Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Analyst Forecasts 83M VR Headset Owners by 2018 - A Forecast on the High Side (But Also Not High Enough) UPDATE: Philip Rosedale, Palmer Luckey Comment

UK virtual world/reality analyst KZero has a new report forecasting market growth of virtual reality, and here's the key infographic:

VR HMD Market Penetratiion KZero

KZero's summation: "By 2018 we estimate total HMD unit sales of almost 39m globally. This equates to a cumulative total of 83m HMD unit sales over the five year period." In other words, 83 million head mounted display units, the core platform for virtual reality. Not having read the full report, I'm skeptical about the methodology used to forecast this number, which seems too high -- but also, not high enough:

Continue reading "Analyst Forecasts 83M VR Headset Owners by 2018 - A Forecast on the High Side (But Also Not High Enough) UPDATE: Philip Rosedale, Palmer Luckey Comment"

Posted at 02:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | Bookmark

Second Life Private Sims Slip to 2008 Levels (But That's OK)

This is the picture of an old majestic ship slowly sinking while the crew scavenges the hull to build an entirely new vessel:

SL Grid Tyche Private Sims

It is, of course, the current state of Second Life private sim ownership, the core revenue source for Linden Lab -- which, as data expert Tyche Shepherd reports, has now slipped to below 2008 levels, when Second Life was riding high. (Infographic from her indispensable Grid Survey site.)

Now ordinarily, this news would lead to a lot of outrage and yelps of terror among hardcore SLers, but as I said last week, we now need to look at this loss from a totally new perspective:

Continue reading "Second Life Private Sims Slip to 2008 Levels (But That's OK)"

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A Month from Release, Modders Are Already Sinking Their Teeth Into The Sims 4

Sims 4 CAS Demo  (16)

Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

There's good news for Sims players who have been worried about the number and variety of mods that will be available for The Sims 4 come September. Fans have already started modding the Create-a-Sim Demo released earlier this month, and you can download and install a plethora of new and tweaked content. There are custom animations, new eye textures, skins, clothes, and my favorite of the lot: A lightweight program that will let you recolor just about any piece of content from the demo to your liking.

If you want a complete list what's available, fan site SimNation is regularly updating theirs to include the latest and greatest custom content. These mods are built for the demo and it's hard to say how things will change once the full game is releases a little over a month from now, but even so it's absolutely a good sign for anyone (including myself) who was worried about how long it would take modders to fill the gap left by The Sims 4's apparent limitations.

(Hat tip: Kat Nye)

Continue reading "A Month from Release, Modders Are Already Sinking Their Teeth Into The Sims 4"

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Forget the Map: Gaming With a Brain Injury

Minecraft
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

"KEVIN. WHY DO YOU EVEN LIKE VIDEO GAMES. YOU ARE SO BAD AT THEM.” That's what a friend asked Kevin Simpson, the author of this piece, as he fumbled through one of that friend's favorite games. It's unclear whether or not Simpson's brain injury was diagnosed before or after this encounter, but he'd been feeling the injury's effects on functions like logic, time and direction for a while -- both in his gaming and his life.

Simpson recently shared his experiences as a gamer with a frontal lobe disorder and, much like the IGN article about gaming while color blind that I shared earlier this month, it's a very interesting read if you're looking for a different perspective on worlds and experiences many of us take for granted. He writes:

Continue reading "Forget the Map: Gaming With a Brain Injury"

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Visit in Second Life: A Wireframe Grid That Goes on Forever

Ctrl+Shift+R

In Ctrl+Shift+R, come see Wizard Gynoid's 3D wireframe isotropic grid extend in all directions to tnfinity. Wizzy is a resident artist at Linden Endowment for the Arts.

Visit in Second Life

My main laptop has been in repairs, but when it's back and running, I'll be hitting this. Wizard Gynoid, as you probably know, is a longtime creator of SL installations full of mathematical concepts converted into tangible 3D:

Continue reading "Visit in Second Life: A Wireframe Grid That Goes on Forever"

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Follow These Clear Tips to Get the Perfect Fit from Your Second Life Mesh Avatar Enhancements

Tutorial-meshitemsandsettings-01-600x213
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

If you've ever worn specialized mesh body parts on your Second Life avatar, you know how hard it can be to get the perfect, seamless fit. Even if you have experience with these incredibly popular add-ons, it can feel like there's always something wrong with yours.

And everyone can see it.

And they're judging you.

But there's still hope, my patchwork friend, and it comes in the form of a tutorial from one of Second Life's most experienced fashionistas...

Continue reading "Follow These Clear Tips to Get the Perfect Fit from Your Second Life Mesh Avatar Enhancements"

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Hot Pepper Game Reviews Are Merciless, Just Not in the Way You Might Expect

Hot Pepper Gaming Anthony Carboni
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

I'll preface this by saying that it's not like I enjoy watching people suffer 90% of the time, but Hot Pepper Gaming fits harmlessly into that remaining 10%. The premise is pretty simple: YouTube gaming personalities review a recently released game... Immediately after devouring a single hot pepper of their choosing. Every episode has a predictable arc: The early moments of calm, followed by the first real hit of the pepper's heat, then the mounting desperation, and finally a soothing glass of milk when the review has been delivered in its entirety.

