Exoplanets are planets outside of our Solar System; planets that orbit a star that’s not the Sun. They’re difficult to see directly, because of the bright glare of the star they float around. Instead, astronomers detect exoplanets by the “wobble” of its star. If a star doesn’t perfectly spin around its own center, it means there’s a significant force of gravity, i.e. an exoplanet, orbiting around the star. Hundreds of exoplanets have been discovered this way.

However, the wobble method only detects big, Jupiter-like planets; planets that have enough mass to distort the spin of its own star. It doesn’t detect smaller, Earth-like exoplanets. The Kepler space telescope, which NASA launched in 2009, uses a different method to detect exoplanets: the transit method. Whenever a planet passes in front of a star, it’s called a transit. It blocks out some of the star’s light, reducing its brightness. The Kepler telescope measures the brightness of a star to determine whether a planet is passing in front of it.

The transit of Mercury in front of the Sun

Since June 2019, 4,003 exoplanets have been discovered and confirmed. 77.1% of those were discovered using the transmit method and 18.9% using the wobble method (more formally called the radial velocity method). Considering the first exoplanet was only discovered in 1995, that’s remarkable progress in little time. It has intensified the search for extraterrestrial life, particularly on those exoplanets that orbit a star’s habitable zone, where liquid water can exist.

The topic of space and exoplanets is endlessly fascinating to me, and the founders of ExoPlanets must have thought the same. ExoPlanets is a decentralized game on the Ethereum blockchain, where it’s the player’s goal to collect exoplanets, build space stations, launch spaceships, and evolve life.

Buying an Exoplanet

The first step to playing ExoPlanets is to buy an exoplanet. You need at least one to gain full access to all the game’s features. It’s a bit confusing at first, because there are two tabs where you can browse through exoplanets: the Galaxy tab and the Marketplace tab. In both tabs, you can filter through planets by creation date, price, Crypto Match, and life rate (more on those last two filters later).

However, most of the planets in the Galaxy tab aren’t for sale. The Marketplace tab exclusively lists exoplanets for sale. And they’re expensive. The price for the cheapest exoplanet for sale today is 0.32 ETH. That’s $86.4 in today’s Ethereum price and a thump on the nose for anyone but the most hardcore blockchain gamers.

The three cheapest exoplanets

I don’t understand why so many DGames have such expensive DGame collectibles. If DGame developers want mainstream gamers to start playing their games, they’ll need to do some serious soul-searching. Are DGame collectibles so expensive because developers haven’t figured out a good way to keep prices low? Because their games are aimed at speculators instead of gamers? Because today’s DGamers are willing to pay that much money for their collectibles?

I appreciate that there are only a limited number of exoplanets in the game (only ever as discovered in real life) which will drive up the price if demand is high enough, but paying $86.4 for a single exoplanet isn’t justifiable in the slightest. I would’ve barked at anything over $10, let alone something that’s approaching $100. It comes across as profiteering.

DGame developers, if you’re reading this, please realize that mainstream adoption of your DGame won’t happen if the basic requirements to play your game cost more than a few dollars. Lure gamers in with cheap or even free collectibles, then make your game so compelling that they end up spending tens or even hundreds of dollars. I didn’t spend a single dollar on Steem Monsters when I first started playing. Since then, I’ve spent more than $150.

Good. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get back to the review. Fortunately, the price of its planets is my biggest problem with ExoPlanets. The game has some redeeming factors that are worth talking about and that are, in fact, quite innovative.

One such factor is Crypto Match. Every in-game exoplanet is linked to a top cryptocurrency listed on CoinMarketCap. A planet’s value will be partly influenced by the price of the cryptocurrency that it’s linked to. Bitcoin, for example, gained approximately 20% in value over the last month (what an investment). Because of Crypto Match, exoplanets linked to Bitcoin now have a life rate of 20%.

Satoshi Prime is one of only two exoplanets linked to Bitcoin

Life rate determines how quickly your planet will go through the 7 evolutionary stages of development:

  • Rock planet;
  • Water formation;
  • Single cell evolution;
  • Photosynthesis forms;
  • Complex life forms;
  • Intelligent civilization;
  • Space technology age.

You want your planet to reach the space technology age as soon as possible, because that’s when you can send out spaceships to other planets and galaxies.

Another thing I like about ExoPlanet is that each individual planet has a link to the Wikipedia page of that particular exoplanet (if it has one) and a link to the NASA Exoplanet Archive, where you can learn about the planet’s properties (in very scientific terms).

Kepler-62f is a good candidate for extraterrestrial life

Launching a Spaceship

In December 2018, ExoPlanets announced their mining game, which they called the first fully playable, real-time multiplayer, 3D browser game in the DGaming industry. I wouldn’t know if it’s the first 3D multiplayer crypto game, but it certainly adds a unique spin to the game.

