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Nov 09, 2006

Comments

1.

Multiverse has potential, but they seem to be having trouble attracting many quality developers so far, which is the same problem Skotos seemed to have when they tried this plan w/ text MUDs. Of course, there's a far larger market of potential developers interested in developing a graphical MUD than a text MUD, but similarly, the costs are much higher for the developer in a graphical MUD.

We'll see what happens I guess. I wish them the best of luck though, as it'd be nice to see them succeed.

--matt


--matt

2.

On the WoW side of things, Blizzard issued a press release today announcing that their subscriber base has reached 7.5 million worldwide. I am of the opinion that WoW is growing the entire bell curve more than it is shortening the long tails, and I tend to think that as WoW ages, the long tails will continue to get longer, as many of these first time MMOGers go out into the rest of the virtual worlds. I'm hoping that Multiverse and the like will bring MMOGs into the modding sphere, as well as enabling more independent developers. I hope that we'll someday see the Counter Strike of MMOGs, but only time will tell, I suppose.

Oh, and this is quite appropriate: I have CNN on in the background, and as I was typing they ran a commercial for the LA area ABC 7 news cast tonight, which will be doing a story titled "Second Lives" at 5 and 11pm. The footage looked to be all from SL. Everyone out here in the LA/OC area, set your TiVos. ;)

3.

My money (as well as time) is still on OpenCroquet or something that comes out of DX10/.NET 3.0, something that's built for individuals and not communities.

"Virtual world" is going to be an outmoded in the next few years, much like "cyberspace" was classified as outmoded earlier this year.

4.

Just as Matt Mihaly continually points out that there are other VW's than just WoW and SL, and many non-graphical VWs, I'll point out that there are other VW toolkits besides Multiverse. I've been compiling a list on http://www.mxac.com.au/mif/competitors.htm .

I created this list because I am developing a toolkit also, though more MUD/IF-like that MMORPG-like. I originally expected to find only a few such kits but have 24 listed at the moment. (Though most of them are vaporware or doomed to die.)

One concern I have with some of the toolkits (not particularly multiverse though) is that its very easy to create a stock world... which means there will be thousands of worlds that are all essentially the same, and which are all essentially devoid of players.

5.

Hey, wait a sec... I thought *we* were the barbarians at the gates. I'm not cut out to be the 'man'.

6.

I, like many I think, are sitting back waiting to get the whole toolbox, while planning our worlds, our games. Multiverse has yet to open up more than just a few "test-drive" apps. The quality developers Matt refers to are likely doing the same thing before they start sinking money into it.
I've spent a lot of time in FPS modding. There *will* be an MMORPG Counter-Strike, I assure you. The question is only when.

7.

Mike Rozak> Is there a reason OpenCroquet isn't on your list? Also, check out CodePlex.com, lots of .NET-based game engines there.

8.

Just to riff on your long-tail comment for a moment...

The goal of Multiverse is indeed to enable the long tail for virtual worlds. And that includes both ends of that graph--the skinny tail at the far right, and the, ah, chunky rump at the far left. (That is, lots and lots of niche content AND some mainstream high-population worlds.)

We want to see the same sort of revolution that Netscape enabled a decade back. To wit, the revolution of scrappy startups (once upon a time, Google, Yahoo, eBay) competing successfully alongside huge organizations (once upon a time, AOL, CompuServe). In this kind of revolution, technology enables innovation because it's suddenly economically feasible to experiment.

We've got developer-customers building MMORPGs, kids' social worlds, adult dating spaces, military simulations, teaching environments, business collaboration tools, and just plain weird things that we don't even have names for yet. Just like we didn't have names, ten years back, for things like blogs, podcasts, and wikis.

And in answer to these specific questions:

> Now, will Multiverse be the equivalent of
> really good mod tools like Half Life 2's or
> NeverWinter Nights'?

That's our plan. With this first open beta, the tools and technology are pretty engineer-centric, though, as you quoted. But their usability will broaden with each release.

> Will there be filtering technology to let
> the best worlds rise to the top like a
> good mod?

Yep, that's critical. We'll be merchandizing the best worlds to consumers. Also, we'll be using smart filtering to bring the right worlds to the attention of the right consumers, based on where they go and what they like.

> Will anyone interconnect their worlds a'la
> Snow Crash's "Street"?

Many of our developers are building completely standalone worlds, where they control every aspect; and on the other side, many folks are working to build interconnected worlds, sharing models, economies, reputations, or other combinations of world-features.

> 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?

Yeah, beats the heck out of me. Let me know what you find out. :P No, I think it'll be fairly daunting for non-engineers to use for the next couple months. But even with that caveat, we have a number of designer-only teams who are using the WYSIWYG tools to prototype some very unique places. After all, SketchUp models move fairly smoothly through our pipeline.

--Corey (Exec Producer, Multiverse)

9.

Disclaimer: I'm on Multiverse's advisory board.

We've been developing using Multiverse's technology for several months. The server architecture is solid, and the world creation tools and client are usable now and are coming along in terms of their feature set (still in beta after all). We were able to get up and running with the Multiverse tech quickly, and I have no doubts that a competent group of designers and developers could create a full-fledged MMOG with it.

We're more of an experienced team than "two guys in a dorm room" but I think that this latter group is where we're going to see some really fascinating things emerge. It's important to remember that Yahoo, Google, and a lot of games started out as a couple of guys in a dorm room too.

I for one am eagerly anticipating a new renaissance in MMOGs -- now that we've gathered the successes of the past ten or twenty years into a couple of neat packages, I hope to see not just more of the same, but more games we've never seen before. In many ways, Multiverse gives a lot of people -- especially those who can't afford the six or seven-figure price tags of other MMOG platforms -- the ability to try out their own crazy idea.

Which is the future of virtual worlds? Experts or the masses?

