Phantasee, the protagonist of our story and also the Coolest Cat in the Metaverse, stepped down from the wooden crate and beckoned a barmaid named Crayon. Crayon was a member of the Bulls on the Block NFT avatar collection and Phantasee observed with some amusement as she made her way towards him. She shuffled her bulk between the crowded tables, her face a picture of intense concentration, mumbling apologies at each involuntary bump. All the while she was taking considerable care not to drop the loaded tray balanced on her left hoof. Crayon finally arrived beside Phantasee who graciously accepted a chilled glass of Milk.
“Thankyou Crayon,” Phantasee said. “You did a fine job navigating the tavern floor to bring me this refreshing beverage.”
Crayon ducked her head in gratitude and in the process tilted the tray. She immediately realised her mistake and tried to correct the balance which inevitably led to a significant over correction in the opposite direction. The three filled glasses of Milk launched into the air, expelling their contents as the glasses soared towards a group of Lazy Lions who were about to commence their meals of bloody-as-hell rib eye steaks. Crayon, her eyes like saucers within her hairy face, started to bellow and a nearby Gutter Rat’s eyes lit up in excited anticipation at the drama that was about to unfold. All this happened within a heartbeat at which point Phantasee decided it was time to act. In an instant six portals appeared in the air; then just as quickly were gone, taking with them the three flying glasses and every drop of Milk.
Crayon’s roar momentarily caught the attention of the tavern’s occupants but, upon seeing nothing unusual, their attention quickly returned to their conversations. The group of Lazy Lions had not even bothered to look up, intent as they were on their meals. The Gutter Rat had been the only other witness of the event and his eyes were now bulging in shock as his head turned one way then the other.
Crayon stopped bellowing and turned to Phantasee. “But-but… where did it all go?” she stammered.
“My dear Crayon,” Phantasee said. “I have merely saved us all a great deal of trouble, including trying to explain to the cook and a group of very hungry Lazy Lions why their steak had been marinated in Milk. I am sure you could have come up with a very inventive story but this way you get to keep your job and the Lazy Lions get to keep their meals. As to where it all went… why I merely moved it here.” Phantasee pointed with his left paw to the wooden crate beside him. The three glasses in question were stacked neatly in a row still filled to their brims with Milk.
“But how?” Crayon stammered.
“I shan’t go into the technicalities but suffice it to say that my primary Affinity is with Aether, also known as Akash. This allows me to manipulate Aether at a Mastery level. One of the primary things that I do with this ability is creating Portals that connect two geographically disconnected points in physical space through the Aetheric Realm. That way I can send things from point A to point B without them having to travel through the intervening physical space.”
Crayon had a stunned and somewhat vacant expression on her face. She was slack-jawed and bug-eyed, with her fat bottom lip drooping down and to the left.
“Anyway, never mind all that,” Phantasee resumed, patting the bovine on her lower back, for that was as high as Phantasee was able to reach. “No need to thank me, my dear. Now off you go as I have some business to attend to. Also you may leave the Milk.”
Crayon blinked several times before ducking her head again and shuffling off.
Phantasee smiled and opened his arms in welcome as Mister Brains, Pong and BigFoot arrived at the stage. “Well met friends. Have some delicious Milk, it is on the house.”
“Well met indeed,” Mister Brains said, his golden teeth flashing in the light. “So you are the enigmatic Phantasee of whom we have all been hearing rumours.”
“I am. In the Metaversal flesh as they say,” Phantasee said, lifting his paw for a shake. Mister Brains’ two skeletal hands grasped the proffered paw.
“And I am Pong. Just Pong. Not Ping Pong, Ding Dong or any King Kong derivative,” Pong said quickly, the words pouring from his mouth. “Look I didn’t choose the name okay. My dear late mother, may her soul rest in peace in the frigid wastelands of the Arctic Circle afterlife, in her infinite wisdom decided to call me the penguin equivalent of King Kong. I guess she thought I would be some mighty heroic warrior in my life - how wrong she was - and in her mind she thought King Pong would be a great name, the K in Kong being replaced by P in light of my being a P-enguin after all.
“So yes, I am technically King Pong but as you can imagine that didn’t go down so well at high school. Haha-harti-ha. ‘Oh look, there goes the Prince of Stench’ they used to say. And having a naturally strong body odour coupled with a propensity for eating garlic and aromatic fish dishes didn’t exactly help matters either did it? DID IT MUM!?” Pong screamed shrilly.
