The Bored Ape Yacht Club is one of the most popular new NFT brands, and it recently demonstrated a preliminary concept of a gaming metaverse that it intends to create.
Improbable, a Cambridge, England-based business that has been experimenting with technology to construct massive gaming worlds, has made the metaverse demo possible.
Yuga and Improbable were able to bring 4,500 players together at once in a 3D world in the First Trip demo of Otherside. What was interesting about that was that the players could enjoy full physics effects for their characters, and they could interact with each other using 3D audio at the same time.
This type of demonstration is the type of thing that makes some people believe there is a future in non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which use the blockchain to authenticate digital items such as Bored Ape characters.
On October 3-4, MetaBeat will gather metaverse thought leaders to discuss how metaverse technology might transform the way all industries communicate and do business.
Improbables' CEO Herman Narula, has had to deal with them for years. The company tried acquiring its own game studio (Midwinter) and tried launching its own battle royale game, Scavengers. The game failed and Improbable sold the game studio to Behaviour Interactive.
Narula claims that the new version of the company's operating system is ready, and that it is working Outsideside, and that people may simply examine it to see that Improbable can now deliver what it promised.
Narula is also working on his own book, called Virtual Society, about what he expects the virtual worlds to be like in the future.
As we watched it, I talked to Narula about this and listened to him talk about the film of the event.
Here's a edited transcript of our conversation.
Herman Narula: Everything here is full physics. We made the collisions smaller so that people could line up without blocking each other off. There is no rendering bottleneck. This is a production test of that system that can handle tens of thousands of customized characters.
GamesBeat: How do you make out the voices when you have a lot of people right next to you? What is the process of recognizing which voices you hear?
Narula: Other systems only allow you to listen to individuals who are within, say, 10 feet of you. What we do, is that you may listen to absolutely everybody at the same time, all 15,000 people at maximum. However, the system will give you realistic loudness depending on how far away you are from them. They must use the same operations per second budget to create a different experience.
Is GamesBeat a very different technology than what Midwinter used?
Narula: It's a whole other generation. Our old technology, SpatialOS, was difficult to use. It was robust. A few VR games have been developing on it. But it's still small. It's also very inexpensive to operate, and it's also much more affordable to purchase. It's also very compatible with streaming services.
What's the reason for making GamesBeat so much less expensive to operate?
Narula: These are just remarkable improvements in the way the system is architected. It only costs less than $100 an hour to support 15,000 to 20,000 people simultaneously in the same world. That's so cheap that we can use it for free, basically, for events.
Is there a recommended number of people to have in a space on GamesBeat? Do you have a ceiling?
Narula: We increased our capacity to handle 15,000 messages last week, but we're pretty confident that we can expand to 30,000 or 40,000 now that we've doubled the number of messages. To go beyond that number of concurrent players in one spot would require more, but only the top three or four games in the game world have that many CCUs. I think 30,000 to 40,000 should put us in a pretty good position to deal with every single use case that we've ever encountered.
GamesBeat: How sophisticated is each of these characters? Is there a polygon count to sum it up?
Narula: The greatest way to think about it is there are no polygon limitations. The visuals are rendered on the client. The limitation is in how many things can be changed at one time in time. When you're in EVE Online and moving around in a spaceship, very little information is actually shared with the server. All that's really changing is the position of that object.
We can have animation states that are completely different. We can have actors who are interacting in the far distance. We can have people who are conversing. Ill show you an example that I like. This is an example of our rendering. People talk about the rendering bottleneck. This is because we are able to make more than 10,000 completely different characters at great distance with different animation states and different visualizations. We use a new hardware acceleration algorithm to be able to handle this at great distance.
This worked flawlessly last weekend with 4,500 people. It runs weekly in tests with large numbers of individuals that are more private. We use it for our calls. Im happy that we are no longer in that position anymore. This is complete, completed production technology. What we are working on now, other than making it larger at scale which is cool, but unnecessary, is how we can make certain backend services simpler to use for all of the worlds on the network?
GamesBeat: Are you working on software here that will run on anything yet, on future generations? Or are you already focused on what can actually run?
Narula: Thats why the graphics are so good, but we were cautious with the poly count and things. Not because we were limited by what M2 can do. You can see even higher fidelity demos. With VR, I aim to reach the greatest number of people in the most casual context possible. I want to concentrate on crowds and big events, where there is so much value to so many people.
If the metaverse just tries to make better video games, but with cryptocurrency, it will fail. Were not competing with hardcore games. Were not competing with television and events. You can build hardcore games as well.
