Matthew Paul and James Goertzman of A16z discuss how to unlock the metaverse

Matthew Paul and James Goertzman of A16z discuss how to unlock the metaverse

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There is a lot of vitriolic speculation about just how much of a transformation the metaverse might be. We heard this morning from two leaders who are good at explaining what that means and how annoying it can be: Matthew Ball, CEO of Epyllion and author of metaverse; and James Goertzman, partner at A16z.

They talked about the technologies needed to unlock the potential of the metaverse, which many describe as the next version of the Internet.

As part of our site GamesBeat Summit Next 2022 In the online preview, Gwertzman said he became interested in games more than 20 years ago because of his view that they drive innovation at the intersection of art and technology. He’s been making games for years and eventually starting Playfab, to provide back-end infrastructure services for games as they become multiplayer services. He learned the ins and outs of servers and the live experiences needed to make these games a success. Microsoft acquired the company in 2018, and Gwertzman got some insight into how games work. He recently moved into investing and joined Andreessen Horowitz, who has raised $4.5 billion for her gaming fund.

“This whole thing gave me an interesting bird-eye view of what we’re starting to call the metaverse,” he said. “If the metaverse really is a place where thousands or maybe millions of people can come together, it’s not at all different from a multiplayer game. In fact, I think it’s going to be game developers and game creators building the metaverse because we’re the ones who already have the knowledge and experience for what it takes To bring all these players into a 3D virtual environment using safety and (anti-phishing) to make sure everyone is having a good time.”

Microsoft offers PlayFab and Azure to game companies that use the cloud.

Paul asked how we can go from today’s multiplayer games to having much higher networks to having hundreds or thousands of players in the same space simultaneously, even as technology such as broadband, computing power, and hard disk space advances at a linear pace.

Gwertzman agreed that one of the biggest limits around multiplayer games today is the number of players that can be together in a single environment. With Fortnite, that number is 100. So when Epic Games hosted the Travis Scott concert, which attracted tens of millions, the concert was split into groups of 100 people, all tied together on a single server, with hundreds of thousands of servers to accommodate, Paul said. all people. How do you get a real scale?

“This is where you start to get into really thorny sizing problems,” Guertzman said. “It’s not a linear growth in traffic. It’s actually a massive growth because every new player you add has to have many groups of messages that are passed back and forth to keep everyone informed.”

One of the starting points, Goertzmann said, is to use simpler games at the beginning.

Matthew Ball explains the importance of metaphysics.
Matthew Ball explains the importance of metaphysics.

“One of the big architectural changes we’re looking at is how much of this logic we’re moving away from your on-premises machine, and onto the entire cloud, where you can keep all of that in one server or in a pool of servers,” Goertzmann said. “You don’t have to keep updating with messages back and forth. . This is one trick. Another trick is to design your experience. You don’t have that many players in the same physical space at once.”

Note that Hadean recently raised $30 million To build a metaverse infrastructure from Epic Games and others, Hadean is trying to solve that problem. Unlikely is another attempt at an approach where they break up the world spatially so that there aren’t many players in one place. (Leaders from both companies also speak at GamesBeat Next Top).

“I think one of the really interesting innovations that we’re going to need to create this metaverse is to think of new ways to segment the transit traffic and create this sense of true space,” said Goertzman.

Ball said the battle royale designs reduce the communication problem by shrinking the playing area and eliminating players when this happens. By the time it becomes a small circle, maybe five players are left and the net load is smaller.

Guertzman said he was reminded of a quote from John Lasseter, formerly of Pixar, where he said art challenges technology and technology inspires art.

“You have to start coming up with tricks and tricks and solutions to try and create the experience,” Guertzman said. “Or you go back to your techies and say I really want to do this thing, and the current tech doesn’t support it. Let’s be innovative.”

He added, “I think there are going to be some really cool things that we can do with the metaverse that are going to be really inspiring. And it’s going to force us to take on some of these really interesting technology issues.”

Fortnite features a new Ferrari.
Fortnite features a new Ferrari.

