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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Announcing a New Column: Wagner James Au’s Blue World Notes!

Greetings, fellow Martians -- welcome to Blue World Notes, a new column about the emerging community of Blue Mars written by me, Hamlet Au, and Iris Ophelia. In the real world, I’m Wagner James Au, author of the HarperCollins’ book The Making of Second Life, based on my experiences in the early years of that virtual world. Iris covers SL fashion and glamor on my blog New World Notes, and will now write about Blue Mars style here.
I’m joining the Blue Mars team because after working in virtual worlds for over seven years, I’m now convinced that Blue Mars has the best strategy for bringing 3D immersive worlds to a mass market. If you’re already reading this blog, you may not need convincing, but here’s just five reasons Blue Mars stokes me so much:
Blue Mars is Cloud Bound
3D virtual worlds are incredibly compelling experiences, but they typically require a high end desktop computer with an expensive 3D card, and a long delay, to install and enjoy. However, a cloud-based delivery system provides a powerful alternative that does fit today’s market: high-end graphics quickly delivered on a light client via broadband, not just on laptops, but televisions, even iPads, launching the experience about as fast as you’d play a YouTube video. Months ago, Jim announced that Blue Mars will soon have a cloud-based version. (And just yesterday, he told me it’ll hopefully come before the end of this year.)
Blue Mars Uses COLLADA-Compatible 3D Meshes
COLLADA meshes are important because they are compatible with industry standard 3D graphics software like Studio Max and Blender, which is free and open source. I’m passionate about user-generated content online, because it enables anyone with enough talent and commitment, regardless of their background, to transform their lives with opportunities that would otherwise be difficult to obtain. Ideally, that means the tools they use in virtual worlds should be the same tools that industry professionals use. That way, rising Blue Mars stars can go straight into making movies or videogames.
Blue Mars Has a Well-Planned Content Protection System
Since commerce in user-generated content is the lifeblood of virtual worlds which depend on them, it’s crucial that content creators feel their work has strong, internal protections against content theft. In Blue Mars, uploaded content is protected with a time stamp and a unique registration code -- more on that here. That also means items can be exposed better in online commerce and in search. While no system is perfect, I believe this is probably the best available means to make user-to-user virtual commerce easy and profitable for developers.
The Blue Mars Team Have Their Game Faces On
Avatar Reality’s CEO, Jim Sink, comes straight from the Xbox Live team, which helped the 360 beat out Sony’s PS3 to become the biggest next gen console. Jim hired Trent Ward, an acclaimed game designer who’s worked at Ubisoft and Electronic Arts, to make the Blue Mars experience intuitive and fun. Virtual worlds must succeed as playful, game-like experiences before they can succeed at anything else. To top it all off, Jim also hired John Zdanowski, Linden Lab's former CFO, who grew Second Life at the height of its boom times, to help give Blue Mars a thriving economy.
Yes, Blue Mars Can Run on Macs
I know how popular Macs are with Internet creators; that’s why it’s so important that Blue Mars can run on a Mac, with a bit of effort, and that other Blue Mars alternatives for Mac owners are coming soon.
No doubt, Blue Mars is still in beta, and evolving, and rough around the edges. But that’s actually one of the things that excites me most, just as it did seven years ago when I first entered Second Life as an “embedded journalist”: Blue Mars is truly a new world, a fresh frontier offering metaverse pioneers new vistas of experience and opportunity. I know it will be wonderful to see the wonders you create, and write about them here.
Look for me in-world soon, and drop me a line anytime: I’m Iris will be by to introduce herself tomorrow!


  1. Hey Hamlet I look forward to the Blue Mars experience being more intiutive and fun. See you inworld

  2. Good luck with this new posting, Hamlet! Looking forward to exploring Blue Mars more. Any non-profit or educational angles you see coming down the pike?

  3. Thanks! We shall see, Rik. I hope you go exploring too, as non-profit/education is your expertise!

  4. Great news Hamlet! I look forward to interesting and entertaining Blue Mars coverage.

    I have been following BM since the very early closed beta, and checking it every month or so. My last blog on BM (3 months old, I will visit again soon):

    I think Blue Mars is progressing slowly but steadily, and advances like the cloud client are _very_ interesting. I am not currently involved in projects suitable for BM, but I will certainly consider it as one of the most interesting platforms for future projects.

