Often when I write about games, I'm interested in an experiential perspective on play and in the kinds of social and political structures that evolve within virutal worlds, but TN readers probably have noticed that I'm equally drawn to questions about design processes, about the authorship of digital games.
I think this is why Metaplace excites me so much. It wasn't very long ago when I was last speculated about author tools here, and now here's an ambitious project to create a very powerful example of such a tool.
An attraction to questions of design is a very old part of the culture of virtual worlds and online games. In play within worlds and in the forums, guild chats, and other systems of communication that surround them, there is an identifiable type of player who has strong opinions about design questions, sometimes informed opinions, sometimes malformed one, but opinions that go well beyond "U NERFED MY CLASS!!!!!". Where the attraction to design is a part of the experience of play, and where the player's activities within the game are at least partially aimed at a kind of pure understanding of how the game or world functions (rather than an understanding which is aimed at maximizing achievement).
It's always seemed to me that this approach to play was distinctive enough that it could easily be called a fifth Bartle-type to go alongside achiever, killer, explorer and socializer. Call it subcreator, or if you want to get fancy, demiurge. From MUDs to WoW, there have been games which reward the subcreator within the activity of play in some respect. Some examples: granting creator privileges, bringing the subcreator inside some privileged discussion about live management (various volunteer programs, for example), by allowing for a class of artifacts within the world that were created by players (books in Asheron's Call 1, or the entirety of Second Life). But with the exception of Second Life and maybe Neverwinter Nights, there has been less and less out there for the subcreator types to do. So for this reason alone, I'm rooting for Metaplace. Not because player-created content is superior or because it magically resolves some of the problems of existing virtual world designs, but simply because it will have tools for a type of player that normally is exiled to the MMO equivalent of the Island of Misfit Toys.