Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Testing: Is This Blog Back On?

If you can see this post please let me know. My blogging service Typepad has been experiencing downtimes since last weekend (it seems), which makes me very irked at them and very apologetic to you.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Former Linden Educator's Advice to Linden's Current CEO

John Pathfinder Lester in Jibe Virtual World

John Lester, formerly Linden Lab's virtual education evangelist, has some good advice for Ebbe Altberg, currently Linden Lab's CEO, who's reaching out to educators still interested in Second Life:

[I]t’s not just about collecting technical requirements and reading submitted feedback when you have the time. It’s about taking the time to actively investigate and participate in a community so you can cultivate its success and identify completely new market opportunities in the future.

Good advice. (And a good argument for Linden Lab hiring a virtual education evangelist.) On the other hand, I think Linden Lab should also spend more time reaching beyond educators already into SL/OpenSim -- such as all the folks using Minecraft as a teaching tool:

Continue reading "Former Linden Educator's Advice to Linden's Current CEO"

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Iris Wants to Know: What Are the Best Tricks in Your Second Life Snapshot Editing Toolbox?

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

A few months ago fashion maven and legal eagle Vaki Zenovka shared a work-in-progress shot on Plurk. It was a shading layer for a Second Life snapshot she was editing at the time, and it looked like a drawing in itself -- stark whites and blacks were layered like conte crayon on a grey sheet, which would then be overlayed on the original snapshot to give it significantly more oomph than it would have on its own. I typically spent more time fiddling with color balances than with hand-shading my pictures but ever since then, whenever I'm playing around with my own SL snaps in Photoshop, I can see Vaki's WIP shading layer hovering in my mind, pushing me to add just a little more highlight here, a little more shadow there...

Everyone has their tips and tricks, and the more I think about Vaki's the more I want to know everyone else's, too. Me? My go-to Photoshop move is to take the sharpening tool to the fine details of the face. With a very light touch, I like to sharpen the brows, the lips, and most important of all the shine in the eyes. Sharpening these little details, as long as you're careful not to overdo it, can really make your avatar's face pop. It works just as well for details on your outfit, too. Just remember that this technique can be a little misleading to the viewer, making them think textures are much crisper than they are, so you absolutely, positively should not use it on pictures intended for reviews.

What clever little methods have you picked up along the way that make your pictures stand out from the crowd? Share your favorite snapshot-editing techniques in the comments below!

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

danah boyd on the VR Community's Response to Her Research Suggesting VR May Make Most Women Sick

Danah boyd VR sexism update

It's been a few weeks since acclaimed technology academic danah boyd published her essential essay for Quartz on the possible problems virtual reality technology may cause women -- but as I noted recently, so far there seems to be little public response from the VR community about it. (Very roughly summarized, her thesis is this: Based on danah's initial research in virtual reality, there seems to be a biological reason why many or most women get nauseous while using VR.) So I checked directly with danah, to see what kind of replies she's gotten since then:

"I don't know the VR landscape but I got lots of emails from folks working in the space, curious to know more or sharing related research," she tells me. "I asked some of them to comment on my blog post but not all did." Unfortunately she hasn't been contacted by anyone at Oculus Rift, but notes, "that's not surprising because companies always go quiet when they're in the process of an acquisition."

What kind of research is she hoping to see?

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Watch It This Long Weekend: GDC Vault Now Freely Offering Informative (and Inspirational) Content from GDC 2014

GDC Vault Michelle Clough
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

The long weekend just ahead of many of us is a great opportunity to catch up on shows we may have missed, to indulge hobbies we may be neglecting, and of course to spend time with family and friends. But if you're interesting in all the clockwork behind gaming and game culture you may want to use your free time to dive head first into the GDC Vault, where footage and resources from many of the panels from this year's GDC are now freely accessible.

The #1ReasonToBe panel headlined by Brenda Romero and Leigh Alexander is considered one of the must-see panels from the 2014 section of the Vault, but there's loads more of interest too. You can learn about empathy games; you can learn about male character sexualization; you can learn about interpreting feedback without compromising your vision; you learn how to survive internet negativity... You can even learn why Gone Home is a game and not, as some people like to call it, a "walking simulator".

There are four pages of media in the 2014 Vault to sift through, including slides and audio, covering everything from broader social topics to nitty-gritty technical analysis. Check it all out for yourself here.

Continue reading "Watch It This Long Weekend: GDC Vault Now Freely Offering Informative (and Inspirational) Content from GDC 2014"

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Garry's Mod 3D Sandbox Has Nearly 5M Players on Steam!

