I recently poked my head into Blue Mars again. While there’s still not a ton of content, it is a fun place to wander around in and explore. Caledonia’s growing again–Des and crew have been working on adding mesh content to interact with and there’s a couple of vendors setting up. Blue Mars itself is now sending out weekly schedules of events and activities (one of these days, I’ll actually *attend* one!). I noticed that there’s nearly double the amount of cities since my last log-in.
Blue Mars operates differently than SL. First, it’s still miles behind SL in content–so don’t go expecting to see minimalls and such. There’s not a lot one can do with an avatar yet–no tinies, furries and very few adaptations you can make. To get up and running, you have to go to the Blue Mars website and register, then download the viewer. In addition to the original download, you then have to download each of the areas you might want to visit. The downside of this is that it takes more time on the front end. The upside is that I’ve noticed that BM has hardly any of the lag that SL is infamous for.
Another difference is that “normal” visitors cannot build in BM. To do that, you have to create a developer’s account. It doesn’t take long at all and it’s free. The upside of this is that the landscape is not full of prim litter like some areas of SL but again, it’s an extra set of hoops to jump through in order to add content anywhere in the world. Unlike SL, BM does not use prims. It relies on meshes. Without getting too technical (like I could!), us non-techie folks can create things out of meshes using free programs like Google’s Sketch-up.
So why would educators want to keep track of a virtual world that’s not “as good as” what we’re already using? Well, for one, BM’s graphics (in my humble opinion) far surpass SL. I think once it hits its stride and becomes more accessible for more people, making content with meshes will be much easier for students to understand than doing so with prims. And finally, with Linden Labs laying off of the main Lindens who were in the educational fields, it’s always good for educators to have other options.
Just one virtual teacher-tourist’s two cents. 🙂