Tuesday, January 27, 2015
How to Create Great Virtual Spaces: Design for Feeling, Believability, and Hyper-Realism (Comment of the Week)
Last week everyone was talking about the jaw-dropping Angel Manor as depicted in the machinima below, and fortunately for all of us, the creator of both the machinima and the Manor stopped by NWN to discuss how he created his acclaimed sim. Kaya Angel's comments are such a master class in creating virtual architecture, I'm highlighting them here (with some light editing on my part):
VIRTUAL ARCHITECTURE CHANGES HOW SOCIAL INTERACTION
"I often think and SL structures are used as a means of providing an environment to give a little context to social interaction. So if you go to a ballroom to dance with a friend the ballroom is simply a hint in the back ground for you to then dance and chat. The building its self only plays a small role. I differ from that in that I love the power architecture has to not just provide a context for a social interaction, but if done right a building can enhance social interactions. And bring a whole new level of how you feel in the space. This is my own personal experience. Being a living building that feels real changes how you live in a space and how you use the space when it comes to interacting with people."
As Kaya goes on to argue, the old prim-based approach to building in Second Life has held back more ambitious builds like his:
Legendary Architect Frank Gehry Praises Potential of Virtual Reality as a Visualization/Design Tool
Just noticed that architect Jon Brouchoud has a 2014 review of using Oculus Rift as an architectural tool, and my favorite highlight is when he demonstrated VR to one of the world's greatest living architects:
One of this year’s major highlights for me personally, was having the opportunity to meet and show Frank Gehry the Oculus Rift. His company, Gehry Partners has already been doing a lot of high tech visualization and BIM innovation before this, so it wasn’t necessarily anything new to him, but he immediately recognized the potential for architectural visualization and design in VR.
Jon, by the way, is known as Keystone Bouchard in Second Life, and pioneered SL as a a visualization/design tool back in the day, with his chief innovation being a kind of 3D wiki -- watch:
Meet Mini Me, Ample Avi's Latest Petite & Curvy SL Avatar Shape (NWN Partner News)
The latest plus-sized shape from NWN sponsoring partner Ample Avi is something of an anomaly in Second Life. Ample Avi has plenty of curvaceous shapes of course, and quite a few petite ones on top of that, but Mini Me (released earlier this month) still manages to be an exception. Why? Her height comes in at around 5'5". That's only an inch shorter than the height of the average woman in reality, but in Second Life--where even more "realistic" avatar shapes share a few digits with pro basketball players--it's an oddity that could even get you booted from certain roleplay sims. No worries, though. Mini Me comes bundled with a 5'8" version for just such occasions, giving you a good compromise between RL and SL size standards.
On a broader note, I think the strongest endorsement I can give Ample Avi shapes is that over the course of working with them for sponsored posts here on NWN they've slowly made their way into my regular avatar rotation. Even though I've never worn plus-sized shapes in SL before, these days I'm almost never out of one (even when I'm recording videos).
You can snag both the 5'5" and 5'8" versions of Mini Me together on the Second Life Marketplace, or swing by Ample Avi in-world [Teleport link]. I'd also like to give al shout out to Roslin Petion, whose lingerie brand Luxuria has become my go-to for showing off Ample Avi's shapes. Check 'em out here.
From Fixing Valve's Virtual Hat Market to Helping Save the Global Economy
The fate of the Eurozone economy," reports IBT, "could well be in the hands of a man who once monitored the sales of virtual goods via micro-transactions in video games Dota 2 and Counter-Strike. Yanis Varoufakis was hired by Valve three years ago to oversee the Steam Market and its fledging economy, and now, as confirmed by Sky News political editor Faisal Islam on 27 January, he is Greece's new finance minister."
The EU economy is so large, any changes to it will impact the global market as well, and so Varoufakis' policies will affect the rest of the world. And just two years ago, as I blogged here, Varoufakis' focus was Valve's virtual hat economy:
Monday, January 26, 2015
Top 6 Virtual Reality & Virtual World Predictions for 2015 from New World Notes
I better post our VR/VW predictions for 2015 before we get any deeper into this year, or for that matter, incoming news (like this) makes them already seem outdated. Here's my favorite from our open forum:
- The Oculus Rift will not be made available for general consumer use this year. Instead, they'll expand their beta developer program throughout 2015. (Hamlet Au)
- "Second Life 2" and High Fidelity will both be out in Beta this year (RoblemVR)
- When it comes to virtual world software, both Linden Lab and High Fidelity will be medium to small players. (Anonymous)
- A large chunk of SL users will abandon Second Life for SL2, leading to a loss of 5000 to 7000 regions in the first year of SL 2. (OU812)
- "I don't expect to see anything dramatic in terms of virtual worlds this year, it's much too soon." (Ciaran Laval)
- Virtual land in SL 2 will be substantially larger (4096x4096 meters) and substantially cheaper "while the Lab will take 30% cut from content sales". (Cube Republic)
Some of these are mutually exclusive and/or subject to interpretation -- but that just means a fun debate in late December!
