Blue Mars – Being Different


As some of you may know I’ve been spending a great deal of time in Blue Mars. I’ve been mainly providing video tutorials but I’ve also been keeping a close eye on forums and blogs that reference the new virtual world by Avatar Reality. One thing that keeps cropping up is the idea that Blue Mars will fail – or at least struggle – because it doesn’t cater to the Second Life demographic. This is a short-sighted view and fails to take into consideration what attracts people to virtual worlds. In fact, the way in which Blue Mars differentiates itself from Second Life may have a greater bearing on its success than any similarities.

From the figures released by Linden Lab, Second Life retains about 10% of the people that sign up. That’s a 90 day figure. What that means essentially is that of the people that sign-up for Second Life about 10% are still logging in 90 days later. Ten percent is not actually a bad figure as long as the numbers that are attracted and sign up remain high. However that still means that Second Life fails to meet the needs of nine people in every ten that sign up. That’s a sizable chunk. Those sorts of numbers are more than big enough to sustain an alternate virtual world if that world can offer something that Second Life doesn’t. There are lots of ways they can do that.

Many of the Second Lifers that complain about Blue Mars deride the lack of freely available content creation. Firstly, anyone can sign up to be a content developer. It’s simple and fully automated. I had my access and links to the SDK download within seconds. Having to sign up to develop also alieviates some of the security issues that Second Life faces with intellectual property theft. Secondly, content creation in Second Life is a kludge. You must be inworld to create many of the items which means that if you crash you can loose that content easily. The tools are also non-standard and difficult to master. Importing content from other applications is also difficult to impossible. I’ve seen some amazing work in Second Life and I’ve worked with and befriended many great artisans, but the Second Life content creation scheme is a major barrier to entry. Everything must be created from scratch specifically for Second Life. Blue Mars, and I must say as do several other 3d immersive virtual environments, offers a way to import your existing 3ds Max, Maya, Blender, etc content. That’s another sizable demographic that Second Life doesn’t cater to.

There are also other demographics that Second Life fails to provide for: anyone wishing to run a virtual event that caters to more than 100 avatars (Second Life’s upper limit) in a region/sim. People that are deterred by the red-light district reputation. Businesses that are put-off by the lack of security or by the uncertainty resulting from Linden Lab’s governance. There are lots of niches that a new or existing virtual world can tap into without being forced to attract users from Second Life.

That’s not to say that Blue Mars will cater to all or even any of these demographics. As I keep saying, it’s very early days. There’s a whole lot of potential there but there’s also an awful amount of work yet to be done. But by daring to be different Blue Mars can attract users without having to mirror Second Life.

About the Author: skribe

Based in Perth, Australia, Antonio Barimen (aka skribe) is a writer, digital media consultant and social media producer.

He is available to help you develop social marketing and digital media strategies, improving communication between staff, partners and suppliers or just increasing the number of fans on Facebook. He has developed successful digital and social media projects for clients including CBS, Evian, Procter & Gamble, Discovery Networks, Pernod Ricard and American Express.

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Post Under Advice, virtual worlds September 7, 2009
  • Signed up for the beta now, offline content creation is a great attraction. Also, Second Life does suck a fair bit, and I’m surprised they claim even as much as 10% retention.
    .-= teddlesruss´s last blog ..Don’t Post It? Whyever Not? =-.

    • It does have some issues that may prove a hindrance in its continued growth. Fortunately or perhaps unfortunately LL have been able to ignore many of these up until now. I wouldn’t say its sucks, however. There’s a reason it’s still the biggest kid on the block.

  • The words “libertarian” and “free for all” crop up quite a bit in relation to Second Life, and there’s a perception that Blue Mars will be neither of these things. This is one reason why some Second Lifers find Blue Mars a turn-off and suggest it will fail. In the end, for Blue Mars I think it will just depend on what the city developers decree for their cities.

    I’m not a builder in Second Life but I understand your point about improving content creation methods – It sounds like Blue Mars will be much better for people who are serious about building innovative virtual environments. Breaking the 100 avatars per region barrier is also a big leap forward.

