Friday, October 31, 2014
Get Ready for Battle With These Cinematic Images of Second Life Avatar Armor
Armor doesn't get enough love in Second Life fashion circles, which makes it stand out even more when those elusive, perfect shots finally do surface. This week virtual world artist and blogger Jordan Giant captured a series of images of a gleaming, detailed suit of her own, and they look so good that when I first caught sight of them in my Flickr dashboard I mistook them for the jawdropping work of my favorite Skyrim screenshotter, Jay Faircloth.
But they're not; these pics weren't captured in a heavily modded version of Skyrim running on a lightning fast computer at all. They were captured in Second Life, taking advantage of a dramatic and skillful use of in-game lighting options -- and probably more than a little bit of Photoshop, to be fair. Suffice it to say that the full set, including the image embedded above, are a breathtaking change of pace from the usual Second Life fashion snaps you'll come across.
DX Exchange Community Partnering With Second Life Communities & Sims for L$ Commissions
DX Exchange (a proud NWN partner) is partnering with Second Life communities/sims which want Linden Dollar sale discounts for their members. (The community or sim gets a L$60 commission whenever a member buys L$.) Among DX's many (and most successful) community partners is Berlin 3D, a Second Life recreation of modern Berlin (pictured at left). Interested? Here's how to partner up:
Linden Lab Announces Performance Improvements to Second Life & SL Marketplace -- Who's Feeling Them
I like hard numbers, so what do you think of these just announced by Linden:
Even during peak usage periods [of the SL Marketplace] over the weekend, when in the past performance would degrade, we’re seeing response times that average 70% faster and page load times that are 30% faster than before the changes... average download times for textures and meshes have been reduced by more than 50% on average, and the improvement is even more dramatic outside of North America... With the HTTP Project Viewer out now, the faster content download times you’ll see thanks to the CDN change get even better - we’re talking 80% faster!
Of course, your metaverse mileage may vary. Who's feeling the performance love?
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Trick and Treat: Halloween Events in Second Life
Maybe it's your turn to stay home handing out the candy. Maybe you want to take the kids trick-or-treating, and won't be back in time to go out. Maybe you have a costume idea so fatastical that only the virtual world can do it justice.
Maybe you just don't want to deal with a swarm of drunken people in oh-so-clever, oh-so-sensitive Ebola doctor costumes.
Regardless of why you're logging in to Second Life on Halloween, there will be a ton of things going on to keep you busy -- sims to visit, fairs to shop at, performances to attend, contests to win... It would be nearly impossible to do a complete round-up of them all. Instead, I've picked out a handful of the best events and destinations for you to check out on and around Halloween weekend and, naturally, an opportunity for you to share your own.
Keep reading for more!
NWN Partners with OnLive to Expand Second Life Coverage
SL Go is a Second Life streaming service I'm very proud to have helped OnLive launch as a consultant, and now I'm also proud to announce SL Go is a sponsoring partner of New World Notes, working with us to expand our first-person, in-world coverage of Second Life. In my very biased opinion, SL Go is the best solution for using and exploring SL with high-end graphics and low lag across multiple devices -- so I'll be putting my embedded virtual journalist hat back on, and exploring Second Life in its fully optimized glory. (Which just launched on iPads too.)
More on that soon, but for now, here's a fascinating factoid I just got from OnLive product manager Dennis Harper:
Fake Journalist Destroys Fake Game Industry Scandal
Stephen Colbert is a liberal comedian who plays a right wing journalist, so it's fitting that he just gave the last word (hopefully) on a "movement" that claimed to be about integrity in game industry journalism, but was basically a conservative backlash against the growth of women as a force in games:
And while this backlash led to death/rape threats and unending harassment against women in games, it has also achieved the exact opposite purpose, greatly helping to make Anita Sarkeesian one of the most well-known and influential figures in the entire game industry:
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Has Mesh Marred the Creative Process in Second Life?
When I announced our plan to explore the latest in Second Life creativity, I mentioned wanting to see new or updated sims using mesh, introduced to SL a few years ago, and a thought occurred to me -- has mesh actually marred the overall creative energy of Second Life? I had this thought, in part, because it came up in my long discussions with AM Radio (Jeff Berg IRL) for my Polygon profile of him. AM was easily among Second Life's most renowned creators, and he said this about the appearance of mesh, versus his prim-based works in SL:
Every prim there was positioned manually, entered in using the number keys. Placement via the mouse was rare. It was exacting. I never felt anything was out of place. Yet prims have a certain quality to them, similar to brush strokes, shaping them just right can result in magic, the hand of the creator still evident on inspection. it's really a beautiful medium. The introduction of mesh in Second Life, for me, has many parallels to the recording industry, which went from tape to digital. Dave Grohl's documentary about Sound City is an excellent metaphor as it moves from tape to digital recording. That is to say, mesh gives far more freedom, but at some cost to the creative process. "You can't make a wheat field, you'll crash the sim." Often, the most inspiring creativity comes from overcoming what others define as limitations. Show me one piece in the MoMA that does not contain some energy of it's very own pioneering.
