Thursday, March 06, 2014
Hands On With SL Go: Here's Why OnLive's Streaming Second Life Client is More Than Just a Mobile Viewer
As you're no doubt already aware, Second Life and OnLive announced the new streaming SL client SL Go yesterday, and for many of you it might be a hard sell. It runs on Android, Mac, and Windows (with iOS support in the works) but unlike other viewers (mobile or otherwise) it's supported by a pay-by-the-hour pricing model outlined in their FAQ here. That made it a hard sell for me, too. When I received a review package from OnLive late last week (containing an Android tablet, OnLive console, controller, keyboard, and an account login with about two days worth of SL Go hours pre-loaded) I had an open mind.... But a very skeptical heart. While Hamlet has done some consulting for OnLive on this project, I haven't, and to be honest I hadn't even thought about OnLive since the company's debut years ago. I had no idea what to expect, but I wasn't optimistic.
I've tried Second Life clients on tablets before, and no part of what I'd seen from them made me want to open my wallet. It didn't even occur to me that SL Go could conceivably be a valid client choice on a desktop or laptop and not just a tablet. I have some pretty specific (and admittedly superficial) needs when it comes to Second Life, and those needs have never been met by anything but full-sized clients running on relatively powerful PCs. So, as I was setting everything up, I engineered a test. The meanest test I could think of. A test that SL Go, running on a device smaller than a magazine, seemed absolutely sure to fail.
I took SL Go to The Arcade, one of Second Life's most popular seasonal events.
On opening weekend.
Here's what happened:
Plot for Johnny Depp Movie About the Singularity Eerily Resembles Actual Reality Right Now
In theaters next month, Transcendance is a movie set in the San Francisco Bay Area about a computer genius played by Johnny Depp who uploads his consciousness into an AI-powered supercomputer after anti-tech extremists kill him, achieving the singularity in the process... so let’s take a look:
This story would have seemed like wild science fiction twenty or even ten years ago, but just about all of these plot points are actually taking place in some form in real life right now -- let’s take a look:
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
Official Second Life App for Mobile Finally Here: Full 3D Experience on Tablets Via OnLive Cloud Streaming Could Herald New Era of Second Life
SL Go is the first official mobile app for Second Life which offers the full high-end 3D experience on mobile tablets (both iOS and for Android and eventually iOS), and I'm proud to disclose I did some consulting on its development and launch. Created with Linden Lab's authorization by OnLive, the cloud-based streaming service, this is a Second Life that's as graphically rich as pretty much anything you'd experience on most high-end desktops -- except now, you can literally hold the world in your hands. That's why I love how the promo video above depicts two people sharing their Second Life experience with each other: On tablets, sharing content with the people around you is far easier than it is on other form factors, and it's my hope that SL Go will make Second Life far more shareable than it’s ever been before.
Since I sporadically consulted with the OnLive team on this app over the past few months, I can say they’ve made a thorough, concerted effort to create a new mobile experience that’s appealing to the SL user community. And since I am clearly biased, I want to be open about some caveats with the service before I go any further:
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
There's a Floating Sky Pirate Town High Above Hakone in SL
Click here to visit Hakone, because it's a Second Life sim with a massive sky pirate town that's floating in the air way above the sea. And I do mean large: While you can't quite make it out, that's a fullscale galleon at the far right. (And that dot on the far upper left is me.) Not pictured: a working train that cuts in and out of the town interior, and a working water wheel. Pictured, but not in motion as it should be: That smaller airship you see has automated guides. This is really one of the most amazing builds I've seen in Second Life, if you have the graphics capacity to see it in its full glory (and fortunately, I have). If you don't, watch this video tour by Kawanishi Yana.
Where The Magic Happens: Draxtor Despres Interviews an SL Entrepreneur Whose Focus May Surprise You
It's been a little while since we checked in with Second Life mini doc-maker Draxtor Despres, but that isn't to say he hasn't been busy. The latest episode of his series of mixed-reality resident profiles, The Drax Fles: World Makers, went up recently, and features yet another incredibly interesting creator that many of us may never have heard of. Zach Barkley makes magic in SL. Literally. Scripted, particle-powered spells and mystical effects for fantasy roleplay... Or just for showing off.
All in all this episode is an interesting look at a niche that may not spring to mind when you think about Second Life content creation. Just as interesting is hearing how Zach, who is still quite young, fits virtual worlds into his life (and how friends and family react to them). For me, learning about Draxtor's subjects outside of SL is always as interesting as learning about them inside of SL, if not moreso.
Monday, March 03, 2014
Top 25 Most Popular Second Life Sims, February 2014
Courtesy Louis Platini's Metaverse Business, a Second Life/OpenSim analytics company that gathers publicly accessible in-world data for its clients, here's last month's most popular Second Life sims including Adult-rated regions, listed according to their average visitor count at any given period:
For comparison's sake, here's the top 50 from last November:
Tired of Trying to Teleport into Packed Second Life Events? Then This HUD's Definitely For You
There's no single "Event Season" in Second Life, but things sure start to pick up in the spring -- especially when the various Relay For Life fairs start popping up. And with those events come the desperate rush t get into them, and usually days (even a solid week) of failed teleport attempts. Such is the case with the latest round of The Arcade which opened it's doors this weekend. Two days later and it's still practically impossible to squeeze your way in unless you have nothing better to do than sit there hitting the teleport button every five seconds. The region is full, the region is full, the region is full...
