Well, the response in the media is pretty much what I expected. Some people get it. Some don’t. In fact, lots of people don’t. The Slashdot peanut gallery have their standard issue complaints and fears and generalized whining comments proving that they need a long session with a cluebat. I’m almost kind of embarrassed to have reported the story to them. I figure I may as well answer a few of the more notable concerns people have raised.
- It’s just VRML all over again!
- No. It isn’t. VRML was a poorly supported web browser extension. It piggybacked on the hype surrounding “virtual reality” that was so popular in the early 90’s. Metaplace is a game platform. Yes, in theory, you could use it to build a 3d rotating model of a cow (or whatever it was that people tried to use VRML for – I think I only ever stumbled across two sites attempting to use the stuff, and one was the cow)… but you can also use it to build a 2d sidescrolling platformer or a puzzle game or an identical clone of roughly half of all virtual worlds currently on the market. It wouldn’t be unthinkably difficult to re-create Habbo Hotel or Club Penguin or even Puzzle Pirates on the Metaplace platform (and, just in case I’ve not been clear on this in the past, Puzzle Pirates really is awesome, btw…).
- It’s just a Second Life clone!
No. It isn’t. Second Life is a walled garden. Second Life is a single virtual world that gives users an enormous amount of freedom to deface the experiences of others. It’s a proprietary system. It only works on certain hardware and offers the users no protection from flying 3d models of genitalia and v1agr ads…
Metaplace provides an experience more like the web – individual builders will have control over the content of their worlds. Anyone can create a web page today and control what is or is not allowed on there. Likewise, anyone will be able to create a metaplace virtual world and will have control over who is allowed to build there. If you don’t want random users to be allowed to past video of barfing dogs all over your chess tournament world, you don’t have to let them.
- It’s just a Multiverse clone!
No. It isn’t. Multiverse is a Windows-only proprietary system for creating/playing 3d games. They license the technology out. It also has an utterly enormous learning curve to entry. The tutorial docs on the wiki are just insane – pages and pages of instructions on how to do things that can be done with two or three clicks in Metaplace. If you want to play in a Multiverse game, you have to register for an account, accept strange DirectX EULA’s, etc… If you want to play in a Metaplace game, you probably already have a suitable client installed, and you only have to register for an account if the game itself requires it (ie, for saving character data or something similar).
Metaplace is also not locked down to a single client. Currently, yes, we are writing a Flash 9 client, but that doesn’t mean that all worlds will be restricted to what can be done in Flash. Eventually, there will be DX10 and OGL and whatever else people write for clients. Some worlds will be able to run on cell phone clients while some might require a hardware accelerated 3d client. We’re opening up the network protocol so anyone who wants to can build their own client. I would love it if somebody wrote a cross-platform standalone hardware accelerated client during alpha 😉
- It’s a conspiracy! They’re trying to get other people to do the work for them!
- Huh? What part of user generated content don’t people get? 🙂 Yes, the alpha test application asks about your prior programming experience because we’re releasing a platform for developers. We’d love it if somebody wrote their own building tools for our platform during alpha… but we already have decent tools for that sort of thing, so we’re really interested in people who are going to build and play games with the technology.
- Raph’s letting all of his fans down! He’s not writing a new game after all!
- Actually he is designing a game. And it’s cool. We’re not just throwing an empty platform out there, devoid of content. We like fun. We’re all gamers and game developers here. We’re building a platform that we intend on using ourselves – to release games 😉 It just so happens that we also believe that the future is in letting people build their own content to be consumed wherever they feel like, so we’re giving the platform away in order to help make that happen.
- Hah! Open! Lies!
We honestly are committed to open standards. We’re also committed to the notion of building a stable, quality product. To quote the announcement dev blog post:
… As part of that, we also committed to an open markup standard for our network protocol – anyone can write a client for any platform they want. We decided to use Web standards for everything we could, which is why you can have a game world that is also a website, or use Web data to populate your world. The scripting language (we call it MetaScript, of course) is based on Lua. You get the idea – no “not invented here,” no closed proprietary approaches.
We hope to release as much of our code to the public as is feasible, as soon as it’s actually ready for release. Creative Commons licensing is a possibility.
- It’s all for 13-year-old girls!?!11one!!
The screenshots released and the worlds demoed so far are unfortunately all mellow, pastel, and/or Seussian. And, I will admit that Cuppy built something involving ponies… But there is (and will continue to be) much more content than that. Internally, our more popular games on the platform involve shooting things (and each other) with plasma canons and shotguns. We plan on releasing a bucketload of content for the platform, across multiple genres.
Personally, I am so writing a chess tournament system when I get the chance – and that’ll be code that I release for people to use to build on for their own games (the chess board and the tournament ladder system as separate components), etc… I also want to write a tower defense game… and a farming sim… and a multi-player Zelda style action rpg… and a turn-based tactical strategy game… and… well, yeah. I’ll probably see if I can’t write a Jabber chat proxy too, while I’m at it 😉 Oh, and some SIMud/Walraven type content too…
Of course, lots of people out there really do get it. My favorite article so far has been the one on GigaOM.