Thursday, November 26, 2015
New World Notes' Thanksgiving Week Open Forum
Thanks to all my New World Notes readers and your passionate, opinionated and (generally) civil conversations in Comments. Who and what are you thankful for?
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
11% Surveyed Interested in Buying Second Life's New Discounted Islands
Here's the results of last week's survey, asking whether Linden Lab's new island set-up discounts have inspired SLers to want to buy a new island:
Of the 140 who took the survey, only 11% said they were "Much more" or "somewhat more" likely to buy an island under the new pricing structure. This 11% might not seem like a lot, but that's roughly the percentage by which Second Life's landmass is going away every year. So if that sliver of potential customers does indeed pony up for a sim, and are willing to pay the monthly tier year after year, this setup discount will have been worth it.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Sony Hints at Developing VR Headset for Its Smartphone
From Sony's own blog, on the upcoming Xperia Z5 Premium:
We also believe Xperia Z5 Premium is capable of offering the clearest, sharpest Virtual Reality platform – we’re working on a few things here internally, so stay tuned for more news soon. Xperia Z5 Premium will start rolling out from November – if there’s anything else you’d like to know, feel free to drop a question in the comments below.
My question is: So does that mean you're developing a "clip on" VR headset like Samsung has? If not, why else would you say what you just said? On yeah, one more followup:
Battle Scars: Fashion SL Fashion Blog & WindLight Resource
Battle Scars from Jay Tedder Murs is a spectacular fashion blog, full of creatively composed and beautifully lit fashion spreads with an emphasis on male fashion, but that's just the start. As Cajsa Lilliehook tells me, "You can download his WindLights.Easiest to follow the tag Battle Scars:Windlight."
Monday, November 23, 2015
Linden Lab CEO Acknowledges Project Sansar Will "Cannibalize" Second Life & Risk Both Worlds
Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg was refreshingly honest in the first episode of Lab Chat last week (which Canary Beck nicely summarizes here), and at about 30 minutes in, acknowledges that Project Sansar will probably cannibalize Second Life:
"The cannibalization effect is obviously real and all I can say to that is that it’s better us than someone else. Because it’s going to be someone, someday.”
I'm not even sure that last assumption is correct, because virtual worlds with a strong community can thrive for quite awhile -- Ultima Online is still online after nearly 20 years. Anyway, the real revelation comes immediately afterward, in which Altberg says there's a possibility that Sansar cannibalizes Second Life enough to cause the SL economy to "implode", while the launch of Project Sansar somehow goes wrong. And then, says Altberg:
"Now you have two things that don’t really work rather than one thing that sort of works. [But] I don’t see if we have a choice."
Like I said, it's admirable for Ebbe to state the risks up front and give it straight to the Second Life community like that. Because he's very right that the risk is high:
Last Chance to Take NWN's SL Island Discount Survey
That is: Do Second Life's new sim setup discounts make you more likely to buy a new SL island? More background on that here, and you may also want to read this too. If you've already registered an opinion but have since changed your mind, I believe you can re-vote.
Watch a Neural Network "Walking" Through Amsterdam
What you're watching below is more or less an AI walking through the world for the very first time and describing what it sees:
Specifically, this is the NeuralTalk program, which creates machine language-driven captions of pictures, now connected to a webcam by Kyle McDonald: "I'm walking around with my laptop open pointing it at things," McDonald explains, "hence the shaky footage and people staring at themselves."
Top Four New World Notes Posts from Last Week
- Linden Lab Attempts to Cut Second Life Land Loss By Significantly Cutting Setup Fees (But Not Monthly Tiers)
- SL/RL Artist: "The SL Art World Isn't Pushing Hard Enough"
- An SL/RL Art Installation on the US Right's War on Women
- Linden Lab Won't Likely Lower SL Land Tier Rates Due to "Economic Realities"
Saturday, November 21, 2015
Linden Lab Won't Likely Lower SL Land Tier Rates Due to "Economic Realities"
UPDATE, 11/21: Bumped up for Comment activity.
I didn't attend the first live broadcast of Lab Chat, a co-production of Linden Lab and various Linden Lab promoters/paid consultants, but Ciaran Laval did and has a report, including this notable point that was discussed by CEO Ebbe Altberg:
In terms of Second Life and land, Ebbe said that Linden Lab were continuing to look at options for land, but there were some economic realities for Linden Lab that had to be taken into account when it comes to Linden Lab making changes. Therefore, slashing tier remains an option that is not really viable, Ebbe didn’t say that, but reading between the lines, that’s the reality at the moment.
