I'd suggest to read articles on the web if you don't know what storybricks are yet. Their home page is a good source. For those of you who just want a quick reminder, here's a quote from Massively.
Storybricks uses this visual programming language to let you create characters as simple or complex as you like and then send them off into the world to lounge about, go on quests, or give tasks to other players. Do you want to create an NPC guard who hates the player on sight until the player proves himself by rescuing the guard's daughter from certain doom? You can do that. Do you want to invent a royal dowager with a secret past or a thief with a heart of gold who's trying to make right some past wrong? You can do that too. Your imagination just became part of the development team.
When you want publicity, the good thing about bloggers is that they are cheap and can easily be convinced to write about something. The bad thing is that they really have no incentive at all to write something positive. Now, considering the nature of my blog, I guess Kelly knows that I generally like to review things by pointing out what I don't like. So, I hope it's not too much of a disappointment that this is what I am going to do with storybricks.
Let's start with the reason they go public now. Frankly, in my opinion they are not so much looking for feedback, as for publicity. Which is perfectly legitimate. It's what I'd do if I wanted to get investors on board and wanted to prove that my concept is able to inspire players. But I doubt that the feedback I give as a blogger can actually be used to improve the concept.
Generally, I am not optimistic about storybricks. First, because they try to solve a problem that doesn't exist the way Namaste assumes. Second, because I doubt they're going to improve games by much. And third, because they point in the wrong direction for MMORPGs (interaction with NPCs, instead of active/passive interaction between players).
If Blizzard or EA wanted to make NPCs that are more consistent with the simulation (=more life-like) they could today, easily. Instead they keep using NPCs that are completely passive and give you quests that you can agree on as fast as possible. Why? Because they haven't yet figured out a way to make them more credible while still benefiting the abstract gameplay as in contrast to the simulation.
NPCs with their own agendas sound great. But, just like a better combat AI, the reason it is not done today is not that it's too hard. The problem is that it doesn't necessarily makes for good gameplay if NPCs wander around. Do you remember trying to find Rexxar for the Onyxia questline? This was borderline terrible. At least that's what a lot of players came to think. I never had that much of a problem with it, but I, too, used the internet to find the exact path he followed. Now consider NPCs that wander around even less predictably.
But even if you ignore movement, are storybricks going to provide high-quality stories? I rather feel they are going to provide lots of more or less consistent short-stories. None of which matter to the player all that much. For storybricks to make a difference they must beat typical NPCs not at the simulation, that's easy. But at the gameplay.
That is, they must not feel frustrating, the journeys they offer must be worth their goals and they need to keep the player's mind busy while he interacts with them. I don't see how storybricks are going to do that. It rather looks like a "let's introduce players fighting for their homes, because that would be cool" kind of idea to me. Storybricks look cool, but they don't seem to promise introducing a better simulation while at least retaining the quality of the gameplay.
When it comes to virtual worlds, better NPCs are among the least of my concerns. It's rather an idea for games like Neverwinter Nights, games that offer highly instanced content. But even there I don't see how storybricks are going to beat hand-crafted characters in player-created campaigns, let alone developer-created campaigns.
For virtual worlds, the philosopher's stone lies in player-generated content, not in player-created content. The difference is that player-created content needs players who act as game designers. While player-generated content makes players play the game and, using a sophisticated set of rules, have their actions influence each other, and thus produce enjoyable content. The most trivial examples are PvP (active) or an auction house (passive). Eve Online is all about player-generated content.
I'd certainly welcome NPCs that are more life-like. But I fear their only place is the background of the game. For example, by following a day-night cycle.
Now, I always welcome a new startup that tries to make a difference. Especially if a fellow blogger is part of it. And I absolutely wish Namaste Entertainment success. It may be possible to succeed at making a useful tool for the industry. Financial success is possible. But I don't think storybricks are going to have much of an effect on virtual worlds.
There's, generally, not a shortage of ideas how to design virtual worlds that are more credible and consistent with the simulation. Even with today's tools it can easily be done. The real challenge is implementing these ideas in a way that doesn't harm the abstract gameplay, or maybe even improves it.