Monday's article outlining how Blue Mars appears to be setting up a content creation system tailored toward established businesses stirred up some strong reactions in our e-mail inbox.
Virtual entrepreneurs raised on Second Life's individual development environment protested Avatar Reality's "brazen sop" to large companies, as one commenter posted.
Blue Mars had its defenders, exemplified by commenter Rock Vacirca, who gave us a tongue lashing for ignoring the intricacies of Blue Mars's 'terraforming' system. Vacirca argued that the registration process discourages the intellectual property theft currently rocking Second Life.
At the prompting of readers both for and against the article, we explored further into Blue Mars's content creation plans. What we found further confirms our worries.
In Their Own Words
We took issue with Blue Mars openly admitting its world was not designed to focus on content creation by pulling this quote from their official project website
The core Blue Mars client and interface is focused on enjoying the
world through play and interaction, not content creation.
force developers to learn new ways to create content through our own
proprietary toolset, we support industry standard content creation
tools like 3DSMax, Maya, and Flash.
In our last post, we took issue with the first part of this explanation. Now let's look at the second. Blue Mars will focus on external creation of content that is then imported into the game world. Content is created with tools like Maya and 3DSMax, which Metanomics notes are tools mostly reserved for professional content developers and designers.
What does this mean? Instead of individual users learning software together – as the Second Life prim system worked – professional developers with access to design tools will have an advantage. Maya costs over $3,000 while 3DSMax tops out at nearly $4,000. The cost necessarily restricts the base of possible content creators.
But still, you might say, users can create content if they pass the registration screening and have $3,000 laying around for professional development software and the free time to learn it. Yes, they can, but after that their options are incredibly restricted.
One of our article's critics lays this out especially well –
A City owner sets the theme for the City, terraforms it, then parcels
it into Blocks. That is his job done, unless he wants to be involved
further down the chain
The City Developer exercises a heavy hand in what their city looks like, who has the right to own land within it, and what can be sold there. For any content to be sold, it must first find a shop. These shops are given space by City Developers. It's ultimately up to either the shop owners or the city developers what is sold in their space.
Large corporations are uniquely able to fill this space by offering real-world financial incentive to keep shops closed to competing content, something corporations wished they could do in Second Life. What's more, the owner of the city can set rent for all shops, as this interview with Glenn Sanders of Blue Mars points out (be sure to scroll down!):
We don't set prices for block or shop space. That pricing will be set by the City Developer.
With this in mind, a corporation could easily purchase a city block, dispatch a team of designers upon it, and exercise a total monopoly on who sold what within their city limits. Given the resources of large companies and the registration processes involved for individual creators, Blue Mars seems prepared to open its arms to companies prepared to open their wallets.