GamesBeat: Is it possible for someone to do something like join a group of 10 friends and go to a concert, for example, that's fairly straightforward?
Narula: Yes. We had a concert last year with a K-pop sensation called AleXa. It was extremely simple. We used a streaming solution that we had developed quite well into M2. People can just click a link, and they'll be standing next to you, because of the link-sharing mechanism that was developed.
GamesBeat: Can you elaborate on how to get in touch with the borred Apes and how that went?
Narula: We were surprised by the sheer number of people who came to us for a demonstration of the technology last year on a large scale. Imrobable built Fall Guys on the back end. Theyre all satisfied with our services, but they don't necessarily want these metaverse experiences yet. Theyre sporting leagues, fashion brands, and music labels. They all have a very different perspective on what they'll provide to their customers.
After the demos, Guy Oseary, who is the talent agent for a lot of celebrities and sits on the board of Yuga Labs, we were overwhelmed by the founders. We took a few months to really understand we could collaborate. It's a big investment and risk from both sides. If we fail it will look terrible.
Otherside is a stand-alone metaverse that is also part of the network. Yuga is assisting us with that. Later, when we build a token around it, it will be quite cool to have their support.
GamesBeat: What other games are coming soon for you?
Narula: I'll be announcing more partners soon. They'll be pretty cool. All of the partners that were lined up were non-gaming. They're people in sports or music or other fields. Honestly, I didnt expect things to go in this direction. There have been a lot of theoretical discussions about the metaverse.
When we were rehearsing the demo, we were thinking, This is just a silly mistake. These sarcasm are kind of a failure. But when it was presented to thousands of people, the crowd loved it. They thought it was incredible. There was so much Twitter chatter about it. This is similar. When the Nintendo Wii came out, many people thought it would fail, that they were going for a market that would not buy games.
GamesBeat: How are you doing with your own metaverse book? Are you still working on it?
Narula: It's done. It's set to be released in October. I'll be happy to send you a digital copy.
GamesBeat: What direction would you say you went in if you were compared to some of the other titles?
Narula: I wanted to be quite surprised because I'm probably one of the few people writing on this topic who's actually building the technology. My book is not really about the technology, but rather about the history, the philosophy, and the economics a great deal more. What makes a metaverse worthwhile?
I think the metaverse is a huge collection of 3D worlds that are linked together, like a lot of us gamers say, Its been for decades. Why is this interesting? But if you think of the metaverse as a huge network of meaningful objects characters, events that encompass real world systems of meaning, like music, culture, fashion, and so on, it makes a lot more sense. This is a way of giving people additional ways of experiencing and connecting with the most important communities and people they already respect.
I can envision a world where a famous sports figure is meeting with thousands of fans and almost gamifying the experience of being together. If you are a game designer, you are likely to be concerned about the metaverse as well. But what makes it much more practical is to connect Otherside and other web3 projects. They have a stronger connection.
Is that a revenue generator for you for this particular one? GamesBeat: Is it a revenue generator for you?
Narula: Yes. As a result of our metaverse work, our revenue has significantly increased. I anticipate Improbable to make a comeback at a later date.
GamesBeat: The more I became dissatisfied I became when I talked about the real-time metaverse. Is this something that makes you more optimistic about things that were previously unimaginable?
Narula: I see no technological limitations to achieving the results that you wont have to take my word for it. You can see peoples reactions to being there. You can hear what theyre saying. These are all real human beings, 4,500 real human beings who paid to be there and who are part of that experience. That's the next objective: connecting and collaborating with as many people as we can to achieve greatness.
Do you anticipate more games like this, more major games, or more concerts this year on GamesBeat?
Narula: I think we'll see a lot more events this year, including Otherside's road map, and perhaps some other surprises as well. I like events because they're quick. You can make them quick, easy to execute, and an enjoyable experience for everyone. This might also be quite lucrative for all of the participants.
More persistent game-like experiences are in the works. Theyll follow later. As you know, we raised a lot of money for the M2 network earlier this year. We wanted to concentrate right now on delivering Otherside and some of these other key things. So here it is. Its working with real people. Don't take our word for it. It's only ten years!
GamesBeat: It must be interesting for you to meet people who were previously hesitant.
Narula: Its strange. I've been getting people emailing and texting and calling every day since Saturday. They want to talk. They want to meet. Theyve seen it and they want to engage. It's been wonderful to prove everyone wrong and to see physics at that scale as well.