Friday, December 19, 2014

SL Go Video: Iris Shares Her Favorite Firestorm Features

 

Powered by SL GoI am genuinely excited about OnLive's recent addition of the Firestorm viewer to their SL Go service. Firestorm is my third-party viewer of choice, simply because of the wealth of options that it offers. It's not that most of these options are impossible in the vanilla Second Life viewer, it's that they're all kind of obfuscated. Firestorm fans the most user-friendly features and options out in front of you like a deck of cards and lets you take your pick.

Also, you can make the UI pink.

Of course OnLive and SL Go are a sponsoring partner of New World Notes, so I thought this week's sponsored post would be a great opportunity to walk you through some of my absolute favorite elements of the Firestorm viewer. Watch above, and of course if you have any favorites of your own feel free to share them in the comments below!

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Physics and the Female Avatar in Second Life

Ciaran Laval just asked a very interesting, provocative question: "Do Avatar Physics Make Females Feel Unwelcome In Second Life?" He's encouraging responses from women reading the post, and I'm curious to read their responses too.

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SL Fundraiser for Red Cross Initiative for Abused Women

DX Exchange Hands Off Our Girls Fundraiser

DX Exchange (a proud NWN partner), is hosting an excellent in-world fundraiser for "Hands off our Girls", a Red Cross project supported by a Dutch radio station. More on it here:

3FM Serious Request is a fundraising initative of the Dutch national radio channel 3FM. This year's 3FM Serious Request asks for the attention of sexual violence against women - a silent disaster that strikes millions of women around the world. The Red Cross is dedicated to bring relief to these traumatized women and help them in their physical and emotional recovery but also in helping them build a new life.

With dancing and live DJs, DX will send Linden Dollar donations to help this effort. The event runs until December 21 (Sunday) at 2pm SL time .Click here to join in. If you're using a third party viewer, here's the SLurl to copy and paste:

Update, 12.20: More on the in-world event from SL Newser:

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And Here's to You, Ms. Singh...

Mrs Robinson tribute Second Life

I really like Second Life fashion spreads that reference famous movies, so I totally love Strawberry Singh's tribute to the most famous shot from The Graduate (one of my favorite films) -- which, as it happens, was directed by Mike Nichols, who died a few weeks ago.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Why Jenn Frank's Back Writing About Games & Second Life - Despite Gamergate (NWN Guest Post)

Jenn Frank Second Life

Last September, noted game journalist and reviewer Jenn Frank became a primary target for Gamergate, the small but zealous "activist" group generally seen as a reactionary backlash against feminist and socially progressive elements in the game industry. After writing a Guardian post on being a woman in games which attracted their hostility, Frank was deluged by vicious harrassment, and subsequently quit the industry. Now, however, Jenn Frank is back, writing about the virtual world Second Life for this blog, and about games for a number of well-known media outlets -- year-end round-ups she describes as "cameo appearances".

"Despite my trepidation with the audience and subject matter -- despite my fear and actually a lot of grief -- it's an honor just to be asked," Jenn Frank tells me. "And I would not accept just willy-nilly. This was always my dream, you know? To write a list for the one outlet, or to be part of a chorus on this other one. Being 'pitched' is not something I take lightly, and I accepted with the same degree of gravity. I take video games, and writing about them, hilariously seriously."

Below, as an introduction to New World Notes readers, she explains her fascination with writing about Second Life. - WJA

Three months ago, I retired.

I'd been, however briefly, drawn into the Gamergate conversation. This, for me, was the sum of all my worst nightmares, realized. I cannot begin to articulate the emotional tax.

Jenn Frank

Now, I've always been a little anxious, a little frantic, but the experience has piqued my anxiety in a fresh and new and lasting way. (In anticipation of my upcoming coverage for New World Notes, editor Wagner James Au has been republishing a 2011 Kill Screen Magazine article, printed here as a series of posts. It describes, among other things, my 2008 agoraphobia diagnosis. So I would warn that, not only does not everyone seek "attention" -- a claim Gamergate often bandies -- "attention" is, for some people, the worst thing humanly imaginable.)

I really, really do not want to write this, do not enjoy addressing it -- but it's the elephant in the room, isn't it? And if there is any truth to allegations about my integrity, there must be a shadow hanging over my byline, besides.

I'm terrified of writing, not just this, but literally anything. And how, exactly, is one supposed to explain her return to tech writing? How is writing for New World Notes any different from ordinary games writing? Mr. Au and I have discussed these very questions at length.

