Community > Blog

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Blue World Style: How Danielle Eber Became a Blue Mars Fashion Leader

Danielle Eber is the avatar behind one of the largest brands in Blue Mars, Tirion Designs, as well as owning and operating two separate cities, Tharsis Estates and Sandbox City, renting out shop space there to fellow designers. Unsurprisingly, two items from Tirion Designs, her black patent stilettos and backless pink satin bra, are among Blue Mars’ current top ten bestsellers.

A longtime virtual world user, Danielle became a pioneering content creator in Blue Mars after reading about the world on Massively. She signed up for the early beta and was among the first to try the new platform.

Danielle started Tirion Designs with a focus on clothing to fill a perceived gap in the market, but since then, she's been expanding into cities, hair, houses, and even furniture, experimenting and testing new techniques to see what works best where. "With Blue Mars being still under development," she tells me, "We designers have barely scratched the surface in what we can make and what people want."

Her tools for creating Blue Mars content are 3ds Max 2010 and Photoshop CS4. “They seemed the most compatible with Blue Mars, since there are specific plugins for them, can do everything I need, so I don't have to learn multiple programs,” she tells me. She also likes that they’re industry standard tools, since she’s hoping to turn her Blue Mars skills into a real world career. She does acknowledge that doing this will require dedication. "Although you don't have to be a professional to build here,” as she puts it, “the game engine and developer toolkit are very much pro level, being derived from what a commercial game developer uses to make their own games. So if I want to do the best work possible, I need to learn and practice."

Formerly a content creator in Second Life, Danielle says she may return to creating in SL once it introduces COLLADA mesh, already standard in Blue Mars: “With the introduction of mesh to SL it seems to be moving forward again, so I may build in both worlds in the future."

Find Danielle's creations in Tharsis Estates, and browse her shop online via her Picasa gallery. She often spends time in the Welcome Area during evenings -- you may get to meet her then too!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Blue World Notes: The Blue Mars Avatar Who Wanted to be a Minotaur (But Became a Cat Instead)

In the first few days of exploring Blue Mars, among the very first Martians I met was a giant humanoid cat with the torso of a bodybuilder and the armored leggings of a, well, cat gladiator. The invention of Arzach Mills, the cat actually began as a minotaur (hence the buff body), but somewhere in the process, it started looking feline. "It may look like a cat just now," Arzach admits to me, laughing.

A professional 3D modeler and texture artist based in Istanbul, Turkey, Arzach made his cat-like minotaur in Maya, using Lattice, Soft Modification, and Sculpt Polygon to hone his creation. The creature itself is a body skin and shape, and as it happens, you can buy it from Arzach, who owns a store in Beach City, and soon, in his own City, called ARAF (more on that soon.) You may see him sometime in Second Life, where he also goes by the name Arzach Mills, and has operated a store for over three years. You can also see more of Arzach's fantastic artwork (2D and 3D) on his blog.

Thanks to the Martian called Strachan for the tip! Know another amazing Blue Mars avatar I should meet? Suggest in Comments, or email me, hamlet at bluemarsonline dot com.

Blue Mars' Top Ten Bestsellers - Basics Rule, Male and Female Fashion Sell About Equally

Last week I wrote about five of the top ten bestsellers in Blue Mars fashions, so here's the rest.  Looking at them all, I noticed a couple very interesting shopping and social trends:

- The most popular items in Blue Mars are divided almost equally between womenswear and menswear, with womenswear taking a very slight lead over guys' clothes. It's a very common assumption that women are the only real consumers in virtual fashion markets, but time and again (as here), I actually find that many men are just as interested in customizing their avatars' appearance as their female counterparts.

- The bestsellers are overwhelmingly wardrobe basics: Versatile and practical pieces that can be worn with a broad range of looks and styles. A lot of Blue Mars shoppers are definitely thinking ahead when they invest in their virtual wardrobe.

That's enough analysis for now, though, so let's get to the items!

