At the heart of my cheesy bet with Cory is the tension between virtual worlds created by savvy, experienced developers and virtual worlds created by some schmo in his/her garage. I was betting on Hollywood and he was betting on the people (no matter that I would prefer to lose).
Which is the future of virtual worlds? Experts or the masses? Multiverse appears to be hedging its bets by allowing its tool set to be used by either. And it's no longer vaporware, as their open beta is now out.
Their newsletter post reads:
The Multiverse team proudly announces the launch of our long-awaited open beta program. The Multiverse platform is now publicly available for download<http://www.multiverse.net/developer/login.jsp>and development (you'll need your developer program login info).
The Multiverse platform opens a new chapter in MMOG and virtual world
development: a robust, scalable, extensible platform available without prohibitive up-front licensing fees. A plethora of new worlds, new game ideas, and new creative visions of all kinds will be built on the platform.
*This beta release is most appropriate for teams with experienced engineers.
* Ideally, you should be comfortable with command-line interfaces and hand-editing config files. Future releases will be increasingly "user-friendly", so jump in whenever you like. And naturally, there are still bugs to be worked out and features to be added, but we're ready to take the next step in building the Multiverse.
They ask, "What world will you build?" Like many, I'm curious. Ted gets to start building Arden, which is terrifically cool.
Now, will Multiverse be the equivalent of really good mod tools like Half Life 2's or NeverWinter Nights'? Will there be filtering technology to let the best worlds rise to the top like a good mod? Will anyone interconnect their worlds a'la Snow Crash's "Street"? Or will the whole thing be so dang hard to use that it'll just subsidize a few indie developers and then flame out as more polished titles like WoW dominate?
If you are of the long tail persuasion, you probably want to see the niche thrive and hope that Multiverse is the silver bullet.
Or maybe you are a Second Lifer sensing barbarians at the gate . . .