What frustrates me most about the current NFT space is how much attention is given to these assets as profile pictures. There are many innovative artists I deeply respect creating with this new medium, far beyond animal cartoons. But even if we focus on “unoriginal” “10k” “pfp” projects, NFT creators, collectors and critics are all still not grasping the power of these tokens existing on a public, immutable ledger.
Popular media suggests the metaverse is a VR experience (in corporate VR, there appear to be no legs and thus no butts 🤔). That’s not how I understand the metaverse. The metaverse is instead a persistent digital layer that acts more like the physical world, particularly with regard to objects or assets. Digital assets are awful now. They’re locked in the game developer’s database. Users spend real money, build in-game skills and inventory worth nothing, and have some fun playing a game. Current blockchain games improve digital assets by allowing them to have real world value, but the singular focus on profit fails to take advantage of the true power of gaming enabled by a public ledger: interoperability.
What if you owned an NFT car and could use it in any racing game, and drive it in any virtual world? And you could upgrade it in any of these experiences, and those upgrades would be available in all of them. You could still sell your car whenever you please. That’s how things work in the physical world. Markets are (more) open, things are (for the most part) compatible. Our assets all exist on the same physical plane. You can go to a bowling alley and rent a ball and shoes. But you can also own a ball and shoes, and use them at any bowling alley without any concern of compatibility, or worse yet, bridging.
Public ledger blockchains allow gaming assets - or actors - to be portable across experiences. The metaverse is this same single plane where our assets exist, but a digital one. The disparate but connected games and virtual worlds spring forth from this layer as “metaverse experiences.” The extent to which they integrate and compose assets and actors from the shared layer will determine their success. Vertically integrated walled gardens will wither.
Instead of profile pictures, imagine these NFTs as metaverse beings. Rather than being an image of an Ape, let’s consider an Ape as an actor; I can understand why they’re bored. But we can imbue them with talents or capabilities - as basketball players, mages or snipers. Give them something to do, and define how good they are at it, allowing them to get better. If we can create archetypes and persist their skill trees in an open and decentralized fashion we can create positive sum outcomes for NFT and metaverse developers, while warding off the walled garden goals of “Meta” and Epic and EA.
I’ve been batting these ideas around for a bit - I’m passionate about the need for standards to define types of objects as digital assets. And I’m not convinced that bridging tokens across chains is an acceptable user experience for low-value assets used in games. So I’ve experimented with Layer 2 derivative minting and later a more centralized solution I’ve called a MetaTransaction Middleware for my game Wrasslers.
But this is about 🍑 ASSPLayers - Archetypal Save State Protocol Layers.
I first saw the Save State idea from dom:
mewny later got a bit closer to what I’m envisioning in describing the “OpenGaming Era:”
🍑 ASSPLayers combine mewny’s ideas of composable save states with my passion for ontology, standardization and interoperability. We’re using NFTs for composability, but rather than assets or inventory, our first protocols are better suited for NFTs as actors or characters like dom suggested . They are user owned insofar as the NFT itself is user owned, but that save-state is also community governed. If you sell your NFT, you sell your save-state, but you cannot write to it permissionlessly, only games can do that when the protocol governance allows it.
First we need to define a standard for an actor. Right now, every NFT avatar is flat, exists only as itself. Imagine it suiting up for a boxing match in Dubai - how strong or how fast would that avatar be? What are the attributes that define a boxer’s skills? If your NFT is a 3D model of a car, what’s it’s speed and handling?
Wrasslers uses 6 integer-based attributes that describe the essence of a Wrestler’s skills and ability - power, speed, aggression, determination, resilience and ring awareness. Wrestling is a good choice for a test case - it has its own niche culture to respect, and helps avoid the bike shedding a more generalized fighter standard might bring. We can also imagine many game experiences, from one-on-one to tag-team and royal rumbles.
If we can do the work of building consensus for how to describe types of actors and objects, only then can they become portable. If it’s not easy to import and use the NFTs a user owns, game and metaverse developers won’t. We need to make composability simple for developers through standards.
Once we decide on an archetype, we need a way for an NFT project to opt-in, to say that the tokens their smart contract creates are “wrassleable.” To meet our goals for interoperability, “wrassleability” can’t be locked in one game or experience. Object-oriented programming and most philosophical efforts towards taxonomy would suggest that “wrassleability” should be part of the asset itself, that these attributes are inherent to the object. One could imagine an SDK for NFT developers to inherit standards-based capabilities. But the public ledger blockchain, adopted standards for ERC721 and the lack of limitations of the physical world give us new tools to layer meaning or capability into assets.
A permissionless protocol for archetypal save state lifts the archetype out of the NFT contract and to a shared repository and interface for the save state data. The save states are “centralized” but not in a dirty, anti-decentralization way. The ERC721 standard allows the save state protocol to uniformly call NFT contracts to determine the owner of a token. The standardized data persisted in an archetypal save state protocol, and broadcasted to other chains and indexes, allows gaming contracts to fetch attributes for a specific token and receive consistent, useful data for gaming. Decentralized governance determines how the state may be updated, and can leverage the protocol’s value as needed to maintain a healthy public good.
