Wednesday, November 26, 2014
SL Sex With a RL Lover - Jenn Frank's "All the Spaces Between Us" (Part 2)
Originally published in Kill Screen Magazine and now serially featured in NWN with new screenshots and an afterword by the author, “All the Spaces Between Us - Struggling to Connect in a Pixelated World” is Jenn Frank’s deeply personal account of exploring Second Life and what she learned about identity, sex, creativity, life, and death along the way. (Read Part 1 here) -- Hamlet Au
When I asked Zachary if he wanted to have sex in Second Life with me, he said yes. He and I had been dating, rockily, for five years. He said he missed me.
I was in another state. I’d been living with my parents for a few months. I was getting scared. I still rented the apartment in San Francisco, and Zachary still had a pair of keys to it. He was taking care of my pets and plants. Maybe if he really missed me, he could let himself into the apartment and sit inside. He could even use the Xbox if he wanted. He could read my books. He could use the kitchen, he could use the shower and the toilet.
Sure, he missed me. So he said yes.
I explained that Virtual Amsterdam was a place that couples went, and that I’d—really! Really!—never been there before. But I’d read about it. We could rent a room?
Zachary said yes.
The Arcade: Five Things to Look for at Second Life's Most Popular Seasonal Gacha Event
'Tis the season for another round of The Arcade, one of Second Life's most popular shopping events and without a doubt its most popular gacha themed event. In case you're not in the know, gacha machines in SL are a lot like their real life counterparts -- packed with a set of goodies, some rarer than others, that players can buy randomly for a fraction of what they might cost under normal shopping circumstances.
The doors open on December 1st, but if you just can bring yourself to wait I've got a preview of what's in store, starting with...
Don't Miss This Full-Figured Freebie, Coming Soon to Ample Avi (NWN Partner News)
The Peace on Earth Hunt is both one of the largest and longest running hunts in all of Second Life, and impressively enough NWN sponsoring partner Ample Avi have participated in it every year for the past six years. That's a pretty solid track record to say the least.
This year Ample Avi will be offering Curvy Soft, a full-figured avatar shape modelled on the left. Though the free POE version will be copy only, a modifiable version of Curvy Soft will be available for sale after the event. While I can't reveal precisely where Curvy Soft will be hidden in Ample Avi's main store (that's the point of a "hunt" after all) I can reveal the clue that will lead you to her location. As Ample Avi designer Xme Xue revealed to me, "She's got the whole world in her hands." Remember that hint and you have all you need to locate this shapely freebie.
... At least, as soon as she's available. The Peace on Earth Hunt runs through the holiday season from December 1st to January 6th, so be sure to swing by Ample Avi's main store (teleport link) during that period to pick up Curvy Soft for yourself.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
The Trouble With Second Life Avatars - Jenn Frank's "All the Spaces Between Us" (Part I)
Originally published in Kill Screen Magazine and now serially featured in NWN with new screenshots and an afterword by the author, “All the Spaces Between Us - Struggling to Connect in a Pixelated World” is Jenn Frank’s deeply personal account of exploring Second Life and what she learned about identity, sex, creativity, life, and death along the way. -- Hamlet Au
“Wow, you must really hate yourself.”
That was Scott, typing at me from three city blocks away.
“What,” I said aloud at my desk. “WHAT,” I typed back at Scott.
“Jesus, come on,” he typed back. “Is that really what you think you look like?”
This was three, maybe four years ago, and yes, I thought it resembled me:
Paint Me Like One of Your Virtual Girls: Don't Miss This Second Life Artist's Gorgeous Avatar Portraits
As if any of us needed another reason to be in awe of SL designer and RL artist Nylon Pinkney, but here's one more to add to the list. Nylon (whose fans include comedian Drew Carey) has recently been painting up a storm with a series of beautifully detailed digital avatar portraits, including the one above which you can see in full on Flickr.
Nylon's artistic talents are no mystery to those of us who follow her in SL, but if you're new to her work you may want to catch up...
The Power of Plaid: Dragon Age: Inquisition's Customizable Crafting System Offers More Than Just Stats
On of my favorite features in Dragon Age: Inquisition (and there are a lot to choose from) is the ability to select the materials you'd like to use for an item you're crafting and have that choice reflected in the end result. You'll see it not just in its stats and bonusses, but in how it actually looks. Just as important as picking materials with helpful characteristics is picking a leather for my overcoat that won't clash with the muted blue samite of my sleeves, or making sure that Cassandra isn't running around in bright red and green-tinged metal plate.
