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Blue Mars

Second Life competitor Blue Mars drops PC development for Apple's iOS

MMO Industry, Blue Mars, Virtual Worlds, Miscellaneous

If you were hoping that Blue Mars was going to rise to directly challenge Second Life's virtual world dominance, you may be in for disappointment today. In a letter to Avatar Reality's fans, CEO Jim Sink announced that the company is restructuring and dropping Blue Mars' PC development to focus solely on Apple's iOS. As a result, Blue Mars is now Blue Mars Mobile.

"With over 50 million new tablet devices projected to reach consumers this year along with tens of millions of iPhones and iPod Touch devices, the market for
Blue Mars Mobile is a massive opportunity for our company and our customers. We already have a functioning alpha in house and we aim to release the first builds of Blue Mars on iOS next month," Sink said. Sink also announced that a number of Avatar Reality employees, including himself, have been let go from the company.

Unfortunately for PC users, Avatar Reality is limiting development to mere bug fixes for the forseeable future. While the company will not charge users of the PC client, there will also be no technical support for the user client.

The Virtual Whirl: Vox virtualis

Culture, Opinion, Second Life, Blue Mars, Virtual Worlds, The Virtual Whirl

A change is as good as a holiday, they say. Seriously, I don't actually know anyone who says this other than myself; though I'm assured that there are some folks out there who do.

With that tragically underutilized platitude in mind, then, last week I posed a question to a spread of well-known virtual environment users (at least to those that I felt would actually respond) and collected the responses.

The question put to the respondents was "What's the single thing that the operators/developers could do to make you feel more satisfied with their virtual environment offering; what thing would help an operator keep you as a customer, or that would make some other operator more appealing than the one or ones you already have?"

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Blue Mars experiencing slow but steady growth

Interviews, MMO Industry, News Items, Blue Mars, Virtual Worlds

Blue Mars entered a scaled open beta back in September, and we've not heard a lot from that quarter since then. It's still there, though, quietly doing its thing and keeping its fans happy. Jim Sink, the CEO of Honolulu-based Avatar Reality, spoke recently with Honolulu Weekly about where Blue Mars stands today.

Blue Mars has a fairly small audience of around 100,000 and adds roughly 10% to that figure every month. Part of the reason for the small audience is the limitations given by the game itself, but Sink hopes to change that in the near future: "The current version of the game is slow on older PCs. We're adopting a new technology called the Cloud Fusion Server this summer though that will allow anyone to play Blue Mars online."

The team behind Blue Mars hopes that this will open the doors for a much larger player base. Plans for things such as a switch to browser based play and Facebook applications give Sink hopes for a bright future for the game.

Honolulu Weekly has the full interview with Sink, and it's well worth a read for anyone interested in the genre.

[via Worlds in Motion]

The Virtual Whirl: Questions from the virtual mailbag

Entropia Universe, Business Models, Economy, MMO Industry, There, Opinion, Second Life, Blue Mars, Virtual Worlds, HiPiHi, The Virtual Whirl

This week, in The Virtual Whirl, we're going to take a selection of reader questions that we've received in comments and in the virtual mailbag and do our best to offer up some useful answers. Join us as we whirl through the mail. Not surprisingly, the two most frequently asked questions involve the demise of virtual environment, There.com.

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The Virtual Whirl: Community guide to Virtual Worlds

Guides, There, News Items, Opinion, Second Life, Blue Mars, Virtual Worlds, The Virtual Whirl

Welcome to The Virtual Whirl, a new weekly Massively column covering virtual environments generally. The term 'virtual world' is slowly seeing less use, being supplanted by the more general 'virtual environment', but the world term still has a fair bit of life left in it.

Virtual environments covers a whole lot of ground. From William Crowther's original efforts in 1976 that based a game in a virtual version of the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, virtual environments have been a part of gaming, artificial intelligence and behavioral research, modeling, telemetry and process control and more.