This is an application of the cathedral and bazaar argument, often phrased with a mistaken "exclusive or" instead of "and." The only thing we know for sure in this regard is that the future of virtual worlds is not its past. "Experts" will continue to make incredibly cool and commercially successful virtual worlds via the centralized, planned 'cathedral' method. And others will create their own bazaars, or participate in this creation with others. Many of these will be limited in scope or appeal; but OTOH I expect we'll see a few that raise a lot of eyebrows in the "why didn't I think of that" kind of way. As with any bazaar, I'm looking forward to seeing what unique and fascinating structures arise out of it.

10.

Andrew buton wrote: Is there a reason OpenCroquet isn't on your list? Also, check out CodePlex.com, lots of .NET-based game engines there.

OpenCroquet - From what I can tell from the web page, it seems like a large chat/conference room, without any game ability. Am I missing something?

CodePlex - I hadn't seen this. Looking under "game engine" I couldn't find anything that obviously stood out as being MMORPG-ish. Are there any?

11.

I'm finally reading "The long tail", and I have a comment about long tails and multiplayer games (including virtual worlds).

The longer the tail, the fewer the number of of players in each of the tail worlds. This is a positive feedback loop since a multiplayer game without players is, (almost) by definition, not fun. Thus, a game that only has one person log on every hour (24 players per day) will have no players because that one player will log in, see an empty world, and leave approximately five seconds later.

A VW development toolkit that encourages too many players to make their own world will (a) be fun for the authors to create worlds, but (b) have such a low player density that player populations would just sublimate.

For example: If SL charged a lot less for real estate, there would be more of it. The new stuff would be lower quality, and most importantly, the user density would drop, resulting in more people logging in, seeing no one around, and leaving... leading to world death. (There was a 3D virtual chat about 10 years ago that had this problem. It had lots of scenery but no people.)

For example: Stock MUDs. Most (stock) MUDs in MudConnect.com are empty.

For example: Neverwinter nights 1... I haven't spent time in online NWN1, but I suspect most of the worlds are empty.

Worlds created by a development kit also acquire a reputation. If the kit doesn't allow/encourage variety, then players will start saying, "I don't want to play a world produced by kit X because I've already tried ten and they've all been essentially the same." This problem goes hand-in-hand with encouraging long-tail worlds since a kit that is easy-to-use (long tail) tends to limit creativity.

12.

Mike Rozak wrote:

For example: Stock MUDs. Most (stock) MUDs in MudConnect.com are empty.

That's true, most are empty, but most people never encounter them either, unless they run a search. Mudconnector doesn't have any real filtering based on things like, "The community thinks this MUD is a waste of time."

I'd imagine that won't be the case on Metaverse though, since you'll go through their service to play the MUDs using it. Most users will, presumably at least, be encountering MUDs on Metaverse that have risen to the top overall or in a particular niche.

--matt

13.

Matt Mihaly wrote: "I'd imagine that won't be the case on Metaverse though, since you'll go through their service to play the MUDs using it."

I don't expect the "thousands of empty worlds" problem to happen with Multiverse because of their high barrier to entry (campared to RC and NWN2) and marketing model ("We make money when you make money", as opposed to RC which is, "We make money when you buy our toolkit."). I do expect the problem to occur with Realm Crafter and NWN2 however.

Of course, "We make money when you make money" has its own challenges. Multiverse has to recruit development teams that will be able to produce high-enough quality MMORPGs than can make money, but not so high-quality (aka: well funded) that the developers grow their own, or license the Hero Engine (or BigWorld).

Recruitment is a bootstrap issue. I suspect many developers are waiting in the sidelines to see what kind of worlds the first generation of Multiverse developers create, and to see how well they sell. But I digress (as usual).

14.

I've got a question...

What kind of tools does this have to facilitate the growth and demand for massive amounts of content? What concerns me isn't how well the programmers have done a great job on developing the best networking/graphics/sound to allow people to create worlds... but what really interests me is how I, as a potential designer, would be able to get around the fact I would still need to hire a warehouse of artists to even create a game that looks enticing?

15.

Ken Noland>what really interests me is how I, as a potential designer, would be able to get around the fact I would still need to hire a warehouse of artists to even create a game that looks enticing?

For the models and animation, you buy them in. If the tools are good enough, people will create them for fun. They'll put them on a big aggregator site (which Multiverse will set up if they haven't already) and charge pennies for them. You'll just take what you want from there. To start with there'll be problems with consistency, but for a small world that won't matter too much, and over time there'll be so much available that if you want that hard-edged SF chrome look or that Louis XIV look or that whimsical pixies look, you'll be able to find them all.

That's what I'm hoping, anyway.

Background/static art is another matter, of course.

Richard

16.

Disclaimer: just went full-time at Multiverse last week (yay!)

Richard's guess is spot-on (no surprize): just such a marketplace is in the works, with the anticipation that creators across the spectrum of game development roles will be able to make their work available to others. Models and artwork certainly, but also tools, code plugins, extensions, anything that can be shared or licensed. Hopefully this will spur creation in these areas also, as well as we're seeing an explosion of creation in terms of overall world/MMO design and theme.

And, I can't really talk much about what people are doing, yet, though a few of the projects are listed on the Multiverse web site (it's Multiverse.net, fyi), but... I am working with the developers a lot, and I'm loving my work. Many of these teams have taken up the opportunity to work with these tools to begin creating wild and amazing stuff... the projects I know about are across a huge spectrum of the imagination, from Arden to Mars, as it were, and everywhere in between. The platform is very definitly at the "some assembly required" stage, but we're already seeing indie (and non-indie) teams doing impressive work.

To Mike Rozak on the long tail: we'll definitly see lots of low-population efforts (games and worlds of all kinds) though I think this will also lead to some excellent gaming experiences that are usually precluded now by the need to design games that are massively accessible. Without the constraint of needing to design for (hopefully) six or seven figures weight of users, there will be some new interactive game experiences possible (finally).

And to Mike on established designers working with Multiverse: we're still young, needing to demonstrate what the platform is capable of, and teams handling large budgets need to be able to justify their choices to the business folks, all well and good. But I think there's no question (in our minds at least) that we'll be fully competative with some of the platforms that require the up-front cash. So far it's only been the early adopters that have been talking to us (yay Mike Sellers!) but I think you'll see that shift as more of our platform comes online.

