There have been many rumours about what MMO pioneer Raph Koster‘s new company Areae is all about. He had very strong opinions back then in an interview with Reuters in Second Life about what Second Life eventually might do wrong. He was not reveiling anything about their product though.
So now it’s out. At TechCrunch 40 it was reveiled and it’s called Metaplace (the site is right now slashdotted and a bit slow). According to GigaOM it is not a new online world but instead it seems to be more of a framework of standards based components with which you can create your own world quickly. Raph calls it “A Web browser with virtual world capability”.
What is Metaplace?
So there are some parts of the system as I understand it:
- A tool kit for building virtual worlds as well as a community/marketplace for selling your own components such as templates, scripts, objects. This marketplace is hosted on the Areae network (this is apparently for developers)
- A way of creating your own instance of a virtual world. Thus it is not a contigous world such as Second Life. The Metaplace web site is then the place to collect all these virtual worlds and instead of e.g. having videos on the YouTube homepage you will have virtual worlds on the Metaplace homepage. According to the homepage you can make a world in 5 minutes.
- Worlds can be interconnected via “doorways”. You can also stick your world as a widget into MySpace or Facebook.
- Right now there are only clients for all sorts of 2D game graphics but 3D will come.
- It is an open standard for interacting with servers. According to the website everybody can write a client (no word about a server though and it seems not to be open source).
- Part of Metaplace is a scripting language called Metascript which is based on Lua
So how will Areae make money from that? Creating worlds seems to be free but they will be charging eventually for heavy traffic sites. Also it will allow for sponsored worlds, for some adsense-style network and more.
So it’s all a bit blurry at the moment what all that really means and there is not much to see right now. There is a signup for an alpha test on the homepage but such signups do not really look that open. But Raph Koster is of course an important figure in game development and has quite a bunch of contacts so there’s a huge chance for Metaplace to gain momentum if these people in the scene will start using it.
As for the openness I am also not that sure as it still seems to be very much centered around the Metaplace website. Also there is no word of open source nor seems the open standard yet to be published somewhere.
The big question is also what it means in relation to Linden Lab’s recent plans to create an open, standardized architecture for virtual worlds. And this is also where Raph Koster in the GigaOM article is maybe wrong when he states that Linden Lab just wants to make one world and cram everybody into it. With the new architecture discussion this point seems not so valid anymore.
But how this evolves needs to be seen. Fact seems to be that more and more people are now trying to create virtual world/metaverse standards and it looks like some sort of VW war is coming up. Hopefully they will talk to each other and try to cooperate. This will help us all in the end.
PS: More information can also be found at Virtual World News.