From the guy who promised us a whole new way to look at the world of online gaming and the MMORPG, you can be sure that I was pretty excited to see the first public release of a Metaplace application. On Thursday, Raph Koster and Areae announced that it was time to show the world a glimpse of their latest project, Metaplace.
Web Chat. Metachat Live Chat w/ Ur Friends! I uh oh'd.
Ok, it's more than just webchat. It's webchat where you can look up stock quotes, weather and share youtube video. I lied. Its just webchat. Ok, you can throw snowballs and tomatoes at eachother's thumbnail icons and kick a virtual soccer ball around the 2D soccer field. It's really just webchat, right?
If this had come out in 1999, I would have been completely blown away. The touted technology behind Metaplace's Metachat is its ability to interface with other available webservices. Another way of looking at Metachat is as a platform where people can share the internet with eachother and exchange ideas all in one place and throw tomatoes at each other. I think.
One of the points covered in the Metachat bulletin states: "You’ll notice some examples of web integration, with many of the features using web services to talk to other websites. We’ve talked about this before, but its one thing to talk about it and another to see it in action."
While the nerdy programmer part of me is intrigued by the potential for this sort of application to be expanded on once the developer tools are released for Metaplace, the gaming side of me wants to know why I wasted thirty minutes of time nerding out over web chat. The business side of me once again says "Wow, Raph is a genius. People are going to eat this POS up like it was crack flavored candy at a Washington, DC buffet".
In the end, I was throroughly unimpressed with our first look at Metaplace. While it makes for an ok chat addition to a website, it lacks any substantial value or contribution to the progression of online technology as promised.
Raph's MMORPG background comes to light with Metachat because it gives off a feeling of being released before it was complete. Sure, you can look up your local weather and stock quotes, but you are returned a simple one line text block with your query. You can search and share YouTube videos, but you have no control over layout or window placement. The worst part is we are represented by a squished up icon of your MySpace icon.
Maybe I'm being overly judgemental about a chat interface that was released to give an insight into the world of Metaplace. I really do get the whole point of Metaplace. I understand the vision. I agree with the vision. I'm just not so sure this application in any way represents my interpretation of the vision.
Sometime back in the 80's, my older brother bought a game for our Commodore 64 called Zork: The Great Underground Empire. He told me about how great this game was. At the time, I was barely 12 and my idea of an ideal video game was the current suite of Laser Disc based video games such as Space Ace and Dragon's Lair. To me, that was the cutting edge of technology at the time.
One day, I started up Zork to see for myself. You know load "*",8,1
West of House
You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.
There is a small mailbox here.
WTF is THAT!? Little did I know at that time that I would go on to complete and enjoy all of the games in the Zork series, which led to MUD's which led to MMORPG's twenty years later.
Is Metachat a prelude of many great things to come? Is it the tip of an undersea volcano, peeking its ugly head above the ocean, ready to build a whole new continent based on Metaplace? Only time will tell. I'm still skeptical at this point.