    One thing that Second Life does do well is the way players can build up an inworld identity, make friends and socialise. In Second Life, right away you can “be somebody”. It’s a pity that Blue Mars went into open beta and was still very weak in this respect – There is very little avatar customisation, no name tags to identify people, nowhere to define yourself (like a profile), and the chat is clunky. Essentially, at this stage of Blue Mars, you remain anonymous. I’m sure this will change, but it’s not surprising that the initial reaction of Second Lifers is disappointment.

    So, thanks for an interesting article, Skribe, and I agree with what you’re saying – BM will be great for builders, artists, event promoters, companies, educators and it will look stupendous. I just hope it works brilliantly as a social platform as well, otherwise there won’t be very many people around to enjoy all these wonderful things.
    .-= Olaf Quintessa´s last blog ..Live at the Zaza opening party =-.

    • Thanks for commenting Olaf.

      I have to say it’s been a very long time since I heard the terms libertarian and free for all associated with Second Life. Probably not since the banning of gambling or maybe it was shortly before Linden banned the non-IRL banks. I think it was Tateru Nino that summed it up best by saying that Linden are flexible when we want them to be solid, and solid when we want them to be flexible.

      Two years ago I wrote about aspects of doing business in Second Life in which I said that Second Life was very much like being in a foreign country. Well, so is Blue Mars. It has it’s own way of doing things. It’s pointless people throwing a hissy fit about it. It just makes them look juvenile.

      As for avatar customisation, it’s coming. In fact it’s entirely possible that ultimately Blue Mars will offer far more possibilities if we’re allowed to import meshes and rigs directly. I don’t have any special insight into Avatar Reality’s plans but theoretically it’s possible. I’m certainly hoping to utilise such a feature for my machinima.

      I think the reaction from SLers is mostly based on a false premise about what a beta period entails. Rock has written a very nice article about what it means in terms of Blue Mars.

      SLers are right about one matter. Blue Mars is not ready yet. But the developers already know that and frankly, I’m sick of being told all the time.

      Be patient. It will be worth the wait, I assure you.

      • “I have to say it’s been a very long time since I heard the terms libertarian and free for all associated with Second Life.”

        No? I heard it just the other day on here (17:12)

        .-= Olaf Quintessa´s last blog ..Live at the Zaza opening party =-.

        • That video is about 2 years out of date.

      • >I have to say it’s been a very long time since I heard
        >the terms libertarian and free for all associated with
        >Second Life. Probably not since the banning of
        >gambling or maybe it was shortly before Linden
        >banned the non-IRL banks.

        Well, they had to recognize that the company, Linden Lab, exists under California law, whether or not the residents of Second Life do. But they have been phenomenally laissez-faire in most aspects of allowing resident autonomy, to the point of negligence, in some cases.

        • Maybe you need to re-familiarise yourself with the meaning of the term laissez-faire. Having some laissez-faire is like being a little bit pregnant =)

  • very much my own sentiments. Social Interaction tools MUST be available and improved for BM to thrive.

  • Pingback: Blue Mars: An Opportunity to Grow Your Second Life Business » Skribe Productions()

  • You can import blender into SL — see

    And you can have an event with up to 400 avatars by hosting it at the four-corners intersection of four sims.

    I have yet to see anything about Blue Mars that differentiates it from There in terms of it being businesslike, but we’ll have to wait and see, I suppose. I am in the open beta, and what I saw coming in, was that the devs didn’t bother to give women the option to wear anything but a bikini or camisole top, or short shorts or a bikini bottom.

    As a business woman, that doesn’t say “This is a place to do serious business” to me. SL’s reputation for being a “red light district” is about equal to saying “the internet is for porn.” SL include a full swath of human activity (and things that humans can’t do in RL, to boot).

    Can it be changed? Yes, it’s open beta, and I’m sure they’ll add content, or they’ll start allowing user content. Does it speak well of their planning or intentions? Hmmm….

    Creating a 3D dating chat room with Maya and Blender instead of plywood cubes is just a prettier, bloodless world that I will have to see differentiated from There.

    • I’m well aware of scultpties. They form a tiny portion of the available geometry.

      Also having sim lines to cross is not a viable solution. I’ve been in sims that are rated for 100 avatars and yet they crawled with half that in them. For events where you need a return on real world investment involving mass numbers it’s rarely feasible to use SL.

      Yes, AR have blundered with women’s clothing. My wife and I were the first to raise the issue with them.