Metaverse design guide: Part 2

Metaverse design guide: Part 2
Image by Minh Pham

Designing interactions in virtual space

Metaverse will be the most complex digital platform humans have ever built. But technical complexity of this platform is only one side of the coin, and another side is how well the interaction in this space will be designed. Creating intuitive interactions with the virtual world represents a massive challenge for product designers.

In this part, we will discuss how to design successful interactions in a virtual world.

Users are players

In the metaverse, users aren’t passive content consumers; they are active participants, players. Like in the real world, everything that users do in the metaverse impacts the system. It is a foundational rule that designers have to keep in mind.

Non-static environment

Metaverse is an online environment that will change all the time. All objects in the metaverse are not static. Users can change objects by interacting with them, and objects themselves can change and transform because they are affected by natural physical events such as metabolism or metamorphosis. For example, if you leave a glass full of water in a cold space, soon you realize that you have a glass of ice.

Every object can be used in dozens of different ways. For example, you can use wood to create a campfire or build a house.

It will be much easier for users to learn how to interact with the virtual world if the virtual world will closely resemble the real world. If metaverse creators want to create a virtual world that works differently from the real world, they should define a set of laws for the world upfront, and this set of rules should stay constant forever. As soon as users understand how the virtual world works, they will take the rules for granted.

Infinite and live experience

Unlike the game that can be paused or end, metaverse never pauses or ends; it just continues indefinitely. All events in the metaverse happen as they do in real life — if you miss some event, you cannot go back in time to join it (there are no save states). Metaverse experience is persistent — it’s a living experience that exists consistently for everyone and in real-time.

Shared experiences

Metaverse will open a new chapter in human communications. Hundreds or even millions of people will be able to participate in a shared experience together synchronously. Imagine a music concert with dozens or even hundreds of millions of guests, and every guest can see and interact with each other.

2019’s Marshmello concert in Fortnite had an astounding 11 million visitors. This is a remarkable milestone for public online events, but this experience isn’t the same as you will have in the metaverse. Fortnite runs 100,000 instances of the Marshmello concert, with around 100 players per instance. As a result, users who joined the concert only saw or interacted with a small fraction of other users.

In metaverse, users will be able to see and interact with everyone who joins a virtual event.

Easy way to discover, learn and switch between services

The true value of metaverse will come from the services it offers. Metaverse will be a virtual world that offers dozens of different services and entertainments. Basically, it will provide everything you can possibly imagine. The process of finding a service or switching between services should be smooth.

Learning how to interact in metaverse should consume as little energy as possible. “What can I do here?” is a question that users will ask when they join a virtual world. The world should be designed in a way that gives users clear signals so that they can look around and understand what they can do at a glance.

The system should also enable players to jump from one experience to another seamlessly.

Metaverse shouldn’t be another AppStore or GooglePlay

Like games with an open world, the metaverse users will likely have a map with POIs (points of interest). They will have an option to travel by foot/car/plane or teleport to the right place.

GTA 5 map with points of interest such as stores and public places.

Players have freedom of choice

It’s up to the user to decide how they want to spend their time in the metaverse. Maybe they want to stay alone in metaverse for some time, or maybe they want to join large and loud events. The system should never force the user to take a specific route.

Players are an essential part of the digital economy

Metaverse is an ecosystem created as a result of the co-creation of millions of people. Today, the world is witnessing a significant shift from the real economy to the digital economy, and the metaverse will be a natural part of this transition. The metaverse will become a medium through which individuals and businesses express themselves.

Metaverse is a gateway to digital experiences

Like in the real world, in the virtual world, players will create, own, and sell digital goods that will have value recognized by others. The business model will change — from consumer to content creation. Creating content and experiences will be considered digital labor and will be rewarded by the ecosystem. Social curation will be integral part of the metaverse becaues users will decide which content is valuable.

Honouring long-term participation

Content generated by users is what makes any social platform valuable. Metaverse, in a nutshell, is a giant social platform, and its success will depend on how well it motivates users to generate content. Metaverse designers can rely on tried and tested game mechanics. Massive Multiplayer Online Video Games (MMOVG) are the most valuable sources of mechanics that generate excellent user engagement and make users spend hours in virtual space.

There are three tactics we can take from MMOVG:

  • Play-to-earn mechanics. Its possible to make the platform more addictive by introducing play-to-earn mechanics. The more users spend time in the system, the more benefits they receive. Games like Axie Infinity prove that this approach can work fine.
  • Reward for contribution. Compensates creators for creating content. Users receive benefits (goods or digital coins) by contributing content to services.
  • Completing game-like goals. Users perform virtual tasks in exchange for coins. This tactic works especially well when it's tied to a solid story. A compelling story that hooks an audience can give you a major benefit.

It’s not only the techniques we use that are essential; the atmosphere we create in the metaverse is also vital. It’s critical to offer an enjoyable experience. It shouldn’t feel like you spend time working in the metaverse but rather playing in the metaverse.

Completing missions in GTA Online. Image by GTA Wiki

Consistent digital identity

People will get an online identity that will be used to access services in the metaverse. This identity will work just like a real one.

Creating a digital identity will likely require your biometric data and other personal information. Virtual environments will be capable of using this data to determine if access is restricted or granted.

Metaverse likely won’t result from the creation of only one company. We will likely see a multiverse (a series of metaverses created by different companies). Industry giants will have to reach a consensus around digital identity and create a consistent identity that spans multiple closed platforms. Otherwise, we will face a problem with authentication that we experience in Web 2.0 (where every service is asking you to create a new identity).

Regulations

Its likely online identity will be tied to some regulations that service providers have to support. Without regulations, the metaverse can quickly become the Wild West, where things like cyberbullying and illegal content exchange will be a daily reality. Metaverse platforms like Decentraland and Cryptovoxels already have rules that dictate what users can and cannot do in their worlds.