What a bumper month for gaming and more to come

October 2020, whilst being part of the most awful of years has produced some really interesting gaming developments. The in turn are an escape and get for mental health and well being, or as we used to just call them, fun!

The first one to mention is the brilliant AR physical/virtual crossover of Mario Kart Live Home Circuit. Here Nintendo bring us radio controlled Mario and Luigi Karts.

Mario kart AR
MarioKart Line Home Circuit

These are designed to be controlled using the Switch games console and driven around kitchen floors or where ever works as a suitable space for a race. The Kart itself hosts a camera that shows a grown level eye view of the what you would see if you were hovering above the Kart. So it is not the drivers eye view but a view that lets you see the driver and the kart.

Mario kart AR
Mario and camera

This camera view allows the switch to replace some of the physical view with digital content, such as being able to see the animated Mario looking over his shoulder as he reverses the Kart, or wrestles with the steering wheel. The AR also is able to detect large cardboard gates and which number they are in the 1-4 step, allowing it to superimpose a track shape that you initially set up by driving a Kart around to demonstrate.

Mixed
On Kart view

You can also ice other physical Karts on the same track with up to 3 other switch and Kart owners. Physical effects occur when you hit digital objects such as banana skins. Playing also allows the unlocking of faster Kart formulas that seem really quick when sat at near ground level. It is a really wonderful piece of work.

The following week the new Facebook Oculus Quest 2 VR headset was released. This is an incremental improvement on the free moving non tethered Quest and now also replaced the tethered Rift/S with the use of a USB cable for suitably powerful PCs.

Mixed

There was/is some controversy as it is the first time Facebook has mandated a full Facebook login and only that in order to use the device, which means if you get kicked off Facebook or delete the account you lose all your purchases, which is a bit odd. It also led to a mistake from Oculus to suggest that as you only have one login on Quest 2 you might be in breach of TOS if you have more than one headset active at the same time. This was quickly refuted, but as a long term Oculus owner (i.e. since before Facebook) this seems a ridiculous way to treat customers willing to upgrade. Anyway, lets see how that plays out.

In the world of PC’s a second generation of ray tracing graphics cards from Nvidia were announced and then in short supply the 3* series RTX. My older gaming laptop with its GTX 1070 was starting to struggle a bit with things like full VR Star Wars Squadrons so I decided to get a previous model RTX desktop a 2080 Super and WOW! these things fly.

Star Wars Squadrons in VR is one of the best ever VR action titles. Here is IGN’s gameplay coverage. It is difficult to get right but when you do it feels better than the movies 🙂

Seeing Minecraft with its Ray tracing version is stunning on screen too. The photo will not mean much if you don’t use Minecraft, but the bottom layer is live realtime reflection, tracing every ray of light as it bounces around the view at full resolutions and frame rate. There are a stack of ray tracing and graphical features appearing in games, even Fortnite has it too now. Next month brings next gen consoles too with the very same jaw dropping visuals

Minecraft RTX
minecraft RTX

I also decided, because of Star Wars Squadrons and Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 that it was worth getting a decent new control stick a Hotas (Hands on throttle and stick). These things make so much difference to flying, especially in space and in VR. Twisting and rolling get really intuitive.

This is the first desktop PC I have had for years, and now I have a glass side to it to show the me glowing and pulsating LED lighting on the gfx card that can be set to all sorts of patters and atmospheres too.

My Microsoft Flight Sim 2020 adventures continue, now with added gfx horsepower and I have take to having a little commute at the end of each working day before leaving my office. Randomly pick somewhere in the World and head out for 10-15 minutes. It is very relaxing.

Such as below, Athens, Northwest Canada, a 747 heading into the sunset and the souther tip of South America in the clouds.

Athens by Night
{
NW Canada
sunset
Southern Time of South America

I also gave a on VR head tacking a bit of a go with open track being driven from an iPhone app to allow the camera movement in Flight Sim to be driving by small head movements. VR is better, but this still gives something to add to the realism.

Tomorrow sees the launch of Watch Dogs Legion the first of the AAA xmas block busters, bring it on, lets play 🙂

Amazing phone scanning and AR animation

In a break from the all day video calls and events I just quickly downloaded Qlone to my Iphone. I also printed out the black and white scanning reference map. This technique of a reference mat and moving the camera has been around for decades to varying degrees of success, so I was not sure how it would fair.

