Scaling the Metaverse With the Founders of MetaGravity
Web3 company MetaGravity is hoping to create a compute fabric for the Metaverse through their work in deep tech. Here’s how.
Time and time again, Hollywood has envisioned the future of the human race as being looped into some kind of computer simulation, socializing primarily through technology, and leading two lives – one off screen and one on screen. The people depicted in these movies live, work and interact with one another inside virtual worlds. Think ‘The Matrix’ (1999) or ‘Gamer’ (2009), to name a few examples.
The tech world is now very interested in such a future, and predictions estimate that trillions of dollars of revenue will be made inside these virtual worlds over the next ten years. There’s just one problem: it is impossible to make these kinds of computer simulations with today’s technology.
At present, there are 400 million monthly active users dwelling on the Metaverse. The largest chunk comes from Roblox (230 million), followed by Minecraft (165 million), and Fortnite (85 million). It’s estimated that the Metaverse will have five billion users by 2030, according to a report from Citi. If this were to happen, we need to develop the fabric to scale the Metaverse and bring billions of people across the globe into a virtual world seamlessly. This is precisely what deep-tech startup MetaGravity is building.
“Without MetaGravity, the Metaverse will remain stuck in time with less than 100 users per virtual world, with low fidelity and interactivity, and with unsustainably high operating costs for most projects. The Metaverse is unlikely to really take off and reach its potential until the technical infrastructure to support more immersive, scalable, interactive worlds exists,” founder and CEO Rashid Mansour told us.
MetaGravity is a physics engine and decentralized compute fabric that hopes to help scale the Metaverse. Sino Global Capital has been working with them to help ensure that their technology reaches developers and studios working on MMO games, Metaverse experiences, and virtual worlds requiring many players.
We spoke with Mansour and their CBO Tobin Ireland about where the future of the space is headed, and how they hope to fill a significant gap in its engineering. Here’s what they had to say:
Disclosure: this interview was performed in November of 2022.
Could you briefly explain the engine you are building and how it differs from today’s approach?
The big shift in our approach is how we parallelise a game world’s simulation. Current approaches use a spatial model where the size of the world and its interacting players is constrained by the time it takes to propagate messages within a compute cluster within a data center. This upper bound limit is inescapable and ultimately restricts the spatial model. Our approach is to distribute and parallelise the world on the basis of the physics engine’s representation of the world. This allows us to integrate with existing engines more seamlessly, offering a better UX, but also allows us to improve performance and the cost of compute by a factor of 10x or more.
What gaps do you see in the blockchain gaming space that need to be addressed? How should they be tackled?
2. Ease of development
3. Operations cost
4. Asset interoperability
All of these aspects are linked to MetaGravity’s approach to building engine technology and infrastructure. We are building on a mathematical model for parallelizing virtual worlds that has, unlike all other attempts, no theoretical limit to its scale. Various architectural and implementation aspects of our technology mean that the digital objects, assets or ‘content’ within worlds are fully decoupled from the worlds themselves, existing as independent pieces of machine code and data that can execute securely and thus allow for these assets to work across different third-party virtual worlds. This then leads to the decentralization of content creation and its use within virtual worlds, pushing us closer to the aspiration for the Metaverse.
Finally, we’ve taken a very deliberate approach integrating closely with existing game engines and games industry tooling, providing a developer experience that is familiar with these tools. Our technology sits behind the scenes and empowers studios to create rich game worlds that are also unbounded in size and complexity. Thanks to specific architectural gains we can also deliver these at a cost-per-player that is a fraction of anything else in the market today.
What are some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on thus far?
We are building a persistent MMO game called Edge of Chaos as both a motivation for the design and development of the engine technology as well as to serve as an exemplar. We are very excited about this as it represents the sort of game we’ve all wanted to play since our earliest forays into MMOs. It is also very topical today – the idea of a living, breathing world that is shaped by its players, and where economies are formed and kingdoms rise and fall on the basis of the community that forms in-game. This has never been possible without the sort of infrastructure technology we are building at MetaGravity.
What are some of the new projects on the pipeline that you can tell us about?
