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Koster's Areae Unveils Metaplace 84

Posted by Zonk
from the mega-pocket-sized-mmogs dept.
Some nine months ago veteran MMOG designer Raph Koster announced his new game company, called Areae ... but not what they were making. To go along with the TechCrunch40 Conference, the company has finally taken the wraps off of their project: Metaplace. Essentially, Metaplace is going to be a virtual world toolkit. The whole thing is built on open standards, and attempt to 'bring virtual worlds to the web', instead of keeping them boxed away in a separate little garden. As the site puts it: "We knew it was all coming together when one of our team made a game in a day and a half. And then stuck that game on a private MySpace profile. You can inherit someone else's world (if they let you) and use it as a starting point. You can slurp whole directories of art and use them as building blocks. Cut and paste a movement system or a health bar from one world to another. Use an RSS feed for your NPCs. We made puzzle games, RPGs, action games... and set up doorways from one to the other." Virtual World News and GigaOM have writeups of the presentation at the TechCrunch Conference, while Areae's Community Manager Tami Baribeau writes in a post why gamers should care. Over at his site Areae President Raph Koster just breaths a sigh of relief.
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Koster's Areae Unveils Metaplace

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  • Ewwww (Score:3, Insightful)

    by suv4x4 (956391) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @06:58AM (#20665477)
    "The whole thing is built on open standards, and attempt to 'bring virtual worlds to the web', instead of keeping them boxed away in a separate little garden."

    That sounds like VRML :`(
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Swampash (1131503)
      Two words: Star Wars Galaxies.
      • by suv4x4 (956391)
        Two words: Star Wars Galaxies.

        Can't count to three :P ?

        Anyway, the fact he produced a popular MMO with a huge company and team behind his back doesn't mean that if he quit and made his own company, he'll produce something worth a damn.

        In fact, this is the norm, not the exception. Maybe he should've stayed at Sony.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Dachannien (617929)
          Anyway, the fact he produced a popular MMO with a huge company and team behind his back doesn't mean that if he quit and made his own company, he'll produce something worth a damn.

          Two words: Vanguard.

          Oh, wait....
        • you're taking Star Wars Galaxies to mean that he can transfer his "success" to another product, the OP was probably trying to point out Koster's involvement in one of the biggest MMORPG debacles in recent memory
    • by CRCulver (715279)

      VRML was replaced with X3D [wikipedia.org], an immensely superior standard. Unfortunately, it's difficult to get to grips with, since while there was plenty of publishing about VRML in its heyday, the only X3D print documentation I know is Don Brutzman & Daly's X3D: Extensible 3D Graphics for Web Authors [amazon.com] (Morgan Kaufmann, 2007).

      But VRML didn't fail just due to technical flaws. Interest in virtual reality petered out among the public. Where once kids thought it would be cool to strap on a helmet and explore cyberspac

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Aladrin (926209)
        It's simply not accessible enough. The web browser is very easy to get and use, but the VRML browser has always been a pain to even find, let alone use. Control schemes and movement typically suck, and the 3D worlds have always been very low-definition by necessity.

        Second Life is the best VR browser out there, and even it is just barely above average as far as controls and movement go.

        The other problem is that 3D doesn't really add much to most interactions. It's neat to think of having a 3D TV and all t
        • by ubrgeek (679399)
          You're 100% on with everything that you've said, but you skimmed over a key point: The reason VRML was hot with the public was because of the term "virtual reality." The public had no idea what that meant, other than Star Trek Holodeck stuff and (although it came before) Matrix-like stories and movies. When/If reality matches up with the SciFi version of Virtual Reality then things like 3D TV will add a lot to the experience. Until then, its only use is as a gimmick at a COMDEX booth...
        • Re:Ewwww (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Alsee (515537) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @08:42AM (#20666117) Homepage
          It's neat to think of having a 3D TV and all that, but will you -really- get much more out of the experience over regular TV?

          Skirts.
          In full 3-D.

          -
        • The other problem is that 3D doesn't really add much to most interactions. It's neat to think of having a 3D TV and all that, but will you -really- get much more out of the experience over regular TV?


          You obviously aren't thinking of porn.
        • Yes, you reached exactly the same points I did after using SL for a few minutes, testing it for a company initiative. Graphics need to advance considerably, and beyond that bandwidth/latency issues need to improve.

