Girl from Mars

After a prolonged gestation period, the virtual world of Blue Mars has started to recruit beta testers, and will, if you believe developers Avatar Reality, go live sometime in the summer.

The visuals, which utilise the CryENGINE2, certainly look pretty, and A-R are promising that users will be able to play without having to buy the latest graphics card, though they are keeping the details of the minimum hardware specifications a secret for now. Windows Vista is required though, so my old linux box definitely won’t work.

It’s claimed that the platform will be able to support thousands of simultaneous users in each region, which would be a massive advance on the paltry number Second Life can manage. It appears though that this will be done by a process of sharding, which I’ll admit I don’t really understand, except that it involves running separate instances of the same location on different servers, with new ones being spawned as necessary. I would have thought that this meant that if you had arranged to meet someone at a popular place then you might miss them because they were on a different shard, but there might be some technical way around this.

There will be a content generation system, but this will be limited to developers who have paid to sign up with A-R, leaving no space for amateur creativity. A central item registration system will protect IP rights, and, presumably, allow A-R to prevent the manufacture of the sort of things that have generated all those lurid stories about the perversity of Second Life. Some sort of virtual currency will exist, but ordinary users won’t be able to cash it out into real money.

So is Blue Mars a Second Life-killer? The graphics are a lot better, the scalability sounds attractive, and there does seem to be plenty to do. I can’t see too many current SL residents being tempted away though, since they would surely miss the freedom to produce their own content, and the potential, however illusory, for making some money.

Hard-core SL fans are unlikely to be the target demographic for Blue Mars though (but then, judging by Linden Labs’ recent actions, hard-core SL fans aren’t even the target demographic for Second Life). Avatar Reality will have their sights set on the corporate and educational markets, as well as new VW consumers who have graduated from places like Habbo and Club Penguin, and are more interested in the metaverse as a place to be fed entertainment rather than an outlet for their creative urges. These of course are exactly the clients who, we are told, represent the future for SL. If A-R are successful in stealing away this potentially lucrative business, they might just end up messing things up for those of us who do stick around in Second Life.

I was originally going to go for the obvious Bowie track as the title for this post, but I like this tune better.

One Response to Girl from Mars

  1. HO says:

    you might want to look at a new system called Room Yak. They are also in the beta phase – http://www.roomyak.com

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