Have you heard the term metaverse lately? If you’re a fan of online worlds or social media, you’ve probably heard the term a lot lately, although it’s not entirely clear what it is. Is it just a buzzword used to hype a new upcoming game, or is it the future of connected social interactions? Now that many high-profile companies are investing heavily to create or be part of “metaverses,” we decided to pop the question to someone who has actually created a metaverse in the past. Recently I was able to sit down with Raph Koster, the MMORPG legend, and chat a little bit about what a metaverse is, as well as some details regarding in-game economic theory, blockchain games, and an upcoming project he’s working on.
Few developers understand building virtual worlds as well as Raph Koster. Most MMORPG players know Raph for his work as the lead designer of Ultimate Onlineor as a creative director Star Wars galaxies. You might even know him from his new studio Playable Worlds, which is ready to develop a new game based on a fresh IP. What you may not know is that Raph also created a virtual platform called meta place, which was intended for users to create virtual worlds, experiences and games. As the architect of one of the first functional metaverses, Koster has learned a great deal about what makes up a metaverse and has seen this concept evolve over the years.
“So Metaverse is fuzzy as hell – there’s no easy way to put it,” he said. We pondered the idea that when gamers think of the metaverse, movies like Ready player one come to mind. These sci-fi stories often give us a conceptualized idea of a very specific metaverse, but these are stories for entertainment, not blueprints. “We’re talking about a sci-fi idea that people treat more or less as implementation instructions, although most of them are dystopias – and try to build what it is.‘ Koster said to me. “Pretty much a vision everyone has in common with Metaverse stuff is that sense of simulated space or location that seemed silly in the mid-2000s because of things like Facebook that weren’t about places. Things like Twitter didn’t matter, and in fact social media ate lunch at MMOs and stole all of our best tricks. There was a time when people thought MMOs were Facebook.”
We came to learn a hard lesson that still pervades our gaming lives and social interactions today. Koster noted that the premise of these sci-fi metaverses, like Ready player one were wrong, largely because they completely missed the rise and eventual dominance of the smartphone. It’s a lesson that taught developers that you don’t need a headset or some sort of haptic rig to play the Metaverse. “The metaverse is about the servers, not the clients. It will accept as many customers as possible, just as the web accepts as many customers as possible.‘ Raph explained.
The main point is that there is no single definition of what the metaverse is or requires. There are no specific checkboxes for the hardware required to participate. It’s a mix of virtual, physical and social spaces that hasn’t fully matured yet. Unfortunately, Koster continues, a metaverse doesn’t happen overnight. He went on to give this warning:
“(The Metaverse) is possible to build, but no, we shouldn’t expect it any time soon. Anyone out there promising the Metaverse in the next decade is selling something.”
Despite the notion that we might be waiting a while for a real metaverse, Raph and I jumped onto the topic of the metaverse and how it affects games. “A game is something you put in a virtual world. A virtual world does not require a game,” he began, “Before theme park and sandbox were the terms we said worldy MMO and that feels to me like something that has been lost and in some ways Metaverse is the most worldly of them all.This is not to say that any virtual world will keep players and users as present and immersed as some online games currently do. To Köster’s chagrin, immersion doesn’t always take precedence, especially when it comes to games and virtual worlds.
We’ve seen instances of this in MMORPGs for decades. In many ways, quality of life characteristics are the opposite of immersion, but sometimes convenience is more important than realism. “Perhaps the path of the future is not immersion, but connectedness in a different sense. There’s a different sense of connectedness that comes from being in the orbit of something. The smart way to think about a brand or fictional universe is, yes, the people who read the Superman or Spiderman comics are your direct customers, but a stone’s throw away is someone who doesn’t read them but does watching cartoon . You push yourself far enough to get to the children carrying the Underoos. It’s still in orbit, they’re still connected to it in some way.”
Throughout the metaverse at large, these types of connections create “vines” that seep into other directions in your life. It doesn’t always mean that the real world will break through to your MMORPG games. Instead, the opposite could happen, as Raph explains: “Maybe the way you think about it isn’t so much that the metaverse invades all these real things, it can also be the opposite. Also, as I walk around town, I may get little tendrils of the fantasy kingdom I’m emotionally invested in.” Technically, says Koster, we are able to do that today. We have the means to make it a reality and Virtual expansion of a game world like Azeroth that people could potentially LARP in. It’s all a matter of means and implementation.
When it came to Köster’s current venture, he was outspoken when it came to the kind of experience players should expect:
“We’re making a sandbox MMO, aimed at MMO players, just to be super, super, crystal clear.”
He couldn’t reveal too much information about the title’s ins and outs, but players should expect an adaptive design that allows the developers to make changes in the world at a relatively fast pace. Due to the cloud-native architecture, players will see numerous benefits, such as greater security and the lack of huge downloads or patches. Cloud native gaming isn’t perfect, there will be some minor but inherent issues such as: B. increased latency, but Koster believes the benefits of a cloud-native approach outweigh the issues gamers often face when games are kept largely client-side.
Finally, we’ve turned the corner on a topic that Koster himself has talked about extensively in his recent blogs on the Playable Worlds website – how does ownership play into games these days? Our conversation went at great length about who actually owns the rights to the assets you’ve purchased, whether it’s an in-game cosmetic or an NFT chimpanzee. Here’s what he had to say:
“Ownership of Everything digital is an illusory period, triple underlined and bold. Whoever operates the server is a guarantor. This is where it becomes meta, meaning that in the real world ownership of anything is also illusory. If I break into your house and steal your TV and run away with it, you can claim it’s your property, but I’m the one who can watch Netflix on it. So in the real world there is a guarantor called government and a government that guarantees that no, The actually belongs to that person. Well, guarantors, it’s turtles all the way down. The problem right now with digital ownership is that there’s a really clear line where it goes from digital guarantee to real-world guarantee, and the easiest place to locate that line is at the end of the power plug on the server. Whoever has the power button of a server has ownership. It’s pretty hard to get around that right now, even with really cool decentralized models.”
We couldn’t go into detail about how ownership would be handled in Raph’s upcoming game, but it’s safe to say that Raph sees ownership pretty clear when it comes to digital assets. It’s also important to note that Raph believes there are use cases for decentralized public databases like blockchain. How the technology evolves and is used in the future will be the true test of its value.
Obviously the conversation with Raph Koster touched on many topics, and while the minimally edited video version is almost an hour and 45 minutes long, there were still many topics that we weren’t able to address. If you’re looking for an extrapolated take and more information on the Metaverses, cloud-native development and the Playable Worlds game, be sure to watch the entire video interview.
https://www.mmorpg.com/videos/interview-raph-koster-on-the-metaverse-cloud-native-gaming-and-playable-worlds-project-2000124582 Interview: Raph Koster on The Metaverse, Cloud Native Gaming and Playable Worlds’ Project