Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Watch Live: The Sims 4 is Here, and We're Playing the Heck Out of It

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

I have a confession: I stayed up until 7 am playing The Sims 4. My feelings? ... They're complicated, and they still need a little more time in the oven. 

But I'm not going to leave you empty-handed.

If you haven't had a chance to play the game yourself (and you're sick of watching video content designed with 100% pure uncut marketing in mind) you might want to set aside a slice of your afternoon/evening to watch a Sims 4 streaming mini-marathon that I'll be participating in. As those who follow me on Twitter and Plurk might know, I regularly stream games as part of Stream Friends, which includes a pretty lengthy let's play series for The Sims 3

The stream will be starting shortly after this post goes up and running well into the evening, so if you want to see The Sims 4 in action swing by and watch for yourself, or check out the archives that will be posted later this week on the StreamFriends YouTube channel.

Continue reading "Watch Live: The Sims 4 is Here, and We're Playing the Heck Out of It"

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If You're Sick of Juggling Appliers for Your Second Life Mesh Body Parts, Omega Might Be for You

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

One of the worst parts of being a skin designer in SL is the number of 3rd party mesh attachments you're expected to support. There's the mesh butts, the mesh boobs, the mesh hands, the mesh heads, the mesh heads, the mesh bellies, the mesh feet -- and in none of those cases is there one single brand that everyone's united on. It's a pain, plain and simple.

If you're a designer looking to streamline the process, Omega Appliers from Love N Lust might be worth looking into. It's a good option for consumers as well (as Alaska Metropolitan demonstrates in her latest tutorial video above) since Omega offers conversion kits for more mesh body enhancements than I even knew were on the market.

The applier process is a big step up from the days when all we could do was tint our mesh appendages to match the rest of our avatars, but it's still a bit of a mess and long overdue for a slightly more unified approach like Omega. Be sure to check out Love N Lust's blog for more info.

Continue reading "If You're Sick of Juggling Appliers for Your Second Life Mesh Body Parts, Omega Might Be for You"

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Top Six New World Notes Posts from Last Week!

Controller

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Monday, September 01, 2014

The Sims 4 Goes Live at Midnight: Here's How to Pass the Time Until You Can Play

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

There's something extra stressful about waiting for a highly anticipated game to be released... On a holiday. Every hour you should be relaxing can feel absolutely agonizing when all you're thinking about is playing that damn game. Well I've got good news and even more good news if, like me, you're chewing your nails and watching the clock until The Sims 4 is released.

First of all...

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Your Second Life Snapshots Can End Up in the Strangest Places

Cara Olivieri Ice Bucket Challenge
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

When SL user Cara Olivieri was putting together her clever take on the Ice Bucket Challenge for her blog, I doubt she was expecting her picture to turn up where it has. Cara's image is the latest Second Life pic to end up in the last place you'd expect: Bizarro conspiracy theory websites. It's not unheard of to catch a Second Life snapshot being used (presumably without permission) in a cluster of links about Goji berries and Jennifer Aniston and housewives with one cool trick, but time... This is something really special.

It was virtual fashion designer Shai Delacroix who caught sight of Cara's image as a thumbnailed clickbait ad about the Ice Bucket Challenge's "true" meaning. And what is that meaning? I know you're just dying to find out...

Continue reading "Your Second Life Snapshots Can End Up in the Strangest Places"

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Visit a Second Life Sim Called Intro This Labor Day Weekend

Second Life Intro Photography

Click here to visit Intro, which is a Second Life sim that's a monochromatic wonderland and an SL photographer's dream. Don't believe me? See these photos by Kara Trapdoor. Visit Ziki Questi's blog to see more.

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Weekend Reading: Catch Up on Some of the Best Responses to Gaming's Recent Anti-Feminist Drama

Tropes vs Women Background Decoration Part 2
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

It's safe to say that August 2014 has been an absolute nightmare, and I'll be glad to see the whole thing end. The past couple weeks in particular have been bad in the gaming corner of the internet, and the only consolation I can draw from it is that 1) compared to everything else that's happened around the world this month it could really be so much worse, and 2) at least some absolutely outstanding articles have come out of it all. Too many to share individually, in fact.