One salient difference, I would assert, is Second Life itself:

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Minecraft May Not Be the Best Candidate for Telltale's Next Episodic Adventure Game

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

Today Telltale Games announced that they'll be doing another of their signature narrative-driven games with yet another phenomenally popular license. Hot on the heels of both Tales from the Borderlands and their take on HBO's Game of Thrones, the next property that they'll be working on is... Minecraft. I first read that news in a post-nap stupor, and I wasn't sure that I was properly awake. Maybe this is a strange joke. Maybe Clickhole dipped into videogame humor again and -- look, I don't know. There were a million things you could have told me that would have made more sense than that particular arrangement of headlines did.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Telltale's games and I think they're very good at what they do. I welcome just about any news I hear about what they're working on, especially when it comes to franchises I hold near and dear. But Minecraft is a strange, even ill-fitting choice for their particular narrative-driven formula, and here's why:

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Endowment Envy: Second Life's Latest Round of Artists-in-Residence Are Exactly Who They Should Be

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

I had a conversation with someone recently that was, at first, downright irritating. We were discussing the latest round of Artist-in-Residence grants provided by the Linden Endowment for the Arts in Second Life. In case you're unfamiliar, this program grants twenty artists a free sim for a period of six months to be used as a venue for their metaverse-based art. The latest round of artists selected includes Whiskey Monday, a favorite of ours here at NWN.

What was irritating about this conversation was my friend's insistence that this project wasn't fair. That the more practical artists of SL (namely designers) should be entitled to a similar program. The idea was of course that the work of these artists makes Second Life look good so they deserve to be supported, but that the same is true of the content creators outfitting avatars and environments across the grid.

But they aren't the same at all. While you'll never hear me say that designers aren't artists, there is a very big difference between what they do and what the virtual artist-in-residence program is designed to support.

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Cory Ondrejka Leaving Facebook to Launch New Company: Second Life Co-Creator Helped Drive Oculus Acquisition

Cory Ondrejka Facebook

Facebook VP Cory Ondrejka is leaving the social network giant at the end of this year to start a new company, he just announced (fittingly) in a public Facebook update. Cory, as longtime NWN readers know, is the co-creator of the pioneering virtual world Second Life (he was Linden Lab's first CTO), and more recently, led Facebook's acquisition and launch of Oculus Rift. To judge by Cory's words, the departure is on very good terms with Facebook:

December 22nd will be my last day at Facebook. From high-performance javascript through mobile to virtual reality, I could never have predicted a journey quite like this one. I will miss working with everyone, but I am excited about building my next company from scratch. More on that in a few weeks... No one has a greater opportunity and capability to continue connecting the world than Facebook. Thank you, Mark [Zuckerberg], not just for being the best boss I’ve ever had or giving me the opportunity to change the world. Thank you for being someone I learned from every single day.

(Emphasis mine, because it bears emphasizing.) What kind of company is Cory starting next? I asked him a couple times, but (unsurprisingly), he offered no reply. (Man was once an officer on a nuclear sub, he knows how to keep secrets.) However, his announcement offers a tiny glimpse of a hint:

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

SL Go Streaming Now Available Through PC/Mac Versions of Firestorm, Second Life's Most Popular Viewer

SL Go Second Life Firestorm

SL Go from OnLive is now compatible with Firestorm on Mac and PC, I'm very proud to help the cloud-based streaming service annnounce. (OnLive's a sponsoring partner of NWN.) You can read more about this new service on the official site of Firestorm, which is one of the most popular Second Life viewers -- in fact, at least since 2012, more popular than even the official SL viewer.

This news comes after months of secret development led by Dennis Harper of OnLive and Firestorm project lead Jessica Lyon, who just told me why she wants her viewer to work with SL Go:

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Iris Wants to Know: How Do You Give Out Your Virtual Gifts During the SL Holiday Season?

{what next} Fancy Gift Boxes (set of 10)
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

The landscape may be 'fake', but the relationships you make in virtual worlds are just as real and important as the ones you make in reality. This is why for a lot of Second Life players, gift-giving around the holidays isn't limited to people you're meeting up with offline. Maybe you have an SL partner to consider, maybe you have a whole SL family. Maybe you just have a few close friends that you want to show your appreciation for, or you enjoy participating in some of the many Secret Santa exchanges that happen in the metaverse.

But gift giving in Second Life can be tricky. It's often not just a matter of buying something, wrapping it, and handing it over because not every item is transferrable. At the same time, while you can gift even non-transferrable items on the Second Life Marketplace, there's no delay. You have to send it the instant you by it, which can spoil a little of the fun. Even if you are lucky enough to have a gift you can 'wrap' in a box (like the ones from What's Next pictured above) then you'll want to make sure they have somewhere to rez and open it.

Suffice it to say that there are a whole lot of little obstacles. So here's what I want to know: If you exchange gifts with anyone in SL, how you do it? Do you prefer to send them straight from the marketplace, do you wrap them yourself, or do you do something I haven't even mentioned, like a shopping trip or an envelope full of cold hard L$? Share your virtual gift-giving techniques in the comments below!

