Friday, April 29, 2016

Project Sansar Creator Preview Survey: Did You Apply & If So, To Create What Content?

Now that Project Sansar's Creator Preview is taking applications, here's a survey for all you content creators reading this: Did you reply, and if so, what kind of content did you propose creating there?

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Vice & Me Explain Why Second Life is Still a Thing

VIce Why is Second Life Still a Thing Wagner James Au

"Why is Second Life Still a Thing" is an article by Emanuel Maiberg on the influential site Vice, and while I'm extremely biased, I think he answers that question quite well:

“It's all user-generated content so it generates a steady stream of screenshots/videos/etc, posted across social media, it's free so it still attracts constant waves of fresh visitors, and lately, it's a reference point (or cautionary tale) for the new wave of VR platforms,” Au told me in an email. 

...Second Life is still a thing because despite its age and the easy jokes, it owns an entire market it invented itself... Indeed, the most surprising thing about Second Life is not that it’s still a thing, but that 13 years after its inception, it is still way ahead of its time.

My only quibble is the article saying the graphics look "incredibly dated", because SL's graphics now look quite good and up to date... if you have a high-end desktop PC and/or a powerful third party SL viewer which take advantage of those graphics updates. But like I said, that's a quibble, because relatively few people have high-end desktop PCs, let alone know how to install a third party viewer.

Interestingly, this reappraisal of Second Life from Vice, one of the top media sites in the US, happens just as Le Monde, the top news outlet in France, is also reappraising SL:

Continue reading "Vice & Me Explain Why Second Life is Still a Thing"

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Friday Open Forum: Post Anything Virtual

Links, events, opinions, news, blogs, Flickrs, Tumblrs, Vines, .gifs, gfycats, etc... go!

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Men Who Create Avatars Modeled on Their Real Life Wives/Girlfriends -- Vice's Fascinating, Disturbing Story

Vice avatar women avatars male users

"Men Are Working Out Their Issues By Playing As Their Lovers and Exes in RPGs" by Cecilia D'Anastasio depicts a fascinating if often sexist and disturbing form of avatar-based roleplay: Creating an avatar which resembles the user's real life wife or girlfriend, then literally controlling her in the virtual world. I talked with Cecilia when she was researching this story a few weeks ago, and now that it's published, I asked her what surprised her most about writing it.

"It was interesting to hear how protective these men were of their lovers' characters," she tells me. "To me, that indicates either a fetishization of the knight-in-shining-armor approach to dating women or... just that people get very, very attached to their subjective depictions of women they've been intimate with."

For instance, she writes about the guy who created a Skyrim character mod based on his girlfriend (above), uploaded with the utterly charming file name, “Enjoy My Girlfriend.” Or even worse, the anonymous female Second Life user who suffered a similar fate:

One female Second Life resident, let’s call her “Avi,” suffered the side-effects of Lara Croft syndrome when her ex, a popular content-creator in Second Life, modeled an avatar body closely off hers.

“It was my shape he used for the base shape for the stuff he made,” Avi told me. When she dumped him, Avi said he used her shape on in-world posters advertising her digital avatar body, which was for sale to other Second Life residents, without her permission. Worse, she added, over the course of a few months her ex began to alter her shape—inflating her ass, shrinking her waist, stretching her legs.

“He was full of rage that I was done with him,” Avi told me. “He took me and then ‘idealized’ me in his own image. Creepy.”

Wonder who the creepy content creator in question is. However, it's not all negative, not at all -- in fact, I just pointed out to Cecilia that most of SL users she profiled roleplayed as their significant others for positive reasons and with their SO's permission or approval. Like this one, which is actually oddly romantic:

Continue reading "Men Who Create Avatars Modeled on Their Real Life Wives/Girlfriends -- Vice's Fascinating, Disturbing Story"

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SL Flickr of the Day: A Tired Servant in Virtual Versailles

It was at Versailles. The impossible love (but real on her thougths)

A perfect shot by Pepa Cometa, who has many more in a similar Sun King's servant vein. Click here to visit virtual Versailles in SL yourself.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

High Fidelity, Philip Rosedale's VR-Centric Follow-up to Second Life, Now in Open Beta

Click here to get it, both for Mac and PC, and optimized to work with Oculus and Vive, and Leap motion controllers. (Unlike Project Sansar, which is PC-only, at least to start.) While we still don't know much about Linden Lab's Project Sansar, we do know few people involved in Second Life's early creation are involved with it. High Fidelity, by contrast, has been SL co-creator Philip Rosedale's baby for the last three years after leaving Linden Lab. (Click here to read about its evolution during that time.)

