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Old 02-11-2010, 01:42 PM   #1 (permalink)
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why Blue Mars is not a virtual world

On the advice of someone I respect and admire, I signed up for Blue Mars and logged in.

The essential quality of Second Life that makes it a virtual world is the ability for any individual to make their own self-narrative in any way they want, especially ones that are infeasible or impossible in real life.

I don't see Blue Mars ever becoming a competitor to SL. Avatar Reality has it all wrong; they have not created a virtual world, but a development platform. On their about page, the key sentence is: "Through the Blue Mars Client, users can participate in a wide variety of entertainment, educational, and productivity experiences." Virtual worlds aren't about "user participation" of experiences, they are about the creation of them on every possible level. Everything else describing Blue Mars is focused on developer-created experiences.

Logging in and doing some exploring however was a valuable learning experience. By being so used to Second Life, it's easy to ignore all the things that are _right_ about it, instead of just the wrong. Experiencing the vision of Blue Mars made me re-view Second Life from an objective perspective, by showing me an alternate idea so different that it is practically the antithesis of SL.

Want to truly compete with SL? Focus on giving users (ie, everyone) the ability to make their own narratives and experiences to a higher degree than Second Life.
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Old 02-11-2010, 02:19 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Sorry, but I'll disagree. Blue Mars is still in beta, and Second Life has been around for quite a while. So of course when you show up, you're not going to see the same variety of content and cultures that you do in Second Life. The creation pipeline is similarly still a bit rocky-- it's actually not that hard, but it has a ways to go in terms of accessibility.

What's right in Second Life is not the increasingly glitchy platform with its idiosyncratic creation tools, but the people. It remains to see whether Blue Mars will have a similar dynamic, but I see no reason it can't. It's more a marketing issue than anything else. Second Life benefited from being one of the first virtual worlds to reach public awareness. I should know, I first learnt about it via an Economist article of all things. Blue Mars, or any other new world, will have a somewhat steeper slope to climb.

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Old 02-11-2010, 02:28 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Second Life is a Virtual World...

Blue Mars is a Virtual World....

Even WoW is a Virtual World.


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Old 02-11-2010, 02:38 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I fail to see where SL is "increasingly glitchy". While some of the policies and web platform continue to grow "glitchy", it's been my observation that the platform itself has become more stable and reliable than in the past. Yes, there are exploits and occaisional server screwups and overload, but for the most part the inworld user experience has improved. Less downtime (remember Wednesday mornings on the Beta grid because SL was down for scheduled maintenance), teleporting would screw up your attachments, inventory was always going missing and rarely would it come back, getting sound or a movie to work was always hit and miss and not necessarily the fault of SL, thank you Quicktime!

I'm a member of Blue Mars and have been for a while. I like it, but it's not home. I can come into SL, knock some prims together almost anywhere, texture it and call it art. I can make my clothes, change my shape exactly how I want it, and know the odds of someone looking exactly like me are slim. It's been like that since the beginning of SL, those things haven't changed, but are yet to be implemented in Blue Mars. I find the current method of creation in BM to be somewhat restrictive not in the tools, but just getting access to being able to build/create. There's a huge difference between their world their way, and my world, my way.
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Old 02-11-2010, 02:42 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I don't see the developer centric model of blue mars as being any less valid as a virtual world. I'd call SL a development platform, too. That's certainly how LL pitches it

It's not like SL has much of a cohesive "world", with all the tens of thousands of disconnected island estates.

There are always going to be things that are beyond the grasp of the average user, and often beyond the care, too. Seperation of developer and consumer seems inevitable, to some degree.

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Old 02-11-2010, 02:51 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Eh. I was once a Second Life sceptic, refusing to go play there even though I knew about it while it was in beta. Seriously, there was a lot to be sceptical about in Second Life in 2003-2004. Well, there still is but I digress.

My main point is Second Life changed a lot from 2003 to 2006, when I finally joined, having seen an article about its economy in Wired. When I saw it had an economy, I decided to go have a see what it was about. Of course, there was much I didn't know then that I know now - the fact that Second Life's economy was tacked on as an afterthought due to the innovations of the residents, rather than a planned design decision.

