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.

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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...

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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:

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Catch This Second Life Designer's Lunch Break Let's Plays (Live Right Now!)

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

Second Life designer Damien Fate is a busy guy. Between raising a family and developing regular content for the multiple virtual fashion brands under his name (FATEwear, FATEplay, and FATEstep to name a few) it's surprising that he has much time for anything else. But, like a lot of Second Life users, Damien loves playing games, and lately he's been making the most out of his lunch breaks by streaming them and doing Let's Play videos that just about anyone can enjoy.

In addition to regular Minecraft interludes with his son, Damien's also been sampling an assortment of other games. Yesterday he took a look at Jazzpunk, an absurdly fun (or just plain absurd) indie game that I wrote about here last year. He's also recently played the popular platform puzzler Thomas was Alone, as well as Double Fine's Matryoshka-based adventure game Stacking.

If you're quick you can catch Damien streaming more Jazzpunk right now, live on his Twitch channel. Otherwise you can swing by his YouTube to catch the archives. He updates YouTube very promptly and keeps everything tidily sorted in playlists, so no it's not the end of the world if you can't align your lunch break with his.

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Grand Theft Auto V's PC Version Launches Today With Powerful New Video Editing and Staging Tools

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

Grand Theft Auto V's PC version unlocks on Steam in just a few hours, and up until last week that news wasn't really doing anything for me. Like a lot of people I played GTA V on a last-gen console back in 2013, so I wasn't exactly chomping at the bit for the PC release. Then I heard about Rockstar Editor, a suite of video editing and staging tools built in to the PC version. Now I'm... Reconsidering.

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Play Them This Weekend: A Boatload of Brand New (And Mostly Free) Visual Novels for Every Taste

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

NaNoRenO 2015, a month-long game jam devoted to the creation of visual novels and dating sims, wrapped up a little over a week ago. Now that it's over (and most of the late submissions have filtered onto itch.io) it's the perfect time to sit down and spend a weekend with some of the dozens of games that were made. Given the development time most of these games are short -- brief slices of what they'll be when they're fully completed, the perfect length to enjoy with a cup of tea and a cookie in hand. Just about every single one available is 'pay what you want', which for some that translates to 'free'. For me (and hopefully some of you) it's more like 'come back and pay if you enjoyed it'. Either way, it's a varied line-up of games to check out with a pretty low commitment.

If you're curious but not quite sure where to start, here are a few NaNoRenO 2015 games that are at the top of my own 'To Play' list this weekend:

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Hey Gaming Press: Second Life Users Have Always Built & Played MMOs in Second Life

Remnants of the Earth MMO

My brief post last week about Remnants of Earth, a user-made MMO in Second Life, was picked up by Patricia Hernandez for Kotaku, which is super cool; even cooler, other gaming outlets are picking that post up as well.

Less cool is this: A lot of the coverage has an irksome "I can't believe there's an MMO in Second Life, who knew?!" tenor, as with this PC Gamer post, or this Rock Paper Shotgun post, which comes right out and says:

"In what is probably the most impressive creative project in Second Life since the giant penis sculptures of SL retail, a group of players have used the game’s building and scripting tools to create an in-game cyberpunk MMO."

... which is silly in several ways, but to just focus on one: Second Life has always had user-created MMOs within it. And Remnants, while impressive, is not even the first cyberpunk-themed MMO in SL by a long shot.

Seriously, always. First one I'm familiar with was built in 2003:

Dark Life Second Life

To play "Dark Life", a user-made game within a game, you purchase a backpack and basic weaponry from a store near the dungeon area. The backpack itself comes equipped with a fairly complex bloc of Linden Language Script, which tallies and displays traditional RPG elements of Hit Points, Experience Points, inventory, and so on, while it's worn. Once equipped, you're ready to go questing. - "Worlds Within Worlds", December 12, 2003

Ironically, I mentioned Dark Life in a 2006 post for... Kotaku.

To be fair, I can't entirely blame game journalists for missing the ubiquity of mini-MMOs in SL. For one thing, Linden Lab itself has done little to promote this community. (There's not even a category for MMOs in its official guide.) And even MMO-focused game journalists, generally speaking, don't spend much time researching MMOs they're not personally interested in.

So as a starter guide, here's a very abbreviated list of MMOs I or others have written about over the years (many of which are still active), which is only a fraction of the whole list:

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Get to Work Over the Long Weekend With The Sims 4's First Expansion Pack

The Sims 4 Get to Work  (65)
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

The Sims 4's first expansion, Get to Work, launched earlier this week, and I'm sure that with the long weekend ahead loads of you are wondering if it's worth picking up. My review of this career-oriented add-on went live earlier today over on Paste, if you'd like to hear my two cents. Here's a taste:

The scene is Magnolia Promenade, a bustling shopping district featuring a brand new, pastel-toned bakery. It’s impossible to miss: Mint green walls sitting on prime real estate directly beside a playground. Though it’s regularly packed with customers, this bakery and its modest staff used to end every shift in the red. The first day it made a profit was the day I ditched my dream of a sim bakery and started stocking a shelf in the corner of the shop with $400 chicken statues. The chicken statues sold like hotcakes, while the hotcakes… Not so much. Either way, at least my sim didn’t have to pay her staff out of pocket anymore.

You can read my review in full here, but those of you who have already bought the expansion may have a different question on your mind this weekend: Where exactly should you start? Get to Work adds three active careers and a robust retail mechanic that will support everything from boutiques to galleries, so what should you try out first? Well...

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New on Steam: Delve Into Deep Space With Out There: Ω Edition for Mac, Windows and Linux

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

Haunting, tense, and meditative. Those are the top three words I would use to describe Out There, a mobile space-travel roguelite released last year that emphasizes communication more than it does pulse cannons or laser guns. If you missed the Out There hype-train the first time around, the game's newly released PC version provides a second chance to see what all the fuss it about. Out There: Ω Edition launched on Steam today for Mac, Windows and Linux, promising new aliens, new planets, new events, new music and even a new ending.

I covered Out There here on New World Notes when it first came to iOS, and (like a lot of other writers at the time) I had almost nothing but good things to say:

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Playstation Home Closes Doors After 6 Years in Open Beta

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

Yesterday was your last chance to revisit Playstation Home, the virtual world exclusive to the Playstation 3 console. After 6 years of operation and no official release out of beta, the console-only virtual world has been shut off for good.

I'll admit that the headline may seem damning, but by all accounts Home wasn't a wholly unsuccessful product, even if it never technically left its beta phase...

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