Ars Technica has a mammoth report on Steam, Valve's PC game distribution platform which boasts 75 million active users and represents the majority of the PC game market (70 to 75 percent in the US), and it contains some very interesting charts on the service's most popular games. Here's one:

Garrys Mod Sandbox Game 5 million users

Most notable to NWN readers is Garry's Mod, a very popular sandbox game platform for user-generated content running on Valve's physics engine, which also allows multiplayer via hosted servers. It's one of the most popular games on Valve, with nearly 5 million players, and it shows the wisdom of a strategy laid out by former Linden Lab CEO Rod Humble in 2012:

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Second Life Cosmetics Makers Gear Up for Spring With Colorful Virtual Manicures

Action Cosmetic Fair Nail Appliers
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Something about spring just makes me want to paint my nails. Okay, so I don't exactly stop painting them in the winter, but when you have to worry less about heavy gloves and dry cuticles and all that shovelling and scraping, it's much easier to enjoy a fresh coat or two of polish for more than a day at a time. Even with winter casting about in its death throes this week, it's hard not to get inspired by the vivid spring colors popping up in time for Easter.

Evidently quite a few Second Life designers are feeling inspired by impending May flowers too, as the latest round of Cosmetic Fair (open until April 30th [SLURL]) is packed with colorful manicures, ready to be applied. Among all the pastels and patterns available, the offerings from two brands in particular stand out from the crowd...

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Second Life of Second Life Now Seems Driven by Facebook

Cory Ondrejka Facebook

Here's an excellent CNN article by Erin Griffith on the inside story of how the Oculus Rift/Facebook deal came together (very quickly). Most interesting for New World Notes readers is the dinner where the deal was finally closed:

The two teams reached an agreement, and that Wednesday the four Oculus founders had dinner at Zuckerberg's house, along with [Facebook's VP of product Chris], Cox, Amin Zoufonoun, head of corporate development, and Cory Ondrejka, a Facebook VP of engineering who was also a co-founder of the virtual world Second Life. At the end of the dinner Zuckerberg said, "We should do this."

I haven't asked Cory about this (and I doubt he'll give me the story any time soon), but this makes it even more likely he was one of the leading drivers of the Oculus Rift acquisition by Facebook. Here's Cory Tweeting soon after the deal was announced:

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If This Video Doesn't Make You Excited About Tomodachi Life, Nothing Will

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

Right now, every day until June 6th is just another day to cross off my calendar. Why? Because June 6th is when the English version of Tomodachi Life will be released for the Nintendo 3DS in North America. Tomodachi Life, of course, is the sequel to 2009's Tomodachi Collection for the DS, which was never released outside of Japan... And that's a real shame, because these games are absolutely wonderful. Just take a look at the video above if you want to see just how wonderful it can get.

Think of the Tomodachi series like Animal Crossing meets The Sims. In Tomodachi, you're given an island and an apartment complex to populate with yourself, your friends, your favorite characters or celebrities or whoever else you like. You'll take care of them, customize them, and unlock new features as time goes on, but most of the joy is in finding bizarre litle easter eggs and watching the drama that can unfold on its own.

If you want to see more of Tomodachi Life, last week's Nintendo Direct is an absolute must-watch. I also decided to do my homework, and picked up an import copy of the original Tomodachi Collection (pro tip: they're dirt cheap on Amazon) to catch up on what these games have to offer. Look forward to reading about my experiences with it in the near future!

Continue reading "If This Video Doesn't Make You Excited About Tomodachi Life, Nothing Will"

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Monday, April 14, 2014

New World Notes is Expanding Its Virtual Reality/Oculus Rift Coverage -- Here's How You Can Help

Jerri Ellsworth Augmented Virtual Reality

The new world for New World Notes is VR. By now, it's clear that virtual reality devices led by Oculus Rift along with startups like CastAR are going to a major if not the central facet to the future of virtual worlds, 3D gaming and immersive experiences of all kinds. I want New World Notes to be a key resource for that future, and over the next few months, you should see more and more coverage along those lines. But because the topic is so wide and changing so quickly, I'm looking for new contributors and content to feature on NWN. If you're interested, get in touch with me, and tell me what you'd like to share with New World Notes readers.

Rather than specify what I'm looking for, here's a general, non-exclusive list of ideas:

Continue reading "New World Notes is Expanding Its Virtual Reality/Oculus Rift Coverage -- Here's How You Can Help"

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Linden Lab Unveils New Avatar Fitting Classifications for Second Life -- But Will They Work?

True

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

Linden Lab has unveiled a new way for shoppers and designers to identify what will and what won't fit a Second Life avatar. Rooted in this Knowledge Base entry, designers can now find badges like the one above meant to identify products intended for normal and mesh-augmented avatars respectively, as well as detailed instructions for how to access new categorization options on the SL Marketplace that will allow designers to list products that require certain base components (for example SLink mesh feet, hands, or heads) to work properly. 

