What Makes a "Good" Metaverse Platform?
I always wanted to build games when I was younger. Some of my earliest memories of it were building parkour-like challenges in the Tony Hawk games for the PS2 (something that the editor definitely wasn’t made for).
Now, the opportunities to build a level, world, or even full game are endless. Not only are we seeing visual fidelity capabilities that are better than anything we’ve ever seen before, but we also have countless platforms where you can open up an editor and start creating: Roblox, Fortnite Creative, Minecraft, and hundreds more
Having a first-hand relationship with this market, I test many of these emerging platforms each month. I have an “evaluation checklist” of sorts that I follow when I check them out for the first time:
Ease of Use
Cost & Monetizebility
Support & Documentation
Not all of these are weighed the same when I’m checking things out, but they all play a role in determining if it’s something I would feel good about creating experiences on.
Ease of Use
Ease of Use doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be dead simple to figure out and navigate. Actually, if something is too simple, it usually means there are compromises in the other criteria in one way or another. When I talk about Ease of Use, I mean: Does it work as I’d expect it to? Do camera controls work similarly to other platforms? When I place a prop in the world, does it behave as I’d expect? Does it have weird aspects that make it cumbersome or annoying to be productive? Editors must work great and feel fantastic, especially if you spend hours with them.
This is a big one! Many engines have a reliable way of putting a world together in a not-too-terribly long time… but many more are pretty terrible at making that world feel alive. When an engine is flexible, it means we can do a lot with it. We can do different types of genres of experiences, support many different gameplay mechanics, and make lots of environments and aesthetics, which will mean that overall each experience published to the platform feels that much more unique.
This one piggybacks a bit off of Flexibility and is another area where many editors fall short. For experiences to feel truly unique and immersive, the editor needs to either provide one of two things: (1) the ability to import and export your own assets (animations, models, etc.) or (2) a massive library of assets to pick from with plenty of ability to customize the appearance of each. An editor without proper customization ability will mean every experience feels cookie-cutter, even if there’s variety in gameplay mechanics and styles of play.
Complexity is what I’d consider being the measure of the ceiling for advanced creators. This is where platforms like Roblox shine. On the surface level, Roblox is a blocky, colorful game in which anybody can slap stuff together. But if you dig into the toolset and give it enough time and effort, you’ll end up with your version of Call of Duty - playable right on the platform. For an editor to score a win in Complexity in my book, it should offer the ability to create and tune things like physics, artificial intelligence (NPCs, mobs, etc. - not ChatGPT), and scripting of some form.
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Truly unique experiences are built in teams, not solo. Collaboration means people can work on a single experience project without much pain and suffering. (And no, sharing one account and logging in at different times doesn’t count.)
This could be either the ability to live-edit the experience in real-time like Roblox TeamCreate, or the ability to deal with multiple copies of a world that people can modify and merge with some version control system. Without proper collaboration tools, the creation ceiling will always be capped at just one person can make.
Another big one. When I launch my experience to the world, who will care about it? How many players are going to check it out? When it’s on-platform, how will people discover it, invite their friends, and come back later? How many players can the platform handle in my world at once?
When it’s off-platform, what hoops do players need to jump through to get into my experience, and what do they need to play it?
When a platform has a small community, I need to do a lot more lift to drive traffic to it. This means more considerable requirements on marketing budgets and more costly production overall.
There are a lot of platforms out there with great tools and a lot of potential, but no solid community to truly embrace the content that’s produced and, unfortunately, goes unseen.
Performance & Platform Support
I know I listed these as two categories, but they go hand-in-hand. For my experience to succeed, it needs to reach the widest number of players possible and play well for all of them. Whether that’s handled by the game automatically (like Fortnite Creative) or requires more manual work (Roblox) doesn't matter - but it should be on as many platforms as possible where people are already playing games.
When I say platform, I don’t mean other metaverse platforms. I mean PC, iOS, Android, XBOX, PlayStation, etc.
Not everybody plays on just a PC anymore - and many platforms are still building like that’s the only audience.
Cost & Monetization
It needs to be financially lucrative if I want to build on a platform full-time. “Cost” to me means what it costs to be there, the type of ways I can get a return on my time, and the tools made available to me to maximize potential gains. Many metaverse platforms make it free to launch your experience there, but just as many don’t have anything in place to help generate any ROI on your creations. If you want the professional builders involved, you must nail this down!
Great platforms can charge for in-game items, boosts, and bonuses - or access to the space entirely. It’s no fun to be hit with paywalls in games, but it’s how professional studios can justify the resources needed to build on your platform.
Support & Documentation
How easy is it to get a helping hand from someone who puts the platform together when things go wrong? How well-documented are the tools provided in the editor, and how well does your platform play with outside services? Can I send people to my social profiles? Can I contact 3rd party APIs? Where do I send players if they have an issue launching my experience? This category falls under the radar, but you need a great support strategy to ensure your devs and players stay happy.
So who is “Good” right now?
Nobody is perfect.
Of all the platforms out there, they all have their benefits and drawbacks. And I don’t think there ever will be one true “Best” platform.
The truth is that everybody’s priorities are massively different, and your set of criteria for what makes a platform excellent may vary drastically from mine.
If I had to answer, I’d point to the platform that’s enabled us to give success to our clients on many occasions, Roblox, but it’d be not very smart to say that we don’t always have our eyes on other emerging platforms and opportunities.
Where do you like building most? And what makes that platform awesome for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!