This week it's congenial science-lover Anthony Carboni's turn, and whether or not you're interested in his thoughts on extreme off-road trucking simulator Spintires, you'll probably want to watch:

Continue reading "Hot Pepper Game Reviews Are Merciless, Just Not in the Way You Might Expect"

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Top Six New World Notes Posts from Last Week!

Liquify Body

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Friday, July 25, 2014

With Announcement of Second Life 2, SLers Must Consider Embracing Virtual Worlds Unlike What They Know Now

UPDATE, 7/25: Post bumped up for weekend reading/discussion!

Second Life 2 Successor

On June 20, the day when news broke that Linden Lab is working on a successor to Second Life, a subtle but important shift of perspective started among the SL community, and it's crucial we recognize and amplify it. You could see it in social media and SL-based discussion boards, and in the comment threads of news coverage about the announcement, and very roughly summarized, the transition looked like this:

  • Second Life Enthusiast, June 19: Yay, Second Life is the best virtual world ever, and no matter its shortcomings, there's nothing else like it!
  • Second Life Enthusiast, June 20: Yay, Second Life has a successor, which is great, because Second Life is getting really old and it has a lot of shortcomings!

So in the space of 24 hours, many of Second Life’s most ardent advocates turned on a Linden dime to become SL2’s most avid supporters. (Which leads one to think they weren’t Second Life supporters fully by choice, but also felt there was nowhere else to go.) Now that development of SL2 is public knowledge, and an alternative exists, I also see less zealous defenses of SL from hardcore fans. (Used to be, you'd explain why Second Life’s user interface is horrible and a total barrier to user growth, and you’d be guaranteed die hard SLers appearing in comments to insist no, no, it’s not that bad, it’s the users who are the problem.)

Now, hopefully, we can more openly and honestly talk about all the ways Second Life as a virtual world and a platform has not lived up to its promise -- and point to ways SL2 can and must be better. (Which is why I encouraged Iris to write her great post yesterday, about SL’s failings on the avatar level.)

That means at least two more important things:

Continue reading "With Announcement of Second Life 2, SLers Must Consider Embracing Virtual Worlds Unlike What They Know Now"

Posted at 04:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (36) | Bookmark

When You Realize You're Related to Another SL User

AM Radio SL artist

AM Radio just sent me this interesting coda to my profile of him in Polygon: SL fashionista Gabriella Karillion was checking her real life Facebook wall, noticed people sharing the article in which AM Radio's RL name is publicly revealed for the first time, and like they say in Facebook clickbait posts, you won't believe what she discovered next:

I realized a connection that I never knew existed. Little did I know that possibly the most well known artist in SL is related to me in RL.

Just imagine, Gabriella Karillion and AM Radio at the same family reunions and backyard barbecues, not knowing about each other's SL identity. I also like her own explanation for why she keeps her SL activity secret:

Continue reading "When You Realize You're Related to Another SL User"

Posted at 04:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Bookmark

How to Process & Socially Share SL Images From Within SL

SL flickr sharing tutorial

Caitlin Tobias has a thorough and totally useful tutorial for editing, processing, and socially sharing (to Flickr, Facebook or Twitter) Second Life images from directly within the Second Life viewer. (As opposed to saving screenshots to your hard drive, uploading to PhotoShop or whatever, and then socially sharing them, which as I can personally confirm, is an utter ass pain.

Continue reading "How to Process & Socially Share SL Images From Within SL"

Posted at 03:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | Bookmark

A Taste of the Wastes: Fallout-Inspired Fashions Arrive in SL

FATEplay nuclear war
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

What's the best way to play a Fallout game? With the music dialed up to 11? Yes. Rocking your Pip-Boy like a particularly bulky Rolex? Mhm. Tearing through the wastelands with a pack of ridiculously stylish corgis? Always. But what about when you're not playing Fallout? What then?

Thanks to FATEplay's latest releases you can now bring a piece of the nuclear apocalypse with you wherever you go in Second Life. Damien Fate posted a set of outfits inspired by the Fallout franchise to celebrate his costume-focussed brands first anniversary, so guys and gals can now roam SL in faded leather dusters or shabby-chic vault jumpsuits, listening to their favorite oldies and shooting any sniping radscorpions from as far away as possible because have you seen those things? They're disgusting.

Visit FATEplay in world [SLURL] or on the Second Life Marketplace for more, and be sure to leave a comment with your favorite SL wasteland destinations for any particularly inspired virtual world photographers to visit.

Continue reading "A Taste of the Wastes: Fallout-Inspired Fashions Arrive in SL"

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The Best Things in Life Are Free, Including The Sims 2 Ulimate Collection

The_sims_2Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Just shy of ten years after its initial release, EA announced that they will no longer be offering support or patches for The Sims 2, the second installment in one of the most popular gaming franchises ever. In an interesting twist, they also announced that The Sims 2 Ultimate Collection, which includes all of the games expansion packs, would be available for free to anyone with an Origin account. 

