Monday, July 06, 2015
Top Six Posts from New World Notes Last Week
- What Kind of Content Creators is Linden Lab "Hand-Picking" to Be Sansar's First Alpha Testers?
- Real Life Economic Disaster in Greece Causes Dangerous Run on Virtual Currency No One Actually Uses
- Second Life Lost 100,000 Monthly Active Users Since 2014
- Linden Lab Declines Comment on Continued Sale of Racist Confederate Flag Items in Official Second Life Store
- Warren Spector on the Cultural Roadblocks to Virtual Reality That Few Are Talking About
- Black Second Life User Shares Real & Virtual Experiences With the Confederate Battle Flag
Saturday, July 04, 2015
Happy Independence Day, Fellow American Second Lifers!
... shot just now from a July 4th party in Stars Over Sparta (SLurl here) where Seth Regan is closing out a set with covers of "American Pie" and "Heart of Gold" by American treasure Neil Young, where the only American flag made to represent all Americans is flying.
Friday, July 03, 2015
As a Professional Second Life Scripter Almost Anything
Reddit itself is totally in tumult over some odd recent management moves, but the /secondlife subreddit has a very interesting "Ask Me Almost Anything" thread for "HisRant" a programmer who scripts in Second Life on a professional basis. Yes, professional: "Having gotten to the point of knowing enough people and having a decent reputation within larger project agencies," he says to a question about his Second Life income, "I would be able to script as my main form of income if I was risky enough to rely solely on freelance work." In another question, he drops a tantalizing hint for an upcoming project that aims to remove the need for poseballs [with positioned animation]:
Thursday, July 02, 2015
Black Second Life User Shares Real & Virtual Experiences With the Confederate Battle Flag
"It is good to see someone speak about what the Confederate flag is about, and what I, my family, and other African people have had to live with for many years," wrote SL user "bellahyae", commenting in Tuesday's post on that flag's sale in Second Life's official store, reflecting an opinion similar to that shared by many African-Americans for many years, but largely ignored until last month's atrocity.
"I wish people knew how much it hurt to see the flag on TV and in places which are supposed to represent everyone in a fair manner, like court houses. I have been to places in Second Life which had the flag up." She continues:
"We always knew what it meant. That we and others with our color are not wanted around that area. It is like putting up a 'Caucasian only' sign. I have a lot of bad memories with that flag. Like walking past homes of people who have them proudly displayed in front of their homes... while at the same time, the mean stares we got just for walking by their home. People looking at us and then spitting. Being called the N word for no reason and often out of the blue."
"Bellahyae" goes on: "I do not know its full history, but for people of my color, that flag always means one thing: You're not welcome here. With a feeling that your existence is looked down on, and the threat that they would love to have us swinging from trees by our necks again."
A number of New World Notes readers have defended the continued sale of the flag in the SL Marketplace, and she had a comment on that as well:
VR Hater Bingo Card: Cute, But Doesn't Cover Warren Spector's "Fear of Being Blind to the Outside World"
This VR Hater Bingo Card by @curleyswirly is pretty funny and on point, and should encourage virtual reality skeptics to at least come up with newer objections than these:
At the same time, it doesn't include one of Warren Spector's key concerns:
[T]he big one I see are the isolating effect of simply wearing a headset. I believe most people will be genuinely frightened of and disoriented by being effectively blind to the outside world for the sake of entertainment.
I've seen VR advocates respond to this point with, "Well, when you're sleeping and dreaming, you're blind to the outside world too!" Seriously.
Master Virtual Builder Shows What SL Means to Him
Here's another great must-watch machinima for Linden Lab's "What Second Life Means to Me" viral video campaign:
The machinima and the Rose Theater are from Angel Manor, created by Kaya Angel, who shot another excellent machinima at the Manor earlier this year, and explained in detail his approach to virtual community creation:
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
Game Design Pioneer Warren Spector on the Cultural Roadblocks to Virtual Reality That Few Are Talking About
VR will be a game-changer (as it were) in many aspects of our future lives but not necessarily in gaming. I want to see VR succeed as a gaming device, but see potential roadblocks being ignored.
Which is a provocative thing to say, and stirred up a lot of controversy, especially by game industry admirers of Spector who are also boosters of VR. So I asked Warren what roadblocks he was talking about, and he put it this way:
"If you use any of this," he said at the start of his message, "PLEASE don't paint me as the anti-VR guy. That's all I ask."
So noted: Warren Spector is not the anti-VR guy. And so said, Warren then went on to explain VR's challenges as a gaming platform that aren't being addressed:
"[I]t's important to emphasize that content, tech and price point aren't challenges at all. Smart people are working on those problems and I'm 100% confident they'll be solved. "
He also sees virtual reality having a number of valuable real world applications that are feasible and important: "I also see great value in VR for certain uses where putting on a headset and separating oneself from the real world are appropriate and even necessary. Among those are business meetings, training sessions of all kinds, long-distance relationships (familial and friendship) and so on. Those are situations where entering an alternate liminal space and leaving the real world behind are entirely appropriate. The problem with the responses to my comments is that they all think I'm saying VR content will always suck when I'm not saying that at all."