This Second Life B-Boy Battle is a Thirty Second Machinima Master Class
Here's a Second Life machinima posted this past weekend with some serious style. Blaq Magik's "Battle" is brief, but in that brief window of time it demonstrates a lot of powerful techniques. If you're already about to skip to the comments to deliver some choice zinger about baggy pants and rap music, you can keep your #dadjokes to yourself. Not everyone's going to like Blaq's work, but everyone should still respect it.
Even if you can't appreciate the style, the music, or the seamless b-boy animations on display, you should absolutely be able to appreciate the technique demonstrated in this thirty second slice of a Second Life dance battle. Here's why it works so well:
Top Three Posts from New World Notes Last Week!
- What Second Life Looks Like With Features on Full
- Microsoft HoloLens Likely Won't Go Mass Market When Smartphones Already Work So Well
- If You Don't Want More Second Life Griefers, Stop Publicly Discussing Second Life Griefers
Friday, January 23, 2015
SL Go Places: Angel Manor, the Second Life Sim Everyone's Talking About
The moment I saw the Second Life machinima everyone's talking about this week, I instantly knew which SL sim I'd visit this week via SL Go (from NWN partner OnLive): Angel Manor, where it's set. Is it as marveous as it appears in the machinima? I fired up my pokey old Dell laptop (which can hardly run any Second Life client without choking and sputtering) and launched SL Go to give it a first-hand look. As you'll see, it really does look like it appears in the video:
In fact, if anything, the island is far more detailed than even the video suggests, boasting broad and beautiful indoor and outdoor areas that flow seamlessly together -- and when you look up close, all the tiny, lovingly wrought elements that add true immersion and personality to a Second Life sim. (Be sure to visit the basement pool.) To go there, just copy/paste this address into SL Go or the Second Life viewer of your choice:
Used to be, I'd watch a machinima like this and think, "Well, there's another place I won't really be able to visit myself without buying a high-end desktop PC." Indeed, Kaya Angel recently left a comment in the post about his video, and gave the specs he used to make his machinima:
Weekend Shopping List: This Mesh Head is so Beautiful That it Barely Looks Like an SL Avatar
There's a new item at the top of my virtual world shopping list this weekend: The Tia mesh head by VCO, available at The Winter Wonderland event [Teleport link]. I already have my fair share of mesh heads, and these days the latest from The Sugar Garden has been serving me just fine. So why am I in the market for yet another? Well, when I first saw the above image of this finely-featured face from VCO I didn't entirely believe they were shot in Second Life.
I don't mean that Tia looks hyper-realistic, however. Far from it. She looks more like a flawlessly modded Sims 3 character, or even a high-end doll, and to me that's just as appealing as realism would be.
Even if Tia's not to your liking you may want to swing by Winter Wonderland anyway, especially if you're looking for the perfect finishing touch for your virtual home...
If You Don't Want More Second Life Griefers, Stop Publicly Discussing Second Life Griefers
SLers have been passing around a blog post about a recent Second Life griefer attack, which I'm not going to directly link to or even cite, for a very obvious reason: A core motivation of Second Life griefers is to get Second Life users talking about them - on blogs, on social media, on bulletin boards, on Second Life itself. The attention is their reward. (Hence the classic rule of Internet social interaction: "Don't feed the troll.")
To be clear, I'm not criticizing the blogger who did post about the griefing attack, because it's likely they don't recall or weren't around during the times when Second Life was barraged by griefers on a near daily basis:
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Check the Receipts: Here are 3 Crucial Anti-Scammer Tips for Second Life Designers
A Second Life designer (who asked to remain anonymous) had an interesting experience with a customer recently. Well, maybe I should say this experience was with a 'customer', because their interaction with this designer casts a lot of doubt on whether or not they ever bought a single thing from her in the past. Either way, it led to an amusing story and a few tips that most SL designers will be able to appreciate.
It starts like a lot of customer service encounters in SL start: A notecard with an explanation that an item had been purchased and lost to some technological snafu or another. it happens, and it's usually the truth. This note also came with a snippet from their transaction history to prove the initial purchase:
Septermber 13, 2014
Order Status: Delivered
Total items: 1
Order Total: L$39,998
Providing your transaction history, essentially a receipt, right when you contact a designer is a thoughtful thing to do since it saves you both time. Unfortunately it's easy enough to fake one end of this receipt, and not every designer will bother digging through their own records to confirm that a transaction is legitimate. That said, maybe you've already caught the most obvious clue that this 'customer' was trying to take our anonymous designer for a ride, and that brings me to the first tip:
Microsoft HoloLens Likely Won't Go Mass Market When Smartphones Already Work So Well (Comment of the Week)
There's a great NWN reader discussion in the post around the Microsoft HoloLens announcement, and a reader called Kitty Revolver, who's writing a Master's thesis on smartphones, made some very good points:
If Google Glass couldn't sell a set of "glasses", then how is Microsoft going to sell this? I like the idea of augmented reality, but honestly, how do you sell to a mass market that 1) looks goofy (and you are going to wear it in everyday life to really use it) 2) actually creates the need to be more connected when we have Facebook, Dropbox, LinkedIn, smartphones, etc and 3) the concept comes with 3D design tools? I realize I found the flaw of Second Life and perhaps people will comment on this, but it doesn't strike me as a "need" quite yet. Smartwatches and smartphones keep everything in your pocket/wrist, why add more hardware for everyday?
