Yesterday, a group of respected young adult novelists thought it would be a good idea to launch a new project spearheaded by NFT purchases. Sadly/hilariously, their big plans went from “let’s do this” to “we’re not doing this” in a matter of hours.
Those authors—Marie Lu, Tahereh Mafi, Ransom Riggs, Adam Silvera, David Yoon and Nicola Yoon—had for a few weeks been in discussions with former Facebook VP Julie Zhuo, over a project called Realms of Ruin. It was to be an epic fantasy world, which would launch with “a robust collection of NFTs” for sale, and a selection of stories written by those authors. And how would NFTs work with novels, exactly? Like this:
Join us in expanding these stories by adding your own, purchasing the official character cards, and playing in these worlds! Your tales can be minted into NFTs whose value could rise as your readership does. As the world expands, the authors will be reading closely to decide which stories and characters are compelling enough to become canon.
Perhaps sensing that one of the criticisms of NFTs is that they run on the environmentally-catastrophic blockchain, the original announcement said the project would be “built on top of the environmentally friendly Solana blockchain,” which itself had some serious issues last month)
Which is all well and good, but attacking NFTs for their environmental issues deflects attention from the main problem with them, one that can’t be waved off so easily: that they’re an enormous scam. A scam in which purchasers are getting nothing, and the folks controlling the platforms they’re being sold on, and the currencies they’re using to pay for everything, are laughing all the way to the actual bank.
This is something Realms of Ruin’s creators were swiftly reminded of just moments after launch. Fans’ objections poured in, citing everything from environmental concerns to general NFT wariness, to the fact many crypto marketplaces only allow those 18 and over to make purchases—a problem, given the target market for young adult novelists.
Having spent weeks putting the project together, planning its universe, and building up an online presence that included a website and a Twitter account, just a few hours later the entire thing was done for. To the point where those sites and accounts had been deleted. If you’d like to enjoy their promises anyway, the cached version of this Realms of Ruin’s Medium post (written by Zhuo, somebody already invested in the NFT space) said:
The NFT market is in a Renaissance. We’re seeing incredibly exquisite art — from memes to mekas to melting apes. We’re seeing games, planets, virtual venues to visit. We’re seeing tokens and digital gold and passes to exclusive events.
But something seemed missing.
Where are the narrators, the bards, the worldmakers and soultellers?
Where are the epic battles, the star-crossed romances, the impossible heroes and their journeys beyond the beyond?
I called up my best friend Marie Lu, whose stories I’ve been obsessively devouring with since we were kindergartners. We mused: “Will we see a Harry Potter, a Game of Thrones, or a Marvel Cinematic Universe on Web3? Where it is community created and owned”
We paused. The answer seemed obvious. And so did the next step.
Marie said: “Let me talk to some of my author friends.”
I said: “Let me post on Twitter and see if anyone might be interested in a fun side project.”
Fast forward a few weeks. The question which became a conversation which became an answer grew a heart and a body.
6 NYT bestselling author-friends (as one fan put it: the collab of the century!) created Realms of Ruin. (I’ve read bits of it, and excuse my fangirling but IT IS SOOO GOOD!!!!!)
A team of builders all over the globe came together to create the engine that would support a community-created universe.
The rules are simple:
- Realm of Ruins starts with an origin story, 5 realms, 42 characters, and 12 initial stories.
- Anyone can write a story in this universe and ‘mint’ it into an NFT they own.
- The initial set of authors will promote and reward the best stories.
- A collectible NFT character set will be sold at launch to fund the project.
We’re building on Solana because we want everyone to be able to participate, including many people new to crypto, and low gas fees + high performance really matters.
Our primary goal is the creation and evolution of a rich, imaginative and exciting new universe of stories, made by the community, and owned by the community.
In some ways, this reflects how way we built it also.
Because if our project can be built upon the web3 ideas of others, can an epic story be built on top of many people’s ideas?
If strangers on the Internet, brought together by the potential of crypto + storytelling, can come together to launch this experiment, then can all of us collectively create the next great storytelling universe?
The answer seems obvious. So come join us in making that happen.
No thank you.
Dan Olsen (please watch his excellent LOTR animated recap) managed to capture some of the team’s communications with fans during the few brief hours the project was live, and they are deeply funny. First, the promise!
Then the swift realisation that maybe things weren’t exactly going to plan:
Before, only five hours after announcing the whole thing (and just 11 minutes after saying they would “need time to think about a universal approach”), the creators decided to “pull the plug on Realms of Ruin.”
This message sucks, and is the same thing you always see when a project like this bails in the face of enormous fan backlash. It places the credit/blame for the shutdown on the “thoughts, feedback and criticisms” of a community.
How about taking some ownership here, and simply admitting you fucked up? That you spent weeks planning this, and either didn’t do the most basic research into what you were selling, or did and were dazzled by the dollar signs, willing to risk (and then grossly underestimate) backlash from fans, most of whom can do five seconds of research into the subject?