But there's a HUD out there that promises do just that for you, so you can do literally anything else with all that precious time. CheshireSoft's LetMeIn HUD seems like a pretty straightforward product: Pop in a destination SLURL and let it do its thing. Those repeated brute force teleport attempts will be taken care of and all you'll need to do is clear away the notifications once it's done. Just don't wander too far or get too wrapped up in whatever else you're doing; LetMeIn also has an AFK timer, so if you manage to teleport in to a crowded sim only to idle there you'll be teleported back from whence you came so that a slightly more alert event-goer can take your place.
LetMeIn has more than its fair share of ardent fans, but it also has one very big catch. As the description in the Marketplace listing says, the creator is no longer active in SL. That means if you have any problems with the product, you'll be on your own. Even so, with its 5 star average rating and very reasonable L$150 price tag, it may still be worth trying out.
Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week
- Leading Bitcoin Exchange Suffers Run on the Bank - Yet Another SL/Bitcoin Hype Parallel
- Top 5 Games Beyond Second Life - NWN Readers' Choice
- Why Do Many Women Play the Games They Play? The Answer Is Simple
- Play It This Weekend: Explore Deep Space and Decipher Alien Languages in Out There for Android and iOS
- Why Linden Lab's Fast Install Project Matters: With Second Life Dropoff Rates, Every Second Counts
Friday, February 28, 2014
Fufilling New CEO Promise, Second Life's Bug Tracker Now Transparent, Open & Re-Accepting New Feature Requests
"Transparency and empowerment are core to me," new Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg said only a couple days ago (and only a few days after becoming CEO), and he already seems to be fulfilling that pledge: Linden Lab's JIRA bug tracker for Second Life now allows users to post comments and see all active bugs, and Altberg has restored the much-loved (and historically, much ignored by Linden Lab) New Feature Request. Great moves, though I suspect Alteberg is about to be overwhelmed by a deluge of comments and requests. (Insert "Brace yourself" meme here.) Hat tip: Nalates, who has more thoughts.
Play It This Weekend: Explore Deep Space and Decipher Alien Languages in Out There for Android and iOS
So you're lost in space, now what? It's the premise of a fair number of games (indie or otherwise) in recent memory. However, what defines Out There, newly available for both Android and iOS, from them is how little it's concerned with the one thing that many of those other games have in common:
Out There is not a shooter. It's not a tactical battle simulator. You're not a crew of rebels nor are you a crew of warmongers. You're one unlucky fool who's found himself very far from home. So now what?
Why Linden Lab's Fast Install Project Matters: With Second Life Dropoff Rates, Every Second Counts
Project Zipper is a new Linden Lab project to increase Second Life viewer installation time, and according to Inara Pey, it speeds up the installation time by about 19 seconds. Which makes Ciaran Laval say WTF:
Now you could look at this and say that Project Zipper installs in less than half the time of the current release viewer, which put in those terms is an impressive achievement. However it amounts to just over 19 seconds difference, which in reality is neither here or there.
Actually, it matters quite a bit: Second Life new user dropoffs start happening at rapid rates while the viewer is still installing. Yes, yes: Insiders tell me a large amount of people who register for a new SL account give up that early in the process. But really, this is not surprising, if you look at the larger Internet market:
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Why Do Many Women Play the Games They Play? The Answer Is Simple
Why do women play what we play? That's the question that two recent articles about women in gaming have me asking myself. Yesterday on Kill Screen Mariam Naziripour published a piece about the history and the importance of dress-up games, while today on Wired Laura Hudson shared how the recent Left Behind DLC for The Last of Us resonated with her by portraying the relationship between a strong young girl and her best friend. These two posts might seem only tangentially related (at points even in opposition), but there is a thread that connects them.
While it's widely accepted that women now make up nearly half of the gaming market, critics of that figure (of which you'll find plenty in the comments of Hudson's piece) are quick to point out how many of the women included in it are playing mobile games... Or The Sims. You know, not real games. While what constitutes a "real" game is a discussion for another day (as is the fact that the number of women playing "real" games isn't insignificant either) it's worth considering why many women do gravitate towards specific niches of gaming, including more "casual" games. Why are there more women playing Candy Crush than there are playing Call of Duty while others (read: me) are equally drawn to both Style Savvy: Trendsetters and the Assassin's Creed franchise?
It's not a mystery at all, nor is it down to some sort of tired old biological formula. The answer, as far as I'm concerned, is ridiculously simple:
How to Post Comment in New World Notes Posts
I'm experimenting with a registration system for NWN comments, which means whenever you want to post a comment at the end of a post, you need quickly log in with one of your social media accounts (as above). Typepad's blog system has been mysteriously eating a lot of of user comments, but hopefully adding this registration process will help with that. (By the way: Always save your long comments before trying to post them, so you have a backup copy just in case!) Also, I hope registration minimizes hit-and-run flames and Spammy comments, but we'll see how that goes.
Please give it a try here -- post a test comment and let me know how it goes!
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
SL Luminary Night Visits Second Life After Many Years Away
Last night I was wandering familiar places in Second Life, when a familiar name appeared upon my screen: Her name was Night, and years ago, she wrote a popular New World Notes column called Night Moves which you really should read. And then suddenly, for years ago or so, to the concern of many, disappeared from the virtual world, with little trace of where she'd gone, or why. I worried the worst (as I often do), but now just as suddenly, she's back in Second Life.
"Well," she tells me, "it's more than premature to say that I'm back. But I'm here tonight for the first time in forever for the silliest reason."