“No, no, no I had just had enough of it all, the bullying, the snide remarks, the drawings of me sitting on a stinking throne of dung. So I dropped the King and kept the Pong. It broke my dear mother’s heart, may her soul rest in peace in the frigid wastelands of the Arctic Circle afterlife, to see her only son renounce his glorious future. She passed on soon after. Death by choking on an eel was the cause according to the official coroner’s report. But I know the truth… it was because I became Pong and she just couldn’t accept it, may her soul rest in peace in the frigid wastelands of the Arctic Circle afterlife.”
Phantasee and the others had listened in silence throughout Pong’s breathless explanation surrounding the origins of his name.
“Riiight,” Phantasee drawled. “Pleasure to meet you Pong. And whilst you have my commiserations regarding your clearly unresolved childhood psychological traumas and ongoing identity issues, I shall deftly avoid every unsubtle attempt on your behalf to somehow engage me in a messy therapeutic relationship. So I now turn away from you to greet BigFoot.” And with that Phantasee turned towards the looming Super Yeti to his right. “Hello old friend. How was your journey?”
“Good,” BigFoot said in his high-pitched piping voice. “Mostly uneventful save for a horde of zombies that had emerged from somewhere in the North Western mountains. They typically don’t leave their graves but something had obviously scared them enough to clear out.”
“Scared you say?” Phantasee asked.
“Truly terrified. They didn’t even bother trying to scare us. They didn’t give any explanation or anything - you know how they are - but they certainly were in a hurry to head to the South East. I haven’t seen such a migration of zombies since the Sandbox Walking Dead concert last summer.”
“Hmmm. That is concerning indeed. I may need to look into this as we cannot have a horde of terrified zombies roaming the lands. Not good for tourism. Speaking of zombies,” Phantasee said, turning towards Mister Brains. “Our dear tavern proprietor Gargles suffers from an unfortunate Quirk called Undead Xenophobia, one amongst many unfortunate Quirks he has developed along the way. This paranoia led him to have Ether Flame set up at the tavern door entrance. How on earth did you manage to get through the door? The flame should have burnt you to a crisp given that you are Undead.”
Mister Brains’ golden rictus grin grew wider. “Well that is an interesting little story. Whilst I had not personally received an invitation to this event - and it is okay, I do not hold any hard feelings - I was at an AA meeting when your courier Pigeon Turtles arrived with the invitations for an attending group of CryptoPunks. I had just made friends with one of them, a zombie CryptoPunk, and he asked if some of my Undead associates and I would like to tag along. Seemed interesting and, given the invitation did not explicitly state that Undead were not invited, we naturally agreed to come along. In fact, there were a bunch of us Undead folk who decided to come along. You may not be aware but Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are mostly composed of Undead members nowadays. Big drinking problems in the Undead community. Mainly due to chronic depression and associated anhedonia stemming from full blown existential crises. The issue can be summed up in one question they have all become obsessed with, that is ‘what is the meaning of life when there is no life’. I am a Professor of Psychology, you see, and I regularly attend the AA meetings as part of my fieldwork research.
“Anyway, I digress. A couple of Deadheads, some Undeadz and I decided to join the CryptoPunks. Unfortunately, when we finally arrived we found our entrance blocked by Ether Flame. But a small group of Axies had also arrived at the same time and, given that they were similarly obstructed from entering, we set to brainstorming. In the end it was a modified Dark Swoop spell from a Backdoor Bird that allowed us to gain entrance via a trapdoor created right there at the entrance. And voila, here I am or rather here we are as the others are out there in the crowd somewhere.”
“Fascinating tale and well regaled,” Phantasee said. “I for one am glad that you made it here as I personally have nothing against Undead or Axies. The same cannot unfortunately be said for Gargles, so I would warn you to keep a low profile whilst in here. As long as he does not notice your presence then I see no issues. Which given his current predicament I do not see as being an immediate concern.”
