Watch Iris Play: Goat Simulator's Latest Update, a Hilarious Take on Your Least Favorite MMO Tropes

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

Remember Goat Simulator? I don't think there's any other game that I enjoyed as much but played so little of. When it first came out it was a genuinely entertaining diversion, but even when they released a new map I didn't feel much of a need to return; it all just wore thin too quickly. That's likely why their latest piece of DLC (released yesterday) has taken me by surprise. For the first time ever, I'm playing Goat Simulator and seriously planning to play more

The Goat MMO Simulator DLC is absolutely free, and brings multiple new maps and atcivities into the game. It's simultaneously a snarky response to all the fans who speculated that it would be easy for the developers to patch in online multiplayer and a legitimately purposeful parody of your typical MMORPG.

Yesterday I tried Goat MMO Simulator out for the first time live with a couple of friends, so if you want a taste of what this DLC has in store just watch for yourself (above).

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Back to Nature: Paint and Explore an Idyllic World in Toca Boca's Latest Game for iOS

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

Toca Boca's iOS apps might be better described as toys than games. They specialize in providing the foundational elements of play and then letting their players loose without any further guidance, leading to a lineup of products that resemble dollhouses more than they resemble a lot of their fellow child-oriented apps. Their philosophy is clean and simple, with an up-front cost and absolutely no in-app purchases.

But even though Toca Boca's work is designed with kids in mind, you can still get a lot of joy out of them as an adult. For example, consider their latest: Toca Nature...

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Inquiring About Inquisitors: Who's Your Hero in Dragon Age: Inquisition and Why?

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

The character you make in a BioWare game can be a strangely personal thing. Unless you're one of those weirdos who goes with the default (bo-ring) there's a lot for you to consider before you even start playing. Where's your character from? What life have they lived? What kind of person are they/will they become? What do they want out of the world? Appearance customization is almost the simplest part of the process, even though Dragon Age: Inquisition offers more customization options than ever before.

I mulled all of these things over last night and came up with something I'm happy with, but what about you?

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Here's Why Shadow of Mordor's Photo Mode Could Be a Game-Changer

Shadow of Mordor Photo Mode  (4)
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style


In what I can only describe as my fugue of anticipation leading up to Dragon Age: Inquisition's release, this past weekend I decided to dip my toes back into Shadow of Mordor. Shadow of Mordor is pretty highly acclaimed and has some very interesting systems, but for whatever reason it didn't really "stick" with me and consequently I hadn't played it since early October -- which, as it turns out is around when they added a feature that would have absolutely rekindled my interest: Photo Mode.

It's perfect for capturing some of the more tranquil scenes from the game, as show above, as well as some decidedly less tranquil (and less flattering) ones. For example...

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Five Things You Need to Do Before Dragon Age: Inquisition Comes Out

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

I'm not going to mince words here; I'll admit that I'm working myself into a bit of a froth over Dragon Age: Inquisition, which is due to be released next Tuesday. It's receiving rave reviews from critics I respect, and the general consensus seems to be that it does so many things right that previous games in the series may have done wrong. Notably, for the first time in the series players won't be confined to a single nation. They'll roam across Thedas in a game world larger and more open than ever before, and peppered with plenty secrets and points of interest.

But Tuesday is basically an eternity away, and I -- I mean you -- might need your Dragon Age fix right now. If so you're in luck, because I have a laundry list of five things you should definitely do before you finally lay your hands on Inquisition next week, starting with...

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Here's How Insurance Policies for Digital Goods Kicked an Unreleased Game's Player Economy Into High Gear

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

One of the most fascinating virtual economies in action right now is the one that has emerged around Star Citizen (a crowdsourced game that is still in development) and a recent post on Eurogamer has done an excellent job of explaining just how that's come to be.

For some time now, backers and future players of Star Citizen have been able to use real money to buy and trade access to virtual ships -- which range in price from the cost of a decent meal out to the cost of a decent used car -- that they will be able to use when the game eventually launches. The catch is that much like ships in EVE OnlineStar Citizen's spacecraft are not invulnerable. They can be permanently destroyed... Unless the owner has insurance.

Those virtual insurance policies are exactly what's Kickstarted the player economy even while the game itself is still in development. Eurogamer's Wesley Yin-Poole writes:

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2D to 3D: Check Out This Fascinating, Flattening Visual Effect from the Unity Editor

In The Witch's House
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

From a fan's perspective, one of the best perks of indie game development is that developers will often share interesting bits and pieces of what they're working on. Since small operations are typically only beholden to themselves and not massive companies (and NDAs) they can share more, and what they share is often more than just marketing materials. It may be a snapshot of their current progress or a glimpse at an asset or two. It may even be, like the gif above, just the result of fiddling with a few things for fun.

Chelsea Saunders tweeted this dynamic dollhouse view of a game she's currently working on a few days ago, demonstrating the effect of toggling 2D and 3D view options in the Unity editor she's developing in. It's utterly hypnotizing to watch... Even though it doesn't have anything to do with the game itself. In The Witch's House will be an exploration-based game set in what's already shaping up to be one of the most believably twee interiors in recent gaming memory.

If you can pry your eyes away from her clever gif, you can check out screenshots and information about Saunders' upcoming game In The Witch's House on her blog.

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Why Linden Lab's Selling of Desura Might Be The Smartest Thing It's Ever Done -- Wait, This Sounds Familiar

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

When news broke last night that Linden Lab had sold Desura, I wasn't surprised. A little over a year ago when Linden Lab initially announced that it had acquired the indie gaming community's answer to Steam, I wrote that it might have been their smartest pick amid a wave of buying up diverse programs and platforms. But that statement came with a pretty big caveat, and that caveat is why if anything I was surprised that Linden Lab hadn't handed Desura off sooner.

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Seabeard for iOS: Great Animal Crossing-Like Potential... If Pacing & Profit Model is Improved

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

On paper, Seabeard looks like it should be my favorite mobile game of the year. When a friend pitched it to me as "Animal Crossing with Pirates" and showed me its adorable cut-out inspired visuals, I downloaded it that same night (since I happen to live in one of the few countries where it's currently available). I played intently for a little while. I bought a $0.99 bundle of in-game currency within my first 2 hours. I recommended it to my mother. She took an immediate shine to it as well, flicking back and forth between Seabeard and Hearthstone on her iPad. It's colorful and spirited and sweet.

Now a few days have passed, and both of us have hit a wall. My mother still seems charmed by the game in spite of this, but for me its veneer has faded. I will probably stop playing by the end of the week.

Charm will only carry you so far, and although developer Handcircus and publisher Backflip Studios have put together a very charming package, it's falling short in a very big way.

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Get a Closer Look at the Spriggans of Skyrim Through These Unbelievable Screenshots

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

Last week after namedropping Jay Faircloth in an unrelated Second Life screenshot post, I was compelled to see what my favorite Skyrim modder had been up to since I browser their gallery last. Among a lot of the usual stunning shots of Faircloth's characters and game environments there was a connective thread composed of something a little more unexpected: Spriggans.

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