If you want to catch up on what's been going with August's lesser calamities in the world of video games (or just get a fresh perspective on the subject), here's your weekend reading list:

Continue reading "Weekend Reading: Catch Up on Some of the Best Responses to Gaming's Recent Anti-Feminist Drama"

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Pantone Problems: Here's Why Seasonal Color Trends Matter in Virtual & RL Fashion

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

SL fashion blog Juicybomb is typically a one-woman show, but this week Sehra Kauffman stepped up to share a pretty enlightening post about seasonal colors that applies just as much to our offline fashion choices as it does our online ones. If you've ever wondered why Pantone exists or why constantly shifting color palettes and "Forecasts" are an important part of fashion (and fashion marketing) Sehra's got your back. She explains:

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Live Dance/Music Performance in Minecraft with Users From 3 Countries Simulcast in San Francisco & Vancouver Cafes

There’s lots of virtual art in Second Life, but can Minecraft also be turned into platform for creating new works of online artistry? DC Spensley, a Bay Area-based artist widely known in Second Life for his live SkyDance performances, recently orchestrated a live performance on a Minecraft server. Behold MineOpticon, shown simultaneously in Vancouver and San Francisco:

“[I] figured that when horses came out in Minecraft,” Spensley tells me, “it would be good to respond with something quirky… This illustrates what I mean about being somewhat agnostic about which virtual world I use.”

To pull this show off, Spensley’s collaborators logged into a Minecraft server from literally all over the world, for both the rehearsal and the live show:

Minecraft dance

“MineOpticon performers were in California, Florida, Vancouver and Manahattan. Like any virtual world they logged on from their location to rehearse for many months before the shows. The technical director Bill Cruikshank (Jesting Rabbit) logged in from Australia and our composer (Yagiz Mungan from Turkey via Purdue University) just happened to be in SF on a job.”

The differences between Second Life and Minecraft as an artist’s plaform? DC Spensley tells me both have their advantages and disadvantages:

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I Love Games, But I'll Never Be a "Gamer"

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

When I talk about my childhood spent in the back seat of a minivan playing an imported Japanese copy of Tails Adventure on my Game Gear, or on the living room floor meandering through the levels of Gauntlet Legends, or scouring anything resembling an arcade with my fingers crossed for a Hydro Thunder machine, you might mistake me for a Gamer. When I talk about slightly more recent events -- eliminating challengers in one hit with my overtrained Absol in Pokemon X/Y, almost miraculously sniping enemies off with a shotgun in Fallout: New Vegas, completing the entirety of an Assassin's Creed game without ever using anything but the wristblades -- you could be forgiven for again thinking that I'm a Gamer.

But I wasn't, and I'm not.

I'm not trying to prove my gaming cred here, nor am I trying to make a point about how easily my interests can be dismissed by someone with an agenda. The fact is that I've been playing video games regularly for as long as I can remember, but I've never called or even considered myself a Gamer... And I'm not about to start any time soon. 

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Does The DMCA Do More Harm Than Good in Second Life? Here's What A Group of SL Designers Told Me...

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

In the wake of the DMCA drama that's been stirring up the Second Life fashion world, I recently surveyed a group of SL content creators about their thoughts on and experiences with the DMCA process. I wanted to know how often their businesses and hobbies are affected by DMCA claims, and whther or not they think it's a good fit in Second Life.

Some of the results were surprising, while some of them weren't at all. Take a look for yourself:

Continue reading "Does The DMCA Do More Harm Than Good in Second Life? Here's What A Group of SL Designers Told Me..."

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Woman Who Criticizes Violence Against Women in Games Now in Hiding Due to Real Death Threats from Gamers

The best evidence Anita Sarkeesian is basically right in her videos about sexism in games, it occurred to me yesterday, is any time they're posted, you wind up with long comments from angry males complaining about her anonymously online, almost invariably making assertions that are patently inaccurate or ridiculous, if not outright wrong.

There's a much darker point of evidence: Anita Sarkeesian is the constant target of death threats from angry male gamers, the most recent of which happened after her latest video went online.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Virtual Surf's Up: Spectacular Surfing Video Proves There's Still Life in Second Life Machinima

If there's one thing I've learned after 10+ years of blogging about Second Life, any general statement you plan to make about the virtual world always requires an "on the other hand". So, while it's generally true that Second Life machinima is waning, it's also true, on the other hand, that SL machinima like this pretty spectacular surfing montage by ChanAndMe are still being made. Watch:

I love the jagged montage editing that cuts to the music and the cinematography, which at its swoopiest, looks like real world surfing footage. (Am from Hawaii and surfed, can confirm.)

