Imagine that you downloaded a super popular Parkour game, and the characters in the game immediately acquired new skills. After a few minutes of novice teaching, climb the wall and cross the obstacles, and you are ready to meet the greater challenge. You transfer yourself to one of your favorite games, GTA: metauniverse. Follow the route set by another player, quickly jump over the car hood and jump from one roof to another. Wait... What's the glowing object under the mailbox? A super evolved fire breathing dragon, you take out a fairy ball from your backpack, catch it, and then continue
This game scenario is unlikely to happen today, but it may be realized in the future. Composability and interoperability will be realized in the game, which will revolutionize the game creation and experience,Composability refers to the circulation, reuse and reorganization of the basic building blocks, while interoperability refers to the components in one game can be used in another game。
Game developers build products faster because they don't have to start from scratch every time. When they can try new things and take new risks, they will create better creative games, and more developers will join, because the threshold for game development will be lower. What new "meta experiences" will be included in the essence of a game? As mentioned earlier in the article, it can be played across multiple games.
Of course, any discussion about "meta experience" can not avoid a concept that has been discussed many times: meta universe. In fact, many people regard metauniverse as a complex game, but its potential is higher than we think. in the final analysis,The metauniverse will present everything we can interact and communicate with others in the future online. Based on the game technology and game production process, only the game creator is the key to unlock the potential of the metauniverse。
Why the game creator? No other industry has so much experience in creating a large-scale online world, where thousands (sometimes tens of millions) of online participants can interact with each other, usually in real time. Now the game is not just "play". They can also "trade", "create", "live" or "buy things". The metauniverse has added more actions, such as "work" or "love". Just as micro services and cloud computing have started the innovation wave of the technology industry, I believe the next generation of game technology will usher in a new generation of game innovation and creativity.
Many games now support UGC, allowing players to create their own expanded versions for existing games. Some games, such as roblox and fortress night, are so malleable that they have called themselves metauniverses. However, the current generation of game technology, to a large extent, is still built for single-machine games, which can only help us to this stage.
The game revolution will require comprehensive innovation of the entire technology stack, from production pipelines and creative tools, to game engines and multiplayer networks, to data analysis and online services. Recently, James Gwertzman, an analyst at a16z, wrote an article about his vision for the game transformation stage and analyzed in detail the innovation fields needed to open a new era.
The following is the full content of gamelook compilation:
For a long time, the game is mainly a single and fixed experience. Developers create, publish, and then start developing sequels. Players buy, experience, and then change the game after the content is exhausted. Usually, a traditional game can only provide 10-20 hours of playing experience.
We are now in the era of game as a service (GaAs)Developers continue to update the game after its release. Many games also have metacosmic UGC functions, such as virtual concerts and educational content. Roblox and my world even launched the in-game market, and players and creators can get paid through their own works.
However, what is important is that these games are still (purposefully) isolated from each other. Although their respective worlds may be very immersive, they are all closed ecosystems, and there is nothing to transfer between them, including resources, skills, content or friends.
So, how can we transcend the potential of these remaining walled gardens and unlock the universe? As composability and interoperability become important concepts of metauniverse games, we need to rethink how to deal with the following aspects:
identity。 In the metauniverse, players need a single identity that can be used between many games on multiple game platforms. Today's platforms insist that players have corresponding user profiles. For each new game, players must monotonously rebuild their profiles and reputation from scratch.
Good friend。 Similarly, today's games maintain separate friend lists, and the best case is to use social platform accounts such as Facebook as a source of friends. Ideally, your friend network will follow you from one game to another, so that it is easier to find people to play with and share the information of the competitive leaderboard.
Personal belongings。 At present, the items you get in one game cannot be transferred or used in another game. This is a good reason. Allowing players to bring modern assault rifles into medieval games may be temporarily satisfying, but it will soon destroy the game. However, under reasonable restrictions, exchanging items between different games can open up new ideas and improvisation.
take laws and regulations lightly。 Today's games are closely related to playing methods. For example, all the fun of "platform games" such as "Super Mario: Odyssey" is to control the virtual world. However, by opening the game and allowing various elements to "mix", it is easier for players to obtain new experiences and explore their own stories.