Permissionless protocols allow us to kill the one-off partnership. NFT developers can register their projects in these protocols permissionlessly, adding capabilities to tokens that already exist, without needing to wrap them, without needing to inherit code in their contracts and without having to ask anyone. Wrasslers currently lets any address register any NFT they own as wrassleable, but the more appropriate approach is for the creator of an NFT to decide which capabilities their creations may have.
🍑 ASSPLayer save states aim to offer composable skill trees for characters or assets for many games. By using an archetype standard in an open protocol player, we can create an endless, open state for metaverse actors or objects. We can decentralize governance for deciding which experiences can write to the save state, and explore revenue share for play to earn or other mechanics that influence the save.
This layer can be as simple as an open protocol contract to start. Eventually cross chain issues would need to be solved. The technical challenges are less intense than the social coordination challenges in adopting a standard and governing its state. Perhaps this data is best stored off-chain in things like a subgraph or something like a Ceramic stream. Maybe the answer is “yes, and” requiring us to broadcast this data everywhere for it to be most useful.
I shipped my first NFT game in March 2021. CryptOrchids are metaverse flowers - you germinate a seed NFT with a transaction, which determines your species (randomly with Chainlink VRF) and starts your plant’s life. You must then water your plant every 7 days (in a 3 hour window) to keep your plant alive. If it dies it cannot be revived or sold.
I really wanted to get my flowers into virtual world metaverse experiences, but was unable to get these platforms’ attention given my lack of success - I only sold a few hundred tokens. So I started thinking about standards, and how we could support the long tail of creators through permissionless integration of standards-based NFTs.
Over the ensuing months I saw some other plant or flower based NFT projects launch, like Zenft or more recently flowers by On chain collective. None of these projects included this idea of being alive. But with a gardening 🍑 ASSPLayer we can offer this functionality up to any of the plant-based projects that exist today or may exist in the future. We can generalize the statefulness, and even allow participating projects to determine their own cycles, or perhaps in the future add a “light” requirement if we decide to make the protocol layer upgradeable.
We can reimagine what the CryptOrchids project was and start to break it into a micro-contracts approach. The ERC721 contract can be responsible just for ownership and Web 2.0 metadata pointers, but the protocol layer can be the common repository for state data, and we can open up that state data layer to anyone who wants to add that capability to their tokens. In this case we’d design the state to be updatable by the owner - there is no skill or “winning” required to update the water level of the plant, and so the protocol interface could then be used directly by any metaverse experience to let their users water plants inside that experience.
The most successful stateful NFT project I’m aware of is Aavegotchi, which of course evokes memories of elementary school and Tomagotchis and cooties. Some commentators also compared CryptOrchids to Tomagotchis, which felt like a really nice compliment. We’ve also seen wagmipet from dom, and @m1guelpf took that idea and ran with it to create onchain.pet.
It’s all the same really - ghosts that need petting, plants that need watering or pets that need food and to play and to shit. I’m not a terribly interesting person but is that all I am too? A mutable skill tree on an interoperable blockchain with a few state variables? I’m not totally committed to simulation theory but I do think it’s a useful lens to help bridge this gap to wherever we’re going.
My ask of these influential creators and projects is to work together to find a way to standardize and protocolize the statefulness aspects of your work. Don’t go to Decentraland and get your pets integrated into that metaverse experience as a one-off partnership. Adopt the web3 ethos of composability and permissionlessness, standardize your states and interfaces, and let any NFT builder imbue their creations with the capabilities you’ve defined for a pet. Be the rising tide that lifts all boats! Build an 🍑 ASSPLayer!
The goal of 🍑 ASSPLayers is to aid in composability. A PlaNFT or an onchain.pet is in itself a game or a game loop. How can game developers start composing these protocols to create new experiences? Maybe you can make a zoo game with every type of pet. Maybe it’s a garden game with any type of plant. Maybe you can write a greenhouse contract, and let owners store their stateful tokens in your safe vault. I’m less keen on suggesting you become a digital dog walker. Maybe you build an open Farmville with NFTs?
If we can start building social consensus for standardizing actors and types of objects, we can lay the groundwork for an open, borderless and permissionless metaverse. Web 2.0 was a utopian idea in the beginning too, and I fear the same corporations intend to insert themselves as gatekeepers and rent seekers in what we’re building with web3. They’ve given us no reason to trust they’ll deliver an open metaverse, and the opportunity is in our hands to create the infrastructure and groundswell of support to ensure decentralization wins. There’s a lot of talk about making the metaverse open. Here’s a free idea to start, a project that’s testing it in production and an open invitation to work together to make it better.
We’re selling this post as an editioned NFT, with 75% of proceeds going to ZERO, a leading USA based nonprofit whose mission is to end prostate cancer. The ZERO address was generated with TheGivingBlock.