This seems generally right to me. This is not to say people who develop in mesh are less creative -- after all, 3D graphics studios have their own limitations too -- just that prims are more universal. They are essentially equivalent to building blocks or LEGO, toys we're all familiar with and able to use. (And in Second Life, you can also see the construction take place in real time.) And therefore, creativity around prims (as opposed to mesh models created offline) somehow seems both childlike and more impressive -- and when it really works, incredibly powerful:
Second Life Designers and Consumers Speak Out: What It Takes to Make, Sell and Buy SL Stuff
This month I asked both Second Life designers and consumers to weigh in on an important issue: Exactly how long they think it takes, and how long it actually takes to create the staple goods of the virtual economy. Now, I'm reporting back with some of the most interesting responses I received in the hopes that, in some small way, we can try to bridge the occasionally cavernous gap between customers and creators.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Open Forum: What are the Best New/Updated Second Life Sims We Should be Sure to See?
New World Notes began as in-world coverage of Second Life creativity, and since it still remains among the very best examples of user-generated content anywhere on the Internet, that coverage will continue to be an anchor for this blog. To that end, Iris and I are planning to expand our coverage of Second Life sims over the next few months, which is something I've been longing to do for quite awhile. We're especially looking for new or greatly updated sims which make use of the latest tools and features, or like Hakone, which I visited some months ago, are just supremely cool. Just as key are great communities or ongoing group projects/content creation/mini-MMOs, like Godswar, especially if we haven't been able to cover them on NWN before.
Any come to mind? Please post SLurls and descriptions in Comments below, and expect a visit from Iris or me soon.
The Trouble with Being a Tiny Avatar in Second Life
Terry Shuriken made the tiniest avatar in Second Life I've ever seen, as I blogged a couple weeks ago, but as it turns out, this tiniest of tinies is not for sale: "Uh, nope not selling this because its veeery unusable," Terry tells me, then goes on to tell me about the trouble with being so tiny: "You can't see it [the avatar, that is] unless you press control+0 many many times to zoom in, and also use zoom-in HUDs to zoom in even further."
And even if you manage to get your camera on the avatar, heaven help you if you try to move:
Shuggles Puts Customization HUDs Within Reach of Every Single Second Life Designer (NWN Partner News)
Today I'm going to talk a little bit about about mpHUD, a product from NWN sponsoring partner Shuggles [SLURL] by Shuichi Shinji. In Second Life fashion, HUDs are a somewhat tricky thing. As consumers, we've been a bit spoiled to expect a HUD to navigate even the most minor options a product may have. Although we often don't know much about what it takes to make a good HUD system, we still regularly take them for granted. For multi-talented SL designers, creating a new HUD is mostly just a timesink. For others who may have a world of knowledge about 3D modeling but barely a scrap of scripting know-how a new HUD is just one more expense. Some find a scripter they trust, negotiate a price, communitcate what they want, and hope for the best.
Shuggles' mpHUD gives creators a little more room to breath, particularly if you're looking for highly in-demand functions like resizing or color-changing. You can pick out the specific features you need (or grab the complete bundle) and follow the instructions provided to put together your ideal HUD without spending a tremendous amount of time or L$ in the process. That means more time to design, fewer expenses along the way, and an end to customers complaining about outdated menu-based options.
Inside Sunset Overdrive's Fabulous Virtual Fashions
Gita Jackson gets it -- or should I say, she gets us. Jackson is a games writer with a passion for virtual fashion, and she understands the role it can play in how we understand a game's characters, attitude, and landscape. Hot on the heels of her recent post about the fashion and design decisions behind Final Fantasy X's Yuna, she's interviewed a few of the folks responsible for the vibrant, arresting fashion of Xbox One exclusive Sunset Overdrive over on Paste. (Full disclosure: I am also a regular contributor to Paste.)
Jackson spoke with Insomniac Games Art Director Jacinda Chew and Carin Cronacher, an LA-based fashion designer who creates stagewear for Alice Cooper in addition to designing for her own brand. While Cronacher's experience gave her a unique perspective that aligned well with the game's intended visual style, as she explained to Jackson she still had to make sure she'd be putting together designs that people would actually want to wear:
Visit RMK Gothic Sim for a Stylish Second Life Halloween
Beautifully shot by avid SL videographer Kawanishi Yana, this is a montage through a sim called RMK Gothic, where a carnival fun house, a deep scary forest, and other Halloween-flavored fixings are served.