This is good news for a lot of players. For some who bought The Sims 2 on disc way back before digital distribution had gained the foothold it has today, it's a chance to revisit a game we remember fondly. For others who lack experience with the franchise, it's a cheap and easy way to see what all the fuss is about before The Sims 4 is released this September. 

No matter which camp you fall into, here's what you need to do:

Continue reading "The Best Things in Life Are Free, Including The Sims 2 Ulimate Collection"

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Shape Every Side of the Story in Indie Adventure RPG Unrest (For Better and For Worse)

Unrest city bhimra
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Pyrodactyl's Unrest, released this week, tells the kind of story that very few games are willing (or able) to tell... And there's no one thing I can point to to explain how it does this so well. It all seems very straightforward at first glance; an ancient Indian kingdom in the midst of a brought and on the brink of upheaval, where players are faced with moral choices and consequences and also snake people. Just another weekday.

But there's something very different about Unrest. Something that kind of sticks in my throat. Now maybe that doesn't sound very pleasant, but I'd rather play a game that sticks in my throat than one that I can swallow in one easy gulp any day.

So with that in mind, let's break down what makes Unrest stand out: 

Continue reading "Shape Every Side of the Story in Indie Adventure RPG Unrest (For Better and For Worse)"

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Upcoming Oculus Rift VR Game Inspired by Rear Window

Private Eye is a pretty clever looking game in development for Oculus Rift, because according to The New Yorker, it's inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window -- that is to say, it's the story of a man trying to solve a mystery while confined to a wheelchair. Watch:

The savvy trick to confining the player to a wheelchair is this set-up organically locks the player to a single position, where all they can do is look around and interact with what's right in front of them. Like I wrote before: "For virtual reality to go mass market, we need to abandon the goal of a fully-embodied avatar... the most compelling applications of VR so far seem to be based on a context where the body is believably confined: For instance, clamped down in a roller coaster seat, or in the cockpit of a dogfighter."

Or, as it might turn out, an impaired, mystery-solving detective:

Continue reading "Upcoming Oculus Rift VR Game Inspired by Rear Window"

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Here's What the Designers of SL 2's Avatars Can Learn from Second Life's Own Dreadful Defaults

Liquify Body

Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

A few days ago, Hamlet and I were discussing Second Life's avatars and, more specifically, how SL 2 could do potentially do better. Second Life's current avatar is so unpleasant that players have been working against it and its limitations almost from the very beginning, so there must certainly be lessons to learn from it, right? A key to how Linden Lab might "get it right" this time?

Well there is, and it's surprisingly simple...

Continue reading "Here's What the Designers of SL 2's Avatars Can Learn from Second Life's Own Dreadful Defaults"

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How to Confirm RL Lawyers in Second Life are RL Lawyers

Agenda Faromet SL lawyer Linden Lab ToS

The SL Bar Association has an Attorney Credentialing Process to confirm that a designated member and Second Life user is, in fact, a real life lawyer offline. Costs L$2,750 to do, so a pretty good deal; however, as the site adds, "The SLBA does NOT guarantee that the information provided is correct... the Credential Check is made in reliance on information supplied by the person, his/her firm or employer, and the bar association." Then again, this is true in real life too, so when talking with someone in Second Life claiming to be an RL lawyer, do your due diligence. I learned about this service after some questions were raised about the credentials of real life lawyer and SL Bar Association member Agenda Faromet, who I often cite here, and who often comments on this blog through her SL alt, Vaki. But as she answers those questions:

Continue reading "How to Confirm RL Lawyers in Second Life are RL Lawyers"

Posted at 12:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | Bookmark

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Where's the Coverage of Second Life Vehicle Communities? (Comment of the Week)

Last week (well technically, almost two weeks ago), Iris posted this lovely SL flying machinima above, and reader Phadrus Karu responded with an angry comment:

The breadth and scope of vehicles in virtual worlds is vast; Second Life is no exception. Consider this, everyone in Second Life possess at least one vehicle in their inventory. Yet, how often is this topic featured by major publications whose sole focus is Second Life itself? Indeed, the few individuals who dedicate their efforts on producing such material via social media find themselves consistently marginalized and sidelined in favor of fashion designer #523, gardener #394, interior designer #483, architect #604, breedable maker #271 and abstract artist #893.

Fair points, to which I have some replies, but first let's let Phadrus Karu unleash just a little bit more:

Continue reading "Where's the Coverage of Second Life Vehicle Communities? (Comment of the Week)"

Posted at 08:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (15) | Bookmark

Graphics Pioneer Ken Perlin on Valve's VR System: "A threshold has been crossed, and I have seen another world."

