There's an Ugly Side to Dragon Age: Inquisition's Most Beautiful Virtual Fashions

DAI  (26)
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Why is it that feminine fashion in video games always seems to indicate something about the character wearing it? Why is it never just a matter of taste? It's the case in countless games, including BioWare's Dragon Age: Inquisition, and the subject of my latest article for Paste. As much as I love Inquisition and its stunning fashions, the way those fashions deal with femininity fits a little too well into some all-too-common media tropes.

Beyond the usual handful of narrowminded people who think dissecting a game's style and design choices is more "superficial" than writing a list of its most obvious mechanical elements would be, I've already gotten a lot of interesting feedback about this post. Pleasantly enough, one of the most insightful comments yet has come from a BioWare employee...

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Paint Me Like One of Your Virtual Girls: Don't Miss This Second Life Artist's Gorgeous Avatar Portraits

Jaimy Detail - Nylon Pinkney
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

As if any of us needed another reason to be in awe of SL designer and RL artist Nylon Pinkney, but here's one more to add to the list. Nylon (whose fans include comedian Drew Carey) has recently been painting up a storm with a series of beautifully detailed digital avatar portraits, including the one above which you can see in full on Flickr

Nylon's artistic talents are no mystery to those of us who follow her in SL, but if you're new to her work you may want to catch up...

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RIP Eddie Escher, Pioneering Second Life Creator UPDATED: Added Short Video Documentary

Eddie Escher Chris Edwards Second Life

Fallingwater Cellardoor & Eddie Escher in Second Life, 2004; Alayne Wartell & Chris Edwards at his 40th birthday, 2010

Once upon a time, two shy but talented 3D artists met as avatars in Second Life, fell in love with each others' virtual creativity, and then finally, fell in love with each other, and moved across an ocean, to be together. In Second Life they were known as Fallingwater Cellardoor and Eddie Escher, and in 2004, they were among the world's best 3D artists. I wrote about how they met and fell in love then, but sad to say that Eddie, called Chris Edwards, passed away eariler this year, tragically just shy of his 45th birthday. Years before mesh or even sculpted prims, Eddie (a game dev artist by trade), showed how beautiful Second Life prims can be (see below). Fallingwater recently posted this sad news on the new Facebook group for longtime SLers, and since the story of their meeting is among my favorites, I wanted to share it here:

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The Cold, Dead Eyes of Kevin Spacey Proves We're Still Years from Realistically Emotive Avatars

Here's Conan O'Brien having a lot of fun with the latest Call of Duty game, which features the motion-capped performance of Kevin Spacey (who appears at about 5 minutes in), and as Conan himself suggests, when it comes to realistically emotive avatars, we're still at least a few years from escaping the Uncanny Valley:

As anyone who's watched House of Cards or pretty much any movie or TV episode from Spacey's legendary career can tell you, Spacey can convey fucktons of emotion and deep eddies of thought from subtle changes in his eyes or facial muscles. And none of that is coming through in his CoD avatar. And the Call of Duty franchise is using the very latest in 3D animation technology, and is developed with a budget on par with major Hollywood movies. And yet, still, Spacey: Cold, dead eyes. So I'd say we're still several years (decades?) away from truly emotive, realistic avatars.

Oh, and before you mention Andy Serkis, here's the thing:

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In Second Life, No One Knows You're a Billionaire

Pierre Omidyar Second Life

This fascinating New York Magazine profile of eBay founder, investor, and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar has a paragraph that will amuse many NWN readers:

Though he continued to be eBay’s board chairman and largest shareholder, Omidyar receded from view in Silicon Valley. “Pierre has been such a reclusive guy for the past few years,” says Philip Rosedale, who founded the technology firm Linden Lab, developer of the animated interactive world Second Life. During the mid-2000s, Omidyar immersed himself in the Second Life community, adopting a secret identity: a tattooed black man named Kitto Mandala. Even after Omidyar became a Linden Lab investor, Rosedale primarily interacted with his animated avatar. Mandala rode a Segway and wore a T-shirt that said KISS ME I’M LAWFUL EVIL. He could fly, and hardly anyone knew he was really a billionaire.