Monday, October 27, 2014
Iris Reviews Fantasy Life for Paste: A Roleplay Game Where You Can Be a Heroic Cook, Tailor, or Angler
"Fantasy Life: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor" is the latest article by New World Notes' Janine "Iris" Hawkins for the ultra-hip Paste Magazine, and it's a review of a Nintendo 3DS game a lot of SLers and other roleplay fans should love: Fantasy Life, where you can adventure as a standard Paladin, Mercenary, or Magician, but also take on much more mundane roles, like Cook, Tailor, or Angler. SLers in particular will enjoy the fashion and design aspects of the game, Janine tells me, who adds this play tip: "Keep progressing in the story so you can get access to shops that sell the materials you need instead of always having to hunt or them."
Another fun feature is the game encourages you to play many characters, passing talents from one to another:
GamerGhazi: Your One-Stop Subreddit for You Know What
/GamerGhazi, as the name suggests, is a subreddit of news and much-needed humor covering and mocking the biggest but also most irksome controversy to wrack the game industry in many years, which I'd also like to take a hiatus from posting about on New World Notes, especially as I just did last week.
Oh, and note for apolitical or non-American readers:
Starved for Fun: Don't Miss These Top Posts from Rock, Paper, Shotgun's Survival Week
Last week gaming site Rock, Paper, Shotgun ran a series of features for their rather brilliant Survival Week, a week devoted to survival games and mod conversions. With a full week's worth of articles published it can be tricky to catch up, but here are four recommended starting points:
This Second Life Image is Almost as Stunning as the Classic Painting it's Based on
Second Life artist Boudicca Amat does a lot of different things with her SL snapshots: sometimes her work is very modern, and sometimes its the exact opposite. My absolute favorite pieces of hers, however, are the ones where she goes out of her way to imitate or evoke classical art. Normally, Boudicca just teases a few similarities with a famous piece (as she recently did with "Cecilia") but her latest, "Pinky", takes her usual approach one step farther.
"Pinky" is still a few steps removed from Thomas Lawrence's "Pinkie", originally painted in 1794. The angle of the model, the framing, the hair... There are a lot of things that aren't recreated perfectly, but those things allow "Pinky" to stand on its own without its famous source. For all intents and purposes it could simply be a beautiful portrait from the (virtual) regency. Either way, it's an exceptional Second Life snapshot.
Be sure to check out the rest of Boudicca Amat's work in her Flickr gallery.
Top Nine New World Notes Posts from Last Week!
Wow, busy week last week:
- Journalist Critical of GamerGate Posts Best Critique of GamerGate Directly in GamerGate Forum
- Iris Wants to Know: Second Life Designers, How Long Does it Take You to Work Your Content-Creating Magic?
- NPR Report: Women Were Once Interested in Computer Science -- and They Can Be Again
- RL Artist Turns Photos of SL Architecture into Art
- Fortune 500 Company Symantec Using Unattributed NWN Image of Unauthorized Dune Tribute in Second Life to Put a Poodle On It
- Second Life Won't Make it Easy to Imitate This Real Life Trend, but Clever Designers Could Still Prevail
- High Fidelity v. Interstellar: Should Virtual Reality Exploration Replace Space Travel as Philip Rosedale Hopes?
- 1st Feature Film for VR Created by 2 Metaverse Alumni/strong>
I sometimes wonder if our coverage is going too far afield of Second Life and virtual worlds, but looking at this, 5 of the 9 top stories are on that topic -- 6 if you count the Banshee Chapter Oculus movie from SL/Linden alum.
NWN Back Up on Chrome After False Malware Report
If you're visiting New World Notes via Chrome, you should no longer be seeing an annoying and understandably concerning malware warning page from the browser, which popped up sometime last Friday. For some reason this happened after Google reportedly mis-categorized services like bit.ly and del.icio.us as being unsafe, and as it turns out, I added a del.icio.us widget to my blog many years ago -- like, back in 2006 when I launched it and people still, well, used del.icio.us -- but had forgot it was even there. Gorgeous Yongho, SL fashion photographer and blogger extraordinaire at JuicyBomb, pointed that out to me (as did others on Plurk), I slapped my forehead, yanked out the offending code, and now we're back in business on Chrome. Thanks again to JuicyBomb, who might be able to give you some good advice on HTML, and can definitely give you some gorgeous fashion pics to peruse.
