Andreessen Horowitz's Plan to Make Bigger Game Worlds

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Steve Anderson
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Andreessen Horowitz's Plan to Make Bigger Game Worlds

One of the biggest draws in gaming these days is the open world concept. While it's not exactly new, it's seeing a major expansion, with a host of games coming out that feature massive, expansive worlds to traverse in pursuit of a variety of goals. But huge worlds don't come easy; they take a lot of time and development to produce. But the construction of huge game worlds may be easier in the future thanks to a $20 million investment from Andreessen Horowitz, putting that cash into Improbable, a company geared toward making the biggest worlds around.

Andreessen Horowitz's investment comes with an addition to Improbable's board of directors in the form of Chris Dixon, a partner with Andreessen Horowitz. While he's personally seen how large-scale resources like Amazon Web Services can be put into small-scale companies' hands, even he notes the difficulty accompanying the efficient use of such tools.

Essentially, Improbable is putting together an environment where there are no server boundaries, according to Improbable's chief executive Herman Narula. With Improbable tools, every character can be persistent, and the developer no longer need consider the limits of the technology in establishing such a world. Never mind that such things have been promised for years--and yet seldom work out that way in the end--Improbable wants to make the huge open world a standard for game developers.

But Improbable's tech isn't just useful for game development. Reports suggest it can also be a major addition to simulation construction, allowing for models of disaster scenarios, crimes in progress, social networks and a host of other things. That will make it huge with governments, banks, and other businesses.

Interestingly, Improbable isn't the only company operating in this space; a company called Shinra Technologies is looking to bring the modern supercomputer into gaming, allowing for large-scale gaming operations. If the name sounds familiar, it likely should; Shinra spun off of Square Enix, who came up with the Shinra company back in "Final Fantasy VII." While this Shinra is hardly an evil multinational conglomerate, it's likely going to pose a challenge for Improbable.

The fact that there's competition in this market, even at this early a stage, suggests that there are some real opportunities afoot in the field. With good reason, really; again, consider the growing number of open world games out there. Think about the success of "Skyrim", the frenzy around "Fallout 4" that has not even a teaser announcement as yet to fuel it. Think about upcoming titles like "Mad Max" or current ones like "Sunset Overdrive" and "Elite: Dangerous." People like the immersive value that a large world offers, so it's clear that Improbable's offering should have demand.

While only time will tell in the end just how well Improbable's offering does, just the competition should serve as a great indicator of its likely success. Our gaming future may well be a lot more open in the near term, and that's hardly bad news.

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