It is people who will ultimately make a virtual world worth visiting. Or not. Diversity in virtual worlds is a good thing, innovation in virtual worlds will come around much more thanks to viable competition. I'm glad that Avatar Reality is pursuing their own vision and not trying to make a Second Life clone. A clone of SL would be a failure, we already have SL.
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Old 02-11-2010, 02:56 PM   #7 (permalink)
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What's right in Second Life is not the increasingly glitchy platform with its idiosyncratic creation tools, but the people.
Well, its gotten less glitchy actually, but yes, content creation in Second Life is a lot like building a ship in a bottle. But it's getting less so lately. Most good content creators worth their salt are mainly developing in external programs. The idea that you have to work inworld is a builders bias, not a bias from people who create textures - who always had to work in external tools.

Ultimately, its the people who just hang out and do stuff, not just content creation, who really matter. Social butterflies matter a great deal too.
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Old 02-11-2010, 03:20 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Perhaps "glitchy" was a poor choice of words. You're right in that stability has gone up. But the toolset is still essentially the same as that in place when I first started playing. Things such as sculpts seem more overlayed upon that foundation than an alteration/improvement of same. The more I've learnt about creation, the more frustrated I am with the platform. Doesn't keep me from enjoying what I can there, but I find that there's a larger and larger gap betwixt what I want to do and what I can do in SL.
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Old 02-11-2010, 04:00 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I don't see Blue Mars ever becoming a competitor to SL. Avatar Reality has it all wrong; they have not created a virtual world, but a development platform. .....Virtual worlds aren't about "user participation" of experiences, they are about the creation of them on every possible level. Everything else describing Blue Mars is focused on developer-created experiences....Want to truly compete with SL? Focus on giving users (ie, everyone) the ability to make their own narratives and experiences to a higher degree than Second Life.
There is a persistent myth about Blue Mars that there is a barrier to becoming a developer there. There isn't, its free to anyone who fills out the registration form. So while the group of people who only want to shop and hang out in clubs can be satisfied by the "regular account", everyone else who wants to create content will get the "developer account".

Right now I am building a house using only the prim and texture kit I made for Blue Mars, to show what you can do *without* learning external 3D tools. I see that as an intermediate step for people who want to start building. And my Tharsis Estates city is set up with "sandbox" parcels for people to build on without cost. My goal is to make it as easy as possible for people to move up from newbie to creators, and I am all about user created content.

If someone wants to create a Gorean RP themed city (or anything else), nothing is stopping them aside from time and getting the people with the right skills to work on it. And the startup cost is *less* than SL, since you do not have to pay hosting fees to Avatar Reality until you are ready to go live on their servers. Until then, you can visit, test, and interact with people in "developer mode" by distributing the city files directly.

So I guess my question for you is what barrier to creation do you think is there? I see it as "developers are us".

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Old 02-11-2010, 04:15 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Aminom, it's not even close to done. This is like SL in 2002. Early 2002. Remember, Second Life was so screwed early on, it wasn't even funny. $L were just prim counters and such. It was very arguably, nay, demonstrably headed straight for bankruptcy. Nearly did.

There's nothing you could see inworld that will give you an idea of Blue Mars' next level of development yet. Even as a supporter, I made the mistake of thinking that all scripts operated purely clientside... which turned out to be a very wrong assumption.

C'mon man, seriously, this is like showing someone a new Corvette with no engine installed yet, and someone saying "This doesn't run."

It's got its pro's and cons, I know lots of things I'd like it to do better. But seriously, you are reading old marketing copy or something. Originally I think they were thinking of marketing higher on the game developer food chain, but that changed last year. If I didn't think there were truly wonderful and compelling possibilities over there, I'd be gone. I'm sticking with it, precisely *because* I know what a single individual will be able to do.

Back in 2004, I thought Anshe was crazy too. Had I had a little more vision, 12 or 18 months sooner than I did, I'd be making 500,000 from virtual worlds instead of 50,000 annually. I won't make that mistake again.

Anyway, not gonna defend it further on forums, no need. When the platform starts doing things that do finally win people over, I'll already be very well established and way out in front.
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Old 02-11-2010, 04:20 PM   #11 (permalink)
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So I guess my question for you is what barrier to creation do you think is there? I see it as "developers are us".
I agree. Also there are features to inworld texturing in Blue Mars that do not exist in SL, such as decals. Texture creation is entirely an external application affair in Second Life, and there is little ability to mod textures on your avatar in SL. Blue Mars is a lot more flexible in this regard - and has the potential to become even more so.

The face texturing interface (essentially a Flash HUD) is an example of an implementation of the feature, but it can equally apply to anything else in the world - and I quite expect it to become ubiquitous in Blue Mars as a way of modding items. It's also the same thing people are raving about in APB: All Points Bulletin, with the body tattoos.