Quick favor? If you know other readers who were worried about this malware false-positive, please share this update with the social buttons beyond the break:
Friday, October 24, 2014
1st Feature Film for VR Created by 2 Metaverse Alumni
Banshee Chapter: Oculus Rift Edition is the first feature movie produced for the virtual reality platform (as Deadline Hollywood reported today), and the groundbreaking project was driven by two metaverse alumni: Blair Erickson, who directed the original, well-reviewed horror film starring Silence of the Lambs' Ted Levine, created experiences for virtual worlds marketing company Millions of Us (which did a number of Second Life projects), and Adrian Herbez, who worked at Linden Lab before moving on to Sony Home. Their startup Jamwix created the Oculus Rift conversion. (If you have an Oculus HMD, download the movie here.)
The film experience changes when it becomes VR, Blair tells me: "What it does is shift the observer from a passive watcher to a more active participant. the camera literally becomes your eyes," as he puts it. "And since you can look left and right, you begin to feel like you're actually inside the scene. The effect is powerful and transformative, even at this early stage of development. You can already sense that something very game changing is happening from this new medium."
The movie itself hasn't been edited to fit the VR platform, he says:
Help Wanted: DX Exchange Hiring In-World Staff
DX Exchange (a proud NWN partner) is now hiring paid in-world staff to help expand its Linden Dollar-real currency exchange service throughout Second Life, especially users who are fluent in both English and Spanish or Chinese. More details after the break. If you're qualified and interested, e-mail support at dxexchange dot com or IM the company's in-world representative (pictured here) MarcelEdward DX.
SL Go for iPad Gets a Horizontal Rotation Fix
SL Go for iPad just got a horizontal rotation problem fix, OnLive Project Manager Dennis Harper tells me, so you can not only stream Second Life to your Apple tablet, the image will flip around for you too. (The app will update for folks who already have the SL Go app.) Again, since we don't have an iPad at NWN, we're hoping readers who do own iPads let us know how SL Go is working for them. (Disclosure: I was briefly a consultant for OnLive earlier this year.)
Don't Panic: New Survival Horror Game in Second Life (If You Can Survive the Setup)
Don't Panic is an intriguing-looking survival horror game worth checking out this weekend before Halloween. First thing to survive: The long, involved technical setup instructions, which are still a necessary part of pretty much any interactive experience in Second Life. (But don't panic.)
Change Your Second Life Look on a Budget With This New Curvy Shape from NWN Partner Ample Avi
THROE, a curvaceous figure with a surprisingly sweet face, is a new release available this week from Ample Avi, a proud sponsoring partner of NWN. You can pick her up right now at Ample Avi's in-world store.
Ample Avi, in case you haven't heard, specializes in full-figured shapes for Second Life avatars (and does a pretty good job of it). Their latest is described by designer Xme Xue as a "Curvy Slim" shape, meaning that her curves are built onto a slimmer frame, leaving a voluptuous end result. Even better, THROE is both copiable and modifiable (like all of Ample Avi's shapes) meaning that you can apply your own face to the body or make variations to suit just about any ensemble you want.
I (Iris, of course) decided to model this shape with a Halloween-themed hairstyle from Lamb since Ample Avi is selling THROE for a mere L$100 until October 31st, only at their in-world store [SLURL]. If you miss your chance to snap her up at the discounted holiday price, you'll still be able to pick THROE up for L$1,800 in-world as well as on their Second Life Marketplace storefront. Whether you're a fan of full-figured avatars or looking to test the waters with something different, THROE's worth your consideration.
Learn About the Details Behind the Striking Design of Upcoming Game Firewatch
Firewatch is an upcoming game from Campo Santo, a small studio made up of a group of friends and industry veterans. Since the game is still in development material about it is stillpretty sparce, but this week they shared a post on their blog that is fascinating whether or not you've been following their progress. It's part two of a Twitter Q&A with fans where the developers responded to questions about the game's art and visual design, and it's an interesting look at what it takes to make a game look as striking as Firewatch.
There's a lot to take in (and some of the answers are admittedly a bit "inside baseball") but they're still an incredibly interesting read... Especially if you're looking for a little artistic advice yourself. For example, when asked if it's hard to design dozens of distinct rocks and trees, they write:
Thursday, October 23, 2014
High Fidelity v. Interstellar: Should Virtual Reality Exploration Replace Space Travel as Philip Rosedale Hopes?
MIT's Technology Review has an in-depth interview with Philip Rosedale and a look at the latest update of High Fidelity, his next gen, Oculus Rift-compatible virtual world, which is starting to come with realistic graphics, and more dynamic avatar interaction. Beyond that, this passage in particular struck me, because Philip and I were recently discussing this topic, and I'm planning to explore it more:
"Why go into outer space when it’s more likely that by amassing computing resources we will create all the mysteries and unknowns and new species inside them?” he says. Rosedale says the freedom to explore and experiment inside a virtual world generates a “social force,” creating positive interactions between people that are impossible in everyday life–much like the Burning Man festival he attends each year. It’s a vision that betrays a touching if naïve faith in humans and technology. But it’s set Rosedale on a shared course with some of the biggest names in technology.
