Friday, August 22, 2014

Coming Soon: You Won't Be Able to Resist the Soft, Sleepy Charms of this Second Life Pup

ISPACHI Arcade Sept Preview
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

No, this adorable gif I've posted is not taken from a viral video and no, it's not from some sort of beautiful HD version of Nintendogs. That precious pup is 100% Second Life mesh, and if you don't believe me all you need to do is wait for the name tag to pop up briefly in the lower lefthand corner.

See?

But where can you get your hands on this warm little bundle of polygons? Well...

Continue reading "Coming Soon: You Won't Be Able to Resist the Soft, Sleepy Charms of this Second Life Pup"

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Celebrity Second Life User Drew Carey Tweets His Appreciation for One of Our Favorite Metaverse Designers

Drew Carey Nylon Pinkney SL
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Drew Carey loves Second Life, and Second Life loves artist and designer Nylon Pinkney, so it's only natural that Drew Carey loves Nylon Pinkney too, right?

Carey is one of SL's most vocal celebrity fans, and this week he made a couple tweets that caught a lot of Second Life users' attention... Including Nylon herself. Take a look:

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Janine "Iris" Hawkins' Top Ten MMOs for Paste Magazine

Eve online mmo

"10 Best MMOs" is the latest Paste Magazine article from our own Janine "Iris" Hawkins, and it's a solid primer on the world of online worlds. Before you click, guess which ones she's going to mention -- now click.

You may have noticed most of Iris' selections are older MMOs, but as she tells me, there's a very good reason for that:

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Cubic Castles: A Free-to-Play Sandbox MMO That's Like Minecraft, but...

Cubic-castles
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Minecraftbut. That's the term that Rock, Paper, Shotgun's Alice O'Connor recently coined (in the same vein as roguelike) to save us all from having to say "It's like Minecraft, but..." one more lousy time. It might just be my favorite piece of gaming shorthand since "Abilitease".

Cubic Castles (a new free-to-play game that you can snag on Steam, the iOS App Store or straight from their website) is one such Minecraftbut, with an emphasis on building, crafting, puzzle platforming, and easily shared massively-multiplayer worlds. The problem with writing about Minecraftbut's is that defining one thing based largely on how it's different from that other thing is a difficult and often unhelpful way to explain any thing. There's a comparison to be made... But it's much better just to see the thing in action for yourself.

With that in mind, I did a dreadfully unprofessional (it's been a loooong week, you guys) stream of Cubic Castles earlier today so I could share the experience with you. Check it out:

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Open Forum: Why Is Second Life Machinima Waning?

Visually, Second Life has never looked better or been more versatile than it's ever been before (assuming you have a high-end machine), but apart from an occasional gem like the airborne travelogue above (highlighted by Iris recently), I haven't seen much excellent Second Life machinima in many, many months. You go to the YouTube feed for Second Life-related videos, you get barraged by SL griefer videos, Linden Dollar scammer videos, the occasional Linden Lab-sponsored video, random SL footage videos, and other effluvia. But far as actual, formal, narrative machinima which takes full advantage of Second Life as a platform, selections are getting pretty sparse.

Don't get me wrong, there are exceptions:

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Iris' Most Anticipated Game Releases for Fall-Winter 2014

Assassin's Creed Unity Notre Dame
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Summer can be pretty slow when it comes to games... And just about everything else. It's hot, it's humid, it's sticky, it's sweaty, and it feels like there's just nothing new and exciting to play. So every now and then when the weather and the restlessness are equally unbearable, I like to close my eyes and think of all of the releases I'm anticipating this fall. Pretty much as soon as August ends I know I'll be on a roller coaster of releases straight through to Christmas, and I absolutely can't wait. Here are the ten games I'm looking forward to the most in what remains of 2014:

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

SL Go's Fitted Second Life Mesh Display Problem Fixed

Second Life Fitted Mesh Fix SL GO Onlive

The SL Go streaming service for using mobile devices and low end laptops with Second Life had a problem with displaying fitted mesh in SL (as Iris reported here), but SL Go creator Onlive has fixed the problem, Senior Product Manager Dennis Harper just told me. (He sent the before and after screencaps above as proof.)

Trouble was, when SL Go was being prepared for launch, as he explains, fitted mesh "wasn’t a big thing at first because [it] was a high-end, experimental feature only used by super-builders. But then in May 2014, Linden released 24 new newbie avatars that used the fitted mesh feature. All of a sudden, we saw these stretched out avatars everywhere. We needed to fix it."

How did they do that? "Warning: techie stuff ahead," Dennis warns, and then tells me:

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Iris Wants to Know: What Are Your Experiences with the DMCA Process in Second Life?

Wowmehlogo greyNOTAVAILABLE
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

With the removal of the Wowmeh mesh body line from Second Life, there's been a lot of talk about whether or not the DMCA process is helpful in SL, or just a huge hindrance. In case you missed it, the Wowmeh body was a phenomenally successful mesh body that was the target of a DMCA takedown. Creator Baby Ghosn maintained that it was unjustified and malicious, but as she was unwilling to release her personal information to someone she claimed was purely a troll, she decided to revamp Wowmeh and replace any potentially dubious components. When she released the new body it was taken down again, allegedly for being a re-release of a taken down item. At that point Baby called it quits, saying that the process of supporting and defending Wowmeh was more than she'd expected and was willing to take on. 

