories” feature here on Figment News I thought I’d pass along something that frizbee brought to my attention, this article from GoMediaZine.com on the making of an album cover using Photoshop.  It’s a fascinating article and it encouraged me to dig deeper into GoMediaZine, a site that offers tutorials on everything from vinyl album cover art to advice on how to start up your own t-shirt business.  As it’s tagline states “Real world advice from working artists and designers.”

I love sites like this, run by people who share a common love of art, design, and music, and are happy to share their collective knowledge with others interested in pursuing a career in any or all of them.  So take a minute and check them out.  I think you’ll find their a treasure trove of info for aspiring fake album cover designers, and real ones too!

…and pass along some thanks to frizbee for sharing this great blog with us!

Lately we’ve been hearing back from our players a lot more with feedback on what they’d like to see available in the way of features on Figment, so thanks!  We always appreciate hearing what you’d like to see changed, improved or done away with on the site.

One of the things that some of you have been asking for more of late is a player forum where you can communicate with other players better.  While we understand your requests for easier ways to communicate and collaborate with each other, we’ve been reticent to add a forum.  Why?  Simple, because in our past experience forums end up becoming everything but what they were intended to become, and often add nothing to the game experience.  They require monitoring, are often used to wage wars of words, and can be downright noisy and unproductive.  We’re not against our players communicating with each other, collaborating on projects or even just discussing music, design, etc., in fact we encourage it.  Having said that, we understand that shout boxes aren’t the ideal way for two players to discuss a collaborative project at length.

Others have suggested we create an internal site mail system, but again that involves infrastructure changes and additional expense that we don’t feel is warranted at this time.  We’re not saying we wouldn’t consider doing that in a premium version of the game, but at this time it’s something that’s not on our immediate list of enhancements.

So how can you communicate better?  Well, how about using the forum we already have – our Figment Facebook page.  I know a number of you have already “liked” the page and as a result are connected.  You can start a discussion among the players on that page, post a cover for feedback or comment on something someone else has posted.  Want to strike up a conversation or collaborate on a project in private?  Send them a message through Facebook.  It’s all available and already built, so it solves our communication issues while keeping the site purely about the game itself.

We’ll be interested to hear your feedback on this suggestion and the subject as a whole.  Again, we appreciate your suggestions, and we hope you’ll keep them coming.  There is nothing better than having an open line of communication with our players.

A Few More Rule Clarifications

October 6th, 2010

I just wanted to give you a quick update on some of the rules on Figment and clarifying some of the new rules we’ve created of late, because some of them seem to be causing some confusion.

1.  Cover Albums – As you know, we do not allow albums to be released on Figment that contain only cover songs by “real” bands.  This does not mean you cannot release albums or (in the case of “Next Rock Legend”) a video game that uses cover songs of Figment artists.  The only thing we ask is that you contact the creator of the Figment band(s) you’d like to cover to ask permission to use their song(s) and then give them proper credit by putting their name in parantheses’ next to the song title.  You can contact them to ask for the rights to cover their song by leaving a message on their band page using the shout box.

2.  Producers/Promoters/Radio Stations – As you know we allow our players a lot of latitude to exercise their imaginations and we’re pleased to see that you’re all a creative bunch.  However, we are not going to allow you to create certain music industry positions or business entities like producers, promoters, radio stations as band pages.  If you want to cast yourself in that role you can certainly do so via your profile page, but please don’t create a separate band page for these types of things.  We’re not against introducing these types of roles into Figment, and in fact, have been planning to do so for some time, but we’d rather do it in an organized fashion and at this time we’re not ready to do so.  They may very well be part of a subscription model of the game if that comes to pass, but that remains to be seen.  So in the meantime, please refrain from creating band pages for these types of things.  If you have an idea and would like to see if it will be allowed please email our customer service people by using the Feedback link at the bottom of every page on Figment.

3.  T-Shirt Listens? Another thing we are going to do away with is the ability to listen to a t-shirt or other form of merchandise.  This includes anything that you can’t legitimately “listen” to if it was real.  So concert posters, tickets, video games, and even fan club membership packages – unless they contain a CD.    Unfortunately, the only way to release this type of merchandise currently is to use an album page so people are clicking on the “listen” button and rewarding the creator with lucre.  While we’re planning to address this formally in the future, we’d rather not limit your creativity in the short term, so we’ll simply be monitoring these types of releases and removing any “listens” and corresponding lucre manually.  Any old releases of this type will start to see their listens removed over the coming months, but the players who created them will not lose the lucre they may have earned.

