One may argue that the Metaverse has been around for years, as evidenced by early gaming platforms, but virtual ecosystems are now being adopted by almost every industry. A recent report by consulting firm McKinsey & Company he believes that Metaverse has the potential to generate at least $5 billion in value by 2030. McKinsey also found that investments in excess of $120 billion have been made in Metaverse platforms this year, indicating that there is a lot of growth going on.
While this is notable, there is still a perception that most metaverse platforms lack when it comes to graphical quality. Recently, for example, there was Mark Zuckerberg criticized for posting a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower in the Meta. Although Meta already does invested over $10 billion to build the meta version, some have pointed out that the current Meta graphics are of lower quality than the images that appeared in Second Life in 2007.
Second Life 2007. Metaverse 2022. pic.twitter.com/2JByEzk5eL
— Andres Guadamuz (@technollama) August 17, 2022
Metaverse graphics are an aesthetic choice
Although the mainstream was quick to criticize the graphics associated with the various meta-versions, industry experts note that the image quality is intentional. A spokesperson for Linden Lab – the company behind Second Life – told Cointelegraph that the content design and aesthetic decisions that other meta-versions make are usually stylistic:
“For example, the blocky look of some Metaverses builds on modeling techniques first seen in Minecraft. It was a deliberate choice to make it not look realistic.”
Reflecting this, Yat Siu, co-founder and chairman of Animoca Brands, told Cointelegraph that the graphical representation depends on the brand and images of the given Metaverse. “If you look at the visuals of Phantom Galaxies or Life Beyond, you’ll see that the quality is high and that the fashion can be experienced in a way that is visually closer to what one would expect in reality.”
With this in mind, a Linden Lab spokesperson mentioned that one of the key differences between Second Life and other metaverse platforms is its community’s focus on realism. “Even with 20 years of archived Second Life images around the internet, you’ll see the incredible quality our creators are delivering today – far beyond even newer virtual worlds or meta-versions.”
But while realistic images may appeal to certain metaverse communities, other platforms take different approaches. For example, The Sandbox – dubbed as one of the most the popular blockchain-based Metaverses — intentionally has square graphics.
Sebastien Borgetco-founder and COO of The Sandbox, told Cointelegraph that the platform chose voxels as the building blocks for its metaverse due to its ease of use:
“Voxels are like ‘digital legos’ that require no user manual. Hundreds of millions of people already know how to work with voxel graphics (thanks to Minecraft), and this opens up The Sandbox to a huge community around the world.”
To Borget’s point, Siu noted that the boxy, voxelized images in The Sandbox aren’t a visual limitation because it’s a style that allows for collaborative design. “People don’t think of Lego as ‘lo-fi.’ 8-bit style or retro pixel art is another example of something that is trendy and fashionable because of what it represents,” he noted.
Borget added that the graphics allow accessibility for creators of all ages and backgrounds, which is critical as he believes the Metaverse will largely consist of user-generated content moving forward.
To put this into perspective, Loretta Chen, co-founder of Smobler Studios – a Singaporean multimedia design agency – told Cointelegraph that she recently partnered with The Sandbox. create wedding reception in his Metaverse.
According to Chen, Smobler Studios used VoxEdit and Game Maker, two free software applications that can be downloaded from The Sandbox website, to build the wedding venue. In addition to being accessible, Chen noted that she was pleased with the imaginary aspects provided by The Sandbox’s graphics. “In some aspects, we allowed ourselves creative freedom. We would be remiss if we tried to recreate an identical replica of the assets without the imagination or element of fun.”
However, some industry experts believe that high-quality images are essential to ensure engaging metaverses. Jacob Loewenstein, head of growth at Spatial — a metaverse platform focused on augmented and virtual reality — told Cointelegraph that Spatial prioritizes high-quality graphics for several reasons:
“First, they help the user feel more immersed. Second, they help the user express themselves fully. Users who participate in the Metaverse economy expect virtual goods with world-class graphic fidelity.”
Given Spatial’s focus on quality, it should come as no surprise that the company is partnerships with major fashion stores, such as Vogue Singapore, to bring meta versions into the mainstream. Graphics quality also becomes crucial because the McKinsey report comment that 79% of consumers active on Metaverse have already purchased.
At the same time, it’s important to note that user-generated content is more difficult to achieve on realism-focused Metaverses. For example, Ready Player Me is also working with Vogue Singapore to ensure that users can interact with realistic avatars.
In addition, the various cosmetics associated with the avatars are authored by the 3D artists they belong to physically based plaster materials, which define how different assets should physically look in the game engine. Although the process is complex, Selvet shared that Ready Player Me will be open-sourced graphic library visa in the coming months to make it easier for developers to build.
Metaverse images will improve, but the community remains key
Although the quality of the graphics is based on the choice of metaverse platforms, there are improvements with the advancement of Web3. For example, Borget noted that The Sandbox spends most of its resources on research and development to ensure the next stages of the user experience. He said:
“Avatar expressions and emotions will make The Sandbox even more immersive and fun for users. And if you look at what The Sandbox looked like two years ago, users will already be excited about how it’s different today and how it can evolve in the next two years.”
While innovation is clear, technical limitations are likely to slow development. For example, Selvet pointed out that software and hardware issues persist, stating, “Many of today’s application metaverses are predominantly browser-based, but users want seamless access.”
As such, Selvet noted that the need for metaversion availability on devices other than gaming PCs is growing. Loewenstein added that Spatial is particularly focused on bringing Metaverse to both the web and mobile devices, but noted that computational limitations were problematic.
Fortunately, development is underway. Loewenstein said: “First of all, the new processors are increasingly powerful while being lightweight and energy-efficient. Second, new APIs such as WebGPU will allow users to access the actual performance of their GPUs in the web metaverse in the next 24 months. Third, cloud rendering is increasingly available at a lower cost, while high-bandwidth internet (such as 5G) is similarly proliferating.”
All things considered, the development of the metaverse currently seems to be more focused on community building than display. “I believe we need to go beyond the expectation of a photorealistic meta-human Metaverse and look at what drives human interaction,” Borget noted. To do this, Borget explained that metaversions should focus on ease of use:
“If we build a world that requires advanced technology and skills to build and operate, we will miss out on most of the world’s population. But if we instead focus on making creation and play highly accessible and engaging, we can turn the meta into a new, more level playing field.”