On December 12, 2022, computer scientist and Epic Games Engineer, Fellow Simon Peyton Jones, shared the first look at Verse, Epic Games’ new functional logic programming language for the metaverse.
Simon Peyton Jones gave the very first talk about Verse, the new programming language we're building for the metaverse. (Warning: this talk is for programming language theorists and implementors, not new programmers. Tutorials coming in early 2023!) https://t.co/QpJlB2ZwFo
— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) December 12, 2022
According to the technical presentation by Jones, Verse, which was originally envisioned as a Fortnite scripting language, is now being developed as a full programming language. Jones’s presentation prescribes Verse as a solution to the problems current programming languages face due to the Metaverse’s sheer scale, one of which is running and managing code being written concurrently by millions of programmers around the world.
Jones, 64, joined Epic Games as an Engineering Fellow after ending a 23-year stint at Microsoft Research Cambridge in November. And he appears to have brought ideas developed while at Microsoft to Epic.
Jones’s current research focuses on functional logic programming, which combines the paradigms of functional programming with logic programming. Functional programming allows a machine to solve complex problems and deal with symbolic computations very easily. Logic programming allows machines to reason by establishing a formal system of logic. Combining these two paradigms produces a language that can handle complex computations and be intelligent about it, not needing the programmer to specify what goes where in terms of servers and cores recruited.
Verse is an ambitious project, Jones notes in his presentation, and it aims to take functional logic programming “out of the lab and into the mainstream.” Jones also assures the community that Verse’s specifications will be open and the compiler open-source.
For industry professionals who are worried about “yet another programming language,” Jones claims that while a new programming language is not strictly needed as all current languages are Turing-complete, scaling code to multiple threads is not seamless for programming languages of the present, and the task requires writing additional syntax to enable the compiler to discern how to assign workloads across servers and cores. Verse obviates the need for that. A tweet by Timothy Dean Sweeney, founder and CEO of Epic Games, claims Verse will be a somewhat more intelligent language that can take “normal code” and distribute it to all the necessary processes on its own.
Tim Sweeney’s Twitter thread about Jones’ presentation shows the Epic CEO has full confidence in Jones’ research. Early responses to Tim Sweeney’s tweets tag the prospect as both exciting and extremely ambitious, and thus all eyes are on the project when it launches.
Some Twitter users were curious if the success of Verse would mean a return to the iOS App Store for Fortnite, which has been off the platform since 2021 after a court ruling in the infamous Epic Games and Apple trial. In reply to one user, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney tweeted that Fortnite would return to the iOS Store “upon victory.” However, in the context of Sweeney’s continued philosophical and legal battles against the App Store and his push for the US Congress to pass the Open App Markets Act before 2022 ends, it is unclear whether this victory is very close or very far.