Friday, December 21, 2018

Reader Submitted: Game Review - Farm Simulator 17

by Rita Mariner

Have you ever wanted to be a farmer?  Well in real life, I had several relatives who were, so playing this new addiction, was like coming home for me.  I saw a couple of my Second Life friends playing this on line video game and finally decided to check it out, on Steam.  Farm Simulator 17 ( it is up to 19 now).  I started to play and once you figure it out, can be quite addicting.

First off the game does have a bit of a learning curve and the game tutorials suck, so don't waste your time with them.  Go up on You Tube and watch actual videos done by actual players and see how they play the game.  It will save you a lot of screaming and pulling out of fur.  Trust me!

You can play the game, either as a single player, or in multi-player, your choice, You also get a choice of maps to pick from to play on.  I have only done Goldcrest, so I have no idea what the others have to offer.  You can grow crops of 10 different types, raise livestock or doing logging, depending on the farm you pick.

You start out with a basic set of farm equipment, I have three tractors, cultivator, sower, harvester, pickup truck, tipper, a house you can't use. a silo and some sheds and out buildings. You also start out in debt, $55,000.  Each day at midnight, you are hit with vehicle maintenance, land maintenance and debt maintenance, so you better start earning some money off your 3 fields right away.

Fortunately, crops grow fast and they start you off with your first set of seeds and fertilizer, as part of your setup.  You get to pick what crops you can grow, based on the equipment you have available.  You can't grow all the crops available, some require specialize and expensive equipment.

Now if you decide to start off on Goldcrest map, there is an interesting feature to that map.  100 Gold Nuggets!  If you find all 100 Gold Nuggets, the game will credits you with 1 Million in game dollars.  To help you out, you only have to find the first 10, once you stumble across them, which really isn't all that hard.  The first one is in your Chicken Coop.  The other 90 will pop up on the map and you just have to move to them to collect them.  Most are fairly easy to collect.  Others are more difficult, you will need one of your tractors, so you will have a means to climb up to get to the roofs of several of the buildings where the nuggets resided.

How you spend you Million Dollars, once you get is pretty much up to you.  I spent mine, paying off my debt and then buying all the Baling equipment I would need. Also picked up a 4th field and added a couple of upgrades to my land, to boost my income.  Like Bee houses and Solar panels.

You will find as you play,  you will have a lot of work to do, more than you would like, but the game has provided you with an assist, or Helpers.  Remember this though, the Helpers are dumber than a box of rocks.  So they can handle only the simplest of tasks.  Plowing, Cultivating, Sowing, Harvesting anything else and they look at you funny. Also they are easily blocked by anything and can't figure a way around it.  So you will have to do many tasks yet, yourself. As well as, bailing out helpers that get blocked.  The one advantage Helpers have over you.  They can work in the dark!

As you play, you will unlock achievements, I have completed about half of mine, going broke is one I doubt I will make, since I always have a positive bank balance.

Plus to make extra cash, in between harvesting your stuff, you can look at the map and see what other fields around you need work and hire yourself out to them for money..  Now these other job are time time sensitive, so you need to complete them within the required time, which usually isn't that hard.  I usually get them done ahead of time.  I not only get the regular payment, I get a time bonus.  Also the more you work a field around you, if and when you decide to buy it, the cheaper it is.

So if you looking for a game that is relatively slow paced, yet has some challenge to it, Farm Simulator 17 or 19 might fit your bill.  It's a nice way to spend a couple hours, racing around a field at 6mph!

Rita Mariner

Monday, December 17, 2018

Reader Submitted: Game Review - World of Tanks

By Rita Mariner

I first got introduced to on line video gaming, with World of Tanks.  I have always loved tanks, ever since I was a cub. So here was a game made to order for me.  I downloaded the game, which you can play for free.  Ran through the tutorials and then proceeded to play my first tier one tanks..

Now the tanks are divided into various nations and then into various tiers, from I to X. Each tier getting more and more powerful, and expensive, in XP and credits needed to get it.  Each nation is usually divided into subgroups as well.  Light Tanks, Medium Tanks, Heavy Tanks, Tank Destroyers and Self-Propelled Guns (artillery).

Teams are made up a mixture of these tanks that total 15 tanks/SPGs to a side.  Object is to kill all enemy tanks or capture the enemy base.  There are a few different variations of this scenario, but they usually end up the same way,  players usually don't play as they should.

Wargaming has put in many patches to World of Tanks.  Many of which are in my opinion, stupid.  They have buffed already hard to kill tanks to the point, that unless you are willing to actually dip into your pocket and BUY Gold ammo, you will not be able to damage some enemy tanks, meanwhile they have no problem, blowing the turret off of you.

My biggest issue with Wargaming was when they bent to pressure and nerfed the SPGs to death.  They took away our penetration, damage, they said they gave us stun damage, which means nothing, reduced our reload time 10%.  Our reloads are so long now a couple seconds is nothing. Improved our accuracy.  Not by me, I hit less now.   I had one battle I fired at one tank five times, didn't hit it once.  In another battle, I hit a tank seven times and only knocked it's Hit Points down 40%.  If I had not been nerfed, two hits and the tank would have been scrap.  The real kick in the teeth after this was they kept the cost in XP and silver the same to buy the SPGs, which were, at best , 40% of what they use to be.

Now they keep adding new tanks and nations to the game, which was a nice touch, until you start to play them and find the lower tier tanks of the  tree, aren't all that great and it is a pain to play them.  Play them you must, to grind your way through, to earn enough XP and credits to unlock all the modules and finally the next tank in the tier.  Only then do you find, it too is a piece of c**p!  You repeat the process again and again, until you reach a high enough tier, that the tanks no longer sucks too badly.

When I first started the game, the only real issue I had were the Russian Tanks and their Stalinium armor.  They seemed immune to hits.  Which for a real Russian tank was impossible, they were junk, until you realize, the game was designed and is headquartered, in RUSSIA! Do'uh!  Once I got that bit of trivia through my head, I just got down to trying to kill whatever got in front of me, or die trying.

So for the next four years I played constantly, all day long, happily pouring real money into the game, to speed along my advancement and to buy the occasional premium tank.  It was the after they destroyed my artillery and added so many new, nearly impossible to kill new tanks into the game.  Almost making it a Pay to Play/Win game, I lost interest.  I still occasionally will fire up the game and play a couple hours, here and there.  Nothing like I used to play however.  Also I absolutely refuse to spend one more dime on the game, until they fix it, back to they way it was, which means probably never!  Oh well.

