The term “Metaverse” was originally coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash. In the Metaverse humans, as avatars, interact with each other and software agents, in a three-dimensional space that uses the metaphor of the real world. Stephenson used the term to describe a virtual reality-based successor to the Internet.
A more recent rendition of the Metaverse can be seen in the movie Ready Player One, where it is called “The OASIS”.
What is Cryptovoxels?
Cryptovoxels is a Metaverse that runs in your browser (and phone, and VR headset). It uses the Ethereum blockchain to track ownership of goods in its economy, most importantly property. It has come a long way since the original trailer (above) was released.
Cryptovoxels is a virtual world powered by the Ethereum blockchain. Players can buy land and build stores and art galleries. Editing tools, avatars, text chat and voice chat are built in. — cryptovoxels.com
There are other similar projects on Ethereum, such as Decentraland and The Sandbox, but this post will focus on Cryptovoxels.
From an implementation standpoint, there is no reason you technically need a blockchain to build a Metaverse. In fact, building Cryptovoxels on Ethereum likely came with its unique set of challenges.
However, building on Ethereum also comes with some unique advantages. For one, it just ﬁts the ethos. In Ready Player One the OASIS becomes so important that the company running it becomes one of the most valuable in the world. In fact, the OASIS is so valuable that the central conﬂict of the movie is about who owns and controls it.
Having Cryptovoxel parcel ownership be tracked on Ethereum provides users with strong guarantees that their assets cannot simply be taken away by the creators. While it is true that the entire game isn’t decentralized, and that the creators could change the game to ignore what Ethereum says, the fact that it is built on Ethereum shows a commitment to letting the users own the world.
This commitment has allowed Cryptovoxels to attract the right kind of early adopters, who have taken ownership of the world in their own right. More specifically, it has attracted designers, painters, modeling experts, architects, digital artists, etc…. These artists have done an amazing job in building out the world and making it a place worth exploring and hanging out in.
Finally, there is at least one more tangible advantage to building a Metaverse on Ethereum: existing assets and infrastructure. The Cryptovoxel world is highly compatible with the rest of the Ethereum ecosystem, especially the ERC-721 standard (also known as Non-Fungible Tokens).
Many users already own NFTs (such as CryptoKitties), and will see Cryptovoxels as a perfect place to display and sell them. Cryptovoxel parcels are also NFTs, and so are compatible with existing exchange infrastructure, which means the creators of Cryptovoxels never had to build an exchange to let their users trade parcels.
What can you do?
While Cryptovoxels feels like a game, it is just an open world. There are no clear objectives. You do whatever you want.
One of the best things to do in Cryptovoxels is to wander around. Every time I explore, I ﬁnd something new and surprising.
You can see that the map displays a few islands and neighborhoods, such as “Proxima” or “Moon”. At the time of writing, there are 31 neighborhoods and 4 islands, although more are coming online every week.
Each neighborhood has its unique look-and-feel. In Area 51, you’ll see a lot of alien themed content, and in Kitties, you’ll see a lot of references to and collectibles from the CryptoKitties game. Neighborhood building restrictions come into play as well, as some neighborhoods such as Frankfurt allow for taller buildings and therefore have a big city vibe.
Of course, neighborhoods are just composed of individual parcels with unique owners and unique builds — some more impressive than others. Take the DAI House for example, which is a tribute to the DAI cryptocurrency and boasts fountains and spinning 3D DAI models. Another example is the Token Smart Amphitheatre, which displays some impressive architecture and even a cafe, or Sugar Club where people go to listen to music and dance (yes, there is a dance button).
There are also quite a few personalities and magnates in Cryptovoxels, who are responsible for building and advertising some of the biggest builds and events. Artist, architect and “Photoshop Priest” Alotta Money recently advertised the opening party for the Voxel Hotel, which has to be the most impressive build I’ve seen in Cryptovoxels so far.
In fact, as recently as yesterday, people have been gathering at the Voxel Hotel and elsewhere for legitimate meet-ups and events. Many of these meet-ups are well organized and have considerable thought put into them.
There are plenty of secrets to discover as well, as some of the best builds and experiences are hidden away. If you check out EtherBrews it appears to be a simple brewery on the water, but if you go inside and ﬂy over the wall, you’ll ﬁnd a beautiful tree. Some builds are straight up puzzles, like Yours Truly Puzzle (can you get in?). Finally, you may even ﬁnd games like Breakout appear on random corners of the world since better scripting functionality has been added.
