Everybody wants a piece of the metaverse—even if the exact definition of what it is remains a subject of contention. Whether your entry point into 2022’s buzziest technology is through ecommerce, social networking, or gaming, the seismic jump in how virtual technologies are changing these experiences is ushering in an exciting era of discovery for watchers, gamers, and creators.
Here at Dark Slope, we’ve been thinking metaverse since before it was cool. Like most creators, we’ve always daydreamed about making things that leap off the screen, experiences that users can be fully immersed in and interact with in ways they’ve never thought possible. Now, as the VR industry doubles down on trying to make its hardware less expensive and more accessible, we are all working together to bring those dreams to life: whether it’s a VR gaming experience that turns platforming on its head or a virtual production set-up that lets producers realise their vision without leaving the soundstage, the experiences the metaverse is introducing to a mainstream audience has been the foundation of our work for years.
Our vision for the metaverse is a competitive, collaborative platform that allows creators to craft their own universe and embrace new ways of telling their story.
We aren’t content to sit and wait while emerging technology catches up with our ideas. Instead, we’re focusing on how metaverse technology can be used to create experiences and tools that are adaptable to the moment and endlessly modifiable. We’re designing games that are made to be modulars, allowing for players to fully embrace the freedom of an immersive 3D space and invent creative ways to play. We’re building games that aren’t just technically impressive and finely crafted, we’re also building for communities of speedrunners and storytellers to explore.
In television, we’re using Hyperreality TV to bring virtual reality and the metaverse to unscripted TV. Leveraging non-scripted formats and in-studio filming with VR-enhanced animation and virtual worlds, we’re providing the stage for boundless exploration. Our virtual production expertise allows creators to leverage the Unreal Game Engine for environmental design, motion capture, and animation. This technology lets productions bypass the limits of location, budget, and timelines to create the immersive worlds their stories need.
No matter how advanced our technology becomes, no matter how embedded digital experiences become in our daily lives, it will always lag behind what our imaginations are capable of. This is what motivates us to push past the hype surrounding technology like the metaverse, instead we try and create for that space where the tools we use inspire us to create something new. We may never catch up with our imaginations, and may never be able to create all the games we want to play or all the stories we want to tell, but we come to work every day ready to try.
Television isn’t disappearing, but it is changing.
Over the last two years, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated a trend that was already visible across the globe: we’re spending more and more time with our media. But even as the media pie gets bigger and bigger, not everyone is getting an equal slice. Over the past decade we’ve seen new media like podcasts and emergent social platforms like TikTok start to encroach on the audience share typically given over to legacy media like broadcast television and theatrical releases. Gaming is by far the most dominant of these upstarts, having officially out-earned television and box office receipts in terms of revenue as early as 2018. The pandemic sent this dynamic into overdrive, as the number of gamers in the U.S. exploded to 226.6 million (over a 30% increase since 2019), spending a record 11.6 billions dollars in the second quarter of 2020 alone.
But this doesn’t mean television is an industry dinosaur watching the approach of its own personal extinction event. While new forms of entertainment become a larger and larger part of our lives, we’re also seeing that these are less likely to supplant our former viewing habits than to simply change them. The television industry has already adapted to the streaming revolution, and now it’s adapting the gaming one. We’re calling the confluence of the two hyperreality.
Gaming technology like Unreal Engine and Unity are helping radically transform traditional television pipelines. Rather than costly location shooting, custom robotics and time-consuming visual effects builds, these game engines can craft real-time, immersive environments that are more adaptable and more practical than traditional green screening or rotoscoping.
And virtual reality technology like motion capture and real-time animation allows performers to react to realistically modeled environments, and to choreograph dynamic, physically substantial performances. For reality television, this allows for a more natural response from non-actors, and for production crews, this means more is ready for them on production day, rather than backloading work for the post-production team.
In its simplest terms, hyperreality is when reality becomes indistinguishable from simulation. Real performers fit seamlessly into fantastic environments, and contestants compete across physics-defying courses. It brings the lean, collaborative ethos of game design to full-scale television and film production, and attracts a globally surging community of gamers who have grown up accustomed to immersion, immediacy and interactivity.
- Dark Slope is currently looking for partners to bring hyperreality productions to life. Are you a from a broadcaster, streamer or commissioner and keen to learn more? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our first post-pandemic GDC was one for the history books.
