Is the Loot Project going to have a trajectory somewhat like Ethereum circa 2018? There are certainly parallels. Those outside of Loot are dismissing it right now, much the way the public became convinced that crypto was over after the ICO boom.
In both cases, though, after the attention went away, a lot of work was getting done. The trouble is, like Ethereum back then, even enthusiastic community members still aren’t totally sure what Loot is going to be good for.
Loot (for Adventures) was launched in late August by Vine co-founder Dom Hoffmann. It enabled Ethereum users to download a list of items in an NFT, LOOT, that would provide the basis of a game — some game. Then in September, Hoffman burnt the keys that would have allowed him to change the smart contract so that it truly had community control. Since then, he’s largely backed away.
At first, the NFT drop was extremely buzzy. The average sale price in early September was over $50,000. Daily volume peaked at the end of August at 6,027 ETH, and it remained higher than 1,000 ETH until Sept. 9, according to the Loot Ecosystem dashboard on Dune Analytics.
Today, ETH volume on LOOT sales seldom breaks 100 in a 24 hour period and less than 20 Loot NFTs change hands most days. OpenSea shows a floor price for Loot of 2.399 ETH right now, or $10,749, well down from the $50,000 floor it was showing in early September.
Skepticism has swelled. “Remember the 72 hours where Loot was the fucking meaning of existence?” said James Prestwich, founder of Summa, on Twitter.
Swords, Cloaks and Amulets
Right now, 2,541 wallets hold at least one LOOT NFT, with an average of 3 per wallet, but there are some very big LOOT whales out there. One wallet has more than 1,500. It’s that concentration of wealth that has turned Lumi, the indie crypto researcher, bearish on Loot. “The absence of follow through or solution to its existential dilemmas was entirely unsatisfying to me in terms of real interest,” he told The Defiant over Telegram,
A Loot NFT is just a list of eight items, the sort of things one might find in a fantasy game: swords, cloaks and amulets. All of the data that generates it is on chain, which is compelling, but the output itself is about as low res as NFTs get. Still, that’s what so many builders found inspiring: not quite a blank slate, but close, yet with mysterious tangible value.
Paul Veradittakit of Pantera Capital, recently released his own Loot report. “The project’s in a really important moment in its lifecycle. It had a viral first month or so,” he said in an email to The Defiant. “As Loot (and other associated assets) have depreciated in value since then and the building has somewhat slowed down, my read is that the community is searching for the next leg of the ‘Lootverse.'”
Loot was one of the most hyped of non-fungible token (NFT) projects as the craze for provably unique digital items took over Ethereum and spread to other blockchains, but since then a lot of the shine has come off Loot. The idea of a game that doesn’t exist yet seems to have worn out for the broader market, but is this really the end for Loot? Or could it be that the market has trouble pricing projects with an uncertain use case?
It’s easy to draw a comparison to Ethereum itself here.
Following the initial coin offering boom of 2017 and early 2018, Ethereum (and all of crypto) went into what is now known as Crypto Winter. The mainstream dismissed crypto, but within the industry believers kept working on their ideas. All of that effort appeared to be justified by 2020 when DeFi Summer hit and there were many more useful things the “World Computer” could do besides raising money for ambiguous projects.
Tyler Spalding, founder of Flexa, has been a Loot fan since the beginning, believing it is setting up smart game makers up for success because a bunch of people have an incentive to try games or experiences with the potential to bring value to their NFTs. “If Loot becomes mildly successful, you have the ‘game pieces = users’ right out of the box,” Spalding told the Defiant via Telegram.
Other Ethereum entrepreneurs who didn’t want to make detailed comments simply noted to The Defiant that it’s hard to believe in a project with an absent founder.
Loot’s devotees aren’t concerned about his absence, however. Hoffmann hasn’t shown up in the Loot Talk forum since the end of October. The only project he mentions in his Twitter bio is Blitmap, a sci-fi game being built by its community.
“Loot is a first of its kind completely bottom up, fully decentralized community. There are incredible things being built,” Will Papper, a SyndicateDAO cofounder who created Adventure Gold, told The Defiant via direct message. “The flip side of decentralization is that it’s much harder to coordinate, but the Loot Alliance of builders has done a great job of it.”
After all, there’s a pretty well known crypto project that hasn’t heard from its founder in a very long time as well: Bitcoin.
One of the most active members of the Loot community is Timshel. He’s doing a number of things, but one of his big efforts is working to create a lore or backstory for the Loot universe by plumbing the smart contract that created Loot.