In case you missed it, catch the latest (and impressive IMO) demo video:

Continue reading "High Fidelity, Philip Rosedale's VR-Centric Follow-up to Second Life, Now in Open Beta"

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Bernie Sanders’ Second Life Headquarters Besieged by Trump-Supporting Swastikas, Demons and 120 Ft. Fireworks-Spewing Donald Trump Statue

Bernie Sanders Trump Griefers Demons SL

Photo of pro-Trump demons besieging Bernie's HQ via Washington Liberals

As Donald Trump continues to ride roughshod over much of the United States, there’s multiple reports that Trumps’ virtual fans are riding roughshod on Bernie Sanders’ unofficial headquarters in Second Life as well. Sanders' spot is in the sim of Caspoli, located here, with a Bernie 2016 banner that can be seen from satellite -- a Roman-themed hangout space in a peaceful meadow, where Bernie supporters often gather to share news of their favorite candidate. But lately, the place has been besieged by pro-Trump griefers. I first read a report of anti-Bernie griefing from roving furry reporter Bixyl Shuftan (yes, that's a thing) and found out it wasn't an isolated incident:

Bernie Sanders Trump Griefers SL

“There is a picture I managed to capture of one of the flags spewing from a particle dispenser at HQ,” Sanders support group member Macaria Wind tells me, handing over an image file of a Trump swastika. “Left there by one of Trump's supporters when no one was around.”

But that was only the start. During a Bernie rally in SL, Mr. Wind goes on, Trump-supporting demons flew around Bernie’s rally, endlessly typing ”TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP!" into text chat.

“Pages and pages of TRUMP! LOL,” Wind tells me. “[O]ne has to laugh at the childishness displayed by some of his supporters. In my opinion, they mimic their candidate. I must add though, what is not a laughing matter are the racial slurs and bigotry witnessed by one group member who visited Trump HQ when there were actually people there.” (Read more about that incident here.)

To be sure, virtual landowners in Second Life can bar anyone from their property. But that effort was, well, trumped, by a Trump supporter’s next move:

Continue reading "Bernie Sanders’ Second Life Headquarters Besieged by Trump-Supporting Swastikas, Demons and 120 Ft. Fireworks-Spewing Donald Trump Statue"

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Project Sansar Now Accepting Applications & Project Pitches for "Creator Preview" This Summer

Project Sansar Creators Preview

Click here to apply, and describe what kind of project you'd like to create in Sansar for early access in the next few months:

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Virtual Guns Not Realistic Enough for Actual Gun User


Interesting thread started in the Vive subreddit by "Utgaard", who describes himself as competition-level gun owner, making some points with all kinds of implications:

Vive is a fantastic piece of hardware that already can be used for some actual useful training and fun in that regard. BUT, the angles of the gun grips are mostly all off, and that screws up muscle memory for those of us who have been doing this for a long time. I enjoy [VR gun-oriented games] ... but I am afraid playing them too much right now will make me worse at competitions where speed and accuracy are absolutely critical.

He even goes so far as to create that image above for reference, citing another VR/RL gun fan:

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Amazingly Realistic Dynamic Lighting in SL With Projectors

parcel auto return

Beev Fallen doesn't just take fantastic SL photos (as I wrote about here), he's also creating fantastic demos of realistic lighting in SL like the above, achieved through projectors:

Scene uses five projectors to emulate light & color reflections, and a few regular lights for ambient lighting. Thanks Skills for sharing this awesome trick with SL projectors. [Yes, the Skills who's been booted out of Second Life. -- WJA] Built for "Ambient Dark" WindLight preset (100% darkness), which is the best way to achieve precise results with lights, projectors and materials.

Here's Beev's tutorial for doing something similar:

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Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week!

High Fidelity VR Vive

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Play Humani: Jessie's Story, New Game from Rod Humble Where You Advise a Lively, High Drama Chatbot

Humani Jessie Story Rod Humble Chatbot

Humani: Jessie's Story is a fun new game lead designed by former Linden Lab CEO Rod Humble, who's now Chief Creative Officer of Pullstring, a company that specializes in AI-powered chatbots. You play Jessie's Story entirely through Facebook Messenger, communicating with Jessie, a high-drama twentysomething, as if she's one of your Facebook friends, giving her advice throughout the day and learning about her wild life. (That's me above, telling her how to meet a hot dude at a coffee shop.) The company tells me the entire game story takes about 25-30 hours to play, so this is something you can enjoy for many weeks while multitasking on your PC or wandering around with your phone.