And this is what that is:
Top 5 Games Beyond Second Life - NWN Readers' Choice
Let no one say that Second Life users aren't still gamers through and through. Last week I asked you what your favorite games are, and I'll admit that the enthusiastic response that followed here, in Plurk, and in my inbox took me completely by surprise. Some of your picks were just as surprising, too.
So what are the top five games New World Notes' readers love to play (outside of the metavese, of course)? You'll find out after the jump!
Ebbe Altberg Promises Transparency & Empowerment as Linden Lab's New CEO
@marimccann Thanks! I'm opening as fast as I can. Jira is coming. Lindens in SL will come too. Transparency and empowerment are core to me.— Ebbe Altberg (@ebbealtberg) February 26, 2014
Well this is a refreshing change: In response to a post that SLer Marianne McCann Tweeted at him, new Linden Lab CEO promised much more openness, transparency, empowerment, responsiveness to JIRA support tickets, Linden Lab staffers in Second Life, world peace, magic ponies (or at least most of those). His predecessor Rod Humble operated the company in a way that was much more similar to how companies like Electronic Arts and Sony Online Entertainment are run (where Humble was once an executive), so on paper at least, this seems like a radical return to Linden Lab's roots.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Coming Soon in SL: Redecorate With Cat-Themed Virtual Versions Of Some Of The Greatest Artwork in History
Dog lovers keep scrolling, because this post may not be for you. The Arcade is returning this weekend, with a new round of gacha collections from some of Second Life's favorite designers. Teasers are already circulating freely, but it's Nylon Pinkney's set (as Nylon Outfitters) that has really caught my eye. She's created 13 cat-themed works of art, inspired by some of the most recognized artists and paintings in history. Nylon's "copycats" cover an impressively broad range, from classics like Van Gogh all the way to Warhol's pop art. Though Nylon's own artistic style shines through in each peice, so does the style it was based on, which you can see in this close-up shot she shared on Flickr. Whether you love cats (or just have an appreciation for art history) these are a must-have.
Of course if you have your eye on one painting in particular, you might need to trade or be very very lucky to get it. If you're unfamiliar, gacha machines give a shopper a random chance at its contents -- the trade off being that you pay a fraction of the price that you would if you were picking the item yourself. You'll have a chance to get all of the paintings pictured above in Nylon's gacha machine at The Arcade, but even if you don't get the one you want you'll easily be able to swap the transferrable prizes with your friends.
You'll be able to pick them up for yourself along with dozens of other gacha items at The Arcade when it re-opens this weekend. See you there!
Monday, February 24, 2014
Leading Bitcoin Exchange Suffers Run on the Bank - Yet Another SL/Bitcoin Hype Parallel
Trouble began for Mt.Gox when the feds started noticing its financial paperwork was a mess, and it was acting as a middleman for the internet drug trade. Bitcoin prices on the exchange plunged accordingly. That was only the start of the bad news. Today, people with thousands (or even millions) of dollars or yen in real money tied up in Bitcoins can't touch it—there have been huge delays and blackout periods when customers try to remove their funds. Earlier this month, Mt.Gox stopped all withdrawals completely, and this month has seen the value of a single Bitcoin plunge from around $700 to a low of $75.
And while it's not a one-to-one comparison, it all reminds me of the time during the Second Life hype wave in 2006-2008, when a number of unregulated but popular Linden Dollar exchanges experienced a somewhat similar trajectory. This from January 2008:
This Octodad Level Inspired by Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" is Just the Tip of a Very Clumsy Iceberg
One of the biggest benefits of mod support in games is that it encourages the development of almost infinite new content even in otherwise short games. Octodad: Dadliest Catch is only a few hours long on its own (though I loved almost every flailing second if it), but thanks to both developers and modders there are several dozen levels available for download through the Steam Workshop... and among them, more than a couple hilarious little gems.
That's where you'll find the map shown in the well-produced video above, a simple and solid take on Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball". Of course there are loads more levels to try out -- You can take Octodad on a disastrous romp through a scaled-down city, climb a behemoth version of the game's antagonist, try to keep your limbs in line in a Zero G grocery store, and even test out prototype stages from the game's development. If you're not happy with what's available, you can also make and share your own content with the Octodad level editor.
Sure, Octodad can't hope to dethrone games like Skyrim at the top of the modding food chain... But Skyrim doesn't have Wrecking Ball, now does it?
Top Three Posts from New World Notes Last Week
- Iris Wants to Know: When You're Not in Second Life, Where Do Your Gaming Hours Go?
- 7 Questions on the Future of Second Life & Linden Lab for Ebbe Altberg, Linden's New CEO
- Ebbe Altberg First Public Move at Linden Lab CEO: Discontinuing All Non-3D Content Creation Products
Friday, February 21, 2014
Visit in Second Life This Weekend: FutureWave, an Epic Sci-Fi Fashion Shopping Gala Ending This Sunday
Click here to visit a sim called Cursed, which is hosting a sci-fi-themed fashion shopping extravaganza called FutureWave, which you can read about here, which is ending on the 23rd. It's being hosted by Cursed Events, an event organizer lucky enough to have legendary SL fashion designer Nephilaine Protagonist as its creative director.
Seriously: Just look at the FutureWave Flickr feed, where I borrowed that great pic above (by Ely Hynes); I easily could have chosen hundreds that are just as smashing. Here's the FutureWave Pinterest board, if you're into that sort of thing.