Superplastic

In about 1 minute of waving the phone around to fill the visual indicators on a virtual dome over this character I had a scan of him. A full colour 3D model in the app. I was so impressed with the initial quality I paid for the upgrade to it which did this remarkable thing.

Bear in mind the figure is just a bit of plastic, I did not highlight any joints or add any context to the model, but magically it just was able to walk around and animate itself instantly.

It can export to a multitude of 3D formats so I think I will have to get Unity back up and running again. Very impressed, well done Qlone

Flying virtually to a real virtual place

We don’t get to travel much at the moment so being able to virtual visit places is fun. Of course visiting places that exist, but don’t exist, yet do are even more fun 🙂

Today is a slightly odd day as Predlet 1.0 is heading back to a face to face class at 6th form college for the first time since february and the 2020 lockdown. To avoid cramming into a train I need to drive here the 20 mins to college so I am up bright and early, so a good time to share this post which I put both on facebook and twitter yesterday, but is something more memorable (for me anyway).

Microsoft FlightSimulator2020 came out in mid August and I have always been a fan of flight sims in general, but this one lets you fly anywhere in the World because it uses Microsoft’s Bing photographic maps of the globe and combined that with a bunch of other data sources to create buildings, trees, traffic and even realtime weather for anywhere you choose to head to. The standard thing to do is jump in a plane and fly over your own house, we have all done it. You can pause the flight and jump off in a camera drone to explore the view and it is quite fascinating. You can of course do this with things like google maps and street view, I have played with that in VR too, where I actually found myself walking out of the train station. However the live digital twin of the world and the fun of actually flying different types of plane really give flight sim something else. Hence, I thought I would visit somewhere that is real, but also fictitious or virtual in one of my little planes.

When I wrote the first novel Reconfigure I set Roisin’s adventure in a very british style edge of town/city environment with lots of access to countryside and some rural locations. Whilst the science of the coordinate system was consistent with itself, the entire place was a mix of images in my head of places near me or that I have visited. When it came to the follow up Cont3xt I challenged myself to find a more exotic and remote location. As I wrote back then I found an actual island for sale and used Google Earth to scout the location off the Brazilian coast. I used Street View to head to the local mainland town and wander around to get the feel of the place. Lots of the things in the book, despite it being scifi, are based on real things. It is worth noting Roisin has a real Twitter account (key in the original story), Marmite is almost a second character, she builds systems using Unity and even uses protocols like MQTT sole some things. OK the quantum computing part is a bit more off the chart but its all based on real theories extended a little to tell a good yarn.

Along come Flightsim2020 with the ability to fly anywhere in the world. The navigation map to select where to fly lets you click anywhere but it works best if you have an airfield to start from, it feels more like a real journey. Whilst the main town in Cont3xt has an aiport there is also a grass landing strip on another island about 1 mile east of Roisin’s island. I headed there.

Flying over my books island http://cont3xtbook.co.uk
Landing strip

I took off, avoiding the trees at the end of the runway and as I banked and levelled on the right course, there it was.

Flying over my books island http://cont3xtbook.co.uk
heading to the island

I got quick a shiver down my neck and back as it took me back to the buzz of writing the books and the fun of the story and adventure, the anticipation of the fun others might have reading it.

Flying over my books island http://cont3xtbook.co.uk
Overview with the plane

The island in context has a slightly larger building and a helipad, plus a large “container” but of course they were the artefacts I added in the story.

I also then headed North, a trip that used boats in the book, toward the main town.

Flying over my books island http://cont3xtbook.co.uk
Heading to town

And there it was the jetty and the market shops that Roisin tries to stay out of trouble in while gathering supplies (including more Marmite)

Flying over my books island http://cont3xtbook.co.uk
Town

I then flew back, over the island again and landed (yes actually landed not crashed) the plane one the grass strip nearby.

Flying over my books island http://cont3xtbook.co.uk
Heading back

The whole flight was awe-inspiring. I realise that its more of an incredible personal experience for me as a writer but it made me consider the sort of images and film like sequences I saw in my head that I then wrote in the words. It made me smile doing it and writing this 🙂 I hope you get a kick out of this too.