"[E]ven though the game has only been available on Messenger for less than one week," Rod tells me, "player numbers are in the thousands - which we are very happy with so far. Because Humani: Jessie’s Story is the first PullString game aimed at a broader audience, the goal is not as much about high player numbers as it is to see what game play elements resonate within this kind of text-based conversational experience."

More from Rod on Jessie, and what the technology behind the game suggests for the future of AI-based conversations in games:

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Win a Special Fawns SL Breedable Four-Pack (Partner News)

Fawns SL breedable four pack

Click here to enter your SL name in a drawing to win a pre-order four-pack of Fawns, the popular SL breedable game that's a proud partner of New World Notes. Fawns developers are giving away ten free copies of this four-pack, and to enter, you just need to follow the instructions here and enter your SL name. 

What's a four-pack? Glad you asked:

  • Four Unbirthed Fawns
  • A Fawns home
  • One Week of Ether
  • One LE Unbirthed Fawn

Also to be delivered after the contest has selected its winners:

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Alice Taylor Weighs Pros & Cons of VR Hype

Facebook Social VR

My friend and longtime game developer Alice Taylor has a really good analysis on Boing Boing of VR hype as it stands now, fairly weighing the pros and cons. Here's a particularly good passage:

OK, some traditional signs of possible near-future mini-doom: a growing lurch of VC investments into VR & AR (over $1.1bn already in 2016) which will pile on the pressure to succeed, as big and as fast as possible. Then there’s the issue that VR isn’t something you can easily do on the bus, or at work when the boss isn’t looking. VR isn’t very sociable yet, either - and if we’ve learned any lessons from the growth of Facebook games and then Mobile games, it’s that social, bus-time and sneaky-work-play are killer use cases.

But there are so many pros. VR’s potential could easily stretch to defense (urgh), tourism, communication, leisure - as you may be reading in all the headlines. We heard all that before with Second Life, or more recently too even with 3D Printing, but there’s a difference with VR: this time we have a phalanx of huge companies visibly on board, very publicly "long play" invested: Facebook, Samsung, Google, Valve, Sony.

I could hair split the second paragraph -- Second Life did have some major tech companies getting visibly on board (beyond one-off marketing experiments), including Amazon and IBM, which built a whole corporate campus in SL. (Which was so prominent, a labor union held a protest there.) For that matter, Sony Home was a direct response to Second Life, as was Google's Lively. (Anyone still remember Lively?) But like I said, that's niggling, because Google, Sony, etc. are putting way more money and effort into VR now than they ever even considered with Second Life. So Alice's point still stands.

Alice's point about investment into VR is a really good one too:

Continue reading "Alice Taylor Weighs Pros & Cons of VR Hype"

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SL Flickr of the Day: VeRaCruZa's "Purple Tears"

Purple Tears (Tribute)

"Honey, I know, I know, I know times are changing. It's time we all reach out for something new, that means you too."

More from VeRaCruZa here. More from Prince any time great pop music is played, because he pretty much influenced it all.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Attend Now: Prince Memorial & Celebration in Second Life

Prince Memorial Second Life

Click here to attend an SL memorial and celebration of Prince, who unexpectedly died today though his music remains immortal. Hosted by Harlow Heslop, she's opened up access to her beautiful private island named Blithe. Happening from now until 6pm SLT, the emphasis is where it should be: On his songs. "Just a gathering and I put his greatest hits album on repeat so those trickling in and out of Blithe can stop in and enjoy some of his best work," Harlow tells me. When I stopped by, the place was already at capacity, but hopefully you get a chance to share some memories of the master with those who also loved him, and maybe even dance to "Nothing Compares to U". (U being him.)

Or just stand there silently on the dance floor, in melancholy quiet:

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Metaverse ProTips: How to Create a Great SL Brand


Pictured: Damien Fate in front of one of his many successful Second Life brands

Brookston Holiday has been building in Second Life for 10 years. You can view his work on the SL Marketplace here and his ProMaterials brand.

Creating things in Second Life is a fun and rewarding experience. At the same time, marketing those creations can be tedious and frustrating. Unfortunately, you have to be good at both in order to have a successful business. I’d like to share with you some tips, from practical steps to take before your first sale, to ways of thinking about running a small business, that will make starting out easier and pain-free.

Creating Your Brand - the Nitty Gritty Guide

Branding is important. Which of these stores below would you feel more confident buying from?


