I’m excited to announce that I’ve joined Avatar Reality, the creator of the next generation 3D world Blue Mars, as a consultant. Of course, my avatar is coming too. Even better, New World Notes style writer Iris Ophelia is also joining me, to cover the best in Blue Mars fashion. Follow us in "Blue World Notes", a daily feature now launching on the Blue Mars blog.
To answer two immediate concerns this raises:
- Yes, New World Notes will continue to cover great Second Life content. To avoid conflicts of interest, I won’t editorialize or report on Linden Lab the company while consulting with Blue Mars. For the duration, my coverage will instead be around the topics that have always enthralled me most: The creativity of the community, and the cultural themes they provoke. I’ll also expand NWN’s editorial team, coverage of OpenSim, next generation gaming, and topics related to the metaverse and user-generated virtual worlds.
- No, I am not “giving up” on Second Life. I continue to believe Second Life can and should be an essential part of a wider and growing virtual world ecosystem. However, for Second Life to survive now, it’s clear to me that the broader market for 3D user-generated worlds must grow far, far larger than what it currently is.
That’s where Blue Mars comes in. I’ve known the team at Avatar Reality for several years, and while I was skeptical at first, I’m convinced they currently have the best strategy for growing the next generation of 3D virtual worlds. Here’s five reasons why:
Cloud Bound: Blue Mars Deploying a Cloud-Based Version Soon
Immersive 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 offered by companies like Otoy and OnLive provides a powerful alternative that better fits today’s market: high-end graphics quickly delivered on a light client via broadband, not just on laptops, but televisions, even iPads, launching a 3D experience about as quickly as you’d play a YouTube video. Months ago, Avatar Reality CEO Jim Sink told me the company will soon have a cloud-based version, and just yesterday, confirmed it’ll hopefully launch before the end of this year. In my opinion, that's a necessary direction for immersive worlds to reach a mass audience in today's evolving market.
File Portability: Blue Mars Already Uses COLLADA-Compatible 3D Meshes
As I've written before, COLLADA meshes are important because they are compatible with industry standard 3D graphics software like Studio Max and the free, open source Blender. I am 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 now use. That way, rising Blue Mars stars can go straight into working in movies or videogames.
Content Creator Friendly: Blue Mars Has a Well-Planned Content Protection System
Since commerce in user-generated content is the lifeblood of virtual worlds dependent on them, it’s crucial that content creators feel their work has strong, internal protections against content theft, and accusations of same. 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.
Fun Advantage: The Blue Mars Team Has a Deep Background in Game Design
Avatar Reality’s CEO, Jim Sink, comes straight from the Xbox Live team, which was instrumental in the 360 beating 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. As I’ve written many times here, 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 make Blue Mars a thriving economy.
Mac Compatible: Yes, Blue Mars Can Run on Macs
I know how popular Macs are with Second Life users and Internet creators more generally; that’s why it’s so important that Blue Mars can run on a Mac, with a few tweaks. (There’s other Blue Mars alternatives for Mac owners coming soon, which we’ll of course cover.) [See important update here - 9/22]
To be sure, Blue Mars is still in Beta, and evolving, and rough around the edges. However, 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 fairly untrammeled frontier offering metaverse pioneers new vistas of experience and opportunity. I know it will be wonderful to see and write about the wonders they create. And I hope you, New World Notes readers, will consider joining us on that great expedition -- or at the very least, occasionally check in on our progress.
There’s a whole new world next door; let’s go see. Join me and Iris on Blue Mars’ blog, for daily Blue World Notes entries, and be sure to say Hi when you see us in-world. And keep reading New World Notes, for all the best that 3D worlds in general have to offer.