Sunday, 29 March 2009

Blue Mars Beta & Vast Parks Changes

Blue Mars signing up Beta Testers
Avatar Reality, the company behind Blue Mars, is currently accepting applications for beta testers and content developers.

They have revamped their website into three distinct sections (and 3 separate domains):

Avatar, for the Avatar Reality company itself;

BlueMars, including an About and FAQ sections, and the Beta signup page;

BlueMarsDev, including details on Content Development for Blue mars and a sign-up page.

There is also an Art Competition and in the next few weeks, they will be releasing an offline preview editor that will let artists see exactly how their content will appear in the online world.

Changes at Vast Parks
Yesterday VastPark's open source Player and Server code was made available online with instructions for developers on how to create builds.

Also yesterday the first version of the newly named Player was released online. The Player supercedes Codename Imp as the default VastPark client application and is edging forwards in terms of stability and functionality. More here..

Vast Parks recently hosted an inworld event that coincided with the "Virtual Worlds Down Under" event in Melbourne, Australia. Six speakers were talking from five different physical locations and spoke about their work on projects including VastPark, Badumna, RMIT and Planet Postmoderna. The event was filmed by the wonderful SLCN, with the new image on the front of the Vast Parks website being taken from the event. Given that this was their first ever inworld conference event, it ran smoothly, although the quality of the voice in the videos isn't as good as it seemed on the day. You can view the event videos in their Vimeo video channel. I especially recommend viewing Greg More's talk about architecture in virtual worlds.


Sunday, 22 March 2009

Second Life > Adult Continent > Adult Grid?

The news that Second Life have decided to move adult content to a new continent has surprised many. The term 'adult content' is yet to be fully defined, but we know already what will be in there - sex clubs, brothels, escort agencies, various rp sims where sexual content and violence play a central role, will all be in. The grey areas include non-sexual nudity, skin shops displaying images of naked avatars for the purposes of advertising their products, etc. Sexuality of a private nature, taking place within your own home, will not be included.

The new continent will not be open to all. Those who have have not been age-verified or who do not have credit card details on file will not be able to teleport there. At present, none of these rules will apply to private island owners.

Profile picks containing sexual images and adverts for adult areas are currently against the TOS, but will be more heavily policed.

However, what is the point of all this?

Is this the first step of a two-step process that will eventually see the hiving off of adult content from SL, with a separate Adult Grid being the ultimate aim, with separate log-in to the main grid, in effect swapping places with the Teen Grid? This would lead to a more 'sanitized' version of SL, which would be much more family-friendly, and more attractive to the corporates.

I am not so sure if this strategy will be very sucessful. The image that SL has through various salacious stories in the tabloid press will be mud that will be very difficult, if not impossible, to completely clean away.

Time will tell.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Engage! Expo, and Second Light

Engage! Expo
The Engage! Expo, (previously known as the Virtual World Conference) finished last week (10-11th March). It was a sombre event this year, being much reduced in size from last year, with fewer attendees, presentations and exhibitors (not even Linden Labs showed up this year).

It was a commonly accepted truth that Virtual Worlds had reached saturation, with over 300 currently all vying for an ever shrinking pot of advertising and corporate backing gold.

The main theme running through this year's show was the lack of capital to fund Virtual Worlds, and for the money that was available - the maximisation of revenue streams, in the shortest period of time. The main group being targeted at this year's event were the teens and tweenies.

There were two companies showing monetization solutions, PlaySpan and Super Rewards, and payments via the mobile phone were seen as a key to success, as most teens do not have a credit card.

Sony announced that their user base had jumped from 4 million last month, to 5 million this month. They were one of the few exhibitors to announce substantial user growth.

Blue Mars impressed the hell out of everybody and had the biggest crowd around their booth of all the booths. They still did not have any downloads or a beta world set up as yet. A golden opportunity wasted.

Second Light
Like many others, I have been marvelling at the amazing piece of film entitled 'This is what Second Life should be like' on Bettina Tizzy's npirl website.

The film is quite moving, but also quite fanciful, or so I thought, until I saw this piece of film on the BBC website, showing 'Second Light', the working name for Surface 2.

It is staggering to think that what we see in This is what Second Life should be like can be a mere two years away.