He told The Defiant that Hoffmann’s absence is “the key that sheds light on the whole vibe and meaning of Loot, and why Loot is so different from these hype projects.”
For his part, Hoffmann contends he’s not really gone, he’s just studiously quiet because he thinks that is the right move. “I now view myself as more of a community member and builder like everyone else,” he told The Defiant over Twitter, noting that it’s important that he doesn’t take up too much space at this delicate stage. “There are special things coming together in the community that i want to make sure have the space they need to thrive”Hoffmann did not immediately reply to a request for comment by The Defiant.
There is a lot of activity going on behind the scenes in Loot, but none of it has output an actual buzzy game. At least, it hasn’t put out a normal video game yet.
One could argue that Loot in its current form is the game. The first game is creating the game that most people agree is Loot. Very meta.
Timshel recently launched a website to try to nail down some consensus points about Loot, called Loot Foundation. For now, that site argues that the primitives of Loot are the initial NFT drop, mLoot (More Loot) and sLoot (Synthetic Loot).
This initiative spun out of an investigation into the smart contract that created Loot, which turned out to have more details in it about the items than people originally realized. Most importantly, it had 16 classes or categories or items (things like “Brilliance” or “Fury”), suggesting a sort of allegiance between them that hinted at founding stories. Members of the community who want to collaboratively create Loot’s lore are largely meeting up as part of the Genesis Project.
The Loot Foundation site contends that Loot has a few primitives, Loot, More Loot, and Synthetic Loot.
More Loot was another airdrop of Loot items that gave access to the game to many more users. When Hofmann released it in early September, it created over 1.3M additional Loot bags, with an expanding supply that will mint something like another quarter million bags per year.
Synthetic Loot is an extension of Loot that gives a single bag to every Ethereum address that ever was or will be. That way, anyone has a way to “start” in any game or web3 experience that requires some kind of Loot to get started.
Loot Foundation also argues that the smart contract implies another primitive, 2,540 Genesis Adventurers. That is, all of the items that belong to one class suggest that in ancient times there was one great adventurer who held and used all of those items at once. So all the items that end in “of Detection” or “of Skill” once belonged to one ancient hero.
Another key development in Loot has been Adventure Gold, a fungible cash for the Loot universe. Adventure Gold (AGLD) recently tried and failed to update the smart contract to expand the supply, but it failed, and not for lack of support but lack of quorum. However, it passed a vote to drop the quorum requirement if an overwhelming majority of voters support a measure over a longer running vote, so the expansion could still happen soon
AGLD hit a high of $5.49 on Sept. 4, but it hasn’t broken $3 since Nov. 20, according to CoinMarketCap.
These efforts comprise just the top level of what’s going on. There’s many more pieces coming together, vying to be part of the canonical Loot universe, when things get further along. With Hoffmann gone, there’s no clear leader, but members of the community have a regular call to try and maintain some kind of overall consensus while still letting experiments bloom.
There are projects around land for loot, time and lots of attempts to define the game’s aesthetics ahead of the game. Loot Watcher is a portal into all the many many creations that have come out of Loot so far.
“f you spend some time and dig into what’s happening, it’s actually pretty mindblowing,” Hoffmann said. He described a core of builders who are trying to stay somewhat on the same page as lore and technical developments evolve, and then a layer out from that of experimenters trying out ideas, all making this web of Loot’s potential. “That’s really the decentralization in effect and I’m excited to see where it goes next,” he said.
In that way, it’s kind of like mid-2018 in Ethereum, when there were DEXes, money markets and synthetics, but they hadn’t quite found product/market fit beyond the very enthusiastic. A few airdrops later and the enthusiasm for Ethereum looked very different. Loot and other NFT projects that went community first, application later, have the potential to look similar.
Loot’s value may be dropping, but Loot’s builders are definitely still building.
“I’d certainly love to see it succeed in building a vibrant, massive ‘bottom-up’ game,” Veradittakit said. “But even if it doesn’t, I think it’s been a great experiment and will inspire the next generation of builders.”
It may be strange that so many people are willing to put time into Loot, an NFT that’s really just a programmatically generated list of words. It’s worth remembering though that those lists have real value. One bag is enough to buy a decent home in much of the United States. It’s exciting to build on something of value rather than trying to inject value.
Put another way, there’s a reason that jewelry isn’t made out of lead when its maker has access to gold.