It's a fascinating system, but it has a benefit that I'm not sure even its creators intended. There's one thing you can do with these materials that makes every aspect of the game immeasurably better...
Monday, November 24, 2014
Coming Soon: Jenn Frank Writes About Her Second Life for New World Notes!
I'm very proud to announce that New World Notes will soon feature the Second Life insights of Jenn Frank, an acclaimed writer, primarily in and about the game industry -- and who, as you may recall, was briefly entangled in gaming's hottest and most horrible controversy of the year. But well before than, Jenn was writing deeply personal accounts of her experiences in Second Life, including "All the Spaces in Between" a poignant and epic feature for Kill Screen magazine which we'll soon reprint here.
"Kill Screen Magazine sent out a 'call' to writers for anything, just anything, that might fall under the next issue's theme, 'intimacy," Jenn tells me, explaining how this piece came about: "I'd already written a bit about Second Life in the past, but I'd also instantly deleted it because I found it too embarrassing. (It was about sex.)"
And then recent experiences in her real life led to an inspiration:
Here's How to Spare Yourself from Winter Texture Blowout in Second Life
It's that time of year when many Second Life sims redecorate for a more snowy, seasonal look. Everything gets a lot whiter, from terrain textures to rooftops and trees, and as everything starts to get more festive it also starts to get a lot more... Blown-out. Although snow-blindness isn't a concern in the virtual world, these blown-out snowy surfaces can give us a bit of detail-blindness under default lighting. The finer aspects of textures that keep them from looking like indistinguishably muddled white things tend to get washed away in the sheer, overwhelming brightness of it all.
Thankfully, Kriss Lehmann of tree and terrain-grooming brand Botanical has shared a pretty helpful little graphic recently that should help you understand how to get the most out of all these wintery textures. Virtual world photographers in particular will want to pay attention to this one...
Get Crafty With the Product Maker Script from Shuggles (NWN Partner News)
Content creation in Second Life is done in a way that doesn't really lend itself to immersion or roleplay. Baking a cake in Blender or pulling it fully-formed out of your inventory doesn't really have the same impact that combining ingredients to produce it would. NWN sponsoring partner Shuggles' Product Maker script is a pretty simple way to do something that might otherwise seem a little impossible unless you have a head for scripting things yourself. With it, you can recreate a crafting system of sorts in SL; gather your ingredients, combine them, and voila. Maybe you've just forged a piece of armor, brewed a potion -- whatever you've set the script up for.
I can think of dozens of items I've picked up over the years meant to help imitate the actions of making something, but where that action never bears fruit. We all probably have something like that, maybe an animated kitchen set or even an anvil or a sewing machine. While the Product Maker script obviously can't create items from ingredients alone, it's still one step closer to imitating reality. Better to get that finished cake from the oven than from your inventory, right? The Product Maker is also full-permissions, meaning that if you're the one making that kitchen set you can easily make it that much more useful to your customers.
Top Seven New World Notes Posts from Last Week!
- Linden Lab Pulls Minecraft-Esque Patterns from Steam
- Watch Iris Play: Goat Simulator's Latest Update, a Hilarious Take on Your Least Favorite MMO Tropes
- Second Life Machinima: Mr. Bones Meets a Mermaid
- Back to Nature: Paint and Explore an Idyllic World in Toca Boca's Latest Game for iOS
- Linden Lab's Blocksworld Now Has 400K Monthly Users - Here's How They Can Grow it to Be Larger Than Second Life
- Why Second Life 2 Shouldn't Allow Porn at Launch, as Explained by a Single Viral Post
- GamerGate "Movement" on Twitter Driven by Just 500 Accounts & 3000 Daily Users, MIT Lecturer Finds
Friday, November 21, 2014
SL Go Places: "CHAOS, KOSMOS", Massive New Installation in the Linden Endowment for the Arts Sim
That's me floating at the base of CHAOS, KOSMOS, a vast and sprawling new art installation now being featured in the LEA sim -- that is, the Linden Endowment of the Arts island, a partnership between Linden Lab and Second Life artists. Created by Giovanna Cerise, CHAOS, KOSMOS is an incredibly challenging 3D sculpture to see in its full glory, so I was curious how it would look running SL Go on my old Dell laptop.
