My First Impressions of Alpha Season 3 – Ryan Schultz

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I have written about The Sandbox before on this blog (here and here), and mentioned it in passing in other blogposts, but this weekend I decided to actually pay a visit to the third alpha test of this blockchain-based flatscreen virtual world, to see what all the fuss was about.

The Sandbox (a subsidary of Animoca Brands, a Hong Kong-based software and venture capital company) describes itself as “a community-driven platform where creators can monetize voxel assets and gaming experiences on the blockchain.” It is what I consider the fourth major blockchain-based metaverse platform, after Decentraland, Somnium Space, and Voxels (formerly known as Cryptovoxels). Please note that I am only referring to those projects which have already launched an actual platform, which you can visit and explore as an avatar! There are, of course, countless other blockchain-based metaverse projects which are still in the pre-launch stages (some of which may never launch during the current crypto winter!).

The Sandbox is currently running a series of alpha tests; the current one is called Alpha Season 3, and it is open to anybody who wishes to come kick the tires on an interim version of the product. Alpha Season 3 launched on August 24th, 2022, and will apparently run for ten weeks. According to the detailed FAQ documents:

The Sandbox Alpha Season events will allow players the opportunity to be the first to experience gameplay, social hubs and play-to-earn in The Sandbox’s metaverse.

Alpha Seasons will be multi-week events, where players can potentially earn $SAND rewards – and possibly NFTs (non-fungible tokens) – just for playing games. Players will have the opportunity to explore The Sandbox Metaverse for the first time through the experiences and social hubs available for the period that the season is running.

Note that Alpha Seasons are not the official full release of The Sandbox game. They are Alpha testing events whereby The Sandbox can collect community feedback and so on to determine if any changes or new features need to be added to The Sandbox metaverse.

All you need to do is set up an account (i.e. a username and password), connected to a crypto wallet (the four options supported are MetaMask, Coinbase, Bitsky, and Venly). According to the FAQ:

The Sandbox utilizes blockchain technology and therefore a wallet is required in order for you to be able to interact with this blockchain technology. Your wallet will securely authorise your access to the website and help you to keep track of any transactions that you perform.

It will also act as storage for any ERC-20 tokens that you have from The Sandbox, such as $SAND and GEMs, as well as any virtual goods that you own (ERC-1155), such as LAND and ASSETs. For example, you might earn some $SAND via The Sandbox’s Play2Earn features and will need a place to store it.

A cryptocurrency wallet provides you with true ownership of everything that you purchase, earn or win on The Sandbox’s platform. You will always have control and access to these virtual goods as long as you remain in control of your wallet.

Aah, yes, the famous “decentralized” aspect of NFT-based metaverse platforms! Of course, in the unlikely event that The Sandbox should ever fold, your “LAND and ASSETs” will probably not be transferable to any other blockchain-based metaverse.

Having just moved my MetaMask wallets over from my old personal computer to my new one (one for Voxels and a second one for Decentraland), I chose to link my Voxels account to MetaMask, even though I am not planning to purchase any of their cryptocurrency (called SAND), to buy NFT-based avatars, assets, or land from their Marketplace.

The Sandbox’s NFT marketplace

If you wish, instead of a generic avatar, you can choose an NFT you already own from a number of compatible NFT projects, such as the Bored Ape Yacht Club, the World of Women, Snoop Dogg, etc.:

The Sandbox has a downloadable client for both Windows and Mac users, but there’s also a web-based component (for example, the map of the Alpha Season 3 land, and the avatar customization tools):

The Sandbox map for Alpha Season 3
The (non-NFT) avatar customization screen

The first time you enter The Sandbox, you are automatically dropped off at a place called Start Here (or the Alpha Lobby), where you are given several quests to complete in order to gain Experience Points. You use your W, A, S, and D keys to move around, your spacebar to jump, and the E key to interact with NPCs and various objects, and receive quests.

The first two quests I did were to collect a series of bathroom plungers with rabbit ears (?!), and to “inspect” a collection of ten Bored Ape yacht Club NFTs in a gallery, which consisted of walking to each picture, then pressing the E key when standing in front of a pedestal placed in front of each. I found it a rather underwhelming experience.

The Sandbox style is Minecraftesque, a bit of a mix of those of Roblox, Voxels and Decentraland. Here is my avatar standing in front of an amusement park ride in the starting lands. The lighting gives everything a crisp, clear look.

It’s clear that a LOT of hard work has gone into the design of the worlds I visited! Here’s another look at the Start Here lands, showing a variety of fantastical animated creatures:

As I mentioned, there are Non-Playing Characters dotted through the landscape, with whom you interact using the E key, to roleplay through a pre-scripted conversation, or perhaps pick up a new quest. Here’s a selfie of me with Snoop Dogg (no, not the actual celebrity, just an NPC!).

To travel to other lands, you need to pull up the web-based map and click on a destination, which then teleports you to the new land you have selected (there is a noticeable delay in the client as the new land loads; the topmost image in this blogpost is an example of what the loading screen looks like in your client software while you wait for everything to load, before you can enter).

The South China Morning Post experience plunks you down in Hong Kong harbour (note the beggar and his dog on the right)

The Sandbox has numerous partners listed on its website, a real hodge-podge that ranges from celebrities like Snoop Dogg and the DJ deadmau5, to corporations like Adidas and Atari, to publications like the Tatler and the South China Morning Post! The Sandbox has also partnered with well-known children’s brands like the Smurfs and the Care Bears!

I found the juxtaposition of PG13 content (like the marijuana leaf above the Snoop Dogg logo) and the cartoony avatars and frankly silly quests to be a bit off-putting (the Terms of Use clearly state that The Sandbox users must be 18+, but obviously there’s nothing stopping children from lying about their age to access it).

For example, one of the lands you can visit in Alpha Season 3 is a game called You’re a Big Boy Now, where the set-up is the following: it’s 24 hours before the end of the world, and you leave behind your very pregnant girlfriend to travel to an epic end-of-the-world party you’ve heard about, in order to get blasted out of your mind on drugs and alcohol.

Not exactly on the same level as the Smurfs or the Care Bears, right? Why even bother to have those well-known children’s brands as official partners if your metaverse is restricted to those age 18 and up? It makes absolutely no sense at all. I expect that The Sandbox, given its similarity in look-and-feel to such popular children’s platforms like Roblox and Minecraft, is going to have a potential problem on its hands if they can’t find a way to keep the kids away. (Perhaps The Sandbox would be wise to take a look at the history of Second Life, where one way they dealt with the issue was to have completely separate lands for those under 18, although they later merged them with the mainland.)

Anyway, I can now honestly say that I’ve set (virtual) foot in all four of the major blockchain-based metaverse platforms released to date: Decentraland, Voxels, Somnium Space, and The Sandbox. I will continue to write about these platforms as they evolve and grow over time, and will also keep an eye on the many other blockchain-based metaverse platforms that have not yet launched! Stay tuned.

If you are interested in The Sandbox and want to learn more, you can visit their website, read through their one-page summary of the project, peruse their detailed FAQ and their blog on Medium, or follow them on various social media: Discord, Telegram, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch.

Liked it? Then please consider supporting Ryan Schultz on Patreon! Even as little as US$1 a month unlocks exclusive patron benefits. Thank you!



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