Will Wright, the legendary designer behind games from SimCity to The Sims, has opened up about his mysterious new game. It's named Proxi, and it's some sort of world-building AI simulation game inspired by "how the brain stores memories". Normally news on a new Will Wright game would be cause for celebration but ah jeez he's fallen for NFTs, oh no.
Proxi is... some sort of creation-focused thing. It was originally announced for mobile, though it's not clear if it'll exclusively be so whenever it does eventually arrive. Proxi will invite players to build 3D scenes representing pivotal memories of their lives, using 3D and 2D assets and sound. You have to define memories using keywords, and you link memories as roads on a world, which Wright says on its site "becomes a resource allocation game, much like SimCity", whatever that means. And there's an AI to analyse all the connections and try to build a model of how you think?
"The ultimate goal is that we build an avatar of your id, your subconscious, that can now go out and interact with other Proxis," Wright said in a video interview with Forte. "It might be your friends, your family, it might be historic Proxis, it might be Albert Einstein, or ficticious Proxis, it could be Horatio Hornblower or whatever."
The site adds that historic characters will be created by players, and yes, "We will have leaderboards to see who is Marx's best friends, etc." And Wright says it'll have some sort of minigames based on how different people construct memories of the same event?
Basically, it sounds like an elaborate version of filling a Facebook page with "5 years ago" memories, Picrew self-portraits, Buzzfeed quiz results, and declarations about yourself based upon astrology and Myers-Briggs personality types. But 'on the blockchain'.
Every asset in Proxi will be owned by players. All the bits and pieces that memories are made of (as well as the memories themselves) are assets whose ownership is tracked on the blockchain, each individual instance a separate object tracked as NFTs with histories of creators and owners. And Proxi will have an in-game market to buy and sell assets using the in-game currency, named Gallium. The dev team are making some assets themselves, but say they "can't possibly make all the thousands of things everyone will think of to create memories" so they're relying on players to make the rest. Asset creators will be able to 'mint' quantities of items and sell them for Gallium, paying fees in Gallium on the way.
Gallium costs real money to buy (100 Gallium is $1) but you won't be able to take Gallium back out for real money. You won't be able to sell Proxi items on external marketplaces either. So while both the developers and the company running its blockchain backend will make money, player-creators will only get rich in... kudos? Bit of a raw deal compared to games like Roblox and Second Life, which similarly rely on players making content but do let them make real money.
Even if creators want to give assets away for free, it sounds like they'll still need to pay Gallium. An FAQ says, "It will cost in-game currency to mint, trade, or place an asset on the marketplace - but you will be able to adjust the in-game price." This whole situation sounds deeply unfun but it sure does involve the latest tech buzzword.
NFTs are the latest tech to excite people who feel slighted by having missed their chance to make easy Bitcoin millions. They're most known from 'cryptoart' sales where artists sell bad procedurally generated art to scammers who hope to get rich quick by selling it to other scammers who hope to get rich quick by selling it to other scammers who etc. They don't actually sell the art, because it's just a picture on the Internet, they sell a record on a server saying "oh yeah this person totally owns this art". It's the digital equivalent of selling acres of land on the Moon, often with the added bonus of burning obscene amounts of energy to process transactions.
Everest Pipkin has written about how NFTs and cryptoart are an ecological and cultural disaster in an article succinctly titled Here Is The Article You Can Send To People When They Say "But The Environmental Issues with Cryptoart Will Be Solved Soon, Right?" so there's a primer for you.
"Our intention is not that we build a speculative market where you're now selling your stupid JPEG for a million dollars," Wright said in the video, "the intention is that we use this technology in a way that our community becomes a wholesale part of the game development."
It's hard to believe this when alongside the game's announcement, they launched a one-day sale of random boxes of Memory Objects that will be tagged as "First Edition". And the whole idea behind minting is that you can 'create' limited quantities. Sure, Proxi will initially have no way to cash out, but another FAQ hints that its objects "may have future value". So the new game from the creator of one of the most popular games ever is selling 'special' and artificially scarce items which they say might one day be worth something. Baby, you've already built a speculative market.
As much as the core memory-building idea of Proxi interests me, it sounds like it's built on poisoned ground. I'll stick with the Picrews.