Thursday, 14 October 2010

New Spacexcape Blog

In addition to this blog, where I post my in world activities, I also now have a new blog running that discusses the more theoretical side to those experiences.
You can also follow Spacexcape on twitter!

See you there!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Blue Mars - first impressions

It took a few adjustments and some upgrades to firmware and software, but last night I managed to spend an hour 'in world' chatting at the 'meet and greet' event. There were several familiar names and friends from Second Life and it was really good to meet Glenn and some of the other staff. At peak time, there were around 40 people present and absolutely no sign of lag from anyone. The fps was pretty good - most people reported around 15 whilst in the crowd and around 35 when looking at the sky (that will mean something to some people!). My main frustration is suddenly having to use Windows on my Mac and all the software that I am used to, not being available. I particularly missed the video capture programme I use to do movies 'in world' and will have to find a Windows compatible alternative.
See some images of last night's event here

So, the next task is to plan out the Blue Mars stage of the Spacexcape Project. First, there is the new building software to conquer though with experience in Second Life and Hexagon, I don't anticipate this being too bad. When the ideas for the project were first thrown into the arena, most of us were keen on the idea of a participatory 'game' that engaged elements of art, science and philosophy and this has been the focal point of the planning for the work in Blue Mars. I am going to expand the website to discuss some of the ideas and to look for new people to join the project or at least to help with it.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Blue Mars for Mac users

The long journey towards Mars ... Blue Mars that is .... is finally glimpsing it on the vast horizon of virtual reality. Estimated time of arrival - two hours. Ok, so Blue Mars is not designed for Mac users even though the majority of designers use Macs and this is a design platform! Fortunately, Apple Mac designed their new OS (Snow Leopard) to help people like me - but you do need an Intel based Apple Mac. So after weeks of upgrades and new software installations, Windows has now been installed on its very own hard drive within my MacPro. Some tips for anyone starting the same journey - read the PDF file on Bootcamp from the Apple support page and follow it line by line!
1. Blue Mars needs far more space than the Bootcamp assistant allocates to the partition, so make it much bigger! Mine is on a 500g hard drive. If you need to make the partition larger then use Wincon - free software that will make an image of the disc that you will need to restore in Bootcamp assistant and then copy it back into the new larger partition.
2. Do not attempt to install Windows before inserting disc but if you do then reboot holding down the left mouse button to open the CD drive (this will be very clear to anyone trying to work out how to open their drive with only a blue screen and no Mac options available!)
3. Try to imagine it is not Windows that you are being forced to use!
Good luck - my next post will be aimed at my first experiences in Blue Mars.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Spacexcape: The Collaboration

The next movie clip about the project is complete and has been published and it can be viewed on the podcast channel at
or you can subscribe to our podcasts on iTunes now! Just search for Spacexcape in the Music Store. The Video is also available on You Tube

In July 2008, after a few weeks of debate and dialogue, the Spacexcape Project started to take shape. Some of us had to learn how to build, especially Spacexcape Bridges who had the enormous, and daunting task, of the main build. But we opened our doors to the first stage of the project in July 2008, keeping a fairly low profile while we tested the installation and made improvements. The build started to expand into five sections - the entrance, and then four pods off it which represented the ‘trigger words’ used to help the collaborators move forward. Communication, Technology, Space and Identity. This way the team were able to choose the area that most interested them and break into smaller working teams. In October 2008, we launched the installation and were listed in the Hotspots on the Second Life website. In the next 3 months, the installation had over 10,000 unique visitors.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Blue Mars goes to beta live

So finally, after a long wait, the creators of Blue Mars announced the live beta testing. It requires that you apply for it and then, for Mac users like myself, it requires setting up 'bootcamp' and upgrading and installing Windows. I am waiting for my registration and for the software updates that I need. When I am finally in their world, I will be documenting and reporting on my experiences there.

So what can Blue Mars do that is 'new'? That's a tough one. The newness will undoubtedly be the high definition graphics and hopefully they will have address the lag that we all experience in other virtual worlds. I assume that the 3d building will be far more advanced than Second Life and that in itself will allow more development for the creative sector. Above all, Blue Mars needs to be an environment that people are proud to be part of in order for them to constructively get involved in its future. Cyberspace is full of places for avatars to just hang out.

Second Life originally claimed to be what Blue Mars aspires to - and they will need to study the history of Linden Labs behaviour very closely. Linden Labs made a fundamental mistake of naming their users as a 'community' and then ignoring them when making decisions that affected all of that community. That was the start of its demise.

"We are committed to creating a place where you, our colonists can explore the farthest reaches of your imaginations, building a virtual society that reflects your desires and your ideals."

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Virtual Reality - the future or the past?

Virtual reality has reached a stage of stagnation, I am sure of it. The initial euphoria has been taken over by the abundance of drivel that now fill up the servers. That is not to say that there is not creativity continuing amongst the amazing groups of designers who continue to look for the next virtual reality breakthrough. There is an air of boredom in all of the current virtual reality environments. Perhaps that is because the users insisted on dragging in the real world instead of embracing the new world. Or perhaps it is because we are subjects in a grand experiment that eventually someone will tell us the results of (Baudrillard's idea, not mine, I hasten to add). Does technology move so fast that we demand the new at every turn of a corner?

There is hope, I hope! Blue Mars has just launched its beta testing and I have signed up!