My first moments in Core were weird. Picture Willy Wonka‘s factory: a floor-to-ceiling patchwork chaos of different products, delightfully meshed together and crammed into one room. See it? Swap the chocolate for games, and you’ve got Core. In the central hub, there are all sorts of worlds, game modes and settings built around you. Oh, and there’s Deadmau5‘s house – but we’ll get to that.
- READ MORE: Forget ‘Fortnite’ and ‘Minecraft’: With ‘Oberhasli’, Deadmau5 plans to make in-game music concerts mean something
The premise of Core is that players are given all the tools necessary to create their own content. Whether that’s with GMod-style minigames, full-blown titles or entire worlds built just to explore, the general goal of Core is to help tear down the walls that block the average person from creating high-quality games.
I’m joined by Core‘s co-founders, Jordan Maynard and Frederic Descamps, who boldly explain that they want to force “a change in how video games are made, sort of the way Youtube – and now TikTok – have changed the way videos are created”.
The idea that anyone can create a game has struck a chord with people from all over the world. From experienced game developers in their 60s to fresh-faced students who are just out of secondary school, Core has brought in plenty of people who want a shot at creating their very own masterpiece.
See, I’m here to check out one of his virtual concerts, but it’s obvious that this isn’t the usual corporate handshake between brands. Maynard tells me that Joel ‘Deadmau5’ Zimmerman actually approached him over Discord to see if they could get something going.
“Deadmau5 has had this idea for well over a year, and I don’t know if you know but he actually is an Unreal [Engine] developer.”
Although Deadmau5 discussed his long-time wish to make a game for fans, Maynard says “the place he always got stuck was multiplayer – it’s a whole thing, and doing it in Unreal is really hard.”
“He messaged me on Discord – I thought it was just a random dude, what are the chances it’s Deadmau5? But it’s Joel, and we started talking. We worked really closely together over Discord, sharing screens, building stuff together, brainstorming ideas – it was really fun.”
The result? A Deadmau5 concert and his own “permanent residency” in Core, called Oberhasli.
As someone who’s only heard a couple of Deadmau5 songs in passing, I was excited to see what the concert would be like for someone who’s more interested in the game-side of things. Once the concert began however, it was obvious that the two were deeply intertwined.
The gig opens up with a gorgeous light show – a fairly standard mainstay in the last year of virtual concerts, but beautiful nonetheless. Graphics-wise, the rainbow coloured ebb-and-flow is a reminder that behind the user-generated content, this is still a AAA game.
After around a minute of hypnotising lights, the floor falls out from under me and I’m plummeting toward a Mario-esque Chain Chomp of Deadmau5’s iconic mouse mask. From there it only gets weirder, careening from a winter wonderland, apocalyptic wasteland, underwater tunnel and finally an industrial factory/club, complete with a Deadmau5 mecha looming over concert-goers. At this point, pistons are sending people flying, the Mau5-Gundam is firing eye-beams above the stage, and conveyor belts are gently escorting inattentive players into scalding lasers.
Like I said, this isn’t just a formal handshake between brands. Every second of the experience – which was around ten minutes in total – feels uniquely Deadmau5. Every single song beat is accompanied by a weird or compulsively toe-tapping visual (it’s usually both).
When I ask how much Deadmau5 was involved in the production of the event, the co-founders explain that “we worked closely with Joel himself, every couple of days he would drop in and give us direction”.
The more interactive side of the concert was something that both Descamps and Maynard acutely wanted to deliver on. From watching other games take a crack at virtual concerts, they wanted something that had a little bit more to do.
“Lots of them have no shelf life. They are pre-produced, pre-rendered, it’s kind of like watching a video – some of them are cool, but that’s it, right? There’s no shelf-life, before or after.”
“Passively watching a concert inside a game and not interacting with it is kind of lame. The whole point of video games it to be interactive.”
They stress that while this concert was created by Deadmau5 fans, the point of Core is for anyone to be able to access these tools and make their own creations. They’ve seen coding classes in Russian, machinima film creation, and – of course – one of Deadmau5’s music videos which was created through worlds created in a Core competition.
Maynard and Descamps run me through a couple of other minigames that Core players have created. There’s a Fall Guys style obstacle course, another that looks like the Surf servers of Counter-Strike, and a chilled out farming game. Jumping from creation to creation, it struck me again how similar parts of Core are to Gmod, which has remained popular through the creativity of fans creating new modes. Curious, I asked if the title was in any way an inspiration.
“Gmod, Roblox, we’re not unaware – there’s been a lot of inspiration, but for us it was the mod scene. The entire mods scene has been a huge inspiration to us on Core.”
“Going back even four years ago when we started working on Core, we looked at the last fifteen years…so much of the innovation [in gaming] comes out of the mod scene.”
In essence, a lot of Core comes down to helping people with these innovative ideas turn them into something tangible without being intimidated by the thought of learning modding. Maynard points to Brendan ‘PlayerUnknown‘ Greene, who almost single-handedly birthed the battle royale gaming genre from its humble beginnings as his mod.
He points out that “his innovation wasn’t [the] idea,” as it was something captured in Battle Royale, in Hunger Games; “his innovation was the design”.
Maynard feels “it shouldn’t have taken ten years” for Greene to create his own game, and modders are currently too reliant on indifferent publishers that may be slow to deliver modding tools. Sometimes, these publishers are actively hostile to modding efforts.
“GTA RP could be a whole new genre, but for some reason the publisher is trying to keep a stranglehold on mods. This [Core] is sort of the opposite philosophy…Radical game industry inclusiveness.”
In the name of this philosophy – radical game industry inclusiveness – Core wants to give modders “less reliance on publishers” while helping creative newcomers leapfrog the hurdles of finance and time and get straight into game development.
In that regard, Deadmau5’s concert and Oberhasli are fantastic – I truly enjoyed my time within the virtual gig – but they’re just the cherry on top. As lofty as it seems, Core is aiming high.