I see these changes occur in three very clear levels of game development:Technical level (game engine), creative level (content production) and experience level (online operation)。 For each level, there are obvious innovation opportunities, which I will talk about later.
Note: making a game is a complex process that requires many steps, even more complicated than any other art form. It is highly non-linear and requires frequent cycles and iterations. No matter how interesting something looks in writing, you can not determine whether it is really fun before you really experience it. In this sense, game R & D is more similar to choreographing new dances. The real work is repeated with the dancers in the studio.
The following extensible section outlines the game production process, which may be helpful to readers who are not familiar with the whole process of game development.
The core of most modern game R & D is the game engine, which provides power for the player's experience and makes it easier for the team to create new games. Popular engines such as unity or unreal engine provide common functions that can be reused in multiple games, allowing game creators to create unique things for their games. This not only saves time and money, but also upgrades the arena, allowing small teams to compete with large studios.
Nevertheless, the basic role of the game engine relative to other parts of the game has not really changed in the past 20 years. Although the engines have increased the number of services they provide, from graphics rendering and audio return visits to multiplayer play and social services, as well as post release data analysis and in-game advertising, most of the engines are still released in the form of code base, and each game is completely packaged.
However, when thinking about the metauniverse, the engine plays a more important role. In order to break the wall between the divided games or experiences, it is likely that the Games will be packaged and run in the engine rather than in other ways. In this expanded perspective, engines become platforms, and the communication between these engines will define the shared metauniverse to a large extent.
Take roblox as an example. Roblox platform provides key services like unity or unreal engine, including graphics rendering, audio playback, physical effects and multiplayer play. However, it also provides other unique services, such as player avatars and identities that can be shared within their game categories; Expanded social services, including shared friend lists; Rich security features help ensure community security, as well as tools and resource libraries to help players create new games.
However, roblox is still not enough as a meta universe, because it is a walled garden. Although there are certain restrictions on sharing among games on roblox platform, there is no sharing or interoperability between roblox and other game engines or game platforms.
In order to fully unlock the metauniverse, game engine developers must innovate in interoperability and composability, and improve multiplayer play services and automated testing services.
In order to unlock the metauniverse and bring the kind of experience described at the beginning of the article, these virtual worlds will require unprecedented cooperation and interoperability. Although it is possible for a company to control the universal platform that powers the global metauniverse, this is neither desirable nor possible. On the contrary, decentralized game engine platforms are more likely to emerge.
of course,When it comes to decentralized technology, we have to mention Web3. It refers to a series of technologies. It is based on the blockchain and uses intelligent protocols to realize decentralized ownership by giving control of key networks and services to users or developers。 In particular, the concepts of composability and interoperability in Web3 help to solve some core problems faced in the process of developing to the meta universe, especially identity and private property, and a large number of research and development are entering the core Web3 infrastructure.
Nevertheless, although I think Web3 will become a key component of the refactoring game engine, it is not a panacea.
One of the most obvious applications of Web3 technology in the metauniverse is to allow users to buy and own items, such as a virtual real estate or clothes for digital avatars. Since the transaction written to the blockchain is a public record, purchasing an item in the form of NFT makes it theoretically possible to own an item and use it on multiple metacosmic platforms.
However, I do not think this can happen until the following problems are solved:
Single user identity: players can use it to move between virtual worlds or games with a single coherent identity, which is necessary for matching, content attribution and shielding malicious accounts。 One service that tries to solve this problem is hello. They are a multi stakeholder cooperative organization that seeks a user centric identity vision to transform personal identity, mainly based on web2's centralized identity. Others use Web3 to decentralize identity, such as spruce, which allows users to control their digital identity through wallet keys. At the same time, sismo is a modular protocol that uses zero knowledge proof to achieve decentralized identity management.
Unified content format so that content can be shared between engines。 Nowadays, each engine has its own special format, which is necessary for performance. However, in order to exchange content between engines, there needs to be a standard open format, such as Pixar's universal scene description (USD) designed for movies, and NVIDIA's Omniverse. However, all content types require standards.
