Despite 2500 Players, Leading Second Life Game Developer MadPea Shifts Away from Major Projects Like UNIA

Second Life SL FPS The Drowning Dreamscene

Second Life can be a great platform for indie games and indie game developers, but does it have a large enough user base to support ambitious multiplayer-type projects from for-profit studios? Likely not, to judge by the experiences of UNIA, the survival horror FPS game from MadPea Studios which launched last April in Second Life (blogged last on NWN here), and has since attracted nearly 2500 players, adding about 50-100 new players every week (according to development lead Kiana Writer). Based on Kiana's estimates (below), the game has earned her and the UNIA team about USD$7000.

Despite that success, however, Kiana just announced that MadPea will no longer develop major SL-based games on a scale of UNIA, which required dozens of developers:

UNIA Part 1 is not going anywhere for a while. It has been a HUGE accomplishment to realize in Second Life. It took us over two years to make and cost over 12 000 USD... With our current resources we could do either one of the two things: Continue developing the UNIA saga or put our focus on smaller adventures such as BURIED and the Collection. Making smaller adventures takes us around 2 months while UNIA 2 would be at least 6 more months of waiting.

Read the rest here. This announcement brings up several concerns: Widely promoted by Linden Lab and Second Life's community/social media ecosystem, 2500 is a pretty good number of players, but not enough to sustain relatively big budget game projects like UNIA. Instead, it could be Second Life is only feasible as a game platform for labor of love, non-profit projects like the popular MMO Remnants of the Earth, or (as MadPea is shifting toward) smaller games created and supported by smaller teams.

To tease out those details for future SL-based games, I asked Kiana more details on her studio's announcement:

Continue reading "Despite 2500 Players, Leading Second Life Game Developer MadPea Shifts Away from Major Projects Like UNIA " »

Last Chance to See in Second Life: 2 Gorgeous MMO Sims

Vampire Roleplay Second Life

Bad news via Ziki Questi: Venexia (above) and Goatswood, two beautiful and acclaimed MMO roleplay sims owned and managed by the SGS/eDream Factory studio, are going away very soon - June 13 and 19th, respectively. Ziki has all the details and links you need, and notes that waning traffic seems to be the problem:

[O]ver time, the sims have become more and more quiet, to the point where visitors might now find themselves wandering solo. Guests have always been welcomed and provided with a free three-day pass, but perhaps for the casual explorer that very aspect diminished the sims' desirability as places to simply visit.

With less and less active users paying the sim owners to play their MMOs, paying Linden Lab $300 each month for each sim quickly became unsustainable. This is disappointing, because while most sim owners can't afford to keep operating without a revenue model, these two did.

Here's a machinima of Venexia, BTW:

Continue reading "Last Chance to See in Second Life: 2 Gorgeous MMO Sims" »

Play This Weekend: An Indie Pug Speed-Dating Simulator

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

Got any plans this weekend? How about a hot date? With a hot pink pug?

I've been seeing gifs and teasers for Hot Date on Twitter for a while now, and with scenes like the one above you can probably understand why I was excited to see that the pay-what-you-want indie game finally launched earlier this week. There are Mac, Windows and Linux builds available, and you can pay as much or as little as you want for them. 

The premise is simple, and a bit absurd. You're speed dating and trying out conversation starters on your current partner, a floppy-eared pink pug with a downcast gaze. It's not the most exciting "date" you'll ever go on, but it will probably be among the more... Unique. The game's itch.io page gives precious little in the way of details about the game, but with gifs and screenshots like theirs what is there that really needs to be said?

As I mentioned, Hot Date is available as a pay-what-you-want release on itch.io. This means you can downloaded it for free if you want. If you do download the game for free, remember that there's nothing stopping you from going back to the page and using the pay-what-you-want checkout to pass the game's creator a tip for a job well done. Either way, enjoy your "hot date"!

Continue reading "Play This Weekend: An Indie Pug Speed-Dating Simulator" »

Play: My Garbage Cat Wakes Me Up at 3am Every Day

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

I have to believe that this game comes from a place of love. It might not sound like it from the name, or they way you play, or the message you get when you "win", but I just have to believe that the creator of My Garbage Cat Wakes Me Up at 3am Every Day loves the titular garbage cat if he took the time to make a little game about the creature's late-night hijinks.

Then again, maybe it's just the culmination of more than a few sleepless nights.

Garbage Cat (2)My Garbage Cat Wakes Me Up at 3am Every Day is short and to the point. With graphics and a greenish tinge reminiscent of the original Gameboy, it puts the player in control of a restless little garbage cat. They can hop around the room, knock things to the floor to destroy them, clamber up tilted lamps and mewl incessantly, even pause to purr and knead their paws on whatever surface they're in the process of destroying. The ultimate goal is to wake up garbage cat's master, with a meter on the top of the screen tracking their success.

It's a small game with a pretty good sense of humor. If you're a cat-lover (or even the distinct opposite of one) My Garbage Cat Wakes Me Up at 3am Every Day is certainly worth a sliver of your time this weekend. Play it on creator Will Herring's itch.io page here.

Continue reading "Play: My Garbage Cat Wakes Me Up at 3am Every Day" »

Kickstart This: Das Tal, an Innovative MMO Where Regular Server Wipes are a Feature

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

Typically, character wipes are a nightmare. When a game wipes everyone's characters for whatever reason (usually during its beta phases) all that hard-won loot and all those hard-earned levels evaporate into thin air, and everyone from the most hardcore to the most casual players are dropped right back at square one. Together.