17.

Mike Rozak says: A VW development toolkit that encourages too many players to make their own world will (a) be fun for the authors to create worlds, but (b) have such a low player density that player populations would just sublimate.

In the case of Multiverse I think it will balance itself in this regard. I suspect quite a number of these indie worlds will be fairly small geographies because of the amount of work required to make another Azeroth. These will scale well to the smaller player populations. You won't see an Ironforge or a (once-upon-a-time) Coronet, but it shouldn't feel like you're alone in a big empty mob-infested world.

18.

Multiverse is the way of the future in game design. Whether Multiverse gets it right is still up for debate. But if not them, then another company will. It is only a matter of time.

I look forward to the day when one person (without a degree in computer engineering from MIT) can sit in front of a computer, design their own game, and put it out there for others to play. THAT is when the fun begins. ;)

19.

Richard wrote:

For the models and animation, you buy them in. If the tools are good enough, people will create them for fun. They'll put them on a big aggregator site (which Multiverse will set up if they haven't already) and charge pennies for them. You'll just take what you want from there. To start with there'll be problems with consistency, but for a small world that won't matter too much, and over time there'll be so much available that if you want that hard-edged SF chrome look or that Louis XIV look or that whimsical pixies look, you'll be able to find them all.

I have to say, I think this is a bit of a pipe dream, with all due respect, Richard.

There's already a huge demand for 3d assets, textures, and animation from the tens of thousands of developers and modders out there. Huge. Multiverse's community is not going to appreciably increase the size of the demand for game assets.

There's already a huge repositories for 3d assets, textures, and animations. TurboSquid, for instance (www.turbosquid.com). My company is an ideal customer for something like TurboSquid. We're self-funding our graphical MUD and so our art budget is stretched thin. You'd think something like TurboSquid with its hundreds of thousands of assets would be a godsend for us.

You'd be wrong, unfortunately. I wouldn't claim that I've browsed their library absolutely thoroughly, but I've spent a few hours looking around it, and I have yet to come across a single 3d model that would be acceptable in Earth Eternal (our in-dev graphical MUD). Not a single one.

Earth Eternal is a fantasy MUD, I might add, so it's hardly as if we've picked an obscure genre to work in that might impose its own aesthetic difficulties as a direct result. We do, however, have our own visual style, and that alone has prevented us from using all the pre-made generic-looking art on Turbosquid.

We don't even need to discuss why nobody is ever going to be able to buy a pre-made model for a creature based on original intellectual property.

I did find exactly two cds of art containing mainly textures that I was able to order from the net that can be made, with some minor alterations, to work within our style, but that's it. That represents less than 1% of the art that will be in EE.

Incidentally, I also completely disagree that a consistency of style isn't as important for small games. It is possibly more critical than it is for a large game that has a fat marketing budget to convince people that it is, in fact, a good game. A small game has one shot: the first impression. Without a fat marketing budget, that first impression, for 99% of users, is going to come once when they see your website, and once when they either look at your screenshots, or log into the game. If your screenshots and game itself look like the work of a half-blind, incompetent interior decorator, that first impression is going to be quite negative.

In summary:
1. I can't see how Multiverse is going to exponentially increase the demand out there for 3d art assets given that there is already a lot of demand for them.
2. A consistent visual style is important if you want users. If you don't, you don't need Multiverse. Just download a text MUD codebase and set it up as-is. You'll accomplish your goal of no users much more cheaply and easily that way.

--matt

20.

1) As Samantha pointed out up front, and as Clay Shirky argues in the current WIRED (http://wired.com/wired/archive/14.11/meganiche.html), the long tail doesn't need to be only a thin thing. Sure, at the extreme end, it's a handful of people, but there is a lot between the bulge and that endpoint. As the pie gets larger, a small slice by % is still a lot of people. So Shakespeare fans are only 2%? That's OK. That's still 5 million people. Or whatever.

2) I was nudging toward this in the OP, but wouldn't it be pretty great to have a technology like MV that lets worlds get built combined with a technology like SL that gets assets built? That's world-changing chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter kind of stuff if you can get a quality check built in.

21.

Re: Matt Mihaly's comments on Turbosquid

I don't think a group of amateurs is ever going to be able to approach the level of product that a dedicated group of professionals is able to. The time constraints just don't allow it, especially considering how the average game developer sleeps under his desk a whole bunch. That works out to at least 10 to 12 hours a day, and it's not possible for the average hobbyist to make that kind of time commitment when he or she probably has a "real" job.

The real question is how close can hobbyists get to the real thing? With first person shooters the answer is obviously pretty damn close--close enough that a lot of the hobbyists can actually make the jump and start turning a profit off of their work. My prediction is that the tools which will allow hobbyists to come close enough are right around the corner. Turbosquid may be unsuitable for a hack and slash, fantasy setting but how about a game set in 1950's Los Angeles involving private detectives and criminals? Frankly, at this point I am so sick of EQ, DAoC, and WoW that an alternative setting sounds quite attractive. Am I in the majority in that sense? Of course not, but there are probably enough people out there with a similar viewpoint that the long tail might apply.

And there's one last factor too: said hobbyist already has a regular job. That's why he's a hobbyist. Turning an immediate profit isn't a life or death matter for him.

22.

lewy wrote:

Turbosquid may be unsuitable for a hack and slash, fantasy setting but how about a game set in 1950's Los Angeles involving private detectives and criminals? Frankly, at this point I am so sick of EQ, DAoC, and WoW that an alternative setting sounds quite attractive. Am I in the majority in that sense? Of course not, but there are probably enough people out there with a similar viewpoint that the long tail might apply.

I have no idea if the assets on TurboSquid would be suitable for a 1950s Los Angeles involving private detectives and criminals, because I don't know what visual style you'd render that in. Visual style is almost completely uncoupled from the game content that you use that you develop within that style. I could do a 1950s game like you describe Okami-style, or I could do it hyper-realistic style.

