Earth 2 is a virtual world video game. The developers promise an exciting Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game — whose setting is the entire world, in detail.
The company makes all sorts of promises about Earth 2’s fabulous future potential gameplay — because right now, there is literally no gameplay. You can just trade virtual land. Earth 2 recently attached a blockchain to the project.
Anyone who follows cryptocurrency will immediately recognise all the aspects of Earth 2 that work like a crypto grift.
Earth 2 released a tech demo a couple of weeks ago that was promptly dismantled by an actual game developer, Callum Upton. Earth 2’s founder, Shane Isaac, then challenged Upton to do as well as Earth 2 had. He wasn’t happy when Upton did.
No, I don’t know why the Earth is undergoing mitosis.
2 Earth 2 Furious
Earth 2 was launched in November 2020. The idea is that Earth 2 will be a finely detailed representation of the surface of the entire globe: [Earth 2]
We aim for Earth 2® to be the beginning of the Earth’s fully immersive virtual reality similar to “The Matrix” or “Ready Player One”.
The development is being done by a small indie team called Five Studios. Five Studios’ total output is DRONE, an arena shooter game based on the Unity engine. DRONE was released as early access (an unfinished public beta), but hasn’t been updated since late 2020 — about when Earth 2 was announced. [Steam]
Earth 2 promises some excellent future gameplay, the first two parts of which sound like DRONE: [Earth 2 Draft Update 2022, PDF]
- Create and customise DRONES for specific purposes inside the game
- Fly DRONES to attack or defend properties inside a Battle Arena
- Create and Manage Guilds
- Harvest in Game, Steal, Pillage
- Determine Vehicle Classes and Objectives
- Control Territory / Properties
- Work as a Gamer and earn Red Co-Op Energy / Currency
- Master Jewel slotting on vehicles
None of this exists at all. Here is what you can presently do in Earth 2:
- You can buy virtual land.
- Your land produces resources that you can trade with other players, but you can’t actually do anything with these resources as yet.
- You can put a building on the land.
- You can change the building’s colour.
But there is a trading system — and it uses your actual money!
Charles Ponzi, game developer
The only bit of Earth 2 that does anything right now is the virtual land trading system. Earth 2 is very proud of this, per the 2022 Update document:
Earth 2 experienced unprecedented growth and remains the biggest registry of virtual land holdings in the world across all metrics, including the amount of land sold and the number of unique people who own that land.
The way Earth 2 virtual land sales work is:
- You buy the game currency with actual money.
- You buy a tile of land from Earth 2. You can’t sell this land back to Earth 2 — only to other players.
- You trade tiles with other players for game currency.
- You can trade out the game currency for actual money, if you pay Earth 2 a fee.
Why would you buy the land? It’ll be worth a bundle, when the game finally exists and you can be a virtual landlord!
Putting your actual money in to buy game currency just needs a credit card. Getting actual money out requires passing full Know-Your-Customer checks. The withdrawal process is convoluted and, based on user reports, fails a lot.
Back here on Earth 1, Earth 2 has set up a negative-sum trading system where existing players can only make money if more fresh money comes in.
To get that fresh money in, Earth 2 promotes itself via affiliate marketing, where you can get 5% commission for recruiting a new user. This leads to a flood of spammy blogs and videos promoting Earth 2. The affiliate fees are paid in game currency. [Earth 2, archive]
PC Games.de called out Earth 2 at length: “Scam-MMOs: Earth 2 — Der Cashshop ohne Spiel” (The Cash Shop Without a Game). [PC Games.de, in German]
Earth 2 goes crypto
Earth 2 doesn’t seem to have started as a cryptocurrency project. That came later.
Keen to get into the richest present resource of really dedicated suckers, Earth 2 hooked up with the Polygon blockchain in December 2021, to do “decentralized” Earth 2 assets. The 2022 Update document says “Web3” a lot. The game currency will become a cryptocurrency, at some future point. [AIThority; E2News]
But the way Earth 2 is really like crypto is the community, which is thoroughly dedicated to number go up, and disclaims technical critiques as “FUD.” This company and community were already fully primed to go crypto.
