0xUniverse, pronounced as “zero x Universe”, is the second-most popular game on the Ethereum blockchain in terms of users, behind My Crypto Heroes and before Blockchain Cuties. In terms of volume, it ranks lower, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing (I’ll explain why further down).

The number of people playing 0xUniverse has been growing steadily over the last few months, from what was around 200 active users a day at the beginning of this year to around 750 a day in April 2019. That’s some serious growth, particularly considering none of the other popular Ethereum DApps seem to have grown at a similar rate. This review will explain some of the reasons behind its growing popularity.

Before we start this review, I wanted to address one thing: when I originally set out playing 0xUniverse, I thought it was called 0x because it was built on the 0x protocol, which we’ve written about before. However, once I started encountering Ethereum gas fees in-game, I looked into this a bit further and found no evidence that it was. To the best of my knowledge, there’s no connection between the 0x protocol and 0xUniverse.

Playing 0xUniverse

For a sci-fi geek like me, 0xUniverse has an extremely enticing premise: it’s a blockchain-based game where you can extract resources, carry out research, build spaceships, colonize planets, and explore the remotest corners of the Galaxy. Upon visiting the website, you’re greeted with big, bold planets and a spaceship hurtling towards them.

A great banner, if you ask me

As of today, there are four main components in the game: the story, planets, resources, and spaceships. The latter three make up the game mechanics, while the story is weaved throughout the whole game. We will go over each component in kind.

This Game Tells a Story

Story is one of the main reasons why 0xGames, the developers behind 0xUniverse, created the game. They saw the rise of CryptoKitties and were impressed that each Kittie had inherent trading value and that gamers had full ownership over their Kitties, but they also noticed that CryptoKitties had no story to bind it all together.

They wanted to avoid that scenario and, as such, story is weaved throughout 0xUniverse. It’s the 22nd century, and the United Earth Government governs the Galaxy. They passed a law where planets can be sold to private third parties and where Galaxy explorers receive a right of ownership to any planets they discover. It’s a neat integration between story and the features inherent to any blockchain.

But the story goes a bit further too. 0xTimes is a Medium magazine that publishes stories of what’s going on in the 0xUniverse on at least a weekly basis. Most recently, a black hole the size of a pea was found inside a pub also called the Black Hole, located on the Vesta orbital station in Proxima Centauri. Quite an unusual event, but luckily no one got hurt.

Legendary planets, considered the most valuable and expensive planets in the Galaxy, have an interactive narrative component to them as well. Unfortunately, these stories are only available to the owners of such planets, which makes parts of the 0xUniverse story unavailable to those who cannot afford legendary planets.

There Are Crazy Cool Planets

Many DGames make sure that the digital collectibles their players can buy look fantastic, and 0xUniverse is no exception. This being said, there’s something unique about owning a planet. Many popular DGames (Axie Infinity, CryptoKitties, and Blockchain Cuties, to name a few) and many regular trading cards games have you own some sort of animal. While the design of the collectibles between these games might differ drastically, it still doesn’t come across as new and exciting. Owning a planet, however, does. They’re highly unusual objects to own, and that makes them all the more alluring.

Some of the planets you can buy

The Galaxy of 0xUniverse is divided into 1,000 sectors, and each sector has 1,000 planets of average. There are a maximum number of one million planets in the Galaxy, with the vast majority of them still undiscovered. When you start the game, you’ll need to buy a planet to acquire resources and build spaceships. There are four categories of planets: common, rare, epic, and legendary. A common planet starts from around $1, a rare planet from $2, an epic planet at least $10, and legendary planets… well, the cheapest legendary planet is currently going for 7.68 ETH, or almost $1,400. They all go for many thousands of dollars.

Legendary planets look wacky and will cost you an arm and a leg

Although legendary planets are expensive, the other planets aren’t. I bought a common and a rare planet for only a few dollars. To be sure, the game is more expensive than Blockchain Cuties or EOS Knights, but wouldn’t you pay more for a planet than for a measly sword? I would. Besides, it’s nothing bank-breaking either. In fact, the main reason why 0xUniverse ranks lower than other DGames in ETH volume is because most transactions in the game are small.

However, what is aggravating are the Ethereum GAS fees. Every time I play an Ethereum DGame, I wonder why developers choose vanilla Ethereum as their DApp platform. For every single transaction in the game, you pay a GAS fee that often eclipses the actual cost of whatever it is you’re buying.

Buying a planet for $0.80 and having to pay an additional $0.75 fee feels unpleasant every time it happens. The cheaper the actual cost of your transaction, the worse it feels. DGame developers should seriously consider either choosing a different DApp platform or using a sidechain or layer-2 solution to solve this problem, because I’m sure it ticks off other gamers too.