Valve VR

Ken Perlin recently got a demo of Valve's VR system, and because Ken's a computer graphics/VR/avatar development pioneer (Valve used his software as a reference for the character animations in Half-Life 2), I'm inclined to take his assessment seriously. And he assesses spectacularly:

What is different about this demo is that they have all the little details right, and this is an area in which all the little details really matter. As you move your head, the world moves around you as though you are really there, with none of those little delays that tell your subconscious that what you are seeing is fake.

Here's a look at the demo he was seeing in full VR, and his final takeaway:

Continue reading "Graphics Pioneer Ken Perlin on Valve's VR System: "A threshold has been crossed, and I have seen another world.""

Posted at 03:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | Bookmark

What Second Life Thing Are You? (Warning: You Might Not Want to Know!)

Second Life Quiz
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

There's yet another online quiz making the rounds... At least it's making the rounds in Second Life's narrow little slice of the internet. "What Second Life Thing Are You?" is not a quiz for the faint of heart or the fragile of ego, and you should only venture down its dimly-lit corridor of questions if you have an extremely healthy sense of humor about yourself and your hobbies.

Even so, it's a brief hit of nostalgia and a couple bitter chuckles (at your own expense) to brighten up your afternoon, so give it a shot

As for my results...

Continue reading "What Second Life Thing Are You? (Warning: You Might Not Want to Know!)"

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No Skin Thick Enough: Don't Miss This Eye-Opening Article About Online Harassment in Gaming

No Skin thick Enough
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

An interesting piece about gender and harassment in the gaming industry was posted in Polygon's opinion section today. Written by game developer Brianna Wu, the piece cuts right to the quick with a series of case studies from other women in the industry, each one debunking a specific myth about online harassment. If you've ever caught yourself saying "everyone gets harassed online" or "you just need to grow a thicker skin," please carve a few minutes out of your day to read it. 

It's a phenomenal piece, but one quote included from games journalist Carolyn Petit really resonates:

Continue reading "No Skin Thick Enough: Don't Miss This Eye-Opening Article About Online Harassment in Gaming"

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Monday, July 21, 2014

VR Expert Explains Max-Planck's "Holodeck" -- and How Poor FPS Plagues Second Life for Oculus Rift

Here's an interesting look at the virtual reality "holodeck" of the Max Planck Institute -- yes, they have one:

That's interesting in itself, and then at around 8 minutes in, the Max-Planck VR expert mentions he's tried the Second Life for Oculus Rift viewer, but couldn't use it, because the low framerate made him nauseous:

Continue reading "VR Expert Explains Max-Planck's "Holodeck" -- and How Poor FPS Plagues Second Life for Oculus Rift"

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If You Like AM Radio's SL Art, You'll Probably Love Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven (UPDATE from AM Radio)

Days_of_Heaven AM Radio Second Life Terence Malick

In my Polygon profile of AM Radio, I compared his Second Life art to Terrence Malick’s 1978 classic Days of Heaven, and in case you haven't seen that film (you really should), this still above is an example of what I mean.

Continue reading "If You Like AM Radio's SL Art, You'll Probably Love Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven (UPDATE from AM Radio)"

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In the Least Surprising News of the Day, The Sims 4 Will Have Premium Memberships

Sims 4 Premium
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Sims fans have caught sight of something alarming in a recent 20-minute Sims 4 gameplay demo posted to the series' official YouTube channel. A banner advertising "The Sims 4 Premium" popped on screen while the hosts were en-route to check out community content sharing features, promising discounts, early access, and exclusive items. The comparison is being made to the premium memberships offered for the Battlefield series, in essence a subscription fee that provides a good deal for players who plan to buy all or nearly all of the DLC content released -- and a good deal for EA if subscribers who planned to buy decide to abstain. 

But when it comes to this particular community and this particular franchise, I don't think the issue is quite that simple...

Continue reading "In the Least Surprising News of the Day, The Sims 4 Will Have Premium Memberships"

Posted at 12:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | Bookmark

No Flossing Required: Here's How to Get A Perfect, Picture-Ready Pixel Smile

Jessica Pixel  tooth smile shape
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Here's a tip I'd never even considered from SL user Jessica Pixel's Plurk: If you're the kind of person who likes an expressive avatar, you might want to make yourself a special shape to get the most out of a toothy smile emote. Jessica's own animated gif, shown above, illustrates the differences between her typical shape and a smile-ready shape pretty well. Depending on the dimensions and features of your facial shape, Second Life's built-in grins might look compressed, or just not quite as nice as they could. Not every shape will need it (and not every player will want it) but for those that are interested few tiny tweaks to the mouth area are all you'll need.

As most fashion-minded SL users know, multiple subtle tweaks of the same avatar shape can be a pretty crucial part of your wardrobe, especially if you want to fit perfectly into your favorite mesh attire and accessories. Likewise, shape tweaks can help make your avatar look more consistent across a variety of skins. So if showing your avatar's pearly whites is a priority, try this out for yourself.