The "economic realities" being this:
Friday, November 20, 2015
An SL/RL Art Installation on the US Right's War on Women
Click her to visit a new Second Life art installation called "Too Many Flowers" by Nebulosus Severine, a longtime metaverse artist who's back creating works after a long hiatus. As it happens, her installation is being streamed directly into a Malaysian art gallery right now, at a show called "Circle Jerks". Despite the title, the installation is essentially about the years-long war the American religious right wing has directed at women's rights, so as you'd imagine, the imagery is fairly disturbing (if vividly realized):
SL Flickr Stream of the Day: Cypriss Hill is a Gamer's Delight
An SLer named Cypriss Hill has created a Flickr stream that is an unending cascade of beautiful gamer-style badassery full of face punching and things that explode and go pew-pew so you really should just check it out right.
Hat tip: Caitlin Tobias, who first told me about Cypriss Hill. Speaking of which, I now have this stuck in my head so thanks for that:
There's 1,680 Second Life Blogs... Almost All About Fashion
Via occasional NWN-contributor Canary Beck, this impressive summary of the SL ecosystem:
I’ve charted our most recent Blogging Second Life statistics and can share that 86.8% focus on Second Life fashion. The total number of blogs in the list are 1,680...Long-term readers of this SL Blogger Support may recall seeing similar numbers in March 2015, which showed similar proportions. At that time, nearly 87% of Second Life blogs in our database were about fashion, with 1,308 blogs listed at the time.
Not sure all of them are still monthly active SL blogs (i.e. with at least one new post in the last month), but that's a staggering number. Also, back in 2009, here's how many SL blogs were counted:
Thursday, November 19, 2015
SL/RL Artist: "The SL Art World Isn't Pushing Hard Enough"
"The Second Life Art World Isn't Pushing Hard Enough" is a great rant from SL artist Aemeth Lysette, who is also a pretty accomplished artist IRL, laying out the reasons for that title. Such as:
Exhibit A: Second Life has missed its own honorary party in the mainstream art and fashion world. When’s the last time anybody pursued somestill life shots like this? Or this? That’s a serious callback to SL and our snap-to grids. When’s the last time you saw a virtual body of work like that? This is the kind of aesthetic we’ve seen with vaporwave, with past fashion collections, and nary a fuss was made on the grid about this at all. How? And why? When did we become so blind to what the rest of the world was doing that’s clearly inspired by us?
Exhibit B: Most of what is considered fine art and put on a wall is not fine art. Blogging pictures are great and can still be art, but that’s like visiting a gallery, expecting to see fine art, and seeing a bunch of Annie Leibovitz shots and no paintings. That’s what we have. A lot of Annie Leibovitz and Vogue editorials. Where’s the work commenting on the culture of the game, the administration, making fun of ourselves and talking about how we relate to one another? We can’t call ourselves a proper society until we have art like that.
Much more here. The thing is, lots of actual, well-respected artists have been using Second Life as an art venue -- only, they're not from the SL community, and they're not targeting the SL audience only. Take this project just covered by New Scientist:
A Second Life Island Club Devoted to Deep House
If you dig deep house music and/or visual tours through beautiful virtual scenes, you should totally click play and push the volume up:
This is Club Xanadu, an island-wide club devoted to deep house, and I love the visual and audio ambience they brought to the place.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
NWN Survey: Do Second Life's New Sim Setup Discounts Make You More Likely to Buy a New SL Island?
The Stylishly Quirky Second Life House of an SL Fashionista
I love how it feels so lived-in and believable, while still maintaining a high level of wacky whimsy. (The rooftop trampoline, the swan boat, the whale.) It's a place you'd want to live in or at least visit in either SL or RL. Speaking of which, click here to visit in Second Life.
