Star Atlas is a grand strategy, space exploration, massively multiplayer online (MMO) game. In which players will fly around in spaceships, gather resources, engage in combat with other players and take over entire galaxies. The game plans to couple all of the things that people have come to love about the escapism of gaming with the advantages of decentralization and digital ownership. In this piece, we’ll take a deep look into the metaverse of Star Atlas, explore its economic structure, gameplay mechanics, and how it’s different from early Web3 games.
It's the year 2620. Humans have figured out interstellar travel, Sentient Robots (Androids) walk among us, and the universe is filled with aliens. Star Atlas’s core storyline focuses on the tussle that ensues between these three factions for resources, political power, and survival.
Let’s take a look at these different factions:
MUD Territory (Territory controlled by Humans)
Manus Ultimus Divinum (MUD), aka the ‘Last Divine Hand’ is a collective of space-traveling humans. This group was inspired to explore the vast unknown by a benevolent Photoli (Alien faction) scout. The human faction within the Star Atlas universe is known for its industriousness and firepower.
Ustur Sector (Collective of Sentient Androids)
The Ustur Sector is an ensemble of cybernetic sentient beings with unknown origins. According to legend, a dyson sphere powered supercomputer existed millennia ago. The AI installed on this mega device used the energy of a neutron star to expand beyond its physical limits. In the present, the Usturs appear in an anthropomorphic (human resembling) form created through advanced robotics. This faction is known to create extraordinarily strong ships and for exploratory nature.
Oni Region (Consortium of Alien Races)
The Oni faction includes multiple alien races that have come together under a strategic military pact. These alien species have set aside their personal and political differences in order to sustain a harmonious existence in their controlled regions. Aside from their highly advanced radar and stealth capabilities, the ONI faction is also well known for its diplomatic skills.
Based on the lore we described above you already know that Star Atlas will be a space adventure of epic scales.However, we have previously seen games that came up with amazing science fiction plots but failed to create an engaging gameplay around it(ahem! Alien Worlds). In the case of Star Atlas though we have a detailed roadmap of what the gameplay would be like once the game is released. Let’s have a look:
In Star Atlas, you’ll not only be able to navigate in a third-person and first-person view but also manage entire fleets spread across the universe of the game. Giving the player an isometric top-down view of the many spaceships in their fleet. You might be familiar with this style of gameplay if you’ve previously played Solaris.
Star Atlas has three game modes, each more formidable than the last one. These are:
- Faction-Controlled Safe Zone
- Medium Tiered Safety Zone
- The Wild Frontier
Players begin in faction-controlled safe zones, where they can experience basic game features while avoiding destructive game modes like combat, rescue missions, and Salvage Wars. After gaining some experience, players can expand out to the medium-tiered safety zone. This area is secured by AI-controlled mercenaries. Players can engage in combat at this level, but their assets will be reset to base stats if they’re destroyed. The last zone of Star Atlas is the Wild Frontier. All bets are off once you enter this region. Players can enter full combat mode against other contestants in this area. Note that you’ll lose your assets permanently if they’re destroyed in the Wild Frontier, so tread wisely.
All celestial bodies (stars, planets, moons, etc.) in the Star Atlas universe can be visited upon full launch. Players will steer their spaceships manually, giving them the opportunity to experience the vastness of the metaverse. Some locations will obviously be too far for the average player to cover with their limited resources. This can be resolved by upgrading your gear, such as buying a new vessel or increasing the fuel capacity of your existing machine. The game rewards exploration by allowing players to stake or sell the data about the space they’ve scanned.
Spaceships come equipped with weapons such as turrets and missile systems. Players can scan hostile ships and target specific subsystems to inflict maximum damage. You can also launch a takeover attack on land and space-based structures owned by other players. However, keep in mind that these structures will have their own defensive and offensive systems that can destroy your resources during an attack.
The game also allows players to signal their combat stance to each other. If you’re signaling a combat stance, a competing player can engage in all out war with you. However, if you mark your voyage as passive, your ship will gain a temporary shield and power boost when attacked unannounced. These perks will enable you to escape unharmed from the hostile attack.
Note that if you enter combat in the wild frontier and lose, all your assets will be lost forever.
Another big part of the game is construction. Players can build mining farms to extract valuable resources from different regions and space stations to enable intergalactic commerce.
