Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Technology Reporter Uses Virtual Reality to Recover from Chemotherapy, Joins a VR Studio Afterward
While chatting with someone very special to me on Facebook Messenger, I had a simple ask when we talked about how I felt. “Get me out of this fucking hospital room.” The response was a gift. A Gear VR and a Samsung Note 4. Virtual reality, not a new medium to me, or anyone else, had me hooked. I had the context. I had the problem that needed solving. Immediately, I took a calming stroll on Eden River...
I. Was. Not. In. My. Hospital. Room.
I know I've evinced a lot of skepticism over virtual reality hype in recent months, partly because it still seems like a niche. But I'm also convinced Drew's story expresses a very valid and important use case:
Second Project Sansar Screenshot Even Less Impressive Than the First, But Let's Not Harshly Judge It Just Yet
Ebbe, Ebbe, Ebbe, are you trying to drive us mad?
So this is a pretty bland example of a virtual world shot, certainly not as striking as the one the Linden Lab CEO posted last week. My first reaction, like a lot of NWN readers, was to think, "You could easily create as something that looks as impressive in Second Life in probably the same time." And then a thought occurred to:
Reddit's Second Life Community Searching for Interesting SLers for "Ask Me Anything" (aka AMA) Threads
If you want to host an AMA about your SL experiences, you don't have to do anything special.. If there isn't an active stickied post, just go ahead and make your text post! Once you've done that, please message the mods to let us know your post is there, and we can sticky it.
Last time the subreddit ran an AMA, it led to a very interesting conversation. And I'm definitely planning to feature further AMAs here, so that's another incentive (or not).
Tuesday, February 09, 2016
3D Builders Seriously Skeptical of Project Sansar Screenshot
Well I thought Ebbe Altberg's teaser pic from Project Sansar last Friday seemed pretty impressive, especially since he said it was a scene that only took a few hours to create. Many NWN readers with more 3D building skills than me, however, were not - particularly "JohnC":
I don't mean to knock Ebbe really, he seems like such a nice guy, but... Short version: You mean it took a specially selected team of Maya artists and a brand new game engine to put out this vague hazy screen shot, that tells us little or nothing about anything, except maybe the people who produced it.
The long version is much more ranty, but still important to read, because these are exactly the kind of 3D content creators who need to get convinced Sansar is All That, especially against free competitors like Amazon's Lumberyard:
Force Awakens Gives Second Life to Star Wars Roleplay in Second Life (So At Least It's Got That Going For It)
Not film still - a screenshot from Second Life (via Zam)
Force Awakens may be a totally disappointing movie in relation to three-plus decades of anticipation (just admit in your heart you know it's true), but it has given a second life to the once thriving Star Wars-roleplay community in Second Life. This from Ashley Barry, a former active member of that community, who visited after a long absence:
The Force Awakens, the most recent Star Wars installment, has led to a new surge of activity in the RP community. When I traveled to the latest Coruscant sim a few days after the film came out -- there have been multiple versions of the planet in Second Life throughout the years -- it was populated with so many diverse looking avatars: Mandalorians, Bothan soldiers, Twi’lek’s, and more. I was home again and it felt damn good.
More from Ashley here, who describes an incredibly detailed sub-community that has been thriving in SL for roughly a decade. I last wrote about it in 2008, when it was in full flower:
Want to Make Human in an Open Source Avatar Creator?
Make Human is an open source avatar creator which longtime avatar expert Connie Arida just pointed me to via Comments. Noodling around on the site for the first time, the platform's skeleton and musculature system seems pretty impressive (as above, from the gallery), but falls short when it comes time to create vividly human avatar faces. (Hello Ms. Uncanny Valley.) But maybe that just means they need some help from folks in the SL avatar community, who are working a pretty high level now. Speaking of which:
Will Amazon's Lumberyard Not Unity Rule the Virtual World?
Free, cross-platform, based on the revolutionary CryEngine, connected to Amazon's server architecture, which many MMOs and other multiplayer games already depend upon, it sure seems like it:
Support for mobile devices and VR headsets is in the works and should be available within a couple of months... If your game needs a scalable, cloud-based runtime environment, you should definitely take a look at Amazon GameLift. You can use it to host many different types of shared, connected, regularly-synchronized games including first-person shooters, survival & sandbox games, racing games, sports games, and MOBA (multiplayer Online Battlefield Arena) games.
Sort of strange that Project Sansar isn't being developed in Lumberyard (or is it?), seeing as Amazon's Jeff Bezos is an early investor of Linden Lab. Also notable:
Monday, February 08, 2016
New World Notes Readers Overwhelmingly Support Sanders & Clinton - Typical Politics for Virtual World Fans?