Sansar-Lost Horizon party in VR

Last weekend, Friday 3rd July and Sat 4th July 2020 the virtual world Sansar hosted the Glastonbury Shangrila set of gigs called Lost Horizon. I decided I really should attend as it looked such an epic lineup and attempt to put on 3pm-3am constant music over several stages for 2 days, in VR.

Sansar was originally a Linden Lab( Of Second Life fame) spin off, focussed on using newer tech to get people into the environment. I was in there back in 2017 importing a tilt brush sculpture into my own space. I had been in the early beta but it was all NDA so I didn’t post photos until it went live.

Now #sansar is live I can post my google tiltbrush import #art
Early Sansar

Sansar was recently sold off to Wookie Ventures, but I was pleased to see that my Sansar account even from back then still worked, and I had the “look I have been here since year dot” style level on my profile.

I had a quick look around new Sansar the days before the event, you know to get the avatar in good shape and not look a total n00b moving around etc. It had changed a lot, very much in keeping with the style on VR apps with pop up menus you can place in space or float from you wrist. It also looked and sounded great

OculusScreenshot1593535943
New Sansar Nexus

Incidentally, for some reason all the photos I took from within the Oculus wrist band came out square, it all looked much better in VR and moving.

I visited the popular 2077 cyberpunk world too, again all as prep. All very much in keeping with the whole scene, and great to see Max Headroom (look him up kids) on a screen for my generation of geeks.

OculusScreenshot1593535751
Cyberpunk 2077

The real star though was the set of gigs both of dance music, some urban house or something I don’t even know and some live bands performing all manner of wonderful tunes.

Now this is where my experience may have got a little more freaky. I had my Oculus Rift S ready to go for the visuals, but I also wore my Woojer haptics vest that hits your body with bass lines and clever sensory perception through sound, then that fed to my Nuraphone in ear and over ear headphones, that are tuned to my individual hearing pattern. Its a lot of clobber to be working but it had to be tried. (Note this is all bought and paid for no product placement here!)

Sansar lost horizon
All the kit

As I logged into Sansar and I arrived at the Nexus I immediately got a blast on through all the kit, as I teleported to the first stage I arrived at the landing zone, the stage was a little walk away, but already the dance music bass line was hitting me physically as well as sounding great. I had to turn the haptics down a little to start off with to get used to it as I approached the arena.

Once in, and this applied to all the shows I went to, the DJ, in this case, was green screened into the booth, so whilst we were all avatars, that DJ was theirselves doing their thing.

Sansar lost horizon

Everyone else was an avatar of many different forms, the vanilla basic first avatar to some incredible creations. I couldn’t find my normal predator kit so I went with my second option of green hair and some cyberpunk kit. I also picked up a set of animations and dance moves free form the shop but went on to buy a whole lot more to add to the fun.

The music and the feeling was incredibly intense and I tried all the stages in my first 3 hours at the event. I liked the DJ stuff but live bands were even better.

Sansar lost horizon

I dropped out after 3 hours just to make sure I wasn’t shaking myself to pieces, and to grab some food. I also mentioned it to Predlet 2.0, he installed Sansar and got set up, he didn’t set his VR up but it supports desktop.

He was having a blast with silly avatars too. We were at the Fat Boy Slim gig, as you can see below. Fat Boy Slim is waving in the background. I am rocking a guitar that I went and bought, as I was enjoying the actual bands and Predlet 2.0 was a dancing shark for this one.

Lost horizon festival Sansar 2020
Fatboy slim and us

In Sansar you have a choice about how much you want to interact, I love having lots of dance moves and gesture and string them together in time with the music, it was clear others were just listening, living the avatar to dance, but it’s all good. Predlet 2.0 shark liked doing head spins.

Lost horizon festival Sansar 2020
More shark

You can mix between the first person view, or as in these photos orbit the camera around. If you are dancing its best to see what you are doing with the avatar from the outside.

