Something else Areae's Metaplace has me wondering about is the possibility of shared assets.
What I mean
Bioware included a design toolset with Neverwinter Nights, but modules were limited to NWN assets and applications. I doubt they would have been very happy to find their proprietary NPC models or sound effects in a non-Neverwinter game, even if no profit was made from the game.
But the sharing of assets without such limitations on their use might be possible with Metaplace. Someone creates a model of a horse, and a dozen other users use that model in their own games. The horse might have been created for an RPG, but another user might make the model the basis of a horse-racing game. Someone records the sound of an evil cackle, and the audio asset spreads like wildfire.
Certainly, many users will only license out assets for money, but some (how many, I don't pretend to know) would certainly be willing to give theirs away. Perhaps, most of those would ask to be credited for the asset by name, but the use is essentially free.
What Areae must do
Or, rather, what it seems they must do. I'm not a legal expert.
If they want to this happen, Areae should facilitate the transfer of assets from one user to another through a simple and painless, but permanently recorded and easily accessed, legal agreement. Basically, it would be like clicking on a EULA before you start playing an MMO. After the two users have agreed to a moneyless transaction, they use the Areae tool to formalize the contract by both clicking on this agreement; thereby keeping the free nature of the transfer on record in case one party changes his or her mind. (Please note that this is just theoretical. Areae has suggested no such feature.)
If users can comfortably use the assets other Metaplace users have created, then it opens up many possibilities. Areae's design tool will help amateur designers cut a lot of corners by not having to build the games' programming foundations, but shared assets could result in even more saved time and work.
For one thing, it would expand the Metaplace toolset's accessibility to would-be designers who are short on available time. More people would be willing to try their hand at implementing a Metaplace game.
It would also inspire some designers to tackle larger projects; to be more ambitious.
For example, I've always wanted to design a multiplayer RPG in which there are so many different weapon and armor effects that no one player will ever see them all; a game in which the item you loot from the monster is the only weapon in the game with that particular effect (such as a sword which gives you a ghostly companion or a frightening helmet that reduces the morale / combat effectiveness of most enemies). You might have read an old post of mine on how content doesn't always need to be experienced directly by a player to improve his or her game experience.
That sort of feature would never get into a professional game, because it requires the creation of too many assets. But if many different Metaplace users permitted me to incorporate some of their assets into my game, then a little creativity would enable me to build that game at a reasonable pace. I wouldn't be making the models; I'd just be looking at what other people have created and asking myself what sort of cool effect I could use it for.
Someone models a fire for their log cabin's fireplace... I make the fire appear in front of enemies when my players cast a Fire Wall spell. Someone models a candle... I enlarge it, change the hue, draw runes on it, and turn it into a pillar of an old ruin lost in the forest.
Collective assets would enable us to design as we designed when we were little kids. We can use our imaginations to rearrange the familiar into something new and wonderful.