Saturday, May 10, 2014

Madpea is asking for your help to release Unia

I have been reporting several times about Madpea's latest game Unia. The release of the game has been delayed for over a year and unfortunately it will at least take 2-3 more Months until we can play Unia. Kiana Writer, the mastermind behind Madpea, writes on the Madpea blog:
When we started creating the game in the first place,  we had no idea how long it would take because something like it had never been done in Second Life before. The concept of UNIA goes way beyond Second Life. It is the first in its genre breaking ground and truly pushing the boundaries of what is possible in Second Life. The project is ambitious and challenging. We have a team of nearly 20 incredibly talented people working on it nonstop. Not to mention the best of the best guest artists putting their passion into it. [Madpea blog]

In the meantime Kiana Writer has to cover a lot of costs - the most substantial being tier costs for the two regions - and she is holding a fundraiser event:
Unfortunately, two months into the game development we lost our sponsor and have had to find ways to keep funding the two islands we need for UNIA. Since I am in Finland there is a 24% tax added to the cost of each full island. That is $70.80 in addition to the usual $295.00 tier fee so the monthly cost of our two MadPea islands is $731.60 (US dollars). As Art is sponsored in SL by LEA but game development is not., I'm asking you that if there is any way you are able to donate to help us out with this. [Madpea blog]
Picture taken from the Madpea blog
The donators have helped reaching half of the donation goal of 4.390 dollars so far. This sum would cover six Months of tier for the two game regions in Second Life. If you want to help out too, you can donate here: http://www.gofundme.com/Release-Unia.

One thought that I had was that with more than two reward levels (50$ and 500$) Madpea might receive even greater support. Firstly because there are a lot of people who cannot afford to give 50$, but would like to help out if they see a reward level that they can afford. Secondly people tend to raise their contribution when they see that contributions reach a ceiling - and that is a difficult thing to do with only two reward levels. Here are some ideas how additional reward levels and the prizes could have looked like:
  • 5$ "A madpea supporter mesh badge"
  • 25$ "A Unia supporter mesh t-shirt for your avatar"
  • 50$ "Exclusive Unia avatar"
  • 100$ "Exclusive Unia launching party with the Madpea team and exclusive 48 hours access at the start of the game (for up to 50 donators)
  • 500$ "Exclusive UNIA tour by me (2 hours), Early Access to the Game, FREE HUD, weapons and outfits."
In any case I very much hope that Madpea will reach their aim with the existing reward levels. They seem to be on a good way. Here are two exciting videos that give a few impressions what to expect from the game and they look great:


Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Fantasy Fair hunt

I have been very much enjoying the Fatasy Fair in the last days. Don't miss it as it will continue only for two more days. There are several beautiful sims, there are roleplay events, there is live music, DJ’s, and fantastic shops. And there is a great hunt and its first part will lead you to all the fair locations
We begin this year with FIMBLEBY’S WAGER, in which a loud-mouthed drunk bets that he’s smarter than you. Head for Wiggenstead Mooring and find Fimbleby in the Jolly Crocodile to match your wits against his, prove him wrong and win what others have lost before you – and an extra something that might just come in handy later… 
You’ll see the second part of the hunt – THE PALACE OF TEARS – in all its splendour when you arrive at Fairelands Junction, but you’ll have to wait just a little longer to discover what secrets lie within.You’ll find hunt HUD vendors at the landing points of each sim in the Fairelands. Grab one and get going. [Fantasy Fair website]

You really need to hurry though as there are only 48 hours left to play the first part of the hunt: Fimbleby’s Wager lasts until the Fairelands fade away after May 11th. The second part of the hunt Palace of Tears will be available for hunters longer, since it is on a separate sim that will stay on the grid until May 18th. From May 12 onward, the hunt will directly start at the second part in the Palace of Tears.




The first part of the FF fair hunt is based on riddles. On each of the Fantasy Fair regions you will get a riddle which indicates the item that you should be looking for. The HUD and the effects like voice acting are very well done. The difficulty level of the hunt is ok, even if there were two places which gave me headaches because the searched item was an object that existed several dozen times in the region and at least in one case it wasn't obvious that one of them would be the hunt item.