So will it get the job done? Here are my thoughts:

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Top Seven New World Notes Posts Last Week

SL Go OnLive old laptop

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Philip Rosedale on the Future of VR & Virtual Worlds

Philip Rosedale future of virtual worlds virtual reality oculus rift

Philip Rosedale* recently gave a keynote speech in Second Life for an education conference and Daniel Voyager has a rough transcript here. There's a lot about the future of VR, virtual worlds, his new VR/VW startup High Fidelity and its relation to his last startup, Linden Lab. This point on latency is fascinating:

How much latency can there be in face to face talking? 100 milliseconds. 100 milliseconds is necessary in establishing emotional connections. Your cell phone is 500 milliseconds. Skype is 250 with video. VoIP is 800 or worse.

Which is why, as he told me recently, Philip Rosedale's next VR-based virtual world is aiming for 100 millisecond latency.

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Here's the SL Game of Thrones Cosplay You Were Expecting

Game of Thrones Second Life

You knew it was coming and so here it is: Game of Thrones cosplay in Second Life. At least I'm pretty sure that's what it is, but Eve Kazan is a French blogger and terms like "Dracarys" and "Khaleesi" might as well be fricking Sanskrit to me, but they Google up as Game of Thones, so here you go. (This is Khaleesi from the show, for comparison, and they compare quite well.)

Me, I'm holding out on reading or watching Game of Thrones until George R.R. Martin actually finishes the series, so I know the story arc will have a satisfying conclusion. (You know, like Lost. Oh wait.) Until then, when you say "Game of Thrones", this is the (NSFW) song playing in my head:

Continue reading "Here's the SL Game of Thrones Cosplay You Were Expecting"

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Play It This Weekend: Solve Pastel Puzzles Straight from M.C. Escher's Dreams in Monument Valley for iOS

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

Pretty little puzzle game Monument Valley is making a splash on the app store this month, and after playing it for myself it's very easy to understand why. It's clever, it's challenging, and above all else its absolutely beautiful. 

If your curiosity has been piqued, keep reading for the details.

Continue reading "Play It This Weekend: Solve Pastel Puzzles Straight from M.C. Escher's Dreams in Monument Valley for iOS"

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

5 Things to Love (and Hate) About The Elder Scrolls Online

The Elder Scrolls Online  (8)
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

The more I time I spend with The Elder Scrolls Online, the more conflicted I feel about it.

Since I wrote about it last Friday I've only gone deeper down the rabbit hole. I still have fun playing (I would have stopped ong ago otherwise), but it seems that for every element I enjoy there's another element working directly against it. Here's what I mean:

Continue reading "5 Things to Love (and Hate) About The Elder Scrolls Online"

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You Can Stream Second Life on an Old Laptop With SL Go & It's Awesome (In My Totally Biased Opinion)

SL Go OnLive old laptop

SL Go streaming of Second Life for mobile devices seemed like a good idea when I started consulting with OnLive on the service last year, but as I quickly realized from hands-on experience, many SLers will probably enjoy using SL Go from their old laptops even more. I've been using SL Go on my small Dell netbook for months, and it's my personal preference, because once you launch it from OnLive's PC client, you get full access to the full Second Life user interface. (Which is very necessary for me to easily blog about Second Life, and I'm guessing it's pretty important for many other SL content creators.) But even over that, there's the effortless, "it just works" pleasure of accessing Second Life at its best, with dynamic shadows and little lag.

But don't take it on just my say-so -- here's unedited, untouched footage taken using SL Go that I shot last night. Watch for the giant cyberpunk Minotaur (oh yes):

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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Philip Rosedale Demos High Fidelity's VR Tech Progress

Here's Philip Rosedale presenting the latest update to the virtual reality/world technology he's building at his new startup High Fidelity - watch, discuss:

Some of my previous HF coverage is here and also here.

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Iris Wants to Know: Which Fantasy RPG Class Do You Love to Play the Most?

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

I've been playing a lot more of The Elder Scrolls Online than I expected to play, and a big part of that has been due to the game's flexible character classes. I'll get into that in more detail later this week (and you can read my launch day post about the game here) but suffice it to say that at some point my two favorite characters became a sorcerer who loads herself up with heavy armor beneath her unassuming cloth robe, and a templar who weilds a shortbow in place of the melee weapons most players of that class favor. These combinations both have advantages and disadvantages, but they've both been much more enjoyable to play than the more "vanilla" characters I've tried.

All this has got me thinking about character classes in general, though. I tend to gravitate towards mages and archers... Even though I still loathe any game that gender-locks female characters into either role. Essentially I want to have a big impact on a fight with lots of flashy effects, but I'd like to remain as strategically placed (and as far away from the action) as possible. That's not to say I don't enjoy melee classes from time to time -- my main alt in Skyrim favored both bows and one-handed weapons -- but I definitely have a preference.