While Hamlet has already explained his position that Second Life and the DMCA process are incompatible, I'm not so sure. That's why I want to hear from SL designers who've ever tangled with either end of a DMCA. Click here to fill out a super-short survey and share your experiences, and share it with fellow SL content creators! Next week, I'll report back with results and the most interesting feedback received.

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We've Been Keeping an Eye on Mr Godard's Hyper-Realistic Second Life Photography, and You Should Too

Mr Godard Shoe Planters
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Remember Mr Godard? I wrote about his work back in January, and was recent;y reminded that we're long overdue to check in on him. Mr Godard is behind some of the most realistic shots of Second Life that you'll ever see, courtesy of some clever pre- and post-processing magic. He's not shy about using subtle lighting or introducing film-grain effects to mask the typical tells of an SL snapshot. Second Life is often a little too bright, a little too smoothe, a little too polished, a little too focussed... But Godard, he's got a gift for returning that natural-feeling grit to his shots.

Be sure to check out Mr Godard's Flickr gallery here.

(Hat tip: Gogo)

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Advertise Your Second Life Content on New World Notes With Linden $ - Here's Typical Clickthrough Rates You'll Get

New World Notes Second Life blog pageviews

We're now accepting Media Partnerships with select companies, organizations, and individuals who want to promote their Second Life content on New World Notes, the oldest and largest blog with a primary focus on SL since 2006. (Or 2003, if you're counting its launch while I was contracting for Linden Lab.) Rates are negotiable, with discounts for smaller brands that Iris and I admire, and we do take Linden Dollars. If you'd like to discuss this opportunity, contact me by IMing me at Hamlet Au, or via e-mail to wjamesau at gmail dot com.

Second Life NWN ad results

Why New World Notes? According to SimilarWeb, NWN got 200,000 visits last month, with heavy traffic from SL-centric sites like Plurk and SLUniverse. Far as results, the screencap at left shows traffic from a recent three month Media Partnership, with about 400 clickthroughs from NWN to the Partners' SL Marketplace page, and about 100 to their web landing page. (Another campaign with another Partner got clickthroughs upwards of a 1000 in three months.)

A typical partnership looks like this:

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In San Francisco This Wednesday: Free Mixed Reality Show Merging Real Dance With Second Life's Famed SkyDancers

Second Life Mixed Reality performance

Click here to RSVP for an arts event happening this Wednesday early evening in San Francisco, merging a Second Life performance broadcast on a screen in the Little Boxes Theater (Dogpatch district of SF), with seasoned dancer Kathleen Moore on stage before it. The SL performers are Dancoyote Antonelli's acclaimed SkyDancers, who've been performing in SL for over 8 years. The free event starts at 5:30pm with free drinks and a curator/artist talk from DC Spensley (Dancoyote IRL) with the show itself kicking off at 6:30pm. Go here for all the details.

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Try Out This Shortcut for Super Cute Sims in The Sims 4 Create-A-Sim Demo

Sims 4 Sibling Trick
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

I'm going to share a clever trick for The Sims 4 that a friend pointed out to me this weekend, in case you're having any trouble creating the perfect sim. Although the game itself isn't out yet, last week the Create-a-Sim demo launched for everyone on Origin. It's the perfect opportunity to hone your character-customizing skills with the new tools and techniques the game will provide. They're fairly intuitive, but it's still pretty easy to find yourself in a position where you're not 100% satisfied with the sim in front of you. Something's just a little bit off, and you aren't quite sure how to fix it. That's where the trick comes in.

Here's how you can use The Sims 4's Genetics feature to fudge your way to a cuter sim face:

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Just How Big is Procedural Space Exploration Game No Man's Sky Going to Be? Well...

No-mans-sky
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

It would take a person five billion years of non-stop exploration to spend one second on each of the possible 18 quintillion plus planets in the upcoming game No Man's Sky. At least, that's what Hello Games co-founder Sean Murray told IGN at Gamescom last week as he explained their choice to generate the game's universe based on a 64-bit number rather than 32-bit. 

That kind of scale seems jaw-dropping, but even more so when you compare it to something a little more familiar. For example, Second Life sims...

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Top Seven New World Notes Posts Last Week

Robin Williams Roleplay Gamer

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Friday, August 15, 2014

This Month Play a Japanese Horror Game in Second Life

Japanese horror game in SL

This month there's a Japanese horror game in Second Life, and even the screenshots creep the crap out of me. You can click to start playing Kagami in SL here, visit the official web page here, and as a great place to learn more, read this blog about the game from Quan Lavender (originator of those images what creeped me). The premise is pretty fascinating:

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Life is Strange: The Developers of Remember Me Are Back With a Game About Time Travelling Teenagers

Life-is-strange-kitchen_1920
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

For me, one of the most exciting pieces of news out of European game industry conference Gamescom this week has been the next project from DONTNOD Entertainment, the team behind Remember Me. Life is Strange is being pitched as a story about teenage girls, relationships, and time travel, and here's why I can't wait to get my hands on it:

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Here's How the Developer of Gunpoint Confronted a So-Called Ripoff of His Popular Infiltration Game

Ronin-Header
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Tom Francis is a game journalist turned indie developer who evidently has a solid sense of humor. Last year he released Gunpoint, a highly acclaimed 2D game about stealth, confrontation and office-building infiltration. This year, Francis caught wind of a game named Ronin that looked suspiciously similar to his own, and whose creator brazenly referred to it as a "Gunpoint ripoff". So Francis did what anyone would do: He recorded a video of himself playing Ronin because, in his words, "it's really fucking cool."

