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AGDC08: Devs on why MMOs have a web-based future

Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, MetaPlace, Browser

A write-up at Gamasutra of an AGDC panel featuring MMO developers who have begun working on web-based projects gives us an opportunity to explore the new (some would say it's actually the old) frontier of massively multiplayer gaming.

There are many MMOs that are experienced via a web interface (such as Sherwood), but traditional gamers have largely shunned the trend. Why, then, did some of the most hardcore MMO developers (including Dan Ogles, Raph Koster, and Scott Hartsman) abandon the traditional MMO in favor of this new frontier? Some of their work, like Ogles' Loudcrowd, is barely recognizable to traditional gamers.

They offered some answers on the panel. For example, Koster (originally of Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies fame, now working on the creative platform MetaPlace) said that game devs have more to learn from web devs than vice versa. Ogles talked about using Adobe Flash so anyone can embed elements of the game anywhere on the web they like. It's worth a read if you're able to work through some pretty technical development speech.

Picking apart the MetaPlace Bill of Rights

New Titles, Opinion, MetaPlace, Legal, Virtual Worlds

MetaPlace is not an MMOG. It's a platform for creating virtual spaces that can be used for anything the creators can imagine. As such, the traditional MMO EULA is completely inadequate. Raph Koster -- the head honcho on the MetaPlace project -- made that clear in a panel at AGDC08. So, the folks working on MetaPlace had to come up with a whole new set of rules -- rules that allow users ownership of their virtual property, for example. There's a veritable landmine of problems awaiting this endeavor, of course. That's not to say it's impossible. It's just going to be extremely challenging.

Koster published a first draft of the Terms of Service for MetaPlace on his blog the other day. It's based based on the Declaration of the Rights of Avatars that he conceived back in 2000. Readers of the MetaPlace ToS are likely to come away with two impressions. The first: that it's really cool and admirable and that in a general sense, Koster and friends are on the right track. Two is that the MetaPlace team seems to be underestimating just how epic a quest it's committed itself to.

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Raph Koster on the Metaplace idea

Business Models, MMO Industry, New Titles, MetaPlace, Browser, Academic, Education

After a recent question from a Metaplace forum member last month, Raph Koster decided to sit down and explain to us just where exactly the idea for Metaplace was born and how it has evolved into what it is today.

He begins by explaining his MUD roots and how much that influenced him in the multiplayer online space. He explains that he'd had ideas for web-based sandbox worlds ever since then and had frequently toyed with the idea to create his vision, but finances and other limitations restricted that. Now that he has the resources, this vision he's had for so long can finally be put into action with a team of professionals, instead of just him working on it in his spare bedroom. It's an inspiring little story and certainly worth a read if you're interested in Raph's work or the potential future of MMOs in general.

MetaPlace closes in on first beta stage

Betas, New Titles, News Items, MetaPlace, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, Virtual Worlds

Ever want to tighten up the graphics in your own game or interactive environments without going to a video game design college? Okay bad joke, but that only a small part of the plan with Areae's MetaPlace. The project envisioned by Raph Koster will give users a dynamic platform and the accessibility to create embeddable shared virtual spaces, interactive games, and or a mish-mashing combination. News has been light but there are some new updates on the latest MetaPlace blog. Tami "Cuppycake" Baribeau shares some development accomplishments that took place over the past year and states MetaPlace is nearing the first closed beta stage!

What's genius is the planned badge and achievement system intended to encourage user participation. The more users share creations, explore, customize, invite, and participate in numerous other activities they'll unlock badges. No, they won't be stored away in a virtual closed account space all sad and lonely. Instead your friends can check them out and probably earn a badge in the process. Who knows what will end up unlocking a badge, but we love collecting things. All thanks to optional and fun achievement systems.

Google's Lively: Live public beta

Betas, Launches, New Titles, News Items, MetaPlace, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Snow Crash, Lively

Open to the public just today, it seems hard to believe that Google's new Lively service is the much-vaunted virtual world product Project Snowcrash aka MyWorld that has been in secret beta-testing for some time.

Lively is a series of web-embeddable virtual spaces (think Metaplace) that function as a series of otherwise disconnected chatrooms (think IMVU or Twinity). You download the browser plugin for Firefox or Microsoft Internet Explorer (both Windows only, sorry folks), sign in with your google account, create a room or join one and you're ready to go. Just make sure you've signed into the Lively website at least once -- otherwise you'll have the Joining Room message forever.

A selection of 'hip' human and furry avatars are available, along with an assortment of clothing. There is no user-created content at this time. We'll have some more impressions for you once we've given this a once-over around the office, so stay tuned.

