Blue Mars – Not Ready For Prime Time

Unlike a lot of mumblings I’ve read, Blue Mars does have loads of potential. Problem is is that very few people look past what is and look at what will/could be. They log in, go oooo pretty, get bored, log out, and then publicly complain somewhere.

I’ve been a registered dev since early June and have had a lot of time to play around, read the dev wiki, and troll the forums. This will be a series of posts as public beta goes along and depending on how I feel continue on through release.

First up, it is not going to be a “SL killer” for the simple reason of: some people really do like the Wild West Sandbox. Some like creating for the sake of creating without learning some seriously intensive and rather daunting 3d programs. Some like the feeling you get finding something completely awesome that you never thought possible. We like the freedom it gives us to do pretty much anything we want… well almost.

Having basic tools that everyone can use is great, but we do have to admit we loose a lot of new users because of this. Sturgeon’s Law has never been proven better than in SL and many people would rather play in a prettier sandbox instead of spending loads of time to find something interesting. There really are enough people in the world (the real one that is) that both SL and BM can happily co-exist.

BM is not SL. It’s something different. More advanced. No matter what LL tries to force SL to be, it is and will forever be “your world, your imagination.” It’s a sandbox. You can make it into anything you want. However, there are some serious limitations that LL will never be able to fix like lots of people in one spot, effective advertising and proper IP rights. Whereas BM sits more in the middle of being able to create whatever you want to and a perfect ideal world imagined by a group of professional 3d artists (ie video games). Sort of more like: people who can afford a city’s world you can play in, can bounce around to different worlds and also buy some stuff.

BM is for those of us who’d rather have more power to create things without having to overcompensate for SL’s quirks. It’s for indie video game developers to make a game people don’t have to find and dl off of Steam. Or for fully immersed RP communities to have full control over their piece of the world, including the type of content you can bring in.

Granted they are touching on things that SL has tried to be or we’ve tried to make it, but many of those things SL just doesn’t do very well. However, the structure of BM and how it works makes it more viable for those types of things. Like crowds, RPG Sims, and much more detailed worlds.

And if I read another “SL does X so BM should do it too” I swear I’m going to punch someone in the face. For instance, having the ability for anyone to create without using those daunting 3d programs and then edit on the fly means there is very much a performance hit in SL because of it. I’d rather see what they do differently (better) instead of having a SL 2.0 – that’s what all the opensims are for.

SL is this crazy messed up place where anything can happen, and your options are almost limitless as long as you are clever enough to find the work arounds. Whereas Blue Mars is a bit more controlled and you have ability to make a bit higher level of quality along with many more functions available. If I sound at all more positive of BM, it’s really only because I already know my limitations in SL where I don’t yet in BM.

As It Stands Now:
That took a long time to get here…

Yes I know it’s a beta, but it’s not even ready for a public open beta. I’ve been in a lot of betas and will usually be the first to scream “its beta.” I think it was great letting devs start playing with the tools as early as possible. I would have even played around with the item editor more if I could texture decently and had more time. However, I have never seen anything go to open beta this unready.

The amount of things to do in it right now, if you aren’t a registered dev, you can see in a matter of hours. If you are a registered dev, the documentation will leave you spending another couple of hours banging your head against a wall until you give up. That is unless you have previous 3d experience and like to figure things out. And even then, it’s so buggy and finicky people are getting extremely frustrated.

Any MMO with this level of not much really to do for a user would fail as a private beta, let alone a public open beta. But it’s not really an MMO. SL you could torture prims or fly around and watch other people torture prims in beta. But it’s not really like SL. However, I’m guessing that a high percentage of those signed up for beta are from SL and they will be looking for something to do.

For a public beta test to work – as in thoroughly test the technology and get people interested in the game/platform – you need to have enough content for them to play around with. No loads of users for a couple of hours – maybe days in this case – and then most bugger off out of absolute boredom. This was the point of having registered devs in a private beta, or so I would think. They are seriously jumping the gun here since we haven’t actually had time or the ability to at least partially fill up the current empty cities. The only thing (content wise) that’s been added since I first got in beta in early June was a new empty city.

