StoryCo, a collaborative online storytelling platform powered by web3 technology, has released the first chapter of “The Disco Ball”–an interactive, multimedia science fiction narrative featuring top professional actors, artists, and writers working alongside creators from all over the world.
The taut, moving story is helmed by HALO showrunner Kyle Killen, with simple, graceful illustrations by LA-based pop artists @shelbyandsandy, and features performances by celebrated actors including Stephanie Beatriz, Costa Ronin, Lionel Boyce, and Teddy Sears.
The first chapter of the story—subsequent chapters will arrive over the next few months—introduces the viewer to Captain Alma Cooke, played by Beatriz, and her quirky, awkward international crew of astronauts, each with a more interesting backstory than the next. As their fragile station faces catastrophe, they will embark on a mission to save not just themselves but the entire multiverse.
The first chapter of the story finishes with a bang and one heck of a cliffhanger: a veritable jaw-dropper. But as you interact with The Disco Ball—just head to their website (ideally on a proper computer screen with good sound!) to do so—you’ll discover a few intriguing things that make this story different from simply loading up Netflix and watching a show.
First off is its interactivity. In the first episode, you’ll be doing more than just clicking “next”—you’ll be watching and listening to the life of the tiny orbital station, taking in the backstory of the well-drawn characters, and even twiddling the occasional dial. It’s a format that owes as much to digital art and narrative games as it does to television or comics.
As you walk through the chapter, you’ll also get opportunities to collect “Story Moments”—these are mintable (on Polygon) works of art commemorating your progress through the story—which will be attached to your dynamic, digital “Story Pass”. You’ll have the opportunity, as time goes on, to do far more than just consume the story—there will also be chances to take part in activations that take place here in the real world.
These, of course, will be powered by web3 technology and recorded on-chain—soul-bound tokens on Polygon—but won’t get in the way of the user experience, even if they’re completely new to crypto. “I think, in most cases, people who find us don’t even know that they’re interacting with web3. We’ve made it an absolutely seamless experience so that it feels very native and not intimidating to people who are not used to operating with the blockchain,” says StoryCo co-founder and co-CEO Justin Alanis.
Whereas most people think of NFTs as inherently interoperable and transferable, StoryCo has made Story Moments nontransferable, or soulbound, for a particular purpose. “The idea is that they’re soul-bound because they represent your unique journey through the narrative, but it allows us to understand who’s engaging with the story so we can reward those folks with things that can be transferrable,” says J.P. Alanis—Justin’s brother and the other co-founder and co-CEO of StoryCo—in an interview.
Most intriguingly, The Disco Ball and other upcoming stories from StoryCo will allow anyone in the world the opportunity to “co-create” alongside the top talent producing the story.
Co-creation opportunities take place at particular points in the story and could include an open call for a piece of artwork, for a short story illuminating the background of a character, or for a musical composition or voice acting.
The first chapter of The Disco Ball contains several pieces of co-creation, including artwork by Nigerian art student Okereafor Aanu and an entire minor character created by high school teacher Aaron Arm. More is coming in upcoming chapters, including a full song by Fuzzle, an Arizona synth-pop band.
Arm was intrigued by the idea of co-creation when he heard about the project. “I heard about the CoCreate contest through a post on Discord in one of the writing servers I follow,” he told nft now. “I was interested in getting involved with the story, as I liked the premise (being a sci-fi writer myself), and I liked the idea of helping jumpstart a new creative project,” he said.
Arm’s submission answered the open call to create the character of the international director of DBRIS, an in-story organization dedicated to researching the multiverse. He named her Alethea and created an artifact for the audience of The Disco Ball to encounter as they unroll the story: an ominous, erratic letter to DBRIS agents from her in her role as director. “Given the guidelines for Alethea’s role in this world, I felt she would naturally have to be all business, at least on the outside. She needs to value control as an organizational director, and she needs to value the truth. Of course, those are things that she also needs to value personally, given past events that might threaten to take those things away. So, she’s very much compensating for some inner conflict and a sense of fragility, but in turn that makes her a strong character,” he said.
For Arm—a published science fiction author in his own right—the process of co-creation alongside the StoryCo team felt smooth and natural. “Working with StoryCo’s team has been a pleasure. They’ve been encouraging creative freedom while also laying the groundwork for a cohesive story. I can only imagine how much they have to juggle, given how many hands are involved and the multimedia aspect of the project. I’m very excited to see where the story goes and future opportunities for collaboration,” he said.
For Justin Alanis, these collaborations are the heart of The Disco Ball. “The CoCreates that we’ve received so far have blown us away. I think that the real story here is of the creators who are now involved in this production in a material way,” he said.
Co-creation opportunities offer more than bragging rights—most also offer financial compensation, paid in cash and in Profit Points, which allow users to share in the profits generated by sales of The Disco Ball intellectual property.
That could potentially be big: “Monetization events can encompass a wide range of events involving the story IP, including a film or television licensing deal, merchandise sales, and the full sale of the story IP to an external stakeholder, etc.,” said JP Alanis.