The main thing I see lacking is the "group building" that you see in Second Life. I'm not entirely sold on the concept that this is really a loss. For me, content creation is largely a solitary affair, and when I collaborate with people - its done external to Second Life. I understand that sandboxing is a big deal for some folks, and I suspect its these people who don't like Blue Mars. That's fine... but actually, I find OpenSim to fast becoming a better "sandbox" than SL, oddly enough.

Anyway, Blue Mars has a different goal in mind. It's not necessarily better or worse than SL. Some people are going to prefer it, and some people are not. Choices are good. I like Blue Mars and Second Life for different reasons.
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Old 02-11-2010, 04:49 PM   #12 (permalink)
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There is a persistent myth about Blue Mars that there is a barrier to becoming a developer there. There isn't, its free to anyone who fills out the registration form.
That's technically true for people who want to develop for the iPhone as well. You just need to pay if you want to actually share anything you develop with people who aren't developers, or use anything you create on the "live" product.

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And the startup cost is *less* than SL, since you do not have to pay hosting fees to Avatar Reality until you are ready to go live on their servers.
Many people don't need to pay Linden Lab (or anyone else) *ever*.
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Old 02-11-2010, 04:52 PM   #13 (permalink)
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I think the biggest advantage for the developer that Blue Mars has right now, is that we can use a more normal workflow and format that is pretty close to becoming the standard (Collada). This means anything you make will likely be very transferable for later 3d projects.

I think its interesting and empowering that we can have more than one kind of virtual world / market and this has got to be the trend going forwards. Second Life, Blue mars, Opensim, Unity browser stuff, these are all markets that are mostly untapped. As a developer you need to assess the risk of branching out and diversifying. Time investment is a big factor, juggling businesses between these environments is proving to be a challenge but is manageable.

The advantage of SL right now is that it has a working economy that can actually generate income, it still is the only game in town in terms of putting bread on my table.

I am anxiously waiting for the moment when we can start to sell things in Blue Mars, there is nothing like the appeal of green backs (or should i say blue backs) to get folks on board and contributing.

All the work we have done on GRC is speculation so far, it hasn't cost much other than our own effort, and like Desmond we are poised to make a serious go of it. I am feeling very good about the direction Blue mars is headed, patiently optimistic.



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Old 02-11-2010, 04:56 PM   #14 (permalink)
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I realize that it is still an early beta. That is not my criticism; my criticism is with the entire focus of the platform.


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I don't see the developer centric model of blue mars as being any less valid as a virtual world. I'd call SL a development platform, too. That's certainly how LL pitches it
That's the thing about SL. Is it a development platform? Certainly. That is only one narrative it allows; it isn't limited to it. Being a developer isn't any less valid than being a user, which is partly my point.

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There are always going to be things that are beyond the grasp of the average user, and often beyond the care, too. Seperation of developer and consumer seems inevitable, to some degree.

Aminom, check your PMs
It isn't inevitable. In a very imcomplete and small way, my business model has been based on decreasing this separation, and has been successful because of it. My new goals allow taking this further as far as I can (and allowing individuals to form meaningful narratives to them that's more than just "content creation", and I simply cannot see that being possible with the basic philosophical framework of Blue Mars.

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Eh. I was once a Second Life sceptic, refusing to go play there even though I knew about it while it was in beta. Seriously, there was a lot to be sceptical about in Second Life in 2003-2004. Well, there still is but I digress.
Even early on, the focus on SL was "your world, your imagination;" IE one focused on _all_ users, not just one class of developers. It's core ideas I'm looking at.

I'd love to be proven wrong, and I certainly hope I am. If there's one thing virtual worlds need, it's _real_ competition.
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Old 02-11-2010, 04:56 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Blue mars is a canvas, a website, a place to create 3d artworks. It's not a *world* because you don't *live* in it.

This is not a *problem* for Blue Mars. Games are much more popular than worlds. It's jut not *useful* to call it a world when it's not world-like.
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Old 02-11-2010, 05:00 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Blue mars is a canvas, a website, a place to create 3d artworks. It's not a *world* because you don't *live* in it.

This is not a *problem* for Blue Mars. Games are much more popular than worlds. It's jut not *useful* to call it a world when it's not world-like.
It could be successful in its own way as you describe; in the realm of games, which are controlled narratives. Is this a bad thing? Not at all. But it's still very different from a virtual world as I see it.
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Old 02-11-2010, 05:02 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Even early on, the focus on SL was "your world, your imagination;" IE one focused on _all_ users, not just one class of developers. It's core ideas I'm looking at.

