See New World Notes: Blue Mars Goes Into Open Beta Today for a quick summary.
We are up to version 0.0.6589.0. A big change is the size of the download. It has gone from 1.3gb down to 392mb. Nice. BUT… they have added a CITY BROWSER. This shows you the cities you have already downloaded and those available for download. New cities are 200mb to 500mb downloads. They download in background. One must restart the main program to access a newly downloaded city. I’m sure that will change by the end of the beta.
Lots of other small changes have been added. The chat has been improved. One can edit their avatar name and change their email address. The ecommerce system (Blue Mars dollars) is almost ready, according to the Blue Mars web site. Inventory manipulation tools are appearing, but not quite complete yet. They are waiting on parts of the ecommerce system. Developers can see a new Real Estate Page and buy/lease land. Developers will see additional features like the item upload feature.
More details are on Chapter & Metaverse: Blue Mars New Release: The Main Details
Once one logs in the city selector comes up. There are currently 11 locations. One has to wonder how this will work when there are thousands of regions. The time to download a city is of course dependent on your connection speed and load on the server. City sizes are currently 18mb to 400mb. On my 15mb/sec connection I was averaging 2mb per second. New Venice is 315mb.
When a city is selected some information is displayed in a panel. If there is a supporting web site, that information shows. Also, from the City screen you can go to the Welcome area or directly to a city. My understanding is each city is a shard/server.
Once one is in a city there are minor changes in the menus. There are now some minor graphics settings.
There is a Twitter interface. (See image)
The HOME button takes you back to the city selector. The welcome area seems very empty now.
Blue Mars Building Tools
The build tools are a separate download (554mb), free, and require a sign-up to get them. They primarily import a 3D model you create in 3DMax, Maya, Blender or something and export to Collada format. The Blue Mars tools allow one to tweak the texture and surface quality attributes of the objects and preps them for upload. They allow one to import what was made into a small preliminary world copy for testing and checking the appearance before upload. See my post: Blue Mars Developer’s Tools Review which looked at the version 0.0.5822.0. The newer version is now 0.0.6302.0.
There is now an Item and Furniture Editor tools.
There are new pages in the developer section now showing placeholders for the coming ecommerce parts. The developer’s login is here. Your old links won’t work. You can get more Blue Mars developer information here.
The tutorials on the wiki have been updated and there are more of them.
Fan sites are starting to spring up. There is a list of some of the sites in the Blue Mars blogs: Fan Sites and Fan Blogs about Blue Mars
Of course there are Flickr Groups now:
One can buy land in Blue Mars. There is a page where one can contact Blue Mars region governors. One region, Caledonia, has pricing up. They are offering 20mb of data upload for US$20 per month for a 10mx20m shop with 20 shelves. They promote this as an early adopters’ price and a limited time offer. They will answer questions via email or Skype.
They have homes available too. But as yet have not put up pricing.
On their pricing page is a YouTube video (direct link to YouTube) showing how to build furniture (about ¾’s down) using SketchUp. They never jump to the Blue Mars tools. So, it is not as simple as it looks. SketchUp is pretty cool.
They have 60,000 square meter islands for sale/lease, about the size of a region in SL. Pricing is pending.
Another area is Blue Mars’ Grid Rock. They have virtual land available for US$35/month for 22,500 sq meters.
As yet one can only get pricing for a city from Avatar Reality by calling and apparently signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). The rumor is it is less than Second Life land pricing and much simpler, may be 50% of the SL cost or about $150/month. No leaks on whether or not there is a setup cost. On Dec. 18th land sales is supposed to open.
In SL a region (island) costs $1,000 plus $295 per month. OpenLife provides private 256x256m (65,536 sq m) regions for US$75/month and no setup fee or main land regions 256x256m for US$59/month with inland regions being less. OpenSim is the least costly ranging from free to a few hundred per year; however it is still Alpha version software.
Some are speculating the competition will drive land cost (tier) price down in SL. That seems reasonable. However, the other platform has to be better or at least as good. It also has to be cheaper. Right now it is questionable whether the other platforms are better. A huge aspect of better for merchants is the presence of customers. So, there is a bit of a catch 22.
I crashed once on the way to Pavonis. I haven’t gotten Blue Mars to run since. I’ll reinstall in a day or two and try again.
Update 12/24/09 Blue Mars Prices
On the 18th Blue Mars pricing came out. They made it hard to compare prices to SL. They used a different criteria. I think it makes more sense as it forcuses on what more people will be interested in. The number ofpeople a sim will support is their pricing criteria.
The low in is a 5 concurrent user sim for US$30/mo with $100 setup. The area this can cover is 16km x 16km. A 4km x 4km area is recommended. One can extend terrain beyond the 16x16km, if I understand correctly. Avatars can only travel inside the 16×16 area or 4×4 or whatever are you decide on.
An SL region is similar to a Blue Mars Village. The SL region is typically 256m x 256m and will support 40 to 80 concurrent avatars. Blue Mars villages cost $275/mo with $750 setup and support 50 concurrent avatars.
A Blue Mars City: $1,000/mo w/$2,000 setup for 250 concurrent avatars.
A Blue Mars Metropolis: $5,000/mo w/7,500 setup for 1,500 avatars.
Second Life has Full regions: $295/mo w/$1,200 setup for 100 concurrent avatars.
Homestead regions: $125/mo w/$450 setup for 20 avatars.
Open Space regions: no fee/mo w/no setup for 10 avatars but requires a full region per open space region. But it depends on what type of main region you have. Open space can cost $75/mo w/$250 setup for 10 avatars.
To adjust an SL region to match a Blue Mars City… as close as one can get is two full regions plus 2 open space sims, $885/mo w/2,400 setup for 220 avatars to $1,035/mo w/$2,550 setup.
Blue mars has SL beat on shear size and a slight* advantage on cost. SL has prim restrictions and Blue Mars does not.
There is a gotcha in all that space Blue Mars provides. One has to walk through all those sq km’s. At least in SL one can fly.
Open Life and OpenSim (OSGrid) have better prices. Open Life has mainland regions very similar to SL’s for $59/mo w/20k prims and no mention of how many concurrent avatars.
SL Pricing – Requires at least a free account to access.
*Slight – this depends on how one compares. Avatar to avatar they are similar. Switching to square meters the difference is huge. 4 sq km on BM is $2,000 setup and $1,000/month with 250 avatars. On SL getting 4 sq km setup costs $16,500 and $4,850/month with 710 avatars. See: Chapter & Metaverse – Comparison of Virtual Land Prices
On OSgrid, SimHost suggests as a very rough guideline that their ‘Premium’ package costing $69.95 a month (no set up fee) configured as a single 256×256 sq m region with 15k prims will handle 40 concurrent avatars without overflowing the limits. This particular package can be reconfigured into up to four regions sharing the server resources — or even into a 2×2 megaregion.