Ciaran Laval has a really neat review of the hunt on his blog. Don't miss his blog post to get more details. And here are some photos he took:


Photo by Ciaran Laval
Photo by Ciaran Laval



Sunday, April 13, 2014

Why do high end AMD GPUs and Second Life not match?

I have had too much bad experience with my premium GPU from AMD in the last months. Since 2012 I own a Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition which sells at the moment for 325$. The Radeon is better performing than a GeForce GTX 680 on Windows DirectX. When it comes to performance, the Radeon HD 7970 generally is a Porsche of the graphics cards.

With my Radeon I can run all the newest 2014 games on ultra mode with all possible gimmicks switched on and they will constantly give me a framerate of 35 frames per second (fps) or higher. It's a delight to play with it. But when I log into Second Life, this "Porsche" graphics card deteriorates to a lower end "compact car". At least it was a "compact car" half a year ago. I was having +/- 20fps with shadows enabled on highly detailed sims like Madcity or Escapades with a draw distance reduced to 128 meters. That was by the way equivalent to the performance of nvidia cards performance that cost around 75$ and that are several categories less powerful than my Radeon HD. 

But the story gets worse! Over the last months the performance has deteriorated from a "compact car" to a "clunker". Where I used to get a framerate of 20 fps, I now get 10fps with the exact same specs. I now either have to switch of shadows or I need to overclock my GPU AND the CPU (an Intel i7-2700K @3,5GHz with 16GB Ram) to the absolut limits and reduce my draw distance to 64 meters. Only with all these measures I am back at +/- 20 fps. And the low draw distance really hurts.

So shouldn't Linden Lab delete AMD graphic cards from their System Requirements page or at least add a phrase saying that those graphics cards will run with a significant lower performance than can be expected? Is it fair to mention both GPU providers equally in the System Requirements?

Let me demonstrate that this by an analogue example: Let's imagine that an ice cream parlor has a sign outside his store saying "We accept cash and credit cards". Only after the order people who paid with cash (AMD) realize that they only get 1/3 of the ice cream of those who pay with credit card (NVIDIA) - for the same money. Would that be acceptable? No! The least thing to do would be to write on the sign: "We accept cash and credit cards. But with cash you will only get 33% of the value for your money." Then people would know what they will get if they only have cash with them. 

Strangely I couldn't find much information on the recent extremely poor AMD performance in the internet. There are a few forum posts (1, 2, 3) and they do not highlight enough how big the performance difference really is. Also Second Life fan boys and girls seem to prefer putting the blame on AMD while gamers in an interesting discussion blame Linden Lab 
for using a legacy OpenGL codebase that is a no longer supported system that neither of the companies work on anymore, and back when it was in development, Nvidia had a better optimized version. SL has a horrible optimizaton as it is still very single thread performance oriented while GPU makers are sacrificing single thread performance for multithread performance. In the discussion it is also said as well, that no user should expect AMD to waste their time optimizing their drivers for that "garbage".
So is it the fault of AMD or Linden Lab that my graphics card is performing so poorly? And why is the performance even deteriorating over the last months? There might be some hope because the OpenGL support has been resumed by AMD due to Valve opening up options for Linux. AMD published OpenGL 4.3 driver in July 2013 but I am not experiencing any positive results so far. I am starting to get very frustrated.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Emerging from "The Lost Mine"

I haven't been playing Second Life for a few months due to lack of spare time. But when I heard that Madpea has ended their hiatus from developing SL hunts, well that was a good reason for me to return and play it.



In the hunt you will have to find the portal of the Lost Mine of Stonehaven, a long lost mine, kept secret by its creators, full of gold, gems, chalices, and other such wonders. A certain Professor Peabody found the Lost Mine, but accidentally ripped up the treasure map, mistaking it for his grocery list. Now he's asking for adventurers to help him reclaim the pieces of the treasure map, put it back together, and enter this story world to find the mine once again.