The $10,000 challenge
Earth 2’s promises caught a lot of attention from gamers and game developers. But it turns out that gamers are fussy, and game developers are technically knowledgeable and can tell when someone’s blowing hot air. For the past year, gaming YouTube has been ripping the piss out of the Earth 2 project.
Earth 2 finally released a tech demo video on 17 March 2022: “World Rendering Progress — Procedurally Generated Versatility at Scale.” The video brags about Earth 2’s “high performance proprietary rendering pipeline” as their secret sauce. [YouTube]
Game developer Callum Upton dismantled the video in detail on 19 March. He focuses on Earth 2’s use of techy buzzwords and claims of proprietary secret technology that sound like exciting technical innovations … but are literally just how game development has been done for decades.
None of Earth 2’s demo was new — none of it. “This is nothing-sauce.” The incredible atmosphere effect that Earth 2 brags about? “That’s a nine-dollar plugin on the Unity store.” Upton’s takedown is 26 minutes of delight: [YouTube]
At the end of the video, Upton described the most annoying members of the Earth 2 community:
You’re just spreading FUD dude, why are you spreading FUD? Now for those who don’t know, FUD stands for “fear, uncertainty and doubt.” That’s kind of their catch-all response to anyone who is speaking critically — not even necessarily negatively, but critically of their project. Because FUD leads to other people starting to critically think about this, and they don’t want you to critically think about this.
… So if me discussing observable facts is going to be FUD or the downfall of this project, it never had a chance in the first place.
… It’s just that the people who are throwing money hand over fist at this, that don’t want to do their research on it, are the ones that will tell you to do your research on it. And then when you do your research on it, you’ve done the wrong research on it.
Told you Earth 2 was just like crypto.
Stung by the critiques, Earth 2 founder Shane Isaac put out a challenge to Upton on 23 March: if you’re so good, can you do what we did? Recreate our Earth 2 tech demo within seven days, by yourself! Isaac offered $10,000 if Upton could meet the challenge. [Twitter]
That is: the head of a game studio dared one guy to recreate in a week what he’d achieved with five developers in a year.
And two days ago, Upton did it: [YouTube]
As Upton says: “Earth 2 used a lot of technobabble and a lot of flowery language to describe the very basic things that every game developer uses.” Upton used these basic tools to recreate large swathes of the Earth 2 tech demo’s claimed technical achievement.
The general opinion from those following the saga is that Upton’s demo matches the precise technical challenges offered by Isaac.
Isaac has claimed that Upton didn’t meet the challenge — mainly on the basis that the graphics don’t look the same. Which wasn’t in the challenge — art assets are hard work, but they’re not tech. Upton could technically have met the challenge using Minecraft as the engine — but he tried to work to the spirit of the challenge.
In the end, one guy achieving even this much of Earth 2’s claimed proprietary technical excellence shows that the game is an afterthought — Earth 2 is about the fake market for fake land.
Upton expected Isaac not to come through on the $10,000. He’s offered to sell his demo to anyone who would like it — except Earth 2.
Upton talks on an Earth 2 enthusiast’s stream about Isaac’s challenge. [YouTube]
By the way — the best bit of Isaac’s challenge to Upton? That Upton’s done this before. Upton called out an MMO kickstarter called DreamWorld as incompetent nonsense, they challenged him to do better, and he promptly sketched out a parody called NightmareWorld. In fact, calling out DreamWorld is how Upton started doing videos about games. NightmareWorld is still being developed and extended by Upton and his Accidental Game Studios, and they’re releasing ongoing demos that are actually plausible. [PC Gamer; YouTube; Twitter; YouTube]
This is what a game demo that isn’t full of it looks like.
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