40 Comments

Summary:

Call it Second Life on the web, call it an MMO markup language, call it the most powerful open-standards, web-driven game platform ever made public — however you end up describing it, we finally have the main details to go on. After a year of rumors […]

Koster at Techcrunch 40

Call it Second Life on the web, call it an MMO markup language, call it the most powerful open-standards, web-driven game platform ever made public — however you end up describing it, we finally have the main details to go on. After a year of rumors and terse venture funding announcements around Raph Koster’s new San Diego-based startup, Areae, his stealth Internet project is finally public.

Hours before he went onstage at TechCrunch 40 to officially introduce Metaplace, Areae’s metaverse for the web, Koster’s publicists finagled me an extensive interview and first look at the platform. Formerly Sony Online’s creative director, Koster also directed the Star Wars Galaxies MMO and led design on the groundbreaking MMO Ultima Online. So everyone in the online game/virtual world industry has been eagerly waiting to see just what he was planning.

To be honest, I’d expected a user-created online world built on top of a Java platform or something. Instead, Koster’s vision is far more ambitious: in effect, he’s proposing to make online world elements like dynamic, graphically shared space, avatars, and virtual currency part of the standard code which drives the web. How is that possible, and how can they compete in such a crowded market? What follows are my first hasty notes, on the day the web married the metaverse.

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.” 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.

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. In the demo, Raph showed me a Habbo Hotel-style living room (Metaplace will launch with this 2D isometric graphics view as standard), but Raph and his team expect the variety of worlds to grow with their tools, eventually accommodating hardcore MMOs like World of Warcraft—or even a new Second Life.

So instead of a single contiguous world, someone visiting the Metaplace web site gets presented with a YouTube-style home page (see photo of Metaplaces Beta log-in page). Instead of videos, however, you have a variety of worlds to choose from, with ratings in terms of popularity, genre, and other categories. This prevents users looking for different worlds with different audiences and genre expectations getting their experiences crossed. (Or as Koster calls it: “Oh no, you got my Cartoon Network in my Suicide Girls!”)

Gaming the system: Koster eats his dog food

As a renowned game developer, Koster has a rolodex of top developers in games and the tech world in general, and says Areae has been talking with an A-list roster of people interested in creating their projects in Metaplace. More key, Koster say he’ll be developing his own next MMO on the Metaplace network, which will probably gain a large audience in and of itself (thanks to his reputation) — while also creating a signature prototype for his company’s platform. (Koster wouldn’t provide any details on his new game, however — he said he’s saving that for a later announcement.)

Areae’s many revenue models

- World-making is free — much like some introductory blog services, 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.
- Virtual currency can be spent across the network, and can be sold for real cash — which users and developers can buy from Areae.
- An 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.


Philosophical Differences: Metaplace vs. Second Life

While Second Life is evolving as an immersive 3D metaverse which slowly incorporates web elements like XML and RSS in-world, Metaplace is beginning as a web-based network which swallows the attributes of online worlds. As Koster put it: “We don’t think the Net is getting stuffed inside a giant 3D client.” That’s just the Second Life strategy, which demonstrates the fundamental philosophical difference between Raph Koster’s Areae and Philip Rosedale’s Linden Lab. Rosedale wants a one-world utopia where all Second Life users share the same space. Koster wants a metaverse that looks more like the web. “Cramming people into one world doesn’t make sense to us,” he told me.

Metaplace: The geek details

- Content creators will use the Lua programming language.
- Client agnostic.
- Fully interoperable with the web.
- Modular scripts that are click-and-draggable from world to world.
- Every object in Metaplaces is a web object, and can thus serve XML data. (“We speak web top to bottom.”)
- World developers have tools to charge their users Metaplace money, which they can then convert into U.S. dollars. (Which is why you’ll need to give Areae your Tax ID number, when cashing out.)
- Areae is now developing an open source 3D engine and cell phone-driven platform. (“All of our clients will be open source.”)
- Speaking of which, Creative Commons licensing is in consideration. “That seems like a natural fit.” (And notably CC evangelist Cory Doctorow is on Areae’s board of advisors, along with other stellar MMO figures.)
- Open Beta planned for Spring 2008.
- Alpha testing begins now, starting with 50 volunteers. In later months, that will expand to 500, and by the time it goes to closed Beta by the end of the year, will have room for up to 5000, a community of early adopters which Areae will help teach to use the development tools. Go to the Metaplace site to apply for an opening.

