Millions of people can't ever, ever be wrong, right? We seem to love spending huge stretches gallivanting across virtual worlds. Now, with the arrival of Metaplace, the creation of those worlds winds up in the end user's hands, for better or worse.
The website crashed soon after it went live on September 18, as curious gamers by the ton stormed the site, knocking out its service. A potential reason for the level of interest may be found in a promise from the service's designers:
You should be able to stage up a massively multiplayer world with basic chat and a map you can build on in less than five minutes. It's that easy. Inherit a stylesheet -- puzzle game, or shooter, or chat world -- and off you go! Building maps and places is as easy as pasting in links from the Web, and dragging and dropping the pictures into your world.
There have been multiple announcements of late that promise gamers a chance to make and share games, as opposed to relying on designers and publishers to deliver their entertainment. Microsoft's XNA will provide coding tools to gamers who have some experience working in Visual C, to allow the creation of games for both PC and the Xbox 360.
Metaplace doesn't mess around with any of that complex pyramid-style coding. They stick with webbing:
Every world is a web server, and every object has a URL. You can script an object so that it feeds RSS, XML, or HTML to a browser. This lets you do things like high score tables, objects that email you, player profile pages right on the player -- whatever you want.
Metaplace might be able to back up its fighting words. Raph Koster is the most prominent name behind Metaplace; he was a lead designer for Ultima Online as well as the ambitious but flawed Star Wars: Galaxies.
In his blog, Koster explained some of his hopes for the future of Metaplace. One in particular stands out:
"[I hope] someone makes an MMO bigger than WoW in it."