Planets Are Resourceful

Every planet in the 0xUniverse differs in how it looks, how many people live on it, and in the resources you can harvest from it. The more people that live on your planet, the faster you can invent the spaceships you’ll need to find new planets. In order to build those spaceships, you’ll need certain types of resources. If your planet doesn’t have the resources you need, you’ll need to buy or find a new planet.

My first planet, with lead, nickel, and tin as resources

There are 29 different types of resources available, which reflects the variety of spaceships you can invent and build in the game. It also makes all planets more valuable, as a common planet with an unusual resource could be worth more than a rare planet with resources you can easily find elsewhere. For a small fee, you can also rename your planet, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t call your planet Roundy McPlanetface. You can also gift it away, but why would you wanna do that?

Time to Build a Spaceship

I enjoyed browsing planets in 0xUniverse, but I enjoyed inventing and building spaceships more. The higher the population on your planets, the faster you’ll be able to invent spaceships. Each time you invent a new spaceship, you’ll need more knowledge (i.e. more people) before you’ll be able to invent the next one. I invented a spaceship this morning and had to wait one hour before I could invent the next one. I invented one just now and I’ll have to wait three hours now.

Spaceships have five characteristics:

  • Their rank (the higher the better);
  • The power of their engines (which expands their search area);
  • The power of their radar (which increases the chances of finding a rarer planet);
  • The size of their accommodation module (which determines how many colonists they’ll take);
  • The resources needed for their construction.

Currently, I’ve invented three spaceships, each one better than the last one. Particularly my third one seems a lot better than my first two ones. I needed mercury to build it, which I didn’t have, so I bought a third planet that had mercury as one of its resources.

If the bulky one on the right is only rank 2, I wonder how higher ranks look like

Once you’ve invented a spaceship and you have the necessary resources from your planets, you can build it and have it try to find another planet. You need to choose a sector and a planet to launch your planet from. Doing so will require you to pay a small amount of rent (usually 0.02 ETH) depending on the planet you decide to do this from. What’s cool is that you can set your own planets for rent as well, which could yield you a little income if someone else decides to use your planet as its launching platform.

Once you’ve launched a spaceship, you will either find a new planet or lose your spaceship. Frustratingly, I’ve launched three separate spaceships and lost them three times. I don’t know what the chances are of finding a planet, but it doesn’t feel nice to spend money inventing, building, and launching a spaceship to then lose it a few minutes later for nothing in return.

The successful loss of spaceship 1 and 2 😥

That’s the bulk of the game as it is today. The developer team is working on new features, such as the ability to wage war on other planets, as well as more galaxies, and a mobile version. You can already download an 0xUniverse app on iOS and Android already, but there’s not much you can do on it except browse through planets.

Beyond 0xUniverse

0xGames is working hard to make planets in 0xUniverse useful beyond just in 0xUniverse itself. Last September, it announced 0xBattleships, where players can build battleships and equip them with modules to fight other spaceships. The game is set inside the 0xUniverse, and you’ll need resources from your 0xUniverse planets to build modules in 0xBattleships.

Some of the modules you can equip your battleship with

To me, this is one of the more exciting features of blockchain technology: the ability for non-fungible tokens (e.g. a CryptoKitty, a Cutie, an 0xPlanet) to exist in different games. It’s called a gaming multiverse; a merger of games where digital assets on the blockchain are readily used and traded between players in otherwise different games.

Apart from the initial announcement in September and a second teaser trailer Feb 22nd this year, we’ve not had much news on 0xBattleships. We hope 0xGames remains committed to releasing the game, as it would be a cool expansion to 0xUniverse.

That’s not to say 0xGames has been sitting still. Since the announcement of 0xBattleships, they’ve released 0xWarriors, a blockchain multiplayer RPG where five of your warriors fight five other warriors. Interestingly, 0xWarriors runs on the EOS blockchain, which means there are no GAS fees. In fact, 0xGames was recently nominated as an EOS block producer candidate, showing an increased commitment to the EOS blockchain over Ethereum.

In Conclusion

0xUniverse has a great premise: it’s cool to own a planet, particularly when they’re as nicely designed as in 0xUniverse. The game finds a good balance between making sure it’s cheap enough to play, while also giving an opportunity for people to earn a serious return on their money. After all, if you own a few epic and legendary planets, and the game keeps on growing in popularity, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to sell those planets for a good chunk more than you originally bought them for. And this isn’t even taking into account the rising price of Ethereum.

I wish I wouldn’t have to pay GAS fees, but it seems that 0xGames is already moving away from the Ethereum blockchain, and I wish I’d actually found a planet instead of losing three spaceships, but maybe I’m just a sore loser. Fact remains that 0xUniverse stands out because there’s no other DGame where you can buy and rent planets in a galaxy. Imagine 0xGames partners with Decentraland, and you’ll be able to visit your planets in VR. Wouldn’t that be such a wild experience?