I Can't Stop Looking at This Beautiful Interactive 3D Gear
Because look (and play):
As it happens, this gear was created by mathematician Henry "Seifert Surface" Segerman, who created Second Life's legendary tesseract house, and has since gone to create 3D printed objects of this kind of geometric beauty.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Linden Lab Attempts to Cut Second Life Land Loss By Significantly Cutting Setup Fees (But Not Monthly Tiers)
SL region loss from 2008 to now via Metaverse Business
"Effective immediately, all new Private Island set-up fees are up to 40% cheaper... Here are the new, reduced set-up fees:
- Full Private Island - previously $1000, now $600
- Developed Full Private Island - previously $1029, now $629
- Homestead Private Island - previously $375, now $225
- Developed Homestead Private Island - previously $395, now $250
- Openspace Private Island - previously $250, now $150"
They're also allowing transfer of Grandfathered Full Private Island regions ($195/month) and Grandfathered Homestead Private Island regions ($95/month) to new owners without losing the discounted pricing. Taken together, the two moves seem pretty clearly aimed at stopping the loss of private Second Life sims, which have fallen below 2008 rates and continue sliding downward. (See above.) However, the lack of monthly sim maintenance fees have not changed, so I doubt this move is aimed at encouraging new landowners:
Play Virtual Guitar With Your Real Hands: Leap Motion Mod
Well this looks pretty damn fun:
VR Guitar uses the Leap Motion Controller to connect your actual hand movements with a virtual instrument you can only see (and hear!) through your HMD.
What Did You Learn in SL That Helped You in RL?
Interesting /SecondLife thread, "What have you learned from Second Life (that has helped you in real life?)" with a lot of unexpected answers. This one, from Lewis Luminos, jumped out at me:
I have learned to appreciate stylish clothes (and how to find them on a budget, even in RL).
... because come to think of it, I think I've expanded my own range of actual clothing styles a bit based on all those SL fashion blogs/Flickr streams over the years. Other answers run deeper, such as:
D & D in VR is Just About the Silliest Application of VR Ever
I mean seriously:
Yes, it's an official VR application approved by Dungeons & Dragons owner Wizards of the Coast:
Fans have great memories of meeting around the kitchen table for Dungeons & Dragons adventures. In D&D in AltspaceVR, you can have that same feeling by getting together with your friends around a 3D tabletop in virtual reality and starting a campaign. AltspaceVR* allows multiple adventurers and spectators to meet together and interact with and around the game by moving, talking, gesturing, and seeing each other’s reactions as if in the same room.
I don't know how you're supposed to see "other's reactions" through these robotic avatars, but this totally misses the whole reason for playing tabletop D&D in the first place (as opposed to an online MMO or a single-player RPG like Skyrim):
Monday, November 16, 2015
The Ethics of Virtual Reality Journalism - Thoughts from a Virtual World Journalist
I told you about the New York Times jumping into virtual reality hype, but to the news outlet's credit, its public editor is now discussing the complicated ethics of virtual reality-based journalism:
The Times, Mr. Kaiser wrote, seems to be touting a process “that will often be based on tricks and deceptions by photographers/cameramen.” The editor’s letter from Mr. Silverstein, noted Mr. Kaiser, described how the virtual-reality filmmaker works to ensure that “the action unfolds the way he imagined.” Mr. Silverstein wrote that “V.R. usually involves more coordination between filmmaker and subject than in traditional video journalism.” And he said “a subject may be asked to repeat an action, or wait until the filmmaker is out of sight to complete a task.” This, Mr. Kaiser said, is tantamount to faking a scene — and that’s not sound journalism.
... Ben C. Solomon, who shot [a VR-based report], told me by email that the V.R. process brings special challenges. “Since V.R. films a scene in 360 degrees, in every direction at the same time, there is no place for the photographer or filmmaker to stand unless they become a constant character in the scene. In traditional photo or video, they stand behind their camera and craft scenes so they do not appear to be present.” So, he said, “we had to hide.” Mr. Corbett told me that “it would be crazy to think that all the implications, questions and issues have been settled and determined, or that we have a fully formed set of rules.” After all, he said, “It took decades to develop a body of best practices in news photography.”
"Unless they become a constant character in the scene" is an important point I can offer some thoughts on, because that was basically the perspective I took when being an embedded journalist in Second Life:
Open Forum: Share Info & Updates on Events, Memorials & Other Tributes to the Victims of Paris' Terror Attacks
It's always a bit surreal to run a virtual world/VR blog when so much of our attention is focused on atrocities that are all too real. With Second Life's recreation of Paris still being swamped by well-wishers, here's an open forum to discuss other events, memorials, and tributes to the Paris attacks going on throughout SL. Please share in Comments.
Top Six New World Notes Posts from Last Week!
