Areae is not interested in us
Dec 20, 2006 15:29:34

This past weekend in VirginWorlds Podcast #44, I covered the launch of Raph Koster's new virtual world venture Areae. In that same podcast Raph was featured as the profile of the week, a weekly segment that introduces listeners to a key personality within the MMOG industry. If you're not familiar with Raph Koster, he was a key player behind Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies. Raph is also considered one of the primary think-tank members within the virtual world community. You can read Raph's entire bio here and see his blog here.

Areae hasn't released any details regarding what it is they're building, but they have the people and the funding to do something serious. All indicators point to a project in the vein of Second Life or Habbo Hotel. I sat in a session at AGC about virtual worlds. During that session Raph, who was one of the panel members, said that he believes within a few years everyone will have their own virtual space, much like everyone has a web page. (I'm using 'everyone' in the internet enthusiast sense.) Second Life was discussed plenty during that hour, but Raph believes that personal virtual spaces will be small customizable things very unlike the massive worlds we travel today.

Those points seem to be hints toward what Areae is up to. Are they building the GeoCities and MySpace of tomorrow? Will our online presence evolve from documents to environments? Second Life is trying to do this now, but it is too clunky, too hard for regular folk to build stuff and flying penises are too numerous. At this point, everyone is expecting a compartmentalized version of Second Life from Areae.

Last night, Raph posted a blog entry listing many of the sites that had covered the announcement of Areae and I couldn't help notice that his list of sites consisted of a collection of blogs and live journals that live on the fringe of the virtual world discussion, half of which I'd never heard of and likely never will again. Noticeably lacking were links to coverage or perspective from the MMO GAMING sector.

Is this intentional? Are the people at Areae purposely leading everyone away from gaming centric perspectives? Is the gaming industry so broken and embarrassing that they want to be distanced from it? I suspect so. Perhaps the founders of Areae come from a gaming background, but no longer want to be associated with rabble like us, preferring instead to capture the attention of a lofty crowd of serious citizens. MySpace users for example.

Submitted by Brent on Dec 20, 2006 15:29:34 CST (comments: 14)


'Ralph who?' by Celestian
Submitted on 2006-12-20 15:39:56 CST
I don't get all this hype over Ralph. He doesn't seem to be anymore directed or insightful than any other "game designer". He's got a lotta big fancy words in his discussions that makes people think he a deep thinker but I really don't see that his topics are anymore valid than anyone else.

Good luck to him at his new company, if it's anything like second life I won't have the least bit interest.

'precisely' by Brent
Submitted on 2006-12-20 15:44:17 CST
It doesn't look like he wants the gamer market, so you're right. You probably won't have much interest.

I tend to disagree with Raph more than I agree, but that isn't surprising. I tend to favor execution and reality over theory and rhetoric (despite the podcast and blog) but apparently investors don't distinguish between the two.

I'm sure whatever Areae does will indeed be fresh and interesting. The question is, will it be a novelty or will Raph and crew be billionaires in a few years?

'I for one welcome our new paradigm shifting overlords' by cyanbane
Submitted on 2006-12-20 16:24:13 CST
Shunned or not shunned as an MMO player I really don't care. The MMO realm needs a shake. Second life is lame as hell. Habbo hotel is lame as hell too. But I am sick of WoW Clone X and Let Down MMO #3 after months (years) of anticipation. I know most people are just now getting into MMOs (by just now I mean in the last 2 years with WoW) and everything is new and neat, but the model as we know it can't last another 5 years (it is already starting to break with games like GW). It might get an extension on consoles, but thats it. We need an upheaval or else big budget MMOs will become the next FPS. Yeah they will be around forever and everynow and then a fun one will pop up (GoW) but the progress as a whole is minute, and is just graphic upgrades in the end. Don't get me wrong I will play some of them for lack of other games, but every now and then something comes along that is just plain fun (ie wii) and unless someone still goes for stuff like that we will be stuck with "better shiney than last gen" MMOs. It might not be an MMO in the classical sense, but al teast someone is getting off their ass and not taking some old franchise and MMO'ing it. (again not to say a fallout/firefly mmo isn't going to be fun, but if the past is any indicator it's fun will be fleeting).

'features' by Brent
Submitted on 2006-12-20 16:31:47 CST
I'm all for adding new features and elements, but I also don't want a 3D chat room, which is what some of these 1st gen virtual worlds really are. I still want to adventure, not stand around in a one room apartment and look at my cool virtual show collection. You know what I mean?

'Next-Gen Games' by Kanthalos
Submitted on 2006-12-20 16:40:25 CST
I think the next step that needs to be taken in terms of games as well as whatever you want to label Second Life, is making people feel as though they are important inside of the game, not given the privelage to play. Can you think of any players in whatever game you play now that you would truly miss? I'm not talking about the person behind the screen, but their avatar. Has something they have done for you or anyone else on your server affected you/them enough that it has changed your/their playing experience? WoW and many other games can be really fun, and I can't say that they aren't addictive to the people that play them now (myself included), but until they change this idea that its a privelage into the idea that you make a difference, then MMO's won't hit the mainstream.