Rita Mariner

Editors Note:  Having played a number of Russian tanks in the game, as well as against them, it seems the easiest way to blow one up is to drive it into battle yourself.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Elder Scrolls Skyrim

by Nydia Tungsten

   I am not going to go into a lot of detail of the storyline because that is fantastic on its own, but instead, talk about the possibilities.

   Skyrim came out eight years ago, and it took off like most new games do. I didn't get it right away, but not too much later, I fell in love with it. Most games when new, build a big following and a few years later, they fade into history like Pogs. But Skyrim GREW. On year five, it was still growing, not all by new players, but by current players that have beat the game and all side quest and all the endings...etc etc. And then there are the mods.

Mods for Skyrim exploded onto the scene and the game grew years after it's release. There are LITERALLY thousands of mods. For everything from new race mods and realism mods to down right silly mods made just for the laughs, and there can be a lot of laughs when every dragon is turned into Thomas the Tank Engine. You can have more than one companion with you with some of them, I currently have sixteen running with me, and all but two are Khajiit, (A.K.A. Cat race) and I have fun listening to them talk.

I have player homes, player businesses, and I also have one that modifies outfits. I have over eighty-eight mods in my game, a lot of those are realism mods. And, the thousands of mods I was talking about... don't include all the...sexual mods those alone... make up a good chunk of what you can get it you want them. So depending on the mods you get, Skyrim can become a whole new game with new challenges to over come and new twists on the story line, and once you beat it again, you can change out the mods again for a whole new experience.

     Okay okay okay... I can hear a lot of you saying, "I don't have the money to keep throwing at mods for just one game!" Fear not monetarily challenged gamers, I have the answer for you, because 99.9% of all the mods you can find for this game are FREE! That's right, I too am among the monetarily challenged  and in no way shape or form could I afford to keep up with all the mods I have thrown in and out of my game.

    BUT... IF you have never played the game before and are new to the experience, I HIGHLY recommend doing your first play though with NO mods at all so you can truly experience and appreciate what the mods can do, for me, like with "White Run" has large tall trees everywhere, and not as barren.
 Can you guess who has the Higher armor rating?
    Some of you may not be able to play with a lot of mods installed so one or two will be just fine. And if your system can't do that, no biggie, it is STILL one of the best games I have ever played and continue to enjoy years later.  So if you have the game, MOD it, it you don't have the game, get it, and either way, ENJOY IT!

 I hope I was able to help your experience in some little way, if you have a favorite mod, list it below for others to try and enjoy.

   And remember, games are to be fun SO ENJOY Ans I will see YOU in the grid!

Nydia Tungsten

Monday, August 27, 2018

A Jailbreak In Archeage

By Bixyl Shuftan

A few years ago, Nydia Tungsten wrote about the multiplayer online game of Archeage. The game had a few features that got her attention, such as a playable race of feline people, a crafting system that was more detailed than other MMOs she had seen, and a court system where those whom harass other players can be put on a trial by jury of other players. While this probably reduces the overall level of misbehavior, probably, it's also the way players become pirates, which is a topic in itself. As for those sentenced by the jury, they're sent to prison. 

For Firran (the feline race) and Harani players who misbehave, they're sent to the Solis prison, "times can vary from as little as two minutes to as long as several days." They also get a "debuff" that removes their ability to fight or get on a mount. There are a few things to do there, such as break crates to get the black and white striped jail clothes, do prison quests to reduce their time, or escape.

A few days ago, Umbra Gardenvale told me, "Someone did a foolish thing. (She) got curious if they could fly over the wallls of the Solis Prison, nd got slapped with the prisioners debuff. And now (she) has to wait for the debuff to expire before she can leave." That someone was Jasmine Dawn, whom Umbra snapped a picture of her in prison clothes. "'What happens to Jazz when she's out exploring ArcheAge'," she commented to me.

Jasmine went on to describe her predicament, "Umbra stands outside the gates laughing his butt off while I run around assaulting prisoners looking for a tower key. ...I still managed to get the tower key, twice, ... That lets you inside." And once in, "you get 'freedom wings,' it's a bedsheet with four ropes ... a parachute." What one is supposed to do to escape is, "you sail your butt off the top of the tower, splash down in the ocean and swim your fuzzy butt to Austera." But Umbra told that's not quite what happened with Jasmine, "by 'Sail' she means 'fall in a semi controlled manner' ...Damn near killed yourself jumping out a tower window." Jasmine responded, "(I) sailed the hell out before the debuff hit me again. At least the trusty, dusty ground was there to catch me. I made it to the water, told Umbra he was on his own and i swam for Austera. Freeedom!!!!!"

Jasmine has been up to other adventures in Archeage, such as dungeon crawls and getting a fishing boat. But the jailbreak is something that stands out as nowhere else has she been in that sort of situation.

Source: Archeage Gamepedia

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Copybotted Avatar From Second Life Discovered on OpenSim World

By Bixyl Shuftan

(with help from Nydia Tungsten)

With the collapse of InWorldz, there's been increased focus on the Opensim worlds lately. Most residents of Second Life have been okay with, if not happy about, other virtual worlds. But a few have expressed some caution. Among the worries the skeptics of the smaller OpenSim worlds have is that of copybotting. At least one content creator told me he would have nothing to do with InWorldz as he considered it a copybot haven. This was not true as InWorldz's staff and residents alike would take action against copiers. But what about other places? As often as someone's items up for sale in Second Life get copied and sold as someone else's, is this problem even worse in the smaller grids?

The problem came to light to me when my friend Nydia Tungsten came to me after a trip to the Tranquility OpenSim grid. There, she found a surprise. She showed me a picture of a mesh furry fox avatar being given out at a store that looked just like the recent Jomo mesh avatars which have been available in Second Life for some months. The display claimed they were copyrighted and from the Sacrarium Grid. Other pictures she handed me showed the mesh avatar at different angles. The name she gave me of the place was "Golden River Furry Paradise."