  1. Metaplace Web Virtual World Launches

    Metaplace, a company founded by San Diego-based Areae, has just launched a virtual world that can be embedded on the Web via a flash-based client widget. Every world is indexed, tagged and rated by users on the Metaplace portal, so virtual worlds in th…

    Share
  2. Talk about timing. I just posted about Shotcode/Semacode combined with Ajax Life as something worth exploring. (http://www.your2ndplace.com/node/575 )

    Of course, Koster’s making a US only metaplace if it requires a US Tax ID. Thats a shame. But then I’ve found in his essays that he is limited to that mindset. It could probably go a lot further if he had international buy-in. I’d hoped he would have bypassed this governor he has. Thankfully, he is not the only one thinking of such things.

    Share
  3. Get a real life!

    Share
  4. Interesting stuff, would love to be on the alpha.

    Share
  5. Some great ideas, will have to see how this pans out in terms of wider browser support. Interesting that they chose to use Lua for scripting – it’s a nice lightweight language, but why not use JavaScript, which is embedded in every browser and the world’s most popular scripting language (according to Evans Data this year), due to AJAX, Flash and Web 2.0.

    Share
  6. I’m looking forward to hearing more from both Areae and Conduit Labs. Have you checked out the later, Wagner?

    Share
  7. Perhaps it would be nice to combine Metaplace with this tool of converting 2d images to 3d objects:

    http://blog.scifi.com/tech/archives/2007/09/17/motionportrait.html

    Share
  8. [...] Of course, lots of people out there really do get it. My favorite article so far has been the one on GigaOM. [...]

    Share
  9. [...] en savoir plus, je vous recommande cette interview : Metaplace Unveiled, Raph Koster Brings Virtual World To The Web, ou encore cet article de la BBC : Virtual worlds opened up to [...]

    Share
  10. Metaplace: un lenguaje para crear juegos masivos online

    La compañía de Ralph Koster, Areae, acaba de presentar su proyecto: Metaplace, un script language para crear juegos masivos multijugador. Los detalles de este interesantísimo proyecto los podéis leer en el artículo.

    Share
  11. i’m still not clear how this works – is it a plugin? is it flash-based? okay i understand the worlds are described as xml (?), but how are they rendered? what exactly happens when i log in to a world on their site? it seems the dataformat is more central to the concept of openness than the client itself, presuming it is a client or plugin model.

    and i think the use of lua is a big plus. who really wants javascript to be the only deployment option available? options people!

    Share
  12. [...] crowd who obsess over this sort of thing. And now the devil will be in the details (and read the GigaOM article for a starter on that (and that’s where my ballpark predictions start to go wildly [...]

    Share
  13. [...] of items between the virtual worlds in Metaplace itself). While Raph suggests that users can build their own ‘World of Warcraft’ if they wish, the obvious benefit is the simplicity of the platform which sounds no more difficult [...]

    Share
  14. [...] “What’s more, you can link your world to someone else’s world. Put a doorway in your virtual apartment that leads to Pirate Vs Ninja-land! Stick your world in a widget on your Facebook or MySpace profile. Mail it to a friend and they can log in with one click.” You can read more in Wagner James Au’s story about MetaPlace on GigaOm. [...]

    Share
  15. This looks like it will revolutionize the MMO world as we know it… interesting.

    India Web 2.0 News

    Share
  16. [...] programa es obra de Ralph Koster, que ya cuenta con experiencia en la creación de universos ficticios para multijugadores, como [...]

    Share
  17. [...] World News and GigaOM have writeups of the presentation at the TechCrunch Conference, while Areae’s Community [...]

    Share
  18. Metaplace – The Next Big Thing?

    The majority of products fail to live up to the hype but I guess there’s no harm in putting a little faith in reserve for those things you believe may be the next big thing.

    Share
  19. [...] Metaplace Unveiled: Raph Koster Brings Virtual World To The Web « GigaOM (tags: gigaom.com 2007 mes8 dia21 metaplace Raph_Koster mmog webservices games) [...]

    Share
  20. New Virtual Tool “Metaplace” Empowers Users to Build Own Worlds

    A new tool that allows users to create their own virtual world has been launched, where anybody can create virtual worlds that can be used cross-platform, with no knowledge of difficult computer languages.The new tool called Metaplace, was developed by…

    Share
  21. [...] Metaplace seems like Second Life done right.  [...]

