Community > Blog

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blue World Notes: Why Your Blue Mars Avatar Seems to Look You in the Eye

When a virtual world veteran visits Blue Mars for the very first time, she usually notices a surprising and sometimes eerie thing: Her avatar seems to look right at her. This happens not just when the user's camera is positioned right in front of the avatar, but even when the avatar is facing away. It will sometimes just turn around and seem to look right at you -- as if to say, "Don't you wish you were here instead of me?" (At least that's what I imagine my Hamlet Au avatar thinking, when he turns back to stare at me.) As it happens, this is an intentional design decision by Avatar Reality developer Koji Nagashima, who's created 3D characters for both videogames and movies.

"I think direction of eyes is very important point to make the avatar 'alive'," Koji tells me. Before joining Avatar Reality, he was Cinematic Character/Simulation Technical Director for the hit videogame franchise God of War 1/2 (among other titles), and before that, senior programmer for 2001's groundbreaking CGI movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, which brought the first photorealistic 3D characters to the big screen. However, the problems are somewhat different, when you're conveying believability in a virtual world.

"On a cinematic project," Koji explains, "all animators carefully make animation for eyes. But in our world, the program needs to take care of that." Eye animation in a virtual world or MMO is challenging because the avatar's position or the user's camera changes so often. "That's very interesting for me," Koji says.

His solution was to make the avatar respond relative to the position of the camera: "When the camera is just in front of the avatar, he keeps looking at the camera." When the camera is to the side of the avatar, he looks less at the user. And to convey a sense of autonomy, when the player rotates the camera, the avatar's gaze starts following it.

All this is in service of breathing life into Blue Mars avatars, but Koji Nagashima isn't finished. He's tweaking some issues with the avatar's gaze, and in the future, he wants the eye contact to reflect the avatar's personality: For example, active avatars will look at the camera much more often, while shy avatars will largely avoid the camera's gaze. "Something like that," Koji says. "That's a future aim."

What about Blue Mars should I write about next? Email and let me know: hamlet at bluemarsonline dot com.

Update, 12/1: Fixed Koji's credit from Medal of Honor: South Pacific to God of War 1/2 -- which is, in any case, the bigger game!

Blue World Style: Try a 5 Minute Makeover With Moxxi's Aida Skin and Shape

Nine times out of ten in Blue Mars I'm wearing a Moxxi shape on my avatar, and more often than not I've got the skin to match. Moxxi's shapes have more refined feminine features than can generally be achieved through the Blue Mars facial shape editor, and they definitely add an extra dash of beauty and elegance to an outfit. These shapes are excellent bases for any skin, though the skins designed to go with these shapes are photorealistic and generally very striking. Moxxi's skins and shapes are now sold separately rather than being combined as they were when the shop first opened, which gives a few more options for wearing them.

Moxxi's latest releases, the Aida skin and shape, are my favorite set to date. The Aida shape has a slightly longer looking face than the previous faces, and the chin is particular is more pronounced than previous Moxxi girls'. As for the Aida skin, I'm absolutely in love. It's worth noting that I'm wearing it without any extra cosmetics layers, so you can see that it does come with a bit of a built-in smokey-eye look. If you plan on wearing this (or most other Moxxi skins) with a paler eye makeup look, you'll want to put a semi-transparent concealing flesh-tone layer on the eyes to cancel the eyeliner out. Check out Aida and Moxxi's other skins (for males and females!) in Port Town (Blink Teleport here). first opened, which gives a few more options for wearing them.

What's your favorite Blue Mars skin? Leave a comment, or email me! first opened, which gives a few more options for wearing them.

Blue World Notes: d|lab on the 3 Hurdles for Using the 3D Internet for Business -- and How to Overcome Them

Dan Riley of d|lab, the UK studio which recently launched the OnLand immersive business space in Blue Mars, has an interesting blog post on the three main impediments that real world organizations face when considering the use of the 3D Internet for work, which he dubs "the Trinity":

Visual Fidelity: "[A] very real and significant need for high-levels of graphical fidelity to aid in the detailed visualisation of products and services – especially in a manufacturing context..."

Security: "[I]issues range widely from micro-payment fees and financial transfers in obscure currencies to the very real problems associated with IP and content theft which have already occurred in more than one major platform..."