It may be completely wrong, but my gut is telling me one of these stores is selling quality products. (The other makes me feel, oh, so very sad.)

Graphic design is hard. No seriously, it’s really hard. My job was once getting small businesses’ crappy marketing material ready to be printed professionally. (I realize you’ve been “in the business” for 20 years sir, I’m just wondering if we could re-think 8 of your 9 fonts. Also, why does literally everything have a drop shadow?) Nothing will make you appreciate good design like bad design, and though I am far from being a graphic designer, I do have a few tips: 

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How High Fidelity is Creating a Virtual World for VR Hand Controllers & Multi-User Sims

I'm so impressed with the High Fidelity "gardening" demo using HTC Vive hand controllers, that I had to ask HF Director of Content Caitlyn Meeks much more about it -- and so I did:

How many High Fidelity users would be able to "garden" in this scene at the same time?

Easily 25 without lag. A lot of this depends on the system that is running the High Fidelity Sandbox software which hosts it, the equivalent of an Second Life sim. However, unlike an SL sim, you run Sandbox on your own hardware. It can be locally hosted on your own laptop (and accessible by an automatic NAT punchthrough service), hosted on your own servers, or running on the cloud. So the biggest limit is the resources you provide to Sandbox and the bandwidth you provide. There isn't a fixed cap.

How far away are we from a full garden sim, with plants which respond to virtual watering, weeding, sunlight, etc?

There's no reason it can't be done today, although if we wanted wholly procedural plants which would grow organically in the truest most realistic sense, that's a bit away. But with the reasonable technical constraints, it can be done right now. For my own domain, I intend to create something like my old Lemondrop's Forest sim from Second Life, with glowing and magical mushrooms, plants of every kinds, creeping vines, etc!

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Virtual Reality Used to Help Treat Children's Real Life Pain

As a counterpoint to my last post, this is really great:

I've said this in different contexts, but it bears saying again: One of the best real life applications of VR is helping people whose real life circumstances are physically constrained, either due to illness or infirmity. Because then, the biggest adoption hurdle to VR (being cut off from the outside world) becomes less a hurdle, than a downward ramp.

Via /oculus.

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Wired's Magic Leap Cover Story Dredges Up Unproven "Virtual Presence is VR's Killer App" Assertion

Wired Kevin Kelly VR Magic Leap

Wired magazine founding editor Kevin Kelly has a pretty interesting cover story on the secretive Magic Leap mixed reality startup and virtual reality in general which is worth a read, even if it covers familiar territory for most NWN readers.

And then when I got to this part, I of course sighed:

VR does two important things: One, it generates an intense and convincing sense of what is generally called presence. Virtual landscapes, virtual objects, and virtual characters seem to be there — a perception that is not so much a visual illusion as a gut feeling. That’s magical. But the second thing it does is more important. The technology forces you to be present — in a way flatscreens do not — so that you gain authentic experiences, as authentic as in real life. People remember VR experiences not as a memory of something they saw but as something that happened to them.

In other words, a sense of presence is VR's killer app. I could note here that Philip Rosedale and other VR enthusiasts always said the same thing about Second Life (but I've said that already). So I'll just say this: There's no proof whatsoever that virtual presence per se is an appealing feature beyond hardcore gamers and assorted 3D graphics enthusiasts.

Just to tick off eight supporting points from the top of my head:

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

SL Image Artist Whiskey Monday is Back on Flickr!

Whiskey Day SL Art

Here's the Flickr stream of Ms. Whiskey Monday, which after a year-long hiatus, is blossoming with powerful and surreal SL-based images that she's long been famous for.

"I've been gone from SL for a year, enjoying a far happier and healthier real life," Whiskey tells me, "but I'd missed working in SL and creating. I finally got some time to come back and play around. It's a far different place I'm in now, and I like it. This work comes from a more playful and happy place than my previous work."

That applies to the image above, "Raucous", which can be read as pretty grim, but is actually a fun visual twist on a couple common expressions:

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That Time George R.R. Martin Appeared in Second Life as Tyrion Lannister

George RR Martin Second Life Tyrion

Ciaran Laval found a fascinating old machinima clip I had forgotten about -- George R.R. Martin making a guest appearance in Second Life cosplaying as Tyrion Lannister to briefly do a reading and answer some questions about writing Game of Thrones. (Martin even wrote about the appearance on his own blog.) "Appearance" is probably not exactly accurate -- sounds more like he called into the producing studio's office, and they piped in the audio while someone else controlled his avatar. (Typical set-up between 2006-2008, when RL celebrity appearances in Second Life were the rage.)

