Friday, August 28, 2015

How to Connect Kinect Motion Capture to Your SL Avatar

Second Life Kinect motion capture Streaming

Jessica Pixel has all the details you need for streaming Kinect-based motion capture to your Second Life avatar here, the cool hack we saw on her live YouTube stream earlier today.

"The software [called Rinions] is developed by Fumi Hax (Fumikazu Iseki IRL) at the Network System Laboratory group at the Toyko University of Information Science," she says. "Their website is here. There is actually a more recent version of Firestorm (4.6.9) compiled with the Rinions code available now and it's pretty easy to setup and run. I've even been able to get the animation server working, so if another person had the proper software installed, they could see my movement in their viewer in real time (versus over the stream)."

Got questions about the setup for Jessica? Ask her in Comments!

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Famed Egyptyian Temple Recreated in Second Life

Serena Barbuda Second Life sim

If I'm reading Eve Kazan's post right (which I'm quite possibly not, because I have the French fluency of a four year old), there's a recreation of ancient Egypt's Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, the Djeser-Djeseru ("Holy of Holies"), in Second Life. Here on the sim of Serena Barbuda.

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Watch Now: Motion Capture Dancing Streamed Live Into SL!

"Someone is live on YouTube doing motion capture dancing and streaming that motion straight into SL realtime," Damien Fate just told me. Yes, watch, she's dancing IRL in the bottom right corner, with her avatar imitating her moves accordingly:

Interact with her (Jessyka Richard) here via her YouTube livestreaming page.

Beyond the seriously cool mocap action, I think this suggests a great future for Second Life content in general -- live video streaming where you can interact directly from the web with the SLer.

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Don't Miss These End of Summer Deals from Second Life Shape Shop Ample Avi (NWN Partner News)

Kris board 01This weekend is your last chance to pick up a bargain on curvy and plus-sized Second Life avatar shapes at Ample Avi, a proud sponsoring partner of New World Notes. As I mentioned back in June, Ample Avi's been having a summer sale on quite a few of their classic shapes, and now that sale period much like the season itself is drawing to a close. The sale will be wrapping up this coming Monday, August 31st, and once it does the shapes currently marked down will be permanently retired from Ample Avi's store lineup. There are 17 shapes being retired, including the ultra-cute Kris pictured just on the left. 

If you've got weekend plans, you'll still be able to pick the aforementioned shapes up from Ample Avi's storefront on the Second Life Marketplace for a very limited time. You can browse the Summer Sale deals on the Marketplace as well, or drop by Ample Avi's main store in Pryeri [Teleport link] to see the lineup in the (virtual) flesh.

Don't forget that Ample Avi group membership is also free during this period, so it's the perfect time to pounce if you want to stay in the loop but hate group enrollment costs. And (just in case you missed it last month) be sure to read this insightful advice for aspiring designers from Ample Avi designer Xme Xue.

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Friday Open Forum: Tell Me About a Great Blog, Flickr, or YouTube Channel I Haven't Blogged Before

SL-focused or otherwise related thematically, be it about High Fidelity, VR in general, immersive/sandbox gaming, or anything else you think would fit here. Go!

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

This is Ninja Do-Jo: Epic Guitar Gods Who Play Live from Separate Locations from Japan Into Second Life

There I was randomly watching SL machinima videos when suddenly my face got shredded off:

This is Ninja Do-Jo, a guitar duo from Japan, and they play live, epic, guitar god shows in Second Life. Their avatars are Akuma Millar and Sawa India, whose profile makes an even more amazing claim: These two perform in separate geographic locations in Japan. Yes:

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

"Community Rules. Fidelity Does Not." - Second Thoughts on Virtual Reality Hype from an Ex-VR Executive

Ebbe Altberg Second Life Sansar UGC

"Meursault" is a former executive with a leading virtual reality/virtual world company (and a friend of mine), and he recently dropped a terrific rant in NWN comments I wanted to highlight here, because this is based on his years of experience in the business -- and frankly, a lot of what he says is still being missed by many: Oculus Rift, the tech industry media, Linden Lab, and VR startups in general. Here it comes:

From a person who lived through the last hype too - there is a fascinating set of stories to be written:

1 - Who is driving the VR hype this time? Venture capitalists, Facebook, 23 year olds at VentureBeat who missed the last few waves. Gartner? Not a single market for this headset tech has yet to be proven, or has it?

2 - Silencing the critics. It is shocking to me how experienced, critical voices are just passively ignored or passed off as cynical burn-outs. Remember when Oculus' CEO said they are going to have a billion people in MMO virtual worlds? I wanted to throw up - what an 'effing naive idiot! Just keep telling Zuckerberg that, I thought.

The worst is that Linden Lab has bought it too -- I mean, how many times have we seen Linden Lab try to work around the access barrier to entry (high GPU requirements) or other attempts (Cloud Party time) to no affect whatsoever? So now they are going to strap a headset on and up the resolution and billions of people are going to join?

No. 3 - Tech push. Something I lament with other virtual world vets -- how many times have we seen a CEO at Linden Lab try to reinvent or put a shine on the technology, with Zero innovation on the community and immersive presence elements that are the whole reason SL exists? Pixel fidelity is not a selling point, sorry, never has been. Unfortunately it takes that CEO a few years to realize they just retreaded the same water as the last CEO.

4. RL Applications. There is a lot of research out there to show how powerful immersive experiences can be to change real world behavior. How come none of them have entered the mainstream? Has there? Hmmm.

