Linden Lab Pulls Minecraft-Esque Patterns from Steam

Patterns Linden Lab review

Dorito boy, we hardly knew ye. Linden Lab has pulled Pattern, its inventive, Minecraft-eseque sandbox game, from Steam:

While “extremely grateful” to the players who bought an Early Access copy of Patterns, features relying on server connections, such as world-sharing are going to be turned off and the there will be no future updates. The offline content released so far will still be playable, however. “Patterns had early promise,” the team say. “And while Linden Lab focuses our efforts on our other offerings, we are still evaluating the future of the Patterns technology.” Patterns players are angry at the sudden announcement. There’d been no updates to the game since May but there had been nothing written to suggest the team would take the money and run.

That's disappointing news, because Patterns showed a lot of potential. Even Minecraft creator Markus Persson was digging it, while a well-known developer admired the hell of it on New World Notes. But apparently it wasn't gaining enough traction/sales to justify more effort on it, besides the company's core focus:

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Watch Iris Play: Goat Simulator's Latest Update, a Hilarious Take on Your Least Favorite MMO Tropes

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

Remember Goat Simulator? I don't think there's any other game that I enjoyed as much but played so little of. When it first came out it was a genuinely entertaining diversion, but even when they released a new map I didn't feel much of a need to return; it all just wore thin too quickly. That's likely why their latest piece of DLC (released yesterday) has taken me by surprise. For the first time ever, I'm playing Goat Simulator and seriously planning to play more

The Goat MMO Simulator DLC is absolutely free, and brings multiple new maps and atcivities into the game. It's simultaneously a snarky response to all the fans who speculated that it would be easy for the developers to patch in online multiplayer and a legitimately purposeful parody of your typical MMORPG.

Yesterday I tried Goat MMO Simulator out for the first time live with a couple of friends, so if you want a taste of what this DLC has in store just watch for yourself (above).

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Back to Nature: Paint and Explore an Idyllic World in Toca Boca's Latest Game for iOS

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

Toca Boca's iOS apps might be better described as toys than games. They specialize in providing the foundational elements of play and then letting their players loose without any further guidance, leading to a lineup of products that resemble dollhouses more than they resemble a lot of their fellow child-oriented apps. Their philosophy is clean and simple, with an up-front cost and absolutely no in-app purchases.

But even though Toca Boca's work is designed with kids in mind, you can still get a lot of joy out of them as an adult. For example, consider their latest: Toca Nature...

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Linden Lab's Blocksworld Now Has 400K Monthly Users - Here's How They Can Grow it to Be Larger Than Second Life

Blocksworld Linden Lab

VentureBeat has a long interview with Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg, which mainly hits points he's discussed with us here and here, but he also reveals a new data point which helps explain why the company kept Blocksworld, the LEGO-like tablet-based application targeted at kids, while selling off properties like Desura:

We’re learning a ton about how to make creation easy and fun. We’re learning how kids interact with a device like this. We’ve done barely any marketing around this. We’re still evolving this product, still early. But we’re already up to just about 400,000 monthly users. We’re a top-ranked game in the education category. We tend to be near the top in both the family and education categories of the App Store, at least in the U.S. The app is available globally, but at the moment, it’s English only. (Emph. mine)

That's really impressive, especially without much marketing and no non-English versions to speak of. Second Life has about 600,000 active monthly users, so Blocksworld is already within striking distance. Create a version of Blocksworld for the Japanese and Korean markets (which monetize best) and for China (which has the largest install base), not to mention Germany (the EU's biggest mobile market, I believe), and I can easily see Blocksworld getting a monthly user-base far larger than Second Life itself.

Speaking of which, Altberg describes a rich ecosystem of user-genreated content in Blocksworld:

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Inquiring About Inquisitors: Who's Your Hero in Dragon Age: Inquisition and Why?

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

The character you make in a BioWare game can be a strangely personal thing. Unless you're one of those weirdos who goes with the default (bo-ring) there's a lot for you to consider before you even start playing. Where's your character from? What life have they lived? What kind of person are they/will they become? What do they want out of the world? Appearance customization is almost the simplest part of the process, even though Dragon Age: Inquisition offers more customization options than ever before.

I mulled all of these things over last night and came up with something I'm happy with, but what about you?

