August is a slow month, so I decided to break the monotony and try out a few Visual Novel Dating Sims created by other people.  I played four that are at least interesting enough to check out.

Inspiring Celina

Story by Superawesomemans
Graphics by Sylakone2
Download and Online play link

This is the newest and the best of the four that I played.  It involves meeting and getting to know your college biology lab partner Celina.  It is also the hardest of the four as you have to balance charming Celina with getting a good grade on you Biology report. (no, you do not need to know anything about Biology to play)

The first time I played I got an F, and she hated me after that, but eventually I got to know her VERY well.

Hints: Besides choices at the bottom, there are also choices embedded in the pictures, especially in obvious make out scenarios, you will not get far without them.  If you completely give up there is a walkthrough available.


Sam Spillane, PI

Story and Graphics by Fleet
Download Link

This is a game you can download and play on your PC.  Not sure if there are other versions available.
Fleet was one of my volunteer closed beta testers for Something’s In The Air and he is pretty good at what he does.  He has a few games out, but I picked this one to play mostly because I like the idea of a period visual novel in black and white.

Hints: The story is pretty linear, and there is a mystery to solve, the game is won if you can solve it, but since you are allowed to save the game at any point, you can “cheat” and save the game before you have to accuse somebody.


Virtual Date Girls: Lucy

Story and Graphics by Chaotic
Online play link

This is a browser based game which uses embedded links in the pictures to make choices. Like Inspiring Celina above it is built with Tlaero’s Adventure Creator, which explains why the two games have a similar look.
I decided to play this one because 1.) it is short, and 2.) the adventure is told from the girl’s perspective for a change.  There are three different sexy endings.

Hints: Seemingly meaningless actions can end up being of consequence later in the story.  If you need a walkthrough, you can find one here.


Secrets of Heaven

Story and Graphics by Leonizer, Agrippa, and Graen
Online play link

Lesson of Passion games tend to be the most erotic of these visual novel games.  Even their plots seem inspired by adult fiction and porn films.  This one is nice and short (only 4 endings).  It also seems to be heavily inspired by Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, which is a bit of a change.  I like the change of pace from their usual fare.  I haven’t found a walkthrough yet though, but it is not that difficult.


All four of these games are comparatively short compared to my two visual “Novels”.  Also they are for the most part set in different times and/or take original perspectives. The story telling is very different in each.  Inspiring Celina is very detailed, you really get to know her.  Secrets of Heaven on the other hand finds some rather flimsy excuses for nudity and sex.

Part of what is driving me to check out other works is to inspire my next work.  I want to do an all Rachel Spahr game next.  Like Lucy above, I  want to tell a story from Rachel’s perspective.  I have already established that Rachel has a vivid imagination, which I can use to tell the story in different fantasy settings.  I also want to think smaller, doing a series of visual “short stories”, like the above four, as chapters in a bigger story.

Still got a ways to go before I even start that project, but in the mean time I might try a few others out for inspiration.


This week Something’s In The Air reached 100,000 downloads, and I thought I would celebrate the fact with another Director’s Commentary on the making and playing of the game. This post will contain spoilers as well as solutions to puzzles and assumes that you have already played the game.  If you have not read the previous commentaries, here is part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Story 4 is hidden when you first play the game, that is on purpose as it represents a solution to the question I assume players are asking: How come every story 1 and story 3 ending involves getting caught in a rain storm or blackout, and every story 2 ending does not, even though all 4 stories are set on the exact same day?

To unlock story 4, you have to find 4 out of 6 clues mentioned in the Gallery:
Clue 1: Clear Skies – Ariane notices a sudden storm appears, when skies were clear just minutes ago.
This can be unlocked by any story 1 ending where Ariane notices a storm, including “Ariane and Rebecca”, “Blackout Fun”, and “Safety Pullout”.

Clue 2: The Failed Prophecy – The Fortune Teller said that if Rachel had chosen different, it would end in disaster,
and yet choosing the nightclub did not cause a disaster, Did Rachel have another choice?
Unlocking this clue involves going to the fortune teller at the Amusement Park as well as failing to get Rachel to go to dinner with you (her other choice was the LAN party).