Three more points below, two particularly pointed at Project Sansar:

Continue reading ""Community Rules. Fidelity Does Not." - Second Thoughts on Virtual Reality Hype from an Ex-VR Executive"

Posted at 02:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

YouTube Gaming Adds Second Life Channel, So Of Course Its Most Popular Videos Are SL Griefing

Second Life YouTube Channel

Second Life has a channel on YouTube Gaming, a new YouTube service that's seen as a direct competitor to the massive Twitch/live game streaming phenomenon. (Hat tip Ciaran, who has some thoughts.)

Fittingly (if annoyingly), the most popular videos on the Second Life channel now are the ever-popular SL griefer videos loved by the Twitch crowd, or at least the twerpier subset of that audience. (See above.) I've said it before, and I'll say it again, just more emphatically: Now that Second Life is a popular griefing target for "Let's Play" video creators, it's more crucial than ever to start creating "Let's Play" videos with more emphasis on great SL content, less SL dickwads.

What to I mean? Here's a good role model I blogged about last month:

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CastAR Augmented Reality Startup Raises $15M in Funding

Jerri Ellsworth Augmented Virtual Reality

Great news for CastAR, the augmented reality system that started as a Valve project, then was handed off by Valve's Gabe Newell to the original developers Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson, who then turned it into a successful Kickstarter, just got $15 million in funding.

Read my original interview with Jeri for this October 2013 post, which lays out her vision for an AR system that can also do VR. Excerpt:

"The tracking on castAR is dead on accurate," as Jeri tells me, "so there are no issues that are found with other head mounted displays like motion sickness." The system enables both augmented reality and full immersive virtual reality, which should increase its appeal on the market...

She also thinks the system will appeal to fans of immersive virtual worlds like Second Life:

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Realistic Second Life Fashion Shoot Like an Indie Movie

Second Life realistic fashion blog

I love this new SL fashion blog post by Brie Wonder and I'll tell you why: Where most SL fashion tends toward the fantastic or at least idealized (which is fine, but can get to be monotonous), Brie devotes her talents to creating a moment that could be taken from an indie movie, one of those slovenly types where twentysomethings slum it in shabby apartments, yet somehow still seem glam. Note the slouchy postures, the old couch. Morbidly ironic t-shirts. Emo expressions! Discarded juice bottles!

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Second Life Founding Engineer Working on Google's Computerized Contact Lens Project

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 11.59.56 AM

You might have read Sergey Brin's recent announcement that a Google spinoff company is now developing "a project to put computing inside a contact lens", a seriously cool technology with all kinds of potential applications. As it happens, one of Brin's lead researchers is Dr. James Cook, one of Linden Lab's very first engineers. And I don't mean "Dr." as in Dre -- along with being a programmer, James is also a medical doctor, making him perfect for the project.

"Technically I'm just part of 'Google Life Sciences' overall -- the contact lens is only one of the things we do," James tells me. "I work on the 'Baseline study'." That's this, a project to "create what the company hopes will be the fullest picture of what a healthy human being should be."

Details about Google's computerized contact lens project are pretty sparse so far, but you have to think an augmented reality display is almost by definition one of the applications that'll come out of it. If so, Dr. Cook can draw from his past experience at Linden Lab, where he helped create the very first early demo of Second Life, called LindenWorld:

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Our Selfies May Soon Become 3D Avatars of Ourselves

This is pretty impressive technology for creating a 3D avatar modeled after someone based on their smartphone selfies:

Usually, photorealistic 3D avatars are created in a motion capture studio, which is hardly the best way to make that tech mass market. But most everyone has a smartphone, and these developers at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (a Swiss university) have figured out how to make the smartphone act like a mocap studio:

Using a smartphone to replace studio conditions – which include proper lighting and numerous cameras – was a real challenge. “We begin by assuming that people will take pictures of themselves in conditions that are impossible to control,” said Alexandru. The main difficulties: changes in the light, blurry shots without a tripod, and limited picture quality depending on the smartphone's camera.

No word on when this will be available to consumers, and I'd love to see how well this actually works outside the school's demos. But it's definitely tech worth following.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Former Gartner Researcher Explains Why Virtual Reality is on Upswing in Firm's 2015 Hype Cycle

Virtual Reality Gartner Hype Cycle

We had some Friday fun snarking about Gartner's latest Hype Cycle report which puts VR on the Slope of Enlightenment, but as it happens, longtime SL blogger Eddi Haskell is a former researcher with the esteemed analyst firm, and posted some context to the forecast:

"This is my comment as a former Gartner Research Director - with a different real life name of course. Something is missing from the chart. It should say 'Hype Cycle' on top." [Editor: True, I cropped that label from the image for sizing reasons.]
"This is a chart of a classic Gartner Hype Cycle, not actual technology deployment. Gartner believes that technologies become overhyped prematurely, and reach the first point of the curve -- The Peak of Inflated Expectations and become overhyped... The Gartner Hype Cycle then continues to predict that technologies fail to deliver on initial promise and then fall rapidly into their nadir -- the low point on the Trough of Disillusionment and are given up as essentially dead or way too premature.
"Technologies, even when given up as dead, can continue to enter a Plateau of Productivity when they, slowly at times, begin to reach potential-- frequently being renamed and repositioned in the process. Once can argue that Virtual Reality Consumer Applications, of which Virtual Worlds are a subset, are starting to see this happen right now -- with the Facebook acquisition of Oculus Rift serving as a trigger.
"All this Hype Cycle is saying visa vis Virtual Reality (which really needs to be tightened as a term -- VR is not monolithic) is that Virtual Reality consumer applications were prematurely written off, and will start to slowly see some real adoption over time, even if their initial 'hype' is not realized."