I took this pic and the one below with the draw distance up to 500 meters, dynamic shadows enabled, and when you're able to see that far, and you're floating alongside it up high, Cerise's installation looks like this:
Buy a Second Life Dress to Help Educate Sierra Leone Girls
Strawberry Singh has news of an excellent non-profit campaign in Second Life, led by Juno Mantel, a well-known SL fashion designer:
Juno Mantel of Junbug has started a campaign to help educate girls in Sierra Leone [one of the world's most impoverished countries]. She has created this adorable vintage school dress, available in 5 colors, and 100% of the sales will be donated to her Do it in a Dress campaign... The Do it in a Dress campaign is part of the One Girl Organization in Australia. People from all over the world (men, women and children) have been taking part by wearing a dress and raising funds.
Also via Strawberry, here's a video from One Girl explaining the program more:
Linden Lab Pulls Minecraft-Esque Patterns from Steam
Dorito boy, we hardly knew ye. Linden Lab has pulled Pattern, its inventive, Minecraft-eseque sandbox game, from Steam:
While “extremely grateful” to the players who bought an Early Access copy of Patterns, features relying on server connections, such as world-sharing are going to be turned off and the there will be no future updates. The offline content released so far will still be playable, however. “Patterns had early promise,” the team say. “And while Linden Lab focuses our efforts on our other offerings, we are still evaluating the future of the Patterns technology.” Patterns players are angry at the sudden announcement. There’d been no updates to the game since May but there had been nothing written to suggest the team would take the money and run.
That's disappointing news, because Patterns showed a lot of potential. Even Minecraft creator Markus Persson was digging it, while a well-known developer admired the hell of it on New World Notes. But apparently it wasn't gaining enough traction/sales to justify more effort on it, besides the company's core focus:
DX Exchange Hiring In-World Staff (NWN Partner News)
DX Exchange (a proud NWN partner) is now hiring paid in-world staff to help expand its Linden Dollar to real currency exchange service throughout Second Life -- especially users who are fluent in both English and Spanish or Chinese. If you're qualified and interested, e-mail support at dxexchange dot com or IM the company's in-world representative (pictured here) MarcelEdward DX.
More details after the break.
Watch Iris Play: Goat Simulator's Latest Update, a Hilarious Take on Your Least Favorite MMO Tropes
Remember Goat Simulator? I don't think there's any other game that I enjoyed as much but played so little of. When it first came out it was a genuinely entertaining diversion, but even when they released a new map I didn't feel much of a need to return; it all just wore thin too quickly. That's likely why their latest piece of DLC (released yesterday) has taken me by surprise. For the first time ever, I'm playing Goat Simulator and seriously planning to play more.
The Goat MMO Simulator DLC is absolutely free, and brings multiple new maps and atcivities into the game. It's simultaneously a snarky response to all the fans who speculated that it would be easy for the developers to patch in online multiplayer and a legitimately purposeful parody of your typical MMORPG.
Yesterday I tried Goat MMO Simulator out for the first time live with a couple of friends, so if you want a taste of what this DLC has in store just watch for yourself (above).
Day in the Life of One of Second Life's Most Stylish Avatars
O'Clock is a Second Life fashion magazine with a damn clever premise. It follows a single featured avatar through their "day", starting in the morning, with each spread themed around their daily activities. It's an interesting twist on its own, but this month's issue of O'Clock is even more special. Issue number five's highlighted avatar is Matilda Soon, a mature lady who oozes class out of every virtual pore.
Matilda's not the first stylish avatar to take on the chic older woman look, but unlike many of the others she might share the category with Matilda's not too married to her cateye frames and pearls. She dresses the part of an aging Coco Chanel as easily as she slips into trendier, more contemporary galaxy-prints and geometric motifs. In fact one of my favorite spreads in the magazine features Matilda's morning yoga routine, expertly shot without an ounce of farce or comedy.
That's an important aspect of Matilda, too. She's absolutely not a joke, and she's made that abundantly clear:
Thursday, November 20, 2014
SL Go Places: Mayfair, a Stylish Little City Sim for Shoppers and Sightseers Alike
Even if you have a decent computer, there are some things in Second Life that require technical compromises. Case in point: Occasionally crowded shopping sims with beautifully built surroundings. Mayfair is the perfect example of this, a place full of clean, classic mesh buildings. It's also home to popular brands Celoe and Mon Tissu, meaning that you'll rarely find yourself there alone, even if you visit during the current lull between releases.