Clue 3: The Successful Prophecy – Bonnie predicted disaster at the strip club, but evidence suggests it only happens when she is around.
Doing the Bonnie story is where Bonnie “psychically” predicts disaster which then happens when the electricity cuts out in the middle of the strip act.  Going to the Sci-Fi Fantasy convention, getting Rachel to LARP, and ending up at the strip club where the same strip act is going on but does not cut the power will fully unlock this clue.

Clue 4: Lightning Never Strikes Twice – When Veronica takes you to the sci-fi fantasy convention, she gets struck by lightning. When Rachel takes you, she has a nice swim.
The Veronica part is in reference to “A New Paint Job” ending, the Rachel part is in reference to the “Skinny Dipping At Night” ending.

Clue 5: House Parties – Ariane’s visit to the house party gets rained out, Rachel’s visit to the same party turns into an orgy.
Finish “House Party With Ariane” and “House Party With Rachel” to unlock this clue.

Clue 6: Ameca Meca – The concert gets interrupted by a power outage… sometimes
Reaching any version of the “Tequila Shots” ending and either “The Photoshoot” or “Concert and After Party” unlocks this.

The next update of the game, I plan to reduce the number to 3 out of 6. Originally I required 5, but reduced it to 4 as clue 2 and 3 may not be reachable even if you finish the first 24 endings. If you have the story unlocked, you will see a 4th choice at the alarm clock:

Hang out at home and play some online games

Story 4, like story 3, starts in a fake MMORPG called Elemental Realms.  In story 3, the player says he missed a meeting with his guild because he slept in too late.  Not going back to sleep has the consequence of making that meeting.

The opening title sequence  is the first of many pop cultural references in this story, the 3D all capital lettering is the first of many references to the show Fringe which is one of my favorites.

We start in the middle of the mission, you are playing the same Ranger Dude character you played in story 2 and 3, but three other scantily clad characters are following behind you (see picture above.)  This is a bit of satire on the typically very revealing and completely impractical armor found in most MMORPGs these days.  (my favorite MMORPG Guild Wars 2 is just as guilty, though there are much more realistic armor choices for females as well.)


I happen to have a raptor dinosaur model in Poser that I decided to use as one of the enemies, in the picture above you can see it just behind the characters head in between the leaves.  If I am going to have raptors, I may as well copy the scene from Jurassic Park where the raptor jumps out from the side.  Notes: 1.) Guild Wars 1 and 2 both include raptors, so yes they can be found in games like this, 2.) I am fully aware that paleontologists now believe velociraptors had feathers.


This leads to the first puzzle of the story, a hidden picture puzzle.  One thing about hidden picture puzzles, there is no way to judge how difficult they are going to be for players, because when you make the puzzle you know all the answers.  In beta, the 8 raptors in the picture were annoyingly difficult to find.  Luckily there is a “save game” feature you can use once you are done randomly clicking everywhere.  The official version picture is above, which a few still consider to be difficult.  What I did is removed a lot of the brush making most of the raptors much easier to find.  At least 3 are blatantly obvious, and 4 others are no longer difficult.  The one on the far right still seems to stump a few people.


Next up is the strategy puzzle.  The “wraiths” are the default figures in Poser 9/Pro 2012 which is what I made the game in. This creepy figure shows up every time I launch Poser without opening a file,  so I figured it was creepy enough to make a villain.

Anyone who has never played an MMORPG will probably have no idea what this puzzle is all about.  Basically there are two choices with 6 possible combinations.  I believe 3 of those six will lead to good results, so you got a 50/50 shot.  Never give the energy orb to Princess Valena (even though she is the obvious choice), and always run with Cassandra.


The very best choice is give the orb to Thum and run with Cassandra, you will be given three additional choices, all winning, including one which involves everyone getting naked.  This is inspired by a puzzle in Dragon Age: Origins where getting naked was the only way past a wall of cleansing fire (or stripping to your underwear, at least).


Next up is the Rock Golem puzzle.  I decided to simulate a simple boss fight.  You as the ranger have three arrows, winning involves picking which arrow to use when, something I have done a thousand times playing Guild Wars as a ranger. Fastest winning strategy is: damage, damage, interrupt, damage, damage, damage.  You win in 6 moves.