Which brings Kitty to her big point of augmented reality systems like this one, versus smartphones or VR platforms like Oculus Rift:
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
SL Go Places: Watch 742 WindLight Settings in 5 Minutes!
As I mentioned in my first SL Go Firestorm video, one of my favorite things about Firestorm is just how many bells and whistles it has, all easily surfaced for the user. For that matter being able to swap between the viewers through SL Go depending on what I need (and without having to juggle multiple installs and updates) has been a lot handier than expected. While the vanilla Second Life viewer allows you to play with your Windlight settings as much as you like, Firestorm comes pre-loaded with hundreds of interesting presets--from the practical to the unbelievable--made and shared by fellow residents.
There are so many interesting presets in Firestorm that going through them to talk about each one would take hours. Instead, I've cut together a five minute long video so you can see what they each have to offer, or maybe even stumble onto something that sparks your imagination. Firestorm and SL Go are an ideal combination for virtual photographers because, while Firestorm gives you have access to loads of user-made lighting and water presets, SL Go lets you crank up your graphics settings well beyond what your own computer (or tablet) may be able to handle.
If you'd like to visit the beautifully mountainous Kekeland sim where I recorded this video, just copy the URL below into your viewer of choice:
Google Glass is Dead, Long Live (Die?) Microsoft HoloLens
Augmented reality meets the big MS:
First take: Somehow, a major tech company managed to make a pair of smart glasses look even lamer than Google Glass. Second take: Microsoft will struggle with most or all of the social stigmas that made Glass such a Daily Show-worthy laughing stock that it was recently taken out in back and put down.
Third take: Maybe I'm being cynical and jaded and NWN readers can convince me otherwise. Can you?
You Stream/Record Second Life via Steam, Apparently
"Steam has just added the broadcast feature that lets your friends watch you play," says SL Redditor TrinityDejavu, "if you add your choice of Second Life viewer to your steam games then others can watch. This works with all SL clients." I haven't tried it out yet, but after you've added Second Life (under Games, select "Add Non-Steam Game"), you can access those options via View > Settings, as above. I will try it, because I want to try Hamlet's hand at Let's Go-style videos. If you have already, please share your experience in Comments!
Harrods Listing Actual Real Estate With Virtual Reality
... which could be a silly gimmick (this is on the Daily Mail, after all) but is also a good potential real world application of VR that might actually work.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
What Second Life Looks Like With Features on Full (Even If Few Outside Second Life Any Longer Care)
An SLer named Kaya Angel got sick of the poor portrayal of Second Life as depicted in so many of the badly shot SL videos he'd seen lately (the kind that typically show up in troll-ish Let's Play YouTube videos, I'm guessing), and so he shot this machinima, which you should watch right now:
The video is pretty much a promo for Kaya's Angel Manor Estate private Second Life sim, but since it's so beautifully done (both the video and the sim), I say: Well played, sir. In fact: Click here to visit the sim yourself.
The video's YouTube comments are interesting, because they show a key problem Second Life faces now: No matter how great the graphics have gotten over the years, the poor perception of SL having bad graphics is so deeply rooted among hardcore gamers, it's near impossible to refute outside of established SL users. Take this comment from a core graphics geek:
Facebook Still Doesn't Want Your Virtual World Account, but it Does Want Your Deceptive VW Ads
Second Life user and virtual fashion photographer extraordinaire Xantheanne (whose blog we're big fans of here on NWN) noticed something unusual on her Facebook feed earlier this month. A promoted post from something called "I Love New Year Club" was advertising something rather unclear with some truly original copywriting and a picture clearly taken from Second Life.
"Your Own Virtual Baby! Meet husband, new comrades, have virtual baby, create your super look and more. Play Now!" My super look? Who could resist a pitch like that?
Of course when Xantheanne clicked the post, it shuttled her straight through to IMVU, a platform that most avid SL users have little love for (though it's provided us with more than a few trained, talented virtual fashion designers over the years.)
As for Qastelis.com, the URL given at the bottom of the post? Well...
Top Four New World Notes Posts from Last Week
- Real Life Celebrities Who Still Actually Play Second Life: Down to Drew Carey & Author Michael Stackpole?
- Will We Upload Our Brains Into Second Life 3 - And Should We Want To?
- Five Questions to Ask Yourself if You Want to be a Second Life Designer
- Watch a Rip-Roaring Tribute Machinima to a Second Life Motorcycle Community
Monday, January 19, 2015
The Time Second Lifers Fought a French Extremist Group Beneath a Sun with the Face of Dr. Martin Luther King
In 2007, France's far right extremist party Front National attempted to establish an official Second Life presence, but were met with strong (albeit virtual) resistance. After the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack by Islamic extremists, Front National is ascendant, making my story originally published here -- with its themes of extreme opinion and violence, and a symbol of hope for a better world literally floating in the sky -- once again relevant, especially on MLK day. It's republished in full below. - WJA
I'm pretty sure I know what Dr. King would think of a protest against an anti-immigrant political party, but if you asked me what he'd say after the thing devolved into a virtual conflagaration of mini-guns, cursing Frenchmen, and exploding pigs, well, there I'm somewhat at a loss.