Cloud content storage, so that the content required by a game can be located and obtained by others。 Now, the content required by a game is usually packaged into the game as a release version or downloaded through the network (which can be accelerated through CDN). For content that needs to be shared among different worlds, a standard way is needed to query and retrieve the content.
Sharing payment mechanism, so that the owners of the meta universe have the economic power to let resources flow between different meta universes。 Digital resource sales is one of the main ways for platform holders to obtain compensation, especially in the free mode. Therefore, in order to encourage platform owners to relax control, resource owners can pay "bottle opening fees" for using their resources on the platform. Or, if the relevant resources are very famous, the metauniverse may be willing to pay the resource owners to bring their resources into their world.
Standardized functions, so that a metauniverse can know how specific items are used。 If I want to bring my expensive sword into your game and use it to kill monsters, your game needs to know that this is a sword, not just a beautiful adhesive. One way to solve this problem is to try to create a taxonomy of standard object interfaces. Each metauniverse can choose to support or not. The categories can include weapons, vehicles, clothing or furniture.
Coordinate the look and feel so that content resources can transform their look and feel to match the universe they need to enter。 For example, if I own a high-tech sports car and I want to use it in the world of Steampunk theme, then the car needs to be driven by a steam engine to enter the world. This may require my resources to know how to do it, or to provide an optional appearance and feeling for the coming metacosmic world.
One area that needs attention is the importance of multiplayer play and social functionsNowadays, more and more people have become online game players, because games with social functions are much more profitable than stand-alone games. Since the metauniverse is completely social by definition, it will face various problems unique to online experience. Social games must pay attention to harassment and uncivilized behavior. They are also more likely to lose players due to DDoS attacks. They usually have to run servers in data centers around the world to minimize player delay and provide the best player experience.
Considering the importance of multiplayer to modern games, we still lack a fully competitive solution。 Engines such as unreal engine or roblox, and solutions such as photon or playfab all provide these basic functions, but there are still vulnerabilities such as advanced matching that need to be solved by developers themselves.
No server multiplayer play, developers can realize authoritative game logic, and automatically host and expand in the cloud, without worrying about the operation of the actual game server。
Advanced matching helps players quickly find opponents of the same level to play, and AI tools are introduced to help determine player skills and ranking. This is particularly important in the metauniverse, as matching becomes more extensive.
Anti harassment and address uncivilized behavior tools to help identify and drive away malicious players。 Any company hosting metauniverse needs to worry about this problem, because netizens will no longer consume unsafe space, especially when they can jump to another world without loss.
Guilds or tribes help players get together with other people, whether it's competing with other groups or simply trying to get more social sharing experiences。 Metauniverse is also full of opportunities for players to cooperate with other players to pursue common goals, create opportunities to create or host guilds and other services, and synchronize with external community tools such as discord.
When any online game is released, testing is an expensive bottleneck, because team game testers must constantly experience it to ensure that everything meets expectations and there are no faults or vulnerabilities.
Games that skip this step are at risk。 The much anticipated cyberpunk 2077 was criticized by the players for its hasty release with a large number of game bugs. However, since metauniverse is an "open world" game without a fixed route, its testing may be prohibitively expensive.
One way to alleviate this bottleneck is to develop automated test toolsFor example, AI characters that can play games like players can be used to find game vulnerabilities and faults. Another advantage of this technology is that it can make a trusted AI player, which can not only replace the real player who accidentally drops off the line, but also make the initial matching of multiplayer games more smooth and avoid players waiting for a long time.
Automatically train new characters by observing the interaction between real players and the game world。 One of the advantages of this method is that the character will become more and more intelligent, and the longer the meta universe operates, the more authentic it will appear.
Automatically identify faults or bugs, and add deep links that directly jump to bugsYes, so that the human tester can find the problem again and solve it.
Replace real players with AI charactersIn this way, when a player drops the line due to an accident, the impact on the game experience of other players will not be so serious. This function also brings some interesting questions, such as whether players can "list" to AI at any time, or even "train" their substitutes to fight on their behalf. Will "Ai assistant" become a new category in the championship?
