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The Universal Backlot: The Tools of the Metaverse | Jon Pedie


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Jon Peddie recently hosted a talk for our GamesBeat Summit 2023 event about the Universal backlot, a metaphor borrowed from the movies about the tools for creating the metaverse.

Peddie, the founder of Jon Peddie Research, has specialized in computer graphics analysis and consulting for decades and is the author of a series of three books on the history of the GPUor graphics processing unit.

He started by defining the metaverse as “anything you want.” Omid Rahmat helped create the deck, but he couldn’t make the conversation.

“And I’m not funny defining and labeling something a single entity, since the metaverse will never work,” he said. “First of all, in a perfect metaverse, there is only one metaphor, and anyone who has space in it has the ability to roam freely, exchange virtual goods, manage transactions, communicate, and interact freely with anyone. That is the ideal.”

But that means you have to have standards and interoperability, he said. And while there are standards and efforts to forge a unified, holistic approach, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever really get to one metaverse, Peddie said.

“Just as there are many standards, such as jpg, png, tiff, etc., the data exchange formats for image files,” he said. “There will probably be many standardized versions of the metaverse as well. Collaboration is therefore only possible if there is a clear sense of ownership. That means for a guy with a TIFF file, wanting to share that with someone who wants to use it as a JPEG file, for your purposes could degrade that or create a red flag.

It’s a red flag because, in a virtual world, if someone figures out how to get to your bits and bytes, they have the ability to change those bits and bytes and replicate them and do different things with them, said Peddie.

“That is the vulnerability we all face. So that leads to some consideration in any reverse digital content creation strategy,” he said. most companies will abide by their own policies. And as a result, interoperability will have barriers to navigate. Not insurmountable, but certainly negotiable. And standards mean that everyone agrees to exchange formats for the digital content. Not necessarily openness .”

Peddie showed a complex bubble graph of the universe of metaverse digital content creation tools, saying, “This is the real reason why the metaverse can exist as something other than an idea or a generic name for a bunch of technologies. Digital content is a very, very complex and segmented world. The model of the universe of tools could very easily be adapted to the art and production departments of any Marvel movie as an example.”

When you watch the credits of a Marvel movie, it’s unbelievable how many people are involved in making those things and then it just goes on and on and on, it seems, he said.

“What you can deduce from that is it’s very hard to get big at content creation,” he said. “The sheer magnitude of managing all the different disciplines and domain experts is overwhelming. Therefore, your first strategy is to identify your niche and stick very close to it, stay very close to it as you evolve.

He noted that all of these functions are at the service of applications, which is essentially why he didn’t define the metaverse – there’s too much to talk about.

“For a fashion brand, the metaverse only makes sense because it can be applied to selling clothes, shoes or clothing,” Peddie said. “For a production company like Siemens, it’s about digital twins that supply models of them [factory] operation so they can be analyzed to create meaningful changes on the factory floor or in production for different apps.”

So the metric for creating metaverse content in these two examples will be very different and will require very unique skills for the creators.

Further, in gaming, there are even more requirements for content because of the tight integration with the fast-moving interaction.

“That, in turn, determines the kind of 3D modeling tools they will use in any case, even if they have the same core similarities,” Peddie said.


How do you define the metaverse?

What strategies should companies follow? The more the metaverse places demands on content creators, the more serious it becomes, regardless of the severity of the application.

“For example, I don’t believe that if you’re a graphic designer you can get by with Photoshop alone,” he said. “You are inherently connected to a lot of different applications and they have to come together. They must somehow be screwed together to create metaverse assets. One area that I don’t think has been adapted enough is cloud-based workflow.

During the pandemic, remote workflows became standard practice for many developers. And that’s how cloud-based workflows where collaborations could work across great distances and different time zones and everything became really beneficial.

“Zoom was a perfect example of that. So adapting to a cloud-based workflow is an important transition for creators who often work alone or rely on proximity or collaboration with other people. And that’s not how the metaverse is going to work,” Peddie said.