Occasional crashes or re-sharding sent me back to my own little room but I stayed for another 3 or 4 hours on the first day. Thats a lot of VR and haptic feedback and banging tunes in your head I have to say. I was worn out 🙂

Lost horizon festival Sansar 2020
Waiting to get back in

Some of the venues got us all flying around with low gravity or bouncing pads, so I got to be all rock and roll on a rooftop.

Lost horizon festival Sansar 2020
roof

I got an awful lot of moves and animations, many from names I know well from Second Life. These all strung together in a wonderfully esoteric way and the puppetry of dancing got more and more fun.

It was also clear that there were an awful lot of people with years in Sansar, intricate avatars, lots of youtubers streaming too. Equally there were some people who apparently had never been in any virtual world or games before. These people were sort of amusing in they would arrive and shout to their friend, “can you hear me”, “Is that you?”, “Look what I can do?” which was moderately funny, but then they would start pointing out weirdness in avatars thinking no one could hear them. I had left my channel open so I could. There were also some people, as in any crowd looking for a fight, swearing or being abusive, they were politely reminded by Sansar helpers/bouncers to chill out and that was in fact PG-13. I saw a few of those less capable of enjoying space with others leave, or get booted for being grievers. Its 2006 all over again, as we used to have to do that event at the IBM Wimbledon Second Life event.

I saw a lot of bands, so many I can’t name them all but on day 2 probably about 5 hours in I caught UK metal/punk/street band PENGSHUi and they absolutely rocked. If nothing else it was the mix of styles messing and thrashing my haptic Woojer. It was certainly time to break out the guitar. Yes I even bought the album afterwards, the first music I have bought for years as a memory of the event.

Lost horizon festival Sansar 2020
PENGSHUi

I spent about 10-12 hours in total out of the 24 available. The Woojer and Nuraphones added a great deal to my personal experience. I know a lot of other people were enjoying it and the production was fantastic. It is the best virtual event I have been too, not the longest as 2 weeks running Wimbledon in SL would probably take that record, and that was different. This was pure escapism, rocking music and a bunch of fellow mad virtual world enthusiasts and n00bs alike coming together in this weird locked down pandemic.

If I have note already posted all the photos I managed to take above they are in this album, but go check out the videos and other official content, not least PENGSHUi (Yay I see my avatar)

Or once of the DJ’s like Fatboy Slim (There were multiple shared rooms, looks like I wasn’t in the filmed room this time 🙂 )

Kayaks and Space Stations – a great gaming weekend

Microsofts Game Pass is a great way to get to experience games that you may not have noticed before or to try something completely new. As a subscription you get access to a 100 or so games, in a library that has everything from AAA games to quirky indie’s and also a lot of great retro content.

This weekend I noticed Observation appear on the list by No Code studios and originally released on the PC in May 2019. For me that month is a bit of a blur after the concussion in April so my gaming slowed a bit. Still I was glad to bump into the BAFTA winning experience on Saturday. Now I play a lot of games, I also have written some slightly out there Sci-Fi with Reconfigure and Cont3xt, top that with have watched lots of great mind bending sci-fi movies and shows and read a few books too, and I have to say Observation was up there with some of the best off all those experiences. It had a 2001 Space Odyssey, Moon and Gravity etc feel to it and the story was well slotted into that. As a game the control of a corrupted AI trying to help the remaining crew member but only able to access the ship systems through cctv cameras and an occasional use of a roving sphere was fantastic. The art direction, the tweaks on the camera feeds, the odd outages and secondary systems to access all added to it. So much so that I played it most of Saturday and then Sunday again. It is not a really long game, not a RDR 2 or anything, but its doesn’t need to be as it is certainly longer than any film. The emotional involvement and intrigue as too what was going on was truly engrossing. No spoilers, but it’s suitably trippy. It is certainly one of the best games I have played for story and inventive presentation.

