Are NFTs Truly Decentralized Art?

There are quite a bit of misunderstandings around NFTs. Many people think NFTs are minted on the Ethereum blockchain through a platform like Rarible and — voila! — the art is non-fungible and lives forever in a decentralized manner on the blockchain. But that’s not entirely the case. NFTs, or “non-fungible tokens” are really only non-fungible to the extent that it refers to the actual token, not the underlying artwork or rare asset itself. As such, the token and the “asset” it represents are two completely different things.

Huh?

Okay, let’s rewind a bit here. Although NFTs are often associated with digital art or GIFs these days, the reality is that they are better understood as a class of assets that are non-fungible. The $10 bill you used to pay for the coffee this morning? Fungible. The fingerprint you left on the bill when paying? Non-fungible. But is your fingerprint an asset? Debatable, depending on how much fingerprints go for on the black market these days (a joke, relax). But a key thing to remember is that non-fungible does not classify an object as rare, nor does it ensure that it is ‘rare’ or even decentralized.

This concept was probably best illustrated with a recent “rug pull” stunt conducted by one clever sculptor on the OpenSea platform. The artist exchanged the original JPEG images that the collectors thought they were purchasing with random pictures of rugs after the sale concluded. The intent of the stunt was to highlight the inherent problem of the current NFT infrastructure — which is mostly built on the Ethereum blockchain. By purchasing the NFT, the buyer would simply own the token to authenticate the JPEG listed on OpenSea, which at the time of purchase was a dope piece of art. But because the underlying digital asset itself is not decentralized, and might be stored on a central server somewhere such as on AWS or GCS, the buyer has no control in terms of what the NFT itself represents.

In other words, the non-fungibility is currently applied to the token representing the transaction of the purchase — not necessarily the owner of the physical (or digital) piece of art.

This is a common problem in the NFT sphere, as buyers often misunderstand the underlying infrastructure of the art they are buying, which can be problematic when there isn’t a physical equivalent of the purchase, ie: a digital GIF.

With most NFT marketplaces being built on Ethereum, another key problem is raised. The Ethereum network is often congested by other sectors such as DeFi, which eat up the majority of the bandwidth and exponentially raises the prices for minting and transacting NFTs. When compounded with the previously outlined problem, it is easy to see why the NFT art space is not the perfect picture it is painted to be after all.

This is where a platform like Pastel can paint a brighter future. Unlike Rarible or OpenSea, Pastel has built its own layer 1 blockchain to compete with Ethereum based platforms. This brings with it an innate advantage because the underlying architecture is designed to be perfectly outfitted and purpose-built for the sole use case for digital art and other rare digital assets, rather than being a do-it-all blockchain like Ethereum. With fewer projects demanding bandwidth, minting and trading NFTs on Pastel is significantly lighter on your (digital) wallet as well due to very low gas costs

In regards to the main problem of preventing “rug pulls”, Pastel ensures that the art (or other NFT) itself is uploaded, verified, and registered on the Pastel blockchain — rather than just the token it is minted with. Through a series of smart tickets living on the Pastel ledger, artists can store their masterpieces in a distributed fashion across a variety of Supernodes as opposed to just ensuring the token is non-fungible. This sophisticated storage layer, leveraging the RaptorQ fountain code algorithm, ensures that each asset is broken up and stored in a series of redundant, fungible chunks. These sets of chunks ar ethen distributed across the network using the Kademlia DHT algorithm. So what does this really mean? In short, even if over 90% of hosted instances suddenly go down, the remaining information can be reconstructed quickly and there is no possibility of the artwork disappearing.

So the next time you purchase an NFT, make sure you understand how and where your rare digital asset is stored — so that you won’t have the rug pulled out from underneath you.

Learn more about Pastel Network, and join us below!

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Axie Infinity: Pokémon Inspired Blockchain Game Explained

Axie Infinity is a community-driven blockchain-based digital pet game that enables players to earn money while playing the game. Think of Axie as a hybrid between Pokemon, Tamagotchi, and CryptoKitties.

It is one of the most popular NFT token-based games, with over 19,000 monthly active on-chain users. One of the most notable characteristics of Axie Infinity and other NFT-based games is that users are able to bridge the in-game economy with real-world currency.