Martin's appearance was in 2007, back when Thrones was still just a series of novels -- since then, of course, the HBO show has turned the franchise into a mainstream property, and Game of Thrones avatar cosplay has become incredibly popular in Second Life. There's even a whole virtual island devoted to GoT roleplay.

Video is below via the publisher's YouTube channel, which is heavily edited, so it doesn't include the appearance by the producers of the HBO adoption of Game of Thrones just mentioned in the Wall Street Journal:

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Virtual Donald Trump Trolling Second Life Still Somehow Less Juvenile than Real Life Donald Trump

Now that Trump's virtual mansion in Second Life has become big news, the inevitable has happened:

Like I said last year, trolling videos in Second Life is quite literally a cottage industry on YouTube, so it was inevitable this would happen. And while I generally don't blog trolling videos, this one is actually on the relative low end of offensiveness. (I'm more offended this dude's Trump avatar doesn't look anything like actual Trump.) Even more notable:

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The Graphics Features That Make SL's Black Dragon Special

Second Life Black Dragon viewer

My post last week on the third party Black Dragon viewer generated a pretty interesting (occasionally over-snarky) comment thread, culminating in a long comment by the Dragon's creator himself, NiranV Dean, who gets into the nuts and bolts of publishing a pretty popular viewer coded by a single person (namely, NiranV Dean). He details, for example, the rendering features that make Black Dragon unique, and more like a next gen graphics engine:

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Top Six New World Notes Posts from Last Week!

Beijing MMO cafe

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Watch This Seriously Impressive High Fidelity Demo Moving Virtual Objects Around With HTC Vive Hand Controls

Everything about this High Fidelity demo is pretty damn impressive:

It's mainly meant to demonstrate the use of HTC Vive Hand Controls and High Fidelity physics, and that's impressive enough, but I was also taken at how expressive and relatively fluid the avatar's gestures and mouth animations have become. Presented by HF Director of Content Caitlyn Meeks, it occurred to me that all this waving around might have gotten tiring. Caitlyn tells me not so:

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Allegations of Ripping in Insilico Illustrate Challenges of IP Rights in a Mesh-Enabled User-Created World

Insilico Second Life XCOM Unknown

Longtime SL builder Ifrit Skytower has a controversial but important post alleging that many buildings in Second Life's renowned Insilico sim -- back in SL after the fraught departure of Skills Hak, the original owner-- are rips of 3D models from well-known games. Skytower's post has a host of comparison images, such as this one here, of a portal in Insilico that looks suspiciously like one from XCOM: Enemy Unknown. (One of my favorite games of all time, goddammit.)

I've twice contacted the person alleged to have made these rips, and will post their reply if I receive any. (And in the meantime, any mention of the person's name in Comments will be auto-deleted.) In any case, emphasis on "alleged", because many of the models may not be direct rips, but inspirational reference points. 

Speaking more broadly, mesh rips are fairly common in Second Life, so specific instances are generally not worth reporting. In this case, however, Insilico is one of Second Life's most well-known and admired sims, often featured in Linden Lab marketing materials of SL (including business cards.) Perhaps even more relevant, the allegations illustrate a challenge that's existed since Second Life enabled mesh-based objects. As Skytower notes:

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Flickr of the Day: Ms. Arbenlow's Stream of Sexy Badassery

Boss Fight.

This is the Flickr feed of Daeberethwen Arbenlow, she who shot this much-watched tutorial on photographing mesh, and as you'd expect, her own virtual photographs shine, full of crisply shot sexy fashion, an occasional tutorial, and intermittent flights of badassery, as above. (Full credits of all items on view on her blog.)

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Palmer Luckey Foresaw Rapid Adoption of VR in China Last Year; Predicts Chinese VR Gold Farms & VR Dissent

Beijing MMO cafe

MMO cafe in Bejing I visited in 2013

News that China already has an install base of 10 million virtual reality headsets reminded me of a conversation I had with Palmer Luckey last year, when I was starting to write my article on VR for Wired. Because as it happens, back then he sort of saw this news coming:

While VR is among the most hyped technologies among affluent tech enthusiasts in the West, Luckey told me last Summer, we may find that people in developing nations will embrace it the fastest.

"If you’re talking about Chinese workers or people who are living in Africa, I think the threshold is a lot lower," he said. "It could be a lot of the early adopters are the people who have a greater incentive to escape the real world."

