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.

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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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Say Cheese: Learn How to Make the Perfect Smiling SL Avatar Shape With This Video Tutorial

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

Here's a handy video tutorial for those of you who like taking shots of your Second Life avatar with anything but the standard sombre expression on their face. Hot off the YouTube presses (they have those, right?) SL fashion and lifestyle blogger Alicia Chenaux walks you through creating the perfect "Smile Shape", which is to say a variation of your regular shape specifically designed to look more natural when using a smiling facial animation.

Alicia Chenaux Smile Shape TutorialIf you're unfamiliar with Second Life's facial expression morphs or the specific way that "smiling" in SL tends to make an avatar's eyes completely vanish, then a Smile Shape might seem unnecessary to you. To avatar photographers including myself who (as Alicia points out) have been stuck blending screenshots of smiling and non-smiling avatar faces together to get something that looks even half-decent, this tutorial is a stroke of brilliance. One of the reasons that mesh heads have becomes so popular with photographers is for their expressions -- not having to deal with the vanilla facial morphs that tend to squish and scrunch an avatar's features has given them a lot more freedom. Even so, there's no replacing your avatar's true face, and anything that can be done to make it more expressive without detracting from its overall... Unscrunchedness... Is helpful.

You can find more from Alicia Chenaux on her blogs, Ch'Know and Ch'Know Style.

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Check it Out This Weekend: A Second Life Roleplay Sim Inspired by BioWare's Dragon Age Series

Redcliffe Village Second Life
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Speaking of the Second Life RPG scene, there's a brand new roleplay sim open that has me seriously tempted to bust out my best light and/or medium armor pieces and join in. December Larkham and a group of friends have recently opened up a Second Life roleplaying sim based around Redcliffe Village, a recurring location in the Dragon Age series.

What's Redcliffe Village? Here's a quick refresher to get you up to speed, whether you've played the games or not:

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Iris Wants to Know: Ever Put Your Virtual Life on Hiatus?

Gone Fishin' SL Hiatus
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

We've all thought about it. Whether you're a dedicated Second Life user or your online connections lie in social media or even along your guildies, sometimes you can help but think about taking a break. And some of us even manage to do so successfully, slipping free of digital commitments for a month or two and coming back bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. It's a particularly common thought to have around this time of year, too. Spending a bitter winter cooped up with your screens can sure make you yearn for anything but that.

Not all of us have actually done it, though, no matter how often we consider it. I've thought about it as much as anyone, but at the end of the day my own hands are somewhat tied -- and that's why I want to hear from you.

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Second Life Fashion Designer's Glorious Rant About Rude and Entitled Customers is a Must-Read

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

When you hear stories about just how awful people can be to customer service representatives on the phone or even face-to-face, it's not that surprising that in a largely anonymous virtual space things can get even more dehumanizing. It's not unheard of for a peeved customer to wish death on someone providing them with support for their virtual fashion or goods, or to viciously insult the store and its products, even when the CSR in question also happens to be the owner/designer themselves. 

Long-time Second Life designer David W. Heather (a.k.a. Gianni Broda) had such an encounter recently, and it inspired him to go on an angry (but fair) rant on Facebook about customer entitlement in both physical and virtual spaces. Here's what he had to say:

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Second Life Answers: Like Yahoo Answers (Just With Way Less Trolling)

Second Life Answers

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

If you don't poke around the Second Life website much these days then you may not have noticed the Answers section, a place where the concerned and confused can go to have fellow users answer basic questions they may have. It's a bit like Yahoo Answers but with a lot less trolling. In fact the infinite, cheerful patience of the folks toiling away in SL Answers is kind of refreshing to behold.

Even some of the silliest questions you can imagine earn sincere and straight-faced responses. Questions like...

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