On the other hand (yes, this other hand has an other hand), this excellent machinima also showcases the limitations of Second Life machinima which other creators mentioned in this comment thread:

Continue reading "Virtual Surf's Up: Spectacular Surfing Video Proves There's Still Life in Second Life Machinima"

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Here's What it Takes to Build a 1KB Hard Drive in Minecraft

Cody Littley's 1 KB Minecraft Hard Drive
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Polygon's Charlie Hall recently posted a video tour of one of the most mind-blowing Minecraft builds I've ever seen. As Hall floats through and around an ingeniously made 1 KB hard drive that exists entirely within Minecraft, its creator Cory Littley walks both him and the viewer through its meticulous construction.

Littley's hard drive (like the Minecraft calculators and such that have come before it) relies on redstone, an item in the game that conducts a current used to power various devices. In my experience, redstone's simplest applications are easy enough to wrap your head around. If all you need are a few lamps, powered rail cars, or maybe an automatic door it's not hard to get a handle on how to use it, but things get exponentially more complicated the larger and more intricate your project is. That's what makes Littley's hard drive so incredibly impressive, even if it's barely big enough to hold the text of this post.

Don't just take my word for it: Watch the tour for yourself on Polygon.

Continue reading "Here's What it Takes to Build a 1KB Hard Drive in Minecraft"

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Enjoy All the Charm of a Summer Sunset in This Stunning (and Unedited) Second Life Snapshot

Nivaya Barbosa Persephone Paine
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

I'm a sucker for great, unprocessed screenshots, and this happy little accident shared by Nivaya Barbosa on Plurk and Flickr takes the cake. The contrast, the lighting, the depth of field, the lush colors of the environment against the muted tones of the dress -- it all just feels so natural even though typically (as most SL artists and virtual photographers know) that natural feeling is one of the most difficult elements to capture.

I will admit that I find myself wishing that her subject, Persephone Paine, was wearing a mesh head purely because they tend to look a little more realistic under indirect lighting compared to the Second Life avatar's vanilla face (like her hands and dress for example.) Then again, even the imperfections lend themselves to the overall effectiveness of this shot. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I wouldn't change a thing.

Check out Nivaya's Flickr stream for more.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Facebook's Acquisition & Launch of Oculus Rift Led by Second Life Co-Founder Cory Ondrejka, The Verge Reports

Cory Ondrejka Facebook

The Verge has a massive feature on the history and rise of virtual reality which includes this interesting interview with Cory Ondrejka, confirming a belief I had earlier this year:

Cory Ondrejka, the creator of Second Life, is now VP of engineering at Facebook. Ondrejka introduced Mark Zuckerberg to Oculus, and spearheaded Facebook’s acquisition of the up-and-coming company. Now, it’s Ondrejka’s job to help Oculus build out its virtual reality vision as quickly as possible, and distribute it to millions upon millions of people. He spent a few minutes telling us about his virtual dreams — and how they’re being turned into reality.

Cory actually co-created Second Life with Philip Rosedale (along with their small team during Linden Lab's early days), so that's somewhat off. (Source: Some book a guy wrote.) That said, we now it is, as I said, this way: The original vision for Second Life conceived nearly 15 years ago is now coming together at the Internet's largest company.

Here's Cory telling The Verge his vision for VR:

Continue reading "Facebook's Acquisition & Launch of Oculus Rift Led by Second Life Co-Founder Cory Ondrejka, The Verge Reports"

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Here's the Inevitable Second Life Version of the Ice Bucket Challenge (Which is Cool But Needs a Better Bucket)

You knew it was coming and now here it is: The Ice Bucket Challenge in Second Life:

Read here about how this campaign is meant to benefit the fight against ALS, i.e. amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, i.e., Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The ice-soaked avatar here is Kara Trapdoor, but Daniel Voyager has a couple more SL-flavored challenges here. I'd love to accept Kara's bucket challenge, but I'm hoping for some clever scripter to first create a more convincingly animated, physics-enabled ice bucket.

Continue reading "Here's the Inevitable Second Life Version of the Ice Bucket Challenge (Which is Cool But Needs a Better Bucket)"

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The Newest Episode of Tropes vs Women in Video Games is Hard to Watch, but it's Well Worth Your Time

Tropes vs Women Background Decoration Part 2
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

The latest episode of Feminist Frequency's ongoing Tropes vs Women in Video Games series is out today, presenting part two of the women as background decoration trope. This episode also comes with a pretty strong content warning, as it depicts a lot of very graphic violence against female characters. It's absolutely brutal and some viewers may want to skip this particular episode as a result, but it offers some very important critical commentary on the ways that violence against women is used in games.

