Porn Bans Are Just The Beginning

tumblr1

This month the most popular unfiltered social media site Tumblr has banned porn, nudity and any other sexual content starting December 17th 2018.

Of course sites have every right to ban whatever they want, I’m not that upset about the ban itself, although it likely means I’ll be off the platform in the future.

I maintained a couple of pages on tumblr including Rachel Spahr’s modeling portfolio mentioned in Something’s In The Air,  a few of the pics have already flagged for nudity.

Even though the nudity doesn’t involve actual human nudity, the new Tumblr Community Guidelines now include this line: —this includes content that is so photorealistic that it could be mistaken for featuring real-life humans (nice try, though). 

The thing that upsets me is how this came about.  Despite there always rules against it, the site was used by criminals to share very illegal child porn. Tumblr shut it down as soon as it was reported, but the incident caused Apple to remove Tumblr’s app from their app store.  That was enough to trigger the ban.

In other words, one company forced another to change its rules. That to me is a bad sign for the future of the internet.  No it is not the first time something like this has happened, but it is the biggest case I can remember, and likely to be the first of many.

tumblr_p4y6o8Dh4X1rjk59fo1_1280

Corporations influence on the internet

Tumblr is not some indie site. It was when it began, but then they sold out to Yahoo, who in turn sold out to AOL, who in turn sold out to Verizon.  Such is the nature of the internet right now.

My last post on the status of the internet was primarily about government policies negative effects on the internet, but the status of the internet is also heavily affected by corporate interests.

Websites need advertisers to generate revenue, and advertisers are getting picky about the websites they are willing to advertise on.  One of the biggest losers of this is You Tube.  Once a great place for smart and talented people to make money, it is not that way anymore.  One such star Comic Book Girl 19 breaks it down like this:

Corporations don’t like to advertise on controversial parts of the internet. The good news is that far right wing websites are losing a lot of money as advertisers pull away.  The bad news is that LGBT friendly websites like You Tube and Tumblr are forced to become less friendly to that community as well.

Targeted Advertising is crap!

Another thing I pointed out last time is that “targeted advertising” which is the buzzword of Google and Facebook for the last two decades is proving to not be as effective as promised.  I really think it is a scam like blockchain and bitcoin.

I visit a lot of tech sites, and as a result, tech ads follow me around.  I also visit a lot of entertainment sites, and what shows up? Tech ads.  When I go back to the tech sites, I get a bunch of entertainment ads.  To Google I ask, “How is this more effective?”  To advertisers I ask, “How is this more bang for your buck?”

It seems to me a much better way to “target advertise” is to advertise on sites that potential customers are likely to go.  That way there is no incentive for Google, Facebook, and other associated scammers to collect personal information.

VC Money is out! Consolidation is in!

For the last decade or so, the main source of income from the internet came from investors looking to get in on the next big thing.  It seems that VC money is drying up, thanks to too many lost investments, and that means you have to make money by selling a service, selling advertising, or getting bought out.

The biggest trend right now is that internet media sites are consolidating, or closing their doors.  The ones most successful at it, like Vox, Vice, and Buzzfeed are moving into multimedia and offline content.  The less successful ones are closing their doors and putting up “for sale” signs.

The overall health of the internet: Bad!

While researching this page I came across a report by Mozilla about the health of the internet. Between personal data collection, bots, “fake news”, fraud and abuse online, and a number of other factors, it looks pretty bad.

Click here for the full report.

What can be done about it? That’s a whole other post for later.

 

Ariane in Paradise Status Report: “Day 1” Done

lake3

Ariane in Paradise is divided up into 3 days, each one being sort of a mini visual novel, which if successful leads to the next day.

I recently completed  “Day 1”, meaning I’m a third of the way done.  Day one, like act 1 of a story, is about establishing character and settings.  Day 1 objective is to learn 4 things about Ariane: She likes dancing, gymnastics, astronomy, and outdoor activities.  Of course if you play Date Ariane, you already know these 4 things about her, but it is all about getting her to talk about herself and ask the right questions. to get the right responses.

tasbridge

Meanwhile, you can talk about yourself and make decisions about your character as you do.  The main decisions:  business trip vs. vacation trip, rich vs. middle class, business degree vs biology degree vs never went to college,  outdoor enthusiast vs science geek.  There are a couple of others, but they only affect minor dialogue choices.