Metaplace designers seek users' advice for badge system

Game Mechanics, New Titles, News Items, MetaPlace, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, Virtual Worlds

The developers of Metaplace are pinging the public in search of feedback and good ideas with regards to the platform's planned "badge" system. The system resembles achievements on XBox Live; users and creators of virtual worlds may accomplish certain objectives such as becoming the first Metaplace world to reach 100 simultaneous users, and a unique badge graphic representing the achievement may then be shown to other players and builders in the community.

Areae is dealing with some difficult design decisions. For example: should badges have point values, so whomever has the most points is the most awesome of them all? Should users be able to give badges to one another? How should badges be displayed?

Rather than tackle these questions alone, Areae is offering to everyone the chance to fill out a survey. It's not just multiple choice; participants can explain the reasoning behind their choices. If you've got two cents to share, by all means, go share them!

Metaplace stress-test and community spotlight

Betas, Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, New Titles, MetaPlace, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, Virtual Worlds

Should social chat spaces ever be stressful? The developers of Metaplace want to find out. Next Wednesday, April 30, at 5PM US Pacific Time, Areae will stress test their social chat space. They hope to get feedback on loading times, performance, and avatar creation.

Once you have made your avatar, that newly-minted persona should follow you into the social world. They'll have forums set up to discuss the test afterward. Just surf to the Metaplace home page next week to take part.

TreasureMaze is a Metaplace-based game so innovative that Areae offered the developer a job. Developer "Arcturus" (not his or her real name), a musician and programmer, had in mind a multi-player RPG in the Legend of Zelda mode.

It took "Arcturus" only a couple of hours to put together the basics of the game, which says a lot about the sort of toolkit Metaplace provides game developers. The balance of time since then was spent scripting encounters, writing dialog for NPCs and adding extra scenery. "Arcturus" used Metaplace's art import tools to easily make use of Danc's Planet Cute game prototyping tiles. Making it simple to bring the work of developers and artists together may turn out to be Metaplace's greatest strength.

Dragonlings invade Metaplace!

Betas, Fantasy, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, MetaPlace, Browser, Casual

Cross a government Systems-Analyst with Areae's Metaplace, and you might get dragons. At least get if you're Metaplace alpha tester "chooseareality". Areae's latest community spotlight shines upon "chooseareality" and her new game, Dragonlings. She used the Metaplace game-creation toolkit to make an adventure game where you, as a newly-hatched dragonling, must make your way through the world, learning, exploring and growing to full adulthood. "chooseareality" had tried several times to make this game and others using conventional tools, but until she'd started with Metaplace, had never been able to leap the learning curve enough to actually get a game written. Metaplace's tinting and scaling tools helped extend a few original pieces of art into the dragonling characters for the whole game.

Do Metaplace, VastPark, Kongregate and others that showcase and help with the creation of player-written games popping up all over mean a new Renaissance for gaming? Finding the best games out of the hundreds we're sure to see would probably be a worthy game idea all by itself....

Metaplace Community Spotlight: Life of the Party

Betas, Game Mechanics, Previews, MetaPlace, Browser

Within the gigantic sandbox known as Metaplace, there is a new game in town. Created by alpha tester DrOffset, this new game entitled Life of the Party helps to showcase the ease at which player-driven content can be created in Metaplace. DrOffset mentions the fact that his game has involved around eight hours of development so far, and most of the scripts he's used are from the wiki itself, freely available to anyone. His 2D artwork was created himself, yet he plans to animate them three-dimensionally.

In his Q&A by Areae Community Manager Tami "Cuppycake" Baribeau, DrOffset explains the exact premise of his mini game and how he came up with the idea. According to Metaplace's motto, players can "build anything, play everything, from anywhere" -- and DrOffset's Life of the Party certainly demonstrates one way to achieve this in a simplified, yet entertaining manner.

Pump up your local forum with Metaplace!

MMO Industry, New Titles, MetaPlace, Browser, Virtual Worlds

Got a small or medium sized community forum? Want to add YouTubes, mini-games, customizable avatars and heck -- a whole world all your own (why not?) -- in it? Then Areae wants to talk with you. Their Metaplace minigames for the masses / virtual world portal needs beta testers who wouldn't mind giving their new tech a trial run in their forums. You will probably need to paste some PHP code here and there -- but if you know what that entails, are comfortable doing it and want to give your community members reasons to spend more time on your forum, then head over to Metaplace for more details.

This could be your chance to get in on the ground floor of the Next Best Thing. Give it a shot, and if it works out for you, tell us about it!