On the eve of the New Hampshire primaries, here's the US political candidate you're most likely to support:
So Bernie Sanders has the most support, followed somewhat closely by Hillary Clinton -- both of whom are trailed far behind by all GOP candidates. (With Donald Trump, somewhat surprisingly to me, the most preferred Republican candidate by NWN readers!) I'm also surprised that neither of the Libertarian candidates I included in the survey, Gary Johnson and John McAfeee, rated a single vote.
Question is -- how typical are these results for fans of VR in general or Second Life in particular?
Unreal's In-VR VR Editor: Looks Impressive, Exhausting
Now this is pretty impressive, and an interesting solution to an existing problem in VR development:
"The industry's dirty little secret with VR development," says Epic founder Tim Sweeney, "is we're developing these VR experiences while we're sitting at a PC using a mouse and keyboard." This isn't actually a secret, but it's something that feels increasingly weird as the technology improves. Things like a sense of scale don't translate well between flat screens and VR; props that feel normal in a traditional PC game, for example, might look outlandishly large or small in an immersive environment.
The controls are a bit similar to what I've seen with High Fidelity, but much more complex and suitable for professional 3D modelers. One small problem:
Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week!
- Despite Little Usage, New York Times Puts Its Virtual Reality-Based News Coverage on Front Page
- MMO Racism: Slurs Usable as Search Terms in Both Second Life's Marketplace & In-World
- Despite 5M Shipments, Google Cardboard Shows Little Use
- High Fidelity Adds Feature for Recording Complex NPC Behavior in Oculus Rift-Integrated MMOs
- Linden Lab CEO Teases Project Sansar Screenshot of Rapidly Created Mars VR Experience
Friday, February 05, 2016
Linden Lab CEO Teases Project Sansar Screenshot of Rapidly Created Mars VR Experience
Well now Ebbe Altberg, this is an interesting thing to tease us with:
Much more appealing and intriguing than the generic Project Sansar images we saw last November. Far more intriguing is the claim this took just a short time to create. I think that strongly implies one of three ways to handle user-generated content I floated last May:
Flickr of the Day: Davey Spinotti's Spectacular Second Life
Davey Spinotti has a copious and crystalline collection of Second Life scenery photos, some quiet, interior still shots, some expansive, lush scenery, some dramatic urban landscape -- all given a post-production shine to make them seem like paintings. Above, for instance, the classic steampunk city of Babbage. Click through to each of them, because they usually come with further info on the location, and links to visit them yourself.
Thursday, February 04, 2016
High Fidelity Adds Feature for Recording Complex NPC Behavior in Oculus Rift-Integrated MMOs
The latest update of High Fidelity, Philip Rosedale's upcoming Oculus Rift-enabled virtual world, has another new feature besides massive concurrency that's seriously impressive: Full body avatar recording which can be applied to an NPC.
"The recording takes what your avatar is doing and any of the attachments and records them all," as High Fidelity's Chris Collins explains it. "With all the movement trackers that are available, it is very easy to record avatars and then make them playback on whatever trigger you want. E.g. if an avatar walked into a room, make an NPC turn around and and start talking [to them]."
One powerful application of this technology is making NPCs in MMOs much more complex and interesting. Usually, NPCs move around in a very simple loop (if they move at all), but this recording feature opens up a means of making them behave in a much more complex, intricate fashion -- including and especially in large groups of NPCs:
Second Life Recreation of Lawrence's "Pinky" is a Top Google Search for Real Life Photos of Lawrence's "Pinky"
Virtual "Pinky" - first page on UK Google, third image on the third row
An Internet mystery solved! Yesterday I wondered why people keep Googling my virtual reality blog in search for an 18th century painting, and a bloke named "Shirtbloke" pointed me to this page on UK Google.
Twitter Usage Started Sharply Dropping When Gamergate Went Viral on Twitter
Correlation does not prove causation, as any anonymous Internet commenter will tell you.* That said, here's some very interesting data on Twitter usage reported on by Business Insider, which shows a sharp dropoff starting in August 2014. (See chart above.)
What happened then? Well, for one thing: "Gamergate" first became a pseudo-movement on Twitter in August 2014, with thousands of anonymous anti-feminist reactionaries trolling and abusing anyone they blamed for introducing feminist/social justice issues into games on Twitter. (Especially women.) Business Insider attributes the spike and subsequent drop to the end of the World Cup, but here's the thing: Media coverage of Gamergate and the abusive behavior Twitter also starting going up in August 2014, which is a great way to discourage most people from using the social network at all (especially women).