Watch the full episode for yourself:

Continue reading "The Newest Episode of Tropes vs Women in Video Games is Hard to Watch, but it's Well Worth Your Time"

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Check Out This Tutorial for Setting Up Real-Time Second Life Avatar Movement With a Kinect

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

If you happen to have a Kinect, Microsoft's body-tracking camera peripheral for the Xbox, laying around nearby, you might be surprised by what you can do with it in Second Life. Jessica Pixel posted a quick tutorial on her site yesterday for how to connect your Kinect to Second Life and animate your avatar in real time. It all boils down to Rinions and a special SL viewer that allow you to temporarily replace an avatar animation with animation data provided by the Kinect. The end result isn't seamless, but it's still pretty darn cool.

And while you have your Kinect hooked up, here's something else you may want to try...

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Top Six New World Notes Posts from Last Week

Second Life Fitted Mesh Fix SL GO Onlive

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Friday, August 22, 2014

SL Viewer Compatible With Oculus Rift DK2 Available

Oculus Rift Second Life OpenSim

"I know some people are very anxious to try their DK2s in Second Life/OpenSim," says CtrlAltStudio's David Rowe, "so I’ve released this Alpha with some very preliminary DK2 support." No Mac version, alas, but if you have a DK2 and you want to check it out on your Windows machine, click here to start downloading.

Which raises the question -- how many NWN readers have a DK2?

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Coming Soon: You Won't Be Able to Resist the Soft, Sleepy Charms of this Second Life Pup

ISPACHI Arcade Sept Preview
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

No, this adorable gif I've posted is not taken from a viral video and no, it's not from some sort of beautiful HD version of Nintendogs. That precious pup is 100% Second Life mesh, and if you don't believe me all you need to do is wait for the name tag to pop up briefly in the lower lefthand corner.

See?

But where can you get your hands on this warm little bundle of polygons? Well...

Continue reading "Coming Soon: You Won't Be Able to Resist the Soft, Sleepy Charms of this Second Life Pup"

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Celebrity Second Life User Drew Carey Tweets His Appreciation for One of Our Favorite Metaverse Designers

Drew Carey Nylon Pinkney SL
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Drew Carey loves Second Life, and Second Life loves artist and designer Nylon Pinkney, so it's only natural that Drew Carey loves Nylon Pinkney too, right?

Carey is one of SL's most vocal celebrity fans, and this week he made a couple tweets that caught a lot of Second Life users' attention... Including Nylon herself. Take a look:

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Janine "Iris" Hawkins' Top Ten MMOs for Paste Magazine

Eve online mmo

"10 Best MMOs" is the latest Paste Magazine article from our own Janine "Iris" Hawkins, and it's a solid primer on the world of online worlds. Before you click, guess which ones she's going to mention -- now click.

You may have noticed most of Iris' selections are older MMOs, but as she tells me, there's a very good reason for that:

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Cubic Castles: A Free-to-Play Sandbox MMO That's Like Minecraft, but...

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

Minecraftbut. That's the term that Rock, Paper, Shotgun's Alice O'Connor recently coined (in the same vein as roguelike) to save us all from having to say "It's like Minecraft, but..." one more lousy time. It might just be my favorite piece of gaming shorthand since "Abilitease".

Cubic Castles (a new free-to-play game that you can snag on Steam, the iOS App Store or straight from their website) is one such Minecraftbut, with an emphasis on building, crafting, puzzle platforming, and easily shared massively-multiplayer worlds. The problem with writing about Minecraftbut's is that defining one thing based largely on how it's different from that other thing is a difficult and often unhelpful way to explain any thing. There's a comparison to be made... But it's much better just to see the thing in action for yourself.

With that in mind, I did a dreadfully unprofessional (it's been a loooong week, you guys) stream of Cubic Castles earlier today so I could share the experience with you. Check it out:

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Open Forum: Why Is Second Life Machinima Waning?

Visually, Second Life has never looked better or been more versatile than it's ever been before (assuming you have a high-end machine), but apart from an occasional gem like the airborne travelogue above (highlighted by Iris recently), I haven't seen much excellent Second Life machinima in many, many months. You go to the YouTube feed for Second Life-related videos, you get barraged by SL griefer videos, Linden Dollar scammer videos, the occasional Linden Lab-sponsored video, random SL footage videos, and other effluvia. But far as actual, formal, narrative machinima which takes full advantage of Second Life as a platform, selections are getting pretty sparse.

Don't get me wrong, there are exceptions:

Continue reading "Open Forum: Why Is Second Life Machinima Waning?"

