A long time ago, I applied to particpate in the Metaplace alpha. I never really heard much from it anymore, but to my suprise I received an invite to join in, a couple of days ago. Here we go again: after Twinity, Google Lively, Just Leap In and OpenSim, here's Metaplace, brought to you by Areae, a venture capital backed company, presided over by Raph Koster.
Not a world
Metaplace, by the way, isn't a virtual world, it's a platform. Their goal is to do away with separate client installs for individual, separate, disconnected virtual worlds. Instead, they envisage an infrastructure of tailor made virtual worlds, interconnected if so desired, built on Metaplace technology and accessible through the browser.
Browser based worlds
This begins to sound familiar, doesn't it? Just Leap In more or less offers the same, and Google Lively also shares some of these properties. The difference is that both Google Lively and JLI require a separate plugin installation, while Metaplace uses Flash, something most endusers already have in their browser. Another difference between Lively,JLI and Metaplace is that Metaplace does not just provide a 'room' but an infrastructure. It has developers' tools, code, APIs and the like. In this regard it is much richer than JLI and Google Lively. More like Second Life, actually.
Competing with Linden Labs, OpenSim
If Metaplace wants to become the platform of choice for virtual (social or game) worlds on the internet, they'll have to compete with Linden Labs and OpenSim. On their own, Linden Labs can't really win this battle; Second Life is just one big virtual world amongst others. But with OpenSim and, more specifically, the Open Grid beta that's going on, the Linden Labs client technology suddenly becomes a much more viable platform choice. Anyone can install or create OpenSim worlds, and use the Second Life viewer - or open source flavors of it - to access them. The technology being built and tested in the Open Grid beta ties it all together: Second Life, other Linden Labs owned sims, OpenSim based worlds, all accessible from the same rich and tested client.
I am, currently, very busy with real life stuff, so I am not done exploring Metaplace yet - not by a longshot. But I must say, the graphics and UI are, currently, still underwhelming. I haven't found a way to change the camera point of view, for instance. And running on full screen, it definitely looks like some of the PC games my kids play, like Rollercoaster Tycoon. But hey, it's beta..