As 3D rendering technology becomes more and more powerful, the digital content required to create a game continues to grow。 For example, the latest racing game "Forza horizon 5", which is the largest Forza series game with the largest download package in history, needs more than 100g of hard disk space, and the previous generation only needs 60g. This is only the tip of the iceberg. The initial "source art files" created by artists may be many times larger. The increase in the number of resources is mainly due to the continuous growth in the size and quality of these virtual worlds, which have high details and higher fidelity.
Consider the metauniverse again,The demand for high-quality digital content will continue to increaseBecause more and more experiences begin to shift from the real world to the digital world.
This has already happened in the field of film and television。 The recent Disney + TV series Mandalorian opened a new era by shooting on the "virtual scene" running in the unreal engine. This is revolutionary because it shortens the production time and cost, and increases the scale and quality of the final product. In the future, more and more TV movies will be shot in this way.
In addition,Because of the high cost of complete storage, unlike the physical movie scenes that are usually destroyed after shooting, digital movie scenes can be easily stored for future use。 In fact, therefore, it makes sense to invest more money and build a completely real world, which can be reused later to make a complete interactive experience. It is hoped that in the future, we will see these worlds provided to other creators, so that they can create new content in these novel level realistic scenes, and further promote the development of the meta universe.
Then consider the content creation method, which is more and more created by artists around the world。 One of the lasting effects of covid-19 epidemic is the long-term promotion of remote research and development. Teams are all over the world and usually work from home. The advantages of remote office are obvious: it can hire talents anywhere, but the cost is huge, including the challenges of creative cooperation, a large amount of resources required to create modern Games synchronously, and maintaining IP security.
Considering these challenges,I think there are three major innovation areas in digital content production: AI assisted content creation tools, cloud resource management, creation and release systems, and collaborative content output。
Nowadays, almost all digital content is created manually, which increases the time and cost required for the release of modern games. Some games have tried "programmed content generation" to generate new dungeons or worlds through algorithms, but it may be very difficult to create these algorithms.
However, a new wave of AI auxiliary tools is coming. It can help artists and non artists create content more quickly, and present it with higher quality, reduce content production costs, and democratize game production tasks.
This is particularly important for the metauniverse, because almost everyone can become a creator, but not everyone can create world-class art. For art, I mean the whole category of digital resources, including virtual world, interactive characters, music and sound effects.
Innovation in AI assisted content creation will be added to transform pictures, videos or other real-world cultural relics into digital resourcesSuch as 3D models, textures and animations. Examples include kinetix, which creates animation through video, luma labs, which creates 3D models with pictures, and colmap, which creates 3D space with still photos.
Creative assistants who get directions from artists will also innovate and constantly create new resources。 For example, suppose you can generate a 3D model from a hand drawn sketch. Inworld.ai and charisma AI is used to create characters that players can interact with. Dall-e can generate pictures from natural language input.
An important aspect of using AI to assist content creation as part of game creation is repeatability。 Since creators must often return and make changes, it is not enough to store only the output of AI tools. The game creator must store the entire set of instructions for creating the resource so that artists can return later and make changes, or copy the resource and modify it for a new purpose.
One of the biggest challenges that game studios must face when making modern Games, is everything you need to manage a compelling experience. Today, this is still an outstanding issue, and there is no standardized solution; Each studio must piece together its own solutions.
In order to explain the difficulty of this problem,The amount of data involved can be considered。 A large game may require millions of different types of files, including textures, models, characters, animations, levels, visual effects, sound effects, recorded conversations and music.
Each of these files will be changed repeatedly during the production process, so it is necessary to keep a copy of these changes in case the creator needs to go back to an earlier version. Today, artists often meet this demand by simply renaming files (e.g., forest-ogre-2.2.1), which leads to a proliferation of files. Due to the nature of these files, this takes up a lot of storage space because they are usually large, difficult to compress, and each version must be stored separately. This is different from the source code, which can store the changes of each version itself. This is because for many content files, such as art works, even if a small part of the image is changed, the entire file can be changed.
In addition, these files do not exist in isolation. They are part of the whole process, commonly referred to as the content pipeline, which describes how all these individual content files are combined to create a playable game. In this process, the "source art" files created by artists are converted through a series of intermediate files, assembled into "game resources", and then used by the game engine.
