Sunday, September 27, 2009

Elle in Blue Mars: Community & Beta Testing

So Phin and I both decided to explore Blue Mars together yesterday. Oh dear God, We look like Blue M Noob Examples 1 and 2...
Our moment of laziness as we sat at a table in Beach City turned into a good discussion about how important community and social interaction is in a virtual world. As this is not a MMO where leveling up would be important and content is already created, to us it seems that having things to do (not just alone) and socializing will end up being very important. We will explore the world with our friends, talk, shop...whatever we want to do to feel connected inworld. So it is important to be able to find each other and like-minded individuals as well. I am interested in seeing how Blue M tackles this...There are some basic animations that you can do such as shaking hands. I'll admit I was like "Ugh" when I was offered a caress once. A caress...really? Well, at least you get asked first. Phin gave me a "lovehug". Hey, at least I know him! I "raced" Phin to the bridge. wasn't much of a race at all as Phin's computer's much faster. Due to the LOD, he'd disappear almost right away to me. Thought it was a fluke on my end, but Phin would get the disappearing too. We ran into Dale Innis and he mentioned the same thing. We ended up having a really good conversation with him about Blue M. One of the things we talked about was being a beta tester. To us, this is the time to be critical. Let them know about this or that feature that seems off or could be improved. That's what you are in there for. I joked about how I'm being like that little old lady who calls the police about everything. You wanted to know our feedback, you're going to get it!We all also talked about coming into it and trying to leave our preconceived notions based upon other VWs behind. It can be hard, as the bar has been set high and there are big expectations. It's just not there quite yet, so we'll just have to see once there is more content and more folks. Oh, and look...I've got on jeans. Whew. Who wears short shorts? Not me. Phin made a short video about his experience so far in Blue M, if you want to get a feel for it as it is right now...loads and all.


Dale Innis said...

It was great running into you! Small world. :)

Your notes about the purpose of a beta are spot on. The Blue Mars forums are a rather hostile environment for actual beta testers, in that there are three or four fangirls and boys who have decided that Blue Mars is going to be the best thing ever (and magically fix all of the problems they've had in previous virtual worlds), and anyone mentioning anything that doesn't work, or is annoying, gets met with cries of "it's only a beta!", and sometimes with insults and name-calling.

(Unfortunately the Blue Mars people themselves are almost entirely absent from the forums, and do nothing to restrain the behavior.)

Blue Mars is definitely off to a rocky start with respect to beta user experience and all. But it's early days yet; once there's some actual content in the world, and enough users that a little core of rude fans gets lost in the noise, things may be much better. If they're lucky. :)

Eladrienne Laval said...

Oh, you know I agree. I think the thing is "OK, we get's beta." We all know (or should know) that it's still rough, not what we're used to, blahblahblah. Anyone going in there expecting a more or less finished product like whatever VW they've come from is going to be disappointed as it just isn't there yet.

As I said, I'm a beta tester at the moment. It's not being hypercritical to note things. I actually want it to live up to the potential that I think it has. I'm not going to let my excitement keep me from firing off a beta feedback form.

Shava said...

You know, they lost me with the womens clothing the first day.

Any game that makes me come in, even in beta, with no option to wear anything more modest than short-shorts and a camisole, while the guys get t-shirts and jeans, totally loses my faith in their devs as human beings.

Beta or not, they could have adjusted the mesh for the jeans for the women. I mean, c'mon!

Eladrienne Laval said...

I wasn't too thrilled about the "booty shorts" either, but the thing that surprised me is that they actually listened to our complaints about it and gave us the jeans option. Hopefully they will continue to pay attention to what their beta testers are telling them to avoid missteps like that in the future. We'll see.

Dale Innis said...

Yeah, the story from Blue Mars is that the lack of actual pants for women was a "bug". And that is probably possible. :)

The thing that bugged me the most was all of the squeeing fanboys and girls in the forums attacking the people who mentioned it. I mean, geez. And the total silence from Blue Mars about it for a very long time. They don't seem to take part in their own forums at all.

So letting it go out like that in the first place (not to mention releasing the bimbobots) was a bad sign wrt how much thought they put into things with respect to customer perception. And their silence everywhere but the occasional Twitter posting is a bad sign wrt how important they think customer communication is. On the other hand, they're probably just a bunch of techies who haven't gotten around to actually hiring their customer relations staff yet. :)

(They did recently add one nice person (from Hawai'i!) who seems to be tasked with monitoring the forums, which is probably a good sign.)

(Note: Captcha string is "thewart". I am offended! :) )

Eladrienne Laval said...

I heard about the "bimbobots" and that bothered me more than the booty shorts actually. As a woman, you don't want--and should never have to--feel denigrated like that.

I've noticed their absence from the forums too. They really need their customer relations person (someone, anybody who knows what's going on) to be more involved.