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Well, that is pretty much that then
Old 01-14-2011, 09:48 PM   #1
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Default Well, that is pretty much that then

After an enthusiastic start, my involvement with BM had dropped to "keep an eye on" only mode over the last few months. In a nutshell: I want a platform that can deliver "game-like" interactivity and frame-rates, CryEngine provides that, but AR seemed determined to gut their use of CE inside BM.

Latest AR blog post puts this into perspective I guess.

Quote:
Friday, January 14, 2011
Avatar Reality Restructuring
--Jim Sink, CEO

Dear Blue Mars Community,

... Avatar Reality is restructuring in order to concentrate on bringing Blue Mars to portable touch screen devices like the iPhone and iPad. ...

... The focus for the first version of Blue Mars Mobile is avatar style and rankings. The initial versions will allow people to share their Blue Mars avatars through a native iOS application. In the next few months, an app store for clothing, Facebook Connect integration, avatar snapshots, account registration, and character customization will be added. ...

... The first versions of Blue Mars Mobile will be an extension to the PC client but over time, the mobile version will absorb many of the features found in the PC version. With our focus now clearly on mobile, updates to the PC version of the software will likely be restricted to bug fixes for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, we will no longer charge our current City Developers for the monthly city hosting service. The servers will remain online, city updates and uploads will continue, and shop and residence rentals will still function but technical support for the user client will no longer be offered. ...

... As excited as I am for the future of Blue Mars Mobile, I’m equally sad to announce that some of us will not be with Avatar Reality for the next phase of the company. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to keep the current team together while building Blue Mars Mobile. Like many of my friends here, today is my last day at Avatar Reality. ...
http://blog.bluemars.com/2011/01/ava...ructuring.html

Some comments from the analogous SLU thread:

Quote:
I see this as a failure of the original direction, to be a business virtual world solution. LL tried and failed at the same thing. And then it is competing against Unity and UDK for the developers of games on iOS, so it's not going to be able to go up against them either. (And CE3 will find its way into the wild in only a couple of months, which certainly will not make life easier for Blue Mars)

So now it's Barbie Dolls for iOS. Guess we'll see how it fares.

(Hypatia Callisto)
Barbie Dolls is pretty much my prediction too. The point about the upcoming free-release of CryEngine3 is well made too IMHO - why develop for a gutted BM, when you can develop for CE3 instead?

Quote:
Clothes, hair, and shoes have been my best sellers. And the vast majority of virtual world accounts are in worlds that are of that type, aimed at teens. I think its a waste to use the CryEngine *only* for barbie dolls, but we definitely will have the best looking ones on the virtual world scene.

(Daniel Ravenest)
Well, I guess Daniel is consistent if nothing else.

http://www.sluniverse.com/php/vb/blu...es-mobile.html

Once again, those of us with an interest in fully-fledged virtual worlds had better hope that LL sticks around, because no one else seems willing to step up to the plate.

As dissappointed as I am by the path BM took, that is of course nothing compared to those who had made substantial investments in the platform, and those who have lost their jobs.
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Old 01-15-2011, 12:47 AM   #2
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It's a sad end. What do they mean by "mobile"? They're trying to make BM go on smartphones?
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Old 01-15-2011, 03:21 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Govi View Post
It's a sad end. What do they mean by "mobile"? They're trying to make BM go on smartphones?
If any of the following comes across as snarky Govi, please forgive me - its not intended as snark, its just my complete ignorance (and I have to confess, complete disinterest), in Apple products, and mobile-phones.

I don't think they mean "smartsphones" in general, I think they mean systems running iOS which would include the iPhone and iPad. I read somewhere else that Android may not be planned "for the future", but don't quote me on that.

