Tuesday, 20 October 2009

New Blue Mars Release Part 1/2

Today saw a new release of both the Blue Mars server and client (version 0.0.5664.4). The first surprising thing about this new client release was the size. At 1.3Gb it is not any bigger than previous versions, despite including two extra cities, GridRock City and Soswaewon Garden. I will attempt to find out how this was achieved and report in an edit to this blog piece.

As part of the server updates one important change is that the registration of new player accounts is now automatic (rather than by the previous manual email notification system) so now when new applicants register, they will get access immediately.

So, what did this new client release include?

Well, there are two new Cities: Gridrock City and Soswaewon Garden. The Blue Mars Tweet said that there would be three, the missing one being Small Islands (maybe disappeared due to global warming?). More on the two new cities later.

As far as the UI is concerned, a number of changes have been made:

Avatar Names over the heads of avatars. It appears that it is the ID that that appears here (take user name, remove spaces, convert to lowercase). If you right click an avatar you get their ID followed by their User name. It would have been more preferable to have the User name over the avatar's head. One Blue Martian was complaining that his Password was over his head!

    A Preference option, which allows you to choose the Screen Resolution and Rendering (graphics) Quality.

    Several Blue Martians had problems following trying out the Screen Resolution settings. Once they had selected a resolution, and if it was not the right one, they could no longer click on any of the on-screen buttons, not even the Preferences button to change the Resolution back again. This neccessitated edits to the game.cfg file to get things back again, but as they had no idea what the settings for screen height and width  were prior to their experiment with the Preferences, they had to try several trial and error settings.

        The Bubble Chat window has had the automatic scrolling and last line visibility problems fixed

        Avatar head customization is now available in-world in the Welcome Area. where you can choose the style, shape, ethnicity and hair of your avatar. Unfortunately it is confusingly called Face Customization, when there is also a Face icon that does something completely different (it is more of a cosmetics editor. One of these two functions needs to be renamed, and I would suggest changing Face Customization to Avatar Customization.

          The destination jewel that appears when you click the ground is now dark blue instead of light blue (why?)

          The two new cities posed something of a problem for me:

          In the Soswaewon Garden I found that moving outside of a very small area was just about impossible. Clicking the ground ahead had no effect outside of this area, and steep slopes hemmed you in on several sides, as did undergrowth. I must try harder.

          In Gridrock City  I was lagged out completely. My fps fell from 18fps in the Welcome Area, and 15fps in Venezia, to 1.5fps or less in Gridrock City in several areas. Others did not have similar problems, so I guess it is down to my PC specs.

          GridRock City (click to enlarge, and notice the fps reading)

          The last noticeable thing about the UI is the Log-Off screen, which now has a Twitter link and recent Twitter posts. Unfortunately you cannot click on the 'Yes' button to confirm your log-out until the Twitter has completed its retrieval, which meant I had to wait a further minute before I could confirm my log-out. It would be much better for the Yes/No buttons to be immeditaely available, and not have to wait until the Twitter posts are retrieved.

          Currently MyPage is not available, so I will report on this when it returns, and on any other information from the Release Notes, which are expected later today.

          That is it so far, more functionality, but more bugs, but hey, that's Beta!