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Special Edition: The Mercurian Project
An interview with Kingmaker on his new MHU-based project
This is MetaVault, the best way to keep up with the Pixel Vault universe: PUNKS Comic, MetaHero, United Planets, $PUNKS, $POW, and lots of DAOs.
Web3 is kinda magical. One day you create your first tweet thread or newsletter or podcast — and all the sudden you’re making new internet frens.
A couple of weeks back Kingmaker reached out and wanted to talk about a new project he was building called The Mercurian Project. It’s a multi-layered puzzle, exploration game based on the MetaHero Universe. We jumped into a Google Meet and I interviewed him for over an hour! It was a really fun chat about building in the Web3 space, the tech involved to pull off innovative ideas, and his new project.
SpaceWalk (Space): Let's start with your background. You've released a couple of Web3 projects and obviously have a pretty deep tech background. Tell me how you got started in Web3.
And now I found myself really loving this so much, and the work and the people and all the interesting ideas, and just the blank slate that this industry is — it’s inspired me to spend a lot of time building in Web3. I started a Web3 company and last year I did my first project, which was Crazy Crows Chess Club. And that was so much fun and the community is super cool. Obviously, very related to chess and that community, which is also massive. People who love chess, love NFTs, and love art. It was a nice combination, and a nice entrance to the industry. We're coming up on our one-year anniversary and have a little bit of a phase two coming for that. And so it's really exciting to just be around for a year, right?
Space: You released Crazy Crows in August of last year, right during the craze of JPEG Summer!
KM: Yeah, it was so crazy back then — so many projects were coming out every day. But now it's like, man, I can't even count them!
Space: I know it’s funny, I use Zeneca as the touchstone to understand how early we are in the NFT space. Last fall he told this story about being contacted by the Cool Cats team prior to their release. And his answer to them was basically: the market is pretty saturated with cat projects, uh, good luck! He wasn’t being a prick, just identifying this feeling that we all share where we think the market is always oversaturated with new projects. And yet, we’re so early, and with 100% certainty, there is room for the next massive blue chip to hit the scene and grow rapidly.
KM: Yeah, that's actually such a good point. If we sort of zoom out and look at this little bubble that we're in, we are early in the grander scheme of things.
Space: So you released Crazy Crows, then last fall you released a generative marketplace on Polygon called Meraki?
KM: Yeah a little bit later, you know, just totally inspired by Art Blocks and because I'm a big art lover as well, and I love so many of the artists that are out there creating this amazing stuff, like the Ringers collection that was like the very like, that's the first exposure I ever had to generative art. And then Art Blocks exploded, there were gas wars with every drop. And so when they went to the Dutch Dutch auction style, it really was like, “Oh, man, you know, this isn't really how it should be, it's sort of catering towards the whales and everything else.”
So I said, OK, well, how can we mitigate the gas issue, still allow people to pay what they want, how they wanted. And so Polygon seemed like the right solution. We built out an on-chain generative platform. What we've done is, I think, pretty innovative in terms of our backend, where we have a built-in editor, the artists can edit all their code on the test net, right in the backend with script validators. We wrote our own SDK from the ground up. So the artists just molds their code to the SDK, and boom, it's on-chain. Polygon is the cheapest, so cheap fractions of a penny to do the transactions. And yeah, the infrastructure has just been really great.
KM: We've had a lot of applications, we're still getting a lot of applications. And it's fun. It hasn't been getting a lot of attention — we launched right at the crux of this whole downturn that generative art had, where everything just started to go down. And you know, fxhash launched around the same time. I think we had bad timing. But we're still plugging away and we're getting some really good artists like the next one that's coming out is so good. I'm so excited for that. And so yeah, it's been a really cool project.
Space: Before we dive into The Mercurian Project, how’d you get into Pixel Vault?
KM: It’s hard to remember! Ha. Maybe it was the CryptoPunks rising that brought my attention to Punks Comic and the fractionalization of the 16 Punks. And as you may know, I am a Test Ape.
Space: Oh yeah, that’s cool!
KM: I think there were 14 of us who tried to mint PC1 before the contract was live — we tried to buy and lost our money. But thankfully, PV reimbursed us! And the rest is history. I bought a couple of comics and I haven't left the ecosystem since. I just loved it from from the very beginning.
I had no thoughts of how big PV would be. But it's so detailed now. And I love the game theory and all the secrets and everything. And so it was right up my alley. I think PV has always been my home base since I've started collecting NFTs.
Space: As outlined in my PV 3.0 post, Pixel Vault has a ton of assets in their ecosystem — over 220k. And I think they have an opportunity to use the current assets in interesting ways, combine them, burn them. And then I get a tap on the shoulder from you, and you’re doing exactly that: building an interactive game based on the MetaHero Universe planets! So if you could, frame what the project is, and then help me understand why this was your approach — why use the planets to build a game?
KM: That's actually a good way to approach it because I didn't want to do a derivative. I didn't want to base it off of a MetaHero or anything like that — I wanted to create a separate world that the only sort of connection would be that PV holders would get some level of advantage. And in this case, Mercury holders get a free mint. And we have a ton of plans later. And so I don't know how much I should say. But there's gonna be a bunch of free benefits for other planet holders, for the PVFD, for basically all PV assets going forward. Look, I have spent so much time thinking about this!
