Playable Worlds’ Raph Koster has all but said he’s building a metaverse

    
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No screenshots yet, obviously.

If you’ve been listening to companies like Epic Games yammer about the “metaverse” over the last year and wondered whether it’s all just a lot of simple tricks and nonsense, then you might want to read up, and who better to offer that reading than someone who actually built and ran one? That someone would be MMO developer Raph Koster, and on the dev blog for the unnamed MMORPG sandbox he and other Playable Worlds devs are building, he’s penned a piece trying to disambiguate the term – and going all the way back to 1978 to do it.

“Online worlds lead to multiverses which lead to metaverses,” he begins. “And just about no one has actual metaverses to offer right now.” Things that are not metaverses include Fortnite, which he says is actually a social or creative world; MMORPGs, which fall under the game world category; and even LegendMUD, which offered multiple activities that were merely “extras” when you were tired of murderhoboing. No, he doesn’t use that term. Koster would would never.

“The next step up from this would be a multiverse. Pretty much all graphical online worlds have a single visual theme, you see. Merely hopping between shards of the same game? That’s just load balancing your playerbase, not building a multiverse. In a real multiverse, there are multiple different worlds connected in a network, which do not have a shared theme or ruleset. This lets you hop between very different worlds, with completely different types of experiences. […] The dream of the future is a metaverse. A metaverse is a multiverse which interoperates more with the real world. In most conceptions, it includes significant elements of augmented reality – such as walking around a real city and seeing virtual things. It includes shopping at actual stores via VR interfaces. If you attend classes, it might be a class that has mixed attendance between virtual attendees and physical ones. You might perform a job solely in virtual space, and get paid real money. It blends the real and the virtual. It can still include worlds that are games, and worlds that are social, and worlds that are creative. But it also includes worlds that are digital copies of the real world (called ‘mirror worlds’), including stuff that doesn’t even look like worlds.”

Of course, at this point you’re wondering whether Playable Worlds is building a multiverse. While he doesn’t say, he promises to dive more deeply in a future blog, and he leaves the reader with a pretty heavy tease: “The name of the company is a hint.”

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Neurotic

Love the Lobster!

Geux Bacon
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Geux Bacon

Too many studios are obsessed with mobile and console gaming.

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Rhime

Sounds very Tad William’s “Otherland” ish… 👍

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Jeff Witman

Seems like a lot of extra words just to say they’re building an augmented reality… Thing? Maybe? Or just working on the method of how to do it? It’s not clear exactly what they’re doing other than trying to replace the phrase augmented reality.

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Hikari Kenzaki
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Hikari Kenzaki

Didn’t link to the comment like it should

concept.png
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Hikari Kenzaki

I added elsewhere that you could connect this world to multiple self-contained games. Perhaps even have multiple small devs making the games in question.

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Armsman

Instead of a “metaverse”; It would be nice if Mr Koster actually built one successful MMO and actually stuck with it.

Theory crafting is easy, but actual implementation is where the rubber hits the road. He loves the former but isn’t so good at the latter.

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Ozzie

I think of him as more of a “theoretical scientist” of the MMO/online community sphere, rather than a practical/experimental one. These kinds of people are able to push to envelop of what’s possible, and they’re not more or less important than people who do actual implementation and stick with things. Because of people like him, there’s more exciting stuff to actually implement.

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Raph Koster

By my count, I’ve already built some successful MMOs. :) I’ve also done quite a lot of implementation over the years, you know. Huge amounts of worldbuilding. Quest writing and implementing. On UO I did tech art for stairs, I did art for jungle plants, I did fishing and crafting and pets and the guild system and the house sign menu and just tons more. I even did the client code for the title system. On SWG I did the first pass code on hairdressing, I designed out the proc gen system, the TEF system, I did the design for the Warren… on Metaplace I was the top content creator on the whole platform, and wrote an entire client for it, plus piles of script code. And here at PW I’ve done the first version of several of our internal dev tools. I mean, I sometimes make puzzle games on the weekend for fun. I do a lot of implementing. :)

Leo
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Leo

I usually avoid devs in comments section, but wanted to say that past performance hasn’t guaranteed a lot in the games industry. For example, this site reports some times on Shroud of the Avatar. Many times people have been excited by such-and-such person coming to the fore with a new project, with much excitement based on the past products, and much anger at the end results.