'/agree' by cyanbane
Submitted on 2006-12-20 16:42:49 CST
I agree wholeheartedly, but we need some kinda shift from somewhere, or atleast some company to be the catalyst. Also I never said it would be for the better ;) it may drive me back to sitting at my kitchen tables with my friends, a bag of dice and a 6 pack who knows? I do know that the MMO market does seem to be getting stale and the absolute worse thing right now is that MMOs via console are about to explode, which stinks for us PC players, I really don't feel like it will help innovation with us because I think controllers etc are going to be a more limiting factor rather than something to add to the genre (I am keeping my hopes up though)

'Next-gen games' by DamianoV
Submitted on 2006-12-20 17:05:21 CST
Frankly, as one of the admittedly fringe blogs that Raph (no "L" in there by the way, it's short for Raphael as I recall) linked to in that post, I suspect there was a reason behind his selections... but not any "shame of gamers" or the like. Check the official Areae news blog... there's a list of nine heavily game-centric sites, including Warcry, Blue's News, Slashdot Games and so on.

Take my post. It's not like my blog has much traffic, or I said anything particularly insightful in my post, yet he not only linked to it, but quoted extensively from it?

And unlike many of the others linked to, I've never really even met the man. I briefly shook hands with him once in a line at a game conference back in 2001... I sincerely doubt that was a criteria that factored heavily into my selection...

For my part, I suspect the reason he chose that post (and Chocorisu's very similar one) in that portion of his post last night is because they hit somewhat close to home on what they will be trying to make... in essence, an online place for us armchair designers out here to experiment with our own designs. It's "Web 2.0" in that it is collaborative and user-driven, but it's still game-centric. Just not in the current top-down "You're in our world now" sense.

Will it work? Who knows. It's definitely a "Hail Mary" concept from where we sit right now. But I do suspect there was something more to the selection of links than "we're going to ignore gamers". After all, to the hardcore gamer crowd, what's to announce? After all, it's just a new studio opening... there's no game to announce yet (and if I am right, there never really will be, at least in the typical sense).

'You made me think - scary, eh?' by Leonai
Submitted on 2006-12-20 17:28:53 CST
You mentioned about him not mentioning the MMO Gaming world, and I wonder if this may have to do with some of the incredibly bad press and really "ideals" that gaming has.

So I visited my parents for an early thanksgiving and she asked what my husband had given me for my birthday. Well, he got me the Nintendo DS Lite, and she snorted and asked, "Aren't you a little OLD for that sort of thing?! You should have grown out of that by now."

I hate to say it, but the mentality of gaming as being for "kids" is something that far too many people share. What I really hate to say is that I fear the "majority" of people tend to believe that it's childish.

Going back to the initial topic at hand, I wonder if he's trying to edge away from the "chidlishness" of gaming, and instead trying to market his "new world" as an "intellectual virtual universe where creativity is abound.

There is finger painting, and then there are pictures hung in an art gallery... which often are created in large part with what? Fingers! But wait... when most people think of finger painting, they think of a 5-yr old with tempera paints. Perhaps Raph is attempting to design his new pretty with this in mind.

'fun in gaming' by cyanbane
Submitted on 2006-12-20 18:01:12 CST
Some of the most fun I have had in "gaming" in the last 3 or 4 months has been playing with XNA and getting some tinkering 's up on my pc (and last week up on my xbox360). I have no want as of right now to devote 50 - 60 hours a week to game development, but the ability for me to create my own mini games and actually play them on my 360 is a blast. If Raph's web2.0ish feel ends up being mini-game design for the masses (networked/web20ished/ajaxified/socainetworked/whatever the next buzzword is) I am all for it. I smell something cool a brewing with Spore, and I have a feeling after it comes through there will be a lot of companies springing up, I think Raph and them just have/had this foresight and are already getting going.

'"Coming to terms with it..."' by scytale2
Submitted on 2006-12-20 19:23:16 CST
Let's just be pleased that the gamers were the first to discover multi-participant activity in a virtual world, as it may well mean that gaming and leisure is always at the root of future developments.

However, we have to come to terms with the fact that virtual worlds have rather more potential than orcs and goblins (much as I love them). What about education/training? Or virtual travel? Or a world stock exchange? What about a world stage to discuss world problems? Or a world virtual dating agency? These are just the tip of the iceberg....

'Raph Who?' by PeZzy
Submitted on 2006-12-20 21:24:02 CST
I think most people remember him for SWG. SWG was released as a broken game, full of exploits. I'm sure he'll find a new way for people to experience "flying penises".

'good news' by Brent
Submitted on 2006-12-21 11:47:11 CST
There's good news.

Raph Koster mailed me as a result of this discussion and it seems that he may be visiting the VirginWorlds podcast sometime in the near future.

I'm sure he'll be able to talk to the relevance of traditional MMO gaming within the virtual worlds of the future, including Areae's plans. I'm certainly looking forward to hearing more abou this vision. Hopefully we'll still be able to hunt some nasty mobs, after all, orc hunters invented all this and hopefully we won't be left entirely out in the cold by the inevitable movement toward a more massive market.

'Awesome' by cyanbane
Submitted on 2006-12-21 13:17:54 CST
Woot, thats awesome. I can't wait to hear more.

'Will he be visiting?' by scytale2
Submitted on 2007-04-14 04:58:41 CST
Am looking forward to a live celeb interview some time soon!

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