          Even if you could move around freely in a virtual world, I'm not sure why you'd want to. You still can't touch anything, and 3d is still only 2d+; your monitor is only a 2d surface. (Sidenote: they are working on a 3d monitor, similar to an advanced version of the 3d movies/glasses.) It's nice to
          • by Reapy (688651)
            I think the strength of 3d worlds lie in social interaction. What SL and others should really gear itself towards is myspace/facebook in 3d. That is what a "virtual world" offers that is unique.

            1. A place to call home (the profile page). Here is my land, I can set it up how I want. I can put a house in or a huge landscaping job or some mix of the two or can exist in space. This is my area.

            2. Avatar Interaction. Having superb avatar interaction with people. Built in, handshake, dancing, sex, hugging, pushing
            • Unfortunately I was doing this as a work related project, which somewhat tainted my views (though few to none of your benefits would be very useful for my employer.) I agree social interaction would be good, but my experience was that it wasn't easily done in SL - there wasn't much to do besides roleplay or sit around and virtually chat... Yes you could build things, but in order to really compete you need to have somewhat advanced software, and most of it's already been done. Shops are boring; I never had
              • by Reapy (688651)
                Don't know if you are still reading this, but I agree with you 100%. For a time I like the idea SL was like peeping into someone's head, but that got old fast.

                I totally agree with you that SL has clunky interaction. That is why if someone developed a SL like game with EASY interaction, it would demolish sl. The easy build interface brings the geeks, but at the end of the day, the guys who use real 3d tools are the ones deciding what SL looks like. But the masses come for people interaction.

                So you are very r
  • I hope that this will allow people to focus on the story, not just the glitter - that'd be an improvement. Not to say that I don't like snazzy-looking games and VR worlds, but rather I'm saying that if it became trivial for them to look good then game creation could focus on the story and interactions between players. That's part of the longevity of a story world.

    Sounds like it would also give a leg up to those who are good writers, and we might see their works more easily put in front of people.

    I just ho

    • HEY!!! That wasn't supposed to be funny.

      Mod me up for something else, please... the karma is nice and crunchy. :)

      (Yeah - this post was supposed to be funny. *sigh*)

  • hmm. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by apodyopsis (1048476) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @07:08AM (#20665527)
    More like many virtual worlds full of many virtual rolling tumble weeds and exaggerated population figures.

    • Too true. I've logged onto Second Life a few times to see what all the fuss is about. Outside of the casinos and clubs the place always seems deserted. Almost like some post-apocalypse sci-fi film. I find it creepy...
  • While I could play around with the Web 2.0 and community hype, I do believe that the future of multiplayer games will be based on user-created content.

    I will be interesting to see how this things works out. Maybe I can even read TFA after the slashdot effect wears off.
    • Re:MMOG 2.0 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by suv4x4 (956391) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @07:24AM (#20665617)
      What this guy is saying bothers me:

      "Destroying the traditional walled garden: An MMO accessible through Flash apps, 3D clients, cellphones, etc. Up to now, most MMOs have been "walled gardens", requiring an extensive client install. Metaplace, by contrast, is "A Web browser with virtual world capability.""

      So, it won't be a separate client, it'll be a browser plugin and there will be API-s that provide RSS/data you can put in your MySpace/Flash/3D client/cellphone.

      This is either huge (unlikely) or nothing at all.

      It looks like it's just trying to be the MySpace of games. They claim they're build on open standards, but it's still THEIR servers that host the entire thing.

      This is like saying "hey, MySpace is built on open standards - JS, HTML and CSS". What good is it if you host it on a central server anyway?

      For this to work, they'll need some sort of definitive client, to, you know, deliver the damn world presentation.

      They say:

      "And it's a browser that comes with its own tool kit, for people who want to build worlds, and a community/marketplace where developers can give away or sell their templates, scripts, and so on, hosted on the Areae network."

      So this goes right against what they said earlier, and it requires a special client after all (browsers are, as we know... clients).

      "Thanks to the underlying HTML-style code by which Metaplace defines each individual world served by its network, you can literally copy and paste attributes like graphic appearance and user interface from one Metaplace world to another."

      This sounds bad and reminds me of VRML and Second Life rolled up into one. Now we can define flying penises and virtual brothels in HTML markup. Phew.

      And here's the most revealing part:

      "(Metaplace will launch with this 2D isometric graphics view as standard)"

      It's not even an immersive 3D world.

