Building a website used to be a complex task reserved for a computer graphics shaman. There was no React JS. No libraries to draw from. I imagine an engineer going through an arduous tasks to write code from scratch and link it into a strange half-developed network.
Two decades later, Squarespace and Notion make web-publishing a no brainer. Anyone can do it. It's a no-code revolution. You just think, click, and then push your page into a spiderweb of sites.
When we imagine the Metaverse, we imagine it will be something like the early web. Will a small tribe of 3D artists design every square inch of a digital universe?
The rise of "Metaverse engines" points to an emergent network created by it's users.
The Metaverse of our future will be something like a 3D Squarespace. Without much technical skill, anyone will be able to build an environment, embed logic into it, and then publish it to a spatial internet.
Architects vs. Inhabitants
It's a natural assumption that the Metaverse will spawn from a single source. In the Matrix, the architect was depicted as an old bearded man in a white suit. He was a symbol for God: a sole creator that generates all of the precise details of our reality.
It's a fair to imagine that a gaming company will build our future. A team of 200 highly technical people could use Unreal or Unity to build a digital playground that millions inhabit. This is how it works in the real world. The breakdown between architects and inhabitants is 1:1,000,000+. It's already happening with Fortnite.
Game engines vs. Metaverse engines
But a new wave of applications point to a future that looks more like Squarespace, where there isn't a barrier between the inhabitants and the publishers. Roblox, Facebook's Horizon, and Neos can all be described as "Metaverse engines."
With gaming engines, the development environment is a complex tool that exports standalone applications for end-users. This is how most multi-player worlds, like VR Chat and Altspace, are built.
But a Metaverse engine fuses the creation tools, the application, the social network, and the app store into a single executable file. These applications feature:
- Creation tools in game (modeling, coding, texturing, etc.)
- Multi-player creation - you build with your friends
- In-app deployment - publish to the app from within the app
3 companies doing this worth talking about (expand)
- Roblox - recent IPO ($38 million), 200 million users, PC-based
- Facebook - Horizon - VR, closed beta, users w/ no coding exp - can make addicting games
- Neos - ~200 people, underground VR society - connected to your PC hard drive, can exchange files hand to hand - someone is recreating Halo 3 within it
A lot of young people are bypassing traditional 3D tools (Blender, Unity, Unreal), and heading straight into these Metaverse engines to build with their friends. We're probably still far from a final form, and we'll see a lot of experimentation in the coming decade(s). But it looks like we're converging towards a future where a 3D Squarespace exists. The barriers to create & publish will diminish, and anyone can become an architect.