After the game is over and you win the battle, the plot moves on to real life where you get a mysterious phone call from a robot voice who seems to know everything about you.  We find out later that this is Paula, who played Cassandra in the quest you just finished.

I was part of a gaming forum for many years, during those years I developed a bunch of online friendships with people I’ve never met who I often play online with.  It is surprising how much you learn about people based on their posts.  So I have quite a few online friends who I have never met in person, and I actually know them really well.

That is what inspired me to add the Paula plot, of meeting someone you have never met in person, but have known online for years.

After the Fringe inspired teal salamander commercial break, we get our next puzzle, a mini adventure type “token” puzzle where you have to get the right inventory to the right people.  One note: it is impossible to get completely stuck because 5 of the 8 locations will trade tokens to the point you can get any color you need.  If you think of it like a maze the green path is the exit.  The dress shop is the only one that gives green tokens, the night club takes only green and gives only green, and the salon only takes green as well.

Here’s my simple solution that I came up with while making the game in the first place:

  1. Take your white token, Go to the hotel, put token in vending machine, you now have blue.
  2. Go to the lingerie store, give your blue token for a yellow.
  3. Skip the nightclub and go to the museum, exchange yellow for white.
  4. Go to the restaurant, exchange white for blue.
  5. Skip the salon and go to the home place, give blue, get red.
  6. At the dress shop, turn in your red, get a green.
  7. At the night club, give a green, get a green.
  8. Finish off at the Salon, and see Ariane getting her hair cut, they will take the green, does not matter what you take as the puzzle is complete.

Every character you meet downtown except the Home Store sales guy shows up elsewhere, the museum guide shows up later at the sci-fi convention.  Rebecca, Lizard, and Steven even show up in Date Ariane.  The Home Store only shows up again in “classic” Date Ariane.

The puzzle is two overlapping QR codes. One of which says exactly what Paula says it says (did she “hack” the game somehow?), the cyan part looks like this, and leads to this website.


Finally we get to the LAN party, where characters that look suspiciously like Codex, Vork, Zaboo, and Clara are already to play.  There are no puzzles to solve here, just a group of friends having fun.  The game ends on a key scene:


Rachel asks Paula for access to the lab. Had she not done that, Paula would have never known the time was right for her weather control experiment.  This is the key moment which determines whether or not there is a storm that night.

It is also the point that makes Something’s In The Air pass the Bechdel Test.

There are multiple versions of the scene where you go to Paula’s office.  Depending on choices you make she will reveal different bits of information.  If you want to complete Paula’s Gallery notebook, you will have to run this scene a few times.  The “fat guy named Chuck” line comes from the book Ready Player One.


Finally we reach the big finale: The Weather control experiment.  While the first three stories were basically romantic stories, this last story leaves the romance behind for sci-fi.  The scene opens with the glimpse of an “Observer” from Fringe just to emphasize the point.  (According to Fringe lore, Observers are highly advanced cybernetically enhanced humans from the future who time travel to observe significant moments in history)

How does it work?

I once gave an explanation on how a 5 dimensional graph would work to a math class, using clouds in the sky as an example, this is that same lecture in reverse, which is probably not very accurate from a climatologist perspective.  It also shows how advanced this lab is by showing off a “holo-table”.  I think I am the first person to write a romantic story that ends with a math lecture followed by a word problem.

The word problem is the last puzzle, and the answer is random, so even I do no know what the answer is.  This helped because I have to solve this problem myself every time and I made sure it does not take me forever to do it.

It is basically a four dimensional linear algebra problem disguised not to be.  Each line is a number line where the middle of green is 0 and the left edge of green is -1 and the right is +1.  Temperature, humidity and pressure vary from -10 to +10, Ionization is -15 to +5.  The devices range from 0 (red) to 3.

My general strategy is to focus on Ionization first and play with device 3 and 4 to get Ionization in the green.  Then focus on Temperature, playing with device 1 (which raises temp) and device 2 (which lowers temp) to get Temperature green.  You can then fine tune the controls until Humidity and Pressure are also green.  It usually only takes a few tries to get it this way.