And then Warren went on to describe the challenges that the VR industry has yet to address -- not technical, creative, or commercial, but deeper, bound up in the basic fact of VR users having to literally block themselves off from the rest of the world, and the people who are supposed to matter to them:
Wet Hot Second Life Summer Shots, Perfectly Staged
These are some really well-staged shots depicting a virtual Summer in Second Life (from French language SL blog Plu Belle La Second Life). Note the dude caught mid-dive, adding motion to the scene. For that matter, note the lifeguard who is a giant furry, which is still significantly less ridiculous than a lifeguard who is David Hasselhoff. Many more virtual Côte d'Azur-esque pics here.
Second Life's 12B Birthday Cake is Not a Lie
It's more like a 8 bit Nintendo fever dream acid trip by Mikati Slade [with some scripting help by] Mac Kanashimi. Ziki Questi explores the massive installation, and we do mean massive - if you squint, that's her avatar in the upper left of the hot pink carpet. Click here to confirm the cake isn't a lie for yourself. (By July 4th, that is.)
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Linden Lab Declines Comment on Continued Sale of Racist Confederate Flag Items in Official Second Life Store
I've e-mailed Linden Lab three times about the sale of Confederate flag items in its official Second Life Marketplace (which I blogged about last week), but have still not received any kind of reply. At this point I'm forced to conclude Linden Lab is declining to address the issue -- either publicly, or in the Marketplace itself, where Confederate flag items are still quite easy to find and buy, both through searches of "Confederate" and "rebel flag". This is disappointing for a number of reasons, chief among them the fact that the flag was, in fact, created and enshrined as a symbol of white supremacy, meant in great part to intimidate African-Americans:
[I]t's not a coincidence that white Southerners were embracing the Confederate battle flag just as the South's system of violently enforced white supremacy was under its first real threat since Reconstruction. President Truman had vowed to do more to promote civil rights, integrating the military and telling the NAACP that civil rights could not wait.
In response, the Ku Klux Klan surged. Southern politicians displayed the Confederate battle flag when they railed against Truman. College students who supported Strom Thurmond's segregationist presidential campaign in 1948 waved Confederate flags at campaign events.
The civil rights movement didn't change the flag's meaning — it simply made the hate underlying the heritage more explicit. After the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education, white Southerners used the Confederate flag to intimidate civil rights activists and demonstrate states' willingness to protect segregation at all costs. The flag no longer represented just a 19th-century battle to preserve white supremacy, but a 20th-century one as well.
The KKK waved the Confederate flag. So did the Citizens' Councils, white supremacist groups of prominent and successful people who opposed integration. White mobs at the University of Alabama carried Confederate flags when they threw rocks at Autherine Lucy, the university's first black student, before the university decided to expel her rather than protect her. Mobs fighting to protect segregated schools wore Confederate flags in Little Rock and New Orleans and Austin and Birmingham.
And again, compare this next to Linden Lab's own Community Standards in Second Life:
Intolerance Combating intolerance is a cornerstone of Second Life's Community Standards. Actions that marginalize, belittle, or defame individuals or groups inhibit the satisfying exchange of ideas and diminish the Second Life community as a whole. The use of derogatory or demeaning language or images in reference to another Resident's race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation is never allowed in Second Life. [Emph. mine]
By contrast, while the Second Life Marketplace has a number of Nazi-related items (mainly WWII-era props), there does seem to be a concerted campaign by Linden Lab to remove the Nazi flag itself from the store:
Petition to Keep 3rd Party Linden Dollar Exchanges Open
Click here to consider signing a petition to Linden Lab, requesting that the company continue allowing 3rd party exchanges of Linden Dollars to stay in business. Earlier this month, Linden Lab announced that its Authorized L$ Reseller pilot program will be closed on August 1st. After that, the official, company-owned LindeX will be the only authorized place to purchase L$. However, thousands of SLers depend on 3rd party exchanges to purchase Linden Dollars for a number of reasons, including local payment methods not being as reliable or trusted. DX Exchange, for instance (full disclosure: a sponsoring partner to New World Notes), has about 6,000 members.
Real Life Economic Disaster in Greece Causes Dangerous Run on Virtual Currency No One Actually Uses
In yet another example of virtual reality infecting the real world, the economic collapse of Greece is inspiring many Greeks to withdraw their savings to buy Bitcoin virtual currency:
Ten times as many Greeks are registering to trade bitcoins on the German marketplace Bitcoin.de than usual, according to CEO Oliver Flaskaemper. Bitcoin trades from Greece have shot up 79% from their ten-week average on Bitstamp, the world's third-largest exchange. Even trading platforms in China are getting interest. LakeBTC, headquartered in Shanghai, is seeing a 40% increase in visitors using computers in Greece.
