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Why I’m Open Sourcing My Company’s Software to Save the Metaverse

I know it’s in the title of this article, but I'm tired of the term “Metaverse” right now. It's not here yet, so anyone selling the “Metaverse” today is shilling or doesn't understand it. However, VR is here. It’s here now, and it's awesome! VR has great business use cases, the hardware & software are improving every day, & new fun games are coming out every week…


However, I put the term in this article because I can’t deny that the word “metaverse” does have meaning. It has significant meaning to me, representing a shared virtual community that we will all one day belong to. But, for the short term, for the sake of having more meaningful and practical conversations, I’m going to stick to meaning this when I say “metaverse": “multiplayer VR applications". 


Now, with that out of the way…


As we all know, the “metaverse” needs some saving. But, one thing you might not know unless you are a VR developer is that what that really means is multiplayer VR development needs saving. And, it needs saving for two reasons. 1. Making a multiplayer VR experience is hard, and 2. Current multiplayer experiences in VR are walled gardens where companies set the rules and limit personalization of our VR worlds. Furthermore, saving the metaverse will mean saving people from these two things. And, by jove, I think the team and I have done that.

Tl;dr, Our company’s latest product, Foundry, is advocating for the open sourcing of our company software, a multiplayer VR Unity framework, in order to create a more fair and enjoyable metaverse for creators and users. Currently, the metaverse is dominated by large companies whose virtual worlds, or "walled gardens," prioritize data collection and profit over creating a positive experience for users, community managers, and world builders. These companies often charge subscription fees or use users as a product through data collection and advertising. They also impose restrictions on what users can do and do not allow them to profit from their experiences. We suggest that open sourcing our multiplayer VR software will allow for a more inclusive and democratic virtual reality environment where entrepreneurs and creatives in the VR industry can thrive.


Before I jump into how and why my team and I are trying to save the metaverse, let’s answer some questions for context…


Where are VR users going?


In a world where everyone is entering the metaverse for the very first time, where are they going?

Where is each teenager getting their first-headset on Christmas going? Where is each employee receiving their first VR safety training going? 


The answer, most likely, is that they are going into multiplayer VR apps and experiences to be with other people and to explore new VR worlds together. We can see this with experiences and games like VRChat, Gorilla Tag, AltspaceVR, and Population one, etc.


These destinations are fun, but are they places where the rules are fair? Sadly, no. If you read the terms and conditions of the places they are going, you can see that they are entering worlds with unfair rules. Why? It is because VR is currently dominated by big companies whose worlds’ are “walled gardens” that exist primarily to collect data, lock people into an ecosystem, and to make money for the richest people on the planet.


Put on your VR dev / entrepreneur hat…


To see what we mean, and to really understand what a “walled garden'' is, let’s switch our hats, and let’s pretend to be a (Unity) VR developer for a second. 


Or, just be yourself if you already are one ; )


Imagine this... You are a developer or entrepreneur, and you want to build a “metaverse”. In other words, you want to build a world, and in that world, you want to host other human beings. Excellent choice, people are what make VR magical; kudos on your futuristic aspirations! But, now it’s time to build; as a VR event host, what are your options?


You could chat-it-up in a pre-built solution; you could hold a regular meetup in Microsoft’s Altspace, play around with your friends in a room in VRChat, talk through a memo in a Horizon Workroom, or even wander over to a brainstorming session in It will be fun! In your VR world, you’ll get that sense of presence you need to connect with other people, and you will build memorable experiences there. You can even customize your world a bit. Alas, there is, of course, a price you pay for using an external service or platform! 


Let’s dig deeper into this...


Paying the price to connect


On these platforms, you can only enjoy your VR socializing only by entering “walled gardens”, (a closed or controlled environment where you are only able to access the content or services that are approved or provided by the company that controls that environment). These companies are owned and managed by some of the biggest companies on the planet, like Microsoft and Meta (Facebook) to name the biggest two players.

In these worlds, you either pay to use the service, via a subscription fee, or they are worlds where you are the product (as they collect data from you and advertise to you). 


Another price, not always remembered, is the price of silence, that is, restrictions on what you can and cannot upload, say, or do there. And, most of these worlds do not let you profit from your experiences either; for example, you cannot charge for admission.


Take a look at these terms and conditions pages to get a feel for what giving up control over your VR experience can mean (if you can manage to not fall asleep):


Altspace example terms of service

  • “All usage of AltspaceVR is at the discretion of AltspaceVR. Your use, Content, and conduct must at all times comply with the Community Standards (...), as may be updated from time to time. AltspaceVR may suspend your access to AltspaceVR at any time if it believes (...) that your use is in violation of these Terms (...) or for any other reason.”