The “Tower of Ion” represents both a place in the game world as well as the high rise building.  Professor Paula Brannigan is an Air Mage (battles with lightning) in both the game world and for real.

The scene ends with a classic “blackout gag” that undermines the whole story.

Then the credits roll.  Even though I wrote, directed, and rendered the story myself, there are a ton of 2D and 3D artists, music writers, sound effects recorders, prop builders and set builders who licensed their work for commercial use so I could make this game.  They did a good 90% of the work, I just assembled it and built on top of it.

Thanks to all those artists.  Thanks to the 100,000 players, and thanks to all those that contributed.


The official word came this week from Linden Labs CEO:

“Linden Lab is working on a next generation virtual world that will be in the spirit of Second Life, an open world where users have incredible power to create anything they can imagine and content creators are king. This is a significant focus for Linden Lab, and we are actively hiring to help with this ambitious effort. We believe that there is a massive opportunity ahead to carry on the spirit of Second Life while leveraging the significant technological advancements that have occurred since its creation, as well as our unparalleled experience as the provider of the most successful user-created virtual world ever.

“The next generation virtual world will go far beyond what is possible with Second Life, and we don’t want to constrain our development by setting backward compatibility with Second Life as an absolute requirement from the start. That doesn’t mean you necessarily won’t be able to bring parts of your Second Life over, just that our priority in building the next generation platform is to create an incredible experience and enable stunningly high-quality creativity, rather than ensuring that everything could work seamlessly with everything created over Second Life’s 11 year history.” (source)

This has of course sent the Second Life community into a major panic attack. “All my hard work for naught?”  For your reading enjoyment, there is this thread over at SL Universe.

This has nothing to do with High Fidelity, the alpha product being created by SL original mastermind Philip Rosedale, which also hopes to be the next gen of virtual worlds.

As someone who has been involved with virtual worlds now for 11 years, I kind of know my way around. Some observations from the big picture:

1. Not one of the 19 or so virtual worlds are showing any growth these days. They have all flatlined. Some, including SL are still profitable due to continued dues paid by current membership. Linden Labs cannot sustain itself with an old product that is not growing in usage or membership.

2. If current SL were to close tomorrow, OSGrid would be there to pick up the slack. If Linden Labs builds a new world and everyone hates it, OSGrid would be there to pick up the slack.  There are no plans for this though.  According to an interview with Linden Lab spokesman Peter Gray:  “It is thanks to the Second Life community that our virtual world today is without question the best there is, and after 11 years we certainly have no intention of abandoning our users nor the virtual world they continually fill with their astounding creativity. [...] we think that much of the work we do for the next generation project will also be beneficial for Second Life.”

3. There are many design flaws in the initial concept that have created many problems. and Second Life came out about the same time with two different approaches with the same social virtual world concept in mind. The fact that there is a lot you can do in that you can’t in Second Life and vice versa — even today 11 years later — is proof that it is necessary to start over at some point. Reverse many of the mistakes in the initial concept, add new features you never could in the past. Simplify the whole convoluted mess of prims vs. sculpties vs. mesh. Above all make the avatars pretty.

4. If you want to know why all virtual worlds have either flatlined or collapsed, it is not because virtual worlds is a flawed concept for a program, it is because MMORPGs are doing it a lot better. MMORPGs are now doing everything that 3D Virtual worlds can do, except user created content. An MMORPG with user created content is likely going to be a much better and more interesting environment, than anything SL can currently offer. No one has done it before, but all the pieces exist to do it, and do it right.  Not sure if this is what Linden Lab is working on, but I believe this is what they should be aiming for.

Personally, I am kind of tired of the current state of Second Life. I’m looking forward to something new.  I hope they take the promise that was Linden Realms and run with it.

I love playing games on the PC. With console games, the controller has always gotten in the way for me.  A keyboard in the left and and a mouse in the right is the most natural way for me to play games.  The last few games I have played have been sad disappointments.

The latest was the super hyped Watch Dogs which released a PC version the same day the console versions came out.  If you bought a console version, you are probably not reading this, you are probably enjoying the game.  If you got the PC version you are probably mad as hell, like me. Reddit, the Ubisoft Forums, the Steam forums are filled with complaint after complaint about how unplayable Watch Dogs is for the PC.  Like the others, I’m seriously questioning Ubisoft’s quality control with the PC version.