    Share
  22. Metaplace.com – Show Me Your World, I’ll Show You Mine

    Selbstverwirklichung und einbringen der eigenen Kreativität wird immer wichtiger – gerade im Web 2.0 Zeitalter. Große Communities wie MySpace oder Facebook sind nicht zuletzt so erfolgreich, weil man seine Profile nahezu unbegrenzt nach Belieben …

    Share
  23. Areae’s Metaplace concept sounds very exciting! As projects and worlds develop, more info will be posted on this wiki – http://www.metaplacewiki.com. Check it out and feel free to contribute!

    Share
  24. so, would it not be interesting if facebook immediately latched on?

    Share
  25. [...] tech crowd who obsess over this sort of thing. And now the devil will be in the details (read the GigaOM article for a starter on that, and where my ballpark predictions start to go wildly [...]

    Share
  26. [...] is a web-based program developed by Ralph Koster, one of the developers of massively multiplayer online games such as Ultima Online. He left SONY [...]

    Share
  27. [...] 2007 at 7:19 AM PT | 2 comments The number one use of user-created content in virtual spaces, as Metaplace creator Raph Koster once sagely observed, is the screenshot. “That’s actually where the action [...]

    Share
  28. I find it amazing that people can make 10k to half a million friends on the Internet yet they cant say hello to the passing neighbor.

    I think getalife.com at this point is very much needed.

    Share
  29. [...] meer informatie, bekijk het officiële forum of dit artikel. Plaats op eKudos Plaats op [...]

    Share
  30. [...] virtual worlds), and Turner (which recently bought partnered with Kaneva), scrappy start-ups like Metaplace and Ogoglio, and lumbering into the proceedings like they always have, Microsoft with Virtual Earth [...]

    Share
  31. [...] James Au of GigaOM gave the new software a great writup.  At the TechChrunch40 conference, were Metaplace was [...]

    Share
  32. “I find it amazing that people can make 10k to half a million friends on the Internet yet they cant say hello to the passing neighbor.

    I think getalife.com at this point is very much needed.”

    I find it amazing how some people, think their ‘preferred meaningful activities’ are objectively and unarguably more worthwhile, than the chosen activities of others.

    Maybe,
    some people don’t want to talk with their neighbours because they are likely to share little common ground, if they
    ‘vibed well’ then they’d talk.

    More importantly, with over 1000 online friends who share your passions…
    why would you NEED to talk to every random stranger who you walk past?
    it can be fun to do so, but implying that it’s ‘wrong’ to not do so, is the height of insanity.

    ‘Get a life’?
    what is a ‘life’?
    no, really…

    as long as we’re alive, and doing activities that we find fun and/or meaningful then we already have a good ‘life’ of lifestyle.

    Saying, that people who spend most of their time talking with online friends are not as happy as those who communicate face to face…
    is eqivalent to saying that people who drive red cars are far happier than those who drive green.

    I for one do talk with my neighbours,
    and spend 5 hours a day online.
    This is a good lifestyle for me.

    Share
  33. [...] Metaplace Unveiled: Raph Koster Brings Virtual World To The Web « GigaOM (tags: metaplace) [...]

    Share
  34. [...] meer informatie, bekijk het officiële forum of dit artikel. Stem of voeg toe aan [...]

    Share
  35. [...] company. What’s more likely is that EA will look for other acquisitions. Raph Koster, who started a company that bridges the web with virtual worlds, notes that EA seems to be moving towards global media concerns while Activision (ATVI) has been [...]

    Share
  36. [...] Check out the GigaOm article here [...]

    Share
  37. [...] description and development schedule, it’ll be competing with platforms like Raph Koster’s Metaplace or Three Ring’s Whirled; to really compete, however, EA will have to let Sims Carnival users [...]

    Share
  38. [...] Koster first gave me a detailed demo of Metaplace, back in September 2007, the MMO was still in alpha and the company (which he co-founded with John Donham) was still called [...]

    Share
  39. [...] it is many virtual worlds that can be accessed from one place. It is much better explained in this article, and on the (currently bogged down) Metaplace website. Congrats to Raph and company on the [...]

    Share
  40. [...] standard code which drives the web” This quote is from an interview Koster gave in 2007 with GigaOm, just before he officially introduced Metaplace at Techcrunch. He said that Up to now, most MMOs [...]

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post