Thursday, October 23, 2014
High Fidelity v. Interstellar: Should Virtual Reality Exploration Replace Space Travel as Philip Rosedale Hopes?
MIT's Technology Review has an in-depth interview with Philip Rosedale and a look at the latest update of High Fidelity, his next gen, Oculus Rift-compatible virtual world, which is starting to come with realistic graphics, and more dynamic avatar interaction. Beyond that, this passage in particular struck me, because Philip and I were recently discussing this topic, and I'm planning to explore it more:
"Why go into outer space when it’s more likely that by amassing computing resources we will create all the mysteries and unknowns and new species inside them?” he says. Rosedale says the freedom to explore and experiment inside a virtual world generates a “social force,” creating positive interactions between people that are impossible in everyday life–much like the Burning Man festival he attends each year. It’s a vision that betrays a touching if naïve faith in humans and technology. But it’s set Rosedale on a shared course with some of the biggest names in technology.
There's an economic case to make for this, to be sure, but the idea of space exploration going away makes me sad. I mean, just watch this:
Second Life Won't Make it Easy to Imitate This Real Life Trend, but Clever Designers Could Still Prevail
One of the most eye-catching RL fashion trends of 2014 seems to have been all but ignored by Second Life designers. Metallic tattoos, like the ones sold by Flash Tattoos (above) have become a staple on many fashion blogs and Instagram accounts, especially during the summer, but if you're searching for them on the SL Marketplace or your favorite virtual fashion blogs you'll probably come up empty handed.
It's probably unfair to say this trend has been "ignored". In fact this is exactly the kind of deceptively simple RL fashion that can be the hardest to replicate well in the virtual world, and here's why:
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Fortune 500 Company Symantec Using Unattributed NWN Image of Unauthorized Dune Tribute in Second Life to Put a Poodle On It... So I Don't Even Know What to Say
So last week I noticed that Symantec, which is a Fortune 500 company, is using an image I shot in Second Life for a post about a user-created tribute to Frank Herbert's Dune franchise back in 2007, for a viral campaign on Twitter, which has something to do with a poodle fighting a sandworm. Now this would be fine except they didn't attribute the screenshot to New World Notes, which is not very cool (and against the Creative Commons license of this blog), but on the other hand, it's a virtual world news report on an unauthorized tribute. And in 2009, lawyers representing the estate of Frank Herbert sent legal notices to the Second Life users who were making all these Dune tributes.
So yeah, I kinda don't know what to say about the poodle and the sandworm (which was actually a virtual statue in Second Life, at least until the lawyers came calling). Except maybe this:
The Uncle Who Works for Nintendo is Not Your Father's (Brother's) Indie Horror Game
Everyone had that friend... Maybe a friend of a friend.... A friend of a friend of a friend (they go to a different school, you wouldn't know them) with an uncle who worked for Nintendo. They knew things, they'd seen things, they'd played things that you could only imagine. They could tell you how to get a level 99 Mew as your starter Pokemon, how to play as Zelda rescuing Link, how to save Aerith -- oh, did they forget to mention he used to work at Sony too?
It might seem like a strange premise for a horror game, but The Uncle Who Works for Nintendo is guaranteed to send a chill down your spine. Here's why:
We Are Living in William Gibson's Quasi-Dystopic Future But Have Yet to Absorb That Fact
The last couple days, I felt like this in the morning when I turned on the news:
"In technology news, the world's largest Internet company announced a half billion dollar investment in wearable virtual reality tech, putting it in direct competition with the virtual reality technology currently in development by the world's second largest Internet company. Meanwhile, the technorati are still cooing over the world's first working hoverboard.
"And to recap the top news headlines today:
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
RL Artist Turns Photos of SL Architecture into Art
Projection Monitor is a Tumblr of lonely, eerie, beautiful images of interior architecture, and here's the cool thing: They were all created in Second Life, screencaps taken from within SL's many homes and gardens. They're by Sara Ludy, an established artist with an impressive CV of gallery shows around the world. Here's a 2011 interview with the well-regarded Rhizome arts site, and below, a video interview featuring more of her work:
NPR Report: Women Were Once Interested in Computer Science -- and They Can Be Again
"When Women Stopped Coding" is an NPR report I hope everyone reading this blog gives a listen to (it's about 15 minutes), because while it's not what we usually write about at New World Notes, it speaks directly to the lack of women in virtual reality, and the poor representation of women in gaming/online worlds, which we write about quite a lot. The report revolves around this chart:
Based on growth rates in the 70 and 80s, women were on track to graduate with as many computer science degrees as men by around the year 2000. (And even before that, as the report notes, some of the very first programming companies were founded and led by women.) But then in 1984, growth suddenly started falling -- fast. Why? Short answer: Marketing, and then social expectations influenced by that marketing.
This question came up during a recent Oculus Rift conference:
Iris Wants to Know: Second Life Designers, How Long Does it Take You to Work Your Content-Creating Magic?
