Monday, April 27, 2015
This is the Single Worst Sentence in Bethseda's Announcement Defending Paid Skyrim Mods
Today Bethesda posted a weak defense of its highly controversial (and much discussed) new policy to sell user-made Skyrim mods, which the company then hastily reversed in an update to the same post. Even with the reversal, however, the whole ridiculous imbroglio sets a horrible precedent for user-made content in open world games from major publishers, because this single line from the company is now part of that precedent. It is so misguided, so ignorant, so greedy in the short term at the expense of long-term benefit, it needs to be laid out and shot full of arrows to the knee.
It came out in regard to Bethesda and Valve taking 75% of user-made mod sales to the mod developer's pitiful 25% cut:
The percentage conversation is about assigning value in a business relationship. How do we value an open IP license? The active player base and built in audience? The extra years making the game open and developing tools? The original game that gets modded? Even now, at 25% and early sales data, we’re looking at some modders making more money than the studio members whose content is being edited.
Emphasis mine, because the utter WTF-nesss of this line bears emphasis. Because it suggests that Bethesda looked at its sales data, noticed the runaway financial success of its most talented, dedicated grassroots developer fans... and decided that was a bad thing.
I'm not even finished with how bad this is:
New on Steam: Kitty Powers' Matchmaker Takes Dating Sims to a Whole New Level
The heartstopping Kitty Powers has just made her glamorous debut on Steam, launching a Windows and Mac version of the popular Kitty Powers' Matchmaker for Android and iOS devices.
I reviewed the mobile version of Kitty Powers' Matchmaker here on NWN when it came out last fall. My favorite thing about it was (and continues to be) the follow-up letters you receive when some time has passed after a 'successful' match. I say 'successful' because these letters can reveal the cracks in any relationship; even if you completely aced that first date, fundamental incompatibilities between your newly minted couple are a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode. When it comes to games about dating and romance, this kind of mechanic is pathetically uncommon. The genre is plagued by the "Kindness Coins" approach, where doing and saying the right things almost invariably guarantees a happy ending. That's as unrealistic as it is boring, which is what makes Kitty Powers' Matchmaker such a breath of fresh air in comparison.
Kitty Powers' Matchmaker is 25% off on Steam until Wednesday, but it's a steal even at its regular $9.99 price tag.
Top Four New World Notes Posts from Last Week
- The Steam Workshop's New Paid Skyrim Mods Aren't the End of the World, I Promise
- Should MMOs & Virtual Worlds Use Amazon AppStream? A Pioneering Developer Weighs the Pros & Cons
- Bitcoin Still Used Less Than Linden Dollars (Despite Years of Hype & $400 Million+ VC Funding)
- Viral App MyIdol is Good for a Laugh, Even if it Won't Earn a Permanent Place on Your Phone or Tablet
Friday, April 24, 2015
The Steam Workshop's New Paid Skyrim Mods Aren't the End of the World, I Promise
Yesterday Steam announced a brand new system that will allow modders to sell their content on the Steam Workshop, starting with one of the most actively modded games out there, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
Since that initial announcement people have been, to be perfectly frank, losing their shit. They've been losing their shit on the Steam forums, they've been losing their shit on Twitter, they've been losing their shit on Reddit... Phrases like "modding is dead", "this will kill mods" and "it's the beginning of the end for modding" are being bandied about even more frequently than they are when some ill-advised developer/publisher starts sending modders Cease and Desists -- and that's saying something. But this isn't the end of the world or the death of the scene, I promise. It's just a change, and like anything else it has its pros and cons.
As someone who ostensibly got her start writing about games by reviewing what amounts to paid, user-created mods, let me try to assuage some of the fears and concerns you may have about this new aspect of the Steam Workshop... And maybe plant a few new ones in their place.
Visit This Weekend in Second Life: Cica Ghost's Lovely, Alien "Balloons"
This is a dreamy SL machinima by Jackson Redstar depicting an even dreamier Second Life installation:
It's "Balloons", a new Second Life installation by acclaimed metaverse artist Cica Ghost, featuring faceless aliens -- or humans alienated from themselves? -- seeking flight above flowers and a twisted cityscape. To visit, copy/paste this SLurl into the viewer of your choice:
Oculus Rift Commercial Launch Probably Not in 2015
Reading the tea leafs of Facebook's latest earnings call, Christian Nutt of Gamasutra concludes it's likely the mass market rift of Oculus Rift is not happening this year. Mark Zuckerberg's specific words are:
So we have not announced any specific plans for shipment volumes in 2015 related to Oculus. I just note that Oculus is very much in the development stage, so it's early to be talking about large shipment volumes, and our expense guidance reflects any volumes that we might do in 2015.