Concurrent Users: "[I]f there is no mechanism for allowing large numbers of people access [a 3D space at the same time], then much of this work is redundant."

Dan addresses each point with suggested solutions. With visual fidelity, for example, he argues that virtual worlds should take advantage of the latest 3D rendering technology, such as the Unreal engine or the CryEngine (which powers Blue Mars.) With security, he points to Blue Mars' recent cloud deployment, which will eliminate "[t]the need for encrypted folders to reference assets". All in all it's good background for enterprise users of 3D spaces and virtual world users -- read it all here.

Monday, November 29, 2010

There's Still Some Time to Enter the Blue Mars Makeup Contest!

Hello all, hope you had an awesome Thanksgiving! Remember, tonight is the deadline for our Blue Mars custom makeup contest, which style writer Iris Ophelia will judge, with BLU$ rewards just for submitting (if you're among the first 10 to enter.) That's tonight at 11:59pm Pacific, to be precise, but if you're working on your entry today and need some extra time, we can extend your deadline until tomorrow. If you do want an extension, just let Iris know by contacting her at iris [at] bluemarsonline dot com. And once again, here's all the details for the contest.

Blue World Street Style: Shakti Cianci

I ran into Shakti Cianci during my Blue Friday shopping last week, and I knew I had to do a little street style piece about her. Shakti's a member of the band SpaceJunky (check out their website here), a group who often perform together in Second Life. Naturally, in Blue Mars Shakti's been in pursuit of the perfect rocker-chic look, and she was kind enough to give me a full breakdown!
  • She's started with the very flattering and versatile black tanktop by Estelle Parnall of Fashion Esplanade (Blink Teleport here), which is a definite staple for every Martian woman's wardrobe.
  • Her little plaid belted miniskirt is also from Estelle Parnall, who also has a branch location in Shade City (Blink Teleport here) where some of her older designs can be found.
  • In perfecting her rocker look, Shakti told me it just wasn't complete without the perfect pair of boots. No surprise then that she had picked out one of my favorite pairs in Blue Mars, the very distinctive button-up boots from Adam n Eve in Caledonia (Blink Teleport here).
I think Shakti's definitely got the rocker chic look down, what about you? Leave a comment, or send me an email, and if you spot her in either world don't forget to say hi!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Blue World Notes: Fun Blue Mars Machinima Demonstrating Blue Mars' Real Time Makeup Editor

This is a fun little machinima demonstrating Blue Mars' make up editor working in real time -- which is why this poor avatar's face seems to be under attack by a wayward Fu Manchu mustache. The video is by Sofian Samtanko, avid adventurer in many virtual worlds, who recently began exploring Blue Mars, drawn there by the graphics. (And to judge by this video, the flying mustaches.)

The video was shot with FRAPS, which is a great software tool for capturing 3D video in games and MMOs. I use it all the time, and can personally recommend it for your machinima needs; you can download it for free here. And speaking of make up, don't forget Iris' custom make up contest, deadline dropping on the 29th!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Blue World Style: Black Friday and 8502.Bauhaus

I went to 8502.Bauhaus today hoping to purchase the exclusive black version of their new top, discounted for today's Blue Friday celebrations, and while I was there it struck me that I'd missed quite a few new releases from this chic little GridRock City shop (Blink Teleport here). 8502.Bauhaus pledges proudly to release something new every week, which is the kind of regularity I really like to see as a consumer. Since I hadn't been there in a couple weeks, there were quite a few new treasures to uncover.

  • First up is the Cute Minitop shown above. My favourite color in this is the darkest shade of khaki, which shows the texturing on the item the best. The black version of this top is on sale for 99 BLU$ today, and has a leather-like sheen while the other three colors are more or less matte. It's a great limited edition item, so of course I picked it up as well.
  • Next, I was sure to snag the super cute denim micro miniskirt. While it's also available in a camo print, this version is a little more versatile and also has one of the best denim textures I've seen in Blue Mars so far!
  • I was also thrilled to see three sets of bangles in gold, silver, and mother of pearl. Of all the accessories available in Blue Mars right now, bracelets are still quite hard to come by and sometimes they're the perfect item to finish an outfit.
  • Lastly, I bought these super cute western-inspired boots. As with most items at 8502.Bauhaus there are multiple colors available, but these dark brown boots with turquoise inlaid accents are by far the most striking.
If you're curious, I took my pictures for today's post inside the cheerful little hedge tunnel just outside the shop. It might seem silly, but I think this might be one of my favorite photography scenes so far!