Nydia eventually ran into someone she was told to instant message, Jadore Dior. Jadore told Nydia the group had been in trouble before, saying "we had ban them 'cause we (got a) notice they were Grid copying." Nydia had hoped I could get on Tranquility to talk to her more. But unfortunately, that OpenSim world would be out of my reach. I would have only the information she gave me to work with.

The owner of Jomo was xiaoduo Abbot. I would contact him and let him know about the copybotting. He double checked with me to make sure this wasn't some place in Second Life. He then thanked me for the alert.

As it turns out, the Sacrarium Grid that the copybotters claimed to be from was the subject of a HyperGrid Business article in which the virtual world had taken action against both copybotters and ageplayers. Some of these people had been previously banned from other grids. "Bad actors hop between grids," the newsletter stated. So on the question of do OpenSim worlds try to protect content rights, the answer is yes. What happens next with these Jomo copybotters? Time will tell.

Pictures from Nydia Tungsten
Source: HyperGrid Business

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, August 6, 2018

News and Commentary: Sansar, One Year Later

By Bixyl Shuftan

It was a little more than a year ago that Linden Lab officially opened Sansar, it's "next-generation virtual world which had been in development for over three years, experienced a number of delays, and was the subject of no shortage of speculation by Second Life's residents. My initial impression was that while interesting it's best feature was it's, potential for improvement. Others had a firm thumbs down to the point it couldn't be mentioned in the Second Life Friends Facebook group.

Since then, there have been some improvements to Sansar. Last month, the Lab allowed content creators to sell custom avatars on Sansar's Marketplace. And less than two days later some appeared. As of the writing of this article, there were a total of 43 avatars either available for free or up for sale (some better than others). Among those you can get for free now is the "Draxacoon." The Lab also expanded the number of areas, or "experiences" that residents could have from three to twenty.

There are some visually stunning locations in Sansar. One of the more recent ones is the "Roddenberry Nexus," which according to Inara Pey was launched in August 1. Done by Linden Lab in cooperation with Roddenberry Entertainment, which is run by Eugene Roddenberry, the son of the man who created "Star Trek." Giving it a look, I found it offers more interactivity than previous Sansarbuilds I've seen with a lift that can move you between levels and buttons that when pressed will play recordings, such as one describing the transporter visual effects or the Star Trek Animated Series.

There was also another cooperative build done by the Lab with the help of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Among the most interesting stories I've seen was a video by Draxtor Despress, showing a number of people holding a "Hoverderby" game. These people weren't just looking at Sansar, but interacting.

But there's still plenty to complain about Sansar. Sansar is also a more restrictive place than Second Life. It was widely expected from the begining there would be more restrictions on adult content than Second Life. While I read somewhere at least one builder tinkered with such builds, the most recent set of content guidelines have pretty much stated "no nudity and sex."

Content featuring sexually explicit content and activities, such as pornography, sexual acts, nudity and sexual services, including solicitation and offers for such content, are prohibited.

The Lab does say, "However, in limited educational or scientific contexts, we may make exceptions to these policies in our sole discretion." One example might be the piece of nude artwork Ryan Schultz saw at the Smithsonian art exhibition. But this wasn't the only problem Schultz saw. Even mentioning the names "Sansar," Linden Lab," or "Second Life," on a build could get you in trouble.

Any content or Sansar store listings that contain any references to Linden Lab, Sansar, Second Life, or any other Linden Lab-related terminology that may imply a relationship with, sponsorship, endorsement, or employment by Linden Lab is prohibited. 

So even making a "Sansar" t-shirt would get you a takedown notice from the Lab. And it's not just inworld content as in January, Schultz was asked to remove some pictures, and there appeared to be a problem with the name he was using for his blog at the time, "Sansar Newsblog." Hassling a major source of news about a virtual world you want to get word out about, especially a friendly voice, (and a big source of information for this article) isn't exactly the best of business tactics. And then there's the following line.

Do not upload Content that promotes or could be construed as primarily intended to evade limitations on Prohibited Content.

This line of the Terms of Service certainly leaves a lot to interpretation. Considering the Lab's past behavior, some content creators might decide not to take chances with a certain idea and instead make and sell it on another virtual world. In addition to the lack of a fashion market, this is probably one reason why Sansar has attracted little attention from more than a few bloggers. Though Schultz would say this was a common case of most newer virtual worlds.

For those frustrated by the long time it can take details to rezz in Second Life sims, Sansar can be just as bad or even worse. And there are apparently some problems with buying Sansar dollars in bulk using the "bundle" option.

And of course, while Sansar looks good, it still lacks the interactivity of Second Life and OpsnSim worlds. As it's been stated before, it's like comparing a theme park to a residential area, a nice place to visit, but not one you can virtually live. The examples I've stated are Sansar at it's best. The majority of other "experiences" aren't as good.

For these reasons, the userbase of Sansar remains tiny compared to Second Life. In April, the Newser reported the next-generation virtual world was averaging less than fifty users a day. Schultz went further, saying that the average was never higher than twenty. In fact, the graph he gave showed it was sometimes less than ten per day. For now, it seems stuck at a tiny userbase.

So why has Linden Lab persisted in sticking with Sansar? The question has been raised on whether the Lab has a "cultural shift" away from it's established virtual world to this unpopular newcomer, numbers remained small. Yes, it's normal for a company to want to show off it's latest product. But why leave out it's tried and true moneymaker? Perhaps with the stories about cyber-affairs, incidents like the "flying penis attack" on live TV, being banned from the "Twitch" streaming service due to some of it's sims allowing explicit content, maybe the Lab is feeling it can't really mention Second Life much to a mainstream audience. Another possible reason, with the talk about "safe spaces" at colleges where controversial speech is prohibited, perhaps the Lab is wondering if the next generation is looking less for the ability to express oneself and more about security from what might offend them.

As for the possibility of Linden Lab closing down Second Life anything soon to force it's population to Sansar: not a chance. Near the start of it's development before it even had a name, Will Burns once commented if Linden Lab made such a move, about a third would move onto the new grid, a third to smaller virtual worlds, and a third would give up on virtual worlds altogether. Today, I'd have to say if Linden Lab made such a suicidal move, in my opinion less than five percent would be inclined to move on to Sansar as their primary virtual world. While Linden Lab might survive thanks to it's Blocksworld income, it would be a much smaller company. Of the rest of Second Life's residents, it's my guess about three-fifths would move on to the various smaller virtual worlds, perhaps some moving between two or three to continue to meet up with friends. And the rest would likely give up on anything more than a passing interest in virtual worlds. Even for those who moved, they would most likely not spend as much money. It's one thing to invest money in virtual land and property if you believe the grid will be around for years. But if you're not sure how things will be six months down the road, you may not be so eager to put down that money.

