Embracing the Block in Blockchain: Building with Voxel Art

Pirate Nation
5 min readOct 12, 2022

We’ve been hard at work these last few months figuring out how to best represent the on-chain game-world we’re creating with Pirate Nation. We thought deeply about what it meant to have an art style that complemented the vision we have for building on-chain games while embracing the web3 ethos of permanence and composability.

Our team has been building diligently and we’re excited to finally share an in-game, in-engine sneak-peek of Pirate Nation!

What the heck is a voxel?

Voxels, or ‘volumetric pixels,’ are the equivalent of 3D pixel building blocks. They have been used in many popular games before, most notably Minecraft where millions of players created massive 3D worlds out of voxels.

Our voxel journey started with an art-test of a fish shack, a common sight for pirates and sailors. Once we settled on our first building, our art-director, Craig Woida, aided by a number of phenomenally talented artists, got to work on creating our first fun and whimsical voxel asset.

You can see the journey that this humble shack went through where it started with voxels-on-voxels to represent the roof tiles until evolving to texturing to accomplish similar visual effects. This resulted in using fewer voxels meaning faster rendering and a more unique art-style.

Fish Shack evolution, left to right.

Voxels are Digital Legos

Growing up, the Pirate Nation team loved both building and playing with Legos — We even had our logo commissioned in Lego style!

Just as Legos were created nearly 100 years ago, we strongly believe that voxel art will still be around 100 years from now and is as timeless as early 8-bit pixel art. More importantly, we view voxels as an investment in the future of composable on and off-chain games.

There are a number of major advantages to working with voxel art:

  • Interoperability: Voxels can be mixed, stacked, composed, and used in a variety of ways. What’s incredible about Legos is their ability to be mixed and matched. The characters and pieces from the Harry Potter play-set can be used in the Star Wars play-set and everything still fits together. The same is true for voxels and it allows for unparalleled creativity for builders.
  • Easy-to-create: There are only 2 operations to create voxel art: “place a block” and “remove a block”. It’s intuitive and easy even for young kids to pick up. Anyone can create voxel art, as millions have before in Minecraft. For developers, voxel art also lowers cost & time to produce art, both static and animated. This lower barrier to entry is critical because it means more people can serve as creators in a Voxel universe, something we’re really excited about enabling in Pirate Nation in the future.
  • Timeless: Lower-resolution, retro art has a timeless quality to it that avoids the uncanny-valley. It has an opinion and it’s not trying to simulate reality. We believe that voxel art is a great foundation to build upon for an ecosystem of on-chain games.
  • Technical Performance: Voxel art is TINY. The .VOX format that is the standard for voxels is the equivalent of .GIF for 2D images. It’s small, and highly compressible. While we’re currently hosting assets on IPFS, we’re investigating ways to put this data on-chain directly given its small footprint.

So, Why Now?

We had always planned for Pirate Nation to live in a voxel universe and the more we started exploring in the style, the more we realized how much more visually distinct it looked. We decided that it was worthwhile to spend the time putting the finishing touches on the voxel art style and we are really excited to reveal it to the world after months of heads down building.

Resources are among the many items you’ll be able to collect in Pirate Nation. A variety of other items are obtainable by sending your Pirate on quests and by using these in-game assets to craft new items. Here’s the journey our resources took from 2D vector art to voxels:

From left to right: Jug of Rum, Cotton, Wood, Iron Ore.

Are you changing all the NFTs to voxels?

Nope. Our voxel art will reference traits from the NFT art, however, the 9,999 Founder’s Pirates will remain 2D vector art. Our NFTs are the only art that we will do in 2D style making these pieces extra special and rare. The Pirates are your keys to Pirate Nation gameplay and we created them with love and care to stand on their own as a high quality PFP collection that community members can be proud to rep.

How do I get a Founder’s Pirate?

Right now you can get yourself on the Goldlist (Allowlist) by being an active community member or through collabs and giveaway events. Goldlist winners will be guaranteed the ability to mint 2 Pirates in the upcoming mint.

Details in Discord

Keep your good eye out watching for more updates about Pirate Nation because we have many more exciting announcements to make between now and our mint-date.

Sign up for the Goldlist
Sign up for the Open Mint



Pirate Nation

A new type of game, filled with high seas adventure, treasure, fun, and unexpected surprises