That said, visiting Mayfair in SL Go was a surprisingly different experience than I'm used to having there. Here's why:
Second Life Machinima: Mr. Bones Meets a Mermaid
The latest hilarious and lovingly produced installment in the Second Life adventures of Ole "Mr. Bones" Etzel is full of disaster and danger and maybe some hotly hot hotness with a mermaid in the deep blue sea:
"Mr. Bones" is Ole Etzel, a German SLer with a knack for American folk music and machinima, who told me this about the latest adventures of his avatar:
New World Notes Seeking Guest Posts on SL & VR
We are looking for guest posts to run on New World Notes, broadly around the topic of Second Life, virtual worlds, and virtual reality. You'll get a chance to express your opinion in the largest SL-related blog online, and you can include a link to your SL blog/SL Marketplace listing/whatever in the process.
If you have an idea you'd like to outline, please e-mail me at email@example.com or send an IM to me in Second Life, to Hamlet Au. Express your idea for a post in a "nutgraf".
What's that? Well, this:
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Back to Nature: Paint and Explore an Idyllic World in Toca Boca's Latest Game for iOS
Toca Boca's iOS apps might be better described as toys than games. They specialize in providing the foundational elements of play and then letting their players loose without any further guidance, leading to a lineup of products that resemble dollhouses more than they resemble a lot of their fellow child-oriented apps. Their philosophy is clean and simple, with an up-front cost and absolutely no in-app purchases.
But even though Toca Boca's work is designed with kids in mind, you can still get a lot of joy out of them as an adult. For example, consider their latest: Toca Nature...
OpenWorm Nervous System Simulated in LEGO Robot
I for one welcome our artificial worm-robot powered overlords:
This is the latest from OpenWorm, a collaborative, open source attempt to construct an artificial life form -- a simple worm, computationally created from the cellular level to a point where it's sophisticated enough to solve, as the site explains, "basic problems such as feeding, mate-finding and predator avoidance". As Cory Doctorow explains about this update:
[T]hey've sequenced the connectome of all 302 neurons in a C. Elegans worm, simulated them in software, and put them to work driving a Lego robot. The legobot's sensors and motors are connected to the software in a way that corresponds to the worm's sensory apparatus and motor neurons, and the researchers claim that the resulting robotic behaviors are strikingly similar to a C Elegans' own. The significant thing here is that these behaviors were not programmed: they emerged naturally from mere act of simulating the worm's neurons.
So yes, OpenWorm has moved from the digital realm into robots. And our world will soon be dominated by them.
I've written a lot about the OpenWorm project, because a well-known SL programmer was part of the lead team during its inception:
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Linden Lab's Blocksworld Now Has 400K Monthly Users - Here's How They Can Grow it to Be Larger Than Second Life
VentureBeat has a long interview with Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg, which mainly hits points he's discussed with us here and here, but he also reveals a new data point which helps explain why the company kept Blocksworld, the LEGO-like tablet-based application targeted at kids, while selling off properties like Desura:
We’re learning a ton about how to make creation easy and fun. We’re learning how kids interact with a device like this. We’ve done barely any marketing around this. We’re still evolving this product, still early. But we’re already up to just about 400,000 monthly users. We’re a top-ranked game in the education category. We tend to be near the top in both the family and education categories of the App Store, at least in the U.S. The app is available globally, but at the moment, it’s English only. (Emph. mine)
That's really impressive, especially without much marketing and no non-English versions to speak of. Second Life has about 600,000 active monthly users, so Blocksworld is already within striking distance. Create a version of Blocksworld for the Japanese and Korean markets (which monetize best) and for China (which has the largest install base), not to mention Germany (the EU's biggest mobile market, I believe), and I can easily see Blocksworld getting a monthly user-base far larger than Second Life itself.
Speaking of which, Altberg describes a rich ecosystem of user-genreated content in Blocksworld:
Inquiring About Inquisitors: Who's Your Hero in Dragon Age: Inquisition and Why?
The character you make in a BioWare game can be a strangely personal thing. Unless you're one of those weirdos who goes with the default (bo-ring) there's a lot for you to consider before you even start playing. Where's your character from? What life have they lived? What kind of person are they/will they become? What do they want out of the world? Appearance customization is almost the simplest part of the process, even though Dragon Age: Inquisition offers more customization options than ever before.
I mulled all of these things over last night and came up with something I'm happy with, but what about you?