I am not saying you will follow suit, I am just saying that there is much skepticism based on previous projects and big grand ideas.

(This isn’t really a rebuttable based on the comment you are replying too exactly, just this is what came to mind when reading.)

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Raph Koster

I do get that. It just rubs me wrong when someone posts things like “you don’t implement” when they have no way to know, and clearly don’t know.

Geux Bacon
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Geux Bacon

Raph, you would set the gaming world on fire if you would just guide some decent studio to recreate what you did for SWG, and what SOE screwed up with the NGE/CURB. Pick a new IP or something, but a sandbox game like that would be an instant AAA title. It is incredibly depressing that no one has been able to reach that level again in the last decade.

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Bruno Brito

Don’t get me wrong here, Raph, but…

Chris Roberts. Mark Jacobs. Richard Gariott.

I speak only for myself, but i’m a bit exhausted of overhyping rockstar fame and underdelivering.

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CommanderZoom

and Peter Molyneux, my god.

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Paragon Lost

This is a great thread with Raph’s comments and a few others including yours in particular BB. I’ll say that I’ll agree with your examples and strongly at that.

But I’ll further clarify for me at least that I’m willing to give Raph the benefit of the doubt like I did for each of those you listed who I had a lot of respect for.

They blew their credit and then insulted us in many cases as fans of their prior work. I’m willing to give Raph the same, I like his stance on many concepts to do with mmorpg design. I like his past work and his creativity..

So I’ll give him the same respect, interest and patience that I gave Chris Roberts, Mark Jacob and Richard Gariott. Hopefully Raph spends it well and doesn’t burn bridges like those three did.

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Peregrine Falcon

A quick check on Wikipedia tells me that Raph Koster was the lead designer on Ultima Online, back in 1997. So I can agree with ‘he built that.’

But everything since then has been “chief creative officer”, which to me sounds like ‘guy on the team who shares really cool ideas with everyone, but isn’t actually in charge of building the game.’

So I have to say it looks to me like Armsman’s right on this one. He hasn’t “built and stuck with” a successful MMO since 1997.

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Anstalt

I really liked Raph’s blog post (no surprise there!).

I particularly liked the callout for companies claiming to be building a metaverse. Whenever I see someone like Epic or Facebook claim such things, I end up with proper /facepalm moments as none of them seem to grasp what a metaverse is, let alone how they get there. It always just ends up coming across as “we want you to spend all your time using our stuff”.

As for playable worlds…..

I love Raph’s mind! I always end up learning something new, and it always seems to expose just how new the games industry is, and therefore just how inexperienced many of its leaders are. Raph seems to be one of the few visible designers in the industry who not only understands, but is continually seeking more knowledge in order to build games better than what came before. That’s great!

So, I have full confidence in what Playable Worlds are doing and I am greatly excited to see what gets built. All that remains is to see whether the eventual game will be to my tastes or not.

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Rndomuser

Playable Worlds’ Raph Koster has all but said he’s building a metaverse

/me looks at the current size of Playable Worlds, then looks at the available funding information for them:
Oh, so he is building another failure. That’s great. /s

In all seriousness, I am all for enjoying and spending most of my time in large metaverse (the way it existed in certain books, not just “a better version of VRchat”) with good VR support, but I just don’t believe anyone can create one that would be fun enough for large enough amount of people and would last long unless that person has 100’s of millions of $$$ dedicated to that and already has established team of 100’s of people working to create it. I believe Playable Worlds building something like that will be yet another example of “small indie company biting more than they can chew” with pretty obvious results. I can always be wrong (for example, someone may appear and say “here’s $500 million, Playable Worlds, now do whatever you want with it”) but I doubt that I will be.

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Raph Koster

I like how the URL is a plea, and the title draws a different conclusion. :D

As we have said multiple times, we are building a sandbox MMO. One we hope will make you very happy.

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Rav3na3l

To be bluntly honest with the way the genre has gone, just making a sandbox mmo that’s functional and not glitchy will work for me.

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Java Jawa

Okay . . . tldr . . . a game.