Raph Koster's next game: the evolution of sandbox play

Raph Koster (previously) is a games design legend, the designer behind such classics as Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies, a consistently thoughtful and smart theorist of games, and the author of A Theory of Fun, the best book I've ever read about games and gaming.

Koster sold his last games startup, Metaplace, to Disney many years ago, cashed out, and has been doing various side projects ever since. But today, he closed financing for "Playable Worlds," his next big game, which will offer something for everyone: "adventuring, PvP, socializing, combat, crafting, or enabling online communities to cross over with each other."

Koster calls it the next stage in the evolution of "sandbox games," a category that has existed for so long that there are multiple generations of players who cut their teeth on various iterations from Runescape to Minecraft.

Congrats, Raph!

"When I look across games today, what I see is games about crafting, fashion play, timed reengagement, social play – basically a whole lot of things that are old tropes out of sandbox MMO play," he said. "Multiple generations have grown up with sandbox play now – kids who played Runescape are in their 30s, kids who played Minecraft in their 20s, and Roblox is already a decade old. We are seeing demand for 'sandbox-y' play all over the place, so I think it is very much of the moment. Heck, when I look at something like GTA Online, what I see is players role-playing cops and bus drivers and whatnot in there. A modern sandbox alternate world that has space for all sorts of players to play together, that feels to me very much like something that resonates now.

"I'd say that our goal, though, is to make a sandbox that looks forward, rather than one that looks backwards. There are many lessons to build on, but we're not out to build a museum to old gameplay. We're going to bring the best of that stuff forward to the modern day, and blend it with the best of now to hopefully make something that works for tomorrow."

Raph Koster's Playable Worlds lands $2.7M to create a new kind of MMO [James Brightman/Yahoo Finance]

(Thanks, Raph!)