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Blue Mars: Second Life With Pro-Level Content

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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

32 Responses to “Blue Mars: Second Life With Pro-Level Content”

  1. A lot has changed in the 2.5 years since Wagner wrote this article:

    – After a year of “open development”, Blue Mars has reached early beta quality, with about 75% of the features functional.

    – Content development has been opened up to *anyone*, you don’t even need an account to get the developer tools (you do need to register to *upload* content).

    – Cloud render system is in test to allow streaming of game video to any web-enabled device, such as an iPhone.

    – Independent developers have built cities, clothing, avatar bodies, and are busy making more content. By the time the software development is complete, there will be places to go and things to do. Those developers can earn money and cash it out.




  3. First I have been in second life for 5 years did a beta with blue mars Blue mars has a long way to go before, even with new tech, it even comes close to second life it is a cartoon 3d chat room and not at all what I thought it could be. Seems to me the millions spent could have been better applied. Second life still finctions well on my old tech high speed system blue mars is a lag pit. I still see nothing creative here a few fly me through the loops games and other scenarios.
    Again I am always looking for the replacement for second life but it seems they have a lock on the formula no matter the problems it has

  4. Blue Mars is clearly a closed, company run system. So why would any creators want to go there?
    I’m in SL, I earn money from it, am annoyed at the buggy software it runs on and all the problems that go with it.
    But I can earn money in SL, anything else is a game that takes money from you and to me, is not a virtual world if you can’t create items yourself.

  5. Muziekfreak1980 miles

    Ok after 1 hour being in blue mars, i crashed minimal so thats pretty good. The entire interface lacks the precision and easy of navigating im used to secondlife so maybe prejudgemental but its the best comparing to a similar program.

    Ppl say secondlife is death, it is not the case there still new avs coming in everday (and not all alts thank you very much) Pros and cons as i see them compared to the populair world of secondlife.


    There is no economy, or way to create content.
    Very hard to control your avatar (mouseclick on screen common!)


    Irt looks insanely good graphic wise. But thats just the thing its the only thing that seems to be positive here. Its sluggish ( and no i have a real high spec laptop with 1gig nvidea card NON SHARED memory)

    Its slowpaced the way av moves has nothing to do with graphics, because reaction time and fps are well above 20fps. So thats not the problem ..


    Grpahics are way awesome really nice. But i think the need to improve ALLOT will the ever exceed secondlife.

  6. Muziekfreak1980 miles

    Im a die hard secondlifer i own sim, shops the works.
    So i just installed the viewer..

    First of all BAD POINT

    1,3 gigabyte download of a viewer..for me 50mbitline even no fun to download. Let alone for the less fortunate ppl.

    Then the installation take twice as long (insanely slow)

    Then ve read that contentcreating in Blue Mars is VERY limited as in none. Not so weird i would not be suprised if LL then will wakeup for concept thiefry (and right the are) it looks great of the pic. But my HUMBLE opinion is thats the need to make a better viewer and way faster download.

    Because most wont even touch it because of just that annoying fact.

  7. Sounds a lot like what Kaneva has been trying (and *utterly* failing) to do for years with the Star Platform they keep promising to release to other developers. So far, after four or five years, they’ve managed to create a little mall, a third-rate city and a lame Turner/CNN presence. And that’s using professional developers who actually created the platform.

    I hope Blue Mars’ platform/tools turn out to be more useful.

  8. This seems like an interesting platform to watch. Questions remains who is going to make all that content to put in there, that is really a big question mark. It takes huge amounts of time and skill to produce content so I wonder who is going to make all of that.

  9. holy cow., i got onto the beta test for blue mars. my dear god it makes my computer lag. it runs so so so slowly. and my computer isnt opld. AND i have a giant whopping internet connestion.

    The avatar facial graphics(skins) could use some serious work.. the lips are scary. the fluidity of the animation is nice. im not even getting into the hair other than to say NO. Once the lag gets worked out i can see this being a very very beautiful platform, though lack of user generated content is depressing

  10. This seems an amazing accomplishment. I am nosing around the net and reading all i can about this project untill my email comes to enable me to try the beta on this project. Keep up the pounding on getting the beta out and here’s to the future ;-)

  11. olive farmer

    i hope the truth hurts my friend and i have been trying to download blue mars2150 since july 2009 and we still get leave your e-mail and we will get in touch well i think you are a load of hot air and if and when it ever comes out i hope u all enjoy it but as for me i will make sure everyone i meet will know that you are great comedians and liars

  12. Virtual worlds can be a lot of fun. We’ve enjoyed our visits to Second Life and look forward to exploring Blue Mars 2150. Keeping eyes on the news and the possibility of a compatible business model for our work.

  13. Henk Rogers… Oh you mean the guy that tried to shut down all the open source clones of Tetris with baseless legal threats?

    I’ll be running right over to work with that guy. He seems like a real class act.

  14. “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.