Jan 272014

Slide1Periodically I have gotten requests for either audio or video of the talk I gave at Living Game Worlds IV back in 2008. I have the slides, but they aren’t even posted up here, and honestly, without the actual talk, they don’t make much sense.

My talk was complex. I just watched it, and honestly did not remember it all; how it came together linking railroad yards, the first major copyright case, Kenyan mobile phone companies, Wagnerian opera, text muds, shipping containers, molecular biology, microtransactions, and of course, the future of games. But yeah, it hit on all that and more.

Videos from LGW IV (mine is “evening keynote”).

It still feels rather relevant today, even if my ending on Metaplace doesn’t. In many ways, what I was talking about has come true via indie games, Unity, Twine, Gamemaker, and countless other “banjos.” In fact, I am particularly hopeful that it will be watched by those who see me as a ludological fundamentalist or representative of “the old guard” or whatever, as there is a moment in there where I jeer at Game Informer magazine for the ludicrous term “impostor games” they used for games that were not challenge-based. FWIW, I also bluntly call MMOs colonialist and racist at one point.

Continue reading »

Game talkGamemakingThe Ready Player One MMO was Metaplace

 Posted by (Visited 11510 times)  Game talk, Gamemaking  Tagged with: ,
Aug 302013

MMORPG.com has an article about a hypothetical Ready Player One MMO.

For those who haven’t read it, Ready Player One is a novel by Ernest Cline that describes a network of virtual spaces running on a common operating system, called OASIS. The story is a fun romp, not too deep, about a kid who is looking for the secret prize hidden in an insane scavenger hunt scenario by the network’s creator.

The book is full of geek references. The skillful playing of Joust is a key point; so is the ability to recite Ferris Bueller’s Day Off from memory. But of course, part of what captivates a gamer is the description of OASIS itself: a giant network of virtual spaces, capable of encompassing pretty much every sort of virtual space you might want.

So the article asks, what about building something like that. Well, we did.

Metaplace predated the novel. But really, the book describes basically what we built, and which is now gone. (The tech survives, within Disney, but isn’t used in this fashion anymore).

I think many MMORPG fans were barely even aware it existed, because really, it got almost no marketing. And while we were around, people were perpetually confused as to what it was. Frankly, I found it too big an idea to wrap up well in a marketing message.

  • a generic server architecture that could handle anything from arcade games to MMOs. Servers ran in the cloud, so it was designed to be really, really scalable. Just keep adding worlds. At the time we closed it, there were tens of thousands of them.
  • the ability for players to own and make their own spaces. You didn’t even need to know how to make stuff in 3d modeling, it imported SketchUp from Google Warehouse even. You didn’t need to host your own art.
  • scriptable to the point where you could make a whole game in it. The scripting used Lua, which was a barrier for people. We had made moves towards letting people snap together behaviors (drag and drop AI onto something in the world, for example) but probably didn’t go far enough.
  • full web connectivity in and out, so that you could have stuff from the real world manifest in the games, or game stuff feed out to the web. Like, an MMO where the mobs are driven by stock quotes was easy to make. Or hooking a Metaplace world up to say Moodle (for education) or having NPCs read their dialogue from external sources. We had one world which performed any Shakespeare play by reading the plays off of a remote server, spawning NPCs for all the parts, and interpreting the stage directions.
  • agnostic as far as client, so you could connect lo-fi or full fancy 3d — in theory. We never got to the 3d, but we had clients running on mobile devices, PCs, and in web browsers. If we were still pursuing it, you can bet we’d be doing an Oculus version right about now. 🙂
  • worlds connected to one another, and you might change from world to world, but you also had a common identity across all the worlds. You could walk from Pac-Man into Azeroth, so to speak.

I think a lot of people were turned off by the 2d graphics, and a lot were turned off by the fact that there wasn’t a full MMO there to just play, and a lot of people found building too hard. A huge part of why we didn’t succeed is that we were too many things to too many different people, and that split our efforts in far too many directions. The result was a tight but small community that never started to really grow.

But if you were ever wondering why something like the Ready Player One/Snow Crash style world hasn’t been made — well, there it was… open from 2007 to 2009. It saddens me to see it forgotten so quickly, though in many ways it really did end up as just a footnote in virtual world history. I get a lot of “the last thing you did was SWG in 2003” from people who clearly didn’t know it existed or weren’t interested because it wasn’t a hack n slash gameworld.

I might spend the time to dig through some screenshot archives and post up some examples of what got made. I miss that community a lot.

Aug 282013

I didn’t plan it this way, but we have two interviews on back to back days! This one was for Adam Tingle over at MMORPG.com, and it focuses mostly on MMOs specifically, as you might expect, with a lot of retrospective stuff. You can read it here.