We talked about how 3-D fantasy games are tremendously popular in China, with hundreds of millions fervently playing many hours a day in tiny apartments or cavernous Internet/MMO cafes (as above). When VR goggles reach the cost of a mid-priced smartphone, it’s easy to picture them strapped to tens of millions of Chinese faces, displaying the pixelated semblance of beautiful locales while blocking out any view of the smog-choked sky.

Palmer Luckey even speculated that as virtual reality grows in popularity, some Chinese will have jobs in technical support centers for VR companies, partly to subsidize their own virtual reality use after work:

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Second Life as Seen Through the Black Dragon Viewer

I literally just used the official Second Life viewer to try and take a screenshot of something, and within five minutes, wanted to throw my Mac through the window. And then I stumbled on this video from a few months ago, and went "Whoa":

This is Black Dragon, an authorized third party viewer which aims, as lead creator NiranV Dean explains, "to enhance and refine the visuals of Second Life as well as having unique design approaches and features... starting by changing defaults, declining all sorts of bells and whistles no one needs, re-designing the User Interface and trying things other Viewers are too scared of."

Windows only, alas, but the recommended specs seem pretty doable for most gamer PCs:

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Do You Want to Take Virtual Selfies With Your Facebook Friends in Virtual Reality?

Because Facebook sure thinks you will -- hopefully via the VR platform it bought for $2 billion:

Just featured at Facebook's F8 developer conference, Upload VR is impressed on a "jaw-dropping" level:

A social virtual reality demo by Facebook at its F8 developers conference showed two people separated by 35 miles interacting in VR with hand gestures, voice chat and head movements. The pair connected in VR as naturally as if they were standing together. In reality, they were in two Oculus Rifts holding Oculus Touch hand controllers. In VR, the social app demo showed the pair taking a virtual selfie inside what looked like a 360-degree photo of London, and uploading it to their Facebook account.

Seriously, NWN readers, what's your take? I've got my own reaction, of course, but I don't want to always lead with that.

I mean, if you really want my take:

Continue reading "Do You Want to Take Virtual Selfies With Your Facebook Friends in Virtual Reality?"

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

OpenSim, Closed Window: The Virtual View from Diva's Desk

I recently told you that Crista "Diva Canto" Lopes, a longtime pioneer of OpenSimulatorwon this year's Pizzigati Prize for Software in the Public Interest, so naturally, I should also share how she helps develops the open source virtual world:

Crista Diva Canto Videira Lopes OpenSim

"There's a special place I go to when I work," she recently wrote. "I login to my vLab, move the window to the right-most screen of my four-screen workstation, turn on the chill-out radio station there, zoom the camera out, and enjoy sun rises and sun sets over the shore every couple of hours. It's my work place, a happy, calm, beautiful place. I've been doing this for so many years, that it has become second nature: I find it hard to focus when I'm not there, and I miss it almost as much as I miss home when I travel with just a small laptop."

Have to love her setup (if not her electric bill). I used to do something like this with SL when I had a halfway decent desktop PC. Though for Crista, this is just an intermediary step:

Continue reading "OpenSim, Closed Window: The Virtual View from Diva's Desk"

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I Talk About Second Life & Sansar for Eclipse Magazine

Wagner James Au NWN Eclipse

Eclipse Magazine ran a really good interview with me recently (well, February, I'm bad at self-promotion), worth a look if only for the excellent questions and writing by Cajsa, and seriously smashing profile photos by Lessthen Zero (avatar name as GenX signifier alert!). Cajsa asks me a lot about journalism in SL, SL from my perspective working at Linden Lab, and how Project Sansar will probably impact SL. Here's a couple samples:

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SL Flickr of the Day: Amona Savira's Studies in Contrast

red flower 2

Amona Savira has a fantastic Flickr feed of SL images (and some taken IRL) with an emphasis on deep contrasts, intense shadow, and clean, spare images. This one above is a recent favorite of mine, a fashion shot so essentialized, it seems more like an abstract painting.

"[T]his is shot in a simple set that I built," Ms. Savira tells me. "The photo is of my avatar set in a scene with light from one side. I use the Firestorm viewer. Through this I can regulate skylight and shadows, the point of view, angle and depth of field."

