This was a good pres. Meaty. Full of data porn, and screenies, and live demo'ing, which frankly on GDC's wifi is brave bordering on lunatic.
"MetaSoy" is now Whirled, and Whirled is a 2.5D, Flash world populated with player-created avatars, in which players can chat, play minigames, upload and download content, plus of course purchase and sell content.
I really like it. I think they're onto something: they've seen that ugly (myspace) doesn't have to mean terrible, and can possibly mean the difference between viral and non-viral. People seem to want to create! Not least, Three Rings have a nice varied portfolio going, using similar back end tools , but with very different front end offerings. It's very, very clever.
Here are some notes and photos:
They've been thinking about how to make a game that allows players to make stuff.
Originally they were going to make a sequel to Puzzle Pirates: called it soy ("son of yohoho"). Soy became Meta-Soy. "But most of the American population hates tofu". So it’s called Whirled. "Because we love puns".
Bad problem with PuzzlePirates: only a small proportion of people interested actually get IN. Miniclip players are download-and-install averse. Lots of places they can fail.
Puzzle Pirates has good word of mouth, but the "sub 1.0 viral coefficient", which is 'do you tell your friends'. It doesn’t grow by itself. They’ve seen success of Neopets, Club Penguin, etc.
Daniel: Had an idea for a game about haunted houses. But realized this project should abandon any genre.. "we don’t want ‘residents’, but any genre would limit the audience. We’re influenced by web 2.0. I love YouTube. I don’t have a television. These are the tools we used: liquor, wikis and flash. GWT is really, really handy. Lots of backend from our previous games."
This is what the VCs saw:
Daniel: Soc-nets are interesting because they remove the geography of the world. There is no public space per se. Let’s kill "user-generated content", my players aren’t users.. are they a power source, are they generators, a battery? Even if they are junkies I don’t want to refer to them as such.
We have closed alpha of 200 culled from a list of PP players, and wiki admins. To make Whirled ready to beta we need to make people want to invite their friends. We need to find out what people really want, and who our players are. VCs ask, what’s your demographic? And I say, weeeeelll… errrr….
Daniel: Invite only, like gmail. We don’t know how we’re going to pay creators. So many legal issues. We don’t know about partnerships. We might do some advertising.. Naysaying disasters are where people make avatars that go round to other avatars’ houses and blow them up.
Daniel: This is Alpha 0.1: a key feature of Whirled is horribly broken right now.
Who chose this font, this font is a monstrosity!
So you can see this is like 2.5D.
Daniel: So kids can make their own animations which is good, because if you look out there, it seems ugly is a key feature of rapid viral growth. [laughter]
So we’ll release all the source for these minigames and make it really easy to hack them up… so people will make their own stuff.
Most of this is player-created.
Q: This reminds me of The Palace. I mean, people can upload anything, they'll upload things that look horrible, do you worry about the loss of control?
A: No,that's the idea!
Q: do you have plans on how to handle copyright infringement?
A: sure, notice and takedown. We’ll take down stuff that’s infringing.
I love their attitude, I really like the fact that they don't attempt to pretend they have all the answers before trying something different. These guys are proper prospectors - out there on the edge and reporting back. All the best to 'em, I say; all the very best.