There's a big gap between the time and work that goes into an original Second Life item, and the time and the work that is often perceived to have gone into it. Take a look at some of the unfair SL Marketplace reviews designers often receive, and it's not hard to find customers talking about carefully crafted virtual content as though it can be slapped together in the time it takes to have a celebratory post-work pizza delivered. For some simpler creations that's not so far from the truth, but for the rest? Well...
Last week I asked Second Life consumers how much they thought went into a Second Life design, and the answers I received in the comments, over Plurk, on Twitter, and even via email varied wildly. Taking a standard piece of avatar clothing as an example, some suggested it might take a few hours while others suggested a few months. As much as time and effort involved depend on the specific item being made, it's clear that a lot of us really just don't know -- and there's no shame in that. There can be something of an aura around content creators, especially those who've found any degree of success, that obscures the reality of their work and makes it very easy to misjudge.
So now it's your turn, designers.
Here's what I want to know: What do you make in SL, and generally speaking how long does it take you to make it? Do you think the general population of SL has a good idea of what it takes to do what you do, or do you think some of us shoppers need a serious reality check? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
This Second Life Fashion Blogger Turns Halloween Costumes into Everyday Style
Speaking of spooky seasonal cuties, you'll want to scope out Jade Composer's recent additions to Flickr if you're looking for some particularly adorable Halloween style inspiration.
Jade's pictures are immediately recognizable for their always adorable and often a little bit sexy avatars, placed front and centre and dipped in a lot of carefully placed details. Her Halloween pictures have been no exception, simply adding some holiday trappings (like menacing blackened claws) into the mix. Of her recent shots my favorite is absolutely the one above, which seems to take notes from guro kawaii while still managing to look ridiculously wearable. Jade Composer's October ensembles proves that you don't need to bury yourself in an over-the-top costume to get your spooky style across.
Monday, October 20, 2014
Journalist Critical of GamerGate Posts Best Critique of GamerGate Directly in GamerGate Forum
This is probably the best critique of #GamerGate ever written by a mainstream journalist, and ironically enough, it's posted on /KotakuinAction, the central headquarters for the "movement" on Reddit. It's by Jesse Singal, Senior Editor at NYMag.com, who also writes a Sunday video games column for The Boston Globe. Singal published a Globe editorial last month aruging that GamerGate is really about opposition to women and feminism in games. Unsurprisingly, GamerGaters in Reddit complained that the editorial was biased and poorly researched... and so last weekend, Jess Singal went into the Reddit forum himself and explained in great detail his sources for reaching that conclusion. It is a thing of beauty you should read in full here, but here's just a sample:
[F]aced with this complete lack of clarity [of GamerGate's purpose], all I or other journalists can do, then, is journalism: We ask the people in the movement what they stand for and then try to tease out what is real and what is PR. And every every every substantive conversation/ forum/encounter I've had with folks from GamerGate has led me to believe that a large part of the reason for the group's existence is discomfort with what its members see as the creeping and increasing influence of what you call social-justice warriors in the gaming world.
"Basically," Singal tells me, "I stumbled upon a Reddit thread from awhile back in which GamerGate people were calling me a hack, and instead of doing the reasonable thing and going on with my life because who cares, I posted a little response saying Hey, happy to actually talk this over if you guys want to. Generally speaking, when people misunderstand how journalism works – which a lot of GamerGate folks are at the moment – I do think it’s useful for us to step in and provide an explanation (assuming the accusers are acting with a baseline level of decency and respect)." After devoting a lot of time engaging with GamerGate supporters on Twitter, "I wanted to get down in one place everything that bugged me about trying to debate this movement (or 'movement')... So why not post in KIA itself, I figured?"
Since he was directly addressing GamerGate supporters angry at his Globe column, you'd think he'd mostly get angry replies. But here's the surprising thing about the response:
Pokemon Art Academy Won't Make You Color Inside the Lines
If you read the late August round-up I wrote about the games I'm most looking forward to in the last quarter of 2014, then you probably have a very good idea of why you're staring down the barrel of a crudely drawn otter demon right now.
Pokemon Art Academy is due out this Friday and previews are already popping up to show what the game has to offer. For example, this video from The BitBlock (from which I grabbed the screencap above) is an entertaining example of what the first few minutes of play will be like. Even if you have zero interest in sketching up a Pikachu for yourself, it still might be a good way to get well-earned Monday laugh:
This Scarily Sweet Second Life Cyclops isn't a Reality... Yet
I'll be honest, when I saw this frighteningly cute cyclops avatar on Eilfie Sugarplum's Flickr this morning my heart skipped I beat. I was already opening Second Life, virtual wallet in hand, ready to pop over to her shop (The Sugar Garden) before I paused to read the picture's description and comments. Eilfie is know for her skins, eyes, and other assorted avatar customization items, so it was absolutely within the realm of possibility that she'd release this sweet cyclops in time for Halloween. But alas, it seems that the "Tsuclops" is just a fun snapshot edit and not the most creepydorable Halloween costume in all of SL.