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Play it This Pre-Holiday Slog: Words for Evil, a Punchy Little Word Game Inspired by Classic Roguelikes

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

It's pretty hard to get work done at this time of year. There's a lot going on, a lot to prepare for and a lot to look forward to, and sitting down to focus on just one thing can be a serious challenge. When I picked up Words for Evil a few days ago on a whim, it was a couple bucks on Steam and iOS and it looked cute and, most important of all, I was desperate for a bite-sized distraction.

And you know what? This simple, roguelike-inspired word puzzler turned out to be exactly what I needed.

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Victoria's Secret Fairy-Themed Show Recreated in SL

Victoria's Secret Runway Show Second Life

Here's a cool coda to Iris' article on how a well-known creator of fairy wings in Second Life found her creations featured on the Victoria's Secret runway: another Second Life fashionista took those wings and placed them in a Second Life recreation of the real life runway show.

"I thought this was soooo cool," Kirsten Corleone posted in the NWN comment thread, "and wanted to do something in world to mark this occasion where SL designs were seen in RL!" Go here to see her rendition in its full glory.

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Janine "Iris" Hawkins for Paste on the Problem of Feminine Fashion in Roleplaying Games

DAI  (26)

In case you missed it (and you really shouldn't) our own Janine "Iris" Hawkins has a new gaming piece on the major media Paste Magazine site -- this one on the problem of "feminine" fashion in roleplaying games, specifically Dragon Age: Inquisition, which she's also written a lot about here. She even takes the time to define feminine versus masculine fashion:

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Top Four New World Notes Posts From Last Week

Fancy Fairy  (1)

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Friday, December 12, 2014

SL Go Places: 3 Great Second Life Sims in 3 Minutes (Or So)

In this video, I use SL Go to visit three very cool Second Life sims in roughly 3 minutes total, showcasing one key reason I partnered with OnLive to promote the Second Life streaming service for tablets and low-end laptops (like the pokey old Dell I'm using to create it). Watch in HD:

The sites I visit, by the way, are Frank's Place (one of SL's most popular sims for many years), and a couple beautifully designed Winter-themed spots: Done Wiv a Twist and Aspen Fell.

SL Go OnLive

It's the seamless transitions that are more important to me than anything else, and there's a very good reason it works so well:

"We have servers the are physically located close to Linden Lab’s datacenter," OnLive's Dennis Harper tellsme, "and have a HUGE bandwidth pipe between.  That’s one reason we can rez the sims so quickly." 

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Jack White & Other Popstars Get Into Virtual Reality

Via HyperGrid Business, we find that former White Stripes frontman Jack White is joining other pop stars to jump into the VR game via Google Cardboard -- watch:

The no-frills Google Cardboard kit has been downloaded over half a million times (once again, via HGB), which is a pretty good sign of growing interest in virtual reality. And when cool pop stars embrace a new technology, that also tends to help drive adoption. Then again:

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There's an Ugly Side to Dragon Age: Inquisition's Most Beautiful Virtual Fashions

DAI  (26)
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Why is it that feminine fashion in video games always seems to indicate something about the character wearing it? Why is it never just a matter of taste? It's the case in countless games, including BioWare's Dragon Age: Inquisition, and the subject of my latest article for Paste. As much as I love Inquisition and its stunning fashions, the way those fashions deal with femininity fits a little too well into some all-too-common media tropes.

Beyond the usual handful of narrowminded people who think dissecting a game's style and design choices is more "superficial" than writing a list of its most obvious mechanical elements would be, I've already gotten a lot of interesting feedback about this post. Pleasantly enough, one of the most insightful comments yet has come from a BioWare employee...

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Want a Deck of Second Life Selfie Playing Cards?

SL Celebrity Deck of Cards

This is fun: Vanessa Blaylock has assembled a virtual deck of playing cards, each card created by a well-known SL artist, represented on their card by a selfie. This is the card by and from the great Whiskey Monday (from whose blog I found out about the full deck). Next Sunday morning (December 14), Ms. Blaylock is debuting and distributing the deck at a party -- go here for all the details.

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DX Exchange Seeking Canadian SL Community Partners

DX Exchange Canada Linden Dollar Exchange

DX Exchange (a proud partner to this blog) just let me know the Linden Dollar exchange services is particularly looking to partner with more Second Life groups and communities based in Canada. DX already has a portal for Canadians, accepts Payza and Canada's Interac Online service, and is partnered with SL's Quebec Bunker Club (direct teleport here). Based in Europe, company staff are French-fluent. If you want to become an official partner and benefit from their partner community voting system, contact their in-world representative MarcelEdward DX or e-mail support at dxexchange dot com.