Finally, Day 1 is about establishing the setting. There are three main paths the story can take.  One focuses on the island’s past, one on the present, and one on the future.  From a Date Ariane perspective, Day 1 = before and during dinner.

yachtdinner4

It took me about 9 months to finish day 1. So far there are 235 pictures, and over 1000 lines of dialogue.

I practically have to start over to establish day 2.  From a Date Ariane perspective, Day 2 = downtown and outskirts.  Day 2 involves 5 new paths, 5 new sets, and different wardrobe and dialogue for each and a “game” of some sorts in each, without repeating myself from DA or SITA.

This last part is the biggest challenge.  One of the 5 sets is set in a casino, so creating a “game” challenge is pretty easy for that one.  Another one is going to a beach. Besides swimming, tanning, drinking and getting sand everywhere, what is there to do on a beach?  and how do you make a game of it?

sunsetmalsui

These are the challenges I give myself, and of course the fun is in solving them.  Maybe in another 9 months or so I can say Day 2 is done and then I can start Day 3.

Date Ariane HD

hdtitle

In honor of Renpy version 7 finally being released, I’m releasing Date Ariane, one of the most downloaded Renpy games ever (5.9 million downloads all versions combined), in Renpy 7 and in HD.

The images are all 1500×900, originally rendered when I did the graphics update in 2017. Add in the 180px black bottom part and the total resolution is 1500×1080. It looks really good blown up on a full sized monitor.  The Renpy engine automatically changes the fonts when you change the size so they always look sharp and crisp.

hdcompare

I know some questions are going to come up so here are my answers:

What versions of the game are available in HD?

For now just the English PC, Mac, and Linux versions.

What has changed?

The section which used to be called the gallery moved to the main menu and many of the gallery sections have been rewritten to work better in Renpy 7.  This includes a new animated credit sequence, and a help sequence that points out the key binds of Renpy better, allowing play via Keyboard, Mouse, or Gamepad.

I’ve taken advantage of Renpy’s background/foreground tools to change the look of some scenes, primarily the bad endings. This reduced the number of images, but because foreground requires images in larger png files, it did not reduce the size of the download.

I’ve gotten rid of the “button” look of the player choices.  Larger screen means the buttons don’t have to be obvious.

How do I download it?

You download it from the same download page as before. When you pick to download the Windows, Mac or Linux versions, you get the HD versions instead.

How big is the download?

Download size has increased from 180MB to 340MB due to larger images, many of which are in png format instead of jpg.

Are you going to release it in other languages?

I would love to if I can figure out a way to move the translations to the new version. That’s actually very difficult.

Are you going to release it in android?

No. The game is already a challenge on android at 200MB, the increase to 350MB would make it unplayable on most android devices, and the smaller screens cannot take advantage of the increased resolution.

Is there any new material in this version?

Yes, but you’ll have to find it yourself.

Why do some of the walkthroughs not work with the HD version?

To make the game a little challenging, there is a rule that if you engage in intimacy too early, like open with a kiss, or try for second base while dancing before eating, then Ariane might reconsider her opinion of you later and change the outcome of the walkthrough. I have updated “Pizza Dinner”, “Steak Dinner”, and “Start of a romantic evening” to avoid early intimacy.

UPDATE: For Mac Users

If you use a Mac to play I added an icns file which should replace the generic Renpy icon with a proper Date Ariane icon. If it worked, leave a comment.

More screen shots from “Ariane In Paradise”

store3

I’ve been posting random pictures I’m making for the game on other social media. Thought I’d collect them here in one post.

Here is a render I really like of Ariane eating a banana in front of a grocery store.  Some have pointed out that the banana looks huge. I think that if you are on a tropical island where bananas are grown you are likely to find bigger and better bananas. At least that is my story.

“Epicerie” is French for Grocery.  Notice that the chalkboard sign is in French as well with prices in Euros. This is partly due to the grocery store prop came that way, but also due to a conscious design decision on my part.

If I am going to make a fictional tropical island, I need to make some decisions like what language they speak there. Looking at a map of the world and tropical islands there in, I decided that French speaking islands are the most common. French speaking islands exist in the Mediterranean (Corsica), Caribbean (French West Indies), the Pacific (Tahiti and the rest of French Polynesia), and the Indian Ocean (Seychelles, Reunion).