The others turned to face the direction of Phantasee’s gaze and could see Gargles, the Drunken Duck proprietor of the Tavern, being manhandled by Crayon and another barmaid. They appeared to be trying to extricate Gargles’ head from a glass beer jug. Crayon had him by the legs and was pulling whilst the other bar maid was holding onto the receptacle. Phantasee and the others could see Gargles’ cross-eyed face pressed up against the inside of the glass jug, his blood shot eyes rolling in circles as his tongue - even now - was attempting to lick the remaining drops of beer.
“Indeed it would appear I am not in any immediate danger,” Mister Brains said before chuckling. “So Phantasee, may I ask what your primary psychological archetype is? I can normally tell with people but I get a sense of many different ones within you, which makes me think the Trickster may be at play here.”
“Ah yes. The Trickster. You see the Joker and I have an interesting relationship. He assists me when I need to take on a persona which does not come naturally. When I embody the Joker archetype and put on his playful mask I am able to be anyone, do anything. Or at least give a convincing enough performance to fool most viewers. Like this situation, for example. You see, I am absolutely terrified of public speaking. So during such times I ask the Joker to speak on my behalf. And he does a jolly fine job of it most of the time. But as to the question of what my Primary Archetype is? It is not the Joker. The core of my being is the Magician archetype. The Charismatic Leader, the Visionary, he who manifests Dreams. But my secondary archetype would be the Joker, the Wise Fool, the Trickster.”
“Interesting,” Mister Brains mused, running a bony finger along his jaw. But before he could go on Phantasee interrupted him.
“Terribly sorry to cut our little chat short but I can see the crowd is getting a little restless if the number of fights breaking out is any indication. I think it best that we re-commence the lectures,” Phantasee said, eyeing the crowd. “Oh and don’t forget to take your Milk.”
Mister Brains and BigFoot dutifully collected a glass of Milk from the crate, however, Pong simply stood there with his arms crossed.
“I can’t have Milk,” Pong said with a pout. “I’m lactose intolerant you see.”
“Oh my condolences, but you see this Milk has far more utility than simply acting as a refreshing beverage. In fact, I think I will start our next discussion on this very topic. Now run along and take a seat,” Phantasee urged, giving a gentle push to the Pudgy Penguin’s back.
Phantasee collected the glass from the crate, took several sips before releasing a satisfied exhalation and replaced the glass upon the crate. After another moment of contemplation he raised his arms above his head and called to the crowd to take their seats.
Once the audience had quietened down and resumed their seats Phantasee began to speak. “Sorry to cut the intermission short but I can see that some members of the audience were starting to grow restless. Now, all those who took up the offer of Milk please raise your hands.”
About half the crowd raised their hands in response.
“Well done to those with their hands up,” Phantasee said. “You have all participated in a transaction that is now permanently and immutably stored on the Ethereum blockchain. The reason for this is that the Milk I offered is in fact a token. The Milk served at the bar is the voxelised representation of the Milk token that supports the Cool Cats ecosystem. And what are Cool Cats you may ask? They are the third largest iconic NFT avatar collection behind the Bored Ape Yacht Club and CryptoPunks. But we are getting ahead of ourselves, so let us take it slowly step by step.
“Earlier today I introduced the concept of NFTs. Now can anyone remember what NFTs stands for?”
Mister Brains raised his skeletal arm.
“Yes Mister Brains.”
“NFTs is an acronym for non-fungible tokens,” Mister Brains said standing up. “Unlike other fungible tokens like Bitcoin - and by fungible I mean that any one Bitcoin is perfectly equal to and interchangeable with any other Bitcoin such that there is no difference between any two Bitcoins - non-fungible tokens in contrast are unique and no two are exactly the same.”
“Thankyou Mister Brains. That is a great explanation. Let us look at an example of what this would look like within the Ethereum ecosystem as the vast majority of NFTs are still minted and traded on the Ethereum blockchain. A good example of this would be the 10k NFT Avatar collections that have grown to dominate the NFT space of late. These are collections typically composed of about 10,000 NFTs that have been programmatically generated using a base set of image traits. These are then combined randomly to create 10,000 generative art pieces of which no two are exactly the same. I should also note that they are almost always one of one pieces, which is to say, only one copy of that NFT will ever be produced. These are true examples of non-fungible tokens and are commonly ERC-721 tokens, which are a type of token standard approved by the Ethereum blockchain network to function within the Ethereum ecosystem.
