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Colorglyph—Playing with Cryptocurrency

Post by
Tyler van der Hoeven
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I’ve been dabbling in the cryptocurrency space since late 2013, right as Bitcoin was making its first surge. I did a little day trading for a few months and made a few hundred dollars. Of course like everyone I wish I had just bought and held but whatever. It was fun and a few hundred bucks is still few hundred bucks at the end of the day. Since then the cryptocurrency space has gone ballistic with hundreds of new coins, exchanges and use cases. I too have gotten more involved from doing a bit more aggressive and professional trading on mature exchanges to building my own algorithmic trading bot. I’ve tried dozens of tracking apps and wallets and even entered and won a cryptocurrency competition earlier this year.

Cryptocurrency is a fun and risky space. It’s often compared to the lottery or gambling in general by those on the outside looking in but for those of us investing in the space, both with brains and cash, it’s something very much bigger. The lottery and gambling will in of themselves never solve any real world problems. They aren’t positioned to change the way the world transacts. Cryptocurrency is that. Sure, it gets a bad rap right now because 99% of the conversation and general thought is that it’s merely an incredibly volatile form of stocks. That it’s main purpose or draw is to buy low and sell high. That however is a gross misunderstanding of the true power and purpose of the cryptocurrency industry. Yes, if you play your cards right and get a bit lucky you might just make out like a bandit, but the true power and draw of this space is the opportunity to innovate, disrupt and improve a very tired, outdated and inefficient industry. This is what excites me about cryptocurrency, this is why I’m here, to build apps and facilitate conversations about what could be if we took the tech behind cryptocurrency and applied it into solving everyday problems.

Today I’m writing about one such application. Colorglyph. It is my second entry into the Stellar Build Challenge. It is an exploration into two fronts of this arising industry which I wanted to explore.

  1. An “out there” application breaking the mold of what cryptocurrency apps can or even should be.
  2. An exercise within that of complex multi-currency transactions across the blockchain.

My first entry earlier this year, Popcoin was a relatively traditional application directly utilizing the Stellar SDK to move and track finances across multiple accounts. It definitely wasn’t just another wallet or exchange but it also didn’t step too far outside the boundaries of how you would expect cryptocurrency technology to be used. For round 2 I really wanted to push the envelope to see how abstract I could get with it.

The concept for Colorglyph is actually simple enough. It’s a game wherein you create and trade pixel glyphs from a limited color palette.

colorglyph

It’s actually a lot of fun. There’s something soothing, almost nostalgic about creating little pixel glyphs and then trading them around with other users. It combines a lot of my childhood into one app. Retro games meet trading cards.

So that’s all well and good but where does the cryptocurrency come in? Any guesses? Nope! It’s not a game currency or some sort of pay-to-play implementation. Or at least not externally. It’s built right into the glyphs themselves.

Each glyph is made up of a limited set and number of colors and those colors are each their own crypto token on the Stellar network. They are distributed by a master account and owned by separate individual accounts which “trust” those color tokens from the master.

Let’s break down exactly what that means and how it plays out in the game.

colorglyph

Take this grid for example. Currently it’s made up of 12 #ff1744 tokens. (For those following along at home I’m using Google’s Material Design palette). We’ll call this Red Square from User A.

colorglyph

‍Now User B is over here making a glyph and she really wants to surround her green center with a red square. Unfortunately she’s fresh out of #ff1744 so she’ll need to acquire some before she can finish this glyph. So she’ll head to the trading view and hunt around for a glyph with 12 or so #ff1744 tokens.

colorglyph

User B initiates a trade with User A for Red Square offering two of her glyphs she’s willing to loose in the trade.

colorglyph

User A can then either accept or reject this trade offer from User B. He’ll accept it of course.

colorglyph

This will then give User B the 12 needed tokens to complete her beautiful glyph.

Simple enough right? What’s happening in the backend though is a complex “multi-currency” transaction. Each user on Colorglyph has their own Stellar account which maintains their token library dictating how much of each color they have to “spend” on glyphs. When a glyph is added or removed from their active library their color count is adjusted and a multi operational transaction is initiated.

While Stellar is not needed for this application to exist it highlights a few fascinating features of cryptocurrency technology and the Stellar API in particular.

Creating and exchanging custom currencies.Complex single transactions with multiple operations. Specifically in this case a multi currency transaction. Especially interesting when you think how difficult and even foreign it would be to pay for a single something with a mix of USD, EUR and BTC. Stellar tech makes that kind of functionality trivial.Opens the opportunity for both cross game currency and cross material tokens. Taking game or application elements themselves and implementing them in other platforms. This is interesting because traditionally this is split into two elements. Game currency and game elements. Being able to abstract away a separate payment layer by integrating it into the elements themselves is incredible.Allows the game to be “played” elsewhere. You could theoretically take your color tokens and trade them around with other users totally outside of the Colorglyph ecosystem. Decentralization at it’s best. Perhaps a bit of a contrived example but imagine User A wanted a token badly enough he would mow his neighbors yard for it and through an external exchange could obtain that color as a method of payment. Pretty crazy.

I think though the most fascinating facets of this whole experiment are features which haven’t been implemented yet. Things like creating glyphs as a team and then using multi sig to approve any resulting trade. Or using path payments to convert one token to another allowing you to essentially use one color in place of another. There’s something powerful in using something simple and relatively familiar to understand and surface insights into something seemingly complex and far reaching. I’ve learned more about crypto tech and Stellar in particular building this app than when I built my algorithmic trading bot.

The crypto industry is booming, love it, hate it or fear it, it’s growing and changing the way the world deals in money. My hope is that through technology like Stellar, games like Colorglyph and applications like Popcoin more and more innovative and creative individuals will jump onboard and help lead this industry into a bright and beneficial place for all of us.

Learn more: colorglyph.io

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few apps which greatly inspired my thoughts moving into this project.

The pixel glyph idea came from the Designer News header and portrait feature. Such a fun way to personalize your account.

colorglyph
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