I rarely offer actual economic advice to anyone, but in this case, I feel qualified to say this, and say it with emphasis: Greeks, please, please, please put some serious thought into whether you really want to risk your life savings on a virtual currency hardly anyone actually uses.
I mean, seriously:
There aren't many ways to spend [Bitcoin] in Greece anyway. According to one publicly maintained registry, BitcoinMaps, there are only half a dozen spots in Athens that accept Bitcoin as payment. Among them: a family restaurant called Angel Tavern, a head-and-neck surgeon, and a yacht rental company.
And that's not just true in Greece -- it's true in the heart of Bitcoin hype:
Monday, June 29, 2015
Second Life Lost 100,000 Monthly Active Users Since 2014
Decline of Second Life median concurrency since January 2014, consistent with reported decline in monthly users (via Grid Survey)
Another notable revelation from the Xconomy interview with Linden Lab Ebbe Altberg:
“It’s still very popular and very successful, so we have no plans to discontinue it,” Altberg says. Second Life now hosts about 900,000 active users a month—a bit lower than its peak of about a million....
Linden Lab has reported having a million active users in Second Life since at least 2012, so a drop in 100,000 is pretty significant. Especially because historically, only 600,000 or so of those million actives are regular, returning users, with the rest new users who mostly churn out. (Multiple sources including Lindens, have told me 600K is a safe estimate for returning unique users, and it's consistent with the 400K new monthly registrations Linden Lab frequently reports.) It's possible that this is just a blip during the Summer (when usage tends to go down), but as you can see above, median concurreny rate has been steadily going down since about January 2014.
I've asked Linden Lab for more details on this slip in usage, because back in November 2014, the company was reporting a slight dip below one million:
What Kind of Content Creators is Linden Lab "Hand-Picking" to Be Sansar's First Alpha Testers? (UPDATE: Linden Lab Responds)
An obscure site called Xconomy has an in-depth interview with Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg, but if you want want the most essential gist, Nalates has a good summary, which I'm summarizing to seven key points around Project Sansar, its follow-up to Second Life:
- Linden Lab plans to have testers in Sansar starting the end of July, 2015. First one into the new world will be hand-picked, skilled creators.
- Sansar runs at 75 frames per second (FPS) and will run at 90 FPS to meet the expected Oculus Rift requirements.
- Sansar version 1.0 will be ready by the end of 2016.
- Moving from Second Life to Sansar will be as easy as possible.
- Sansar will run under "somewhat" different rules.
- The Lab plans to have Sansar support larger events, meaning having more avatars attending events.
- The Lab is changing its revenue model from renting land and plans to make Sansar land cheaper. Linden income will come in the form of taxes on users’ revenues from in-world businesses. With an interesting phrase tacked on, “once they’ve succeeded.”
Emphasis mine, because the top point bears emphatic emphasis: The very first early alpha testers of Sansar are going to have a disproportionate influence on how the platform grows (or doesn't), so I seriously hope this hand-picked group is comprised of many different kinds of content creators, and not just those already heavily involved in Second Life.
Top Seven New World Notes Posts from Last Week
- Survey Suggests Second Life Users Confused About DMCA -- A Real Life Lawyer Helps Explain What They Need to Know
- Philip Dick Novel Marketed on Facebook With Surveillance Technology Straight Out of a Philip Dick Novel
- Racist Confederate Flag Items Openly Sold in Second Life
- Photo of Things to Come: Using VR in Public Spaces
- No, It's Actually Not Second Life's 12th Birthday Today
- Firestorm-Created Mesh Causing Display Problems in SL?
- What Happened to the Arab Community in Second Life?
Friday, June 26, 2015
Linden Lab's Facebook Response to Supreme Court's Gay Marriage Ruling is Definitely Worth Sharing
Share buttons below the break!
VR Supporters Struggle to Answer "Everyone Looks Stupid While Using VR" Challenge
Here's a revealing exchange between revered game designer Warren Spector (pictured) and Unity CEO John Riccitiello, on the mass market appeal of VR:
Spector recently told Gamesindustry: "I don't think most humans want to look stupid (everyone looks stupid in a VR headset) and they don't want to isolate themselves from the world.
... However, former EA CEO Riccitiello, who took up the reins of the game engine company in 2014, told TechRadar that looking silly in a headset won't be the defining criteria for VR in the near future.
"He's right for the moment, but it's not because people don't want to look silly," he said. "You look silly having sex for God's sake, but they still do it - and who doesn't look an idiot dancing in the disco with the sound off?"
I'm not sure how to process either statement, because I don't even agree with their underlying premises. (Everyone looks silly during sex or silently dancing, seriously?) What's clear, however, is that VR supporters are having trouble addressing the "stupid VR face" challenge.