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Iris' Most Anticipated Game Releases for Fall-Winter 2014

Assassin's Creed Unity Notre Dame
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Summer can be pretty slow when it comes to games... And just about everything else. It's hot, it's humid, it's sticky, it's sweaty, and it feels like there's just nothing new and exciting to play. So every now and then when the weather and the restlessness are equally unbearable, I like to close my eyes and think of all of the releases I'm anticipating this fall. Pretty much as soon as August ends I know I'll be on a roller coaster of releases straight through to Christmas, and I absolutely can't wait. Here are the ten games I'm looking forward to the most in what remains of 2014:

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

SL Go's Fitted Second Life Mesh Display Problem Fixed

Second Life Fitted Mesh Fix SL GO Onlive

The SL Go streaming service for using mobile devices and low end laptops with Second Life had a problem with displaying fitted mesh in SL (as Iris reported here), but SL Go creator Onlive has fixed the problem, Senior Product Manager Dennis Harper just told me. (He sent the before and after screencaps above as proof.)

Trouble was, when SL Go was being prepared for launch, as he explains, fitted mesh "wasn’t a big thing at first because [it] was a high-end, experimental feature only used by super-builders. But then in May 2014, Linden released 24 new newbie avatars that used the fitted mesh feature. All of a sudden, we saw these stretched out avatars everywhere. We needed to fix it."

How did they do that? "Warning: techie stuff ahead," Dennis warns, and then tells me:

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Iris Wants to Know: What Are Your Experiences with the DMCA Process in Second Life?

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

With the removal of the Wowmeh mesh body line from Second Life, there's been a lot of talk about whether or not the DMCA process is helpful in SL, or just a huge hindrance. In case you missed it, the Wowmeh body was a phenomenally successful mesh body that was the target of a DMCA takedown. Creator Baby Ghosn maintained that it was unjustified and malicious, but as she was unwilling to release her personal information to someone she claimed was purely a troll, she decided to revamp Wowmeh and replace any potentially dubious components. When she released the new body it was taken down again, allegedly for being a re-release of a taken down item. At that point Baby called it quits, saying that the process of supporting and defending Wowmeh was more than she'd expected and was willing to take on. 

While Hamlet has already explained his position that Second Life and the DMCA process are incompatible, I'm not so sure. That's why I want to hear from SL designers who've ever tangled with either end of a DMCA. Click here to fill out a super-short survey and share your experiences, and share it with fellow SL content creators! Next week, I'll report back with results and the most interesting feedback received.

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We've Been Keeping an Eye on Mr Godard's Hyper-Realistic Second Life Photography, and You Should Too

Mr Godard Shoe Planters
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Remember Mr Godard? I wrote about his work back in January, and was recent;y reminded that we're long overdue to check in on him. Mr Godard is behind some of the most realistic shots of Second Life that you'll ever see, courtesy of some clever pre- and post-processing magic. He's not shy about using subtle lighting or introducing film-grain effects to mask the typical tells of an SL snapshot. Second Life is often a little too bright, a little too smoothe, a little too polished, a little too focussed... But Godard, he's got a gift for returning that natural-feeling grit to his shots.

Be sure to check out Mr Godard's Flickr gallery here.

(Hat tip: Gogo)

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Advertise Your Second Life Content on New World Notes With Linden $ - Here's Typical Clickthrough Rates You'll Get

New World Notes Second Life blog pageviews

We're now accepting Media Partnerships with select companies, organizations, and individuals who want to promote their Second Life content on New World Notes, the oldest and largest blog with a primary focus on SL since 2006. (Or 2003, if you're counting its launch while I was contracting for Linden Lab.) Rates are negotiable, with discounts for smaller brands that Iris and I admire, and we do take Linden Dollars. If you'd like to discuss this opportunity, contact me by IMing me at Hamlet Au, or via e-mail to wjamesau at gmail dot com.

Second Life NWN ad results

Why New World Notes? According to SimilarWeb, NWN got 200,000 visits last month, with heavy traffic from SL-centric sites like Plurk and SLUniverse. Far as results, the screencap at left shows traffic from a recent three month Media Partnership, with about 400 clickthroughs from NWN to the Partners' SL Marketplace page, and about 100 to their web landing page. (Another campaign with another Partner got clickthroughs upwards of a 1000 in three months.)

A typical partnership looks like this:

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In San Francisco This Wednesday: Free Mixed Reality Show Merging Real Dance With Second Life's Famed SkyDancers

Second Life Mixed Reality performance

Click here to RSVP for an arts event happening this Wednesday early evening in San Francisco, merging a Second Life performance broadcast on a screen in the Little Boxes Theater (Dogpatch district of SF), with seasoned dancer Kathleen Moore on stage before it. The SL performers are Dancoyote Antonelli's acclaimed SkyDancers, who've been performing in SL for over 8 years. The free event starts at 5:30pm with free drinks and a curator/artist talk from DC Spensley (Dancoyote IRL) with the show itself kicking off at 6:30pm. Go here for all the details.

