Live Dance/Music Performance in Minecraft with Users From 3 Countries Simulcast in San Francisco & Vancouver Cafes

There’s lots of virtual art in Second Life, but can Minecraft also be turned into platform for creating new works of online artistry? DC Spensley, a Bay Area-based artist widely known in Second Life for his live SkyDance performances, recently orchestrated a live performance on a Minecraft server. Behold MineOpticon, shown simultaneously in Vancouver and San Francisco:

“[I] figured that when horses came out in Minecraft,” Spensley tells me, “it would be good to respond with something quirky… This illustrates what I mean about being somewhat agnostic about which virtual world I use.”

To pull this show off, Spensley’s collaborators logged into a Minecraft server from literally all over the world, for both the rehearsal and the live show:

Minecraft dance

“MineOpticon performers were in California, Florida, Vancouver and Manahattan. Like any virtual world they logged on from their location to rehearse for many months before the shows. The technical director Bill Cruikshank (Jesting Rabbit) logged in from Australia and our composer (Yagiz Mungan from Turkey via Purdue University) just happened to be in SF on a job.”

The differences between Second Life and Minecraft as an artist’s plaform? DC Spensley tells me both have their advantages and disadvantages:

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Here's What it Takes to Build a 1KB Hard Drive in Minecraft

Cody Littley's 1 KB Minecraft Hard Drive
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Polygon's Charlie Hall recently posted a video tour of one of the most mind-blowing Minecraft builds I've ever seen. As Hall floats through and around an ingeniously made 1 KB hard drive that exists entirely within Minecraft, its creator Cory Littley walks both him and the viewer through its meticulous construction.

Littley's hard drive (like the Minecraft calculators and such that have come before it) relies on redstone, an item in the game that conducts a current used to power various devices. In my experience, redstone's simplest applications are easy enough to wrap your head around. If all you need are a few lamps, powered rail cars, or maybe an automatic door it's not hard to get a handle on how to use it, but things get exponentially more complicated the larger and more intricate your project is. That's what makes Littley's hard drive so incredibly impressive, even if it's barely big enough to hold the text of this post.

Don't just take my word for it: Watch the tour for yourself on Polygon.

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Cubic Castles: A Free-to-Play Sandbox MMO That's Like Minecraft, but...

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

Minecraftbut. That's the term that Rock, Paper, Shotgun's Alice O'Connor recently coined (in the same vein as roguelike) to save us all from having to say "It's like Minecraft, but..." one more lousy time. It might just be my favorite piece of gaming shorthand since "Abilitease".

Cubic Castles (a new free-to-play game that you can snag on Steam, the iOS App Store or straight from their website) is one such Minecraftbut, with an emphasis on building, crafting, puzzle platforming, and easily shared massively-multiplayer worlds. The problem with writing about Minecraftbut's is that defining one thing based largely on how it's different from that other thing is a difficult and often unhelpful way to explain any thing. There's a comparison to be made... But it's much better just to see the thing in action for yourself.

With that in mind, I did a dreadfully unprofessional (it's been a loooong week, you guys) stream of Cubic Castles earlier today so I could share the experience with you. Check it out:

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What's at the Root of Racism and Sexism in Minecraft Communities?

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

This week Christopher Long posted an interesting article over on Medium about the experience he went through with his daughter. She went from playing Minecraft Pocket Edition on her iPod to dipping her toes into PC multiplayer servers, and parental conversations about online safety and discretion turned to conversations about racism and misogyny as she engaged with other players who had less than appropriate things to say about the girly, dark-skinned avatar she'd chosen for herself.

These moments are now part of coming of age in a plugged-in world, but I doubt that their experiences will take many Minecraft fans in particular by surprise. Here's why:

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Minecraft's New Terrain Modification Will be a Welcome Addition for Explorers, Modders, and Mapmakers Alike

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

Yesterday Mojang released a preview of a very significant change coming to Minecraft version 1.8: World customization. While players can already specify (and share) seeds, modify basic map features, and of course terraform manually the new world customization options will offer access to a broad range of variables to fine tune a newly generated world to suit their needs.