Observation
Observation

My other notable gaming experience was the launch of nDreams Phantom:Covert Ops for my Oculus VR rigs (Quest and Rift S). This introduces a really innovative approach to VR movement and to stealth action games. You play sat on a chair as you are a special ops soldier in a stealthy kayak. You control the boat with your hand controllers by gripping the two ended paddle with each hand and pushing down into the water on alternate sides of the boat. You are trying to sneak into a waterlogged compound and have a variety of ways to get passed guards and their spotlights. Sat on you boat you have various weapons and devices strapped to you and it. The paddle locks onto the left of the boat, a pistol is on your chest, a machine gun on your back, and a sniper rifle on the right. A set of binoculars sits just in front. Using these, some quiet paddling, hiding in reeds and finding tunnels you work your way in. Like all stealth games you don’t want to get into a full on fire fight, but if you do you can survive. Sat in the kayak at the start you can almost feel the water and the damp air. The paddling (despite not having a pole to link both hands) seems to get the shoulders going, especially if you are trying to quickly cross a dark, but open body of water having distracted a guard shooting a light out. The game also is cross play with the same save game and unlocks on quest appearing as the ones I unlocked on the Rift S. The only disadvantage to this is not being able to have more than one save game for other family members to play, a problem across the Oculus range as they are single facebook account machines. Anyway, love it, well done all just up the road in Farnborough, a revolutionary game and really good fun. Check out the official video below.

Phantom Covert Ops

Addicted to bass – Woojer haptics

Sometime last year I backed the second incarnation of a haptic feedback vest the Woojer Edge. Today it arrived and it is quite a piece of kit. No fancy unboxing video from me, not photos, though it was a nice box, but I just ripped it open like I was 5 and it was Christmas. Not please, I backed it, it means I paid for it, so there is no product placement or anything here. I like tech and gadgets and haptics it something I am very interested in anyway.

Woojer edge

What does it do? I hear you ask. It turns sound into more of an impact on the body of the wearer. In particular the more bass notes and sounds, crashes and bangs. You wear it like a regular laptop back with a solid back panel, which can also incorporate a rick for a laptop to be work with it. I didn’t go down that option, yet. It connects to any audio source via a variety of means, bluetooth (which I have not used yet) 3.5mm or usb-c connectors. You attach everything to the small round control panel on the picture above. Then you connect your headphones to it, or you mirror audio, double bluetooth etc. Again I stuck with a 3.5mm connection to get to the experience.

Woojer have a calibration video on youtube which steps you through putting your audio source up to maximum, you don’t have to worry as the Woojer is the volume control for the head phones too and not a straight pass thru of the same max volume. I did this first on my mac and the range of impacts, vibrations and buzz it gave right away made me jump. It is not just a big single bass kicking you. They then direct you to a youtube playlist of tunes with a lot of complex beats that happen to drive the Woojer really well. You have, like any audio system, an up and down control on the impact and effect, cranked right up it can almost be painful, they suggest a lower value that is not a distraction, so you sort of blend to meet your ears and eyes. I had also gone full tilt in using my full over ear and in ear Nuraphone headphones that are balanced to my hearing profile by an app. They are always quite an experience in their own right. They balanced nicely with the bass they deliver around the ear and the body smacking of the Woojer.

Next up, it was over the Oculus Rift S and the PC. After the inevitable update to both oculus and windows I completely encased my head with the over ears and the VR headset and dived into the old favourite beat sabre. Wearing the Woojer felt a little more clunky as 2 of the 9 feedback speakers are in the should strap just above the armpit, but to be honest I forget that detail almost right away. The banging tunes and the frantic sabre action were awesome. Though, for beat sabre I think the beauty is the flow of the sword play almost without any resistance, but this was a borderline thing as it’s really rather visceral.

A couple of those levels and I swapped over to Pistol Whip. I deliberately put it on no fail so I could see what happened in various situations. I dived into the newest map, Religion, not even stopping to swap to the baba yaga guns from John Wick. It was eye blasting, ear blasting and chest lastingly good. The kick from shooting the guns of both the hand controller rumble and the boom the body feels combined with the music and also the definite impact if you get shot was very impressive. I have written a lot about virtual experiences and feeling and remembering them, and I certainly will not forget those first few shots in Pistol Whip. Then the gamer brain takes over, and I was lost in the level. Pistol Whip and Beat Sabre are great flow generators. I got to the end of the level (no other chose as no fail on :). I then had to figure out which bit to unlock and take off first to extricate myself.

