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Raph Koster Talks Differences Between Online Worlds And Metaverse In New Blog

Is there a difference? Apparently so.

Joseph Bradford Updated: Posted:
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Raph Koster of Playable Worlds dove a bit into the current discourse surrounding metaverses and online worlds, expounding up what the differences are between the two. 

As Koster points out, many people are talking about the metaverse lately (and not simply to clear the next palace in Persona 5 Royal). But what exactly is the metaverse and how does it differ from a regular old online world, or even a digital multiverse? 

Koster, who is working with his new studio Playable Worlds on an upcoming MMORPG, touches on exactly how to view each and how they lead into each other.

"Online worlds lead to multiverses which lead to metaverses. And just about no one has actual metaverses to offer right now. Second Life is not a metaverse; after all, it’s just one world. A social online world oriented around creativity."

As Koster mentions, online worlds have been around since the 70s, and while they have been around for quite some time, oftentimes, according to Raph, they can be confused for a metaverse. The idea of a multiverse has been around for quite some time as well, and Koster says a major differentiator between an online world and a multiverse is down to the number of worlds and rulesets governing those worlds as well. 

"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."

However, the metaverse itself is something else entirely, as it operates with the real world itself. Koster uses his metaverse created back in 2006, Metaplace, as an example of this, as it interoperated with the real world itself and allowed users to create entire worlds from the ground up to coexist with the worlds the developers and other users created.

"Metaplace could perform Shakespeare plays from XML files on random websites, it could display a walkable version of an Amazon storefront, it could source data from Google Maps or talk to Google Translate on the fly, host live concerts, and much more. Basically, it could do anything the web does, and put it in a virtual space."

It's a fascinating read, and gives some insight into the discourse surrounding metaverses going on in gaming and technology at large today. 


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Joseph Bradford

Joseph has been writing or podcasting about games in some form since about 2012. Having written for multiple major outlets such as IGN, Playboy, and more, Joseph started writing for MMORPG in 2015. When he's not writing or talking about games, you can typically find him hanging out with his 10-year old or playing Magic: The Gathering with his family. Also, don't get him started on why Balrogs *don't* have wings. You can find him on Twitter @LotrLore