And of course, remember to submit your beautiful and unique makeup looks this weekend before the contest closes! See the rules here, and check out all the tips and inspiration I have for you here!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Blue World Notes: How to be a Polar Bear in Blue Mars

I now have an alternative to my white suit reporter avatar in Blue Mars, and it's the next best thing: a white suited polar bear avatar! (I bet my interviews will go a lot more smoother now.) This thanks to Sivan Okculogu, whose innovative brand, AD Sport, specializes in fantastic, beautifully crafted avatars in several varieties. (Humanoid wasp and man-sized gargoyle are among the other options.)

The polar bear and other exotic avatars are available in Beach City (Blink teleport page here), at a store called Treasure Chest. Once you arrive at Beach City, select the teleport square with that name, located to the right of the city map. Click that, and Treasure Chest is one of the stores within ten feet of your arrival point. (Directly behind you, as I recall.)

To become a polar bear (or a wasp, or a gargoyle, etc.), you first need to buy an Invisible Layer, which as the name suggests, erases your human form. After you put that on, you're ready to become the strange and wonderful avatar of your choosing. Just follow the polar bear's instructions below:

Now I'm ready for the coming winter and high stress interviews!

Blue World Style: Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse in Blue Mars with Cloud10's Medic Set

Marlii Revolution's zombie face paint video tutorial, which I mentioned in yesterday's makeup guide, gave me the idea to do a zombie apocalypse-inspired look. Supernatural drama has maintained its popularity over the years, but recently zombies have been giving vampires, the previous supernatural pinup monster of choice, a run for their money. While vampires usually represent ethereal grace and a highly seductive danger, zombies tend to represent the opposite. They're vile, filthy, and nearly unstoppable. Naturally, when putting together a look for a survivor of the zombie apocalypse, polish and glamor don't really come to mind. Who has time for lipstick when you're trying to keep the rabid undead out of your bunker, right?

  • The blood splattered cargo pants and dingy tanktop, along with the attached bags, are the Medic top and pants from the women's clothing shop in Cloud City (Blink Teleport here). Many people don't like grungy clothing in virtual worlds for the same reasons that they don't like them in RL-- because they're dirty. However, it's always worth noting that good grungy clothing requires much more effort than clean-looking clothing. Blood splatters, smudges of mud and dirt, tears in the fabric and all the other signs of a nearly destroyed garment require extra care to place on a piece of clothing. There's a lot of blood and sweat put into (and on) a good piece of post-apocalyptic fashion like this set. Unfortunately, the Medic top does have some seams in the texturing along each side, but seams don't bother everyone. As always, just be sure to try it on before buying so you can decide for yourself!
  • I'm also wearing a ponytail from Cloud City's Hair Today Gone Tomorrow. I chose a ponytail simply because they are more practical when it comes to running around a scorched and barren landscape, while this ponytail in particular has extra long bangs and sidepieces that give a rugged frame for the face. It's mussed, shaggy, and looks more believable than a perfect glossy hairdo would.
  • I've accessorized the look with a pair of boots and fingerless gloves from Moxxi in Port Town Blink Teleport here). The boots in particular are a perfect fit for this outfit, since they meet the cuffs of the pants at the perfect height mid-calf.
  • The final touch is of course makeup. I piled on the black eyeliner and dark purple eyeshadow to make the eyes look a little raccoon like, a signature look for many zombie apocalypse heroines. I used a very pale and sheer green color on the lips to cancel out the pink lips of the skin, so they would instead look more sallow and sickly. Lastly, I used the freckle-like shape option in the face editor to make some bright red blood spatter like the detail on the shirt, and I positioned it to rest on the cheek and down along the side of the neck.
Are you ready to greet the zombie apocalypse in virtual style? Head to the Zombie Wasteland (Blink Teleport here) where I took my pictures and take your zombie-fighting gear for a spin!

