What is Star Atlas?
Star Atlas is a space-themed, multiplayer gaming metaverse based on the Solana blockchain. It was developed by Automata and allows players to “team up, organize, and fight their way into unknown territories,” its economic paper states.
Launching its first token generation event in August 2021, Star Atlas features in-game assets that embed the concept of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), such that gamers possess complete ownership over and can generate income on their unique assets. Specifically, every item in Star Atlas is a NFT recorded on the blockchain.
This piece is part of CoinDesk’s Metaverse Week
Star Atlas has two tokens that drive all game operations: POLIS and ATLAS.
Players buy ships, NFT-based space vehicles used to explore deep space, from the in-house marketplace to start the game. These spaceships with different details, crews and components are critical in a player’s capability to fight rival factions and discover assets scattered across the Star Atlas metaverse.
Star Atlas gameplay
According to game lore, the year is 2620 and there are three unique factions: MUD, Ustur and ONI.
The MUD Territory governed by humankind is known for their firepower; the Ustur Sector controlled by sentient androids is recognized for their hull strength; and the ONI Region, a consortium of alien races, is acknowledged for their diplomacy.
Gamers select one of the three factions, an irreversible decision for that particular wallet, and engage in the ongoing struggle of space exploration, territorial conquest and political domination occurring in Star Atlas.
The Star Atlas team releases its gameplay in modules, and the only available module to play is their mini-game, titled “SCORE – Tier 0.”
In SCORE, players can stake their assets and earn ATLAS by enlisting their spaceships to aid their faction’s side of the conflict.
After enlisting, players are supposed to keep their spaceships productive with enough fuel, ammunition, tool kits and food to keep their fleets fully functional.
Players can buy and sell in-game assets such as ships and resources in Star Atlas’s marketplace. USDC can be used as payment to exchange in-game goods, but ATLAS is the predominant currency within the NFT marketplace.
Most annoying feature?
In my experience, the most annoying feature of Star Atlas stems from the need for active management in resupplying ships.
While there were some times when I resupplied my spaceships without any issue, there were more times than I would like when I would try to resupply my ship and the transaction would fail, prompting me to try again.
Sometimes I would have to try several times over long periods of time to successfully resupply my one ship.
If players only had one ship, the resupplying process can be tolerable, but for others who have multiple ships in the fleet, resupplying may be extremely painful and cumbersome because players don’t have the option to resupply their entire fleet all at one time.
I went into Star Atlas’ discord channel to discuss my dilemma: The issue was commonly discussed among players there.
Multiple times a week, players would bring up issues of resupplying their ships in the Star Atlas Discord.
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There is a community tool that offers one-click resupply, but the official Star Atlas team did not develop it and has only provided players with the capability to resupply one ship at a time.
Moreover, the issue of resupplying one’s ships tends to get exacerbated when Solana is experiencing congestion issues, and even worse, players cannot resupply or participate in the Star Atlas world when there is an outage on the Solana blockchain, which has happened multiple times.
On a tangent note, loading my Solana Phantom wallet with enough funds to participate was also annoying. Without SOL in my Phantom wallet, I as a player could not choose a faction since this initial action step requires a small SOL fee.
When I tried to send SOL from Coinbase to my Phantom wallet, Coinbase notified me saying, “Due to intermittent degraded performance on the external SOL network, send / receives may fail at elevated rates.” Just like resupplying my ship, it wasn’t until after I tried multiple times was I successful in depositing SOL in my Phantom wallet.
I was most surprised about how the gameplay of Star Atlas’s SCORE only involved players buying ships, enlisting them to their faction’s fleet, earning ATLAS and resupplying ships with in-game resources because I typically don’t associate staking with gameplay.
Reflecting a similar sentiment in their SCORE guide, Star Atlas guild and majority stakeholder of Star Atlas’s creator, Aephia Industries, said, “Star Atlas is not yet a Play-2-Earn game, as there is not really much playing involved.”
Moreover, I initially thought the gameplay would be more than what it is currently because of three metrics: a roughly $32 million combined market cap of POLIS and ATLAS, a player base of more than 95,000 users and a cumulative total asset value of more than $105 million USDC for the three factions.
With millions of dollars and close to 100,000 players, I thought gameplay would be more extensive, and I was surprised to learn that the current gameplay was limited to just a mini-game.
While the market cap data of POLIS and ATLAS comes from CoinGecko, the other statistics are self-reported coming directly from Star Atlas’ faction page. Additionally, the metric for Star Atlas’ sizable player base does not detail if the number of players playing is for a given day, week, month or all time.
The future of the Star Atlas metaverse
To address the lack of extensive gameplay, the Star Atlas team on May 13 announced its next major browser gameplay module, SCREAM, an acronym that stands for “ship configuration, resource extraction and missions.”
SCREAM “will be the first time players can use their ships to fight for the future of their faction with fun, active, repeatable, on-chain gameplay with earning potential,” said Star Atlas’ recent issue. “Our features will execute and resolve on the blockchain, from attacking starbases to harvesting resources, even the location of your fleets,” the team added.
While players in SCORE are rewarded for enlisting their ships to their faction’s fleet, players in SCREAM will be rewarded in proportion to the value that they generated for their faction via their actions in war and battles.
When SCREAM is launched in a few months, SCORE will slowly be discontinued, said Aephia Industries.
Star Atlas’s best feature is its community.
The Star Atlas community on Discord has more than 172,000 members where someone at almost any time of day is willing to chat, while its Twitter account has more than 300,000 followers where thousands of people consistently join their Twitter Spaces, such as the one on May 20.
More than just receiving technical support every time I needed help navigating through Star Atlas, I experienced an inclusive community where players made it easy to feel a sense of belonging within the overall Star Atlas community.
Each time someone responded to my questions about gameplay, alleviating my troubles, I was grateful someone cared enough to help me learn how to play the game correctly.
It also helps that the official Star Atlas team releases updates on their medium page to facilitate communal engagement and support.
Official gameplay has not been released and yet its players are still hanging around, whether it’s in the game, Discord or Twitter.
Community is the heart and soul of legitimate Web 3 organizations, and because of the demonstrated care Star Atlas community members displayed, it is easy to recognize how they are Star Atlas’ best feature.
Overall, Star Atlas was not my favorite game to play currently due to the limited gameplay and trouble I had resupplying my ships. Despite that, it was nice to be a part of the Star Atlas community, and so I am interested in seeing how Star Atlas unfolds in the upcoming future.
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