The news over the last couple of days is Blue Mars is going through a Second Life style shake up. The CEO and much of the development staff working on the PC based version of the game are leaving. So, what’s up?
The new idea is to focus on the iPhone, iPad, and iOS in general and forget doing any more than bug fixes to the PC based software. They will be running the CPU and memory intense parts of the game in a cloud based version of the game. The render and physics are both handled in the cloud. The iPhone or iPad will basically be a terminal that does very little beyond providing UI controls and a display. This also reduces the need for those huge gigabyte downloads before visiting a new part of the Blue Mars world.
I wouldn’t say I saw an end coming for Blue Mars. But, I have previously posted that I thought their financial model had problems. Also, as a fan of Must Uru, another 3D world that hasn’t made it, I saw much of Blue Mars as similar to Uru in the areas of content creation, download, and game delivery, which I thought would be a problem. Going to cloud based render solves those problems. It will be interesting to see if those changes improve the popularity of Blue Mars.
One of the biggest problems I see with Blue Mars is the complex building process. There was no easy way to get new 3D modelers involved. There is no simple in-world building process as there is in SL. The first step to building in Blue Mars is to learn Blender, 3DS, or Maya. That is a big first step.
This means only professionals and serious hobbyists who already use 3D modeling software are building the content. The building process for Blue Mars has added complications. Once a mesh is modeled and textured in Blender/3DS/Maya there is a follow up process using the Blue Mars building tools to test the and finish the model. That makes a learning curve for professionals too. So, building in Blue Mars is not a casual hobby for most.
The process also leaves the makers of content very much in control of content. There is no such thing as clothing templates for Blue Mars, unless the original content maker wants to make a clothing item’s template available. Casual creators are at a serious disadvantage in Blue Mars.
The article Breaking News: Blue Mars to Discontinue Development of PC Platform, Will Emphasize Mobile Applications hits some of the other problems Blue Mars is having. Like Myst-Uru and THERE.com not pulling the expected users Blue Mars is short too. I suspect Blue Mars’ venture capital is drying up as Eddi expresses in the article. He estimates they may have 5,000 consistent ‘residents’, users.
I have never thought Blue Mars looked wildly successful. It was intended as a developers’ game building platform. The iOS and Android platforms are taking off as I think was intended by Blue Mars. But Blue Mars was not designed to be iOS App friendly. It was designed to be its own thing. So, I can’t see it picking up the large number of iOS App Developers creating for iOS.
This change of direction to iPhone has me seriously doubting Blue Mars will survive. We’ll see how taking it social works. But without the majority of people being able to create content and profit from their efforts, I think Blue Mars is doomed. But, the Apps aspect could make it a hit.
Most of Blue Mars’ money was/is venture capital. The cost of having a region in Blue Mars was about the same as SL’s. So, there was an active income model. But, unless some minimum number of people adopted Blue Mars each month, they weren’t going to meet costs. They seem to have failed to get those numbers.
I have yet to see anything that clarifies if new builders can come in for free or if it is only existing region owners that no longer have to pay. This is going to create problems and incentives no matter which way it is.
Places like the Smithsonian and universities were adopting Blue Mars. For an educational institution to use the cutting edge virtual world with advanced 3D modeling makes sense. Students want cutting edge when paying for an education and most universities lag far behind the industries.
The Smithsonian and institutions like it want to display content in the best rendering system possible, which makes sense. But, this shift has to give them pause. One also has to wonder if possible new signups will wait to see how this shakes out and what that will do to Blue Mars finances.
Whether this change will move Blue Mars peeps to SL or OS is unknown. I doubt we will know for several months. I think it will be a little more likely when mesh is rolled out to the main grid. The builds in Blue Mars will not easily move to SL or OS, even after mesh is available. Most of Blue Mars is built in regions we would consider Mega-Regions in SL or OpenSim, which is likely to prevent moving an entire region. I wonder of Linden Lab has even considered the marketing aspects of this news and has any plans to take advantage of it. I doubt it.
OS is way too alpha version for people like the Smithsonian. So, I expect people to wait to see what the iPhone aspect does to user numbers. Then they are left with either Blue Mars or SL.
I have read where many think the Blue Mars direction change takes pressure off the Lab to upgrade. It may, but I don’t see it removing that much pressure. For the idea to be true one has to think the Lab is mainly focused on competing with Blue Mars. I suspect such competition is an aspect of their strategy. I doubt it is more than a minor influence. I think the Lab’s focus is gaining new users and retaining users. For that reason I see little pressure coming off the Lab.
Also, the Lab has been moving toward the smart phone world and browser based viewers for socal networking (Facebook). Blue Mars could have slanted their announcements in this direction and saved face. I think both are pursuing the new popular markets, Facebook social users and the iPhone/Android crowd. Apps are making a ton of money. I think the Lab is trying to figure out how to take advantage of those markets. They appear geared toward that market in everything being done. Plus SL is likely to be more easily adapted to working with Apps than Blue Mars, but I’m not that up on Blue Mars. We’ll see.
More bloggers are commenting on Blue Mars. Most are proclaiming the end of it, as in done, finished, and going away. I’m not sure that is true but there are some pretty good arguments for it.
Tateru Nino in: The Bluest Mars – what went wrong – Says Blue Mars was running out of money. I don’t know if she has hard evidence of that, but from outside Avatar Reality it sure looks that way. It wouldn’t surprise me to see it confirmed at some point. Tateru certainly makes a good point on server costs.
Daniel Voyager’s Blue Mars Now Focusing On Mobile Market
Lowell Cremorne’s The partial death and refocus of Blue Mars
There are probably several things to be learned in regard to what makes a successful virtual world. Lowell Cremorne writes about how World of Warcraft is running their game in: World of Warcraft’s Cataclysm: lessons for virtual worlds.
Gwyneth Llewelyn’s article, Mars Attacks!… Mobile platforms sets the Blue Mars change in much more Second Life centric terms. I think she has a much more practical viewpoint for SL peeps.