Voxelnauts is a Minecraft-inspired, massive online multiplayer and virtual reality game that leverages the NXT blockchain for use in its economy, land property, and game item intellectual property-management system.
Fans of the Final Fantasy saga may recognize the style. I sure do. But its mix with the Minecraft soapbox, as well as an income-free market economy, could deliver where other games have failed — by avoiding massive inflation with centrally controlled economies and Keynesian practices, for example, and by allowing anyone to play god and create their own planet, defining the economic model and rules of the game.
While aesthetically the game is very pleasing and offers a richer adventure and more RPG feel than vanilla Minecraft, these features are but the icing on the cake. The game is virtual-reality friendly and designed to integrate with Oculus Rift and Vive "at a minimum," though it is perfectly playable without either.
Voxelnauts launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the final push of the development of their game, which has been in production for over a year. They game received initial funding of US$1 million from angel investors, according to the campaign website. So far, on Kickstarter, the team has raised over US$72K toward their goal of US$200K, signaling a lot of interest from supporters.
Blockchain-Based Property Rights
One of the innovative gems of this game will be its use of the NXT blockchain as a property rights and intellectual property rights management system, as well as being a transparent means to track, create and trade items and user-created currencies and assets.
“The main way we will be using NXT is as a registry for user-created content in the game. In Voxelnauts, players can create their own artwork and import it into the game — furniture, weapons, animals, etc. These creations can be assigned an ownership title that exists in the NXT blockchain, and players can buy/sell/trade their creations directly on the NXT blockchain, if they like. The game universe will simply reflect the state of ownership for certain items based on what exists in the public ledger.”
Such aspirations are akin to those of organizations such as BitNation and iNation, who seek to provide blockchain-based governance and title management of property on the blockchain, except with Voxelnauts we get to see it in action in an unregulated environment, without the risks of chaotic, anarchist mayhem that some might predict.
One foreseen issue that concerns many Minecraft players, as well as real-world entrepreneurs, is the problem of “griefing,” which is the video game equivalent of going to someone's house and taking a sledgehammer to their walls and furniture. Some players in MMOs like Minecraft are known to destroy other's creations just for the sake of trolling. In response, developers have created digitally enforced property rights (like digital rights management, or DRM) to stop it.
In the case of Voxelnauts, Mross says that “creators can specify whether an item can be destroyed, based on what interactions they allow, with entire planets at the lowest level.” This includes user-created art, furniture, or any other mods players wish to bring to the Voxel universe.
But this kind of experimentation does not end with acquiring in-game items and land.
Users will be able to create their own currencies based on the NXT monetary system, and thus be central bank overlords or free-market beacons, as they wish — bringing the transparency and security of the NXT blockchain, as well as full control over their environment.
The game will be open source and devs encourage modding and trading of in-game items for cryptocurrencies of any kind.
The Limits of Video Game Blockchain Integration
While Voxelnauts will certainly benefit from using blockchain tech to bring sound money to their virtual universe, the implementation of cryptocurrencies does not come without challenges. And those challenges are surprisingly similar to those in the “real world.”
For example, like major digital-currency exchanges, Voxelnauts is designed to use off-blockchain accounting, with a clear path toward “withdrawing,” and thus registering trades on the NXT blockchain. Mross says:
“The Nxt MS [Monetary System] essentially made ‘altcoins’ a feature of the platform, and it would be the perfect fit to track the in-game currency, if it wasn't for the cost of transaction fees when scaling to a large base of players.”
This is particularly important in order to attract players that know nothing about cryptocurrencies and may not care. It avoids having to introduce the concept to them and trying to get them to set up their own wallet.
That said, there is nothing stopping in-game players who are “in the know” from directly using the NXT and the Voxelnauts MS currency to trade amongst themselves, if they wish.
Perhaps sidechains can offer alternative blockchain-powered micro accounting systems for use cases like this one, where the fees are appropriately low or insignificant.
On the legal front, the other co-founder of the company behind Voxelnauts is Jason Archinaco, adds Mross, “an attorney who handled the first virtual property lawsuit that dealt with this exact situation.” Archinaco is an essential asset to Voxelnaut's potential as a virtual universe and legally binding economy.