- Second Life's New Starting Avatars Not Very Second Life
- Why Virtual Reality Marketing May Work This Time
- Only 43% Virtual Reality-Focused Blog Readers "Extremely Interested" in Virtual Reality
- VR Pioneer Palmer Luckey Not Sure if Second Life Users Are Hardcore Enthusiasts of VR
- Second Life Content Creator Couple Double-Taxed $66K by the IRS - Here's How to Avoid That Fate
- In Wake of Tonight's Terrorist Attacks, Second Life's Paris Now Being Deluged by Supporters & Mourners
Friday, November 13, 2015
In Wake of Tonight's Terrorist Attacks, Second Life's Paris Now Being Deluged by Supporters & Mourners
"As an American I will stand with you French."
"I don't know French but my love to your country is all I can give from where I am."
"These terrorists have failed anyway, this will only make France stronger."
These are some of the words currently being spoken in Second Life's virtual recreation of Paris, which is already filled to capacity by supporters and mourners in the wake of today's all too real terrorist attacks on the City of Lights. The sim is so crowded, I wasn't even able to get a decent photo of the scene, so I'm using this file photo above -- taken, ironically enough, when mourners gathered in SL Paris in the wake of January's Charlie Hebdo massacre. If you are able, I hope you are able to visit and offer your best wishes to the French now gathered there: Click here to visit virtual Paris.
Live Action Star Wars: Battlefront Trailer Nails the Power of Avatars & Virtual Worlds Better Than Anything I've Seen
Star Wars: Battlefront is not a persistent MMO, but this live action trailer for the new multiplayer FPS totally nails the appeal of avatars and virtual worlds better than anything I've seen in any marketing campaign for an actual virtual world or even an MMO. Battlefront is already massively popular, which suggests something else:
Thursday, November 12, 2015
Second Life Content Creator Couple Double-Taxed $66K by the IRS - Here's How to Avoid That Fate
One day not too long ago, a young American couple who create and sell content in Second Life were going through their real life mail, and found themselves with a rather massive bill from the IRS:
That's right: Over $66,000 dollars, all of it based on income the couple (who are also married) had earned from Second Life, as longtime SL entrepreneurs Washu Zebrastripe and Damien Fate, who own the coldLogic brand in SL. As small business owners, this wouldn't necessarily be a problem in itself, but here's the thing: They had already paid these taxes, and the IRS was double-taxing them.
Unsurprisingly, Washu felt like throwing up.
Here's what happened: "When you work in Second Life you get money sent to PayPal. PayPal then sends the money to your bank account. Unfortunately, both LindenLab and PayPal reported my earnings for 2013 separately. Now the IRS thinks I made double because of both companies reporting my earnings."
So now Washu and Damien are being forced to scramble to find data proving that they've already paid these taxes, and that's proving pretty difficult:
"I pulled a list from Paypal of all my received payments," she tells me. "They're all from Linden Lab. I'm also trying to get our process credit history from Linden Lab, but that's a bit harder. You can't list by 'This date to that date', and you can't see what PayPal email each transaction is sent to unless you go into the details of each one. I certainly can't print out 300+ pages of transactions."
At the very least this experience illustrates some important points about US taxes and income earned in Second Life:
VR Pioneer Palmer Luckey Not Sure if Second Life Users Are Hardcore Enthusiasts of VR
Oddly enough, the most interesting comment to my survey on VR interest yesterday came from Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey. Posting the link on Facebook, I commented, "Even most hardcore virtual reality enthusiasts seem to be on the fence about actually using virtual reality." To which Palmer replied, "I don't know if I would call Second Life users 'hardcore virtual reality enthusiasts'."
I asked Palmer what he meant, and he expanded this way:
"I just don't see how using a single game with a recently and poorly implemented VR mode makes someone a hardcore VR enthusiast, especially when the data clearly shows that many of them are not interested in VR," wrote Palmer. "I don't classify people with little interest in using VR devices as hardcore VR enthusiasts. They might be classified as virtual world enthusiasts, but that is a very different thing, and much closer to the Minecraft community than the VR community."
He's probably right that most average SL users are not enthusiasts of VR devices, but I think this distinction misses some key points:
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Is There Really an Accurate Way to Present Second Life?
