Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Second Life of Second Life Now Seems Driven by Facebook
Here's an excellent CNN article by Erin Griffith on the inside story of how the Oculus Rift/Facebook deal came together (very quickly). Most interesting for New World Notes readers is the dinner where the deal was finally closed:
The two teams reached an agreement, and that Wednesday the four Oculus founders had dinner at Zuckerberg's house, along with [Facebook's VP of product Chris], Cox, Amin Zoufonoun, head of corporate development, and Cory Ondrejka, a Facebook VP of engineering who was also a co-founder of the virtual world Second Life. At the end of the dinner Zuckerberg said, "We should do this."
I haven't asked Cory about this (and I doubt he'll give me the story any time soon), but this makes it even more likely he was one of the leading drivers of the Oculus Rift acquisition by Facebook. Here's Cory Tweeting soon after the deal was announced:
If This Video Doesn't Make You Excited About Tomodachi Life, Nothing Will
Right now, every day until June 6th is just another day to cross off my calendar. Why? Because June 6th is when the English version of Tomodachi Life will be released for the Nintendo 3DS in North America. Tomodachi Life, of course, is the sequel to 2009's Tomodachi Collection for the DS, which was never released outside of Japan... And that's a real shame, because these games are absolutely wonderful. Just take a look at the video above if you want to see just how wonderful it can get.
Think of the Tomodachi series like Animal Crossing meets The Sims. In Tomodachi, you're given an island and an apartment complex to populate with yourself, your friends, your favorite characters or celebrities or whoever else you like. You'll take care of them, customize them, and unlock new features as time goes on, but most of the joy is in finding bizarre litle easter eggs and watching the drama that can unfold on its own.
If you want to see more of Tomodachi Life, last week's Nintendo Direct is an absolute must-watch. I also decided to do my homework, and picked up an import copy of the original Tomodachi Collection (pro tip: they're dirt cheap on Amazon) to catch up on what these games have to offer. Look forward to reading about my experiences with it in the near future!
Monday, April 14, 2014
New World Notes is Expanding Its Virtual Reality/Oculus Rift Coverage -- Here's How You Can Help
The new world for New World Notes is VR. By now, it's clear that virtual reality devices led by Oculus Rift along with startups like CastAR are going to a major if not the central facet to the future of virtual worlds, 3D gaming and immersive experiences of all kinds. I want New World Notes to be a key resource for that future, and over the next few months, you should see more and more coverage along those lines. But because the topic is so wide and changing so quickly, I'm looking for new contributors and content to feature on NWN. If you're interested, get in touch with me, and tell me what you'd like to share with New World Notes readers.
Rather than specify what I'm looking for, here's a general, non-exclusive list of ideas:
Linden Lab Unveils New Avatar Fitting Classifications for Second Life -- But Will They Work?
Linden Lab has unveiled a new way for shoppers and designers to identify what will and what won't fit a Second Life avatar. Rooted in this Knowledge Base entry, designers can now find badges like the one above meant to identify products intended for normal and mesh-augmented avatars respectively, as well as detailed instructions for how to access new categorization options on the SL Marketplace that will allow designers to list products that require certain base components (for example SLink mesh feet, hands, or heads) to work properly.
So will it get the job done? Here are my thoughts:
Top Seven New World Notes Posts Last Week
- Play It This Weekend: Solve Pastel Puzzles Straight from M.C. Escher's Dreams in Monument Valley for iOS
- 5 Things to Love (and Hate) About The Elder Scrolls Online
- You Can Stream Second Life on an Old Laptop With SL Go & It's Awesome (In My Totally Biased Opinion)
- Philip Rosedale Demos High Fidelity's VR Tech Progress
- Remembering Dirk Talamasca, SL Community Leader: An Artist's Letter to Her Late, Beloved Friend (Guest Post)
- Why Does Linden Lab Treat Second Life as a Sexy, Bikini-Clad Virtual Paradise? Likely Because a Lot of SLers Do, Too
- Science Journalist Jennifer Ouellette on What Interviewing Scientists in Second Life Taught Her About RL Identity
Friday, April 11, 2014
Philip Rosedale on the Future of VR & Virtual Worlds
Philip Rosedale* recently gave a keynote speech in Second Life for an education conference and Daniel Voyager has a rough transcript here. There's a lot about the future of VR, virtual worlds, his new VR/VW startup High Fidelity and its relation to his last startup, Linden Lab. This point on latency is fascinating:
How much latency can there be in face to face talking? 100 milliseconds. 100 milliseconds is necessary in establishing emotional connections. Your cell phone is 500 milliseconds. Skype is 250 with video. VoIP is 800 or worse.
Which is why, as he told me recently, Philip Rosedale's next VR-based virtual world is aiming for 100 millisecond latency.
Here's the SL Game of Thrones Cosplay You Were Expecting
You knew it was coming and so here it is: Game of Thrones cosplay in Second Life. At least I'm pretty sure that's what it is, but Eve Kazan is a French blogger and terms like "Dracarys" and "Khaleesi" might as well be fricking Sanskrit to me, but they Google up as Game of Thones, so here you go. (This is Khaleesi from the show, for comparison, and they compare quite well.)
