In April 2022, Grammy Award-winning artist Kaskade gave fans a glimpse into the future of live entertainment with a career-spanning set within Future Fest, an interactive, multiplayer virtual event platform built in Unity. The chat was abuzz with excitement as Kaskade’s likeness took the stage for the 60-minute set, with thousands of concurrent users soaking in the sound waves in the 3D virtual world. Kaskade fans interacted both through chat and in the event space as their “FutureBot” avatars, immersed in what was – for many – a first-time experience in an emerging medium.
Future Fest didn’t land a legendary DJ and music producer overnight – it took a seven-year journey of ideation and development to become the virtual event platform it is today.
The Future Fest platform came into existence when founders and developers Steven Yang and Kevin Mowers met at a hackathon in 2015, bonding over their shared love for electronic music. Being VR fanatics, Yang and Mowers first set out to build a multiplayer VR prototype for an immersive festival experience in Unity. They formed a team with like-minded individuals to build out various concepts around this idea; however, the project was put on ice as scope and questions about feasibility grew. When the pandemic hit, Mowers got in touch with his friend Pablo Canales, who is currently chief partnership officer at Future Fest. Canales, a music licensing professional who has contributed to showcases for NBCUniversal, collaborated with Mowers on a virtual DJ showcase for some of their friends to play virtual sets via Twitch.
From there, the technology that was originally built for Future Fest came back into play, and Steven came on board to iterate for an easily accessible, live streamed event called Camp Crescent. For the performers, a camera and greenscreen were all that was needed to broadcast themselves into the virtual environment.
With a solidified framework for live events, Mowers and Canales reached out to Rami Perlman and Henry Lu of Space Yacht, an LA-based promoter. They signed on to an ambitious and successful project called Virtual Voyage, featuring five separate artist stages, mini games, and other interactive features, including a space battle and audience voting. Following Virtual Voyage, Future Fest used Unity to produce a number of additional shows, culminating in an event that spanned three days and 40 hours of performance time. The lessons learned inspired a new initiative to explore beyond the realm of streaming and dial up audience interactivity. “At this point, I felt like we may have hit a wall with interactivity in a purely live streamed environment,” shared Mowers. “This is when we decided to tear down everything we’d made at that point and rebuild it so we could evolve the space.”
“At this point, I felt like we may have hit a wall with interactivity in a purely live streamed environment. This is when we decided to tear down everything we’d made at that point and rebuild it so we could evolve the space.” – Kevin Mowers, Chief Experience Officer
In pursuit of a more interactive experience, the team dove back into Unity for several months, emerging with a product substantially more immersive. User choice was expanded, with the freedom to view a show via stream or join it in a navigable 3D world with a unique avatar. Rather than impose barriers to entry by requiring users to possess a dedicated GPU to join the world, the team chose to stream the Future Fest client through Unity’s cloud streaming service Furioos, thereby granting access to anyone with a high-speed internet connection.
Future Fest also took this time to reevaluate their monetization strategy, deciding to utilize blockchain technology due to the community-driven characteristics shared by many projects on the current marketplace. “We understood the inherent nature of communities built into these collections [...] each project has its own values and vibes, and people are connected by common interests,” said Yang. “We saw this same behavior at festivals – groups coming together with similar but also niche interests.”
“We understood the inherent nature of communities built into these collections [...] each project has its own values and vibes, and people are connected by common interests. We saw this same behavior at festivals - groups coming together with similar but also niche interests.” – Steven Yang, CEO
Functionally, Future Fest’s blockchain integration also ties directly into the design of FutureBots, the platform’s highly customizable robotic avatars. FutureBots are offered directly through an exchange linked from Future Fest’s website, and the feature allows user-held assets from other projects that collaborate with Future Fest to be used as tickets, or unlock branded digital cosmetics.
With new features and functionality in their back pocket, and an established track record, Future Fest reconnected with Space Yacht, booking Kaskade for a multiday event. To further elevate their biggest event to date, Future Fest brought on metaverse content creation company Future House Studios to assist with stage design and worldbuilding in Unity. New features that launched with this show included a pet system, with pets themed after Kaskade’s branding. Future Fest also hired Devbuddy, a studio that specializes in Unity development, to help create features in parallel.
Future Fest and Space Yacht hired a team of videographers to capture Kaskade in front of a green screen from his studio in Los Angeles.
In retrospect, the Kaskade performance proved to be a great success, with overwhelmingly positive user feedback that affirmed the Future Fest team is reaching their target audience. While the roster of artists who perform on the platform continues to grow, the team remains steadfast in their dedication to building a fun, worthwhile experience for both artists and attendees. “First and foremost, we want to make it fun then we monetize, but we also want to ensure that the artists and content creators that are using and performing on our platforms are being compensated fairly,” noted Chief Operating Officer Matthew Sears.
Future Fest has a number of events planned for the coming months, including collaborations with brands like Yummi Universe and Fever Dream Friends, where users will be able to utilize their tokens in novel ways. In addition to its web experience, Future Fest has recently released a downloadable desktop client for users with powerful rigs. As opportunities continue to emerge, the team remains excited about the future of virtual events. “The future of digital live entertainment is going to be just as impactful as streaming today,” asserted Canales. And, as the Chief Experience Officer Kevin Mowers confirmed, this ramp up couldn’t have happened without Unity’s quick iteration speed, Furioos’ solutions for cloud computing, and Unity’s Asset Store.