And by "BM", I don't think they mean BM as it has existed up to now - an immersive virtual world. I think they mean a greatly stripped down system, basically the minimum required system to support AVs (something like I imagine IMVU is). From the OP/Blog:

Quote:
The focus for the first version of Blue Mars Mobile is avatar style and rankings. The initial versions will allow people to share their Blue Mars avatars through a native iOS application. In the next few months, an app store for clothing, Facebook Connect integration, avatar snapshots, account registration, and character customization will be added.
See? There's nothing there about the "cities" that make up the BM virtual-world, its all very AV-centric. Hence Hypatia's comment about Barbie-Dolls. The only bit about cities in the blog is that they will no longer charge for them, because they're basically no longer supporting them.
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Old 01-15-2011, 03:30 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Cale Vinson View Post
If any of the following comes across as snarky Govi, please forgive me - its not intended as snark, its just my complete ignorance (and I have to confess, complete disinterest), in Apple products, and mobile-phones.

I don't think they mean "smartsphones" in general, I think they mean systems running iOS which would include the iPhone and iPad. I read somewhere else that Android may not be planned "for the future", but don't quote me on that.

And by "BM", I don't think they mean BM as it has existed up to now - an immersive virtual world. I think they mean a greatly stripped down system, basically the minimum required system to support AVs (something like I imagine IMVU is). From the OP/Blog:



See? There's nothing there about the "cities" that make up the BM virtual-world, its all very AV-centric. Hence Hypatia's comment about Barbie-Dolls. The only bit about cities in the blog is that they will no longer charge for them, because they're basically no longer supporting them.
Wow. This is a depressing turn around.

My faith in BM was never very high. It just seemed too corporate, and I didn't like the way that creation tools seemed to be less accessible to most users.

But I was expecting that, at the least, it would deliver a high-quality experience. It now looks as though that is not the case.

I can imagine that there are some very unhappy people who gambled by involvement with the project. I wonder how Desmond feels about New Caledon now?
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Old 01-15-2011, 03:45 AM   #5
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Ouch.

Fortunately, the only thing I ever created was a fanfare for New Caledonia. I have no idea if Des ever used it, since I've never had a computer that could run Blue Mars.
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Old 01-15-2011, 07:40 AM   #6
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Angela Talamasca / VR Hacks was one of the big city developers in BM, and was particularly active in the scripting discussions on the developer forums.

She has made a audio-only recording of the in-world meeting discussing the "restructure" available at: http://blog.vrhacks.net/?p=231.

My notes on Jim Sink's comments, from memory:
  1. The importance of getting into the rapidly growing tablet/phone market was heavily stressed.
  2. I'm paraphrasing a bit here, but Jim did indeed say that the public interest in what I'd call "fully fledged" virtual worlds had peaked some time ago, and the primary interest was now in Avatars. (Confirms the "Barbie Doll" theory.)
  3. Android wasn't confirmed, but did does seem to have a fair importance attached to it.
  4. It was confirmed that BM Mobile was a *native* iOS application. (There'd been some discussion elsewhere as to whether it used DirectX via cloud-rendering.)
  5. As far as I can see, the BM Mobile engine is completely new. OpenGL was explictly listed as the rendering engine, CryEngine is DirectX only.
  6. Its a real back-to-square-one for them. For BM Mobile they're talking about getting Avatars going first, then sharing AVs, then having avatars that other users can see and interact with. Only then will they even get to the issue of what Jim referred to as the "environment".
  7. BM Mobile environments (when they finally appear) will be much smaller than current BM cities. Jim suggest that first versions would likely just be rooms you could customise with furniture, etc. ("Lively" anyone?)

To be honest, at this point I don't know why they're calling it "BM". I wouldn't have thought the "brand" had that much value to it, they've (apparently) ditched the engine, and have changed space completely from cutting-edge graphics capability on high-end PCs to mediocre graphics capability on relatively weak computing hardware.

I also don't know what value they think they're providing. An OpenGL application that can render ten avatars walking around in a few rooms is not setting the programming bar very high. Its probably been done already, but if not, I'm starting to think there might be money to be made for some start-up that provides a secure, easy to use, micro-transaction system (and nothing else) - that's the only value that I currently see BM Mobile providing.

Added in Edit:

Well, OK, *two* value things for my hypothical start-up: micro-transactions, *and* a secure distributed asset system (if the latter is even possible).