That’s a wrap on GDC! This past week, game developers, journalists, and fans returned to San Francisco in-person for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to celebrate the biggest developments in the gaming industry, and to discover what kinds of innovations we can look forward to during the coming year. Here are three things we learned at GDC, and a few things we’re excited to experience for ourselves.
Back to Basics
The gaming industry boomed during the pandemic, with more people were stuck and home and looking for ways to connect remotely. Globally, we saw the gaming population soar to almost 3 billion users, with over $220.79 billion spent on gaming in 2020 alone, the industry has reached a level of cultural ubiquity we previously could only have dreamed of. But we know that the circumstances of that growth can’t be replicated, as many of us return (at least tentatively) to something like a normal routine.
GDC’s more intimate setting this year, with a relatively modest 12,000 in-person participants and 5,000 virtual spectators, allowed us to address this uncertainty in a more focused way. While some of the more spectacular press launches and conferences were missing this year, this gave us the opportunity to focus on in-depth discussions and panels that reminded us of why we started building games in the first place.
VR in the Spotlight
Unsurprisingly, virtual and augmented reality gaming was in the hot seat this year. We explored how gaming is already a key pillar in the metaverse, and how companies both inside and outside the industry are taking lessons from gaming in how to build UX for a fully virtual environment. We also saw VR tech becoming more diversified and accessible, with PSVR 2 being showcased this year. We also learned how VR is opening up new opportunities for mental health and therapeutic practitioners.
Gaming for Good
The pandemic has offered the gaming industry a chance to look at its social impact. From the ways gaming can bring attention to humanitarian causes around the world to designing games that help fight climate change, the current generation of makers and innovators are focused on exploring narrative and immersive ways to bring these topics to life, and exploring ways the industry can support socially conscious developers and studios.
If you missed GDC this year, you can explore any of the events we mentioned, and literally hundreds more, with on-demand video from the GDC Vault.
Dark Slope dispatches from #GDC22
“What keeps you up at night?” was the first question moderator Karla Reyes put to a panel of game developers, entrepreneurs, and social justice advocates at GDC on Monday. The panelists, which included Lual Mayen of Junub Games, Susanna Pollack of Games for Change, Jennifer Estaris of Ustwo Games, and Deborah Mensah-Bonsu of Games for Good, each had different answers: climate change, mental health, the plight of refugees and migrant workers across the globe. But each was excited about the opportunities gamemakers have to bring visibility to these issues, and to empower players to change their world.
Games with a Mission
For some panelists, making games has been a way to heal personal trauma and give back to their community. Junub Games’ first title Salaam draws on Lual Mayen’s experience growing up in a Ugandan refugee camp after fleeing his native South Sudan, not only putting players in the shoes of a refugee themselves, but encouraging them to donate and support humanitarian causes once they’ve finished playing. Mayen is also working to teach children living in refugee camps coding and computer animation, knowing firsthand how difficult it is for displaced persons to access resources necessary to pursue their passions. “Talent is equally distributed,” said Mayen. “Opportunity is not.”
From Audience to Action
Creating a game is a collaborative process, one that involves finding the right combination of expertise, representation, and goals to build a successful team. Building a game that has a social mission or addresses real world issues requires even more working together, tapping experts who can provide the foundation for your game experience. “You have to backfill the knowledge,” said Deborah Mensah-Bonsu, who works with Games for Good to leverage gaming audiences for social causes. “You need experts from both sides and to bring them together.” Jennifer Estaris of Ustwo Games echoed this, saying that it’s important to always develop for “entertainment first, education second.”
There are nearly 3 billion gamers in the world, a number that’s grown higher and higher since the beginning of the pandemic, and is surely to continue to rise. Whether developers are working with Triple-A studios or smaller indies, there has never been a better opportunity to use the medium to tell important stories and amplify unheard voices. Reflecting on how she approaches partnering with NGOs and charities to build games with a lasting impact, Mensah-Bonsu summed it up best: “These players already have their communities within gaming, so all you have to do is empower them.”
- Dark Slope is an emerging game studio with ambitious projects in development. Our team is attending GDC this week and are available to discuss partnership opportunities. To set up a meeting please email email@example.com