Monday, February 09, 2015

Top Six New World Notes Posts from Last Week!


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Friday, February 06, 2015

SL Fashionista Challenge: Shoot Your Avatar Dressed as a Well-Known Movie Character - Including 3 of My Favorites!

Second Life Movie Avatars

I love Strawberry Singh's latest meme challenge:

Dress up your avatar as a character from a movie. Don’t forget to share the link to your post in the comments and add your pictures to the Blog Memes flickr group.

Pictured above: Strawberry herself, evoking Labyrinth with a David Bowie-esque friend, and this tribute to Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's by Michely Blogger. In fact, since I'm such a cineaste geek, I'll add to this challenge:

Dress your avatar as characters from three of my favorite films: Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless, Terence Malick's Days of Heaven, or Wong Kar-Wai's Chungking Express. Because if you can pull it off, I will totally blog you.

All of those are on Netflix, in case you haven't seen them already, and here's some trailers to get you started:

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Posted at 03:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Play it This Weekend: Sunless Sea's Full Release Finally Sees the Light of Day

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

Lose your mind. Eat your crew. That's the tagline that captured my and many other games writers' imaginations when Failbetter Games' Sunless Sea launched in Early Access on Steam last year. Sunless Sea iterates on the world already thoroughly fleshed out in Fallen London (a popular free-to-play browser game from the same developers) but with a slightly more action-oriented approach to its gameplay. It's a game that tangles you up in its lush descriptions, its unsettling characters, and its stunningly surreal locations, and after several months in beta the full version has just been released. 

I reviewed Sunless Sea when it made its debut, but plenty has changed since then. The timing based combat system it once had has been replaced with a much more active system that will have you carving wide arcs in the Zee to point your cannons at your foes. The Zee itself, static and predefined when I wrote my review, is now a procedurally-generated enigma, dropping carefully designed sections in at random. They've also invited many guest writers including Meg Jayanth of 80 Days fame to fill out the world even more. Sunless Sea wasn't exactly hurting for great writing even in its beta stages, so this only gives me more to look forward to when I replay it.

If you'd like to read a review of the game in its completed state, swing by Eurogamer for Simon Parkin's particularly vivid take. Otherwise you can pick up a copy for yourself on Steam or Humble for both Mac and Windows. Happy sailing!

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Posted at 01:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Second Life WWII Roleplay Game Set in Nazi-Occupied French Town is Also Great Idea for a Sandbox MMO

Second Life WWII Roleplay

Zoe Connolly pays a multi-part visit to the Secodn Life sim of New Bastogne, which has been created to look like Caen, France in 1944, and is the location for a brilliant roleplay game:

You can play Axis, Allies, or even French citizens (as either collaborators or part of the Resistance). [Above] night falls and battle lines are drawn. The Allies maneuver and hide... waiting for their best opportunity to attack the Nazi occupiers.

The sim runs on the VICE combat system, so this is straight up combat gaming, and I gotta say: This is a great goddamn idea for a sandbox MMO. Second Life is pretty excellent for prototyping game concepts, but I'd love to see a single-shard, massively multiplayer version of New Bastogne running on the latest game engine. Anyway, if you want to visit the city under siege, here's the SLurl to copy/paste into the Second Life viewer of your choice:

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Posted at 11:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Kickstart This: Underworld Ascendant, Reboot of Groundbreaking Game Which Inspired Numerous Noteworthy Immersive Worlds - Including Second Life

Underworld Ascendant is a new Kickstarter, and it's a reboot of Ultima Underworld, a 1992 PC game that's inspired countless game/virtual world developers. Created by Looking Glass Studio, Ultima Underworld was the progenitor (directly or indirectly) of the Thief franchise, the Deus Ex franchise, the BioShock franchise, Skyrim, Dishonored, Dragon Age, and countless others. (Developers who worked on many of those games are leading development of Underworld Ascendant.) And New World Notes readers will find this particularly interesting: Ultima Underworld even inspired the creation of Second Life.

Yes: As Linden Lab founder and Second Life co-creator Philip Rosedale told me for my book, Ultima Underworld is the game that confirmed to him that his vision of being an avatar in an immersive virtual world was technically feasible:

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Posted at 02:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Sims 4's First Expansion Could Be Just What the Sim Doctor Ordered... Or Not

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

The first full expansion pack for The Sims 4 was announced yesterday, scheduled for release this April. You could be forgiven for thinking that Get to Work is the game's second expansion after the nature-themed Outdoor Retreat released last month, however that was technically a "Game Pack" and not an expansion -- the equivalent of the neighborhood sets sold in The Sims 3 Store. But that's beside the point.

Opinions on what's been shown from the upcoming expansion seem mixed. On the one hand, it's the first major piece of content for a game that could desperately use more major pieces of content (something I gestured at in my review of the base game for Paste last fall). On the other, it has some uncanny similarities to expansions released for previous Sims titles, serving as an unpleasant reminder of the repetitive, cyclical, money-draining nature of the franchise. 

But The Sims 4 is a bit of a special case, even compared to its predecessors...

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Posted at 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Twitter CEO Basically Admits Pseudonym Policy a Disaster

Twitter pseudonyms

Hey remember when Twitter's CEO said this about running a social network without real names, which we thought seemed super cool?

In a recent open house at the company, CEO Dick Costolo talked about how the service doesn’t really care what your real name is — all it wants to do is connect you to the information that you care about. And if that information happens to come from a “real” person, then so be it; but if it comes from a pseudonym, then that’s fine too

Well, that was four years ago. Since then, the social network's been inundated by vicious trolls, the worst of whom almost always being pseudonymous users without real names or identifying information attached to their accounts. (GamerGate is just one noteworthy example from thousands which choke Twitter's channels everyday.) So here's what Twitter's CEO is saying now:

We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years. It's no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day... We're going to start kicking these people off right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them... Costolo's comments came in response to a question on an internal forum about a recent story by Lindy West, a frequent target of harassment on Twitter. Among other things, West's tormentors created a Twitter account for her then recently deceased father and made cruel comments about her on the service.

The thing is, Twitter's already tried protecting its users from abuse; but with hundreds of millions of them, it would take a gargantuan work force to stem the tide. Requiring users to register their real name and real details with the service would help with self-policing quite a bit, because then, other users could hold them accountaable... but the company has defined itself against doing that.

And here's the result from a financial perspective:

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Posted at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

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 this means that is greater than the city area of Los Angeles (1,290" 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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Posted at 03:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

The Case for Clearer Names: Here's Why Second Life Designers Should Keep Things Simple

Second Life Color Wheel
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

There are a lot of Second Life designers whose creations I just never wear. It's not because I don't like them, it's not because they're not my style, and it's certainly not because I don't buy their releases. Quite simply it's because I can never find their products when I'm looking to fill in a blank in my outfit. 

It's because I'm searching for something pink instead of Peachy Keen.

It's because I'm searching for a skirt, and not Genevieve.

Straightforward item naming may not be glamorous, but it's important. Here's why:

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Posted at 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

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