Marbles make me feel nostalgic. They were the number one toy on the playground when I was a kid. I didn’t so much play with them as much as I collected them. I negotiated with the other kids and built up a collection of rare marbles. There were kids who had hundreds of marbles, but that didn’t interest me. I was aiming for quality, not quantity.
Marbles became so popular at our school that some kids started trading them for money, after which the teachers prohibited them on the playground. Of course, trade continued, illicitly, but I was never a part of that. The teachers took the marbles of the kids they caught trading, and that was a risk I wasn’t willing to take.
A large part of a decentralized, collectible game’s appeal lies with the digital objects you can collect. If you like baseball, collecting baseball figures might be your thing. If you’re into planets, collecting planets might be for you. And if you like marbles, like me, you’ll want to have a look at CryptoMibs.
CryptoMibs is a marble game on the Ethereum blockchain developed by Surge, a Canadian software development, IT, and system implementation agency. They believe decentralized technologies are the future and want to help other companies with their decentralized projects. I imagine they built CryptoMibs to show their experience with blockchain technology.
Just like in any other collectible DGame, you’ll need to buy at least one collectible before you can do anything. Buying a marble in CryptoMibs is cheap. All the marbles go for 0.005 ETH ($1.37 in today’s price, after yesterday’s enormous cryptocurrency crash). Unfortunately, the Ethereum gas fee makes the marbles significantly more expensive. Depending on when I tried to buy a marble, gas fees ranged from 0.01 ETH to even 0.15 ETH, raising the price of my marble from around $1.5 to $5 or even $50.
I was able to buy a marble for $3.42 in the end, but that was only after a few tries at different times of the day. Whether this has to do with the price volatility of Ethereum price or whether this is a technical problem, I cannot say. Regardless, it’s another example that Ethereum might not be the best blockchain for DGames. Paying twice the price in fees than you paid for the actual collectible you’re buying is illogical, unpleasant, and something I’ve already encountered multiple times when playing Ethereum-based DGames.
The marbles themselves look great. They’re colorful and have interesting patterns, with a name to match the pattern. The marble in the above screenshot is called Carpet Ball. Other marbles are called Cat’s Eye, Corkscrew Swirl, Fancy Swirl, Gooseberry Swirl, and so on…
The search engine is robust. You can sort marbles by price, type, origin, size, pattern, material, and how it was forged. Currently, the marbles available for sale are still relatively homogenous. They’re all the same size and the same material, for example. There’s plenty of potential for Surge to offer different types of marbles if their game becomes more popular.
Customize Your Marble
One feature I really like about CryptoMibs is that you can customize your marble. I like it, because it nicely showcases the potential of connecting games through blockchain technology. In the MibFactory, you can place one of your ERC-721 tokens into your marble. I could place my Cuties into my marble. I don’t have any Kitties anymore (I sold them) but I can imagine you can do the same with them, as Surge has partnered with CryptoKitties before.
You can change the background color of the marble, change the size of the image, and rotate the image. When you click forge, you’ll have a marble with one of your ERC-721 tokens inside. How I would’ve negotiated for a marble like this as a kid. It’s one of the more elegant use cases of the blockchain gaming multiverse I’ve seen so far.
But there’s more, too. Surge is working on the Art Factory, a spinoff of the MibFactory where independent artists can submit artwork that players can use on their marbles. This is a wonderful idea. I can imagine a future where you create a marble with CryptoMibs, place one of your ERC-721 tokens or someone else’s artwork inside, which you then race against other players in a different game. It’s all possible, as long as the tokens exist on the same blockchain.
Playing Marble Games
CryptoMibs isn’t just a collectible game. You can play games with them too. Currently, there are two games you can play: Snakes & Marbles and SkyDrop.
To play either of both games, you’ll need tickets. When you first log in to CryptoMibs, you’ll receive 100 tickets. You can also buy tickets, and they’re quite cheap. 25 tickets cost 0.00055 ETH, 100 tickets 0.00211, 250 tickets 0.00499, and so on all the way up to 2,500 tickets for 0.04155 ETH. Both games don’t cost that many tickets, which reinforces my theory that CryptoMibs isn’t designed to make Surge lots of money. It’s a project to show their blockchain expertise.
SkyDrop is the simplest game of the two. From the top of a vertical rectangle, you drop your marble from a column. Obstacles along the way down (in the shape of Ethereum icons) will determine where your marble will land, which will in turn determine the prize you’ll get. You can win more marbles or tickets, although the number of tickets you can win is mostly less than the entry cost of 25 tickets.
There’s not much more to SkyDrop than this. The best game in CryptoMibs is by far Snakes & Marbles. It’s a variation of the age-old Snake game, where you control a snake and guide it toward bits of food, which make your tail longer. Your goal is to avoid hitting the wall. Here, instead of a snake, you control a marble instead.
But there’s more complexity to it. When you collect three or more marbles of the same pattern and color, you build a combo that will not only give you a much higher score, but that will also destroy the combo marbles otherwise added to your tail. As such, if you want to have a reasonable score in this game, you’ll almost exclusively want to build combos.
This is easier said than done, however, because marbles blink in and out of existence. You need to have fast reflexes to avoid marbles that blinked into existence ahead of you. Additionally, it’s not always easy to discern the differences between both marbles. So you really need to focus, and that makes this game much more fun than the passive SkyDrop game.
There are two game modes in Snakes & Marbles: adventure and marathon. I enjoyed the adventure mode most. There are ten levels in the adventure mode. With each consecutive level, you’ll need to reach a higher score. In level five, for example, you’ll need to reach a score of 500. In level six, that’s 600.
The importance of combos becomes obvious when you realize that one marble is worth one point. You’d need 600 marbles in a row to finish level six without any combos, which is flat out impossible. But a combo of four marbles gives you 67 points, so reaching level six isn’t too hard when you do it exclusively through combos.
In the marathon game mode, the marble you control goes much slower initially, but it speeds up the higher your score gets. While it’s quite easy to rack up combos in the beginning, that gets progressively more difficult. It shows in the high scores of other players too. Whereas the top players in the adventure game mode have a high score of almost 20,000 points, the highest score in the marathon game mode doesn’t even reach 2,000 points.
Partnership with CryptoKitties
CryptoMibs recently partnered up with CryptoKitties to offer players a taste of the blockchain gaming multiverse. Players could purchase marbles with CryptoKitties inside of them. Each CryptoKitty marble would have a different power when used in one of CryptoMib’s games.
The tournament was over before I started reviewing CryptoMibs, so I couldn’t play in it. I hope Surge makes this a permanent feature of CryptoMibs, as it’s a wonderful example of what blockchain technology can do.
I think that’s also where the power of this project lies. Collecting marbles in itself won’t be that special for most players. However, being able to customize your marbles to your liking, with the ERC-721 tokens you own in other games, is a unique and exciting feature. Being able to use those customized marbles in fun games makes it even better. All this combined makes CryptoMibs the prelude of a gaming multiverse the likes of which we’ve never seen before.