With barely any content to speak of, no currency, audio, media, or voice, and a User Interface that allows for limited communication and camera movements, it’s not hard to understand why Blue Mars has its detractors. Despite all of its early Beta deficiencies, however, there are compelling reasons to believe that it holds great promise for current and future aficionados of 3D immersive environments.
Most Second Life residents I’ve spoken with don’t know quite what to make of Blue Mars,
but none appear to believe that it will supplant or even displace their virtual world, though I do sense a modicum of concerned solidarity and defensiveness. There’s this Capulet-Montague thingy going on… like, if you so much as praise one aspect of Blue Mars it’s a form of treason or something. Personally, I subscribe to the Romeo and Juliet canon: “Can’t we all just get along?” Or am I misquoting?
Conventional wisdom would indicate that Second Life, which – ironically – could be called a mature virtual world by comparison, with its entrenched communities, tons of content and hundreds (thousands?) of events a week, is here to stay… but Blue Mars, in its infancy, has not yet begun to demonstrate its gravitas. It will take time, money, and a growing community of dedicated developers and residents.
Would you feed this little bitty baby vitamins or Kryptonite?
Every time I have a chance to speak with Jim Sink, recently named CEO of Avatar Reality, the company that owns Blue Mars, I come away feeling energized and hopeful for this budding platform. In a recent conversation, I asked him what they were concentrating on at the moment. “In order to create a vibrant virtual world community, we need to have outstanding content and we need to attract extraordinary developers. In a coming release, we’ll be offering the ability to create clothing, and we’re providing new uploading tools, too,” he explained.
Meet Blue Mars’ Ruth. Yes, these are default avatars created by unfashionistas at Avatar Reality, with a little fiddling I did around the eyes within the Face Customization editor. Please hurry up fashion designers, and make me something I want to wear
“At present, most of our energy is focused on laying the groundwork to prepare Blue Mars as a development platform. Of course, things like the UI are exceptionally important – we know how important this is to the community – and we’ve already begun to implement changes based on users’ feedback. There’s no shortage of things we need to do.”
Money makes the world go around (especially if you can cash in/cash out)
And one of the things that Blue Mars plans to do soon is launch the Blue Mars currency and, as Jim puts it, “the fundamentals of the economy.” I wondered out loud how musicians who depend on tips would make out in Blue Mars since only developers can cash out. To this, Jim had some very good news: “All developers will be able to cash out and anyone can become a developer, but Blue Mars requires more information and needs to know a lot more about you if you are going to be moving money in and out of the platform.“
Location, Location, Location (and putting a price on things)
Another impending feature will reside on the web-based Developer MyPages: Soon developers will have the ability to upload blocks of shops, set prices to items – including ready-to-use residences, clothing and stuff, and also real estate. Land! This is cool, but here I am going to dig my heels in the ground hard… there ain’t NO way I’m going to have a cookie-cutter home. Not here, not there, not anywhere. I once lived in a development and had the bad habit of driving right by my home because it was indistinguishable from all the others on the block. This just isn’t my thing. I don’t do it in real life, and I sure as heck am not going to do it in my virtual life. Yes, I’m that neighbor that annoys everyone by painting her house purple.
Blue Mars Betti in the kitchen? No, no, no! This isn't the kind of cooking I plan to do
Web to Blue Mars and back
Blue Mars has every expectation that they will be unveiling new MyPage web pages for end-users, too, from which they can edit their in-world profile, and purchase Blues, among other things.
Repeat after me: It’s a PLATFORM
Many of us, myself included, have been calling Blue Mars “a virtual world,” when it is actually a platform for many virtual worlds, and a staging area for all kinds of new – to me - talented people. For developers, entrepreneurs, artists it is a next-gen technological solution from which you can build your environments. For end users (the jury is still out on what we are going to be called… Residents? Martians? Colonists?) it is intended to be a destination offering rich diversity and choices.
These gorgeous photos of coming new content courtesy of Richard H. Childers, president of Virtual Space Entertainment (VSE), one of the first City developers on Blue Mars
Jim Sink recently tweeted, and of course, I looked, “CryEngine isn't just for realism. Check out this amazing work that would look right at home in Blue Mars.”
Games… yes! Blue Mars is flinging its doors open to members of the thriving Crytek modders community, inviting them to create their own games and content. A recent scrumptious example is Monkey Island 2, in which free-lancing 3D artist Hannes Appell first demonstrated how, with a little “voodoo,” he could enhance the gorgeous hand painted 2D concept art with a basic camera projection. Those pirates sure are mean to little froggies.
He then went on to demonstrate – just for fun - how original Monkey Island 2 backgrounds can look and feel in a modern 3d game engine, by building the sets with Maya and then exporting them into Cryengine's Sandbox editor.
Hannes is a Bavarian and now lives in Germany where he will soon graduate from the Institute for Animation & Visual Effects of the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg. If LucasArts doesn’t hire him after this little “experiment,” someone sure will. This video has only been posted on YouTube for 19 days and already it’s had 329,000 views and the comments beg him to “MAKE A REAL MOD OUT OF IT.” A little Blue Mars, Hannes?
I’m also like a stuttering deer caught in the headlights when it comes to Role Playing, but were I an elf, Trekkie, furry, or inclined to hang out in locations that attempt to accurately portray a historical era, such as Second Life’s Roman Forum or the 1920’s Berlin Project, Blue Mars’ built-in ability to control incoming content such as how an avatar looks or dresses would make suspension of belief considerably more intense.
Photo courtesy of VSE, a Blue Mars City developer
Architecture and design
I like the way h3oworldz, a CryEngine modder group, used the platform to demonstrate how valuable a "3D realtime walkthrough" a structure or set can be to demo environmental effects and scale. They would likely be interested in hearing about DB Bailey from Second Life and his success at using a virtual world to demonstrate a real life structure to ultimately sell a real life project.
VAM United is a German group working on a science fiction movie project using the CryEngine2 game engine. They’ve created this proof-of-concept as they prepare to produce a feature-length machinima based on a “loved and acclaimed” book. I highly recommend that you watch it here for better quality, but here is the YouTube version for you non-clickers:
What will the work of the likes of Lyric Lundquist or Lainy Voom or Colemarie Soleil look like, shot in Blue Mars?
Look at this one. Tell me, with a straight face, that you can't make use of these graphics and physics to create your vids...