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Wevr has made stellar virtual reality games like the ocean simulation TheBlu. And now it is expanding to make Virtual Studio, a cloud-based platform to help people make next-generation games.
The Wevr Virtual Studio is a tool in early access that game teams can use to stand up new projects. Neville Spiteri, CEO of Wevr, describes it as a purpose-built platform that lets interactive creators and game developers use real-time game engines like Unity and Unreal.
“We’re gong to be offering software services for creators using game engines,” Spiteri said. “We’re leaning into this idea that game engines are eating the world,” meaning they’re being used to create 3D animations for things like the industrial metaverse and more beyond gaming.
He added, “It really shines with distributed teams.”
The top targets for the tools are game developers, virtual film producers, educators, makers of Metaverse apps, Web3 creators, architects and simulation builders, Spiteri said. He added that there is a lot of interest from non-game metaverse companies as well.
“We’re excited about the metaverse,” said Spiteri. “If you’re a developer building part of this future metaverse, and you need to integrate into Unity or Unreal, we’re going to make it easy for developers to build applications on Wevr Virtual Studio. The big win for Wevr Virtual Studio over the next few years will be metaverse-specific applications.”
Wevr has also raised a new round of funding to finance this expansion, and its investors include Epic Games, Warner Bros., and HTC. Spiteri is going to speak with me in a fireside chat at our GamesBeat Summit Next 2022 event in San Francisco next week on October 25-26. (You can use the Dean50 code to get 50% off tickets).
“Wevr is a pioneer in real-time content creation and their Virtual Studio is an exciting new platform for creators and developers to build interactive virtual worlds and experiences,” said Kim Libreri, CTO of Epic Games, in a statement.
How it came about
It’s not a game engine itself. It’s a way to organize people using game engines. The insight that led to the product line is that there is a way to make development projects more collaborative and predictable. And a number of developers are using WVS, as it’s called, to make multiplayer games.
“The reality is, if you’re building an application on Unity or Unreal, whether it ends up being produced for a headset, or for mobile, or it’s cross platform, the nuts and bolts of dealing with code and content and the file formats coming out of Maya and Blender, it’s all the same,” Spiteri said.
Spiteri said some of this started a decade ago when the company was working on TheBlu. It had a maker platform where 3D artists could create fish and upload them to the cloud and drop them into the ocean simulation.
“We’ve been on this path and vision of creating,” he said. “It’s a capability for creators around the world to participate in a project together for a long time. Within Wevr, we have always had distributed teams working across time zones and locations.”
The notion of a studio is analogous to a Hollywood studio, but in this case it’s a distributed game studio or an entertainment studio built around a game engine.
“What’s really clear now is that, especially post COVID-19, is that there’s this opportunity to be a lot more fluid, where independent creators can do their own startup or their own indie game,” Spiteri said.
With the virtual studio, the work can also be more fluid, with people working on multiple projects at the same time. The fees for the Virtual Studio are based on actual usage.
“It’s a new kind of studio that is ultimately going to enable creators around the world to work together and create not just Wevr titles but their own work. Groups of creators can form their own virtual studio and feel like they’re part of a certain game studio.
Marcel Samel, Wevr’s CTO, previously worked at Electronic Arts where there was a lot of infrastructure for developers and the tools they used. But when people leave to start a brand new studio, they don’t have any of that support. Wevr’s solution is meant to help those people, Spiteri said.
“All of those services target the pain points, but those services are not available off the shelf, out of the box today,” said Spiteri. “That’s really the nexus of Virtual Studio and the services we are providing.”
Since Wevr is a VR studio, there is an optional part of the service where you can design your game in VR. You can, for instance, make changes in the 3D animated objects and then view them as they would appear in VR. Then you can see if the changes are correct or not. And it works even if the art isn’t in VR. An artist working in Blender can make a change, put on a VR headset, and see if the change works. Normally, that kind of blending of 3D and VR can be very time consuming.
Still doing VR games
It’s a pivot for Wevr, but the company isn’t leaving its past behind. In fact it is building on it. The company started in 2010, and it made some amazing games and experiences such as the award-winning ocean exploration VR title TheBlu, an original property with Jon Favreau and Harry Potter VR with Warner Brothers. Wevr is dogfooding Virtual Studio by building more games, virtual worlds and applications, including the next phase of the ocean simulation TheBlu. That said Wevr is most excited about collaborating with creators and dev teams, and helping them build their games, worlds and apps using Virtual Studio.
“We’ll continue to opportunistically do VR going forward,” Spiteri said.
But now Wevr is moving outside the company walls to enable others in the industry to collaborate better. Spiteri said the mission is to empower creators around the world to build the next-generation internet together. It enables distributed teams of artists, engineers and producers to easily build and ship their projects, all on the same platform.
WVS provides cloud orchestration for automated builds, renders, and testing across mobile, PC/Mac, XR and other targets. It is optimized for Unity, Unreal and Godot. WVS provides Git-based version control with an easy-to-use interface for artists. That means they can modify a part of a game and update it without worrying that someone else is going to overwrite it. It can be used for iOS or Android games, WebGL, cross-platform games, the Quest and AR apps.
Wevr expects the WVR to go into full service in the first quarter of 2023.
Customers pay for the storage space in the cloud for the version control service, and they also pay for the automated processes that run in the cloud. In this respect, it competes with user license fees charged by tool makers such as Perforce. It turns out to be cost effective for both big and small companies. If you have three people working on a prototype, the fee is pretty small. On a bigger project with builds happening every day, the fees are more.
“The more our customers iterate, the better their game, the better their product,” Spiteri said.