Improbable’s SpatialOS is moving on up in the world: The company announced this week that China’s NetEase has invested $50 million to acquire a “small equity stake to act as strategic investment” in the company. And that’s not just casual money; NetEase is apparently planning on developing multiple games using SpatialOS, the first of which is expected to be revealed later in 2018.
“We are recruiting and establishing a presence able to support game developers of all types within China who wish to use SpatialOS, and actively seeking other partners in Asia,” Improbable says. “The investment will increase our ability to help game makers in China and beyond to build previously impossible games, by helping game makers to benefit from a neutral, openly available technology platform supporting the next generation of online gaming.”
Automaton Games CEO James Thompson came along with Improbable, Bill Roper, and Mavericks to this year’s E3, where I got a second chance to see how everything in the battle royale/MMO hybrid is doing since GDC. I know battle royale is a hot topic around here, and the reaction we saw at GDC did have me worried about Mavericks’ potential audience.
Thompson was quite eager to talk about Mavericks, especially its battle royale side, but as someone who’s much more of an MMORPG player, I felt the one key thing we found common ground on was that Mavericks is aiming to be less of a simple genre game and more of a “platform” to build on, not because of any strength of the BR or even MMO genre but because of its ability to run a simulation. For virtual world fans, this is something I feel we should be paying more attention to.
For MMO players, Improbable brought some interesting ideas to GDC this past spring. It also brought some games I wasn’t expecting, and the ones I was expecting were kind of downplayed. On the ground floor, developers from some of our favorite MMOs hadn’t heard of SpatialOS, a platform that allows games to be “bigger” by running multiple game engines in an innovative way, with a few developers being exceptions. I was set up for a meeting with Improbable CCO Bill Roper to help figure things out, but soon into our physical meeting he was pulled away and we had to follow up with emails, which rarely goes as well.
Fortunately, Roper had time to sit and chat again with me at E3. With SpatialOS’s first game out in the wild and more on the way, I felt like there was a lot Roper could explain about SpatialOS, MMOs, and Improbable’s role in it all.
SpatialOS: You’ve probably been seeing this name pop up more and more in the MMO sphere. Worlds Adrift, Mavericks, Fractured, Seed, MetaWorld, and Identity are just some of the titles we’ve mentioned that have sprung up to use Improbable’s platform. The company picked up more than half a billion dollars from Japanese company SoftBank, roped in MMO veteran Bill Roper, and got Jagex to announce its intention to use it in a future project. However Chronicles of Elyria recently noted it’s dropping Improbable’s baby, and both on and off the record, developers I spoke to at GDC 2018 had mixed reactions – assuming they’d even heard about SpatialOS at all.
What’s the big deal about the platform? What does it do? Why should developers care? Why should MMO players care? I attended a panel by Improbable and briefly sat down with CCO Bill Roper to try to figure it all out.
So as you may know, I’m an MMORPG guy – not really a battle royale guy. There are some cool ideas for people who like the combat of survival games turned up to 11, but that’s not my thing. I like community building, crafting, negotiating, and generally using my words to avoid direct combat. So when Automaton games announced Mavericks and said it’d be adding MMO elements to the battle royale genre, I got a bit excited. However, after having some hands-on time with the game and talking to Automaton Games’ CEO James Thompson at this year’s GDC, I’ve come to the realization that it’s much more for the battle royale crowd than the MMO crowd, and this will be especially true at launch.
Normally there’s a firm line of separation between battle royale-style multiplayer shooters and the full-fledged MMORPG, but Automaton’s Mavericks may be about to change all of that.
The online tactical shooter has a couple of advantages that may set it apart and above its competition when it comes out this year. For starters, it’s using the Cryengine to create a large “photo-realistic” and “high-fidelity” environment. Then Mavericks is opening up its doors to 1,000 players at a time in its persistent world, thanks to SpatialOS’ tech.
“We’ve combined a number of new and proven additions that drastically expand on what you’ve seen from the last generation of games,” the studio said, ‘including character progression, deep narrative, intelligent mission systems, social hubs, and a huge world rich in content.”
The team hasn’t started doing dev diaries yet, but it HAS created a dev diary for the upcoming dev diaries, which you can watch after the break and then feel generally fulfilled about your life.