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

From Second Life to Victoria's Secret: How Angela Jarman's Wings Wound Up on the World's Most Watched Runway

Victoria's Secret Second Life Virtual Wings
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Angela Jarman (Violaine Villota in SL) is a veteran Second Life designer whose work transcends worlds -- as does her brand. Fancy Fairy wings have graced the backs of metaverse models for years, and if you tuned in to CBS this past Tuesday you would have seen them similarly gracing models walking the runway for Victoria's Secret.

Victoria's Secret's fashion shows are recognized for their regular use of spectacular costume wings, so it shouldn't be too surprising that they found Jarman's real-world wing designs appealing. But how does someone get started making something as particular as fairy wings, and even bringing that hobby with her into the virtual world? After the jump, Jarman shares how she found her way into SL, the virtual design techniques she's carried into her real-world creations and, most fascinating of all, how she builds her signature wings.

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Watch Two Avatars Play Rock, Paper, Scissors in Real Time With Articulated Fingers in High Fidelity

Here's another video I was unable to blog during the Thanksgiving madness but is still worth watching and discussing -- the latest demo of High Fidelity, Philip Rosedale's new virtual world:

So this is two users playing Rock, Paper, Scissors (or as we called it in Hawaii, junkenpo) in real time -- including (as you'll note when one player unleashes Scissors) fully articulated fingers. That's made possible by the integration of the Leap Motion sensor, and an interesting hack using the Oculus Rift. As Dan Hope of High Fidelity explains:

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Linden Lab Opens New Second Life User Suggestion System (Which Really Needs to Be Public & Reddit-ized)

Second Life suggestions

Second Life Suggestions as the name suggests is a new way for directly taking SLer requests (you need to log in with your account to submit one):

Just sign-in with your Second Life account, select the topic or category that’s most appropriate, and describe your suggestion in the text box. Once you submit, you’ll see a confirmation page and receive an automated email as well. We won’t be able to reply individually to each suggestion, but every idea will be routed to the appropriate Lindens and each one will be reviewed and considered.

I just put in my suggestion (above), which of course, makes it the absolute top priority suggestion in the history of the world. (Well, maybe not, but I am convinced it's important.) The process is much more intuitive and easy than JIRA, the overly complex bug tracker which long ago also became a way for hardcore SLers to vent about various dramas.

That said, my guess is this new Suggestion system will rarely be used (unless it's tweaked, for a very obvious reason):

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Here's How One of Japan's Biggest Shopping Trends Could Become the Next Big Thing in SL

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

I think I've done it. I think I've solved the greatest puzzle to confront the Second Life fashion community since... Well, probably since I brought it up last year.

That was when I tried to figure out why one of Japan's biggest annual shopping events hadn't managed to catch on in Second Life. Fukubukuro bags are a New Year's tradition in Japan; shoppers line up for hours for their chance to purchase the random packages of goods at their favorite stores. Sometimes they come in plain shopping bags, sometimes in far more elaborate bundles like this gorgeous floral suitcase that clothing brand Liz Lisa once packed theirs in. The practice bears a lot of similarities to gacha machines, where shoppers pay a lowered price for a lucky dip from a variety of items in a set. Second Life sure loves its gachas, but only a handful of virtual brands have embraced fukubukuro.

Last January I came up with quite a few reasons for this to be the case, but that was a rather unsatisfying end to the story. Fukubukuro could be the next big thing in Second Life shopping, and I'm determined to figure out how to make it work.

And maybe, just maybe, I have.

Continue reading "Here's How One of Japan's Biggest Shopping Trends Could Become the Next Big Thing in SL"

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Samsung Selling Oculus-Powered VR HMD for $199

Samsung Oculus VR

Just in time for the holidays and possibly to transform an industry, the Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition is selling for $199 and looks to be the first consumer-level virtual reality HMD available on the market at a mass market level. Running on Oculus software technology, it only works with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, but that also makes it a breakout device for VR on mobile devices.

Hat tip: Cory Ondrejka, who as it happens kinda had something to do with this product coming together.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Readers Respond: Confessions of a Demo Diva, and the Truth Behind the Dreaded L$1 Demo

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

Last week I made a confession, and asked you to do the same. I wanted to know how often shoppers in Second Life follow the fashionista's golden rule of always (or should I say "always") trying the demo first, and this question got a slew of interesting answers from SLers on all levels of the virtual consumer pyramid. 

I admitted that I'm a bit of a demo slacker, and so did many of you. Others, however, seem to adhere much more strictly to the demoing process. Regular commenter Arcadia Codesmith cut to the heart of things, saying, "On my budget I can't afford mistakes. Demo early, demo often." Shirc Desantis was a little less pragmatic, mentioning that since they rarely buy clothes in SL, "trying a demo is part of the novelty."

