Starving Metaplace Game Gods Marooned In Facebook

by Alphaville Herald on 16/01/10 at 6:41 pm

Raph Koster's shipwrecked crew selling cabbage, farming supplies in FB avatar deathworld

by Pixeleen Mistral, National Affairs desk

Raph Koster: "We're not talking about overall plans yet… first we learn"

Game god survivors of the Metaplace world's apocalyptic loss of traction – Raph Koster and Tami Baribeau (Cuppycake) – did not perish when the Metaplace world ended January 1st. After the shipwreck of the standalone Metaplace user generated virtual world dream, the MP game gods washed up on the beach in Facebook where they hope to feed themselves by selling cabbage and farming supplies to the 35 million FB players, despite the ever-present threat of avataricide. IslandLife is Raph's new Facebook-embedded game in beta test – but will it be redonkulous?

Hoping to locate the pink spaghetti strap top I bought in the final hours of Metaplace, I joined IslandLife and began farming.

Farming consists of picking the appropriate tool or crop seed, clicking on the ground and waiting to harvest the crops. It felt more like a waste of time anything else, but I'm willing to put up with a certain amount of grind to get the right clothes for my avatar. Perhaps Raph will add the old Metaplace New You clothes store soon?

Mp bye bye

the pink spaghetti strap tank top I lost when Metaplace closed January 1

Of course the name of the meta-game on Facebook is viral growth, so IslandLife encourages you to invite friends to "fertilize" your crops by clicking on the ground. You can even visit your IslandLife Facebook e-friend's farms and chat with them in-world, if chatting with friends via the FB chat system was not enough.

MpThis all seems a bit less than totally redonkulous so far, but apparently IslandLife is growing faster than the Raph expected. Everyone got 1000 free coins after growing pains resulted in missing crops and livestock Friday. I imagine this is the sort of problem Linden Lab would like to have, so perhaps the Metaplace move to FB was wise.

While FB farming isn't really doing much for me intellectually, my FB news is constantly updated with e-friend's achievements in other FB embedded games, so there are plenty of people who seem to like this sort of thing. Will the FB  spam from MafiaWars, FarmVille, FishVille, and CopycatVille ever end?

Besides similarities to various Facebook and other flash-based virtual farming games, former Metaplace players will recognize the beer barrels and other artwork. Some Metaplace veterans predicted that IslandLife would end up in Facebook even before the Metaplace world closed, after watching The Metaplace staff working on IslandLife during the final days of standalone Metaplace.


Will many of the 16 million Happy Farming Game players will take up real life farming – or IslandLife?

How well will the former game gods fare when they are forced to live in the Facebook MMO – a world with corrupt gods of it's own?

The sort of sudden game-changing 180 degree turns for which Linden Lab is infamous are also far too common on Facebook. For instance, Mark Zuckerberg recently changed thefundamental rules of FB privacy because he was struck with the divine inspiration that nobody cares about privacy anymore. Driven by an insatiable need for growth, Facebook will do whatever it can get away with to monetize the experience.

Is it only a matter of time before FB embedded games are nerfed or co-opted by the imperious Zuckerberg's need to know everything about everyone? Could running a chat system independent of Facebook prove to be a problem for Metaplace if FB decides that everyone's chat needs to data mined? If Linden Lab has issues with encrypted IM now, will Facebook soon have problems with chat  run inside Metaplace? And if they do, how much leverage will the little fish in the Facebook sea have to resist?

Meanwhile, we can only hope that virtual cabbage will be lucrative enough to keep the Metaplace crew alive while they polish IslandLife and consider their next steps. More interesting than IslandLife itself is what comes next. When I caught up with Raph Koster on his IslandLife farm he was coy when I suggested two options. The first – turn out a series of Facebook embedded games and sell spacebux for the games is obvious – as is the possibility of carrying your spacebux between various Metaplace framework games.

A second approach might be more interesting – provide a Facebook game creation framework to those eager to hop on the FB craze despite the risks – but expect for developers to take a very hard look at their rights and content portability in this scenario. After being wiped out in the Metaplace apocalypse once, developers and players wouldn't want to lose their investments – and tank tops – too often.


condemned to IslandLife – click on the ground to make plants grow – over and over


5 Responses to “Starving Metaplace Game Gods Marooned In Facebook”

  1. Senban Babii

    Jan 17th, 2010

    Okay, this is what worries me.

    I get shipwrecked on this desert island. And I find a nice little patch of cultivated land with cabbages growing. This is not generally considered a natural occurence, therefore someone else is already on the island and I’ve just eaten all their cabbages. So in fact, Island Life promotes wars of resources and yet makes no attempt to highlight alternative options such as communication, negotiation and generally just getting on with people.

    Faced with the despair of endless conflict with the natives and possibly a violently explosive death from terminal leguminous vegetable overdose, I decided to take my own life by drowning myself in the sea just off my bit of island while a cheerful Caribbean steel drum band played and seagulls frolicked over my floating body as if laughing at the cruel irony of it all.

    Okay, so it’s Sunday morning and I was bored 8D

    Seriously though, I think it was inevitable that Metaplace and derivatives would end up as Facebook apps. You only have to look at the popularity of all those little games like Mafia Wars and Farmville to see why companies are trying to get into them. But being honest now, Metaplace allegedly closed due to loss of traction. Do they honestly feel they have traction against the existing big players of the Facebook game app market? Time will tell I guess. I honestly just don’t get it myself though. I’ve just ploughed my little plot and now all I can do is watch cabbages grow. It’s sucking out my will to live.

    Oh wait, this just in! I’ve apparently just graduated to asparagus. And for this we created the internet…..

  2. Alyx Stoklitsky

    Jan 17th, 2010

    Fuck farmville, go play Haven and Hearth

  3. Pappy Enoch

    Jan 18th, 2010

    I done lost me traction in my old F-150. I had to get me the backho’ to pull me out.

    Raph needed hisself a good tractor.

  4. Pappy Enoch

    Jan 18th, 2010

    Them farm-games am dumb as hell. You cain’t shoot stuff that bothers you, and they ain’t no twisters, ornery neighbors, or farmer’s daughters to git you off in the barn-yard.

    I plans to stick to the RL farm…I kin be drunk n’ nekkid there.

  5. Mitch Olson

    Jan 18th, 2010

    Well written article Pixeleen. I just came across the Herald – I enjoy your insightful coverage of the VW space.

    Its extremely difficult developing a UGC-oriented product for both content-creators & content-consumers simultaneously due to the chicken-n-egg situation of the ecosystem. This is especially so when the required commitment of content-creation is relatively high (vs, say uploading a video to youtube).

    The content-consumer focus of MP’s Facebook experiments is a more accessible strategy, & presumably IslandLife is just a toe dipping exercise; its a bit late to the Farmsim party to win any significant usershare. But MP are well positioned to capitalize on the 2nd generation of FB Social gamers that Zynga et al have created, who will in 2010 be looking for a deeper game experience. Good luck to them.

Leave a Reply