Visit a Beautiful Second Life Sim Called Flux Sur Mer
Take a Survey on Female Second Life Mesh Avatars
Ms. Strawberry Singh has a survey on female mesh avatars -- which brand you wear (if any), what kind of clothes you wear to complement it (if some), and how much mesh avatars have transformed the SL fashion market (if at all). I'll summarize the results on NWN, so go here to put in your opinion.
Don't Miss Great Deals on Full-Figured Avatar Shapes at Ample Avi's Summer Sale (NWN Partner News)
Why hello! It's Iris here again to let you know about a little sale that's going on all summer that you may want to check out. Ample Avi has been a proud sponsoring partner of New World Notes for quite a while now, and in that time we've shared quite a few of their lush, plush, plus-sized avatar shapes. And, it just so happens, that Ample Avi is running a sale on a select line-up of shapes all through the summer, ending on August 31st.
If you're curious, the best way to check it out is to drop by their in-world location in Pryeri [Teleport link] and check out the eastern end of the store. That's where you'll find 17 classic Ample Avi shapes at reduced prices, all of which will be retired at the end of the sale. You can also find them on the Second Life Marketplace here, and in case the sale slips your mind the retired shapes will be available there for a very brief window after the end of August.
One more thing: If you're a fan of designer Xme Xue's work, now's a good time to join her update group. Ample Avi Updates has no enrollment fee for the duration of the sale, so if you want to keep up to date on news and exclusives you'll then you ought to pounce on that while you can!
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Survey Suggests Second Life Users Confused About DMCA -- A Real Life Lawyer Helps Explain What They Need to Know
Canary Beck queries the Second Life user community on a variety of topics
Earlier this month, I conducted a survey of Second Life users, asking them what they knew about intellectual property rights in Second Life, especially as related to the DMCA. Based on the findings of over 250 respondents*, it’s clear that there is some confusion about that law, which this post might help clarify. This post is an abridged version of my summary of results. The full version will appear on my blog a week from now.
First things first: I am not a lawyer. Second, nothing in this post is a substitute for, nor does it constitute, legal advice. This second qualification also applies to Ms Vaki Zenovka, a Second Life user and RL lawyer who speaks regularly on topics related to the law and Second Life, who I’m citing to explain what the DMCA really involves. Finally, the information I share here applies to people living in the US.
Surprisingly, 8.7% of respondents reported filing a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice relating to Second Life content. Even more surprisingly, 2.8% reported they didn’t know if they had filed one. Only 2.4% of respondents indicated they had received a DMCA notice relating to Second Life content.
55.6% were correct in reporting that a DMCA notice costs nothing to file. This lack of up front cost is one reason critics cite for some of the unintended consequences arising from its use. Claimants must fulfill several requirements when filing. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the copyright owner (or his or her agent - like a user that hires an attorney to file DMCA notices to avoid revealing name and contact details) must supply the service provider (e.g. Linden Lab, WordPress, Flickr, etc) with their name and contact details (yes, their real life details - unless you use a lawyer to do this for you), the location of the infringing materials, sufficient information to identify the copyrighted works, a statement of good faith, and a statement of the accuracy of the notice under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on the behalf of the copyright holder.
Next: DMCA and Counter-Notices
Yes, This is Actually a Virtual Photo Shot in Second Life
Philip Dick Novel Marketed on Facebook With Surveillance Technology Straight Out of a Philip Dick Novel
I was checking my Facebook yesterday, when an ad for a new illustrated edition of Philip K. Dick's classic Man in the High Castle scrolled across my screen:
Seeing as Castle is one of my favorite novels of all time, I'm actually a perfect person to see this ad. Facebook knows this because it scans my behavior and connects me to advertisers looking for people just like me -- a potentially creepy technology that would, ironically, be right at home in a Philip Dick novel.
To be sure, knowing how Facebook ads actually work, the reality is a lot less sinister:
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Racist Confederate Flag Items Openly Sold in Second Life
Since last week's murderous terrorist attack in Charleston by racist suspect Dylann Storm Roof, a number of corporations are finally addressing the sale of the Confederate Battle Flag, argued to be a symbol of regional pride by many of the flag's supporters, but in historical fact, created and popularized by racists as a symbol of white supremacy. Unsurprisingly, Amazon, eBay, Sears, and Walmart recently announced plans to discontinue its sale.
In Linden Lab's official Second Life Marketplace, however, virtual versions of the flag like the bikini above are still widely available. (A Google search reveals about a dozen SL Marketplace listings of the flag.) This despite the fact that Second Life's own official Community Standards prohibit public displays of intolerance in SL:
Photo of Things to Come: Using VR in Public Spaces
In the next few years when you're out and about, expect to see something like this:
In the late 80s, rich people looked weird walking around pressing a huge brick to their ear. People would see these guys walking down the sidewalk and give them a wide berth wondering "What the fuck is this whacko doing? Talking on a phone in public?"