Which I'd interpret to mean it's likely my prediction from January is going to bear out:
Thursday, April 23, 2015
Should MMOs & Virtual Worlds Use Amazon AppStream? A Pioneering Developer Weighs the Pros & Cons
Can Amazon AppStream effectively replace OnLive's SL Go? There was a lot of talk around that question recently, and I put it to Cristina Videira Lopes (aka Diva Canto), a Xerox PARC alum who's now an ICS professor at UC Irvine and a longtime innovator in virtual worlds. She deferred on whether AppStream was right to stream Second Life in particular, preferring to talk about using AppStream for commercial applications of virtual environments. (Which she uses, as it happens, for her OpenSim-based world.)
Short version? The main obstacle is cost: At the moment, AppStream costs 83 cents an hour per user, so much more expensive than SL Go. So AppStream is probably not a good fit for extended use -- but appropriate for virtual world use for shorter, business/real world/educational based applications.
Anyway, here's Diva's full breakdown:
What Do Diner Dash and Knitting Have in Common? Read About the Appeal of Time Management Games
Yesterday, Offworld's Laura Hudson posted a pretty fascinating article examining her personal fondness of time management games. These games tend to be based around unglamorous scenarios that she's lived out in reality (the life of the harried waitress, for example) so their appeal to her might be a bit surprising. In her own words, "Why did I want to play intentionally stressful games that simulated the exact work experiences where I'd once felt so underpaid and undervalued? And why the hell did playing them make me feel so relaxed?"
Hudson's answer to that question not only provides insight into the widespread appeal of the "____ Dash" time management genre, but reminded me of my own profound fondness for a similar kind of play...
SL Flickr Stream of the Day: katat0nik's Creepy Cool Kawaii
I kept trying to come up with a way to describe the SL Flickr stream of katat0nik, and I finally landed on "creepy cool Kawaii". Because: Well to start, just look at this adorable quartet carrying adorably deadly spiked maces and morning stars. (Click to embiggenate here.) And there is much more on the stream to fit that theme, like this deadly nurse, or this vision of avatar taxidermy. There's seriously dozens of beautifully and eerily presented SL images I'd love just as much to feature as any of these, so just go to katat0nik's stream and start perusing already.
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Bitcoin Still Used Less Than Linden Dollars (Despite Years of Hype & $400 Million+ VC Funding)
At a recent high tech conference (I forget which one, so let's just say SXSW), the topic of Bitcoin came up, with a very young developer enthusing to me how it was going to be The Next Big thing. I pointed out (as I often do) that Bitcoin still lacks the key thing a currency needs to be a currency -- that is to say, a mass group of people regularly using it to buy, you know, stuff.
But my new friend stood his ground. "Transactions have been growing like crazy since last year," he insisted, "they're over 100,000 a day now." I checked Bitcoin's daily transaction info, and that's indeed the case: Over 100K transactions a day, almost double what it was in the Summer of last year. Which is definitely solid growth of some kind, I'll give him that.
But here's the thing, and it bears emphasis: At 100K transactions a day, Bitcoin is still less used than Linden Dollars.
I mean, just look at the data:
According to Linden Lab stats, Second Life has about 1 million monthly users, and about 125K+ hardcore users (i.e. in SL over an hour a day). Insiders tell me about 400,000 users regularly spend Linden Dollars. So with all that activity in mind, it's safe to estimate 100K Linden Dollar individual users a day. (Conducting a lot more total transactions.)
Contrast with Bitcoin:
Viral App MyIdol is Good for a Laugh, Even if it Won't Earn a Permanent Place on Your Phone or Tablet
The modern experience of watching something go viral is pretty bizarre. Maybe it starts with a retweet that trickles down to you from friends of friends, then another, and another, until it feels like everyone is in on this conversation and naturally you want in too.
That's how I ended up downloading 小偶 - 我的3D萌偶 (a.k.a. MyIdol), a free Chinese app from a developer called Huanshi that sticks your photo on a bobbleheaded avatar so you can dress them up, take pictures and record video of them performing a variety of pre-made routines. It's exploded in popularity over the past few days, to the point that the developers are working on an English quick-start guide to help the influx of new users until they're able to release a full English version of the app itself. At the moment, the guide link just leads to a page that says "Guide for non-Chinese users is coming soon. Please wait for a few hours," which should give you an impression of just how sudden this has been.
After seeing video after video popping into my feed, I eventually cracked. I downloaded it to my iPhone, loaded it up, muscled my way through the interface and made this:
I'm Surprised There's So Much Ripping Drama Around Second Life Car Brands Except I'm Totally Not
I should have known when I put up a quick little and (I thought) fun post last week about top Second Life car brands, the subsequent comment thread would largely devolve into accusations and counter-accusations of this or that brand using ripped content. (Which has been locked down for that very reason.) No doubt there's a fair amount of ripping going on in Second Life's automotive market, but as with the SL fashion industry (where similar allegations run rampant), these particular claims are made without any evidence. (And even if they had, persuasive evidence is often difficult to come by.) The equation runs ever thus:
Real money + virtual marketplace x pseudonyms = Drama!