“Then there are what I would consider to be semi-fungible tokens, which are the same as non-fungible tokens with the only difference being that more than one copy will be minted. They are therefore not one of one but are still ERC-721 tokens. Thus whilst everyone still refers to these as being NFTs, they are technically fungible given that any two are the same. Exceptions to this would include land assets like in the Sandbox. The reason for this is that whilst all of the lands are created exactly the same in terms of their properties and dimensions, they are each unique due to their differing geographical locations and thus they are true NFTs.”
“Hi Phantasee, I have a question,” Pong said.
“Okay. Please proceed.”
“So I think I understand now what an NFT is and how they are different to something like bitcoin which is more like a currency. So are you saying that Milk is not an NFT and it is more like Bitcoin?”
“Yes and no. It is a bit more complicated than that. Let us explore it to better understand. So Milk is an example of an ERC-20 token, which is another type of token protocol on the Ethereum blockchain. And because all Milk tokens are interchangeable and equivalent in value it can function like a currency. The property of fungibility in a token facilitates its use as a currency. You would not want one unit of a currency to be worth more than another unit as it would get very confusing when trying to make a trade with such a currency. So yes, in that respect it is similar to Bitcoin but really the comparison ends there.”
“We use Bananas as our medium of exchange within the CyberKongz ecosystem,” Baza-Enoin said from the back of the room.
“Precisely,” Phantasee said. “Another great example of a token generated with the purpose of serving a particular function within a niche NFT ecosystem. There are multiple types of what are known collectively as utility tokens each serving differing purposes. Some tokens act as currencies, others as membership identifiers allowing access to private content both in or out of games, and yet others act as governance tokens allowing the holder to vote on proposals. Some projects combine these features into one token and some have several tokens for each function.
“And then you have some tokens that not only provide utility but also act as good stores of value. An example of this would be Sand which is the primary token utilised in the Sandbox metaverse. Sand is both scarce, due to the fact that there will only ever be three billion ever created, and functional in that it serves as the primary medium of exchange in the Sandbox ecosystem. All NFT assets in their Marketplace are priced in Sand.”
“So if I had Sand but I wanted to buy something from a shop that accepted Bananas would I be able to buy it?” asked the Gutter Cat known as Rosanne.
“Maybe. That would be at the discretion of the merchant selling the product you wanted to buy. But I would say that more than likely when buying from larger shops there will be some automated system that would convert whatever token the buyer had for the preferred token of the shop owner. But then I can also see instances where some shops would only accept a certain token. For example, I bet if you go to the CyberKongz city some things would only be available for purchase in Bananas. The reason is this would help support and reinforce the utility of Bananas, ensuring it does not become just another redundant token.”
“Okay and what if I combined let’s say Milk with Bananas?” Pong asked, eliciting a few chuckles from the crowd.
“Well, I guess you might get a Banana Milkshake,” Phantasee said with a broad smile. The crowd’s chuckles turned into genuine laughter at this response. “Which is not a half bad idea. To be honest, I think we will see more collaborations between NFT avatar projects in the future which may result in the creation of either entirely new NFTs or possibly new utility tokens such as a Banana-Milkshake token which might serve a particular function within the ecosystem of each project.
“So in summary. Within the Ethereum ecosystem, your utility tokens such as governance tokens, currencies or membership/access tokens are typically ERC-20 tokens and your non-fungible tokens such as profile avatars, are typically ERC-721 tokens. I should note that there are some newer token standards but we will not go into that today as they are not commonly used.”
“And one last question from me, Mister Phantasee,” Pong said with his hand raised. “What is an avatar again? I know you mentioned it before but I don’t know if I fully got it.”
“Good question Pong,” Phantasee said. “Put simply, an Avatar is the digital representation of the player. It is their alter ego in the Metaverse. Every one of you here has chosen a specific Avatar to be your representative for today. Tomorrow, some of you may choose a different Avatar to represent you within the Sandbox Metaverse. Others, like myself, will only ever have one Avatar within the Sandbox as this Avatar is intrinsically linked to my digital identity both in and out of the game. It becomes a brand of sorts. Which is why there are so many interesting things occurring at the intersection of the NFT Avatar projects and Metaverse games.
