Minecraft May Not Be the Best Candidate for Telltale's Next Episodic Adventure Game

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

Today Telltale Games announced that they'll be doing another of their signature narrative-driven games with yet another phenomenally popular license. Hot on the heels of both Tales from the Borderlands and their take on HBO's Game of Thrones, the next property that they'll be working on is... Minecraft. I first read that news in a post-nap stupor, and I wasn't sure that I was properly awake. Maybe this is a strange joke. Maybe Clickhole dipped into videogame humor again and -- look, I don't know. There were a million things you could have told me that would have made more sense than that particular arrangement of headlines did.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Telltale's games and I think they're very good at what they do. I welcome just about any news I hear about what they're working on, especially when it comes to franchises I hold near and dear. But Minecraft is a strange, even ill-fitting choice for their particular narrative-driven formula, and here's why:

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Endowment Envy: Second Life's Latest Round of Artists-in-Residence Are Exactly Who They Should Be

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

I had a conversation with someone recently that was, at first, downright irritating. We were discussing the latest round of Artist-in-Residence grants provided by the Linden Endowment for the Arts in Second Life. In case you're unfamiliar, this program grants twenty artists a free sim for a period of six months to be used as a venue for their metaverse-based art. The latest round of artists selected includes Whiskey Monday, a favorite of ours here at NWN.

What was irritating about this conversation was my friend's insistence that this project wasn't fair. That the more practical artists of SL (namely designers) should be entitled to a similar program. The idea was of course that the work of these artists makes Second Life look good so they deserve to be supported, but that the same is true of the content creators outfitting avatars and environments across the grid.

But they aren't the same at all. While you'll never hear me say that designers aren't artists, there is a very big difference between what they do and what the virtual artist-in-residence program is designed to support.

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Iris Wants to Know: How Do You Give Out Your Virtual Gifts During the SL Holiday Season?

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

The landscape may be 'fake', but the relationships you make in virtual worlds are just as real and important as the ones you make in reality. This is why for a lot of Second Life players, gift-giving around the holidays isn't limited to people you're meeting up with offline. Maybe you have an SL partner to consider, maybe you have a whole SL family. Maybe you just have a few close friends that you want to show your appreciation for, or you enjoy participating in some of the many Secret Santa exchanges that happen in the metaverse.

But gift giving in Second Life can be tricky. It's often not just a matter of buying something, wrapping it, and handing it over because not every item is transferrable. At the same time, while you can gift even non-transferrable items on the Second Life Marketplace, there's no delay. You have to send it the instant you by it, which can spoil a little of the fun. Even if you are lucky enough to have a gift you can 'wrap' in a box (like the ones from What's Next pictured above) then you'll want to make sure they have somewhere to rez and open it.

Suffice it to say that there are a whole lot of little obstacles. So here's what I want to know: If you exchange gifts with anyone in SL, how you do it? Do you prefer to send them straight from the marketplace, do you wrap them yourself, or do you do something I haven't even mentioned, like a shopping trip or an envelope full of cold hard L$? Share your virtual gift-giving techniques in the comments below!

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Play it This Pre-Holiday Slog: Words for Evil, a Punchy Little Word Game Inspired by Classic Roguelikes

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

It's pretty hard to get work done at this time of year. There's a lot going on, a lot to prepare for and a lot to look forward to, and sitting down to focus on just one thing can be a serious challenge. When I picked up Words for Evil a few days ago on a whim, it was a couple bucks on Steam and iOS and it looked cute and, most important of all, I was desperate for a bite-sized distraction.

And you know what? This simple, roguelike-inspired word puzzler turned out to be exactly what I needed.

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

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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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From Second Life to Victoria's Secret: How Angela Jarman's Wings Wound Up on the World's Most Watched Runway

Victoria's Secret Second Life Virtual Wings
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Angela Jarman (Violaine Villota in SL) is a veteran Second Life designer whose work transcends worlds -- as does her brand. Fancy Fairy wings have graced the backs of metaverse models for years, and if you tuned in to CBS this past Tuesday you would have seen them similarly gracing models walking the runway for Victoria's Secret.