Me, I'm holding out on reading or watching Game of Thrones until George R.R. Martin actually finishes the series, so I know the story arc will have a satisfying conclusion. (You know, like Lost. Oh wait.) Until then, when you say "Game of Thrones", this is the (NSFW) song playing in my head:
Play It This Weekend: Solve Pastel Puzzles Straight from M.C. Escher's Dreams in Monument Valley for iOS
Pretty little puzzle game Monument Valley is making a splash on the app store this month, and after playing it for myself it's very easy to understand why. It's clever, it's challenging, and above all else its absolutely beautiful.
If your curiosity has been piqued, keep reading for the details.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
5 Things to Love (and Hate) About The Elder Scrolls Online
The more I time I spend with The Elder Scrolls Online, the more conflicted I feel about it.
Since I wrote about it last Friday I've only gone deeper down the rabbit hole. I still have fun playing (I would have stopped ong ago otherwise), but it seems that for every element I enjoy there's another element working directly against it. Here's what I mean:
You Can Stream Second Life on an Old Laptop With SL Go & It's Awesome (In My Totally Biased Opinion)
SL Go streaming of Second Life for mobile devices seemed like a good idea when I started consulting with OnLive on the service last year, but as I quickly realized from hands-on experience, many SLers will probably enjoy using SL Go from their old laptops even more. I've been using SL Go on my small Dell netbook for months, and it's my personal preference, because once you launch it from OnLive's PC client, you get full access to the full Second Life user interface. (Which is very necessary for me to easily blog about Second Life, and I'm guessing it's pretty important for many other SL content creators.) But even over that, there's the effortless, "it just works" pleasure of accessing Second Life at its best, with dynamic shadows and little lag.
But don't take it on just my say-so -- here's unedited, untouched footage taken using SL Go that I shot last night. Watch for the giant cyberpunk Minotaur (oh yes):
Wednesday, April 09, 2014
Philip Rosedale Demos High Fidelity's VR Tech Progress
Here's Philip Rosedale presenting the latest update to the virtual reality/world technology he's building at his new startup High Fidelity - watch, discuss:
Iris Wants to Know: Which Fantasy RPG Class Do You Love to Play the Most?
I've been playing a lot more of The Elder Scrolls Online than I expected to play, and a big part of that has been due to the game's flexible character classes. I'll get into that in more detail later this week (and you can read my launch day post about the game here) but suffice it to say that at some point my two favorite characters became a sorcerer who loads herself up with heavy armor beneath her unassuming cloth robe, and a templar who weilds a shortbow in place of the melee weapons most players of that class favor. These combinations both have advantages and disadvantages, but they've both been much more enjoyable to play than the more "vanilla" characters I've tried.
All this has got me thinking about character classes in general, though. I tend to gravitate towards mages and archers... Even though I still loathe any game that gender-locks female characters into either role. Essentially I want to have a big impact on a fight with lots of flashy effects, but I'd like to remain as strategically placed (and as far away from the action) as possible. That's not to say I don't enjoy melee classes from time to time -- my main alt in Skyrim favored both bows and one-handed weapons -- but I definitely have a preference.
So here's what I want to know: Do you have a favorite RPG class or archetype, and why do you think you're so drawn to them? Do you roll a healer time and time again because you prefer a support role, or would you rather be leading the team, axe-deep in goblin gore? As always, share your thoughts in the comments below!
Tuesday, April 08, 2014
Remembering Dirk Talamasca, SL Community Leader: An Artist's Letter to Her Late, Beloved Friend (Guest Post)
The man behind longtime Second Life community leader Dirk Talamasca died last weekend at a tragically young age, so I asked his close friend and SL artist Eshi Otwara to write this tribute - Hamlet
Dirk Talamasca passed away March 30th, Sunday. He was only 45 years old. I was asked to write a post for New World Notes about him, but this is still very hard. It’s difficult to write something when we all know it already; In SL, Dirk was a legendary resident, land baron, content creator and most of all -- mentor. This is all true, yet I feel that it’s not enough; it’s drab, it’s just a part of him and he was so much more to so many of us.
Writing about Dirk, who could ever be just “objective”? I know I can’t. The first thing I could bring myself to write was this letter to him:
Korean MMO Black Desert Might Just Have the Best Character Customization Ever
The team behind upcoming Korean MMO Black Desert have already offered a lot of material for fans and followers to drool over, but their latest tidbit will be like catnip for anyone with an eye on avatar customization.
Up until now, Black Desert's main selling point has undoubtedly been its graphics. Both the characters and the world look so polished and realistic that its screenshots could easily be mistaken for renders from 3D software like DAZ or Poser (seriously). But yesterday, in advance of their second closed beta test phase, the developers of Black Desert released a new video to flaunt the game's unique character customization system. Unlike preset or slider-based customization techniques that currently dominate modern MMOs, Black Desert divides the face and body up onto very precise elements that can be adjusted directly and intuitively. Click here to see it in action.