Continue reading "No Flossing Required: Here's How to Get A Perfect, Picture-Ready Pixel Smile"

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Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week

Cora Mary Scrub Werewolf

The Sims 3 is notoriously unstable the more you plug into it. And then there are the load times... Even when it's running smoothly, the game itself is sheer chaos. A simple trip to the grocery store can lead to werewolf fights and paparazzi snaps and a curse from a witch and a close encounter with an alien who's parked their space car just around the corner. Read the rest here.

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Linden's Revised ToS for SL Still Troubled, Says RL Lawyer

Agenda Faromet SL lawyer Linden Lab ToS

Though Linden Lab amended its controversial Terms of Service which made draconian claims over SL-created content, real life lawyer and SL Bar Association member Agenda Faromet says the changes merely muddy the situation. Writing on the blog of her alt, Vaki, Agenda has a detailed analysis, and gives the TL;DR version too:

Really, not much has changed as of today. We have a poorly-written, overly broad ToS without much in the way of limitations, and we have a whole lot of reassurances from LL that don’t mean a lot (other than serving as an indication that their legal department is apparently not very good at translating the company’s intentions into legal terms)... It took LL a year to come up with this much. I don’t have high hopes on getting a revision any time soon.

Read the rest here. I don't have high hopes another revision will come, but perhaps not for the reasons Agenda has:

Continue reading "Linden's Revised ToS for SL Still Troubled, Says RL Lawyer"

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The Perfect Male Avatar Might Not Look Exactly Like Nomak Nyori, but it's Probably Very Close

Nomak Nyori Monday
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

In case you were wondering, in case you somehow fell out of the loop in the interim between now and one of my previous posts about him, Second Life artist Nomak Nyoki continues to be the absolute gold standard for male avatars. His styling? Still flawless. His photography? Beyond compare. His boston terrier? Well that's a new edition, but I love it just the same.

Nomak shared a few new pictures on his Flickr this week, and they're just as stunning as you'd expect -- even more of what has made his face and name a force to be reckoned with in the world of men's fashion in SL, even if he isn't the most prolific artist in the scene. Whether you're looking for a dash of modern style, or you want to motivate yourself towards a head-to-toe male av makeover, his Flickr stream should be your number one source of inspiration.

Continue reading "The Perfect Male Avatar Might Not Look Exactly Like Nomak Nyori, but it's Probably Very Close"

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The Glossy, Voluminous (and Free) Virtual Moustache You've Dreamed of is Now a Reality at Hair Fair 2014

Hair Fair INK FreebieJanine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Second Life bloggers aren't the only ones having a little fun with their Hair Fair 2014 photography. It's no surprise that hair designers themselves have been cranking out some stunning images to promote their new releases.

A lot of the focus is on glitz and glamour (as is so often the case) which is why this snap of INK's immaculately groomed moustache, available for free at their Hair Fair booth, stands out so much. That's not to say that these handsome handlebars aren't glitzy or glamorous in their own right of course, but they certainly offer a welcome change from all the smoky eyes and smouldering gazes. 

You can pick up INK's free moustache at Hair Fair 2014 [SLURL] until July 27th.

Continue reading "The Glossy, Voluminous (and Free) Virtual Moustache You've Dreamed of is Now a Reality at Hair Fair 2014"

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Linden Lab Amends Draconian Clause in SL's Terms of Service (Months After Anyone Was Really Angry About It)

Linden_lab_logo

Way back in olden times (by which I mean last September), some Second Life users said they were very concerned and angry about a newly added clause in Second Life's Terms of Service, because it made draconian claims over content created in Second Life:

[Y]ou agree to grant to Linden Lab, the non-exclusive, unrestricted, unconditional, unlimited, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, and cost-free right and license to use, copy, record, distribute, reproduce, disclose, sell, re-sell, sublicense (through multiple levels), modify, display, publicly perform, transmit, publish, broadcast, translate, make derivative works of, and otherwise exploit in any manner whatsoever, all or any portion of your User Content (and derivative works thereof), for any purpose whatsoever in all formats...

Some SLers saw the dubious clause as a sneaky bid by Linden Lab to re-use user content from Second Life on other platforms without their permission. But months and months after any SL user has expressed any concern over this clause -- seriously, hardly a peep about it all this year-- Linden Lab has amended the clause:

Continue reading "Linden Lab Amends Draconian Clause in SL's Terms of Service (Months After Anyone Was Really Angry About It)"

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My Five Favorite Styles (and Snapshots) from Second Life's Hair Fair 2014

Hair Fair Oakley Foxtrot
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

I have a confession. Whenever I set out to take pictures for a Second Life event like Hair Fair, I get absolutely overwhelmed by the amazing work that other bloggers and photographers are doing. To be entirely frank and only marginally self-deprecating, at the end of the day I'm a million times more interested in showing off what others have been doing than adding my own (comparatively worse) work onto the pile. Here's what I mean...

Continue reading "My Five Favorite Styles (and Snapshots) from Second Life's Hair Fair 2014"

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The SIM-ple Life: Here's Why I'm Looking Forward to Losing Everything in the Transition to The Sims 4

Sims 4 CAS Demo  (11)
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Fans of any series are surely familiar with the excitement leading up to the release of a new installment, and likewise the concern that somehow, at some point, the developers will mess it up. Maybe it won't be as good as the previous games. Or maybe it will be a million times better. It's an emotional push-and-pull that many Sims fans are experiencing right now, but with an added layer almost unique to them.