This correlation was first pointed out by Redditor "/lastres0rt", who puts it this way:
Wednesday, February 03, 2016
Despite 5M Shipments, Google Cardboard Shows Little Use
Google recently announced the company has shipped 5 million units of its Cardboard virtual reality HMD, but that figure can be very misleading. That definitely doesn't mean 5 million people are using Cardboard on a regular basis. Because from Google's own data, it seems more like 300,000-500,000 people use Cardboard with any high degree of engagement. Look at this infographic from the announcement:
According to Google Play, the basic app itself has been downloaded 5-10 million times. Looking at third party Cardboard apps, only a handful have been downloaded between 100,000 to 500,000 times -- most of the rest, much less. Unless I'm missing it, only this Star Wars Cardboard app has gotten downloads in the 500,000-1 million range. These numbers indicate a strong "one try then bye bye" effect -- the vast majority of Cardboard owners downloading the main app and one or two more, noodling around a bit, then sticking it back on the shelf to gather dust.
Don't believe me? Here's how many VR-enabled videos for Cardboard have been viewed:
Why Do People Keep Googling My Virtual Reality Blog in Search for an 18th Century Painting?
New World Notes has been around so long, about 20% of my daily traffic comes from Google searches -- most of which make sense, but some leave me totally perplexed. For instance, here's four posts that always show up in my traffic feed every day:
Even from just reading the HTML code you can guess what people are searching for in the first two and the fourth one. (The second, on Skyrim's disturbing slavery mods, is a classic by Janine Hawkins.)
The third one, however, I don't know WTF. It's Janine's post about an SLer who modeled her avatar after "Pinky", Thomas Lawrence's classic painting from 1794. Thing is, I don't even know what search terms are bringing people to it, because using any keyword related to that painting doesn't display my blog. And it's brought something like ten thousand people to New World Notes from I don't know where, for I don't know why.
Tuesday, February 02, 2016
MMO Racism: Slurs Usable as Search Terms in Both Second Life's Marketplace & In-World
Second Life blogger Aemeth Lysette, who has African-American heritage in real life, recently noticed something fairly disturbing in Second Life's web-based Marketplace and in its in-world search engine: Racial slurs usable as search terms, and fairly commonly so. (See screengrab, which I'm leaving blurry for obvious reasons.)
This is also surprising, because hateful speech is explicitly banned by Linden Lab's own Community Standards:
Intolerance Combating intolerance is a cornerstone of Second Life's Community Standards. Actions that marginalize, belittle, or defame individuals or groups inhibit the satisfying exchange of ideas and diminish the Second Life community as a whole. The use of derogatory or demeaning language or images in reference to another Resident's race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation is never allowed in Second Life.
... and only last year, the company had a similar controversy when users discovered the racist Confederate Flag being openly sold in SL -- after which, apparently removed these items without discussing it publicly. I just double-checked you can use slurs in the Marketplace, and sad to say, I can confirm you can.
The solution, as Aemeth writes, is pretty obvious:
SL Avatar Photography Veteran Plays With Black Desert
After posting about Black Desert's free character creator, longtime avatar photographer Connie Arida whipped this above pic up in about 30 minutes. Pretty impressive in such short a time, though IMO Black Desert's hair modeling is not ideal. And while I like the emotional expressiveness here, the smile seems a bit off -- not engaging all the facial muscles we'd associate with a genuine smile. Connie created another version that works a bit better in my view:
Monday, February 01, 2016
A Real World Presidential Survey for Virtual World Fans
... because with a real world election so unpredictable and insane, why not ask virtual world fans for their expert opinion?
And yes, I'm reposting this survey after misformatting a previous version I had to delete -- massive apologies for the confusion. Vote here and vote in the actual primaries!
Despite Little Usage, New York Times Puts Its Virtual Reality-Based News Coverage on Front Page
Yesterday, I went to the New York Times' website, saw this right on the very top, and simultaneously said "Ughh" and "Whoa" out loud:
"Whoa", because from a certain point of view, it's truly impressive that virtual reality is not only being featured on the front page of the world's most important news outlet, the paper itself is using the technology as part of its reporting of crucial current events -- a major milestone in virtual reality adoption.
"Ugh" because despite this prominent promotion, there's a small problem: Hardly any of New York Times' readers are actually using the New York Times' VR app.
The Times has tens of millions of readers, but according to Google Play, the NYT VR app has only been installed 100,000-500,000 times. (This despite the fact that Google's shipped 5 million units of the Google Cardboard VR viewer, which works with the NYT's app.) On App Annie, the analytics service, the app doesn't even register among Google Play's top 1000 apps (after a brief appearance at the top during its November launch), suggesting little viral or organic growth. Despite being frequently promoted on, you know, the world's most influential news site.
All of which reminds of Reuters' failed virtual reality experiment in Second Life, and what I wrote when the NYT announced its program last October:
Flickr of the Day: Silhouette Study of a Second Life Avatar
I saw this Strawberry Singh SL screenshot that's also a silhouette and it promptly caught my breath. We should see more such silhouettes, wouldn't you say? See more about it on Ms. Singh's site.
Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week!
- High Fidelity Reportedly Scales to 200 Fully-Rendered Concurrent Avatars in a Proximate Space on Same Server
- Goldman Sach's Virtual Reality Growth Forecasts Depend on Seriously Questionable Assumptions About Usability
- A 3D Recreation of Undertale is Being Built in Second Life
- Brain-Melting Demo by Longtime Virtual Reality Pioneer Seems to Bend Space & Time in 360 Degrees
- Project Sansar Open Beta: Probably Not Until December
Friday, January 29, 2016
High Fidelity Reportedly Scales to 200 Fully-Rendered Concurrent Avatars in a Proximate Space on Same Server
This screenshot from the latest product update of High Fidelity, Philip Rosedale's new VR world, is pretty damn impressive, and I'll tell you why. Well, let HF's Chris Collins first set the scene:
High Fidelity will achieve high scalability both by maximizing the number of people who can be together on a single server, and also by connecting servers together to create larger single spaces. In pursuit of this first goal, we’ve begun optimizations to maximize avatar concurrency for the single-server case. So far, as is show in this image, we’ve been able to support a couple hundred avatars connected to a single server, with the nearest 40 or so rendering at 75Hz in the Oculus using fairly detailed avatars and including joint and facial animation.
Thing is, all these 200 avatars look pretty fully rendered, so it's even more impressive if they can consistently get 40 of the nearest to render in, well, high fidelity. With Philip's first VR world, Second Life, it is difficult to get even forty avatars total on the same server, and that's with hellacious sputtering and partially rendered avatars. (You can get about 200 semi-visible avatars in proximity to each other, but only when they were on four different sims right next to each other, which almost always looks like a lagtastic wreck.) So if this level of quality concurrency works as well as promised, that's quite a leap, and an important one.
More updates from the video, many others that are also intriguing:
SL Mesh Head Neck & Neck With Black Desert Faces
Black Desert's avatar customization system definitely seems impressive, but I gotta say, the latest user-made mesh-based heads in Second Life are giving it a run for its virtual money:
Video demo via Strawberry, who has the details on her blog. Too bad this level of customization is only going to be available to established SLers who know where to get their heads.
NWN Open Forum: Share Weekend Events & Whatever Else
Events, blogs, Flickr streams, YouTube videos -- if it has a link, I'd love to see it in Comments. (And possibly feature them right here on the front page!)
Thursday, January 28, 2016
Goldman Sach's Virtual Reality Growth Forecasts Depend on Seriously Questionable Assumptions About Usability
As I wrote on Tuesday, the venerable banking firm Goldman Sachs forecasts about 40-300 million virtual/augmented reality units will ship by 2025. But here's the thing: When you read the firm's actual report, you find some seriously questionable assumptions which should cause heavy skepticism that even the low 40 million estimate is actually going to happen.
When I read this passage in the report, my mouth dropped:
Virtual reality will grow, in other words, because it's intuitive and easy to use. Which means I need to say this with deep emphasis:
A device which literally blinds and deafens you to your surroundings is by definition not intuitive or easy to use.
Goldman Sachs' analysts are describing the usability of VR only from the perspective of the VR display. Because sure, it's easy and intuitive to wear an HMD rig which moves more or less naturally along with your head movements. But for potential consumers, that's only part of the usability question. The more obvious question being: Do I want to wear something that prevents me from easily seeing or hearing my surroundings for extended periods of time? That's a massive expectation to place on people, and outside dedicated VR enthusiasts, we have no idea whatsoever whether they will. And not withstanding one-off products like those blinder/ear muff things people wear to sleep on airplanes, there is not a single mass market device that does this -- certainly not one that costs $599.
As legendary game designer Warren Spector put it to me last year:
3D Tribute to Undertale Reportedly Closing Soon Due to Hacking & Drama
This is why we can't have nice things, I guess: According to a group announcement just posted to a blog, the seriously impressive Undertale tribute to Second Life I blogged about yesterday is being closed after donations to host it are gone. I've reached out to confirm this with the lead creator, Sykes Furse, but haven't heard back from him yet. What I can confirm is the sim it's based on, Souls Haven, is no longer generally accessible (at least to me).
According to the announcement (from the blog of Skills Hak, lead creator of the popular and acclaimed Insilico region), hacking and drama is the problem:
Oscar-Themed Avatar Fashion Contest With L$50K in Prizes
Harper Ganesvoort's 7th annual Oscar-themed Second Life avatar fashion photo contest is open for submissions, with a total of L$50,000 in prizes for the best pics. You can see the entries so far on this Flickr page.