Space: Ok, and where’d the idea come from for the project?
KM: I'm a huge Dune fan. I've read all the books multiple times. That sort of inspired me to create something like this, but in the Web3 world. This idea just sort of came to me and I've been expanding it ever since. What we've released is just the very, very beginning of it, which I hope people enjoy.
But the main idea is sort of like not just to be another world, another story. There is a story, but the way that people find out about it is they have to work for it — they have to like solve riddles and puzzles and sort through disinformation and misdirection. And then once they get to that point, they work their way through the story.
I learned a lot because I tried to be innovative and and use new technologies or new ways of implementing things with with the smart contracts and with the Web3 front ends — using React and Next.js. I’m trying to bring a lot of that over like in PHP and stuff, which isn't very Web3 friendly at the moment. But it's fun and I'm learning a lot.
Space: Yeah, can we stay on the tech side for a second? I used to be a shitty software developer in a previous life, so I’m definitely curious about how you approached the tech side to achieve some of the cool features you’ve built in to the project.
KM: So we did the snapshot, we used The Graph. They have a website where you can just post the different API endpoints and it makes it a lot easier than developing your own and deploying it. There are 832 Mercury tokens out in the wild currently, sitting in 549 wallets. We grabbed all 549 addresses. And so with that snapshot, we've done a Merkle tree whitelist — Merkle trees usually just include the address, but since I wanted everybody to claim, so if you had five Mercury tokens, you could claim five of these ancient devices, which I'll talk about in a second. And so we had to include not just the dress, but also the amount that this person held.
And then we create something that's called a leaf node. And it's a combination, that is a hex proof of a combination of those two things, the amount and the address. And that took a long time for me, you know, a probably a better developer could have done it more much more quickly. So once we put that into the contract, if your address is on that whitelist, you can now mint on the website. The address plus the amount was where the difficulty lied.
Space: Ok, let’s shift over to the story a bit. You mentioned an ancient device, what’s that?!
KM: And so the idea is that there were humans who can now explore other planets. And so these “advanced recon teams” went out to all the planets. They were just going there to check everything out, set up a small base, and prepare for the pioneers who are from Earth — all of them are from Earth and they've all volunteered to go out and explore these planets. And so the group that has left for mercury is arriving.
I won't give any of the story away, because you can read the whole story on Twitter, we've been making all these posts that are very cryptic, and it tells the story if you can figure out how to decipher it. But basically, they land on the planet. And that's when they start discovering these ancient devices. And we have some art and stuff to show how that happens. And once you claim the device, you just have to pay gas. And we've made the contracts as optimized as we could possibly make them.
Space: What’s $MAG?
KM: Ok, as soon as you claim your device, you don't have to stake it, you don't have to do anything, it automatically starts yielding magnesium. Magnesium is one of the most abundant elements on the surface of Mercury. It automatically yields and these devices can be leveled up. So you have an NFT — an ERC721 — that starts out at level one, and it yields one $MAG per day. And you can level all the way up to level five. There may be hidden levels after that, but I won't spoil anything.
But as you level up, you yield more $MAG per level. And so you can claim from the website anytime and as many times as you want. And again, we've optimized the contract pretty well for that. And on the website, you'll be able to see each device that you own how much magnesium is in it, and it updates automatically.
So you can you can see all of that. And you can use that $MAG to upgrade the device. Well, the question is, why do you want $MAG? You’ll be able to use it — along with $POW and $PUNKS on our marketplace. We're going to create a small, boutique marketplace, that's going to have all of this really cool stuff that's related to PV, like Twitter banners that are based in the PV universe or around characters — and maybe even put your own character in all of these different cool things.
Space: Wow. This is extremely well thought out. It has a lot of layers. And from various tweets I’ve seen, it looks like there may be hidden treasures?!
KM: I've hidden clues in a bunch of places — a lot in plain sight, a lot not in plain sight. All this $POW, $PUNKS, $MAG, MP2s are all hidden in these treasuries and the treasuries are wallet. The way to get into a wallet is with a seed phrase. And so I've created a whole bunch of wallets with a whole bunch of seed phrases. And I've hidden the seed phrases in a lot of places. And so, yeah, the fun part I think about is that it's all about the PV ecosystem, right? It's like let's reward the people for buying these planets and participating and having fun.
I love building stuff. And I love this story that I've come up with. There's a lot more to it. And this is just sort of like how I see it beginning. And if this goes well, I already have the idea of like how this expands to the other planets, and other planets will have ancient devices as well.
Thanks to Kingmaker for the chat! This project oozes Web3. The fact that it’s built entirely off of existing PV assets and extends the world in a completely different direction is what this space is all about. Love it. Check it out and let me know what you think!
(Full disclosure: Kingmaker was nice enough to give me an Ancient Device. This was an unexpected offer more than a week after we spoke. I’m not into shilling projects for freebies. I’m excited to support a PV community member who’s building cool stuff in the space.)
Some Disclaimers: None of this is financial advice. DYOR. And yes, I’m obviously a PV collector and long-term hodlr. Not a whale by any measure (maybe a squid?).