So here's what I want to know: Do you have a favorite RPG class or archetype, and why do you think you're so drawn to them? Do you roll a healer time and time again because you prefer a support role, or would you rather be leading the team, axe-deep in goblin gore? As always, share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Remembering Dirk Talamasca, SL Community Leader: An Artist's Letter to Her Late, Beloved Friend (Guest Post)

Dirk Talamasca Eshi Otawara

The man behind longtime Second Life community leader Dirk Talamasca died last weekend at a tragically young age, so I asked his close friend and SL artist Eshi Otwara to write this tribute - Hamlet

Dirk Talamasca passed away March 30th, Sunday. He was only 45 years old. I was asked to write a post for New World Notes about him, but this is still very hard. It’s difficult to write something when we all know it already; In SL, Dirk was a legendary resident, land baron, content creator and most of all -- mentor. This is all true, yet I feel that it’s not enough; it’s drab, it’s just a part of him and he was so much more to so many of us.

Writing about Dirk, who could ever be just “objective”? I know I can’t. The first thing I could bring myself to write was this letter to him:

Continue reading "Remembering Dirk Talamasca, SL Community Leader: An Artist's Letter to Her Late, Beloved Friend (Guest Post)"

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Korean MMO Black Desert Might Just Have the Best Character Customization Ever

Black Desert CBT2 Customization
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

The team behind upcoming Korean MMO Black Desert have already offered a lot of material for fans and followers to drool over, but their latest tidbit will be like catnip for anyone with an eye on avatar customization.

Up until now, Black Desert's main selling point has undoubtedly been its graphics. Both the characters and the world look so polished and realistic that its screenshots could easily be mistaken for renders from 3D software like DAZ or Poser (seriously). But yesterday, in advance of their second closed beta test phase, the developers of Black Desert released a new video to flaunt the game's unique character customization system. Unlike preset or slider-based customization techniques that currently dominate modern MMOs, Black Desert divides the face and body up onto very precise elements that can be adjusted directly and intuitively. Click here to see it in action.

If you're as intrigued as I am, you'll probably have to wait a while before you can play for yourself. Black Desert's second closed beta period starts on April 22nd but will only be available to players in Korea. The game is expected to be localized for North America after its Korean release, but that often takes a year or more to come together. Until then, you can learn more about Black Desert here.

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Science Journalist Jennifer Ouellette on What Interviewing Scientists in Second Life Taught Her About RL Identity

Here's an interesting interview with science journalist Jennifer Ouellette, author of the new book Me, Myself, and Why, about the science of self, which as it happens, includes a major section on Second Life, where she interviews top scientists as avatars for her Virtually Speaking Science podcast:

Hopefully hardcore SL enthusiasts don't wince too much when Ouellette describes Second Life as "not really cutting edge in terms of virtual worlds... it really has not kept up with the explosion in gaming, so it's kind of an awkward user interface", because it's an accurate statement if one is not a hardcore SL enthusiast:

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Monday, April 07, 2014

Why Does Linden Lab Treat Second Life as a Sexy, Bikini-Clad Virtual Paradise? Likely Because a Lot of SLers Do, Too

Courtesy Louis Platini's Metaverse Business, here's last month's 50 most popular Second Life sims, listed according to their average visitor count at any given period, which clearly explain why Second Life is often advertised as a sexy, beach-themed virtual paradise:

Top 25 Second Life sites March 2014

As you can see, about a third of the most popular SL sites evoke a beach, water resort, and/or tropical location, usually with an emphasis on sexiness and/or nudity. Some have complained that Linden Lab advertises Second Life as a sexy, bikini-clad social hangout, but the data explains why: A lot of Second Life's existing users already use the world as a sexy, bikini-clad hangout. For Linden Lab to pretend otherwise would actually be deceptive to how much of its userbase actually behaves.

Top sims 31-50 tell a similar story, and a possibly NSFW one:

Continue reading "Why Does Linden Lab Treat Second Life as a Sexy, Bikini-Clad Virtual Paradise? Likely Because a Lot of SLers Do, Too"

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Wasteland Queen: Don't Miss This Second Life Take on a Beloved Sailor Moon Villain

Ashlie Coba Black Lady Ruler of Worlds
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

The very best cosplay (and cosplay photography) holds up on its own. It doesn't require the observer to have an understanding of the character or the source material to appreciate the care that went into assembling a truly perfect look, or taking that truly perfect picture.

That's the case with the latest post on Pixeled Fashionista, Ashlie Coba's Second Life fashion blog. Her portrayal of Black Lady (a character originating from, you guessed it, Sailor Moon) wears a slightly trendier and more up-to-date costume than the original without sacrificing any of the familiarity that comes from a character that's been a fan-favorite for just about twenty years now. Her makeup, accessories, and her dress (a mash-up of two separate items from ISON) combine with attitude-heavy poses and an utterly desolate wasteland backdrop for a flawless contemporary portrayal of a fascinating villain... Yet it's all so well coordinated that Ashlie looks downright fierce, whether you recognize her inspiration or not.