Nowadays we're seeing Second Life, Blue Mars, There.com, IMVU and others trying to find places in non-game contexts, like content-development and prototyping, publishing and performance, entertainment and social, education and business; efforts that are met with varying amounts of success.

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Blue Mars limited-term pioneer pricing plans announcement

Betas, Business Models, Blue Mars, Virtual Worlds

Avatar Reality Inc, the operators of Blue Mars, are today announcing limited time "pioneer" pricing for developers, digital entrepreneurs, educators, and businesses for space on the Blue Mars virtual environment platform.

Space on Blue Mars is allocated in "cities". A Blue Mars city can be any size up to 16 kilometres on a side (a total of 256 million square metres). A city is more or less a discrete environment, or pocket "world" (if you prefer the term) with its own custom terrain, interface, rules, controls, items, themes, dominant language, and activities.

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Second Life's Caledon expands to Blue Mars

Culture, News Items, Opinion, Second Life, Blue Mars, Virtual Worlds

Desmond Shang, operator of one of the most popular and cohesive themed communities in Second Life, is extending his community into Blue Mars in just a few days time. Shang's Caledon, popular among aficionados of Victoriana, Steampunk and Gaslight, is opening a sister colony, Caledonia on Blue Mars, with an initial stake of roughly four million square metres.

Caledonia is roughly 30% larger than Caledon, sporting a lot of wilder country, forests, mountains and more. We'll be looking forward to seeing what the content development pipeline will really do. Initial reports are that Caledonia will, even when built out, be considerably less bandwidth intensive on its own than Caledon.

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Blue Mars: An interview with Avatar Reality's CEO, Jim Sink

Betas, Interviews, Second Life, Blue Mars, Virtual Worlds

As Blue Mars goes into a scaled, open beta, interest has been rising in Avatar Reality's virtual environment. Inevitably, it's compared to Linden Lab's Second Life and – rightly or wrongly – will probably be wearing that comparison for some years to come. Certainly, Second Life users have found the environment intriguing so far.

It seemed only proper that we sit down with Jim Sink, Avatar Reality's CEO and find out a little bit more about Blue Mars.

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Rumor: Blue Mars to go into open beta on September 2nd?

Betas, Blue Mars, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Rumors

According to an anonymous source, the new virtual world game on the block, Blue Mars, might be entering into open beta on September 2nd. What does this mean for you? Well, it means that another CryEngine 2 MMO might be making an appearance soon to do battle with Planet Calypso.

Currently we are unable to confirm the exact time of the opening of the Blue Mars open beta, but we can confirm that the game has been shut down and is being prepared for the "public beta" according to posts on the forums.

Blue Mars is the middle ground between Second Life and Planet Calypso. Where Planet Calypso acts as a game with a real money economy and Second Life allows all users to create content and change the world to their preferences, Blue Mars signs up and approves select developers to create content for their world. Standard users will have the ability to open up small shops and/or purchase living quarters (at the developer's preference) as well as interact with the games and events the ruling developer sets up for their players.

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Blue Mars beta and launch dates disclosed

Betas, Sci-Fi, Business Models, Launches, News Items, Blue Mars, Virtual Worlds

When it comes to virtual worlds, Massively's main focus to date has clearly been on Second Life, but we're also interested in some of the other choices that are becoming available to residents in virtual spaces. Blue Mars from Avatar Reality is one that's caught our eye -- it's a sci-fi themed virtual world, set on a terraformed Mars in the year 2177 AD. The potential is there to have some stunning visuals, as Blue Mars is built on CryEngine2, best known for giving Crysis its look.

The official Avatar Reality site lists a beta release for the end of 2008, but they've told Eurogamer that Blue Mars enters beta in January 2009. "The first-time developer expects this to last for around three months, before the full game launches in April," Eurogamer's Rob Purchese reports.