Today's content creation pipeline is not very intelligent and usually does not know the dependencies between resources. For example, the pipeline usually does not know the specific texture of the 3D basket held by a farm protagonist in the level. Therefore, whenever any resource is changed, the entire pipeline must be rebuilt to ensure that all changes are cleaned up and merged. This is a time-consuming process, which may take several hours or more, thus slowing down the pace of creative iteration.
The needs of the meta universe will make these problems worse and create some new problems. For example, the metauniverse will be larger than today's largest games, so all content storage problems will exist now. In addition, the "always on" feature of the meta universe means that new content needs to be directly streamed to the game engine, and it is impossible to "stop" the meta universe to create new versions. The meta universe needs to be able to dynamically update itself. To achieve the goal of composability, remote and distributed creators need to access source assets, create their own derivatives, and then share them with others.
Meeting these needs of the metauniverse will create two major innovation opportunities。 First, fine arts needs an easy-to-use resource management system similar to GitHub, which will provide them with the same level of version control and collaboration tools as developers. Such a system needs to be integrated with all popular authoring tools, such as Photoshop, blender and Sound Forge. Mudstack is an example of a company focusing on this field.
Secondly, there is still much work to be done in content pipeline automation, which can modernize and standardize the art pipeline. This includes exporting source assets to intermediate formats and converting these intermediate formats into game resources. The intelligent pipeline will know the dependency diagram and be able to build it incrementally, so that when resources change, only those files with downstream dependencies will be redone, thus greatly reducing the time required to view new content in the game.
Although modern game studios are distributed and collaborative, many professional tools used in game production are still centralized and single creator tools. For example, by default, both unity and unreal engine level editors support only one plan to edit one level at a time, which delays the creation process because teams cannot work in parallel in the same world.
On the other hand, both my world and roblox support collaborative editing, which is one of the reasons why the two platforms are popular, although they lack other professional functions. Once you see a group of children building a city together in my world, you can't imagine that they will build it in other ways. I believe that collaboration will be an important function of the metauniverse, so that creators can jointly build and test their works online.
In general,Cooperation in game development will achieve real-time in almost all aspects of the game creation process。
Building a real-time collaborative worldTherefore, multiple level planners or "world builders" can edit the same physical environment at the same time, view each other's changes in real time, and conduct complete version control and change tracking. Ideally, level planning should be able to seamlessly switch between play and editing to achieve the fastest iteration. Some studios are experimenting with this with proprietary tools, such as Ubisoft's anvilnext game engine, while unreal engine has experimented with real-time collaboration as a beta function, which was originally built to support TV and film production.
Real time content review and approvalTherefore, the team can experience and discuss their work together. Group discussion has always been a key part of the creative process. For a long time, there has been a "Daily" link in films. The production team can review their daily work together. Most game studios have a large room with a large screen for group discussions. However, the tools used for remote research and development are much weaker. The fidelity of screen sharing in tools such as zoom is not high enough to accurately review the digital world. One solution of the game may be "audience mode", in which the entire team can log in and watch from the perspective of a single player. Another goal is to improve the quality of screen sharing and exchange less compression for higher fidelity, including faster frame rate, stereo, more accurate color matching, and the ability to pause and comment. Such tools should also be integrated with task tracking and allocation. Companies trying to solve this problem include frame.io and sonnet.
Real time world adjustment, so planning can adjust any of the thousands of parameters that define a modern game or virtual world, and experience the results immediately. This adjustment process is critical to creating an interesting and balanced experience, but often these numbers are hidden in spreadsheets or configuration files, which are difficult to edit and cannot be adjusted in real time. Some game studios have tried to use Google sheets to achieve this goal, so that changes made to the configuration values can be immediately pushed to the game server to update the behavior of the game. However, the metauniverse needs more powerful functions. A side benefit of this feature is that these same parameters can also be modified for real-time events or new content updates, making it easier for non programmers to create new content. For example, designers can create a special event dungeon and store monsters that are more difficult to defeat than usual, but these monsters will drop very good rewards.