I'm grateful to Eddi for helping us understand Gartner's reasoning for its new chart, but I'm still skeptical. VR as it's generally understood was last hyped and then written off in the 90s, but back when the larger technology market was totally different. At the same time, the current wave of VR is being freshly hyped yet again, with breathless prominent media profiles on the cover of Time and other major publications, and "It's going to change the world!" pronouncements frequently made by all kinds of people. Seems to me it makes more sense to place the current wave of VR on the Peak of Inflated Expectations.

Speaking of which, Eddi had this to say about the 2007 Gartner forecast mentioned, when Gartner said “80 percent of active Internet users (and Fortune 500 companies) will have a ‘second life’, but not necessarily in Second Life” by 2011":

Continue reading "Former Gartner Researcher Explains Why Virtual Reality is on Upswing in Firm's 2015 Hype Cycle"

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Watch This To See How Second Life Penguins Are Made

Via Medhue Animations, here's a pretty mesmerizing timelapse video of a fully articulated 3D penguin avatar, created from a screengrab of a real penguin, lovingly modeled in Blender, and then brought to life in the virtual world.

Continue reading "Watch This To See How Second Life Penguins Are Made"

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New World Notes on Facebook: Now With 1111 Likes!

New World Notes SL VR blog Facebook

New World Notes' page on Facebook now has exactly 1111 Likes, which is kinda cool, but if you haven't Liked it yet, that would be even cooler. We share most NWN posts there, so if you're a heavy Facebooker, it's a good way to get summaries of NWN posts in your update stream, and share posts with people in your network.

Not into Facebook? I'm on Twitter here as @SLHamlet, also on Plurk here, and, of course, SL's official (if lightly used) social network here, as Hamlet.Au.

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Top Three Posts from New World Notes Last Week!

Second Life Education fail

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Gartner Puts Virtual Reality on "Slope of Enlightenment" -- Making Me Put Gartner on the Crevasse of WTF

I mean really now:

Virtual Reality Gartner Hype Cycle

This despite the fact that there are no virtual reality products with a mass market yet, and there won't even be an attempt at a major launch until next year. Counting all the existing VR developers and people who own a developer kit and products like Samsung's VR headset, we're talking a few million at most (and probably much less). And it only makes sense to suggest VR is out of the Trough of Disillusionment if we count VR's hype wave from... 1992. But much of the current market, including Palmer Luckey himself, who was born that year, were too young or too non-existent to even have an opinion about the technology.

Even more hyperbolic, seems to me, is Gartner designating VR as reaching a "Peak of Productivity" in 5 to 10 years:

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Early User Reviews of Bright Canopy Second Life Streaming Starting to Come In

Bright Canopy Second Life streaming

I'm still recovering from a semi-work/semi-vacation trip, so I haven't had a chance to check out the Second Life streaming service Bright Canopy, which launched earlier this week. However, Ciaran Laval has, and says "it does work rather well". I believe Ciaran is British, and if so, "rather well" translates into American English as "this totally kicks ass!", but maybe not.

Some SL Redditors have some mixed opinions, here's some:

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SL Promo Videographer Bernhard "Draxtor Despres" Drax Discusses Business Relationship With Linden Lab

The Drax Files

Bernhard "Draxtor Despres" Drax, who produces the excellent, Linden Lab-sponsored "World Makers" series about Second Life creators, took issue with my describing him as "paid by Linden Lab to promote Second Life as a contractor" in Monday's post on SL's failure as an education platform, explaining some detail on his financial relationship with the company:

"I am NOT paid by Linden Lab to promote Second Life. Linden Lab has the right to use my documentaries that highlight individuals who thrive in SL for marketing purposes. We have a sponsorship agreement that reflects that and also contains a provision whereby I have complete freedom to choose subject matters as well as a 'final cut' assurance which they have honored since we started this in mid-2014. To spell it out: I decide who I profile and how! Yes, I am biased: I am an advocate but not so much for Linden Lab but for living a creative life!"

This reads to me as an alternate, longer way of saying "paid by Linden Lab to promote Second Life as a contractor", but readers can decide for themselves. In any case, I'm glad he shared this disclosure with NWN readers. (Not sure how it covers stuff like the Dr. Phil show, but OK.) I had a different but somewhat overlapping relationship with Linden Lab between 2003-2006, so I can relate to the tension between compelling editorial which accurately depicts Second Life, while also getting checks from the company that most profits from it. Based on that experience, I'd make add a couple other thoughts:

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

New World Notes is Once Again On the Road & In the Air But You Can Still Tweet With Me There

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Survey of 100K+ Gamers by Play Motivation Returns Interesting Set of Results, Top Game Titles

Skyrim versus Second Life

Results for the survey of gamer motivations I mentioned last month are starting to come in, and they're pretty interesting. Compiled by Quantic Foundry, an analytics consultancy co-founded by my colleague Nick Yee, who did some landmark academic research on MMO player behavior (such as this study) at Stanford, over 100,000 gamers took Quantic's survey, a huge data sample. Here's the most popular games by gaming motivations along a number of categories we often write about on New World Notes:

Design (Expression & Customization)
The Sims Series, City of Heroes, Animal Crossing, Guild Wars 2, Final Fantasy XIV, Dragon Age Series/Origins, Mass Effect Series, Monster Hunter, Pokemon, Elder Scrolls Series/Oblivion/Skyrim [pictured above]