      His business model? Ads:

      "Areae only starts charging users for hosting their Metaplace world when they begin generating heavy traffic [..] There'll be sponsored worlds from advertisers and/or Areae partners [..] Adsense-style ad network will track user behavior based on what Metaplace games and worlds they play, and feed them appropriately targeted ads [..] A mini-Metaplace world can be embedded within a web ad, creating instant brand engagement to promote a sponsor's products."

      Uhmm, right, the best part of open standards is that we're force-fed ads, while using 'em! Uhmm, wait, there's something wrong here.

      • by *weasel (174362)

        What good is it if you host it on a central server anyway?

        As good as making any mod for a game-engine that you have no real rights to. It'd be good for tinkering, marketing and not much else. It sounds more like an attempt to birth a true graphical MUD scene than a second-life/VRML thing.

        So this goes right against what they said earlier, and it requires a special client after all (browsers are, as we know... clients).

        Yeah, but the client specs are (allegedly)* open. So the client shouldn't be any more 's

      • by vertinox (846076)
        This sounds bad and reminds me of VRML and Second Life rolled up into one. Now we can define flying penises and virtual brothels in HTML markup. Phew.

        There was nothing wrong with behind the idea of VRML, it was just implemented really really badly kind of like Second Life was.
      • [quote]"(Metaplace will launch with this 2D isometric graphics view as standard)"

        It's not even an immersive 3D world.[/quote]

        IMO, 2D isometric is a good standard that I wish a lot of developers would go back to. Even though you run a completly 3d engine 2D isometric is actually a good thing.

        One of the reason I hated EQ and preferred to play UO and Diablo was because the 2D isometric view always was static and never caused me problems nor something else to mess with. Let me play a CRPG and not a damn FPS.

        It
      • by merreborn (853723)

        And here's the most revealing part:

        "(Metaplace will launch with this 2D isometric graphics view as standard)"

        It's not even an immersive 3D world.

        There's more to online worlds than 3D. This is emphasized by the fact that Areae has the founder of skotos [skotos.net], the net's leading producer of text MUDs that focus on storytelling, and Richard Bartle, the inventor of the text MUD on their board of advisors [areae.net]

      • by m3mnoch (31838)
        not to pick on suv4x4, but, it is rather humorous to read all of these predictions and armchair-quarterbacking from people with zero technical knowledge on how our platform works. i will, however, give you a hint -- everything (and i mean every single word) suv4x4 is positing is incorrect. it's like he's saying the web is broken because you can't view the pages in anything but internet explorer.

        i promise we'll come out with more information. i promise we'll try to answer as many questions as possible. i
      • by tehcyder (746570)

        His business model? Ads:

        "Areae only starts charging users for hosting their Metaplace world when they begin generating heavy traffic [..] There'll be sponsored worlds from advertisers and/or Areae partners [..] Adsense-style ad network will track user behavior based on what Metaplace games and worlds they play, and feed them appropriately targeted ads [..] A mini-Metaplace world can be embedded within a web ad, creating instant brand engagement to promote a sponsor's products."

        Uhmm, right, the best part

    • by dintech (998802)
      It's all a function of quality. I'm sure part of the reason why youtube is so successful is down to the quality of mainstream television deteriorating so much. If EA, ESRB, Jack Thomson, MTV et al get their way then this will happen with games eventually too. The direct result would be more user generated stuff to be enjoyed (or otherwise) in the gaming world.
  • by Dekortage (697532) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @07:15AM (#20665565) Homepage

    We knew it was all coming together when one of our team made a game in a day and a half. And then stuck that game on a private MySpace profile.

    Isn't it lame enough in 2D?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sqldr (838964)
      Isn't it lame enough in 2D?

      Yeah.. and SO last week. They should've put it on facebook.
    • by suv4x4 (956391)
      Don't worry Metaplace is 2D too.
      • by Dekortage (697532)

        FTA: "Metaplace will support everything from 2d overhead grids through first-person 3d. However, right now we only have clients that do 2d of various sorts, including grid view, 2d isometric, 2.5d heightfields, and so on. We expect to keep working on the 3d client support."

        Ergo, 3D is on its way.

  • Real info? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @07:16AM (#20665569)
    Has anyone got any -real- info on this? Does it include physics? Is it DirectX based? How flexible is it? Do you run the server, or do they? Can you do commercial apps, or only free ones? Can you restrict access to your worlds?

    I can think of quite a few fun little physics-based games to make, but it would totally depend on how flexible this system is. I've been thinking about getting into game programmer for quite a while, but with the current frameworks out there, it's not a trivial task. This kit makes it sound trivial.