Speaking of sci-fi fashion, here's my totally unrelated contribution: A stormtrooper selling French underwear at a Beijing shopping mall:
Watch It This Weekend: Father/Daughter Team Tackle Minecraft Together in This Underrated YouTube Series
I'll just come right out and say it: "Daddy/Daughter Lets Play Minecraft" might just be one of the most underrated (and adorable) series' of Minecraft videos on YouTube.
The titular Daddy, Ronin 1011, might have a penchant for first-person shooters, but while his daughter "Princess Flower" (a.k.a. Little Bear #1) is on her laptop nearby they make a perfect pair of miners, builders, and zombie-fighters. Even the smallest milestones (like building their first house and taming a wolf) are punctuated with Princess Flower's delight, while every dark cave and looming zombie is made that much more intense.
Full disclosure here, but I have a soft spot for these kinds of videos. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of playing games with my dad, either on his old Intellivision or the Sega Genesis that came after it. I liked being able to trail after him as Tails, or hand the controller over when Ecco The Dolphin got too tricky and/or scary. I remember leaning over the back of the couch, playing with a toy german shepherd while watching him mow down pixellated nazis in the stone halls of Wolfenstein. It's likely because of that time we spent together that I look at games like Minecraft and wish I was 20 years younger, or even that I had a little bear of my own to explore them with.
Watch the full (and ongoing) series of Daddy/Daughter Lets Play Minecraft videos for yourself here.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Ebbe Altberg First Public Move at Linden Lab CEO: Discontinuing All Non-3D Content Creation Products
During my interview with Linden Lab's new CEO Ebbe Altberg, the executive had this to say about Linden Lab's products beyond Second Life and Blocksworld: "“We’ll do some clean-up, there’s some things that are not as aligned." And indeed, only minutes after I was posting the interview (less than two weeks of Altberg being CEO), Linden Lab announced it was discontinuing dio, Versu, and Creatorverse -- all of which were 2D or text-based content creation platforms. This means Linden Lab's remaining products have a focus on 3D content creation and user interaction within a 3D space: Second Life and Creatorverse, of course, plus Patterns (Minecraft meets Doritos man) and Desura (digital distribution of user-made content, primarily 3D-based content, including game levels).
While dio, Versu, and Creatorverse have not gained much evident user traction, I believe that's also the case with Patterns. So this move doesn't seem to be strictly about killing unpopular products, but as Altberg suggested in my interview, focusing the company only on products more aligned around Second Life -- which I interpret to mean 3D interaction and building.
Game On: Cast Your Vote For NWN's Top 5 Favorite Games, As Chosen By Readers
Here at New World Notes we've asked our readers what your favourite blogs are, who your favourite designers are, even who the hottest male avatars in the virtual world are... But not what your favourite games are. Yesterday I did just that, and the response (spread out across the comments section, email, Plurk, and Twitter) was much stronger than I'd anticipated... And I'm not one to leave a big pile of interesting data like this untapped. What started out as an honest question is now begging to become a Readers Choice feature just like the top blogs, brands, and boys lists we've run in the past.
There'stremendous variety among those responses. Big budget RPGs sit shoulder-to-shoulder with tiny independent games in our readers' Steam libraries. Of course there are also many games that come up again and again... And in many cases they may not be the games you would expect. That's why, in my opinion, this may turn out to be our most interesting Readers Choice yet.
I'll be tallying up the top 5 titles and sharing the results next week, but here's what you can do in the meantime: Make sure your voice is heard. If you haven't already submitted your faves, head over and comment on the original post, on Facebook, on Plurk, or email me at ophelia.iris [at] gmail [dot] com before Monday. Name as many or as few games as you like, whether they're on classic or current consoles, PCs, mobile, even pen & paper platforms. And, of course, keep your eyes peeled for the full list next week!
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
7 Questions on the Future of Second Life & Linden Lab for Ebbe Altberg, Linden's New CEO
Though he is Linden Lab’s new CEO now, one of Ebbe Altberg’s first experiences with Second Life occurred over 10 years ago, and as it happens, actually involved a violation of Second Life policy. It was around that time, you see, that Altberg’s son fell in love with Second Life, and became an avid builder there. Which is usually a fine thing, but here’s the problem: Altberg’s son was a young teen at the time, and back then they were strictly not allowed:
“So yeah, he was underage,” Altberg admits now, “so SL booted him correctly.”
Altberg convinced then CEO Philip Rosedale to be lenient, but by that time, Altberg’s young son had become a well-known content creator in Second Life, and had revealed his age to his adult collaborators in SL (who were very surprised to learn how young he was). So Altberg’s son was booted from the main grid of Second Life, and when Teen Second Life opened around 2005, found himself exiled there. Frustrated by how comparably poor the quality of content was there, Ebbe’s boy began working with someone in the main grid to export content from Second Life proper to Second Life’s teenage wasteland. (As one of the early teen users described it to me, back in the day.)
Despite all that, Ebbe's son stayed engaged in Second Life for a couple years, and even co-founded an in-world design company. And being among the first explorers of Teen Second Life, one of that world’s original islands was even named after the avatar of Ebbe Altberg’s son. And Ebbe Altberg watched all this amazed: “For a kid to have this experience so early was fantastic,” as he puts it now.
Linden Lab’s new CEO tells me all this when I ask him how long he’s been involved with Linden Lab. “I feel like I’ve been part of Second Life and Linden Lab for many years,” says Altberg. For not only does he know Philip Rosedale and one of Second Life’s very first investors, there’s the experiences with his son, and his watching all the successive CEOs (starting with Rosedale) come and go over the years.