There's an economic case to make for this, to be sure, but the idea of space exploration going away makes me sad. I mean, just watch this:
Second Life Won't Make it Easy to Imitate This Real Life Trend, but Clever Designers Could Still Prevail
One of the most eye-catching RL fashion trends of 2014 seems to have been all but ignored by Second Life designers. Metallic tattoos, like the ones sold by Flash Tattoos (above) have become a staple on many fashion blogs and Instagram accounts, especially during the summer, but if you're searching for them on the SL Marketplace or your favorite virtual fashion blogs you'll probably come up empty handed.
It's probably unfair to say this trend has been "ignored". In fact this is exactly the kind of deceptively simple RL fashion that can be the hardest to replicate well in the virtual world, and here's why:
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Fortune 500 Company Symantec Using Unattributed NWN Image of Unauthorized Dune Tribute in Second Life to Put a Poodle On It... So I Don't Even Know What to Say
So last week I noticed that Symantec, which is a Fortune 500 company, is using an image I shot in Second Life for a post about a user-created tribute to Frank Herbert's Dune franchise back in 2007, for a viral campaign on Twitter, which has something to do with a poodle fighting a sandworm. Now this would be fine except they didn't attribute the screenshot to New World Notes, which is not very cool (and against the Creative Commons license of this blog), but on the other hand, it's a virtual world news report on an unauthorized tribute. And in 2009, lawyers representing the estate of Frank Herbert sent legal notices to the Second Life users who were making all these Dune tributes.
So yeah, I kinda don't know what to say about the poodle and the sandworm (which was actually a virtual statue in Second Life, at least until the lawyers came calling). Except maybe this:
The Uncle Who Works for Nintendo is Not Your Father's (Brother's) Indie Horror Game
Everyone had that friend... Maybe a friend of a friend.... A friend of a friend of a friend (they go to a different school, you wouldn't know them) with an uncle who worked for Nintendo. They knew things, they'd seen things, they'd played things that you could only imagine. They could tell you how to get a level 99 Mew as your starter Pokemon, how to play as Zelda rescuing Link, how to save Aerith -- oh, did they forget to mention he used to work at Sony too?
It might seem like a strange premise for a horror game, but The Uncle Who Works for Nintendo is guaranteed to send a chill down your spine. Here's why:
We Are Living in William Gibson's Quasi-Dystopic Future But Have Yet to Absorb That Fact
The last couple days, I felt like this in the morning when I turned on the news:
"In technology news, the world's largest Internet company announced a half billion dollar investment in wearable virtual reality tech, putting it in direct competition with the virtual reality technology currently in development by the world's second largest Internet company. Meanwhile, the technorati are still cooing over the world's first working hoverboard.
"And to recap the top news headlines today:
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
RL Artist Turns Photos of SL Architecture into Art
Projection Monitor is a Tumblr of lonely, eerie, beautiful images of interior architecture, and here's the cool thing: They were all created in Second Life, screencaps taken from within SL's many homes and gardens. They're by Sara Ludy, an established artist with an impressive CV of gallery shows around the world. Here's a 2011 interview with the well-regarded Rhizome arts site, and below, a video interview featuring more of her work:
NPR Report: Women Were Once Interested in Computer Science -- and They Can Be Again
"When Women Stopped Coding" is an NPR report I hope everyone reading this blog gives a listen to (it's about 15 minutes), because while it's not what we usually write about at New World Notes, it speaks directly to the lack of women in virtual reality, and the poor representation of women in gaming/online worlds, which we write about quite a lot. The report revolves around this chart:
Based on growth rates in the 70 and 80s, women were on track to graduate with as many computer science degrees as men by around the year 2000. (And even before that, as the report notes, some of the very first programming companies were founded and led by women.) But then in 1984, growth suddenly started falling -- fast. Why? Short answer: Marketing, and then social expectations influenced by that marketing.
This question came up during a recent Oculus Rift conference:
Iris Wants to Know: Second Life Designers, How Long Does it Take You to Work Your Content-Creating Magic?
There's a big gap between the time and work that goes into an original Second Life item, and the time and the work that is often perceived to have gone into it. Take a look at some of the unfair SL Marketplace reviews designers often receive, and it's not hard to find customers talking about carefully crafted virtual content as though it can be slapped together in the time it takes to have a celebratory post-work pizza delivered. For some simpler creations that's not so far from the truth, but for the rest? Well...