The above only scratches the surface of what you can explore in Cryptovoxels. You can watch live events as Cryptovoxels supports YouTube embeds and Twitch streams, you can go shopping (more on that later) and even pray in a virtual church if that’s your thing.
After you’re done exploring, you may be inspired to build something yourself. Once you purchase a parcel, or discover one in “sandbox” mode you’ll ﬁnd that it’s pretty easy to get going, but much harder to build more complex builds.
At the most basic level, if you press “tab” on your property you’ll see a build menu pop-up with tons of options. If you head over to “Tiles” and select your preferred tile color and pattern, you can place them wherever you want in the bounds of your property!
If this reminds you of Minecraft, you’re right. Ben Nolan, the founder, says that Minecraft was a big inspiration for the project.
I was inspired by Minecraft and loved the idea of a Minecraft city that is owned by its users — Ben Nolan, Founder of Cryptovoxels
That explains the basics, but as you may have noticed from the YouTube video, there are tons of tutorials online. Once you get more advanced, you’ll likely be playing with Vox ﬁles which allow you to import more granular assets from external editors.
If that all sounds like too much effort, you can always hire an a professional Cryptovoxel architect to build something for you.
Buy & Sell
A Metaverse would not be complete without an economy. The main thing people exchange in Cryptovoxels are the parcels themselves, which can be bought and sold on OpenSea and TokenTrove. On the OpeanSea activity page, you can see that 277 ETH (approx. $70,000) worth of parcels have been traded this week, and 8480 ETH (approx. $2,000.000) worth has been traded in total. On average, parcels have gone for 1.9 ETH (approx. $475).
Above you can see the distribution of the ETH prices (in wei) for settled trades, a plot of ETH price vs. parcel height, and a plot of ETH price vs. parcel area over the past month (May 2020) or so. While you do see a lot of sales occur at the 1.5 ETH (approx. $375) mark, you also see some parcels go for over 10 ETH (approx. $2,500)! The plots show that while there is some noise, price is generally correlated with the size of the parcel.
Anecdotally, the prices of parcels have gotten much higher over the past year. If you want to investigate more, Cryptovoxels Investment Thoughts and How to Value Virtual Assets go pretty in-depth.
It’s worth calling out that a lot more stuff is being exchanged in Cryptovoxels. For one, most of the world is an art gallery where the art is for sale. The art ranges from game collectibles (like CryptoKitties) to photography to classical art that has been tokenized.
On top of that, wearables have gotten incredibly popular lately. Wearables are items that you can put onto your avatar (you can also claim handles, and change your skin by the way). Entire malls, brands and promotional videos have emerged as a result. People are going nuts over these virtual products that are entirely generated by the community.
This is what it looks like when your avatar is completely decked out.
How to get a parcel
If the prices you see for parcels on OpenSea are a bit out of your price range, you should know that new parcels are minted every Tuesday at approximately 5pm PST. To get in on the action the best ﬁrst step is to join the Cryptovoxels Discord, where the
#new-island channels will be the most relevant.
Every Tuesday the Cryptovoxels team releases new islands around Origin City. The process is likely to change in the future, but the way it works for now is that the team will bulk sell 20-30 new properties at prices from 1 ETH and above (perhaps lower, depending on the island).
To see the parcels before they go on sale, you can check OpenSea for “Recently Born” parcels, select the parcel that you’re interested in, and press “View on Cryptovoxels” to visit the parcel itself. Once the sale goes live, you’ll likely want to ﬁlter for that speciﬁc island, and sort by price.
If you are technically savvy, I’ve written a very simple script that will participate in the sales for you. However, unless you understand the code, I recommend taking the OpenSea approach. In my experience, it has been very easy to get a parcel this way.
When you succeed feel free to come say hi at my parcel!
It’s not too late to join the party. The community is very welcoming and the Cryptovoxels team seems to be always implementing feature requests from people in the Discord channel. It’s a lot of fun to see it evolve, and I’m sure it will be a lot different just a couple of months from now.
As mentioned above, new parcels are being added all the time. You can check out some awesome parcel stats at this Dune Analytics dashboard.