If you're as intrigued as I am, you'll probably have to wait a while before you can play for yourself. Black Desert's second closed beta period starts on April 22nd but will only be available to players in Korea. The game is expected to be localized for North America after its Korean release, but that often takes a year or more to come together. Until then, you can learn more about Black Desert here.
Science Journalist Jennifer Ouellette on What Interviewing Scientists in Second Life Taught Her About RL Identity
Here's an interesting interview with science journalist Jennifer Ouellette, author of the new book Me, Myself, and Why, about the science of self, which as it happens, includes a major section on Second Life, where she interviews top scientists as avatars for her Virtually Speaking Science podcast:
Hopefully hardcore SL enthusiasts don't wince too much when Ouellette describes Second Life as "not really cutting edge in terms of virtual worlds... it really has not kept up with the explosion in gaming, so it's kind of an awkward user interface", because it's an accurate statement if one is not a hardcore SL enthusiast:
Monday, April 07, 2014
Why Does Linden Lab Treat Second Life as a Sexy, Bikini-Clad Virtual Paradise? Likely Because a Lot of SLers Do, Too
Courtesy Louis Platini's Metaverse Business, here's last month's 50 most popular Second Life sims, listed according to their average visitor count at any given period, which clearly explain why Second Life is often advertised as a sexy, beach-themed virtual paradise:
As you can see, about a third of the most popular SL sites evoke a beach, water resort, and/or tropical location, usually with an emphasis on sexiness and/or nudity. Some have complained that Linden Lab advertises Second Life as a sexy, bikini-clad social hangout, but the data explains why: A lot of Second Life's existing users already use the world as a sexy, bikini-clad hangout. For Linden Lab to pretend otherwise would actually be deceptive to how much of its userbase actually behaves.
Top sims 31-50 tell a similar story, and a possibly NSFW one:
Wasteland Queen: Don't Miss This Second Life Take on a Beloved Sailor Moon Villain
The very best cosplay (and cosplay photography) holds up on its own. It doesn't require the observer to have an understanding of the character or the source material to appreciate the care that went into assembling a truly perfect look, or taking that truly perfect picture.
That's the case with the latest post on Pixeled Fashionista, Ashlie Coba's Second Life fashion blog. Her portrayal of Black Lady (a character originating from, you guessed it, Sailor Moon) wears a slightly trendier and more up-to-date costume than the original without sacrificing any of the familiarity that comes from a character that's been a fan-favorite for just about twenty years now. Her makeup, accessories, and her dress (a mash-up of two separate items from ISON) combine with attitude-heavy poses and an utterly desolate wasteland backdrop for a flawless contemporary portrayal of a fascinating villain... Yet it's all so well coordinated that Ashlie looks downright fierce, whether you recognize her inspiration or not.
Check out Ashlie Coba's blog for complete notes on how to get this look for yourself.
(Hat tip: Chandra Masala)
Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week
- The Elder Scrolls Online is a Good MMO... But Not a Very Good Elder Scrolls Game
- Can Oculus Rift Become the Metaverse -- and Should It?
- OnLive's SL Go Cloud Streaming Service for SL Launches New Unlimited $9.99/Month Pricing, Support for Most of Europe
- New on Steam: Goat Simulator, the Grand Theft Auto of Livestock Games (No Fooling - Watch!)
- Philip Rosedale Aims to Make High Fidelity the Repository for Metaverse Identity - Direct Challenge to Facebook's VR Bid?
Friday, April 04, 2014
The Elder Scrolls Online is a Good MMO... But Not a Very Good Elder Scrolls Game
The very first thing that I will tell you about my time with The Elder Scrolls Online is how much I absolutely hated it during the beta. Playing it was like a chore -- gaming housework I had to do -- and I just wasn't having fun, full stop. The second thing I will tell you is that at some point, that changed. Since Head-Start access opened last week, I've spent every day eagerly anticipating the moment when my work is done and I'm free to play more. It's hard to pin down exactly why I've done a complete 180, but I think it has something to do with adjusting my expectations.
Writing about an MMO of this scope and scale at launch is difficult, so I will be breaking my coverage up. Progress in ESO feels slower than most MMOs I've played recently (Full disclosure, I'm playing ESO with a review code provided by the developer on request) and after a week of playing for about 2-5 hours a night on my main character I've only just hit level 10. So this week I'm going to be focussing on first impressions, and addressing the question that's on everyone's lips: How good an Elder Scrolls game is The Elder Scrolls Online?