Last week I asked Second Life consumers how much they thought went into a Second Life design, and the answers I received in the comments, over Plurk, on Twitter, and even via email varied wildly. Taking a standard piece of avatar clothing as an example, some suggested it might take a few hours while others suggested a few months. As much as time and effort involved depend on the specific item being made, it's clear that a lot of us really just don't know -- and there's no shame in that. There can be something of an aura around content creators, especially those who've found any degree of success, that obscures the reality of their work and makes it very easy to misjudge.
So now it's your turn, designers.
Here's what I want to know: What do you make in SL, and generally speaking how long does it take you to make it? Do you think the general population of SL has a good idea of what it takes to do what you do, or do you think some of us shoppers need a serious reality check? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
This Second Life Fashion Blogger Turns Halloween Costumes into Everyday Style
Speaking of spooky seasonal cuties, you'll want to scope out Jade Composer's recent additions to Flickr if you're looking for some particularly adorable Halloween style inspiration.
Jade's pictures are immediately recognizable for their always adorable and often a little bit sexy avatars, placed front and centre and dipped in a lot of carefully placed details. Her Halloween pictures have been no exception, simply adding some holiday trappings (like menacing blackened claws) into the mix. Of her recent shots my favorite is absolutely the one above, which seems to take notes from guro kawaii while still managing to look ridiculously wearable. Jade Composer's October ensembles proves that you don't need to bury yourself in an over-the-top costume to get your spooky style across.
Monday, October 20, 2014
Journalist Critical of GamerGate Posts Best Critique of GamerGate Directly in GamerGate Forum
This is probably the best critique of #GamerGate ever written by a mainstream journalist, and ironically enough, it's posted on /KotakuinAction, the central headquarters for the "movement" on Reddit. It's by Jesse Singal, Senior Editor at NYMag.com, who also writes a Sunday video games column for The Boston Globe. Singal published a Globe editorial last month aruging that GamerGate is really about opposition to women and feminism in games. Unsurprisingly, GamerGaters in Reddit complained that the editorial was biased and poorly researched... and so last weekend, Jess Singal went into the Reddit forum himself and explained in great detail his sources for reaching that conclusion. It is a thing of beauty you should read in full here, but here's just a sample:
[F]aced with this complete lack of clarity [of GamerGate's purpose], all I or other journalists can do, then, is journalism: We ask the people in the movement what they stand for and then try to tease out what is real and what is PR. And every every every substantive conversation/ forum/encounter I've had with folks from GamerGate has led me to believe that a large part of the reason for the group's existence is discomfort with what its members see as the creeping and increasing influence of what you call social-justice warriors in the gaming world.
"Basically," Singal tells me, "I stumbled upon a Reddit thread from awhile back in which GamerGate people were calling me a hack, and instead of doing the reasonable thing and going on with my life because who cares, I posted a little response saying Hey, happy to actually talk this over if you guys want to. Generally speaking, when people misunderstand how journalism works – which a lot of GamerGate folks are at the moment – I do think it’s useful for us to step in and provide an explanation (assuming the accusers are acting with a baseline level of decency and respect)." After devoting a lot of time engaging with GamerGate supporters on Twitter, "I wanted to get down in one place everything that bugged me about trying to debate this movement (or 'movement')... So why not post in KIA itself, I figured?"
Since he was directly addressing GamerGate supporters angry at his Globe column, you'd think he'd mostly get angry replies. But here's the surprising thing about the response:
Pokemon Art Academy Won't Make You Color Inside the Lines
If you read the late August round-up I wrote about the games I'm most looking forward to in the last quarter of 2014, then you probably have a very good idea of why you're staring down the barrel of a crudely drawn otter demon right now.
Pokemon Art Academy is due out this Friday and previews are already popping up to show what the game has to offer. For example, this video from The BitBlock (from which I grabbed the screencap above) is an entertaining example of what the first few minutes of play will be like. Even if you have zero interest in sketching up a Pikachu for yourself, it still might be a good way to get well-earned Monday laugh:
This Scarily Sweet Second Life Cyclops isn't a Reality... Yet
I'll be honest, when I saw this frighteningly cute cyclops avatar on Eilfie Sugarplum's Flickr this morning my heart skipped I beat. I was already opening Second Life, virtual wallet in hand, ready to pop over to her shop (The Sugar Garden) before I paused to read the picture's description and comments. Eilfie is know for her skins, eyes, and other assorted avatar customization items, so it was absolutely within the realm of possibility that she'd release this sweet cyclops in time for Halloween. But alas, it seems that the "Tsuclops" is just a fun snapshot edit and not the most creepydorable Halloween costume in all of SL.