At least that's how the situation stands right now, but that's not to say it couldn't change.
In the comments Eilfie clarifies that her tsuclops isn't a reality yet, but that if others are interested she would try to bring it to SL. If you'd like a tsuclops avatar of your own, be sure to check out Eilfie's original pic on Flickr and register your support in the comments.
Top Six New World Notes Posts from Last Week!
- SL Land Baron on Why User-Created Portals for Second Life 2 are (Probably) a Bad Idea UPDATE: Linden CEO Responds
- SL Go Streaming for Second Life Now Available on iPad
- Iris Wants to Know: How Long Do You Think It Takes Designers to Create Your Favorite Virtual Fashions?
- A Law Professor's Brilliant Solution to Curb Online Harassment: Strip Anonymity Privileges from Abusers
- Watch This Academic's Moving Speech on How Virtual Worlds Can Help People With Disabilities
- It's Critical to be Critical, Whether You Like This Hyper-Violent Game Trailer or Not
Friday, October 17, 2014
Watch This Weekend: A Gorgeous SL Machinima on Love Transcending Space & Time
This weekend, put aside eight minutes to watch this lovely Second Life machinima from Tutsy Navarantha, whose works we've often blogged before:
Purportedly based on a true (if virtual!) story, it's about a romance that's built by two people across different time zones within an online world. Tutsy has a clever affectation which conveys the mixed reality nature of real relationships that begin in a virtual context:
DX Exchange Headquarters & ATMs in Second Life
Click here to teleport directly to the Second Life headquarters of NWN partner DX Exchange. That's where you can access DX's in-world ATMs, where members can access their Linden Dollars, and also get their special tell-a-friend discount voucher. They also have a number of in-world partners with ATMs listed here.
Chestnut Reviews a Beautiful SL Sim Called The Trace
NWN alumna Chestnut Rau has a pictorial visit to an SL sim called The Trace, which is a place by Kylie Jaxxon with many fine details, including elements which change according to the season (at least so we're told). See more here and when you are ready, click here to teleport.
It's Critical to be Critical, Whether You Like This Hyper-Violent Game Trailer or Not
Yesterday, a developer released a trailer for a game they're working on. That's not news. It's a very violent game. That's not news either. What is news is just how negative its reception has been among gamers and games writers; within hours, op-eds were springing up about how repulsive, tacky, and frankly pathetic the trailer for the game (bluntly and blandly named Hatred) seems. Of course the trailer has spread like wildfire as a result, and on YouTube it still has more "dislikes" than "likes".
There's a lot of grossness to deal with when you're talking about Hatred. It claims to be a response to the trend towards "political correctness" in games. Its developers may hold some very disturbing political beliefs. It depicts a mass-shooting days after Anita Sarkeesian and the school hosting an event for her were threatened with one. But if nothing else, the responses to all of that grossness have been very insightful and well worth reading -- especially if, like me, you've ever tried to reconcile your enjoyment of some violent video games with your utter distaste for others.
Return of the Deep Sea Dad: Octodad's Free DLC Doesn't Disappoint
As much as I enjoyed Octodad: Dadliest Catch when it first came out last February, I didn't expect to be anticipating its free DLC pack as much as I was 8 months later. I thought the game's charm and the glee I felt when I played it would fade over time as these things often do.
But it didn't.
I'd been awaiting the promised free DLC for months, and when it was finally released this week I leapt at the chance to play it. In short it does exactly what the best parts of Octodad did, placing the player and the titular cephalopatriarch in everyday scenarios and essentially "letting the magic happen". Take the screenshot above for instance, shared by @mattshea369 on Twitter. That patient sure did not start out wedged in a hospital vending machine, and yet here we are. If that's not enough to demonstrate what the Octodad DLC is all about, take a look at this stream I did on Tuesday:
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Watch This Academic's Moving Speech on How Virtual Worlds Can Help People With Disabilities
Jay Jay Jegathesan is a PhD candidate from the University of Western Australia, and his thesis is about how virtual worlds (specifically Second Life) can help build communities, and this is him passionately presenting a short summary of his work so far:
"In 2009," Jay Jay explains to me, "I founded a fully immersive 3D University campus on the virtual world of Second Life [official site here], and we are now recognized as world leaders in global community development through this technology. This turned into my PhD, which examines how global communities have emerged through virtual worlds in particular among people with disability or chronic illnesses."
Here's how he explains why this is possible:
Is This Tiny SL Avatar the Smallest Avatar in Any MMO?