These jeans from GridRock City are not a shock at all. I can say without hesitation that jeans are one of the most common pieces of menswear for sale in Blue Mars and, for that matter, Second Life. If there's one thing that almost everyone should have in their wardrobe it's a decent pair of jeans, especially if you're a guy. They're a casualwear staple that can go with just about anything, so their unparalleled popularity among creators and consumers is practically a given!

This leather jacket from Sivan Okcuoglu, which you can find in the ground level shops in Beach City, also didn't come as any real surprise to me. Leather jackets have been a symbol of a hardcore attitude and lifestyle since the 1950s, and every generation seems to take some element of them an make them its own. What's not to love about that kind of timeless appeal?

You can also find the next two items in the ground level shops in Beach City. This thermal top by Electric Geisha Pty Ltd is another example of casual versatility and smart wardrobe choices. It would go perfectly with the GridRock jeans and even underneath the leather jacket (with some smart layering). Another bonus? This thermal only costs 50BLU$!

This padded coat, appropriately named Cold Front, is also by Electric Geisha Pty Ltd in Beach City. This was a little more surprising to me than the other items, because it is a comfy looking jacket... for a world that seems sunny and temperate! We all tend to bring certain real world fashion baggage (for lack of a better word) with us. We wear glasses, carry cute umbrellas, and wear warm coats when there's really no need to, because it's a look we know, and a direct extension of our real lives into our virtual lives. Or maybe it's just a really nice coat!

The last item is another for the ladies, and it's the item than breaks the nearly equal balance between the sexes in favor of the females. Much like the strapless bra that's also wildly popular, this backless bra from Tirion Designs in Tharsis Estates is vital for more daringly cut clothing, in particular anything with a low or open back. If pink's not your style you'll be happy to hear that it also comes in red, and if you're looking for matching sets, you can also pick up a pair of underwear in the same shades.

That's it for the items that are taking Blue Mars fashion by storm, but what are your favorite wardrobe essentials? Drop me a line or leave a comment!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Blue World Notes: Rainfall and Lush Mountain Trails in Blue Mars' Digital DNA

From the beautiful urban squalor of Port Town, the next stop in my first Blue Mars tour is totally different, and right about now, incredibly welcome: Digital DNA, a lush, mountainous region currently under heavy rainfall. I'm exploring it from San Francisco, which is sweltering under a heatwave, so it's a virtual relief to jog through wet trails surrounded by dewy grass, while a thunderstorm constantly rumbles somewhere in the distance.

It's not just waterfalls and mountain pools with vista views, however. After slipping over a ledge, I tumbled into the lake below, and inched along the cliff wall, until I wound up plunging through an underwater tunnel that led to a meadow and grassy hills above a moonlit beach. I have a feeling I've only explored just a portion, too.

Where next in Blue Mars? That's largely up to you. Suggest in Comments, or email me, hamlet at bluemarsonline dot com. And much thanks to Dylan Rickenbacker, for tipping me to Digital DNA.

Blue World Style: Back to School Fashion in Blue Mars

This season is the first autumn in about 18 years that I'm not spending as a student, and as much as I hated the last-minute essays, all-night reading, and the loud neighbours on Thursday and Friday nights, breathing in the cold crisp fall air already makes me feel some pretty strong pangs of nostalgia. I figured it would be appropriate in light of this to put together a preppy back to school style outfit for today.

I'm wearing my usual Shape from Moxxi in Port Town of course, with a skin from Estelle Parnall in Fashion Esplanade. I want to once again remind everyone to try before you buy. The nostrils of this skin extend a bit farther than the nostrils of the shape I'm wearing for example, so the option to try the skin on before buying lets me decide if I can live with that or not. This skin also has some pretty fierce brows that may not be to your liking, since they're a bit hard to tint or cover with the eyebrow makeup layer. Consequently, if you're adamant about brows matching your hair, this skin might not be for you. With that said, the shape and detail of the lips makes me swoon every time I look, and I've been nearly inseparable from this skin since I got it.