Gawker, being Gawker, hunted up the old Flickr page of "Kitto Mandala" for some light-hearted snark. (That's Kitto above, with unidentified butterfly girl.) As it happens, I knew Omidyar was a hardcore Second Life user over a decade ago, but because I found that out while still working for Linden Lab, kept that inside info to myself. (Especially because Omidyar to my knowledge never "outed" his avatar). However -- and this is something New York and Gawker missed -- Omidyar wasn't just geeking around in Second Life, he actually considered it an important platform for activism, and sponsored an SL island promoting awareness of genocide in Sudan -- which as I wrote in 2006, become a flashpoint for online griefing and heroism:

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Iris Wants to Know: What Costume Are You Wearing For Halloween in Second Life and/or Reality?

Bakemonoya

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

I haven't had the occasion to dress up for Halloween for a few years now, even though it's easily one on my favorite holidays. This year for the first time in a while I won't even be dressing up in the virtual world, either. It's a bit of a bummer, especially since I've still got that fashionista itch to buy loads of newly released Second Life costumes, just for the sake of having them. After all, one day I might need one of them (I won't.) Maybe (Nope.) Who can say? (Me.)

So let me celebrate this holiest of days vicariously through you. I want to know what you'll be dressing up as for Halloween, both online and offline. Share your costumes in the comments below and, naturally, if you're a blogger or photographer feel free to link your favorite Halloween looks as well and inspire those of us who have to wait until next year to get back into the spooky swing of things.

And if you're looking for the creepy-cute costume pictured above, it's a classic mesh gem from Bakemonoya that I covered way back in 2012. Check out the details here.

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The Trouble with Being a Tiny Avatar in Second Life

Small Second Life avatar

Terry Shuriken made the tiniest avatar in Second Life I've ever seen, as I blogged a couple weeks ago, but as it turns out, this tiniest of tinies is not for sale: "Uh, nope not selling this because its veeery unusable," Terry tells me, then goes on to tell me about the trouble with being so tiny: "You can't see it [the avatar, that is] unless you press control+0 many many times to zoom in, and also use zoom-in HUDs to zoom in even further."

And even if you manage to get your camera on the avatar, heaven help you if you try to move:

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Inside Sunset Overdrive's Fabulous Virtual Fashions

Sunset overdrive fashion main image
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Gita Jackson gets it -- or should I say, she gets us. Jackson is a games writer with a passion for virtual fashion, and she understands the role it can play in how we understand a game's characters, attitude, and landscape. Hot on the heels of her recent post about the fashion and design decisions behind Final Fantasy X's Yuna, she's interviewed a few of the folks responsible for the vibrant, arresting fashion of Xbox One exclusive Sunset Overdrive over on Paste. (Full disclosure: I am also a regular contributor to Paste.)

Jackson spoke with Insomniac Games Art Director Jacinda Chew and Carin Cronacher, an LA-based fashion designer who creates stagewear for Alice Cooper in addition to designing for her own brand. While Cronacher's experience gave her a unique perspective that aligned well with the game's intended visual style, as she explained to Jackson she still had to make sure she'd be putting together designs that people would actually want to wear:

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Is This Tiny SL Avatar the Smallest Avatar in Any MMO?

Terry Shuriken created this tiny-ass Second Life avatar and it may very well be the tiniest ass avatar in the world of MMOs:

It is, writes Terry, "Somewhere between 1/3rd or 1/4th of an inch tall. This is my smallest avatar! I made it using avatar workbench/blender." But I'm not quite sure how Terry pulled this off: Can the avatar fully move its whole body, like a standard avatar? And how exactly did Terry build it in Workbench/Blender?

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Get Ready for Halloween by Looking at These Gruesome NBA 2K15 Face Scanning Errors

Operation Sports NBA 2K15 Face Scan
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

While face scanning technology may be gaining momentum as a tool for customizing player avatars, it seems like the process is still very far from foolproof. The face scanning in newly-released NBA 2K15 in particular has been getting a lot of attention for some of its more monstrous interpretations of player faces, some of which could absolutely pass for Halloween masks. 

Naturally people are having a very good time sharing the very best of the worst face scans. Operation Sports shared the haunting compilation above, while over on Gamespot you can find a video of how several of their staff members look through the NBA 2K15 lens. Sometimes it works well, sometimes... Less so. Even some of the better examples occasionally cover the avatars in strange bruises and smears, like the player spawned by Giant Bomb

So what's going wrong here? A few things...

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