Check out Ashlie Coba's blog for complete notes on how to get this look for yourself.

(Hat tip: Chandra Masala)

Continue reading "Wasteland Queen: Don't Miss This Second Life Take on a Beloved Sailor Moon Villain"

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Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week

OnLive for Second Life

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Friday, April 04, 2014

The Elder Scrolls Online is a Good MMO... But Not a Very Good Elder Scrolls Game

Elder Scrolls Online 10
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

The very first thing that I will tell you about my time with The Elder Scrolls Online is how much I absolutely hated it during the beta. Playing it was like a chore -- gaming housework I had to do -- and I just wasn't having fun, full stop. The second thing I will tell you is that at some point, that changed. Since Head-Start access opened last week, I've spent every day eagerly anticipating the moment when my work is done and I'm free to play more. It's hard to pin down exactly why I've done a complete 180, but I think it has something to do with adjusting my expectations.

Writing about an MMO of this scope and scale at launch is difficult, so I will be breaking my coverage up. Progress in ESO feels slower than most MMOs I've played recently (Full disclosure, I'm playing ESO with a review code provided by the developer on request) and after a week of playing for about 2-5 hours a night on my main character I've only just hit level 10. So this week I'm going to be focussing on first impressions, and addressing the question that's on everyone's lips: How good an Elder Scrolls game is The Elder Scrolls Online?

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Marketing Tips to Help Make Virtual Reality Go Mass Market

VR mass market tips

I just posted some communication/marketing strategy thoughts on theMIX agency blog for virtual reality companies seeking to go mass market -- not just Oculus Rift, as many more companies are in the running. Top tips:

  • Create a Communication Plan Around VR Sex—Before It Becomes a PR Crisis
  • Plan for Strong Outreach to Senior Citizens & Disabled People
  • Openly Address Criticisms of VR’s Limitations

Read the rest here.

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Rediscovering Second Life Through the Oculus Rift

Second Life Oculus Rift

Longtime SLer Loki Elliot recently tried CntrlAltStudio's Oculus Rift viewer, and has a long and largely lovely post about what it's like to re-experience familiar virtual places from a first-person point of view:

In a way it feels like you’ve watched the movie everyday for five years and now it feels like you are finally standing at where it was filmed. Objects that constantly move such as a giant water wheel, your eyes focus on one part and your head moves to follow its rotation up and around. The sense of scale is amplified by the effort you have to make to see it all by the craning of your neck. Leaning over edges of cliffs and buildings you get that depth, you feel the distance and as you leap off you get that super human rush.

Among the down sides (at least for now): his avatar override animations "would spin around while my view stayed fixed leading to some scary neck twisting action." Full write-up here.

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Thursday, April 03, 2014

Can Oculus Rift Become the Metaverse -- and Should It?

Neal Stephenson

The Oculus Rift subreddit has a long and interesting thread on my Monday post about the Facebook-owned VR technology and building Neal Stephenson's metaverse. (I credit Neal's beard for all the upvotes.) The Redditors seem to miss my point about Stephenson not really being a strong enthusiast for the metaverse actually being built, but several make many other interesting points. Like "ENG_NR" here:

If Oculus can still give us a standardized browser (Firebox already making good strides) and let people create doorways in and out of the FB controlled worlds then it really well be the metaverse. If it's just some Facebook thing then it'll go the way of AOL when the real metaverse comes along.

And this point from "whistlinpixie" (LOL) on whether we should really want a single metaverse at all:

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OnLive's SL Go Cloud Streaming Service for SL Launches New Unlimited $9.99/Month Pricing, Support for Most of Europe

OnLive for Second Life

There's new pricing and international availability for SL Go, OnLive's cloud streaming service of Second Life for tablets and low-end laptops: $9.99 a month for unlimited use or metered service at $1 per hour, and availability in almost all of Europe. Read about it here. As I disclosed when the service first launched early last month, I've been a consultant for OnLive for the last few months, helping them launch SL Go the Second Life community, so I've been eager to blog about this new pricing change: High quality streaming of Second Life for as long as you like to your multiple devices every month for about the price of one movie ticket (or for that matter, the subscription cost of many MMOS). While I'm biased, I think a lot of SLers will want to try it at this price point. Read Iris' in-depth review to see why.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Give Your Closet a Moon Prism Makeover with Second Life Fashion Inspired by Sailor Moon

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

No one should be surprised that Cutie Moon Fair [SLURL], a fashion event celebrating anime heroine Sailor Moon and running in Second Life until April 15th, is heaven for virtual cosplayers. What's more surprising, however, is just how much of what's available can be worked into your wardrobe even if you have no desire to fight evil by (digital) moonlight.

