Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Marriott's Oculus Rift "Teleporter": Cool Way to Make VR Mass Market -- Or Mere Marketing Gimmick?

Marriott Hotel's "Teleporter" combines Oculus Rift technology with various hardware (like a wind machine and water spray) to simulate teleportation to beautiful places like a Hawaii beach and a London skyscraper -- watch:

Obviously this is a cute marketing stunt by Marriott to promote the hotel chain as forward thinking and hip, but it might also be a really compelling way to easily convey the power of VR to a mass market of non-gamers.

But which is it? Well, that's where you come in, dear reader and VR fan. The teleporter is touring the country now, but not in my neighborhood any time soon. So if you get a chance to check it out, and I'd love your opinion on how compelling and immersive this really is. Here's the itinerary:

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Family Portraits: This Second Life Photographer Has a Knack for Taking Snapshots of Domestic Bliss

Amelie Fravoisse Arcade Contest
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

As hard as it can be to portray static Second Life scenes and objects realistically, it's exponentially harder to get the same realistic results out of subjects in motion -- or at least that we would expect to be in motion. Most Second Life avatar photography is done with the help of poses that essentially freeze the avatar in specific positions, which can often work against the feeling of life and movement we may want to capture in a scene.

That's what makes Amelie Fravoisse's SL photography stand out. Although her gallery offers a solid variety, it's her intimate little family snapshots (like the one above, her entry for SL event The Arcade's photo contest) that tend to leap out at me. Everyone is always doing something, and no one looks like a piece of furniture. These are much more natural scenes than I'm used to seeing when I look at images of avatars, even though they're each carefully staged so that everything is precisely where it needs to be to look effortless and inviting. Amelie's family screenshots float around somewhere between the realm of reality and the realm of what you might find painted on a series of almost overly-precious collectible plates. Every scene is uncannily perfect, but still manages to be believably human.

Be sure to visit Amelie's blog for details on all the items shown in the picture above, as well as many more adorable family-focused SL pics.

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Posted at 11:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Bookmark

Here's Why Everyone's Talking About the Latest Lord of the Rings Game

ShadowofMordor_Screen6-1024x576
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

If you've been hearing some chatter about newly-released Lord of The Rings RPG Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, it seems like it's not just because its the flavor of the week in gaming circles. With movement inspired by Assassin's Creed, combat inspired by Batman: Arkham Asylum, and a story rooted in one of the most successful fantasy franchises of all time, there's certainly a lot of meat on this title's bones.

But none of that is what's got me interested in the game. All of those things are just gravy on top of the real draw to Shadow of Mordor: The Nemesis System, a mechanic that's already behind some tantalizingly unique player stories. All you have to do is look at some of the game's early reviews to see what I mean...

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Why Are Videos of People Playing Videogame So Popular? Janine "Iris" Hawkins Explains

Videogame play videos

Did you know that YouTube videos of people playing videogames are so incredibly popular that the top channels are bigger than those devoted to most Hollywood and pop music stars? Yes, it's true. Among the biggest, for example, is a dude name PewDiePie, whose YouTube channel has over 30,000,000 subscribers. (That's more viewers than a lot of well-known TV shows!)

Why is this? In Janine "Iris" Hawkins' latest post for Paste Magazine, she explains how this came to be: "Let's Play videos are phenomenally popular among gaming fans," as she puts it to me. "Some are about skill, some are about speed, some are about humor, but others are just about relaxing. They cater to gamers who experience ASMR." I.E., Autonomous sensory meridian response, usually a pleasant tingling sensation. Yes, there are game-watching videos devoted to creating that soothing feeling. (One ASMR video channel, as Iris notes, has over 30,000 subscribers.) That in itself is fascinating, but as she goes on, this also speaks to a larger game industry shift empowered by user-generated content:

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Watch This In-Depth Look at Character Creation in BioWare's Highly Anticipated Dragon Age: Inquisition

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

Dragon Age: Inquisition is one of the games I'm anticipating the most as we approach the end of the year, so naturally my eyes have been glued to the archive of the Inquisition stream that BioWare ran on Twitch.tv earlier today.

In addition to a little taste of the actual gameplay, the reason this stream is so very interesting is because it shows a pretty detailed slice of the game's character creation tools, with a particular focus on the Qunari. This is the first core Dragon Age game where the Qunari will be a playable race, so I've been eager to get a better look at what will differentiate them from the series' other more familiar races. I won't pretend the assortment of horns available is a surprise, but the variety and depth of the available skin tones certainly was...

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Posted at 01:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Bookmark

These Second Life Snapshots are Utterly Fierce (and Photoshop-Free)

Loverdag The Touryuumon Saga
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

SL artist Loverdag recently took a trip to Red Dragon [SLURL] and came back with quite a few gorgeous, Photoshop-free pictures for her Flickr gallery, including the one shown above. While their snapshots may be free of post-processing, they do take advantage of the incredibly popular Chouchou Cinematic HUD, which provides virtual photographers with a letterbox overlay for their Second Life snapshots without needing to process the images through any 3rd party software. I addition to being a prominent recurrence across much of Loverdag's gallery, a quick Google Image Search will turn up some jaw-dropping SL photography made possible with the Chouchou HUD, so it should be clear why so many SL artists seem to favor it.

Be sure to visit Loverdag's Flickr gallery for more screenshots in her Red Dragon set, as well as quite a few other breathtaking (and Photoshop-free) pics.

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Posted at 12:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | Bookmark

Top Six New World Notes Posts from Last Week!

Ello Social Network No Ads

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Cannibalization Conundrum: Will Linden Lab's Second Life Sequel Meet the Fate of Blizzard's Titan?

Second Life Blizzard Titan

When Blizzard announced it was cancelling Titan, its long-delayed MMO, a game developer veteran friend who knows some Blizzard staffers told me this was one of the key reasons why: "Blizzard is terrified about cannibalizing World of Warcraft". Which of course made me instantly wonder: Will Linden Lab ever worry that its recently announced Second Life sequel will do the same to SL? After all, World of Warcraft and Second Life are roughly the same age, and while starting to wane, both are still profitable (the former much more than the latter, of course).

Governor Marley has some related thoughts, and a close analysis of Blizzard's "Titan is dead" announcement:

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Posted at 04:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (28) | Bookmark

A Second Life-Based Mini-MMO Called Godswar: The 100

GodsWar Second Life RPG

Godswar: The 100 is a SL-based roleplaying game and mini-MMO which plays out on a single sim, and it has a cool premise:

"[It's] based around the idea that the Gods and mythical creatures are real," explains player and longtime SLer Arwyn Quandry. "The lore is incredibly deep -- you can be there for months or years and not know everything about the story, which was originally written by the owners as a tabletop roleplaying campaign. It had two previous versions, New Babylon and Lost Vegas, but the current version is based on alternate timeline at the very beginning of the story, where 100 people are discovering that they have supernatural abilities and being drawn into a battle that will end civilization as we know it. And yes, they die -- it's a permadeath sim with an advancing plotline driven by the players, all grounded in a real-world roleplaying system (Tri Stat dX)."

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Posted at 02:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | Bookmark


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