Marketing Tips to Help Make Virtual Reality Go Mass Market
I just posted some communication/marketing strategy thoughts on theMIX agency blog for virtual reality companies seeking to go mass market -- not just Oculus Rift, as many more companies are in the running. Top tips:
- Create a Communication Plan Around VR Sex—Before It Becomes a PR Crisis
- Plan for Strong Outreach to Senior Citizens & Disabled People
- Openly Address Criticisms of VR’s Limitations
Rediscovering Second Life Through the Oculus Rift
Longtime SLer Loki Elliot recently tried CntrlAltStudio's Oculus Rift viewer, and has a long and largely lovely post about what it's like to re-experience familiar virtual places from a first-person point of view:
In a way it feels like you’ve watched the movie everyday for five years and now it feels like you are finally standing at where it was filmed. Objects that constantly move such as a giant water wheel, your eyes focus on one part and your head moves to follow its rotation up and around. The sense of scale is amplified by the effort you have to make to see it all by the craning of your neck. Leaning over edges of cliffs and buildings you get that depth, you feel the distance and as you leap off you get that super human rush.
Among the down sides (at least for now): his avatar override animations "would spin around while my view stayed fixed leading to some scary neck twisting action." Full write-up here.
Thursday, April 03, 2014
Can Oculus Rift Become the Metaverse -- and Should It?
The Oculus Rift subreddit has a long and interesting thread on my Monday post about the Facebook-owned VR technology and building Neal Stephenson's metaverse. (I credit Neal's beard for all the upvotes.) The Redditors seem to miss my point about Stephenson not really being a strong enthusiast for the metaverse actually being built, but several make many other interesting points. Like "ENG_NR" here:
If Oculus can still give us a standardized browser (Firebox already making good strides) and let people create doorways in and out of the FB controlled worlds then it really well be the metaverse. If it's just some Facebook thing then it'll go the way of AOL when the real metaverse comes along.
And this point from "whistlinpixie" (LOL) on whether we should really want a single metaverse at all:
OnLive's SL Go Cloud Streaming Service for SL Launches New Unlimited $9.99/Month Pricing, Support for Most of Europe
There's new pricing and international availability for SL Go, OnLive's cloud streaming service of Second Life for tablets and low-end laptops: $9.99 a month for unlimited use or metered service at $1 per hour, and availability in almost all of Europe. Read about it here. As I disclosed when the service first launched early last month, I've been a consultant for OnLive for the last few months, helping them launch SL Go the Second Life community, so I've been eager to blog about this new pricing change: High quality streaming of Second Life for as long as you like to your multiple devices every month for about the price of one movie ticket (or for that matter, the subscription cost of many MMOS). While I'm biased, I think a lot of SLers will want to try it at this price point. Read Iris' in-depth review to see why.
Wednesday, April 02, 2014
Give Your Closet a Moon Prism Makeover with Second Life Fashion Inspired by Sailor Moon
No one should be surprised that Cutie Moon Fair [SLURL], a fashion event celebrating anime heroine Sailor Moon and running in Second Life until April 15th, is heaven for virtual cosplayers. What's more surprising, however, is just how much of what's available can be worked into your wardrobe even if you have no desire to fight evil by (digital) moonlight.
It was tempting to devote this post to recreating the famous looks of my favorite crew of magical girls, but I decided to go with a much more wearable look, which is just as stylish in the midst of Cutie Moon fair as it will be in a few months when I'm wearing it just to show my geeky stripes. Keep reading for the details!
Want to Walk Through Second Life With an Oculus Rift Connected to a Treadmill?
Because a company called Virtuix is offering and demoing that very thing, watch:
The demo's choice of SL locations to explore is mostly not ideal, but that's understandable, because the Virtuix Omni treadmill system is mainly being marketed to hardcore gamers, and they're likely not too familiar with Second Life. But the fact that the company is even bothering to demo it in SL suggests it does see a market there. (Via Jo Yardley, who has lots and lots of thoughts.)
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
New on Steam: Goat Simulator, the Grand Theft Auto of Livestock Games (No Fooling - Watch!)
Why. Why does this game exist? It's certainly worth asking, especially if you don't quite get the appeal of the already infamous Goat Simulator, a game which aims to simulate the mundane daily life of an average, run-of-the-mill goat.
Spoiler: I am lying. There is absolutely nothing mundane about it.
Much like Octodad, the experience of playing Goat Simulator is hard to convey through text. Thankfully I streamed this bizarre little game with my friends Austin Walker and Jack de Quidt over the weekend, and I've cut some of the best moments down into a video that's easily worth a thousand words and embedded it above.
But that still leaves us with "why"...
Philip Rosedale Aims to Make High Fidelity the Repository for Metaverse Identity - Direct Challenge to Facebook's VR Bid?
Philip Rosedale has a new post on the High Fidelity blog announcing a feature his startup will offer -- basically, a universal repository for virtual reality identities, anything from a Facebook-connected real name, to a totally fictional avatar:
To make this possible, High Fidelity will run a global service that lets you optionally store and validate identity information (such as your true RL name, a unique avatar name, or proof of connection to other identity services like Twitter or Facebook), and then also lets you selectively show this information to other people in the virtual world, regardless of which location/server you are currently in. You won’t have to use it, but it will hopefully be useful for many people, and will be one of the ways that we will be able to make money as a business.