The first night I arrived at the protest against the Second Life headquarters of Front National, the far right French political party of Jean-Marie Le Pen, it was ringed on all sides by protesters with signs to wave and statements to distribute. By the second night I came (this was late last week), the conflict had become more literal, for many Residents had armed themselves. Multi-colored explosions and constant gunfire shredded the air of Porcupine, a shopping island which FN had inexplicably picked for the site of their virtual world HQ, in December.
The server lag from so many people throwing up so much gunfire slows the battle to a slow motion firefight, but I manage to wade up to TonTonCarton Yue, who is strafing the FN building with a chaingun usually associated with an AC-130 gunship, than a political protest.
"Can I ask," I begin, "why are you shooting?"
"Because I hate Front National," Yue tells me simply.
"If you use violence, doesn't that reduce you to their level?"
Iris Wants to Know: What Made Second Life 'Click' for You?
Do you remember when it 'clicked'?
For my mother, I think it was the dancing. She honed in on the flexi gowns and ball-rooms and non-stop socializing. She bugged my father to make an account so they could dance together. For him it wasn't the dancing, though. It was the live music, and the community he could help shore up and relocate in the wake of one of his favorite MMOs closing. For my old roommate it seemed to be the exploring. She wanted to travel but we were still pretty young so it just hadn't happened for her ye. The ability to hop from world to world must have held some appeal.
For me, it was undeniably the character customization. I loved fiddling with sliders in The Sims, I was delighted to try on any newly dropped piece of loot in my RPG-du-jour, and so it was fitting that avatar fashion was where Second Life 'clicked' for me.
Of course once it's 'clicked', your interests diversify. You get into the art scene, or the blogging scene, or you decide maybe all you really want is to be a a 1 foot tall badger in a sundress. But that 'click', that moment when Second Life changed from a sensory overload to making perfect sense, will always be one of the most important pieces of who you are in SL. That's why I want to know: When did Second Life 'click' for you? As ever, share your experiences in the comments below!
Friday, January 16, 2015
SL Go Support: How to Get Help from OnLive & Firestorm -- In Second Life, Online, and Firestorm's SL Island
SL Go users, there's many ways you can get technical support and help using the Second Life streaming service from OnLive (an NWN partner), in Second Life itself and online:
- In Second Life, join the group "SL Go by OnLive"
- In Second Life, send an IM to "OnliveJDub", who often hangs out in the official sim for Firestorm support, which is compatible with SL Go.
- In Second Life, get live help from Firestorm staff by visiting the Firestorm sim -- paste this SLurl into SL Go:
Click the bell on the table nearby, and help from the Firestorm team is on the way. (That's me hanging out with OnliveJDub, who by the way, has got a great avatar and some sweet dance moves.)
There's traditional online resources too:
- On the web, visit the SL Go forum at OnLive
- Via e-mail, drop a message to email@example.com
And if you're an NWN reader, feel free to leave a question or comment for SL Go support in Comments below -- I'll make sure the team sees it!
Intrinsic Virtual Objects: Second Life Users Present Their Most Precious (Non-Existing) Possession
We told you the acclaimed metaverse artist known as Whiskey Monday was asking SLers to tell her about their intrinsic virtual objects (i.e. an "item from your [Second Life] inventory that is your most treasured, precious object"), and now on Ms. Monday's blog, we're starting to see the results - starting with this shadowbox from Eve Petlyakov, which has a lovely, virtual history:
[L]ucky me, I got to photograph both beautiful treasures: Eve and her shadow box created and gifted to her by AM Radio. Anyone who hung around AM Radio back when he was creating will tell you similar stories of his gentle way, his generous nature, and the wonder of watching him create. Eve was honored to be among those who witnessed his genius at work, and lucky enough to be one those who has some of his art in inventory.
And lucky you, I have a story about why AM Radio's art is still so beloved, which you can read here on Polygon.
What Does Valentine's Day in Second Life Mean to You? Share Your Stories and Snapshots with LL
If you've ever wanted to see your work (and/or your avatar) on in some official Second Life promo material, now's your chance. Earlier this week Linden Lab put out a call for Second Life Valentine's Day snapshots, the best of which will be shared with SL users via email (and the rest of the world via banner ads).
If you want to submit your own pics, here's what you'll need to know:
Je Suis Charlie/Free Speech Pencil Tribute in Second Life
Cajsa Lilliehook created a Second Life tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo, and as it is in real life, the SL version are giant pencils (symbol of defiant free expression in the face of threatened violence). Cajsa has a photo spread featuring her pencils, and you can get a copy of them at her in-world office here.