Three Items from The Kawaii Project Guaranteed to Make Your Second Life Cuter
I don't get excited about new shopping events in Second Life very often, but when I do they're almost always kawaii. It's true that every week it seems there's a new event, a new hunt, a new fair, a new something pulling SL consumers in every direction, so these days only a handful of them ever really catch my eye. The Kawaii Project is one of them, promising to be a monthly event where designers inspired by all things cute and lovely can gather together and flaunt their latest work.
I've picked out three items you won't want to miss from the debut round of the Kawaii Project, so keep reading for the details!
Consider Kickstarting: That Dragon, Cancer, a Bereaved Couple's Interactive Memorial to Their Cancer-Stricken Son
That Dragon, Cancer, is a new, heart-wrenching Kickstarter project which is both a game and couple's memorial to their very young son, who recently succumbed to cancer:
Click here to consider funding. Despite all the drama and rancor around the game industry this year, the medium of games continues to be more ambitious, more willing to take on painful and controversial subjects -- and in the end, that's what really matters.
Monday, November 17, 2014
Why Second Life 2 Shouldn't Allow Porn at Launch, as Explained by a Single Viral Post
So this totally NSFW post, "These Strange Stories Prove Second Life Isn't The Dreamworld You Believed...", from a site I've never heard about, is currently going viral, and as such, perfectly illustrates why I said Second Life's follow-up shouldn't allow porn at launch. The post itself is a cheesy, juvenile re-hashing of sexual content in Second Life (especially the kinkier and weirder kind) from many years ago. But here's the thing: Once that kind of content is out there in the social media ecosystem, it's impossible to retract, and thus becomes indelibly associated with the brand, with no way to disentangle it. Like I said:
It's inevitable that Oculus Rift and other VR platforms will inspire pornographic content, and many of the games set for deployment in VR are already violent, and that's fine for adults who want to immerse themselves in that kind of content. But virtual porn in particular has always been an impediment to Second Life going mainstream, hurting its brand, scaring away mainstream institutions, and just generally causing it to be a laughingstock for anyone who wasn't familiar with how much more non-porn content the world contained. (That is to say, just about everybody.)
A lot of readers objected to this idea, and their rejoinder is often something like this: The problem isn't with sex in Second Life, it's with conservative people (especially in the US) being puritanical about sexual content. But that response utterly misses the real problem:
GamerGate "Movement" on Twitter Driven by Just 500 Accounts & 3000 Daily Users, MIT Lecturer Finds
MIT lecturer Michael Trice crunched the numbers around the #GamerGate hashtag on Twitter during the first week of November, and came up with this shocking stat:
In both the case of tweets and RTs about 500 accounts create half of the total volume in the conversation. Regular daily participation floats around 3,000 users. Then there’s a large body of several thousand accounts dipping a toe in the conversation.
Overall participation in that hashtag during that time frame was around 16,000 accounts total, and it's not even clear how many accounts are advocates of the "movement", as opposed to detractors. In any case, kudos to Trice for doing the heavy lifting to get the concrete data, which as it happens, is in line with my September estimate that GamerGate is around 10,000 guys, give or take a few thousand.
Here's Why Shadow of Mordor's Photo Mode Could Be a Game-Changer
In what I can only describe as my fugue of anticipation leading up to Dragon Age: Inquisition's release, this past weekend I decided to dip my toes back into Shadow of Mordor. Shadow of Mordor is pretty highly acclaimed and has some very interesting systems, but for whatever reason it didn't really "stick" with me and consequently I hadn't played it since early October -- which, as it turns out is around when they added a feature that would have absolutely rekindled my interest: Photo Mode.
It's perfect for capturing some of the more tranquil scenes from the game, as show above, as well as some decidedly less tranquil (and less flattering) ones. For example...
Detailed Second Life Snapshots Don't Have to Overwhelm You (or the Viewer)
It can be really tempting, when taking detail-rich snapshots in Second Life, to try to put as many shots and angles together as you can. It's a trap I've fallen into as a blogger many times, feeling like I need to show off every little part of an outfit or a scene in one image. This sometimes leads to Frankensteined Photoshop collages that may show off all of the details, but will be so busy and cluttered that a viewer may not be able to appreciate them anyway.