4. Copyright Bans – Has your band or album been banned?  Are you asking yourself why?  Do yourself a favor – PLEASE CHECK YOUR EMAIL!!!!  We always send you an email with information on why your band or album may have been banned.  In addition, our customer service people often send additional emails detailing specifically why a band/album was banned if they feel it’s not immediately apparent to the player.  Lastly, you can always drop customer service an email using the Feedback link on the bottom of every page if you’d like to get more clarification.  So from now on do yourself a favor and check your email before you start bombarding us with ban removal requests.

That’s it for now.  I’m still working on a basic rules document that I hope to have out soon, so I’ll post something about that as soon as it is available.  In the meantime, if you have other questions about our rules we suggest you check out our “Help” category here on Figment News, use the feedback link or leave us a comment on any post that details our rules.

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.

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.

I just wanted to do a quick post to let you know a few new guidelines/rules we have for content posted here on Figment.

1.  Let’s refrain from trying to out-gross the competition. We’re all for allowing people a lot of leeway and we understand that it’s hard to dictate taste.  After all what one person finds disgusting someone else may find funny, but remember when your albums are in the Recent Additions they aren’t filtered for offensive material so anyone can view them.  With that in mind, if you’re thinking about creating a band with a crude name or an album cover with a mutilated sexual appendage, please refrain, because from now on we’re not going to mess around and it will be deleted.  If you continue to create it, we’ll delete your account.  Let’s all try to take into account the feelings of our fellow players and exercise a little restraint.

2.  We love that our players are creative.  Imagination is the crux of Figment and we try our best not to limit it in any way.  However, we do have some guidelines on what we will allow.  As you know, we recently created a new rule that banned cover albums.  We are now announcing that videos are not allowed. Why?  Because although you can be creative in the video description, we don’t feel it has enough of a design component to make it fit with Figment.  After all, with a fake album you have to design a cover, while a video requires nothing more than an image.  If you want to release a video we suggest you make it part of a DVD or boxed set, and please put some creativity into the design of it’s packaging.  We’re open to you creating new ways to market your bands and satisfy your fans thirst for new products (in the past we’ve allowed video games, magazines, merchandise and posters to be released), but all of them must involve an element of design.  If you considering a new product and you’re not sure if it will fly feel free to run it by us by using the feedback link at the bottom of every page on the site.

3.  Shout Boxes are not really for shouting! As I’m sure you aware, marketing is a big part of Figment.  Getting the word out to people about your bands and their albums is an important skill that you need to master if you are going to be a top player.  That’s one of the reasons we placed Shout Boxes on every band page.  It’s a way for you to communicate with other players by leaving feedback on their bands, telling them about a new release or providing encouragement.  While we’ve always promoted the idea of using the shout box for marketing purposes, we’ve also preached against its abuse.  Lately we’ve seen a number of players who stretch the boundaries of shout box etiquette by pressuring people to buy/listen to their albums, fan their bands or even strike a “I’ll buy yours if you buy mine” type of deal.  I want to make it clear that this is an abuse of shout box protocol and effective immediately we’re going to begin levying lucre fines of 50 lucre per shout on those players who leave messages of this type. So what can you say?  How about a simple “Have you checked out my latest album?”  and leave it at that.  How about just telling someone you like what they’ve created and leave it to them to decide if they like what you’ve created.  Try striking up a friendship or helping someone out with some useful advice or critiques.  Pressuring people into becoming a fan or buying/listening to an album is not what the Shout Box is designed for, nor is leaving messages asking another player to return to listen to an album in an attempt to drive your album up the charts.  It’s a manipulation of the rules and you will be fined.  Instead of just using the shout box as an annoying megaphone or vuvuzela (couldn’t resist), try publishing news about your band, creating a tour that promotes the album or merely use the shout box judiciously.  Don’t forget your current fans are already being alerted to band’s album releases via email.  Do you really want to annoy them with more marketing noise?

We hope you will read these guidelines and new rules and take them to heart.  Figment is a game for everyone and we are committed to keeping it as level a playing field as possible.  If you have any feedback on these guidelines please comment below.  We welcome your feedback.