Francis is quick to point out in his blog post on the subject (which bears the slightly deceptive title "It's Time I Did Something about This 'Gunpoint Ripoff'") that Ronin isn't actually ripping off Gunpoint at all. The inspiration there is clear, but as far as Francis is concerned Ronin is a game that stands on its own, and Gunpoint was designed to inspire in the first place. He writes:

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Acclaimed Second Life Creator Alina Lyvette Describes Her First Life in Putin's Russia

Alina Lyvette in Russia Second Life

When she's not updating her popular Lumiya Second Life viewer for mobile, or enjoying life below the virtual sea as a mermaid avatar, Alina Lyvette contends with a fairly grim real life lived as an LGBT person in Putin's Russia. She recently shared her experiences there with me, and with Russia so much in the news of late, it's important I share her insights here too:

"How does it feel here?" Alina begins. "Guess it's telling enough to say that every morning I'm scanning the local news to find out whether Mr. Putin has started the war or not... yet. Maybe the best word to describe the overall feeling there is 'uncertainty'. Things are unraveling at a frightening pace. Now, it's year 2014 and we have the new legislation (passed unanimously, of course) which introduces jail terms for publicly expressing discontent with Putin's policies, and the ban on food imports... in a country which imports approximately half of its food products, and on, and on. Politically, the local opposition is generally silent - which is not really surprising, given the fact that opposition leaders are either behind the bars or has fled the country. We had one relatively independent news channel (the Rain TV) which is now banned from broadcasting over cable or satellites.. and of course, they were never allowed to broadcast over the air - which is how the absolute majority of population receives the signal.

"Putin's brainwashing machine is going full steam ahead - with all the usual tools which would make Dr. Goebbels happy, like using fake imagery and staged video in the news, thoroughly mixed with outright lies and hysteria - unsurprisingly, leading to the skyrocketing figures of Mr. Putin's ratings (86% last time if I'm not mistaken, and I'm rather surprised that it's not 99%. From these figures, one can easily derive that 14% of the local population doesn't watch TV).

"One good side-effect of this, though," she continues. "is that LGBT bashing is not the mainstream topic anymore (and, unsurprisingly again, as soon as the propaganda machine has stopped to stir up the topic, the general public entirely stopped being concerned about it. My favorite local club is open again.

"Interestingly, speaking about economics, things are not too bad, compared to what could be expected. Obviously food prices are on the rise as well as unemployment, but nothing overly dramatic so far. Local news say that the market for luxury cars has fell down 22% from the previous year... who cares?  As long as milk goes for about $1 per liter, life is good. Of course it was half that only a year ago, but... it's still cheap.

"In the other developments... hm, our authorities (should I put this word in quotes?) recently decided to ban public Wi-Fi. Well, not exactly... they've introduced a requirement of establishing user's identity when providing public Wi-Fi services, which in practice means a ban. Well, ok, 3G works just as well for me.

"And oh, something that didn't make the news... a few days ago, there was an announcement of upcoming 'emergency' President's address to the nation, which magically disappeared from the news after a couple of hours, and on the next day, we've been enlightened to learn that Mr. Putin has quietly fired top 18 officers of what is our local counterpart of FBI - obviously sparking rumors about a failed coup attempt. One goes figuring...

"So, life is interesting, and I sincerely hope that this insanity will come to an end before something dreadful happens. Of course, me being a mere mortal, but I sincerely agree with Angela Merkel's assessment of Mr. Putin when, after a round of talks, she has been quoted as saying that 'he appears to live in his own imaginary world.'

In this climate it might seem strange to spend so much time working on a Second Life viewer for Android devices, but for Alina, doing so is a kind of sanctuary:

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80 Days Delivers the Smart Steampunk iOS Travel Sim You Never Knew You Wanted

80 Days (1)Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Transit. That's when I typically bring my phone up for gaming. I'll flit between email, Twitter and a short gasp of play like Threes if it's a jaunt to the mall, something more substantial if I'm expecting to be out for a while. It's mostly a means of distraction while I'm away from the more rooted experience of gaming at my desk. With that in mind, the irony that Jules Verne inspired iOS game 80 Days held my attention while I was entirely stationary isn't lost on me.

From the gaslit streets of London to clear skies over Cairo, carried by the groaning legs of the ambulatory marvel of Agra or a boat permeated by the scent of overripe bananas, the places you go and the ways you get there are only ever half the story...