At least one of the accusers came along and discovered something great about SL car culture -- and something not so great:
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
I Visit A Spooky Second Life Town Called Calico
Kawanishi Yana up and found a spooky Second Life town called Calico:
Ms. Yana caught the creepiness so well, I wanted to visit it for myself first-hand... so I did:
Catch This Second Life Designer's Lunch Break Let's Plays (Live Right Now!)
Second Life designer Damien Fate is a busy guy. Between raising a family and developing regular content for the multiple virtual fashion brands under his name (FATEwear, FATEplay, and FATEstep to name a few) it's surprising that he has much time for anything else. But, like a lot of Second Life users, Damien loves playing games, and lately he's been making the most out of his lunch breaks by streaming them and doing Let's Play videos that just about anyone can enjoy.
In addition to regular Minecraft interludes with his son, Damien's also been sampling an assortment of other games. Yesterday he took a look at Jazzpunk, an absurdly fun (or just plain absurd) indie game that I wrote about here last year. He's also recently played the popular platform puzzler Thomas was Alone, as well as Double Fine's Matryoshka-based adventure game Stacking.
If you're quick you can catch Damien streaming more Jazzpunk right now, live on his Twitch channel. Otherwise you can swing by his YouTube to catch the archives. He updates YouTube very promptly and keeps everything tidily sorted in playlists, so no it's not the end of the world if you can't align your lunch break with his.
This Real World Church Seems Like It's from the Metaverse
When I first saw photos of this church scroll across my Facebook feed from a friend, I first assumed it was from Second Life. But no: It's very real, it's in Belgium, and it's very solid. Though I do suspect Gijs Van Vaerenbergh has been in the metaverse once or twice:
"This ‘church’ consists of 30 tons of steel and 2000 columns, and is built on a fundament of armed concrete. Through the use of horizontal plates, the concept of the traditional church is transformed into a transparent object of art."
Monday, April 20, 2015
4/20 Flashback: One of Second Life's Greatest Early Inventions Was a Virtual "Hippie Tamagotchi" Pot Plant
As we mark 4/20 day, let us look back at a milestone in Second Life creativity, from back in 2006: The virtual cannabis plant of Dave and Robbie Dingo, which grew when you watered it, turned brown when you didn't, and sent you messages when it was ignored:
"Well, we toyed with the idea of it dying. But in the end, [we] opted for it not growing." Nothing worse than forgetting to log into SL for awhile, and coming home to a withered pot plant. But you can give your cannabis a name, and like a hippie tamagotchi, when it's running low on water, your plant will send you an urgent Instant Message, to remind you to start praying.
I called my own plant Kona Gold, and it still stands 25 feet tall in my Second Life office in Waterhead. Watering it is still one of my favorite activities in SL: You click and select Water from the menu, which launches a "Pray for Rain" animation on your avatar:
... and moments after you pray, dark clouds form, thunder rumbles, and...:
Say Cheese: Learn How to Make the Perfect Smiling SL Avatar Shape With This Video Tutorial
Here's a handy video tutorial for those of you who like taking shots of your Second Life avatar with anything but the standard sombre expression on their face. Hot off the YouTube presses (they have those, right?) SL fashion and lifestyle blogger Alicia Chenaux walks you through creating the perfect "Smile Shape", which is to say a variation of your regular shape specifically designed to look more natural when using a smiling facial animation.
If you're unfamiliar with Second Life's facial expression morphs or the specific way that "smiling" in SL tends to make an avatar's eyes completely vanish, then a Smile Shape might seem unnecessary to you. To avatar photographers including myself who (as Alicia points out) have been stuck blending screenshots of smiling and non-smiling avatar faces together to get something that looks even half-decent, this tutorial is a stroke of brilliance. One of the reasons that mesh heads have becomes so popular with photographers is for their expressions -- not having to deal with the vanilla facial morphs that tend to squish and scrunch an avatar's features has given them a lot more freedom. Even so, there's no replacing your avatar's true face, and anything that can be done to make it more expressive without detracting from its overall... Unscrunchedness... Is helpful.
Top Seven New World Notes Posts from Last Week!
