(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_7fdMpRDEQ (/ embed)
In 2019, Epic Games announced its online services project, a plan to make free the cross-platform multiplatform systems it developed for Fortnite for all developers, even if they launched their games on Steam. Today it has launched two major additions to this suite: voice chat and anti-cheating.
The anti-cheating system is made using Easy Anti-Cheat, which Epic acquired in 2018. Easy Anti-Cheat is already used for several major games, including Apex Legends, Dead by Daylight, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Rust, the recently released Chivalry 2 and of course Fortnite. It's free now.
The voice chat system, which Epic just called Voice, runs cross-platform and is the same system used in Fortnite. "Connections established with EOS Voice are only established between authenticated users and go through voice servers without exposing personal information about users," writes Epic. "EOS manages the entire scale, service quality, maintenance, multi-region and other machinery of the voice servers."
Together, voice chat and anti-cheating systems "can cost millions of dollars" for popular online games, according to the company. So why offer them for free? Epic CEO Tim Sweeney’s favorite word lately is “metaverse,” and you better think he gets it here.
“Epic aims to empower more developers to build cross-platform games, connect their gaming communities, grow the gaming industry, and realize the Metaverse vision together,” the company says.
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLXHSVd4TzE (/ embed)
"Metaverse" may refer to an MMO-like virtual space, as in the novel Ready Player One, but in this context, Epic talks about building an ecosystem of online gaming and entertainment that knows no boundaries of platforms, not just cross games, but everything as well. , where players, money, and game resources can flow freely through the devices. A small mundane example is how to access Epic's friends list in Rocket League, although I'm launching it from Steam.
You have to imagine that if this metaverse existed, the company that managed its backend would be in a pretty good place. The more games access Epic systems, the more players there will be with Epic Games Store accounts. According to today's announcement, there are more than 500 million of these accounts at the moment.
Sony, on the other hand, thinks this is a good plan: recently invested $ 450 million in Epic’s vision (which is a bit ironic given Sony’s resistance to cross-play on PlayStation).
It sounds a little awful when I frame it as a plot to control all the games, and maybe it's awful, but it's also worth noting that Epic Online Services is basically the same as Steamworks, which Valve describes as "a set of tools and services that help game developers and publishers build their games and get the most out of Steam distribution. " Valve's anti-cheating system is called, well, Valve anti-trap system (better known as VAC) and is free for developers. Valve also offers friend lists, matchmaking, voice chat and other systems. The main difference is that Epic Online Services can be used on any platform and is not linked to a store.
For small developers, free voice chat and anti-cheating seems like an obvious win. I don’t think we give Epic much benefit from the doubt in believing that these things are expensive and difficult to build and execute. All major online games struggle to stop cheaters, and your average multiplayer standalone game isn't included with built-in voice chat. (That said, many smaller online games don't actually need voice chat and many players settle for Discord).
You can learn more about Voice, Easy Anti-Cheat and other online services from Epic to Epic’s developer site.