It was tempting to devote this post to recreating the famous looks of my favorite crew of magical girls, but I decided to go with a much more wearable look, which is just as stylish in the midst of Cutie Moon fair as it will be in a few months when I'm wearing it just to show my geeky stripes. Keep reading for the details!

Continue reading "Give Your Closet a Moon Prism Makeover with Second Life Fashion Inspired by Sailor Moon"

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Want to Walk Through Second Life With an Oculus Rift Connected to a Treadmill?

Because a company called Virtuix is offering and demoing that very thing, watch:

The demo's choice of SL locations to explore is mostly not ideal, but that's understandable, because the Virtuix Omni treadmill system is mainly being marketed to hardcore gamers, and they're likely not too familiar with Second Life. But the fact that the company is even bothering to demo it in SL suggests it does see a market there. (Via Jo Yardley, who has lots and lots of thoughts.)

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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

New on Steam: Goat Simulator, the Grand Theft Auto of Livestock Games (No Fooling - Watch!)

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

Why. Why does this game exist? It's certainly worth asking, especially if you don't quite get the appeal of  the already infamous Goat Simulator, a game which aims to simulate the mundane daily life of an average, run-of-the-mill goat. 

Spoiler: I am lying. There is absolutely nothing mundane about it.

Much like Octodad, the experience of playing Goat Simulator is hard to convey through text. Thankfully I streamed this bizarre little game with my friends Austin Walker and Jack de Quidt over the weekend, and I've cut some of the best moments down into a video that's easily worth a thousand words and embedded it above.

But that still leaves us with "why"...

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Philip Rosedale Aims to Make High Fidelity the Repository for Metaverse Identity - Direct Challenge to Facebook's VR Bid?

Philip Rosedale Coffee and Power

Philip Rosedale has a new post on the High Fidelity blog announcing a feature his startup will offer -- basically, a universal repository for virtual reality identities, anything from a Facebook-connected real name, to a totally fictional avatar:

To make this possible, High Fidelity will run a global service that lets you optionally store and validate identity information (such as your true RL name, a unique avatar name, or proof of connection to other identity services like Twitter or Facebook), and then also lets you selectively show this information to other people in the virtual world, regardless of which location/server you are currently in. You won’t have to use it, but it will hopefully be useful for many people, and will be one of the ways that we will be able to make money as a business.

Much more here. If I'm reading this right, a service like this (if it works) will address the problem of distrust of identity between avatars -- and concern over maintaining privacy in VR -- which will become even greater and even more important when Facebook-backed Oculus Rift launches to the mass market. To wit:

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Oculus Rift's Chief Scientist Wants to Build Neal Stephenson's Metaverse (Whether or Not Neal Stephenson Thinks the Metaverse is the Future)

Neal Stephenson

Confirmed: Renowned game programmer Michael Abrash, Oculus' newly confirmed chief scientist (who joined just as Facebook bought the company), sees the VR technology as The Path to the Metaverse (as his announcement is entitled): "Sometime in 1993 or 1994, I read Snow Crash," he writes on the Oculus blog, "and for the first time thought something like the Metaverse might be possible in my lifetime." So here's the curious irony: I've had a chance to e-mail a bit with Neal Stephenson over the years, and he's always distanced himself from saying the Metaverse he first described in Snow Crash was a place he thought that we'd necessarily create or use in the future: "I am just a storyteller and have never claimed nor sought the mantle of 'guy who predicts the future'", as he put it to me a few years ago.

In fact, in other interviews, Stephenson describes the future of virtual reality as probably being more game-like, than how he described The Metaverse in his landmark novel:

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Second Life Fashionistas Are Transforming Into Virtual Cosplayers to Celebrate Sailor Moon

Xantheanne resident cutie scouts
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Cutie Moon (a Second Life shopping event inspired by classic magical girl series Sailor Moon) will be opening its doors tomorrow, so it's no surprise that many SL fashion bloggers and photographers are already bringing their A-game to showcase the incredibly cute items that will be available. 

My favorite pic so far is easily the one shown above, "Cutie Scouts" by Xantheanne Resident of Xantheanne's 2nd Life. Her scouts aren't perfect copies of the originals, but they (along with the playfully minimalistic background effects she staged) evoke that "Magical Girl" feeling perfectly. It's a clean, bright, balanced and beautiful snapshot all around.

As excited as I am for Cutie Moon itself, I'm even more excited to see what everyone else will do with it. If you want to see more from the Cutie Moon fair, I'll be posting my own coverage (and pics, of course!) this Wednesday. Until then, keep an eye on the Cutie Moon Flickr group for item previews and more gorgeous blogger pics. 