But strictly speaking, Ebbe Altberg has been on the job of Linden Lab CEO since February 10. So that in mind, I spoke with him in the broadest terms about his task ahead, for the company in general and Second Life in particular, and why he’s the right person to take the lead on both.
He addressed all that in the form of seven questions:
Iris Wants to Know: When You're Not in Second Life, Where Do Your Gaming Hours Go?
I love games -- I adore them, really -- and I've been very fortunate that Hamlet's gladly let me write about them here. I've covered some of the biggest releases of the past few years longside some of the most under-the-radar independant ones. I've written about everything from screenshots to social issues in the gaming world nd loved almost every second of it. But...
It's occurred to me that, because of this, you probably know way more about my gaming habits and history than I do yours, and personally I'd like to rebalance those scales just a little bit.
So here's what I want to know: When you're not keeping busy in the metaverse, where do you spend your gaming energy? Can you claim roots in Mobius or the Mushroom Kingdom? Are you a master of the console, a ruler of handhelds, a maven of mobile games, or PC/Mac through and through? Do you lean Indie, or are you AAA all the way? Do you slay dragons, or do you prefer to puzzle them? Sandbox or sandshrew?
Let me know! Share your gaming habits in the comments below.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
New Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg Says Hello to SLers -- My Interview With Ebbe Coming Soon
"I don’t really consider myself a ‘gamer,’ but I also don’t think that ‘game’ would describe Second Life either, and I’ve found Second Life intriguing for a long time. In addition to having personally explored the virtual world a bit back when it first started (of course I’m diving in more now), my son was a very active Resident as a teenager, and I’ve been consistently impressed by the incredible things the Second Life community creates. I’m proud to be joining the team that enables this level of creativity, and as I said in our press release, I’m committed to supporting our customers to help you become even more successful."
I got a chance to have a one-on-one chat with Ebbe just before he made this announcement, and will be posting highlights from it here very soon. Two sneak preview points for now:
Polaroids From The End of The World: DayZ Fan Blog Shares Sentimental Post-Apocalypstic Snapshots
Let's say the world ended tomorrow. Not ended ended, but ended in the the way it ends in so much post-apocalyptic fiction. The few remaining humans are left scavenging through increasingly limited ressources for things of use -- weapons, food, clothes, the usual. But among the potentially useful detritus of civilization, you still have all these now-useless artifacts of a much more comfortable time. When you're scavenging through suburban ruins with only have a pair of pants and a bottle of irradiated water to your name, what good is an old Polaroid camera?
Now it's no secret that I love a good videogame screenshot blog, but Apocalypse Polaroids, a collection of mock-Polaroid snapshots taken in mod-turned-standalone survival game DayZ, is a little different. It's an example of what that game does best -- Highlight the humanity (and inhumanity) of its players in some of the most unexpected ways -- condensed into images and framed in one of the most sentimental ways possible. Polaroid photos. Bent, dirty, scribbled on...
So it's the end of the world, and you have an old Polaroid camera. One pack of instant film. What would you do with it? You'd probably do the same thing you do with your camera now. You'd take pictures of your friends, you'd take pictures of your surroundings, you'd take pictures of the things that shock you and the things that inspire you. You'd record your life.
Monday, February 17, 2014
Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week
- Play This Weekend: Jazzpunk, A Game of Cyberpunk Spies So Stylish It May Make You Sick -- Literally
- Philip Rosedale on Low Latency in High Fidelity -- Can Online VR Interactions Become Faster Than Skype Video?
- Altberg Advice: 3 Ways Linden Lab's New CEO Should Start the Remaking of Second Life
- Fitted Mesh Finally Hits Second Life -- But With Some Serious Limitations
- Why Linden Lab Likes Blocksworld as Much as Second Life
You Could Be Playing Pokemon Right Now -- With Seventy Thousand Strangers
Growing up as an only child with more than a few single-player video games, I considered myself pretty lucky. I didn't have to worry about older siblings stealing the controller, or younger siblings breathing down my neck. Playing a single-player game for an audience, as you would on a gaming stream, can have similar problems. Everyone has advice, everyone knows what you should do next, everyone wants the controller in their own hands. So what if you just gave it to them? What if you handed your audience the controller, gave them a pat on the back and said "Good luck."
All 70 thousand of them.
Twitch Plays Pokemon does just that, and it's a beautiful mess.
Friday, February 14, 2014
Visit This Valentines' Weekend in Second Life: Bryn Oh's Latest Immersive Art Installation
Click here to visit and experience the latest SL installation by acclaimed virtual world artist Bryn Oh, "The Singularity of Kumiko", which opens today. But first, you should probably read her introductory notes, both technical and artistic, on her blog. For instance: "[T]he best viewer to use is Firestorm as it has the most effective WindLight and shadow settings available... Some things that can help with the immersion is if you are able to turn the lights down low in the room as you explore, as well as turn up the ambient volume. Essentially you will need a special WindLight, shadows enabled and a headlamp."
Image of Byrn and hat tip to Kara Trapdoor, who has some thoughts on the show on her blog. And watch a machinima preview by Bryn below the break:
Play This Weekend: Jazzpunk, A Game of Cyberpunk Spies So Stylish It May Make You Sick -- Literally
Games like Jazzpunk remind me that it's not a bad idea to buy games the same way you might buy shoes. You can buy a game because you need one, because you've worn out all the others you have, but there's no harm in buying a game every now and them purely for style, purely because you appreciate what it's doing, and how it's doing it. Even if it's not the most practical, even if it won't last you more than a season, sometimes you deserve a stylish (and fun) little indulgence.
