Saturday, December 19, 2009

Blue Mars & Second Life: SL a Better Deal for Educators

Location: Richmond Island

I've been reading Tateru Nino's post about "pioneer pricing" for Blue Mars users. For all its warts, Second Life offers a better virtual-world setup for most educators.

Having just finished our Usher beta-test, where ordinary users paired with experienced builders and scripters like Viv, and faculty members of intermediate skills, like me, I am not impressed with the potential for the new virtual world in education.

My Reasons: Based upon pricing Tateru provided for a 50-concurrent-user "city" in Blue Mars:
  • Though the purchase price of $750 is half SL's for an educational island, BM's monthly fee is twice SL's.
  • Smaller parcels on the SL Mainland, now that adult content has moved to Zindra, are far cheaper for small experiments and still permit content development.
  • Content in-world with SL can be made without high-end developer tools, even by students (albeit really dedicated ones with lots of SL experience).
  • SL is platform-agnostic and will run on most student laptops (poorly but it will run). Blue Mars requires high-end PC systems and won't run at all on Linux or the Mac OS.
Some programs at schools where one could assume students can use Autocad or Maya might be interested, if they have high-end Windows labs or requirements that students own those types of systems. And how large a market is that?

Update for Dec. 20: at Massively's discussion of Blue Mars, danielravennest added this:

Any 3D software that can output the COLLADA format can be used for Blue Mars creation, that includes 3dsMax, Maya, Blender, and Google Sketchup. The latter two are free. I have been using the city editor tool they give developers (also free) and it is no harder to use than building in Second Life, once you know what buttons to use.

Also note that all content creation and city setup are done offline, and that is free until you go live on their servers. It's even possible to log in in "Developer Mode" with other people, you just have to distribute your content manually rather than through their servers. That's how our "Sandbox City" project will work until we go live.

Another Caveat: the lowest-end pricing ($100 setup, $30 per month tier, forum-only support, and 5 concurrent users) would be very appealing for experimental projects, to see if one wanted to "ramp up" to a larger city while learning the skills required. We could have run the House of Usher under those circumstances. So I am looking forward to hearing how educators with the right skills and systems do in Blue Mars. The more competition the better for Linden Lab; it will help focus them in a way that owning the market never has done.

For now, despite all my grousing about Linden Lab, would I consider Blue Mars in education? Pass on that.


R. said...

I'm sure you'll be hearing Jim Sink announce educational discounts soon.


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