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Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week

Philip Rosedale High Fidelity Oculus Rift

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Does Virtual Reality Literally Make Most Women Sick?

Jerri Ellsworth Augmented Virtual Reality

danah boyd has a very important post that anyone even remotely interested in the future of Oculus Rift and other virtual reality platforms should read this weekend. It suggests a fundamental challenge most people in VR haven't been dealing with (far as I can tell), and as danah often does -- being among the very best academics specializing in technology -- she obligates us all to think about the solution. Essentially, based on some preliminary research she cites and has conducted herself, she believes virtual reality technology like Oculus Rift might disproportionately make most females nauseous. Her key conclusion:

I’d posit that the problems of nausea and simulator sickness that many people report when using VR headsets go deeper than pixel persistence and latency rates. What I want to know, and what I hope someone will help me discover, is whether or not biology plays a fundamental role in shaping people’s experience with immersive virtual reality. In other words, are systems like Oculus fundamentally (if inadvertently) sexist in their design?

Read the rest here, especially the research which supports her concern. (I have some more thoughts here, related to danah's skepticism over Second Life during its hype period.) The thing is, I know several women who work in VR technology, like Jeri Ellsworth (pictured here) who co-created CastAR, the Augmented/Virtual Reality System. At the same time, the fact remains that VR is overwhelmingly dominated by men. Why is that?

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Now Available: Betrayer, the Stylish Stealth Shooter Fresh from Steam's Early Access Program

Betrayer 4
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

It takes a lot of work and a lot of flair to make a first-person shooter stand out anymore, but Blackpowder Games' Betrayer, a recent graduate of Steam's Early Access program which lets players buy into and support games while they're still in development, is an interesting example of how that can be done. The game's striking high-contrast visual style is hard to miss, but in spite of that this challenging shooter is more than just a pretty face.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hollywood Nail Salon Now Accepts Payments in Bitcoin

So last Sunday I was strolling back from my gym near Hollywood and Vine, when I came across this sign right alongside the Walk of Fame, somewhere in between Mae West and John Wayne:

Bitcoin nail salon

That's right: A Hollywood nail salon is accepting Bitcoin. (Wynn Nail Spa, to be exact.) Which might seem like a wonderful thing if you're in LA and you need your nails done, and happen to have some free Bitcoin to spend.

Then again, there's a problem there:

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Virtual Reality Will Likely Have a Real Effect On Virtual Fashion - Here's Why

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

Yesterday, Hamlet asked me if I thought that the proliferation of VR tech like the Oculus Rift could eventually alter how we dress our avatars. I sort of scoffed at the question; I didn't see why or how it could. The avatars we choose for ourselves express what we want them to express one way or another, so why would that change based solely on our physical (or digital) perspective?

And then I thought about it a little more.

The more I think about it, the more I suspect that there could definitely be a change. However, any potential change will depend a lot on how we'll see ourselves. Literally. Here's what I mean:

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Philip Rosedale's New Virtual World to Launch With Oculus Rift Integration "Out of the Box"

Philip Rosedale High Fidelity Oculus Rift

Philip Rosedale in High Fidelity via Oculus Rift

Second Life creator Philip Rosedale is making a new virtual world through his new startup High Fidelity (which is quite impressive, as I said last January), and here's an important thing to know about it now: It's already integrated with Oculus Rift and will launch that way: "High Fidelity runs on the Rift 'out of the box'," Philip tells me by e-mail. "It's very straightforward. We have a couple Alpha users with Oculus using High Fidelity now, and hundreds more with Oculus (Oculi?) on waitlist." Here's the Alpha waitlist sign-up he mentions.

Speaking of which, this is what Philip says about the Facebook acquisition of Oculus Rift everyone's talking about today:

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Facebook Employees Who Created Second Life Celebrate Facebook Becoming Virtual Worlds Company

For my money, this is the best Facebook update about Facebook acquiring Oculus Rift from a Facebook staffer (not counting Mark Zuckerberg) is this one from Facebook engineer Jim Purbrick, wryly welcoming Facebook arrival as a virtual worlds company:

Facebook VR Oculus Rift

Jim Purbrick, of course, was known as Babbage Linden when he worked for Linden Lab, which he left in 2010, joining Facebook last year, where many fomer Lindens also work, including engineer Ian Wilkes, and chief among them, former Linden Lab Chief Technology Officer Cory Ondrejka, who now heads up Facebook's mobile division.

Speaking of Facebook, Oculus Rift founder Palmer Lucky just dispelled some popular misconceptions about the acquisition, along with offering some tantalizing hints:

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Iris Wants to Know: What's Your Avatar Style?

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

How would you describe your avatar: Sexy, cute, beautiful, or interesting? Maybe all of the above, or maybe none?