Cajsa has an extended rant on the role of free speech, much of which is great, some of which I don't quite agree with -- to wit, the assumption that Charlie Hebdo cartoons were bigoted:
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Watch a Rip-Roaring Tribute Machinima to a Second Life Motorcycle Community
You watched me try to bike around Second Life with spectacular fail, now watch how it's really done:
Created by ChanAndMe C, it's actually a beautifully-edited tribute to a Second Life motorcycle community who congregate on the spectacular island of Crossing Sands (map link here), which the machinima maker recently met. As he tells me:
Where to Shop in Second Life: January 2015 Edition
A new year and a new flood of events for Second Life shoppers to parse and peruse. Unlike the gaming world (which is currently experiencing an almost relaxing lull between major releases), virtual fashion is marching ever forward, and if you're not keeping pace it's oh so easy to get left behind.
Okay, that might be unnecessarily dire for an article headed by a row of adorable elephant purses, so let's cut to the chase. Where should you focus your shopping energy this month? Here are my event picks for January 2015:
What Reddit's /SecondLife Members Are Also Interested In
/Subreddit Analysis, as the name suggests, is a very useful subreddit which uses a bot-driven algorithm to discover the overlapping interests among members of one subreddit, based on their activity in other subbreddits. Here's this month's drilldown for /Second Life, Reddit's largest SL-related group, which as the screencap at left shows, are also subscribed to /Games and /Minecraft (even moreso than /sl, the other Second Life-related subreddit), with a lot of overlap in /Bitcoin and /skyrim. No idea why there's so many fans of /trees, though I can understand the interest in /cringepics, as Second Life screenshots themselves are often chock full of cringe-worthy images. As for /sex: Oh you naughty, naughty subredditors!
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Watch This Chilling Trailer for Unfriended, a Thriller About Life Online, Shot & Set Entirely Online
Unfriended is an upcoming movie with a somewhat stupid premise (it's a twist on the old "Mean teens get punished for being mean" story) but placed in a pretty brilliant new context: The entire movie is shot and takes place online, across multiple social media and Internet platforms. Watch and you'll see what I mean:
With so much of our essential lifetime experiences happening online (especially among the very young), with GamerGate, doxxing, cyberbullying, and all that, this movie feels (despite its cheesiness) like distilled zeitgeist. (Yes, I went there with that term.)
No idea if the actual movie's any good, but it was produced by Timur Bekmambetov, who directed Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, so you know what means. (Actually, I don't know what that means.) However, I can promise you that the short movie Harbinger, which is basically Second Life Meets Saw and also takes place entirely online, is really great. See for yourself (if you're not squeamish):
Five Questions to Ask Yourself if You Want to be a Second Life Designer
A very nice person sent me a notecard once, asking what they needed to know to become a Second Life designer. Content creators, including fashion designers, are some of the most respected people in the virtual world, so this question is a pretty common one. At the time I sent them a few Youtube links, a few blog tutorials, and some free software suggestions to get them started, but every now and then they pop into my mind. As far as I can tell they never did open up a store like they wanted to, and I wonder if I should have given them some slightly more practical advice instead.
What do you really need to know before you become a Second Life Designer? Well, a lot more than just Photoshop and Blender.
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Will We Upload Our Brains Into Second Life 3 - And Should We Want To? (Guest Post)
This NWN guest post is by Arim Cresim, a freelance writer of several published books, assistant archivist at a TV station, and author of several essays. He is currently working on a screen play. (Connect with him on Ello.)
When you think of the word "virtual", you’re most likely thinking of the latest in video games or of very conceptually daring movies like The Matrix and Inception. But, even virtual reality isn’t restricted to these categories.
Over the course of recent years, there have been many breakthroughs in virtual reality advancement:
There is a EEG headset from Emotiv that someone has used to "walk" through virtual reality . They think of walking, turning, and stopping. And their avatar does it. Seeing through the VR headset of the Oculus Rift is another prime example, however nauseating it may still be to use .
There is TMS technology to induce electrical currents in the brain by way of non-invasive magnetic fields. Currently, it can be used to reduce neuropathic pain . But, it can also potentially form motor sensation on a neural level or stimulate the pleasure center.
There is medical work with microchips implanted in a person's brain to control limbs under a project called Neurobridge . In the future, this could be more than just a cure to paralysis: It could also become the ultimate man-machine interface.
Some people are even going so far as working on representative avatars to live on past life as we know it. A professor by the name of Hiroshi Ishiguro has been developing a android copy of himself, intended to be a experiment in exhibiting human behavior . There is BINA48, a robotic mimic of a real person .
And there is the whole field of mind uploading, proven as theoretically plausible by Bina and Martine Rothblatt: The very controversially regarded creators of BINA48, and co-founders of the transhumanist Terasm Movement. Under Lifenaut, they have underway a entire database dedicated to mindfiles and biofiles . Though, transhumanists such as Natasha Vita-More and K. Eric Drexler were around from as far back as the 1980’s .