Discovery (Experiment, Explore, Tinker)
Elder Scrolls Series/Oblivion/ Morrowind/Skyrim, Fallout Series/3/New Vegas, Fable, Legend of Zelda Series/Ocarina of Time, GTA Series/V, Minecraft, Earthbound, Kerbal Space Program, Metal Gear Solid 3, Metroid Prime

Fantasy (Being Someone/Somewhere Else)
Dragon Age Series/Inquisition/Origins, Elder Scrolls Series/Morrowind, Dishonored, Mass Effect Series/2/3, Skyrim, Fable, Fallout New Vegas, Knights of the Old Republic, Journey, Legend of Zelda

Community (Teaming Up & Social Interaction)
Final Fantasy XIV, Battlefield Series/4, Destiny, Guild Wars Series/2, EverQuest, League of Legends, Monster Hunter, World of Warcraft, Counter Strike, DoTA Series/2

Read the full breakdown here. Notable that hardcore multiplayer action games like Battlefield and League of Legends ended up in the "Community" motivation category. Some might be surprised that Grand Theft Auto is in the Experiment, Explore, Tinker category, but seeing as how a large group of GTA players created an amazing group effort simply to discover obscure but rewarding Easter eggs like this, I'm not. 

As for what surprised Nick and his co-founder most about these results: "That fairly niche games showed up where they belonged, such as Europa Universalis IV and Kerbal Space Program," Nick tells me. "That's when we knew that our algorithm was parsing through the text input meaningfully... Also [surprised] that fairly recent games also showed up, such as Heroes of the Storm. We were worried that people's lists would lean too historical."

For statistics/survey geeks, more surprises from Nick:

Continue reading "Survey of 100K+ Gamers by Play Motivation Returns Interesting Set of Results, Top Game Titles"

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Sansar Alpha Testers: Tell NWN About Sansar So Far!

Ebbe Altberg Second Life Sansar UGC

Project Sansar's first testers are starting to appear in Sansar -- hand-picked by Linden Lab, "skilled at creating with Maya," as the company says, "a small, dedicated group of creators we know (but they won't necessarily need to be SL creators)."

Are you among this group? Share your early experiences with New World Notes -- in Comments below, or get in touch with me directly!

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Second Life Streaming Service Bright Canopy Launches

Second Life Bright Canopy Streaming

Bright Canopy has officially launched and you can read about it here. Promised to offer streaming of Second Life so excellent that "You won't miss SL Go", I profiled the company founders in April. Launching on August 29, there's an "early bird price" of $17 per month, with the proviso that this subscriber rate may get adjusted based on usage. Read more here.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Fusion & Biased Second Life Fans Fail to Explain Why Education in SL Mostly Failed, So Guess I Have To

Second Life Education fail

Top tech/popculture site Fusion recently published a profoundly weak piece, "We took a tour of the abandoned college campuses of Second Life" (just picked up by Boing Boing) in which the author wanders about in the few remaining, empty SL sims that various colleges and universities are still paying for -- or as sometimes happens, Linden Lab simply forgot to remove from the grid. (Yes, that does occur from time to time.) Fusion's Patrick Hogan thinks the problem is that "it costs almost $300 per month to host your own island" in Second Life, which is entirely wrong, because since 2013, Linden Lab has restored its 50% discount to non-profit/educational sims. So the article is pretty incomplete on its face.

As usually happens with warped media coverage of Second Life, a number of enthusiastic SL fans have posted angry replies on the article, and on SL fan blogs, and are critical of the coverage in not very productive ways. For instance, here's Bernhard Drax's comment on the Fusion piece:

Second Life Education fail

Drax is a very talented videographer of Second Life, and just as key, is paid by Linden Lab to promote Second Life as a contractor. (Which any reporter exercising "journalistic research" would quickly discover.) His points are echoed by a Fusion comment from Jo Kay, a talented educator who has long used SL as a teaching tool. I am not questioning the motivations of either, but the plain fact is an outside observer is apt to see them as biased about the topic and be duly skeptical.

In actuality, the Fusion article, while inaccurate, is not wrong about the big picture: Second Life-based campuses, which once existed in the hundreds or more, have almost entirely gone dormant or been abandoned, and we are far from the days when even Princeton and for that matter Harvard were in Second Life. (Yes, they were.) 

Why are the universities and colleges all but gone from Second Life, and why has Second Life almost entirely (with a few marginal exceptions) failed as an education platform? A combination of factors, none of which Fusion is aware of, and many of which invested/biased SL advocates might be willing/unable to acknowledge.

As it happens, sim costs were (and still) are only part of the problem, eclipsed by these issues (among others):

Continue reading "Fusion & Biased Second Life Fans Fail to Explain Why Education in SL Mostly Failed, So Guess I Have To"

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Top Six New World Notes Posts from Last Week!

Cross Platform VR Oculus Vive

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Friday, August 14, 2015

RIP Lumiere Noir, Dedicated Educator in Real & Second Life UPDATED: Added New World Notes' Original 2004 Profile

Ivory Tower of Prims Second 

Life Lumiere Noir

Update, 2:22pm: Thanks to reader Graham Mills, who found my 2004 profile of Mr. Noir on my defunct Linden Lab-sponsored blog, I added the full text and some pics below -- a tribute to Lumiere and a fascinating glimpse of sL's earliest days. Click here to read.