Space station installations can be customized by creating decks. These accessory platforms increase the functionality of a space station. Players can just about create any type of deck, such as a university to train new personnel, a storage and trading deck to facilitate intergalactic commerce, or a manufacturing deck to build weapons. Many of these decks will be required to unlock different gameplay modes. For example, a player would need a commerce deck on their faction’s space stations to sell low-tier ore and items on the Universal Marketplace, or a Cargo and refinery deck will be necessary to access higher-tier ore and perform intergalactic resource deliveries.
Crew and Ship Component Configuration
Every Star Atlas spaceship comes with its own unique components that enhance or diminish its capabilities. Players can customize their spaceships to perform specific actions effectively. Another factor that affects the performance of a ship is the crew that runs it. The crew members that trained on the university deck or managed another ship together will enhance each other’s aptitudes. This is also a segment where the strategy element of the game comes into play, as a mismatched crew negatively affects the overall performance of the ship. It’s sort of like strategically choosing player cards that have synergistic attributes for a match in Cyball.
Players can choose from a number of professional roles that are available on a ship. These will generally include roles like Engineer, Commander, CEO. Space Pirate (favorite), Pilot, Gunner, Scientist, Captain, Bounty Hunter, and numerous other characters.
Decentralized Autonomous Corporations (DACs)
The metaverse of Star Atlas is very much like our own universe—a cold, dark, mysterious expanse that can get really scary and lonely. This is why players are encouraged to join or form factions. Cooperation will allow players to combine their resources and face enemy forces together—a mutually beneficial strategy. These player-created factions are called Decentralized Autonomous Corporations (DAC) within the game. A DAC can be an entire space city that hosts its community members and represents their combined interests. Players can use the POLIS token to dictate governance within a DAC.
That’s a non-exhaustive overview of the planned gameplay for Star Atlas. Now let’s explore its economic structure.
We saw a number of people compare Star Atlas to Star Citizen, a popular space exploration Web2 game. Although there are some similarities between these two games, we would like to highlight one important difference. Star Atlas leverages blockchain technology to provide digital asset ownership rights and the ability to turn in-game value into real-world income for its players. In short, it's a Web3 game.
The game’s reward mechanism issues cryptocurrencies (fungible tokens) to the players for any progress they make within its ecosystem. These can be converted into fiat currencies through crypto exchanges. While in-game items, characters, etc are unique blockchain-based artifacts(Non-fungible tokens) that can be truly owned by the player.
Tokenization turns the virtual (pseudo) economy of the game into a real one. Star Atlas' ethos is to reward players for the time and effort they put into its economy, just as they are rewarded for participating in real-world economic systems. Let’s look at the assets that make up the economy of Star Atlas.
The game has a two-token economy. These are ATLAS and POLIS.
ATLAS - In Game Currency
ATLAS is the in-game currency of the Star Atlas ecosystem. Players will use the digital currency for virtually every transaction they’ll make inside the Star Atlas metaverse. These transactions will largely include operating expenses such as repairs, fueling, tolls, mining resources, etc. It’s also the currency that you’ll use to buy characters, skins , weapons, ships, and other resources in Star Atlas’s native NFT marketplace.
POLIS - Governance Token
POLIS is the official governance token of the game. Holding POLIS gives players voting rights in the Star Atlas ecosystem.
The holders of the governance token gain special economic rights in the game, such as jurisdictional control over other people's property, the ability to charge taxes and tolls on other players. Note that we said POLIS gives the holder voting rights, not authoritative rights. This means that players can't impose their own rules and must develop the economic policy of their region in collaboration with other holders.
Apart from giving the players voting rights in the in-game economy, holding POLIS will give the investors and the wider gaming community the ability to decide the future direction of the project. However, the development of the Star Atlas will be centralized until the project is completely ready (estimated time - 5 years).
There are many variants of NFTs in the Star Atlas metaverse. Each comes with their own utility within the game. You will truly own the NFTs since they are minted on the blockchain. In the game, you'll use the following most often:
- Ships: There’ll be hundreds, possibly thousands of unique Ship NFTs available in the Universal Marketplace. Choose the which best fits your needs, style and budget.
- Collectibles: These will be general in-game items such as skins, characters, weapons, gear, pets etc.
- Structures: These are NFTs of different infrastructure pieces within the game such as mining drills, space stations, farms, power plants, space ores etc.
- Access: Think of these NFTs as licenses or gate passes that’ll allow you special access to certain areas or services that others cannot enter. For example: ‘Executive Badge’ that grants access to the spaceship's cockpit.
- Usernames: yes, your .eth username won’t work in this virtual universe.