Terry Shuriken created this tiny-ass Second Life avatar and it may very well be the tiniest ass avatar in the world of MMOs:
It is, writes Terry, "Somewhere between 1/3rd or 1/4th of an inch tall. This is my smallest avatar! I made it using avatar workbench/blender." But I'm not quite sure how Terry pulled this off: Can the avatar fully move its whole body, like a standard avatar? And how exactly did Terry build it in Workbench/Blender?
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
A Law Professor's Brilliant Solution to Curb Online Harassment: Strip Anonymity Privileges from Abusers
Online harrassment against women in the game industry reached a very terrifying peak yesterday, provoking a viral protest on Twitter, #StopGamerGate2014. But as great as that is, online abuse (especially against women) will likely continue at a feverish level until Twitter and other platforms which allow anonymous/pseudonymous identity have structural solutions to help address it.
Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, a new book from law professor Danielle Keats Citron, has a very clever proposal for doing just that: Make anonymity a privilege not a right. "Users who violate terms-of-service agreements could be required to authenticate their identities in order to continue their site privileges," she writes.
"[R]equiring users to own their own words, so to speak, has the effect of bringing online speech to a level playing field as offline speech," Professor Citron explains to me. "Offline, social norms develop as people react to speech and gauge people’s reactions. Workers are far less likely to sexually harass fellow employees because others will think badly of them and because it may in fact be cause for termination and liability for the employer." In online spaces which allow people to identify themselves by their real name or by an anonymous pseudonym -- such as Twitter -- that calculus changes:
"When only the victim is named and not the perpetrator in online spaces, others can hardly send the signal that their behavior is unacceptable and harmful. If anonymity is a privilege that can be lost, we could introduce the power of social norms back into the calculus. Perpetrators may decline to fantasize about how they would rape named individuals because they would not want to be seen as the kind of person who does that sort of thing. And bringing names into the calculus would help victims to bring legal action if the speech was proscribable like true threat. The approach is less drastic than removal, though removal should be considered for direct threats, for instance."
I ask Professor Citron if she thinks a policy like this implemented on Twitter and other social platforms would address the death and rape threats and other harassment associated with #GamerGate.
"For death threats," she says, "my inclination is to urge site operators to work with victims to ensure that posters can be traced (for law enforcement purposes). In those cases, that would be my recommendation of first order of business so that journalists like Amanda Hess can’t be told that there is no evidence to deal with graphic threats after she blocked and deleted them." (Read Hess' shocking Pacific Standard story about that.)
"Identifiability," Professor Citron goes on, "might provide a disincentive to threaten others with rape and other forms of violence. If posters know that they have to own threats of violence or lose their site privileges, they might think twice about doing it."
A solution like this, by the way, has already been implemented by Facebook around their user pages:
Lenna's Inception: Classic Gaming Style With a Modern Gaming Twist
If you're into indie/alt games these days then you're probably already aware of itch.io, a streamlined indie marketplace that makes it ultra-easy for developers to deliver their games to customers. Itch.io has become host to a boatload of interesting games in the past year -- some paid, many free -- and deserves some serious coverage.
It's with that in mind that I'll be reaching into my own itch.io library much more often here on NWN, starting today with a retro-inspired story of a teacher's revenge: Lenna's Inception.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Iris Wants to Know: How Long Do You Think It Takes Designers to Create Your Favorite Virtual Fashions?
When I read user reviews of products on the SL Marketplace, I'm often struck by how much of a disconnect there is between what customers think goes into producing an original product in Second Life and what actually does. It's a pet peeve, and something I have to struggle not to launch into a full rant about. I've even read comments that acted as though a fully modelled and textured item was little more than a sketch on the back of a restaurant receipt.
In general, there's often a tremendous lack of understanding for what many content creators actually do, even from the most respectful and reverent users buying from them. It's a big gap, and we need to bridge it.
This week, I want to hear from the consumers. I want to know how long you think it takes to develop original fashion content for Second Life. Of course it varies from item to item (and creator to creator) but lets talk about averages here. On average, how much time and energy would you say goes into a piece of mesh clothing, a skin, a hairstyle, and so on? Share your best estimates in the comments below. If you're a content creator, don't fret: You'll have your chance to respond next week!
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter May Be The Most Gorgeous Game of 2014
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is one of the most gorgeous games I've seen in my entire life, and PC Gamer has the massive, high-resolution screenshots to prove it. Just take a look. While screenshotter James Snook uprezzed the game and applied a 3rd party visual effects mod, in this case that's almost excessive. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter doesn't need either of those things to look utterly stunning.
I've already watched The Vanishing of Ethan Carter played from start to finish. I know the characters, I know the locations, I know the story, I know the twists... So why do I still feel compelled to play it all again for myself?
SL Go Streaming for Second Life Now Available on iPad
SL Go is now available for iPads. The seriously cool (in my very biased opinion) cloud streaming service for Second Life from OnLive has been available for low-end laptops, for Android tablets, and on OnLive's own console system, and iPad owners can finally try it out for themselves. I don't have an iPad myself, so if you give it a whirl, please share your experience in Comments below.