Either way, you're left with trying to stick a bunch of different assets together that are not in the same style, and the end result is probably not going to be all that pleasant to look at. (Of course, to be fair, Runescape is not exactly what I'd call pleasant to look at either, and it crushes.)

Perhaps central asset directories will work for games that are only interested in going as "realistic" in their graphical style as possible, which means we'll just get a bunch of games that look the same, but until "realistic" literally means "indistinguishable from physical reality" stylistic choices are going to come into play in every single game made. After that, I suppose a visual style can be defaulted to "reality" for those games that choose to go that route.

The success of games like WoW, the Sims, Myst, and so on are in part due (imho, at least) to the fact that they chose to treat the visual style (as opposed to just the content created w/ the style) as valuable intellectual property in and of itself. I realize that not everyone is trying to be the next big game, but the principle applies no matter what your size, from indies like Three Rings (Puzzle Pirates) up to titans like Blizzard. The problem there, of course, is that once you've decided to create your own style, it becomes -very- difficult to use art not created specifically for your product. If you don't create your own style, you're giving up a significant opportunity to add value to your game.

--matt

23.

With standardized backend for 3D visual worlds, the next frontier is standardized art assets. The discussion about the issue already begun in this thread.

We are already partially there with SpeedTree and other background assets. And I think lewy is right in that standardized art assets would be useful for modern day renderings.

For example, if modern setting becomes popular then I would expect manufacturers like Ford or Sony to start sponsoring product placement programs. So, it won't surprise me if the management at MV already have that plotted out.

For fantasy settings, distinctive and consistent art style is a competitive edge, so the only advancement I see are in procedural processes that Will Wright and Co are developing. It'll come out first for Spore, but the technology will come to the MV marketplace as components.

So, for me the marketplace for tools will also be another area of importance.

As in regards to the OP question of interconnection, I'm betting that there will be an overlay metagames like Battle of the Multiverse (BoM) or War of the Mulitiverse (WoM), or Puzzle of the Multiverse (PoM).

BTW, is there any detail presentation by MV management on the long-term/tail vision and objective of MV? Ron, Mike, anyone?

Frank

24.

Frank wrote:

We are already partially there with SpeedTree and other background assets. And I think lewy is right in that standardized art assets would be useful for modern day renderings.

Keep in mind that SpeedTree is only useful for trees done in a certain leaning-towards-"realistic" style, unless I'm horribly mistaken.

--matt

25.

Yeah Matt, I agree about the realistic perspective.

Won't work for your project, but I'm pretty confident that there are going to be lots of projects based on the modern setting where the team is using lots of common assets and trying create a compelling game using other areas of competitive edge other than great visual style.

Frank


26.

There are challenges to be overcome:

- Creating the model is the easy part.

- Creating all the model's accessories (helmets, armor, weapons, shoes, clothing, hair styles, etc.) is a LOT of work.

- Animation is even more work. 100+ animation cycles is a pain.


Some minor/random issues:

- Too few/many polygons.

- Too few/many bones. Ex: Do individual fingers have bones? Is lip movement handled by bones or morphs?

- Changing textures is half the work involved in changing the visual style.


I don't expect multiverse's model database to work perfectly, but it should work well enough for many users.

27.

Ron Meiners wrote:

"Without the constraint of needing to design for (hopefully) six or seven figures weight of users, there will be some new interactive game experiences possible (finally).

Actually, I was thinking that most text MUDs and NWN1 worlds have < 1000 players that have EVER connected, and < 10(?) people that play reliably. I suspect that small worlds with 1000 regular players are perfectly viable.


I think there's no question (in our minds at least) that we'll be fully competative with some of the platforms that require the up-front cash.

That's good! Your current demo world doesn't imply this goal though. Obviously, Multiverse is coming from behind; Both Bigworld and the Hero Engine have a few years head start.

28.

I am a server side code monkey who has been in the Multiverse closed beta for a few months (I am not a Multiverse employee but a customer). Myself as well as other people from different teams are sharing code on a fairly consitent basis.

Since each others code will more than likely work considering we all use the same backbone, we have the ability to do what NO small team can do on their own. The environment itself is fairly simple to pickup and use and we have been able to rapidly introduce our own combat system, pet system, chat system etc. etc. This in combination of using "plugins" written by other dev. teams puts us in a position to release a very well built feature filled system to beta in a very short time.

I'm not saying what they have developed is anything groundbreaking but it is very well thought out and quite frankly just fun to play with. In addition, I must point out that their developers are extremely responsive to our questions and so far have given us A+ support.

29.

Hey draive! Thanks, and good to hear... we'll keep doing the best we can.

To Matt, on the marketplace issue: All good points, but not neccesarily definitive. We hope the marketplace, and the entry into the space of new developers, will spur creativity in many directions. Certainly it's quite conceivable that a designer looking for a particular style could find an artist with a style that's interesting enough to pursue, or even make a permanent arrangement with. And that such a marketplace might spur wilder creations on the part of artists.

To Dmitri: it's already fairly easy to import SketchUp models into Multiverse, and a number of developers have mentioned wanting to create a tool set that works dynamically. It's not something that we're going to do in the next while, but it wouldn't be surprizing to us at all if someone else does it.

And to Frank: probably best to send you to the web-site, particularly the write up here. Basically our vision is as you've seen it discussed in this thread: to remove the cost impediment to MMOG and world creation and to build a network of creators and subscribers, with MV sharing revenue with the successful projects. We're all about the niches, and empowering the indies and academics and dreamers by creating a platform that works for them (and is affordable) as well as more established and better funded teams. To at least try to mitigate the impact of financial forces in game design, and to empower new creators and creativity.

30.

Regarding the issue of art, animation and other game assets... yeah, that's going to be a stopper between a game being "good" and "wildly successful," but for real innovation to take place in the MMO sphere, it's great to have platforms where even "good" is way easier to get to.

Since Flash hit the scene, for instance, I've seen a ton more interesting, really funky games hit the Web, just in terms of pure concept. Graphics and production values? Often not there. But the basic gameplay has pushed past that to be impressive on its own, and that influences the whole sphere.