That said, it will be modders and map-makers in particular who will get the most out of the new terrain modification system. Tailoring a map to suit your needs when you're developing an adventure/challenge-oriented experience to share with others currently involves a lot of painstaking work, literally done one block at a time. These new tools will streamline that process so custom mapmaking will be a little less arduous and a lot more fun.

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Sandbox Summit: Don't Miss The Latest and Greatest Ideas in Educational Gaming (Even if You're Not There in Person)

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

If you're into that sweet spot where gaming and education intersect, the hashtag to watch right now is #sandboxsummit14. There you'll be able to see live reactions to talks and workshops being conducted at MIT's Sandbox Summit, an annual get together for educators and scholastically-minded developers alike. The event runs today and tomorrow, and  just because you're not there in person doesn't mean you can't pick up a thing or two from afar (thanks to social networking and streaming video.)

In this case "gaming" isn't limited to video games, either. One of the most interesting topics so far (if Twitter is any indication) has been The World Peace Game, a massive tabletop game in which an entire class can wage war and peace, and gain a better grasp of the effects of both. 

You'll eventually be able to view videos of this year's talks on the Sandbox Summit website, but until then keep your eyes on Twitter, and check out recorded talks from the 2013 summit here.

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Top 5 Games Beyond Second Life - NWN Readers' Choice

Guild Wars 2 Bees
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Let no one say that Second Life users aren't still gamers through and through. Last week I asked you what your favorite games are, and I'll admit that the enthusiastic response that followed here, in Plurk, and in my inbox took me completely by surprise. Some of your picks were just as surprising, too.

So what are the top five games New World Notes' readers love to play (outside of the metavese, of course)? You'll find out after the jump!

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Watch It This Weekend: Father/Daughter Team Tackle Minecraft Together in This Underrated YouTube Series

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

I'll just come right out and say it: "Daddy/Daughter Lets Play Minecraft" might just be one of the most underrated (and adorable) series' of Minecraft videos on YouTube.

The titular Daddy, Ronin 1011, might have a penchant for first-person shooters, but while his daughter "Princess Flower" (a.k.a. Little Bear #1) is on her laptop nearby they make a perfect pair of miners, builders, and zombie-fighters. Even the smallest milestones (like building their first house and taming a wolf) are punctuated with Princess Flower's delight, while every dark cave and looming zombie is made that much more intense.

Full disclosure here, but I have a soft spot for these kinds of videos. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of playing games with my dad, either on his old Intellivision or the Sega Genesis that came after it. I liked being able to trail after him as Tails, or hand the controller over when Ecco The Dolphin got too tricky and/or scary. I remember leaning over the back of the couch, playing with a toy german shepherd while watching him mow down pixellated nazis in the stone halls of Wolfenstein. It's likely because of that time we spent together that I look at games like Minecraft and wish I was 20 years younger, or even that I had a little bear of my own to explore them with.

Watch the full (and ongoing) series of Daddy/Daughter Lets Play Minecraft videos for yourself here

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Visit The Hauntingly Beautiful World of Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away... In Minecraft

Spirited Away Minecraft  (1)
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

While the comparatively primitive graphics of Minecraft might be an acquired taste, I firmly believe that if you've never seen something you consider beautiful created in this phenomenally popular sandbox you just haven't looked hard enough. Case in point: A stunning recreation of the spirit town from Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away, made by a team of builders over the span of several years. Though they're far from finished, they've shared loads of images and even video tours of their work so far. See for yourself after the jump!

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The Universe Is Your Playground In Space-Based Sandbox Game Starbound, Coming to Steam Early Access

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

One of the most hotly anticipated indie games of the past two years will be making its debut on Steam Early Access today, and if you like building, crafting, procedurally-generated worlds, and most importantly spaceships and super cool aliens you are absolutely going to want to check it out.

Starbound is sandbox-meets-space exploration, and its very transparent development process (which has been bursting at the seams with screenshots and teasers) has already led to a significant number of fans... And pre-orders.

Anyone who pre-ordered the game will be getting a Steam key in their email... Right about now, actually. And since that includes me, I'll be regaling NWN readers with stories my adventures in procedurally-generated space next week. For now, here are a few things you should know if you're not sure if Starbound is for you:

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