Therefore as a fictional member of Overseas France, most of the predominant signage should be in French, and prices in Euros. But to attract English speaking tourism, there will be a lot of stuff in English as well, like the “Come In We’re Open” sign.

streetwalk2

I dubbed the island “Duquesne” (pronounced “doo-cane”) after a tiny town in Arizona. It sounds French and a little exotic, even though it is also the name of a University near Pittsburgh.  I googled it to see if an island by that name exists, turns out there is one in a lake in Ontario Canada, which was the set of a fake documentary made in Canada.  (I had to change my VPN to a Canadian ISP to watch it, it’s hilarious)  That made me want to keep the name even more.

I also came up with a whole backstory to the island, but I’ll save that for the game.

piratebeach2

As promised Rachel makes an appearance or two. The weird pirate stuff in the background and Rachel’s goofy hat have logical explanations.

paradss-1

Here’s the first actual screenshot of the game. As promised you can play as a buff and tan male or female, and you can name your character whatever you want. While most of the game is in first person, occasionally there will be moments where you can see yourself.

There will be scenes that only male characters get, and scenes that only female characters get.

An early objective of the game is to get to know Ariane.  As you do, she asks about you, and you get to make stuff up about yourself.  For example, the first question Ariane asks are what you are doing on the island. You can say “vacation” or “business”, and just like choosing male or female, there are things that only vacationers get to do, and things only business people get to do.  There are at least five other similar choices you can make.

This will likely result in confusion over choices, and make extra work for me in writing it, but it just adds to the fun of repeat play.

sail1

I made this image for fun. Not sure if it will ever be relevant to the plot or not, but for now it makes a great loading screen.

busride3test

One of the joys of making your own game is throwing in the odd pop culture easter egg just for the fun of it.

My Next Game: Ariane in Paradise

streetgym6

I have been hesitant to post anything about this, because I have a bad habit of starting something and then bailing on it half way through, but I am far enough along on this project to tell you about it.

If you follow me on Facebook and Tumblr, you may have noticed that my latest Ariane pictures look similar and she is dressed the same. That’s because I am making a new game.  Currently titled “Ariane in Paradise”.

motel2

After experimenting with the genre with Something In The Air and Rachel and Ariane, I wanted to go back and do a second game like Date Ariane that is a little more chaotic and spontaneous.  My original thought was create a new character, but I like Ariane too much so I decided I just need a new setting.

beachsidel

I thought about a tropical island game since I made the epilogue of Something In The Air, but wasn’t sure how to go about it. Then I saw VDateGames has already done a couple of them,  Zoe is free to play if you want to get the idea of where I am going with this.

It also helps that over the years I have collected a bunch of tropical themed 3D sets that I have barely even used.

underwatertest

The basic premise is this: Ariane follows Rachel to a fictional tropical island, where for Rachel it is a work trip: she is doing photo shoots for the entire week. This leaves Ariane all alone during the daytime hours to find some fun things to do.  You are on vacation alone on the same island where you meet Ariane at the hotel pool.

I don’t want to get into details, because they are likely to change, but I wanted to throw that premise out there to tie all the stories together.  You are not playing the same character as Date Ariane and SITA, in fact you can choose to be female if you want, that means you have to meet Ariane all over again.

motel25

Also, Ariane only has free time during the day, which means that unlike Date Ariane and SITA, both of which primarily take place at night, this game will primarily take place under sun and mostly blue skies.

I made it a fictional place, because making it a real place could offend people that live there.  A fictional place allows me to, for example, create relaxed nudity laws. It also helps that my collection of exotic island sets include Mediterranean, Caribbean, and Polynesian looking props, so a generic tropical island in an unnamed ocean keeps the anachronisms down.

I have no time table of when it will be done. SITA and Rachel and Ariane both took around two years.  I’m doing this for my own enjoyment, and I hate deadlines, so it will be ready when its ready.

More VR Fun: Rendering Real 3D for VR

beachsider

I have experimented a little with trying to create 3D images that actually look 3D.  Years ago, I did the Stereo “Magic Eye” thing.

bookster

(this is supposed to be a woman reading a book on a couch)

3dariane

About a decade ago, I also attempted my own red-cyan anaglyph (which doesn’t look that good).