Blue World Notes: How to Build in Blue Mars from Google SketchUp (the Desmond Shang Way)

Here's a very handy tutorial for building in Blue Mars using the free and fairly easy-to-learn Google SketchUp program, written by Desmond "the Guvnah" Shang, owner of Blue Mars' steampunk city of Caledonia, a masterpiece of collaborative creation. Desmond's basic workflow goes like this:

a) Make some textures in Photoshop or something.

b) Draw a 3D object with the free Google SketchUp.

c) Texture it up in SketchUp.

d) Export it from SketchUp (essentially a 'save' option)

e) Import it using the Blue Mars Item Editor.

f) If you have leased a block of land, you can set out items on the land parcel (block) with the Blue Mars block editor.

g) Then you upload the land parcel (block) and it will be uploaded with the next city update.

... but even if you're not leasing a block of land at the moment, you can still get your content into the offline Item Editor. Read it all here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Blue Friday Shopping Deals in Blue Mars!

--Jasmine Spearing, Marketing Associte

It is Blue Friday in Blue Mars! Time to shop til you drop and get great deals on awesome merchandise from your favourite designers! These deals are available on Friday November 26, 2010 only! Don’t miss your opportunity!

Misty Hollow

Stop by Zuma in Misty Hollow for a great deal on cute sweaters to keep you warm on those cold winter nights! Both the teal and rust color of the Zuma WinterWear sweater have been discounted from 350BLU$ to only 50BLU$! Available on Blue Friday only!


Fix up your avatar with a new skin from Adam and Eve in Caledonia! Usually 1000BLU$, these gorgeous skins can be yours on Blue Friday for only 250BLU$! Adam and Eve are also discounting their Drumalis sport shirts in Black and Red, which are on sale this Friday for only 100BLU$, down from their usual price of 500BLU$!

GridRock City

Blue Friday Exclusive! 8502.Bauhaus has a line of adorable mini tops in their GridRock City Shop. Get the black mini top for only 99BLU$! Price and color available on Blue Friday only!


Get half off select items in Tharsis! At least one item in each department of the Tirion Designs store will be discounted 50%! The item specifics are being kept a secret, so the bargains will only be available to the truly worthy bargain hunters who can find them!

Be sure to check out all of our great Harvest Homecoming events going on this weekend, including our BLU$ sign up bonuses for new members and members who help us spread the word! Learn more here.

Blue World Style: Everything You Need to Know about Blue Mars Makeup

With the makeup contest closing at the end of the upcoming holiday weekend, today seemed like the perfect opportunity to fill you with makeup information and inspiration! Whether you're not quite sure how to get started or what style you'd like to pursue, this post will be your ultimate guide! Let's cut right to the chase.

First off, here's an excellent video tutorial by Marlii Revolution about creating and editing your cosmetic layers in Blue Mars' face editor! When you feel ready for something a little more advanced, check out her wicked zombie makeup video tutorial too!

With the basics out of the way, here's a review of some of my best makeup tips and tricks: Now that you're a virtual makeup artist, all that remains is getting a little inspiration! Sometimes the best way to get an idea is to work with an avatar outfit or style and see what develops naturally. Here are a few of my favorite outfit posts that feature makeup as prominently as the clothing and accessories:
Don't forget, here are only 5 days left to submit your makeup contest entries for a shot at BLU$ prizes and fashionista fame! Remember to post to Plurk or Facebook and then email me to enter! Check out all the details here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Blue World Style: Hit the Beach in Blue Mars

Many parts of North America have received their first snowfall of the season recently, and as a result a lot of us are probably pining for the beautifully beachy days of the summer. One of the best things about virtual worlds in my opinion is that they put the seasons at your mercy, so you can wear whatever you want whenever you want, rain or shine! I ducked over to the palm-covered islands of Pavonis (Blink Teleport here) and slipped into my favorite bikini for a small photoshoot that will hopefully help you feel a little closer to those warmer southern climates.