Luca Grabacr's video infographic on the size of Second Life last week was picked up by Vice Magazine, which is nice; now here's her follow-up attempting to depict SL in a way that media coverage may often miss:
Second Life being Second Life, of course, SLers immediately started arguing about whether this is actually an accurate representation of SL:
Only 43% Virtual Reality-Focused Blog Readers "Extremely Interested" in Virtual Reality - 41% Neutral or Uninterested
Here's the results of New World Notes' survey of readers, asking how personally interested they are in becoming an active user of VR:
Of the 140 readers who responded, only 43% said they were "extremely" interested. This is significant, because after all, New World Notes was founded covering Second Life, the leading platform in virtual reality's 2nd big wave ten years ago. You would think this makes NWN the ideal top target for VR consumers, but in fact, not even a slight majority are passionate fans. How is it possible that a readership that's extremely interested in Second Life isn't also extremely interested in VR (for the most part), with the majority saying they are just "somewhat" interested, or taking a neutral "wait-and-see" attitude?
And yes, I know the data can be read to say that 56% of NWN's readership is "extremely" or "somewhat" interested in VR, but here's the thing:
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Mid-Week Open Forum: Say Anything About VR, AR or SL
And yes, that can also mean saying something about the metaverse etc. that's self-promotional.
How to Add a Moon & Planets to Your Second Life
Brie Wonder has a new series of stylish fashion shots which have a special something in the background: The fricking Moon. She bought the Moon from the SL Marketplace, which is being sold by a studio called Landscapes Unlimited, and these heavenly bodies come with all kinds of features:
Monday, November 09, 2015
Why Virtual Reality Marketing May Work This Time (Comment of the Week)
Last week I posted some hit-and-run snark about the new wave of VR marketing, but it's possible I'm still jaded from the last VR hype fail, when big companies were bullish for marketing in Second Life, only to crash and burn (and help kill interest in SL itself). But this time, will things be different? In comments to my original post, NWN reader Estelle Pienaar made that very case:
I think it isn't all wrong to be skeptical about VR projects from brands due to past experiences. However the success will depend on the implementation. Here are some arguments why it might work better this time:
1) There is a huge lack of VR content, and it is probably the biggest problem for VR in general...
2) So people like me who always skip ads on YouTube or ignore them on websites might actively chose this content for a change, if it is exciting enough and providing me the content that I am looking for.
3) Due to the low number of content, these companies will get a lot of media coverage about their ventures, especially if it is an exciting experience. If they get people to talk about their ventures on traditional media channels (TV, newspapers), they will save millions of dollars in advertisement costs and bridge the gap of a rather small market of VR users.
Three more reasons after the break:
Second Life's New Starting Avatars Not Very Second Life
These are Second Life's new starting avatars. Used to be, default starting SL avatars used to include cute robots, humanoid animals, and other fun, whimsical stuff -- since after all, that's what "Second Life" is supposed to be. (There's also new collection of "Vampire" options, but those are all just variations around that genre.) These avatars feel less like Second Life, and more like, well, The Sims Online. Which might be a good move, market-wise, but it does distinctly change new users' perception of what Second Life could (and frankly should) be.
Last Chance to Take NWN's VR Consumer Summary!
How interested are you personally in becoming an active user of VR? Last chance to answer that question!
Top Six New World Notes Posts from Last Week!
- Facebook Announces Plans to Improve "Real Names" Policy - But Internet Pioneer R.U. Sirius Still Blocked from Facebook
- Demo of Immerse Collaborative: Simplified, Multi-User Unity3D Plug-In for Virtual Reality Spaces
- Watch This: The Size of Second Life Even Now
- Don't Get Too Excited Just Yet, But Here's Our First Public Glimpse of Project Sansar
- 75% of Top Brands Have VR Projects Because That Worked Out So Well for IBM, Coke, Nissan, Etc. in Second Life
- Basilique: A Second Life Sim With Great Ambient Sound
Friday, November 06, 2015
Basilique: A Second Life Sim With Great Ambient Sound
Basilique is a well-known Second Life sim with a secret weapon: ambient sound embedded everywhere. Watch this video to see (and hear!) what I mean. Created by Canary Beck, a sometime NWN contributor, ambient sound is not just a side benefit. "It makes a massive difference," says Canary, in our conversation on Monday, "and many visitors comment on how realistic it all feels, sometimes mentioning the sound specifically."