Comedy-focussed indie release Jazzpunk is my indulgence of choice at the moment... Even when it has me reaching for a bottle of Gravol... But I'll get to that part shortly. Let's start at the beginning:
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Philip Rosedale on Low Latency in High Fidelity -- Can Online VR Interactions Become Faster Than Skype Video?
Philip Rosedale says he wants his new High Fidelity virtual reality platform to operate at latency of 100 milliseconds or less, as I blogged last week, but after re-reading that post, I wanted to know a bit more precisely what he meant by that figure. So I asked him, and here's the thing: He is aiming to create a virtual reality platform where interactions happen much faster than they do when you are talking with someone on Skype video:
"[W]here I use the expression latency," Philip tells me, "I mean 'end-to-end latency', or as the ITU calls it 'mouth-to-ear' latency. I mean the elapsed time between my lips moving and you hearing it on your end. For a cell phone, this value is about 400msecs. On Skype video the delay between my eyebrow moving and you seeing it move is about 250msecs, although both our cameras are typically at 30 frames per second. Our goal with HiFi is to get that end-to-end latency to about 100msecs."
Speaking of FPS, he told me the kind of rates they're getting there, too:
SL Wishlist Makes Shopping for Your Virtual Valentine a Piece of Cake
One of the biggest oversights in the Second Life Marketplace is the lack of a wishlist feature. You can set items as a favorite, and that's helpful for keeping track of what you might want to get yourself in the future, but that doesn't do your Valentine any good when they're looking for the perfect gift. Shopping for die-hard fashionistas is especially risky; who knows what they've bought (and in how many colors) the second it was released?
SL Wishlist is a pretty long overdue service in that sense. If you worry that you might be a bit hard to shop for yourself, you might want to consider making a SL Wishlist account before Friday to help out any secret admirers fumbling desperately for last minute gifts. The site might seem a little bare-bones, but it can be searched by avatar name, meaning that anyone who wants to find your list can. Even better, you can do some nosing around yourself and find a gift for that special someone in your virtual life.
One word of advice: Because these lists are public, you may not want to add anything of a... Particularly personal nature, if you catch my drift. Nothing you wouldn't want your family (virtual or otherwise) to stumble across at least. Sometimes its probably best to share certain gift ideas directly, right?
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Altberg Advice: 3 Ways Linden Lab's New CEO Should Start the Remaking of Second Life
Welcome to Linden Lab, Ebbe Altberg! You are the first second third fourth executive to become CEO of this revolutionary startup (that's been a startup since 2008 2006 1999). Before your chair is even warm, you're already being buried by unsolicited advice from Second Life users on Twitter, a lot of which probably seems obscure to you or besides the point, and that advice cascade is only going to increase. You'll get used to it (hopefully). Since I wrote a HarperCollins book called The Making of Second Life back in olden times (by which I mean 2008), and contracted for the company during Second Life's first three years, hopefully you won't mind if I add just a bit more to the advice pile awaiting you now.
As you can tell from your company dashboards, Second Life is not growing its userbase while its revenue base is eroding, so let's start with the good news: the existing userbase is never going away. Seriously. For instance, most of the established userbase hates the official Second Life viewer so much, they just use an alternative, rather than quit. So don't worry about them overly much -- just keep adding tweaks, fixes, and new features, communicate with them on the blog a bit more than your predecessor did, and they'll basically be fine. (Yes, they'll keep complaining like crazy, and say horrible things about you and the company, but that's just their way of saying, "Baby, I can't live without you".)
So the following three points of advice is all about growing the SL userbase:
Avoid Using Second Life as an Avatar Named "Linden" -- Instead, Start Exploring Second Life as an Everyday User
You're probably already getting pressured to create, customize, and use an updated avatar with the Linden surname, just like every CEO before you. Don't do this -- don't even use a Linden-named avatar except for rare, public occasions. Visiting Second Life with an identifiable avatar will give you a distorted impression of how the vast majority of users experience the virtual world. You are also going to get inundated with even more unsolicited advice (and complaints), these in the form of IMs and extremely long notecards which are difficult to read or export. ("I hate getting those," a former Linden Lab CEO once groaned to me.) Instead, to truly understand the challenges facing you, I recommend you experience the entire 6 hour on-ramping process that new users now face, from downloading the client to creating your first bit of content.
Two more quick points, but just as key:
Visit in Second Life: The Station, a Floating Steampunk Carnival a Bit Like BioShock Infinite (With an NSFW Twist)
Click here to visit The Station in Second Life, which is a steampunk city in the sky held aloft by balloons. Kara Trapdoor (a regular Station visitor) invited me there on a recent SL visit, and told me about the carnival games, and the place's many events (including karaoke -- how does that even work?), and it all kinda looked like the floating city in BioShock Infinite, but then Ms. Trapdoor led me through me a secret door where I saw a very interesting use of mesh that would have gotten that game an M rating. So it's got that going for it too. Click here to explore The Station yourself.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Fitted Mesh Finally Hits Second Life -- But With Some Serious Limitations
Fitted Mesh made its long-awaited debut in the main viewer this week. Though designers have been able to experiment with it for a little while now, incorporation into the official viewer means that you can expect to see fitted mesh products on the shelves in many of your favorite shops soon... Though you'll need to update your viewer to see the shape-conforming benefits for yourself.
