Parallel Metaverses of Today and Tomorrow

In light of Epic’s vision, the Meta concept is an underwhelming replica

Thomas Smith
AI Automate It
Published in
9 min readNov 3, 2021

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Courtesy Epic Games/DMLA

Last week, as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared his sweeping vision for a virtual world known as the metaverse, I watched a live talk which covered almost exactly the same topic from engineers including Heiko Wenczel of Epic Games during the Digital Media Licensing Conference. Facebook’s ideas about the metaverse left me underwhelmed, but Epic’s absolutely blew me away. Zuckerberg can sink his billions into creating virtual worlds if he wants. But make no mistake — the metaverse is already here. And Epic Games built it.

Outside the tech community, most people know Epic Games for its flagship video game Fortnite. Fortnite is the most popular video game in the history of the world. The game has 350 million players worldwide, who spent a collective 3.2 billion hours playing Fortnite in 2020. More than a quarter of pre-teens in the United States play the game, and top players can earn millions of dollars per year by competing in more than 100 official tournaments.

Inside the tech world, though, Epic is mostly known for its Unreal Engine. The Unreal Engine is a game engine originally developed in 1998. Game engines handle the complex physics underlying modern video games. They dictate how objects move within the game, how they act on each other, how they’re lit, and more.

Relying on an engine like Unreal to handle these basics gives game makers a blank canvas on which to build complex worlds. They can focus on a game’s characters and stories, rather than worrying about how a tree should blow in a virtual breeze, or how the explosion of a projectile might reflect on a character’s helmet. More than seven million tech professionals use the Unreal Engine today, both at Epic and beyond.

As the pandemic struck in 2020, players of Fortnite (which is built using the Unreal Engine) started to realize that the engine allowed their game to serve a totally different function than the one for which Epic had designed it. Fortnite is officially a battle royale game, which means that players are often trying to kill each other, albeit in a cartoony way. But as lockdowns forced billions around the globe to hunker down in their homes, Fortnite players…

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