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From Role-Play to Creative, Zypher Yao in Second Life

Written by: Vanatosis Arentire
Images by: Vanatosis Arentire & Zypher Yao

I was summoned to the Isle of Harrington to meet with Zypher Yao, a celestial wind dragon who became a Tran dimensional space pirate, and an accomplished sim, starship, and HUD creator.

Zypher is an accomplished shape shifter, having more than a thousand forms. He tends to take on different forms as a course of habit, making this mysterious character very difficult to track.

I was summoned to the Isle of Harrington to meet with Zypher Yao, a celestial wind dragon who became a Tran dimensional space pirate, and an accomplished sim, starship, and HUD creator.

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Zypher is an accomplished shape shifter, having more than a thousand forms. He tends to take on different forms as a course of habit, making this mysterious character very difficult to track.

Like most dragons/pirates, Zypher exhibits hoarding behaviors, favoring magical artifacts, starships, and oddities. He stashes his treasures in a secret null-space pocket dimension.

There is a high price on his head, but I wanted no bounty from capturing Zypher Yao. I merely wished to learn a few of the secrets surrounding this renowned designer. To my delight, he agreed to accommodate my request and gift me (and our readers) with his time and insight.

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He also agreed (and being a dragon, this may have taken some restraint) not to make me his afternoon snack.

I began our interview with the most basic of questions: What drove you to create?  Zypher grinned at me and said, simply, “Necessity.”

And with that our journey began.

Yao and his role-playing friends were dissatisfied with available space-genre builds, so he undertook his first massive project – the Space Pirate Asteroid Base. His friends liked it so much, they urged him to put it on the market. He was hesitant to do this at first but ultimately decided to take a gamble. He reasoned that if he could sell one unit a month, it would pay for the advertising, and he’d net L$1000. His gamble paid off. He sold 20 units in the first month alone.

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Yao’s second build was inspired by his avatar, which is, of course, a dragon. His fantasy-style dragon cave build was another great success.

Returning to the space theme, Yao’s third major build was the start of his starships, including the well-known Derelict. Zypher is a stickler for details and is passionate about creating fully-functioning, intriguing, and massive builds. In his own words, “If you can’t get lost in my builds, then I haven’t put enough work into them.”

So what triggered Zypher’s next creative foray? He’s an avid avatar collector with over a thousand avatar forms, but his first love has always been his first avatar, his dragon. Sadly, however, he found most HUDs to be nearly identical and somewhat boring, using the same effects over and over again. Once again, necessity prompted his decision to change that and bring new style and excitement to HUD selection.

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Zypher’s first design was the Orbital Bombardment HUD, providing an array of weapons that a starship could beam down from space. (He laughingly admits that the choice for his first HUD was prompted by his getting a bit miffed at some Jedis at a sim he was playing on.) He spent a few thousand lindens on an SLX HUD creation system and then tore into the scripts, modifying them to suit his needs. While not yet a master scripter, he knew enough to get the results he wanted to achieve, and his skills grew from there.

Zypher struggled with other HUDs for a while, trying to find just the right one. He found most to be overcomplicated, containing many things that could be streamlined and improved. This inspired his determination to create HUDs that were not only visually interesting but also user-friendly. His HUDs contain an average of 40-70 items and are simple to use, easily seen, and offer one-touch cleanup. They’re also versatile. While his HUDs can be used with most of the major combat systems out there, they are not specific to any one of them.

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Zypher began using animations in his HUDs after the release of the Hell Fire HUD. His animated HUDs are unique, in that not all of the casting animations are static. Why randomize casting animations? “Second Life is a game, don’t forget that,” he emphasizes, and catering to role-players’ desire for fun, as well as his desire to keep things fresh and inviting, are two primary goals that drive him during HUD design.

After Zypher began to create HUDs, he noticed a significant change in earnings. While his other builds were doing well, the introduction of the HUD increased sales roughly tenfold. The role-play community was impressed with his work and embraced the benefit of actually seeing a tangible spell effect instead of just words on the screen.

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Another differentiator? Efficient prims and scripts. One of the things many builders fail to consider is the effect their HUDs have on the sims in which their customers play. The lag and other playability issues (many HUDs include options that could be used to grief other players) have led many sim owners to ban the use of these HUDs. Zypher, being a former sim owner himself, knows all too well the effect that a poorly designed HUD can have. He stresses, “If your magic isn’t sim-friendly, it isn’t useful.”

Zypher diligently minimizes prim and script usage as much as possible. As he says, “I like to use prims efficiently; it’s all about getting the most out of your prim.” Many other HUDs with similar features contain double, triple, or more the number of scripts than his have. “The end-user shouldn’t have to worry about scripts.” Also, with the Linden Labs script reduction policy coming down the pipe, the majority of his HUDs will not have to be updated at all, as they are already well below the limits that are set forth.

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I asked Zypher if he had any tips for those that might be interested in building or creating HUDs. He replied, “Be passionate about it. Do something you love. Don’t worry about the lindens.”

So what’s on the horizon for this successful creator?

One thing Zypher finds an interesting concept and is considering releasing at some point in the future is a Clockwork HUD. But for now, the next project on his mind is a Dragon Breath HUD. Dragons are not only beloved to him, they are also among the most powerful creatures of lore, and Yao is excited to create a HUD that brings that power to life. Usable by Bipeds (human-sized dragons), the effects would emanate from the dragon’s mouth. He envisions an array of 12 different breath weapons in the HUD, based on the Chromatics and Metallic dragons of D&D fame. “Dragon Breath is laying waste to a town!” Zypher cackles with obvious relish.

Lest we forget, this talented creator is also a devoted role-player, having RP’ed his way over time through quite a few genres. Zypher says now, though, he wants to settle in on a specific role for awhile, perhaps playing… gasp… a HUMAN! He would like to become a sky captain who also tinkers with airships is and is considering Tairais to do this. A shock, I suppose, but, given his SL background, a suitable role for him, I would say.

As our time together wound down, I asked him what words of wisdom he could leave us with.  Zypher replied, “Build based on your inspirations, and your builds will be amazing.”

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Smiling and taking his words to heart, I bowed low, thanked Zypher Yao for his time and illumination, and made my way home, pondering how fortunate we all are for the many ways in which he has enhanced our rich world of role-play. And how relieved I was that his dragon form didn’t chew me up like yesterday’s bacon.

You can find Zypher’s products at his in-world store:

Main Store

Or on the marketplace:

Reproduced with permission from Roleplay Guide Magazine.
April 2011June 2011August 2011Sept 2011Oct 2011Nov/Dec 2011January 2012 – Oct 2014

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About The Author

I am Filipa Thespian, Editor-In-Chief of Nu Vibez Magazine and Founder/Publisher of Roleplay Guide Magazine (now a part of Nu Vibez). Additionally, I am a builder/content creator inside Second Life (, am CEO of iMoogi Entperprises, LLC, owners of, and other brands and am a graphic artist/web developer/marketer and all around multi-media professional with more than 20 years of experience under my belt.

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