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Try Out This Shortcut for Super Cute Sims in The Sims 4 Create-A-Sim Demo

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

I'm going to share a clever trick for The Sims 4 that a friend pointed out to me this weekend, in case you're having any trouble creating the perfect sim. Although the game itself isn't out yet, last week the Create-a-Sim demo launched for everyone on Origin. It's the perfect opportunity to hone your character-customizing skills with the new tools and techniques the game will provide. They're fairly intuitive, but it's still pretty easy to find yourself in a position where you're not 100% satisfied with the sim in front of you. Something's just a little bit off, and you aren't quite sure how to fix it. That's where the trick comes in.

Here's how you can use The Sims 4's Genetics feature to fudge your way to a cuter sim face:

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Just How Big is Procedural Space Exploration Game No Man's Sky Going to Be? Well...

No-mans-sky
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

It would take a person five billion years of non-stop exploration to spend one second on each of the possible 18 quintillion plus planets in the upcoming game No Man's Sky. At least, that's what Hello Games co-founder Sean Murray told IGN at Gamescom last week as he explained their choice to generate the game's universe based on a 64-bit number rather than 32-bit. 

That kind of scale seems jaw-dropping, but even more so when you compare it to something a little more familiar. For example, Second Life sims...

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Top Seven New World Notes Posts Last Week

Robin Williams Roleplay Gamer

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Friday, August 15, 2014

This Month Play a Japanese Horror Game in Second Life

Japanese horror game in SL

This month there's a Japanese horror game in Second Life, and even the screenshots creep the crap out of me. You can click to start playing Kagami in SL here, visit the official web page here, and as a great place to learn more, read this blog about the game from Quan Lavender (originator of those images what creeped me). The premise is pretty fascinating:

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Life is Strange: The Developers of Remember Me Are Back With a Game About Time Travelling Teenagers

Life-is-strange-kitchen_1920
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

For me, one of the most exciting pieces of news out of European game industry conference Gamescom this week has been the next project from DONTNOD Entertainment, the team behind Remember Me. Life is Strange is being pitched as a story about teenage girls, relationships, and time travel, and here's why I can't wait to get my hands on it:

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Here's How the Developer of Gunpoint Confronted a So-Called Ripoff of His Popular Infiltration Game

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

Tom Francis is a game journalist turned indie developer who evidently has a solid sense of humor. Last year he released Gunpoint, a highly acclaimed 2D game about stealth, confrontation and office-building infiltration. This year, Francis caught wind of a game named Ronin that looked suspiciously similar to his own, and whose creator brazenly referred to it as a "Gunpoint ripoff". So Francis did what anyone would do: He recorded a video of himself playing Ronin because, in his words, "it's really fucking cool."

Francis is quick to point out in his blog post on the subject (which bears the slightly deceptive title "It's Time I Did Something about This 'Gunpoint Ripoff'") that Ronin isn't actually ripping off Gunpoint at all. The inspiration there is clear, but as far as Francis is concerned Ronin is a game that stands on its own, and Gunpoint was designed to inspire in the first place. He writes:

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Acclaimed Second Life Creator Alina Lyvette Describes Her First Life in Putin's Russia

Alina Lyvette in Russia Second Life

When she's not updating her popular Lumiya Second Life viewer for mobile, or enjoying life below the virtual sea as a mermaid avatar, Alina Lyvette contends with a fairly grim real life lived as an LGBT person in Putin's Russia. She recently shared her experiences there with me, and with Russia so much in the news of late, it's important I share her insights here too:

"How does it feel here?" Alina begins. "Guess it's telling enough to say that every morning I'm scanning the local news to find out whether Mr. Putin has started the war or not... yet. Maybe the best word to describe the overall feeling there is 'uncertainty'. Things are unraveling at a frightening pace. Now, it's year 2014 and we have the new legislation (passed unanimously, of course) which introduces jail terms for publicly expressing discontent with Putin's policies, and the ban on food imports... in a country which imports approximately half of its food products, and on, and on. Politically, the local opposition is generally silent - which is not really surprising, given the fact that opposition leaders are either behind the bars or has fled the country. We had one relatively independent news channel (the Rain TV) which is now banned from broadcasting over cable or satellites.. and of course, they were never allowed to broadcast over the air - which is how the absolute majority of population receives the signal.