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Despite Little Growth in Bitcoin Usage, Leading VC Marc Andreessen Still Bullish on Virtual Currency

Bitcoin daily transactions

Last January I had an interesting conversation with web browser pioneer and leading venture capitalist Marc Andreessen after he wrote a New York Times essay on why Bitcoin is so important to the future of the Internet. He was bullish despite little growth in actual usage of Bitcoin, and since then, usage still remains low. (It's grown slightly in recent weeks, as this chart captured at left shows, but is still below its peak transaction rate in January.) This despite the fact that media attention and investment in Bitcoin projects has continued to be pretty active, with Bitcoin ATM machines appearing around the world (with the latest one just announced), top retailers like Dell supporting Bitcoin, and even Hollywood nail salons accepting the virtual currency as payment. Despite all this surface activity, Bitcoin is still regularly used as money only about as much as the Seychellois rupee, official currency of the Republic of Seychelles, off the coast of East Africa (population: 84,000).

All that in mind, I wondered if the continued slow growth of Bitcoin usage had made Andreessen less bullish on its future. I put that question to him on Twitter, and this conversation followed:

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A Second Life Public Service Announcement: Here's Why Free L$ Cheats Don't Work

Second Life SL Free L Money Hack
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

When I go on YouTube to search for the latest and greatest Second Life machinima, there are three types of videos that never fail to make up the majority of the results: SL birthing videos (not my thing, but no judgement), SL griefing videos (apparently it's still 2009), and SL "money hacks". Every day a new SECOND LIFE CHEAT INFINITE MONEY!!!! video pops up, and I'm sure it's not because no one is falling for it. Someone has to be watching these, downloading the shady programs linked in the description, and trying to use them.

I'm writing this for those people, so listen up. It is absolutely not possible to cheat your way to free L$ like you can in most other games, and here's why:

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How GTA is Like Barbie: NWN's Janine "Iris" Hawkins Explodes Game Stereotypes in Her 1st Paste Magazine Post!

Iris Janine Hawkins GTA as a Barbie Game

"How Grand Theft Auto is Like Barbie" is a new post for the prestigious culture/style site Paste Magazine, and I'm very proud to announce it's by New World Notes' longtime senior writer Janine "Iris" Hawkins, who's been covering virtual world/gaming topics here since 2006. I often say Janine is destined for great things in game writing, and this new article for Paste, read by millions every month, is a great milestone in that direction. So if you're a fan of Iris' writing, please consider reading and sharing the post on Twitter and beyond.

The post itself is pretty interesting whether or not you're a fan of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, because as Iris often does here, she explodes the stereotype that virtual fashion games are "just for girls". By contrast, the GTA games, which are very much targeted at the gamer dude demographic, have a lot of virtual fashion too, with options ever increasing from sequel to sequel:

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Finally, Anyone Can Access The Sims 4 Create-A-Sim Demo

Sims 4 CAS Demo  (13)
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

The Sims 4 Create-A-Sim Demo, released one month ago to select accounts on EA's digital distribution plaform Origin, is now finally available to everyone. The demo offers players a peek at character creation and customization tools in The Sims 4, and allows them to share and browse created sims online. Currently players can only create young adult sims, and clothing options appear to be limited compared to the full version used in videos and press material. Even so, it's a useful way to get a feel for the new customization systems that will be offered when the game is released this September.

Here's how to pick up the demo for yourself:

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RIP Robin Williams, Roleplay Gamer

I distinctly remember there was a late night talk show where the late, beloved Robin Williams enthused about playing an avatar in Second Life, but until Google (or a helpful reader!) can cough it up, this lovely video will suffice:

Robin Williams was a gamer, and quite prominently, a roleplay gamer, lover of the Zelda series (after which he named his daughter), but also Wizardry and the tabletop Dungeons & Dragons too. All this deep geekery of his is usually characterized as some quirky-silly hobby, but to me, it's clear it was far more than that to him: Rather, the thing in Robin Williams that drew him to roleplay gaming is the same aspect of his nature that made him so beloved. Listen:

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Maybe the Killer App for Virtual Reality is Actually Reality

VR HMD for live sports

Regular reader Eza made a very good point in last week's post about mass market adoption of virtual reality head-mounted displays (or HMDS):

As Arcadia points out, HMDs will have use cases outside of virtual reality. As a sports fan, I got excited about the future of the Rift when Zuckerberg mentioned possibilities like virtual attendance of football games. People like me already pay for premium sport channels and online streaming services for games that aren't local. If I could put on an Oculus Rift and my headphones and suddenly a 3D camera or whatever lets me see and hear games all around the world as if I were in the stands that'd be very compelling. At least it'd be a slightly more interesting value proposition of what I'm already paying for. And that's all it needs to be.

For Ezra, this may be more compelling from a mass market sense than VR per se:

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Lindens Hate Her! This Designer's One Weird Trick for More Efficient SL Marketplace Listings

Maylee Oh SL Marketplace
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Second Life designers know just how dull and arduous it can be to list items on the marketplace, especially when you're listing items that come in several different colors or variations. Making sure that customers can easily navigate to the other items in the set via the Related Items panel is an easy way to ensure you get at least one (if not multiple) sales, but it can also be time consuming. The pop-up window will automatically close after one item is selected, meaning that for an item with 8 variations, you'll need to repeat the process 8 times... And then of course multiply by 8 again for each of the other listings. Exhausting.

Unless you're clever about it, as many merchants (including Maylee Oh) are...

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There's More Than Modding Behind This Incredible Skyrim Screenshot

Jay Faircloth Screenshot155520
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Every so often I like to check in on Jay Faircloth, my absolute favorite Skyrim screenshot artist -- and if you still hesitate to consider people who take game screenshots "artists" then you're clearly not familiar with his work. Faircloth, who also goes by Anaphiel in modding circles, is constantly tweaking his game to his own high standards (as he shared with NWN back in 2012) to the point that much of what he does is never released publicly. He retextures, remaps, remodels, and generally wrings every last drop of graphical potential out of the popular game. 

Even so, several of his latest pictures (including the one shown above) are as much the result of a happy accident as they are his own modding prowess. As he explained on Flickr:

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Top Eight New World Notes Posts from Last Week

High Fidelity Avatar singing Pixar

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Friday, August 08, 2014

Citing DMCA Drama, Popular Mesh Body Pulled from SL

Wowmehlogo greyNOTAVAILABLE

"I'm sorry, but I think Wowmeh will not come back," Baby Ghosn, creator of the popular mesh-based body for Second Life avatars, announced in the comments of her blog last Wednesday. "I really can't manage all this all alone, I'm not professional enough nor I was ready for this big success and troubles." And with that, Wowmeh bodies are gone from Second Life.

"In short, she released a product," Iris tells me, catching me up to speed with a rough summary, "it was popular, it got taken down based on a DMCA claim, she believes it was malicious but didn't counterclaim because she didn't want to give her RL info to a possible troll (I wrote about this at the time) and instead made a revised version of the body removing purchased 3D assets she'd incorporated. That body was then also taken down because it was considered a re-upload of a previously DMCA'd item, even though she says she'd changed it. So now she's not going to re-re-release the product because she wasn't prepared for the level of attention and work involved when she launched the original." (A very casual summary, which might miss some fine details.)

My take: Whatever its value as a law to protect content creators in general (and that's debateable), DMCA is utterly incompatible with Second Life. Here's what I mean:

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Here's Why The Sims 4 May be Downright Unpalatable to Virtual Builders (and How EA Can Fix It)

Ts4_build_4
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

I have a lot of questions about The Sims 4. There are things I'm worried about, things I'm excited about, but above all a slew of things I still have no idea about at all. As time creeps slowly forward towards release, all I want to do is finally get my hands on it to satisfy all those needling little unknowns. 

One popular and outspoken Sims content creator had the opportunity to do just that at a recent Creator Camp, an official event designed to familiarize and promote the upcoming game to the franchise's most ardent (and productive) fans. She went in to Creator Camp with one question on her mind, and came out with some unpleasant answers...

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The Definition of Classic: Spruce Up Your Second Life Space With a Blast from the Past

Apple Fall for Collabor88
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Right now Second Life blogs and Flickr streams are quickly becoming a flurry of greco-roman designs thanks to Collabor88, which opened its doors last night. You can now check out the final version of the dress by Maylee Oh that I shared earlier this week, but there's more than togas and tiaras on offer. Apple Fall's gorgeous greek furniture designs, pictured above, are a perfect example. 

This set is loaded with detail and while items like the frame lean quite hard into the theme, others like the lamp and bowl could work in almost any room. Considering how damn good it all looks in Apple Fall's promotional shots, I can wait to see what Second Life interior designers and photographers (like recent docu-machinima subject Editorial Clarity) will do when they get their hands on it. 

You can visit Collabor88 in-world [SLURL], browse the catalogue of what's available this month online, or check out Apple Fall's Flickr for more awe-inspiring interiors.

Continue reading "The Definition of Classic: Spruce Up Your Second Life Space With a Blast from the Past"

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Thursday, August 07, 2014

Philip Rosedale on How Virtual Reality Can Become as Mass Market as TVs & Smartphones by 2021

Technology adoption smartphones to VR

A lot of people were skeptical about Philip Rosedale's prediction that we could get 1 billion virtual reality users by 2021, so I asked Philip to expand. What gives him confidence that VR will be as rapidly adopted as smartphones? After all, I pointed out to him, smartphone adoption was so fast because it combined an intuitive touch interface with two already existing, familiar necessities -- calling/texting and web browsing. How's VR follow that pattern?

"My thinking is based partly on looking at graphs like this," he tells me, passing along a link to the technology adoption chart abbreviated above. "I think what is happening is that when something is created that has great utility to everyone in comparison to its initial cost (like the TV or the smartphone), the overall technology trends around manufacture and distribution are driving the diffusion rate up to a point where great things will go from early adoption (10% penetration) to saturation (90% penetration) in a time period of just a few years. Another great example which is a subset of the 'Internet' item on that graph is the rise of broadband connectivity to the Internet, which also require new hardware."

And that last bit is a particularly good point:

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Lovely Planet is the Most Kawaii First-Person Shooter You've Ever Seen

Lovely Planet anim
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Let me be honest: As much as I love games that make me think and games that make me create, sometimes I really do just want to pick up a gun and shoot things. Sometimes being able to hit a button and directly eliminate the problem ahead is exactly the kind of play I'm looking for. What I'm not necessarily looking for at the same time are the gruffness, grit and gore of most first-person shooters. Sometimes I want to shoot things in as cheerful and lighthearted a way as possible -- and that's precisely what makes Lovely Planet such a unique gem.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

What VR HMD Systems Besides the Rift Should We Follow?

Jerri Ellsworth Augmented Virtual Reality

I write a lot about Oculus Rift, but am painfully aware that the Rift is just one of many virtual reality systems being developed for the market. Here's a very early list of alternative VR systems, ordered according to prominence and my personal interest. This list is only head-mounted displays (as opposed to the many worthwhile touch, haptic, treadmill, body suit, etc. peripherals also in development). As most of us perceive most of the world mostly through sight, it's the HMD that's the most important piece to putting the virtual in reality:

It's quite possible the Rift may not ultimately be the best VR solution overall, and be remembered as a pioneer, but not a market leader. However, given its backing by Facebook's billions and the talent of its technical team, the odds are still on Oculus.

That said, what others am I missing that are worth following nonetheless?

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Iris Wants to Know: Have The Skills You've Learned in Second Life Helped You Out in Real Life?

Maylee Oh Low Poly Flowers
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Last weekend, Second Life skin maker Mochi Milena asked an interesting question over on Plurk: Has the skillset you've developed in SL helped you in RL? I answered her at the time, but yesterday as I soaked in all the amazing studies and process work that designer Maylee Oh has shared on her Tumblr (including the low-poly flower models pictured above) the question rolled around inside my head even more. People do such different things in Second Life, and whether you're there to work or play it's impossible not to have one skill or another honed in the process.

Mochi shared how her experience managing and marketing a brand has transferred easily into real life work she does with charities, while several others talked about the confidence and slightly thicker skin they've developed for dealing with customers. In my case...

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Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Watch This High Fidelity Avatar Animated by a Pixar Vet Imitate Real World Facial Movements in Near Real-Time

Philip Rosedale just sent me this new video demo of an avatar singing Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" in High Fidelity, his Oculus Rift-compatible virtual world, and if you know all the art and technology behind it, you'll think it's pretty cool:

The singer is actually High Fidelity's Emily Donald (who has a lovely voice), and the avatar is imitating her actual face and lip movements as tracked via a PC camera pointed at her, and in near real time. The avatar herself sort of looks like a character in a Pixar movie, and that's no surprise: The facial animations were created by High Fidelity's Ozan Serim, who was a longtime manager at Pixar, before joining Philip's company. (Serim worked on Monsters University, Cars 2, Brave, and Toy Story 3 there.) The facial animations are more than enough to convey emotion, and the lip sync is just about perfect. (Bad lip sync remains a horrible problem in Second Life, not to mention other MMOs/machinima platforms.) As it happens, Philip and I were just e-mailing about how live music performance can be a compelling thing in virtual reality, so this video is a case study of that.

How was this shot, and what's the latency between her face movements and the avatar animations. Philip explains:

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From Sketch to SL: Here's a Glimpse of the Process Behind Designing a Second Life Dress

Maylee Oh Collabor88 Concept August 2014Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Maylee Oh is doing amazing work both inside and outside of SL. If her name rings a few bells for you, it may be because she released this mesmerizing machinima back in April to advertise her ultra-feminine Second Life fashion brand, The Secret Store. She's currently preparing for the August round of Collabor88, a themed shopping event that opens on the 8th of each month. This time, designers are invoking a range of greek gods and goddesses, and Maylee has been giving a behind-the-scenes peek at what she'll be offering over on her Tumblr.

She started with some colorful concept art (pictured on the left) and today she posted an animated peek at the finished product. Well, almost finished. Things do tend to look just a little bit better rendered in 3D modelling programs like ZBrush (as shown in Maylee's video) than they look for most of us in Second Life itself.

That said, I doubt this mediterranean-inspired minidress will dissappoint. See the finished product in-world when the August round of Collabor88 opens this Friday.

Continue reading "From Sketch to SL: Here's a Glimpse of the Process Behind Designing a Second Life Dress"

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Draxtor Despres' Mixed Reality Documentary Series Returns With the Man Behind Some of SL's Best Designed Spaces

Drax Files Editorial Clarity
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

There's a new episode of Draxtor Despres' mixed reality machinima documentary series The Drax Files: World Makers (which is now sponsored by Linden Lab,) and it's packed with absolutely breathtaking virtual spaces. That's because episode 21 focuses on Editorial Clarity, the aptly named avatar behind SL interior design blog Love to Decorate and its complimentary magazine. As always the opportunity to learn what's inspired, motivated, and changed some of Second Life's most talented and interesting individuals is invaluable.

Clean lines, cracked plaster, and a wealth of inspiration await. Watch the full episode for yourself after the cut:

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Monday, August 04, 2014

Second Life Saves Me from a Real Life Pain Disorder (Comment of the Week)

Cube republic SL user

This open thread on why people continue to stay in Second Life is really great, topped in my view by this answer from an SLer named Cube Republic:

I found SL just as I was diagnosed with a rare pain disorder, reputedly the most painful a human can endure. Creating in SL and living a fantasy helps me forget the reality of my existence, which is painful. I can work around my condition and make money to boot. I have a lot to be grateful to SL for. I learnt 3D, first prims, then sculpts and now mesh through my engagement with the platform. I really hope SL2 lives up to my hopes. I consider this now my life's work, and I hope my work makes other people happy.

This is awesome in many ways, and when I asked Cube to tell more more about this disorder, discovered there was still more to this story that made it even more awesome:

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Show Support for a Second Life Artist in this Real Life Dress

Paom elleinadart kate dressJanine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

If you'd like to wear your love of Second Life designers on your sleeve, then... Well, I have terrible news, because this chic dress and this shirt featuring art by SL's own Nylon Pinkney are both quite sleeveless.

Nylon (of Tableau, Paper Couture and Nylon Outfitters fame) has made her typically colorful and exaggerated digital art available in reality through her Society6 storefront for some time, including the bug-girl images from her recent round of gacha prizes for The Arcade. Now she's testing out Print All Over Me, a site that lets users print and sell their work on an array of items like the strapless dress pictured on the left. With the charming sidelong glance of the "Kate" dress ringing in at $125.00 PAOM is not exactly cheap, but if you're looking to support an SL artist artists while also adding a unique piece to your wardrobe, it may be worth the cost.

You can visit Nylon Pinkney's (currently small) PAOM shop here, and if you know of any other Second Life creators selling their designs online please share the details in the comments below!

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Here's Proof That the Worst Parts of Kim Kardashian's Mobile Game Are Its Critics

Kim Kardashian Mobile Game 200 million
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Kim Kardashian: Hollywood's mere existence is offensive. At least that's the impression you might get from reading the deluge of articles about it. It's trash, it's vapid, it's exploitative... While I'll never argue that the game's aggressive freemium structure is healthy (it's the reason I personally lost interest in playing) I can't help but notice that this celeb-led title hits several sweet spots of gamer hatred: It's a "casual" game, a free-to-play mobile tapfest, and it centres largely around fashion (and women). The cherry on top of this derision sundae is Kardashian herself, an easy target for anyone who fancies themselves smarter or more worthy of her fortune than a woman who went from sorting Paris Hilton's closet to heading a goddamned media empire. I'm not a fan by any stretch, but it's obvious that she's put in some work.

There have actually been several solid pieces written in defence of Kim Kardashian and her game (including this one from Paste and this one from The Daily Dot) but my favorite to date is Kevin Fanning's response to each of Bustle's tremendously condescending 31 Questions about the game. It's brilliant, both in how it unpacks the bimbo celebutante caricature used against Kardashian and in how it addresses how few critics have actually played the very thing they're complaining about.

Here are a few of Fanning's choicest answers:

Continue reading "Here's Proof That the Worst Parts of Kim Kardashian's Mobile Game Are Its Critics"

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Top Eight New World Notes Posts from Last Week

VR HMD Market Penetratiion KZero

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Friday, August 01, 2014

80 Year Old Korean War Vet Re-Visits His Old Ship in VR

Oculus Rift developer Jon Brouchoud recreated an old Navy ship from the Korean War, and then showed it in virtual reality to his Uncle David Brouchoud, 80, who used to serve on that very ship back then:

Read about it on Jon's site, which showcases the work he's doing with Oculus Rift and Unity as a real life toolset for his work as an architect. As I've written before, a great strategy to make virtual reality go mass market is to market it to senior citizens, but Uncle David demonstrates that far better than me. Speaking of whom, if he sounds familiar, it's because back in 2010, Uncle David did a similar thing in Second Life:

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Business Insider Wrote a Clueless Article on Second Life; What a Second Life Fan Told the Business Insider Next Will Make Your Jaw Drop

Business Insider just published a fairly clueless post about Second Life, which is not surprising, since the SL UI and first-time user experience and the graphics performance and the poor audio and a lot of other still-unfixed factors prevent 99% percent of all reporters without a constant, expert guide from having anything but a clueless experience. What makes one's jaw drop is reading this reader comment from an SL fan, suggesting how the article could have been better:

Second Life problems

Yes, seriously, that's the solution to writing a good story about Second Life:

Continue reading "Business Insider Wrote a Clueless Article on Second Life; What a Second Life Fan Told the Business Insider Next Will Make Your Jaw Drop"

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New on Steam: It's a Robo-Dog-Eat-Robo-Dog World in Indie Action Platformer The Sun at Night

The Sun at Night
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

After the long and arduous greenlighting process, dog-lead indie action platformer The Sun at Night is finally on Steam. 

I haven't covered this game before, and it's not because I don't love the idea of Soviet cosmo-dog Laika being refitted with robot parts to fight alongside humans in a strange Cold War alternate reality. It's also not because I don't think the game is well made, clever, or challenging enough to keep fans of the "Metroidvania" genre happy. It's certainly not because a friend of mine works for developer Minicore Studios and recently presented me with a couple screenshots of a conspicuously named NPC he wrote; an NPC with a sense of humor who also happens to have Sailor Moon on her mind.

... Wait no, it might actually be that last one.

Obviously my word on this game is going to be anything but impartial, so all I'll say is that if The Sun at Night sounds like something you would be into, you can check it out for yourself on Steam

Continue reading "New on Steam: It's a Robo-Dog-Eat-Robo-Dog World in Indie Action Platformer The Sun at Night "

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Fun and Games: Grand Theft Auto V's Enduring Appeal Has Little to do With its Violence

Polygon GTA
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Gamers don't need guns to have a good time; they might not even want them. That's the premise of Chris Plante's latest opinion piece over on Polygon, where he's written about the success of Grand Theft Auto V (and what the industry should learn from it.)

For some, Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto series is practically synonymous with videogame violence, and it's certainly garnered its fair share of media attention over the years for just that. But GTA's appeal to those who keep playing long after the release-window zeitgeist has passed often has little to do with guns and slaughter, and everything to do with using each game's world as a grown-up virtual playground. Plante writes:

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Philip Rosedale: 1 Billion VR HMD Owners Possible by 2021

Philip Rosedale High Fidelity Oculus Rift

Second Life and High Fidelity founder Philip Rosedale stopped by New World Notes to offer his thoughts on market adoption of virtual reality headsets, and it's a comment worth highlighting on its own:

The adoption period for a widely-desired inexpensive technology (like smartphones) to reach saturation (1 billion+) seems to now be at about 7 years. So the ramp will be between now and about 2021.

In other words, extrapolating that into a forecast, 1 billion VR headset owners within 7 years. The first iPhone model hit the market in 2007, and sure enough, in 2014, we are well over 1 billion iOS/Android smartphone owners around the world. (There's half a billion in China alone.) Virtual reality headsets (or HMDs) are being developed to sell at retail from around $100-300, so much cheaper than most smartphones. And to judge by the general "Wow" factor, anyone who tries VR is very likely to desire it.

But does that mean VR ownersip will reach a billion users in 7 years? I have some thoughts there:

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Rock the Boat in Free to Play "Dramagame" Velvet Sundown, Now on Steam

 

Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

I load into the world, immediately greeted by some of the absolute silkiest beats I've heard in a while. I'm a redheaded bartender of Irish origin by the name of Boyle, though my middle name might be "Stereotype" (mum was very postmodern like that.)

I'm briefed on my missions, both personal and professional, before I step out on deck to greet the other guests. My first conversation is polite but probing. I know that there are spies on board -- I'm one of them, and I have a strong interest in finding the others. I offer a passenger a tumbler of whiskey as she tells me about her career in Hollywood. She offers me her autograph but I politely decline before asking her if she'd heard anything about the local oil concerns who have been in fierce competition lately. Instead of exchanging autographs, we then exchange identification devices.

I overhear another conversation nearby. My coworker aboard this yacht, a smartly dressed and thin-lipped woman named Mary, has approached a wealthy European playboy and demanded...

"Ass, gas or grass."

Welcome to Velvet Sundown.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Reddit's /AskWomen: Awesome Virtual Community Helping Men Understand Women, One Clueless Question at a Time

Ask Women Reddit

/AskWomen, as the title suggests, is a virtual community where Reddit users can pseudonymously ask women their opinion on any imaginable subject, and thanks to that and the way it's moderated, it's become one of the best online communities for both men and women. We write a lot about how sexism has poisoned online culture (as here, and here) -- /AskWomen can and should become an important part of the cure.

How? For starters, because questions are asked through Reddit pseudonyms, anyone (mostly males, to judge by the questions) can pose a query without too much fear of embarrassment -- and because women on Reddit can reply through their own pseudonyms, they're able to give honest answers in relative safety. To amplify this advantage, /AskWomen's moderation rules prohibit (and remove) sexist user comments, which further encourages women to feel secure enough to share their full, unvarnished opinions. And as with all of Reddit, the Upvote/Downvote mechanic naturally pushes higher quality comments toward the top (and vice versa).

As you'd probably guess, with Reddit's user community skewing young, much of the /AskWomen questions are about sex and dating (and yes, penis size), but that's also one of its core values. A lot of online sexism seems to stem from very young men who feel confused, intimidated, and frustrated by the dark mysteries of dating, which often boils over into resentment. By its very nature, a virtual community like /AskWomen helps clear up much of that mystery, and hopefully, replace resentment with empathy. (For women, too, it must be enlightening to realize just how confused men can be on so many topics that seem common sense to them.)

So for instance, take this recent /AskWomen question: "If you're attractive, is sex as easily available as some claim? (If so) How does that impact your view of sex?" Most men, I think it's fair to say, assume it is easy for attractive women; but without pseudonymous identity, it's unlikely they'd ever get an honest answer online. So here, attractive women provide many answers, and they're probably what most men were not expecting. For instance, this answer, from ♀icantbebotheredd:

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