- Bright Canopy Startup Promises Second Life Streaming So Great, "You Won't Miss SL Go"
- High Fidelity Enters Open Alpha With Many Updates, Including Oculus Setup & Marketplace
- Comedian Who Got His Start Performing Live in Second Life from Pakistan Gets His Own Show on the BBC
- Second Life Fashion Designer's Glorious Rant About Rude and Entitled Customers is a Must-Read
- What Are the Top Car Brands in Second Life? One Hardcore Enthusiast Recommends These Five
- How a Young Novice With No Game Industry Experience Created a Hit MMO in Second Life
- Actual Man Actually Arrested for Alleged Virtual Land Scam
Friday, April 17, 2015
Jedi Permadeath: The Star Wars MMO That Could Have Been
In honor of the geekishly glorious new Star Wars trailer, here's a story of the Star Wars MMO that very likely could have been, and almost surely would have been seriously cool - as related by game designer Raph Koster, who led the design of Star Wars Galaxies, the ill-fated MMO which launched in 2003 and which was way ahead of its time. (And which I interviewed Raph about for Salon at the start of my writing career.) Its chief challenge was trying to create a diverse world where every player wanted to be a goddamn Jedi, even though the MMO was set at a period in the Star Wars narrative history where Jedis were all supposed to be underground. Raph had a left field suggestion that sadly wasn't implemented, but in this era of permadeath popularity (think DayZ and so on), was again, ahead of its time:
Every player would have a special character slot available to them, distinct and parallel from their regular character. This character would be locked into one profession, one class: Jedi. They’d start out weak as a kitten though, untrained in combat or anything, and with barely any Force abilities at all. Luke without womprat-shooting experience maybe... So this pathetic Force Sensitive character would be able to gain better Force powers by earning Force XP by using the Force. They could also go off and learn other skills. But either way: if they died, that was it. They were dead. Reroll. Start over. It was that dreaded word: permadeath.
Now here's where it gets really cool:
Actual Man Actually Arrested for Alleged Virtual Land Scam
If a scammer sells a virtual forest, do the locking handcuffs make a sound? As it turns out, yes. This announced this week by the Indiana Secretary of State:
An investigation by Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson’s Prosecution Assistance Unit led to the arrest of Josh Bills of Pennsylvania for allegedly selling virtual land investments in an online game called Second Life. Bills was arrested in Pennsylvania over the weekend to face criminal charges in Morgan County.“Real estate schemes are some of the most common forms of investment fraud that come across my desk, but this is the first time we’ve seen a virtual land scam,” said Secretary Lawson. “I hope this case serves as a reminder to check with my office to ensure the investment is registered before investing... The investigation began when the Secretary of State’s office received a complaint about Bills. In the complaint, it stated that a loan agreement was made with Bills for $53,500 for the purposes of expanding his online real estate company. Bills was to use the money to purchase land that he would manage through his company, within the game Second Life, in exchange for a promissory note that would pay $10,000 for the investment within 24 months.
Much like the man recently imprisoned for not reporting his Second Life income to the IRS, it looks like the clincher here was not the virtual land scam per se, but doing so while running afoul of registration regulations:
Check it Out This Weekend: A Second Life Roleplay Sim Inspired by BioWare's Dragon Age Series
Speaking of the Second Life RPG scene, there's a brand new roleplay sim open that has me seriously tempted to bust out my best light and/or medium armor pieces and join in. December Larkham and a group of friends have recently opened up a Second Life roleplaying sim based around Redcliffe Village, a recurring location in the Dragon Age series.
What's Redcliffe Village? Here's a quick refresher to get you up to speed, whether you've played the games or not:
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Inside Remnants of the Earth: How a Young Novice With No Game Industry Experience Created a Hit MMO in Second Life
“Melna Milos” is the avatar name of the 26 year old lead creator of Remnants of Earth, a Second Life-based mini-MMO recently featured on Kotaku, other top game media outlets (and first here, on New World Notes). The surprising thing is that Melna has no prior game industry experience, he tells me, and doesn’t even know how to script.
“RoE has been a dream reached for me," says Melna. "Ever since I picked up my first MMO, Ragnarok Online, back in the early 2000's, I grew obsessed with creating my own RPG or MMO. I never thought anyone would be interested in my dumb ideas in a million years.”
Now running for over a year, Remnants already had a fan base before Kotaku and other sites picked it up -- since that coverage, however, the userbase has gone way up:
“We had about 1400+ players registered in the main group before the [coverage],” he tells me. Afterward, “It jumped to about 1700+ in 4 days…. [T]this rise in traffic has been crazy, but nothing we can't handle!” New players piled into Second Life, asking questions about how to play what’s basically a fairly complicated RPG tabletop game which takes place in a virtual world. Fortunately, his existing players have helped welcome them: “They even made a newbie start guide for the new faces and stood in the [entrance] helping them all. I am very proud of my community for being so open and helpful.” [Update: Get that guide here.]
This is the story of Remants of Earth: How Melna and his team created it, how it’s played, and his future plans. Read on!
Iris Wants to Know: Ever Put Your Virtual Life on Hiatus?
We've all thought about it. Whether you're a dedicated Second Life user or your online connections lie in social media or even along your guildies, sometimes you can help but think about taking a break. And some of us even manage to do so successfully, slipping free of digital commitments for a month or two and coming back bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. It's a particularly common thought to have around this time of year, too. Spending a bitter winter cooped up with your screens can sure make you yearn for anything but that.