I'm also wearing my favorite glasses, as well as some low pigtails, from Shade City. I normally find pigtails a little bit tacky, but this style is low-key enough to have won me over. The jeans from Moxxi should be no surprise after all the gushing I did about them last week, but the real star of this ensemble is the argyle sweater from Pink Fizzy Soda Designs in Gaia, which is available in other colors for the guys as well as the gals. I finished the look with the black wedges that come with the default avatar, which are actually the shoes I wear most when I'm out shopping or wandering around in Blue Mars.

As always, don't hesitate to email me with your Blue Mars fashion ideas and secrets!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Blue World Notes: Get a God's Eye By Detaching Your Camera From Your Avatar

While Blue Mars is very much still in Beta and rough in many ways, there's one feature already in place that's really striking: The ability to detach your camera view from your avatar.

Normally, the camera stays just over your avatar's shoulder, as if you're looking over it (which is a default perspective for most online worlds and MMOs.) By rolling your mouse wheel, however, you can change that view so that the camera gradually moves away.

I'm used to having this ability in Second Life, but as I recall, with SL the maximum distance the camera can be from the avatar is around 100 meters. With Blue Mars, the maximum distance seems more like 500 meters, enabling you to move in a split second from just above your avatar, to looking at it high overhead. (As depicted at left, in a Blue Mars city called Digital DNA.) This gives you the instant ability to see yourself in relationship to the wider geography, a feature I have to think Blue Mars developers will want to use in the future. (Instead of creating a separate map display, for example, you could make a City's road marks visible in this God's eye view.)

But I like this feature most because it's almost a philosophical ability: With several turns of the mouse wheel, you can literally see just how small you are in relation to the world around you:

What other Blue Mars features make you think deep thoughts? Please share in comments, or reach out via email to hamlet at bluemarsonline dot com.

Blue World Style Tip: How To Layer Clothing in Blue Mars

Today's tip might be old news for Blue Mars fashion veterans, but after a couple recent conversations that ended in "Oh, that's what that's for!", I thought today would be a good time to talk about the clothing layer priority scale in the clothing editor. This is the row of boxes to the left of your clothing inventory. This scale is essentially the order of your clothes from closest to farthest from your avatar's body, and the picture above illustrates the massive difference that this scale can make depending on how effectively you use it.

To the left, I've taken a picture of my scale and highlighted how I usually sort the layers of my outfit on it. I almost always have my underclothing layers (if the outfit involves any) at the top, closest to my avatars body. In this case, putting the tanktop and underwear up here keeps them from breaking through the t-shirt and skirt.

The middle is the majority of the outfit, though this is the area where you'll have to do some of the most careful sorting. For example, my glasses are kept closer than my hair so the arms will be tucked under the hair on the sides of my hair, rather than resting on top of it.

I save the last couple spaces for the bulkiest clothing– items that need to be on the outer layers to avoid breaking through any other clothing.

After the makeup editing abilities in Blue Mars I think the clothing layering options are one of my favorite features to play around with, since they give you the ability to shuffle the components of your outfits around for a really fitted and customized look. So what features have you been making the most of? As always, don't hesitate to comment or send me an email!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Blue World Notes: Truly Becoming Hamlet Au in Blue Mars (Thanks to Mako Magellan)

I've been wandering the world of Blue Mars as an avatar writer for nearly two weeks, but up until now, something's been missing: a white suit, similar to the suit my Second Life "embedded journalist" avatar wore, as a tribute to Tom Wolfe. Oh, I liked the original steampunk suit I started with quite a bit, but my Blue Mars avatar wouldn't feel truly myself, until I got some crisp white threads.

