The First Decentralized Virtual World & Crypto-Real Estate
Ξtheria is a virtual world in which players can own tiles, farm them for blocks, and build things. The entire state of the world is held in and all player actions are made through the decentralized, trustless Ethereum blockchain.
Why does decentralization matter?
Until now, all virtual worlds have ultimately been controlled by a single entity. The state of Ξtheria, on the other hand, is "agreed to" by the participants of the Ethereum network and has no central authority. This has several important ramifications:
  1. Ξtheria cannot be taken down. Not by the government, not by its owner-players, not even by the developer (me). Ξtheria will exist as long as Ethereum does.
  2. Likewise, Ξtheria cannot be censored or altered against the wishes of its owner-players.
  3. Open execution. The Ξtheria code is not only open-source, it is open-execution. We know exactly what code is running and what it does.
  4. One world, many interfaces. The "explore" feature of this website is only one of many possible graphical representations of Ξtheria. Anyone can build their own and I hope they do!
How do I play?
Ξtherians can take the following actions:
  1. Buy unowned land tiles for 1 ETH each
  2. Farm tiles for 20 blocks, once every 12 hours (~2500 Ethereum blocks)
  3. Move and stack their blocks on their tile
  4. Change the color of their blocks
  5. Name their tile or group of tiles
  6. Set a "status" of each tile. This status will go out on the @ethereum_feed Twitter account. (To prevent spam, this costs 1 ETH.) NOT YET IMPLEMENTED
  7. Place/withdraw offers on already-owned land tiles
  8. Accept incoming offers on land they own
For more information, see the HowTo page.
What's the object of the game?
There isn't one. Just build stuff.
From the very get-go, I knew I wanted Ξtheria to be an island of hexes upon which players would build things. After that, I wasn't sure. One idea I gave lots (and lots) of thought was to introduce "threats" on the board. These threats -- say, a horde of barbarians -- would move around the board and destroy if tile owners hadn't built proper fortifications.
The problem with that idea was "How do you know if a tile has decent fortifications?" Two possible solutions: 1. A computational assessment or 2. voting. The problem with computational assessement is that it is outside the ability of the Ethereum virtual machine. The problem with voting is it's basically impossible to prevent cheating. Someone could buy several tiles under different accounts and simply upvote himself over and over.
In the end, nothing I came up with was better than simply a game of vanity building. Maybe there'll be an Ξtheria 2 at some point that'll add more "game" features. It'll depend on the reactions and desires of the community.
Motivation, Background and Future
The "awesomeness" (for lack of a better term) of the real world is static. By contrast, the "awesomeness" of virtual worlds is steadily increasing, maybe even exponentially. I believe that, eventually, virtual worlds will become so much better (safer, more efficient, more amazing, less expensive, etc) than the real world, humans will spend most of their lives in them. Many already do. Just ask a WoW addict.
In fact, one of the possible solutions to the Fermi Paradox is that maybe alien civilzations are engrossed in virtual worlds and no longer pay much attention to the real one.
I also believe that like Ebay, Twitter or Facebook, it's likely that network effects will lead to one dominant virtual world where people have their friends, family, possessions and maybe even livelihoods. Escaping it would be nearly impossible. Whoever controls it would have 100% total information about its inhabitants at all times.
That prospect scares me.
Obviously, Ξtheria is a very primitive first step and I don't expect it to become this "dominant virtuosocial network", but I believe it is an important milestone in offering an alternative to whatever Facebook and Google come up with in the next few years.
Update 10/31/2015: As I said in this blog post, when/if I create superimposing versions of Ξtheria, my aim is to never dilute current ownership. I believe that if 4x the amount of land is created in a future version, current owners should be granted 4x more land. I don’t want to ever create new, unowned land.