Not all of us have actually done it, though, no matter how often we consider it. I've thought about it as much as anyone, but at the end of the day my own hands are somewhat tied -- and that's why I want to hear from you.
What Are the Top Car Brands in Second Life? One Hardcore Enthusiast Recommends These Five
I was recently talking with London Callin, a longtime enthusiast of Second Life vehicles, and asked her what brands were the best. She recommended these five as the very best:
- Wheel Arch Angels
- Potato Chips
- McCarty Motorworks
- ST4NCED (pictured above right)
- Summer Days (pictured above left)
Interesting that only one of her top five has a brand name that sounds like actual car brand. She also mentioned a couple stores with "some amazing accessories" for vehicles:
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Second Life Fashion Designer's Glorious Rant About Rude and Entitled Customers is a Must-Read
When you hear stories about just how awful people can be to customer service representatives on the phone or even face-to-face, it's not that surprising that in a largely anonymous virtual space things can get even more dehumanizing. It's not unheard of for a peeved customer to wish death on someone providing them with support for their virtual fashion or goods, or to viciously insult the store and its products, even when the CSR in question also happens to be the owner/designer themselves.
Long-time Second Life designer David W. Heather (a.k.a. Gianni Broda) had such an encounter recently, and it inspired him to go on an angry (but fair) rant on Facebook about customer entitlement in both physical and virtual spaces. Here's what he had to say:
Comedian Who Got His Start Performing Live in Second Life from Pakistan Gets His Own Show on the BBC
Seven years ago, a comedian named Sami Shah who lived in Pakistan used to perform live stand-up in various Second Life venues -- including (see above) the post-apocalyptic Wasteland, where he told jokes about the Taliban, terrorism, and other current events topics in the avatar of a chimpanzee, to an audience of robots, cyber-warriors, and other strange denizens. Since then, Sami left Pakistan (in part to escape death threats provoked by his pointed humor about religion), becoming a rising star in his new home of Australia. And last night, he made this awesome announcement on Twitter:
Be in the audience at my BBC Radio 4 show, "A Beginners Guide to Pakistan", 11/05: http://t.co/2CY9X80o0U— Sami Shah (@samishah) April 15, 2015
That's right: A man who got his start performing comedy as an avatar chimp in a futuristic hellscape in the metaverse now has his own radio show on the world's largest and most prestigious radio network. And yes, Sami credits his performances in Second Life as helping kickstart his comedy career. As he told me a couple years ago:
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
High Fidelity Enters Open Alpha With Many Updates, Including Oculus Setup & Marketplace
The High Fidelity website has a bunch of updates and new content in the wake of Philip Rosedale's new virtual world/VR platform launching in open Alpha a couple weeks ago -- including an introduction video featuring a fairly spooky-looking avatar:
Oculus Rift set-up is covered too:
Reddit's Largest Second Life Group Bans SL Griefing Videos
The moderators of /r/secondlife (which has really become a very active and interesting SL user group of late), recently announced a fairly controversial policy: No more Second Life trolling videos. Which, as I wrote last week, have probably become the main thing Second Life is most known for, among YouTube viewers. So no more "Esteban Winsmore" videos (Google him, if you like) on/secondlife. In making the announcement, moderator /zebragrrl made an interesting point which I also largely disagree with:
As a moderator, I want to tell you that I thought a lot about this. Esteban's videos are very funny. He's a talented comedian, with a great sense of comedic timing. As a long time SL user, I really do enjoy his unexpected altercations with people. He's basically doing Borat in SL.
I know where she's going with the Borat comparison, but personally I don't think any of the well-known griefers can hold a candle to Sacha Baron Cohen in full Borat mode at his best. But the comparison is a good one, because it helps us distinguish between griefing, and Borat-style comedy:
Second Life Answers: Like Yahoo Answers (Just With Way Less Trolling)
If you don't poke around the Second Life website much these days then you may not have noticed the Answers section, a place where the concerned and confused can go to have fellow users answer basic questions they may have. It's a bit like Yahoo Answers but with a lot less trolling. In fact the infinite, cheerful patience of the folks toiling away in SL Answers is kind of refreshing to behold.
Even some of the silliest questions you can imagine earn sincere and straight-faced responses. Questions like...
Monday, April 13, 2015
Bright Canopy Startup Promises Second Life Streaming So Great, "You Won't Miss SL Go"
Bright Canopy is the name of a brand new service in beta which offers streaming Second Life "straight to your device - Android, iOS, Chromebook, Mac, Linux, anywhere", promising that even though SL Go is gone, "You won't miss it."
That's a bold statement, but it's backed up by two Silicon Valley figures leading the project: Bill Glover, Founder of Bright Canopy, was a Senior Java Architect at Sun Microsystems (among many other impressive roles/companies), and Canopy is using technology from Frame, a widely-covered Valley startup which enables software to run from a browser, and counts giants like Adobe and Siemens as other clients.