The thing I keep rolling around in my head is that the key difference between an MMO and ny other game in any other genre is the "MM" aspects. So... OK. Maybe Mutliverse will set loose 100 standard, MMO clones with bad graphic assets and a couple quirky bits that are particular to each dev's kink. Ho friggin' hum. But after that 100, we'll get 1 crew that does something really *MM*azing, totally different in terms of the mutliplayer angle -- not different art or animations or sound or story or crap that can happen in any other type of game-- and that will be the thing that makes the whole shindig worthwhile.

And you *can't* get that 1 without the 100, or 10 without 1,000. Long Tail or not from an economically successful pov, more people with more different ideas will be able to enable them more easily when the barriers to entry are much, more lower.

So, no. The games won't look great for awhile. But I don't care. Because we have great looking single player games for the Xbox 360. But we don't have many skunk-works platforms for ways to totally wig-out the MMO... yet.

31.

Ron Meiners wrote: "Certainly it's quite conceivable that a designer looking for a particular style could find an artist with a style that's interesting enough to pursue, or even make a permanent arrangement with."

Maybe part of the "toolset" should be a "resume" database where coders, GMs, modellers, animators, quest designers, etc. can advertise their interests.

32.

Andy Havens: Maybe Mutliverse will set loose 100 standard, MMO clones with bad graphic assets and a couple quirky bits that are particular to each dev's kink. Ho friggin' hum. But after that 100, we'll get 1 crew that does something really *MM*azing, totally different in terms of the mutliplayer angle -- not different art or animations or sound or story or crap that can happen in any other type of game-- and that will be the thing that makes the whole shindig worthwhile.

Right on. As comm tech evolves, the cost of making massive games / environments will drop closer to zero, just like the cost of creating/spreading any content. Soon Sturgeon's Law will finally apply to virtual game development. This is already happening in SL and Multiverse will speed up the process and the diffusion of both.

It is very exciting to see this evolution in communication occur. The economic and social ramifications of cheaper bottom-up world creation in a flattening world are awesome indeed.

Once those awesome 1-in-100, or 1-in-a-1000, or 1-in-10,000 worlds/environments/games are released, the diffusion rate of VWs will skyrocket, baby, skyrocket.

I think it's safe to say that Cory will win the cheesy bet.

33.

Matt Mihaly>Multiverse's community is not going to appreciably increase the size of the demand for game assets.

I don't see that it will either. However, it may increase the supply of assets. This web site has nearly a third of a million user creations for The Sims 1 & 2. People like making stuff. It doesn't matter if 90% of what's on there is useless, because that still leaves 33,000 things that are useful. So long as you can find the useful stuff, it's a good resource for The Sims 1 & 2.

Why wouldn't we get such a resource for Multiverse, or 3D models in general? People in SL create stuff the whole time and sell it to one another for pennies. Why wouldn't that work for Multiverse, if its tools are good enough?

Multiverse's problem in this area is that it needs a critical mass of models in order for ordinary people to be able to build stuff with it, but no-one has any idea how big that critical mass is nor how long it will take to reach. Multiverse could run out of money before the tipping point is reached.

>I've spent a few hours looking around it, and I have yet to come across a single 3d model that would be acceptable in Earth Eternal (our in-dev graphical MUD). Not a single one.

It looks as if there's a dearth of Fantasy-style artwork there in general. Perhaps some freelancers will spot the gap in the market, perhaps not.

Turbosquid is aimed at companies and professionals, though. Where Multiverse is different is that it has players and dilletantes. If I were a home user creating my own virtual world, I may pay 10c for a chair and 15c for a table, and if I really wanted to impress my friends I may splash out $5 for a big. scary dragon. No way am I going to pay $50 for a dragon, though, no matter how good it is. If I had the tools, I might build myself a dragon instead, and put that on the site for $5. Or maybe $1 because it would be crap, but not so crap that someone might want to buy it.

>We do, however, have our own visual style, and that alone has prevented us from using all the pre-made generic-looking art on Turbosquid.

You could buy them and modify them, though?

>Incidentally, I also completely disagree that a consistency of style isn't as important for small games.

It depends how small. Textual MUDs - especially the Tiny* family - seemed to get along fine with multiple authors, some of whom had spelling inconsistent with English let alone a writing style inconsistent with the other authors.

There are some truly awful-looking web sites out there built entirely from clip art and clumps of ill-understood JavaScript downloaded from badly-organised repositories. People don't care, though, because, they're not creating professional sites. Yes, of course a professional site would want original artwork in keeping with the company's vision of itself and its house style, but individuals aren't that worried about it. This is where I see Multiverse's potential, rather than at the level of the small-to-medium developer. If they can get people to create their own, small-scale worlds in the same way that people create their own web sites, they could really be on to something.

Richard

34.

Richard wrote:

Multiverse's problem in this area is that it needs a critical mass of models in order for ordinary people to be able to build stuff with it, but no-one has any idea how big that critical mass is nor how long it will take to reach. Multiverse could run out of money before the tipping point is reached.

Yeah, but it's unlikely that a bunch of individuals using a shared base of models is going to generate much revenue for Multiverse to prolong its ramp. I don't really buy the long tail as applied to virtual worlds at this point.

--matt

35.

Matt>Yeah, but it's unlikely that a bunch of individuals using a shared base of models is going to generate much revenue for Multiverse to prolong its ramp.

I agree that it could be quite a while before they got a return from this...

Richard

36.

Congrats, Corey. We can't wait to find the right project to get us in there and building. It's brand new so there's a lot uncertainty as to 'What precisely will be possible When', but I'm finding that many large-scale projects are interested in Multiverse because they see it as splitting the controlled environment of There.com with the open flexibility of Second Life. Can't wait to see how you evolve to fit the requests you'll see popping up :).