    I've signed up for the alpha, of course... But I'd rather have some real information now.
  • by Alien54 (180860) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @07:18AM (#20665579) Journal
    Okay, what about the guy who wants another person's level 60 to be impotent when imported into their own world. Do magical elves loose their powers when imported into a Halo Clone, or do they become god-like?
    • by vertinox (846076)
      Okay, what about the guy who wants another person's level 60 to be impotent when imported into their own world.

      I suspect it would be like most real life D&D games where the DM just tells the guy with the level 20 character that he can't play in his campaign designed for the level 5 characters everyone else at the table has... And that if he wants to play he needs to re-roll.
  • Anyone else think of Otherland? Cool idea, but the MySpace thing ruins it.
  • BBC article on it (Score:3, Informative)

    by advocate_one (662832) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @07:55AM (#20665749)
    can be found here [bbc.co.uk].

    What I want to know is can these worlds be private so as to keep out griefers etc. and only allow in those you want in it.

    • by will_die (586523)
      With that article saying that Second Life is one of the most popular MMORPGs around I am not sure I place much credibility on it.
      • Second Life is "tragic"... too many weirdoes in it doing weird things... especially the dark porno side... (those baby unicorns are just too gross when you find out how the owners got them). There is some nice stuff there as well, but you can't safely let your children lose in it...
    • by Aladrin (926209)
      Great article. Gives a lot more information that anything else so far. I've also been wondering if you can make it private... From that article, I'd guess the answer is 'no'. Once you share it, it looks like it's open to anyone.

      Ignore the other response... The article didn't even say 'mmorpg'. They said 'one of the most popular virtual worlds', and that's certainly true.
    • by allaryin (564427)
      How hard is it to write a Lua script to reject logins by users who aren't on the whitelist? I think you're ok.
  • by suv4x4 (956391) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @07:56AM (#20665765)
    So in essence what this is:

    A set of API-s that connect various games into a single community. They host it, and if you don't waste many resources it's free. If you do (i.e. become popular), it's no longer free, you pay hosting fee.

    They have an example client, most likely Flash-based, 2D isometric game that renders their "world" definition.

    Koster, in his own words, can't program a damn thing, and in my opinion, the way he imagines this working is waaaaay out there.

    Quote from him:

    "You have to admit it; the whole concept of 'play anywhere' is pretty neat. How often have you wanted to play a game with your friends, only to find out that their video card can't support the game? Have you ever been trapped in an airport for longer than expected with just your cell phone or an ancient laptop? We plan to show you just how good a game can look in a browser, and just how much fun it can be to play. Imagine people playing YOUR RPG on their cell phone, or in their Facebook, or in the sidebar of a gaming blog. That is accessibility, and we're out to show you just how awesome it can be."

    Oh right, accessible gaming! The same RPG in 2D Flash, 3D, and Java! This will work amazing right? No, it won't. It'll be a disaster.

    Let me foresee how this will go:

    1. We'll see few games attempting to work on multiple platforms, and thus they will remain ridiculously simple so they can be played at all on anything from a cellphone to freak gamer personal computer desktop.

    2. We'll see some more fun games, which you can only play on one platform, either 3D only or 2D only.

    Either way, he expects to deliver the API-s, the sample isometric world viewer... and then expects their "users" to code everything, from the hot 3D versions, to the cellphone clients.

    I only can sigh, and forget I wasted my time on trying to comprehend what the hell was he doing, since he's apparently trying to market it as something big, and it's not.
    • by merreborn (853723)

      Koster, in his own words, can't program a damn thing, and in my opinion, the way he imagines this working is waaaaay out there.

      Good thing he's got some solid advisors [areae.net] to keep him grounded, then.

      Christopher Allen

      Founder & President of Skotos Tech, producer and editor of many games, and social software expert. He blogs over at Life with Alacrity.

      Dr. Richard Bartle

      Co-creator of the original MUD, author of 'Designing Virtual Worlds', and professor of computer game design at the University of Essex. ...and

    • by merreborn (853723)

      Either way, he expects to deliver the API-s, the sample isometric world viewer... and then expects their "users" to code everything, from the hot 3D versions, to the cellphone clients.