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GamerGate "Movement" on Twitter Driven by Just 500 Accounts & 3000 Daily Users, MIT Lecturer Finds

GamerGate Twitter users Michael Trice

MIT lecturer Michael Trice crunched the numbers around the #GamerGate hashtag on Twitter during the first week of November, and came up with this shocking stat:

In both the case of tweets and RTs about 500 accounts create half of the total volume in the conversation. Regular daily participation floats around 3,000 users. Then there’s a large body of several thousand accounts dipping a toe in the conversation.

Overall participation in that hashtag during that time frame was around 16,000 accounts total, and it's not even clear how many accounts are advocates of the "movement", as opposed to detractors. In any case, kudos to Trice for doing the heavy lifting to get the concrete data, which as it happens, is in line with my September estimate that GamerGate is around 10,000 guys, give or take a few thousand.

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Here's Why Shadow of Mordor's Photo Mode Could Be a Game-Changer

Shadow of Mordor Photo Mode  (4)
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style


In what I can only describe as my fugue of anticipation leading up to Dragon Age: Inquisition's release, this past weekend I decided to dip my toes back into Shadow of Mordor. Shadow of Mordor is pretty highly acclaimed and has some very interesting systems, but for whatever reason it didn't really "stick" with me and consequently I hadn't played it since early October -- which, as it turns out is around when they added a feature that would have absolutely rekindled my interest: Photo Mode.

It's perfect for capturing some of the more tranquil scenes from the game, as show above, as well as some decidedly less tranquil (and less flattering) ones. For example...

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Five Things You Need to Do Before Dragon Age: Inquisition Comes Out

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

I'm not going to mince words here; I'll admit that I'm working myself into a bit of a froth over Dragon Age: Inquisition, which is due to be released next Tuesday. It's receiving rave reviews from critics I respect, and the general consensus seems to be that it does so many things right that previous games in the series may have done wrong. Notably, for the first time in the series players won't be confined to a single nation. They'll roam across Thedas in a game world larger and more open than ever before, and peppered with plenty secrets and points of interest.

But Tuesday is basically an eternity away, and I -- I mean you -- might need your Dragon Age fix right now. If so you're in luck, because I have a laundry list of five things you should definitely do before you finally lay your hands on Inquisition next week, starting with...

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Gaming's Top 13 Best Dressed Characters - Janine's Latest on Paste Magazine

Janine Iris Best Dressed in Games

"The 13 Best Costumed Characters in Videogames" is Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' latest post for the uber-hip Paste Magazine, and as everyone who reads her Second Life/MMO fashion coverage here, she's got an excellent eye for spotting avatar-based style. It's a compendium of characters across many genres of games, a lot of which will surprise even hardcore gamers. Among her faves are The Boyle Sisters from Dishonored, and I got no quarrel with that -- we both became big nuts for the immersive cross-genre steampunk action game from 2012, and fortunately, I was able to interview the lead creators, Harvey Smith and Raphael Colantonio, for several NWN posts on the now-classic game: The Story of Dishonored: How the Hit Game's Immersive Narrative Was Crafted and Told, Dishonored's End: Harvey Smith & Raphael Colantonio on Designing a Game That Changes Based on Player Behavior, Dishonored Players Evenly Choose High Chaos "Evil" & Low Chaos "Good" Endings, and How Dishonored Honors Thief.

Anyway, read Iris' full list here.

Here's How Insurance Policies for Digital Goods Kicked an Unreleased Game's Player Economy Into High Gear

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

One of the most fascinating virtual economies in action right now is the one that has emerged around Star Citizen (a crowdsourced game that is still in development) and a recent post on Eurogamer has done an excellent job of explaining just how that's come to be.

For some time now, backers and future players of Star Citizen have been able to use real money to buy and trade access to virtual ships -- which range in price from the cost of a decent meal out to the cost of a decent used car -- that they will be able to use when the game eventually launches. The catch is that much like ships in EVE OnlineStar Citizen's spacecraft are not invulnerable. They can be permanently destroyed... Unless the owner has insurance.

Those virtual insurance policies are exactly what's Kickstarted the player economy even while the game itself is still in development. Eurogamer's Wesley Yin-Poole writes:

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