    • Inappropriate Content

      • Publicly accessible Events and or Worlds may NOT contain, as determined by us in our sole and absolute discretion, any content that is obscene or explicit, violent, defamatory, disparaging, or illegal, or that promotes or that communicates messages that may reflect negatively on the goodwill of Microsoft (AltspaceVR). Public Events and or Worlds containing such content will be flagged as mature, set to private, or maybe removed entirely. (...)Additionally, we expect users to choose a Username and First Name free of inappropriate terms. AltspaceVR may adjust these names at its discretion.


  • Licenses to User Content.

    • You hereby grant AltspaceVR an unrestricted, assignable, sublicensable, revocable, royalty-free license throughout the universe to reproduce (including in timed relation to visual images), distribute, publicly display, communicate to the public, publicly perform (including by means of digital audio transmissions and on a through-to-the-audience basis), make available, create derivative works from, retransmit from External Sites, and otherwise exploit and use (collectively, “Use”) all User Content you Post on or to the Service (...) for the purposes of (i) advertising, marketing, and promoting AltspaceVR and the Service; (ii) displaying and sharing your User Content to other Users of the Service; and (iii) providing the Service as authorized by these Terms and conducting AltspaceVR’s business. You must not Post any User Content on or through the Service or transmit to AltspaceVR any User Content that you consider to be confidential or proprietary. Any User Content Posted by you on or to the Service or transmitted to AltspaceVR will be considered non-confidential and non-proprietary, and treated as such by AltspaceVR, and may be used by AltspaceVR in accordance with these Terms without further notice to you.


And, here are some more Terms of Service pages if you want to peruse:


Lastly, some of these companies are social media giants, and we have to remember that social media did not result in the wellbeing of the masses. Are they bringing any of that baggage into VR with them? Maybe not, but It’s a question worth asking.

You’re a renter, not an owner


Remember, too, as long as you use these services, you are a renter and not an owner, renting from (sometimes) monopolistic corporations that may be more interested in licensing rights and money more than the welfare of your users.


They have a place, though!


Of course, these platforms have their place, and you don’t always have to own the virtual place that you meet. Casual socializing is fine in these kinds of environments, but if you want to have a VR social life (or a networking environment) that means more to you, you might want to consider the build-it-yourself option.


You’re an entrepreneur or developer, so why don’t you build your own multiplayer experience? Short answer… It's hard.


So, you’ll build it yourself! Good idea… Except, as you will quickly realize as you go down that rabbit hole, it isn’t easy. I have been down that road, myself. Building multiplayer VR experiences is an invigorating experience, but it is also a ridiculously difficult and time consuming one.

Indeed, It can take days to simply get to the multiplayer VR app’s version of “Hello World”.

These steps include, at the high level:

  • Importing assets from your multiplayer service provider

  • Setting up avatar prefabs

  • Getting your app keys

  • Making sure all players see the same enemies in the same place in real-time 

  • Syncing health & damage data

  • Syncing which objects the players are holding on to

  • Creating multiple rooms/games to handle new/entering users

  • Creating UI & menus to show multiplayer options for players


All these steps are done, mind you, while stumbling through often poorly kept documentation. Not throwing shade; it’s common from rapidly changing products to struggle with keeping docs up to date and complete.)


In fact, I found this process so frustrating that, after I succeeded, I started a company to fix this nightmare for VR developers. A company that would smooth out the friction and save devs countless hours and several days or weeks of pain. That product I will call “The Foundry”.


But, I didn’t just start a company out of frustration, of course; I had higher aims, and making Foundry part of an ethical company was at the top of my list…


The Ethics that will Guide Foundry


As the name implies, Foundry will be a place where people can build and sculpt experiences in an open and entrepreneur friendly environment. And, instead of the metal tools from the foundries of old, our craftsman will be making tools for immersive social experiences, i.e., multiplayer VR applications. 


Foundry will address the ethics issues as well. Currently, our craftsmen/developers have to navigate some dicey waters in the world of ethics to get VR multiplayer app building done. Indeed, in addition to the issues of “walled gardens” mentioned above, there are other pitfalls morally that we hope to take aim at.


Let’s take a look at these in the form of three questions to probe your mind:


  1. How much should it cost to build and host a multiplayer game?

    • Is there any reason it should not be affordable (or even free  in some cases)?

    • Foundry will help indie devs create multiplayer VR that they can afford while achieving the scale they need by giving them a starter project and the multiplayer networking know-how to get started.

  2. Why is everyone trying to trap people into their worlds (and their IP) in the name of digital scarcity? If, as they state they believe, VR is going to be the “new internet” with as many users and as much time spent using it, do they really need to worry so much about the competition? Is it not a more the merrier situation?