Enter Mr. Mako Magellan, a well-known clothier in the Blue Mars City of Caledonia. I heard a hot rumor his Caledonian shop was sporting a new white suit (OK, he told me on Facebook), so I teleported over to try it on:

After a few adjustments to make sure I wasn't bursting through the seams, here I finally am, truly ready to start chronicling the evolution of Blue Mars society:

I'm hoping to start a trend, because on Mars, I say white looks good everywhere.

How about you? Is there an outfit for your avatar that you need to wear, to really feel comfortable in your virtual skin? Discuss in Comments, and always feel free to hit me up via hamlet at bluemarsonline dot com.

Blue World Style: Blue Mars' Dark Elves and Fantasy Friday

Last Friday I did a sci-fi inspired look, so today I decided I would continue on that note and try a fantasy outfit. I styled my avatar a little after the Asmodian dark elf race in one of my favourite MMORPGs, Aion. They usually use a very cool color palette of blues, greens, and purples, and tend to wear very dramatic outfits, so I assembled my look based on those cues.

I'm wearing the blue fantasy skin from Adam n Eve in Caledonia, which I've enhanced using some creative gloss layers on the lips and under the eyes (check out my tutorial on this technique from earlier this week). The hairstyle is from Hair Today Gone Tomorrow in Cloud City, which is the definitive shop for wildly colored hair, my bra is from GrabJo in Shade City, and the glowing turquoise earrings I'm wearing are from Sketchy Fever in Gaia.

Of course the focal point of this avatar is the elaborate outfit from AD Sport in Beach City which comes complete with the gauntlets, collar, cowl and cloak. I really love the dramatic design of this dress, and it really makes me eager to see what ADSport designer Arzach Mills will produce in the future. I will say that the texturing on this outfit doesn't quite do the elaborate meshwork justice, but at the same time I appreciate the risk of designing niche clothing like this for a growing market. It takes vision and commitment, I'm always very eager to encourage designers with guts like that because great things will invariably come from them.

Don't forget to drop me a line this weekend with tips and feedback, or say hello if you catch me in world– I'll be hard to miss in this ensemble!

Blue World Notes: Tiny and Giant Avatars in Blue Mars? They're on the Roadmap

After noticing the fantastic, humanoid avatars I recently spotted in Blue Mars, reader Nat Merit wondered if we'll ever see extremely small avatars, like the tinies popular in Second Life. I put the question to Avatar Reality's Community Manager Glenn Goodliffe (also his name in SL), and here's what he said:

The short answer is 'not yet'. Right now, the Blue Mars animation cage is optimized for the current avatar size. This is why the animations are smooth and the two-avatar anims are pretty well synchronized. The current set-up limits the size variation to about 10% of the original size.

That said, he suggested very large or tiny avatars are on the roadmap:

Avatar [Reality] has plans to make the avatars much more scalable and flexible in the future. In addition there are plans to enable custom meshes, rigging and custom animations for those meshes.

So look for an evolution of avatar shapes and sizes in coming months. Meantime, know some fantastic avatars in Blue Mars I should meet next? Please post in Comments, or email me, hamlet at bluemarsonline dot com.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Blue World Style: Bestselling Women's Fashions in Blue Mars

Recently I got the opportunity to see details about some of the most popular women's fashion items in Blue Mars, so today I've opted to talk about several of the items from that list that had already found their way into my inventory. Some of them I have worn in my previous posts, others are from designers I tend to talk about a lot, and some I've even kept to myself until now. Let's cut right to the chase!

First up is the skin tone strapless lace bra from Estelle Parnall of Fashion Esplanade. Parnall is one of the most prolific designers in Blue Mars right now, and is one of a few name's I end up repeating over and over again in these style posts as a result. This bra's popularity is no surprise. A strapless bra in a subtle color is a must-have to avoid unsightly straps spoiling the neckline of a dress or outfit.

Next is this funky lilac striped mini-dress from GridRock City. While I find the edges of this dress are a bit raw, the pinched folds in the mesh around the bottom add a nice level of dimension to the design. This dress is a lot more vibrant than most of what else is available in terms of dresses, and also happens to be next to one of the most popular men's items, the GridRock City jeans.

