Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Free Realms Out of Beta, Blue Mars not yet in

Free Realms Out of Beta
On Monday, 27th April, Free Realms came out of beta, all beta accounts were deleted, and on Tuesday, 28th April, Free Realms went live.

Free Realms is the PC-based version of Sony's Home (only available to Playstation owners).

Beta testers reported that for a VW that was targeted at teens, the content of Free Realms was actually quite complex. LogaBauer at SL Universe described it as being similar to "Magic:The Gathering".

So, is Free Realms a social virtual world (ala Second Life), or is it a game? Well it is mostly a game, but with some social aspects. The graphics are 'cutsie', not on a par with Second Life, and definitely not with Blue Mars, and looks quite cartoony.

However, the teens will love it (as do quite a few grown ups, if the posts on the SL Universe site are anything to go by).

Details of the game, and the sign up info, are here.

Blue Mars not into Beta just yet
Blue Mars have been slowly releasing their preview viewer and developer SDKs. Problems with the software have delayed full deployment, which is not to be unexpected given the complexity of converting a huge game engine such as the CryEngine 2 to support a Virtual World.

I received both the preview viewer and the SDK (a modified version of CryTek's Sandbox 2), both of which were a full 1.4Gb download. This was surprising for the viewer, and it appears that this is the full download with certain functionality disabled. It is hoped that a much slimmer previewer will be released.

There is an NDA currently in force, so I am limited in what I can report, but I can confirm that the graphics are the most amazing I have ever seen in any virtual world to date. To get a taste of what some of the landscapes are like that can be created in Blue Mars, look at this collection from Sandbox 2 users.

Blue Mars now also has its own, independent, enthusiast's forum, but only developers are hanging out there at present, until Blue Mars goes beta in June 2009.