The comment that I found the most interesting, however, was the very first one posted:

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Second Life Redditors Debate the Value of Premium

SL Subreddit

"Should I buy a house or premium?" is an interesting new thread on Reddit's largest Second Life subreddit, and even if you don't have an account on the site, it's worth a lurk or two. (You too, Linden Lab staffers reading this.) The consensus so far seems to be that a Premium account is worth it for the monthly Linden Dollar stipend, but not necessarily for the house which ostensibly is Premium's main selling point. For instance, the top-upvoted comment says this:

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Monday, December 08, 2014

Victoria's Secret Taps Former Second Life Wing Designer to Accessorize Models in Latest Runway Show UPDATE: Watch Her Wings Tomorrow (12/9) on CBS at 10pm Eastern!

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

There's big news in the world of virtual fashion: Former Second Life designer Violaine Villota's designs were recently donned by models in a Victoria's Secret fashion show. (As she just announced on her site.) Her work wasn't in the form of bras, corsets, or anything you might pick up yourself from the acclaimed undergarment brand, though. Violaine's contribution was a little more ephemeral. She makes wings -- the gorgeous, glittering fairy wings worn by several models in the show, to be specific.

Fancy Fairy wings were once a pretty popular accessory for fantasy-focussed fashionistas in Second Life, and when Violaine (RL Angela Jarman) shifted her focus away from SL, her virtual wing designs came with her. Although she was making these shimmering wings for herself well before she joined SL, many of her wing designs will look very familiar to those who followed her work in the metaverse. Particularly...

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Top Seven New World Notes Posts from Last Week!

Jenn Frank offline life

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Friday, December 05, 2014

SL Go Places: How to Take Perfect Snapshots in SL Go

  

The biggest benefit of using SL Go as far as I'm concerned (and the one that I'll never shut up about) is the ability for users with low-end computers to finally get high-end graphics. Users in the blogging, fashion, and photography communities are notoriously unforgiving of pictures taken with noticeably lowered settings, and it can be a huge barrier to entry for anyone who wants to be taken seriously in those circles. 

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That said, taking snapshots in SL Go can be a little bit less straightforward than doing to in the regular Second Life viewer, simply because you're running the viewer off of a host computer and not your own. That means no saving to your own HD. Thankfully the work around for this issue is easy and well worth it for snapshots that can finally take advantage of advanced lighting, shadows, depth of field, and just about every other setting you can name. Just watch the video above for all the details.

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New OpenSim Viewer With Customizable UI for Non-SLers

Onlook open sim viewer

The OnLook viewer is a new OpenSimulator viewer lead developed by Cristina Videira Lopes, an OpenSim pioneer and Xerox PARC alum who's now an ICS professor at UC Irvine -- known as Diva Canto in the metaverse. As she announced a few weeks ago, the special thing about OnLook is it allows UI customization, so users don't have to deal with the confusing Second Life interface that OpenSim viewers are based around:

The idea here is to allow OpenSim operators to have more control over the experience that their users will have; specifically, I want to be able to design much simpler user interfaces that are more appropriate for people who have no experience with Second Life and/or may be even uncomfortable with seeing themselves as avatars. But more importantly that any specific UI, I want to be able to provide those UI specifications dynamically as the user enters the simulator, rather than being hard-coded during the viewer’s build process. This way, we can change the UI without forcing users to install new versions of the viewer. And no one needs to agree on any specific UI.

This is super important for a number of reasons:

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DX Exchange Web-to-SL Marketplace Gaining Traction

DX Marketplace Second Life Items

DX Marketplace, the new service from NWN partner DX Exchange that launched a few weeks ago, is starting to gain some traction, DX official just let me know. "The number of shops has grown substantially, and buyers are starting to return now," DX's Steven Kuik tells me, and adds: "We are planning an update of our Marketplace homepage too before the end of the year." Steven also noted this extended, thoughtful review of DX Marketplace on the well-known Living in a Modem World blog, and told me they plan to address the issues raised there. Ciaran Laval also blogged the service, and makes some interesting points, such as:

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Rigged Mesh Tutorial for Second Life Fashion Creators

Via Ms. Gogo, here's an in-depth rigged mesh tutorial for all you mesh-oriented Second Life fashion creators:

This video from a fashionista called Kirsten Corleone, which I guess makes her the Godmother of rigged mesh. Some day, and that day may never come, she will call upon you to do a service for her. But until that day, consider this tutorial a gift on her daughter's wedding day.

