Why play someone else's virtual world when you can build your own?
That's the major premise behind Metaplace, a new browser-based virtual-world platform from, among others, former Sony Online Entertainment chief creative officer Raph Koster.
Built to run inside the browser on any Internet-connected machine, Metaplace employs a simple, 2D, Flash-based graphics system that fronts for a fairly sophisticated set of content creation tools and what may one day be a complex open-ended economy built around user-created content.
In fact, because of the 2D and Flash nature of Metaplace, it's easy to miss that the platform offers users some of the easiest virtual-world building tools that have ever been made available. And while Metaplace has been in closed beta since October, it is expected to emerge into a public and open beta period sometime later this year. See below for an invite to the closed beta.
The company, which was formerly known as Areae, raised a $6.7 million funding round last October, led by Charles River Ventures. In total, it has raised $9.4 million.
Rising to the top Metaplace has a little something for everyone. For the casual users, it has any number of user-created worlds to play, and there's a basic central Metaplace world that is an easy gathering place. Each can be rated, and the highest-rated rise to the top, allowing users to skip messing around with the system's chaff and instead concentrate on the wheat. But for those who are interested in creating their own virtual world, Metaplace offers a cornucopia of tools and choices that make it quick and easy to get a brand new world up and running.
Of course, as with any user-generated content system, the good creations are far outweighed by the bad. As Koster himself put it, "There are more than 25,000 Metaplace worlds, most of them are empty and most of them are crap."
But if it sounds like Koster is bashing his own system, he's not. Rather, he's touting how easy it is for anyone to start a virtual world that itself can be accessed by anyone on the Internet in mere seconds. Indeed, it's not an exaggeration to say that just about anyone could have a rudimentary Metaplace world up and running in less than five minutes. … Read more