SL artist pokute Burt recently posted a pair of snapshots that reminded me of this dilemma, and the fact that sometimes the simplest compositions are the best. Instead of crowding the above shot with panels and vignettes as I might have been tempted to do myself, pokute instead follows up with a detailed shot even more charming than the first:
Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week!
- My Top Ten Ways to Describe Second Life in Five Words
- Top Fifty Most Active Second Life Sims, October 2014
- Iris Rants: I'm Sick and Tired of Meaningless Second Life Marketplace Features
- RIP Eddie Escher, Pioneering Second Life Creator
- Watch This Weekend: South Park's Mind-Blowing VR Episode, a Cartesian Puzzle With Ball Punching
Friday, November 14, 2014
Watch This Weekend: South Park's Mind-Blowing VR Episode, a Cartesian Puzzle With Ball Punching UPDATE: Palmer Luckey Explains How Oculus Joined in on the Fun
Just like they did with World of Warcraft, South Park is getting the first and last word on virtual reality in the Oculus Rift era:
Basically it's a Cartesian allegory, with dick punching. And Eric Cartman as the evil deceiver:
DX Exchange Launches New Web to SL Marketplace
DX Marketplace is a new service from NWN partner DX Exchange -- that's right, the authorized Linden Dollar re-seller now also sells Second Life items on the web, for pick-up at DX's many in-world terminals. They're offering a L$100 promotion for customer sign-ups, and SL designers and merchants can try the service for free (i.e. no listing fees) until the end of the year. (Click here to start listing SL items.) There's already several vendors on DX Exchange:
The Many Faces of Mizu, A Brand New Mesh Head for Second Life Avatars
I wasn't sold on the new mesh head from The Sugar Garden when I first saw it. I'm still head-over-heels in love with my Snow Rabbit head from a couple years back, and even with all the expression-heavy heads coming out lately none of them have come close to matching it in cuteness. TSG's pouty "Mizu" is a contender, but it took me until I saw longtime fashion blogger Willow Zander's feature on the head to get fully on board. Here's why:
Grey Rabbit: How to Take a Second Life Fashion Snapshot With Character
There's typically a surplus of brash postures, bold makeup, and bright lights in fashion imagery, and Second Life fashion snaps are no exception. While this standard makes for some pretty powerful images and showcases many designs well, there's still something to be said for branching off in another direction -- pursuing a look that's decidedly more... Quiet.
Nomak Nyoki's photography is typically not something you could characterize as quiet. He's a master at portraying stylish male avatars in particular, and they're often as bold as can be. Compared to them this sombre female figure he posted today certainly stands out, but not in a bad way. It's an image with a lot of character.
To some extent, all the brashness, boldness, and brightness in many fashion snapshots washes character away by design; it's a marketing-oriented style intended to make you want to place yourself in that scene. But images like these can feel much more authentic. The model's not a blank slate, but a person with vulnerabilities. She's the personification of her rabbit pendant, soft and slouched, and that makes this image much more interesting to me than dozens of others that could have been taken.
I Don't Always Blog About Second Life Fashion Spreads...
Thursday, November 13, 2014
Do You Want Virtual Reality in Your Web Browser?
We’ve designed MozVR to be a “native VR” Web experience, made from the ground up for virtual reality. As one of the first websites of it’s kind, building it required that we come up with new solutions for the unique challenges of a fully immersive, three-dimensional medium. To make it easier for others to build their own VR websites, we are sharing these solutions on MozVR and GitHub, from source code, to tools, to tutorials.
Nobody say the world "VRML" -- please, just don't -- but the developers want to turn web-browsing into a VR experience:
Five Things You Need to Do Before Dragon Age: Inquisition Comes Out
I'm not going to mince words here; I'll admit that I'm working myself into a bit of a froth over Dragon Age: Inquisition, which is due to be released next Tuesday. It's receiving rave reviews from critics I respect, and the general consensus seems to be that it does so many things right that previous games in the series may have done wrong. Notably, for the first time in the series players won't be confined to a single nation. They'll roam across Thedas in a game world larger and more open than ever before, and peppered with plenty secrets and points of interest.
But Tuesday is basically an eternity away, and I -- I mean you -- might need your Dragon Age fix right now. If so you're in luck, because I have a laundry list of five things you should definitely do before you finally lay your hands on Inquisition next week, starting with...
Second Life Bloggers: Earn $10/Referral With SL Go's “Refer-A-Friend” Code -- I'll Help You Promote It!