Victoria's Secret's fashion shows are recognized for their regular use of spectacular costume wings, so it shouldn't be too surprising that they found Jarman's real-world wing designs appealing. But how does someone get started making something as particular as fairy wings, and even bringing that hobby with her into the virtual world? After the jump, Jarman shares how she found her way into SL, the virtual design techniques she's carried into her real-world creations and, most fascinating of all, how she builds her signature wings.

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Here's How One of Japan's Biggest Shopping Trends Could Become the Next Big Thing in SL

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

I think I've done it. I think I've solved the greatest puzzle to confront the Second Life fashion community since... Well, probably since I brought it up last year.

That was when I tried to figure out why one of Japan's biggest annual shopping events hadn't managed to catch on in Second Life. Fukubukuro bags are a New Year's tradition in Japan; shoppers line up for hours for their chance to purchase the random packages of goods at their favorite stores. Sometimes they come in plain shopping bags, sometimes in far more elaborate bundles like this gorgeous floral suitcase that clothing brand Liz Lisa once packed theirs in. The practice bears a lot of similarities to gacha machines, where shoppers pay a lowered price for a lucky dip from a variety of items in a set. Second Life sure loves its gachas, but only a handful of virtual brands have embraced fukubukuro.

Last January I came up with quite a few reasons for this to be the case, but that was a rather unsatisfying end to the story. Fukubukuro could be the next big thing in Second Life shopping, and I'm determined to figure out how to make it work.

And maybe, just maybe, I have.

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Readers Respond: Confessions of a Demo Diva, and the Truth Behind the Dreaded L$1 Demo

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

Last week I made a confession, and asked you to do the same. I wanted to know how often shoppers in Second Life follow the fashionista's golden rule of always (or should I say "always") trying the demo first, and this question got a slew of interesting answers from SLers on all levels of the virtual consumer pyramid. 

I admitted that I'm a bit of a demo slacker, and so did many of you. Others, however, seem to adhere much more strictly to the demoing process. Regular commenter Arcadia Codesmith cut to the heart of things, saying, "On my budget I can't afford mistakes. Demo early, demo often." Shirc Desantis was a little less pragmatic, mentioning that since they rarely buy clothes in SL, "trying a demo is part of the novelty."

The comment that I found the most interesting, however, was the very first one posted:

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Victoria's Secret Taps Former Second Life Wing Designer to Accessorize Models in Latest Runway Show UPDATE: Watch Her Wings Tomorrow (12/9) on CBS at 10pm Eastern!

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

There's big news in the world of virtual fashion: Former Second Life designer Violaine Villota's designs were recently donned by models in a Victoria's Secret fashion show. (As she just announced on her site.) Her work wasn't in the form of bras, corsets, or anything you might pick up yourself from the acclaimed undergarment brand, though. Violaine's contribution was a little more ephemeral. She makes wings -- the gorgeous, glittering fairy wings worn by several models in the show, to be specific.

Fancy Fairy wings were once a pretty popular accessory for fantasy-focussed fashionistas in Second Life, and when Violaine (RL Angela Jarman) shifted her focus away from SL, her virtual wing designs came with her. Although she was making these shimmering wings for herself well before she joined SL, many of her wing designs will look very familiar to those who followed her work in the metaverse. Particularly...

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Where to Shop in Second Life: December 2014 Edition

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

There's something almost reassuring about a regular in-store release in Second Life these days. It's predictable, it's stable, it'll probably be there for awhile... But so many designers are creating so much content for events that come and go. Sometimes what they make is available elsewhere when the event's over and sometimes it's not, and that's... Well, it can be stressful to try and stay on top of it all.

With that in mind I thought it might be time to try out something new here on New World Notes. At the beginning of the month (you know, like right now) we'll take a look at a handful of the events that have just started or that are coming up soon. We'll talk about some of the participating designers, show a stand-out item or two if possible, and generally try to make the ever-expanding tangle of events out there that much more digestible.

So where should you be shopping this month? Let's start with...

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