So with Oculus Go, I discovered I could make my own 3D images with true left and right eye separation. The question is how?

Suffice it to say it took a lot of experimenting, but I finally created a 3D image that actually looks 3D when viewed in an Oculus, and you can download it here.

To view it, download the full 6000×3000 image to your computer, connect your Oculus Go to the PC using a USB cable. Put on Oculus to “allow” access to from the PC.  Open up VR-Headset Drive, internal shared storage, and “Pictures” folder, and drop the beachside3D image into this folder.  Put on the headset, open the “Gallery”, then “On this device”, then select the beachside3D image, then click on the 2D projection in the corner, and change it to 3D 180 projection. The result is a beautiful 3D image seen at the top of this post.

Yeah I know it’s complicated to view.  Just as complicated to make.

 

beachside2

Creating the Image

These instructions are for Poser, but you should be able to figure it out with DAZ Studio or any other 3D Rendering software.

First, you need a 3D set with a decent amount of complexity and depth.  Then a subject matter that is positioned front and center. You want to use “Dolly Camera” with focal length 25mm (a wide angle lens) and Roll (z-axis spin) at 0.

Render however you want, but do not use depth of field, everything must be in focus. In this example I rendered 1280×720 resolution.  If you make it bigger, you will have to adjust the dimensions of the black field accordingly.  Once rendered, this is going to be your “right eye” image.  Save it as a png file.  To make the left eye, take the “yaw” angle (x-axis spin) and subtract 5 degrees, then adjust the x-axis camera position to re-center the main subject, and render again.  Save it separately.

Oculus Go’s 3D 180 view assumes that the left eye and right eye information contains full 180 degree spherical view.  Most 3D rendering programs like Poser and Daz Studio, do not have a way to do this natively, so you have to do multiple renders and stitch them together with panorama maker software like Hugin, but that is outside of the scope of this tutorial, as that takes hours maybe days to create and still might turn out wrong.  We’re just making a view master style image.

Since the left, right, up and down views of the 180 degree view don’t exist, we are just going to frame our image in a square black window.  Basically we are projecting our image and the black frame onto a spherical wall. If we make the frame too big, the image part will look too small, if we make the frame too small the image will look distorted.

beachside3d

After experimenting, I found a 1280×720 picture in a 3000×3000 black frame is a fair compromise. So we take the two png files and use our photo editing software to create a 3000×3000 black image with our picture centered in the middle. Once I have the two 3000×3000 pixel images, I combine them into a single 6000×3000 image, with the “left” image on the left, and “right” on the right.

If you don’t have an Oculus Go or some other VR, you can try using your eyes to combine the two images into one to see the basic effect.

Now that I have the basic formula down, I might try making more of these later. Let’s just say I have about a dozen failed experiments to get this one right.

 

Virtual Reality with Oculus Go

oculus

I mentioned in January’s blog post that there has been a number of attempts to make VR more mainstream and there are a number of obstacles to overcome to get people there.  The biggest one being cost.  Then buried in the numerous stories regarding Facebook is the release of the cheapest ever entry point into VR: Oculus Go.

For as cheap as $200, you can get a completely stand alone VR setup. No PC required, no expensive video card, and best of all no cables attached to your neck that prevent turning.  The only outside requirements are a smart phone or tablet to download the Oculus App so you can buy stuff, and a wifi connection so you can download stuff.

I know what you are thinking: “For that price there are probably limitations” and yes it is true.  Oculus Go is basically the equivalent of a Samsung Galaxy with Gear VR.  The library available for the Go is nearly the same as for Gear VR, but it has a stand alone wifi tablet built in instead of needing to attach your Samsung phone.

More expensive VR setups are also more sophisticated.  HTC Vive tracks its position with multiple cameras so you use your entire body to move around. Go only tracks your head and one hand with the controller in it.  I’m actually OK with this. Sophisticated VR setups require you to stand and move around to be useful with the added danger of running into stuff. With GO, I can experience most everything in a comfy office chair that swivels around.

Another limitation is “cell phone graphics”.  The big graphics intensive VR games and platforms are probably not going to run on Go, and that is going to be a problem for the VR industry as a whole if Go becomes a thing.

Lastly there is a problem with battery life. Expect only 2 to 3 hours per charge, or do what I do and get an extra long usb to micro usb cable and keep it connected. It will still drain battery, but slower. Lowering the brightness will help, too.

