The Web3 Story Metaverse
And why Disco Solaris and projects like it are poised to take over the next generation of media production and creative story-telling.
Written by @CalvinsBrew
What do you think of when you hear the word metaverse?
If you’re like me, then you probably envision worlds as good as Ready Player One — or at least, that’s where you hope things will go. I’m with you. I want an RPO-style metaverse as badly as the next person (I’m so passionate about this that I wrote nearly 9k words on the subject).
Unfortunately, really good NFT graphics and endless land sales do not equate in any real substance to the future we are longing for. For the vast majority of “metaverses”, we are reduced to graphics that reminds us of the limitations of the early 2000s (perhaps because most metaverse engines live entirely in the browser). I remember seeing “big virtual parties” for celebrity events with avatars that could only be described as stick figures and a depressing reality that millions of dollars in revenue from NFT sales couldn’t produce an ounce of the experience I was hoping for.
Let’s just be honest, okay? The general idea of a Ready Player One equivalent metaverse has been painfully disappointing at best, and an outright scandal at worst.
A New Kind of Metaverse
It’s true that good things start as a robust experiment. I’m not saying that an RPO-style metaverse isn’t in the future — but I’m seriously questioning if we’re mistaking the glamor for the meat.
Everyone likes a universe that feels real and extravagant (I suspect because it makes us feel important and powerful to be able to recreate reality to a degree that is immersive), but what do we really love?
All these grand visions of a metaverse (that were inspired by visionary titles like Ready Player One, Tron, and Star Atlas) find their footing in a captivating story. And this got me thinking: what if we aren’t really pursuing an immersive alternate reality, but an immersive alternate story?
People by nature want to feel important and like they are on an adventure. Stories are the universal language where humans find both meaning and self-discovery. We overlay ourselves onto our favorite characters, identify with their lives as if they were our own, and sometimes (if we’re lucky) take up the courage of our favorite hero as our own, igniting a rare event where the story becomes reality.
There is one such NFT project that has embraced this idea. There are plenty of others, and many of them have incredible storylines that deserve their own respect. I’ll mention these toward the end of the article, but there is one in particular that I’ve been captivated by, and that is Disco Solaris.
The general vibe of Disco Solaris is a story metaverse of infinite possibility. Set in an 80s-themed alternate reality where space travel is possible, the project sets the stage for fan fiction to be the driving force of community engagement and growth.
What many people probably don’t realize about NFTs is that they often grant you a commercial license to profit off of that NFT. By definition, NFTs are authenticated ownership — it’s just that most collectors stop here and use this as an investment to flip. This is all well and good, but something unique happens (and an incredible opportunity arises) when the NFT is a piece of the broader storyline of the project.
This is a double-edged sword though: while many NFT collectors wait for the project founders to create value for their holdings (“can the devs do something?” is a memetic phrase encapsulating this sentiment), a storyline-driven NFT project relies heavily on the community involvement if it wants to achieve anything remotely describable as a “story metaverse”.
These types of projects need to attract not just investors, but creatives. And that’s a hard thing to do in an industry flooded with exploitive consumers just looking to make a quick buck.
When I stumbled upon Disco Solaris, I realized three things:
- They had incredible art that surpassed 90% of most PFP projects.
- They had incredible lore that added intrigue and mystery to the storyline.
- They had a unique creative community that was already involved.
With the official lore still largely remaining a secret, the DS storyline is gradually unfolding. Recent interest in the project has spurred the necessity of canonizing official lore, but much of the appeal to the early adopters was the cryptic release of rumors and history. The team has up to this point released occasional updates to the storyline via their Discord, which despite being a less-than-ideal avenue to disseminate information, has worked out to establish a strong early-adopter community.
Throughout the history of the project, the DS team has released lore through fictional methods like the Neo Miami Times (incidentally which happens to be edible for DS citizens as the paper is made from a Moebius-9 sourced plant).
In one of DS’ first tweets, when no one knew what was going on, they mentioned something about insect breeding farms in a cryptic tweet. Weeks later, the account revealed an advertisement for an insect-based snack, and then suggested that it was a local delicacy under the biodome.
Currently, the team is working on both retrotopia video games that will live in the Entertainment District of Neo Miami, as well as a user-friendly way to enter such a city and explore not only the official lore but also the community-driven storylines as well (no, this doesn’t mean a 3D city you can walk through, nor a land sale for users as each Disco already has an apartment number assigned in its metadata).
In addition to facilitating community expansion and narrative guidelines, the DS team is attracting top talent. The artist behind the Amber VHS character (a real NFT character in the series) is a real musician with several albums and accolades under her belt, including working on starting sci-fi series herself with the same company that created the Witcher series.
Adding to the Story Here’s the thing about story-driven projects that I feel people don’t fully grasp yet, and it’s perfectly articulated in the Disco Solaris project:
Disco Solaris is an NFT collection of 5,777 characters (notice, characters, not just profile pics) who are passengers on their way to Neo Miami from Earth, an off-world paradise on Moebius-9 funded and operated by an elusive billionaire, Mr. Blue, who is both egotistical and eco-conscious.
