|Announcing Vaporeae!||2006-12-17 07:09:00 GMT
by Kami Harbinger
Raph Koster (of whom I have previously written) has announced what he's working on: Areae... "Areas", except you probably can't trademark that, so instead he uses an unpronouncable and unspellable Latin word.
And that's fine, except he's got nothing. No screenshots. No product description. Zilch. It's less than vapor, it's less than smoke and mirrors, it's an empty space filled only with the lonesome echo of public relations bafflegab. Here's the front page blurb, in case it gets edited out later:
You know, it's a bad idea to tell people your company name doesn't matter. Claiming to be everything to everyone, and so easy that Helen Keller could hit max level in 2 hours, despite her trivial handicaps of being deaf, blind, and dead, isn't particularly encouraging, either.
Then there's that company logo (see right), where apparently a child's conception of a medieval castle, a giant kaiju dog chasing a car with no doors, a medevac chopper, a UFO and a Flash Gordon rocketship landing next to the Space Needle, and some high-fiving stick figures are all part of the same world. Someone should tell Raph that "user-created content" doesn't mean "random nonsense".
Looking over the jobs, it's obvious why there's nothing there. They haven't even started. They're looking for the most basic technical talent. Maybe they can get the one artist they're looking for to make them a logo that doesn't look like a child doodled it on a Denny's placemat with the free crayons.
Elsewhere, Raph writes, "We're working on some new tech that will literally change how virtual worlds are made. We've got a cool world or two incubating on the back burner."... What he's talking about here is Magic Pixie DustTM. Magic Pixie DustTM is any unspecified and nonexistent "technology" that allows you to create vaporware and fuel fanboy discussion without actually committing to anything. He has no technical people on-board in the company, only marketroids, ergo, he has no tech. This is a bald-faced lie, of which any man of honor would be ashamed.
Mark Wallace, usually a sane enough mind, calls Vaporeae "exciting". What, exactly, is so exciting? There's no game. There's no world. It's an empty Web 2.0 marketing website. If it was late March, I'd figure this was an elaborate April Fool's joke.
People, think about this. It's Raph Koster. He's left after trashing [ed: changed from a previous, inaccurate phrase] two giant online worlds already: Ultima Online had to have most of his virtual-world ecology and economics modelling removed because it was completely inadequately designed, it didn't work, it was completely unable to withstand contact with actual players, and anyone who had ever run a MUD for real would have known that and could have told him right up front. Then he repeated the same catastrophe with Star Wars Galaxies, first making the most deathly boring, often just plain unplayable, MMORPG in the history of the world, before saner heads prevailed and fixed it by removing his influences, finally dumping the entire game and starting over from scratch. The man made a freaking STAR WARS game where you couldn't play a Jedi!!! Hey, while you're at it, Raph, why not make a WWII game where you throw flowers at Hitler's troops, or an adaptation of Citizen Kane without a sled? Hardly an inspiring record. If anyone is going to take the "tired old MMO" and make it "fresh and new", it ain't gonna be Raph Koster. The man does not learn from his mistakes, and has such hubris, such hilariously total lack of self-awareness, that he published a "theory of fun", after making two of the most unfun game experiences in the history of gaming. Unspeakably slow level grinds, grubbing in the dirt endlessly for resources so you can build your way up from the stone age every single day and then getting paid nothing for your work, and hunting rabbits to extinction are Raph's idea of "fun".
The rest of his team and advisors are old MUD people (of the lot of them, Richard Bartle is the only one who seems sane and capable of learning from experience, but he hasn't done anything new lately, either...). Great, glad that they're all still around and theorizing about how they'd fix things if they were in charge, instead of these young whippersnappers with their modern technology... But none of them have implemented anything new in 15-25 years. Raph rails endlessly about others not learning the lessons of the past Ancient Wizards of MUDdom, but seems unable himself to learn the lessons of the present, for instance that people like games that don't suck.
What's depressing is, they're probably going to get a few tens of millions in venture capital, based only on their vapor site. In 2 or 3 years, in the unlikely event that they make it that long, in the totally improbable--bordering on supernaturally impossible--event that they finally start to have the vaguest hint of a shippable product, that's the time for them to be announcing stuff. Raph is doing the same routine as Tim Roberts of Infinium's Phantom console: lots of PR for a vaporware Magic Pixie DustTM-fueled product that doesn't exist and never will, take the money, and run.
Quit rewarding vapor with praise, people. You just encourage them.
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