Metaplace


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Metaplace

JohnBMetaplace is a browser-based community of user-created virtual worlds that also serves as an online games platform. Metaplace gives you the tools you need to create just about anything your twisted head can conjure — from casual social lounges to games both basic and complex — all with an extremely flexible set of building tools. If you can surf the web, you can use Metaplace, and this level of powerful simplicity makes it one of the most attractive virtual world communities around.

metaplace.jpgBrowsing through the hundreds of worlds on Metaplace, you'll see all kinds of sights. Dreams, for example, is a beautiful realm built around the concept of exploring a woman's dreams. White Chapel 1888, on the other hand, is a murder mystery game where you investigate crimes in 1888 London during the reign of Jack the Ripper. Oh, and then there's Altar of Saget, so, yeah, you can see just about anything in Metaplace.

After creating your profile and logging in, Metaplace drops you in your home world, a sandbox-like area where you can create whatever pops in your head. The first thing you'll want to do is get familiar with the building tools, as you'll be spending a lot of time here customizing your worlds. Just click on "build mode" at the top center of the screen and a few new toolbars will appear. Don't be afraid to try things out, as your curiosity is the best way to learn how to use Metaplace.

The tools you'll be using most are the terrain shapers/painters and the object toolbar. Your world doesn't have to be flat, you can have hills, valleys, sharp cliffs, plateaus, and everything in-between. Each square on the grid can be painted with ground tiles to complete the look, and you can even create water, walls, and impassable tiles to keep visitors on a set path.

Here's where the fun begins: adding and customizing decorative, solid, and interactive objects. Metaplace has its own marketplace where other users have created and shared dozens upon dozens of items, objects, tools, scripts, plugins and more. To access them, all you need to do is click on "Add Objects" followed by "From Marketplace", then search for what you need and drop it in your world. You can also pull objects from Google 3D, though they almost never work as smoothly as marketplace items do. And if that's not enough, Metaplace allows you to create objects using any image you can find, whether it's on the internet or on your computer. Just click the "+" button on the objects toolbar, name your item, choose the image and you're good to go!

Once an object is in place, feel free to rotate, resize and slide it anywhere on the grid. Clicking on "behaviors" opens up another bucket of customization tools where you can program your object using a browsable, searchable set of behaviors. Want a waffle that follows players and occasionally dispenses Marcus Aurelius quotes? That's easy! Again, the best way to learn how to use behaviors is by letting your curiosity get the best of you. It isn't complicated, but there are a lot of options at your disposal.

If you want to get some dirt under your nails, Metaplace gives you access to a scripting language that lets you do some really interesting things. Your average user can do a lot with the point-and-click graphical tools, but programmers (even amateur ones) can accomplish strange and wondrous things in Metaplace.

metaplace2.jpgAnalysis: I've never been one for virtual worlds, massively multiplayer titles, or most games that emphasize content creation over actual gameplay. During my first tour of Metaplace, however, I was floored by how easy the creation process was and impressed by many of the worlds people had already designed. And none of them were programmers, just Metaplace folk with an artistic eye. I sat down, learned the building tools and began crafting. It was more fun than I initially thought, and I was especially fond of the old-style isometric layout. At the helm of Metaplace (and lending some serious cred to the project) is Raph Koster, lead designer of Ultima Online, creative director behind Star Wars Galaxies, and author of A Theory of Fun for Game Design.

Part of what makes Metaplace so attractive is its simplicity, both in terms of building/creating worlds as well as exploring them. The learning curve is small, and within half an hour you'll feel at home in build mode. The toolbar at the bottom of the screen gives you access to more information about the world you're in and lets you browse more areas as well. Add friends, favorite cool worlds, or "meep" other users just to poke them and let them know you know they're around.

Because Metaplace tries to be a true... erm... meta... place, allowing users to pull content from any source, some things end up being a bit quirky in practice. I can't even begin to tell you how long I spent messing with a custom-built couch, trying to get Metaplace to recognize which direction it was facing so sitting users weren't facing the wrong direction. Also be prepared to invent creative workarounds, especially for content imported from Google 3D. Metaplace does a good job handling such a wide variety of content, but as the service ages and prepares to leave beta, I would like to see this improved, along with a more reliable interface.

Now for some practical information: cost. Metaplace is free to join, free to explore, and free to play. When you sign up you get your very own world to play with, also for free. If you want to create new worlds, however, you'll need to purchase them. At the time of publication the pricing structure was still being finalized, but casual Metaplace visitors/builders need not worry about forking over any cash. Just join it and have some fun.

Update: Unfortunately, Metaplace is no longer available to play.

Interested in giving Metaplace a try? We've spent a few weeks working on our very own lounge, a place where everyone can come in, sit on the swings, gawk at the fenced-in writers, watch the Kraken swim, and explore some of our favorite casual gaming content. It's a great introduction to Metaplace and will show you some of the things people have done with the platform. After creating your account, simply head over to the JIG CasualGameplay Lounge and say hi!

Pictured in the banner above are the builders of our Metaplace lounge along with a few other members of the JIG crew. From left to right: Marcus, Jay, Stacey (main lounge work, co-built room escape), Pam (main lounge work), Psychotronic, JohnB (project coordinator, built the simulation, puzzle, downloads, and point-and-click worlds, co-built strategy and room escape), Jess (co-built room escape), Grimmrook (built the action and adventure worlds, co-built strategy). Also pictured: our pet waffle, hiding behind Pam.

36 Comments

Come over and join us everyone. We're having a Jig party.

