There goes the neighborhood: Second Life to join Steam gaming platform

Linden Lab recently announced that Second Life will soon be available on the Steam gaming platform, potentially making it available to the 40 million+  Steam customers.

Not being much of a gamer, I have tried my best to figure out exactly what Steam is.Mostly, I just gave myself a headache.Best I can tell, the Steam network was created by Valve, and they describe it like this:

Steam guarantees instant access to more than 1,800 game titles and connects its 35 million active users to each other—and to us. Through Steam, fans can easily buy, play, share, modify, and build communities around Valve products as well as titles from other independent game studios. Steam is available in 237 countries and 21 different languages.

My first impression was “Facebook for gamers”. You can chat with other members, form groups and, for a price, play a multitude of games. There are hundreds of titles, including some of the most popular games on the market. This is hardcore gaming. Steam also plans to add both creative and productivity software to its lineup

So, how will SL fit into all of this? Well, lets here from some steam members:

“This is dangerous stuff, I’d rather get outta the house and find real friends rather than socializing with 50yr old people acting to be in their 20s.”  – XDeepS

“The biggest surprise to me is that Second Life is still going! Is it not full of douche bags like PlayStation Home?” – Phill Watts

As you can see, they are really excited! It will be interesting to see how many Steam members are going to be willing to actually journey into Second Life. If they do come in, will they stay? Currently, Second Life does not have the graphics or the interface offered by most of the games you will find on Steam.Perhaps this is why LL has announced plans to upgrade the graphics ability very soon.

One interesting thing I noticed was that, although games are rated, there did not seem to be much in the way of age verification. It will be interesting to see what happens when Little Johnny logs in and decides to check out the Sexy Nude Beach sim. Do SL users automatically become Steam members? Can Steam members use a TPV? This venture raises so many questions, and there is, as usual with LL, not much in the way of answers.

Criticism and sarcasm aside, this could, possibly, turn out to be a good thing. I certainly like this direction than the previous attempt to turn SL into some sort of Facebook offshoot. Gamers who are interested in creating games and testing them could find SL quite advantageous. Also, from what I have read, connecting to steam will have no impact on how those of us who are already here login or go about our business. Every venture has risks, but at least LL seems to have a vision for keeping Sl relevant and viable in the years ahead. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Steam at Wikipedia

Steam home page

When mesh goes wrong or “how I hid a small turkey in my pants”

I have come across a disturbing fashion trend that looks to have been brought on by the advance of mesh.

I am talking about the bizarre mesh pants that have a crotch that comes to just about knee level. They are not hard to miss. Just about any designer that is dabbling in mesh has kicked out a pair of these things and for the life of me, I don’t know why.

I mean, look at these pants in the photograph. It looks like I am carrying a sack of potatoes inside my pants, or worse. I am not even going to mention where they came from, because it would not be right to single anyone out. Besides, these are pretty tame compared to some that drop down to the knees.They are everywhere, usually modeled by a pouty mouthed elf girl with hips the size of a volkswagon.

Like plutonium, mesh is a wonderful tool until it falls into the wrong hands. All I can figure is that some designers decided that actually creating something that resembles actual pants with some style to them was way too tricky, so they just threw these things out and figured they would start a new trend. Typicaly though, fashion in SL tends to mimic fashion in the real world. I mean that was the idea of mesh, right? It was supposed to help us bring more realistic shape and flow to objects.

I searched far and wide to find anything in real life fashion trends that resembles these droopy drawers. I could find nothing. Even teenagers won’t wear these pants! I mean baggies they aren’t. Baggies sag form the top, not from the bottom. Any rapper, or gangsta wannabe can tell you this.

And speaking of rap.

I did FINALLY manage to find a real life fashion trend to match these pants. However, I had to go way, way back to the 80’s when hair was big, but the baggie  trousers where even bigger. They were knows as baggies, banana pants, parachute pants and …well, unless your name was MC Hammer or Vanilla Ice, you looked silly in them. In fact, if your name was MC Hammer or Vanilla Ice, you still looked silly.

That is where these pants came from, and do any of of us really want to go back there? No. Not even Vanilla Ice wants to go back there. You would not even catch MC Hammer himself in these things today. I am officially ranking this style right up there with bling and the mouth chew necklaces and will slip back into my comfy jeans. Meanwhile, here is “U Can’t Touch This”

FASHION VOODOO 2012

Had some time this week to check out the Fashion Voodoo urban style fashion fair and was really pleased. The event is sponsored by Depraved Events who do some great events and features over 100 labels including Insanya, Razorblade Jacket, Beeleza, Kmadd, Gawk!, Ducknipple and many more.

