Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Rising Star: Here's the Latest Tutorial for Avastar, A Second Life-Oriented Blender Plug-In That's Making Waves

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

You can probably expect to see more fitted conversions of some of your favorite "vanilla" mesh items soon, thanks to this new tutorial from the folks behind Avastar. It explains in all the gritty, technical detail how to re-rig an item to the new fitted mesh avatar skeleton... So long as you have Avastar installed, of course.

In case you're unfamiliar, Avastar is a paid plug-in for the popular (and free) 3D creation tool Blender. It adds new options and features designed specifically for SL creators, and can be purchased for $27 (or an equivalent amount of L$ at their in-world shop [SLURL]). Avastar seems to have gained a lot more traction since the arrival of fitted mesh, largely because they have been so active in creating and sharing tutorials dealing specifically with their software. Many creators are still figuring out how to rig to the new collision bones themselves, so there is still a tremendous vacuum of information for anyone who isn't even sure where to begin (as if teaching yourself mesh in the first place wasn't difficult enough).  The fact that the educational documentation surrounding the new mesh rigging method is so lacking means that one of Avastar's biggest selling points are its widely available tutorials. For some designers, this plug-in has gone from luxury to necessity almost overnight.

You can find more mesh tutorials from Avastar on Youtube, or check out their website for more information.

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Posted at 11:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | Bookmark

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cory Doctorow on How Second Life Influenced In Real Life His New Graphic Novel About MMOs & Gold Farmers (Plus, a Bit About Cory's Own Second Life)

In Real Life Graphic Novel Anda's Game

In Real Life is the new graphic novel by artist Jen Wang and my pal Cory Doctorow, and it's based on "Anda's Game', Cory's great short story about MMOs, gaming, and gold farming in online games, which is actually my favorite thing he's ever written. While gold farming is generally associated with standard MMOs, there actually have been cases of gold farming in Second Life too -- in 2005, for instance, I reported on a low-paid Chinese gold farmer trying to earn/beg for Linden Dollars in SL. As it happens, Second Life did have some influence on the story:

"Well, certainly the way that the economy shaped up in SL, and the contrast between that, WoW and Eve Online all played a part in my thinking about the relationship between play, game-mastering, democracy and economics," Cory tells me. "I think in some way, games are a kind of Singaporean experience: an authoritarian state that is not accountable to its subjects attempts to optimize their experience for some balance of productivity and entertainment." (Cory wrote a whole essay on that topic for InformationWeek.)

Cory also has a fair amount of direct experience in Second Life:

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Posted at 04:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Bookmark

The Family That Plays Together: Pixelkin.org Takes The Mystery Out of Gaming With Your Kids (or Parents!)

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

Pixelkin, an organisation focused on family gaming, recently launched to the public with a slew of reviews and resources for parents with gaming on their mind. This isn't a site where you'll find statistics about the number of spree killers that brushed up against a Grand Theft Auto game at some point in their lives, nor is it a site loaded up with nothing but edu-tainment titles. Pixelkin's purpose is to get families playing together, plain and simple.

In addition to regular posts and articles, the Pixelkin site also has quite a few specialized sections worth investigating:

  • The Research page is full of crisp infographics based on (you guessed it) research. Can gaming help your marriage? Is gaming better or worse than watching television? And of course, what about violence in video games? The best part is that Pixelkin cites their sources, so if you're skeptical of their conclusions you can check it out for yourself.
  • The Library offers quick descriptions and videos of a growing list of games so you can understand what a family member is playing without having to slog through forum chatter and reviews for an hour.
  • The Dictionary is a glossary of gaming and geek terms, perfect for anyone needing a crash-course in anything from aggro to zerg rushes.
  • The Gamer Files are an ever-expanding series of profiles of gamers, perfect to get a good idea of how other families have worked gaming into their habits. You can even submit your own profile to help expand society's narrow definition of "gamer" as it stands now.

If you'd like to see more from Pixelkin, don't miss their guide to playing World of Warcraft with your family, and be sure to follow them on Twitter.

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Posted at 12:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | Bookmark

Monday, March 17, 2014

Why is Second Life Starting to Add Private Sims After Years of Steady Loss?

Could be nothing, could be something, but in the last month, according to Grid Survey, Second Life has gained about 50 private sims:

Second Life private sim growth

This is after many years of steady private sim loss, which has been the most worrying thing, since private sims constitute Second Life's core revenue. Of course, 50 sims isn't a lot, but then again, that could be nearly $200,000 in yearly revenue. Yes yes, too soon to tell if this means anything, but as Joe Essid notes, when he brought this to my attention, "That is something remarkable".

Posted at 06:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (14) | Bookmark

My Top Schedule Picks for Day One of GDC 2014

Gdc14_logo

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

Hamlet's off at GDC this week, and I... Well, I might go out for lunch, so that's something right? All kidding aside, I am pretty jealous of him. The professional focus of GDC means it's miles away from bombastic fan events like PAX, and the sessions on the schedule are a lot more focussed and, frankly, interesting. I guess it's a bit more "inside baseball".

Naturally I've been going through this year's schedule, and a few sessions in particular stand out. If I was at GDC today, here's where you would find me:

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Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week

Versu 1

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

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Limbo Status of Emily Short's Long-in-Development Interactive Fiction Project at Linden Lab Goes Viral

Leigh Alexander is one of the most influential and brilliant writers covering the game industry (mainly for Gamasutra, the industry's top news site), and when she read Janine Hawkins' great NWN post about renowned interactive fiction writer Emily Short's 15 years-in-development Blood & Laurels Versu project ending up in limbo at Linden Lab, she was not happy about it, not happy at all, and Tweeted this to her 35,000 followers:

So the post is now going viral, and has been picked up by other game industry leaders (as below). Given the attention and fan following Emily Short clearly has (she wrote the now-classic Galatea), hopefully Linden Lab can come to some kind of compromise with her. (Maybe a revenue sharing deal for publishing Blood & Laurels, say?) I'm asking Linden Lab if they have a comment on this topic, and will update if they reply.

Well-known SL blogger Ciaran Laval thinks this news means Linden Lab should address the controversy over its Terms of Service, but I'm not sure the two topics are related, at least not directly:

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This March 15th & 17th in Second Life: Help Raise RL Funds for AIDS Committee of Toronto at a Virtual Fashion, Dancing, Live Music Extravaganza

SL Pride AIDS Fundraiser

Click here to join a Second Life benefit for the AIDS Commitee of Toronto (ACT), which helps educate the public about the dangers of HIV and AIDS, and which is an awesome cause indeed. Events happen tomorrow morning/afternoon Second Life time, and next Monday 7pm SLT, including a performance by RL Broadway star Tamra Stars. The full event list is here on Fashion Pride SL. Linden Dollar donations and sales of fashion items will be converted to US$ and sent to ACT:

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Pop-Ups, Papercraft, and Pencils: This Weekend, Try These Three Amazing Craft-Inspired Games

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

It's hard enough to make a beautiful game, but making a beautiful game that looks more like a craft project than an assortment of pixels and polygons is a particularly special feat. Today I'm covering three games which have done just that, and created some truly soothing, moving, and awe-inspiring experiences in the process.

Open your Steam client and ready your App Store, because you're not going to want to miss out on these crafty little titles.

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