Paul said he loved that technology leaders, like Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, have been talking about solving these problems for decades. So he asked why are so many veterans talking about the metaverse now?

“When you start to see this cultural hub, you suddenly realize that the idea of ​​being in a game space is no longer just games, and that these technologies are used in a lot more,” said Guertzman. “We’re also more comfortable now with space. It’s not that technology suddenly crossed some threshold and now we can do things we couldn’t do before. I think as much as we are now comfortable with these spaces. I also think it looks really interesting, I think we’re starting to realize some of the limitations of some of the online platforms that we have — Facebook is famously criticized for the way it picks and chooses messages that show you criticism or polarization and we don’t engage with the full bandwidth online.”

“One of the advantages of moving to a more 3D environment is that you actually have a greater sense of being. I don’t mean after you put on VR glasses and go into more immersive VR. Just the idea that you’re really in a place with other people. And it’s not just anonymous voices. It’s not Just text threads. Those are like people.”

He said that virtual spaces like World of Warcraft have the potential to create lasting bonds between players and this makes them comfortable with engaging in online economies.

Paul hopes that moving into the metaverse may alleviate some of the problems we face today. But the question is how do we solve it. Twitter recently changed its policy regarding what it considers offensive behaviour. While it’s not specifically toxic, people can be harassed by what gamers have long known as “sadness.” This raises a moral obligation for creators in these worlds to manage such behaviour, Ball said.

The Modern does great things in the Overwolf community.
The Modern does great things in the Overwolf community.

“When you put humans together, you start to have exactly these problems,” Guertzman said.

He said he’s optimistic because game designers have learned over time to push and reward certain behaviors over others.

“A number of these massively multiplayer worlds are actually very friendly places that don’t really suffer from that kind of melancholy and trolling in other environments,” Guertzman said. “A lot of it has to do with more social mores that have arisen around these particular games. It can be as simple as a game designer influences or rewards players early on for helping other players when he joins them.”

Some of these tools will be automated to look for negative behaviours, and others will be designed to reward people for good behaviour. This is important because online behavior – as we’ve seen with COVID – can lead to a loss of empathy and people can develop more difficult edges. This does not work in the real world.

“How do we encourage players or users to learn to be healthier for each other?” Guertzman said. “There is a lot of research on so-called third spaces, bars or hair salons, that are neither for work nor home. You get that mixing bowl of people who have different opinions and a completely different social situation.”

What you don’t want, he said, is for people to be divided into their own echo chambers. Ball believes that all of these forces—technical ability, socialization, cultural influence, investment, economic impacts—meant that we’ll have something similar to what metaverses are, whether it’s in five to 15 years.

When asked what he thinks is going to happen, Goertzmann said that blockchain has gotten off to a rough start with speculative behavior and crazy hype. But he is optimistic about it for long-term innovation in the space because decentralization will be important as we strive to have our own online identities and control our data.

“If you look at the games,” he said, “every game is basically a whole, separate, isolated, fenced-in garden.” “Who I am in Fortnite is a very different person than I am in Red Dead Redemption. That’s because these games are isolated from each other. And one of the things that got me excited is (how) we’ll be able to give our users more control over their identities.”

Stream games like Google
The world of Red Dead Redemption 2.

Your reputation can move with you from one place to another, as can your list of friends. Games will start to overlap with each other more. The world designed for one game may be reused in other games. Those with user-generated content and mods can reuse these places for new experiences. The creative economy will go into the games themselves.

“This is really going to be a massive driver for metaverses and it will expect everyone to create and contribute, not just a passive observer,” said Gowertzman.

Guertzman noted that we have years of learning built from communities like Roblox or battle royale games, and those who grew up learning these things will have their own ideas of how to build on those more fun or more social foundations.

“Kids who have these experiences will end up being innovative and creative,” he said. “They want authenticity, they don’t want it to perfectly coordinate the Instagram experience. They want me to be real, who I really am. And create the kind of space we really want to spend time in.”

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