Glover isn't just an established technologist, but a longtime Second Life user (avatar name: Chaos Priestman).
"The idea behind Bright Canopy is to make sure that anyone who wants to get into SL can do so on the hardware they have at a price they can afford," he tells me. "I think SL is wonderful, creative place and it has a lot more to give the world. I met my wife at the Blarney Stone in the Dublin sim. We've been married for almost seven years now. That's over 1000 SL years. I've met people there I never would have met otherwise, and seen prim hair that will scar me for life. Everyone should have that opportunity."
Now with Bright Canopy, everyone may get that chance. Here's a look at Glover in Second Life's Dublin sim, running Bright Canopy:
This Game of Thrones SL Cosplay Pic Wins the Crown
Game of Thrones avatar cosplay is fairly popular in Second Life, and now that the new season is here, likely to get more popular still, but this epic group pic by KaraLee Aeon, featuring all the GoT characters still alive as this season starts, wins the crown so far. (Not totally convinced by little Tyrion over there, but nice try.) Also see this version by billibobbi, with extra processing for the glory of Winterfell. KaraLee has a full list of cast and costume credits, with close-up details for Khaleesi.
This pic will actually be featured in full glory for a cover feature from Cultured, the Magazine, which is doing an in-depth report on SL-based Game of Thrones roleplay. (Editor in chief Cali Karsin just told me.) So keep a black watch for that.
Meantime, here's some other GoT/SL cosplay in SL to get you in the mood:
Grand Theft Auto V's PC Version Launches Today With Powerful New Video Editing and Staging Tools
Grand Theft Auto V's PC version unlocks on Steam in just a few hours, and up until last week that news wasn't really doing anything for me. Like a lot of people I played GTA V on a last-gen console back in 2013, so I wasn't exactly chomping at the bit for the PC release. Then I heard about Rockstar Editor, a suite of video editing and staging tools built in to the PC version. Now I'm... Reconsidering.
Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week!
- Could Linden Lab Replace SL Go With Another Service - Say LiquidSky, Leap Computing, or Amazon App Stream?
- Seeking to Uncover Grand Theft Auto V's Mysteries, Players Discover Virtual Memorial to a Second Life Pioneer
- Is Second Life Throttled by OptimumOnline/Cablevision?
- Hey Gaming Press: Second Life Users Have Always Built & Played MMOs in Second Life
Friday, April 10, 2015
Could Linden Lab Replace SL Go With Another Service - Say LiquidSky, Leap Computing, or Amazon App Stream? UPDATE: App Stream Already Used by OpenSim Grid!
I believe Second Life already uses Amazon's cloud services for some rendering functions, so this seems fairly plausible -- if Linden Lab is willing to gamble there's a large enough paying market for what would almost certainly a premium service. Then again, Jeff Bezos is an early investor in Linden Lab, so maybe he could cut them a discount. In an NWN comments Troy McConaghy believes LiquidSky or Leap Computing could also do the job, so let's take a look at those too:
Play Them This Weekend: A Boatload of Brand New (And Mostly Free) Visual Novels for Every Taste
NaNoRenO 2015, a month-long game jam devoted to the creation of visual novels and dating sims, wrapped up a little over a week ago. Now that it's over (and most of the late submissions have filtered onto itch.io) it's the perfect time to sit down and spend a weekend with some of the dozens of games that were made. Given the development time most of these games are short -- brief slices of what they'll be when they're fully completed, the perfect length to enjoy with a cup of tea and a cookie in hand. Just about every single one available is 'pay what you want', which for some that translates to 'free'. For me (and hopefully some of you) it's more like 'come back and pay if you enjoyed it'. Either way, it's a varied line-up of games to check out with a pretty low commitment.
If you're curious but not quite sure where to start, here are a few NaNoRenO 2015 games that are at the top of my own 'To Play' list this weekend:
Great SL/VR/MMO Brands: NWN Wants to Partner With You!
Interested in becoming a Media Partner with New World Notes, the oldest and largest blog with a primary focus on Second Life? We got 170,000 visits last month, according to Similar Web, and more key, we get our partners results: Here's the clickthrough rates to the Second Life Marketplace listing of a recent partner, after just 4 months.
Read on for more:
Thursday, April 09, 2015
Seeking to Uncover Grand Theft Auto V's Mysteries, Players Discover Virtual Memorial to a Second Life Pioneer
A few months ago I told you about Chris Edwards, the 3D artist who pioneered Second Life prim-based creativity, but tragically just died before turning 45. (But not before meeting the woman of his dreams, another 3D artist he met in SL.) There's now a touching coda to that, and it's the story of multiple virtual worlds and how they remember the people who mattered to them after they're gone. And it goes something like this:
In Grand Theft Auto V, there's a mountain called Chiliad which has a strange mystery that's confounded the player community, as Kotaku reported:
The Chiliad Mystery is the name given to the bizarre, unexplained discoverables seeded throughout GTA V. Ever since the first iteration of the game came out last year, a dedicated core of players on Reddit and fan sites has been scouring GTA V for clues and secrets that might tie the weirdness into some kind of logical sense. What's the weirdness exactly? Scattered all over Los Santos are drawings and writing focused on unidentified flying objects.