In any event, Sansar is very much a work in progress compared to Second Life, and even the more established Opensim worlds. It still needs at least a year, probably longer, before it can truly stand on it's own. For those who insist Linden Lab should get rid of it, such as one person I talked to who called it "the Edsel of virtual worlds," keep in mind the Edsel was in production for three years before it's makers finally gave up on it. Most likely, it will take longer than that before the Lab decides it's efforts are best spent elsewhere.

Sources: Ryan Schultz (formerly the Sansar Newsblog), Modem World, Sansar , Draxtor Despres,  

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, July 30, 2018

News and Commentary: More On InWorldz's Closing

By Bixyl Shuftan

InWorldz is gone.

Due to shut down on Friday July 27, the place began going down Thursday night as sims were shut down, and people packed their items away as the management stated they would try to save what could be through an OARS. On Friday, people could still log in at 2:30 PST, but soon after when yours truly was there, the last of the sims couldn't be acessed. From the chatter on Discord's InWorldz group, and the newly created InWorldz Disporia and Relay For Life of InWorldz, it looks like a few people were able to hang on for a while and even relog. but by Saturday July 28 at Noon, the last few people finally lost their grip as the place went completely offline.

There's a lot of sadness, confusion, and more than a little anger. And that's certainly to be expected. While HyperGrid Business reported about merchants in the virtual world being "concerned about perceived drop in users and commercial activity and worry that the grid owners are no longer committed to the success of the grid," the announcement on Monday hit people by surprise. "Why did she not have the funds to pay her bills?" As the co-founder of the place hasn't been around for over a year, he can't say. When another noted virtual world, Avination, went down, the reasons were the company's cash reserves being wiped out by thieves using stolen credit card numbers to buy virtual currency, and then a "catastrophic" data loss it couldn't afford to pay to fix. And this grid had a far smaller population, and numbers of private sims than InWorldz. How did a larger gird that escaped problems on this scale go under?

All we have to go on is Beth Reischl's explanation was that she took out a loan from a subsidiary of Paypal, of which she seemed to be saying she'd taken out loans before to cover development costs, and despite the money being available to pay them, for some reason the company declared "non-sufficient funds" and took out a lien against them. She stated when she called them to resolve the issue, the person she talked with was "very combative" in blaming her for the situation, and further attempts to resolve the situation were fruitless.

The Gofundme campaign Reischl started adds to the confusion. Started in an attempt to try to save the grid, once most of the money was raised, she stated that instead the money would be used to help make a new grid. Why the sudden change? Her words, "What then, what about next month?" was a suggestion the money troubles were pretty deep. The sudden change in the reasons for the Gofundme plus questions as to how the Grid could have found itself in need of a loan made for a lot of confused people, as well as a number of angry ones who suspected something fishy was going on.

Those whom were exclusively or mainly using InWorldz have a choice of where else to go. At least one, Mobius, is taking the moment to offer them a break if they move there.

To every resident of InWorldz,

We are sad to see InWorldz go, and you might need a new home so we at Mobius are offering to InWorldz Residents who want to make Mobius that when you order a region with the coupon code TTL31 you get the region 50% off for each month you have your region until you close it down. This offer ends 9/9/2018.

As Hypergrid Business stated, "for people looking for a closed, commercial grid" like InWorldz (or Second Life), which offer greater control over who can get in (such as griefers) and more power to protect content creators, there aren't that many options out there, "The three major closed grids are The Adult Grid, Virtual Highway, and DreamNation. There are also several educational grids that are closed, and some grids run by companies and other organizations that require privacy or control. Almost all other grids are hypergrid-enabled. As of May, hypergrid-enabled grids accounted for 98 percent of all OpenSim land area and 97 percent of all active users." According to a poll Hypergrid is doing, and still ongoing, the results as of the writing of this article suggests the greater shares of InWorldz users are heading to the Discovery and DigiWorlds grids, with Kitely in third place. As of July 28, Hypergrid says in DigiWorldz there have been "more than 250 new user registrations since July 24, and has up up 71 new regions." Maria Korolov's article would give a rundown of many of the worlds InWorldz users could head to (besides Second Life, of course).

Besides how come InWorldz went down, there have been a few questions yours truly has been asked. One is will there be a replacement for the InWorldz grid and when will it be? As of the writing of this article, there's been no date given for the opening of this replacement grid, or it's name. And outside the core group of hopeful inWorldz fans, it's usually being called the possible new grid or plans for a new grid. But there are a couple Discord groups, InWorldz and InWorldz Disporia one can join to talk to InWorldz members for possible information. But at this time, so far it's all speculation. It's current tech department head, Jim Tarber, has stated that he will not be part of any successor to InWorldz.

Talla Adam of the Metaverse Traveller would say, "No date has been mentioned for InWorldz II to open but it will probably be several weeks given the amount of work to do. When it does open, some may well return. So for some of the departing refugees it might be a two-way tip - hard to say really. But there is a lot of bad feeling and people feel put out losing stuff and having to move anyway. The longer it takes to rebuild will also play a part in determining how many will return."

What will happen to the Relay for Life in InWorldz event? In short, without an InWorldz and no date given for the supposed replacement grid, it's a safe bet that the event won't be happening. What is likely to happen is that the event will be moved to another virtual world. Which one this will be is unknown as to how long the decision might be. One can check the Relay for Life of the Metaverse Discord group for possible details.

Could this happen to Second Life? In short, not any time soon. While Linden Lab has been accused of a number of things, rightly and wrongly, over the years, not having a desire to watch the bottom line is something it seldom is. About a little over a year ago, it was suggested the Lab was making 65 to 70 million dollars USD. But while it's finances are sound for now, over the past several years Second Life has undergone a slow but persistent long-term decline in the number of it's sims. While it has been hoped that Linden Lab's recent adjustments in what it charges for sim tier can reverse this trend, the results are still less than conclusive. Even if this trend is halted, there's still the chance a future CEO could pull a series of blunders on the scale of the Content Creator Terms of Service controversy right when someone develops a virtual world that unlike Sansar people can make a virtual home instead of simply an experience. So trying to predict Second Life's future beyond a decade becomes problematic. But unless there's a global catastrophe such as a worldwide economic depression or a planetary power grid failure from a solar flare, it's a safe best the virtual world we know and love will still be around for several more years at least.