Sad news for the SL community: The man behind Lumiere Noir, one of Second Life's very first members, unexpectedly died in recent days. There's a memorial page for him on Facebook here, and he's survived by his SL partner Tosha Tyran, whose deep condolences I extend. I also recommend paying your respects with a visit to his Ivory Tower of Prims, which he built back in 2003, and which still exists in SL, looking even more impressive in SL's latest generation of graphics: Here it is on the SL web map, in the ancient sim of Natoma.

Lumiere built his tower to teach new SLers all the complexities of building with prims, and I vividly recall getting a tour from him shortly after he built it, being duly amazed at how creative he himself was with prim-based construction. (I'm unable to find my original post, but I recall he also had a seriously cool avatar - maybe a LEGO-man? Help me out, friends of Noir. [UPDATE: Actually, a cartoon devil in tightie whities -- see below.])

Lumiere was dedicated to educating people in every aspect of his life, as his RL obituary attests:

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Today New World Notes is On the Road & In the Air But You Can Still Interact With NWN On Twitter

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

High Fidelity's Philip Rosedale Believes Virtual Reality Will Make the Internet More Civil - SL Griefing Notwithstanding

Cross Platform VR Oculus Vive

Philip Rosedale recently said something very interesting to Christian Nutt of Gamasutra about his upcoming VR platform, High Fidelity, which is already compatible with users in multiple VR setups, so Oculus Rift and Vive owners (for example) can already interact together in the same metaverse:

Interestingly, Rosedale sees VR as a natural antidote to the current abuse-soaked state of the internet: "The more synchronous, the more real-time you force the interaction to be, the better everyone behaves. In VR, it’s much harder to be a bully or be abusive if you’re doing it face-to-face."

This caught my attention, because it doesn't quite square with my 10-plus years writing about Second Life, Philip's first VR platform, where real time interaction often leads to months-long battles, user-to-user racism, and griefing of all variety. And so I asked Philip about that:

"What makes you confident this will happen?" I asked Philip. "As you know, Second Life has constant griefing and harassment, even though avatars make eye contact, and there's real time voice/interaction. There's several memes about SL griefing ("Ralph pls go") and YouTube video channels devoted to griefing (like this guy). Why do you think the opposite will happen in virtual reality's next generation?"

Philip Rosedale answered this way:

"I have two thoughts here: First, you need to consider the percentage of griefers-to-users, which I believe is much lower in face-to-face environments like SL as compared to places like forums or chat rooms. Said another way, even though there is griefing in SL, people are much nicer overall than they are on something like Reddit or in blog comments."

He then pointed to updates as another path to VR civility:

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Despite 2500 Players, Leading Second Life Game Developer MadPea Shifts Away from Major Projects Like UNIA

Second Life SL FPS The Drowning Dreamscene

Second Life can be a great platform for indie games and indie game developers, but does it have a large enough user base to support ambitious multiplayer-type projects from for-profit studios? Likely not, to judge by the experiences of UNIA, the survival horror FPS game from MadPea Studios which launched last April in Second Life (blogged last on NWN here), and has since attracted nearly 2500 players, adding about 50-100 new players every week (according to development lead Kiana Writer). Based on Kiana's estimates (below), the game has earned her and the UNIA team about USD$7000.

Despite that success, however, Kiana just announced that MadPea will no longer develop major SL-based games on a scale of UNIA, which required dozens of developers:

UNIA Part 1 is not going anywhere for a while. It has been a HUGE accomplishment to realize in Second Life. It took us over two years to make and cost over 12 000 USD... With our current resources we could do either one of the two things: Continue developing the UNIA saga or put our focus on smaller adventures such as BURIED and the Collection. Making smaller adventures takes us around 2 months while UNIA 2 would be at least 6 more months of waiting.

Read the rest here. This announcement brings up several concerns: Widely promoted by Linden Lab and Second Life's community/social media ecosystem, 2500 is a pretty good number of players, but not enough to sustain relatively big budget game projects like UNIA. Instead, it could be Second Life is only feasible as a game platform for labor of love, non-profit projects like the popular MMO Remnants of the Earth, or (as MadPea is shifting toward) smaller games created and supported by smaller teams.

To tease out those details for future SL-based games, I asked Kiana more details on her studio's announcement:

Continue reading "Despite 2500 Players, Leading Second Life Game Developer MadPea Shifts Away from Major Projects Like UNIA "

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How a Spider Game's Web Creation Mechanic Inspires Wild & Unexpected Player Creativity

Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon, the new iOS/Steam title I wrote about last week, isn't exactly a sandbox creativity game in the usual sense, but its web-spinning mechanic has evoked some amazing creativity from its players -- so much so, it's surprised even the lead designer, Randy Smith, who's watched astounded as Spider's beta testers came up with creative solutions to levels he and his team never anticipated -- or even tried to prevent:

As an example, Randy just shared a couple play-through videos from "VAT", one of their best testers. In the video above, Randy explains, VAT "fills the bottom part of the porch with web. I had made it too large for that, because I wanted players to build in the corners and jump between them. But since you can build webs off of other webs (which is a big empowerer of emergent experimentation), VAT figured out a way to do it. Later in the video he makes a web intended to catch himself when he jumps from the top to the bottom to keep his combo going." (A combo ends if the spider leaps off its web onto another surface.) "That was more intentional on my part, but he still did it in a way I hadn't seen before."

"Emergent gameplay" is a term from Looking Glass Studios, creators of the first, classic Thief games, where Randy was a lead designer, and expresses the creativity the player brings to a game, transcending the designer's original intentions. "It's always a badge of honor as a game designer when you realize you've made a game system deep enough for your players to take over and master more than you have," as Randy puts it now.