"Putin's brainwashing machine is going full steam ahead - with all the usual tools which would make Dr. Goebbels happy, like using fake imagery and staged video in the news, thoroughly mixed with outright lies and hysteria - unsurprisingly, leading to the skyrocketing figures of Mr. Putin's ratings (86% last time if I'm not mistaken, and I'm rather surprised that it's not 99%. From these figures, one can easily derive that 14% of the local population doesn't watch TV).

"One good side-effect of this, though," she continues. "is that LGBT bashing is not the mainstream topic anymore (and, unsurprisingly again, as soon as the propaganda machine has stopped to stir up the topic, the general public entirely stopped being concerned about it. My favorite local club is open again.

"Interestingly, speaking about economics, things are not too bad, compared to what could be expected. Obviously food prices are on the rise as well as unemployment, but nothing overly dramatic so far. Local news say that the market for luxury cars has fell down 22% from the previous year... who cares?  As long as milk goes for about $1 per liter, life is good. Of course it was half that only a year ago, but... it's still cheap.

"In the other developments... hm, our authorities (should I put this word in quotes?) recently decided to ban public Wi-Fi. Well, not exactly... they've introduced a requirement of establishing user's identity when providing public Wi-Fi services, which in practice means a ban. Well, ok, 3G works just as well for me.

"And oh, something that didn't make the news... a few days ago, there was an announcement of upcoming 'emergency' President's address to the nation, which magically disappeared from the news after a couple of hours, and on the next day, we've been enlightened to learn that Mr. Putin has quietly fired top 18 officers of what is our local counterpart of FBI - obviously sparking rumors about a failed coup attempt. One goes figuring...

"So, life is interesting, and I sincerely hope that this insanity will come to an end before something dreadful happens. Of course, me being a mere mortal, but I sincerely agree with Angela Merkel's assessment of Mr. Putin when, after a round of talks, she has been quoted as saying that 'he appears to live in his own imaginary world.'

In this climate it might seem strange to spend so much time working on a Second Life viewer for Android devices, but for Alina, doing so is a kind of sanctuary:

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80 Days Delivers the Smart Steampunk iOS Travel Sim You Never Knew You Wanted

80 Days (1)Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Transit. That's when I typically bring my phone up for gaming. I'll flit between email, Twitter and a short gasp of play like Threes if it's a jaunt to the mall, something more substantial if I'm expecting to be out for a while. It's mostly a means of distraction while I'm away from the more rooted experience of gaming at my desk. With that in mind, the irony that Jules Verne inspired iOS game 80 Days held my attention while I was entirely stationary isn't lost on me.

From the gaslit streets of London to clear skies over Cairo, carried by the groaning legs of the ambulatory marvel of Agra or a boat permeated by the scent of overripe bananas, the places you go and the ways you get there are only ever half the story...

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Despite Little Growth in Bitcoin Usage, Leading VC Marc Andreessen Still Bullish on Virtual Currency

Bitcoin daily transactions

Last January I had an interesting conversation with web browser pioneer and leading venture capitalist Marc Andreessen after he wrote a New York Times essay on why Bitcoin is so important to the future of the Internet. He was bullish despite little growth in actual usage of Bitcoin, and since then, usage still remains low. (It's grown slightly in recent weeks, as this chart captured at left shows, but is still below its peak transaction rate in January.) This despite the fact that media attention and investment in Bitcoin projects has continued to be pretty active, with Bitcoin ATM machines appearing around the world (with the latest one just announced), top retailers like Dell supporting Bitcoin, and even Hollywood nail salons accepting the virtual currency as payment. Despite all this surface activity, Bitcoin is still regularly used as money only about as much as the Seychellois rupee, official currency of the Republic of Seychelles, off the coast of East Africa (population: 84,000).

All that in mind, I wondered if the continued slow growth of Bitcoin usage had made Andreessen less bullish on its future. I put that question to him on Twitter, and this conversation followed:

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A Second Life Public Service Announcement: Here's Why Free L$ Cheats Don't Work

Second Life SL Free L Money Hack
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

When I go on YouTube to search for the latest and greatest Second Life machinima, there are three types of videos that never fail to make up the majority of the results: SL birthing videos (not my thing, but no judgement), SL griefing videos (apparently it's still 2009), and SL "money hacks". Every day a new SECOND LIFE CHEAT INFINITE MONEY!!!! video pops up, and I'm sure it's not because no one is falling for it. Someone has to be watching these, downloading the shady programs linked in the description, and trying to use them.

