This is the Single Worst Sentence in Bethseda's Announcement Defending Paid Skyrim Mods

Skyrim Creation Kit Mod controversy

Today Bethesda posted a weak defense of its highly controversial (and much discussed) new policy to sell user-made Skyrim mods, which the company then hastily reversed in an update to the same post. Even with the reversal, however, the whole ridiculous imbroglio sets a horrible precedent for user-made content in open world games from major publishers, because this single line from the company is now part of that precedent. It is so misguided, so ignorant, so greedy in the short term at the expense of long-term benefit, it needs to be laid out and shot full of arrows to the knee.

It came out in regard to Bethesda and Valve taking 75% of user-made mod sales to the mod developer's pitiful 25% cut:

The percentage conversation is about assigning value in a business relationship. How do we value an open IP license? The active player base and built in audience? The extra years making the game open and developing tools? The original game that gets modded? Even now, at 25% and early sales data, we’re looking at some modders making more money than the studio members whose content is being edited.

Emphasis mine, because the utter WTF-nesss of this line bears emphasis. Because it suggests that Bethesda looked at its sales data, noticed the runaway financial success of its most talented, dedicated grassroots developer fans... and decided that was a bad thing.

I'm not even finished with how bad this is:

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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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Grand Theft Auto V's PC Version Launches Today With Powerful New Video Editing and Staging Tools

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

Grand Theft Auto V's PC version unlocks on Steam in just a few hours, and up until last week that news wasn't really doing anything for me. Like a lot of people I played GTA V on a last-gen console back in 2013, so I wasn't exactly chomping at the bit for the PC release. Then I heard about Rockstar Editor, a suite of video editing and staging tools built in to the PC version. Now I'm... Reconsidering.

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Play Them This Weekend: A Boatload of Brand New (And Mostly Free) Visual Novels for Every Taste

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

NaNoRenO 2015, a month-long game jam devoted to the creation of visual novels and dating sims, wrapped up a little over a week ago. Now that it's over (and most of the late submissions have filtered onto itch.io) it's the perfect time to sit down and spend a weekend with some of the dozens of games that were made. Given the development time most of these games are short -- brief slices of what they'll be when they're fully completed, the perfect length to enjoy with a cup of tea and a cookie in hand. Just about every single one available is 'pay what you want', which for some that translates to 'free'. For me (and hopefully some of you) it's more like 'come back and pay if you enjoyed it'. Either way, it's a varied line-up of games to check out with a pretty low commitment.

If you're curious but not quite sure where to start, here are a few NaNoRenO 2015 games that are at the top of my own 'To Play' list this weekend:

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Seeking to Uncover Grand Theft Auto V's Mysteries, Players Discover Virtual Memorial to a Second Life Pioneer

Eddie Escher Second Life Christ Edwards GTA V

A few months ago I told you about Chris Edwards, the 3D artist who pioneered Second Life prim-based creativity, but tragically just died before turning 45. (But not before meeting the woman of his dreams, another 3D artist he met in SL.) There's now a touching coda to that, and it's the story of multiple virtual worlds and how they remember the people who mattered to them after they're gone. And it goes something like this:

In Grand Theft Auto V, there's a mountain called Chiliad which has a strange mystery that's confounded the player community, as Kotaku reported:

The Chiliad Mystery is the name given to the bizarre, unexplained discoverables seeded throughout GTA V. Ever since the first iteration of the game came out last year, a dedicated core of players on Reddit and fan sites has been scouring GTA V for clues and secrets that might tie the weirdness into some kind of logical sense. What's the weirdness exactly? Scattered all over Los Santos are drawings and writing focused on unidentified flying objects.

So the subreddit /ChiliadMystery was born, which is where players share their findings to uncover that mystery (something to do with UFOs, is the working theory). A series of clues led "viendetta" to stumble onto a clearing with a telescope and some park benches, near a graveyard. And there he noticed that on one bench, was a placard to the memory of Chris Edwards. And in this way, Chris became part of this mystery story these GTA V players were trying to solve.

I know this, because I noticed traffic coming to this blog from that subreddit, where "IAA33" cross-referenced the GTA V credits, did some Googling, and came to this conclusion:

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Worlds Adrift, Open World Adventure With Airships, is the First Massive MMO Using the Improbable Engine

I recently wrote about Improbable, the new startup building an engine for truly massive virtual worlds, and here's the first game project running on it:

This is Worlds Adrift, billed as a vast and open world explored with friends on airships. Here's more on the multiplayer/open world aspects:

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