Monday, October 06, 2014

Worlds in Decline: When MMOs Slip Into Maintenance Mode

Lotro moria-thumb-600x337-123556
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

The slow decline of an MMO can bring about a lot of intense and complicated feelings for those who wiled away hours within its virtual walls. While Lord of the Rings Online still boasts a strong community and steady income, there's no denying that the games glory days have passed. According to Ian Williams, who recently wrote about the game for Paste, the popular Tolkien-based MMO is "teetering on the edge of maintenance mode, the point in an MMO’s life where the patches and new content slow to a trickle or stop completely." 

His article isn't solely devoted to where the developers/publishers went wrong, or where the fans have gone, or how it all could have been avoided. It touches on those things, but at some point Williams becomes more interested in celebrating what the game was and still is, and exploring the bittersweet sentiment that can come from playing a game for years, following its existence from peak to valley:

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80 Days: How Mobile Developers Can Make the Most of Their Art Assets

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

When I played stylish mobile globetrotting sim 80 Days back in August, I recognized immediately how clean and beautiful its artwork was. What I didn't realize at the time was how efficient and economical it is, too. It turns out that this bold, contrasting style actually serves the same purpose that a lot of modern pixel graphics do, but with a much more eye-catching end result. 

Over on Gamasutra, Joseph Humphrey (co-founder of 80 Days' developer inkle) shared his thoughts on why they chose the style they did, how it worked both for and against them at different points in development, and how other developers can find inspiration and follow suit. It's a fascinating read whether you're looking for ideas or just wanting to take a peek behind the dev curtain. For example, he writes regarding one of their artistic miscalculations:

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Top Six New World Notes Posts from Last Week!

Second Life Oculus Rift DK2

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Friday, October 03, 2014

Read About Virtual Reality Hollywood This Weekend

VR storytelling

"The Last Medium" is a new long feature on California Sunday Magazine by my colleague Carina Chocano on the coming convergence of virtual reality and Hollywood. As she explains to me:

"The idea was to talk to people who were interested in creating narrative experiences in VR-- how will the medium be used to tell stories? What language will it develop to tell them? The coolest thing about it for me was this idea that every new narrative medium creates its own storytelling language. The things that are great about VR (the feeling of presence, the added element of space) are also the things that present the biggest challenges. I didn't know much about VR when I started, and it was really interesting to approach it like a creative problem to be solved. Everyone I talked to had great ideas, and was passionate about VR as a storytelling medium."

Related to that, here's an interesting passage on the creation of a Game of Thrones VR experience:

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How to Turn SL-Based Images Into Visual Art

Second Life screenshots as art

Cajsa Lilliehook just posted a new collection of beautiful SL-based images which transcend being mere screenshots or Photoshopped screenshots to being works of visual art that stand on their own. What I especially admire about Ms. Lilliehook is she goes far beyond saying "Oooh pretty" by providing a smart analysis of how these images work aesthetically. For instance, for this one here, "Window" by Sadbad Shan, here's some of what she says:

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There Are Ethical Concerns in Gaming, but Progressive Opinions Aren't One of Them

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

Leigh Alexander has written a lot about games over the years. A lot. She's written everything from everyday bland news posts to personal essays that will rip your figurative guts out. In August, she wrote about how the "Gamer" label is fading from relevance. She noted that as more people incorporate games into their lives, an identity created essentially by abrasive and exclusionary marketing practices is starting to be shrugged off by a community that's outgrowing it. Naturally, an angry mob of gamers (who will go on and on about how much they're against censorship, if you ask) interpreted this as an attack on their very existence. They contacted companies sponsoring the site where she wrote that piece, convincing Intel to pull their ads -- presumably because no one in Intel's marketing department was willing to Google the issue for five fucking seconds to form their own conclusions.

Those railing against journalists and writers like this say that they're championing ethical concerns in gaming and games journalism. But Alexander knows what those ethical concerns within the industry really are, and surprisingly they don't look a thing like what the mob is going after. Today she shared a partial list of real ethical concerns in the world of gaming, and it's well worth adding to your weekend reading. It's a lot of things that others have been thinking, tweeting, and wrestling with over the past two months in particular, but that Alexander lays bare in the clearest way possible.

I'm not even going to spoil it here. Just roll up your sleeves and dive in.

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There Aren't Enough Feminist Geek Stories With Happy Endings (But Here's a Pretty Good One)

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

When it comes to the intersecting worlds of feminism and geekdom, "feel-good" stories are often far too hard to come by. That's what makes this one special. Recently, fantasy writer and geeky dad Peter V. Brett wrote a post on his blog about his superhero-loving daughter and a particularly disappointing encounter they had with the board game Justice League: Axis of Villains. After receiving the game from a friend, Brett writes about the experience of opening the box with his daughter:

... [W]e opened up the game to find four player heroes to choose from, and at least two dozen villains, and not a female in sight.

“What girl can I be?” Cassie asked, digging through the game pieces.

“I don’t think there are any girls, sweetie,” I said, anger building in me. Cause really, DC & Wonder Forge? WTF? You know it’s 2014, right?

Cassie put down the game pieces. “I don’t want to play this, then.” She turned and moved to leave the room, and it broke my heart. In part for her, and in part because I love superheroes, and this should be something we can share.

They managed to turn of some fan-made resources to add a few of his daughter's favorite female characters to the game, and normally the story would end there. But this time it doesn't.

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Falconry Becomes a Mini-Game in Second Life

OK, this is pretty cool: A HUD and flying falcon for falconry in Second Life:

You know, I've played dozens of medieval-era MMO and RPG games, and even though falconry was an extremely popular sport during that era, I've never seen any with a falconry mini-game. So looks like a first? Created by Calli Kit, it's available in the Marketplace here.

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Welcome NWN Partner Ample Avi, Shop Specializing in Full-Figure Female Shapes for Second Life Avatars

Ample AVI Second Life full figure avatar

Ample Avi is now a sponsoring partner of New World Notes, I'm very proud to announce. Founded by Xme Xue In 2008, her shop was (to our knowledge) the only one specializing in full-figured shapes. Since then, full-figured shapes have become more common, while the emergence of mesh shapes has made full-figure shapes even more popular. Still, Ample remains one of the only shops specializeing in voluptuous, curvy female shapes. "All sizes," says Xme, "different heights, different widths - but all curvy and all female." If you're looking for a shape like that, I hope you consider looking her way. Visit Ample Avi's Marketplace page here and click here to directly teleport to her shop in SL.

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