The promise? An end to cookie-cutter body shapes. No more "standard sizes", no more looking exactly like everyone else in those jeans or that shirt. While fitted mesh is an undeniable improvement (and a big step forward for Second Life fashion) it's not without its shortcomings. Here's why it's still not going to be the cure-all some designers and consumers had hoped for.
Monday, February 10, 2014
Why Linden Lab Likes Blocksworld as Much as Second Life
If you're wondering why Linden Lab's announcement of its new CEO put just as much emphasis on its new iPad game Blocksworld as its legacy product Second Life, this AppAnnie analytics chart will tell you why: Since launching last August, the LEGO-like creation game has been in the top-grossing chart among iPad apps in the Education and Family categories, both of which are pretty big for Apple's tablet, which has become a popular device for keeping kids occupied (and quiet, and not hitting their siblings). Notably, the game has remained close to the very top of those categories over the six or so months since its launch, which is extremely rare for apps. That suggests lots of hardcore fans of the game not only playing over many months, but paying.
It's likely Blocksworld still isn't making anywhere near the revenue that Second Life makes, but given the current trajectory of both that game and SL, this could eventually change:
Monday Eye Candy: Take a Look Inside Plastic Core's Perfectly Posh Virtual Bedroom
SL photographer Plastic Core's snapshots of this lavish virtual bedroom might have you longing to crawl back in between the sheets -- as if a chilly winter Monday couldn't do that on its own.
It's the decor that really sets these shots apart. It's not easy to use space in Second Life; rooms in SL are often much larger than they need to be (both because of the perspective given by the default camera angle and because of our penchant for excess and imitations of luxury) and making them feel plausibly lived in without spending your entire prim allotment can take serious skill. Plastic's bedroom feels cozy but not cramped, lived in but not messy. Add solid use of depth of field and composition, and you have a series of pictures that would be right at home in any RL interior design magazine.
If you find yourself admiring a particular piece of Plastic's decor with your own virtual home in mind, she's included notes on where to find just about everything pictured in the picture descriptions. Check out the set for yourself on Plastic Core's Flickr stream.
Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week
- The Great Place for Exploring Second Life is Via... Flickr
- Why Are Clumsy Games Like Octodad and Flappy Bird So Big? Watch This Video To Find Out
- Linden Lab Hires Yahoo! Exec Ebbe Altberg as CEO - Announcement Emphasizes Blocksworld as Much as SL
- Sims 3 Modders and Second Life Designers Go Head-To-Head Over the Ethics of Converted Content
- Philip Rosedale Next Virtual Reality-Based World Aiming for 100 Millisecond Latency
Friday, February 07, 2014
Opening Today: "The Visitors", Where You Can Interact with Whimsically Animated 2D Figures in a Beautiful 3D Town
Click here to visit "The Visitors" by Cica Ghost. a whimsical new art installation in which stick figures come to fragmentary life in an old Italian city. Opening today, Ms. Ghost is the creator of the Ghostville experience and other beloved sites. Ziki Questi has a good post on what you can expect from your visit to the land of Ms. Ghost:
Read It This Weekend: I Want A Clone Shines a Light on the App Store's Game Cloning Woes
Imagine the world of mobile gaming as a fairytale land. At its heart, a sunlit castle surrounded by glittering fields. Happy peasants, singing birds, princesses dancing barefoot with talking animals and challenging them to a round of Words With Friends... Just heavenly, right? Then look to the south of all that, towards a forest black as night and barbed with gnarled old trees, where wicked witches lure children into their cottages with the promise of something called "Candy Crunch Story". That's the world that new blog I Want A Clone will show you, and it's not pretty.
The popularity and bite-sized format of iOS and Android software allows developers to take risks and experiment with things that would otherwise be too risky to make, and the fact that consumer expectations are different on mobile platforms means that even the most bizarre and unlikely games can become overnight sensations. This promising environment has also created an epidemic of game cloning, where some developers are more interested in making multiple versions of the same app (even if that app isn't theirs in the first place) than they are in innovating.
I Want a Clone showcases a mix of some of the most brazenly unoriginal games in the App Store, as well as quite a few examples of developers soliciting programmers to make "a game exactly like x, but with a pig instead of a bird". It's awful, it's shameless... And it's actually pretty hilarious, too. I mean come on, "Candy Crush Game"? Please. Check I Want A Clone out for yourself here.
The Great Place for Exploring Second Life is Via... Flickr
Explore Second Life is the name of a highly active Flickr group conceived by SL bloggerista supreme Ms. Strawberry Singh, and it's an excellent SL group indeed, offering a vast compendium of beautiful and interesting places in Second Life conveyed by screenshots, with map/SLurl links attached to each, as submitted by group members. My only complaint is Flickr is owned by Yahoo! and so you have to have a Yahoo! account to access all of Flickr's social features, which for personal reasons I find a massive pain, but assuming you're already on Flickr, Explore Second Life is a Flickr group you want to join.
Thursday, February 06, 2014
Why Are Clumsy Games Like Octodad and Flappy Bird So Big? Watch This Video To Find Out
It's hard to explain the fun of a game that's ridiculously (and intentionally) impossible. Not impossible in terms of it's difficulty or challenge, but purely in terms of its controls. Bad control and bad gameplay are practically synonymous because one almost always accompanies the other, so it can be hard to imagine eking any kind of sincere enjoyment out of them. This is probably why when my game-loving mom first saw footage of Kickstarter success story Octodad: Dadliest Catch, she was not impressed. She watched the character flapping and flopping about, desperately fumbling his way through a grocery store, then chuckled and said to me, "Oh, that doesn't look very good."