Between the base game, the expansions, the stuff packs, the store content, the mods, and of course the sim lives created, every game in the series can be a tremendous investment of both time and money. And then the new game comes out, and you're back at square one. Even though it is a brand new game, even though the older game doesn't go anywhere, it still feels like (and is most often described as) a loss. It's a huge mental hurdle for many players to get over, and one that I personally struggled with when The Sims 3 came out back in 2009.

But this time around, I'm not. I'm actually, strangely enough, looking forward to losing it all. Here's why:

Continue reading "The SIM-ple Life: Here's Why I'm Looking Forward to Losing Everything in the Transition to The Sims 4"

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People Paying $200 Million a Year to Live Kim Kardashian's Virtual Life -- Just Wait Until an Oculus Rift Version Hits

Kim Kardashian Mobile Game 200 million

An analyst estimates people are will pay $200 million a year to live Kim Kardashian's life in a mobile game, and I didn't believe that figure at first, but App Annie confirms that "Kim Kardashian: Hollywood" is a top grossing game across the world, currently among the top five grossing apps in 46 countries.

What are people paying for? Stuff like this:

While the game is free to play, the goal is to get users hooked on in-app purchases such as clothing or a burst of energy needed for traipsing through Hollywood. Users can spend as much as $99.99 for 175,000 virtual dollars. A trip to Beverly Hills costs 4 game “dollars,” while 400 will buy a necklace. Kardashian’s voice guides the uninitiated through casting calls and parties, while users dodge surly tweets from rivals.

Because mobile games are relatively cheap to develop ($1-3 million is typical), a lot of that forecast $200 million is going to be pure profit for the developer and Ms. Kardashian. So expect many more virtual celebrity experiences like this in the future. Expect them to get even more immersive:

Continue reading "People Paying $200 Million a Year to Live Kim Kardashian's Virtual Life -- Just Wait Until an Oculus Rift Version Hits"

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It's So Great Google+ Finally Dropped Its Real Name Policy, Said No Pseudonymous Internet User Ever

After years of contention and careful exceptions, Google finally dropped its "real names only" policy for its Google+ social network:

 

It's possible that this move will make Google+ appealing to people who want to disguise their real life identity online. But highly doubtful. Google+ has long ago been remanded to a ghost town, engagement-wise, and despite (fairly paranoid) concerns over Facebook, lots of pseudonymous Internet users have signed on with Team Zuckerberg. The official Second Life page on Facebook, for instance, keeps growing, and at its current rate, will in a year or two have about as many members as Second Life the 3D world has actual users.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Kickstart This Retro Arcade Game That's Actually a Turn-Based Tactical Shooter (Developed by a Linden Vet!)

Mighty Tactical Shooter is easily among the very coolest Kickstarter game projects I've seen in years, and I'll tell you why: It's a somewhat bizarre idea that probably never occurred to you, but once you see it in action, it seems totally, badassedly obvious. Watch:

As the title suggests, Mighty Tactical Shooter is a turn-based shooter, which is a pretty rare beast, but to give that extra appeal, it's also a retro 80's arcade-style side-scrolling shooter. So all that crazy real time old school action suddenly becomes thoughtful, complex, strategic -- and still explodey. So go here to help Kickstart this already.

There's an added incentive for NWN readers: The project's the brainchild of Johnny Marshall, who SLers might remember as Johnny Linden. During his Linden Lab days, he worked with the Babbage Linden team in the company's Brighton office, helping develop the Mono scripting core. (He has a background in working on other MMOs.) In Second Life itself, he was the guitar wearing werewolf avatar who often hung in the Welcome Area.

"So why would any SLer want to help out?" he asks rhetorically, when I ask, and puts it this way:

Continue reading "Kickstart This Retro Arcade Game That's Actually a Turn-Based Tactical Shooter (Developed by a Linden Vet!)"

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Assassin's Creed is a Franchise Built on More Than Just Violence (But You'd Never Know it From This Trailer)

AC Unity Trailer
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Earlier today Chris Plante shared his thoughts on the latest trailers for Assassin's Creed Unity over on Polygon, and if you're an avid gamer his post should give you a lot to think about. Obviously AC fans aren't strangers to gorey gameplay, but it feels like Ubisoft's marketing material is trying to take it to a new level, and Plante's not interested. Frankly, neither am I. He writes:

Continue reading "Assassin's Creed is a Franchise Built on More Than Just Violence (But You'd Never Know it From This Trailer)"

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Virtual Vlogger Ami Yamato is Back... in Tokyo

 
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Our favorite virtual vlogger, Ami Yamato, is visiting friends and family in Japan this month, and she's chronicling her trip along the way. In her latest, Ami's walking the streets of a Japanese suburb just before midnight, camera held out, and musing about the differences between her homes in Japan and England.

