We received our strongest hints yet that Avatar's Blue Mars is moving towards an in-world policy that would make large corporations the sole licensed content sellers in their virtual realm.
I spoke with Blue Mars guide Summer Studio about the ins and outs of getting content built in Blue Mars.
As you might recall, our review of Blue Mars praised its graphical beauty and hauntingly realistic character models while slighting it for feeling empty. Now, we don't mean empty in the physical sense. We just felt something was, well, missing from Blue Mars.
That missing something is content creation, and by the look of things, individual users have some serious hoops to jump in order to unlock the modeling power of CryEngine 2.
Living in a Pre-Built World
Many gamers already knew that Blue Mars wasn't going to be Second Life Redux. Pixels and Policy reported back in September that Blue Mars aimed to change how companies interacted with the virtual world by providing them a near-monopoly on content creation and sales. Back then, Glenn Sanders of Avatar wrote us with this to say:
have an agenda to exclude independent creators? Nothing could be
further from the truth. The vast majority of our registered developers
are individuals or small groups working together.
That was on September 1.Now, a little over a month later, official Blue Mars guides are responding to questions about content creation with the following: Individual users can apply for content creation rights, but "city" creation space and selling rights are reserved for, as Blue Mars guide Summer put it, "large developers."
I was forwarded to the application form. When I asked my Blue Mars guide what Avatar was looking for in applicants, she replied, "Nothing." Doesn't that seem strange to you? If they're not looking for anything specific, why have a registration process at all? When have you ever known a company to add on an entire department of administrative paperwork when they weren't applying a response filter?
When asked more directly why individual creators had to fill out forms of intent and partner with the large corporate creators responsible for building the structures and shops of Blue Mars, my guide deferred.
While I was prodding this poor, overworked intern, another player asked how to create a custom shirt for personal use. Summer suggested he get in contact with the development sources at Avatar Reality, the parent of Blue Mars. He'd have to ask for permission to create personal content.
Big Creators vs. Virtual Entrepreneurs
Blue Mars Online even confirms their stand against individual content creation in a section of their project website:
Does the Blue Mars client come with content creation tools?
The core Blue Mars client and interface is focused on
enjoying the world through play and interaction, not content creation.
In so many words, the core experience of Blue Mars is for the user to wander through a high-resolution world and enjoy the products and creations of large companies with dedicated content creation teams, who are paying a high premium for a monopoly on digital products.
Companies may think this is a solution to their failure to market in virtual worlds. After all, much of the problem in Second Life is that individual users are taking advantage of an even playing field to create content superior to that of corporations in-world. In truth, this is likely to drive serious players even further from Blue Mars.
Giving large corporations a monopoly on content creation (and, unironically, giving avatars the option to make the money needed for these virtual wares by working for the virtual company) runs afoul of the promise of virtual worlds. Will players log in to Blue Mars to assume the role of store clerks and tour guides?