Now, of course, public use of smartphones is ubiquitous, almost expected. (Indeed, looking closely at VR boy's traveling companions on the left and right, it looks like both have earphones plugged into handheld devices.)
But will scenes like this become more and more common? A couple thoughts there:
Canary Beck Rants About Linden Lab Enthusiast Media
Canary Beck has a great rant about all the softball questions recently asked by a Second Life media outlet to Oz Linden (i.e. Scott Lawrence, Director of Open Development at Linden Lab), and all the questions that weren't asked, including the most obvious one: Why is a public-facing Linden Lab staffer using a Second Life avatar that's five years out of date?
The elephant in the room is not that Oz Linden’s avatar is just out of date and that wouldn’t it be nice if he got some new mesh feet – the real issue is that he is a visual representative of what Second Life has to offer, and it’s under-representative. Further, avatar appearances are especially important as first impressions to outsiders (e.g. news media). The mainstream news media might not be as forgiving as many oldbie Second Lifers are about avatar appearances that look half a decade out of date (yes, 2010-2015 is half a decade!).
... the most likely answer being, because Second Life's avatar appearance UI is so frustrating, counter-intuitive, and out of date, most Linden Lab staff aren't willing to devote the many hours it would take to learn it. On the one hand, SLers, would you rather Lindens send five hours tweaking their avatar, when they could devote that time to fixing a bug or helping a paying user? On the other, the fact that most Linden Lab staff don't spend the time to upgrade their avatar by themselves can easily be interpreted as a lack of confidence or personal investment in their own product.
In any case, Canary outlines all the questions that can and should be asked by SL blogs and other media outlets in future Second Life-based press appearances by Linden Lab, so it's very much worth reading. As I see it, the basic underlying question is this:
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
No, It's Actually Not Second Life's 12th Birthday Today
It’s Second Life’s official 12th birthday today, but it's only "official" in the sense that the world's corporate owners have designated it to be, to wit: "Back on June 23rd, 2003 Second Life was launched officially by Linden Lab and today Second Life reaches its 12th birthday."
So June 23rd, 2003 is actually just the date when Linden Lab opened Second Life as a commercial service. But there was actually a thriving Beta-era community for over a year before that, and it was they and their talents who proved that Second Life was actually viable enough to even launch at all. (And many of them are still active in SL.) It's more accurate to say Second Life was "born" in March 2002, when it received its first user, Steller Sunshine, who created Second Life's first user-generated content, a giant beanstalk game. Between then and June 2003, a vibrant community of about 1000 people flourished, establishing many of the cultural conventions that still exist today. And as an actual war raged in the Middle East, they even literally (virtually) fought to determine what kind of world the world would be:
Virtual Reality Press Backlash Begins at E3 2015
As if following the Gartner script, going from a peak of inflated expectations over virtual reality and spilling right into a trough of disillusionment over VR, much of the press coverage around E3's many virtual reality announcements is rather sour:
Before the gaming expo got going, experts and analysts said they expected VR to feature heavily and for there to be demos of pioneering games that made great use of the technology. Those demos would be essential, they said, to convince people to buy what is likely to be an expensive chunk of hardware. But it did not turn out like that. In fact, VR hardly featured at all during the big news conferences. Sony talked about Project Morpheus for a couple of minutes during a presentation that lasted an hour.
Or from the LA Times: In reality, Project Morpheus, Oculus Rift aren't the most exciting things at E3:
Firestorm-Created Mesh Causing Display Problems in SL?
According to this fascinating conversation among the hardcore SLers of SL Universe, mesh items created through the third party Firestorm viewer can have serious display problems. (As depicted at left, from Aki Shichiroji.) Longtime SLer Adeon Writer says this is due to how Firestorm handles level of detail (or LOD) for mesh objects:
You may not be aware of this, but Firestorm changed the "Object Detail" slider away from default behavior. Putting the slider all the way up on official viewer results in a object detail value of "2", but on Firestorm, it's "4" (with many people even going into debug and making it even higher. The side effect is if you are a mesh creator, you will not realize how quickly your models fall to lower LODs. I see so much content that LODs so quickly with distance that it's unmistakable it must have been made on Firestorm viewer.
If Adeon's description is accurate (and I have no reason to doubt it), this is concerning, because Firestorm isn't just a random third party viewer -- it's the most popular Second Life viewer by usage, even over the official Linden Lab-created viewer. And so yet again, the open sourcing of Second Life's viewer (back in 2007) continues creating unintended negative consequences:
Monday, June 22, 2015
What Happened to the Arab Community in Second Life?
A reader named "MH" stopped by last Friday's open forum to ask an interesting if concerning question:
Were are the Arab Sims? After 4 years i have returned to SL to find the entire Arab community gone! What happened to Arab World & Kuwait City and the other 100 region estates? What happened to the 50,000 active daily people in those regions? Kuwait city once had the highest traffic on the grid at 190,000 per day..What happened?