A virtual game studio completely existing in the cloud. Members of the game creator team (artists, programmers, planners, etc.) can log in from any place and on any device (including low-end PC or tablet), and can access the high-end game development platform and the complete game resource library。 Remote desktop tools such as parsec have played a role in this respect, but this is not only the remote desktop function, but also the creative tool authorization and resource management capabilities.
The last layer of the meta universe reorganization involves creating the necessary tools and services to truly operate the meta universe itself, which can be said to be the most difficult part. Creating an immersive world is one thing, but running a world with millions of players around the world around the clock is another.
Social challenges of running any large Autonomous RegionIt may be full of residents who do not always live in harmony and need to adjudicate disputes.
The economic challenge of effective operation of central bankIncluding its ability to create new money and monitor the source and sink of money to control inflation and deflation.
Realization challenge of running a modern business websiteThere may be thousands or even millions of sales of goods, as well as the demand for promotions, discounts and marketing tools in the world.
Understand the analysis challenges of real-time events in the broad worldSo that they can be alerted quickly before the problem escalates beyond their control.
The challenge of communicating with their digital users individually or in groupsBecause the metauniverse is (in principle) global.
Content challenges for making regular updatesTo keep their metauniverse growing and upgrading.
In order to meet all these challenges, game companies need well-equipped teams with access to a large number of back-end infrastructure and necessary dashboards and tools to operate these services on a large scale. Two areas that are particularly suitable for innovation are online operational services and in-game commerce。
Online services is an area that is still in its infancyBusiness tools such as playfab, dive, beamable and lotlocker are only part of a complete online operation solution. Therefore, most games still have to do their own online service stack. Ideal solutions include: real-time event calendar, which can plan events, predict events, create event templates or clone previous events; Personalization, including player segmentation, targeted promotion and discount; Messaging, including push notifications, e-mails and in-game inboxes, as well as translation tools for communicating with users through their local languages; Notification authoring tools that allow non programmers to create in-game pop-up windows and notifications; And tests simulating upcoming events or new content updates, including a mechanism to roll back changes when problems occur.
What is more mature but still needs innovation is in-game business. Considering that nearly 80% of the digital game revenue comes from items in the free mode or other in-game transactions, it is striking that there is no more suitable scheme for the metauniverse than in-game economic management.
Existing solutions have only solved part of the problem。 An ideal solution needs to include an item catalog and any metadata including each item; An application store interface for real money sales; Discounts and promotions, including time limited discounts and targeted promotions; Reports and analysis, targeted reports and charts; UGC, the game can sell the content created by its own players, and give a certain proportion of the income back to these players; Advanced economic systems, such as item production (combining two items to create a third item), auction houses (players can sell items to each other), trading and gifts; And full integration with Web3 world and blockchain.
In this article, I share my views on how to change after the new technology opens the composability and interoperability between games. I hope that other people in the game community can share my excitement about the future potential, and hope that they can be inspired to work with me to create a new company needed to launch this experience revolution.
This wave of upcoming changes will not only provide opportunities for new software tools and protocols, but also change the nature of the game studio, because the game industry will shift from a single studio to a new level of specialization.
In fact, I think that in the future, we will see greater specialization in the game production process. I also think that we will see:
A world maker who focuses on creating a playable worldWhether it is realistic or magical, it is full of creatures and characters suitable for the world. Consider the extremely detailed version of the Wild West for the wild escort. Instead of investing so much in the world for one game, why not reuse the world to host many games? Why not continue to invest in this world, let it grow and develop, and shape itself according to the needs of these games over time?
Plot planning, they create compelling interactive narratives in these worlds, full of story lines, puzzles and tasks for players to discover and enjoy.
Experience Creator, they have built a cross world playable experience, focusing on gameplay, reward mechanism and operation scheme. In the next few years, as more and more companies try to introduce part of their existing businesses into the metauniverse, creators who can bridge the gap between the real world and the virtual world will be particularly valuable.
Platform BuilderThey provide the underlying technologies used by the above experts in their work.
Games have become the largest field of the entertainment industry. With more and more economic fields turning to the online mode and entering the meta universe, its scale will be further expanded. We haven't even mentioned some other exciting new developments coming soon, such as Apple's new ar helmet or the new VR prototype recently announced by meta
There has never been a better time to become a creator.