OnLive (a proud partner to this blog) recently announced a new SL Go “Refer-A-Friend” program. For a limited time, anyone can earn $10 for every referral who converts to a paid SL Go subscriber. Here's the basic instructions:
- Go here and create an account
- Link your PayPal account to get paid.
- Use the social sharing tools to get word out about SL Go.
- a. Share on Facebook & Twitter. b. Send email to friends. c. Website banner tools are available, too.
And if you're an active SL blogger like me and you're interested in participating, I want to help you promote the offer so your readers can try out SL Go's streaming service for tablets and low-end laptops while giving you a nice cash bonus to support all your blogging. Here's how:
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
RIP Eddie Escher, Pioneering Second Life Creator UPDATED: Added Short Video Documentary
Fallingwater Cellardoor & Eddie Escher in Second Life, 2004; Alayne Wartell & Chris Edwards at his 40th birthday, 2010
Once upon a time, two shy but talented 3D artists met as avatars in Second Life, fell in love with each others' virtual creativity, and then finally, fell in love with each other, and moved across an ocean, to be together. In Second Life they were known as Fallingwater Cellardoor and Eddie Escher, and in 2004, they were among the world's best 3D artists. I wrote about how they met and fell in love then, but sad to say that Eddie, called Chris Edwards, passed away eariler this year, tragically just shy of his 45th birthday. Years before mesh or even sculpted prims, Eddie (a game dev artist by trade), showed how beautiful Second Life prims can be (see below). Fallingwater recently posted this sad news on the new Facebook group for longtime SLers, and since the story of their meeting is among my favorites, I wanted to share it here:
Fill Your Fall and Winter Wardrobe With These Five Picks from the Second Life Marketplace
If you're looking to restock your virtual wardrobe with a few cold weather essentials, the fall fashion showcase on the Second Life Marketplace right now won't be much help. Yesterday I wrote about exactly how little help it is, but at the time I didn't offer much in the way of advice for shoppers.
So with that in mind, if you are looking around the Marketplace for a few warmer seasonal pieces to add to your avatar's closet I have a few recently released recommendations for you to consider, starting with...
Gaming's Top 13 Best Dressed Characters - Janine's Latest on Paste Magazine
"The 13 Best Costumed Characters in Videogames" is Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' latest post for the uber-hip Paste Magazine, and as everyone who reads her Second Life/MMO fashion coverage here, she's got an excellent eye for spotting avatar-based style. It's a compendium of characters across many genres of games, a lot of which will surprise even hardcore gamers. Among her faves are The Boyle Sisters from Dishonored, and I got no quarrel with that -- we both became big nuts for the immersive cross-genre steampunk action game from 2012, and fortunately, I was able to interview the lead creators, Harvey Smith and Raphael Colantonio, for several NWN posts on the now-classic game: The Story of Dishonored: How the Hit Game's Immersive Narrative Was Crafted and Told, Dishonored's End: Harvey Smith & Raphael Colantonio on Designing a Game That Changes Based on Player Behavior, Dishonored Players Evenly Choose High Chaos "Evil" & Low Chaos "Good" Endings, and How Dishonored Honors Thief.
Anyway, read Iris' full list here.
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Iris Rants: I'm Sick and Tired of Meaningless Second Life Marketplace Features
Another season, another seasonal showcase on the Second Life Marketplace. Although I've written very critically about these showcases in the past, I'll admit that I still check them regularly. When done right, they could be tremendously helpful for shoppers too overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content on the SL Marketplace to browse.
The problem is that they aren't. They never are. This time it's even worse than usual, and here's why:
Here's How Insurance Policies for Digital Goods Kicked an Unreleased Game's Player Economy Into High Gear
One of the most fascinating virtual economies in action right now is the one that has emerged around Star Citizen (a crowdsourced game that is still in development) and a recent post on Eurogamer has done an excellent job of explaining just how that's come to be.
For some time now, backers and future players of Star Citizen have been able to use real money to buy and trade access to virtual ships -- which range in price from the cost of a decent meal out to the cost of a decent used car -- that they will be able to use when the game eventually launches. The catch is that much like ships in EVE Online, Star Citizen's spacecraft are not invulnerable. They can be permanently destroyed... Unless the owner has insurance.