If by "Kuwait City" he means this sim, it's indeed gone. Not speaking Arabic, I can't speak directly to MH's question, though NWN's top 50 sim chart used to fairly regularly include one or two Arab-themed sims, and now none are extant. Arab language speakers reading NWN, any ideas?
Watch Huckleberry Hax's Poetic Tribute to Second Life
Linden Lab's 12 anniversary "What Second Life Means to Me" marketing campaign is a bit too marketing-y for my taste, but this new entry by Huckleberry Hax has a dreamy, vivid poetry (both visual and in Hax's resonant narration) that's well-worth watching:
If you're wondering about the poetry part, there's a very good reason for that:
3D Artist's Homepage is a 3D Web Masterpiece
Via: Andy Baio.
Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week!
- If Second Life is a Game, Then Everything is a Game: Virtual Worlds Academic Tom Boellstorff Weighs In
- How Long Will People Stay Immersed in Virtual Reality?
- For Dishonored 2, Former Kidnap Victim Emily Kaldwin Becomes Playable Damsel Causing Distress
- Exploring Second Life's Ancient History as an Online Game
- Valve Adding Augmented Reality to VR System So User Needs to Leave Virtual Reality Less
Friday, June 19, 2015
NWN Weekend Open Forum: Events, Ideas, Self-Promotion
Today may be a bit too busy for much blogging, so please talk amongst yourselves. What's going on in your virtual life lately?
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Linden Lab CEO Addresses Second Life Virtual Land Bubble, Suggests Successor Sansar Will Monetize With 5% Sales "Tax" UPDATE: Linden Lab Disputes El Pais' Story
Update, 4:15pm: Linden Lab's Peter Gray says the El Pais report inaccurately quoted Altberg around the 5% claim -- see his full statement below.
SL blogger Canary Beck (who'll soon be blogging for New World Notes as well!) has a great scoop, translating a recent interview with Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg in the Spanish paper El Pais:
Altberg said (and I paraphrase / translate from the Spanish original) that Second Life has suffered from its own real estate bubble, where residents can rent a 256×256 metre plot of virtual land for $295/month, and that this business model was not intended for the average consumer. Renting virtual land is an expensive hobby or for those who want to run a virtual business.
Sansar, he said, will offer land for less, and Linden Lab will take a commission on any purchase or sale that occurs. “But only 5%”, he added, “which is extremely low compared to the usual 30% for this type of thing.”
More thoughts from Canary here. 30% is pretty clearly a reference to the commission Apple and Google charge developers for selling content on their app stores, which further suggests this is going to be how Linden Lab monetizes Sansar, or at least one of the ways. (I'm checking with Linden Lab in any case.) What's also notable is this:
If Second Life is a Game, Then Everything is a Game: Virtual Worlds Academic Tom Boellstorff Weighs In
The debate over whether Second Life should be classified as a game continues generating really interesting reader comments, one of the best of which is from my good friend and pioneering virtual worlds academic Tom Boellstorff:
As Richard Bartle, a pioneer in virtual worlds, once said: “virtual worlds are not games. Even the ones written to be games aren’t games. People can play games in them, sure, and they can be set up to that end, but this merely makes them venues. The Pasadena Rose Bowl is a stadium, not a game.”
The problem is that if you say Second Life is a "game" then it's hard to not classify everything humans do as a "game," and a word that refers to everything refers to nothing. When people say that virtual worlds like Second Life are games, they usually mean (1) some people play games in them (which is true); (2) some people engage in some form of role-play in them (which is true); or (3) the things some people do in virtual worlds do not have physical world consequences (which is true). But all of these things are true only some of the time; they are not hard-wired features of virtual worlds, but one way they can be used.
Tom goes on to point out why this debate draws so much passion:
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
How Long Will People Stay Immersed in Virtual Reality?
A friend of mine recently put on a pair of virtual reality goggles, and was lost to the rest of the world for five hours straight. And with one VR announcement after another coming out of E3 this week, such as Valve's technology which enables people to avoid real obstacles while in VR, I've been spending a lot of my hours wondering just how typical his experience will soon become.
Here's what Blair Erickson thought after spending 5 hours in VR:
"By the end of it all, the regular world was so... Regular. Even with the currently limited resolution and somewhat heavy device, you can immediately see how powerful this medium is going to become... it already works its magic on the brain pretty damn well." (Blair, by the way, is a VR pioneer himself, directing the first feature film to be displayed in the Oculus Rift.)
Blair stayed in virtual reality even when he sensed outside intrusion happening beyond his goggles: "When an outside experience occurs, you usually ignore it or flip to Pass Through mode which allows you to see outside the headset through a camera image displayed on your vision."
"How's it feel to have to cut out of the VR experience to see what's going on in real life?" I asked him.