I would like to feature some entries here on New World Notes, so post your entry links in Comments. Bonus points if your avatar is dressed in Mad Max: Fury Road-themed formal wear and/or calls out the #Oscarsowhite controversy. Because far as I'm concerned, that was the only truly great movie that's been nominated, and the racism flare-up is the only thing worth watching the Oscars for. (But that's just me, or maybe not.)
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
A 3D Recreation of Undertale is Being Built in Second Life
UPDATE, 1/29: Read this post for news on this project, which is reportedly closing.
I told you about the 3D version of Undertale, the beloved, hit indie RPG, being created in Second Life. Since then I had a chance to chat with Sykes Furse, who leads development on it with a large team of volunteers, and shared way more details:
“It's not a game, it's a simulator for people to enjoy the same game we all came to love, Undertale, in a 3D environment. We host nothing but an appreciation sim so others can enjoy it and hang out if they like. So far all we have are the Ruins and Snowdin. Toriel's home will be done sometime soon, but I and a few others are going to start working on Waterfall as soon as we possibly can!”
Surprisingly, Sykes' team of volunteers have created a pretty playable simulation with Second Life's basic building and scripting tools:
Try Black Desert's Cutting Edge Avatar Creator for Free
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.
You can try it for free without necessarily playing the actual MMO it's been created for, so give it a while. If you do, all you masters of avatar customization, please share your character selfies in Comments!
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Brain-Melting Demo by Longtime Virtual Reality Pioneer Seems to Bend Space & Time in 360 Degrees
Watch this video which may just melt your brain, and note the 3D controls on the top left, which you can use to rotate the camera around in a very cool way (especially if you're wearing a VR rig):
Created by mathematician and longtime VR pioneer Henry "Seifert" Segerman, I keep watching and trying to describe what's going on in plain English, and came up with this: Henry has installed code which simulates a Mobius transformation in a special 360 degree spherical camera to create a single infinite time loop. I think that's about right, but let me let Henry himself explain. [Update, 3:55pm: Not exactly, see Henry's clarification below.]
"Just like in the ancient video game Asteroids, when you fly off the side of the screen, you reappear on the other side, and you loop around. In the same way, the camera in the video appears to fly out the window of my apartment, reappearing in through some sort of portal floating in the middle of the apartment.
"Except the camera only appears to move. In fact, it's always sitting in the same place -- you can see the top of the tripod in the middle of the floor. The Möbius transformations let me 'zoom' the spherical images, which makes it look like the camera is moving."
To help understand how this is done, here's the original raw footage:
Henry's application emerged out of a VR project to use technology like this in live video-captured virtual reality:
Project Sansar Open Beta: Probably Not Until December
Daniel Voyager transcribed the notes of a recent podcast featuring Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Atberg, who offered this timeline for Second Life follow-up, Oculus Rift-integrated virtual world code-named Project Sansar:
- Around June 2016 or soon after the Lab will probably allow people to start to apply for Project Sansar in some way. [Beyond those already in closed Alpha.
- By June 2016 the Lab will be inviting hundreds of creators possibly to get things moving.
- Between July 2016 and September 2016+ the Lab will increase the number of people who can come in month after month to continue test/develop Project Sansar.
- If things go according to plan the Lab plans to open the door for anyone to come in and play with Project Sansar around December 2016 – January 2017 (Open Beta).
So as many NWN readers predicted, Sansar won't see the light of day before a new American President is elected. I would have guessed open beta this Summer, but looks like I was wrong. Could be frustrating for Oculus Rift fans eager to try it out sooner. But for remaining Second Life fans, that's some good guys:
Second Life-Based Chat Bots Help Drive Evolution of Web & Mobile-Based Chat Bots
Hey, so you know all those chat bot projects in Second Life, some pretty wacky and crippled, some which are well-built enough to mess around with? Writing for Wired, Clive Thompson notes that they helped drive research in the new generation of chat bots:
“Chitchat is a basic human need,” says Harry Shum, head of Microsoft Technology and Research. It greases the wheels of the workplace. When you ask a colleague to do something, you don’t just bark out an order; you banter for a while. Shum thinks these pleasantries—what linguists call “phatic” communications, like “How ya doin’?”—will help bots integrate into the flow of daily life.
Some research backs this up. When Doron Friedman, head of the Advanced Reality Lab at IDC Herzliya, looked at how users in Second Life interacted with a bot, he found that phatic communications were the second-most-common parts of the conversation (after facts). Another study found that people prefer bots with “personality.” The “junk” DNA is more important, as it were.
Messaging apps like Slack, What's App, and Facebook Messenger have become massive in recent years, which has built up a demand for more intelligent, more human-seeming chat bots:
Monday, January 25, 2016
Is VR Mass or Niche? Goldman Sachs Forecasts About 40-300M Virtual/Augmented Reality Units Ship by 2025
Someone in Reddit's Oculus group was nice enough to upload Goldman Sach's widely cited forecast of the VR and AR market released earlier this month. Which is nice, because while many outlets have cited its prediction that VR/AR might become a $80 billion market ($45 billion in hardware and $35 billion in software) by 2025, no outlet I know has reported the most important figure of all: How many people should we expect to actually own a VR/AR device in the next decade?
So taken straight from the report, here's the range, which Goldman divides into three tiers of adoption:
So if adoption is slow (i.e. "Delayed"), only about 40-50 million units ship by 2025. If adoption is massive (i.e. "Accelerated"), we get more like 300 million units in the same time frame. Like most readers of this virtual world blog, I think the bearish estimate sounds about right. 40-50 million would make the addressable VR/AR market equivalent to a niche gamer device like the Nintendo 3DS. 300 million units in a decade is what VR would need to have any chance at reaching the "billions" of users Mark Zuckerberg predicted when he announced his company's acquisition of Oculus. In either case, as the chart shows, Goldman expects adoption to be significantly slower than smartphones, which is very on point.
Flickr of the Day: Virtual World, Virtual Bird's Eye View
I love this latest virtual world photo by Melusina Parkin, a rare glimpse of Second Life's landscape from a bird's eye view (or for that matter, a flying avatar). You also should see Ms. Parkin makes the metaverse look like an Andrew Wyeth painting, for that matter.
Top Six New World Notes Posts from Last Week!
- Linden Lab OK With Second Life Being Categorized as a Game So Let's All Be OK With That Too
- IRS Drops Second Life Content Creators' Tax Bill from $66,005... to $0.00
- Here’s Why Linden Lab Needs to Market Second Life to Smartass, Garry's Mod-Style Gamers
- Anita Sarkeesian's Analysis of Male & Female Player Avatar Butts Needs an MMO Sequel
- Bitcoin's Libertarian Dream Ironically Strangled by the Chinese Communist Party's Firewall
- Five Posts About Real Racism in Virtual Worlds
Friday, January 22, 2016
Learn Image Composition With Virtual World Photography
Deoridhe of Primdolls has a really interesting and useful tutorial on Second Life photography composition which is probably valuable for RL photographers too. (For that matter, practicing composition with virtual world screenshots is probably a great, cost effective way to improve your photography chops.) Take her analysis of this photo above, by Lyndzay Meili:
In sharp contrast, Meili creates a sense of balance using extreme depth. In reality, the van would be much larger than the figure. In the image, it's smaller. Telephone poles are back as a visual element, this time at an angle to draw your eyes back and to reinforce the distance between figure and vehicle. The placement of both is also striking, in terms of balance. The vehicle is at the bottom third point of the image, coming into screen and bringing your eye up along the telephone lines to the taller figure, which is closer to the edge. A bit of grass hints at ground without actually showing it.
Hat tip: Cajsa, who artfully composes pics on It's Only Fashion.
Take a Prom Photo With Bernie Sanders & Your Avatar
I love this new Second Life image from Strawberry Singh, jumping off on a meme started by Stephen Colbert:
Stephen Colbert set out a challenge asking people to photoshop themselves into this photo beside Bernie and ask him to the Prom since Bernie claims that he has never worn a tuxedo. When I first saw the video, I immediately laughed my ass off but I thought, wouldn’t it be hilarious if I did this with my Second Life avatar? So yeah, here’s my avatar, asking Bernie to Prom.
Anyone else want to shoot their own version, and Tweet it at Colbert with the hashtag #BerniePromposal? Bonus points if you customize your avatar as, I dunno, Donald Trump or Sarah Palin, or failing that a well-dressed furry vampire robot, because you know, Second Life. I can already picture a very old man looking at Colbert's Twitter stream and saying "WTF?" And then immediately going back to rant about America's wealth gap and such.
Linden Lab OK With Second Life Being Categorized as a Game So Let's All Be OK With That Too
PC Gamer just listed Second Life among its 50 most important PC games, which I first noticed because Linden Lab shared the link on LinkedIn. Used to be the company steadfastly resisted being put in the game category by the media (back during the hype days when SL didn't lack for media coverage), but if Linden Lab isn't worried about being categorized as a game anymore, I guess that settles that ambiguity. And anticipating the usual angry response, "But Second Life doesn't have set goals or points!"... neither do Minecraft or The Sims, which are also listed among PC Gamers most important games.
Anyway, excerpt of the review below -- featuring a nice mention of Iris Ophelia and a link to this blog!
Thursday, January 21, 2016
Update: IRS Drops Second Life Content Creators' Tax Bill from $66,005... to $0.00
Last November, I told you about the tax problems of US-based SL entrepreneurs Washu Zebrastripe and Damien Fate, who got a freakout-inducing letter from the Internal Revenue Service, double-billing them $65K for their earnings from Second Life. But now there's good news on that front: Their IRS bill is now, well, nothing. (See photo.)
"After all the documentation I sent in," Erika tells me, "they say I now owe $0.00! Yay!!"
To be sure, she sent the government a lot of damn documentation:
"A list of all received payments to Paypal, a list of payments to Paypal from Linden Lab, a letter explaining how to match the sent payments from Linden Lab to the exact time/day/amount received in Paypal, some documents related to a support ticket we sent to Linden Lab regarding the tax documents, and a list of my email addresses I use for Paypal so they know that it is in fact me that we sent the money to." (Whew.) "I cannot say that this was all needed, but I wanted to cover my bases."
This is a pretty time-consuming task, because just look at the Paypal payments they received in a single month:
Stewart Butterfield's MMO Memorialized as 404 Page in Stewart Butterfield's Messaging App
I was recently using Slack, the team-based messaging app, when a bad link sent me to this wryly amusing 404 page:
This is an in-joke within an in-joke, because this is art from (and a reference to) Glitch, the web-based MMO founded by Stewart Butterfield a few years ago. Thing is, Glitch suffered an untimely death at the end of 2012, but something else emerged in the process of creating and managing it*:
Then in 2009, Butterfield founded Tiny Speck, pulling in game vets like Journey’s Robin Hunicke and Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahasi, to launch a browser-based online game called Glitch. Beloved by many—but ultimately not enough—fans, Glitch shuttered in 2012. But again a seed grew. Butterfield transitioned some of Tiny Speck’s staff, alongside some hard-learned lessons about onboarding new users to build a commercial communication tool that Tiny Speck had used to build Glitch. Last August, Slack was launched as an “email killer” and a way to transform how businesses talk and do work together.
"E-mail killer" is a bold statement, but it's definitely true that at this point, if you work in tech, you are almost certainly using Slack. Countless tech companies large and small utterly depend on Slack now. So while Glitch's small but passionate userbase (many of whom jumped over from Second Life) mourned the passing of the world they'd come to love, there's an ironic but sweet coda to that passing:
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Here’s Why Linden Lab Needs to Market Second Life to Smartass, Garry's Mod-Style Gamers
Hey did you see the new Second Life advertising campaign? Uploaded just two days ago, it's already been seen over 1 million times:
Slight hitch (which you probably noticed if you watched this for over 10 seconds): It was not created by Linden Lab, but by Videogamedunkey, a YouTuber with over 2 million subscribers. Which makes him and this video vastly more popular and influential than the official Second Life channel on YouTube. Unfortunately, most of his video is a lot of juvenile jackassery, but I have to give him credit for cleverly juxtaposing official, overly optimistic Second Life ads with the actual, often disturbing reality many or most SL users have.
So assuming 1% of Dunkey's followers decide they're going to follow in his footsteps (and that's a safe bet), SLers should expect about 20,000 new potential trolls hitting Second Life over the next few weeks. I say "potential", because not all of them are trolls, just like not all of Dunkey's activity is mean-spirited: More like a young gamer being a smartass in response to fairly random and crazy content.
I mean, what true gamer can possibly be against Kermit the Frog armed with samurai swords while smoking a blunt? There's a place in Second Life for gamers like this, but the problem is, they often get mixed up with the fashionistas and the social/nightclubbers in Second Life, not to mention the porn players, and chaos inevitably ensues. Those SLers get offended and ragequit, and most of the gamers eventually get bored and move on.
The problem? Linden Lab is doing a bad/non-existent job of marketing to this audience of gamers on YouTube, so they're not even sure there's a place for them. Or to put it in two words: Garry's Mod. I mean, watch:
Anita Sarkeesian's Analysis of Male & Female Player Avatar Butts Needs an MMO Sequel
Sure to enrage a certain set of male gamers for no rational reason whatsoever, here's Anita Sarkeesian's latest look at the sexist tropes in most mainstream videogames:
The core of her argument is interesting and should be pretty obvious to gamers after she raises it: Game developers consistently sexualize female player characters' and female NPCs' butts, while also taking massive pains to non-sexualize male player avatar asses -- to the point of covering them up in physically implausible ways. And in this way, consciously or unconsciously, straight male players are told that games are catering to them, while pushing almost all female gamers away.
That said, I somewhat disagree with Sarkeesian that the solution to this is to non-sexualize all avatar butts, as opposed to exploiting them equally --mainly because in MMOs and other multiplayer games, her on-point analysis runs up against some interesting variables that may change the dynamic.
Here's some thoughts and citations on that theme:
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Bitcoin's Libertarian Dream Ironically Strangled by the Chinese Communist Party's Firewall
Last Wednesday I pointed out that Bitcoin transactions failed to meaningfully grow in 2015; last Friday, a disenchanted Bitcoin insider revealed the inside story in this powerful Medium post. It's pretty ironic, because for years, Bitcoin enthusiasts have insisted it's not a virtual currency the same way Linden Dollars or another MMO currency is. But as it turns out, Bitcoin's growth is being stymied by a problem that's pretty much what's plagued MMOs like World of Warcraft for years -- gold farming from China. Here's why:
[T]he block chain is controlled by Chinese miners, just two of whom control more than 50% of the hash power. At a recent conference over 95% of hashing power was controlled by a handful of guys sitting on a single stage. The miners are not allowing the block chain to grow.
Why is that such a problem? Ironically enough for a currency that is so appealing to libertarians -- because of well, the Chinese Communist Party:
Analyst Forecasts Mobile Driving Virtual Reality (At First)
Good HyperGrid Business summary of a new report by game industry research firm SuperData, which forecasts mobile-based VR headsets like Samsung's Gear VR will drive virtual reality adoption:
Globally, three out of four early adopters will use smartphones to try virtual reality, according to the report. A total of 27 million mobile-based headsets will be sold next year, mostly light mobile virtual reality headsets such Google Cardboards and compatible headsets. Not only do these headsets cost very little, but they also do not require high-end personal computers, which means lower barriers of entry compared to the high-end tethered headsets.
Runs fairly close to my thoughts on VR adoption, though I'm pretty skeptical of SuperData's follow-up forecast:
Tweet Virtual World/Virtual Reality Events at Me!
Got a virtual world or VR event to promote? Friendly reminder/invitation to Tweet the details at me, preferably with all the details assembled in an easy to read blog post. I love to Favorite and retweet links like those to my followers, and it's the best way to get the event publicized. I rarely post about VR/VW events on New World Notes the blog, because any one event is unlikely to be useful to more than a few dozen readers -- but the NWN Twitter channel? Totally different story.
Monday, January 18, 2016
Five Posts About Real Racism in Virtual Worlds
We once thought that virtual worlds would help diminish racism, since people inside them would be judged by the behavior of their avatars, not the color of their skin. Sad to say, the exact opposite is the case: Hiding behind an anonymous avatar, many racists act even more racist, while many people of color, targeted by a wide array of explicit or implicit prejudice, feel pressured to disguise their real life race. This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, here's some classic posts to help contemplate that reality -- and contemplate ways we can all be better:
She spent three months in the skin of a black woman. Some of her friends shied away, she believes. Then there were the "guys that thought I was an easy lay, for lack of a better term. It scared me honestly, some of the assumptions made. Especially here where everything [in avatar appearance] is changeable with a click. I lost a couple of what I thought were good friends [who] stopped IMing and chatting. They were polite to a fault when I showed up, but [it] was weird. You know how you interact and something changes and no one tells you. Some were subtle, some weren't." She laughs without mirth, recalling how some friends would ask her questions such as, "'[L]ike, when you going back to being you?'"
"I wish people knew how much it hurt to see the flag on TV and in places which are supposed to represent everyone in a fair manner, like court houses. I have been to places in Second Life which had the flag up. We always knew what it meant. That we and others with our color are not wanted around that area. It is like putting up a 'Caucasian only' sign. I have a lot of bad memories with that flag. Like walking past homes of people who have them proudly displayed in front of their homes...
He recounts a time when he agreed to meet with someone about a machinima project, but before he saw Fall's photo in the First Life tab in his avatar profile. When he arrived for the meeting, Fall remembers, "him and the cast were just immediately quiet. No one spoke to me directly. And when they started talking on voice, I heard many Southern accents. I figured, 'Here we go, kinda.'" One of the cast members started telling racially tinged jokes. "After that I just left." Rysan Fall acknowledges that the behavior may have been coincidental. "But sometimes... you know."
Top Seven New World Notes Posts from Last Week
- Tumugiuta's Stream of Jaw-Dropping Images Are Like Stills from an Anime You Wish Existed
- Metaverse Artist Bryn Oh Gets Canadian Government Grant to Turn SL Installation into VR-Powered Art Gallery Exhibit
- Playable 3D Recreation of Undertale RPG in Second Life
- In Survey of VR Enthusiasts, Most Predict Oculus Rift Will Sell Under 100,000 Units
- Bitcoin Transactions Hardly Grew in 2015 -- Still Used Less Than Linden Dollars
- Over 50% New World Notes Readers Predict Second Life Usage Decline in 2016, 20% Predict Growth - Survey
- David Bowie Actually Had a Second Life Before Second Life