Epic Metaverse: Why Fortnite Authors Should Get It

The phenomenon of Fortnite, a game that came out of nowhere and quickly became mega-popular, became a topic for many publications. Not so long ago, a translation of a large article by Matthew Ball came out on Habré, examining it from the point of view of the current financial condition and market potential. It seems that in order to comprehend this phenomenon and understand why it is Epic, which is not the biggest name in the world of video games, that has the most chances to create a full-fledged metaverse, we need to turn to the history of this company.

Because in fact, the very first game of Tim Sweeney, the founder of Epic, was already a proto-metaverse - a year before the term was born in Stevenson’s novel.


1991 Meta Universe

As befits a successful IT business, Epic was born in a garage. Well, with a garage - this is inaccurate, maybe he was born in the kitchen or in the bedroom, but the point is that student Tim Sweeney started his company in his parents' house, it was called Potomac Computer Systems and at first was engaged in computer consultations. Quite quickly, Tim realized that it was more profitable to develop software, and began to write a text editor in Turbo Pascal. The output was a ZZT game.

ZZT, named so solely for the sake of the last position on the BBS file list, was a fun, but not particularly noteworthy game.action adventure genre in pseudographics. However, it quickly became a cult thanks to the presence of the “world editor” - essentially an object-oriented scripting language that allowed you to create your own games on the ZZT engine. The language was very simple , accessible even to children, as a result of which over the next 20 years a lot of ZZT games of various kinds appeared, from quests and RPGs to variations on the theme of Lemming.

The toy was distributed according to the shareware model - the first level is free, you need to buy further ones - but the world editor was available in the free version. Tim Sweeney held competitions among the creators of ZZT games, among the prizes in which there was the opportunity to work in a company renamed Epic Megagames.

But most importantly, ZZT not only determined Tim’s future field of activity, but also served as the basis for the Epic development concept: to make not just games, but game worlds in which you can create something of your own. And also - to attract third-party, often inexperienced developers with their projects, sharing profit with them.

Unreal engine - not just beautiful pictures

The most significant success of Epic is the Unreal engine, which for many years remained the standard for the quality of 3D graphics. Those who found his appearance remember the feeling of amazement and unreality of what is happening, caused by the inconceivable picture on the screen of not even the most top-end computer of those times.

But the Unreal engine is not only a cool picture, it is also an editor with a minimum input threshold. According to Sweeney, from the very beginning of Unreal development, he decided that the possibility of developing custom content is the main component. “It was important to spend even more time on the editor and tools than on the game itself,” he recalled in his interview. - During the development, we focused on the built-in editor, which allowed us to see everything in real time. A scripting language is used to describe game events. In fact, ZZT and Unreal have a lot in common, if you look closely. Unreal is a hundred or two hundred times more complicated, and it has more code, but in structure they are very similar. "

As a result, a variety of companies have made many games on the Unreal engine, both unsuccessful and forgotten, and mega-successful. What is not a metaverse?

Original Games - Not a Skate Epic

Despite the fact that some Epic games have been very commercially successful, there are no masterpieces in the catalog of the company that would be recalled due to revolutionary gameplay or original finds. The first hits were de facto clones of other people's games - which, incidentally, is nothing reprehensible. At that time, everyone was engaged in cloning, and few could boast such successes as Epic with, for example, Jazz Jackrabbit.

Everyone knows about the magical picture in Unreal - but who in general will now remember the plot of the first game? From the point of view of gameplay, it was a very monotonous and drawn-out shooter, which was driven by graphics. It is no coincidence that the writing of the sequel was given to Legend Entertainment - at that time the guru in terms of the original plots. Well, then everything was transferred to multiplayer.

Even the genius Epic Pinball was a clone of the demo spotted by Sweeney on the legendary Finnish team Future Crew. To the credit of Epic, they tried to drag the Finns on board, but they did not want to, as a result of which the engine was rewritten from scratch by a student James Shmaltz, the future developer of Unreal, in nine months. And a year later, Epic Pinball brought Schmaltz the first million royalties ...

Lack of experience in developing original breakthrough games could be a negative factor for any company, but not for Epic. On the contrary, in the framework of the multiverse concept, the publisher’s lack of luggage of brilliant ideas and stories unties the hands of talented third-party developers whom no one will try to put within the framework of “we know what we need, because we have a story”. Plus, something really, and Tim Sweeney knows how to find pearls among other people's ideas.

Running a chinese giant

Since 2012, almost half of Epic's shares are owned by Tencent. Although Tim Sweeney still controls the company nominally, it’s clear that the Chinese are ordering music. It was they who insisted on the transition to a model of free-to-play games, because of which almost all of Tim's old associates left the company.

From the point of view of the “old-school gamer”, indeed, switching to f2p is a nightmare, hell, exhausting money and the dominance of “whales” with “kraken”. But here we are talking about Epic, which knew how to correctly combine paid and free content back in those days when there was no concept of free-to-play. As well as having experience working with user-generated content, distributed both free and for money. Well, experience with non-professional and novice developers - it was with them that Tim Sweeney preferred to work at the dawn of Epic Megagames. And the f2p model itself can be used not only to pump money for clothes and weapons, but also to spread the creativity of users, which is primarily the idea of ​​the metaverse.

And, of course, it’s far from the fact that Fortnite would have taken its current form without Tencent.

Why does Epic have to succeed

If only because Tim Sweeney is the only person in the gaming industry who has been building his metaverse for almost thirty years. Now it is essentially returning to its roots - ZZT has even more in common with the future Fortnite than with Unreal.

If in 1991 Tim had at hand Turbo Pascal, BBS on a modem and text mode, now he has the Unreal engine, the Internet and the financial capabilities of Tencent. It is planned to add another language to the Unreal engine to make game development for it even more accessible. Here Tim shares some thoughts on this subject, in particular, mentioning the "metaverse, where a million programmers develop separate independent components that must interact with each other."

Epic has experience creating a simple language for hobby development, an excellent engine and business expertise in the f2p market. If all this is mixed properly, then the result will be limited only by the imagination of the participants - those users who will produce the content. Fighter battles from one game with dragons from another? Seamless movement of a character between games of different genres? Physical laws changing between worlds, as in The Chronicles of Amber? Yes, anything.

Now almost all major market players speak out on the metaverse. There is a suspicion that Epic understands what it is talking about best of all. It will be very interesting to follow the achievements of Tim Sweeney and his company in the coming years.

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