At least that's how the situation stands right now, but that's not to say it couldn't change.
In the comments Eilfie clarifies that her tsuclops isn't a reality yet, but that if others are interested she would try to bring it to SL. If you'd like a tsuclops avatar of your own, be sure to check out Eilfie's original pic on Flickr and register your support in the comments.
Top Six New World Notes Posts from Last Week!
- SL Land Baron on Why User-Created Portals for Second Life 2 are (Probably) a Bad Idea UPDATE: Linden CEO Responds
- SL Go Streaming for Second Life Now Available on iPad
- Iris Wants to Know: How Long Do You Think It Takes Designers to Create Your Favorite Virtual Fashions?
- A Law Professor's Brilliant Solution to Curb Online Harassment: Strip Anonymity Privileges from Abusers
- Watch This Academic's Moving Speech on How Virtual Worlds Can Help People With Disabilities
- It's Critical to be Critical, Whether You Like This Hyper-Violent Game Trailer or Not
Friday, October 17, 2014
Watch This Weekend: A Gorgeous SL Machinima on Love Transcending Space & Time
This weekend, put aside eight minutes to watch this lovely Second Life machinima from Tutsy Navarantha, whose works we've often blogged before:
Purportedly based on a true (if virtual!) story, it's about a romance that's built by two people across different time zones within an online world. Tutsy has a clever affectation which conveys the mixed reality nature of real relationships that begin in a virtual context:
DX Exchange Headquarters & ATMs in Second Life
Click here to teleport directly to the Second Life headquarters of NWN partner DX Exchange. That's where you can access DX's in-world ATMs, where members can access their Linden Dollars, and also get their special tell-a-friend discount voucher. They also have a number of in-world partners with ATMs listed here.
Chestnut Reviews a Beautiful SL Sim Called The Trace
NWN alumna Chestnut Rau has a pictorial visit to an SL sim called The Trace, which is a place by Kylie Jaxxon with many fine details, including elements which change according to the season (at least so we're told). See more here and when you are ready, click here to teleport.
It's Critical to be Critical, Whether You Like This Hyper-Violent Game Trailer or Not
Yesterday, a developer released a trailer for a game they're working on. That's not news. It's a very violent game. That's not news either. What is news is just how negative its reception has been among gamers and games writers; within hours, op-eds were springing up about how repulsive, tacky, and frankly pathetic the trailer for the game (bluntly and blandly named Hatred) seems. Of course the trailer has spread like wildfire as a result, and on YouTube it still has more "dislikes" than "likes".
There's a lot of grossness to deal with when you're talking about Hatred. It claims to be a response to the trend towards "political correctness" in games. Its developers may hold some very disturbing political beliefs. It depicts a mass-shooting days after Anita Sarkeesian and the school hosting an event for her were threatened with one. But if nothing else, the responses to all of that grossness have been very insightful and well worth reading -- especially if, like me, you've ever tried to reconcile your enjoyment of some violent video games with your utter distaste for others.
Return of the Deep Sea Dad: Octodad's Free DLC Doesn't Disappoint
As much as I enjoyed Octodad: Dadliest Catch when it first came out last February, I didn't expect to be anticipating its free DLC pack as much as I was 8 months later. I thought the game's charm and the glee I felt when I played it would fade over time as these things often do.
But it didn't.
I'd been awaiting the promised free DLC for months, and when it was finally released this week I leapt at the chance to play it. In short it does exactly what the best parts of Octodad did, placing the player and the titular cephalopatriarch in everyday scenarios and essentially "letting the magic happen". Take the screenshot above for instance, shared by @mattshea369 on Twitter. That patient sure did not start out wedged in a hospital vending machine, and yet here we are. If that's not enough to demonstrate what the Octodad DLC is all about, take a look at this stream I did on Tuesday:
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Watch This Academic's Moving Speech on How Virtual Worlds Can Help People With Disabilities
Jay Jay Jegathesan is a PhD candidate from the University of Western Australia, and his thesis is about how virtual worlds (specifically Second Life) can help build communities, and this is him passionately presenting a short summary of his work so far:
"In 2009," Jay Jay explains to me, "I founded a fully immersive 3D University campus on the virtual world of Second Life [official site here], and we are now recognized as world leaders in global community development through this technology. This turned into my PhD, which examines how global communities have emerged through virtual worlds in particular among people with disability or chronic illnesses."
Here's how he explains why this is possible:
Is This Tiny SL Avatar the Smallest Avatar in Any MMO?