Looking forward to the future…we already have the technology at our disposal to make entire virtual worlds very much like our own world:
Whiskey Needs You: Here's How to Contribute to a New Project From One of Second Life's Most Popular Artists
Second Life artist Whiskey Monday, a favorite here at NWN and currently a virtual artist in residence thanks to the Linden Endowment for the Arts, has a new sideproject in the works, and she needs your help to complete it.
The project, dubbed "Intrinsic Inventory", is something that Whiskey will be working on in addition to her LEA sim, and seems to revolve around the idea of the value we place on our virtual items. Though we don't know what shape "Intrinsic" will eventually take, Whiskey has sent out a call for participants along with a very specific set of guidelines:
Monday, January 12, 2015
Real Life Celebrities Who Still Actually Play Second Life: Down to Drew Carey & Author Michael Stackpole?
A new Reddit thread, "Any famous people on Second Life?" suggests a number of celebrities, but so far, only mentions two which still apparently use SL -- most notably, comedian Drew Carey, who as we noted, Tweeted about a well-known SL designer only a few months ago. (Carey's a big fan of SL steampunk, too.) I believe Carey's never revealed his SL username -- and why would he want to? -- though a "Drew Carey" avatar was created for an online video segment Carey did with me in 2008 for Reason TV.
Less well-known but still noteworthy (and news to me): Bestselling sci-fi/fantasy author Michael Stackpole is still in SL. If you check his official site, he's doing an SL Relay for Life event. (According to a Redditor, he also does regular in-world meetings with authors.) Speaking of which, Ready Player One author Ernest Cline was an active SLer, but back in 2012, said, "I haven’t logged on to Second Life in many moons".
Far as I know, most the other folks mentioned in the Reddt thread, like Suzanne Vega, used Second Life for a one-time public appearance (with hands-on help from SL experts) many years ago. However, I have it on good authority that at least one member of Duran Duran was an active user before they used it as a marketing tool.
Related to that, one name is notably absent in the Reddit thread:
Things Get Very Real When SL Users Describe Their Tastes in Virtual Hair
Last week I asked NWN readers to describe how they like to wear their virtual hair, and something about the answers really took me by surprise. It turns out that when you ask people how they like their avatar's hair, the answers sound a lot like someone talking about their real hair. Maybe that only surprised me because I framed things more in terms of flexi and mesh than I did fringe and mousse, but, well...
Here's what I mean:
Top Seven New World Notes Posts from Last Week
- Open Forum: What Are Your 2015 Predictions for SL, SL2, High Fidelity, and VR in General?
- Why Jenn Frank Compares GamerGate to a Massive ARG
- Virtual Reality Advertisers Seem Hellbent on Repeating Second Life Marketing Mistakes
- A Virtual World Where Avatars Are Wordless, Magical Deer
- Second Life Paris Unfurls Banners in Solidarity for RL Paris
- Collabor88: Don't Miss this Monthly SL Shopping Event's Most Magical Lineup Yet
- SL Go Places: Motorbiking Across Second Life's Massive Mainland (Or at Least Trying & Foolishly Failing)
Friday, January 09, 2015
SL Go Places: Motorbiking Across Second Life's Massive Mainland (Or at Least Trying & Foolishly Failing)
Last night I fired up SL Go (from NWN partner OnLive) on my musty old Dell laptop to try and fulfill a goal I've had for many years: Travel across the Second Life mainland in one continuous trip in real time, without flying. My first attempt went, well, way wacky -- watch:
As you can probably tell, I haven't driven a motorcycle in Second Life in a long time, and this particular model has a twitchy engine and steering system that's hard to handle. (That is to say, it's like an actual turbo-charged motorcycle.) If you're an SL biker, I'd love your suggestions for a bike that's easier for an amateur. Because I’m definitely trying this again: One cool thing about using Second Life with SL Go on an old laptop (I observed very biasedly) is the seamlessness of crossing through sims at high speeds, without the long pauses and laggy display you would otherwise get.
As Second Life oldtimers might remember, New World Notes has a history with cross-continent expeditions:
MIT Journalism Head Shares Letter from the Metaverse
This is a great post from Wade Roush, a longtime tech journalist who's now acting director of Knight Science Journalism at MIT. Back in 2007, Roush wrote the cover story for MIT's Technology Review. (Our own Iris Ophelia, as it happens, shot the SL image for that cover.) Roush got a letter from the metaverse from Timothy Jackson, a brilliant 3D content creator in Second Life (where he's known as Maxwell Graf) among other worlds, and because it's so inspiring for several reasons, re-posted it in full. You should read whole full thing there, but I wanted excerpt some of here:
Robots Are Making Second Life Tutorial Videos and Surprise! They're Not Very Good
So I'm browsing newly uploaded Second Life videos on Youtube (as I do from time to time) and I stumble into a surprisingly deep pocket of tutorial videos. I'm pleasantly surprised. I'm always eager to recommend tutorial videos--especially ones that cover topics like content creation. There are loads of videos though, all from the same uploader, covering everything from getting a job in SL to taking off your avatar's glasses. On top of that, just about all of them have completely unrelated thumbnails.
