Saturday, August 29, 2009

This is it! New virtual world Blue Mars rolls out Open Beta on Sept 2 - Plus, news for registered users

According to Jim Sink - recently promoted to CEO of Avatar Reality – the company will be taking its Open Beta of the 3D immersive virtual world and platform Blue Mars public on Wednesday, September 2 at 12:01am HST (Hawaiian Standard Time). The first weighty contender to Second Life® in the user-generated content category of virtual worlds, delivering dazzlingly realistic graphics and unprecedented physics, has been in Private Beta for less than a month, and open only to registered developers since June.

Jim shared that he’s been impressed with the number of people registering, and expects that the new features packaged in the significant update they are rolling out with the Open Beta will come as a pleasant surprise to those who have already participated. Moreover, he revealed that all Private Beta testers had been locked at the highest performance settings, but that the new version will soon allow for each user to make adjustments to their resolution.

To prepare for the Open Beta, Blue Mars will be shutting its servers down Monday, August 31, at 10am HST during which time the budding virtual world will be offline and their websites unavailable for several hours. All charter members who participated in the Private Beta – save registered developers – will have to register again on or after September 2. However, charter members will be able to log in immediately after registering, whereas all others will have to sign up and wait to receive an invite, unless, that is, they have a friend in Blue Mars. Each participant in the Private Beta will have the ability to invite up to 3 friends who will be given immediate access – after registration - via the charter member’s “my page,” on the Blue Mars website.

I spent a few hours exploring Blue Mars and also spoke with several Private Beta participants who often commented on the sparse interface – which apparently will change dramatically in the new version – and limited features, but always ended with, “but it’s so beautiful.” It most certainly is that. I’ve been lusting after the visual ecstasy afforded by CryTek’s game engine CryEngine 2 since I first laid eyes on it, but had no interest in playing the games that use it until now. For me, it will have to be a virtual world where user-generated content is enabled or nothing at all. The debate on this last point is heating up and it remains to be seen whether Second Life’s content creators will adapt to the Blue Mars’ off-world creation model, versus SL’s prims that empower even amateurs to build and manifest their creativity in Second Life.

Some folks like Rock Vacirca believe they will and others like Phaylen Fairchild think it's not possible. I'm still on the fence.

Aussie digital media consultant Skribe Forti has been cranking out video tutorials about Blue Mars

Jim’s most recent tweet informs us that he “just finished installing the new build of Blue Mars on my iMac,” and when I asked him about it, he said it was running “great,” and that "Just because CryEngine doesn’t run on OS X doesn’t mean that it’s a big deal to dual boot using Boot Camp,” Apple's free software that can boot Windows on your Mac natively.

That Blue Mars will deliver spectacular fidelity, physics and scalability that 6 year old Second Life might not ever be able to attain unless it's rebuilt from the ground up is not under discussion, but I can’t help but wonder if it will be able to catch up to the amazing content and growing user-base that SL’s residents have come to expect, along with the attending friendships and social, educational and business experiences.

Either way, I am welcoming Blue Mars with open arms. While I applaud the efforts of the open source OpenSim community and want to encourage them to move forward, I will never have enough options, and Blue Mars is exactly that: A very viable option.

See also:

July 31, 2009: More Blue Mars – The official roll-out dates (and some musings)

April 15, 2009: New answers and more questions regarding the upcoming virtual world Blue Mars


Troy Mc said...

Most of SL's content is made outside of SL, then imported.

Huh? Well, think about it.

Unless you take a snapshot and use that as a texture, textures are made outside of SL then uploaded.

The same can be said of animations, sculpties, and sounds: most are created outside of SL then imported.

Yes, integrating all of that content into a finished product has to be done inside SL, usually. So what?

I'll be watching Blue Mars from a distance for now. It takes a lot more than a fancy graphics engine to beat SL. Betamax was technically better than VHS (according to some), but it didn't matter.

Macphisto Angelus said...

I have been biting at the bit to get into Blue Mars and try it out. This is the first beta test I applied for that I was passed over for. :P

Needless to say I will be on virtual line to get into the open beta. (I also know someone I am going to hit up for the friend invite lol).

Thanks for the write up on this.

melponeme_k said...

The avatars look horrific. The expressions remind me of "Faces of Meth". And so far the only customization I see is for makeup choices. Will users be able to actually access the shape controls?

From one of the videos, I was given the impression that users would have to wait until more created avatar choices are given. That isn't good, especially for a base of users who are used to tweaking their avatars.

Fabiano said...

One of the things that makes SL thrive so much is that so MANY people make things, and with the very basic things we have some few create art, amazing art. With basic prims.

Many of those just cannot afford to buy the software that is required to make 3D meshes. Or do not have the time it takes to master such unfriendly tools as blender.

On top of that, it seems to me that BM requires far greater graphics power than SL does (but I might be mistaken on that).

BM is certainly innovative, no argument there. But is it too "niche" to pose any real threat to SL? I think it is. I think many of the very good creators in SL will be drawn by the "shiny", and find that they simply do not have the vast market that they had in SL. Nor will they.

Of course, at this stage, all anyone can do is speculate. But I think that anyone who is preparing to relocate totally to BM *now* is in for a sad surprise. At the very least, keep a foot in both worlds, and keep them there long term.

-- Miro Collas

sororNishi said...

Yes, I wonder myself about the total quantity of objects and environments in SL.
Will anyone ever be able to catch up with the sheer quantity of SL creations?
It will certainly be interesting to see... we know that LL can keep churning out land, we know who fills it all with content... how will Blue Mars ever fill up??
Interesting..... we know its traffic that will make or break any new world.

Commenter said...