I was not sure what the impact on the brain and body was for long term use. Just as some VR experiences can make you feel a little woozy (for many its a no go altogether) bass also makes your stomach rumble and nerves tingle. I remember when the original Battlestar Galactica film was show in sensurround in the cinema in the late 70’s. They used huge bass sub woofers to provide another kick (it was a great film but this was trying to out do the previous years Star Wars). Lots of people couldn’t cope and would leave the theatre feeling ill. I do remember the galactica flying slowly past on the screen as an 11 year old me felt his lunch gurgle, but stay put.

Post Woojer, I feel some tingly buzz, but it’s not horrible, more like one of those shiatzu neck messages have been at work. I will of course experiment on some more things. Looking forward to engines on spaceships in elite and no mans sky. Also there are some great games in my library that really need another look and this is a great excuse. I also will be seeing what its like being on the Oculus Quest and not tethered, probably using lighter in ear headphones. I think it might be cool to watch a few films, like John Wick, Star wars or even…. the original Battlestar Galactica… Ooooh! L8rs…..

Keeping sociable with tech

I was recently invited, as chair of BCS animation and games specialist group to partake in a BCS webinar on cultural enrichment and staying sociable with IT. Between us we discussed Art, volunteering and social engagement and of course games. Take a look, you may find something that interests you, helps you or your friends and family. I definitely need a haircut !

It felt very weird doing that podcast

Usually by this time of year I would have done several presentations on stage or a webinar or some such thing. This year of course we we have all been locked down. We got to 75 days on our chalk board before one of the predlets (following social distancing) walked into the park to meet a friend. That is a long time. We are lucky to have space in the house and garden and lots of things to do, but it clearly has a mental impact.

Lockdown

I have spent hours and hours walking around the garden listening initially to music, then getting really into audible books but also properly regularly listening to Games At Work.Biz pod cast on a Monday. The dulcet tones of my friends Michael Rowe, Michael Martine and more recently Andy Piper talking about all the things in tech that I love was like hanging out and shooting the breeze. Instead of talking I was walking, in order to maintain some level of fitness and get some vitamin d. I had been tweeting about the show and engaging in some extra conversation as thoughts arose so it was funny the last few episodes to get a name check.

I got asked to guest on the show last Friday which was utterly fantastic. However, I realised that I had not really been doing much public speaking so I started to doubt I had the words or thoughts worthy of the show. Equally, its about stuff I care about so there was no way I was going to say no. Instead I bought a new cardoid mic with a spring scissor boom and a pop filter. Yay for the tech. I have been on the show before, after I published the novels but that was November 2015 ! episode 126. It was part of a wide set of publication promotions I tried

Lockdown

I signed into Skype with my Audio Hijack app configured to send my channel of seeking to the communal drop box. We had a slack full of suggested news items (including the ones I added). Then we piled in recording having had a bit of a thread and final item in place. Four of us on a podcast might get tricky, but we all got to say what we needed to say. It was really good fun. It was great timing too as we all went through an amazing time with virtual worlds in 2006-2009 and I was attending Augmented World Expo and some of its events that week. So very fresh in the short term memory combined with long term memory 🙂

The time flew by, it was like the pub getting time called, but for the time I was on it was mentally refreshing. Of course then I was nervous about listening back to it, would it still give me the great buzz that I got to get me into the week. I am please to say it did, I sort of filtered out what I said and took even more notice of what the guys said. It is very different to be in listener mode as opposed to broadcast. Part of the reason Zoom calls are so tricky as most of the time we are receiving info, but we have open cameras so are in broadcast mode. That is tiring.

Anyway… listen to the podcast episode 275 Virtual Chickens, subscribe, checkout the back catalog.

Emotional impact of the virtual – all about the feels

My participation, professional and social, in virtual worlds over many years mixes my tech geek inquisitive builder side with the deep emotional impact of how interactions feel. I still clearly remember events from 2006 that occurred in what we still call virtual. I also still feel the waves of joy and excitement as a fledgling industry grew and the pain of the inevitable bubble bursting. I remember the people who I have grown up with in virtual worlds, friendships that a transcending time and space. I also deeply feel the fear and jealousy that was directed at many of us despite attempting to be inclusive. It was shrouded in the apparent lack of seriousness that comes from games technology, but was really a fear of missing out in human to human communication and of power structures altering. I do think and mourn where we could have been with the virtual, right now, when we need it the most but equally we now have social media deeply adopted. The world is moving, and now everyone has to find ways to communicate that work for them.