Much more here. If I'm reading this right, a service like this (if it works) will address the problem of distrust of identity between avatars -- and concern over maintaining privacy in VR -- which will become even greater and even more important when Facebook-backed Oculus Rift launches to the mass market. To wit:
Monday, March 31, 2014
Oculus Rift's Chief Scientist Wants to Build Neal Stephenson's Metaverse (Whether or Not Neal Stephenson Thinks the Metaverse is the Future)
Confirmed: Renowned game programmer Michael Abrash, Oculus' newly confirmed chief scientist (who joined just as Facebook bought the company), sees the VR technology as The Path to the Metaverse (as his announcement is entitled): "Sometime in 1993 or 1994, I read Snow Crash," he writes on the Oculus blog, "and for the first time thought something like the Metaverse might be possible in my lifetime." So here's the curious irony: I've had a chance to e-mail a bit with Neal Stephenson over the years, and he's always distanced himself from saying the Metaverse he first described in Snow Crash was a place he thought that we'd necessarily create or use in the future: "I am just a storyteller and have never claimed nor sought the mantle of 'guy who predicts the future'", as he put it to me a few years ago.
In fact, in other interviews, Stephenson describes the future of virtual reality as probably being more game-like, than how he described The Metaverse in his landmark novel:
Second Life Fashionistas Are Transforming Into Virtual Cosplayers to Celebrate Sailor Moon
Cutie Moon (a Second Life shopping event inspired by classic magical girl series Sailor Moon) will be opening its doors tomorrow, so it's no surprise that many SL fashion bloggers and photographers are already bringing their A-game to showcase the incredibly cute items that will be available.
My favorite pic so far is easily the one shown above, "Cutie Scouts" by Xantheanne Resident of Xantheanne's 2nd Life. Her scouts aren't perfect copies of the originals, but they (along with the playfully minimalistic background effects she staged) evoke that "Magical Girl" feeling perfectly. It's a clean, bright, balanced and beautiful snapshot all around.
As excited as I am for Cutie Moon itself, I'm even more excited to see what everyone else will do with it. If you want to see more from the Cutie Moon fair, I'll be posting my own coverage (and pics, of course!) this Wednesday. Until then, keep an eye on the Cutie Moon Flickr group for item previews and more gorgeous blogger pics.
Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week
- Does Virtual Reality Literally Make Most Women Sick?
- Virtual Reality Will Likely Have a Real Effect On Virtual Fashion - Here's Why
- Philip Rosedale's New Virtual World to Launch With Oculus Rift Integration "Out of the Box"
- Oculus Rift Bought by Facebook for $2 Billion: Yes, Virtual Reality is Going Mass Market
- Does Sex Really Sell SL, or is Virtual World Advertising Just Stuck in a Sexy Rut?
Friday, March 28, 2014
Does Virtual Reality Literally Make Most Women Sick?
danah boyd has a very important post that anyone even remotely interested in the future of Oculus Rift and other virtual reality platforms should read this weekend. It suggests a fundamental challenge most people in VR haven't been dealing with (far as I can tell), and as danah often does -- being among the very best academics specializing in technology -- she obligates us all to think about the solution. Essentially, based on some preliminary research she cites and has conducted herself, she believes virtual reality technology like Oculus Rift might disproportionately make most females nauseous. Her key conclusion:
I’d posit that the problems of nausea and simulator sickness that many people report when using VR headsets go deeper than pixel persistence and latency rates. What I want to know, and what I hope someone will help me discover, is whether or not biology plays a fundamental role in shaping people’s experience with immersive virtual reality. In other words, are systems like Oculus fundamentally (if inadvertently) sexist in their design?
Read the rest here, especially the research which supports her concern. (I have some more thoughts here, related to danah's skepticism over Second Life during its hype period.) The thing is, I know several women who work in VR technology, like Jeri Ellsworth (pictured here) who co-created CastAR, the Augmented/Virtual Reality System. At the same time, the fact remains that VR is overwhelmingly dominated by men. Why is that?
Now Available: Betrayer, the Stylish Stealth Shooter Fresh from Steam's Early Access Program
It takes a lot of work and a lot of flair to make a first-person shooter stand out anymore, but Blackpowder Games' Betrayer, a recent graduate of Steam's Early Access program which lets players buy into and support games while they're still in development, is an interesting example of how that can be done. The game's striking high-contrast visual style is hard to miss, but in spite of that this challenging shooter is more than just a pretty face.
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Hollywood Nail Salon Now Accepts Payments in Bitcoin
So last Sunday I was strolling back from my gym near Hollywood and Vine, when I came across this sign right alongside the Walk of Fame, somewhere in between Mae West and John Wayne:
That's right: A Hollywood nail salon is accepting Bitcoin. (Wynn Nail Spa, to be exact.) Which might seem like a wonderful thing if you're in LA and you need your nails done, and happen to have some free Bitcoin to spend.