You need an exoplanet and 20 exotokens (EXT, the game’s currency) in order to play the game. Every eight hours, players can race spaceships against one another, in order to land on a planet and mine its resources. These resources can be converted to EXT in the mini-game, for a small gas fee.

Flying to the closest planet with resources

The fact that the process of converting resources to EXT happens in-game is interesting. It’s what the developers call a “proof-of-gaming” consensus mechanism. Instead of earning crypto in exchange for computer resources or by staking crypto, gamers can now earn crypto by actively playing a game. It’s a nice way to incentivize players to keep on playing, and one that keeps passive players with plenty of money from owning a disproportionate amount of EXT.

There will only ever be 175 million EXT, 70% of which will be distributed to the game’s mining pool, 22% will go to the core team and its advisors, and 8% will be for sale during token generation events. The best way to earn EXT is through the mining game. The ExoPlanets website also says EXT can be traded on exchanges, but I’ve yet to find an exchange where you can actually trade the cryptocurrency.

Mining resources and exchanging them at a resource base

Every mined resource in ExoPlanets is worth 1 EXT. There will always be a total of 129 resource units in each galaxy before it “refreshes” after eight hours. Players can jump in whenever they want, although you can expect most resources to be gone toward the end of a game.

Gamers can also claim planets by planting a flag on it. Doing so will generate 2 EXT an hour. There are different types of flags:

  • gray flag: this flag is free and will claim a planet for 12 hours. Any player can replace a gray flag and replace it with their own, interrupting the previous player’s claiming time.
  • Red flag: this flag costs 24 EXT and claims a planet for 24 hours. The player will also receive 10% of the resources that other players mine on this planet.
  • Green flag: this flag costs 72 EXT and claims a planet for 72 hours. Players receive 12% tribute from other players.
  • Blue flag: this flag costs 168 EXT and claims a planet for 168 hours. Players receive 15% tribute from other players.

There are two other flags too, available only for players who participated in token generation events. They’re the silver and gold flags, which cost 720 and 2,160 EXT and can claim a planet for 30 and 90 days respectively. These flags were added to encourage players to participate in token generation events.

Apart from the gray flag, if any player wants to replace someone else’s flag with their own, they must pay the current flag owner the full price of the flag they planted (even if they’ve already generated EXT with it).

Each planet also has a type of resource. There are currently five types of resources in the game. Ranked by increased rarity and value, they are: rock minerals, aluminum, magnesium, iron, and titanium. It’s unclear what function these resources currently have.

Two ExoPlanets Presales

The Ethereum presale of ExoPlanets start on June 30th of 2018 and lasted for a month. 98% of the 190 available exoplanets were sold, with an average price of one ether per planet and with some planets going for 14 ETH. It was an auction-like presale, where players could outbid one another. The ExoPlanets Ethereum presale saw the game reach top 10 in DAppRadar in terms of Daily Active Users and top 3 in daily volume.

There’s another presale coming up too. ExoPlanets has partnered up with the ThunderCore blockchain, because of its fast transactions and low gas fees. There will be roughly 4,000 new planets split evenly between Ethereum and ThunderCore. Planets should be able to migrate from one blockchain to the other, and, eventually, the ExoPlanets developers want players to be able to migrate from one blockchain to another too.

The presale for the ThunderCore planets starts the 1st of July this year, almost exactly one year after the Ethereum presale, and will last the full month. The official integration release date is set for August this year, so you won’t have to wait for too long to use your bought ThunderCore planets after the presale.

A New Game: ExoBattles

The ThunderCore presale will also feature a special type of planet: the arena exoplanets. These planets will be used as the playing ground for a new game by the developer team of ExoPlanets: ExoBattles. It’s a live multiplayer battle royale game where you can fight other players and gather EXT.

A preview of ExoBattles

ExoBattles will be a mobile game, which is probably a good thing. It’s a faster game than the mining game you can currently play in ExoPlanets, designed for a different kind of player who also wants to earn some EXT. There’s no release date for ExoBattles yet, but hopefully it’ll be a worthy addition to the ExoPlanets universe.

The Future of ExoPlanets

ExoPlanets shoots itself in the foot with the high prices of its planets. Perhaps the developers want speculators to play their game, instead of gamers, but even then you’d be better off catering to both gamers and speculators. Have some really expensive crypto assets, but have some really cheap ones too. Don’t have gamers shell out dozens of dollars to test out your game. Make it cheap and compelling.

It’s a shame, because ExoPlanets does have some innovative features otherwise. Crypto Match is a fun idea, if again aimed at speculators. The proof-of-gaming mechanism is another great idea that other DGames should adopt. And the developer team of ExoPlanets built out a few VR demos of their game, so they’re no strangers to cutting-edge technology.

The ThunderCore presale might be another way for the developer team to receive some extra funds, but it’s not a sustainable way to develop a game. Lower the prices of your in-game assets, keep building games for the ExoPlanets ecosystem, promote them as much as you can, and you’ll create a game that gamers will more readily explore and pay for.