We talk a bit about the making of Ultima Online, the development travails of SWG, the promise of Metaplace, and even the origins of sandboxy features back in LegendMUD. A snippet:

MMORPG: Do you believe in structuring a players experience, or prefer giving them tools to create a more emergent adventure?

Raph Koster: Both, really. But I strongly believe that you can’t build the emergent tools on top of a static world. As soon as you decide to make storytelling or quests or whatever the basis of your experience, you sacrifice having dynamic and emergent things in the game, because you can’t break or upset all the static content. Whereas if you start with a foundation of simulation or UGC, and layer static stuff on top, that works fine, because the static content is built to assume shifting foundations.

Jan 252011

This afternoon I was on a panel on mergers and acquisitions in the social games market alongside a bunch of great folks. It was the last session of the day, and they asked me to go “all designery” so I did. 🙂

You can find a liveblog here:

ISA 2011: Live-Blogging the Mergers and Acquisitions Landscape for Small and Mid-Size Developers.

And a news article here:

ISA 2011: Small Developers Don’t Need to Sell Out Yet

You can also get the highlights of the entire conference by simply reading the search results for the #isa2011 hashtag on Twitter.

Game talkMusicMetaplace.com farewell party and concert

 Posted by (Visited 6150 times)  Game talk, Music  Tagged with:
Dec 312009

To say goodbye to Metaplace.com in style, there’s a party scheduled at noon tomorrow January 1st, probably running all the way until the lights go out at midnight. Please come on by and hang out!

I am also going to do one last, final farewell concert, after some users asked me to. It will be at 2pm Pacific (or Metaplace time) in The Stage, and I will embed it here as usual.

Game talkGamemakingMetaplace.com closing

 Posted by (Visited 39479 times)  Game talk, Gamemaking  Tagged with:
Dec 212009

Today we announced that the consumer-facing Metaplace service, the one you all know as the user-generated worlds website at Metaplace.com, is closing on January 1st. There’s a FAQ and an official letter on the site.

The reason? Well, it just hasn’t gotten traction. I have many thoughts on why, but I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t go into all of them right now. It is a sad day for us here, and I know many users are going to be very disappointed by this turn of events.

Metaplace Inc isn’t going away – in fact, we have some pretty exciting plans. But those plans are best shared on a future day.

If we have to sunset the service, we want to do it right. So for the next two weeks – come visit, and enjoy and celebrate all of the amazing creativity and work users put into their worlds. We’re providing a way for users to grab the data that makes up their worlds. We’ll be opening a website for the community so that you don’t lose touch with your Metaplace friends. And we’ll have a big party on the last day – because Metaplace.com will not go quietly, but with the sound of meeps and music and laughter.

It was a wonderful world full of wonderful people, and I will miss it more than I can say.

Nov 172009

I first met Jesse at an event at MIT, where we had a mutual fanboy moment. Now every time his name pops up on a TV screen I get to point it out to the kids. He’s a big thinker on transmedia — the ways in which stories can cross between many media and be “read” at different levels. And today, he’s going cross-media again, with a live chat and Q&A at the Metaplace Stage today at 2pm Pacific. I’ll have it embedded here.

Where: TheStage

When: November 17

Duration: 2:00pm – 3:00pm PST

Jesse Alexander is a former co-executive producer and a writer for the show Heroes. Alexander joined the crew immediately after the pilot and has served as co-executive producer on the first three seasons. In addition to his work on the episodes of Heroes, Jesse also wrote several graphic novels, and worked on the story for the webisode The Recruit.

Jesse previously served as an executive producer and writer on Alias and as a co-executive producer on Lost. He co-wrote the screenplay for the film Eight Legged Freaks. Jesse also helped develop videogames for Alias and Apocalypse. In May 2009 NBC announced that their fall lineup would include a new series, Day One, in which Jesse serves as an executive producer and writer.

(Information from the Heroes Wiki)

Jesse will be holding a Q&A session in Metaplace! You don’t want to miss this!

via Metaplace – Event Details.

Game talkMusicPlaying live Halloween concert tomorrow!

 Posted by (Visited 5043 times)  Game talk, Music  Tagged with: ,
Oct 302009

A collective of Metaplace users led by the intrepid MacZ have set up a huge Halloween event tomorrow. It kicks off at noon Pacific time in the world Riverbeer with costume contests, art displays, and a bridge to similar events in SL., proceeds to hayrides and world tours at 1pm, then Superbad supplies DJ music in The Lotus Room until 4pm.

And then comes the SCARY part. 🙂 I’ll be doing a 2 hour live set of music selected to fit the spooky theme, just me, my guitar, and as many creepy laughs as I can muster! It runs from 4 to 6pm Pacific in The Stage, and I will have it embedded here too. I set up a special version of the venue all decorated up for Halloween.

After my set, we’ll have more DJing, in the same venue, from J-Digital.

This will be the first time I have done a formal virtual concert, and I am terrified. Come share my fear. 🙂