Part of the problem is that the developer tools aren’t ready. As a content creator there is no way to create and upload animations, skins, hair, shapes, accessories, or script anything. They may be included in the city developer SDK, but that’s under a different NDA so I don’t know. But the fact of the matter is, is that the few things that you could buy have been sitting there since my first walk around.

What they really should have done, in my opinion, is to first finish the content creation tools enough so we could put some things in all those empty shops in Beach City and/or New Venice. I know some would scream favouritism, but we are talking user retention here. Which would be better: 2 shops with a few things in it surrounded by empty ones or all the shops with at least something in it?

Right now it seems to be more of a “look at the potential of this platform” directed at developers instead of what a public beta generally means: something for the users. If that’s the case, then why not open the dev beta to everyone who signed up first?

Why would anyone take as much time as it does to develop for BM when the place will be empty of users due to lack of anything compelling to do? BM might be infinitely better to look at, have loads more capabilities but SL has the users. Why would a dev choose an empty BM over an overflowing SL?

Does AR have on their road map the time it’s going to take for someone to develop actual compelling content without the promise of users in order to bring them in?

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15 Responses to “Blue Mars – Not Ready For Prime Time”

  1. Thanks! That was a really good read!
    Very nicely written, well defined points which seem very reasonable.

    AlexanderThe Benelli

  2. In answer to your questions:

    Avatar Reality is a platform company. We’re developing a platform on the worlds best game engine, with creation tools, secure IP and ecommerce system for content developers to create worlds, MMO games, businesses and who knows what else.

    As such, we aren’t really set up to create the numerous worlds themselves, or set up shops, or activities. We built a few things as examples. But now we need to get back to developing all the added features needed, like an animation editor, skin editor, IM system, and tons more features. So we leave the creation of content and interesting places to the 3rd-party devs like yourself (thanks for dev’ing for Blue Mars!).

    Don’t worry! A large number of city, block and item developers are creating content even as we speak. Several City devs have teams of up to 40 people. The really good news is that a couple of the new Cities are about ready to come online. Hopefully at least one of them in the next release, scheduled for later this month. I think you’ll be surprised by how fast we’re going to grow.

    Also, see http://tinyurl.com/29blqy for an in-depth exploration of the article entitled “If you aren’t embarrassed by v1.0 you didn’t release it early enough”.

    Believe me I’m embarrassed. 😛 But I also know that technology is moving at incredible speed. I also remember what it was like in the early days on some other virtual worlds. There weren’t many things to do. However, for most of the non-developers in the world (i.e. regular people), it’s not the *things to do* or things to create that makes a world interesting, it’s the *people.* Meeting, watching, chatting, flirting, collaborating, befrending, arguing, falling in love, and more.

    Never fear. New things and places and activities are scheduled for each new version of Blue Mars.

    But the people, the people are already here! So, what are you waiting for?

    glenn sanders | community director | Avatar Reality

  3. Thanks Glenn for your reply. Now get the whips cracking for us to get back in so I can make a couple of vids for my next post.

    I understand that you are a platform company, and not in the content biz. My point was that while there is a lot of potential, it’ll be lost in the fact that there is so little to do that few will stick around long enough to notice.

    I just think it would have been better for user retention to hold off on an open beta when more things were available to do, see, buy, whatever.

  4. I’d love to know what you are talking about, Luth, but I am still waiting on my Beta account. I know my IP address comes from a small country; actually, small European country. So, whenever I have my Beta account to test it and I will share my thoughts on Blue Mars.

  5. Very well written Luth, and if Blue Mars rolls out as you have described it, then I expect your prediction will come true. Can I just say that it is going to be unfortunate if Blue Mars becomes universally known as BM, much like Second Life is known as SL? If so, it may go down as one of those marketing class examples of not thinking all the way through your name. 🙂 Or am I the only one who has a penchant for potty humor?