  • There are a few different bikinis available to choose from in Blue Mars. Of course the default black bikini is a very versatile option, but if you want something a bit wild with an '80s vibe, try GrabJo in Shade City (Blink Teleport Here). More me, I've picked the sporty pink bikini from Moxxi in Port Town (Blink Teleport Here). As always with Moxxi's designs, the subtle details in the mesh and in the texture work together to make a really striking and realistic piece of clothing that sits perfectly on the avatar body.
  • As for sandals, the black strappy pair in Blue Mars' default inventory would go nicely with anything, but since I'm committed to a sportier look, I've opted for a pair of buckled leather thong sandals from 8502.Bauhaus in GridRock City (Blink Teleport Here). For something a bit trendier, you may want to try their gladiator sandals on instead.
  • It was a little overcast in Pavonis while I was there, so I decided not to wear sunglasses. However, if you want a really edgy pair with mirror-finish lenses in a couple different colors, check out Farthest Star in Tharsis Estates (Blink Teleport Here), or Sketchy Fever (also in Tharsis) for a slightly more classic-looking pair.
As always, if you have any tips, ideas, or outfits you want to share, email me or leave a comment, and don't forget that there's less than a week left to enter our makeup contest! Click here for details.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Blue World Notes: Meet IDIA Staff in Blue Mars Tomorrow at 2pm Pacific!

Tomorrow at 2pm Pacific, IDIA director John Fillwalk and his staff will be in-world to talk about their massive immersive education site which recently launched in Blue Mars, replete with historical site recreations and sculptures that have been recreated by laser scanning the originals. It's a great opportunity to learn and talk about 3D spaces as an educational tool, and the future plans IDIA has with Blue Mars. (And if you're an educator involved in Second Life, you'll likely already familiar with IDIA, a lab with Ball State University, as it's also done several cool projects in SL.)

As you might have noticed from the above screenshot, John's Blue Mars avatar name is conveniently named "John Fillwalk", and he sports a black blazer and surprisingly hip anime-flavored hair. Meet him and his team tomorrow at 2pm -- just go to the IDIA Lab city in Blue Mars (Blink teleport page here) and find them waiting for you then near the first spawn point.

Help spread the word about Blue Mars and be eligible for 2,500BLU$ per day during our Blue Mars Harvest Homecoming!

--Jasmine Spearing, Marketing Associate

To celebrate our first annual Blue Mars Harvest Homecoming, we are offering BLU$ sign-up bonuses for new members and BLU$ awards for current members who help spread the word about Blue Mars!

From November 22 to November 29, if you are not already a member of Blue Mars, create a new Blue Mars account and log in to win 1,000BLU$!

Sign up for a Blue Mars account at! It only takes a minute to register! Then just follow @bluemarsonline on Twitter, @bluemars on Plurk or “Like” @BlueMarsOnline on Facebook, and use Facebook, Plurk or Twitter to send us your Blue Mars UserID!

For example, on Twitter: "@bluemarsonline I just signed up for BlueMars, and my UserID is _____". That's it! After you log into Blue Mars for the first time, we will credit your account with 1,000BLU$!

Already a Blue Mars member? AWESOME! Help us spread the word about Blue Mars, and you will have a chance to win your share of 10,000BLU$ per day! Here is how to do it:

1) Post info about our New Member Promotion on your Facebook, Plurk, or Twitter account! (See Samples Below)

2) Be sure to include a tag in your post, @bluemarsonline on Twitter, @bluemars on Plurk, or @BlueMarsOnline on Facebook, and include your Blue Mars userID! (the actual ID, not the avatar name).

3) After you successfully send your Plurk, Tweet, or Facebook post, you will be automatically entered to win 2500BLU$! We will be giving away 4 prizes of 2500BLU$ each day during this event!

4) Post as many times as you want. You will be entered to win each time! Be sure to tag Blue Mars in the post and include your UserID, or send it in a separate post or private message!

Here’s some sample messages to send -- just copy and paste the text and send through your Plurk, Twitter, or Facebook account:

Sample Plurk: Sign up for BlueMars by Nov 29 & get 1000BLU$! RP this to enter to win 2,500BLU$! @bluemars

Sample Tweet: Sign up for BlueMars by Nov 29 & get 1000BLU$! RT this to enter to win 2,500BLU$! @bluemarsonline

Sample Facebook Post: Check out Blue Mars!! Create a new account this week and receive 1000BLU$ when you log in! More info on the blog: @BlueMarsOnline

Be sure to check out our Harvest Homecoming Festival this week, featuring great events like a Blue Friday Shopping extravaganza, Fashion Show and great prizes for new members! Read more here!

Have questions about this giveaway? Ask in the Comments section!

