How to Build in the Metaverse — A Primer on Metaverse Game Development
So you want to get into metaverse game development — but the metaverse isn’t here yet. It is still being built in pieces. Some say Web3/NFT/blockchain companies like Sandbox or Decentraland are leading the way. Others say that Meta is leading the way with its immersive VR Horizon World metaverse. But what about Epic Games and their deep investment into the underlying infrastructure? And what about the creative and educational side with Minecraft and Roblox? Are all of these companies metaverse companies? Where is the thread that connects them all to the metaverse?
Let’s step back and look at how the metaverse is being defined, what counts as a metaverse game, and how you can get started building in the metaverse.
What Is the Metaverse?
In a nutshell, the metaverse is the speculative future of the internet enabled by immersive, connected, engaging content. It will be powered by video game technology and deployed at a global scale in an always-online medium.
There is not currently one definition that is universally agreed upon. However, this definition from Matthew Ball’s 2022 book “The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything” is comprehensive:
“[The Metaverse is] a massively scaled and interoperable network of real-time rendered 3D virtual worlds that can be experienced synchronously and persistently by an effectively unlimited number of users with an individual sense of presence, and with continuity of data, such as identity, history, entitlements, objects, communications, and payments.”
In simpler terms, Ball’s definition of the metaverse is a real-time, immersive virtual world. This world reflects the real one in that users bring aspects of their real identities to it, they have interconnected experiences in it, and it continues to exist even when we “unplug” from it.
It’s a big concept, and as much innovation as we’re seeing from big tech companies, we aren’t even close to making it real. But let’s use this idea as our working definition of the metaverse so we can look at what currently exists in the market and how you can get started with metaverse game development.
What Does It Mean to Build in the Metaverse?
So, as we established, the metaverse doesn’t exist yet — at least not the metaverse according to Ball’s definition, which as a general concept is what a lot of people are referring to when they say “metaverse.” What does already exist are the underlying technologies, such as blockchain, virtual reality headsets, and data systems that allow for continuity of data.
Right now, when you say we want to “build in the metaverse,” you probably mean you want to build a metaverse game or experience. A metaverse game might take the form of a VR (virtual reality) game or augmented reality app.
Building and releasing a metaverse game is a complicated process. Let’s dive into examples of metaverse games, why you should build in the metaverse, and what’s involved in metaverse game development.
What Are Metaverse Games?
If you search Google for “metaverse game,” you’ll get nearly 100 million results.
Most of these are just games backed by blockchain. They don’t fit the concept of a “meta” game — as in having the ability to pull in assets (shapes, sounds, environments, intellectual property, etc.) from outside of the game. Using that definition, let’s compare two of the biggest metaverse games, Axie Infinity and Fortnite.
Sky Mavis’ Axie Infinity is a turn-based role-playing game (RPG) that allows you to use your own non-fungible tokens (NFT) to fight with other players and to build up your roster to earn in-game tokens. These tokens can be redeemed for an Ethereum-based cryptocurrency, $AXS. Contrast this to Epic Games’ Fortnite Battle Royale, which is a third person shooter where users try to survive the longest by building and fighting as the map gets smaller and smaller. Gamers can purchase in-game visual cosmetic add-ons such as outfits, avatars, and tools. Its in-game currency is called V-Bucks.
Comparing these two games, the Axie Infinity metaverse is focusing on trading card ownership via NFTs, which are recorded on the blockchain. The Ethereum cryptocurrency tokens that players earn are accessible outside of the game. Therefore, we can consider this a “meta” game.
Fortnite currently doesn’t use the blockchain to back the skins, but those skins can be from outside of the Fortnite-owned IP. A great example of this is the collaboration between Bungie’s Destiny 2 and Fortnite. The collaboration between both companies expands Fortnite’s universe into the metaverse, as the Destiny 2 IP does not normally reside within Fortnite. Another cross-”verse” example is when the respected Halo Franchise from 343 Industries allowed the use of Master Chief to be a playable avatar within Fortnite. Combining the multiple “verses” allows Fortnite to call itself a proper metaverse game.
Why Build in the Metaverse?
So, why should your team build in the metaverse? One good reason is that building a metaverse game opens up opportunities for new revenue streams.
The metaverse is a natural shift in videogaming. Video games took off with the coin arcades of the 80s, moved into the living room, connected to the internet in the 90s, and have transformed from physical copies to digital downloads to streaming.
The way to generate income in the industry has changed as well. Coins turned into dollars, and dollars turned into expansions and downloadable content (DLC). Now there are also subscriptions, in-app advertising, and co-marketing opportunities (like Balenciaga in Fortnite). Consistent revenue streams allow shorter (and longer) development and release cycles, in turn keeping players consistently playing the same game.
How to Build in the Metaverse
As of now, to “build in the metaverse” really means “build a metaverse game” like the ones described above. Metaverse game development is essentially the same as the standard game development process. You need a game engine, 3D design tools, version control (like Perforce Helix Core), and review software.
So, what is the difference between metaverse game development and standard game development? The main difference is that the metaverse game you build should have some element that reaches beyond itself — like Axie Infinity’s use of NFTs or Fortnite’s co-marketing with big brands. You need to start with a good idea for a game, then figure out how your game can pull in elements from the real world (or other games).
(Side note: Perforce has a ton of game development resources for every kind of developer, from solo devs to AAA studios.)
Metaverse Game Development Tools
Here’s a quick rundown of the tools you need for building a metaverse game:
- Planning — like Hansoft. This is what your team will use to manage collaboration on each part of your game.
- Game engine — like Unreal, Unity, Cryengine. This provides the framework for your game, so you don’t have to do things like coding the physics from scratch.
- 3D design tools — like Maya and Zbrush. You’ll use these to make 3D game assets.
- Version control — like Perforce Helix Core. This tracks every version of your digital assets and allows for better collaboration among team members.
- Review software — like Helix Swarm. Share and review your C#/C++/Java code before it’s submitted.
- Digital asset management — like Helix DAM. A DAM lets your team more easily track changes to and progress of their art assets.
Build in the Metaverse with Perforce Solutions
Perforce has game dev solutions for everyone, from indies to AAA studios. Our version control system, Helix Core, is trusted by 19/20 top AAA studios. Use it free for up to 5 users and 20 workspaces, plus get free code review and project management. Download our Indie Studio Pack below and get started building your metaverse game.