According to Star Atlas’s whitepaper, “New NFT assets will be released periodically by the game developer with careful consideration surrounding the inflationary impact of release. Analysis of current demands for assets by new players, growth in user-adoption, asset availability on NFT marketplaces, and the natural deflation of assets resulting from high-risk zone engagements will be conducted prior to the release of a new tranche of assets.”
In this section we will look at various factor that’ll affect the value of Star Atlas Tokens
First off, here’s a big one - Token Distribution
A portion of ATLAS supply will be up for sale through the Galactic Asset Offering (GAO) initiative that will go on until the full release. Once the game is out, players will have to make progress in the game to earn ATLAS or buy it off at a premium from other players.
Breakdown of Atlas’s initial distribution(Before Launch)
- 10% of the supply will be reserved for Friends, Family, and Seed.
- 5% will be up for sale during the GAO Phase 1
- Another 5% will be sold during Phase 2 of the GAO.
In total 20% of the supply will be reserved before the game is released. The rest 80% of supply will be reserved for the players to unlock by playing the game.
Breakdown of Atlas Distribution (In-Game)
- Mining Stations: 45%
- MM and Trade: 20%
- Player vs Environment(PvE) Missions: 20%
- Resource Gathering: 15%
The distribution of POLIS will be a two-step process. wherein 20% of the supply will be up for sale during the Galactic Asset Offering (GAO). After that, the token can only be earned by staking ATLAS in the game.
Even though Star Atlas has created a lot of hype in Web3 gaming, The value of its tokens has significantly declined in the bear market. Data from CoinMarketCap shows that both Atlas and Polis are down 97% from their all-time high. (Last updated on September 13th, 2022)
The multi-tiered engagement zones of Star Atlas also double as potential sinks. Which means that players entering more dangerous zones such as the wild frontier in search of lucrative rewards risk the destruction of their assets. This, in our opinion, is a near perfect integration of a sink in the gameplay, as players are motivated to risk the destruction (burning) of their tokens.
If two players engage in combat in the wild frontier, one of them is sure to lose their assets. Note that the asset will be permanently burned and thus out of the supply. Star Atlas uses this as its primary deflationary mechanism. A small fraction of the value of the destroyed assets will be awarded to the winner of the tussle. Star Atlas’s governance body will also buy back and burn the assets in the future.
In general, the obvious competitors for a Web3 game will be other Web3 titles that are currently dominating the segment with the highest number of daily active users and record trading volumes. These would be games like Splinterlands, Alien Worlds, Upland and Axie, etc. But we need to remember that these games are fundamentally different and can’t be truly compared with Star Atlas. The makers of the game feel that way too. That’s why they have created a chart of the best games from their genre to show how they’ll compare to Star Atlas once it's released. Here’s the chart:
Star Atlas will feature a Universal Marketplace that will facilitate the trading of every asset that’s available in the game’s economy. Most of the assets that will be traded on the marketplace can be earned by interacting with the game. However, the game will allow players to list assets that they bought on the open market.
What makes Star Atlas different from other Web3 titles
According to Footprint Analytics there are over 1600 Web3 games in the market right now. What makes Star Atlas so interesting is that they are doing some things that are fundamentally different from the rest of the titles in space. For example, in one of our recent Twitter conversations with Star Atlas’s CEO Michael Wagner he told us that they plan to abstract the game functionality from the game engine (Unreal Engine) and put it on a chain. This mode of development essentially opens the project to third-party development in a completely permission-less fashion. The way Michael sees it, while the game is the centerpiece of their project, what they are building is a set of on-chain gaming primitives that other developers can use to build their own products and companies.
The game will also feature cinematic graphics that’ll easily put it in a different league than popular games of today like Axie or Farmer’s world. The developers are using Unreal Engine 5, a next gen game development software that uses innovative technologies like Lumen and Nanites to create cinematic quality models. The game also plans to use Virtual Reality to take its space exploration gameplay for the player. These are some of the factors that in our opinion sets Star Atlas apart from other Web3 games.
Star Atlas is without a doubt the most ambitious project in the Web3 gaming space right now. Its sheer scope is mind-blowing, which shouldn't come as a surprise as the guys are literally building a virtual universe. The game is still very early in the development phase, and it’ll take Star Atlas around 5–10 years to achieve the vision that they described in their whitepaper. We’re extremely excited about what the team rolls out next, and you should be too. Go check out their amazing website and social media for more.