It's infuriating.

Which is why it might seem a bit baffling that an MMO currently seeking development funds on Kickstarter is advertising its regular character wipes. They're not a grim necessity or an unfortunate by-product of development, but rather a feature. Something intended to improve the overall experience of playing. That's what PVP sandbox MMO Das Tal is promising, and that promise itself is fascinating.

Here's the heart of their pitch:

Continue reading "Kickstart This: Das Tal, an Innovative MMO Where Regular Server Wipes are a Feature" »

I'm Disappointed That Steam's Paid Mods Are Off the Table (for Now), and Here's Why

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

Steam's nascent paid mod system has been scrapped (at least for the time being) in a shockingly quick reversal after its launch late last week. Naturally the Skyrim community, the test group for the system's initial roll-out, has been celebrating enthusiastically and oh wait, I'm lying. People are still very upset, myself included. 

I'm actually more disappointed than I am upset, for two very specific reasons.

Continue reading "I'm Disappointed That Steam's Paid Mods Are Off the Table (for Now), and Here's Why" »

New on Steam: Kitty Powers' Matchmaker Takes Dating Sims to a Whole New Level

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

The heartstopping Kitty Powers has just made her glamorous debut on Steam, launching a Windows and Mac version of the popular Kitty Powers' Matchmaker for Android and iOS devices.

Kitty Powers Steam

I reviewed the mobile version of Kitty Powers' Matchmaker here on NWN when it came out last fall. My favorite thing about it was (and continues to be) the follow-up letters you receive when some time has passed after a 'successful' match. I say 'successful' because these letters can reveal the cracks in any relationship; even if you completely aced that first date, fundamental incompatibilities between your newly minted couple are a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode. When it comes to games about dating and romance, this kind of mechanic is pathetically uncommon. The genre is plagued by the "Kindness Coins" approach, where doing and saying the right things almost invariably guarantees a happy ending. That's as unrealistic as it is boring, which is what makes Kitty Powers' Matchmaker such a breath of fresh air in comparison.

Kitty Powers' Matchmaker is 25% off on Steam until Wednesday, but it's a steal even at its regular $9.99 price tag.

Continue reading "New on Steam: Kitty Powers' Matchmaker Takes Dating Sims to a Whole New Level" »

The Steam Workshop's New Paid Skyrim Mods Aren't the End of the World, I Promise

Steam Workshop Paid Content
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Yesterday Steam announced a brand new system that will allow modders to sell their content on the Steam Workshop, starting with one of the most actively modded games out there, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Since that initial announcement people have been, to be perfectly frank, losing their shit. They've been losing their shit on the Steam forums, they've been losing their shit on Twitter, they've been losing their shit on Reddit... Phrases like "modding is dead", "this will kill mods" and "it's the beginning of the end for modding" are being bandied about even more frequently than they are when some ill-advised developer/publisher starts sending modders Cease and Desists -- and that's saying something. But this isn't the end of the world or the death of the scene, I promise. It's just a change, and like anything else it has its pros and cons. 

As someone who ostensibly got her start writing about games by reviewing what amounts to paid, user-created mods, let me try to assuage some of the fears and concerns you may have about this new aspect of the Steam Workshop... And maybe plant a few new ones in their place.

Continue reading "The Steam Workshop's New Paid Skyrim Mods Aren't the End of the World, I Promise" »

What Do Diner Dash and Knitting Have in Common? Read About the Appeal of Time Management Games

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

Yesterday, Offworld's Laura Hudson posted a pretty fascinating article examining her personal fondness of time management games. These games tend to be based around unglamorous scenarios that she's lived out in reality (the life of the harried waitress, for example) so their appeal to her might be a bit surprising. In her own words, "Why did I want to play intentionally stressful games that simulated the exact work experiences where I'd once felt so underpaid and undervalued? And why the hell did playing them make me feel so relaxed?"

Hudson's answer to that question not only provides insight into the widespread appeal of the "____ Dash" time management genre, but reminded me of my own profound fondness for a similar kind of play...

Continue reading "What Do Diner Dash and Knitting Have in Common? Read About the Appeal of Time Management Games" »

Viral App MyIdol is Good for a Laugh, Even if it Won't Earn a Permanent Place on Your Phone or Tablet

MyIdol app storeJanine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

The modern experience of watching something go viral is pretty bizarre. Maybe it starts with a retweet that trickles down to you from friends of friends, then another, and another, until it feels like everyone is in on this conversation and naturally you want in too.

That's how I ended up downloading 小偶 - 我的3D萌偶 (a.k.a. MyIdol), a free Chinese app from a developer called Huanshi that sticks your photo on a bobbleheaded avatar so you can dress them up, take pictures and record video of them performing a variety of pre-made routines. It's exploded in popularity over the past few days, to the point that the developers are working on an English quick-start guide to help the influx of new users until they're able to release a full English version of the app itself. At the moment, the guide link just leads to a page that says "Guide for non-Chinese users is coming soon. Please wait for a few hours," which should give you an impression of just how sudden this has been.

After seeing video after video popping into my feed, I eventually cracked. I downloaded it to my iPhone, loaded it up, muscled my way through the interface and made this:

Continue reading "Viral App MyIdol is Good for a Laugh, Even if it Won't Earn a Permanent Place on Your Phone or Tablet" »