Here's another example below:

"In this video," says Randy, "VAT wants to catch a scorpionfly close to the main area of the map so he can combo it. He builds a strong web (an especially large one) in an area I designed for that not to be possible, but he figured out a shape that fit in there and met the criteria anyway."


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Take a Short Survey on Second Life vs. Real Life Identity

Please consider taking this very short survey (embedded above or at that link) on how you separate (or don't) your real life identity from your Second Life avatar. NWN contributor Canary Beck will collect and summarize the results next week. And feel free to discuss the questions (or your answers) in Comments below!

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Posted at 11:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Lawrence Lessig, Influential Academic & Second Life Adviser, Considers Second Life as US President

Lawrence Lessig Second Life President

In an apparent bid to make the 2016 election even more surreal and unpredictable than it already is, Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig just announced he's raising funds to run for President on the Democratic ticket:

He'll be a "referendum candidate": if elected, he'll immediately pass campaign-finance reform, then resign. Specifically, he'll pass the "Citizen Equality Act," which increases access to voting, shifts to citizen-funded elections, and de-gerrymanders the Congressional districts. By running as a "referendum candidate" who'll do just one thing, then resign, Lessig is paving the way for Republicans who're disgruntled at electoral corruption (including Tea Party members) to vote Democrat for the purpose of changing, all at once, how government works. He's soliciting donations, and aiming to raise $1M by Labor Day, or he'll scrap the project and return everyone's money.

Lessig, as longtime SLers know, occasionally made visits to Second Life (as above), and in the very beginning (2003-2003), was an instrumental consultant for Linden Lab. As I explained in my book, he convinced the company to let users retain the intellectual property rights over their SL content:

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Posted at 09:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Coders & 3D Content Creators Caught in Class Struggle?


Last week's post on the power of LSL scripters in Second Life provoked an interesting conversation, many of which suggest that a clash between art and science is the underlying issue. Desmond Shang characterizes it this way:

Yes, technical people have advantages. That's what they get for mastering any technical field that is extremely detailed, difficult, and generally in high demand... Real pay for coding C#, ranges from about a dollar per two minutes on the low end, to about a dollar per minute. Anyone charging less is basically coding because they feel like it, or in a 3rd world country.
Meanwhile, the back 2/3 of the high school math class decides STEM fields are 'too hard' and does something else. Sure, there are people who can be top shelf in other endeavors; the liberal arts for instance are truly a pillar of civilization. That said, there are just plain too many people trying to succeed that way. While being a waiter for their day job. Technocrats aren't specifically oppressing artists; in fact, they often have a few bucks to support the arts. Rather, it's all of society that doesn't financially value the incredible glut of liberal arts. And even less, the unskilled.

Which meets a strong objection from "Umfrair":

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Posted at 02:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Second Life Travel Blog Makes SL Sims Seem Like Paintings

Second Life travel blog

Charlie's Closeups is a Second Life travel blog from Charlie Namiboo that's all in German, but the beautiful images need no translation. Take this look at a sim called Salt Water, which Ms. Namiboo depicts with screenshots that seem like 19th century landscape paintings.

Speaking of which, here's the sim on the SL web map - if you're interested in seeing more SL locations on NWN, please click Salt Water's SL Map location here.

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Posted at 11:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Top Eight New World Notes Posts from Last Week!

VR Palmer Luckey Time Magazine Cover

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Friday, August 07, 2015

Artful Second Fashion Blog Token Chic Returns!

SL Fashion Blog token chic

Token Chic is an excellent SL fashion blog by Ms. Brie Wonder which has been defunct for some years, but now it's back and beautiful. Here's what I wrote about it back in 2011:

She makes the metaverse seem like a series of American Realist studies. You could seriously take just about any one of her pics, print and frame it, and have yourself some fine art on the wall. 

As for Ms. Wonder, here's where she's been, and what she's noticed since coming back to SL:

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Posted at 03:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Windows 10 Causing Glitches for Some Second Life Users

Windows 10 Second Life Firestorm

Here's all the known problems Windows 10 is causing Firestorm, the most widely used Second Life viewer, which include missing characters, and Error 0xc000007b when launching 64 bit Firestorm, and graphics issues after updating to Win10. An SLer on Reddit also recently reported the dreaded Black Screen of Death when using SL while running Windows 10, both from the official viewer, Firestorm, and Black Dragon. Anyone else dealing with this?

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Posted at 01:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)

Time Magazine Puts Virtual Reality on Its Cover - VR Enthusiasts Duly Freak Out

VR Palmer Luckey Time Magazine Cover

Long ago in ancient times (by which I mean the 90s), it was considered a milestone of mainstream acceptance and recognition when a technology was featured on the cover of Time magazine. Nowadays, it more likely means your parents and grandparents are going to e-mail you from their AOL accounts, asking you, "Is that strange young man jumping around on the beach with goggles on the one you were talking about?" But lots of VR fans are actually not too happy with the cover, not at all. Samples:

Then, of course, came the memes:

I'm just annoyed Time magazine stole my idea of depicting people using VR while ignoring the beautiful real world (but actually not). VR enthusiasts have long known people look fairly silly while using VR, so what were they expecting? The real problem is that Time's headline, "Why Virtual Reality Is About to Change the World", promises far more than the technology can possibly deliver now, and probably not for the next 10-20 years (if at all), only setting us up once again for an inevitable dive into the Trough of Disillusionment.