The hunt differs from traditional Madpea hunts because you won't travel to shopping locations searching for one hidden item. The whole game is placed in two sims: Madcity and the Dwarfins. In Madcity you will search for the map peaces:
The pieces can be anywhere! Inside or outside... and if someone else has picked up the piece right in front of your nose, then it disappears and you must search for a new one. (madpea.blogspot.com)
After having found 20 map pieces, you will learn the location of the portal of the Lost Mine of Stonehaven, however it is necessary to then find 20 crystals that will serve as keys to open the portal. If you find the search of the map pieces and the crystals tiring, you can employ a little helper:

Both MadPea and Dwarfins have some very special companions for your adventure! The Clue Finders give you a huge advantage in the game, as they will point you towards the active items you need to find to be able to move on. They will tell you if you're within 20m, 15m, 10m or right next to the item. Of course they look super cute as well when they walk by your side! (madpea.blogspot.com)
I really loved the clue finder, it's a very helpful new feature. The Lost Mine itself reminded me of the Lost Treasure hunt. The locations are build with great attention to detail, from the particle effects and sounds accompanying animations to the challenging puzzles and riddles. Don't miss the hunt that will be available until the end of this month.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Still feel the need for a scare? Visit Nu'ville Horrors in Second Life!

This year's Helloween brought us a real overkill of horror builds in Second Life. We did see some fantastic games like "The Well Sollicitus" or "System Failure" and many themed events and places. I really hoped that the horror theme is sucked dry for good, but a nicely done latecomer arrived on the scene: the creators and real life sisters, Anya Ohmai (owner of Ohmai) and Suetabulous Yootz (owner of Beetlebones), have released Nuville Horrors - a Second Life experience (running until February 2nd).



Nu'ville Horrors is an immersive experience with a ride to enjoy and a hunt with 50 gifts. "At the spooky town of Nuville your final destination will be the 13th floor, so why don't you take your time and knock on each and every door?" Well, the entry prize for this experience could be an obstacle for some: you can either join the group for 800 lindens and get unlimited access to the sim or pay 100 lindens for a bus ticket (which is valid for 12 hours). Fellow bloggers write that the prizes are of such a great quality that they are well worth the expenses.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

System Failure - a fascinating point and click adventure in Second Life

These are great times for people who love to play games based on the Second Life platform. Halloween is the period when a lot of Second Life builders want to present something special. Yesterday I found another Second Life game that is absolutely amazing: System Failure.

What is the secret behind these little robots with chain saw limbs?
System Failure is the seventh "Halloween Survival Game" by Pulse Games and it is open until November 17 - so don't miss it! It is a point and click adventure game in the tradition of LucasArts' Maniac Mension or Monkey Island. It is an completely interactive, story driven Second Life gaming experience with multiple levels across several sims. There are challenging puzzles, some scares and even hidden prizes from dozens of famous designers. And despite this attractive gaming package, the whole experience is for free.
Shield Technologies is one of the largest and most omnipresent corporations of the modern world, researching, developing and producing some of the most advanced products we all use every day to better our lives. But what is happening at their newest and most expensive facility will terrify you! Where did all the workers go and why did they leave all their belongings behind? It's up to YOU to find out and what you uncover, could kill you! [pulsegames.blogspot]

Friday, November 1, 2013

Loki's "THE WELL: Sollicitus" - Second Life as a game engine

One of the bloggers that I follow regularly, Ciaran Laval, has recently asked if LL is working on a new project, making Second Life also a game engine.  He thinks that the TOS change might have an origin in an aim of Linden Lab to enable Second Life to become a game engine as well. 
Desura, the digital distribution platform Linden Lab own lists a number of game engines for devs to get their hands on. There are big players such as Unity 3D , Unreal Development Kit and CryEngine3. However there are also much smaller players such as Ren’PY for visual novels and Adventure Game Studio for those who want to make point and click adventures. These latter ones are the ones where I think opportunity could knock for Linden Lab.

Picture by Uccello Poultry


It is funny that Ciaran's post coincides with one of the best game experiences that I have had so far in Second Life. Loki has just released his newest Second Life game called "The Well: Solicitus" and you shouldn't miss it as it will only accessible for one month. The game is a sequel of a Second Life mini-adventure that people could play last year at Halloween time. 
The story is that a year after the events of 2012, a team of scientific investigators are sent down the well to understand the caves strange geology and maybe find a clue to why the rescue team and a young boy disappeared with no trace. You arrive a day later than the rest of the team to find the make shift lab abandoned. [lokielot.com]