“Many profile picture Avatars that people have taken to using as their online visual representation on platforms like Discord, Twitter, Facebook etc are in fact 2D jpeg NFTs. But now some of these projects are collaborating with artists to create 3D models of these 2D Avatars which can then be used in various Metaverses, one of which is the Sandbox. The first - and arguably the best example of this that we have seen to date - would be with CyberKongz.”
This elicited a cheer from the giant CyberKongz woman known as Poke. Phantasee smiled at this and then resumed: “The creation of CyberKongz VX, which were the voxelised versions of the 2D CyberKongz, allowed these NFT holders to play in the Sandbox as their favourite CyberKongz Avatar. In fact, all of you here today are voxelised versions of your various favourite profile picture projects except, of course, the Axies over in the corner hiding under a Disguise ability. Yes, I see you there.”
Mister Brains stood up from his seat. He cleared his throat, which produced a sound like rattling bones, and then proceeded to speak: “It is interesting to examine the psychological effects of using a Metaverse Avatar that a human player identifies with in the real world and that they have associations with in their real world social and business lives. Use of these Avatars assists with and increases immersion into these Metaverses and games. In fact, it facilitates a blurring of these worlds. Already some companies or organisations are hosting their meetings in various Metaverses. Whilst this has been borne from the blockchain gaming space, I can foresee that more and more this will become a blockchain Metaverse space as opposed to exclusively a gaming space. The reason for this is that the Metaverse is a virtual space that allows for experiences beyond merely gaming and in this we have only just begun to scrape the surface. People are increasingly spending more-”
Mister Brains’ discourse was suddenly cut short by a muffled shriek from Gargles, whose head, we should add, was still firmly wedged within the jug. Crayon and the other bar maid had given up some minutes before in their futile attempts to extricate Gargles’ head from its glass helmet and thus Gargles now sat cross legged on the bar staring balefully at Mister Brains. Despite his inebriated state and somewhat obstructed vision, Gargles had caught sight of the standing Wicked Cranium. Gargles was now pointing one feathered arm at Mister Brains and babbling incoherently within the jug. This simply served to fog the glass and obstruct his vision, causing him to involuntarily wipe at the jug with his free arm. The audience watched in mixed parts horror and fascination as the curious creature that was Gargles slipped into a conniption fit of outrage, all the while presenting disturbing images of his gaping maw, pressed as his face was against the inside of the jug.
“Oh no not again,” Crayon groaned.
Feathered arms flailing, head wagging wildly, tongue flickering grotesquely and eyes rolling in circles, Gargles began to shake uncontrollably and as he shook, so too did the tavern. Glasses, bottles and plates began to crash to the floor from their shelving units at the same time as members of the audience started to fall from their chairs. Screams filled the air as the light began to dim within the tavern and a wind picked up within the confines of the room. A palpable pressure began to build and flickering lightning crackled around them. Even Phantasee was caught off guard and thrown to the floor along with everyone else. The pressure and shaking increased further as a high keening sound appeared at the edge of hearing.
Then, all of a sudden, it was gone. The light returned and the shaking ceased abruptly, although a few patrons caught mid-air continued their trajectory before falling to the ground in a heap. Then there was dead silence for a few long seconds.
“Damnable, useless, good-for-nothing drunken fool of a husband,” said a voice over by the bar. The voice belonged to Missus Petunia, the long-suffering Sup Duck wife of Gargles. She was crouched on the bar and presently whacking the body of Gargles with a broom. She would have been hitting his face had it been accessible, however, when Missus Petunia had whacked Gargles with her broom some ten seconds before, she had hit with such force that she managed to lodge Gargles’ head, still with the jug and still connected to his body, through the back wall of the bar. Luckily for Gargles - and everyone else - he was now unconscious but still breathing.
Missus Petunia, having satisfied her need to hit her comatose husband, stood up on the bar. “Okay you lot. Now look at what ya gone and did. Got my abode all messed up. I want this place cleaned up within the hour or there’ll be hell to pay. You think what my husband did was bad…” she said ominously. The room then darkened again and a slight tremble was felt on the floor. When she next spoke her voice appeared to come from all directions at once. “You ain’t seen nothing!”
There was dead silence as everyone lay where they were, too afraid to even breathe. The silence was finally broken by a plate slipping off the wall to crash to the floor. Missus Petunia sniffed with disdain at the cowed crowd and disappeared.
Thus ends Part Two of the Tavern Lectures