Official Rules:

• Post about the Harvest Homecoming new member promotion (1000BLU$ for new members!) to be eligible for one of the four 2,500 BLU$ prizes we will award each day!

• If you are not already a member of Blue Mars, create a new Blue Mars account during this week and log in to receive 1,000 BLU$. Remember to tag Blue Mars and include your UserID!

• Anyone found making duplicate accounts will be disqualified, and will not be rewarded the 1,000 BLU$ for a new member account! We can tell which accounts are duplicates!

• Due to the Thanksgiving holidays, all BLU$ earned after Wednesday, November 24 will be granted on Monday!

Blue World Style: Cloud City's (Nearly) Invisible Avatars

This invisible avatar skin from Cloud City (Blink Teleport Here) is technically a skin, so it's worn as a Body layer rather than a Clothing layer. It's available for both male and female avatars, and you can even use this base to turn your avatar into a skeleton using other Cloud City parts, like a couple of our Monster Ball attendees did. The invisible avatar skin from Cloud City is by definition a pretty tricky piece to photograph, so I've tried to make it a little clearer by taking most shots with my cursor hovering over my avatar to give the silhouette a clearer outline. Even so, as the above shot illustrates the avatar itself is 100% transparent except for my hair and clothing.

It reminds me somewhat of Second Life's "alpha layer", one of the more recent innovations for SL's avatar. With an alpha layer, sections of the avatar texture are cut out using an alpha channel in Photoshop that is saved onto a texture. When applied to this specific type of layer, the shape of the alpha channel is literally removed from the visible area of the avatar. Before the advent of the alpha layer, invisible prims were used to hide sections of the avatar in a slightly more awkward but no less effective way. This technology is useful for more than just making an invisible avatar, though. In Second Life, alpha has a few common uses, such as removing sections of the foot so that shoes will fit better, cutting off limbs so they can be replaced with things like peg-legs or robot-arms, and blanking out areas of the body to fit elaborate avatars like realistic animals.

This is not exactly the perfect avatar if you feel like sneaking around and spying on people, since your avatar name will still show and you will always have to have at least one item of clothing on over top of this skin. No matter what your avatar will wear an underclothes layer, so there will always be a trace of someone floating around, even if it's just a pair of boxer shorts drifting along the streets of Beach City. Floating underwear aside, I can't wait to see what other ingenious uses content creators will come up with for avatar invisibility in Blue Mars.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Blue World Notes: Blue Mars' Golf Game is a Prototype for Developers to Learn From and Build On

The golf game in Blue Mars (Blink teleport page here) is a perfectly good game, as golf games go, but it's in Blue Mars for an important reason besides online fun (single or multiplayer.) It's also intended as an example of a game that Blue Mars developers can create, and build on -- go here to get the code and documentation.

Created in the Blue Mars editor using LUA scripting, it's a robust gaming experience (as the video above suggests), with customized heads-up displays, animations, and camera cutaways, to move the player from one hole to another. Second Life game developers will find the development process notably different, in Blue Mars -- for example, instead of creating a customized game HUD that players need to manually install, as they would in SL, Blue Mars game HUDs are automatically installed when players download the Martian city where it's hosted.

While the golf development notes are a good starting point for developing new games, I'd love to see an ambitious Blue Mars developer create a full-fledged golf experience for their city. There's a number of successful free-to-play, sports-related MMOs with a relatively large and profitable following. (Instead of getting a monthly subscription, players buy special equipment, accessories, and even clothes.) So I can easily imagine a golf mini-MMO working in Blue Mars. (Or even several, part of a Martian pro circuit!)

What about Blue Mars should I write about next? Email and let me know: hamlet at bluemarsonline dot com.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Blue World Notes: Fall Leaves Come to Blue Mars (If They're Scripted to Be Seasonal)

Wildwood before and after the scripting of Fall leaves

On a recent return visit to Wildwood, the lovely forest glade in Blue Mars (Blink page here), I noticed something had changed, since I visited late last Summer: Where the trees were once a lush and verdant green, many were now bursting with the color of Fall leaves, as was the ground around them. The effect was dazzling. (Compare and contrast September and now, above.) As it turns out, the seasonal changes of Blue Mars trees can be coded:

"The trees turned color with the October update," Wildwood owner Josie Quest tells me. "That was done by changing the leaves textures on several of the tree models. I had to tell it to do that for particular trees and times." While all the trees were set to have green leaves by default, she edited many leaf textures with other colors (DavyRocket helped her with that), and set the time when they would turn. "They will remain that color until I change them. I am trying to decide if I want to change them for Winter or just let Winter be on that snowy mountain." While she's undecided about Winter, she has definite plans for Spring, next time it comes around: More green, and perhaps some blossoms.