I decide to click on the one with the broadest potential appeal for NWN readers, "How-To Make a Custom Texture in Second Life," and what I get is... Unexpected. In a lot of ways.
This Weekend: Find (or Make) Your Perfect Game Thanks to Pixelkin.org and Sortingh.at
Pixelkin is a website devoted to family gaming, though that doesn't mean it's all kids games and edutainment titles. They cover a pretty broad range of games, with parents, kids, and everyone in between in mind. They also haven't omitted more mature titles (like Amnesia) from the Game Picker's list, so whether you're looking for something to play with family or on your own you should consider giving it a try.
Then again, maybe you're in more of a creative mood. Maybe instead of playing the perfect game, you want to try making it yourself. In that case you'll want to check out Sortingh.at, a tool developed by Zoe Quinn to help aspiring game-makers find the tools and resources best suited for a project they may already have in mind. A large number of those tools and resources are also free, making the barrier to entry for game development a lot lower than you might think--even if you don't know a lick of code.
Thursday, January 08, 2015
Collabor88: Don't Miss this Monthly SL Shopping Event's Most Magical Lineup Yet
I don't know that I've ever been more in love with a Collabor88 line up than I am this month. This popular event (which opens its doors with fresh content on the 8th of every month) always boasts a stable of talented designers, but inspired by this month's theme they've produced some of the most eye-catching releases I've seen in a while.
Every piece at this month's Collabor88 is inspired by unicorns, either concretely or in spirit, and the end result is downright magical.
Wednesday, January 07, 2015
Second Life Paris Unfurls Banners in Solidarity for RL Paris
In the wake of the horrific terrorist attacks on the staff of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper in Paris, the owners of Second Life's virtual Paris have unfurled banners from the beams of the Eiffel Tower -- solidarity from a digital realm created to enshrine creative expression, to a shattered city that's inspired so much of humanity's greatest art, thought, and satire. Click here to visit virtual Paris.
SLurl for third party viewers below:
Dans la foulée des attaques terroristes horribles sur le personnel de Charlie Hebdo, un journal satirique à Paris, les propriétaires du Paris virtuel en Second Life ont déroulé des banderoles des poutres de la Tour Eiffel--démontrant la solidarité d'un royaume numérique créé pour préserver l'expression créative, à une ville brisée qui a inspiré tant des grandes pensées et de l'art de l'humanité. Cliquez ici pour visiter Paris virtuel.
SLurl pour les clients tierces parties ci-dessous:
Lost Constellation is NOT a Demo for Night in the Woods--and That's One More Reason Why You Should Play
Over the holiday lull, the developers of upcoming game Night in the Woods dropped a doozy of a demo, named Lost Constellation. Except... Lost Constellation isn't actually a demo, even though it does demonstrate certain aspects of Night in the Woods. Lost Constellation also isn't a standalone game, even thought it does certainly stand on its own.
In the developers' words, Lost Constellation is a 'supplemental game'. Given the scarcity of game demos (at least compared to how things were a decade ago) that distinction may seem unnecessary, but in fact these kinds of un-demos are an increasingly popular way for indie devs to do a lot of things at once.
A Virtual World Where Avatars Are Wordless, Magical Deer
You arrive to a forest as a baby deer or foal. Above your head is a unique glowing symbol which is you, and what others recognize you by. You will come across other deer and will realize quite quickly that there is no way to communicate with them. There is no typing out text to one another but instead you have a variety of ways to communicate with body language. Shake your head, rear up onto your back legs and so on. It is a community embracing the absence of normal communication, and then what happens in that environment.
The wordless, magical communication aspect was a powerful element of Journey, and I'd love to see it in other MMOs. Or why not a Second Life sim where text and voice chat were forbidden, and only gestural communication allowed? What a fricking relief from the voices you hear in Second Life's Welcome Area that would be.
By contrast, here's what interaction looks like in The Endless Forest:
New on Paste: Appreciating the Value of Virtual Spaces in Dragon Age: Inquisition and Beyond
In my latest piece for Paste 's Games section, I wanted to dissect the love/hate relationship that players of Dragon Age: Inquisition have with several of the game's maps, particularly The Hissing Wastes. A location that many players consider big and boring became my favorite in the game, and I think that has a lot to do both with what we expect game areas to be and what we expect them to do.
Although my take on this hasn't exactly earned universal agreement from fellow gaming enthusiasts, I'm willing to bet that most Second Life users take this position for granted...
Tuesday, January 06, 2015
Virtual Reality Advertisers Seem Hellbent on Repeating Second Life Marketing Mistakes
AdWeek, the advertising industry's main publication, has a cover story on virtual reality as a new marketing platform, and my first thought when glancing at it was, "Welp, here we go again." I groaned further after I read the first two paragraph:
Nancy Bennett is a virtual-reality marketing veteran. (Yes, such people actually exist and are about to become hot commodities among talent recruiters.) In the mid-2000s, Bennett had her avatar boots on the Internet-code-built ground of Second Life, constructing cyber experiences for her employer at the time, MTV Networks. Of course, Second Life never really took off. So with her been there, done that perspective several years later as chief content officer at Two Bit Circus, she does not deal in hyperbole when it comes to the impact the much-hyped virtual reality headset Oculus Rift will have on marketing. Rather, Bennett leans on data. One-third of her agency's new business in 2014 was powered by the Oculus Rift developer's kit, helping grow her 2-year-old Los Angeles digital shop from 15 to 35 employees.