The VR Experience

On the positive side, the VR you experience on this cheap device is very good. HD-VR pictures and videos look great, and most of the content available is in this category. Video games tend to be simplistic with low-res textures to keep the frame rates high — a requirement for real immersive VR. I’ve tried a few games, and they all avoid realistic graphics for this reason.

Despite the low res look, playing a game that covers your entire field of view in 3D with a high frame rate is quite an amazing experience.

oculusgofiles_1

The problem with new hardware: The software problem!

There is another limitation, but it is an artificial one that will eventually be overcome… maybe: Right now, your only source of software is the Oculus store, and right now the selection is a bit on the slim side.  The future of VR rests on sales of Oculus Go.  If it is finally the breakout VR hit the industry has been waiting for, all of those VR content creators who have been spending billions with little return to show for it, will need to get onto the Go.

If on the other hand Go sales are as lame as Gear VR and Playstation VR sales were, the Oculus store will continue to struggle for content.

And that’s the real question here. Awash in investor money, VR software development was big four years ago. Every one wanted to create the software for the next big thing, and that was supposed to be VR.

Development money is drying up. Much of the content is one to two years old, and many of the VR videos come from companies like CNN that are no longer investing resources in VR videos.

Thus we have a vicious circle. For VR to go mainstream, Oculus Go needs to sell well, but for it to really sell well, there needs to be software or content that people want to play and use, but for that content to develop, Oculus Go needs to sell well.

A Look at the current content

So here are some mini reviews of the content I found available now:

Epic Roller Coasters – Probably the best way to demo VR is with a virtual roller coaster. Everyone knows this, which is why roller coaster videos and demos are pretty much everywhere. Epic Roller Coasters is the best of these, not only with the most interesting environments, but there is a physics game you can play where you must use a brake and accelerator to finish as quick as possible without crashing. Demo is free, $10 to unlock all of the coasters.

Bait – Once you get tired of making yourself dizzy with roller coasters, you can go to the other extreme with a fishing simulator.  It’s actually kind of relaxing, but I got bored of the repetitive play in the demo and didn’t bother with the full version.

Rush – This is a glider suit racing challenge.  This is a game that is perfect for VR, but suffers from the lack of realistic graphics. Gets repetitive after a while.

They Suspect Nothing – This is a series of mini arcade games packaged in a funny robot oriented theme that is very entertaining. As with many “mini arcade games” some are more fun than others, but there is less chance of boredom with more things to do.  I also tried Wonderglade which is another mini arcade game, it has a “magic school” theme clearly designed for kids.

Amaze VR – A collection of about 200 videos, and because they are sorted by popularity the ones featuring beautiful models dancing, exotic dancing, and trying on bikinis in front of the camera are all near the top.  There is even the first chapter of a dating simulator, but unfortunately no second chapter.  Often the models in these videos are close enough to the camera that they feel like they are too close.  This is all PG stuff but it ironically demos the potential for VR porn.

Republique VR – Finally a real story driven video game. It’s a stealth game where you try and lead a prisoner to safety. Often involves puzzles and what not.  Apparently this game started originally as a mobile game and was upgraded to VR. I only got started but so far it feels cool.

Oculus Gallery, Netflix VR, Hulu VR – Ironically, one of the best uses for VR is the ability to watch good old 2D movies and TV in a virtual simulation of a theater or home living room. The lighting in the room even changes depending on the light from the screen.  Or you can just play it in a “void” and watch TV through the goggles while laying down comfortably so you don’t have to face the TV to watch.

Oculus Rooms – If any app would be a “killer app” (an app that would encourage others to get the product), it might be Oculus Rooms.  Oculus being a Facebook product, the focus is on meeting others virtually.  Oculus Rooms allows multiple people to meet together virtually and engage in multiple mutual activities like watch TV and movies together, play a board game, or just hang out and chat.

But is it a “killer app”? I have been doing these kinds of activities with others online for 15 years in Second Life and There.com, both of which are declining in use. This is also not the first VR type product like this AltspaceVR (which is also available on GO) has been around a while and also struggling for users, almost shutting down last year.

The bottom line is that the current offerings on Go mostly feel like “gimmicks”. It is going to take a larger user base to start developing the platform into something people not only want but will use regularly.