The most advanced online 3D virtual world to hit the market, Blue Mars features photorealistic rendering with CryENGINE-2 by CryTeque and motion-captured avatar animations. Blue Mars launched in open beta to players and developers in September 2009.
In about a year, the number of completely terraformed Cities, Villages and Metropolises (the basic real-estate categories on Blue Mars), has increased tenfold and a dedicated community of users and developers has been established.
As such, Blue Mars has a very attractive emerging economy. The BLU$, or Blue Dollar, is the Blue Mars currency, and it is easily redeemable via each devel-opers’ PayPal account. I was drawn to Blue Mars by the superior graphics, and most of all by the versatility and realism of the mesh clothing, having previously been a clothing designer in Second Life.
The good news is that content for Blue Mars is made in 3rd party software such as Blender, which will give existing Blender users a fantastic head start into creating content for this platform. Content is imported into Blue Mars using the Collada format. There is a freely available Blender plugin for Collada. The Collada file is imported into the relevant Blue Mars editor (editors exist for clothing, furniture,bodies, Cities etc) where textures, maps and specialised shaders are ap-plied to the content, and it is packed for uploading to Blue Mars.
Creators can register as developers and download the developer toolkit for free at www.bluemars.com.
Creators can sell content in rented “shops”, with the shop editor enabling them to customise the shop interior to their liking. Developers can alos rent vacant blocks in Cit-ies where they can create ex-ternal shop structures for their own use.
These images depict the workflow for a simple retro dress from Blender to Blue Mars.
For beginners, the Blue Mars editors include a number of cloth templates to help get you started, though you can create any mesh from scratch. In this case I trimmed the mesh to the desired shape, and sculpted it to fit the
Blue Mars reference avatar better.
I exported the mesh from blender as a Collada file, and imported it into the Blue Mars cloth editor.
Here I applied textures and normal maps to the different linked objects, and selected the cloth shader.
I then packed the object for uploading and went to the developer web page to upload the packed file, and to set a description and price for the object.
Once uploaded, the content enters the Blue Mars QA Process.
When it is released, the designer may allocate the new item to one of their shop shelves for sale.
With a small population, the financial rewards are not yet great, but there is a tangible growth in the market and my personal enjoyment of creating cloth cannot be denied. I am sure there are great things to come for Blue Mars as it develops from its beta status and I certainly want to be there to watch it grow.
Estelle Parnallis the avatar behind the Australian content creator Sally Olle. She has been an active developer in Blue Mars since April 2010 and owns the Blue Mars city Fashion Esplanade where she sells a variety of content.