Some of the characters are DBD policemen (the Dim Blue Dot Company is Mr. Blue’s, and the DBD are his private law officers on Neo Miami), some of them are researchers and scientists, some of them are detectives, and some of them are just citizens.
Here’s the kicker: owning a Disco Solaris (DS) gives you commercial rights to create your own storyline of that particular character, but all of this coincides with the larger plot that is being ironed out by the DS team.
The team is open to community involvement, and the story and lore team has already implemented community ideas such as Snackbeat Cafe, which was an idea by early members. The cafe was built in Discord and featured in the music video developed by the team of a character in the Neo Miami storyline, Amber VHS.
The possibilities are endless here. Imagine a universe where projects with foundational lore offer a launchpad for creatives to build their own sub-plots, organically growing the general project’s universe.
What’s more, imagine the creative potential of story-driven NFT project collaborations: while most collaborations are nothing more than PFP mashups between projects, the opportunity now exists to intertwine the lore with lore, creating alternate storylines that branch off two major influences and cultures.
Additionally, because the foundational bedrock is a good story, the method by which that story is told is up to the community and original dev teams’ creative choice of telling it. The DS team comes from a video game background, but many will choose text, music, and even animated short stories as methods to tell their story of Disco Solaris.Share on Twitter
Stories Are Scalable
The biggest hurdle for most decentralized metaverse projects is the limitations of the chains they work on. It’s no surprise that Star Atlas has great potential, but it’s also a direct result of being on a fairly centralized chain that has been optimized for such pressure.
In my metaverse article, I argued that Cardano is uniquely positioned to offer similar capabilities once its scaling journey has come to maturity. There are vast possibilities here, but it must be soberly emphasized that the metaverse we all want is currently required to be centralized.
Thankfully, stories are much more fluid, easier to transfer between chains, and are memetic in nature. They can grow and shrink without any overhead, they can organically scale themselves, and blockchain acts as just the ledger of data and ownership, instead of carrying the computation burden of creating something as immersive as Ready Player One.
While many will work on a metaverse that lives up to the RPO dream (as they should), it’s important to note that a metaverse like that won’t matter much without captivating stories to pull us in. And those stories are already beginning, and they’re happening on Disco Solaris.
The Jael Cartel
The Jael Cartel is a community-run project within Disco Solaris that spontaneously grew out of a desire to form a DAO to better finance the greater community-led initiatives, similar to Catalyst. In an effort to do so, they purchased a rare Charles Disco for 125,000 ADA: the largest purchase of a Disco to date.
Rather than keeping that in the DAO as an asset, the Jael Cartel is going to fragment it into 5.7 billion $DISCO tokens via the Fracada tool open-sourced by dcSpark. This means that the Charles PFP will be locked in a smart contract and will only be retrievable if all $DISCO tokens are returned (pragmatically will never happen).
The idealism of the Jael Cartel is that everyone is a part of it; it is the tokenized manifestation of the greater community, and every DS holder is a part of that Cartel through the $DISCO they receive.
Distribution of the $DISCO token happens on a per-epoch basis for all DS holders. If you held a Disco Solaris NFT at the initial airdrop of the token, you received 57,777 $DISCO tokens. The rest will be locked away into a treasury with some of it set aside for $DISCO staking rewards.
The idea is that $DISCO will be the currency of Neo Miami, and thus the lore is added to (once again) from a community-led initiative that gets baked into the greater storyline. The token will also be used to fund community-led creative projects that add to the greater storyline, with voters being those who hold DS citizens (i.e. each citizen gets one vote).
The Brew Club
And, of course, The Brew Club is producing a sub-story in collaboration with artists within the Cardano community and beyond. Through pool rewards from BREW, we are developing and producing high-quality Web3 storytelling content, starting with Milo's Escape, the first book in the Legends of Moebius-9 Series.
To learn more about how you can get involved, either through staking or creating, read about our membership.
Tales from Neo-Miami
Another project spurred by a community member, Tales from Neo-Miami is a conglomerate of small short-stories based on DS characters, and adds additional backstory to certain members of the 5777.
Story-Driven Projects Will Survive
Story connects us together, takes us on an adventure, and let’s us believe (if not just for a moment) that a better future is possible. Few culturally iconic genres encapsulate this as well as an 80’s infused neon retrotopia, but it’s certainly possible in other formats.
There are many story-driven projects on Cardano specifically, and some deserve honorable mentions, especially those with likeminded communities who strive to add to the story:
- Dead Rabbit Resurrection Society
- Derp Birds
- The Ape Society
- Goat Tribe (incidentally already proving similar tendencies via SGS).
- Block Owls
- ADA Ninjaz
Whatever your flavor, there are many more. The key ingredient is this: instead of asking “can the devs do something”, the community should be over here “doing something”.
For me, that’s a story metaverse, and it lives on Moebius-9.
A major thanks to the Disco Solaris team for contributing and proof-reading this article, as well as to the community for giving me such a warm welcome. The last few weeks have truly been inspiring.
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