Then comes some final post-processing magic -- click for a close-up shot beneath the break:

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

10 Million VR Headsets Already Sold in China -- Chinese Fleeing Real World Ecological Catastrophe?

Baofeng Mojing 3 VR headset 1 million

HyperGrid Business points out that a low-cost Chinese virtual reality headset seems to be the world's industry leader -- well ahead of Rift, Vive, Gear, and other VR devices, and that the Chinese market for virtual reality is incredibly fierce, and massive:

Beijing-based Baofeng Technology Co. Ltd. has sold more than one million of its mobile-based virtual reality headsets since the beginning of this year, the company told the official China Dailynewspaper. That compares to reported sales of half a million headsets last year, making Baofeng the industry leader... Since there are now more than 100 manufacturers in China making virtual reality headsets, competition was fast and fierce, and the headsets have been evolving rapidly... According to industry consultancy iResearch Consulting Group, China’s virtual reality market saw revenues of1.5 billion yuan — or US$231 million — in 2015. Even at a high-end per-unit price of 150 yuan, 1.5 billion in sales translates to 10 million units.

Emphasis mine, because this eerily evokes something I wrote in 2013 when I actually lived in China:

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SL Tutorial: Photographing Materials-Enabled Mesh

Lots of readers liked Brookston's tutorial on building with SL materials, so here's a super useful video tutorial from the intimidatingly-named Daeberethwen Arbenlow (pretty sure that was also my favorite Game of Thrones character until she was eaten by chinchillas) on photographing materials-enabled mesh.

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High Fidelity Literally Brings Vive & Rift Users Together

High Fidelity already enables cross-platform interaction between different users on different VR platforms (or plain old PCs/Macs), but now these users can literally (virtually) come together there too:

This demo was conducted, High Fidelity founder Philip Rosedale tells me, "In different parts of our office, about 50 feet apart. One was in Oculus Rift CV1 with Hydra controllers to move hands, the other was in a Vive, I think. We have numerous of each now." Which is pretty cool, because I'm already sensing a console-type rivalry between Rift and Vive supporters.

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Monday, April 11, 2016

Kotaku Goes Crazy for Donald Trump's Second Life HQ

SL Trump HQ Kotaku

Since we noted Second Life's anime-flavored fanclub for Donald Trump (first spotted by a Scottish socialist feminist, then interviewed by a roving furry reporter), top gamer news site Kotaku has been covering it like crazy, with not one but three posts:

The last two posts are by Michael Fahey, which is great, because Fahey is one of the few game journalists who actually "gets" Second Life (he's been writing sporadically about SL since roughly 2009). Fittingly, he actually explores the Trump mansion first-hand (with a giant raccoon tail, no less), and even crazier, the massive, surreal counter-protest against Trump across the street:

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Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week!

Virtual Second Thoughts on VR Wagner James Au

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Friday, April 08, 2016

Metaverse ProTips: New Tricks for Old SL Textures - Creating Normal Maps the Easy Way with xNormal

Update, April 8: Bumped up for weekend building inspiration!


Brookston Holiday has been building in Second Life for 10 years. You can view his work on the SL Marketplace here and his ProMaterials brand.   

In April of 2013 the materials project allowed Second Life builders to import custom normal maps for the first time. Fast forward to three years later and few builders are taking advantage of it, even though, as you can see in the above picture, normal maps impart a level of realism that a flat texture can’t. However, with some great free software, I’ll show you how you can create your own custom normal maps for your favorite textures:


Custom Normal Maps - de-boring-ing the bricks

If you’ve been building within Second Life for any amount of time you’ve probably collected a fair number of textures like this one:


It’s tileable, and looks great on the patio outside of the Italian Villa you’re building, but it comes from an era before normal maps could be imported. So let’s bring it up to date by creating one. Here's how: 

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Artist Cosplay: Frida Kahlo as SL Avatar & Fashion Model

Frida Kahlo SL avatar fashion

Pretty impressive avatar cosplay of the iconic artist by French SL blogger Eve Kazan -- with all Frida's fashion items listed. Not sure where Eve got Frida's iconic unibrow, though.

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SLers Debate Linden Dollar Paypal Transaction Increases

Linden Lab Paypal transactions

Interesting /SecondLife thread around the fact that it now costs a minimum of $3 to send Linden Dollars to Paypal as real cash. "If you're not familiar with the cashout policy from before," notes SL content creator KarstenRutledge, "it used to be a flat $1 USD to have them send you your own money to PayPal." He believes this is Linden Lab's bid to make up for reduced revenue from the company's new SL land tier reduction offer, though others speculate that Paypal may have increased its own fees, and Linden Lab is just passing that uptick on to consumers.

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Thursday, April 07, 2016

Force Unawakened: Why Have Millions of Geeks Stayed Silent & Passive About the Fate of a Cherished Character?