I'd love to be proven wrong, and I certainly hope I am. If there's one thing virtual worlds need, it's _real_ competition.
Eh, its not quite as much "your world, your imagination" these days

The hippy dippy days of SL are over.
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Old 02-11-2010, 05:15 PM   #18 (permalink)
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It could be successful in its own way as you describe; in the realm of games, which are controlled narratives. Is this a bad thing? Not at all. But it's still very different from a virtual world as I see it.
As you see it.

Thing is, many people see it in different ways. Some see it like you, and some don't.

Blue Mars simply has a different model, that's all. But it is still just as much a virtual world, and you can create your own narratives there just as you can anywhere.

Right now the world is still brand new, and still very much in early beta. I'm willing to stick with it and give it time to evolve. Personally I like their roadmap. It's a virtual world as I see it... and to claim otherwise is to essentially tell anyone who is a Blue Mars citizen that their views of their own world don't matter... which I think is quite a lot of hubris on the part of some.

It may not be a good fit for you, but actually, people are quite able to upload their own stuff and buy "full perms" by buying the collada files. All renters with block developer status and higher are potentially your customers, and a large section of these people are not actually commercial developers, but just plain on the level that "island renters" are in SL.

Everyone can be a developer in Blue Mars, and not all of them signed up for starting a business but just for the sheer desire to create. It may be that they become business people later, that happens in SL too.
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Old 02-11-2010, 05:39 PM   #19 (permalink)
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I think I probably should have qualified my statements by explaining that while Blue Mars is the next gen as far as most of us as content creators go, I was more lamenting the division between toolsets and the requirements to participate. For me BM is nice in that I can take any of the pc based toolsets I have and apply them to content that's imported. It would be nice to see SL have both the standard toolset it has now, and the ability to import meshes etc (I know it's coming but so is Christmas....2025) which gives everyone with varying abilities the chance to participate without feeling restricted. It's frustrating as hell trying to translate things I've created to sculpt compatible images, whereas BM is pretty much point click and voila'. But on the other end with BM, it's not inviting to the avg user (at this point) as far as introductory creation. Maybe as was pointed out before with the Corvette analogy, you can't really compare the two. I hate eating my words, but I do like both even if I have a preference :-P
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Old 02-11-2010, 05:43 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Everyone can be a developer in Blue Mars, and not all of them signed up for starting a business but just for the sheer desire to create. It may be that they become business people later, that happens in SL too.
If you can't share it you can't create it, and the only thing you can share in BM without starting a business are a teeny tiny section of the product space.

It's just like the way the iPhone redefined "smartphone". Before the iPhone you had to have native apps to be a smartphone. The iPhone didn't originally have native apps, and it backed into them in a way that means that most people interested in creating "for the sheer desire to create" are locked out.

That doesn't mean there aren't lots of apps, but there IS sharp distinction between users and developers, and a barrier against casual development.

And now people are calling phones with Java apps like the Android "smartphones". My "free with contract" Nokia supports Java apps, but nobody ever would have called that a smartphone before the iPhone.

Maybe the iPhone is a "smartphone" for you. That doesn't mean the definition hasn't changed.
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Old 02-11-2010, 05:51 PM   #21 (permalink)
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If you can't share it you can't create it, and the only thing you can share in BM without starting a business are a teeny tiny section of the product space.
Blue Mars isn't a smartphone, its just not for you, obviously. Believe me, I get it. And yes you can share anything you make in Blue Mars if you want to. There's a file format you know. Collada and the native Cryengine and DDS files. Yes you can upload for free in Blue Mars, you can upload your stuff locally for your own use. Duh!

Now get this: some things that you think are a drawback, others might consider neutral, or even an advantage. Many of the things that are issues to you economically in Blue Mars, are actually advantages to me. I think its GREAT that Avatar Reality is asking for a cut of the content biz.

Boohoo, its not freetardia. Trust me I am not unhappy about this feature at all! If freetardia is a feature to you, by all means stay in Second Life!
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Old 02-11-2010, 05:51 PM   #22 (permalink)
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I'm hardly an uncritical fan of Blue Mars, as I've been sharply carping about its avatars and user interface for months now. But I spent an afternoon walking through Caledonia peeking in shops, skipped along the shore line, swam over to an island, then ran through the mountains until I got well and truly lost.