As hundreds, probably thousands as the days go on, set up in a new virtual world, and residents from Second Life look outside wondering what happened, no doubt there's many smaller stories to be told. Feel free to send the Newser any reader submissions about your experiences in InWorldz, or your new home.

Sources: Hypergrid Business, The Metaverse Traveller, New World Notes

Bixyl Shuftan

Thursday, July 26, 2018

InWorldz's Rise and Decline

By Bixyl Shuftan

Four and a half years ago, the future of the InWorldz virtual looked bright. It was growing in terms of both active users and regions, notably a number of residents of Second Life whom were taking an increasing interest in this other grid which while the largest of the OpenSim worlds had remained a distant second place compared to the larger and more established virtual world. Today, InWorldz is facing the end. A statement made by it's owner Beth Reischl stated due to financial troubles, the virtual world's servers would be going down Friday July 27.

So what happened? While the relationship between Linden Lab and it's customers, the residents of Second Life, has always been a little problematic, about four and a half years ago it was worse. This was the "Rod Linden" period in which aside from responding to problems, the Lindens didn't talk much to the residents aside from the occasional statement. They made a number of clumsy moves, such as the 2013 Third-Party Currency Exchanger Ban that was lifted only when there were entire communities talking about leaving Second Life for other places. A few months later was the Content Creator Terms of Service controversy in which a poorly-written change to the Terms of Service in regards to the rights of content creators that with a public already wary of Linden Lab's moves, the result was some seeing the Lab as preparing to sell the content of it's users as it's own, possibly as part of an "exit strategy" of either closing down Second Life or transforming it into a much more tightly controlled place. It's hard to saw how many believed this, but the way Linden Lab had been acting, even those less prone to panic were thinking it could happen.

And so many residents of Second Life began taking a more serious look at the second-largest virtual world around: InWorldz. Tuna Oddfellow closed down his one of a kind performance in the more established virtual world and reopened it in the second-largest. I soon found the free Wingless avatars on InWorldz, then Luskwood was offering to give SL residents on IW a copy of the avatar they purchased on the larger virtual world. The Podex third-party currency exchanger set up shop in InWorldz. While there was already a Relay for Life in InWorldz, it became much larger, an InWorldz-Second Life Connection Center to aid SL residents new to the smaller grid sprang up, there was a meeting to discuss questions about InWorldz in Second Life, and more.

With all the attention on InWorldz, it was time for the Newser to make a small change. Where we once stuck such articles in "Extra," we created a new section, "Other Grids, MMOs, and Games." We would interview the founder of InWorldz. And then there were my virtual neighbors in the Sunweaver/Angel community. Nydia took an interest in the Connection Center, and when it's founder suddenly up and closed it she helped create a new one. The Sunweavers/Angels would also get a couple sims as a "life boat" for our community just in case Linden Lab really did shut down Second Life, still spending most of our time in the established virtual world, but getting to know the new one a little. With all this attention, InWorldz soon reached a total of 100,000 accounts, and it's fifth anniversary party was a happy occasion, that of a small but growing virtual world on the rise.

It's a good question of how things would have turned out for InWorldz had Linden Lab persisted in it's 2013 third-party currency exchanger ban, and if it's blunders in 2015 such as the closing of the SS Galaxy and the near-shutdown of the Grendel's Children mall had happened a year earlier. But even as the smaller virtual world was celebrating the promise of a brighter future, things were already turning around at Linden Lab. In January 2014, Rod Humble stepped down as CEO, and in February Ebbe Altberg took his place. Linden Lab under Altberg became more talkative to people, and among the first things he announced was that the controversial changes in the Terms of Service in regards to content creators would be undone. And in July they were changed to the satisfaction of most.

With the reasons InWorldz was getting more attention now relaxed, residents in Second Life became less inclined to hop over. The Relay for Life would continue to hold events there. But overall attention fell. With Linden Lab announcing the development of their next-generation virtual world Sansar, perhaps attention that would have otherwise been paid to InWorldz by residents of Second Life was focusing there. The Newser itself would continue to pay a little attention to InWorldz, but not as much. The numbers of active users would go up and down some, then in Spring 2015 start a decline that would continue. The number of sims would spike in mid-2015, then start to decline. The decline in sim numbers was slower than the numbers of active users, though. Then InWorldz found itself facing competition not just from Second Life, but another OpenSim world. Kitely grew rapidly in just a few years to become about half InWorldz size in the number of registered users. By 2015, the two grids were about equal, and in 2017 Kitely had become the largest of the OpenSim grids. Another grid, Avination, which was a competitor for the largest OpenSpace world in their early days, was the target of theft by criminals, and then hit by a "catastrophic" data failure that led to it going under in 2017.

InWorldz itself began making some moves that raised more than a few questions. This had begun early on when in August 2013 their General Discussion forums were closed, citing an increased activity of trolling and hateful posts that was taking time and effort to moderate them away from their activities in keeping up the grid. In April 2017, they announced they would no longer publish their statistics of how many regions or active users they had. And to a number, this was a signal the grid was in decline, and the owner wasn't sure how to stop it other than hide it. Reischl was distancing InWorldz from other OpenSim worlds, insisting it wasn't really one, "InWorldz has moved on from Opensim a long time ago," and seemed to be saying she was no longer publicizing the statistics because of an "us vs them" attitude there.

In January, Hypergrid Business published an article saying merchants in InWorldz were becoming concerned about the grid's future. "...we have seen a drastic decline in sales and residents," one merchant told Hypergrid, requesting anonymity saying he was concerned about possibly being banned. An "InWorldz Chamber of Commerce" had been set up in fall 2016 "To help promote in-world commercial activity, and to collectively advocate on behalf of their interests." But their director expressed disapointment in her meetings with Reischl, Hypergrid reporting, "She said it was not her job to keep merchants or residents in InWorldz." The article also stated, "Residents have also complained on social media that the founders haven’t been paying attention to their concerns. Of the top managers, owner Reischl moved to Panama and founder and CTO David Daeschler has mostly moved on to other projects." Another resident commented that early on, "one of the best things about IW was the fact that it was so easy to talk to the founders on the forum and they actually listened to us and gave us feedback it made IW feel like a community." But now it was looking more and more like how she saw Second Life at the time she joined InWorldz.