Han Solo Fate Force Awakens

With Force Awakens finally out of theaters and available on DVD, not to mention a new trailer for Disney's latest Star Wars spinoff debuting today, I wanted to expand on a point I made in a January rant: Not only was Disney's treatment of Han Solo [*see update below] inexcusable and shocking, it's even more shocking -- and telling -- that the Internet has remained almost totally docile about that fact. In an ironic twist, Disney has turned geek culture's obsession with spoiler alerts against it, silencing any collective outrage before it even begins.

Even worse, the tradition of spoiler alerts have caused geeks to even censor their own internal thought processes. Surely some of us hated the shabby way Han Solo was treated in Force Awakens. But since our own cultural mores prohibit us from outwardly expressing that anger in any online forum, we self-police our dissent until that dissent has been silenced -- even in our own heads. 

Think about it: Han Solo has been a beloved geek culture icon for five decades. But with little objection or protest, his new corporate owner escorted him offstage like so much excess baggage -- and hardly any geek said a word.

Like I said back then -- and even now, I feel obligated by the Internet to robotically add SPOILER WARNING before saying this again: 

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Winter Hendes' Rotating SL Projectors Stun Still Further


Winter takes his fantastic rotating projector images/animations even further, to darker and dreamier places, and to a new platform: Tumblr.

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Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Vice Reporter Wants to Interview People Who Play Avatars Who Look Like Their Real Life Lovers


Cecilia D'Anastasio is a reporter with Vice Motherboard who's written some excellent posts on avatar identity, such as this one on a Second Life user named Veronica Sidwell, and she wants to interview some folks for a future piece with an intriguing hook: "I'm writing a piece on people who design and play avatars that resemble their exes and significant others," she tells me. If that sounds like you, e-mail her at cecianasta at gmail dot com, connect with her on Twitter (below), or IM her SL avatar, Cecianasta.

"Having spent a great deal of time playing avatars and interviewing people about their relationships to their avatars, I've become fascinated by what we put into and take out of time spent in digital bodies," Cecilia tells me.

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VR Industry Leaders Launch Pro-Diversity Non-Profit SHIIFT

Samsung Gear VR setup

SHIIFT is a new non-profit organization conceived to address a pressing problem with the virtual reality industry: A distinct, near-total dearth of people who are not young white men. As I wrote in the WSJ on Monday, I strongly suspect VR will become a niche of the hardcore gamer niche (i.e. mostly dudes), but its best (only?) chance to grow much beyond that niche is bringing in more women and more people with diverse backgrounds. Fortunately SHIIFT has heavy hitter advisors from Oculus, Valve, and other industry leaders. Read this Medium post from SHIIFT founder Helen Situ, explaining more about this drive:

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Black Desert MMO Sells 400K Copies in One Month

Playing Around

Avatar created by Connie Sec in Black Desert's Character Creator

NWN readers aren't the only folks interested in Black Desert, the Korean-made MMO with impressive avatar customization capabilities. VentureBeat reports:

Korean publisher Daum Games has sold more than 400,000 copies of its Black Desert Online MMO role-playing game after only a month on the market in Europe and North America. The developer brought the fantasy game to the West in March at $30, $50, and $100 pricing tiers, and it has instantly clicked with a large audience. Daum thinks the game will likely even keep growing its momentum moving forward, which is proof that the MMO market can support more than World of Warcraft and an endless pile of free-to-play competitors.

I know many NWNers installed the free avatar customizer -- has anyone gone ahead and grabbed the whole thing? Here's some stunning in-world footage in case you're on the fence:

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Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Why's Linden Lab Discounting Second Life Land? Latest Tyche Report Helps Illustrate Why

Tyche Shepherd SL grid survey

Linden Lab's new offer to lower its monthly land tiers has caused a lot of conversation, and as usual, the latest report from RL statistician and SL land surveyor Tyche Shephard has the data which explains the likely reasons for that move. Here's her March 2016 summary, posted on the SL Universe user forum. Key points are continued decline of monthly revenue from tier payments, down around $5 million+ a year compared with 2013, and strong consolidation among the private "land barons" who now own and control a whopping half of private estate regions:

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Donald Trump Mansion & Campaign Headquarters in Second Life Owned by Literal Anime Character

Trump Second Life anime supporter

I told you about the Second Life recreation of Donald Trump's Florida mansion with a virtual wall last month, and now roving metaverse furry reporter (yes that's an actual thing) Bixyl Shuftan has more to that story: The mansion is owned by SL user JP Laszlo, who as you can see, is an anime character come to virtual life. She also runs a pro-Trump, anime-themed Facebook page, and she's expanding her promotion for Trump in SL:

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