This may seem like a borderline hypocritical follow up to my post yesterday about Second Life's advertising strategy, but it's actually something that's been on my mind since I wrote about the new mesh heads from SLink. Neither Becky nor Emma, the two faces currently available from the fledgling Visage line, really "hooked" me. While I can appreciate how well made they both are, I can't see my avatar wearing either, and I wanted to pin down why that is. 

The way I see it, there are 4 kinds of avatars: Sexy, cute, handsome/beautiful, and interesting (which I'll admit is a bit of a catch-all). My own Second Life avatar (and my intentions for her) experienced a pretty dramatic change when I first came across Loony Columbia's Flickr gallery. As in the pic above, she shows avatars that are cute in a way I hadn't really considered possible in SL, even though it was a style I admired a lot in RL. Thanks to Loony, I ditched my pursuit of fashion mag glamor and swerved down the path of colorful cuteness instead.

These four categories are rather oversimplified, but they certainly aren't distinct, and they don't apply to human avatars alone. They can overlap in any number of ways to create what I think is a pretty solid spectrum of the avatars I've used and seen in Second Life and beyond. I'd pin Emma and Becky in the "beautiful" category, while Loony Columbia's pictures generally fall squarely between "cute" and "sexy". At the same time, I have a couple dragon avatars I'd call both "beautiful" and "interesting". I'd even say an avatar could meet all four categories at once. 

So here's what I want to know: What category would you place your own avatar(s) in... Or what category would you add to the list to include your preferred style? As always, leave your responses in the comments below!

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Oculus Rift Bought by Facebook for $2 Billion: Yes, Virtual Reality is Going Mass Market

Oculus Rift Second Life Facebook

Facebook is buying Oculus Rift for $2 billion dollars, which is news I had to squint at several times before realizing it wasn't a hoax. But yes, Facebook is doing so as part of its mobile strategy (because Oculus will integrate with Android phones):

“Mobile is the platform of today, and now we’re also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow,” said Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. “Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate.”

So yes, as it's now owned by a company with one billion users, Oculus Rift is going mass market -- not this year or next, but almost definitely in the years to come. And yes, we now know for sure Linden Lab is right to integrate Oculus Rift with the Second Life viewer, and should spend even more money and resources on that effort.

Oh, and here's another interesting angle: Second Life co-founder Cory Ondrejka is now the head of Facebook's mobile division. So draw your own conclusions. Tech CEO Matt Galligan already did:

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Does Sex Really Sell SL, or is Virtual World Advertising Just Stuck in a Sexy Rut?

Second Life Bikini Ad (2)
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Second Life bloggers have a problem with Second Life's latest advertising campaign... And I can't say I blame them. Jo Yardley recently shared her thoughts on these buxom banner ads, and Botgirl Questi posted her response not long after. Neither blogger feels like these ads represent Second Life in a particularly flattering light, nor do they represent the SL they know and enjoy. 

So what's the big deal about bikinis? Well...

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Monday, March 24, 2014

First Gen Oculus Rift Dev Kit Sells 60,000 Units in a Year - Already Enough to Reach an Audience of Millions

Oculus Rift Second Life

"Oculus VR sold 60,000 copies of its first development kit, which began shipping during last year’s Game Developers Conference," the New York Times notes, which is an impressive number worth noting here. I'm pleasantly suprised the VR company could move 60K units of a hardware peripheral selling for $350 or more, because it's a very solid data point suggesting there is a mass market for a cheaper consumer model. It's also a very large base of early adopters who are already starting to reach a mass audience for the technology. If we assume each Oculus Rift dev kit owner has given a hands-on demo of the device to an average of 35 people they know (friends, family, co-workers, etc.), that's well over 2 million people who have already had first-hand experience with virtual reality before it's even officially hit the market.

And that's just the first generation dev kit -- the new, enhanced version, just announced last week, should sell at least as many units if not many more. Here's the video:

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Sandbox Summit: Don't Miss The Latest and Greatest Ideas in Educational Gaming (Even if You're Not There in Person)

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

If you're into that sweet spot where gaming and education intersect, the hashtag to watch right now is #sandboxsummit14. There you'll be able to see live reactions to talks and workshops being conducted at MIT's Sandbox Summit, an annual get together for educators and scholastically-minded developers alike. The event runs today and tomorrow, and  just because you're not there in person doesn't mean you can't pick up a thing or two from afar (thanks to social networking and streaming video.)

In this case "gaming" isn't limited to video games, either. One of the most interesting topics so far (if Twitter is any indication) has been The World Peace Game, a massive tabletop game in which an entire class can wage war and peace, and gain a better grasp of the effects of both. 

You'll eventually be able to view videos of this year's talks on the Sandbox Summit website, but until then keep your eyes on Twitter, and check out recorded talks from the 2013 summit here.

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Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week

In Real Life Graphic Novel Anda's Game

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