We are at the early stages of building the platform and solving the frontier deep tech challenges. We are deliberately keeping ourselves focused on the platform and being reasonably quiet in the ecosystem.
Nevertheless, we can already demonstrate over 20k CCUs in a fully-interactive game world with deep physics interactions, smooth performance and a very low cost-per-player. This is something that is already far ahead of anything else on the market - and we are ahead of our roadmap to hit 100 thousand, one million, ten million, and 100+ million players in scale. We are already being approached by the largest games publishers, web3 communities, and digital twin virtual world simulations to support their development roadmaps.
We are now in active discussions with major projects to join our co-development programme for the next 12 months. It won’t be too long before we will be announcing some major partnerships.
What are your short and long term goals?
Once we have demonstrated the power of the MetaGravity infrastructure with a handful of large projects in the next 18 months, we plan to open the platform up to any project through our L1 GRAV token. We believe that GRAV can become one of the most valuable crypto-assets in the next bull run. We specifically look forward to working with Sino on our product and marketing roadmaps leading up to the public listing of the GRAV token in 2024.
Could you tell us a bit about the team that is building MetaGravity?
We are currently a team of 20+ people, with expertise in high-performance distributed computing, scalable game/MMO engines and building deep-tech startups.
Where did the idea for MetaGravity come from?
Rashid: I’ve had a longstanding fascination with computer simulations, partly intensified by my interest in gaming and wanting to see believable virtual worlds, and partly owing to my longstanding interest in the science of complex emergent systems, ranging from natural ecosystems to the self-organizing properties of societies and economies. My early forays into building simulations on an 80386DX in the early 1990s taught me that these are the most performance-critical and processor-intensive programs you could build. In later years, I went on to do academic research in this field and also founded the deep-tech startup Hadean, that broke all previous records for the largest online virtual world/game experience ever. The seven years I spent working in that field and industry convinced me of the enormous commercial and technological opportunity as we head towards the future of cloud games and the Metaverse. Thus, MetaGravity was born.
Tobin: I was also a mathematician as a kid, but went on to study econometrics and business at university. I was always interested in how data can drive new experiences and profitable business models. Through McKinsey, I went to Stanford at the same time as the birth of the consumer internet, and then joined the leadership team of the most ambitious web 1.0 company in Europe - boo.com. We achieved a lot ahead of the industry but you also learn a lot through failure. Then I did three big executive jobs in News Corp, AOL Time Warner and Vodafone at the time when web 1.0 and web 2.0 ecosystems were being established. I was always excited by doing big things that mattered on a global scale, and led business development at Vodafone when the whole world was going mobile. My passion for data brought me together with Rashid when we founded Adbrain together in 2013, successfully selling it to the TradeDesk. I was committed to other projects so I could not help Rashid build Hadean, so I jumped at the chance to get the team back together to deliver on an even bigger vision with MetaGravity.
What misconceptions do people have about this space and how would you clear them up?
Public awareness and expectations about the Metaverse have exploded in the last year, but for ten years game developers have been struggling with the constraints of scaling game engines and server tech. There have been a lot of false expectations set in the past by companies in this space, and game developers are a bit wary about new unproven approaches. Once we have demonstrated unheard of scale in a live simulation there will be enormous demand for our platform as it will deliver a superior experience at substantially lower costs.
Why was Sino a good investor to team up with in your view?
MetaGravity is an interesting mix of deep technology, blockchain, and gaming and we wanted to work with the best investors who understood the deep tech challenges we are addressing and who could keep us smart and focused on our multi-year roadmap. We will also be a global business, and the link between the Asian and North American markets is key. We also really loved Sino’s straightforward approach and they really made us feel that they would back us fully on the journey ahead.
What advice would you give an emerging entrepreneur in this space or anyone intrigued by this community?
Now is a good time to be building infrastructure that solves a real world problem. As the infrastructure that will be the foundation for any Metaverse project of scale, we are a bit immune to the success of individual early stage trials and companies building early Metaverse worlds. There is a lot of innovation happening today and we are excited to work with all projects with aspirations of scale.