If you've already taken a peek at the video embedded above but are otherwise unfamiliar with this underappreciated YouTube personality, you might be wonder why I'm talking about her as if she's a real person. While she might look like she belongs among a lineup of the latest Disney princesses, Ami is presented as a real flesh-and-blood vlogger. Every now and then she makes tongue-in-cheek references to the programs and people that have made her existence possible, but for the most part she's playing it straight, and that might just be the best thing about her.

If you're looking for an extra dose of Ami, be sure to catch up on the videos available on her YouTube channel, and check out her new Instagram account for some unbelievably unreal selfies.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Improved Permission System May (Finally) Make Second Life a Decent Game Platform

There's a lot of pretty impressive user-made games in Second Life, but for years I've hesitated to tell non-SLing gamers about them, knowing that any attempt to play them would mean hours of aggravation. Just announced in Beta (after some years in development) Linden Lab's new Experience Keys (viewer here) improves the permission system for SL game developers, and does a better job tracking game events. Watch it in action:

I love that they're doing this demo in the Corn Field, which Daniel Linden built as a purgatory for griefers. (I sat next to him in my Linden days, so got to watch him deploy it with wry glee.) That was back in 2004-2005 when Linden Lab still called itself a game publisher and Linden staff called Second Life a game, terminology the company mainly changed for marketing reasons.

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My Twitter Account Tries to Explain My Perspective on VR

Wagner James Au Twitter

My Twitter account is now updated with photos from two recent experiences: In virtual reality, at the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality conference in May, and doing the pillbox hike in Kailua, Hawaii, during a short visit back home in June. I'm fortunate to love both virtual and actual reality, but over the next few decades, the two are going to be in more active competition than they've ever been before. Or as Palmer Luckey put it at SVVR:

"This is one of those crazy man topics".. but "it's going to be impossible to give everyone everything they want", such as expensive consumer items. With VR, however, you can do that. It's easy for us to say, living in the great state of California, that VR is not as good as the real world, but a lot of people in the world don't have as good an experience in real life as we do here.

Then again, the Kailua photo of the pillbox also has its own virtual reality going on:

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Must Read: The Frustratingly Indistinct World of Gaming With Color Blindness

IGN Gaming with Color Blindness Super Puzzle FighterJanine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

There's a new article on IGN today about the experience of being a color blind gamer, and I'd say it's a must-read if only for the valuable perspective it will offer. In addition to providing some truly illuminating visual aids like the screenshot comparison on the left, the article also touches on the many ways that developers are addressing (or failing to address) accessibility for the considerable number of color blind players out there.

For example:

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Get Inspired by the Brand New Summery Look of This Aptly Named Second Life Sim

Inspiration Point Maylee Oh
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

There are so many beautiful places in Second Life, I think anyone could be forgiven for never visiting the same sim twice. At the same time, there's something very satisfying about following a location as it evolves over time, changing with the seasons (or the owner's whims.) That's probably what makes it so exciting when spots like Inspiration Point [SLURL], home of Maylee Oh's brand The Secret Store among others, refresh their look.

It shouldn't be surprising that some of the most beautiful spaces are owned and designed by Second Life creators -- they already see the virtual world as a canvas, and often want to surround their stores and workspaces with the most inspiring scenes they can. Inspiration Point is the home sim of several different shops and occasionally plays host to seasonal hunts. It also offers dozens of picturesque locations (as seen in Maylee's collage advertising the seasonal redesign, shown above) for SL bloggers, photographers, machinimatographers (maybe even virtual cartographers?) to take advantage of.

Summer doesn't last forever, though, and the leaves will be turning before you know it. Don't miss your chance to swing by Inspiration Point and check out its new look while you still can.

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Top Seven New World Notes Posts from Last Week

Sims 4 CAS Demo Nose

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Do You Want to Know What AM Radio Looks Like IRL?

Am_radios_wheat_fields

When I sent Polygon my profile of the man behind AM Radio, I also sent the editors the photo I took of him during our first real life meeting in Austin. That image never made it to the final edition that's now online, so I was about to just post it right here on New World Notes.

Then a thought hit me: While there's many SLers who've been curious to know what AM Radio looks like in real life, there's probably as many who prefer only to know him as his avatar, as pictured above. Because his avatar identity is so finely crafted, and integrated with his virtual art installations, it's likely that that's the case. I personally was fascinated to meet him in real life -- and to also contrast both of his identities while we were hanging out in the flesh.

So, a compromise: I put my photo of AM Radio's owner after the break, along with the photo that provoked Patton Oswalt to crack wise about the rock star he resembled; if you want to see them, click on, click on:

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Midday Get Away: Whatever You Do, Don't Miss This Adorable Aeronautical SL Machinima

 
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

When I went poking around on YouTube for new Second Life machinima to share, I really wasn't expecting to come across this little gem. An adorable avatar, a gleaming red plane, a long stretch of runway, an even longer stretch of water, dotted with beachy little islands and cozy-looking homes. I'll admit that I never really understood the culture or the allure that developed around piloting virtual planes in a world where characters could fly with the tap of a button... But I think now I'm starting to get it.

