New Game Theory Who Dis?
We believe that Crypto Punks will go down as one of the most meaningful art projects in history when it’s all said and done. The attention to detail, the innovation, the way it took the world years to realize what they had actually created. It was amazing.
One of the best pieces about the project was how they organized rarity. They essentially told us what was rare. It was pre-determined and it was fun to figure out over the years just how cool it was how they set everything up. And the NFT community copied it, because it worked.
Now, NFTs are all measured off rarity, they are measured off what is unique about the individual piece of art. As we continue to measure how rarity is mapped out, over time across many projects, there have been variations and forks of the original rarity models. However, as it continues to play out, it becomes more and more gamed, not gamified.
In the earlier days of NFTs, each product was bringing something new to the table. Avastars championed the layering of SVGs with on chain meta-data and the ability to find and discover via scrolling. It was dope, and it was different. It’s still one of the coolest NFT projects to ever exist. However, like projects that came after it, bots figured out how to game the scroll on rarity and it made the discoverability of unique Avastars less effective. Again, it was gamed, and no longer gamified.
**Edit: Someone thought I was throwing shade at Avastars here and I have nothing but respect for that project. The comment was in reference to why this drop dynamic won’t be successful for future projects that copy the model because it has already been gamed. It’s still one of the most successful projects of all time when it comes to the history of NFTs.**
Hashmasks played with nomenclature via an ERC20 token & they championed a fun and novel way to release NFTs on a bonding curve. Other projects copied it until it was clear you could just front everything with bots & it wasn’t an effective launch mechanism anymore. Again, it was gamed, and no longer gamified.
The point here as the overaching message is that something is unique and works until it doesn’t. With the introduction of many avatar & PFP projects, you have to compete on art (which is subjective), influencer alignment, or different rarity structures and drop approaches. However, there isn’t quite as much being introduced from a technology perspective as some of the drops that got us to where we are today.
That’s not to say the projects aren’t cool. Most of them are focusing on rarity and Meebits and BAYC are every bit as cool as projects that came before them from an aesthetic point of view and the adherence of the community to take something far beyond what the original creators could or would have done themselves. Even Meebits introduced a cool marketplace that let you scroll and access rarity in an innovative way. They also started playing with the Metaverse crossover which was a dope and fresh foot forward which Kongs expanded on, just yesterday. However, it’s my personal opinion and not that of Universe and Polymorphs that you can only have so many unique takes on the same thing before it gets played out. We also have too much cool technology to play around with at this point.
So we attempted something new. Something different.
Polymorphs and How We Got Here.
Now that we went over some of the historical NFT drops for avatar/PFP projects, I want to explain where Polymorphs stemmed from. It’s important to understand where we are on our line of questioning & assumptions when we set out to launch Polymorphs.
We started with the concept of whether or not traits could be changed, or effected in some way. How would this work and where would it fit in within some of the other cool projects in the ecosystem? What if rarity wasn’t set by pre-determined traits? Better yet, what if it was fluid?
We went into detail about the unique dynamics of the project and we did very little to pre-market it, purposefully, to avoid hype. Having introduced both BarnBridge and Non-Fungible Pepe into the ecosystem, both of which were met with insane degrees of hype, we knew that pre-marketing would blow things out of proportion. Even at the time of the Polymorph drop, we had 9 figures staked on the Universe yield farming platform. It was hard to say “we didn’t expect people to notice” as an honest approach.
So we just started teasing the word Polymorphs, gave a drop date, and 5 minutes before the drop we released “the docs.”
Nobody had time to figure out what was released because the 10,000 Polymorphs sold out in 29 minutes, which means, at least from my assumption that the average person aped blindly. And here we were, left to pick up the pieces and deal with the FUD because these technologically advanced pieces of art were not quite like anything the ecosystem had seen before.
And in came the FUD which resulted in me going on a Twitter Spaces with Beanie & Gmoney to answer some difficult questions to an NFT community that was somewhere on a scale of angry, confused, and excited.
New Game Theory
As we started to answer some of the aforementioned questions in development, we realised we were building something special and different. Hopefully, you went and read the article I’ve linked twice now so I don’t need to go through all the dynamics in detail so I can just start from that assumption.
Polymorphs are dope because no single trait is unique. What makes Polymorphs unique is driven by community usage, personal aesthetic preferences, game theory, cross pollination of traits, and various other factors that people will likely talk about for years like they did with Punks.
Some new concepts came out:
Virgins — an Original Mint Polymorphs (Never been morphed or scrambled)
Full sets — Polymorphs that have, for instance a full astronaut suit
Empty sets — Polymorphs with 1–2 traits that make them look unique and cool in their own right.
However, at onset, all of the Virgins looked closer to floor punks. Because people didn’t understand the game theory yet.
In order to make your Polymorphs look awesome, you need to expect to put in ETH and put in work. This is far closer to Proof of Work than other rarity mechanisms. Inherently, that in and of itself makes these cool. Because it puts the power to drive rarity and aesthetics back into the hands of the owner of the generative art. That also means that Polymorphs will look cooler and cooler over time, not worse.
