Blue Mars – a little more

I have no idea how many people are active in the Blue Mars beta – aside from the dozen-or-so I’ve met in the Welcome area, I’ve barely seen a soul elsewhere on my travels. Nevertheless, I shall continue my explorations.

Today, skipping away from rl work, I dropped in at the two principal games that are currently in-world. The first, located at the waterfall, is a “flying” game, where you pilot some kind of flying vehicle through a series of rings. along a landscaped course. I didn’t particularly enjoy this for a number of reasons, which can be summarised as:

  • No clear indication of what you’re supposed to be doing when you arrive – while there are instructions, they are hidden within the “?” icon – usually reserved for generic BM tutorials
  • The controls are cumbersome – a mixture of using w,a,s,d, CTRL, SPACE and the mouse and the arrow keys which can easily have your fingers tying themselves in knots
  • It tened to lag (actually the first “lag” I’ve encountered in BM).

I’m sure the game is playable by those with an intuitive feel for games (where I understand w,a,s,d are common control keys), but for me, this was rather a “meh!” moment.

Of far greater fun – is the golf. This is widely used in Blue Mars advertising stills and promo work – and it is actually a lot of fun. It’s also much better thought-out than the flying game, and  – in all honesty (and remembering I am in no way a “gamer”) it is like stepping directly from Blue Mars into a quality video game.

Golfing tutorial in action
Golfing tutorial in action

On teleporting, a splash screen is displayed, offering you the option of playing one hole or three holes. You then get to choose single or multi-player. As I was (again, sadly) on my own, I went for the single player option and found myself on the tee. The screen itself is a lot more friendly – well, it should be; while I may not play golf, I at least know what the idea is, and so a golf course isn’t going to be totally alien – with a comforting button in the bottom right corner labelled TUTORIAL.

This launches a picture-in-picture tutorial guiding you through the on-screen controls, which although is very quick (a pause button would be nice), is also very informative and leaves you in command of the (straightforward) controls and the (few) keyboard options, and ready to play.

Now, I’ve already admitted I know nothing about golf ( share Mark Twain’s opinion of the game: that it is a good walk ruined), so the fact that the game automatically picks your preferred club for you left me with one less thing to get worried about and frustrated over.

This left me with the “simple” acts of aiming and shooting. The former being the (now familiar) right-key-and-drag mouse option to turn my avatar left or right, while the latter is simply achieved by selecting the strength of my swing on the “swingometer”, and then clicking the SHOOT button that pops up.

To be honest, I wasn’t aware of my own strength. For the first two or three goes I kept putting the ball totally out of bounds….causing me to step right back on the swingometer. Once I did get things in bounds, my avatar walked off across the green before arriving at my ball, complete with the preferred club (which I could change, if I wanted).

There are some nice touches in the game – the avatar takes a very natural swing to hit the ball each time, and when putting, if the ball just misses the hole, there is a frustrated stamping of one foot.

Putting
Putting

Along the way a little window in the top right records the number of goes you’ve had, while above it sits the number of goes it should take to get the ball in the hole. On my first attempt it took me *cough* eleven goes to get the ball down the hole – but the controls are intuitive enough that on my second go, I had this down to five.

On completing a hole, your avatar gives a little victory salute and if it is the end of the game, you have the option of starting over or exiting and returning to the welcome area.

As a very basic game, the golf is a good indication of possible directions BM can branch, and shows that games, etc., can be integrated into BM. The tutorial in particular demonstrates what can be achieved to assist residents (and in particular newcomers) gain better and easier understanding of where they are and what they can do – so it gets a thumbs-up from me.