If you like this sweet, cinematic little music video, you may want to poke around the rest of creator ChanAndMe C's YouTube channel for a few other outstanding videos in the same vein, including a series inspired by western films and this action-packed surfing montage.

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A Little Birdy Told Me To Watch Out for This Style at Second Life's Hair Fair, Opening Tomorrow

Hair Fair Newreem Anya Ohmai
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

It's that time of year again -- time for one of Second Life's most popular traditions and events, Hair Fair. Every year, designers get together across several sims to celebrate SL hair design and raise money for charity by releasing brand new (and occasionally exclusive) styles and generous freebie bundles... Not to mention Bandana Day, where fashionistas across the grid don customized bandanas in support of the Wigs For Kids charity.

Hair Fair opens tomorrow, so naturally many users' timelines and Flickr dashboards are already filling up with teasers from participating designers. I'll have a more detailed look at my favorite Hair Fair styles next week, but for now I want to leave you with one of the cutest (and most inventive) styles I've seen yet -- Newreem by Anya Ohmai. Anya's not only one of my favorite SL photographers, but she's also a tremendously talented virtual designer. She'll be releasing quite a few styles at Hair Fair, most of which seem to include those plump and playful little birdies, so be sure not to miss her booth if you get a chance to swing by!

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Here's Your Regular Reminder That Skywind Might be the Most Amazing Mod Ever

 
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

We're long overdue for another chat about Skywind, the ridicilously ambitious modding project that aims to import the entire world of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind into the series' most recent (single-player) incarnation, Skyrim

The Skywind team have begun releasing trailers for their massive project monthly, teasing everything from armor models to environments (like the Ashlands) and even the soundtrack. Unfortunately due to the scale of the mod it's hard to say when (of if) we'll ever be able to get our hands on it, but either way these haunting trailers provide a glimpse into a more updated version of a world that so many gamers hold dear.

Watch all of the Skywind trailers for yourself on YouTube, or check out the TES Renewal Project for the latest news on Skywind, as well as its sister mods Morroblivion and Skyblivion.

Continue reading "Here's Your Regular Reminder That Skywind Might be the Most Amazing Mod Ever"

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Linden Lab to Allow Real Money Payouts for Winning Games of Skill in Second Life

In a move with both potential promise and peril, Linden Lab just announced it will soon allow Linden Dollar payouts for games of skill (i.e. no casino games) in tightly regulated, zoned areas of Second Life. Since L$ can be bought and sold for US$, this basically enables online gaming with real money payouts. Many have tried to offer such a service, but for various reasons, none have really gained much traction. However, because Second Life already has a relatively large userbase using Linden Dollars, there's a lot of potential here -- if ambitious game developers are willing to jump through all the regulatory hurdles Linden Lab has waiting for them. Here's just one of the clauses:

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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The Good, the Bad, and the Unclear: My First Impressions of The Sims 4 Create-a-Sim Demo

Sims 4 CAS Demo  (7)
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

On Tuesday, many members of The Sims 3 community were invited to test out The Sims 4 Create-a-Sim Demo on EA's Origin distribution platform, ahead of the demo's public release later this summer. I was lucky enough to be among them, so I spent the better part of yesterday evening pushing, pulling, pinching and tweaking my way through the very familiar and simultaneously very alien systems. 

So how was it? There were lots of things I loved, a few things I hated, and a couple things I can't wait to learn more about as we approach The Sims 4's launch date. Until then, here are my thoughts on the Create-a-Sim demo:

Continue reading "The Good, the Bad, and the Unclear: My First Impressions of The Sims 4 Create-a-Sim Demo"

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AM Radio, Revealed: My Profile of the Acclaimed Second Life Artist Who Mysteriously Disappeared -- Now on Polygon

AM Radio revealed

Polygon is now featuring my long, lavishly illustrated feature profile of the man behind AM Radio, one of the most beloved and acclaimed artists to use Second Life as a medium -- and who, after years of fame both in SL and the outside world (he was profiled in The New York Times), rather mysteriously disappeared from the virtual world.

But thanks to the intercession of my friend Beverly "Bettina Tizzy" Nillson -- not to mention the man himself -- I learned, over a conversation that went beyond a year, the full story of AM Radio. (That's him, somewhere in the photo here, at Austin during South by Southwest in 2013, where we first met.) He told me how AM Radio came to be, why he created in Second Life what he did, the impact his rising virtual fame had on his real life... and why, at pretty much the peak of his avatar celebrity, he decided to go away. And as virtual reality returns to the fore, and we begin to wonder what kind of profound experiences we have within it, and how they will change us, AM Radio has much to teach us there too. Read it all here.

Oh yeah, one more thing to add before you go:

Continue reading "AM Radio, Revealed: My Profile of the Acclaimed Second Life Artist Who Mysteriously Disappeared -- Now on Polygon"

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