"The iOS and Android versions of SL Go are in complete parity; that is, the designs are identical," OnLive Project Manager Dennis Harper tells me. "The major challenge was to port the ‘vPad’ (virtual on-screen controller) to the iPad. The video rendering of the controls and the architecture is quite different. In addition, we had to rework the interaction between Second Life and the iPad; for instance, when you touch a text input field the device keyboard automatically displays. This was very different for iOS, and caused many small bugs (which were fixed, of course!)"
SL Go is only available for iPads, not iPhones, but as Apple fans know, the company recently launched iPhone 6+, a phone so big it's pretty much a "phablet". So does that mean we can use SL Go on the 6+? Maybe, says Dennis:
Monday, October 13, 2014
SL Land Baron on Why User-Created Portals for Second Life 2 are (Probably) a Bad Idea UPDATE: Linden CEO Responds
Linden Lab plans to launch Second Life 2 without a shared first-time user experience (as I blogged last week) [note: see comment from Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg at the end of this post], and will instead encourage user-created portals. Second Life used to have a community gateway program, so the news that Linden Lab would try this again in SL 2 raised the hackles of longtime Second Life steampunk land baron Desmond Shang, who wrote a long comment summarizing his own troubles trying to run one of those in Second Life -- leading to little revenue for him, waves of griefers for his staff to deal with, and $11,000 in USD thrown down a hole:
"Even when the [SL] community gateway program 'ended' it didn't exactly end for all of us. New residents were still sent to this or that destination for years. Destinations that sort of made sense insofar as they retained residents, program or not. After that, the destination guide still sort of serves the same function.
"During the last round it literally cost time and money to retain paying customers for Linden. Sure, takes money to make money and all that; make a good gateway and maybe they'll stay with you... I get all that.
"But as it was, it cost ridiculous amounts of human effort, creative solutions (gateway advertising &c) and raw cash to even get close to covering the gateway's tier. Even worse, by the time a new resident was actually retained, good luck asking them where, exactly, they thought they started.
"I lost about 11,000 USD or so on Oxbridge; after that, it was time for some introspection. Even so I *still* chip in a little bit toward its tier myself these days to support the absolutely wonderful, selfless people who give freely of their time to volunteer."
But that' was only the start of his headaches:
Real Human Beings: AAA Games Want Us to Sympathize With NPCs (or Do They?)
Here's a disclaimer for you, right out of the gate: Today I'm sharing an article with you that was written by my best friend and published on a site I have worked with myself. I waffled about sharing it at all, because my opinion on the piece would probably seem very far from impartial. That said, Austin Walker's "Real Human Beings: Shadow of Mordor, Watch Dogs and the New NPC" has been making serious waves in the games criticism community. It's a must-read, and you don't even have to take my word alone.
Walker's article is primarily concerned with Shadow of Mordor's Nemesis system, which produces unique, emergent stories in the latest Lord of the Rings game while simultaneously breathing life into the game's foes. While it's an interesting system, its biggest flaw is that it still comes down to the same power fantasies, the same good-versus-evil scenarios, and the same limited interactions we have in so many so-called open worlds. He writes:
Here's What You're Missing on This Fabulous French Second Life Fashion Blog
Eve Kazan is one of my favorite Second Life bloggers, and has been for some time. In addition to outfits assembled both popular items and unknown finds, Eve manages to find some of the most interesting sims and builds as backdrops for her work. Whenever I'm stuck looking for the perfect location or finishing touch for a shot, Eve's blog Mademoiselle is my very first stop.
But her blog is also in French and unfortunately that keeps a lot of readers away, even though it's perfectly easy to find out what she's wearing or where she is thanks to notes labelled in English at the bottom of every post. Either way, I've decided to translate the text of one of her most recent posts, Potiron, so you can have a litle taste of what you're missing. Check it out:
Top Seven New World Notes Posts Last Week
- This Guy is Live Coding Virtual Reality While Inside Virtual Reality - Similar Feature Being Developed for High Fidelity
- Hey ASUS, I Fixed Your Incredibly Offensive Gamer Ad
- Dear Tech Industry (and Beyond): Here's One Easy Trick to Avoid Making Yet Another Offensive Ad
- Simicide: Help Me Commit the Most Efficient Virtual Murder That The Sims 4 Has Ever Seen
- Half of Second Life's 50 Most Popular Sims Now Adult-Rated: A Lesson for Second Life 2
- Popular Second Life Furniture Brand *Art Dummy Closing its Doors Next Week
- SL 2 to Launch Without Shared First-Time User Experience
Friday, October 10, 2014
SL 2 to Launch Without Shared First-Time User Experience
Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg recently dropped some hints about its follow-up to Second Life in an in-world interview for the "Designing Worlds in Second Life" show. You can watch the video below, which is mainly about SL, but Nalates Urriah took extensive notes, and here's the key point about SL2:
For SL2 they are developing toward user created experiences and will thus bypass a uniform path for all new users. So, the concept of a single entry door for SL will vanish. The Lab will provide retention data to experience owners. They will let designers compare their experience retention to other experiences, designs, methods, and retention rates. With solid objective data flowing back to the designers, it may be possible to find the magic combination.