For anyone interested there's a podcast of the Future of Virtual Worlds panel we did at the Austin Game Conference with Corey, Cory Ondrejka from Second Life, Mark Wallace from 3pointD, and Raph Koster. About half-way through the panel I asked each of them for a prediction, an uncertainty, and an aspiration for virtual worlds. Those are in text form here. BTW I think the title of this post ("Multiverse > SL > WoW?") might come from this AGC panel where I wrote in the abstract: "Will Second Life get bigger than World of Warcraft? Will Multiverse get bigger than Second Life? Will Google Earth get bigger than them all?" Next article maybe... :)

Matt Mihaly > Either way, you're left with trying to stick a bunch of different assets together that are not in the same style, and the end result is probably not going to be all that pleasant to look at.

Definitely an obstacle for the established order, and a huge opportunity for a kind of virtual worlds renaissance. Ze Frank's Ugly MySpace video ftw!

Transcript that I think also applies to building in gamespace and virtual worlds

"For a very long time taste and artistic training have been something that only a very small number of people have been able to develop. Only a few people could afford to participate in the production of many types of media. Raw materials like pigments were expensive. Same with tools like printing presses. Even as late as 1963 it cost Charles Peignot over $600,000 to create and cut a single font family. The small number of people who had access to these tools and resources created rules about what was good taste or bad taste. These designers started giving each other awards and the rules they followed became even more specific. All sorts of stuff about grids and sizes and color combinations. Lots of stuff that the consumers of this media never consciously noticed. Over the last 20 years, however, the cost of tools related to the authorship of media has plummeted. For very little money anyone can create and contribute things like news letters, or videos, or bad-ass tunes about ugly! Suddenly consumers are learning the language of these authorship tools. The fact that tons of people know names of fonts like Helvetica is weird! And when people start learning something new they perceive the world around them differently. If you start learning how to play the guitar, suddenly the guitar stands out in all the music you listen to. For example, throughout most of the history of movies the audience really didn't understand what a craft editing was. Now as more and more people have access to things like iMovie they begin to understand the manipulative power of editing. Watching reality TV almost becomes like a game as you try and second guess how the editor is trying to manipulate you. As people start learning and experimenting with these languages of authorship they don't neccesarily follow the rules of good taste. This scares the shit out of designers. In MySpace millions of people have opted out of pre-made templates that "work" in exchange for ugly. Ugly when compared to pre-existing notions of taste is a bummer. But ugly as a representation of mass experimentation and learning is pretty damn cool. Regardless of what you might think, the actions you take to make your MySpace page ugly are pretty sophisticated. Over time as consumer created media engulfs the other kind it's possible that completely new norms develop around the notions of talent and artistic ability. Happy ugly, this is Ze Frank thinking so you don't have to."

Dmitri > I was nudging toward this in the OP, but wouldn't it be pretty great to have a technology like MV that lets worlds get built combined with a technology like SL that gets assets built? That's world-changing chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter kind of stuff if you can get a quality check built in.

Totally. Interoperability between environments is a premium. It's the early days of that scary 3D Web thing. Platforms like Multiverse will help create the *need* (over the desire) that can then be defined and eventually solved.

Richard Bartle > It looks as if there's a dearth of Fantasy-style artwork [on Turbo Squid] in general. Perhaps some freelancers will spot the gap in the market, perhaps not.
[and @other Turbo Squid comments]

I've looked a ton at Turbo Squid and other 3D marketplaces and get to see first-hand what happens with the SLBoutique Second Life marketplace and the possibilities for services like that. A couple of notes of interest:

*Turbo Squid models are often too expensive for regular users to buy and populate their own space. Compare this TS dragon for US$150 to this SL dragon for L$400 or less than US$2. A Multiverse marketplace will also have to change the economics of 3D art, scripts, etc. Better to try and sell a couple thousand dragons for $2 than a few for $150?
*Turbo Squid took about 5 years to reach 100,000 listed items (press release from Feb. 2005). SLB hit 100,000 in a little over a year. Contextual virtual worlds with simple creation tools and their own economies would seem to vastly accelerate the speed of content creation (not surprising, think: fast building, easy translatable currency, immediate shared use, identifiable inworld niches like hair!). You can prod at the relative "quality" of the content, but poke around SLB or SLExchange and Turbo Squid and compare the "interestingness" of the content. For example "vehicles" on TS and SLB (with most of the TS content made by "professionals" and most of the SL content made by "amateurs"). And with a marketplace attached to the world you can take them right out of the box and start zooming around in them with other people. Now that's attractive.

And remember it's not just "amateurs" who'll take advantage of this model. Organized companies and professional developers will be contributing content, and many of them will be groups you would not necessarily expect.

In short there's a lot of room for innovation in the Multiverse marketplace, and I put my quarter down on people filling it up with great stuff. I think this will also lead to some surprisingly SL-like free-form spaces as people, in many cases, start asking, "Um, why can't I bring my really cool new stuff into this game?" "Because it's a narrative-based ludic world with a finely tuned game mechanic and a magic circle." "OK, problem is this network encourages me to jump around a lot. How about this: You stay here and kill rats for a few hours, and I'll go have some fun and explore, k?" So hopefully we'll see people dive into building more "embedded casual games" that are sticky, provide gamey fullfillment and achievement and can be played in and across dynamic and unpredictable worlds.

But we shall see! No doubt exciting times ahead. Kudos to Corey and the Multiverse team for innovating at just the right time. Another great team with some fresh ideas coming largely from outside the existing VW industry. It's really inspiring and between all the virtual world platforms and interest it certainly feels like the dawning of a new day.

Now we need people to invest in these platforms, build amazing things, and push it all forward. Please do!

37.

Richard Bartle wrote: "I agree that it could be quite a while before they got a return from this..."

Multiverse has a lot of x-netscape people working on it. They should have a fairly deep warchest to tide them through the initial slow period.

38.

I think I understand Matt's point, but I don't see it as relevant to me. If a professional architect is bemoaning the lack of quality sandstone to make his perfect build, I, as a casual builder, just shrug and stick with the red bricks that are all I have to hand, and work with that.