Is Second Life a Game Due to Co-Existence, Playfulness, or User Confusion Based on Superficial Appearance?
Second Life's homepage from 2004, via Archive.org
There's a really interesting conversation happening in this post about Second Life's early years when it was marketed as an online game. To the argument that Second Life is not a game because it has no goal, reader "irihapeti" makes a fascinating counter-point:
Yes there is a goal. The primary game goal is to co-exist with others. There are rules to guide the play to reach this goal, lots of them. ToS/Community Standards. Enforced by technical limitations in many cases. Limitations imposed on players by the provider to enforce the reaching of the goal.
irihapeti then points out all the actual game-like mechanics in SL:
SL has a built-in game system. A full-damage push combat game system. There are safe zones in the system provided by LL. There are also safe zones provided by residents who own/rent parcels. There is also a mining mechanic in the game provided by LL. You can mine crystals in the game and convert to in-game currency and buy stuff with it to enhance your gameplay. Same like in any other game.
Nathan Hopkins references an academic's definition of "game", and argues that SL is perceived to be a game due to confusion over its surface appearance:
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Philip Rosedale Favorite Fove VR to Integrate with SteamVR
FOVE, the VR industry's first eye tracking headset that Philip Rosedale suggests is the next-generation for HMDs, has not only raised nearly double its Kickstarter funding goals in under two weeks, it's now going to be compatible with SteamVR and Lighthouse motion tracking technology from Valve, the world's most important 3D game publisher and developer:
According to the company, once FOVE reaches the $700k milestone it will “pursue development integration of Valve’s Lighthouse technology into their developer kits, shipping in Spring 2016.” The company also announced today that they will support the OpenVR SDK and the Steam VR platform.
Says Yuka Kojima, FOVE’s CEO and co-founder, “Both of our companies are very excited about the applications of eye-tracking in VR and the support for SteamVR will bring a wealth of content to FOVE. We have strong confidence that FOVE can and will deliver a revolutionary experience in VR.”
Currently the FOVE headset only has head tracking, but the addition of the Lighthouse system would give FOVE full room scale tracking capability which, in addition to it’s eye tracking capability, would make it far more than just an acquisition target – but rather an outright contender.
It's striking how fast this industry is moving: Oculus Rift and Sony's Morpheus may be the current VR darling at this year's E3 conference, but people are already moving money and attention toward the next leap in virtual reality.
For Dishonored 2, Former Kidnap Victim Emily Kaldwin Becomes Playable Damsel Causing Distress
Right on the heels of E3 2015, here's the spectacular teaser trailer to Dishonored 2, sequel to the immersive, open world RPG that's a favorite of this blog, featuring a great reveal at the end:
Rare to big budget games, one of the two playable characters is female, and a significant one at that: Emily Kaldwin, the daughter of royalty whose kidnapping and rescue drove the entire plot of the first game. In the sequel, however, she becomes an active participant in a larger story, whose choices the player can shape. (Players can also be Corvo, the silent assassin/bodyguard from the first game.) As such, Dishonored 2 comes across as a direct response to Anita Sarkeesian's famous complaint against the "Damsels in Distress" trope used in so many games, from early 2013. I even wonder if lead Dishonored designers Harvey Smith and Raphael Colantonio made Emily playable partly in response to that very video.
Exploring Second Life's Ancient History as an Online Game
In advance of Second Life's 12th anniversary as a commercial online world, Ciaran Laval has a great post reviewing its ancient history, back in the time of "Primitar" and the beanstalk of Steller Sunshine (the first user-created item ever created in Second Life). That includes web archive resources, which reminds us of a time (roughly 2002-2006) when Linden Lab execs and staff actively promoted Second Life as an online game. This from Linden's VP of marketing at the time, my former boss Robin Harper:
Second Life has been nominated as a finalist for Online Game of the Year by Gaming Industry News... If you want to vote for Second Life, just visit Game Industry News.
I was with Linden Lab then, and marketing outreach like that happened all the time. Which is why the whole "Second Life is not a game!" rhetoric from current Lindens and a subset of hardcore SLers now seems a bit hollow:
Monday, June 15, 2015
Valve Adding Augmented Reality to VR System So User Needs to Leave Virtual Reality Less
Interesting feature coming to Valve's virtual reality system helps address the "If I'm wearing this headset, won't I crash into stuff around me?" The solution: Augmented reality in virtual reality:
At Valve, developers plan to minimize unwanted collisions with a feature that it calls a “chaperone” system. The technology maps the terrain of a room: furniture, walls and all. When someone wearing a headset gets close to an object, a wireframe model of the room materializes in the virtual space in front of their eyes, fading as they move away.
Very smart design feature, though also an ironic one: With virtual reality sufficiently integrated with the minimum data you need to know about in the real world (i.e. how to get to the bathroom without crushing the cat, etc.), there's even less reason to exit VR.