A lot of it is urban style, but this fair stretches out a bit and you will find everything from high fashion to lowbrow. There is a lot of mesh to be found, most of which wont fit me of course, and plenty of unique event only pieces. What I really liked, was the easy time I had shopping on the Fashion Voodoo sim. Normally the fashion events are one big lagfest where one is advised to strip off all attachments and prims just to make the experience functional. Not here. I visited the sim on three separate occasions over two days, with me wearing all the attachments that my little avi can carry, and had very little lag issues at all.

The shops are also laid out nicely in a very open setting so it was pretty easy to check out every store. The event runs through August 30th, so there is plenty of time to stop by.

Fashion Voodoo 

Snow Crash, the book that imagined a metaverse, turns twenty years old

In 1992, Neal Stephenson published a book entitled “Snow Crash” that in many ways predicted a virtual world like Second Life. While Stephenson’s ideas for a virtual world were much more dramatic, his terminology and vision shaped the virtual world we know as Second Life.

Terms we use every day, such as “metaverse” or “grid” or even the word “avatar” stem directly from this book. Every time you talk about “rezzing”, thank Mr. Stephenson.

Set in the distant future, the book introduces us to “Hiro Protagonist”. Hiro, a pizza delivery boy for the mafia by day,  is also a hacker/ninja warrior in the virtual world, aka the metaverse. In Stephenson’s metaverse, folks like Hiro log into a three dimensional world using a digital representation of them self,  called an avatar, to navigate through a virtual setting where information and data is stored in buildings instead of a flat webpage. Snowcrash also features a digital atlas called “Earth” that has an amazing resemblance to what is now “Google Earth”

Sound familiar? Second life creator Philip Rosedale acknowledged that some of his ideas for Second Life came from the book. A 2010 broadcast on NPR includes  Rosedale talking about how the book, a gift by his wife, inspired Second Life.

In Snow Crash, Hiro is asked by an ex girlfriend to help figure out how an online virus, called Snow Crash, is causing hackers to die in real life. Along the way, we meet bionic guard dogs that move at the speed of sound, a United States that is broken into corporations, a scateboarding delivery girl named YT (short for “Yours Truly”) and a media evangelist, L. Bob Rife, who has founded a religion (L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology?) that is housed on a floating city that consists of the former USS Enterpise aircraft carrier and 100’s of attached floating rafts and boats.

The book described how a language based on early sumarian can work as “code” for the human brain and what can happen when that code falls in the wrong person’s hands. (Go ahead and laugh, then watch somone “speaking in tougues”.)

I first read the book in 2000 and have read it about five times since. Not only is it my favorite science fiction novel, it would definitely rank high on my list of best books that I have ever read. Time magazine listed Snow Crash in its list of 100 all-time best English-language novel

Having read the book and loved it, I guess it should not have been a surprise to me that when I would eventually stumble up Second Life, I would become immediately fascinated with it.  One of my avatars is based highly on one of the books main characters, YT. All of this came back to me today when I read that Paramount Pictures has announced that it intends to make the book, now 20-years old, into a movie with Joe Cornish (Attack The Block) directing. If you have never read Snow Crash, I urge you to give it a try, espeically if you enjoy Second Life. Meanwhile, you can get a taste of Snow Crash in world at an exhibit sponsored by the University of Texas San Antonio. The exhibit, developed by Igor Ballyhoo in collaboration with Rebeca Bashly, uses a setting from the book as a way to display works by some works by prominent SL artist. The setting is the aircraft carrier owned by the Rife with dozens of attached rafts showing various works of art.

More about Snow Crash here

The UTSA exhibit “Snow Crash”

It’s Duran Duran’s Universe (and we are all just visitors)

How do you describe the Duran Duran Universe?

Take Jane Fonda from Barbarella, sprinkle in some Blade Runner, let Andy Warhol blend it all together (for 15 minutes only), give it a good run through the transporter of the Starship Enterprise and set the entire thing to a thumping soundtrack for THE pop band of the 80’s, and you have a pretty good start.

Officially opened in 2011, The Duran Duran Universe (DDU) is, according to the band’s website, the permanent virtual residence of and by the band Duran Duran. If you have not yet not been to the DDU sims, you owe it to yourself to run, not walk, and give it a visit. Although the bands music and imagery are certainly evident throughout the area, the sim is much more than just an all out tribute to a musical group. Using some really interesting visual and sound arrangements, The DDU is a virtual feast for both the ears and the eyes.

