Sandbox – The Metaverse?
In the context of blockchain apps, a metaverse refers to a virtual environment that incorporates as much of the interaction, creativity, and possibilities of our metaspace world. Arguably Second Life was the first metaverse online. The highly centralized nature of Second Life caused many problems later in its lifespan, including inflation as the game owners tried to get as much money out of selling players virtual currency “Linden dollars” as they could.
Blockchain metaverses remove many of these hangups, allowing for decentralized tokenized assets that can be traded without the central company’s involvement. Some are even transitioning their corporate structure to that of a DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization). The current front runners in blockchain metaverses are the Sandbox, CryptoVoxels, Decentraland, and Somnium Space. They all feel less like Second Life and more like Minecraft meets World of Warcraft. Land ownership is a key feature of these metaverses, along with the concept of freedom to do what you want with the land you own.
Note: While Sandbox refers to itself as a metaverse I don’t quite consider it one. I think of it more as an open world gaming platform comprised of user created content. I expect it to be the most popular and biggest gaming platform in the blockchain space. For the context of the article I will refer to it as a metaverse so simplicity’s sake.
The Sandbox is one of the most promising metaverses to be built on the ethereum blockchain. In the words of its creators The Sandbox is “a collective and persistent virtual shared space where digital worlds and games will be created collaboratively without central authority.” The Sandbox has a history spanning over 8 years! It has a very promising future especially for game designers and current NFT gamers.
History of The Sandbox
Due to too many games and concepts sharing the name Sandbox it is difficult to wrap one’s head around the history of this game. The Sandbox we are talking about is actually the latest in a franchise spanning back to 2012! The first two games were 2D minecraft/roblox competitors created by a company called Pixowl under Sebastien Borget and Pablo Iglesias. They achieved great popularity due to their highly customizable assets and user generated content. These games racked in over 40 million downloads and still have around 1.5million active monthly users.
The popularity of user generated content in the first two Sandbox games made them a natural fit for the tokenization and ownership models that distributed ledger technology provides. To this Pixowl found itself acquired by Animoca Brands in 2018. Animoca is famous in the blockchain gaming community for their F1 Delta Time game, a blockchain game based on car collecting. They set out to migrate The Sandbox concept from 2D to 3D and bring it to the ethereum blockchain.
Technically, the name of this new entry is “The Sandbox 3D”, but this name is rarely used except when advertising to users of the past two games.
The Sandbox is somewhat minecraftian in initial look, being constructed from voxels (Like a pixel but a 3D cube instead of a 2D square. Unlike Minecraft you cannot just start digging or building anywhere. Instead “lands” are carefully crafted by their owners then opened up for public exploration/use.
According to Sebastian Borget “Our goal is to disrupt industry leaders such as Minecraft and Roblox to establish Voxel as a new leader in the next ten years. We see The Sandbox as a place where creators can make voxel assets and monetize their game experiences thanks to the blockchain.”
The sandbox initially raised a $2.5M equity round then recently raised another $2M from SquareEnix (creators of Final Fantasy) so they are definitely around for the long haul.
Land- The bedrock of the metaverse
This is the map of The Sandbox at the end of their second Land sale. You can see that a number of blockchain games and organizations,as well as some prominent individuals in the community have purchased large connected plots of land. We get the feeling these places will feel like little theme parks.
The first land sale sold out in just hours back in 2018. Even though the world still isn’t available to explore the second land sale sold out (for $200K) in just a few days last month. Whaleshark, a key player, patron, and benefactor in this space has purchased and donated large amounts of land to his favourite projects, which lends an additional layer of credibility to the world. It is clear that a number of key figures in the blockchain community have deep interest in this ecosystem.
There will be future land sales expanding the world around this central kernel, so don’t be too sad if you missed out on the initial sale. Of course you can always purchase land on secondary markets!
If you missed out on the first two land sales you are in luck as The Sandbox just announced its 3rd land sale will take place March 31st! If you can’t wait until then you can always purchase land on secondary markets.
If you are interested in taking place in the next land sale or want more details, pre-register here: The Sandbox Land Sale
One thing we are having a hard time figuring out is how much of the player base from the first two Sandbox games is involved in this land sale, and how much of it is the existing blockchain community. If you look at the greater crypto art and gaming communities you would see that a lot of money is changing hands between a relatively small amount of people right now. If The Sandbox brings even a fraction of its existing playerbase over to blockchain this could represent a huge influx of creativity and money that will spill over to other blockchain projects.
Land is only one of several tokenized components of The Sandbox. The goal of the sandbox is to put as much ownership and control as possible into the hands of landowners. To this end there is a huge focus on the development of tools for users to create unique assets and even full on games with.