At least two things wrong here:
- Second Life "never really took off", in great part, because major marketing campaigns that companies created for Second Life met with extremely low levels of engagement. As a result, the entire platform was largely written off by most people in tech, not to mention all the major organizations who wasted their money on that outreach. This failure was largely not the fault of Second Life, as I explained at length at the time, but when esteemed companies conspicuously blow tens of millions of dollars on a platform, people tend to stop listening.
- Before the SL hype wave ended, Second Life-oriented marketing companies also grew at a rapid pace -- particularly the Metavese Big Three, The Electric Sheep Company, Millions of Us, and the UK studio Rivers Run Red. (As I recall, Millions of US, founded by a colleague and fellow ex-Linden, grew from just him to a staff of dozens in under a year.) But sad to say, that growth soon retracted when advertisers saw poor returns on their SL investment.
What's wrong with virtual reality as a marketing platform? I could go through the AdWeek article line by line to explain how misguided it (mostly) is, but let's just skip right to the TL;DR version:
Why Jenn Frank Compares GamerGate to a Massive ARG
On Slate, game journalist Jenn Frank (who'll soon be contributing to New World Notes) just wrote a perceptive analysis of Gamergate, the misogynist movement which temporarily drove her out of her vocation last year. Rather than being bitter about that experience, she takes a philosophical stance, arguing that "Gamergate is the most expansive real-world alternate reality game in video game history." Sample:
The authors of Gamergate’s oral history are a decentralized collective, a conglomerate of modern-day bards with no single leader, who use real-world details from the lives of real-world people to give the mythos texture, verisimilitude and, probably most important, real-world stakes. This is literally what we mean by “gamification”! (It’s also worth noting that Gamergate, alas, cannot be paused.)
Alas indeed. Anyway, Jenn let me share her thoughts for taking this approach on Slate:
Iris Wants to Know: How Do You Wear Your SL Hair?
I'm a little bit in love with the sweeping waves and swirly curls in the latest release from Second Life hair brand Magika. It's romantic but flawless, in just the right amount of disarray to look 'natural' without looking... Well, too natural. This is exactly what I want from the mesh haistyles topping off my avatar on a daily basis, but that's not the case for everyone.
My mother's a big fan of L fashion too, and our tastes in virtual hair tend to clash. For her, if a style doesn't have any flow or movement to it, it's pretty much off the table. That's not to say that's she's living in the pre-mesh past with her pixel perms, but she still certainly appreciates a dash of flexi here and there under all that mesh. A feature that's a dealbreaker for her is something I don't think I've ever even noticed among all the styles I own.
There's even more variation than that, though. I have friends who loathe chunky, "piecy" styles and others who wear them constantly. Some won't consider buying from a designer if they don't have a full range of dip-dyed texture options, while others never stray from their signature color. Even the least fashion-frenzied among us seem to be pretty picky about our avatar hair.
That's why today I want to know how you like to wear your Second Life hair? Are there features you can't live without/won't touch with a 10-foot prim pole, or are you pretty easygoing as long as you can find that perfect shade of auburn? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Monday, January 05, 2015
Open Forum: What Are Your 2015 Predictions for SL, SL2, High Fidelity, and VR in General?
Let's start this New Year, as we often do, with a New World Notes open forum for 2015 predictions on the future of Second Life, Second Life 2, High Fidelity, Oculus Rift, and virtual reality in general -- the more concrete the better, so we can definitively confirm whether they happened or not at the end of 2015.
To get the virtual ball rolling, I'll start. I think there's going to a Trough of Disillusionment around VR this year, that's going to lead to this specific thing happening:
Can You Pose Your SL Avatar for a Yearbook-Style Photo?
Here's a fun new challenge for the new year: Can you pose your SL avatar like he or she was smiling for a high school yearbook photo? That's the premise for Strawberry Singh's Second Life Yearbook Smile Challenge.. "I always have a hard time trying to make my avatar not look so creepy while smiling," as she explains how the idea came to be, "so I was testing it out a few days ago and shared my image on Plurk and Whiskey Monday came in leaving me comments as if she was signing my yearbook, which I thought was hilarious!"
Here's how to submit:
Share an image of your Second Life avatar smiling for a yearbook photo. Don’t forget to share the link to your post in the comments and add your pictures to the new Second Life Yearbook flickr group, you can also share them in the Blog Memes flickr group if you like.
Then again, is just about every high school yearbook photo I've ever seen, all the students' smiles are totally awkward -- covering up the braces on their face, trying to look emo and totally failing, and so on. (Not to mention the horrible hairstyles, the pimples, the look of inward terror and sexual frustration.) Now that's another yearbook avatar meme I'd love to see.