I'm writing this for those people, so listen up. It is absolutely not possible to cheat your way to free L$ like you can in most other games, and here's why:

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How GTA is Like Barbie: NWN's Janine "Iris" Hawkins Explodes Game Stereotypes in Her 1st Paste Magazine Post!

Iris Janine Hawkins GTA as a Barbie Game

"How Grand Theft Auto is Like Barbie" is a new post for the prestigious culture/style site Paste Magazine, and I'm very proud to announce it's by New World Notes' longtime senior writer Janine "Iris" Hawkins, who's been covering virtual world/gaming topics here since 2006. I often say Janine is destined for great things in game writing, and this new article for Paste, read by millions every month, is a great milestone in that direction. So if you're a fan of Iris' writing, please consider reading and sharing the post on Twitter and beyond.

The post itself is pretty interesting whether or not you're a fan of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, because as Iris often does here, she explodes the stereotype that virtual fashion games are "just for girls". By contrast, the GTA games, which are very much targeted at the gamer dude demographic, have a lot of virtual fashion too, with options ever increasing from sequel to sequel:

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Finally, Anyone Can Access The Sims 4 Create-A-Sim Demo

Sims 4 CAS Demo  (13)
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

The Sims 4 Create-A-Sim Demo, released one month ago to select accounts on EA's digital distribution plaform Origin, is now finally available to everyone. The demo offers players a peek at character creation and customization tools in The Sims 4, and allows them to share and browse created sims online. Currently players can only create young adult sims, and clothing options appear to be limited compared to the full version used in videos and press material. Even so, it's a useful way to get a feel for the new customization systems that will be offered when the game is released this September.

Here's how to pick up the demo for yourself:

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RIP Robin Williams, Roleplay Gamer

I distinctly remember there was a late night talk show where the late, beloved Robin Williams enthused about playing an avatar in Second Life, but until Google (or a helpful reader!) can cough it up, this lovely video will suffice:

Robin Williams was a gamer, and quite prominently, a roleplay gamer, lover of the Zelda series (after which he named his daughter), but also Wizardry and the tabletop Dungeons & Dragons too. All this deep geekery of his is usually characterized as some quirky-silly hobby, but to me, it's clear it was far more than that to him: Rather, the thing in Robin Williams that drew him to roleplay gaming is the same aspect of his nature that made him so beloved. Listen:

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Maybe the Killer App for Virtual Reality is Actually Reality

VR HMD for live sports

Regular reader Eza made a very good point in last week's post about mass market adoption of virtual reality head-mounted displays (or HMDS):

As Arcadia points out, HMDs will have use cases outside of virtual reality. As a sports fan, I got excited about the future of the Rift when Zuckerberg mentioned possibilities like virtual attendance of football games. People like me already pay for premium sport channels and online streaming services for games that aren't local. If I could put on an Oculus Rift and my headphones and suddenly a 3D camera or whatever lets me see and hear games all around the world as if I were in the stands that'd be very compelling. At least it'd be a slightly more interesting value proposition of what I'm already paying for. And that's all it needs to be.

For Ezra, this may be more compelling from a mass market sense than VR per se:

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Lindens Hate Her! This Designer's One Weird Trick for More Efficient SL Marketplace Listings

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

Second Life designers know just how dull and arduous it can be to list items on the marketplace, especially when you're listing items that come in several different colors or variations. Making sure that customers can easily navigate to the other items in the set via the Related Items panel is an easy way to ensure you get at least one (if not multiple) sales, but it can also be time consuming. The pop-up window will automatically close after one item is selected, meaning that for an item with 8 variations, you'll need to repeat the process 8 times... And then of course multiply by 8 again for each of the other listings. Exhausting.

Unless you're clever about it, as many merchants (including Maylee Oh) are...

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There's More Than Modding Behind This Incredible Skyrim Screenshot

Jay Faircloth Screenshot155520
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Every so often I like to check in on Jay Faircloth, my absolute favorite Skyrim screenshot artist -- and if you still hesitate to consider people who take game screenshots "artists" then you're clearly not familiar with his work. Faircloth, who also goes by Anaphiel in modding circles, is constantly tweaking his game to his own high standards (as he shared with NWN back in 2012) to the point that much of what he does is never released publicly. He retextures, remaps, remodels, and generally wrings every last drop of graphical potential out of the popular game. 

Even so, several of his latest pictures (including the one shown above) are as much the result of a happy accident as they are his own modding prowess. As he explained on Flickr:

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Top Eight New World Notes Posts from Last Week

High Fidelity Avatar singing Pixar

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