Assets and Tokens
The Sandbox is built out of 5 different token types SAND and GEMs are ERC-20 (Fungible) tokens. These are common “utility” tokens that are usually tradable like other cryptocurrencies, but that have specific in-game uses. We will likely see exchanges set up for these tokens allowing players who have greater need for their utility to purchase them off those who are mostly playing and not creating. This is similar to Small Love Potions in Axie Infinity, Color in Cryptovoxels, or Mana in Decentraland.
Land plots are ERC-721 (Non-fungable) tokens. Each is unique and represents a single plot of land. They are tradable and sellable on The Sandbox marketplace as well as secondary markets. Each land plot has a set of associated block types that come with it. Those blocks will be located on the land in-game.
ASSETs and GAMEs are ERC-1155 tokens, a new protocol co-developed by Enjin, Horizon Games, and The Sandbox. These are also non-fungible, but, in the words of Enjin “ERC-1155 takes a new approach to defining tokens. Items are now stored in a single contract with the minimum possible amount of data needed to distinguish the token from other ones.” This will keep blockchain size bloat way down, as well as enabling the transfer of multiple items with one single gas fee (atomic swaps). This standard also allows an owner to have multiple copies of the asset represented by an 1155 token running at the same time. This is important for example if someone wants to let two people use the same kart in their game.
If the voxel style makes you think of hours spent moving one block at a time in Minecraft have no fear! The Sandbox has already released an amazing tool called Voxedit that allows you to make voxel creations quickly and easily. You build from voxels just like Minecraft (Or lego really) which is much more simple to learn than traditional 3D modelling software.
More importantly, it contains intuitive rigging and animation tools that let anyone bring a static voxel asset to life! This is a huge feature as rigging in other software applications was incredibly time consuming. This app has only been released for a month and a half so if you like to get into things while they are fresh there is a great need for asset developers.
A sample static scene built in VoxEdit can be explored here https://sketchfab.com/3d-models/voxel-art-guidance-sample-scene-aca225fb6e114a3db7bc9008191bf5bb
There is also a lot of money to be made in this space. In fact, the Sandbox is offering grants for up to 1000 artists/programmers interested in making quality assets and games! They will give anywhere from $50 to $1000 in grants depending on your experience and project. If you are interested in learning more about the guidelines for this Creator Fund click here https://fund.sandbox.game/
There are even Voxel creation contests with $20,000 in prizes for the best voxel assets made using VoxEdit!
Games- Community developed sandbox applications
The previous Sandbox games saw people making 2-D game levels all with their own unique enemies, physics, and goals. People remade Pacman and brought elements from all their favorite platformers into their world design.
Much like in their previous installments, the Sandbox 3D wants people to make their own games within their metaverse. These could range anywhere from midway style booth games to kart racers to scavenger hunts to full-on sword and sorcery adventures. Their GameMaker will come equipped with easy methods for scripting, triggers, sounds, and dialogue amongst an RPG-Maker like array of tools.
We are unsure how the Sandbox will handle the relationship between Land and the spaces required to play these games. Decentraland allows taller constructions based on how many connected plots are owned, a model that will certainly be adopted by other metaversed. Cryptovoxels has been struggling with this concept since someone developed a tool that allows infinite “basement” space under any size land plot. One scene in Decentraland gives the impression of being on a moving train for a gunfight by scrolling the background tiles from within the scene itself, creating a kind of holodeck treadmill effect. These metaverses are going to have to decide if they want to act to limit this, as those sorts of limitations (even if required) go against the spirit of ownership. Personally, we are pretty sure there will be the ability to host games that take place on the other side of a portal instead of requiring all gameplay to happen directly on sandbox land.
If you are building your own assets without using any of The Sandbox’s tools and want to have the largest likelihood of compatibility, we would suggest you use the ERC-1155 standard. Enjin’s newly opened Mintshop builds tokens in this standard so it may be worth exploring while you wait for game maker to be released.
A diorama made with GameMaker
There is a hope that other blockchain games will incorporate their own tokens and assets into games in the Sandbox, allowing everyone to “Bring their own toys” to play with. According to Sebastien “Players will benefit from NFT interoperability across games, giving items a value beyond their utility based on factors such as an emotional attachment to their creator, the fame of previous owners, or track record across games.”
The Sandbox has yet to release their game maker. However ambassadors have been able to start testing the software so it is certainly in its final stages of development. Currently the release is planned for April 2020! https://twitter.com/i/status/1236290849266454528
If you are interested in taking place in the next land sale or want more details, pre-register here: The Sandbox Land Sale
The Sandbox- Coming soon!
Playing in The Sandbox is not currently possible until the release of the game client. Luckily there are a number of great videos showing off the world, possibilities for play, and the tools they are developing for creators. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GQwYDzgeQsc. You may also want to check out the first two sandbox games to get an idea of the creativity behind the team.
The best way to keep up with developments at the Sandbox is through their twitter: https://twitter.com/thesandboxgame . They are constantly posting videos of the development process and of finished assets.