Mako Magellan's boots from Caledonia are another staple of the Martian woman's closet. While the most popular color is black, I prefer this really warm, rich brown color. Knee-high boots are always a pretty key item in fall, so if you don't already have a pair of these striking shoes, now's the perfect time to grab them.

I apologize if my posts this week seem like a Moxxi-fest, but I couldn't omit this wildly popular leather jacket from her Port Town shop. While this jacket is gorgeous on its own, it's also an excellent example of the high level of detail that designers can work out with mesh. Belts, studs, and zippers make this jacket as technically impressive as it is stylish.

The last Blue Mars bestseller I'll be talking about are these stilettos from Tirion Designs in Tharsis Estates. Another item that likely sounds a little familiar to regular readers, no doubt, these shoes are extremely sexy. Beyond that, black heels are another vital piece of a complete wardrobe, so these stilettos are another no-brainer for a Blue Mars fashionista.

Do you agree with these popular picks, or do you think I'm way off the mark? As always, feel free to send me your tips and feedback!

Blue World Notes: Gorgeous Urban Squalor Rules in Blue Mars' Port Town

Before I came to Blue Mars, I mainly associated it with scenes of tropical paradise and settings that suggest lush, palatial estates. Those are definitely here, but when I asked readers to suggest Blue Mars cities worth visiting first, I was pointed to Port Town. Now Port Town is beautiful, but it's a beauty of another kind: Suggesting a small industrial shipping spot that's seen better days, Port Town is full of fine details that convey squalor and decay - dusty cobblestones, upended trashcans, boarded up buildings. (It distinctly reminds me of a map section from the Grand Theft Auto franchise.)

As the above screenshot suggests, the Port Town developers have made great use of dynamic lighting; as the sun makes its way across Blue Mars, sharp shadows slowly move across the streets. But there's signs off life in Port Town: In a building with a string of Christmas lights sadly twinkling, someone's opened up a small clothes and avatar accessories boutique.

Here's a time lapse look at the sun rising and setting on Port Town:

Know another place in Blue Mars I should visit next? Please post in Comments, or email me, hamlet at bluemarsonline dot com!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Blue World Street Style: Tizzers Foxchase

In addition to writing about my own outfit choices and shopping favorites, I plan to showcase stylish avatars that I spot in world. If you catch me at an event or out shopping, throw on your best outfit because I'll always be scouting for new martian style icons to highlight! This week's target is Tizzers Foxchase, who came to last Friday's party in the Welcome Area in this casual punk avatar that really stood out in the crowd. What really caught my attention about her avatar is her facial structure. While there may only a handful of skins and shapes openly available in shops at the moment, Tizzers is proof that you can still separate yourself from everyone else with the tools at hand.

Tizzers is wearing a skin, hoodie, skirt, and boots from Moxxi in Port Town (whose jeans I raved about in my post yesterday), a hairstyle from Tirion Designs in Tharsis. While Tizzers has put together a really cohesive look, she also deserves to be commended for her really well-done punky raccoon-eye makeup. I think I have a habit of playing it a bit too safe with my eyeshadow, so she's definitely inspired me to try out some more pronounced looks on my own avatar.

Do you have an awesomely bold makeup look, or a polished avatar that you want to show off in Blue World Street Style? Catch me in world or, better yet, email me!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Blue World Notes: Three Ways Blue Mars Can (and Will) Run on Macs & iPads (UPDATED)

Recently I said Blue Mars can run on a Mac “with a few tweaks”, and a lot of my Mac-owning friends grumbled. Not being a Mac man myself, they had to gently explain to me why “tweak” isn’t exactly the most accurate term. However, there are several options for Mac and Apple fans for accessing Blue Mars, and some are definitely easier than others. Here’s the top three:

Blue Mars on the cloud -- and iPad!

