Monday, March 24, 2014
Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week
- Why is Second Life Starting to Add Private Sims After Years of Steady Loss?
- 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)
- Rising Star: Here's the Latest Tutorial for Avastar, A Second Life-Oriented Blender Plug-In That's Making Waves
- Linden Lab Can't Just Survive by "Fixing" Second Life - a Linden Vet Explains the Company's Diversification Strategy
- Iris Rants: Animal Crossing: New Leaf Is Not a Poster Child for Diversity in Gaming
Friday, March 21, 2014
Try Them On This Weekend: SLink Visage Debuts Second Life Mesh Head Line With "Sisters" Becky and Emma
You've probably been seeing this woman's face all over Second Life lately, and if not SL then certainly most metaverse fashion blogs. Between Becky and her older sister Emma, modelled in the crisp and almost uncanny image above by talented fashion blogger Cherylblossoms, SLink's new Visage mesh heads have quickly become a success. The Visage heads are very expressive, and particular care has been put into how the entire face displays an emotion as opposed to just the eyes and mouth. We tend to focus on those two features, but when the rest of the face isn't moving with them it creates a straight drop right into the Uncanny Valley. These full-face expressions give Becky and Emma a much more realistic edge over the competition, and makes both seemingly ideal for virtual photographers.
But here's the real selling point: Much like SLink's equally popular mesh hands and feet, the skin of the Visage heads can be changed using appliers, which means that unlike many other mesh heads there's a good chance that very soon you won't need to tear yourself away from your favorite skin brand to enjoy it.
On the other hand, liking a mesh head often comes down to liking the face regardless of the technical features behind it, and I'll admit that Becky and Emma haven't quite hooked me. I have my fingers crossed that designer Siddean Munro will be making even more faces to fill out the SLink Visage line and that one of them will win my heart, but until then I can still appreciate the craftsmanship on these sisters.
You can take Becky and Emma out for a spin at SLink [SLURL], or visit designer Siddean Munro's blog for more information.
How to Do Normcore With Your Second Life Avatar
- "Ruth your hair. Yes, that’s right. Ruth it. Ruth it all day long. If you aren’t brave enough, just use old sculpt hair. Buy old hair from B@re Rose in a funky color, or old Nylon outfitters creations. Boom! #normcore at your front door. You are so cool without realizing it.
- "Don’t flaunt it. Don’t go overboard. It’s okay to sport SOME mesh stuff, just don’t go completely there or else it’s like you’re doing too much. You want a little retro for your look or else hel-lo, 2now4us.
- "Don’t wear an AO. AO’s are for people into their avatars. Are you into your avatar if you’re #normcore? No. You are not."
And so on, and so hilarious, so read the right rest now.
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Iris Rants: Animal Crossing: New Leaf Is Not a Poster Child for Diversity in Gaming
One of the showstopping talks at GDC yesterday came from two of the developers behind Animal Crossing: New Leaf. At their panel "How to Turn a New Leaf at the Animal Crossing," project leader Aya Kyogoku and producer Katsuya Eguchi spoke at length about how they tried to make their game as appealing as possible to its audience. Both agreed that a key part of New Leaf's success was diversity. Diversity of gender and life experiences of the developers played a key role, they said, because the Animal Crossing series' audience is itself very diverse.
There were a lot of particularly positive and encouraging statements made about the importance of including female developers in this, which helped make the panel a darling on Twitter and across various gaming news sites. There's just one problem: New Leaf is not a very diverse game.
Linden Lab Can't Just Survive by "Fixing" Second Life - a Linden Vet Explains the Company's Diversification Strategy
The lamented, limbo state of Linden Lab's Versu project has provoked many Second Life users to wonder why the company doesn't just focus on its core successful product (that is to say, Second Life), instead of having invested in many others (like Versu) that went nowhere. But Linden veteran Yoz recently stopped by NWN comments to explain the harsh reality:
"If Linden Lab were simply to focus on 'fixing' Second Life," he wrote, "improving the experience, and getting it to a place where all its current users were something approximating 'happy', then it still wouldn't be enough to guarantee the company's future. You have to try radical new projects, you have to get them out to the public to see if they work, and even then it's almost certain that most of those projects will fail. You learn from those necessary failures and you do something better next time. Occasionally, one happens to succeed. (In this case, Blocksworld.)"
In any case, Yoz also has some experience with these other Linden Lab projects, including Versu, and shared insights there too:
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Rising Star: Here's the Latest Tutorial for Avastar, A Second Life-Oriented Blender Plug-In That's Making Waves
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.
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 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:
The Family That Plays Together: Pixelkin.org Takes The Mystery Out of Gaming With Your Kids (or Parents!)
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.
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:
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".