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Thursday, December 04, 2014

Hiding from One World While Exploring Another: Jenn Frank's "All the Spaces Between Us" (Part 3)

Jenn Frank Exploring Second LifeOriginally published in Kill Screen Magazine and now serially featured in NWN with new screenshots and an afterword by the author, “All the Spaces Between Us - Struggling to Connect in a Pixelated World” is Jenn Frank’s deeply personal account of exploring Second Life and what she learned about identity, sex, creativity, life, and death along the way. In Part 1, she wrote about the difficult of creating a new identity in-world;, in Part II, she explored the challenges of avatar sex with a real world lover -- Hamlet Au

Second Life isn’t Sex Life, no; it isn’t all orgies and sex workers. I have kept myself occupied with plenty of other activities, thanks.

 I have lost innumerable scavenger hunts.

I have camped at a simulated bonfire, listening to actual 1950s radio serials.

I have jammed myself into the bleachers of a crowded auditorium to watch celebrity game designer Raph Koster speak live from Georgia Tech.

I have dawdled in a Lovecraftian seaside village, have danced at a Prohibition-era-themed bar, have gone scuba diving in an ocean modeled after a pirate’s cove.

I have meticulously created a rollerskating airship pilot character for a steampunk MMO.

Certainly I have hoverboarded through a skate park.

Continue reading "Hiding from One World While Exploring Another: Jenn Frank's "All the Spaces Between Us" (Part 3)"

Posted at 03:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Where to Shop in Second Life: December 2014 Edition

Tuk tuk Zaara Arcade
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

There's something almost reassuring about a regular in-store release in Second Life these days. It's predictable, it's stable, it'll probably be there for awhile... But so many designers are creating so much content for events that come and go. Sometimes what they make is available elsewhere when the event's over and sometimes it's not, and that's... Well, it can be stressful to try and stay on top of it all.

With that in mind I thought it might be time to try out something new here on New World Notes. At the beginning of the month (you know, like right now) we'll take a look at a handful of the events that have just started or that are coming up soon. We'll talk about some of the participating designers, show a stand-out item or two if possible, and generally try to make the ever-expanding tangle of events out there that much more digestible.

So where should you be shopping this month? Let's start with...

Continue reading "Where to Shop in Second Life: December 2014 Edition"

Posted at 01:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Avatars Go to Mars in This Excellent SL Machinima

Here's some visually impressive Second Life machinima seamlessly combining virtual footage and in-world effects with clips from various movies and TV footage:

Created by Erythro Asimov (who also shot this great one last year), it's inspired by NASA's call to register your name on the first flight to Mars, which he and fellow SLer Shannon Cardalines jumped on:

Continue reading "Avatars Go to Mars in This Excellent SL Machinima"

Posted at 09:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Romance in Dragon Age: Inquisition is Better Than Ever, No Matter What That Guy Thinks

Dragon Age Inquisition Romance
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Few people who know me would accuse me of being a romantic, at least not in the modern sense. I don't think much about stealing kisses at the top of the Eiffel tower or cuddling up under a heavy blanket on a rainy day. I have little patience for breathless musical numbers and, to be perfectly honest, I think The Princess Bride is no more than adequate. But even so, there's something about romance in Dragon Age that turns me into a sappy, squeaky mess. It melts my frigid heart every damn time, and while it's not the only reason I enjoy the series, it's certainly a slice of the pie.

Maybe that's why a rage-filled GameFAQs forum thread that's been going around tickles me to the degree that it does. This thread ( titled "This was the last straw Bioware. I am done.") is a real gem, and it reveals a lot about what some players feel entitled to when it comes to romance in their games. Roll up your sleeves, because we're going in:

Continue reading "Romance in Dragon Age: Inquisition is Better Than Ever, No Matter What That Guy Thinks"

Posted at 01:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Top 50 Most Active Second Life Sims, November 2014

Courtesy Louis Platini's Metaverse Business, a Second Life/OpenSim analytics company that gathers publicly accessible in-world data for its clients, here's the top 50 most active Second Life sims, starting with 26-50, listed by their average avatar visitor count at any given period, visitor range, and previous position last month (October in this case):

Top 50 Second Life Sims November 2014

Click here to use SL's map function on the web to search and directly teleport to any of these sims. Unless I missed my count, 24 of the 50 are Adult-rated, a slight drop-off from the rate in September and October.

Just about anytime I post these charts, readers say, "How come I've hardly heard of any of these? And there's a very good reason for that:

Continue reading "Top 50 Most Active Second Life Sims, November 2014"

Posted at 11:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Must Watch: Feminist Frequency's 25 Invisible Benefits of Gaming While Male

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

A new Feminist Frequency video is typically the highlight of my day. Even if I don't always agree with every single item presented, I believe strongly in Tropes vs. Women's message and above all (and unlike an alarming number of people) its right to exist. There's a new video up on Feminist Frequency's YouTube channel today and although it isn't the next installment in the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series, it's no less worth watching. 