A  lipstick shaped tower-nightclub  reaching into the sky, a giant retro phonograph club, geometric light displays, plus a mountain range of snow capped eyeballs staring back at me all combined to make my avi felt like it was on acid (again) as I explored the location. My favorite spots were a tunnel of light that made me long for my Spirograph from chidhood, plus a…well, it is sort of like a…a…it is an awesome  musical light and sound thingy! (Work with me here!)  Imagine sitting in a chair and you are surrounded by circling boxes each identifying a track of a song. Touch a circling box marked “bass” and a bass line begins. Touch the box marked “vocal” and Simon Lebon is singing to the bassline. Keep adding and subtracting from over a dozen choices and you are creating your own mix of a Duran song.

A few  real word musical groups have tried to establish a presence in Second Life, with mixed results. WIth the DDU, Duran Duran is doing it better than most and seems to take a keen interest in the virtual world. Duringa recent show for the 2012 Olympics, the band used footage from SL in the background during their live performance.

Chrissy Welinder

Chrissy Welinder is the DDU Community Manager and in world face of the DDU. An admitted fan of the band, she keeps everything running in world. I really love how she has taken what could have simply been a typical “Isn’t Duran Duran Awesome” self indulgent promotional space, and made it into a real piece of performance art that any 80’s supergroup would be proud of.

Visit the DDU in Second Life

 

A machinima project reminds me of what we are capable of in Second Life.

Sometimes we think we have seen it all in Second Life. Then someone comes along like KabukFarshore who presents something to us that, at least for me, is a reminder that Second Life is limited only by our imaginations. The film is entitled “echo quietes serenata” and I wanted to share it with you because frankly, I can’t stop watching it. For me, this is so well done that there are moments I forget I am watching something created in Second Life. I found it to be both melancholy and uplifting. (I also love when the music stops and you just hear clapping!) Take a look for yourself:

According to her blog, this work was done as part of the University of Western Australia’s 5th Short Animated Film Festival: “See Wisdom”. The UWA is one of the few reaming universities maintaining a  presence in Second Life.

In her video post, Farshore says the piece is  “a film essentially about how we learn. To me, wisdom is a combination of how we handle things beyond our control (in this case, a small… apocalypse), and how we respond to the situations that we ourselves create.”

See this and more of Farshor’s work here.

The University of Western Australia in Second Life

Linden Lab CEO Rod Humble asks how to make new visitors stick

This is interesting.

While surfing through the user-run SLUniverse online forum I found a series of posts by none other than Linden Lab CEO Rod Humble. A lot of us, me included, often complain that the owners of Second Life never pay attention to the users of Second Life, so it was a treat to see Humble not just posting, but talking back and forth about what can be done to make new users opt to stick around in Second Life. Here is a bit of the question he posed:

Actually I do have a question for folks here. Assuming SL improved performance enormously, from region crossings to lag to render times. (big assumption I know but roll with me here) What would you do to insure new users “stuck”?

Right now after performance our biggest issue is not getting new signups or even people to experience SL for a bit, its turning them into long term users.

Any thoughts on what you would do? We have some ideas but before pulling the trigger I would be curious what folks thoughts are here. The more varied the better.

The responses, as you can imagine, were varied and Humble took the time to reply to several. For me personally, the thing that made me “stick” into second life was mainly meeting someone and talking with them. I think the sooner a new resident is able to talk with other residents, the better.

I really do like the fact that Humble does seem to understand that, despite our bitching, most of us love what SL offers and only complain because we want to see it at its best.  In short, Humble gets it:

With SL, I fully recognise LL has a long way to become liked or even trusted, I do get the sense that almost all criticism I read can usually have the line put in front of it “I love this world and I want it to do well, here is how you can do that .”

Look! I have a Facebook Page! (and you can have on too!)

Once upon a time, it used to be quite simple to have a Facebook page for your avatar, if you wanted one. It was simply a matter of setting up a profile page just as you would for any person. However, somewhere along the way to global domination, Mr. Zuckerberg and his gang decided to get a bit snippy and began weeding out what they deemed “fake” facebook profile pages. We avatars somehow became labelled “undesirable”. Folks in the virtual world are of little interest when you are trying to enslave the entire globe in the real world.

A simple work around is to create a “Facebook Page” instead of a profile. This is the method artists and businesses use to get themselves out there and hoping for your almighty” “like” recommendation. It goes a little something like this:

1. Go to http://facebook.com/pages/create.php and login to a facebook account. If you don’t have one, you will be asked to create one. You’ll probably have to use your RL account to create it. If privacy is an issue, you are safe because no one know that you are the owner of the page your creating.