  6. […] Blue Mars – Not Ready For Prime Time « The SL Revolution […]

  7. Great article. I really wanted to test BM out and I even got my developer account, but to my great dismay it’s not available for Macs!

  8. Petitelittlegirl Pinklady Says:

    not sure if I understand all of the creation comments. I am beta testing as one of the “people” not creators and I have to agree that I log in and log off in about 20 minutes. replying to Glenn’s comment – no there is NOT anyone there. I have logged on different days, different hours, and have bumped into approximately 4 people – two actually had a conversation with me but because there was no avi name I have any idea who they are/were. I agree it is very pretty and am excited to be able to do more inworld. but I will get bored quickly unless there is more to see and do.

  9. Chez Nabob Says:

    Anyone know if you can run BM on a mac using a Parallels or VM Ware?

  10. Whether Blue Mars will be a SL Killer or not will depend on the veracity of your sandbox reasoning. I have seen many posts arguing one way or another on this: just how many people in SL actually build? In my RP sim I have met literally hundreds of females, and the number interested in building you could count on the fingers of a short-sighted butcher. Time will tell on this one. My money is on very few staying in SL BECAUSE of its in-world building tools, which are limited to plywood prims anyway, and the stuff that makes prims useful – textures, anims, sounds are all produced outside of SL.

    When Opensim started to get stable around release 7200 I recreated my RP sim in there, and attached it to the OSGrid, as there was a considerable cost saving. One by one every member of our sim left. The reason? No stores for them to go shopping. None of them did any creation, despite all the SL building tools being available in Opensim.

    Rock

    • Comparing leaving SL for opensim isn’t exactly valid as it’s core is still SL. The functions are the same. The creative process is the same.

      And I know loads of females who build, myself included.

      People will stay in SL/OpenSims for many various reasons and others will leave. But I don’t see a mass exodus, just like there wasn’t when Opensim started to get more stable.

      Creators who don’t want to learn or use extensive 3d tools will stay. Creating for SL/OpenSim is EASY in comparison to Blue Mars. Even if most of it is done outside of SL, it’s still easier.

      Some will stay just for the fact that while they don’t build, they can tweak things in world.

      It’s not just that everyone builds, it’s that everyone CAN build. It’s a mindset thing. Loads of people like the idea of open creation and see Blue Mars as closed creation. And loads of people like the idea of closed creation.

      People will also stay or leave based on their communities. That was your experience. The reason wasn’t the shopping because there is still LOADS of shopping to do in SL, and from what I hear still much more of it than OSGrid. They moved over because that specific community moved over 1 by 1 and people are far more important than anything a platform provides.

      Creators will still create. People will still sell stuff while there are people there to buy. And people will still buy stuff if there are creators making stuff to buy.

      My point still stands. SL and BM are different enough that they will appeal to different people. And the real world is large enough for both to exist. So a smart creator will do better with a foot in each.

  11. […] also did some posts for The Rev. It’s a new series of posts on Blue Mars: Blue Mars-Not Ready For Prime Time Blue Mars-User Experience […]

  12. Pix Jigsaw Says:

    I think the Blue Mars concept is very interesting. If it ever reaches maturity, it could be quite a evolutionary platform. The content creation tools and pipeline make sense from an organizational perspective. It uses professional, well-understood content creation tools and there is an existing industry (games) that you can mine to find technical and artistic talent to make something impressive. It would be fairly trivial to build out your corporate meeting space, a virtual concert hall, or a product demonstration and training facility using game creation technology. With the eye-candy the graphics engine supports, plus the reputed ability to host a lot more avatars in a sim/city the possibilities are there (at least in theory). Someone using this technology could easily create some beautiful, unique, and informative spaces.

    It will be interesting to see what is to be gained (and what is lost) when a platform doesn’t try to be the real-time virtual world scratch pad that Second Life is.

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