Last edited by Cale Vinson; 01-15-2011 at 08:46 AM. Reason: Because I've been doing too much ranting and not enough thinking. Probably still am ....
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Old 01-15-2011, 11:10 AM   #7
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The urge to pull an Anne-Otoole-esque "I told you so!" is quite overbearing. =^-^=
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Old 01-15-2011, 12:32 PM   #8
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One of the things to which I'd been looking forward, when I put together my new computer, was trying Blue Mars. It's hard for a company to fight its balance sheet, and if the customers are not there to give that sheet any hope of balance, I can't fault a company for changing their emphasis in order to survive. However, I am disappointed.

Thanks, Cale, that explained "mobile" very well. It does sound like IMVU, which I tried when it was new and was extremely disappointed in it. BM moving to such a thing is disappointing and makes pretty clear that they have lost their ability to imagine a new business.
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Old 01-15-2011, 04:08 PM   #9
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Hoo boy, I hope Des hasn't sunk a lot of financial investment in this.
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Old 01-15-2011, 07:49 PM   #10
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Hoo boy, I hope Des hasn't sunk a lot of financial investment in this.
I can't remember whether Des' two BM worlds were "villages" (50 users, $275 a month), or "cities" (250 users, $1000 a month). Even a village, over the course of a year or so, is not exactly small change. He did have renters to offset some of the costs, I'm not sure what percentage of the total cost they covered (and it wouldn't be appropriate to discuss that here even if I knew).

Its possible that many of the renters are in better shape than the city-devs. Many of the early-adopter renters were "fashion" content developers, and that content will be in demand *if* BM Mobile were to take off. AR is running the line that "hey, the cities and the BM SDK haven't gone away, you can still use them!", but that's disingenuous BS. Everyone, even Daniel Bloody Ravenest , knew that BM as it was was not yet ready for public consumption - if you were there, you were there for the *potential* (which, at the technical level, was a damn sight higher than SL IMHO), not what had been delivered thus far.

Its not all about the $ in any case. I'm on the Caledonia email-list, and I shudder to think how many hours Des has put into Caledonia over the last couple of years. That goes for a number of the other city developers too.
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Old 01-15-2011, 08:07 PM   #11
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So, the BM is moving to the iPad? I guess it's fitting, since both have to do with products, or events, that concern a bathroom.

I know, the humor is juvenile, but really... all I can think of is bowel movements and even though iPad has moved past most of the jokes, it's still a "pad" where a "BM" is going to be featured. Ew.
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Old 01-17-2011, 06:05 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Govi View Post
It's hard for a company to fight its balance sheet, and if the customers are not there to give that sheet any hope of balance, I can't fault a company for changing their emphasis in order to survive. However, I am disappointed.

.
BM joins the long list.
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Old 01-18-2011, 01:27 AM   #13
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You know, I know it sounds almost blasphemous these days, but I think that says something for Linden Lab. They may get a lot of things wrong, but apparently they get a fairly decent caliber of things right. If it's taking so long for a serious competitor to arise for SL, it must be a more significant accomplishment than many give them credit for.

/buttkiss
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Old 01-18-2011, 09:01 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kick Frenzy View Post
You know, I know it sounds almost blasphemous these days, but I think that says something for Linden Lab. They may get a lot of things wrong, but apparently they get a fairly decent caliber of things right. If it's taking so long for a serious competitor to arise for SL, it must be a more significant accomplishment than many give them credit for.

/buttkiss
Agreed.

One of the reason I had hopes for BM, for the sorts of projects I'm particularly interested in, was that, in some respects, they were *not* trying to jump a bar as high as LL set themselves. To take one example, LL is still working away, trying to solve the sim-crossing issue (see their recent blog). AR just said "sod it, we'll just have completely separate worlds". Which I suspect is a good practical solution, but I won't ever knock people for "aiming high".

All that said, there may also be a timing issue. If SL had been spinning up a year before the GFC, I wonder what its fate might have been? If I remember the stories the old-timers tell me , its not as though SL's initial development was 100% strategically focussed (I seem to recall an early emphasis on combat?), and it took, what?, 5-6 years to develop much of the current capability.
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Old 01-18-2011, 06:01 PM   #15
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Ahh yes the golden days of terraforming via bombing raids. My eyes, something in them ...
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Old 01-18-2011, 07:33 PM   #16
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Good times...

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Old 01-18-2011, 08:41 PM   #17
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