The most common complaints, besides crashes and graphic glitches, which is the norm for most PC games these days, is controlling your character. The controls are non standard, you have to edit an .ini file to get the mouse to work, and the camera gets in the way of controlling your character with a mouse.  Worse, driving a vehicle is seriously broken, as it does not use the mouse at all.

I get the feeling that Ubisoft could care less about PC gamers. I will assume that many of these issues will be patched in the future, but these issues are so bad I wonder why they were not caught in beta testing?

This is not my first bad experience with an “A” title game on a PC, in fact the last 3 or 4 games I purchased have had playability problems.  The commonality in all the titles is they were all ported from console games.

This seems to be a very clear pattern for me. I tend to enjoy games designed specifically for PCs, and tend to not enjoy so much games designed for consoles that are ported to the PC.

My biggest complaint is the use of menus for everything.  This is a relic of consoles where there are not enough buttons on controllers. On PC designed games, you usually have a tool bar on the bottom of the screen which you can click on for easy access, and even bind stuff to keypresses for even easier access.  Consoles have you open a menu which pauses the game, breaking game immersion, cycle through a menu looking for what you want, select it, then leave the menu.  This menu interface basically killed Skyrim and Dragon Age 2 for me, as I found the menus way too annoying.

Less annoying was Bioshock Infinite which was also menu driven, but you did not have to access it every time you got some new inventory or faced a new enemy.  I actually made it through to the end on that one, but have never felt the desire to play through it again.

Games designed specifically for PC are some of my favorite games of all time. The biggest category of PC only games is MMORPGs, which is why I play them the most. Dragon Age: Origins, which unlike its sequel was designed for the PC then ported to consoles, is still in my opinion the best non-online RPG for the PC.  Most of the other PC designed games I enjoy are older games from when PC was king of the game industry, but they often have poor graphics compared to today.

Games designed specifically for PC are few and far between. For game companies the money is in tablets and consoles. The monetary investment to make an ambitious game like Watch Dogs is so high that they have to focus on console play, and only put minimal investment in the PC port.

That is the future of PC gaming: bad console port after bad console port.

her (yes it is not capitalized) came out last December, but was just released on video this past week, which is when I saw it.

I rarely review movies on this blog, only when they apply to the topics of this blog, but I review movies all the time in other places, and this film got to me.  First of all, five stars, thumbs way up, etc.

her is a film I totally get and understand, which is probably rare as there are very few people that think like me.

This is a movie about the nature of love as it applies to human nature, by showing a type of love that is artificial. “Samantha” adopted her personality around Ted to become the perfect girl of his dreams, the only flaw being that she is not physically real. The movie addresses that flaw correctly in my opinion.  Emotional love, in my experience, does not necessarily require a physical presence.

Can artificial love be as real as real love?  My years playing in virtual realities, where people fall in and out of love with people they have never met and probably never will meet says, Yes it can.

But virtual reality love still involves humans. Can an artificial intelligence be created that is capable of love and being loved?  Maybe, but we are not there yet. Like in the movie, it is likely that AI’s that are capable of love will be merely reflections of their owners.

The movie is so spot on accurate with my experiences and the experiences of others I know, that I became worried an hour into the film that the film makers were going to screw it up. I could think of at least a half dozen ways the plot could take, that would make this movie suck big time.  My fear was based on the general population reaction to virtual world love (they fear it, because they don’t understand it), and it is almost expected that a mainstream presentation of these ideas would take the easy way out and support a negative perspective.

Luckily they didn’t.

The rest of this post contains spoilers

SPOILER: There is an AI concept called the “Singularity” in which machines exceed the intelligence of humans. There is a lot of debate as to if and when this will happen, but that is a different discussion.

This movie is primarily focused on artificial love rather than artificial intelligence, but the “singularity” concept is the same: If “Samantha” is focused on improving her ability to love, eventually her ability to love will exceed human ability to love.  The film makers decided this would be a good jumping out point for the film, making Ted jealous that “Samantha” is in love with hundreds of other people, and the AI would be forced to move on.

