Raph Koster has been an online gaming guru for decades, and he would love to build Metaverse, The universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, as in novels such as Snow accident and Ready Player One. But first, the CEO of Playable worlds knows that he must first create an exceptional game.
Playable Worlds has raised $ 10 million from investors, including Galaxy Interactive through its Galaxy EOS VC Fund and Bitkraft Esports Fund. The San Marcos, California-based startup is co-founded by Eric Goldberg, CEO of Crossover Technologies and frequent moderator of fundraising panels at our GamesBeat Summit events.
In an interview with GamesBeat, Koster and Goldberg said they are working on a cloud-native sandbox game world. This is yet another massively multiplayer online game of the genre that Koster has launched in the past. He has worked on titles like Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies, Everquest II and Metaplace.
“We absolutely build a game first. And you know that is certainly our main goal, ”said Koster. “I think there are obviously technological overlaps. We’ve all seen people compare Fornite or Minecraft or Roblox to Metaverse. It seems that a lot of plausible candidates are coming out of the games. Our main goal, at the beginning, is to provide an exceptional entertainment experience to people. And we will see how it develops. “
Cloud-based sandbox world
Koster believes that harnessing the cloud will open the door to new types of gameplay and gaming experiences in worlds that feel more real and immersive than previously imagined. The money will be used to develop the technology behind the game.
“We have demonstrated our core technology,” said Koster. “We offer custom technology that we believe will allow us to offer games as a service and better online gaming performance than the norm. And now that we’ve proven these fundamentals, let’s go ahead with hiring and team building to develop the game itself. “
Playable Worlds is developing cloud technology that offers richer simulations, more regular content versions and stronger communities. These developments provide significant benefits in operating games as a service, improve engagement and retention, and provide engaging gaming experiences.
Sam Englebardt, Managing Partner of Galaxy Interactive, led a session on metaverse at our recent GamesBeat Summit event. Koster was on the panel. He said that Koster’s vision and demonstrated ability to give players a compelling sandbox for expressing their digital identity makes him the type of founder he likes to support. Englebardt supports companies that it believes will lay the groundwork for the metaverse.
It’s the community, stupid
“The only social thing about the first social games was that if Eric made Dean play, the game didn’t care about you after that,” Goldberg said in an interview. “From being online in the early 1990s and so far, I know that if you build a community, players can do things you don’t want them to do. They can talk about their lives and develop relationships. But you will keep them longer.
Goldberg added, “So if you do community first rather than treating it as just a revenue tool, you can do better. You can reward your community and grow it organically. “
The company has 15 employees, operating primarily remotely in the San Diego, California area.
Koster said the team is spread across three states. It was more difficult to hire people during the pandemic, but he said the company had focused on hiring people “for whom we had social and professional evidence” or those that members of the team already knew. But he recognizes that future hires will become more difficult if the lockdown continues.
“If you go back to other games we’ve worked on, you’ll see that it works,” said Koster. “We will pay attention to the different types of players who all have ways of playing within the same universe. They can find pleasure as they like. But there are interesting interdependencies there. If you like play one way and like to play another way, there are times when we need each other. ”
Koster said Richard Bartle, a professor of computer science at the University of Essex and a pioneer in online gaming research, noted that there were four archetetypes of gamers: explorers, gamer killers, socializers and killers. It’s hard to design a game that appeals to all of these types of players, but you can do it with deliberate thinking, said Koster.
“We are very interested in looking forward, not backward,” said Koster. “Communities have changed a lot over the decades.”
Players are not, for example, interested in huge downloads and account setups before they can actually play.
“We want to build rich alternative worlds. It is absolutely a game. It is not just a social space,” he said. “We are really interested in long-term retention. I think one of the things that in a world as troubled as we see is that people want to interact online. We were interested in games designed to create communities. This feeling of unity is lacking today. What we are building is something that I hope can bring people together. “