Raph Koster, The Man Behind Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies, Is Back Doing His Own MMO


Raph Koster is a name that should ring a bell to old-school MMORPG fans. The man was a Lead Designer on Ultima Online and Creative Director on Star Wars Galaxies, two of the most acclaimed MMOs of that time. Raph Koster was also Chief Creative Officer on EverQuest II.

He's back now, having assembled a new studio called Playable Worlds alongside other veteran developers such as Dorian Ouer, Mat Broome, Brian Crowder, and Greg Costikyan. The quest (pun intended) is an ambitious one: to leverage the latest available technologies in order to create a widely appealing yet innovating MMO game. In order to do so, Raph Koster and his team managed to raise $2.7 million in seed funding from BITKRAFT Esports Ventures, with participation from 1UP Ventures and other angel investors.

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In an interview with GamesBeat, Koster outlined the project in (very) broad strokes.

We have a team in place. They’re veteran folks, many of whom I’ve worked with directly before. As you might guess, with the online world, we are going to build a massively multiplayer world where all sorts of players can come together and find ways to regardless of whether they like exploring or adventuring or socializing or player-versus-player (PvP). It’s a sandbox world that supports many ways to play. If you look across a lot of the most popular games that are out there, and the ways in which people play them, whether it’s PvP, or like Minecraft, or like building, some people like playing for socializing, and so on. There’s an awful lot of proven features out there that we know audiences enjoy. And a lot of them actually were born from sandbox MMOs. So we’re going to bring together those proven, fun features that we know people like, into one world.

The trend lines are toward MMO-like services in games. They are popping up everywhere and there is huge pressure in that direction for a whole bunch of reasons. It felt like it was the right time to bring some of the things that I helped innovate full circle.

We want a world where all sorts of players can find a home. That means for players and people who are more casual, people who are really gamey and people who enjoy chatting. From mobile games to Facebook games, I do think that there are great lessons to be had from all of those different parts of our industry, and I want to apply them all.

The renown game designer also confirmed it'll be a new intellectual property rather than a licensed one. It may be quite a few years before we see its release, just like for the sandbox MMO announced yesterday by Mainframe Industries. Still, here's hoping at least one of these projects can breath new life into the genre.