Terry Shuriken created this tiny-ass Second Life avatar and it may very well be the tiniest ass avatar in the world of MMOs:
It is, writes Terry, "Somewhere between 1/3rd or 1/4th of an inch tall. This is my smallest avatar! I made it using avatar workbench/blender." But I'm not quite sure how Terry pulled this off: Can the avatar fully move its whole body, like a standard avatar? And how exactly did Terry build it in Workbench/Blender?
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
A Law Professor's Brilliant Solution to Curb Online Harassment: Strip Anonymity Privileges from Abusers
Online harrassment against women in the game industry reached a very terrifying peak yesterday, provoking a viral protest on Twitter, #StopGamerGate2014. But as great as that is, online abuse (especially against women) will likely continue at a feverish level until Twitter and other platforms which allow anonymous/pseudonymous identity have structural solutions to help address it.
Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, a new book from law professor Danielle Keats Citron, has a very clever proposal for doing just that: Make anonymity a privilege not a right. "Users who violate terms-of-service agreements could be required to authenticate their identities in order to continue their site privileges," she writes.
"[R]equiring users to own their own words, so to speak, has the effect of bringing online speech to a level playing field as offline speech," Professor Citron explains to me. "Offline, social norms develop as people react to speech and gauge people’s reactions. Workers are far less likely to sexually harass fellow employees because others will think badly of them and because it may in fact be cause for termination and liability for the employer." In online spaces which allow people to identify themselves by their real name or by an anonymous pseudonym -- such as Twitter -- that calculus changes:
"When only the victim is named and not the perpetrator in online spaces, others can hardly send the signal that their behavior is unacceptable and harmful. If anonymity is a privilege that can be lost, we could introduce the power of social norms back into the calculus. Perpetrators may decline to fantasize about how they would rape named individuals because they would not want to be seen as the kind of person who does that sort of thing. And bringing names into the calculus would help victims to bring legal action if the speech was proscribable like true threat. The approach is less drastic than removal, though removal should be considered for direct threats, for instance."
I ask Professor Citron if she thinks a policy like this implemented on Twitter and other social platforms would address the death and rape threats and other harassment associated with #GamerGate.
"For death threats," she says, "my inclination is to urge site operators to work with victims to ensure that posters can be traced (for law enforcement purposes). In those cases, that would be my recommendation of first order of business so that journalists like Amanda Hess can’t be told that there is no evidence to deal with graphic threats after she blocked and deleted them." (Read Hess' shocking Pacific Standard story about that.)
"Identifiability," Professor Citron goes on, "might provide a disincentive to threaten others with rape and other forms of violence. If posters know that they have to own threats of violence or lose their site privileges, they might think twice about doing it."
A solution like this, by the way, has already been implemented by Facebook around their user pages:
Lenna's Inception: Classic Gaming Style With a Modern Gaming Twist
If you're into indie/alt games these days then you're probably already aware of itch.io, a streamlined indie marketplace that makes it ultra-easy for developers to deliver their games to customers. Itch.io has become host to a boatload of interesting games in the past year -- some paid, many free -- and deserves some serious coverage.
It's with that in mind that I'll be reaching into my own itch.io library much more often here on NWN, starting today with a retro-inspired story of a teacher's revenge: Lenna's Inception.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Iris Wants to Know: How Long Do You Think It Takes Designers to Create Your Favorite Virtual Fashions?
When I read user reviews of products on the SL Marketplace, I'm often struck by how much of a disconnect there is between what customers think goes into producing an original product in Second Life and what actually does. It's a pet peeve, and something I have to struggle not to launch into a full rant about. I've even read comments that acted as though a fully modelled and textured item was little more than a sketch on the back of a restaurant receipt.
In general, there's often a tremendous lack of understanding for what many content creators actually do, even from the most respectful and reverent users buying from them. It's a big gap, and we need to bridge it.
This week, I want to hear from the consumers. I want to know how long you think it takes to develop original fashion content for Second Life. Of course it varies from item to item (and creator to creator) but lets talk about averages here. On average, how much time and energy would you say goes into a piece of mesh clothing, a skin, a hairstyle, and so on? Share your best estimates in the comments below. If you're a content creator, don't fret: You'll have your chance to respond next week!
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter May Be The Most Gorgeous Game of 2014
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is one of the most gorgeous games I've seen in my entire life, and PC Gamer has the massive, high-resolution screenshots to prove it. Just take a look. While screenshotter James Snook uprezzed the game and applied a 3rd party visual effects mod, in this case that's almost excessive. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter doesn't need either of those things to look utterly stunning.
I've already watched The Vanishing of Ethan Carter played from start to finish. I know the characters, I know the locations, I know the story, I know the twists... So why do I still feel compelled to play it all again for myself?