Then again, there's a problem there:
Virtual Reality Will Likely Have a Real Effect On Virtual Fashion - Here's Why
Yesterday, Hamlet asked me if I thought that the proliferation of VR tech like the Oculus Rift could eventually alter how we dress our avatars. I sort of scoffed at the question; I didn't see why or how it could. The avatars we choose for ourselves express what we want them to express one way or another, so why would that change based solely on our physical (or digital) perspective?
And then I thought about it a little more.
The more I think about it, the more I suspect that there could definitely be a change. However, any potential change will depend a lot on how we'll see ourselves. Literally. Here's what I mean:
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Philip Rosedale's New Virtual World to Launch With Oculus Rift Integration "Out of the Box"
Philip Rosedale in High Fidelity via Oculus Rift
Second Life creator Philip Rosedale is making a new virtual world through his new startup High Fidelity (which is quite impressive, as I said last January), and here's an important thing to know about it now: It's already integrated with Oculus Rift and will launch that way: "High Fidelity runs on the Rift 'out of the box'," Philip tells me by e-mail. "It's very straightforward. We have a couple Alpha users with Oculus using High Fidelity now, and hundreds more with Oculus (Oculi?) on waitlist." Here's the Alpha waitlist sign-up he mentions.
Speaking of which, this is what Philip says about the Facebook acquisition of Oculus Rift everyone's talking about today:
Facebook Employees Who Created Second Life Celebrate Facebook Becoming Virtual Worlds Company
For my money, this is the best Facebook update about Facebook acquiring Oculus Rift from a Facebook staffer (not counting Mark Zuckerberg) is this one from Facebook engineer Jim Purbrick, wryly welcoming Facebook arrival as a virtual worlds company:
Jim Purbrick, of course, was known as Babbage Linden when he worked for Linden Lab, which he left in 2010, joining Facebook last year, where many fomer Lindens also work, including engineer Ian Wilkes, and chief among them, former Linden Lab Chief Technology Officer Cory Ondrejka, who now heads up Facebook's mobile division.
Speaking of Facebook, Oculus Rift founder Palmer Lucky just dispelled some popular misconceptions about the acquisition, along with offering some tantalizing hints:
Iris Wants to Know: What's Your Avatar Style?
How would you describe your avatar: Sexy, cute, beautiful, or interesting? Maybe all of the above, or maybe none?
This may seem like a borderline hypocritical follow up to my post yesterday about Second Life's advertising strategy, but it's actually something that's been on my mind since I wrote about the new mesh heads from SLink. Neither Becky nor Emma, the two faces currently available from the fledgling Visage line, really "hooked" me. While I can appreciate how well made they both are, I can't see my avatar wearing either, and I wanted to pin down why that is.
The way I see it, there are 4 kinds of avatars: Sexy, cute, handsome/beautiful, and interesting (which I'll admit is a bit of a catch-all). My own Second Life avatar (and my intentions for her) experienced a pretty dramatic change when I first came across Loony Columbia's Flickr gallery. As in the pic above, she shows avatars that are cute in a way I hadn't really considered possible in SL, even though it was a style I admired a lot in RL. Thanks to Loony, I ditched my pursuit of fashion mag glamor and swerved down the path of colorful cuteness instead.
These four categories are rather oversimplified, but they certainly aren't distinct, and they don't apply to human avatars alone. They can overlap in any number of ways to create what I think is a pretty solid spectrum of the avatars I've used and seen in Second Life and beyond. I'd pin Emma and Becky in the "beautiful" category, while Loony Columbia's pictures generally fall squarely between "cute" and "sexy". At the same time, I have a couple dragon avatars I'd call both "beautiful" and "interesting". I'd even say an avatar could meet all four categories at once.
So here's what I want to know: What category would you place your own avatar(s) in... Or what category would you add to the list to include your preferred style? As always, leave your responses in the comments below!
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Oculus Rift Bought by Facebook for $2 Billion: Yes, Virtual Reality is Going Mass Market
Facebook is buying Oculus Rift for $2 billion dollars, which is news I had to squint at several times before realizing it wasn't a hoax. But yes, Facebook is doing so as part of its mobile strategy (because Oculus will integrate with Android phones):
“Mobile is the platform of today, and now we’re also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow,” said Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. “Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate.”
So yes, as it's now owned by a company with one billion users, Oculus Rift is going mass market -- not this year or next, but almost definitely in the years to come. And yes, we now know for sure Linden Lab is right to integrate Oculus Rift with the Second Life viewer, and should spend even more money and resources on that effort.
Oh, and here's another interesting angle: Second Life co-founder Cory Ondrejka is now the head of Facebook's mobile division. So draw your own conclusions. Tech CEO Matt Galligan already did:
Does Sex Really Sell SL, or is Virtual World Advertising Just Stuck in a Sexy Rut?
Second Life bloggers have a problem with Second Life's latest advertising campaign... And I can't say I blame them. Jo Yardley recently shared her thoughts on these buxom banner ads, and Botgirl Questi posted her response not long after. Neither blogger feels like these ads represent Second Life in a particularly flattering light, nor do they represent the SL they know and enjoy.