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If I use OpenID to open an account, what's the format (if applicable) for casual gameplay? Usually it's shudog.name-of-site.com

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it's www.metaplace.com/worldname :)

So http://www.metaplace.com/CasualGameplay/play is the link :)

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auroraB Author Profile Page May 14, 2009 7:54 PM

I don't know if you guys have found it yet, but I'm trying to do the Metabuddy thing. And I'm stuck on level 16. I found the link to it in the Dreams world by clicking on the red baseball cap.

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Sorry, cuppycake, that's not my question. I'm specifically asking about using the log-in here to validate the external site log-in there via OpenID. If JIG uses OpenID, I don't know what it'll be under -- jayisgames.com? casualgameplay.com?
Thanks for trying to help.

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@ Shudog:

Try both! I don't use OpenID (at least I don't think I do), but I guess it would be either shudog.jayisgames.com or shudog.casualgameplay.com.

This sounds awesome! Can't wait to make a world of my own. Just one question... How do I create an account??

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Oops... I somehow missed the huge blinking "JOIN NOW!" button. Guess I'll soon be paying a visit to my oculist...

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Donut: just go to metaplace.com, and click the big yellow "Join" button.

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Sooo...it's basically like Furcadia, then?

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You had me at Alter of Saget.

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Sorry, Shudog, we don't currently have an OpenID interface to JIG. I hope to be expanding login options soon!

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And so everyone knows, Kyle = Grimmrook.

I'll be on in I would say about an hour. I need to put the finishing touches on action world, but I'd be happy to hang out with anyone who's still poking about for a bit.

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DigitalSeraphim Author Profile Page May 14, 2009 10:19 PM

For anyone who uses linux... you might want to hold off unless you want to downgrade your flash player, and even then, it's touchy (according to what I read on the forums). Oh well... :^(

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I'm so excited that the garden I built got a screenshot in the review! Woot!!

And just everyone knows, Pam = Spoop in Metaplace. :)

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"...a few of the JIG crew, several of which built our Metaplace lounge..."
Several of WHOM, surely?

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bionicghost May 14, 2009 11:53 PM

For some reason, all the worlds i try to get in stop loading after 41% !
WHYYYY?!!?!?!
Uhm, i mean: Does anyone knows why?

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Anyone know why the detective's dialogue box in the Whitechapel game would be showing up too tiny to read, and how I could fix that?

Has anyone tried to play Whitechapel and been able to?

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Gambino May 15, 2009 10:49 AM

I can't sign up...

It just keeps returning me to that page.

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Worth a try! (in my quest to remember more of my passwords) Thanks, all.

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auroraB Author Profile Page May 15, 2009 7:28 PM

Bloop:
I checked into the Whitechapel one too. I can't read the detective's stuff either, but if you turn your sound on, he says stuff ( even though what he says doesn't really help--some detective he is...). It won't let me into any of the buildings in that world. I click yes and nothing happens.

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Brigid Hawkins May 15, 2009 7:53 PM

I was not impressed, joined up Ok but my "sandbox " never materialised and I could not find any useful help to speak of, contrary to what you say here I did NOT find it simple or easy to use

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atomic1fire Author Profile Page May 15, 2009 8:11 PM

Since when does JIG offer OpenID?
Normally I would use my typekey,
but you could also just use google yahoo or aol.
I might just try to vailidate and see if I have a JIG OpenID

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atomic1fire Author Profile Page May 15, 2009 8:16 PM

After reading Jay's comment,
Oh well,
Its not normal for blogs to offer ID's anyway, unless its the blog owner,
But if you happen to use typekey,
Click openid, and type in http://profile.typekey.com/shudog
I think that's the correct url
I have used my openid for a long while,
I used to use my livejournal account if need be, but My aol account covers most openid stuff,
though it does not support directed identity (which is why they need your screen name, because they use that to fill the rest of the url with the user specific part)

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I don't know if anyone else thought this but, while reading the review I thought this was probably a cheap rip off Whirled.

I was wrong!

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Cool color and design

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Pretty surreal! So far I've been paintballed and a dog is following me around. I like the JIG petting zoo or whatever that is. Just as an FYI - the JIG World of Adventure teleporter doesn't go anywhere.

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Thanks for the bug report, escape velocity.

I just checked and the Adventure world teleporter appears to be functioning with design parameters.

Metaplace does have its occasional hiccups since it's still in beta. Maybe it was one of those?

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Adventure World still isn't working for me, but now it does ask me if I want to travel to Casual Games Adventure World before it tells me that it can't find that world. (That message may not be verbatim.)

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wetpatch May 16, 2009 11:36 PM

Worked ok for me for a couple of days, now it won't load any of the worlds, even the one I'm building. It loads to 24% then stops there.

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peroxide555 Author Profile Page May 18, 2009 4:30 AM

Just wondering but why does the waffle follow me everywhere I go??
Not that I mind, but sometimes I feel a bit bad for him/her, as I don't know what to do with them!!
And who, or what is hiding behind the tree??

Just a couple of questions from an intrigued lover of your lounge!!

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Anyone who is having problems, please do send us a support ticket. We're still in beta, so reports like the above are incredibly helpful to us. I'd love to be able to help those of you having issues, but I can't because I don't know who you are on Metaplace. :)

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Robynthegeek Author Profile Page May 19, 2009 9:34 PM

Thanks JIG, now I have a new addiction, And of course, I made a world http://beta.metaplace.com/geekgirls_World/play

Just a simple maze, but I hope it's fun!

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atomic1fire Author Profile Page June 5, 2009 7:57 PM

White chapel works now, at least for me, I am stuck at the secret prisons password, so I can get into the sewers

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atomic1fire, it might be the answer to the robed figure's riddle.

What comes once in a minute, twice in a moment,and never in a thousand?

m inute, m o m ent, thousand

its M!

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btw, visit my world at http://metaplace.com/mattimeo9s_World/play

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