The Time's author, by the way, is Joel Stein, who wrote this about Second Life during its own hype wave in 2006:

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Posted at 11:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Spider Style: Randy Smith on the Sequel to His Classic iOS Game and Its Immersive, Mixed Reality Features

Spider 2 iOS game screenshot 3

Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon is a new game out now for iOS and Steam that's a follow-up to the classic 2009 hit Spider, The Secret of Bryce Manor, and like that game, puts the player in the perspective of a spider, weaving webs with an agile flick of the screen, while also uncovering the mysteries of the human world the spider inhabits. Along with other features, the new game comes with a seriously cool effect: The game changes based on your real world weather. (More on that below.)

The Spider games are lead designed by Randy Smith, who was also lead designer on the classic, beloved Thief PC/console games, which remain incredibly influential on current games like Dishonored and the BioShock franchise. Thief was great in large part because of its immersiveness, and Randy believes the real world weather feature will make this new Spider game immersive in a way that's unique to the mobile era:

"Spider, with your permission, learns where you are in the real world and mirrors the time and weather you see outside your window in the game," Randy tells me. "So after the sun sets, it becomes night at Blackbird Estate. When rain falls in real life, it also falls in the game.  This impacts which insect emerge, making all 30 levels highly re-playable during different conditions, and it even impacts the story and puzzles. Unless it is raining, for example, the windmill doesn't spin all the way around, but of course you can't go up the water spout during a rain storm. The moon phase in the game is even a reflection of the real life one, and you'll need to observe it to solve the deepest puzzles and capture the trickiest rare moths."

After the break, more from Randy on Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon's new features, gameplay immersion -- and the creativity the game's players are bringing to the game in ways even he and his team didn't predict:

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Posted at 02:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Second Life Web-Based Content Gets Much More Traffic Than Actual SL Content (At Least for Me)

Here's an interesting comparison of clickthrough rates to a couple New World Notes posts, which I often track to find out what readers are interested in:

Second Life web content

The first post, a Second Life map link for a very cool SL sim I wrote about (and included in the post), attracted just under 80 clicks from you all. By contrast, my post summarizing and linking to Canary Beck's long blog post about Second Life places, attracted nearly 5x as many clicks (388 to be exact.)

This is actually very typical for my blog posts: Links to Second Life blog posts, SL machinima on YouTube, SL pics on Flickr etc. consistently get hundreds, sometimes thousands of clicks, while most links taking people directly to actual Second Life content rarely get over 100. (So readers tell me they don't click SL map links but copy/paste them for later use, but even if as many did that as click, traffic to web destinations would still dominate.)

I share this data partly because I'm curious if my traffic patterns are similar to other SL bloggers/web-based content creators, for one thing. For another, to partly answer a question I get asked sometimes: Why don't you go into Second Life more to blog about all the cool content in there?

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Posted at 12:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Flickr Stream of the Day: Anouk's Shadowy, Sexy SL

Second Life Flickr pic

"I Should Have Known" is a fantastically noir-flavored SL photo from Anouk A's Flickr stream, which has a lot of equally impressive Second Life images: shadowy, sexy, and suggestive of stories. (Some NSFW in an arty way.) Dive in here.

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Posted at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Cross-Platform Virtual Reality is Here: Watch High Fidelity Unite Vive, Oculus, and PC Users in the Same Metaverse

High Fidelity debuted this video a few weeks ago, and for once, the epic accompanying 2001 music seems apropos, because watch:

Yes: 3 different users interacting with each other in the same VR space from three different platforms: PC, Oculus Rift, and Valve's Vive. Avatars and avatar animations still seem a bit rough, but much better than I've seen from a few months ago. But really, the key thing is a cross-platform metaverse.

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Posted at 01:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

Read Mary Meeker's Internet Trends to Understand Why the Future of VR Must Be Mobile

Mary Meeker, analyst with top VC firm Kleiner Perkin (early investors in Google, Amazon, and Twitter, among many other industry leaders), publishes a yearly report on Internet trends, and this year's (like every year's) is mandatory reading:

2015 Internet Trends Report from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Lots of great data for understanding the massive global reach of the Internet and how it's connecting and changing our culture, and for NWN readers, it's a massive footnote to my post from last month, that virtual reality must be mobile, or die.

Just a few selected slides on that tip:

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Posted at 12:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Are LSL Scripters Too Powerful in SL's Content Ecosystem?

Second Life Reddit

/secondlife's very interesting "Ask Me Almost Anything" thread from programmer "HisRant" (which I blogged last month) led to an interesting conversation from him and "jaggedpuma", who makes a ranty but substantial case that scripters are too powerful in Second Life:

I think scripters have far too much power over the other kinds of content creators... I have yet to find a LSL scripter who wants to be reasonable about commission splits or they charge in excess of $500 USD for a full perm script which could break after a server update or be remotely disabled at any time by the scripter if he thinks I’m too successful. How many artists have been screwed this way by scripters? Too many I reckon.

Agree, disagree? Whatever you think, he goes on to make a salient point about Project Sansar:

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Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Top 50 Most Active Second Life Sims for July 2015

Courtesy Louis Platini's Metaverse Business, a Second Life/OpenSim analytics company that gathers publicly accessible in-world data for its clients, here's the top 50 most active Second Life sims, listed by their average avatar visitor count at any given period, visitor range, and previous position last month (July in this case):

Top 25 Second Life sims

As is usually the case, most of these sims have been about this popular for years. (Note the considerable overlap in this January 2013 chart), with the possible exception of "woops" and "DSB".

Top 26-50 after the break:

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Posted at 04:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Facebook Forced to Allow Pseudonyms in Germany -- But Will That Change FB's "Real Names Only" Policy Everywhere?