*shrug* Felt like a world to me.
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Old 02-11-2010, 05:58 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Blue Mars isn't a smartphone, its just not for you
I haven't said that when it's complete it won't be for me. I've said that it's not a virtual world, and is unlikely to change that. These are not the same statement in any sense of the word, and I wish you'd quit mixing them up.

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And yes you can share anything you make in Blue Mars if you want to.
Correction, you can share anything you make for Blue Mars, but you can't import it into Blue Mars, or make anything in Blue Mars.

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Boohoo, its not freetardia.
If you're going to use that term with me you can go straight to hell. I've made a living writing commercial software for longer than most of the people using that term have been alive.
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Old 02-11-2010, 06:36 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Say what you want, a virtual world has to appeal to a "world" of experiences. From my perspective there's nothing wrong with any of the platforms, but calling them each a "virtual world" is a disservice to both the platforms and the people who go there for entertainment. From my perspective they are:

Second Life comes closest to being a Virtual World but falls short more and more as it tries to offer a more controlled experience and environment. SL needs to focus more on making itself less predictable, not more predictable.

Blue Mars is a Virtual Development platform for marketing goods. They're focused entirely on content creators and offer little or no social platform. It's beta like SL is beta, evolving ... the toruble is it isn't developing socially.

WoW is a Virtual game platform, and is suited to a singular game. It fails to be a virtual "world" because of the games inherent limitations for social interaction inworld.

Being able to explore and share is NOT, in my opinion, a criteria for a virtual world. I can explore a book, a piece of music, a desert island, and a 3D visual depiction of a cave but none of those is a world unless there's people in it to interact with and with which to create an immersive personal relationship.

SL has its issues to be sure, but the other platforms, for all their "pretty," lack the fundamental social environment and unpredictability that's a basic necessity of a "world."
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Old 02-11-2010, 06:39 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Argent Stonecutter View Post
I haven't said that when it's complete it won't be for me. I've said that it's not a virtual world, and is unlikely to change that. These are not the same statement in any sense of the word, and I wish you'd quit mixing them up.
It's a virtual world, and just because you want the whole world to adopt your semantics doesn't mean you will get your way.

Quote:
Correction, you can share anything you make for Blue Mars, but you can't import it into Blue Mars, or make anything in Blue Mars.
Correction, you CAN import it into Blue Mars IF YOU ARE A BLOCK RENTER OR A CITY OWNER, you just can't build meshes live in Blue Mars because there is no "prim system". (although there are brushes in the editors, so that's not entirely true that you can't do procedural building - as Cryengine 2 has both voxels and a CSG like construction tool in the Sandbox editor)

Quote:
If you're going to use that term with me you can go straight to hell. I've made a living writing commercial software for longer than most of the people using that term have been alive.
Too much snow, I could use some hellfire right now.

Being a programmer doesn't make you a virtual world expert. If that was the case, there would be a lot more successful virtual worlds out there. There aren't. In fact, I dare say that experience of yours might even be a drawback, because you are too stuck in the past to consider new ideas or even ones you are simply unfamiliar with.

You mentioned the terrible fact that AR asks for a cut of the sales, not me. Telling me to go to hell amuses me greatly. Trust me, I feel likewise about folks who want to introduce the same problems surrounding content we have in Second Life to Blue Mars. I wish LL took a cut of the content biz and placed more importance on social issues surrounding content creation than they do. They don't. And thank you very much, but that can stay right in Second Life hell. That's not a feature to me. If it is a feature to you, you are not going to like the Blue Mars direction, ever... and pardon me, but I think you just like trolling all the Blue Mars threads.

And yes, I don't want these programmers trying to bork content in Blue Mars. The freetards are by and large, open source programmers working on commercial software with a nice cushy job at a software company, hence they can afford the luxury of expounding their dystopian vision. The Second Life client is both commercial software and open source, for example. Crowdsourcing free software labor.

I fight with these folks pretty often over content issues in SL in group chats. Doesn't make them less of a freetard. Actually, the chances they are a freetard are pretty high if they are a programmer.

That being said, I am not against open source, but I am definitely not a fan of open source "freetard" culture. I am for open source where it makes sense to a company, and against it where it doesn't. I am for choices.

Aren't you a Mac user anyway? I seriously doubt you will ever use Blue Mars. It's everything that many Mac users hate. DirectX based Windows proprietary platform. This part is unlikely to change anytime soon, unless Crytek has second thoughts about OpenGL (doubtful) or MS finally licenses DirectX to Apple. (also doubtful)
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