I won't pay somebody to make or display content for them. If they manage to aquire a large user base then there may be an incentive.

I just can't see how they can aquire a large user base on what they have to offer. I hope I'm wrong.

Bettina Tizzy said...

@Troy - You are right in that most SL content, increasingly, is created off-world. The difference is that amateur creators - and so many go on to do wonderful things - just don't know how. Have you visited Blue Mars yet? I'm always interested in your opinion.

@Macphisto! How is it possible that you didn't make it into the Private Beta? That's so wrong!!

@melponeme That's harsh for a world that is barely getting on its feet. I suspect that BM's avatars are going to change dramatically in the next few months.

@Miro I hear - though I've never used it - that Google Sketchup is easy to use and produces some great stuff. Have you tried it? As for graphics power, yes, I do believe you need a decent card to really enjoy it.

@soror - Dunno if BMs will ever "catch up." I think it will be a different experience altogether. As you say, we shall see.

@Commentor - I'm hoping I can afford a region. I would like to try out a new forest. :)

Fabiano said...

@Bettina: SketchUp isn't available for linux. :-|

-- Miro

Commenter said...

Bettina, if you're not too bothered about a user base then you can always download the Crysis editor and build your forest. You can also run a dedicated server so that your friends can join you. Obviously the dedicated server will cost you, but at least you get to cut out the middleman (Avatar Reality), so it shouldn't be quite as expensive.

Snowy Hoobinoo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Snowy Hoobinoo said...

If you were missed on the beta invite just go to the Blue Mars site and sign up as a dev, then from the dev's download page grab the client and log in using your dev details, worked ok for me.

Was on for an hour earlier and going to try again soon but your not missing much, controls are a bit lacking (although that could just be how used to the sl controls I am), avatars are ok ish but the interface is missing something. The "mini-games" included are a bit of a step back gaming wise.

The world itself does look good, but many of those there had the same issues as me, as well as concerns over the controls on creating products.

To me it really feels like a non combat entropia but i'm going to stick with it awhile to see if it opens up.

I do recommend checking it out and like the devs say, after sept 2nd the beta should open up and release many of the locked controls and features.

Lorelei Armstrong said...

Hmmm... they have will open the doors on the birthday of Queen Liliuokalani, last royal ruler of Hawaii. Hope that wasn't too rushed...

ToadyZilla said...

I was invited to test Blue Mars, only to find that it is for really powerful Windows machines only. There is no Mac or Linux support. I'd have love to have looked, but I can't so I won't!!

Besides all the other things people have listed, this is a serious DealBreaker for me!!

Driftwood Miles said...

This is the beginning of a huge learning curve for Avatar Reality and Blue Mars residents. But I do feel that the potential is huge and not just for graphic designers and 3d model makers.
Early days will see slow progression as people acclimatise to the new platform. But once they know what levers to pull.... :)

a Blue Mars Community

Nostrum Forder said...

Not having a native Mac OS X client means that Blue Mars effectively doesn't exist for me. For a company to insist that we run Windows - with all of the security, stability, and virus issues that entails - just so we can enter their VR is the height of disdain for us. Positioning Blue Mars as an alternative (or competition) to SL in the face of its having no cross-platform support is silly.

Let's hope BM dies fast and fades quickly, or that they wake up and move to a cross-platform model soon.

Bettina Tizzy said...

Blue Mars is a platform, and not a content-rich world that is ready to play. It is also about one week old and very much in Beta. As I understand it, a great deal of 3rd party content is in development now.

I agree that the User Interface is still a long ways off from being completed, and I can see how Mac users are disgruntled... but I wished for a CryEngine-based virtual world where users could create content, and I got it. :) - At issue here is the fact that CRYTEK doesn't support Macs. Nevertheless, the bleeding edge for virtual worlds resides with their game engine, and so it goes.

When I first joined Second Life, I couldn't use it because my video card was too old. A few months later, I purchased a new computer and based many of my hardware decisions on what was required so that I could access my first virtual world. Since then, the vast majority of my hardware decisions had to do with my use of virtual worlds.

@Commenter: I just haven't the time, and the savings would be nullified by the time I paid for a dedicated server, etc.

@Nostrum - I so wish the opposite! I want Blue Mars to succeed beyond our wildest dreams. I want to discover and celebrate new creators and their creations!

Bettina Tizzy said...

Nostrum, forgot to add... I am willing to bet you a dollar that Blue Mars will be populated with hundreds of thousands of users who never used or liked Second Life.

Look at it this way... I speak three languages. Each language is a portal to a world of people with whom I would not be able to have meaningful contact were it not for the fact that I speak their language. The way I see it, Second Life is just one language in Virtual Worlds, and one that I enjoy very much... but I am going to be multilingual, virtually speaking.

lufpleh said...

@ToadyZilla "really powerful Windows machines".

I managed to acces BM with a 3-4 year old laptop, 1.7Ghz, 1G memory, running Windows XP with on-board ATI 200M Express graphics card. Not powerful at all, even sub-standard for SL.

Admittedly it was slow & laggy, 2-3 FPS, but so is SL if I turn graphics up to High.

I think maybe BM are hyping the hardware requirements to help their marketing of superior quality graphics compared to SL. It still looked amazing even with my crappy graphics card.

It will be interesting to see what's possible when BM start to let users adjust their graphic settings.

curiostrip said...

Bootcamp does not equal "runs on a Mac". Imagine having to reboot your hardware into a different operating system if you wanted to, say, surf to a particular web site.

curiostrip said...

PS. Imagine how less creative the web would be, or even Second Life, if there were no Mac OS X support. Not that Windows users aren't creative, but the creative diversity would be severely limited.