The blazing flashes of Autumn leaves aren't the only changes that have recently come to Wildwood, by the way: There's a deer tagging game, a challenge to find all the Bambis now foraging for Fall leaves in the woods of Josie Quest. Go here for details on playing that game and others in Wildwood.

What about Blue Mars should I write about next? Email and let me know: hamlet at bluemarsonline dot com.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Blue World Style: Up and Away with Tirion Designs' Stewardess Set

Tirion Designs, in Tharsis Estates (Blink Teleport here), came out with this super cute three piece lilac stewardess ensemble shortly before I started covering Halloween costumes in Blue Mars, and it was very tempting to include it in that series of posts. Ultimately I didn't, but I couldn't keep this adorable retro-inspired outfit a secret any longer. This outfit is distinctive, and for any Mad men fans, would be right at home on a flight with Don Draper... More or less, but I'll get to that shortly!

  • As I mentioned, this top, skirt, and even the jaunty matching cap are from Tirion Designs. I have to emphasize that as much as I love this whole set, the adorable little Garrison-style cap is the cherry on the cake. Womens hats an be hard to come by, so this cute cap is a real winner. As for this entire set, I do have a couple little criticisms of it. On my avatar, the hem of the shirt and the waist of the skirt do not meet, so it leaves me with a Britney Spears-like band of bare tummy. Not exactly professional for the duration of a transatlantic flight. I've solved this issue (a little inelegantly) by layering one of Estelle Parnall's tank tops from Fashion Esplanade (Blink Teleport here) beneath it. The second problem is that the skirt has a sizable slit up the back. Now, a little slit in the side or back can add an ounce of sexy to any skirt, but I sure wouldn't want to be wheeling a drink cart around in this. Thankfully, in virtual worlds like Blue Mars we can take all the cutest elements of a uniform like this with none of the practical concerns-- the only runway I'll ever need to work in this sweet ensemble is at a fashion show!
  • I've accessorized this outfit with a pair of simple silver hoop earrings from Sketchy Fever, also located in Tharsis Estates, the default female short black hairstyle, and a pair of grape wrapped pumps from 8502.Bauhaus in GridRock City (Blink Teleport here).
You may have noticed that the purple of the pumps doesn't quite match the purple of the uniform. That's where my makeup comes in. I'm wearing a semi-transparent lipstick layer with a very light gloss layer on top. The lipstick is tinted purple, but when layered over the pink of my avatar's lips, the realistic shade now matches my shoes very closely and ties the outfit together. Makeup doesn't always have to be wild to make an impact!

Do you use makeup to enhance your outfits? Save your favorite cosmetic layer and enter it into our makeup contest!

Blue World Style: IDIA Lab, One of the Most Fashionable Cities in Blue Mars

In my last article, I styled a simple and chic ensemble to match the gorgeous scenery of IDIA Lab, but there's style imbued in the city itself. Any virtual (or RL) fashionista or photographer can tell you a truly stunning photoshoot often requires a truly stunning background. While IDIA (Blink site here) has no clothing shops, in my opinion it's the most fashionable location in Blue Mars. With that in mind, here are my 5 favorite settings in IDIA for virtual fashion photography, and don't be afraid to click the picture thumbnails to soak in all their architectural and environmental glory!

My first stop is the Byodo-in Temple. I've taken a picture of my favorite angle, which lets you get a lot of the elements that make this temple so gorgeous in frame. You can see the sun setting behind it, the luminous figure of Buddha in its main room, and the striking geometry of the structure itself. The light also plays beautifully across the water that surrounds the temple making this an absolutely gorgeous and relaxing photoshoot location.