      Second Life pretty much did the same thing. I think it's fair to say that it worked out fairly well for them.
  • Is it just me, or does anyone else keep seeing 'Meatplace' instead of 'Metaplace'?
    • by Joehonkie (665142)
      I see Meatplace. Sounds like a happy, but extremely gross place to be.
      • by Evangelion (2145)
        I keep seeing Meatplace, and then somehow my brain translates that into "Meatspace", which is like the exact opposite.
      • I think Meetplace or Meetspace would be a good name for a single's bar. Perhpas 'The Meet Market'.
    • by iainl (136759)
      Even worse, I read it as "Marketplace" at first, and wondered (a) what was new about the XBox Live online shop, and (b) why Koster was involved.
  • by glindsey (73730) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @08:38AM (#20666077)
    Unless my MetaSpace can be painted in green and magenta, be decorated with four hundred billion "sparkly" stickers and "hilarious" photos and video clips that "YOU JUST GOTTA SEE", and have horrendous low-quality looping emo-rock in the background, it doesn't belong on my MySpace page, dammiT!
  • Lot's of Blahblah, the only thing downloadable is a zip of various versions of the companys icons, no technocal details and registration for the alpha version gives no details but requires one to fill out aprox. 50 fields with personal details. ... etc.

    The impression of this website fits to what many people here are saying: That this guy is know for large-type gameproject screwups and shady marketing ploys. To me it looks like a marketing scheme to push some half-assed idea and grab a little cash on the way
    • by Aladrin (926209)
      15 seconds on a site about a toolkit that's in pre-alpha told you whether it would succeed or not?

      What's the lottery numbers this week, while you're at it?
  • As their servers can't even handle a slashdotting! How are they going to handle thousands of virtual worlds?
  • In 6 months, we'll see thousands of "JOIN MY RAD MMO ITS SUPER COOL KTHX" posts and such. Everybody will have their OWN VIRTUAL WORLD with noboby playing them. It's like MUDs. Anybody can host a stock plain MUD, there are already hundreds of them. But they're pretty much all empty unless there are tons of original content.

    So we'll see maybe 1% of original MMOs and the rest will be stock crap. Big deal.

    Also, looking at the website and graphics, it's gonna be: Cute ponies, glitter, anime-style characters, pas
    • Ahh, the skepticism of nerds (complimentary).

      In 6 months, we'll see thousands of "JOIN MY RAD MMO ITS SUPER COOL KTHX" posts and such. Everybody will have their OWN VIRTUAL WORLD with noboby playing them.

      Close. For the intents and purposes of a MMOG, yes nobody will be playing them, except for a handful of people. But if millions of people are each playing around in virtual spaces with handfuls of people, that's still millions of people. Look at myspace. It's crap, only a handful of people visit any indivi

  • Is "slurping" a directory the same thing as "squirting" your favorite song? What ever happened to "copying"?
  • I'd like to live in the ideal world Raph envisions where everyone is nice to each other, they all follow the rules and no one is every a jerk for no reason at all. He had this vision for Ultima Online, and about 250,000 of us know what a player killing free for all fiasco that was. Meanwhile in the real virtual world, the mantra has been proven, "If you build it, someone will take a crap all over it."

    This toolkit sounds like it will have great potential, but because people are jerks, it will be misused to

    • The thing is, Raph's vision of self-policing PVP had worked in MUDs for years. But when you add one part ease-of-play and a quarter million parts WTF BBQ LOL, something bad is bound to happen.
  • Metaplace vs Second Life vs Multiverse [multiverse.net]:
    • Licensing: Second Life has released its client under the GPL, and has claimed that it will release its server code under the GPL as well. This means I can host my own private 3D world on my own server. Metaplace claims its clients will be open source, but remains silent on its server. Multiverse's client and server are proprietary. The client is gratis, but the server is only gratis for non-commercial use. Commercial use can be licensed flat-fee or through revenue sha
  • So how does it work when a World of WarCraft character, a StarWars Galaxy character, and a MySpace user decide to PVP?
    • The SWG character dies first (he forgot to get buffs) from the sonic blast created by the MySpace users background music. The MySpace user does a /dance but at the exact same moment an undead rogue ganks the MySpace user. The rogue's attack comes so fast that it's not even registered by the MySpace users client and their avatar continues to dance for five minutes even though their health is zero. The rogue vanishes and heads over to Toon Town Online.

    • by Pearson (953531)
      So how does it work when a World of WarCraft character, a StarWars Galaxy character, and a MySpace user decide to PVP?

      I didn't RTFA, or course, but if the world the characters are in doesn't specifically recognize the items and abilities of each character, their interaction in that world would be limited to things that originated in the world they are currently in. So if you bring your lightsaber into a pirate PVP world, it becomes just a visual prop. To have a sword fight, you'd have to acquire a sword

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