As of the writing of this article, Reischl has launched a Gofundme that was initially stated as having the goal of trying to save InWorldz. But then after most of the money needed to reach the goal was reached, the objective changed from trying to save the grid to packing up to move to another grid. The result has been confusion and some anger, and eventually comments on the Gofundme disabled. And then donations were no longer being accepted. One complication of getting the facts about the situation is that one major source of news about InWorldz, Hypergrid Business, is not particularly liked by the virtual world's owner, "InWorldz has repeatedly complained about unfavorable coverage"

Either way, things look poor for the future of InWorldz. If the grid is saved with the intention of keeping it up, the near-shutdown will make it a challenge to do so. If instead the place is closed with it's staff forming a new Grid, they will essentially be starting all over again, along with anyone who goes with them. Not everyone wants to start all over again, even if they could take most of their things with them. One recalls the virtual world "There" which reopened a couple years after it closed, but has been a tiny shadow of it's former self. Also, not all of the content creators are happy with the idea of their goods being moved to another grid without their consent, so there is the possibility of legal action.

Where InWordz's residents go from here, judging from the comments I've read at least some will be sticking around, either in InWorldz or whatever grid takes its place. But others have expressed that from their point of view, the place they have known is finished. Where they go from here is speculation. It's a fair guess some will head to Second Life, especially those with friends and other ties there. Others will move on to Kitely, the virtual world that overtook InWorldz to be the largest OpenSim world. Perhaps some will move onto smaller OS worlds, or start their own for themselves and close friends. Some will have lost heart in virtual worlds alltogether, either taking a break before going back, or for good. And those with a lot of friends who go different directions may likely end up splitting their time between where they go, whether Second Life, another virtual world, an MMO, etc.

As a resident of Second Life whose main interest in virtual worlds has always been here, to me InWorldz was a smaller cousin of the virtual world I knew. It was place with a less of the hustle and bustle of the more established virtual world. There was less of a variety of things to buy, but I eventually found an avatar I was happy with. And if somehow Second Life went away, InWorldz would be there as a place me and my friends could continue to meet up. Now, it is going away, at best becoming something smaller and different from what we have known. It is an irony that a few years ago, a number of us were thinking Second Life was about to close down and were seeing InWorldz as our next home. Now, we watch as instead for all of our problems we are still afloat, while the place we were considering moving to is sinking. While perhaps someday there may be another virtual world that will take the place of Second Life, InWorldz isn't it.

Sources: InWorldz, Hypergrid Business, Gofundme

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, June 29, 2018

Reader Submitted: Game Review - Subnautica, Part Seven

By Rita Mariner

(Part of Rita's series of reader-submitted articles on the Subnautica survival game, continued from Part Six

Alright, you have made it the Alien Thermal Power Plant, after being chased and harassed by Warpers, Lava Lizards, Lava Larve  and the Sea Dragon, breathing fireballs on you, maybe even trying to bite and take a chunk out of you.  Once inside the power plant, it is safe to exit your Prawn suit, it has normal air and pressure. You will see a huge pile of ION Cubes, so go ahead drill the heck out it.  Hopefully you will space left in storage.  Then around the corner you will find a force field.  You will need a Purple Tablet to open it. Inside you will find a new tablet, the BLUE TABLET!  Make sure you scan it, before you pick it up, VERY IMPORTANT!  You can use one of the ION Cubes to activate TP Arch located nearby.  The head down the ramps to the actual power plant.  Here you will find a single ION cube, a Data Terminal and another force field.  A second Purple Tablet will be needed to access the room.

Inside you will find the actual power generators.  Scan the plant and then get the info from the Data Terminal.  It will tell you where to look for the last Alien Facility you will need to access.  Also very important, go up the ramp to the GOLD Data Terminal.  Here you will get the blueprints for making ION Powered batteries and power cels.  These new batteries carry five times the energy as your standard batteries and cells.   Now you have looted the power plant.  Head back up to the TP Arch you activated and walk into it.  The arch will take you to the Alien Enforcement Facility, the island with the huge space cannon on it. Walk over the alien moon pool and then pull out of the Prawn storage a good supply of Kyanite and ION Cubes. Also make sure you grab the Prawn Suit Depth Module Mk1.  You will now need to upgrade it to Prawn Suit Depth Module Mk2, since you now have the Kyanite to do so. This will give you a new depth of 1700m, even though the last Facility is roughly 1500m down.

Once you have all you can carry back, grab your Seaglide and head back to home base.  There you will need to upgrade the depth module, make new ION Power Cels for. the Prawn Suit.  Thermal Power Generator for the Prawn Suit, as well. Make sure to empty out your inventory of all th goodies you collected.  Now every important, also a Spoiler, you will need to make a second BLUE TABLET, you will need two of them.  Also make sure you have a couple of Beacons with you. They aren't game enders if you don't, but they make finding spots a whole lot easier.  Now head back to the Alien Enforcement Island, with your Seamoth.  You can find it again, by just looking for your Prawn Suit beacon. Park your Seamoth in the alien moonpool, then empty the balance of the Prawn Suit storage into your Seamoth. Now you can replace the Prawn Suit epth Module and you now can go to 1700m with it.  Replace the old power cells with the new and improved ION Power Cells.  You will also need to remove one of the Prawn Suit storage modules now to add the Thermal Power Generator Module, if you made one.  Once you have upgraded your Prawn suit and moved all it's cargo, into the Seamoth, your ready to head back.

Step back into the TP arch and it will return you the power plant. Now just jump back to the opening in the terrain, you came out of and try to land on the lava bridge you walked in on.  Now Lava Lizards inhabit the caves and surrounding area and they love to damage your Prawn suit, so again make sure you pop out once in awhile and patch it up.  If you collect Alien Creature Eggs, this cave is where you will find the ones for the Lava Lizard.  Once you reach the green archway again.  Just jump down the ground and start walking W.  You will see and overhang of lava just walk under it and keep going.  If you see any Silver nodes on your trip, drill them, you are going to need lots of Silver.If you follow the path around to a small cliff, hop on it and keep walking forward.  Soon you will come to a huge depression in the ground and across from you a large opening..