So the subreddit /ChiliadMystery was born, which is where players share their findings to uncover that mystery (something to do with UFOs, is the working theory). A series of clues led "viendetta" to stumble onto a clearing with a telescope and some park benches, near a graveyard. And there he noticed that on one bench, was a placard to the memory of Chris Edwards. And in this way, Chris became part of this mystery story these GTA V players were trying to solve.
I know this, because I noticed traffic coming to this blog from that subreddit, where "IAA33" cross-referenced the GTA V credits, did some Googling, and came to this conclusion:
Joining Second Life to Play Remnants of Earth? Here's Some Advice To Save You Time (& Money)
So MMO within an MMO, Remnants of Earth, looks pretty cool -- and considering the attention it's garnered lately from the gaming press (even though it's far from the first or only MMORPG experience to be had inside of Second Life) there are likely more than a few people possessing shiny new SL accounts, ready and raring to go.
But when they log in, they'll probably find that they're not in much of a state to participate in serious post-apocalyptic action. They'll have access to more starter gear than any other MMO will provide, but wearing any of it outside of Welcome Areas and other frequent newbie destinations is a quick and easy way to get ostracized. Roleplay and game communities in particular tend to expect above-average (and setting appropriate) avatar customization, so the items provided when someone start playing just won't cut it.
Thankfully it's not as hard to catch up as it used to be. Here are a few quick start tips to get new players Remnants-ready in no time:
Wearality SKY: Wide Perspective VR for Under $100
Wearality SKY: Limitless Virtual Reality is a new VR project on Kickstarter (is there any other kind?) claiming a smartphone-based VR experience with a very wide 150 degree field of view, and a retail cost of under $100. Done with military grade, fancy ass coke bottle lenses. Without a head-mounted setup, the "View Master" form factor is interesting, in that it makes sharing a VR experience much easier -- if much less immersive. But that might be the trick needed to make VR get big.
Wednesday, April 08, 2015
Is Second Life Throttled by OptimumOnline/Cablevision?
According to a YouTube creator called "OldSmeller" (yes, really) OptimumOnline/Cablevision in New Jersey where he's based is throttling his access to Second Life, and just posted this video to try and prove that case:
"The second you start playing Second Life," as he puts it, "they will throttle you, because they don't like that streaming data." This is a serious allegation, because if it's true, Cablevision is running afoul of the FCC's recently-announced open Internet orders, which forbid ISPs from discriminating against different types of Internet content. (Heavy streaming of interactive 3D graphics, in Second Life's case.)
However, let me immediately add that I've talked to several Second Life insiders, and there's much disagreement whether this video proves what it purports to prove:
We're Not Sure What to Think of This Bizarre Second Life Wrestling Match Machinima Channel
Nanakurata Nagy kicks ass -- a rather broad range of it, in fact. One week she has Andre the Giant in a headlock, the next she's delivering a series of punishing blows to Gomora, or fighting alongside Ultraman himself as her 100-foot tall alter-ego Ultra Nana. She's even fought (and completely demolished) two Mr. Bean's, Vlad Tepes, and the specific version of Dracula from the movie Van Helsing. In her latest machinima she actually takes on the viewer themselves. Sometimes Nana wins, sometimes Nana loses. Either way, the end result is a library of iincredibly unique wrestling machinima with a Super Sentai-inspired spin.
But I have a confession to make: I've been sitting on this novel channel for a while. Even though I've been so close to posting it on more than one occasion, I've thrown completed articles in the trash. And for good reason...
SL Flickr Stream of the Day: Canary Beck's "Last of Us" Second Life Cosplay
On the heels of Iris' post on Second Life screenshots inspired by popular video game franchises, here's Canary Beck's SL cosplay rendition of Ellie, from the acclaimed console game "The Last of Us":
Click to embiggify, then see Ellie closer-up, and also this emotive extreme close-up, "zombie apocalypse makes me so emo" pic. Canary Beck's general SL Flickr stream is also gorgeous, diverse fun.
I'd love to highlight other SL-based cosplay pics on Flickr -- seen any great ones lately? Please post in Comments!
This Could Be a Sneak Peak of Linden Lab's New Virtual World, Except It Probably Isn't
Via Andy Baio, a vision of virtual reality we should all embrace*:
*If you like muppets on acid, but then again, who doesn't?