So what's the big deal about bikinis? Well...
Monday, March 24, 2014
First Gen Oculus Rift Dev Kit Sells 60,000 Units in a Year - Already Enough to Reach an Audience of Millions
"Oculus VR sold 60,000 copies of its first development kit, which began shipping during last year’s Game Developers Conference," the New York Times notes, which is an impressive number worth noting here. I'm pleasantly suprised the VR company could move 60K units of a hardware peripheral selling for $350 or more, because it's a very solid data point suggesting there is a mass market for a cheaper consumer model. It's also a very large base of early adopters who are already starting to reach a mass audience for the technology. If we assume each Oculus Rift dev kit owner has given a hands-on demo of the device to an average of 35 people they know (friends, family, co-workers, etc.), that's well over 2 million people who have already had first-hand experience with virtual reality before it's even officially hit the market.
And that's just the first generation dev kit -- the new, enhanced version, just announced last week, should sell at least as many units if not many more. Here's the video:
Sandbox Summit: Don't Miss The Latest and Greatest Ideas in Educational Gaming (Even if You're Not There in Person)
If you're into that sweet spot where gaming and education intersect, the hashtag to watch right now is #sandboxsummit14. There you'll be able to see live reactions to talks and workshops being conducted at MIT's Sandbox Summit, an annual get together for educators and scholastically-minded developers alike. The event runs today and tomorrow, and just because you're not there in person doesn't mean you can't pick up a thing or two from afar (thanks to social networking and streaming video.)
In this case "gaming" isn't limited to video games, either. One of the most interesting topics so far (if Twitter is any indication) has been The World Peace Game, a massive tabletop game in which an entire class can wage war and peace, and gain a better grasp of the effects of both.
Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week
- Why is Second Life Starting to Add Private Sims After Years of Steady Loss?
- Cory Doctorow on How Second Life Influenced In Real Life His New Graphic Novel About MMOs & Gold Farmers (Plus, a Bit About Cory's Own Second Life)
- Rising Star: Here's the Latest Tutorial for Avastar, A Second Life-Oriented Blender Plug-In That's Making Waves
- Linden Lab Can't Just Survive by "Fixing" Second Life - a Linden Vet Explains the Company's Diversification Strategy
- Iris Rants: Animal Crossing: New Leaf Is Not a Poster Child for Diversity in Gaming
Friday, March 21, 2014
Try Them On This Weekend: SLink Visage Debuts Second Life Mesh Head Line With "Sisters" Becky and Emma
You've probably been seeing this woman's face all over Second Life lately, and if not SL then certainly most metaverse fashion blogs. Between Becky and her older sister Emma, modelled in the crisp and almost uncanny image above by talented fashion blogger Cherylblossoms, SLink's new Visage mesh heads have quickly become a success. The Visage heads are very expressive, and particular care has been put into how the entire face displays an emotion as opposed to just the eyes and mouth. We tend to focus on those two features, but when the rest of the face isn't moving with them it creates a straight drop right into the Uncanny Valley. These full-face expressions give Becky and Emma a much more realistic edge over the competition, and makes both seemingly ideal for virtual photographers.
But here's the real selling point: Much like SLink's equally popular mesh hands and feet, the skin of the Visage heads can be changed using appliers, which means that unlike many other mesh heads there's a good chance that very soon you won't need to tear yourself away from your favorite skin brand to enjoy it.
On the other hand, liking a mesh head often comes down to liking the face regardless of the technical features behind it, and I'll admit that Becky and Emma haven't quite hooked me. I have my fingers crossed that designer Siddean Munro will be making even more faces to fill out the SLink Visage line and that one of them will win my heart, but until then I can still appreciate the craftsmanship on these sisters.
You can take Becky and Emma out for a spin at SLink [SLURL], or visit designer Siddean Munro's blog for more information.
How to Do Normcore With Your Second Life Avatar
- "Ruth your hair. Yes, that’s right. Ruth it. Ruth it all day long. If you aren’t brave enough, just use old sculpt hair. Buy old hair from B@re Rose in a funky color, or old Nylon outfitters creations. Boom! #normcore at your front door. You are so cool without realizing it.
- "Don’t flaunt it. Don’t go overboard. It’s okay to sport SOME mesh stuff, just don’t go completely there or else it’s like you’re doing too much. You want a little retro for your look or else hel-lo, 2now4us.
- "Don’t wear an AO. AO’s are for people into their avatars. Are you into your avatar if you’re #normcore? No. You are not."
And so on, and so hilarious, so read the right rest now.
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Iris Rants: Animal Crossing: New Leaf Is Not a Poster Child for Diversity in Gaming
One of the showstopping talks at GDC yesterday came from two of the developers behind Animal Crossing: New Leaf. At their panel "How to Turn a New Leaf at the Animal Crossing," project leader Aya Kyogoku and producer Katsuya Eguchi spoke at length about how they tried to make their game as appealing as possible to its audience. Both agreed that a key part of New Leaf's success was diversity. Diversity of gender and life experiences of the developers played a key role, they said, because the Animal Crossing series' audience is itself very diverse.