Over 25,000 ETH (over $45M) has been traded in the in-house marketplace, with the most expensive Axie being sold for 300 ETH ($540,000.)

About Axie Infinity:

Axie Infinity is a product of Sky Mavis, a game study based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

The Sky Mavis and Axie Infinity team includes:

Trung Nguyen, Founder of Sky Mavis and Axie Infinity. He is a serial entrepreneur behind an E-commerce delivery startup called Loship.

Alexander L. Larsen is the Co-Founder of Sky Mavis and Axie Infinity game and is the current Chief Operating Officer of the venture.  He is the business head behind the venture and handles the day-to-day operation of the company.  He comes with a background in e-sport development and is a gamer, gaming competition organizer, and video journalist.

Viet Anh Ho is the Chief Technology Officer at Sky Mavis.  He was previously a full-stack developer and an intern at both Google and Paypal.

  • Tu Doan, art director and game director of Axie Infinity. He is a competitive Pokemon player and created the entire suite of Axie game characters. He also worked on Loship with Trung.
  • Duy Trinh, Lead Animator Axie Infinity. He’s a graduate of a professional Hollywood Animation Studio and works as a freelancer.
  • Quy Dau, Primary Software Engineer. He won the 2016 React Hackathon. He started his first company at the age of 21.
  • Nam Nguyen, Chief Graphic Artist and Designer. 

Launched in 2018, Axie Infinity has quickly grown alongside the rising popularity of NFTs and blockchain-based gaming. 

The Cast of Axie Characters:

Axie Infinity is a decentralized game ecosystem built on the Ethereum blockchain, featuring a cast of digital characters. Per the game’s narrative, Axies are creatures that “love to battle, build, and hunt for treasure.” 

Dubbed a “digital nation,” Axie Infinity presents a landscape in which users can collect, battle, or breed their characters. 

The Axie secondary marketplace

Users can also build a collection of Axies and use them in a wide variety of games within the Axie Infinity world, called the “Terrarium.” 

Axies gain experience points and level up by completing daily activities or through battle with other Axies. They come with specific traits that help determine battle outcomes; some characteristics make them more competitive than others. 

There are over 500 body parts that can be acquired and traded, and each body part enables Axies to perform specific battle moves or receive an overall combat advantage. 

There are four stats that determine a battle outcome: Health (HP), Skill, Speed, and Morale.

  1. Health (HP): How much of a beating your Axie can withstand before it’s knocked down.
  2. Skill: A skill stat determines the amount of damage you do; you can do more damage if you use multiple cards on your opponent during battle.
  3. Speed: Speed is critical because it determines the attack order in a battle. The faster the Axie, the quicker the attack. Speed also comes in handy in defense; faster speeds mean your Axie has a greater chance of avoiding a critical or lethal strike. 
    1. If two battling Axies have the same speed, attack order is determined by the following stat priority: High speed > Low HP > High Skill > High Morale > Low Fighter ID.
  4. Morale: The morale score of Axie decides whether an Axie gets to make a critical strike on an opposing Axie.  It also determines when an Axies is losing whether the losing Axie gets to make a last stand.

The above stats are influenced by an Axies’ class and body parts

Axie Classes:

Axie classes are reminiscent of Pokemon types– each class has certain advantages and disadvantages in combat. Think Rock, Paper, Scissors. There are six common classes in Axies and three secret classes. 

Common Classes: Aquatic, Beast, Bird, Bug, Plant, Reptile.

Secret classes:

  • A “Mech” is a hybrid offspring of a purebred Beast with a purebred Bug Axie.
  • A “Dawn” is a hybrid offspring of a purebred Plant with a purebred Bird.
  • A “Dusk” which is a hybrid offspring of a purebred Reptile with a purebred Aquatic

Axie Advantage and Disadvantage Breakdown: 

Each class has an advantage over two other classes. Similarly, it has a disadvantage against two classes. 

Aquatic class:

  • Advantage: Bugs and Beast Axies. 
  • Disadvantage: Plant and the Reptile Axies.

Beast class: 

  • Advantage: Plant and Reptile Axies
  • Disadvantage: Aquatic and the Bird Axies.