You do see the ugly websites with jumbles of styles.. same with SL regions where giant trees sit next to log cabins next to concrete towers next to giant spaceships. You also see themed areas that work very well. I have seen people who, once upon a time, did nothing more in SL than "LMAO" all night. I saw some make their first cube and paint it. I see them creating genuinely cool things- all just because the tools are there, and accessible, and other people and the world are right there to show it all to, or try it out. This is a world away from getting your stuff up on a website with a price tag and hoping someone will buy it, or trying to go round forums giving links to your portfolio. With a virtual world like SL or, I hope, Multiverse, you can invite people to come and see your stuff "first hand". Interact with it, see it move, slap it in the face or whatever.

So yeah, the big architects will still be paying top dollar to get fine polished sandstone with salmon pink flecks in it imported from overseas to finish their work. The communities will build what they need when they need it from the clay they have. Just like they do now in SL. Or professionals will find them just the right people to sell to- but this will be selling like sound effect CDs in HMV, not sample rights to record producers.

If creating is easy- even if creating *good stuff* is still hard- then people will create, and Good Stuff will rise out of it.

39.

Jerry>BTW I think the title of this post ("Multiverse > SL > WoW?") might come from this AGC panel where I wrote in the abstract: "Will Second Life get bigger than World of Warcraft? Will Multiverse get bigger than Second Life? Will Google Earth get bigger than them all?" Next article maybe... :)

Nothing so informed. More like my guildmates type that way to simplify concepts when in a hurry, e.g. Tom > Steve. I enjoy the meme, and like the reference to the old cartoon with the bigger fish easting the smaller fish, who are eating the even smaller fish, etc.

40.

I'm looking forward to seeing lots of indie/amateur MMORPGs, whether they are made with Multiverse, or some other site or program. MMORPG Maker is a site devoted to supporting people that want to make their own MMORPG, including info on model making, engines, networking, etc.

Personally, I'm not very excited about something like Second Life. To me, it seems like a hodge podge of designs with no coherence. I'd much rather see some sort of structured game, than just a bunch of player made content that's all over the map.

http://www.mmorpgmaker.com

41.

The art assets should be the least common denominator for making a game with the multiverse tool set. Who really cares if its ugly at first. I'd suggest to the budding designer to make all of his avatars red and blue stick men and stick to working on the game mechanic. If that works well in the toolset you can and will find the capital (time, men or money) to create a visual style that is compelling.

I've always taken away from multiverse that is makes a very strong rapid prototyping tool that would allow you to iterate a game concept until you actually achieve a functional design. And as a plus (or minus depending) has the ability to help you publish that title. Holding off on the eye candy until the gameplay is mastered would likely also save wasted effort in the long run. Who knows maybe your elves and orcs game iterates better into a nation builder.

42.

Dana Baldwin wrote:

If that works well in the toolset you can and will find the capital (time, men or money) to create a visual style that is compelling.

Of course you prototype, but to make it sound as if it's simply a matter of getting a working prototype going and then BAM you're funded and everything's dandy with the art is just not how life works.

Often, it is the art itself that is going to sell your game to investors and supporters. Believe me, I've run commercial text MUDs for years with features that far out-strip anything being done in graphical MUDs outside of perhaps Eve. It is very very hard to show people who are not other game designers how 'cool' your game is without visual art.

On the other hand, all I have to do is show a few pieces of art from our in-dev graphical MUD and they are immediately interested. We're casually looking for investment (if it comes with the right terms) and in talking w/ potential investors, the very first thing every one of them wants to see is some art, preferably screenshots.

So yeah, it's a no-brainer to do a prototype, but a prototype without art isn't going to get you very far unless you've already got a reputation to back up that prototype. Yes, I'm sure there are isolated exceptions, but graphics sell games, and Metaverse is, of necessity, about commercial virtual worlds.

--matt

43.

Dmitri > Nothing so informed. More like my guildmates type that way to simplify concepts when in a hurry, e.g. Tom > Steve. I enjoy the meme, and like the reference to the old cartoon with the bigger fish easting the smaller fish, who are eating the even smaller fish, etc.

Hehe, kidding with ya. I think it was Tim O'Reilly who said: "The future is already here, it just hasn't been eaten by a chain of progressively larger fish yet." Or someone like him said something like that anyway ;).

Dana > The art assets should be the least common denominator for making a game with the multiverse tool set. Who really cares if its ugly at first. I'd suggest to the budding designer to make all of his avatars red and blue stick men and stick to working on the game mechanic.

It's interesting to think about shared game mechanics, like when you can just grab or buy code for a fully functional game on the Multiverse marketplace, dump it in a world, and then spend all your time building, buying, or choosing better, cooler, custom art and experiences to go on top of it. Then you could be a cut-and-paste, drag-and-drop "game designer" who's free to care way more about the art than the mechanic. I hope we see a lot of that. Not just a better tool for existing designers, but a tool to really empower new designers who are much more non-technical, or technical but untrained in MMO design. It needs to be easy to do something amazing.

> I've always taken away from multiverse that is makes a very strong rapid prototyping tool that would allow you to iterate a game concept until you actually achieve a functional design.

What if the rapid prototyping, coming up with endlessly new stuff quickly, became a defining characteristic of some of the really successful new MMO spaces? Like, you're not using Multiverse to quickly prototype a "real" game that you'll polish and eventually release for people to consume. You'll just be chucking it all out behind you, doing it live. I know you actually have to download new Multiverse content, not stream it live like SL (which is a big difference), but hopefully that will become pretty seamless.

Prokofy had an interesting way of framing this kind of idea here, about SL, but it applies to some potential Multiverse projects as well:

"In the dystopian world of the future Metaverse, concepts like "my property" or "my design" are all going to be turned on their ear. Big companies will hire designers and programmers not for their discrete IP and making of discrete things to be re-sold in some kind of "market,", but will hire them for their capacity to create major, compelling events at grid coordinates that people come to -- and then move on to the next thing. The props for that stage-set might even be handed out that day after the big show to the audience, without any fussing over "IP", because to keep the audience, the flitting mob, the creators will have to make something new -- again and again and again.