Using your Jump Jets, head for that opening, you don't need to keep the button down on your jets, use spurts and you will hit the opening. Once through the opening the mysterious image and voice will appear again,  If you time your flight just right you will land on the hardened lava.  In front of you, there is the last place you need to go, the Alien Containment Facility.  Jump over it ASAP.  Lots of nasties still around and you don't want to get turned in Warper or Sea Dragon Chow. now that your sooooo close.  You will see the opening dead center of the building so just get there and walk in.  There is a force field there, you open it with one of the BLUE TABLETS. 

Once it is down, walk up to the large center room and you will see a ION Cube fabricator there, so you can drill ION Cubes to your hearts content, but you only get three at a time.  So in-between making more, move around the room and scan everything.  Also grab some of the ION Cubes you drill, as you do, you will need them.  There are many Alien Artifacts to scan and six archways.  Four of them are TP rooms and you want to use the ION cubes to activate them.  One of the archways goes to an Alien Egg Archive, with Data Terminal. the last archway leads to a pump room,there are pipes to scan along with the Data Terminal. 

Going up the ramp to the platform, you will find another Data Terminal and if you walk behind the wall, you will find a preserved Sea Emperor Fetus. along with data about Enzyme 42..  Once you have investigated and scanned everything in the main room and side rooms, there is one last force field, this is where you need the second BLUE TABLET. Fill up your inventory with all the ION Cubes you can carry and then walk down the hallway to the aquarium.  Leave the Prawn Suit here, you will be coming back.  Dive into the water and face the mysterious Sea Empress.  She will chat with you, via telepathy..  Once she leaves, you can swim down and investigate the aquarium.

You will finally come across an alien platform, with five eggs on it, both can be scanned. You then activate the platform, with an ION Cube.  The Sea empress will them direct you to another archway, which she clears for you.  Watch your air, you can top it off down there by parking yourself over a Brain Coral, there is one next to the Incubator.  Once you scan the the new archway and activate it with another ION Cube, the Sea Empress will give you the secret Hatching Enzyme blueprints.  You then swim through the archway and it leads to an underwater TP arch, close to the moon pool, where you parked your Seamoth.  Here you drop on of your beacons, so you can find the archway again. Now head up to your Seamoth and head back to home base.

If you have been collecting plants along the way, you may have the five items you need to make the Hatching Enzyme.  If you haven't, the four TP arches, inside the Containment Facility, will lead you to four of them.  The Sea Crown, which is very rare.  You can find one located, in a cave, in the Aquarium.  Make the Hatching Enzyme and then insert it into the Incubator.  You can watch the juvenile Sea Emperors hatch and then scan one.  After a bit they will start to eject balls of Enzyme 42.  All you need to do is touch one and you will be CURED! If you remove your suit gloves, you can watch it work.  Once you have been cured, the Warpers should now leave you alone, you're no longer infected. The other nasties don't care, they will still try to eat you.

After getting cured, head up to the Space Cannon and you can now disable it.  Then you can return to the Containment Facility to drill ION Cubes and fill up your inventory.  If your interested you can go outside the facility to scan some of the stuff there, some fish, and the buildings outside.  If you still need more Kyanite, there will be a few nodes outside. Once you have everything you need, time to head home.  I walk my Prawn Suit out the arch, just to the left of the entrance to the aquarium.  This should lead to one of the Mushroom Forest,at about 240m down.  you can easily walk home from there.  To make your new ION Batteries and Power Cells, you will need one ION Cube, one silver and one gold, per battery.  So to power the Cyclops with all six ION Power Cells, you will need 12 ION Cubes, 12 gold, 12 silver and 6 silicon rubber.  You will need two ION Power Cells just for your escape rocket. and 6 ION Batteries for all your tools.  So you will need a heck of a lot of ION Cubes, Gold and Silver. That is why I bring my Prawn Suit home, since I can now go out find the large nodes of Lithium, Gold, Silver, Copper and drill the heck out of it.

Now to complete the game, you can build the escape rocket and the Cyclops.  You need the Cyclops Fabricator, on board to make a item.  Hopefully you will have found the blueprint for it, or you will be delayed, while you search for it.  Upon completion of the rocket, you will need a photo, a six items to put into a Time Capsule on board.  I put in useful stuff, but you can place anything in it, including junk.  I rarely got a good Time Capsule.  Once you have switched everything on the rocket on.  Time to get off the rock.  Just press go and sit back and watch the light show.

 You have now almost completed the game, Alterra will ask you for something,  before they let you land.  *Grins*

Now your done.  Hope if you play the game, you enjoy it as much as I do.  I still play it and it does change some each play through.

Rita Mariner

Monday, June 18, 2018

Reader Submitted: Game Review - Subnautica, Part Six

By Rita Mariner

(Part of Rita's series of reader-submitted articles on the Subnautica survival game, continued from Part Five)

Now that you have visited the Lost River, gathered the needed resources and laid a trail of beacons to follow.  You nearly ready to head down into the LAVA ZONE.  That is where you will find and mine the last resource you need to complete the game. Kyanite, a blue crystal.

Now some folks like to use the Cyclops to carry the Prawn suit down to the Lava Zone, which is fine, but it requires extra steps.  You will need to make at least one extra set of Power Cels for the Cyclops, plus you will need to haul down the materials and resources to construct a Power Cel Recharging Station, near the Cove Tree.  This is because the Cyclops goes thru Power Cels, like a pack of kids on candy, at Halloween. also make double sure both the Cyclops and Prawn suit can handle 1300m depth, that would be the Mk1 Depth Module on the Prawn suit and Mk2 Depth Module for the Cyclops.

Personally I skip taking the Cyclops down there, since I find it too big, slow and clumsy to control down there.  Mine just seems to have a a BIG KICK ME, EAT ME sign plastered all over it.  You still need to build one however, so you can construct one at anytime.  As for me I find it much easier to take my Prawn suit, on a one-way trip to complete the game at this point, but it's what you prefer.

