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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These May Be the Most Relaxing and the Most Breathtaking Minecraft Videos You'll Ever See

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

Wait! Stop! Do not click play on the video embedded above until you have read this very important warning: This video is almost certainly going to make you drowsy. It may even make you fall asleep. If you're at work, this would make particularly bad break-time viewing. So save it. Save it for when you're at home, curled up, and juuuust about ready for bed. Why? Because it's one of the most ridiculously relaxing Minecraft videos I've ever seen. More than that, it's also showing off one of the most incredible builds I've ever seen, dubbed Imperial City. It's an absolute must-watch if you want to see the scope and scale of what can be accomplished with Mojang's humble little voxels. But it will knock you right out.

It's like if Jacques Cousteau was taking you on a tour of Paris... If he'd built Paris himself with a couple of friends... And had to keep his voice down to a soothing (and informative) murmur.

If you haven't guessed, this isn't your run-of-the-mill Minecraft video. It's an ASMR video by The French Whisperer, who's most well known for his soft-talking videos about world history. One of my first articles on Paste concerned ASMR Let's Plays, videos in which a player records themselves playing a game in a relaxing manner and speaking in a low or even whispered voice to help the viewer relax. The intersection of the ASMR and gaming communities is pretty fascinating -- or perhaps a little creepy, depending on your perspective.

Either way, if you can stay awake long enough to watch the whole thing, you may also want to check out the second and third parts of the tour. You can also download the Imperial City world file for yourself here.

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WesterosCraft World Now Bigger Than Second Life?

Philip Rosedale told me in January last year about a handful of Minecraft geeks who were building a jaw-droppingly detailed recreation of Westeros (the world of Game of Thrones, both the original books and the HBO show) on their own server, but that was when they had only recreated the capital city. Come a year later, the handful is now thousands of builders, and the vast continent of Westeros is nearly complete -- watch:

Via Kottke, who notes that the team's FAQ describes the WesterosCraft project as "currently the size of Los Angeles, about 500 square miles." Interestingly, back in 2010, the combined continent and island land mass of Second Life (which Philip co-created) was, as a virtual cartographer told me then, "1800 sq.km: this means that is greater than the city area of Los Angeles (1,290 sq.km)." Given the virtual land loss in SL five years later, it's likely this WesterosCraft is now larger. (Which might also make it the largest contiguous virtual land mass on the market.)

Another interesting comparison with Second Life - the WesterosCraft project is so complicated, the members have GoT-related roleplay within it, and to access the world, you need to use a custom Minecraft viewer (so to speak):

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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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Minecraft Became So Big Because It's Extremely Popular With Girls & Women -- Another Reason Why the Game Industry Needs to Solve Its Sexism Problem

Microsoft bought Minecraft creator Mojang for $2.5 billion (as Iris just blogged), and here's a photo which explains a key reason why it went for billions:

Minecraft slumber party girlsMaddy, Hannah, along with Lola Dibbell (left to right) playing Minecraft on mobile

These are girls playing Minecraft at their slumber party, and even though one of them, Lola, is the daughter of Julian Dibbell, who's wrote a number of acclaimed books on gaming, they are actually very typical Minecraft players: As I reported a couple years ago, according to Google stats, the Minecraft site gets far more female visitors, than male. (Notably, Mojang's lead business developer was surprised -- and skeptical! -- by this fact when I told them.)

But yes, see the screengrab from Google Ad Planner for yourself:

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Microsoft, Minecraft and Mojang: Here's How to Make Sense of Microsoft's $2.5B Purchase

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

After some speculation, it's official: Microsoft has purchased voxel-based sandbox game Minecraft for $2.5 billion. Maybe that makes perfect sense to you and maybe it doesn't. This past weekend as we discussed the massive purchase, my mother asked my why on earth Microsoft would want to buy Minecraft for anything approaching that much money. My answer? That it might be better to think of it in terms of why a company might want to buy Barbie or Lego. They're monolithic brands; highly recognizable, widely available and beloved by huge swathes of customers, both young and old. There are already teenagers who look at Minecraft with nostalgia right alongside people experiencing it for the very first time. It's a cultural touchstone.

But there's more to it than that. If you break this purchase down into its most basic economic terms, as analyst Michael Pachter did at GamesBeat 2014, it makes perfect sense. Polygon's Owen Good has picked the juiciest bits out of Pachter's comments on Microsoft's acquisition of Minecraft, and summarizes the issue succinctly:

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Microsoft, Which Once Considered Buying Second Life, Reportedly in Final Talks to Buy Minecraft for $2B Instead

Minecraft machinima

Microsoft is reportedly in final talks to buy Minecraft creator Mojang, a source tells the Wall Street Journal, for more than $2 billion. (About the price Facebook paid for Oculus Rift!) That would be an epic rise for Mojang founder Markus Persson who I interviewed almost exactly four years ago, back when Minecraft was still an obscure online sandbox building game, and Persson was cobbling it together with a four person team.

Also almost exactly four years ago, it's worth noting: Microsoft was rumored to be making "overtures" to purchase Linden Lab, creator of that other online sandbox building game, Second Life. (The rumor was never officially confirmed, but many months after the fact, some insiders confirmed to me a Microsoft overture of some kind had been made.)

Why did Microsoft pass on Second Life but looks to be buying Minecraft? Short version of the likeliest factors:

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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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