Facebook Second Life real name policy

German regulators ordered Facebook to allow pseudonyms last week, a ruling against the social network's "real names only" policy within Western Europe's largest and wealthiest country:

A woman had complained to the Hamburg watchdog after Facebook blocked her account for using a pseudonym, requested a copy of her ID and unilaterally changed her username into her real name.

The Hamburg Data Protection Authority said the woman did not want to use her real name to avoid being contacted through it for business matters. Forcing users to stick to their real names violated their privacy rights, it said.

Question is, will this ruling change Facebook's policies against pseudonyms beyond Germany? I asked that of Vaki Zenovka, a longtime Second Life user and IRL lawyer, who gave me a very lawyerly answer. Very short version: Not directly, but Facebook may use this Germany ruling as an excuse to change its anti-pseudonym policies anyway.

Let me pass the mic to Mz. Zenovka:

"On its face," she tells me, "this has absolutely no bearing on Facebook in the US. The German DPA was able to rule this way for a few reasons: first, because pseudonymous speech is permitted by German law; because Facebook was requiring copies of users' ID, which violates German privacy laws protecting passports and ID cards; and because Facebook was actually changing pseudonymous account names to real names, which violates German laws of informational self-determination. The US doesn't have the same laws, so this ruling doesn't have any impact in the US. In fact, this ruling doesn't have any impact outside of Germany, because German laws are unique."

However, she adds, the ruling may change Facebook's policy anyway:

"Facebook has had to change its internal policies globally in the past as a result of European privacy rulings," Vaki notes, "even though those rulings didn't actually affect Facebook's business outside Europe. Facebook's one company, and it's very hard to have business practices that only take effect in one country."

Beyond that, Facebook has been having ongoing problems with its "real names only" policies for years, and thanks to people like Sister Roma (pictured), they've been quietly bending their rules. That's where it could get interesting:

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Posted at 01:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

"Paradise Lost" in SL Photo Contest With L$20K in Prizes

Paradise Lost SL contest

Click here for details on entering a Second Life photo contest to help promote an upcoming full-length machinima production of "Paradise Lost", from the Basilique Performing Arts Company. Winners take L$20,000 in Linden Dollars and media services worth L$10,000 Lindens. The contest (like the production) is managed by SL arts maven Canary Beck (who also contributes to this blog.) Go here for all the info.

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Monday, August 03, 2015

How Has Male Privilege Hurt Second Life's Development?

Second Life male privilege sexism

Cajsa Lilliehook, from her blog

When Linden Lab first started developing Second Life, only about 20-25% of its staff were women -- and as I recall, only one of those women was on the development team. When I left Linden Lab in 2006, the gender split was a bit better (but not by much), say 30%. But again (with some notable exceptions), few women were (or are) directly involved in SL's design or development. I was thinking about all this last week, after writing about the woman who was harassed in Second Life and then into the real world, and how it made me re-think encouraging more linkage between Second Life avatars with real life identify. And as SL blogger Cajsa Lilliehook bluntly me put it to me:

"I have often thought you were too glib about it because you are a man. You have the privilege of not having to think about personal safety in the same way that women must in our society. I am sad this woman has been harassed and it is a horrible thing, but I appreciate that you have at least begun rethinking your opinion."

She has very valid points. In the wake of Gamergate especially, I've belatedly become much more aware how rampant and frankly terrifying this reality is for women. But back in 2010-2011 when I first wrote about the value of Facebook integration with SL -- which Linden Lab also did, calling Facebook "The Best Place" to find Second Life content -- I was much less aware. Back then, I even talked about Facebook integration with some Linden Lab staff -- all male -- and we were all perplexed why a feature that had so much value was being resisted so vehemently by so many SLers. We men were wrong to look beyond the safety of our own perspective.

Which is why I wanted to expand this point to a larger, open forum question:

How has male privilege and bias hurt Second Life's development?

Because it's not a question of If, but How. It does make a difference that the vast majority of Second Life developers were (and are) male. Here's an example from 2004, how a male perspective influenced even how female avatars sit:

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With "MMO" Dead as a Descriptive Category, What Term Should VR Spaces Like Project Sansar & High Fidelity Use?

World of Warcraft 12 million

According to former Blizzard chief creative officer Rob Pardo (so he's biased but he's still quite correct), World of Warcraft killed the "MMO" as a descriptive category:

Speaking to Develop at the recent Games First Helsinki event, Pardo said massively multiplayer online games have expanded and evolved away from how people used to describe them. He said following the runaway success ofWorld of Warcraft after its launch in 2004, a game that still boasts some 7m users to this day, a wave of companies tried to copy the winning formula. Not one of these were able to replicate the same level of success, however... “If anything, I think people are even avoiding the term MMO. A really good example is Destiny. It clearly is an MMO. But they’re really trying to avoid calling it that, and obviously it is a very different type of game. But I think that’s a good example of how with MMOs, the term has been eliminated. But you kind of continue to see the influence in games that are persistent world games that have spawned out of that. It’s just people seem to avoid the term MMO now.”

Even better than Destiny, I'd say Day Z or Minecraft are examples of MMOs or multiplayer games with MMO's best features that aren't generally called MMOs. (For that matter, League of Legends, a multiplayer fantasy strategy game, is not an MMO and is even more popular than World of Warcraft.

There's a lesson here for Project Sansar and High Fidelity, and other "virtual worlds" (as they're usually called) which are sometimes described as MMOs (since that's their closest cousin):

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Posted at 12:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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