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The company was founded by leaders from games including EverQuest, Call of Duty, Diablo, God of War, Assassin’s Creed and Elden Ring among others.
The Orlando, Florida-based company believes it has the unique experience among its leaders to solve the problems that creators and designers will face in the near future.
The company is building a platform for games that could one day take advantage of the metaverse. It foresees an interoperable universe, tied together through technologies such as game engines and blockchain technology. It’s not calling its own platform a “metaverse” because “we imagine that a single company can’t build that,” said Sean Pinnock, CEO of Avalon, in an interview with GamesBeat.
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“We imagine that, in the future, people will work together with tools that make it really easy to build worlds and experience those dreams. Those experiences put together could create something like the metaverse,” Pinnock said.
“We have an opportunity to change the digital world and we truly believe we are the right team to ensure these changes are beneficial for both creators and players,” said Pinnock. “We know that engagement is driven through play, creativity, and human connectivity, all critical elements that are severely lacking in most self-proclaimed metaverses, and it’s exactly why the inevitable confluence of tech that will emerge as the metaverse will be built by game developers.”
Will Avalon be a metaverse?
Jeffrey Butler, chief product officer, said in an interview with GamesBeat, “We want to see it be more than one company. I don’t think that one company can really create the technology for the metaverse. It’s going to take multiple partners, generative AI, NPC AI, building tools and all the various technologies coming together and creating a perfect storm.”
Pinnock said that a metaverse should be an interoperable universe with worlds inside it, like the Oasis of Ready Player One with various intellectual properties among those worlds. The creators can build those various worlds and have interoperability between them.
“We tried to avoid the usage of the word metaverse because it’s been beaten up quite a bit lately,” Butler said. “We laugh about Kentucky Fried Chicken making a metaverse.”
Pinnock said the company would enable other creators to build worlds in its universe, but Avalon would also build things of its own.
“We’re building technologies that make it really easy to deploy content that we consider to be triple-A,” he said. “So, with a set of rules that are sort of cohesive from experience to experience, users can opt in to building content news worlds. I think it’s pretty likely we’ll release some of our own content to start as well.”
And Butler said that remixing content would be important. He said it would be hilarious if Gandalf had a lightsaber and was fighting Captain Picard, who was wearing the One Ring.
“We can’t talk about interoperability and tools without thinking of those concepts, and making sure that we’re creating systems that allow those conflicts to resolve in our game or in your game,” Butler said.
“Whatever the digital future is, it’s clear that no single company can build it,“ said Butler. “At Avalon Corp, we want to be the spark that will ignite the creation of the worlds that gamers have long dreamed of, with our own unique brand of proverbial glue that is equal parts experience, foresight, and imagination.”
Bitkraft Ventures, Hashed, Delphi Digital, and Mechanism Capital led the round, with participation from Coinbase Ventures, Yield Guild Games, Merit Circle, Avocado Guild and Morningstar Ventures.
The round also included Kevin Lin, cofounder of Twitch; Charlie Songhurst, former head of corporate strategy at Microsoft; Dennis Fong, CEO of GGWP; and Robin Jung, previous CEO of Pearl Abyss.
“It’s rare to find a company that has the vision, leadership, and expertise in many verticals to produce a revolutionary game and product,” said Jeremy Parris, an investor at Delphi Digital, in a statement. “We at Delphi Digital believe that Avalon Corp. has brought together all the elements across the board to push the standard of gaming, the metaverse, and the new tech it’s harnessing forward significantly. The future is closer than many think.”
“Connected worlds are evolving at unprecedented velocity, ultimately amounting to a Darwinian game, where the fittest and most useful platforms will thrive and stay alive,” said Jun Park, investor at Hashed, in a statement. “We are excited to back Avalon Corp, led by industry veterans with a visionary view, to help the company realize its potential and pioneer the next wave of interoperable worlds.”
“At Bitkraft, our investments are rooted in synthetic reality, a convergence of physical and digital worlds that, like the Internet, will introduce new human experiences and unprecedented social and economic opportunities,” said Carlos Pereira, partner at Bitkraft Ventures, in a statement. “We imagine highly social virtual worlds of shared adventure and economy and see in Avalon the perfect system to empower those digital societies to reach beyond what we’ve seen possible so far.”