Those virtual insurance policies are exactly what's Kickstarted the player economy even while the game itself is still in development. Eurogamer's Wesley Yin-Poole writes:
Top Fifty Most Active Second Life Sims, October 2014
Courtesy Louis Platini's Metaverse Business, a Second Life/OpenSim analytics company that gathers publicly accessible in-world data for its clients, here's the top 50 most active Second Life sims, starting with 26-50, listed by their average avatar visitor count at any given period, visitor range, and previous position last month (September in this case):
Click here to use SL's map function on the web to search and directly teleport to any of these sims. As with September's list, roughly half of the most active sims are Adult rated, with just five rated for General content. Here's 1-25 after the break:
Monday, November 10, 2014
My Top Ten Ways to Describe Second Life in Five Words
Iris' open forum last week challenging readers to describe Second Life in five words attracted a deluge of suggestions. Here's my favorite five which work best as an "elevator" pitch to a non-user:
- "We all share lucid dreams." - Bavid Dailey
- "Hideous, wonderful, disturbing, inspiring, oxymoronic."- Marigold Devin
- "AutoCAD that you live in." -Jessica Pixel
- "The Matrix in Beta (sorta)"- Gealya Aeon
- "Your World. Your Imagination. Kinda." -- Val Kendal
And here's my five favorites more for insiders, decidely more snarky:
2D to 3D: Check Out This Fascinating, Flattening Visual Effect from the Unity Editor
From a fan's perspective, one of the best perks of indie game development is that developers will often share interesting bits and pieces of what they're working on. Since small operations are typically only beholden to themselves and not massive companies (and NDAs) they can share more, and what they share is often more than just marketing materials. It may be a snapshot of their current progress or a glimpse at an asset or two. It may even be, like the gif above, just the result of fiddling with a few things for fun.
Chelsea Saunders tweeted this dynamic dollhouse view of a game she's currently working on a few days ago, demonstrating the effect of toggling 2D and 3D view options in the Unity editor she's developing in. It's utterly hypnotizing to watch... Even though it doesn't have anything to do with the game itself. In The Witch's House will be an exploration-based game set in what's already shaping up to be one of the most believably twee interiors in recent gaming memory.
If you can pry your eyes away from her clever gif, you can check out screenshots and information about Saunders' upcoming game In The Witch's House on her blog.
Start Your Monday Right With 36 Seconds of Absolutely Absurd Second Life Machinima
A fluffy white cat with uncannily dark features stands poolside in the midst of a vast, autumnal forest. There is quiet and the soft lapping of water before the cat seizes up, lifts into the air and drops mechanically down onto one of many pumpkins sitting nearby. In a burst of juice and pulp, the pumpkin collapses into sections like a freshly-whacked chocolate orange. The scene repeats itself several times over the span of 36 seconds, and comprises one of the most absurd things I've seen in a while.
Nanri Ying's "かぼちゃ割" (or "Pumpkin Split") is exactly 36 seconds of a cat smashing pumpkins in the most awkward and somehow perfect manner possible, and there really is no more to it than that. I've already spoiled the entire thing, but I bet it's still not enough. Not until you've seen it. If you don't, the curiousity may very well gnaw at you forever...
So go ahead, watch it for yourself:
Top EIGHT New World Notes Posts from Last Week!
- How Would You Describe Second Life in Five Words or Less?
- James Cameron: Virtual Reality a "Yawn" Until it Gets Mass Market Growth, Non-Gaming Experiences
- Why Linden Lab's Selling of Desura Might Be The Smartest Thing It's Ever Done -- Wait, This Sounds Familiar
- Linden Lab Sells Desura Game Distribution Platform to Focus on Virtual Worlds
- Seabeard for iOS: Great Animal Crossing-Like Potential... If Pacing & Profit Model is Improved
- The Cold, Dead Eyes of Kevin Spacey Proves We're Still Years from Realistically Emotive Avatars
- In Second Life, No One Knows You're a Billionaire
- A Facebook Page for People Who Met in Second Life
Friday, November 07, 2014
Play in Second Life This Month (If You Dare): An R-Rated Adventure Game from MadPea Called Blood Letters
Blood Letters is a new point-and-click adventure game from renowned Second Life game developer Madpea, and this one is a decidedly R-rated search for a serial killer.
"In some ways," Madpea's Kiana Writer tells me, "we're going back to the basics and encourage the use of your brain. While the game is HUD -driven, the players can collect extra clues and solve puzzles if they keep a traditional pen and paper with them and take notes during the gameplay."
Go here to get started. Oh, and Kiana tells me there's a bonus for dedicated players: