Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Facebook Restores User Account Named After His Second Life Avatar - Here's How He Did It
Facebook seems to be bending its just-announced policies prohibiting the use of game character names for Facebook profiles -- at least in the case of Toysoldier Thor, which is the Second Life avatar name of a guy actually named Scott in real life. However, after getting his account suspended, Scott sought the intercession of Sister Roma, a famed San Francisco drag queen who has been helping Facebook improve its real name policy. After I blogged about this last month, Scott contacted Sister Roma with lots of supporting evidence:
"It seems Facebook NOW just wants ample proof that your name in Facebook is clearly used widely and consistently as a well known/used identity for the person," Scott tells me. "And I provided that with my screen shots of over 10 sites where I used Toysoldier Thor."
Scott did this through Sister Roma about 6 weeks ago, and frankly, I was skeptical he would succeed, primarily because Sister Roma herself told me "Your [Facebook] user name should reflect the name you are known by as use in your everyday life, on- and offline.” So it seemed that showing that your Twitter/Instagram/etc. accounts also bore the same name wouldn't cut it for Zuckerberg's crew.
However, Sister Roma is known for doing wonderful things, and in this case, at least, she did for Scott:
Behind the Surreal and Highly Personal Second Life Art of Whiskey Monday
It seems like Draxtor Despres, the creator of the ongoing mixed reality (Linden Lab sponsored) mini-documentary series The Drax Files: World Makers, is working his way through a bucket list of his most sought after subjects. Last month it was the quirky but elusive designer Nylon Pinkney, now it's Whiskey Monday, one of the most recognized artists active in Second Life today (and a favorite here on NWN).
OpenSim Usage See Relative Monthly User Growth
OpenSim, the open source spin-off of Second Life, passed 30,000 active users last month, according to HyperGrid Business, which represents a relative growth spurt from 2012, when it was floundering with around 15,000 active users. The largest OpenSim world is InWorldz with 8,212 active users, which is not surprising, as that one is probably the most consumer-facing. Notwithstanding HyperGrid's "record-breaking month for OpenSim" language, it's still worth keeping in mind this is relative growth for OpenSim, but compared to the larger market for 3D avatar-based worlds, not so much. With 30,000 monthly OpenSim users, for instance, more people still use Second Life at any given moment than use OpenSim for an entire month. (Median daily concurrency for Second Life is around the 40,000 range, according to Grid Survey.)
Monday, March 30, 2015
Businessman Gets 4 Months in Federal Prison Partly for Failing to Disclose $150K in Income Earned in Second Life
Gregg Kaminsky, CEO at Atlanta-based Circlenet, LLC, was convicted last year of hiding money in a Swiss Bank and for failing to report nearly $150,000 in taxable income earned from business activities in Second Life; according to the Wall Street Journal, he was just sentenced this month to 4 months in prison, even while claiming “'there truly was some confusion' about whether earnings from the Second Life virtual world were taxable." Reading the Biz Journal report on this story, the harshness of the sentence is not primarily over the unreported Second Life based income, but the Swiss bank shenanigans. However, the US attorney who successfully convicted Kaminsky did announce this:
Sally Quillian Yates said this sends a strong message that "U.S. taxpayers are required to report all of their taxable income to the IRS, whether that income is earned in the real world or in a virtual world."
Emphasis mine, because it bears emphasis. Linden Lab has been cagey about Second Life economics in the last few years, but back in 2009, the company reported that 50 Second Life users grossed US$100,000+ each from the SL Economy, with the top entrepreneur cashing out US $1.7 million yearly. Linden Lab's Robin Harper explained the numbers to me in even more detail:
"[S]everal people/accounts are cashing out US$ amounts in excess of $1M per year (with the highest amount estimated at $1.7M), based on annualizing one quarter of data. Most of the top 10 are in the real estate business, but the group also includes a company that does events and one that designs virtual goods including shoes."
So thinking on the fate of Mr. Kaminsky, I hope they're all reporting their taxes!
Second Life Fashion Bloggers Are Scrambling to Show off LeLutka's Upcoming Release (and I Can See Why)
Over the past few days Second Life fashion bloggers have been scrambling to show off the new line of mesh heads that LeLutka will be releasing on April first. Aria, Ever and Leda (as the three available faces are called) have a high fashion look with fairly compressed features and expressions ranging from soft to stern. Apparently these mesh heads are all designed to work only in tandem with mesh bodies, which means that for a lot of us they'll be off the table for now. For others they're all the more appealing, seeming to guarantee an even more seamlessly augmented avatar.
So far no blogger has captured the expressions and elegance of each of these upcoming faces quite as well as Nana Minuet, who put together a post highlighting the upcoming release yesterday. Her shot of Aria, shown above, is easily my favorite of the lot. It's so bright and clean that you could almost expect to find it in a magazine with a perfume sample or some ad copy streaming down the side, rambling about jojoba or CC creams. And that's not a slight against her work. Her pics are vivid and polished, and easily picked out from a crowd.
You can visit Nana's blog to check out the rest in the set, though she doesn't have much to say about any of the heads in question. For that Strawberry Singh's blog post about Aria, Ever and Leda should be your next stop. As for reviews, well, so far most of the bloggers are sticking to the technical details. Expect stronger opinions to emerge after release.
Top Seven New World Notes Posts from Last Week!
- 'MM' Versus 'TSR': The Feud That's Tearing The Sims 4's Fashion Modding Community Apart
- Will Improbable Transform Virtual Worlds?
- Can Steven Spielberg Do to Virtual Reality in Ready Player One What He Did With New UIs in Minority Report?
- MMO Takes Choice of Avatar Race Away from Players, Provoking Racism
- How to Get Started Creating Your Own Interactive Visual Novel with TyranoBuilder on Steam
- Watch it This Weekend: Virtual Fashion Designer Maylee Oh Works Her 3D Modelling Magic on Twitch
- Stroke Victim Reports Partial Recovery Playing Second Life
Friday, March 27, 2015
Stroke Victim Reports Partial Recovery Playing Second Life
Not too long ago, someone who works at Linden Lab (I'll call her Leah) happened to meet a bright and energetic woman at a party. As they chatted, it came out that Leigh is a Linden staffer -- and in fact, used to provide in-world Second Life support (that's her avatar pictured here). And when the woman learned that, she proceeded to tell an amazing story:
"About 8 years ago, she had a series of small strokes," Leah recalls, "which caused her to lose oxygen to her brain and to be medically dead for a short time before being revived. That resulted in permanent brain damage, with a range of symptoms from intermittent poor fine-motor coordination to forgetfulness to slurred or incoherent speech."
As you'd imagine, this was devastating to the woman.
"She became rather socially isolated, because she couldn't work or drive," Leah goes on. "But one of her friends encouraged her to join Second Life and chat with him there when they couldn't meet in person."
And this is what happened after the woman began playing in Second Life:
SL Flickr Stream of the Day: Anouk-Anna's Shadowy Second Life Fashion Photos
Anouk-Anna has a gorgeous and fairly dreamlike Flickr stream of Second Life fashion photos, and while I know next to nothing about virtual fashion (that's Iris' department), I do know an excellent aesthetic eye fixated on the play between light and shadow, sometimes for surreal purposes as above, and Anouk-Anna has it.
Hat tip: Marianne McCann, who has a whimsimical Flickr stream of her own.
Watch it This Weekend: Virtual Fashion Designer Maylee Oh Works Her 3D Modelling Magic on Twitch
In spite of streaming service Twitch.tv's relative hostility towards Second Life, they do still seem okay hosting developers and artists who are streaming their process while they work on game-related assets. I hope that never changes, because I love the idea of going to the same site to watch people making games (and things for games) as I do to watch people play them. For the time being there are still plenty of Second Life content creators using Twitch to share their creation process too, including designer Maylee Oh -- and she's been particularly busy there this week.
Maylee, who runs the adorable virtual fashion brand The Secret Store, has been streaming the process of modelling her latest design with particular voracity over the past few days. Through her Twitch archives, you can watch her manipulate basic shapes into a beautifully gathered top like magic. Complicated, incredibly technical magic. In the later streams she experiments with some more complex tools and techniques, so if you're a 3D modelling beginner you may want to avoid skipping straight to the end.
The downside to watching Maylee's archives instead of catching her live is that some sections of the video are muted because of the music she was listening to at the time. Then of course there's the fact that Twitch archives have a very limited life span, so you'd be wise to watch them while you can.
You can check out Maylee Oh on Twitch here.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
How to Get Started Creating Your Own Interactive Visual Novel with TyranoBuilder on Steam
TyranoBuilder, a user-friendly drag-and-drop visual novel/dating sim maker, will be launching on Steam tomorrow. It seems ridiculously easy to use, to the point that even if you've never dabbled in game-making or don't know a lick of code, you could fire it up on Friday and have a playable program for Mac or Windows (or both) by Monday. You could even whip up a last minute entry for NaNoReNo, a month-long event held every March where people develop and share their own visual novels.
But where to start? Just because you have an engine to build your game on doesn't mean you're even close to being ready, so here's what you'll need to start fleshing out a project in TyranoBuilder this weekend:
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Can Steven Spielberg Do to Virtual Reality in Ready Player One What He Did With New UIs in Minority Report?
So Spielberg is attached to direct Ready Player One, and while he's got his great qualities, he's seriously the last major director I'd have named to make the first major motion picture about the metaverse. (Chris Nolan not available?) It's certainly a challenge:
With this news, a question arises about how they will bring a key element of the book’s virtual world to life for the big screen. After all, it seems imperative for the audience to feel like they were dropped into the middle of a video game.
At first I was skeptical Spielberg could pull that off. And then I thought about this other movie scene he did (thoughtfully annotated by an analyst):
Will Improbable Transform Virtual Worlds? With $20M in New Funding & DayZ Creator on Team... Probably?
Improbable is a new UK-based startup led by some extremely bright alum from Cambridge, and even if you haven't heard of it now, you likely will very soon. Here's their mission:
Improbable is developing an operating environment that makes building simulated worlds possible. Worlds which can be run in real time, simulating the behaviours and interactions of millions of entities. Spaces with their own rules and properties that a multitude of people can simultaneously change, explore and visualise in as many different ways as developers can imagine.
That's a bold statement, about as bold as anything Philip Rosedale has said about High Fidelity. But some very smart people are backing them, including venture capitalist Chris Dixon, who just led his firm to invest $20 million in Improbable:
Developers who use Improbable can write code as if it will run on only one machine (using whatever simulation software they prefer, including popular gaming/physics engines like Unity and Unreal), without having to think about parallelization. Improbable automatically distributes their code across hundreds or even thousands of machines, which then work together to create a seamlessly integrated, simulated world.
This actually sounds a lot like Philip's plan to deploy High Fidelity via distributed network, but leave that to one side. Point is $20 million is a lot of money, and Chris Dixon led his firm's investment in Oculus VR before Facebook bought it. And as compared to High Fidelity, Improbable has the lead on content creators so far. Take this endorsement by DayZ creator Dean Hall, who's now creating his game with Improbable:
'MM' Versus 'TSR': The Feud That's Tearing The Sims 4's Fashion Modding Community Apart
Every community has seams, and video game modding communities are no different. Each modder has their own priorities and its easy enough to see the borders that form around like-minded groups. Maybe one forum focuses more on visual mods, or a certain blog prefers to talk about systems mods. There's no harm in either. These borders don't really isolate anyone, nor do they indicate any inherent animosity between groups; in essence they just paint a line down the middle of the room, creating a superficial and generally unspoken divide.
That's how it's been in the modding community surrounding The Sims series for some time now, particularly when it comes to fashion mods. The principal divide between Sims modders exists between those who prefer crisp photo-realism and those who embrace a softer and more stylized look that blends into the vanilla game (like the dress pictured above from modder Anubis Under the Sun). But following the release of The Sims 4 this divide has only widened, and now things might be coming to a head. Here's why:
SL Flickr Stream of the Day: Apollo Scribe's Ambience
"Path of Love" by Amelie Fravoisse
Apollo's Ambience is a Flickr stream of whimsical and breathtakingly beautiful Second Life images curated by Apollo Scribe, and while I chose Ms. Fravoisse's above from there, Mr. Scribe has collected dozens that are just as smashing. Go here and see.
MMO Takes Choice of Avatar Race Away from Players, Provoking Racism... and Frontier Justice Against Racists
Here's a very interesting Kotaku post on the latest update to Rust, a multiplayer survival MMO, in which the developers took away an avatar customization option that gamers have taken for granted for, well, basically since MMOs have existed: Race. So instead of getting to choose the avatar's skin tone and physical features, in Rust those are now selected for the players -- you know, like in real life. Which in turn exposed some real life attitudes about race among a lot of players:
Largely, said [lead developer Garry] Newman, the change has been received favorably, but it hasn't been without its growing pains. Some people have protested the fact that they suddenly sport skin colors that aren't theirs. There's also been a definite uptick in overtly racist language: "It makes me wish I'd set up some analytics to record how many times the N-word was used before and after the update," Newman said. "It was used quite a bit from what I've seen."
On the plus side, that racism led to a kind of virtual frontier justice in the wild west of the Rust game world:
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
What Are Your Favorite Second Life-Themed Flickr Feeds?
As I mentioned earlier today, we want to devote more New World Notes coverage to great SL-related Flickr feeds. Flickr probably has the most SL-related activity (if not users) among all the major social media platforms, and as we saw today, some of the best SL-themed content. So please share your favorites in Comments (yes, including yours), and tell a bit about why you love them so. Bonus points for Flickr feeds with embeddable display widgets, so we can give readers a nice good look!
Toca Nature: Lovely Open World Creation Game for iOS
Toca Nature is a lovely looking iOS game which launched a few months ago, and it's about creating and fostering a little world with your fingertips -- watch:
Here's the basics of play:
Shape nature and watch it develop. Plant trees and grow a forest. Raise a mountain and enjoy the view. Collect berries, mushrooms or nuts, and feed the different animals. Learn who eats what and discover how much it takes to winkle a bear out. Walk through different landscapes and become friends with a fox. Capture the moment of woodpeckers zigzagging between trees, and watch the day turn into night.
Haven't played it yet but Toca Boca, the studio that developed the game, is quite acclaimed for its sandbox games for kids. I interviewed Toca's CEO Björn Jeffery a few years ago, who told me about their design philosophy:
Meet 'Barely Round', the Bestselling Second Life Avatar Shape from Ample Avi (NWN Partner News)
Every month here on NWN we feature a shape from sponsoring partner Ample Avi, a Second Life store specializing in realistically curvy and plus-sized avatar bodies. Sometimes the shape we feature is brand-spanking-new, and other times that shape is an Ample Avi classic. This month we're looking at something from the latter category, a shape descriptively called Barely Round.
Ample Avi designer Xme Xue tells me that Barely Round has become one of her most popular shapes since it was released just last year, and it's easy enough to see why. Barely round features all the curves you'd expect from an Ample Avi shape, but bundled in a slightly slimmer package than usual. It's kind of the best of both worlds, giving you a sleeker figure without trading your statement-making curves for a rail-thin silhouette. Barely Round is also a personal favorite of Xme's that has made its way into her regular wardrobe rotation -- and may very well make it into mine too.
Flickr Pics That Make Virtual SL Homes Seem Utterly Real
I'm utterly besotted by the Flickr stream of Ms. Lemon Panda (yes), and I'll tell you why: Like a virtual version of Architectural Digest, most of her photos focus on Second Life interiors, and she shoots them with elegantly poised compositions and such perfect use of color and shadow that her 3D images seem entirely appealing and real. See many more here.
Also, a request for readers who also love Flickr:
How Do You Stop a Spambot Like EL Consulting?
Internet experts reading NWN, would love your advice: The blog is again being inundated by Spam posts from "EL Consulting", a bot based in Germany. We get literally dozens of EL Consulting Spam link comments like the above put in various posts, even though it's not clear what the bot is supposed to be promoting or even saying. (Seems to generate random text and links and spit them back as a comment, for unknown motivations.) These comments get automatically deleted, but can still be distracting to actual NWN readers interested in having a civil, back and forth conversation with other readers. (Which this Spambot clearly isn't capable of doing.) Using Typepad's IP address blocker doesn't work, so we're kind of at a loss. Any ideas?
Monday, March 23, 2015
Test Driving Firestorm for SL Go on My Android Tablet
SL Go streaming from OnLive* is now available on iOS/Android tablets only via the third party Firestorm viewer, as Iris reported earlier today, so I took my Samsung tablet and my cat out on my balcony to give it a quick spin. So far, pretty smooth -- loads, streams, and plays somewhat faster than the official SL viewer on SL Go, seems to me. On a tablet, all Firestorm's cool/quirky UI features are somewhat difficult to access and tweak with your fingers, but it is possible. I prefer using SL Go on my old Dell laptop, but if you're a power tablet user, it could be worth giving it a try:
Apple Used to Develop & Promote Virtual Reality Apps (But Would Probably Prefer Pretending That They Never Did)
Way back in ancient times (by which I mean 1996), Apple was just another cheesy computer company leaping on the latest tech-buzz bandwagon -- advance to 3:00:
Seriously: "Another multimedia capability that's raising a lot of interest nowadays is virtual reality. And Apple is leading the way with Quicktime VR."
Yet another example (like this 1992 video) illustrating how easy it is for major tech companies to become excited about a new technology -- and how quickly they can drop it.
Oh yeah, if you're wondering how the hell Apple would ever make a video as cheese-ass as this one, there's a very good explanation for that:
Firestorm Replacing Second Life's Official Viewer on SL Go for Android & iOS Tablets
OnLive's just announced that by popular demand the third-party Second Life viewer Firestorm is available to users of SL Go on iOS and Android, starting today. Not only that, but Firestorm will be completely replacing the official viewer for SL Go on mobile devices. That means no more vanilla viewer, and given Firestorm's popularity that's not a bad thing.
Firestorm has been one of the most successful third party Second Life viewer for years now, and it became available through SL Go's desktop client for the first time last December. It did not see a mobile launch at the same time, however, because only one viewer could be supported in SL Go's app. Naturally this meant that the official viewer took precedent over the unofficial upstart. But Firestorm is a ridiculously popular viewer. Even in SL Go's narrower ecosystem that remained the case, and it's because of this popularity that Firestorm will be completely replacing the official Second Life viewer for SL Go on Android and iOS. It's another example of OnLive and SL Go listening to their community, coming hot on the heels of their recent decision to accept payment in L$. Of course viewer purists need not worry too much: You'll still have your choice of Firestorm or the official viewer when you log in to SL Go on your desktop or laptop.
You can check out SL Go by OnLive here (if you haven't already). If you're already fan of SL Go on your mobile device but have never dipped your toes into Firestorm on your PC, be sure to check out this video I did highlighting some of my favorite features. (Full disclosure: That video was sponsored by OnLive, though this post is not.)
Watch Ebbe Altberg Speak About Second Life & "SL 2"
Here's video of Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg's avatar speaking to several hundred educators on the future of Second Life and "Second Life 2":
This is a follow-up to a post last Friday, where I initially misread the notes to interpret Altberg as talking about Second Life, when he was actually talking about Second Life 2 -- sorry, "Next Generation Platform". (So I figure you should get all this straight from the avatar horse's mouth.)
Speaking of which, "Next Generation Platform" is a really awkward mouthful, so until they give it an actual name, I'm calling it "NGL".
And gawd, whatever happens to NGL, I really hope they figure out a better way to do voice chat, because it's pretty painful watching what looks like a Team America: World Police marionette.
Top Eight New World Notes Posts from Last Week!
- Explore in Second Life This Weekend: The Shire, Beautifully Textured Tribute to Tolkien's Green Realm
- Give Yourself a Very Unique Makeover With Avatars from Second Life Fashion Brand Tesla
- Linden Lab CEO Hints at Alpha Launch of "Second Life 2"
- Samsung Gear VR Review: Simple, Seductive, Scalable
- Five Skylines Photo Filter Mods to Make Your Simulated Cities Shine
- Twitch is Technically Correct to Ban Second Life for Adult Content Focus & Graphically Nude Avatar Feature
- Artist Spending Year in Second Life Before Killing Account
- Update: Twitch Responds With Their Stance on Streaming Second Life: "Game is Unrated and Often Sexually Explicit"
Friday, March 20, 2015
Explore in Second Life This Weekend: The Shire, Beautifully Textured Tribute to Tolkien's Green Realm
The Shire is a stunning and lushly lovely Second Life sim which, as the name suggests, is a tribute to Tolkien's greenest part of Middle Earth. Here's what it looks like from the longest view:
That tiny white spot in the middle-upper left is me, which should give you an idea of the scope of the place.
Click here to see it on the Second Life web map, or copy/paste this address into your favorite SL viewer: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/The%20Shire/143/152/33
As with Tolkien's novels, part of The Shire is devoted to Hobbiton, which is represented by cave-like homes, while other regions evoke other places. (I think the spot where the hobbits and Strider fight a Ring Wraith, which here also does double-duty as a nightclub spot.) The textures are lush and superbly detailed. For instance, the hobbit homes have glass windows which shift as you look inside:
Give Yourself a Very Unique Makeover With Avatars from Second Life Fashion Brand Tesla
Virtual fashion designer Tesla Miles has been having a bit of fun with her brand lately. Though she's most well known for creating high-quality mesh clothing and shoes, she's also been producing a series of rather offbeat avatars including a "Thing" style hand that walks on its first two digits, an anthropomorphic pile of poop and her most recent creation, the spray can avatar shown here.
According to Tesla, the spray can avatar works with your existing animations and as demonstrated in the video it shoots a fine particle mist on command. Additionally, if you have the artistic skills to make or otherwise acquire a replacement label, you can slap it directly over the one included for a touch of personalization.
You can pick up the spray can for a rather reasonable L$149 on the Second Life Marketplace, and browse Tesla's full (and cartoonishly NSFW) shop for plenty more unique alternatives to your everyday avatar. She also offers more than a few freebies there, including this itty bitty duck av in time for Easter.
Linden Lab CEO Hints at Alpha Launch of "Second Life 2" This Summer (UPDATED)
UPDATE 2; 11:20pm: Several trusty readers confirmed Ebbe wasn't talking about Second Life in the below quote, so I've struck it and changed the title accordingly.
Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg spoke to several hundred educators who use Second Life, dropped a number of hints about future policy shifts, and Second Life's successor, and young Daniel Voyager was there furiously taking notes. Assuming they're accurate, the top news items are this:
Linden Lab will discount Second Life land fees soon, andSecond Life's successor will Alpha launch this Summer.
Here's the salient quotes for that first item, regarding Second Life:“Yes we want land to be cheaper... and we don’t want a model where content disappears. The cost of land will come down, but sales tax will go up.”
In other words, land tier will go down, while commissions on SL Marketplace sales and other transactions will go up.
As for Linden Lab's "Next Generation Platform", which is the official name for what SLers have been informally calling SL 2, here's key points around the launch: First phase is this Summer, it's completely compatible with Oculus Rift, it will allow some kind of interoperability with Second Life, and it'll be open to anyone 13 and up:
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Samsung Gear VR Review: Simple, Seductive, Scalable
Last week at South by Southwest I got to make various gobsmacked expressions as I was hooked up to a very cool demo of Samsung Gear VR, the new head-mounted VR system from the company (created in collaboration with Oculus VR). The demo itself was a first-person shooter, where you're kind of a floating ball moving through connected corridors, blasting away at zombie robots (yes, really). And to be honest, it was the first time using virtual reality where I really felt a compelling sense of presence and immersion. I've used the Oculus Rift HMD in several demos, and found the "screendoor" effect too distracting. While powered by a Samsung smartphone (the Galaxy Note 4), the Gear VR graphics are a notch or two better than the original Rift. (The Samsung demo people themselves admitted that the next generation Crescent Bay from Oculus is better.) The significant difference is the lack of wires. It's a pretty big letdown to strap on a Rift and realize it's tethered to several cables and your heavy duty laptop/desktop. For VR to really go mass market, wireless seems like the only way to go.
So all that's a big plus in Gear VR's favor. Another advantage is even more compelling:
These Five Cities: Skylines Photo Filter Mods Will Make Your Simulated Cities Shine
One of my absolute favorite features about the most recent (and most loathed) SimCity game were the Instagram-tastic filters you could apply to your game in real-time. They made for some great screenshots, but after playing for a few hours (some of us did actually play for a few hours!) they were also pretty good for giving your eyes a break and changing things up. You could look at your city with a new coat of paint, in effect, which is why I was a little bummed to hear that Paradox Interactive's Cities: Skylines had borrowed just about everything that made SimCity appealing, but left its visual filters on the cutting room floor alongside multiplayer regions and horrendous launch issues.
Thankfully, Cities: Skylines is an exceptionally moddable game that sold 250K copies in its first day on the market. It's therefore no surprise that it's already gathered an active community, which means that plenty of other players who have been pining for those filters have put that pining to good use. In amid all the maps and turnstyles and town saves there are currently about 100 color correction mods on the Steam Workshop for Cities: Skylines. Here are five of my favorites:
Radegast, Light Client for SL & OpenSim, Seeking Successor
Radegast, a lightweight viewer for Second Life and OpenSim, ceased development a few months ago, as lead developer Latif Khalifa withdrew due to reported RL health reasons. "Radegast is open source," Latif noted in the departure announcement, "so if there is interest people could continue improving it." So far it seems no one has taken up the reigns, which is a shame, as it could be a good alternative for running SL applications on a low-end machine (possibly on mobile?)
Hat tip on this to Snickers Snook, who gave me some more background via Twitter:
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Twitch is Technically Correct to Ban Second Life for Adult Content Focus & Graphically Nude Avatar Feature
Twitch's policy prohibiting Second Life streaming has caused a lot of outrage among some SLers, but that annoyance overlooks an inconvenient fact: It's technically correct. Twitch's statement says Second Life content "is sexually explicit, which is content we do not allow on our services". And in fact, the majority of Second Life's most popular sims are Adult-rated for extreme sexual and violent content -- look:
Courtesy Louis Platini's Metaverse Business, these are the top 25 most active Second Life sims this month, listed by average avatar visitor count at any given period, visitor range, and previous position -- 13 of which are Adult-rated. So that's already a problem for Twitch.
Now let's look at the full statement from Twitch:
Content in [Second Life] is unrated and often sexually explicit, which is content we do not allow on our services. We also do not permit Adults-Only rated games and games where nudity is the core focus, feature, or goal.
Second Life is not rated by the ESRB, but if it was, it'd be rated Adults-only.
But what about the idea that nudity in Second Life is "the core focus, feature, or goal?" The fact that most popular Second Life sims are Adult-rated definitely suggests nudity is a core focus/feature/goal.
But here's an even more pressing point:
Find Your Niche: The Absolute Best Advice for Second Life Fashion Bloggers
Canary Beck has posted a very interesting piece over on the [SL] Blogger Support site about the importance of blogging within a niche, particularly when it comes to Second Life fashion. As its name implies, [SL] Blogger Support is a group designed to help Second Life bloggers support each other with inspiration, knowledge and resources to make virtual world blogging a little easier. While there's a wealth of helpful info on their site, Canary's piece is an absolute must-read for anyone starting to dip their toes into blogging. Really, it will make your life so much easier.
But there's one thing that Canary left out. One more reason why finding the right niche for your blog is crucial.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
It's Easier Than Ever to Commission a Distinctive Avatar Portrait from Popular SL Artist Nylon Pinkney
If you haven't been waiting for a chance to get your portrait painted by Nylon Pinkney, then you probably haven't been paying attention to this offbeat Second Life designer's artistic output (which I cover fairly regularly here on NWN). Then again, maybe you're as big a fan of her work as I am and you've just been trying to work up the nerve to shoot her an IM or an email. In that case, I've got some very good news for you.
Nylon, who brands her RL art under the name Elleinadart, has made it even easier to commission her work. You can drop by her website to check out all the details, including portrait options and pricing, and fill out a form to submit your request on the spot. Even better, you can pay for your glossy digital portrait with either Paypal or L$, depending on which is more convenient.
If you've been out of the loop, in addition to being one of Second Life's most enduring and recognizable designers (not to mention Drew Carey's favorite), Nylon was the subject of a recent episode of mixed-reality mini-documentary series The Drax Files: World Makers. Her work is even gracing the cover of upcoming book Anna the Powerful.
If you'd like to commission a portrait of your virtual (or real) self, just head over to Nylon's commission info page and scroll to the bottom to find the request form. Or, if you're stuck on the fence, check out more of her artwork on Tumblr.
Artist Spending Year in Second Life Before Killing Account, Mostly Meeting Avatars With "Social Disorders and Creepy Sexual Vibes"
#secondlife365 is a Twitter hashtag stream which as the name suggests, is a year of Tweets from Second Life. Brainchild of a Portland conceptual artist (because of course), Michael Green (whose SL name is officialmichaelgreenv6) has some interesting ideas going on (and some obvious and frankly lazy biases). As he tells Good Magazine:
#secondlife365 is an investigation of virtual reality, the ‘self’ and time perception. I chose to work a full year because I am getting older, and am trying to change my perception of how I view time. For me, the project is like a meditation. A way to slow things down a bit, and I perceive time slower as a result. 2015 is taking forever and this is a good thing! Second Life, like real life, is what you do with it, and a year is a long time in there, so my goal is to do what it takes to survive. And there is a little death in there too, because I will deactivate my account on New Year’s Eve, 2015.
But the stream is pretty banal so far, to be honest (but maybe that's supposed to be the point), and shows little interest in moving beyond the more obvious deadzone/consumerist/pornographic/fetish zones that clutter Second Life.
Because I mean, seriously? What's the deal with this statement:
Monday, March 16, 2015
Update: Twitch Responds With Their Stance on Streaming Second Life: "Game is Unrated and Often Sexually Explicit"
Two weeks ago I reported on popular game streaming site Twitch allegedly suspending users simply for streaming Second Life with their service. I contacted both Twitch and Hitbox (one of their top competitors) for comment. Initially only Hitbox responded, saying that they are "more than happy to allow broadcasters to stream Second Life on hitbox granted they are responsible about the content being presented to the viewers."
It's a little lukewarm, but it's a much more inviting response than the one I received from Twitch late last week:
Facebook Expressly Forbids Avatar Game Name Profiles
Facebook is seeking to clarify its many contradictory policies, including ambiguity around "real names", and the new Community Standards are bad news for Second Life users who want to maintain a Facebook account named after their avatar:
Of course, a Facebook Page has less functionality than a Facebook account, so some SLers are unlikely to find this acceptable. The only solution may be to establish that your avatar name is known to people in the offline world, and ask Sister Roma for intercession.
"But wait," some readers are no doubt thinking, "Second Life is not a game, so how come Facebook doesn't have an exception for SL avatars?" Leaving aside the questionable assumptions behind the "Second Life is not a game" statement, a more obvious point still applies:
Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week!
- Mesmerizing Second Life Dance Effects from Popular SL Singer ColeMarie (Who's Now a Rising Real Life Singer Too)
- Here's What a 'Good' Second Life Stream Would Look Like
- Gamergate Hasn't Hurt Academic Interest in Gaming, Say Leading Scholars -- If Anything, It's Increased Interest
- Remembering Terry Pratchett (and his Visit to Second Life)
- These May Be the Most Relaxing and the Most Breathtaking Minecraft Videos You'll Ever See
Friday, March 13, 2015
Familiar Faces: Popular Second Life Skin Maker Tuli Asturias Relaunches her Store at Skin Fair 2015
Skin Fair 2015 is open as of today, and it's a great place to go if you're looking for a new avatar face... Or a new face for your avatar face, what with the proliferation of mesh heads in Second Life fashion and all. Along with most of the usual suspects, it's a pleasant surprise to see designer Tuli Asturias back in the mix as well. After a brief hiatus, it seems like the popular designer is back with new skins and appliers of the same gorgeous quality.
In case you're not familiar, Tuli Asturias was a well established designer in SL for quite some time. While she initially specialized in clothing and accessories, after a few years she made a sharp swerve towards skin, eye, and shape creation. She saw tremendous success in this area because, to be perfectly frank, her skins were absolutely gorgeous. As a long-time customer, it looked like she'd really found her niche. Her skins were elegant, highly-detailed, and worlds away from the oversized red lips, smoky eyes and orange-glo tans that are still a little too common today.
Suffice it to say it's good to see her back.
Thursday, March 12, 2015
These May Be the Most Relaxing and the Most Breathtaking Minecraft Videos You'll Ever See
Wait! Stop! Do not click play on the video embedded above until you have read this very important warning: This video is almost certainly going to make you drowsy. It may even make you fall asleep. If you're at work, this would make particularly bad break-time viewing. So save it. Save it for when you're at home, curled up, and juuuust about ready for bed. Why? Because it's one of the most ridiculously relaxing Minecraft videos I've ever seen. More than that, it's also showing off one of the most incredible builds I've ever seen, dubbed Imperial City. It's an absolute must-watch if you want to see the scope and scale of what can be accomplished with Mojang's humble little voxels. But it will knock you right out.
It's like if Jacques Cousteau was taking you on a tour of Paris... If he'd built Paris himself with a couple of friends... And had to keep his voice down to a soothing (and informative) murmur.
If you haven't guessed, this isn't your run-of-the-mill Minecraft video. It's an ASMR video by The French Whisperer, who's most well known for his soft-talking videos about world history. One of my first articles on Paste concerned ASMR Let's Plays, videos in which a player records themselves playing a game in a relaxing manner and speaking in a low or even whispered voice to help the viewer relax. The intersection of the ASMR and gaming communities is pretty fascinating -- or perhaps a little creepy, depending on your perspective.
Either way, if you can stay awake long enough to watch the whole thing, you may also want to check out the second and third parts of the tour. You can also download the Imperial City world file for yourself here.
Remembering Terry Pratchett (and his Visit to Second Life)
It's hard to escape the news that Terry Pratchett passed away today, particularly if you run in any fantasy or sci-fi enthusiast circles. Pratchett was a uniquely talented writer and a profoundly compassionate person, and his work has inspired (and will continue to inspire) countless others. But something you may not know about the acclaimed author is that he visited Second Life during the height of the SL media bubble in 2008 to promote his book, Nation. The live Q&A he hosted (as 'TerryPratchett Morpork') filled the sim, and thankfully for those of us looking back 7 years later several folks who attended preserved an abridged transcript along with a fair number of screenshots.
Of course Pratchett was as affable online as he was offline. "Sorry," he said the instant he popped onstage, "I’m new at all of this kind of stuff and so can anyone tell me how to get the rocket launcher?" I'll admit that my favorite quote from the event isn't the most flattering, even though it certainly made me chuckle. When asked if he would consider returning to SL, Pratchett (an avid gamer) replied:
I think you’re going to have to improve the graphics considerably before I come back to Second Life. The graphics in Oblivion allow you to see the graphics in the bottom of a pond and I think that came out in 2002.
If you'd like to remember the Discworld author with a bit of laughter, you can read the transcript of the TerryPratchett Morpork Q&A session on Ciaran Laval's blog, and check out the group pool of screenshots from the event over on Flickr.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Gamergate Hasn't Hurt Academic Interest in Gaming, Say Leading Scholars -- If Anything, It's Increased Interest
Gamergate target Brianna Wu speaking at UC Irvine (video below)
We have been working for years to make games a legitimate tool for education and for study, and we were making progress. People were starting to take games seriously. And then came GamerGate. I have seen the careful progress of a decade come crashing down, and now, when I go to talk about games to industry groups or fellow academics, GamerGate always comes up as an example of how terrible and immature people who play games are. It will take years and years to repair the damage, and it is absolutely devastating to the serious study and application of the power of games to real problems.
I put that point to three leading academics in game studies, however, and they had a very different story. If anything, their replies suggest, Gamergate has increased interest in gaming as an academic focus. Take Tom Boellstorff, Professor and Graduate Director at UC Irvine's Anthropology department and a staffer at the university's Institute for Virtual Environments and Computer Games:
"We just had Brianna Wu at Irvine and she gave an amazing talk that ended with a standing ovation," Tom tells me (video below). "There's a balance here: (1) Gamergate has caused problems, but (2) we don't want to blow that out of proportion to the extent that it reinforces a focus on only one type of gamer and also (3) there are other factors at play with all this including hype cycles and such.
"But," he goes on, "something else that Gamergate shows, indirectly, is that games and gaming are important. They are important to all human cultures throughout history (there is no society that does not have some form of play and games), and they are extremely important now. They are going to play a key role in shaping our new digital age. We clearly do not yet understand all the forms of that influence and their possible implications, but we can’t give up working together to gain better understandings and strive for better, more inclusive and just futures!"
In this, Tom was reflecting on comments from Mia Consalvo, Canada Research Chair In Game Studies & Design at Concordia University:
Here's What a 'Good' Second Life Stream Would Look Like
Another week has passed without a response from Twitch regarding their behind-the-scenes ban on streaming Second Life. But I haven't stopped thinking about it, because Twitch be damned, there's another lingering question that needs to be answered.
From the beginning of this streaming discussion here on NWN, there have been those wondering just what a Second Life stream should look like. It's worlds away from the usual fare being broadcast on sites like Twitch and Hitbox, so how do you keep that fresh and appealing without resorting to trolling? The quick answer has been content-creation, but that's not the limit of what a Second Life stream could do well.
So what would a 'good' Second Life stream look like? Here are my thoughts.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Mesmerizing Second Life Dance Effects from Popular SL Singer ColeMarie (Who's Now a Rising Real Life Singer Too)
The Teardrop Hand Dancer Set is a new item in the SL Marketplace and as the name suggests, it creates great effects like this:
They're built and sold by ColeMarie Soleil, who Second Life veterans will remember for her acclaimed in-world singing, her beautiful SL machinima, and for a time, her NWN column on the metaverse-based arts. She's since gone on to become a rising real life popstar (more on that below), but still goes into SL from time to time to create stuff like this:
"The lights are glow enabled particles with ribbon trailers with the new glow and ribbon additions to the particle system," she explains.
As for her rising RL pop career, there's some pretty impressive news to share there:
Mourning a Lost Brother Through His Skyrim Avatar
Via Reddit, here's a very poignant tribute told in images, of a young man who died far too early, and the family member who remembers him by logging into the world of Skyrim, the game he loved so much: "I never move his character, save, or do anything since it wouldn't be his character anymore. He is frozen in time just like my young brother was." Reminds me of the gamer who races with his dead father's race car avatar, or from Second Life, the husband avatar that her widow made.
This Second Life Pilot's Machinima Shows the Surprising Details of Virtual Flight
File this one in the "Huh, I had no idea" box. I knew that people drove and raced all kinds of vehicles in Second Life, and that there were airports and landing strips specifically for a more realistic experience when flying virtual planes, but I'll admit that I had no idea that it went as far as controlling the articulated jet bridges passengers would be boarding through. But that's exactly what SL pilot Kevin McLaughlin does in the video above as part of his take-off procedures.
Just as interesting as this detail, however, is how the flight's take-off and landing procedures take twice as long as the flight itself. The flight from Second Norway to Hollywood. It's a notoriously short route, you know, what with all the jetstreams and such.
I guess it's a testament to how much is possible in Second Life that almost 9 years since I joined (March 12th, 2006) I can still be totally surprised by what other users are getting up to. So far this video is the only one on Kevin's YouTube channel, but with any luck he'll post plenty more of his flights in the future.
Monday, March 09, 2015
SL Go Streaming Available for Linden Dollars (For Now)
SL Go, the Second Life streaming service from OnLive (which I occasionally consult and partner with) is now available for weekly subscription for Linden Dollars -- for a limited time, at least. "Paying for SL Go with L$ has been one of the most common requests we have received in our forums and chat rooms," OnLive's Dennis Harper notes in the announcement. You can buy weekly subscriptions for L$650 (i.e. less than 3 bucks US), and buy up to 4 weeks at a time. (For new user accounts only, for reasons explained below.) Click here to sign-up in-world, or put this Second Life map address into the 3rd party viewer of your choice:
While I'm not consulting or partnered with OnLive at the moment, I am biased about the streaming service for mobile devices and low-end laptops, I genuinely think it's a pretty great service, and it's cool that SLers can finally try it out for Linden Dollars. The sign-up process is fairly fun, too: After you go to the entrance lobby (above), you then need to teleport to a secure location. Which looks like this:
Iris Wants to Know: Where's Your Gacha Budget Going During the Latest Round of The Arcade?
The first round of The Arcade for 2015 opened its doors last week, and if you're fortunate enough to squeeze your way in through the massive crowds you'll be greeted with just as many unique treasures as ever. In case you need a refresher, The Arcade is one of Second Life's most popular shopping events, where designers stuff their gacha machines with sets of limited items and shoppers pay a pittance for a random chance at any of them. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but most virtual fashion and decor enthusiasts wouldn't miss it for the world.
I'm having a particularly tough time picking out which gacha lineup I like best this time around. Although I'm head-over-heels in love with the Downton-worthy ensemble that you can piece together from Erratic's gacha, a few other sets have caught my eye too. Anc Ltd.'s decor items are downright dreamy for example, while 8f8's Arcade items are like a Barbie's Tuscan Dreamhouse kit (some assembly required).
It's all a little overwhelming. That's why I want to know: Which gacha is at the top of your list for this round of The Arcade? Take a look at everything that's on offer in the official event catalogue, then leave your picks in the comments below!
Survey Presented at GDC Reveals How Many Boys Don't Care About Character Gender (and How Many Girls Do)
Last week at GDC the results of an interesting new study about gender and gaming were shared. The study, conducted by Ashly Burch and Rosalind Wiseman, asked students in middle and high school a variety of questions about their gaming habits, including topics like what gender characters they prefer playing, if those preferences effect how likely they are to play a game, and how they feel about how female characters are typically handled. The lesson Burch and Wiseman are hoping the industry learns from their study is that kids are more progressive than we tend to think, even when it comes to games lead by someone other than the standard grizzled white guy heroes. For instance, a surprising number of boys don't care whether their characters are male or not, compared to a much larger number of equally game-savvy girls who prefer playing as female characters.
While the bottom line is that these numbers should inform development decisions and help in the push for increased diversity in games, as I was reading about this study I couldn't help but let my mind wander a bit. Specifically, it wandered to all the people (mostly men) who have asked me in the past why I care so much about the gender of the characters I play...