Pinnock said he has been dreaming about making a digital universe forever, and it was why he got into game development. But he had no idea where to start. He saw Butler give a talk on Everquest Next and realized that they had similar visions.
Butler told Pinnock about a game he wanted to make, and then Pinnock started completing his sentences. Butler was shocked to find that both of them wanted to make the same kind of game universe.
Butler spoke about the power of digital ownership and user-generated content, and he spoke about these dreams with Epic CEO Tim Sweeney back when Butler was working on an online game called Vanguard.
Sweeney wanted developers to use Unreal to create something like the metaverse. And Butler wanted it to be open.
“I’m deeply concerned about a metaverse being created by another company that is making something from a dystopian nightmare. And the ethos of what it is that we’re doing is entirely against that,” Pinnock said. “How do we democratize and decentralize the metaverse? These are critical components that I wish more people were talking about.”
Butler and Pinnock started working together about a year and a half ago. They want to build game worlds that are not empty but full of people and full of joy. Pinnock had worked on indie games, virtual reality titles, and games for Universal Studios and Dave & Busters.
Butler had worked on early MMOs. He had worked on Dungeons & Dragons character sheets than are “older than Sean is.”
He said, “I need youthful exuberance. And the crazy thing is I’ve met so many friends working in the industry. I’ve met with people at fanfares who were 75 years old who loved the games that we play. I’ve met people who were 15 years old who loved the games that we play. That’s what this is about. It’s about youthful exuberance.”
Butler, who worked on Everquest in the 1990s, said that he thinks today’s tools like generative AI are significantly more efficient in enabling people to create worlds that would have once taken an army to create. He believes there should be an easy way for people to edit things other people have created and make money for their contributions along the way.
“Generative AI is a force multiplier,” Butler said.
The foundations with UGC and generative AI
Pinnock said the company is using the money to build the foundational structure for the universe. That includes addressing problems like real-time interaction, scalability and tools that are easy for people to use.
“We’re solving a lot of really difficult technical challenges,” said Pinnock.
The tools should be easy to use. They should feel less like building in Maya or Unreal and more like playing a game within a game, Butler said. Pinnock said that generative AI would help ordinary users build amazing user-generated content.
“We want a young person, an inexperienced game developer, or an experienced developer to be able to easily create a triple-A quality experience in weekend with their friends,” Pinnock said.
“And I also want people who create content for their livelihood, let’s say a game developer, to be equally comfortable coming in and realizing their vision for a game using our creation, Butler added.
Rivals include Manticore Games with its Core platform for user-created game worlds. Pinnock said there are similarities, but he said his company is leveraging a lot of new technology like NPC AI and tech like Nanite and worlds like Coruscant from Star Wars.
“We’re very excited about things that would really blow people’s minds and be very easy to create,” Pinnock said.
The company is technically based in Orlando, Florida, but the team is spread across many cities in the U.S. and 10 countries. Overall, there are 30 full-time people and dozens more contractors. They’re recruiting more and want to find people all around the world and will remain remote-first. They intend to build up to a sizable company by the time they ship a product.
Staying in stealth
They want to talk more about what they’re building, but they have to stay quiet about that for now. They are using blockchain technology as they see decentralization as a path to democratizing game creation. They also see it as a key to digital ownership, interoperability and payment rails around digital assets.
“We want to break paradigms and blockchain technology is a perfect choice for that,” said Butler.
“Most important me is to do this in a way that isn’t centrally controlled. When you start thinking about a metaverse, you want to do it in a way that can avoid dystopian future,” Pinnock said.
They acknowledge there are bad actors in cryptocurrency and blockchain games. But the company plans to use the tech in a way that is beneficial to humanity, Pinnock said. In that sense, blockchain is just a tool.
Pinnock would love to see the universe eventually include content related to education, training, simulation, health and mental health. But they feel like gaming is where it will take off first.
The team wants to do something like bring alive the world of Cyberpunk 2077, where players could meet inside the world and interact with their 3D avatars in a massively multiplayer game. And they would want players be able to learn things in such an environment or try to improve their mental health. That’s what the metaverse means to them.
“I’m so excited to finally be talking about it,” said Pinnock. “But there’s a lot we can’t talk about yet.”
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