“I also don’t think we have enough traction with the users of the metaverse,” he said. “That may be why we read so much about what the metaverse is, is the metaverse dead, am I getting rich? Can I build a house there? Everyone has a comment whether it is Web3D with blockchain. Who knows?”

The best approach

User-generated content will be a big part of the metaverse.

The best approach is to always remain committed to the idea that a user is a user, regardless of how they enter the world you create, he said.

Users are not going to use applications or venture into virtual worlds just because it matters. They only go there if they think it’s useful and attractive,” he said.

“It’s that simple,” Peddie said. “Maybe expectations are different, partly because of the hype around the metaverse. But the fundamental requirement is that users will create a metaverse that is no different from any other 3D application. And let’s not forget that it’s not entirely natural or intuitive for anyone to engage with 3D. Maybe the real world is 3D. But that has no relation to the virtual world.”

Peddie wonders why so many metaverse applications insist on letting people move around rooms pretending to be in the real world.

“In the same room at the same time with those constraints, that just seems counterintuitive, for a way to navigate a virtual world,” he said. “The virtual world can take away all those annoying requirements. Like you have to walk somewhere to get there. Immediately you can blast there. Beam me up.”

Then there’s user-generated content.

“One aspect of creating digital content in the metaverse that shouldn’t be overlooked is empowering users to create their own content. Again, the virtual world is not the real world,” he said.

User engagement is driven both by the user’s ability to create and add their own content, and the users’ ability to interact with existing content.

For consumers, the virtual world should take something from the real world and give them some imagination with virtual digital content. For businesses, however, it’s just the opposite.

“The metaverse provides an opportunity to experiment with real problems and assess the results and improve the real world. I wouldn’t ignore the creativity of the business metaverse. But I would also say it requires a lot of collaboration with stakeholders as the margins of error are very real in the real world and have consequences that just don’t exist in the consumer metaverse,” he said.

Take the design of an airplane, for example. You need to get that perfect if you want to use it in the real world.

Looking ahead, Peddie believes the future of digital content creation will involve the use of AI.

“It’s a bit of a no-brainer. What does that mean?” he asked.

It doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll live with robots or have AI buddies helping us do our homework.

“Being creative is not related to superintelligence,” he said. “We’ve built very powerful technologies that people never fully use, even though they have full access to those features. Take spreadsheets for example. The Modern Spreadsheet is a great application. But not many people know how to use all this power and take advantage of all those possibilities. And that will be the same for AI.”

It has great potential and it will be available to all of us if we integrate it into the content creation process. It has good and bad user experiences and usability as people learn to use it.

“The great potential for all creators is that a powerful AI helper can make up for weaknesses and expertise and the knowledge that is great,” he said. “It can strengthen and help broaden creators’ skills in ways that are purely manual.”

For example, if you wanted to know something, then you look it up, find it out. AI may be able to help you get through that process. It helps you do your job, rather than take your job, he said.

When there’s a major shift in strategy coming up, it’s about how best to integrate AI tools into your workflow for the metaverse. There is no book on how to do that right now.

“For the future of content creation in the metaverse, the overarching theme is that the strategy must be to create effective workflows. And whatever workflow you choose, it will include AI tools,” he said.

He noted that the metaverse will be a huge asset class of digital content that has yet to be created. Whether it’s interoperable or standardized depends on the self-interest of those who create the tools and platforms and how they want it to become widespread. Peddie said he doesn’t see it happening any time soon.

The future Adobe and Unity companies from around the world will create the tools to deliver those goods and enable distributed workflows and applications that host content creation tools. Big companies will try to dominate this space. The best protection for your own intellectual property, Peddie said, is to create your own tools and your own Universal backlot. Those are your possessions.

“To continue the movie metaphor, build your own Universal backlot,” he said. “In the metaverse, your creativity is a valuable data point. It can be converted into digital content. Store core data and create output and don’t worry about the end goal of the metaverse.”

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Shreya Christina
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