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Raph Koster speaks on Metaplace's new functionality and the state of virtual worlds pt. 2


Metaplace is quite large now, with well over 30,000 worlds created. How does Metaplace avoid spreading the population out too thinly, as, after all, these are social worlds? Is that a challenge for you guys?

It is. It is a challenge. Many of our worlds are empty at any given time. Many of them are people's "apartments" or "personal spaces." Everyone gets a world when they start out in Metaplace, and a large majority of them are unimproved.

What we've found out is that people really congregate in the well done worlds. Because of that, we've spent a lot of time on searching algorithms to find the worlds that people consider to be the best and the worlds that are the most populated at that point in time and then bring them up top to the user. We're also working on expanding our support for events, so when something interesting is going on in Metaplace all users will get a notification. This way they can click the link and go and check it out quickly. Yet, sometimes great worlds get lost for a time, but then they get rediscovered as people re-find them.

"Virtual worlds need to make that jump to become "ordinary," in a way"

We've also included a new feature, called the golden egg. This allows veteran users to market their worlds to others by purchasing this new item. The egg, which is 25,000 coins, can be placed in your virtual world for others to find. Once they find it and click on it, they get 500 coins as a present and are also given the location of another world that has a golden egg. Every world that has a golden egg in it is also listed in the golden egg world list. There's also a golden egg in Metaplace Central that "kicks off" the quest, so to speak.

Where do you see virtual worlds going in the future?

One of the big questions at the last convention I attended was, "What's next?" In some ways, we've already accomplished a lot of the dream. A lot of the things that people expected out of virtual worlds have come true.

We have mass marketed virtual worlds that aren't extremely popular, but, you know, popular enough. We've reached a level of penetration in entertainment that's quite high. But they haven't jumped to total mainstream acceptance yet.

I think that's the next step. Virtual worlds need to make that jump to become "ordinary," in a way. Having them become a key part of the web would be a key part of that. It's always been a mistake for us to think that virtual worlds will swallow the web. I don't think that's the way things are going. But I do think we'll be seeing a much tighter integration between virtual worlds and the rest of the Internet. I really think Metaplace is kicking the ball forward, in regards to that.

So what's the future for Metaplace, specifically?

We're always focusing on making it easier for users, in addition to hosting building classes so people can learn how to build new worlds. We also have a roadmap on our forums that contains a list of proposed features that anyone can check out, all of which is scheduled to come out in the next few months. We're still in the early days -- second month of open beta with a very soft launch -- and we're gonna keep building on what we got and make it easier for everyone to have a virtual world of their own!

Thanks for your time, Raph!

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