Tuesday, April 07, 2015
Worlds Adrift, Open World Adventure With Airships, is the First Massive MMO Using the Improbable Engine
I recently wrote about Improbable, the new startup building an engine for truly massive virtual worlds, and here's the first game project running on it:
This is Worlds Adrift, billed as a vast and open world explored with friends on airships. Here's more on the multiplayer/open world aspects:
Hey Gaming Press: Second Life Users Have Always Built & Played MMOs in Second Life
My brief post last week about Remnants of Earth, a user-made MMO in Second Life, was picked up by Patricia Hernandez for Kotaku, which is super cool; even cooler, other gaming outlets are picking that post up as well.
Less cool is this: A lot of the coverage has an irksome "I can't believe there's an MMO in Second Life, who knew?!" tenor, as with this PC Gamer post, or this Rock Paper Shotgun post, which comes right out and says:
"In what is probably the most impressive creative project in Second Life since the giant penis sculptures of SL retail, a group of players have used the game’s building and scripting tools to create an in-game cyberpunk MMO."
... which is silly in several ways, but to just focus on one: Second Life has always had user-created MMOs within it. And Remnants, while impressive, is not even the first cyberpunk-themed MMO in SL by a long shot.
Seriously, always. First one I'm familiar with was built in 2003:
To play "Dark Life", a user-made game within a game, you purchase a backpack and basic weaponry from a store near the dungeon area. The backpack itself comes equipped with a fairly complex bloc of Linden Language Script, which tallies and displays traditional RPG elements of Hit Points, Experience Points, inventory, and so on, while it's worn. Once equipped, you're ready to go questing. - "Worlds Within Worlds", December 12, 2003
Ironically, I mentioned Dark Life in a 2006 post for... Kotaku.
To be fair, I can't entirely blame game journalists for missing the ubiquity of mini-MMOs in SL. For one thing, Linden Lab itself has done little to promote this community. (There's not even a category for MMOs in its official guide.) And even MMO-focused game journalists, generally speaking, don't spend much time researching MMOs they're not personally interested in.
So as a starter guide, here's a very abbreviated list of MMOs I or others have written about over the years (many of which are still active), which is only a fraction of the whole list:
Check Out These Second Life Screenshots Inspired by Popular Video Game Franchises
The Bare@Rose Flickr group is one of my absolute favorite Second Life fashion groups to peruse on Flickr, simply because the sheer variety of what they sell means that the images submitted to the group are all over the map. There are concept-heavy shots with severe looking models and contrast dialed up to 11, stills of cutesy anime cosplay avatars bounding through pastel fields, and everything in between. Imagine my delight when I took a peek earlier today and spotted not one but two video game-inspired snapshots at the top of the pile. And even though they're both situating Bare@Rose gear in familiar video game backdrops, they couldn't be more different.
Above is Serenity Semple's take on Monster Hunter, a series that generally involves players teaming up to take down massive monsters and harvest ingredients for crafting. It also often involves cooking meat to prepare for battle, though doing it in the middle of a fight is bad form. Serenity arranged shots of avatars alongside familiar MonHun UI elements and scenery, even using the perspective she would have while playing.
Then there's leptitbutton's take on Metal Gear Solid...
How to Protect Against Spammy Blog Comment Bots
If you've been reading NWN blog comments over the last couple days, you might have noticed the absence of a certain adorable comment bot that's been regularly targeting New World Notes for unknown reasons. So far so good, but I think we're in the clear -- thanks to advice from Ms. Pussycat Catnap, who recently passed along some extremely valuable tips on blocking comment bots and other random comment spammers:
Monday, April 06, 2015
Sony Likely Won't Save SL Go Despite User Petition - But Linden Lab Should Listen
SL Go fans have created this online petition begging Sony to save the Second Life streaming service from OnLive, which just sold its key assets and patents to the Japanese technology giant. However, it's highly unlikely Sony will revive SL Go, even if it wanted to -- especially after pulling the plug on the SL-lite Playstation Home. There's not a massive overlap between Playstation 3/4 owners and Second Life's core userbase, for one thing; for another, SL Go would have to have a market of hundreds of thousands of users, for a company as large as Sony to be interested. (And if SL Go had anything like that large a paying userbase already, Sony probably would have kept it running -- or offered to sell it to Linden Lab.)
That said, if you're a fan of SL Go, I'd say consider signing anyway. Because even if Sony doesn't care, Linden Lab should be following this petition closely, to see if it at least gets over, say, 10,000 signatures:
In "Let's Play" YouTube Era, Second Life Is a Top MMORPG -- I.E., A Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplay Griefer
Seen nearly 150,000 times, this is the one of the most watched Second Life machinimas of the last 30 days:
Yes, 6 minutes trolling SLers who are playing Second Life as a roleplaying game by a guy who plays Second Life as a griefing simulator. There are literally dozens of videos like these put on YouTube every week, and it's not difficult to understand why: In the era of PewDiePie and the massive Let's Play phenomenon on YouTube, Second Life is a reliable resource for juvenile clown comedy directed at people who, as this guy notes, "take this game far too seriously."