First Impressions of Blue Mars

GoSpeed in Blue Mars
Like many of my fellow SL users I signed up for the Blue Mars beta way back when. As summer approached I upgraded my video card to handle the software and patiently waited for my invite to arrive. Saturday morning it arrived in my inbox and I downloaded the 1.26 Gigabyte installation package, installed it, and launched the application.

Current required system specifications:

Platform: x86 PC or Mac via Boot Camp
Operating System: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 (both 32bit and 64bit)
CPU: 2Ghz AMD or Intel Dual Core
RAM Memory: 2 GB on XP, 4GB on Vista
Video Card Memory: 512MB and up
Screen Resolution: Screen resolution of at least 1280×768 is recommended
Disk space: Approximately 4GB for the installer, temporary files, and the installed Blue Mars program.
Video Card: Avatar Reality has tested Blue Mars with the following video cards, or better:

Geforce 8400m series
Geforce 9400m series
Geforce 200 and 200m series

Radeon 3000 series
Radeon 4000 series
Radeon HD 3000 and 4000 series

As you can see it requires a bit more than SL to run..

More below the fold.

Avatar creation. This may turn some of you off but the current range of face and body shapes are somewhat limited. Be sure you use the ADVANCED tab to further refine your looks. Possibly it’s a limitation of the CRY2 engine. Perhaps when skin developers come on board that can be mitigated. Just look what they’ve done with blocky SL avatars! The avatars are actually pretty nice to look at compared to the noobish looks you find in other worlds. You do get some makeup tools in world that you can play with any time after avatar creation so there’s that 🙂 . Clothes and hair choices are pretty limited too but they look OK.

You arrive in a Welcome area / Travel hub where you can click a sign and choose a “city” to go to. You can meet a lot of developers and fellow SLers there. 3 are “city” places and 2 are games. The golf game is kinda fun and is multiplayer too (makes SL golf look like sh*t!) but haven’t tried the waterfall game yet.

Now for some pics!

The Shade City is a coastal platform next to a giant grove of trees. Why so big? Maybe plants can grow real tall in the lower Martian gravity. Not sure if there is actually land on the far side, it could be a miniature prop way off in the distance.
A coastal place

Shoreside is a LOT of forested land and a seemingly endless beach.
Running in Blue Mars

New Venice is another city currently under construction. There I met a developer with BIG plans in the music scene.
My secret camera

New Venice is a very pretty place with lots of water, bridges and gorgeous architecture.
Lily pond
(Looks like my avi is about to sneeze in this pic!)
Oooh, sailboats! Imagine sailing and not hitting those damn sim boundaries all the time!
jogging on the pier
OK, so I need practice 😛
My sailing sucks

The next city “Beach City” will give you an indication how big a location can be in Blue Mars. In SL a sim is 256 x 256 meters, so 4 in a row is 1024 meters or a little over a kilometer in length. 4 sims by 4 sims is a tad over a square kilometer. That is a fairly nice sized estate of 16 sims. A city in Blue Mars is comparable to an SL continent! Let me show you in pictures how large a city can be. Beach City is a nod to the famous resort city of Waikiki in Hawaii complete with Diamond Head mountain.

On the beach
I start my journey…
Getting ready for a hike
Over 700 feet tall as I recall. Much easier to climb in Martian gravity 🙂

The blue lines on the ground indicate the area is to be developed. Oh, notice my hair? It bounces realistically as I run and it drapes over my shoulders, nut cut into it as SL hair would do.
Diamond Head here I come

Mountain clouds…
mountain clouds

Pant,pant… Wow, look down at the city!
huff and puff

Near the summit I look down at the city. The condos on the far side are starting to de rezz a bit but I can still see way beyond them to the horizon.
The beach city

The highlands beyond..
The Highlands

The crater. Most likely an impact crater they shaped to look like Diamond Head.
The crater is wide

I ran further inland to get a view beyond the crater…
Undeveloped land
and find a whole other bay…
otherside of Diamond Head

How big is it? VERY Big. If I had to guess I’d say this particular city was at least 5-7 Km wide and at least 5Km deep. That’s 25-35 sq Kms! so, assuming 16 SL sims is a square kilometer then 35 sq km is about 560 sims! The draw distances are incredible compared to SL. I could see the city thousands of meters away. In SL you can see up to 512 meters, but most of us keep it below 200 meters.

UPDATE**** : Beach CIty is 4x4kilometers

Cities are designed for you to download and install on your system. This ultimately saves you in bandwidth in the long run. Any significant changes are download able as patches or may be even streamed in and applied that way. A new city called “Rock City” with a rock and roll theme is coming soon. Can’t wait for that!

Content. Well this is a beta and it is lacking in content and things to do, not mention a thriving, active population. There are still quite a few loose ends for them to tie up, like IMs, name tags and the like. I’m sure these will come along soon. I do hear voice chat will roll out very soon.

If you’re expecting to come to Blue Mars and be entertained then stop right there. It’s simply not ready for that. I’ve already seen blog posts, plurks and twitters complaining and whining about BM. It’s BETA! SL was pretty raw back in 2003 and look how it improved.  Come to Blue Mars and imagine, think and plan. If you create content or provide a service then Blue Mars might be a place for you to invesitgate and possibly invest in. I am keeping my foot in the door and will follow it’s progess. If I see an opportunity I’ll go for it 🙂 .

So if you haven’t signed up and are intrigued do so now.  Sign up here:

My Flickr set:

The Blue Mars Flickr Pool:

Who knows who’ll you meet!
Meeting a developer

Anshe Chung in Shade City