    In your opinion, what is BM _really_ suitable for? Virtual fairs? VR architecture? Tourism? Embedded microgames? Something else?

  5. Welcome aboard mate! I do a blog for blue mars on blogger. Its If you have a chance. You are a blogger of note I have only been at it for 18 months. I've been blogging about Blue Mars since November 09. Jusat a user who is in love with the place. Blogs are so important. I also use wordpress which... anyway Bottom line has to be content. Great Content Dude! Look forward to more.

  6. Thanks, PJFBNCYL! Will check out your blog soon.

    Hi Giulio, I think a combination of those suggestions are suitable, and I'll be writing about what all you Martians do in there!

  7. Hey Hamlet! When I heard you would be writing this blog I had to see what Blue Mars is all about, and I really like what I see. The cloud-based delivery would eliminate the biggest objection I've heard from writers (my particular area of interest) unable to access Second Life. It'll be fun to see how this virtual world evolves.

  8. Problem is still doesnt have the numbers and anything you buy in world does not really belong to you but is only viable in world... unlike weapons etc in other games which can be bought and sold outside the game (eg WoW).
    Besides people are the thing that make other worlds whast they ..SL and Entropia are the only two in the Western World that currently have the numbers.
    And besides its laggy as all get out and is not intuitive.
    JohnnWendt in all worlds

  9. I made a Blue Mars account as soon as the beta came online, and I check in from time to time. I find the Blue Mars experience profoundly... what's a good word? Insipid. There's little to do but wander about looking at mesh houses that have no insides and spend money on fashion which desperately wishing for better camera control.

    or all its eye candy, Blue Mars is a static world. Content creation is limited to the fortunate few, and even for them the smallest change in the environment requires a major upload. Camera control sucks, and the limitations on avatar form severely limit self-expression.

    Face it, Hamlet. Blue Mars is a corporate consumer machine. It's all about creative power being limited to a select few creators and the rest of us being relegated to the status of consumers. The Blue Mars developer and regular newsletters I've been getting all these months just reinforce this dichotomy, "Come see the new fashions" being the most frequent message.

    The bar is far too high for creators. Essentially, you must either have money for high end software or learn difficult-to-master free programs like Blender. Under these limitations there will be many consumers, but only a few creators.

    Your points about the importance of meshes and of a world that can run on low-powered computers and iPods are certainly valid, but the important underlying question is WHAT sort of world is important to people-- a place where they can queue up to spend their money on things other people have created or a world which they actively participate in creating? I'm 100% for the latter.

    I'm all for virtual worlds that encourage creativity by ordinary people and give them ownership of the things they create. Clearly, Blue Maris isn't that world. How unfortunate!

  10. Hamlet, I just wrote a long and considered post which your blog just ate. A rewrite of it will soon go up on my blog at

    Here's the gist of what I had to say:

    Your points about the importance of meshes and the ability to run on low-power electronic devices are certainly valid, but there's more at issue here. What sort of world IS Blue Mars? Is it a place that will be built by everyday people, or a place in which the greater masses will be expected to behave like economic sheep, buying content provided by a select few people with expensive development software or a large investment in learning hard-to-master free programs like Blender? Is it an interactive world in which content can change in any way at any time, or a static world in which content is fixed until a member of the elite uploads a new version? Is it a world which I will own, or a world which will own me?

    The very existence of parallel consumer and developer accounts and newsletters in Blue Mars pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

    If I must choose between a world with better eye candy or a world which in which I can actively create content, I'll go with the latter.

  11. Hi Joan! I agree with you, I think the cloud will make a big difference.

    Hi Chey, I posted a comment on your blog too. As I said there, meshes are becoming standard to Second Life too. And the Blue Mars team brought me on to write about user-generated content and community. I hope you keep reading, from time to time, whether or not you think Mars is for you.

  12. Its interesting what Cheyenne Palisades has to say. On the one hand I am happy that content creation is moving towards more traditional gaming methods, that I am more familiar with and interested in....but on the other hand you have the smash internet hit "Minecraft" which has sacrificed fancy graphics for inworld creation. Quite a divergence, but both good in different ways.

  13. Plus I think people should preserve with Blender, you do not need any fancy expensive 3d programs. Its interface can be a little wacky to learn, but it has some trick tools. I have a slightly older version of 1 of the main 3d programs, I usually import mesh to blender for unwrapping, sculpting Hi-res mes and then generating Normal map.


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