They will be valued not for creating a static thing that grows in value with preservation or resale, but for creating flowing events brand-new every single day as the synthetic sun rises four times on the artificial horizon."

Just another possible shift to think about.

44.

Jerry Pappendorf:

It's interesting to think about shared game mechanics, like when you can just grab or buy code for a fully functional game on the Multiverse marketplace, dump it in a world, and then spend all your time building, buying, or choosing better, cooler, custom art and experiences to go on top of it. Then you could be a cut-and-paste, drag-and-drop "game designer" who's free to care way more about the art than the mechanic.

That precise situation, if you substitute custom text for custom art, already exists in textual virtual worlds and has for over a decade, you know.

--matt

45.

Gillvane-"Personally, I'm not very excited about something like Second Life. To me, it seems like a hodge podge of designs with no coherence. I'd much rather see some sort of structured game, than just a bunch of player made content that's all over the map."

You can consider your SL login as a portal. There are a few discreet spaces (some small continents in fact) that run to their own themes- Elven woods, Gorean cities, Steampunk Victoriana etc. Just because you can also wander round a giant dump-site doesn't mean these discreet spaces don't exist.

I read a lot of enthusiasm for a "one login, access all areas" ideal for virtual worlds/games, but I also see this attitude that when you have that in a small way with SL, people cry "Oh no, randomness!" and run back to the comforts of one context per login, rather than choosing the places and experiences they want themselves. I know people who pretty much *never leave one sim* in SL. Their experiences are *very* structured and themed. It's a choice.

Matt, I'm sure some wag was smugly pointing out that carriages have had wheels for centuries when the first sooty faced tinkerer came rumbing out of the shed on his steam powered automobile. I'm also sure cars were really unpopular around 100 years ago in comparison to horse n cart- why the big fuss about them then?

46.

There are more people in the tail than in the bell.

Think for a moment (about the chicken and the egg)

How many communities of gamers exist?

Better yet, how many communities exist on the web?
(fashion, shopping, gossip?)

How can you best engage disparate groups of gamers to facilitate interconnectedness (if not with a uniform platform?)

How many companies have an interest in providing a "space" which they can leveredge to increase thier reach with gamers as consumers? (how many mainstream media outlets are in SL? How many more will follow, and how many more will want thier own space?)

What is the trend in Web 2.0 and the net at large?

Whats the cost of a startup in 1998 vs 2006?

How long can the big-budget block buster model be maintained? (Not even George Lucas has faith in this model anymore (see thelongtail.com)

What does Digg and Reddit and Myspace accomplish?

How many clearinghouses exist for music? Even the most esoteric Swedish Pipe Organ Polka Disco Album has a market somewhere? (and why not art assets? Even sturgeon law quality)

Therefore we can assume that the next epoch of games, of mmo spaces, is to aggregate and facilitate connectivity, diversity, and user created content.

Rupert Murdoch, he may be loved, hated and despised in some quarters, but one cannot underestimate his ability to adapt and anticipate the market. Myspace is an aggregator (thats data mined extensively) that delivers content to its users who pay nothing (much like SL is free) the new modus and expectation of users is to pay nothing for content (YouTube) even in games (Runescape, Habo, SL etc.) the price they pay varies (depending on the moetization model).

I dont think the question itself is will Multiverse provide the means for people to create games, or how many games will be created, or even the quality of those games. This will happen despite, cost, and investors. (so the key it would seem for them is to become the market platform and capture market share)

I think the question here is what Designers are willing to adapt to new models, there seems to be a high cost to inability to adapt....ask anyone employed in an "old media" company how many conversations they've had recently about repositioning for the new user created content enviornment.

It just occurred to me that it might not be a bad idea for budding designers to start small boutique design shops using the Multiverse platform to sell VW spaces. I'd imagine there will eventually be a market for say...My...er some social networking space :)

Good Luck Multiverse!

Allen

47.

Good luck, indeed. Something is missing out of this equation, however:

Who provides the day-to-day service?

Part of the tail is the ability to maintain the service and service the customers. I'm talking about some hard s**t here, everything from billing and account management to response and resolution times for customer needs on a whole slough of issues. Once the game launches, this takes up the major bulk of time spent on the game.

It is also part of the cohesive player experience, which starts at account sign-up and ends only when the player cancels his account. You can't separate it from pure development, because you have to consider it every step of the way *during* development or you end up launching without tools, procedures and policies tyhat you are going to need.

So who bells this cat? Presumably Multiverse can set up billing and account management, but what about the rest of it?

Just askin'...

-Jess

48.

Ace Albion wrote:

Matt, I'm sure some wag was smugly pointing out that carriages have had wheels for centuries when the first sooty faced tinkerer came rumbing out of the shed on his steam powered automobile. I'm also sure cars were really unpopular around 100 years ago in comparison to horse n cart- why the big fuss about them then?

The difference is that the sooty-faced tinkerer was aware of the horse and carriage and understood what its limitations were, and what its advantages were.

There appears to be no equivalent general awareness for text vs. graphical products. You can ignore text if you choose, of course, but willfully failing to learn the lessons of the past is not really something to be proud of.

--matt

49.

Nor is willfully failing to face up to the realities of the present.

50.

The realities of the present are that World of Warcraft, Runescape, Habbo Hotel, and so on are the worlds that matter in the sense of actually affecting a relatively large mass of peoples' lives.

What you're talking about is one vision of the future, not the present. What gets people's dander up is when cheerleaders for their vision confuse the two.

--matt

51.

This project is similar to "quake" and "halflife" engines,
they were used in different commercial games,
but i hardly remember any non-commercial worldwide project on the base of these engines.
Engine is nothing for masses. Yes this is cool to have ready engine for MMO game, but engine itself is just a little 1% of the work.
Multiverse is just a tool, without any ideas, it is just like "Visual C++" "Borland C++" "Visual Basic" or any other development tool. Dont expect it to accelerate MMOG/MMORPG development market :)

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