The New Yorker Finally Features Virtual World on Its Cover
The New Yorker is arguably the Western world's most important magazine, while the cover of the magazine is one of the most important cultural barometers for the concerns and obsessions of its target readership (affluent, educated, influential), so it's noteworthy that its current cover carries a depiction of a virtual world for the very first time.
The accompanying article, by Chris Ware, who also illustrated the cover, captures a lot of what we were just discussing last week, or for that matter, what Julian Dibbell told me about his own daughter's experience with Minecraft:
Clara has spent hours, days, weeks of the past two years building and making navigable block worlds fuelled from the spun-off fizz of her accreting consciousness: giant ice-cream-layered auditoriums linked to narrow fifty-foot-high hallways over glass-covered lava streams, stairs that descend to underground classrooms, frozen floating wingless airplanes, and my favorite, the tasteful redwood-and-glass “writer’s retreat.” (It has a small pool.) She made a meadow of beds for my wife—a high-school teacher who craves unconsciousness—and a roller coaster to take her there.
Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week
- DMCA Notices Don't Work Well With Anonymous Avatars
- Will VR Ever Be More Meaningful Than the Real World?
- Why a Virtual World Educator Jumped to Minecraft
- Why Virtual World Fans Will Want to Play Wattam
- Philip Rosedale: FOVE's Eye-Tracking Tech Addresses the "Most Important Missing Component" for VR Communication
Friday, June 12, 2015
Take a Silly Second Life Personality Quiz, Because Why Not?
Below, one of those supremely silly personality quizzes that are probably clogging your Facebook feed, but at least NWN readers will kinda like this one. Inexplicably, I got "Creator" as opposed to "Blogger", even though the quiz didn't offer many creation/blogging type answer options that I can recall.
Click Continue to take, and comment on the results - see you Monday!
Will Oculus Rift Work Well With Glasses?
Less than 3 years after he launched his Kickstarter at the ripe old age of 19, here's Palmer Luckey showing off the Facebook-funded consumer model of his Oculus Rift (and Oculus Touch controller) to the media:
Via Reddit, where some Oculus fans had a similar reaction to me: Why does Palmer take off his glasses before putting the Rift on for the first time, and even after adjusting the headset with his glasses on, the fit seems a touch too tight?
DMCA Notices Don't Work Well With Anonymous Avatars
HyperGrid Business has a really valuable guide for Second Life/OpenSim users who need to file a DMCA takedown request to protect their IP rights. I'm seriously not a fan of the DMCA, both as a consumer and a content creator, but given the ongoing confusion over the law, this is probably an important post for many to read. A key point HGB brings up: The DMCA is in direct conflict with Second Life's culture of fostering avatar names without any association the real life owner - and assuming that should always be the case. To wit:
Think of an avatar as a virtual costumed character. If McDonald’s sees that another chain has stolen their menu, they’re not going to send someone in a clown suit to court. They’ll send the CEO, or a lawyer, or some other person who is legally able to represent the company. The actor in the clown suit is there for marketing purposes. And that’s what your avatar is — the marketing face of your virtual company. But not the legal face. You could try to fudge things. In the letter to the store or grid, instead of saying that you are the copyright owner, you can say that you just represent the copyright owner. Or you could file the letter under your avatar name.
... but then, the other avatar can just type "LOL" and decide to ignore the notice. So this final word of advice is especially important:
Last Chance to See in Second Life: 2 Gorgeous MMO Sims
Bad news via Ziki Questi: Venexia (above) and Goatswood, two beautiful and acclaimed MMO roleplay sims owned and managed by the SGS/eDream Factory studio, are going away very soon - June 13 and 19th, respectively. Ziki has all the details and links you need, and notes that waning traffic seems to be the problem:
[O]ver time, the sims have become more and more quiet, to the point where visitors might now find themselves wandering solo. Guests have always been welcomed and provided with a free three-day pass, but perhaps for the casual explorer that very aspect diminished the sims' desirability as places to simply visit.
With less and less active users paying the sim owners to play their MMOs, paying Linden Lab $300 each month for each sim quickly became unsustainable. This is disappointing, because while most sim owners can't afford to keep operating without a revenue model, these two did.
Here's a machinima of Venexia, BTW:
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Will VR Ever Be More Meaningful Than the Real World?
Ironically, today I've been a bit too busy with real world chores to blog much about the virtual world, but Wired's Chris Kohler just Tweeted this fascinating slide, from a virtual reality presentation by CCP, the developer of Eve Online:
can we not tho pic.twitter.com/KM5aup11vU— Chris Kohler (@kobunheat) June 11, 2015
No doubt CCP will make great VR-connected virtual worlds, but I'm fascinated by this level of ambition. And I'm curious how many NWN readers share the premise. Or to put it in the form of two questions:
Will virtual worlds ever be more meaningful than the real world? And should they?