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Blue Mars focusing solely on third-party content

News Items, Blue Mars, Virtual Worlds

Whenever we see Blue Mars in the news, our computers usually start making this very worrying metal-on-metal grinding noise. Maybe it's because our computers have seen too many cheesy horror movies set on Mars, or maybe it's because Blue Mars is going to be using the CryEngine2 for its graphics rendering. We just hope that it doesn't kill the game early on, since we're pretty interested in seeing how it develops.

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Glimpses of the next-gen HD MMOs

At a glance, Sci-Fi, Screenshots, Huxley, MMO Industry, New Titles, Previews, Stargate Worlds, The Agency, Blue Mars, Spy, Global Agenda

The MMOABC site has a bountiful screenshot buffet, looking at some of the high-definition imagery we'll be enjoying in the 'next generation' of Massive games. They have shots of Blue Mars, Huxley, The Day, The Agency, Stargate Worlds, and Global Agenda. They have descriptions of each game world as well; helpful, since some of these titles are very newly announced.

For more info on Blue Mars, check out our sneak preview from E for All, and our screenshot gallery:

Blue Mars sneak preview

Real-Life, Sports, Galleries, Screenshots, New Titles, Previews, Free-to-Play, Blue Mars, Hands-On, Interviews (Massively's), Hands-On (Massively's)

We had a chance to sit down with Avatar Reality's VP of Development, Li-han Chen, at E for All to get some details about their recently announced title, Blue Mars. Set on a futuristic, terraformed Mars circa 2177 AD, the world will be far more akin to something like Second Life than like other more typical MMOs; in fact, the company is calling Blue Mars a "massively multiplayer virtual world," or MMVW, in lieu of labeling it specifically as a game world. Two main mechanics will separate Blue Mars from SL: a suite of pre-programmed in-game activities (minigames, essentially) to provide a framework for socialization, and no user-generated content -- all environments and objects in the world will be coded by third party developers.

By the time Blue Mars enters closed beta at the end of 2008, Honolulu-based Avatar Reality hopes to have at least 3 of these minigames developed and ready for testing. With golf and vehicle racing listed as two of the activities, it seems clear that Blue Mars is going to cater to the more casual side of the gaming audience. If combat exists at all in the world, it will be relegated to specifically designated areas -- the core mechanic is casual socialization. Perhaps paradoxically, the game is going to be aimed at users with high-end machines and graphics cards (Quad Core CPU and GeForce 8800 or better) in order to feature the CryENGINE2-rendered "breathtaking graphics."

Gallery: Blue Mars

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E for All galleries

Galleries, Screenshots, Entropia Universe, MU Online, Events (Real-World), Warhammer Online, Sword of the New World, Blue Mars, Events (Massively's Coverage)

We had a chance to hit up the inaugural year for E for All in Los Angeles, and while turnout wasn't so hot, there were a few goodies we were able to get our hands on. We collated the MMO-related shots for a Massively-flavored E for All gallery:

We also offer a screenshot gallery from the time we got to spend with Warhammer Online:

And some initial screenshots from the upcoming title from Avatar Reality, Blue Mars:

Gallery: Blue Mars

For the full mega-gallery featuring your required dosage of cosplay and Rock Band almost-stars, check out the complete Joystiq E for All gallery:

Gallery: E for All 2007

Blue Mars - blurring the boundary between MMOG and virtual world

Real-Life, Sci-Fi, New Titles, Free-to-Play, Blue Mars

Does the name Kazuyuki Hashimoto ring a bell? He was Chief Technology Officer for Square USA for five years, was Vice President of New Technology and Platforms at Electronic Arts for 4 years, and spent seven years as the Senior Vice President of R&D at Square where he worked on the CG segments and cutscenes in the legendary Final Fantasy VII.

Along with Li-Han Chen - whose background includes Project Manager (Sony Online Entertainment), VP of engineering (AtGames Inc), Senior Programmer (Squaresoft), Senior Programmer (Dreamworks) - Hashimoto heads up the Honolulu-based Avatar Reality Inc, and their new MMOG, Blue Mars.

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