I'm a bit skeptical that's the best way to launch a new world, but maybe there's more going on here. Anyway, this weekend, watch the 90 minute video below and share your thoughts in Comments:
Master Second Life Image Artist Whiskey Monday is Back
After a long absence from blogging her marvelous SL images which we loved so much we profiled her here, Ms. Whiskey Monday is back and blogging them again. This excerpt above is from a much larger image which you'll want to see bigger. Seriously, embiggenate.
And there's even more good news:
Join the DX Club for Special L$ Sale & SL Content Offers
DX Club is the special membership group for DX Exchange, one of the top third-party re-sellers of Linden Dollars (a sponsoring partner for this blog), which now has over 6000 members, and has regular special SL content offers -- some we'll be announcing here soon -- discounts on L$ purchases, a special tell-a-friend voucher campaign, and more. Registration is free, and no personal info besides an e-mail address is required. Go here to sign up.
Popular Second Life Furniture Brand *Art Dummy Closing its Doors Next Week
*Art Dummy, a beloved niche furniture and decor brand in Second Life, will be closing its doors next week. Designer Gala Charron announced the closure a few days ago on Flickr and on her blog, writing:
It is with deep regret that I am closing *Art Dummy! I've been struggling for a long time with "artist's block". In addition I've been grappling with a chaotic first life. The main store will close next Wednesday, October 15. I hope to return one day.
If you're unfamiliar with the brand, Gala's work with *Art Dummy is often easy to spot -- and well worth looking at...
Get Ready for Halloween by Looking at These Gruesome NBA 2K15 Face Scanning Errors
While face scanning technology may be gaining momentum as a tool for customizing player avatars, it seems like the process is still very far from foolproof. The face scanning in newly-released NBA 2K15 in particular has been getting a lot of attention for some of its more monstrous interpretations of player faces, some of which could absolutely pass for Halloween masks.
Naturally people are having a very good time sharing the very best of the worst face scans. Operation Sports shared the haunting compilation above, while over on Gamespot you can find a video of how several of their staff members look through the NBA 2K15 lens. Sometimes it works well, sometimes... Less so. Even some of the better examples occasionally cover the avatars in strange bruises and smears, like the player spawned by Giant Bomb.
So what's going wrong here? A few things...
Thursday, October 09, 2014
Half of Second Life's 50 Most Popular Sims Now Adult-Rated: A Lesson for Second Life 2
According to Louis Platini's Metaverse Business, a Second Life analytics company that gathers publicly accessible in-world data for its clients, here's the top 50 most popular sims in Second Life for last month, listed by their average visitor count, unique visitor range at any given period, and the sim's rank the previous month. In September, this listing saw a very peculiar milestone, spotted for the first time since I've been referring to this data:
Half of the top 50 most popular Second LIfe sims are Adult-rated, so designated for extremely graphic sexual and violent content.
I've been reporting on top SL sims since 2011, and up to now, Adult-rated sims have consistently hovered somewhere near the 30% point. In recent months, however, that evidently changed.
Now, Adult-rated doesn't necessarily mean porn. If Game of Thrones were turned into an official Second Life sim, the explicit sex and violence of the HBO series would easily earn it an Adult rating, even though it's very much considered mainstream entertainment. That said, most of the Adult-rated sim names reference prostitution, extreme sex acts, and (of course), furry sex. (Top sims 26-50, displayed after the break, are not even safe for work viewing.) Though general enthusiasm over Second Life has waned, it appears, virtual sex continues to attract an avid audience.
As Linden Lab develops Second Life 2, there's an important lesson to be learned here:
Simicide: Help Me Commit the Most Efficient Virtual Murder That The Sims 4 Has Ever Seen
On October 1st a new patch launched for The Sims 4, and with it came the first of several planned free content additions to the game. Ghosts (which become playable sims when they join a household) along with a set of Star Wars themed costumes were added, with more long-lamented features like pools promised in similar patches in the future, rather than the paid expansions they were expected to come in. It's a pleasant surprise, and a welcome gesture of goodwill towards a community that often feels used.
Naturally I've wanted to take the newly added ghosts out for a spin. So did a friend of mine, who streamed her attempts to kill a sim version of herself so that she could become a super cool ghost. After catching on fire (and surviving) at some point her sim just spontaneously transformed into an urn full of ashes -- no drama, no tragedy, and no Reaper. She got what she wanted (to become a ghost member of her old household) but it was rather anti-climactic, as if the game was saying "You want this sim dead that badly? Fine."