In it, prominent men in the games industry (developers and press) read points from a list presented previously in an opinion piece for Polygon by Tropes vs. Women in Video Games producer Jonathan McIntosh about the invisible benefits of gaming while male. Some of them may be obvious, like the disproportionate amount of abuse that women receive regularly in the community. Others may be less obvious. For example...

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Posted at 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Future of VR: Less Simulated Virtual World, More Augmented Real World?

Virtual REality Magic leap

"How Magic Leap Is Secretly Creating a New Alternate Reality" is an excellent long Gizmodo post I meant to blog before the Thanksgiving madness, because it's about how Magic Leap the startup and the technology, now backed by half a billion dollars invested by Google and others, is aiming to be the lead alternative to the Oculus Rift/enclosed VR model -- instead of simulating a virtual world within a head-mounted display, displaying virtual experiences into the real world:

In an article that largely flew under the radar, John Markoff of The New York Times actually went to see the technology in person back in July. He wrote that he did indeed see a 3D creature floating in midair, through "an elaborate viewer that resembles something from an optometrist's office." It's big, in other words. Markoff also confirmed that the device projects digital light fields onto the viewer's retina.

If technologically feasible as described, it does seem more likely to be better received than insular VR. But that's the big question:

Continue reading "Future of VR: Less Simulated Virtual World, More Augmented Real World?"

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Monday, December 01, 2014

Iris Wants to Know: When You're Shopping in SL, How Often Do You Really Try the Demo?

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

It's the one piece of Second Life fashion advice that's universal no matter who you ask. This kind of consensus like like a damn unicorn, but just about every designer, blogger, and fashionista will tell you the same thing: Try the demo. Try. The. Effing. Demo.

But how many of us actually do?

We all know that trying on a demo is a free and easy way to make sure that you're buying what you think you're buying, but... Well... There's always an excuse not to, isn't there? "I know this brand well enough", "I'm in a hurry", "how different could it be?" Recently I picked up a new mesh head from a certain super-sweet skin shop. I didn't bother with the demo, and I ended up with a skin tone slightly darker than I was anticipating. It's far from the end of the world (and far from the worst no-demo story I've heard) but it was a little disappointing. To be perfectly honest I try demos once in a blue moon, and usually only when I don't trust the vendor ad to be accurate. The fact is that there are a lot of other reasons to demo an item, even from designers you know and love.

So here's what I want to know: How often do you take advantage of the demos? Are you a diligent shopper, or a risk-taking loose-cannon? As always, share your thoughts in the comments below!

Continue reading "Iris Wants to Know: When You're Shopping in SL, How Often Do You Really Try the Demo?"

Posted at 12:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)

Do You Want to 3D Paint in Virtual Reality?

... because now, you can:

Find out more about it here; read more on Wired here, wherein we find:

Tilt Brush exists in a design space between Photoshop and CAD software. Users draw on a 2-D plane but can shift the orientation of that plane to fill out a space or to define a 3-D object. “By translating and rotating the plane around the world, they’re able to ‘build out’ a 3-D painting,” says co-creator Drew Skillman. Paired with brushes that have subtle dimensionality and layer on top of each other, Tilt Brush makes it easy to create in 3-D even for people whose artistic skills stop at doodling.

Wired argues this could be more than a VR painting app:

Continue reading "Do You Want to 3D Paint in Virtual Reality?"

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Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week!

Second Life Sex pose menu

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Friday, November 28, 2014

SL Go Places: Let's Shop With Iris Not-so-Live at Geeks'n'Nerds 2014

 

This week I thought I'd try something a little different for my SL Go post. Instead of walking you around a location in text and images alone, I decided to fire up SL Go, my favourite screen recording software, and a 5+ year old laptop that gets used once in a blue moon to walk you around in person. Well, in avatar. This time, we're swinging through Geeks'n'Nerds (or at least part of it) which is open until December 10th. 

Visit Powered by SL GoGeeks'n'Nerds is the place to go if you want to express your love for Doctor WhoHarry PotterGame of Thrones, and dozens of other geeky fandoms in Second Life. And to be perfectly frank, this is also the video to watch if you've ever wanted to be cured of a desire to go shopping with Iris Ophelia. I chat about gacha machines, texturing, Sailor Moon, cats on Roombas, and say a load of other things that almost certainly call my geek cred into question.

