Avatar Permutations: i call bullshit

i was just reading an interview on the Worlds In Motion biz site with Jamie Ottilie, whose studio is set to release a kid-targeted MMO called Freaky Creatures.

In the interview, Ottilie crows:

The initial creatures come with 50 different parts, 20 powers and 4 objects that can be placed into the creature’s lair. The variety of parts and powers will allow players to create more than 3 billion visual combinations.

This is an extremely common attempt at impressing people with your virtual product: calculate all the possible permutations of your avatars based on the number of their component pieces. Ottilie is not the first person to try to dazzle the press with big numbers – this tired hack stat is dredged up again and again by designers desperate for something impressive to say about their work, and it betrays a lack of confidence in what could turn out to be a very lacklustre product.

What’s the appeal of 3 billion visual combinations when every kid picks the red dragon wings because they look the coolest?

A few years back, i worked with an outsourced game studio who said the very same thing about their avatars … there are FIVE body zones with TEN pieces per zone, which works out to ONE POINT FOUR ZILLION avatar combinations. (Math police: it doesn’t really, i know – but you get the gist.) They even went on to say that the colour pallette allows players to choose from over 16 MILLION colour hues.

16 million, eh? You don’t say. Are those the same 16 million colours we’ve been enjoying in every computerized paint program since 1993? (And aren’t 4 million of those colours indistinguishable variations of black, white, and bleh?)

MSPaint Pallette

MS Paint’s 16 million colours. Feast thine eyes … IF THOU CANST HANDLE IT!!

Boasting about your avatar permutations is like a vacuum cleaner salesman proudly proclaiming “Our SuckMaster 5000 can pick up SEVENTY FAJILLION dust particles in a matter of minutes. FAJILLION, ma’am. That’s one hunnerd thousand herpillion.” If a salesman tried that line on me (aside from taking him out for calling me “ma’am”), i’d seriously doubt the efficacy of his product. The most impressive thing he could say about it was that it could suck up an impressive number of atomic particles. Suspicious.

SuckMaster 5000

Well, it certainly does suck.

How can i be so sure this is bona fide flimflammery? i’ve used the line myself in trying to trump up an otherwise weak product. i admit it. But i’ve seen the error of my ways. From now on, if i need to jazzercise up a feeble game, i’ll sing the virtues of its Blast Processing.


1 thought on “Avatar Permutations: i call bullshit

  1. Dan Spiler

    You had me at “…black, white, and bleh?”

    Haven’t laughed this hard in awhile. And by that, I mean since your last post.


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