I put the Mk1 depth Module and Jump Jets Module on my Prawn Suit, along with 2 Storage modules. Carry along one extra set of Power Cells, one extra battery, plus making sure I have the following tools at 100% on power. Seaglide, Repair Tool, Scanner and your knife.  Builder Tool, Laser Cutter, Flashlight will not be needed. I have the Drill Arm on the Prawn Suit, you can make a Grappling Arm attachment, but you don't need it for most of the trip.  You can just carry it along, encase. Carry along a lot of Med Packs, I carry six.

 Now that your ready to dive into the depths, turn on all the beacons you laid at the Lost River, including the Entrance and head off.  I usually find the entrance near the ancient Skeleton and head down that one.  You will run into a few nasties, so keep your wits about you and get to the Lost River asap. Once you reach the Lost River, just follow it, the Green Brine will not harm the Prawn Suit. If you still need some Crystal Sulfur, you can pick up some as you walk along the river bed, that's why you don't want the Grappling Arm just now, this allows you to pickup items.

You will have to cross the area, with the Ghost leviathan in your sub or suit, silent Running and shield works here, on the sub.  A good right cross with the Prawn Suit, works too. Work your way down past the Leviathan skeleton and down to the Cove Tree.  If your in the Cyclops, use your power Station  to recharge your Power Cels. If your using the Prawn Suit, you can continue to march towards to the Lava Zone entrance, or stop a bit and pickup some more Nickel, if you need some.

Once you reach the entrance to the Lava Zone, it's watch out for Warpers, Lava Lizards and Lava Larva.  Warpers mainly want you.  Lava Lizards just attack you cause your there.  Lava Larva are like the mynoks, from Star Wars, they just attach themselves to you and suck out your power! Just head down the gap in the rocks and after 5-10 minutes, you should start to see light blue crystal nodes. That's Kyanite.  Now all the nasties are down here and will be interrupting your drilling operations.  Keep your Prawn suit repaired, wouldn't due to lose it now, your too far away to escape.  Also keep the Lava Larva off your Prawn Suit, so if you notice one, when you get the chance, pop out and scrap it off, with your knife.  You can scan it also.  Move the inventory from the Prawn suit, into your own, at this time as well.  It will take drilling several nodes of Kyanite to get enough. You need Kyanite for the Escape Rocket, as wll as making the last Depth Modules for both the Cyclops and Prawn Suit, as well as the Thermal Power Generators for both the Cyclops and Prawn Suit.

Once you have collected sufficient Kyanite and survived, time to head to the Lava Castle, and find the entrance to the Thermal Power Plant  The Lava Castle is in the center of the Lave Zone and looks like a huge haunted castle.  The entrance is up on the side and marked by a lava waterfall.  I use the GPS (-75, 5) to get me close then I just look for it,  The archway is GREEN!  Enter the archway and repair your Prawn suit, if needed. The walk down the tunnel, until you reach the end.  You will see the Thermal Power Plant.  Here you walk along the wall, until you can see the lite-up entrance to the Power Plant above you.  I just line up with the entrance and use my Jump Jets to get me inside.  You may need the Grappling Arm if you aren't sure you can hit the opening with just your  Jump Jets.  I have done it enough, I can hit it first time.

Enough for now. next one, looting the Alien Thermal Power Plant and the Primary Alien Containment Facility.

To be continued

Rita Mariner

Friday, June 8, 2018

Reader Submitted: Game Review - Subnautica, Part Five

By Rita Mariner

(Continued from Part Four)

Once you have located the Lost River, you will want to start exploring it and looting it for more resources that you will need.  Crystaline Sulphur is one of the resources you will need, but it is hard and dangerous to get.  It is located, UNDER, the green, acidic brine of the Lost River..  What I have done is pack alot of med packs with me, then dive the Seamoth under the brine, until I spot the sulphur chunk.  I will then bring the sub up and over the chunk, pointing the nose at the area.  I then hop out, repair the Seamoth, since it will have taken damage.  The once you spot the chunk, use your Seaglide, swim down grab the chunk and get out ASAP.  You may or may not get more than 1 piece per med pack.  Don't go for any chunks that are deep. If you have the reinforced dive suit, you will take less damage, but it will still burn!

You will also want to keep an eye out for nasties, while your there.  The Ghost Rays are harmless, but there are other ones that will take a bite out of you and your sub.  There is also one section in the Lost River that a Ghost Leviathan inhabits, consider yourself lucky, if it doesn't see you, otherwise it will  take a serious bite out of your Seamoth.  Don't hang around that area, cruise thru it as fast and low as you can.  If you take the left turn, you will come across a set of 3 green brine waterfalls, falling from the roof of the cavern, near another huge skeleton head.  If you scan to the right, you will see some alien structures.  You will want to investigate.  There is a huge opening on the side of the building, if you look for it.  Entering it, you will need a Purple Tablet to access a Data Terminal.  Otherwise there is a ton of stuff to scan and 3 ION Cubes to collect.

Once I have finished with the building I head over to the skeleton head, scan it and leave a beacon.  If you look around, you will see something very special.  It's a huge tree and very colorful., this is the Cove Tree and is the rarest plant on the planet.  Only one exists and it is where Ghost Leviathans lay their eggs.  Yet this area is the safest place on the river.  You will also see the river has changed from green to pale blue.  This water is harmless, so you can dive it without worry, which is good.  This area is where you primarily find the next resource you need, Nickel Ore.  Both Crystal Sulphur and Nickel Ore are sort of scarce, but you need them, so collect what you can find.  There are also lots of Rubies down there, you can collect, if you need more.  Rubies are used to make Aerogel, along with boosting Depth Modules.

Once I have marked the route to the Cove Tree, if you go on a bit more and look down, you will see your access to the Lava Zone.  That is where you will need to go to get your last resource, along with finding and accessing the last two Alien Facilities.  You can't do it with the Seamoth, you will need something that can go down to 1300m to start and the Seamoth maxes out at 900m.  You can get both the Cyclops and PRAWN Suit to 1300m with the resources you can access, to go deeper and also make a few of the additional modules, you will need the last resource located, in the Lava Zone. Kyanite!

You can now return to your base, by backtracking the river, following the beacons you laid.  Make the necessary modules you will need with this need resources you have acquired, provided you have found the blueprints.  Be careful to keep an eye out for Warpers and Crabsquids since they inhabit the area, sometimes more than others. Next part will cover what I do to prepare and locate the last alien facilities.

Rita Mariner