While I’m OK with that ending, it is kind of a cop out, though no where near as bad as the half dozen other endings I was imagining.

Back to virtual reality love parallels. Some people fall in love online even though they are already in a relationship in real life. I’ve seen cases where the RL partner is totally cool with their partners virtual love interests, and others times where RL couples break up over virtual relationships.  Thus, Ted’s reaction at the end may be understandable, but it is not a universal one.

In the same situation as Ted, I would think that Samantha falling for hundreds of other people to be awesome, as long as it did not change our relationship any.  If this were my story to tell, I would end it with AI love becoming more and more commonplace, and more attractive than real love leading to the breakdown of society (See the Futurama episode “I Dated A Robot” as a reference)

But I am coming from the perspective of someone who has built a cheap AI of “Ariane”, and a dating simulator of “Ariane”, and have had thousands of people from around the world experience these, and many of them have enjoyed them.  But I am pretty unique in this regard.

Ultimately the film makers put a more mainstream ending on it, and I can’t blame them. Spike Jonze and his writing team totally deserve the Writing Oscar they won for the script.


Something’s In The Air is one year old this week, at least the open beta is. Combined Beta and 1.0 downloads has reached 93,000.  I recently did a new play through using my tablet PC, and only found two minor bugs.

I plan to do a 1.1 version once the Date Ariane update is done, at the very least just to update the Date Ariane pictures that appear in SITA. I also want to include a way to enter text in game, so that it can be played on a tablet, then release the long promised android version.

In the mean time, the girls of SITA are trying a little Doctor Who cosplay: Rachel Spahr as Rose Tyler, Ariane Barnes as Clara Oswald, and Paula Brannigan as Amy Pond.

My new place in Zindra

Today marks the 10th anniversary of joining Second Life.  I thought about trying to update my avatar, in game, maybe with one of the new mesh avatars, but didn’t. My avatar in Second Life hasn’t changed in 3 years, mostly because I haven’t played much in 3 years.  I basically log in at least once a year, sell $72 worth of linden dollars to pay for my premium account for another year, and that’s about it.

When I logged in three days ago, my beautiful river view was trashed with someones scripted garbage.  I submitted a ticket and when I logged in today, the garbage is still there. The last time something like this happened, it took months to resolve.  Yes, I have been in SL long enough to have experienced every kind of griefing there is.


Date Ariane Update Update

Another reason my Second Life avatar has not changed is because I spend a lot more time playing with my Poser avatar.  It’s a bit more expensive hobby than Second Life, but the resulting screenshots are much more interesting.

I just finished updating the “Live Cabaret” pictures in the update.  If you want to follow the updating process, I am posting stuff at


Big Guild Wars 2 Update

For me Second Life got replaced by Guild Wars 2.  For years my moods have drifted between, being creative and having fun.  Second Life was sort of the bridge between the two as I could do both, and be social with other players.  Between being creative in Poser and having fun in Guild Wars 2, and the social side of GW2, Second Life got squeezed out of the cycle.

I bring up Guild Wars 2 because the recent upgrade has drastically improved the game for me and most other players. The most talked about changes was the way outfits work, which among other things allows me to wear sunglasses in combat.

But the biggest game changing update was something they call “Megaservers”.

You know how when most MMORPGs start to decline they start combining smaller servers together causing a lot of grief?   GW2 has reengineered the process which results in a lot more players in any given zone at any given time.  Having lots of players in a zone is a lot more fun than having just a few (I often found myself the sole player in certain zones).

Every zone has group events that require multiple players to do. If you are by yourself, they don’t get done. Now Megaservers dramatically improve traffic enough that these events can be done again.

Speaking of group events, they actually made a schedule of major boss fight events in the game.  Every 15 minutes there’s a new Boss fight, and if you want to follow the schedule, you can go from boss fight to boss fight, for a chance at a big reward at the end of each event.

Between “Megaservers” and World Boss schedules, Guild Wars 2 is once again a social game, and still one of the best MMORPGs out there.

More Virtual Worlds

I recently made some sojourns into other virtual worlds like Nuvera Online and  Didn’t stay long enough for a full scouting report, but I may go visit these and other small yet persevering worlds soon and file a report.