Bird class 

  • Advantage: Bug and Beast Axies
  • Disadvantage: Plant and the Reptile Axies.

Bug class: 

  • Advantage: Plant and Reptile Axies
  • Disadvantage: Aquatic and the Bird Axies.

Plant class: 

  • Advantage: Aquatic and the Bird Axies
  • Disadvantage: Beast and the Bug Axies.

Reptile class: 

  • Advantage: Aquatic and Bird Axies
  • Disadvantage: Beast and Bug Axies.

Axie Body Parts:

Each Axie has six body parts: horns, back, tail, eyes, ears, and mouth. Each body part has the ability to play a role during battle.  Each ability is represented by a card. Only horns, mouths, backs, and tails determine what kinds of cards an Axie can use in battle.

A body part’s “class” also improves the four stats listed above: Health, Skill, Speed, and Morale. 

Axies have around 500 different body parts options, each of which look different and provide relatively unique advantages. 

The Battle is the Game Plan:

There are two ways an Axie can battle: PvE (E stands for environment) in an adventure or in 3v3 (3-on-3) battle against other Axies in an arena.

The goal for each sort of battle is to learn experience (EXP.) 

PvE adventures: For example, one PvE battle takes place in the Lunacia Ruins in the Axie Terrarium. During the PvE, an Axie will face 36 levels of monsters. Successfully navigating each level gives the Axie some experience, allowing it to perform better in the next. The Axie will have to defeat three waves of monsters (on average) in each level to advance to the next stage.

Axies can earn anywhere between 50 EXP points to over 1200 EXP points per level. The EXP varies per level and doesn’t necessarily increase or decrease: for example, Level 30 pays 1209 in EXP points, and Level 36 pays 820 points to clear.

Here is a breakdown of how many EXP points are gained for winning each level:

3v3 (3-on-3) Battles: two teams of 3 Axies each face each other in a 3×3 battlefield. 

The battle strategy generally determines the victor. An excellent plan considers the specific suitable Axies in each team, placement on the battlefield, what moves are utilized, and the order of those moves. 

The Axie with the fastest speed gets to attack first, followed by the opposing side. Each team then takes turns until all three members of one team are defeated.

The victorious party’s members each earn 60 EXPs and the defeated get 20 EXPs each. If all three opposing Axies have been defeated, their rewarded EXPs go to the winning team.

Axie Infinity & the Blockchain: How Does Axie Infinity Work?

Axie Infinity leverages the blockchain to reward and incentivize players for engagement, as well as to provide access to a secondary market in which users can sell their Axies and other in-game objects. Axis and their body parts NFTs, specifically ERC9721 tokens. The Small Love Potion (SLP) is an item used to feed Axies is an ERC-20 token. 

A token introduced at the end of 2020, the Axie Infinity Shard (AXS) is an ERC-20 token that acts as both a governance token, as well as an in-game currency that can be bought, traded, or earned by playing the game. 

Final Thoughts

 One of the most significant driving forces of Axie Infinity’s growth is its community, as dozens of reviews attest.

The community is mostly on Discord, which serves as a chat interface uniting the thousands of monthly users. As one of the most popular blockchain-based games to date, Axie Infinity has earned a first-mover advantage and dozens of long-time users.  If you’re interested in playing Axie Infinity or researching it further, check it out at https://axieinfinity.com/.

How to Use MetaMask

MetaMask was built and launched in 2016 by ConsenSys, a largely Ethereum-focused blockchain development studio as a means to interact with Ethereum blockchain. 

The wallet itself is non-custodial, meaning that the owner (you) doesn’t have to relinquish possession of their private keys to a third party. However, this comes with great responsibility, as we’ll get into below. 

Launched as a software cryptocurrency wallet, MetaMask makes it possible for users to store and manage their private and public keys, broadcast transactions to the network, send and receive Ethereum and Ethereum-based tokens, connect to decentralized exchanges, and buy and sell NFTs. 

MetaMask also aggregates multiple decentralized exchanges in a feature called MetaMask Swaps, where users can access the best exchange rate for ETH-based tokens at a service fee of 0.875% of the transaction amount. 

As of August 2021, the MetaMask browser extension has roughly 10.5 million monthly active users, many of which are using the wallet to interact with the burgeoning DeFi and NFT ecosystems. 

