Yuga Labs, of Bored Apes Yacht Club fame, has a metaverse project called Otherside. You may know this, but what you might not know is how incredible the technology is that’s going into it.
The Metaverse and What It Isn’t
The term “metaverse” is more confusing by the week. When it first burst into the public lexicon, we had little choice but to dive into Snow Crash or rewatch Ready Player One for a semblance of a definition. If you were feeling particularly pessimistic, you might watch an episode of Black Mirror or crack open some dystopian fiction. However, the influx of “metaverse” projects, many of which seemed closer to going back in time than anything resembling the future, fogged the notion further. What is a metaverse?
The truth is, we’re still unsure, but I’m reasonably confident of what it isn’t: it’s not a hobbled-together project, graphically from the turn of the millennium, with a sparser population than rural Russia, and NFTs grafted onto the side like a third ear. In many ways, it ought to barely resemble what we’re used to today, and beautiful Unreal Engine 5.3 visuals — while cutting-edge — are not sufficient to enable a true metaverse experience even with seamless wallet integration.
In 2021, as the term “metaverse” surged to prominence, I wrote articles and spoke on podcasts about how far away we are from the concept of a metaverse. This isn’t to say I didn’t want people to try to build it, but that the timeline many projects had was absurd, at least if you’re expecting to launch something more than just a game. And that’s what the metaverse should be at the very least: more than a game. To me, the metaverse(s) that will see success will be the ones that can set themselves apart, not only from other metaverse projects, but from games. Otherside has a good shot at that.
Otherside Is Investing in the Right Areas
The first area of investment to mention isn’t the driving force behind this article, but it’s significant: hiring. At the end of 2022, Yuga Labs announced Daniel Alegre, ex-President and COO of Activision Blizzard, as the company’s new CEO. Then, earlier this year, Yuga Labs announced Mike Seavers, ex-Riot and Epic Games executive, as CTO. It is the T in that initialism, however, that really sets Otherside apart.
The Gateway of Concurrent Players
In March of this year Otherside put on the “Second Trip”, a technical test that was highly impressive by virtue of exactly what it set out to test: the technology. In this test, 7,200 concurrent players roamed around a shared space. This incredible scaling solution was — I believe — provided by the company, Improbable, although Yuga Labs haven’t said much on the topic.
Online games have wrestled with this problem for decades, with old MMOs like Eve Online and World of Warcraft having server issues the moment a few hundred people congregate. This has proven to be difficult to resolve and games to this day suffer similar issues, often with even fewer concurrent players in the same space.
A metaverse must be a bustling and social hub as a key feature, if not its core. But, how can a digital city really feel like a futuristic metropolis if there are a maximum of only a few hundred people there? You could flesh it out with NPCs, but what does that really solve? Is the illusion of a population better than no real population? I don’t think so. This sort of solution to the concurrent player problem isn’t merely window dressing, it enables a vibrant online space, as well as true events such as concerts. And now, the scaling technology is either going to have some company, or Yuga is being more aggressive in its ambitions and replacing Improbable. Whatever the case, Hadean has entered the conversation.
Yuga Labs Invests in Hadean, a Spatial Computing Company Focused on the Metaverse
Yuga Labs and Hadean have announced a partnership alongside Yuga’s investment in the firm, and the intention appears to be the enabling of the metaverse. Hadean may not be an old company, created in 2015, but they have already managed some absurd feats, including work with the Ministry of Defence for the U.K. and, rather pertinently, scaling Eve Online with Microsoft to support more than 10,000 concurrent players. Hadean is working on digital experiences in fashion, gaming, events, sport, military, and training, and is on track to be a fundamental component of the metaverse.
Hadean’s intent in gaming and entertainment is well aligned with the Otherside’s, identifying that the trend of modern life moving more to digital realms will continue. Digital events, from music to sport, will be a key trend in the next few years. Fortnite, which is a metaverse of sorts itself, has led the way in this regard, but we will see better, more immersive, and fuller experiences.
What has gated this progress has primarily been the technology, with scaling blocking most of the path, but also VR’s limited success. Hadean appears well-situated to resolve the scaling side and Yuga Labs is well-situated to benefit from that resolution in the Otherside metaverse.
The metaverse — whatever that means at present — is still foetal, but the signals of progress are not in flagship partnerships with brands; they’re in thoughtful investment and the pushing of technical boundaries. We can’t take a game that looks like it’s from the PlayStation 1, marry it with early blockchain infrastructure and a handful of NFT enthusiasts, and call it the future. We need to break through some technological walls to reach the metaverse because it lies — and I can’t stress how pleased I am with this ending — on the Otherside.