Friday, October 29, 2010

Blue Mars Beta Client Update

Blue Mars announced the latest release of their client today, so I spent a while this afternoon test driving it. Some of the additions or changes are small, such as the ability to adjust the color of your chat bubbles, but other changes represent pretty significant improvements.

For example, navigation is very much improved. You can still use the rather clunky method of clicking the ground where you want to go and then following the blue inverted cone, but now you also have the option to hold both mouse buttons down simultaneously, which will cause the avatar to walk forward, and then simply move the mouse to change direction. The camera now follows as well, so when you turn it does too.

Using my trackball, I was able to move very smoothly and precisely, and I dare say it was one of the best methods I've experienced for navigating on foot.

The new "Blinks" option, which is similar to a teleport from one city to another, was a different matter, though. I couldn't get it to work, despite several attempts, several re-logs, and a re-download of the client. One other resident was having the same problem trying to move from the Welcome Area to OnLand, so it wasn't just my system or software that was the problem. Others were able to use Blinks, though, so a bit of a mystery.

For the stalkers amongst us, the new client now has profiles that you can access by right clicking on an avatar. Unlike Second Life's static images, the profile includes an animated image of the avatar alongside some basic identifying information, including marital status, and a listing of other virtual worlds the individual plays. You can even spin the avatar image around 360 degrees by using the improved camera functionality.

Speaking of the new camera functionality, that's another very welcome improvement. It works by holding down the alt key while moving your mouse. The avatar remains stationary while the camera pans around. This is a good addition for shopping, exploring, etc.

One other issue I noticed today was the lag, yes lag, in the Welcome Area. I'd never experienced any lag In Blue Mars before at all, but noticed it today, especially when I was moving in close proximity to objects. There was what appeared to be a fog flowing across the ground at the time, and some were speculating as to whether that was causing the lag problem. In general, there was a fair amount of screen jitter at certain points, and even some screen lockups.

Some others in the Welcome Area recommended reducing the graphics output to Low, which did make a difference. The fog disappeared, and the frame rate seemed to increase (although I didn't actually measure it).

While I didn't try out every aspect of the new client, overall it seemed to be a definite improvement. If you haven't visited Blue Mars yet, and would like to see it for yourself, you can download the new client here.

I'd be interested to hear other's thoughts on it.

1 comment:

-glenn sanders, community director for Avatar Reality said...

Thanks for the great article. Glad you like the improvements in our Blue Mars BETA 2.0. Keep watching, we're just getting would up.

Sorry 'bout the temporary problem with the Blinks! We just posted a new file that fixes that bug. See the link in below.