It’s COMPLETELY different game theory than what we are used to working with, so some NFT collectors simply didn’t know what to think, so there was obvious backlash. And then it snowballed.
It’s also understandable that the ecosystem couldn’t figure out completely different drop dynamics and game theory in 29 minutes as the Polymorphs sold out. Since we didn’t have time to educate and pre-market, we are doing that now because we want people to know what they are and what they do.
Governance of Polymorphs
One thing that is important to note is that everything we did with Polymorphs is open source and creative commons. Meaning you don’t have to go through Universe to make derivative work (albeit we hope people will work with us as we release platform features). So it’s important to note when we say, “governance” we are talking about the fact the xyzDAO has the ability to edit and change things about Polymorphs like introduce new genomic features, change aspects about scrambling costs and the slope of the morphing bonding curve, and general aspects to how morphing and scrambling proceeds are managed going forward.
For instance, there wasn’t a solid understanding of how the Genome worked. For reference when we launched Polymorphs, we mapped an entire genome of traits and only introduced a few. We can change that in the future, which is also a unique aspect of this project. However, in order to do this, we didn’t want to be the Gods of Polymorphs who could introduce whatever we wanted at any time.
So we put the xyzDAO in charge, since the xyzDAO funded the development of Polymorphs. This also created some confusion because as word spread that the ecosystem would be able to govern Polymorphs, they started asking why the Polymorphs weren’t a piece of the governance. While that was a fair assessment, we never advertised that Polymorph owners themselves would govern the outcome of the project.
This has to do partially with our opinion on where that would sit from a regulatory perspective as we wanted people to buy Polymorphs because they liked them as art and technology, not because of additional efforts or utility that was promised outside of that. Less so than that, when we launched the project, we viewed the Polymorph and the XYZ community as synonymous, because when we launched the project, it was. And Universe & XYZ was a lot more encompassing as a project than just Polymorphs. This was another piece that I don’t think the ecosystem had the time to figure out and understand in 30 minutes.
Not only are Polymorphs novel because of the radical change in rarity & game theory, they are also novel because a community is in charge of where they go long term. Not me, not my team, and not a VC firm. A community of people around the world who are excited about NFTs decide where it all goes from here utilizing on chain governance. And that, in and of itself is a radical new feature and side effect of how we launched the way we did.
Well now that I can loosely talk about what my plans are on this without it being a predetermined promise that was made, I can talk at least in terms that I absolutely love this project and want to keep building it out with the community. Some of the haters said the art sucked, I disagree. So do a lot of other people. And I want to see what the Polymorphs look like with additional traits and I want to see how the ecosystem determines rarity going forward. One example of that is the virgin Polymorphs. I viewed them as floor punks, some people covet them, & that is cool in and of itself because the core team, and more so myself as a singular entity, is no longer in control of where this goes.
I can give my opinion that I think we should add dev resources and design resources to the project since we have over 800 ETH in the treasury now & I don’t want to cannibalize the long term vision of Universe to focus on one singular drop. But we will need to make these decisions together.
I also do think the Polymorph community should get an airdrop of $XYZ tokens so they can help govern what governs their Polymorphs. This wasn’t agreed to or insinuated beforehand, but it feels like the right thing to do. One massive asterisk I will give is that I think this should NEVER happen again in future NFT drops because we don’t want to get into the scenario where buying Universe NFT drops insinuates that they are a sideways distribution of the XYZ token. So I listened the first time and will support this movement but I will violently oppose the ecosystem letting this become something habitual. I hope other people understand the ethical reasoning behind why “this should be the only time we ever do this” is my stance.
In that regard, we have been planning on doing an airdrop to our community for a long while in order to let the people who worked with us early on Universe to have governance over the platform. That included people who were involved with the Fallen Amphibian project and what it morphed into.
This may annoy some of them, but before we memorialize this for eternity and as our last attempt to appease all parties before we hand the treasury, protocol, and governance completely over to the ecosystem, we’ve decided to add Polymorph bidders into this airdrop.
Before you rush to go buy Polymorphs or the haters say this is an attempt to affect their price — this is based on a snapshot of ownership as of this evening. This will not be prior or forward looking. There are effectively xxx Polymorph owners with eligible wallets. And we will not add any past this point no matter how much people complain. You all can figure it out post handoff if you want to change that decision, which again, I will likely be in EXTREME opposition of.
This will diminish the airdrop size for the Discord community. However, with a Discord of thousands of users, we weren’t expecting only 300 or so people to claim the airdrop so we want wider decentralization of the protocol. Since there are less Discord airdrop participants than there are Polymorph owners we are breaking it down in the following capacity from the original 8% airdrop:
2% NFP bidders
3% Polymorph owners
3% Discord community (tracked at snapshot in February)
We think this is the best thing to do, but understand, nobody is going to be full on happy which is often how compromises work. It’s more important we retain the community and build from here as we are still a nascent project. We simply don’t want the XYZ & Polymorph community to be divergent, we want them to be aligned, and the same.
That’s It. Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.