Metaplace's new stress test: Uberspace

Bugs, Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, PvP, News Items, MetaPlace, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, Virtual Worlds

Raph Koster's baby, Metaplace, will be undergoing another stress test this Saturday, March 8th, at 12 PM PST. Uberspace, a space-shooter, is the game they'll be using to test 'scalability, bandwidth, and instancing within a multiplayer space.'

Some have thought that we may have been a bit too hard on poor ol' Raph with our coverage of his GDC presentation, but bear in mind that we're tough on things because we only want the best to succeed. If you would like to be part of the stress test, get on over to Metaplace on Saturday and blast your friends. It's free and clear for everybody to try!

GDC08: Raph Koster's 'Reinventing MMOs, a Metaplace 'antemortem''

Business Models, Culture, Events (Real-World), Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, Crafting, News Items, Opinion, MetaPlace, Browser, Academic, Virtual Worlds, Events (Massively's Coverage)

Raph Koster, president of Areae, and Sean Riley, Lead Programmer, held a panel the final day of GDC '08 called 'Reinventing MMOs: a Metaplace 'antemortem'', which was all about dissecting why the concept of MMOs needs updating. Going in, I was hoping for insight, which I got, but wasn't expecting a lot of technical talk, which I also got.

And the takeaway I got from this session is this: Koster's doing some good, forward-thinking work, but Metaplace doesn't really shine for me just yet. Details on both after the break.

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Metaverse U conversation: Raph Koster, Cory Ondrejka, Howard Rheingold

Events (Real-World), Second Life, MetaPlace, Academic, Virtual Worlds, Events (Massively's Coverage)

We headed to the Metaverse U event at Stanford University this weekend to hear a smorgasboard of prominent thinkers and workers in the fields of virtual worlds and online gaming have a meeting of the minds. Below is a recap (caveat: some paraphrasing involved!) of one of our favorite sessions featuring a conversation with Metaplace's Raph Koster, former Linden Lab CTO Cory Ondrejka, and social media and online community guru Howard Rheingold.

Henrik Bennetsen (moderator):
(Introduces 3 panelists and asks Raph to kick off with his thoughts on virtual worlds)

Raph: From the beginning, virtual communities has never been about the "virtual." All the oddities come from the mediation, not from human nature. We build trellises, and communities are plants growing on them... you get to shape them a little bit, and sometimes in very bad ways if you're not careful. We tend to think we have more power than we do when architecting these things. I wince at the title "community manager" ("relations" would be better) because it perpetuates the myth that we have power to control what users do. Mediation gives us a window into things that in the real world can be hard to see. Virtual communities are an opportunity to see how people tick.

Cory: Having spent 7 years building Second Life, the interactions and collisions with the real world are what make it interesting. We had only 400 users at launch and we were ecstatic! Can you imagine that today (especially for companies with big name investors)? I think about virtual worlds as communication technology. I agree there's a need for customer service and arguments about the declaration of avatar rights are important but yet I feel there's something off in these arguments... (he's referring to earlier conversation about declarations of avatar rights)

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Metaplace to stress test its platform

Bugs, Events (Real-World), Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, News Items, MetaPlace, Browser, Virtual Worlds

Raph Koster's Metaplace app is getting closer and closer to workable reality every day. This Friday at 5 PM PST, they'll be stress testing their platform by gathering as many people as they can to play one of their puzzle games called Wheelwright. The idea is to see if the underlying technology can sustain a large number of users at the same time.

It's exciting to see these baby steps happen and feel that one is part of something potentially huge. And if Raph is prescient, Metaplace will be merely the beginning of a revitalization of what the Web can be, the next step in multi-user, multi-site interactivity. I'm eager to see how it all works out, but can anything live up to this level of hype?

[Thanks, Steve!]

RocketOn to make the Web an MMO

At a glance, New Titles, News Items, Opinion, MetaPlace, Browser, Virtual Worlds

Or, something like that. According to its press release, RocketOn is a new company that's creating some sort of experience that spans the Web and doesn't reside in a single place. From the release:

"What would it be like if people could take a virtual world with them wherever they go on the Internet?" says Steven Hoffman, CEO of ROCKETON. "The answer we came up with is a parallel experience, where players rocket through cyberspace with their avatar and interact with virtual environments on almost every website they visit."

What the press release doesn't say, however, is exactly what that means. A look at the website reveals no information other than a group of colorful pictures and an email address to send applications for entering the closed alpha. I'll admit to being a bit intrigued by this, just as I was when I heard about Vastpark and Metaplace. We'll keep our eyes open.

[Thanks, Eric!]

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