As Jim mentioned earlier this year, Blue Mars will soon run on the cloud -- which is a fancy way of saying it won’t require a download or an expensive computer to enjoy. That also means the cloud-based version of Blue Mars will run on a Mac, on the native OS, without requiring Windows. Not just Blue Mars on a Mac, but Blue Mars on the iPad -- watch this immensely cool demo video of Crysis, which uses the same 3D engine as Blue Mars, running on a cloud:

The cloud option for Blue Mars is coming in the next few months. So for Mac users who want to try Blue Mars with a minimum of hassle, this is probably your best bet.

To be sure, the cloud version won’t come with all the development tools that are part of the downloadable versions of Blue Mars. For Mac users interested in becoming Blue Mars developers, you will need to run the Windows version. Here’s the best options for doing that:

Windows running in Bootcamp

The Bootcamp utility included with Apple's Mac OS X v10.5 "Leopard" and v10.6 "Snow Leopard" enables you to install Windows (we recommend Windows 7) on your Mac, from which you can download and run Blue Mars.

Windows running on Parallels

For high-end Mac owners, Parallels, a popular program which creates a virtual Windows emulator, is also an option -- especially with the latest version, which includes more support for 3D applications (i.e. Blue Mars.)

Other options may be available in coming months and years. For now, if you’re a Mac user who occasionally uses Windows, Parallels or Bootcamp are your best bets. Otherwise, look to the cloud, coming soon.

Update, 9/22: Here's an article on Blue Mars cloud technology provider, OTOY.

Thanks to Blue Mars Community Manager Glenn Goodliffe (also his name in SL) and our Blue Mars Mac friends for the research help!

Blue World Style: Beach City Chic in Blue Mars

I have to admit that one of my favourite photography locations is Beach City, so I decided that for my article today I would do an outfit inspired by this sunny spot. A bikini seemed a bit too obvious so I opted for something more casual, but still with enough glamor to be an heiress on vacation in the tropics.

I started this outfit with a pair of sunglasses from Rustica in Misty Hollow. I'm waiting with baited breath for a diamond or pearl necklace so I can complete a 'Holly Golightly on Mars' look with these glasses, but until then they're a really quick way to add a little vogue to most outfits. The skin and tank top are both from Estelle Parnall of Fashion Esplanade, the simple silver hoop earrings I'm wearing are from Sketchy Fever in Gaia, and the hairstyle is another gorgeous favorite from Shade City. I opted for a pair of Mako Magellan heels from Caledonia rather than my usual Tirion Designs stilettos because Magellan's have a pale golden trim that seems more complimentary to the other metal accents in this outfit, including all the very impressively done clips and buckles on the purse from AD Sport in Beach City. What I want to highlight most in this look, however, are the jeans from Moxxi in Port Town. I think the texture work on these jeans is some of the best in Blue Mars fashion, and it combines with very precise mesh detailing to make a pretty amazing piece of virtual clothing. They're are an absolute must-have item for the ladies.

As always, don't hesitate to email me with your tips, favorite outfits, topics or items you think I should cover next in Blue World Style!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Blue World Notes: Diverse Avatars Dance in Blue Mars

Pink pokey alien guy may not approve of my righteous dance moves

Last Friday I attended my first Blue Mars event, a crowded dance party with a live DJ, and got my first surprise: Where I've assumed that Blue Mars avatars are uniformly human and realistic, a fair amount were decidedly on the fantastic side. Dig the arms akimbo alien above, next to the blue robot onlooker. Or at the bar near the dance floor, a winged humanoid cat pleasantly chatting with me and a couple other dudes:

This is going to be a running theme in Blue World Notes: the evolution of Blue Mars avatars, both human and otherwise, as the main way we express ourselves in a virtual world. That also means talking with the people who make avatars like these unique, and invent new ways to make them even moreso.

Also, I'd really like to know why the blue rabbit angel in the Santa Claus suit didn't feel like dancing:

Shy, or just a people and pink alien watcher? You'll know more when I know more!