Two weeks ago, I was given a guided tour of a metaverse platform called RP1 (obviously a reference to the novel and film Ready Player One), conducted by its CEO, Sean Mann.
Heretofore, I have refrained from reporting on RP1 because, well, there’s wasn’t much to report on yet! Much of the work on RP1 has been going on behind the scenes, and the platform I visited this week is still not yet ready to launch. However, what I did see impressed me, and I wanted to share it with you.
(Also a personal note: it is so refreshing to see a project where they are actually putting in the work before launch, as opposed to so many blockchain-based metaverse projects are are simply minting and shilling NFTs, with only vague promises and often misleading concept art! I have written about many such projects in the past on this blog, and it is truly beyond annoying. BUILD SOMETHING WORKING FIRST, people, THEN sell it!)
The first thing that you need to understand about RP1 is that is it a platform built to provide shardless scalability as a service to other metaverse platforms. Picture a concert in a virtual world like Second Life or on a social VR platform like Sansar. In both cases, the size of the audience is constrained by technical limits, In SL, you can only pack about 100 avatars in one sim (which is why event stages are often placed at the intersection of four sims, to allow a larger audience). In Sansar, you can get about 30 avatars into one world; the 31st avatar lands up in a newly-spun-up instance of the world, where they are can watch the same performance as everybody else, but cannot communicate with the avatars on other shards/instances.
What RP1 is planning to offer is a single, shardless world with hundreds and even thousands of avatars in one world. Sean tells me, “We have a phase two demo coming out in a few months with 100,000 avatars in a single 20 square kilometer using just a few computers.” Sean’s goal is to have millions of avatars all sharing one space.
There’s no need to to use portals to move from one instance to another; you can walk around the entire festival grounds, see and hear everybody else, and talk with them! To date, the only metaverse companies that have come close to this ideal are the former High Fidelity social VR platform—which used to regularly host large events with hundreds of avatars in a single world—and Sine Wave Entertainment’s Sinespace platform.
I first met Sean in a lounge high above the cityscape (which was one square kilometre in size), then we teleported down to ground level. The first thing that struck me, walking out into the city, was the sound of countless people talking, the background murmur of indistinct conversations. I was surprised to learn that this sound was not one looping soundtrack, but that it was the collective sound of whichever of the 4,000 avatars nearest to me was saying—a collective sound!
The 4,000 avatars were company-generated bots, of course, something which High Fidelity and Sinespace have also done in the past for their stress testing (since it’s far easier then recruiting 4,000 human volunteers!). The avatars are all gesticulating as if they were in VR headsets, and you can see their arms and mouths move. You can adjust the level of detail of the avatars, with the ones closest to you appearing fully, the ones on the periphery of your vision appearing as blue rectangles in the distance, and the ones beyond your field of view invisible. As an avatar walked by you, the volume of their voice would increase as they approached, and it would fade into the background as they walked away, in spatialized, 3D audio. This is a custom, company-built system of which Sean is quite proud, one which is different from the 3D audio offered by Philip Rosedale’s new, non-social-VR iteration of High Fidelity, which has been implemented in a few metaverse platforms, such as Sine Wave Entertainment’s Breakroom.
With the toggle of a switch, you can mute the background talking so that you can focus on who is speaking to you (in this case, Sean Mann, who was leading the tour). He led me into a clothing store, and as soon as we entered, the sound from the cityscape outside ceased.
Finally, we fly up to a high spot overlooking the city, above an animated sculpture of rotating cubes. I turned my level-of-detail up to level 6, and I could see hundreds of avatars walking around the cityscape! It was pretty impressive. We ended the tour with Sean demonstrating a very simple flay-through-the-hoops game, a demonstration of the the game-building capabilites of the RP1 platform.
I must admit that I came away impressed with the potential for RP1’s platform. Unfortunately, there is as yet no in-world camera, so I could not take pictures to show you here, but I prevailed upon Sean to share an in-world image of his 4,000-avatar testbed, and here it is:
The important thing to remember here is that RP1 is positioning itself as a B2B (business-to-business) service, providing shardless scalability to other companies who wish to build metaverse platforms that can support a large number of simultaneous users. They’re looking for partners, and looking for investors.
For more information about RP1, please visit their website, where you can check out their roadmap and even request a demo. You can also join the RP1 Discord server, and follow RP1 on Twitter (or Sean Mann himself). I’m quite looking forward to seeing what comes next from this innovative project, and I will be adding RP1 to my ever-growing list of social VR and virtual world platforms.