If you want to visit Geeks'n'Nerds for yourself, just copy and paste this URL into your viewer of choice:

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Fabulous%20Land/170/175/52

Continue reading "SL Go Places: Let's Shop With Iris Not-so-Live at Geeks'n'Nerds 2014"

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Play it This Long Weekend: Framed, a Smoky and Stylish Noir-Inspired Puzzle Game for iOS

Framed 1
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

A narrow corridor, guards at every door, a peculiar arrangement of stairs, and a briefcase. In their default configuration they will lead the hero to a swift defeat, but with some juggling, a little dragging and dropping, they lead him to freedom instead. At first glance Framed looks like a motion comic with rather limited interactivity, but when the action stops and the player takes over a world of diverging, puzzly scenarios opens up.

If you have room left in your heart (or on your phone) for one more ridiculously stylish mobile game then you absolutely need to pick up Framed, and here's why:

Continue reading "Play it This Long Weekend: Framed, a Smoky and Stylish Noir-Inspired Puzzle Game for iOS"

Posted at 01:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Spend Friday, Saturday & Sunday With Whiskey Monday

Whiskey Monday Second Life art

After a hiatus that lasted most of this year, the artist known as Whiskey Monday continues turning Second Life screenshots into a genuine art form, and her very latest images are particularly arresting: There's "Moths Among the Whisperings", sampled above which you need to see in its full glory here. But there's also "Was Rorschach." and "Asunder", and those are also worth contemplating too. (You could look at one each day of this long weekend!)

As it happens, I profiled Ms. Monday a couple years ago, and here's what she says about her art:

Continue reading "Spend Friday, Saturday & Sunday With Whiskey Monday"

Posted at 09:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

DX Exchange Adds POLi Payments & Alipay Payment Options for Asian & Australian SLers (NWN Partner News)

DX Club Linden Dollar exchange

DX Exchange (a proud partner to this blog), has just added payment and customer support options to benefit Asian and Australian customers of its authorized Linden Dollar exchange service:

Questions? E-mail DX Exchange support at dxexchange dot com or IM the company's in-world representative (pictured here) MarcelEdward DX.

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Iris Wants to Know: What Are You Thankful for in the Virtual World (and Beyond)

Pokute Burt Making Cookies
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

It's Thanksgiving for NWN Readers (and writers) in the U.S., providing a long weekend perfect for reflecting on everything you're thankful for... In addition to eating generous and guilt-free portions of turkey and pie. 

With that in mind, I want to know: What are you most thankful for in Second Life? I'm Canadian, so Thanksgiving is technically already in my rear view mirror, but I can still take a moment to pause and consider what I'm grateful for. In Second Life, I'm most grateful for the talented and inventive artists that provide me with a neverending supply of things to share and gush about. Artists like pokute Burt, who's responsible for the charming pic embedded above. These people present the very best faces of Second Life, and the metaverse just wouldn't be the same without them.

So what about you? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and have a happy and safe holiday!

Continue reading "Iris Wants to Know: What Are You Thankful for in the Virtual World (and Beyond)"

Posted at 11:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

SL Sex With a RL Lover - Jenn Frank's "All the Spaces Between Us" (Part 2)

Sex in Second Life

Originally published in Kill Screen Magazine and now serially featured in NWN with new screenshots and an afterword by the author, “All the Spaces Between Us - Struggling to Connect in a Pixelated World” is Jenn Frank’s deeply personal account of exploring Second Life and what she learned about identity, sex, creativity, life, and death along the way. (Read Part 1 here) -- Hamlet Au

When I asked Zachary if he wanted to have sex in Second Life with me, he said yes. He and I had been dating, rockily, for five years. He said he missed me.

I was in another state. I’d been living with my parents for a few months. I was getting scared. I still rented the apartment in San Francisco, and Zachary still had a pair of keys to it. He was taking care of my pets and plants. Maybe if he really missed me, he could let himself into the apartment and sit inside. He could even use the Xbox if he wanted. He could read my books. He could use the kitchen, he could use the shower and the toilet.

Sure, he missed me. So he said yes.

I explained that Virtual Amsterdam was a place that couples went, and that I’d—really! Really!—never been there before. But I’d read about it. We could rent a room?

Zachary said yes.

Continue reading "SL Sex With a RL Lover - Jenn Frank's "All the Spaces Between Us" (Part 2)"

Posted at 02:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Arcade: Five Things to Look for at Second Life's Most Popular Seasonal Gacha Event

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

'Tis the season for another round of The Arcade, one of Second Life's most popular shopping events and without a doubt its most popular gacha themed event. In case you're not in the know, gacha machines in SL are a lot like their real life counterparts -- packed with a set of goodies, some rarer than others, that players can buy randomly for a fraction of what they might cost under normal shopping circumstances.

The doors open on December 1st, but if you just can bring yourself to wait I've got a preview of what's in store, starting with...

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