At The Metaverse Journal, we’ve followed Metaplace closely and covered its beta phase previously. Senior contributor Tateru Nino was asked to put Metaplace through its paces to ensure we haven’t been too starry-eyed about its potential – Editor.
Still in beta, Metaplace still has some rough edges and glitches, but it is certainly coming along very nicely. The look and feel of Metaplace mostly calls to mind the isometric 2D games of the mid 1990s. That’s very much the look and feel of much of it, though it is in a considerably higher resolution than the game titles of yesteryear.
You could be forgiven for thinking its areas as strikingly similar in some ways to the tactical maps of the old X-Com game series. It runs conveniently in a browser, and is entirely Flash-based, downloading what it needs, when it needs it.
Metaplace is divided into worlds. Each world being more or less a variably-sized map, viewed in a variety of ways and interconnected into a larger, multidimensional abstract geometry. There’s no broader landscape, and no particularly enormous spaces. Like – say – Richard Garriott’s Ultima VII, there’s an internal sense of the three-dimensionality of objects, but it is primarily a two-dimensional experience. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Metaplace’s strengths appear to be largely organized around social and gaming. Metaplace strongly supports the creation of spaces, particularly gaming spaces. Objects are almost trivially easy to create within metaplace, and the system actively supports a variety of relatively painless ways to get content into the system.
If you want, for example, a boat, the system will offer to take your search to Google 3D Warehouse, where you can simply select one of the available models, and Metaplace will do all the heavy lifting to import it for you. A useful variety of behaviours can be added to objects with just a few clicks, and no-scripting, and there’s support for more intricate systems as well.
Views of spaces can be customized, UI widgets can be added. There’s a great deal of support for building game-spaces, and if I were able to spare the time for making a game, Metaplace is definitely where I’d want to be doing it.
Metaplace tracks experience (‘metacred’, actually) and assigns levels, keeping track of the basic types of activities you indulge in. People can tell at a glance if you’re a socializer, explorer or builder by nature – though hardly anyone actually seems to pay attention to that. You gain metacred and presently also coins (for the economy prototype) by, well, socializing, exploring and building, basically.
Some issues still present themselves, of course.
The economy and monetisation of the platform is still in the early stages. It’s “soft-launched”, if you like, and users are still in the early days of getting to grips with the potential of the platform. Much of the content you’ll see is still under construction.
The urge to right-click – for context menus and the like – is almost overwhelming, but of course that just brings up the options for Adobe’s Flash Player. Some of your basic tools can be a little erratic. Sometimes your mouse scroll-wheel will function to zoom in or out of a scene, and sometimes – well – it just won’t. Even left-clicking on things can be somewhat erratic.
That said, Metaplace is still early in the beta stage, and we’ve got every confidence that its various teething problems will continue to sort themselves out. We’re definitely looking forward to seeing how the platform, the economy and the user-generated content all develop.