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Summary:

When you’re building a virtual world paradise, does it help to do so from an actual one? That was my first thought after reading about Avatar Reality, a startup based in Oahu, Hawaii (the pic is Honolulu’s Aloha Tower as seen from the founder’s office.) Tomorrow […]

avatar-reality-office.jpgWhen you’re building a virtual world paradise, does it help to do so from an actual one? That was my first thought after reading about Avatar Reality, a startup based in Oahu, Hawaii (the pic is Honolulu’s Aloha Tower as seen from the founder’s office.) Tomorrow the company will sneak preview Blue Mars, its upcoming “3D casual game” MMO, at GDC in San Francisco. I’m from Hawaii, so during a January stay, I caught an advance demo.


blue-mars-waterfall.jpgThough set on a future Mars terraformed for human habitation, Blue Mars isn’t hardcore sci-fi — indeed, the company’s hoping to attract non-gamer women who’ll enjoy shopping, socializing and playing casual games built into its idyllic locales. It’ll run on a free downloaded client using the ultra-realistic, CPU-taxing CryEngine platform — meaning a large download. They’re aiming for compatibility 3-5 years from now, when standard broadband-powered PCs should run Blue Mars just fine. (Avatar Reality President Kazuyuki Hashimoto notes that Flash-driven games were once considered large, too.)

golfing-on-blue-mars.jpgUnlike Second Life, most of the world’s content won’t be created by users; instead, they’ll license third-party developers, with whom they’ll share revenue from virtual item sales, while also protecting the company from DMCA/content theft complaints (a recurring headache in SL.) A veteran of Final Fantasy developer Square, Hashimoto envisions Blue Mars as an ideal storefront for the many 3D artists he knows. Development VP Li-han Chen is a veteran of Sony Online while company “Mastermind” Henk Rogers previously founded Blue Planet Software, holder of the Tetris license — both of which should help them recruit casual game developers as Blue Mars evolves.

Other details include:

- Open beta planned for fourth quarter of 2008
- Funded with $2.4 million from Rogers and Hawaiian VC
- Sharded MMO, with up to 10,000 players concurrent on each server
- Game platform to use Lua
- User-to-user trading handled by company-run auction
- Users to earn virtual currency by acting as employees (guides, police, etc.) of world’s fictional corporations
- Company revenue to come from multiple sources, including: land leases, item sales, premium services, real-world advertising

And yes, there’s advantages to developing Blue Mars in the paradise that is Hawaii, among them a proximity to Japan, relocation appeal for prospective employees, and a state tax credit for tech startups.

Screenshots courtesy Avatar-Reality.com.

  1. [...] gigaom Blue Mars: Second Life With Pro-Level Content Quote from the site – When you’re building a virtual world paradise, does it help to do so from [...]

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  2. [...] a cheek wobbler whilst in a loving embrace, but I held fast.   I’ve just had a look, and Blue Mars does indeed look very good, and I wonder how the Lindens feel about this potential threat? What do [...]

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  3. How is a proximity to Japan helpful? Is it because Hashimoto is from Japan?

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  4. [...] such a cool opportunity is marred by a horrible user experience and downright ugly graphics. Maybe Blue Mars (based on the Kim Stanley Robinson novel I’m guessing) is the [...]

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  5. “How is a proximity to Japan helpful? Is it because Hashimoto is from Japan?”

    Not so much that as they need to make a lot of business trips to Japan. (They just announced a partnership with a Japanese software developer, for example.) Honolulu to Tokyo is about 5 hours, versus San Jose to Tokyo in about 11.

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  6. [...] kids, but some contenders for the Second Life audience and purpose. Now comes Blue Mars, which has observers drooling because of the brilliance of its [...]

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  7. [...] Read | Permalink | Email this | Linking Blogs | Comments [...]

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  8. I thought these guys were behind Blue Mars?
    http://virtualspaceentertainment.com/

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