The idea that a game could be anything but terrible if even skilled players can manage little more than comical flailing is counter-intuitive, and yet this kind of clumsy gameplay has become phenomenally popular. Why? Because even at its most frustrating, it's good old fashioned slapstick fun. See for yourself:
Wednesday, February 05, 2014
Linden Lab Hires Yahoo! Exec Ebbe Altberg as CEO - Announcement Emphasizes Blocksworld as Much as SL
After a couple weeks of silence following the sudden departure of Rod Humble as its CEO, Linden Lab just issued this press announcement that a guy called Ebbe Altberg is his replacement. Formely the COO of a communications software company called BranchOut (for just a year and a half), most of Altberg's recent experience is at Yahoo!, where he was SVP of Media Engineering and before that, VP Head of Audience. Unless I missed it, neither the announcement nor his LinkedIn mentions anything about 3D graphics, virtual reality, gaming, or related fields. Take that as you will. His experience at Yahoo! was definitely about creating and servicing mass market consumer experiences, so he has that going for him.
Also notable: The press release puts as much emphasis on Linden Lab's new (and successful) iOS app, Blocksworld, as Second Life. To wit:
“Linden Lab has long been at the forefront of building experiences that entertain people while empowering them to express themselves and profit from their creations,” said Altberg. “Our customers' creativity is unparalleled, and I’m proud to join the talented team that serves them. Second Life is now in its eleventh year, and every day, users continue to create more and more amazing experiences to enjoy. Though much younger, Blocksworld has already seen hundreds of thousands of unique user-created worlds shared for everyone to play with. I'm absolutely committed to supporting our customers and helping them become even more successful. There are significant opportunities ahead, and I look forward to leading us into the next phase of growth.”
Full announcement after the break for your reading and commenting pleasure. Linden spokesman Peter Gray -- who is still with the company, contrary to SLers wondering otherwise -- tells me a blog post about Altberg is coming soon to the Second Life portal, as is an interview opportunity with, well, me.
Sims 3 Modders and Second Life Designers Go Head-To-Head Over the Ethics of Converted Content
In Second Life, when someone takes an item that someone else created and redistributes it without their permission it's called theft. Plain and simple, no matter how they got their hands on it or what they planned for it, whether they sold it or gave it away, credited the original designer or claimed it as their own. Yet when it comes to other virtual fashion communities, things can be a bit more ambiguous.
Conversions are a popular segment of The Sims 3's custom content scene. Modders take user-created content for The Sims 2, for example, and update it so that it can be used in the newer game. They may even fix some issues and improve the quality of the original, often abandoned piece of content. The same can be done with official content from other games as well, making it accessible in worlds where it otherwise wouldn't be. Sometimes that content is behind a donation/paywall for its original platform, but it's not being sold for the platform they're converting it to so there's no risk of hurting the original designer's earnings. It's harmless.
I'll admit as a fan of Sims mods myself I didn't think much of these content conversions, but a recent schism between Simmers and SLers has me thinking twice. Here's why:
Tuesday, February 04, 2014
Ancient Alexandria is an Amazing Place in Second Life - What Others Must I Absolutely See Soon?
Last night I floated high above a beautiful Second Life sim called Ancient Alexandria -- (map location and SLurl right here, please go visit yourself ) -- and yes, it looks like this, with the graphics turned up full: less like an ancient Greek city, but something out of Skyrim, but with a city square with air ships and such which overall seems more steampunk. (Skyrim mod idea: Steampunk Skyrim.) And now that I find myself with more time and opportunity to explore more in Second Life, I find many old beloved sims are long gone, but others remain, and still others have risen as well. Many of them are fully mesh-made, and so seem to remake Second Life anew, so that it can (as you can see here), visually compete with the best that 3D gaming has to offer.
Along those lines, what others should I see in my next few visits?
It Might Be Hard to Make Friends After the Zombie Apocalypse According to This Darkly Humorous DayZ Blog
As I'm sure most of our readers already know first-hand, online environments are a great place to meet new friends and socialize, but they're also excellent incubators for conflict. Monster-infested online first-person shooters are no exception.
Zombie survival simulator DayZ started its life as a user-created mod for ARMA 2, but its popularity lead to it becoming its own fully-fledged standalone game, and within that game you can find the best and worst of humanity. All the highs and lows of social interaction, both online and offline, are amplified in when resources are scarce and enemies are abundant. That's what makes hey are you cool, a Tumblr logging one player's social exchanges in DayZ, so novel and so horrifying all at once.
Take one of my favorite entries, for example:
Monday, February 03, 2014
Philip Rosedale Next Virtual Reality-Based World Aiming for 100 Millisecond Latency
Mitch Wagner has a good InformationWeek interview with Philip Rosedale on the virtual reality world technology he's building in High Fidelity, some of which I've seen but can only coyly talk about here right now. Biggest thing that jumped out to me was this line:
"The systems that are using 3D online worlds like Second Life or World of Warcraft, they're typically up at about 500 ms. Those systems are markedly impacted," Rosedale says. "Our goal with Hi-Fi is to be down around the 100 ms point or less. This piece is working well."
That's a bold statement, which I'm making bold for that very reason. Because by way of comparison, 100 milliseconds is literally less than the blink of an eye, which clocks in at something like a slow-ass 300ms. But like I said before: