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Presenting KataSpace, an Open Source, WebGL-Based Virtual World From Linden/Stanford Alum Henrik Bennetsen

Hamlet in KataSpace

KataSpace is a new web-based MMO architecture just launching today, a project from Linden Lab alum Henrik Bennetsen, which I wrote about last March. It's a WebGL/HTML5-powered 3D space using Sirikata, a BSD open source-licensed virtual world Henrik helped develop when he was at Stanford's Humanities Lab. You can enter KataSpace now: First, download Firefox 4 Beta, which comes with WebGL, then log in here: kataspace.sirikata.com.

As you can see above, KataSpace is just a rudimentary space with a couple male and female starter avatars (“I like to joke that they’re Adam and Eve”, Henrik tells me), but it should be enough to see the giant potential Henrik and his team at Katalabs have just unleashed:

Continue reading "Presenting KataSpace, an Open Source, WebGL-Based Virtual World From Linden/Stanford Alum Henrik Bennetsen" »

Coming Soon to Second Life (Maybe): Depth of Field

This is not an outtake from Fallout: New Vegas, but Second Life, as seen in the Mesh Development Viewer (found here), which includes an experimental feature that's often used in next generation videogames, and ably demonstrated here by OpenSource Obscure: Depth of field. Since it replicates the way movie cameras capture the world, it'll also be a great tool for machinima makers. While the footage is totally unprocessed, Ms. Obscure tweaked some of the viewer's debug settings: "I set CameraCoC to 0.010 while I let CameraFNumber and CameraFocalLength to their default values. I also changed another already-existing debug setting, CameraPositionSmoothing, setting it to 32 (that makes the bouncing camera effect.)" More info at the YouTube link.

Who Wants to Cover SL Events for New World Notes?

Chestnut Rau Second Life Events

After an excellent two year stint, I'm sad to say Chestnut Rau is stepping down as New World Notes events writer. She did a great and consistent job publicizing the most interesting happenings in Second Life, from art openings to professional wrestling matches and everything in between and beyond. I'm now looking for someone to follow in her large footsteps. I'm also looking for new ways to cover events. Chestnut's epic calendar posts were great, but I may want to experiment, for example, with a calendar that's an embeddable widget. I'm open to new ideas and new writers: hit me up at Hamlet Au in-world, or hamlet at secondlife dot com via email, or friend me in Facebook, where I'm Wagner James Au, and message me that way. (Yes, I do pay in Lindens, and you get to plug yourself in front of an audience of 50,000 or so.) And please go to Chestnut's blog and thank her for two years of rocking calendar coverage... and get the inside dish on working for me.

New World Cinema: Bebop Reality Hits The Big Screen in The Warrior's Way

The Warrior's Way, an aggressively international action fest opening in the US this coming weekend, isn't strictly about virtual worlds or online games. But I definitely think New World Notes readers will at least enjoy the trailer, what with the Korean swordsman joining up with a traveling carnival in the Old West to fight off Japanese ninjas who are assisted by steampunk cowboys in a hyperreal dreamscape. The blending of genres and cultural icons distinctly reminds me of "Bebop Reality", the term I used to describe the way a virtual world like Second Life allows crazy cross-context improvisation. Videogames have also been doing that for years, especially across the East-West spectrum, giving us a conceptual comfort level with watching wildly implausible blends like this -- especially if the kicking of ass is involved. Which makes a movie like The Warrior's Way possible. And did I mention the steampunk cowboys?

Robin Harper Becomes VP at Social Gaming Giant Playdom

Robin Harper Linden founder Playdom

Robin Harper, a founding Linden who pioneered Second Life's marketing and community efforts in the early years (which included hiring, well, me), has become VP of marketing at Playdom, the social game company specializing in Facebook-driven entertainment that was recently acquired by Disney for some $763 million. Before that acquisition, Playdom itself acquired Metaplace, Raph Koster's start-up (where Robin sometimes consulted) which initially began as a developer of a web-based virtual world with user-generated content, but after that failed to gain traction, repositioned itself as a social game company making Facebook-powered products like My Vineyard and Island Life. On her blog, Robin talked about this move in a very interesting post, suggesting how Facebook's success was a lesson for virtual worlds like Second Life.

Once she joins Playdom today, she writes, "Look for me on Facebook (Taliesin Protagonist) and let’s play some games!" As it happens, "Taliesin Protogonist" is the Second Life avatar name Robin took after leaving Linden Lab, and now it'll also be her Facebook gaming handle. This move comes very shortly after Cory Ondrejka, another founding Linden, announced he was joining Facebook. There's been a lot of talk about integrating Second Life with Facebook, so it's interesting to note how many of Second Life's top founders are themselves integrating with Facebook.

Photo from Robin's blog. Hat tip: Hunter Walk, who left Linden Lab in 2003 to become VP at another social media company that's embedded in Facebook, i.e., YouTube.

Presenting Canvas: Ex-Linden Lab Manager Launches Web-Based, Unity-Powered Viewer for Second Life & OpenSim

Canvas SL OpenSim compatible viewer Facebook

Canvas, a Second Life/OpenSim-Compatible Viewer, Running in Facebook - Source

What you're looking at above is Canvas, "a lightweight web viewer that works with Second Life and OpenSim", as its lead developer, Chris Collins, describes it. It's the first public project from Collins' Tipodean Technologies, a start-up he founded immediately after leaving Linden Lab last Feburary. A general manager with the creator of Second Life for nearly 4 years, Collins' co-started Linden's enterprise team, which attempted to create a market for real world business applications of SL. Tipodean is targeting a similar market, "government, education and the private sector".

On the technology side, Canvas uses a Unity 3D plugin, and purports to be compatible with lower end, lower bandwidth machines. Another interesting feature: It can run on your own server or intranet, providing a behind-the-firewall solution for 3D spaces.

Given Collins' background with Linden Lab, this announcement is pretty big news. To my knowledge, this is the first Unity-powered, web-based viewer that would be able to run OpenSim and Second Life. (London studio Rezzable has a Unity-driven browser of its own, but it only works with OpenSim.) I hope to talk with Chris later this week, so check back for a follow-up post in coming days.

Distribution of Canvas is scheduled for December 6. However, you can apply for early access here.

Last Week's New World Notes Posts You Don't Want to Miss

Mixed Reality

Second Life

New World Tech

Blue Mars

Other World Notes

Shopping on Amazon This Weekend? Support New World Notes by Checking Out This Alienware or Kinect Offer

Alienware running Second Life with Shadows

Amazon has a discount on the Alienware M11x gaming laptop, $143 less than the list price. I bought my M11x last September, and fell in love with it instantly. Two months later, my love remains true: It's easily the best laptop I ever owned, a near-perfect combination of portability, 3D power, and beautiful geektastic design. (Indeed, whenever I take it out around gamers, it inspires envied sighs -- it's a veritable geek magnet.) I just took the above photo of my Alienware running Second Life with all the graphic features turned up to maximum, including dynamic shadows, while also playing Pandora and Backyard Monsters, a fairly large Flash game. The link above, by the way, includes a New World Notes affiliate code, so if you click it and buy the laptop (or anything else during that session on Amazon), this blog gets a small cut. Here's another Amazon offer many NWN readers will like: An Xbox 360 bundled with the groundbreaking Kinect motion sensor control for $300 total.

Is Violent Misogyny in Second Life a Tolerated Category?

Second Life Misogyny

Honour McMillan has a powerful and provocative post inspired by Scylla Rhiadra's in-world exhibition "Is This Turning You On?" (Direct SLurl teleport here), which presents a photographic display of extremely violent imagery found in SL drawn from the activity of over 400 groups, almost all of it directed against women. To Honour, this exposes a cultural hypocrisy, where this content is somehow tolerated, but would not be, if the very same imagery included racist or anti-religious connotations:

Put a swastika on the wall and there would be demonstrations and demands that the person be banned for life. Make it a naked woman and people just shrug... I think it's time that we recognize that violence (particularly for sexual purposes) against women and men isn't acceptable, period. The lack of religious or political motivation does not make it tolerable.

Read it all here. I'll make two general comments on the controversy: It is possible to support free speech and expression while also advocating social pressure against hateful content. But because human sexuality is a complex, deeply intimate, and intrinsically intense subject, it may be impossible to fully distinguish and separate out what is truly hateful from what is a matter of personal taste and preference (no matter how inexplicable it may be to others.) Thoughts?

Fan-Made Battlestar Galactica Content Removed From Second Life After Universal Reportedly Files Complaint

Battlestar Galactica sim Gone from Second Life

The Harrisburg Examiner reports that Universal Studios has filed an intellectual property complaint against Battlestar Galatica fan communities in Second Life that have created in-world content based on the show:

For example, they have complained about names such as “Battlestar Galactica,” “Battlestar,” “BSG,” “Colonial Warriors,” and “The Twelve Colonies,” and about content such as “recreations of Battlestar Galactica ships like the Vipers, Raiders, and Raptors.”

I double-checked the SL sim once called BSG47, home to a Galactica-themed flight combat simulator I wrote about a couple years ago, and as the screen capture above indicates, it's gone. (Whether from this announcement or other reasons are unclear at the moment.) Whatever the reason, that sim had an impressive, physics-enabled flight combat system, making possible the kind of dogfights captured in the video after the break:

Continue reading "Fan-Made Battlestar Galactica Content Removed From Second Life After Universal Reportedly Files Complaint" »

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