Click here to visit, and hear Basilique in person. And click below, to read Canary's thoughts on creating Basilique:
75% of Top Brands Have VR Projects Because That Worked Out So Well for IBM, Coke, Nissan, Etc. in Second Life
Someone at HSBC convinced the company to spend thousands maybe tens of thousands on this:
According to Virtual Reality Brand Power Index released this morning by YouVisit, 75 percent of the Forbes World’s Most Valuable Brands have created some form of virtual or augmented reality experience for customers or employees, or are themselves innovating and developing these technologies.The tech sector is in the lead in adopting virtual reality technology, but automotive is also notable in being an early mover, Endri Tolka, COO and co-founder of YouVisit, told Hypergrid Business. “Brands like BMW, Audi, Porsche, KIA, Volkswagen, Lexus, Chevrolet, and Honda have all incorporated virtual reality and augmented reality experiences into their marketing strategy,” he said. “It’s clear that the automotive industry is really starting to see the value in virtual reality,” he added. “The technology is allowing automotive companies to better connect with their customers and allowing them to get in cars without actually making the purchase.”
That's pretty much the same argument that the VR company that developed a presence for Nissan in Second Life made -- and look how well that turned out. (Toyota and Mini Cooper also had a similarly disastrous presence in Second Life.)
Second Life is a Game: An Inventory Management Game!
I have found that underneath it is a game.
It is an inventory management game where you sort and categorize items with increasing complexity while creators strive to develop new items that defy conventional categories.. Everyone has to play the game to some extent and the rest of the world is there to entice you to add more and more items to your inventory.
That sounds like a game that Hitler would be forced to play in Hell, but maybe that's just me. But the point is exactly right. Since SLers do treat inventory management like a game, and all that excess inventory taxes the company's servers and causes performance issues, Linden Lab should actually make it a game with goals and rewards:
Where the MMO Market Went: GTA Online, Wildly Enough
What happened to WoW? Well, wow:
According to its publisher, Grand Theft Auto Online now has 8 million weekly active users -- huge numbers for an online game and, though it's not a persistent online game, many more than world-beating MMO World of Warcraft currently boasts.
GTA:O is not an MMO virtual world in the traditional sense, but it's definitely an online world of some kind, and those numbers are staggering. (Also generates the kind of community activity we saw in this group search to uncover a strange but ultimately moving Easter egg, pictured above.)
Thursday, November 05, 2015
Don't Get Too Excited Just Yet, But Here's Our First Public Glimpse of Project Sansar
Via Linden Lab fan blogger Jo Yardley, here's a 14 second glimpse of Project Sansar revealed by Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg at an Ireland tech conference:
I see avatars! I see volumetric lighting! I see spacecraft! I see... not a thing to change my opinion from being wait-and-see. (See what I mean?)
Wednesday, November 04, 2015
NWN Survey: Are You Interested in Becoming a VR User?
We talk about VR all the time, but it suddenly occurred to me that I haven't asked the most obvious and important question of this blog's readers:
"Personally" is the most important qualifier -- I'm not asking if you're intellectually interested, in this case, but interested enough to spend a few hundred dollars on the technology out of your own pocket. Results posted next week!
Watch This: The Size of Second Life Even Now
Luca Grabacr made this pretty great machinima infographic illustrating the size of Second Life as it exists today:
All the data seems fairly up to date, but I haven't seen it presented as dramatically as here. Why no, I didn't now it would take 23,175 days to walk across the entirety of Second Life's land mass (if all the sims were laid end to end) -- so that would make SL's total length like 772 miles? (Assuming you walked 30 miles a day.) Checking with Luca on her sources now.* Also love Luca's mention of the first Linden-made object in Second Life:
Janine "Iris" Hawkins Reviewing Games for Gamespot
In case you're wondering why Janine "Iris" Hawkins hasn't been writing much for New World Notes lately, there's a very good (and great) reason for that: She's now reviewing games for Gamespot, such as this one of Armello, a strategy game featuring furry warriors, which of course Janine writes about with her usual smart wit:
Armello picks and chooses a variety of elements from board, card, 4X, and role-playing games without demanding either a familiarity with or a fondness for any genre. It also leaves a lot of room to engage as deeply as you want with the game's guts without feeling like you're floundering if you don't. Whether you're bumbling your way to the top or playing all your cards right, Armello makes regicide ridiculously entertaining.