For something a little brighter and more ornate in the same vein as Byodo-in, try Ji Le Temple. The lacquer coating this structure appears much brighter and more intense than the lacquer on Byodo-in's beams and walls, and the painted as well as the structural detail are also more striking. This location would definitely be more suited to elaborate, costume-like outfits. While Byodo-in is most awe-inspiring from a slight distance, Ji le really begs the photographer to get up close for all the delicious detailing.

The Art Gallery is a great destination for slightly more casual outfits. Classic styles that reflect the quiet austerity of a beautiful gallery would be completely at home in these halls. Imagine for example a young woman perusing the Louvre, dressed comfortably for a day of exploring Paris, but stylishly because... well... it's Paris! Now of course this museum is based on the one at Ball State University and not the Louvre, but the aura of being immersed in beautiful classical artwork remains.

This fountain is actually just beneath where you land at IDIA, and it would be a backdrop in a completely different vein than all the others available at IDIA. This would be a great scene of an edgy, modern outfit. Something straight off the catwalk with stark, contrasting colors and a well defined silhouette would be the ideal outfit to match with this backdrop, and would even fit into an avant garde fashion magazine spread.

My last location is my favorite, and one of the most photographed sections of IDIA by far, Panama Pacific. The elegant marble columns, soaring bronze angels, sparkling clear fountains, and delicately groomed gardens-- it's all enough to make a girl weak in the knees. Because of its size and the variety of different areas and angles, this location can work for many different kinds of outfits. Consider shooting casualwear in the flower gardens, formalwear backed by those sleek and elegant columns, even a unique fantasy outfit right by the fountain. There are dozens of different ways to use this space, and I have no doubt that I'll be shooting plenty of pictures here in the future.

Those are my favorite fashionable locations in IDIA, but what about you? Where do you think the most "fashionable" location is in Blue Mars? Leave a comment, post to Blue Mars' Flickr, or email me!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Blue World Notes: How a Dozen Developers Collaboratively Created the Steampunk City of Caledonia

In Caledonia with Desmond Shang

When you teleport to the town square of Caledonia (Blink site here), a steampunk city in Blue Mars, you arrive amid walkways and trees, and all around you, dozens of stores and homes, all done up in Victorian styles. (It looks pretty much what British colonists would build, after they traveled via Jules Vernian rocket to Mars.) And while this bucolic place seems like it was made by one designer, it’s actually the creation of dozens of people, working separately around the world.

“What we did,” Desmond “the Guvnah” Shang, the humble leader of Caledonia, tells me, “was people picked blocks and developed them in the block editor -- this gave them their own local copy of Caledonia in a way, and they were able to construct in that.” (The Blue Mars Block Editor enables individuals within a City to develop a store or residential housing within an alloted space.)

About a dozen Caledonians worked on their blocks offline, sharing their progress in an email list. This is also where they planned the general design parameters of Caledonia. For instance, they agreed on a maximum ceiling height of 3 or 4 meters, to keep the buildings in a reasonable scale.

“There is a tendency to make buildings far too tall,” steampunk inventor Ralph Doctorow explains. “There was also another extensive architecture discussion about what was appropriate for building styles. That resulted in a lot of examples of English and East Coast architectural styles, along with a general agreement that bizarre steampunkish elements were quite appropriate, but that it would be good for people not to go too crazy modern.”

The other advantage of collaborating and communicating via email was informal technical support. “I have found that our mailing list has been a huge source for support and problem solving, especially when experimentation is afoot,” as Vivito Volare puts. “There are some projects you would prefer to share with neighbors rather than strangers who may well be your competition.”

As each individual Caledonian finished their block, they uploaded it to Desmond’s City editor, and he integrated it into the next update sent to Blue Mars' servers. Take this store by Thadicus Caligari, who built it in Sketchup, then imported it into Blue Mars’ Item Editor, to test it, then finally placed it in the Block Editor. What you see above is what it looked like in his local editor.

And here’s what it looks like, merged into Caledonia:

Every few weeks, Desmond would merge individual blocks and publish them to Caledonia. The citizens would meet in-world after the changes went live in Blue Mars, comparing notes. “[We] had kind of a fun time seeing what different people made, as we hadn't seen it ourselves until it was all merged and published.”

And that’s how the first town of Caledonia came to be. But, Desmond promises, “We've barely touched upon what can be done here.”

What about Blue Mars should I write about next? Email and let me know: hamlet at bluemarsonline dot com.