I was honoured to be invited to gather around a firepit and chat in Second Life last weekend. It was at 2am my time on Sunday morning. If you were part of that great time around 2006 you will recognise these wonderful people from Billions of Us. I have remained an SL resident and island owner all these years so it was not a resurrection event to sign on and pop along. However, I felt… nervous… Why? I was just going to have a private chat with people who I share social media space with all the time. The reason was we were going to talk about the old days. I have all those emotions tied up in that period of time now also compacted with being locked down at home for the past 57 days.

In order to help deal with some of the demons I felt I needed to upgrade my avatar. My original predator avatar, with striped leather jacket and then a subsequent feeding edge t-shirt is from a very different time. SL has changed to be able to cope with 3d mesh models now, I was a collection of graphic primitive cunningly sculpted and scripted by Sythia Veil. However, I was a processor hog. I had visited a sim and a script had told me I was using up 4% of the processing power on the server, on my own! The client tells you your avatar weight (as in processing required) and I was bloated old and fat at over 50k. I went and found a new and brilliantly built predator avatar on the store, a detailed mesh, with a weight of just 5k. I adjusted it to have a feeding edge logo attached at low cost and also placed clickable versions of both Reconfigure and Cont3xt on my hips, like six shooters. Changing a long standing avatar is not without another range of emotions, but it helped me think about the future not the past, and damn… it looks good, with and without the mask. Well done to undercover for the build!

Avatar upgrade / Modernization
Avatar upgrade / Modernization

I had tweeted about this and was thrilled that Games at Work dot biz talked about it on the podcast. A link very much to the original eightbar crew in 2006 with Andy Piper, Michael Rowe and Michael Martine. Also great to hear Andy also headed into an avatar rebuild. You see its 14 years ago and still very relevant, very personal and are all very connected. Also a wonderful podcast and the Michael’s are now at episode 272 of the weekly event (I will let that number sink in!)

Anyway Sunday 2am rolled into play, I teleported to the fire pit and was there with everyone. It turned out I had not tested the avatar in public so I was over 8 foot tall, but I sat down rather than editing there.

We talked for an hour solid about the good old days and the future, the relevance of virtual worlds to our reality now. I shared how it all got started for me and the chain of serendipitous events and wonderful people that gathered around IBM eightbar. We then took a quick tour of some art installations on the fledgling Billions of Us islands.

A wonderful hour or so with Billions of Us on Saturday night Sunday morning. My new avatar size is now slightly smaller too :)
A wonderful hour or so with Billions of Us on Saturday night Sunday morning. My new avatar size is now slightly smaller too :)

Then we said our goodbyes and I returned home. Both to my own island in SL and then to my office.

That “returning home” is way more emotionally loaded that I would normally expect it to be. It was late, I was tired but…. unlike all this torrent of video calling (and audio) which being people to my screen into my office I felt that for the first time in 57 days I had been somewhere with people, friends old and new. When I woke up in the morning I still felt I had been out. It is this feeling that I have had a lot with virtual world and game experiences but the fact it happened under this crazy pandemic world times and was so liberating and so deeply felt I pity anyone still messing around trying to come to terms with those funny people with there funny avatars and crazy ideas.

Virtual worlds have not gone away. There are many more. Please consider this might be a great mental getaway for many of you. I don’t care which one, and I know community building takes time, but get in one take a look and really think how does it feel.

It was my tribe, it was on a subject we all knew but this is very very real. That one hour made me feel better, really very much better than I have for a long while. If it can do that for me, maybe it can do it for you. 1 hour respite just chatting or wondering around a virtual world. Let me know how you get on.

Animal Crossing Gangsta Rap Style

It’s amazing how quickly some things move in this time of slowed down everything lockdown. I have mentioned several times we are an Animal Crossing obsessed family. It is offering a zen like meditative experience to escape a little every day. Today I saw this and if you play or experience AC:NH it will certainly resonate. Its a properly good rap tune, hits all the right points and references, serious but tongue in cheek at the same time.

Enjoy