So, how do you get started with MetaMask?

It’s simpler than you might think, let’s get started.

Step 1: Understand

Before blasting off Ethereum to different addresses, it’s important to understand MetaMask is a non-custodial wallet. 

This means that keeping your wallet account password, private keys, and Secret Recovery Phrase safe is your responsibility. The probability of human error with these sorts of wallets is fairly high, so go into your non-custodial wallet adventures understanding that it’s likely that you may be the most probable point-of-failure, and do everything in your power to prevent that. 

Metamask provides a Secret Recovery Phrase of twelve words when you first make a wallet. Write this down and store it in a secure place offline–definitely not a Google Doc named “MetaMask Secret Recovery Phrase” or “Crypto passwords.” Don’t share this phrase with anyone. If you lose your phrase, you won’t be able to access your wallet and your cryptocurrency and tokens will be unrecoverable. 

MetaMask is also a software application, meaning it’s almost always connected to the Internet and comes with the ever-so-slight vulnerabilities that a hardware wallet like a Ledger Nano S typically doesn’t. 

Most people use something like MetaMask to utilize a small(er) percentage of their total cryptocurrency holdings to interact with the various dApps in the Ethereum ecosystem, not as a primary holding account.  

Step 2: Download

Download the official MetaMask browser extension at https://metamask.io/. It is compatible with Chrome, Firefox, Brave, and Edge. 

Your browser will ask you to add the extension– allow it. 

MetaMask also has an iOS and Android app.

Step 3: Create Your Account

Next comes the typical account sign-up stuff– create your password and write down your recovery seed phrase. (see Step 1).  

Step 4: Make Sure You Wrote Your Seed Phrases Correctly

Don’t let one typo or misplaced word be the reason you can’t recover your account! 

Step 5: Send ETH to address

Click on the “Buy” option to pull up a few options to deposit ETH into the wallet. Scroll all the way down, and you’ll see the “Directly Deposit Ether” option, which will give you your wallet’s public key. 

Copy and paste your public key to the platform you plan on sending ETH from, select the amount of Ethereum to send, and click send. You’ll be able to monitor the transaction in EtherScan.

Step 8: Connect MetaMask to the dApp or Platform

Now, your MetaMask is ready to rock and roll– just find the dApp or site you want to interact with. Let’s say we want to connect our MetaMask to our OpenSea to buy our first NFT. 

On the account section in OpenSea, you’ll see a “Connect your wallet” section with a list of wallets that includes MetaMask. 

Click MetaMask, which will pull up a request from the MetaMask browser extension that asks you whether you want to connect with the site. 

Step 9: Sign the Signature

If you’re 100% certain you’re on a legitimate site and not some knock-off spam site (let’s say there is an “OponSee.io” or “0penSea.io” scammy clone replicate, which would likely be a malicious attempt to get you to sign over your MetaMask access.)

As you interact with the OpenSea ecosystem, you will be presented with multiple requests to sign a transaction with your MetaMask account.

Suppose we want to buy an NFT from The Heart Project. We find one we like, click “buy”, and view the subtotal. Upon clicking “confirm checkout”, our MetaMask extension would open up with the estimated gas fee for the transaction and price of the NFT. 

We now have one final chance to reject or confirm the transaction. 

Let’s say gas fees and transaction price looks good to us and we want to buy the NFT. We click confirm, and the transaction should go through, leading you to a “your purchase is processing” page, which shows the transaction hash number that can be traced to Etherscan.

Once the transaction finishes processing, your NFT will appear in your OpenSea profile. The NFT token itself, however, is held in your MetaMask wallet. 

Final Thoughts: Welcome to MetaMask

So, there you have it– how to use MetaMask from scratch and buy your first NFT on OpenSea. 

For now, MetaMask is one of the leading NFT wallets, and familiarizing yourself with it will make your NFT exploration process much more straightforward.

Since all ERC-20 and ETH-based tokens are compatible with MetaMask, you can utilize the wallet for a wide variety of Ethereum storage and interaction related purposes. Note that if you’re looking to interact with another blockchain ecosystem, such as the Solana ecosystem, MetaMask won’t work; you’ll need a different wallet (for example, Plasma for Solana.)