It's been awhile since we last heard from Will Wright, the famed designer behind SimCity, The Sims, and (for the oldsters out there) Raid on Bungeling Bay. And it brings me no pleasure to say that he recently revealed what he's up to these days, and it's a blockchain game called Voxverse.
Voxverse is being developed by Gallium Studios, a developer co-founded by Wright and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? co-creator Lauren Elliott. Gallium is also working on an AI simulation game for mobile called Proxi, but that's been kicking around for several years now—we first heard about iy back in 2018. Voxverse, though, is something new.
"Almost everything in this world is actually going to be constructed by the players," Wright said in a video introducing the game. "We're going to have very simple tools for the players to construct buildings, objects, vehicles, etc. There'll be a whole economy, resources you can mine, plots that you can own, plus a social side of the game where you build a social network [with] the other Voxes that you meet."
"There will also be jobs," Wright notes later in the video. "We'll allow people to actually create business, employ other Voxes, or work in a job. One of the interesting things here is that even when you're offline your Vox is still going to be online as an NPC, so when I'm offline my Vox can still be working at a job and earning me money."
That doesn't sound like the most compelling videogame experience ever—if anything, it strikes me as a wholly generic description that could be applied to just about every other blockchain game I've ever heard of. Ownership and economics are clearly at the core of the experience, but Wright told Axios that he's "much more interested in attracting a million free-to-play players than, you know, 10,000 rich whales, although we could use those rich whales." (In free-to-play terminology, "whales" are players who spend significant amounts of money on a game.)
Voxverse is being developed in partnership with Gala Games, which sells "Vox" NFTs based on various licensed properties (it recently announced a deal to make Vox NFTs based on Dreamworks' Trolls) and operates several blockchain-based games, including Peter Molyneux's NFT project Legacy. Voxes will be incorporated as characters in Voxverse, and it will also be "a place for other games to live," with portals to other Gala games, all of which will be interoperable with your Vox NFTs. Despite all that, Wright said that he doesn't want to be "in the business of selling NFTs."
"I don't care how you do it," he said. "I want to have secure transactions for content creators."
Downplaying the role of NFTs in Voxverse while emphasizing the need for "secure transactions" are kind of inherently conflicting positions, and while Wright may be someone with some actually interesting ideas for a metaverse, a lot of what he's describing here sounds like The Sims with a real-world nine-to-five grind attached to it. Maybe Will Wright is the man who can make blockchain gaming work, but it's been a long time since I've looked at him as a "can't miss" game maker, and this announcement is not doing anything to change my mind on that front.