It didn’t take long for things to change after I wrote about Acclaim’s newest MMO project: that project will let anyone to sign-up to develop the game (although I don’t know how much contributions will make it to the actual game). Well, today I read about Outback Online, and I think we’ve now found what MMO 2.0 could mean: players getting more control over content. These guys are really making the development public: they will let players define the rules, the things to be done.
The Sydney Morning Herald covered an article about this project. Basically the developers are producing a virtual world using peer-to-peer computing rather than having centralized servers. P2P in massive multiplayer games isn’t technlogically new, but it hasn’t been much used in a larger scale. I’ve heard about some smaller projects that take advantage of P2P, but not any big ones. In Outback Online they seem to be using the technology to really take the next step in MMO genre.
Some quotes from the SMH’s article:
Outback Online is a virtual world system that will be on your computer 24/7, and we don’t yet know what changes that’s going to bring, but we’ve got an inkling that will be pretty profound,” Mr Leeb-du Toit says.
In the new world, an ‘outback’ is equivalent to Second Life’s islands – a hub for users.
It’s an environment in which one can talk, build and play. Yoick’s Phil Morle calls it “a huge box of Lego”. You can develop private outbacks for friends or a concert for 5000 visitors.
To me this sounds like combination of Digg, MySpace, or similar social sites and gaming – in a MMO play field. If these guys really successfully manage to handle this project, I think they’ve found a winner.
And they seem to be aiming high. Read how they commented the system compared to Second Life:
Second Life has 3.8 million subscribers in its thriving economy. But Yoick chief executive Randal Leeb-du Toit says Second Life is a village – and he’s nearly finished building Rome.
Unlimited, open scalable worlds – I think that sounds exactly what MMO games be in the future. I believe there’s probably lots of hype and lots of issues they need to handle. For example, technical problems need to be solved. What happens when P2P participants suddenly disconnect (in a really large scale)? What about security? Storing information? Viruses? Cheats? Then the business model: it’s not clear to me how these folks are going to monetize the system: will they charge fees from players? Will they have ads in the system? Will they license the engine/network/code/system? Will they do consultation? Will they write books? Will they sell the whole system to some big company after a successful launch? There’s also strategic risks involved: what if some big corporation has already been developing a similar system (or clones their system) and brings competing product in the market using a heavy promotion.
Nevertheless, I’m quite sure Outback Online or some other similar system will make their mark on defining the next generation massively multiplayer games.
For people interested in beta testing Outback Online, check out: outbackonline.com. I already signed up out of curiosity.