And that's on top of Janine contributing to the hugely popular Paste Magazine:
Tuesday, November 03, 2015
Demo of Immerse Collaborative: Simplified, Multi-User Unity3D Plug-In for Virtual Reality Spaces
Who says the future of the metaverse belongs to humanoid avatars? Last month I told you about Immerse Framework, an impressive new toolkit for multi-user creation of VR environments in Unity 3D -- now watch this equally impressive demo of Immerse Collaborative, an add-on for that toolkit which makes it possible for multiple avatars to interact in the same VR space together in real time:
That avatars and their functionality are seriously simplified, but project lead Jon Brouchoud argues there's a very good reason for that:
"We were tempted at every step of development to add features," Jon tells me, "but took we took a reductionist approach instead, and attempted to understand not how much we can add to the application, but how much of it we can remove, in order to simplify as much as possible, while still offering a truly useful multi-player solution."
This is a radical departure from High Fidelity's version of VR collaboration or even that of Oculus itself, but Jon believes simplicity like this will be a desired feature for numerous applications of VR:
Second Life's Ambient Soundscape: VOIP Noise & Troll Audio
This video is pretty juvenile AF, but seeing as we were just discussing Second Life's ambient sounds, it's a perfect illustration of a point I was making then: Overwhelmingly, the soundscape of Second Life is streaming music and voice chat. And, of course, troll noises. But somewhat ironically, the voice chat can be just as intrusive and disruptive as irksome honks and fart noises, because you don't just hear voices, but every other noise being picked up by the users' microphones:
The End of Traditional MMOs: WoW Drops Below 5.5M Subs As Owner Activision Embraces Mobile Games
The MMO king is dead - or dead enough that he no longer matters: World of Warcraft was fallen to 5.5 million subscribers from a peak of 12 million. This is being announced as WoW owners Activision/Blizzard also announce the purchase of casual mobile giant and Candy Crush publisher King for $6 billion, a move which may seem odd for Activision, until you realize they're making less and less money from a hardcore MMO like WoW, and more from its own mobile game, Heartstone, which now earns the company $20 million a month.
Monday, November 02, 2015
Facebook Announces Plans to Improve "Real Names" Policy - But Internet Pioneer R.U. Sirius Still Blocked from Facebook
Ken sending a personal plea on Facebook to former Facebook President Sean Parker
Facebook recently announced plans to make it easier for people who go a name other than their official legal name to continue using that pseudonym on Facebook --
Facebook will now allow users to provide details on why they’ve chosen a certain name for their account if it’s not their legal name. Facebook will now allow users who are flagged for using a possibly inauthentic name to be able to get back into their locked accounts more easily. And the burden of proof will now be placed upon the people who flag a name as fake, according to [Facebook VP] Schultz. Those reporting an allegedly fake name will have to provide some evidence, in an effort to prevent trolling, a frequent complaint among trans users.
However, none of this is much comfort to Internet pioneer Ken "R.U. Sirius" Goffman, who tells me he's still banned from using Facebook as R.U. Sirius, despite making a personal plea to Sean Parker, Facebook's first President (you know, Justin Timberlake in the movie), who's a personal fan of Sirius' influential magazine Mondo 2000. (With a masthead listing the editor-in-chief as being, you know, R.U. Sirius.) In fact, Ken tells me, his efforts to communicate with Facebook are pretty Kafka-esque:
"[T]hey reactivated my account… under just my real name without responding to or acknowledging the R.U. Sirius part of my request or the attachment showing R.U. Sirius and Ken Goffman occupy the same corporeality," he says. Worse, he had important data on his now-dead Sirius account he could no longer access:
Why Second Life Has So Little Ambient Soundscapes
Soundscape is one of the most neglected aspects of environment design in SL. Partly due to platform and scripting limitations and partly because anecdotally many people seem to mute them or to play music and so miss them that way. The main barriers are the falloff distance being very sharp for some sounds - people can't hear them unless they are up close or the volume is set very loud, a persistent bug that prevents sounds from reliable playing for all listeners and the difficulty of making longer loops with enough variation not to sound odd or annoying. Sound becomes a secondary aspect to the design, much like lighting, when your expertise lies elsewhere and you are pretty sure many of your audience will not experience it at all or will experience it badly.
This sounding on sound sounds right. (See what I did there?) Overwhelmingly, the soundscape of Second Life is streaming music and voice chat, neither of which contribute much to immersion (and in fact, tends to mar it).