So I want to do better. I want to write about ghosts in The Sims 4, but before that I want to devise the most efficient, foolproof, engine of sim death that I can. And I need your help to do it.
Consider Kickstarting: Neotopia, Virtual World with Citizenship/Voting Rights for PS4 from Sony Home Vets
neotopia is a new virtual world project for Playstation 4 on Kickstarter; let's take a look, shall we?
Led by game industry veterans David Dow and Ed Gladwin, who both worked on the recently closed Sony Home, the world comes with a lot of themed areas (steampunk, zombie, etc.), virtual currency and customizable apartments, and for Kickstarters, a voice in the world's direction:
Have a voice and help shape the world! Citizens will be able to vote on upcoming features and content in world and via the internet. Secure your citizenship, get exclusive items and get voting now via the £30 pledge or earn your citizenship post-release.
Looks like fun, especially for PS4 owners craving for some virtual world action, though like Sony Home, there's one big missing piece of the puzzle:
Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Dear Tech Industry (and Beyond): Here's One Easy Trick to Avoid Making Yet Another Offensive Ad
Hot on the heels of ASUS' Twitter ad disaster and nearing the anniversary of the ultra-condescending Xbox One form email (which I prepared a free-to-use response for at the time), it seems like as good a time as any to share one simple truth with you all. Maybe you already know this (ASUS and Microsoft sure didn't) but it's surprisingly easy to avoid making an ad that will offend your customers.
There's a trick to it, and it's a trick that applies well beyond the realm of advertising to writing, art, and just about any creative field that could conceivably ever need to represent a person attached to an idea: All a creator has to do is ask themselves "why" (and care about the answer.)
Anita Sarkeesian Explains Why So Many Gamers Irrationally Hate Anita Sarkeesian
Only a few weeks after receiving death threats that literally drove her from her home, Anita Sarkeesian got up on stage and explained why she's so irrationally hated by so many gamers:
We witnessed just a small sliver of that hate on this very blog: After Janine and I blogged some of Sarkeesian's videos, New World Notes started getting inundated with new commenters asserting some of the very conspiracy theories she mentions above. One male (for it's almost certainly a male) created multiple sock puppet accounts, including one with a woman's name, evidently to make these allegations seem more credible. (But Typepad tracks IP addresses, so it's easy to tell when a comment's coming from the same source.)
All of which makes you wonder why: Anita Sarkeesian isn't calling for the censorship of games she doesn't like; her videos, while popular, aren't anywhere close to the popularity of the most best-known YouTube gamer celebrities; and even if one disagrees with what she's saying, she's ultimately just expressing one person's opinion. So why does she still attract such irrational rage?
My Most Viral Tweet This Year is Meta, Not Metaverse
In case you were wondering (and I'm sure you were), this is my most Favorited/Retweeted tweet of the year by far:
Man open carrying gun promoting right to open carry guns robbed by man w/gun saying "Give me your gun": http://t.co/TrUngxwm7W— Wagner James Au (@slhamlet) October 8, 2014
So not a Tweet about the metaverse or virtual guns, as one might wish it would be, but a meta Tweet about real guns. (But what can you do?)
Tuesday, October 07, 2014
Want to Put Your RL Face on Your SL Avatar? New Company Seeking Alpha Testers Who Want to Try Just That
"We are developing a face scanning technology for games that allows users to have their own face for their character," GameYourself's Balint Barlai tells me. "The mobile application we are developing works like this: after the user records a video of his face with his mobile phone, the application produces a 3D model that can be used in a game for one's character.
Welcome NWN Partner Shuggles/Besieged, Sellers of Full Perm Mesh/Clothing and Scripting HUD
Shuggles and Besieged are now a sponsoring partner of New World Notes, I'm very proud to announce. Managed and owned by SL partners Fantasy Bonham and Shuichi Shinji, these are two stores alongside each other in SL (teleport link here) which complement each other quite well: Besieged offers custom-created, full-perm mesh sneakers, plus textured, HUD-driven sneakers (among other clothing), while Shuggles sells scripts and tools for creators, its main product being the mpHUD (Multi-purpose HUD) system, which allows creators to easily build a HUD for their own products, e.g. shoes, mesh dresses, and body parts like hair, and can be used for the full-perms sneaker models available from Besieged.
Hey ASUS, I Fixed Your Incredibly Offensive Gamer Ad
ASUS posted a gem of sexist advertising on Twitter yesterday. Although they were pretty quick to delete it after a less than favorable reception, the internet seldom forgets. By the time they'd scrubbed their Tweet the gloriously bad ad (shown above) had already been saved to hard drives around the world. Including mine.
