Ball State University buys out Blue Mars platform

It’s fair to say Blue Mars has had some challenges over the years, but it looks like it’s about to go to an even safer pay of hands, with Ball State University buying the platform:

Under Ball State’s terms of agreement with Avatar Reality, the university will begin to fully operate Blue Mars for non-commercial purposes, expand upon the source code, increase its research and academic initiatives, and enhance the community of Blue Mars. In addition, Ball State will continue to deliver original content on Blue Mars as it has done in the past. “I am really excited about the future,” Phil Repp, Ball State’s vice president for information technology, said. “Through our division of Hybrid Design Technologies, Ball State will further our position as a national leader in hybrid worlds and their applications to mediated learning technologies. Our reputation in this discipline is such a perfect fit to our institutional history of innovation in teaching and learning.

Read the rest at over at the superb

Blue Mars on iPhone: testing underway

A brief post from Australian fashionista and Blue Mars insider Estelle Parnall, has a shot of some testing she’s done of the iPhone version.

The shots (pictured left) aren’t really different to the ones released when the announcement of the iPhone version, PC version halt and staff layoffs were announced a fortnight ago.

That said, those limited glimpses do show promise, it’ll be interesting to see the progress made in coming months.

Disclosure: Estelle advertises with the Metaverse Journal.

The partial death and refocus of Blue Mars

In a fairly unexpected move, Avatar Reality’s CEO Jim Sink has announced the cessation of development of the PC application version of virtual world Blue Mars, with the soon to be smaller company moving to focus on developing for the iOS (read: iPhone / iPad) platform. The change involves the loss of a number of staff, including Jim himself. You can also listen to audio of his discussion with the Blue Mars community here.

Whichever way you look at it, this is a major setback for the company. The switch to iOS, however viable, does provide a stark contrast to the PC-only development to date. That sort of strategic shift doesn’t happen overnight, and given the fact an alpha of the iOS version is already in existence adds weight to that. On the face of it, it looks like another shift to the more superficial virtual worlds offering. The withdrawal of technical support and the shelving of further development for the current PC client will have a serious impact on the core group of content creators who’ve been working on the platform to date. Those creators may still have a role to play on the iOS version but it’s hard to envisage it moving out of beta before the end of the year.

Overall, this announcement has a few key impacts. First, it effectively ends in the short-term any claim Blue Mars had over being a serious challenger to Second Life. Second, Blue Mars now enters the iOS marketplace which is burgeoning with developers working on virtual worlds. Third, this places an ever more focused spotlight on the viability of more complex, content-driven virtual worlds. I’m hopefully very wrong but there seems to be a race to the bottom for market share more broadly. Hopefullt Blue Mars proves that wrong but I’m unconvinced.

Sincere commiserations to those affected by this change.

Interview – Estelle Parnall, Blue Mars Fashionista

Blue Mars is a virtual world that continues to evolve, somewhat under the radar for a lot of people. Over the past week it has announced pricing changes that reflect a change in approach from one of establishment to one of consolidation.

Australian designer Estelle Parnall is based in northern Victoria and she obviously sees some opportunities in Blue Mars, shifting most of her focus from Second Life to there in recent months. I used that as an excuse to delve into Blue Mars a little more whilst profiling an interesting Australian who creates some notable content.


The interview below was done over a month ago, so Estelle has now successfully opened her full presence in Blue Mars, in addition to an art gallery (pictured left).

Lowell: What made you decide to leave SL?

Estelle: I havent actually left SL, I still have my shops on half a sim and a small number of satellites, but I suppose I have halted development since about October last year. In the months previous to this I think the market fell considerably (if my sales were anything to go by, but I am sure I wasnt alone). The clothing market in SL is saturated and the freebie culture certainly wasnt assisting the market to be viable.

Lowell: What attracted you to Blue Mars?

Estelle: I was attracted to the superior graphics, and the concept of quality control. The idea of getting in as an early adopter also appealed to me. Since being there a while I can say as a clothing designer that the clothes I can make in Blue Mars are far superior to that I could make in Second Life. No horrible templates or prim skirts, or ill-fitting sculpts……you have greater freedom with your virtual pallette.

Lowell: How has your experience been in Blue Mars so far?

Estelle: On the whole I can say I have really enjoyed it. Learning new 3D skills has been challenging but enjoyable.

Lowell: What limitations have you run into that you’d like to see resolved, and on the other side of the coin, what’s working better for you?

Estelle: There are a number of bugs that need resolution,, and of course the ones that rate most highly for me concern the fit of clothes. But I feel confident that Avatar Reality is working with us to resolve these issues.

Lowell: What are your plans for the coming 6-12 months?

Estelle: I am developing my own city which I hope to release in the next week or so which will showcase my designs and will include an Art Gallery. After that I hope to just improve my skills, create more content and become a major merchant.

More than fashion

From email discussions I’ve had with Estelle over the past month, it’s obvious Blue Mars are very focused on maintaining a happy foundation community. There’s certainly momentum there as well, no doubt helped by both the real and perceived challenges Second Life has at present. In Estelle’s case, her work in Blue Mars has delivered a content creation role for the Martian Boneyards project by TERC, a scientific collaboration game funded by the National Science Project (US). It’s these sort of projects that provide the real indications that the diversification of education in virtual worlds is on the increase. OpenSim growth is a key part of the equation, but environments like Blue Mars are gaining a footing too.

Now if only some real interoperability standards were on the near horizon…

Merged realities – events and issues for virtual worlds

1. Virtual RP is a French OpenSim grid that launched yesterday after four months development.

2. Want to test out a potential tattoo design on an avatar before making a lifetime commitment? Obsessive Ink may be worth a look.

3. Linden Lab have provided some more examples of what Viewer 2 is doing for enhancing in-world content.

4. The UK elections are turning out to be a dud as far as virtual world presences go.

5. There’s been quite a buzz about Blue Mars offering a cloud-based service. Here’s one of the better stories on it.

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