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Star Atlas is making a high-end science fiction spaceship combat game with non-fungible tokens. You might think of it as Star Citizen, with NFTs. And today it is releasing a series of updates that show how it is doubling down on blockchain gaming with both a revamped marketplace and decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) for player ownership.
The company’s aim is to use decentralization to enable players to own their starship creations and pave the way for mainstream blockchain games. The NFTs use the blockchain to authenticate unique digital items. The company is making a Star Atlas, an Unreal Engine 5 space combat game, as well as a web-based strategy game.
In just a couple of years, the company has grown to 230 employees and its Discord community has hit 220,000 people, said Michael Wagner, CEO of ATMTA (lead developer of Star Atlas), in an interview with GamesBeat. The company is making its announcements today at its 426LIVE event, which is part of the Star Atlas Summer events.
“We’re building the hyper immersive, Unreal Engine 5-based space exploration MMO and that has a very long product development cycle,” Wagner said. “But we are rolling out pieces of that over time so that our community and our users can interact and engage with that regularly with enhancements over time. And then we’re also building a web-based version of this game. It’s really a standalone title. At this point, the first version of this will be really about territory control, with the three different factions fighting for control over space stations and star bases. It’s about expanding their regions and capturing more resources.”
As for the comparison to Star Citizen, Wagner said that game is more of a space simulation, whereas Star Atlas aims to get people into the action and gameplay more quickly. The web game is expected to debut in the fourth quarter.
Star Atlas DAO
And now the company is tapping the community for even more decisions about the game, as it announced the Star Atlas Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO), which will enable players and other stakeholders to vote on governance issues for the game.
In the future, this platform will allow players within the metaverse to participate in its governance on all levels. According to the Star Atlas whitepaper, the long-term vision of Star Atlas is an autonomous, player-owned game, fully controlled and funded by decentralized governance.
This feature puts the paper and scissors for the gaming metaverse itself in the hands of its players, and enables them to steer the course of the project over the high time frame. This is not the only DAO planned for the Star Atlas metaverse.
Each of the three in-game factions will have their own DAO, which will be used for various purposes such as setting and distributing taxes for their respective controlled regions.
“I am thrilled to announce the launch of the platform that will in the future give users the ability to participate in Star Atlas governance via the DAO,” Wagner said. “Holders of POLIS will be able to lock their tokens from two weeks up to five years, which entitles them to voting power on public proposals. This voting-escrow model favors community members with long-term conviction in the Star Atlas vision, and signals the ATMTA team’s confidence in our ability to deliver a fun game as well as a framework for developers and content creators to build in the metaverse.”
The vision for Star Atlas is a DAO of DAOs, operating at these various levels of the game, utilizing a variety of on-chain tools to manage in-game assets and treasuries, coordinating activities using the blockchain’s trustless and decentralized nature, Wagner said. He said the dev studio is committed to building these tools and delivering them to our community over the next months and years.
The company wants Star Atlas to be a next-gen gaming metaverse emerging from the confluence of state-of-the-art blockchain, real-time graphics, multiplayer video games, and decentralized financial technologies.
Using Unreal Engine 5’s Nanite, real-time graphics technology allows for cinematic quality video game visuals. In addition, blockchain technology using the lightning-speed Solana blockchain establishes a largely serverless and secured gameplay experience. NFTs obtained and traded within Star Atlas create an
economy that replicates tangible world assets and ownership.
The path to 426LIVE was laid on June 16, 2022 with a prequel event called COPA – the Council of Peace Assembly, a community competition that brought all metaverse player organizations together. More events will come every four to six weeks (which is why the event is called 426).
The company is also launching a gaming-focused Galactic Marketplace for buying and selling gaming NFTs.
Star Atlas first released its Galactic Marketplace as part of its website on Play.StarAtlas.com in August of 2021 as the hub of the metaverse economy. The new Galactic Marketplace is a complete revamp of the
existing product, with new foundations, a better user experience and an interface that brings the platform a step closer to an in-game experience both on a smartphone and a bigger screen, Wagner said.
Players will have the ability to buy and sell assets directly with other players, giving it a massively multiplayer online style community feel.