There were a lot of particularly positive and encouraging statements made about the importance of including female developers in this, which helped make the panel a darling on Twitter and across various gaming news sites. There's just one problem: New Leaf is not a very diverse game.
Linden Lab Can't Just Survive by "Fixing" Second Life - a Linden Vet Explains the Company's Diversification Strategy
The lamented, limbo state of Linden Lab's Versu project has provoked many Second Life users to wonder why the company doesn't just focus on its core successful product (that is to say, Second Life), instead of having invested in many others (like Versu) that went nowhere. But Linden veteran Yoz recently stopped by NWN comments to explain the harsh reality:
"If Linden Lab were simply to focus on 'fixing' Second Life," he wrote, "improving the experience, and getting it to a place where all its current users were something approximating 'happy', then it still wouldn't be enough to guarantee the company's future. You have to try radical new projects, you have to get them out to the public to see if they work, and even then it's almost certain that most of those projects will fail. You learn from those necessary failures and you do something better next time. Occasionally, one happens to succeed. (In this case, Blocksworld.)"
In any case, Yoz also has some experience with these other Linden Lab projects, including Versu, and shared insights there too:
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Rising Star: Here's the Latest Tutorial for Avastar, A Second Life-Oriented Blender Plug-In That's Making Waves
You can probably expect to see more fitted conversions of some of your favorite "vanilla" mesh items soon, thanks to this new tutorial from the folks behind Avastar. It explains in all the gritty, technical detail how to re-rig an item to the new fitted mesh avatar skeleton... So long as you have Avastar installed, of course.
In case you're unfamiliar, Avastar is a paid plug-in for the popular (and free) 3D creation tool Blender. It adds new options and features designed specifically for SL creators, and can be purchased for $27 (or an equivalent amount of L$ at their in-world shop [SLURL]). Avastar seems to have gained a lot more traction since the arrival of fitted mesh, largely because they have been so active in creating and sharing tutorials dealing specifically with their software. Many creators are still figuring out how to rig to the new collision bones themselves, so there is still a tremendous vacuum of information for anyone who isn't even sure where to begin (as if teaching yourself mesh in the first place wasn't difficult enough). The fact that the educational documentation surrounding the new mesh rigging method is so lacking means that one of Avastar's biggest selling points are its widely available tutorials. For some designers, this plug-in has gone from luxury to necessity almost overnight.
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Cory Doctorow on How Second Life Influenced In Real Life His New Graphic Novel About MMOs & Gold Farmers (Plus, a Bit About Cory's Own Second Life)
In Real Life is the new graphic novel by artist Jen Wang and my pal Cory Doctorow, and it's based on "Anda's Game', Cory's great short story about MMOs, gaming, and gold farming in online games, which is actually my favorite thing he's ever written. While gold farming is generally associated with standard MMOs, there actually have been cases of gold farming in Second Life too -- in 2005, for instance, I reported on a low-paid Chinese gold farmer trying to earn/beg for Linden Dollars in SL. As it happens, Second Life did have some influence on the story:
"Well, certainly the way that the economy shaped up in SL, and the contrast between that, WoW and Eve Online all played a part in my thinking about the relationship between play, game-mastering, democracy and economics," Cory tells me. "I think in some way, games are a kind of Singaporean experience: an authoritarian state that is not accountable to its subjects attempts to optimize their experience for some balance of productivity and entertainment." (Cory wrote a whole essay on that topic for InformationWeek.)
Cory also has a fair amount of direct experience in Second Life:
The Family That Plays Together: Pixelkin.org Takes The Mystery Out of Gaming With Your Kids (or Parents!)
Pixelkin, an organisation focused on family gaming, recently launched to the public with a slew of reviews and resources for parents with gaming on their mind. This isn't a site where you'll find statistics about the number of spree killers that brushed up against a Grand Theft Auto game at some point in their lives, nor is it a site loaded up with nothing but edu-tainment titles. Pixelkin's purpose is to get families playing together, plain and simple.
In addition to regular posts and articles, the Pixelkin site also has quite a few specialized sections worth investigating:
- The Research page is full of crisp infographics based on (you guessed it) research. Can gaming help your marriage? Is gaming better or worse than watching television? And of course, what about violence in video games? The best part is that Pixelkin cites their sources, so if you're skeptical of their conclusions you can check it out for yourself.
- The Library offers quick descriptions and videos of a growing list of games so you can understand what a family member is playing without having to slog through forum chatter and reviews for an hour.
- The Dictionary is a glossary of gaming and geek terms, perfect for anyone needing a crash-course in anything from aggro to zerg rushes.
- The Gamer Files are an ever-expanding series of profiles of gamers, perfect to get a good idea of how other families have worked gaming into their habits. You can even submit your own profile to help expand society's narrow definition of "gamer" as it stands now.
If you'd like to see more from Pixelkin, don't miss their guide to playing World of Warcraft with your family, and be sure to follow them on Twitter.