    • VR and XR are a Big Blue Ocean industry poised to become the next big leap in telecommunication, entertainment, video games, and social media in the next few years. As a dev or entrepreneur, should you really worry about who’s VR social media platform can do what?

    • Foundry will ignore the competition, and we will, instead, focus on building a great product based on what we hear from users, and because it is open source, our members can even build-with-us to improve the product as we grow. The end result will be something everyone will love using.

  3. Why can’t the most popular VR development frameworks and templates be open source?

    • While a few well-intentioned open source VR development frameworks exist, they are small and not well maintained. So, the fact remains that the main ways to build multiplayer VR experiences means using software from the big companies.

    • By locking developers out, VR multiplayer focused companies' business models right now are kind of silly, and to borrow a term from Leigh McNasty of Tik Tok fame, “are prisoners of their own silliness”. They will always just be limited to those willing to confine themselves into their ecosystem, which will be a lesser and lesser number over time as competition rises.

    • Foundry will be ‘sticking it to the man’ with our open source agenda, and will let the big companies foot-the-bill by profiting off their use of the platform, not the little guys. Furthermore, we plan to work just as hard as the big companies to market and get our product out there. 


Why the open source movement gives us energy as VR devs


We are energized here at Foundry for quite a lot of reasons, not the least of which is our open source ethos. We have been influenced by Tony Parisi’s 7 laws and Matthew Ball’s writings on The Metaverse and Interoperability. And, our goal is nothing short of saving the open metaverse. Here are some more reasons our work gives us energy:


  1. We want the same fun digital world that all us geeks do, from sci-fi to video games we’ve been given some amazing visions of what the future could hold. It could be a consensual hallucination, like Gibson’s Neuromancer, the hacker vibe of Snow Crash, or the fanciful fun of Ready Player One (and Ready Player Two coming soon). We just have to will-it so.

  2. The internet is the greatest achievement of mankind - in part because it’s open. If we can bring that same magic to VR, then we are on the right path. And, why couldn’t we?

  3. Open source doesn’t mean you can’t make money. Foundry, like some other open source companies, will focus on gaining its profits from large enterprise companies. In short, we will make enterprise and closed source features built on top of the open source versions. By doing this, we are going to make a sustainable, viable company.

  4. Who does “The Foundry Look up to? Some of our open source heroes that we look up to are Microsoft and Redhat (you can watch a great documentary on Red Hat here).

  5. We don’t believe digital scarcity should be a thing. Scarcity in the metaverse makes no sense. The world of VR multiplayer experiences and shared content should be abundant, infinitely copyable to empty servers. We can’t artificially create artificial scarcity, it just doesn't work.

  6. A software product by-developers and for-developers. By making Foundry open, we ensure that our users can review our code, suggest improvements, and even build new features. We also hope that the open nature of Foundry will help foster a sense of community. We do what we do, in the end, for our fellow developers, and that gives us satisfaction like you wouldn’t believe.


So you want to fix social VR, but are custom social VR apps even needed?


  • Yes! What's the number one ask for the Quest headsets if you look around the internet? More content, more games, more apps. Furthermore, the most successful VR apps to date are social experiences like Recroom and VRChat.

  • Marketing folks have been ruining the story… Are people in the Metaverse because of the brands OR are the brands there because of the people? Nike is in Decentraland? Who cares? This doesn’t make the Metaverse “official”, it’s just marketers making other marketers happy. The real metaverse is filled with real people who seek each other out for sincere reasons. People come to VR and stay in VR because they fall in love with the social interaction, the content, and the new things it enables - not because Nike is there.

  • We need to make more apps, more games, more social spaces because everything is signaling that we should:

    • Video games are increasing in popularity. More and more people play video games, especially younger generations.

    • Digital / internet enabled entertainment, streaming services, video hosting platforms, etc.

    • Remote work has become a norm. VR is a great place to get work done. In the same vein, globalization and the number of digital nomads is rising every day.

    • Zoom flattened the world. Anyone can work anywhere. But, now we want better interaction. Social VR experiences can provide that.


What does custom really mean? What can I build?


  • If you want your users to connect with your application, you need to make it tailored to their specific needs. Are you a bird watching group? Maybe you need to play audio files of birds via links or uploads. Are you a tech news group? Maybe you need an interface for upvoting certain content in your app? A custom app means you need an active role in the design, implementation, and deployment of your experience.

  • Custom means you can make more than one kind of experience; you can use it to make multiplayer games, apps, social spaces, business training, educational experiences, or even simulations. There is no limit.

  • Also, don’t forget, if you make it, you own it. Whatever you build on top of the Foundry multiplayer app, you (or your company) can make money from and sell it if you choose. That way, when you build a VR community, you are not only making a social opportunity; you are making an investment.




If you want to be social in VR, consider building your own application, and let us help. Contact us today : )

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