“One of our primary objectives was to make sure this new version of the marketplace solved real problems that you the community, helped us identify by participating in user research and being vocal on Discord,” said Luciano Castello, product lead for the marketplace, in a statement. “With that we were able to focus and deliver a simpler and more intuitive marketplace experience.”
To help users explore the expanded functionality, Star Atlas Marketplace walkthroughs and support will be available on Discord, Telegram and other community channels.
Michael Lu, head of engineering at ATMTA, said in a statement, “Most other play-to-earn games aren’t truly decentralized because the load of that many on-chain transactions would slow the game to a
crawl. The technology powering the Galactic Marketplace act as a smart layer, allowing our players to get reliable and real time data and communication, the holy grail for any gamer.”
In June, Star Atlas and iBuyPower, a maker of custom gaming PCs, teamed up on a long-term hardware and gaming technology partnership. And they also gave away a high-end custom PC case. Now iBuyPower is creating a full line of Star Atlas-branded gaming hardware. It will feature branded quality designs selected by the Star Atlas community.
Star Atlas and iBuyPower are united in a common vision of building top of the line products, and we’re thrilled they are introducing their gaming community to the future of gaming through Star Atlas,” Wagner said.
Darren Su, executive vice president of iBuyPower, said in a statement, “We love Michael and his team’s vision for Star Atlas, and we love that they’re focused on supporting their dedicated community. We’re thrilled to be able to power an triple-A quality metaverse on the blockchain, and this is going to be a great opportunity to help onboard our gamers into Web3 with a game we know they’ll enjoy. The computers we’re customizing for Star Atlas are out of this world, and they’re going to be a high-power, quality build we know our gamers and Star Atlas fans alike will love.”
StarPath is a “galactic prosperity” initiative that is focused on building and sustaining the Star Atlas ecosystem by rewarding space explorers who enlist new recruits. It’s like an affiliate program with rewards. ATMTA said it is a new kind of a referral program with Web3 technology. It will reward not only the players bringing other active players to Star Atlas, it will also fuel a competition between in-game factions to be the top recruiting force as the most successful faction will receive a collective in-game buff.
Going forward, the StarPath program will also unlock a range of perks and access to otherwise unattainable resources.
“The way that Star Atlas functions is that these guilds are not just recruiting players, and they’re not just going out and playing the game,” Wagner said. “They actually have the opportunity to create extensions of our ecosystem itself. And in a permissionless fashion, they can actually interact with the game logic and create their own products around that. They can monetize, if they so wish to do.”
Blockchain gaming opposition
Some gamers and game developers are opposed to using blockchain games, and they haven’t been shy about saying that. I asked Wagner about that.
“Obviously, there’s resistance in the traditional gaming community, I would say to put it lightly,” Wagner said. “I’m a traditional gamer. I’ve been playing my whole life, and specifically PC games since the 1990s. I see the value proposition here because we truly understand what that value proposition is to the player. The resistance shows a healthy degree of skepticism because what we’ve seen over time is studios look for alternative methods of commercialization and value extraction from the player base. Now we think Web3 and the open metaverse offer a much more fair value exchange. It’s not extractive, it’s complimentary.”
He added, “For NFTs, and blockchain integrated into gaming, I wholeheartedly believe that gaming communities will come around to the idea as they have better comprehension of opportunity and exchange of value under that model. I believe the general skepticism is due to lack of understanding, and because gamers feel that studios seek commercial methods to extract more money from the gamer, instead of delivering a bidirectional flow of value, as we do in Star Atlas.”
I also asked Wagner about whether the crypto trading meltdown will hurt Star Atlas.
“I personally have gotten comfortable with the volatility in crypto cycles. Blockchain as a technology is not going away, and I see an incredible future for innovation in this industry,” Wagner said. “In the short term, it does introduce impediments to user growth, as that initial skepticism is amplified by major black swan crypto collapses like LUNA, UST, and centralized companies like Voyager, BlockFi, and Celsius going under.”
He added, “Nevertheless, these down cycles generally produce favorable environments to develop under, particularly in early stage, as there is significantly less noise out there in the market. Given the timelines for development of Star Atlas, it actually presents an opportunity for us to heavily focus on development our product set, and prepare ourselves to be well positioned when we see improvements in the broader market.”