2.  Select an appropriate topic and category for your avatar or business that you want the page to represent.Considering myself to be multi-talented, I went with the appropriately vague “artist” category.

3. Add as much or as little information as you want. Throw in some pictures and tell everyone how wonderful you are. You really can do a lot with this page. You can add videos and images. You can share articles. If you have a blog, like me, you can connect your blog to your new page so that any posts you public to your blog show up on your Facebook page as well.

I say this is pretty simple, but I need to credit Strawberry Singh for even mentioning that it is possible and showing the way in her blog. If you have never visited her blog, I highly recommend you do. In the meantime, you now have a way to find yourself a home on Facebook with the rest of the minions and while you are there, don’t forget to stop by my page and hit the “like” button!

Dolphin Viewer is making a splash

I wanted to give some praise to a viewer that has recently become my “go to” viewer when logging into Second life. The Dolphin viewer has been a pleasant surprise to me, and quite a few others based on some posts I have been reading.

I know what you are saying.”But Karma, were you not just posting about how the Exodus viewer was ‘making a big splash’? Before that, wasn’t it Kirstin’s viewer?” Well yes. It was. Thanks for noticing. However, Kirstin’s is gone and Exodus development appears to be on hiatus. Fact is, there are a lot of new viewers out there being developed by some really smart people and I like to try them out, so please don’t interrupt me again. Plus it isa great headline. “Big Splash” …”Dolphin”, get it?

Dolphin is V3 based and incorporates some great features into a very sturdy package. My favorite feature is the “machinema toolbar” that takes a lot of great graphic settings and puts them at your fingertips. It is awesome for photography work or filming. The viewer also offers RLV and some great touches to the mapping system. A big selling point on this viewer, and why I tend to always go back to it, is its reliability. As viewer’s go, this thing is a tank. Even with ultra settings, it is hard for me to crash this viewer.

As of this posting, the viewer is considered the second most reliable in Second Life, just behind Firestorm based on crash rate. Combine that with the great graphics and high FPS and you have yourself a winner. There are some other great viewer I will be talking about in the future, but you owe it to yourself to give Dolphin a try.

Try the Dolphin Viewer here

Can SL break the bonds that RL sometimes places on us?

Meet my long time friend, Rick Aurotharius.

In Second Life, Rick is not very hard to miss. He is the ladies man with long flowing hair, chiseled and defined abs, and a keen way of being wicked and flirty, yet sweet anda gentleman at the same time. You can usually find him DJing at some of the better clubs in SL, spinning the latest metal or dance hits, or even rockin’ out some country music. There is almost always at least one attractive young lady nearby when Rick is around.

Rick Aurotharius also has cancer.

It is no secret really. Rick notes right there in his profile that he is a 60 year old guy battling stage 4 rectal cancer. He doesn’t mention that he has been fighting for a long time now, including a long stay in a nursing home. You can bet that while there, one true asset was his computer that let him come in to SL and do what he loves doing. He was kind enough to give me permission to discuss his illness in this posts, because that is the kind of guy he is.

Rick is not alone. I have a good friend in Second Life who is wracked by headaches and constant fatigue and is currently trying with the help of neurologists to find the cause of an ailment that has severely limited what she can do in real life. In Second Life, she has no such limitations.

The use of Second Life as a coping mechanism for real life medical limitations has been an interest of mine that blossomed with a real life experience of mine when, due to some poor behavior in my youth, I landed in a hospital facing not one, but two very invasive surgeries. All went well but the recovery left me severely limited for longer than I expected. Things all of us normally took for granted such as riding a bike, going for a walk or just hanging out in a social setting with friends, suddenly were taken away. In a word, it kind of sucked.Second Life was my way around my restrictions that health had placed on me.

At about that same time, I was given a notecard  from a friend in world. It has circulated a bit, maybe you have even read it yourself. It is an account of someone who meets an interesting man who is fascinated with sailing in Second Life. After initially perceiving a slow response from this person as a lack of interest, the writer of the notem who was using voice, discovered that the man was deaf. A lover of sailing in real life for years, the man now enjoyed sailing in Second Life.

I truly feel that one of the real missed benefits of Second Life is its ability to assist those who are coping with illness or handicap in real life. We hear and read a lot in  the media these days about the dangers of too much logged onto the net, buried in Facebook or texting  and video games. Some of the concern is surely warranted, but I have often wondered, and perhaps one day we will see, if Second Life could not be a tool used by physical therapists or even psychologists in treating real life handicaps.