There are a lot of problems with this ad. The one that should hit you in the face immediately is that the "Hardcore Gamer" is male, and the "Casual Gamer" is female. In the context of gaming and general geekdom, the terms "hardcore" and "casual" are often used on clearly gendered lines. It's a tired old trope already, but it persists. I also have a hard time accepting the use of hardcore and casual to describe games themselves. The ad above defines The Sims as a casual game (and treats it like it's a game played in short bursts -- was this ad made by a fake gamer boy?) but I know people who are ten times more hardcore about The Sims than many fans of "true" "hardcore" games like CS:GO or DOTA 2 are. Any game can be hardcore or casual; it all depends on how you play it.
Even if you're the most run-of-the-mill, advertisers-wet-dream male gamer around this ad should piss you off because yes, it's talking shit about you too. To ASUS, you're some bro who can't take care of his things, can't control his temper, and can't pry himself away from the glow of his monitor or hum of his console even for an instant. In short: This ad doesn't flatter anyone.
But hey, don't you worry your pretty little corporate head about this, ASUS. I've got your back. I made a few changes to your ill-conceived little ad, and I think they're all vast improvements...
Monday, October 06, 2014
This Guy is Live Coding Virtual Reality While Inside Virtual Reality - Similar Feature Being Developed for High Fidelity UPDATE: More Background on This Project from the Creator
Update, 10/7: More background from Brian in Comments.
A guy named Brian Peiris figured out how to write code for graphics in virtual reality while in virtual reality itself, so he sees the changes as he implements them, and it's mind-bogglingly cool -- watch:
"Very cool," said Philip Rosedale, when I showed him this video. "I want to hire the kid!" Rosedale of course, founded Second Life and is now creating High Fidelity, a new fully VR-integrated virtual world. As it happens, he and his team are already developing a comparable feature for High Fidelity:
However, he adds, there's one challenge they need to solve:
Worlds in Decline: When MMOs Slip Into Maintenance Mode
The slow decline of an MMO can bring about a lot of intense and complicated feelings for those who wiled away hours within its virtual walls. While Lord of the Rings Online still boasts a strong community and steady income, there's no denying that the games glory days have passed. According to Ian Williams, who recently wrote about the game for Paste, the popular Tolkien-based MMO is "teetering on the edge of maintenance mode, the point in an MMO’s life where the patches and new content slow to a trickle or stop completely."
His article isn't solely devoted to where the developers/publishers went wrong, or where the fans have gone, or how it all could have been avoided. It touches on those things, but at some point Williams becomes more interested in celebrating what the game was and still is, and exploring the bittersweet sentiment that can come from playing a game for years, following its existence from peak to valley:
80 Days: How Mobile Developers Can Make the Most of Their Art Assets
When I played stylish mobile globetrotting sim 80 Days back in August, I recognized immediately how clean and beautiful its artwork was. What I didn't realize at the time was how efficient and economical it is, too. It turns out that this bold, contrasting style actually serves the same purpose that a lot of modern pixel graphics do, but with a much more eye-catching end result.
Over on Gamasutra, Joseph Humphrey (co-founder of 80 Days' developer inkle) shared his thoughts on why they chose the style they did, how it worked both for and against them at different points in development, and how other developers can find inspiration and follow suit. It's a fascinating read whether you're looking for ideas or just wanting to take a peek behind the dev curtain. For example, he writes regarding one of their artistic miscalculations:
Top Six New World Notes Posts from Last Week!
- Second Life Viewer Compatible With Oculus Rift's DK2
- 4 Ways Valve Could Fix Steam's New Front Page
- Facebook Apologizes & Tweaks Real Name Policy to Better Support LGBT Community -- But Avatar Community Should Stick With Fan Pages
- The Game Industry is Getting Torn Apart by a Tiny Anti-Feminist Movement
- Top Four Tips for Flawless, Photoshop-Free SL Snapshots
- Read About Virtual Reality Hollywood This Weekend
Friday, October 03, 2014
Read About Virtual Reality Hollywood This Weekend
"The Last Medium" is a new long feature on California Sunday Magazine by my colleague Carina Chocano on the coming convergence of virtual reality and Hollywood. As she explains to me:
"The idea was to talk to people who were interested in creating narrative experiences in VR-- how will the medium be used to tell stories? What language will it develop to tell them? The coolest thing about it for me was this idea that every new narrative medium creates its own storytelling language. The things that are great about VR (the feeling of presence, the added element of space) are also the things that present the biggest challenges. I didn't know much about VR when I started, and it was really interesting to approach it like a creative problem to be solved. Everyone I talked to had great ideas, and was passionate about VR as a storytelling medium."
Related to that, here's an interesting passage on the creation of a Game of Thrones VR experience:
How to Turn SL-Based Images Into Visual Art
Cajsa Lilliehook just posted a new collection of beautiful SL-based images which transcend being mere screenshots or Photoshopped screenshots to being works of visual art that stand on their own. What I especially admire about Ms. Lilliehook is she goes far beyond saying "Oooh pretty" by providing a smart analysis of how these images work aesthetically. For instance, for this one here, "Window" by Sadbad Shan, here's some of what she says: