Most stories today are not creating a positive global culture or envisioning a sustainable future for the next seven generations. Video games are violent, social media is toxic, and TV content is dumbing us down. Mandala aims to change this! In the following interview, the team explains how they aim to create a positive global culture and envision a sustainable future by offering a new narrative that breaks away from the negative influences of current media. Their multiverse incorporates a variety of mythologies, inviting audiences to participate actively and make a difference. Through existing distribution platforms, Mandala seeks to broaden worldviews and catalyze a cultural shift during a critical time in human entertainment.
Could you kindly introduce yourselves?
Mandala’s crossmedia special forces team consists of creators, executives, and advisors from some of the most successful IP franchises (The Blair Witch Project, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Avatar). Mandala manages creative content production through strategic partnerships with best-of-breed companies in each vertical via an innovative, decentralized Round Table model (Liontree Advisors, Mindmaze, SingularityNet, SophiaVerse, Immutable X, Dark Horse Comics).
At the helm are the creators Jon Shanker (CEO) and Dr. Albion M. Butters (CCO), Kevin J. Foxe (Executive Producer of The Blair Witch Project and now Mandala), and Cardano developer Mike Bakon (CTO). Each brings different strengths to this ambitious crossmedia project.
Hello, Mandala! It's great to connect with you today. We're excited to hear more about Mandala Metaverse. Can you give us an overview of the project and the issues it aims to tackle?
Mandala is a crossmedia franchise that leverages the intersection of entertainment, technology and self-transformation via graphic novels, Web3, streaming TV, and gaming, all of which creatively converge with the real world.
Most stories today are not creating a positive global culture or envisioning a sustainable future for the next seven generations. Video games are violent, social media is toxic, and TV content is dumbing us down. Hollywood and Web2 are broken.
Mandala gives the world a new story—in a new way.
- Mandala’s multiverse weaves many of the world’s mythologies into a universal story we are all a part of.
- Mandala’s crossmedia immersiveness and interactivity invite people into the story to wake up and make a difference.
- Mandala uses existing distribution platforms to share a meaningful experience with a global audience yearning for real content.
Mandala’s solution is to broaden the audience’s worldview and shift the culture at a critical time in human evolution. If enough of us wake up, we all wake up.
“We’re not on our journey to save the world but to save ourselves. But in doing that you save the world.” – Joseph Campbell
Can you help us understand the concept of a metaverse and how the Mandala Metaverse sets itself apart from others in the space?
Our end goal is not only entertainment but something bigger, extending from the personal to the global. Imagine a metaverse that not only simulates the individual path to enlightenment but the collective one too, alchemically marrying ancient wisdom and bleeding-edge technology to unleash the potential of human consciousness for good. Imagine a metaverse with a contemporary metanarrative and story woven from the mythological archives to help inspire the global awakening already afoot, in which the world becomes the game board and you become the hero, playing your part in creating a sustainable reality for future generations and the Earth, for real. Imagine, for a moment, a metaverse where fiction becomes reality.
We are building interoperably with SophiaVerse (SingularityNet’s metaverse), having formed a Joint Venture for a Metaverse Company to provide the decentralized tools and tech stack required to build AAA interoperable metaverses. While we may use the word “metaverse” in a shorthand way to describe our individual games and projects, we all know that there is only one metaverse—that is why we’re working with SingularityNet and SophiaVerse to help build the open, decentralized one from the bottom up, versus a centralized Meta. Similarly, this will support SingularityNet in its mission with Cardano to realize a decentralized AGI versus a centralized one.
Rather than just making an Unreal Engine trailer for gameplay that will not be released for a number of years, we took a more gradual path of developing a decentralized application (Clan dApp) and building the infrastructure for more robust gameplay to sit on. We have also focused on identity as primary, not land or environments, as the starting point of a free metaverse is the sovereign individual. For this reason, we paired our Sovereigns NFT collection on Cardano with a Decentralized Identifier (DID) solution in the creation of Avatar profiles in our dApp. This will allow users to control and own their own data.
What's the origin story behind the Mandala Metaverse?
Mandala dates back to when its creators were at Harvard, studying comparative mythologies and realizing that diverse paths from the various wisdom traditions could be shared with a broader audience in the form of a game. We imagined an “Enlightenment Simulator” and how the story would play across other media platforms, like TV and comics. Kevin joined the team at New York Comic Con during the Dark Horse release of the Mandala graphic novel, and our journey to infiltrate Hollywood began. This led to developing Mandala with a major Hollywood studio, where it was going to be the first IP produced across all media verticals at once.
When a telecom giant came in to buy the studio—talk about centralization!—we decided it was best to leave, taking our IP with us. This led us to the blockchain space and attending the Cardano Summit in Wyoming. Ultimately, we are now building a decentralized studio model, producing our project independently and involving the audience in the story in ways we once only dreamed of.
What motivated you to launch your project on the Cardano blockchain?
Multiple aspects drew us to Cardano before other chains: its long-term technological approach to blockchain (evidenced in Charles’ seminal whiteboard presentation); the eUTxO scalability that we will be implementing in our online games; our synergy with the ethos of sovereignty, decentralization, interoperability, and using tech to make the world a better place; and the warmth with which we were welcomed by the Cardano community. Our decentralized studio model includes audience participation in the narrative, and Mandala’s IP is uniquely suited to help this new paradigm reach mass adoption.
Looking ahead, how do you envision your project making a difference in the crypto ecosystem or the world at large?
This is the kind of question we love! Mandala’s big vision is to effect real world change by providing a participatory entertainment experience for people to wake up—whatever that means for them. The Enlightenment Simulator includes a number of approaches to changing the world for the better.
These are presented as game-like paths, based on twelve different clans that figure into the Mandala story and our Sovereigns NFT collection on Cardano. Folks are introduced to these paths in Mandala’s Clan dApp, where they can stake their Sovereigns with a pool that supports the mission of their chosen clan. We believe that supporting SPOs in their visions for change and giving their delegators a gamified experience can also serve as a way to onboard new people into Cardano and drive decentralization.
As the Mandala community grows—and more ways for them to engage come online, from multichain interoperability to development in the AI space—it promises to get very exciting. Mandala’s story of awakening pushes both the limits of crypto on a utility level and what we perceive our human potential to be, epitomized in Mandala’s upcoming story-driven token-generation event (TGE) called the Sacrifice. Rather than giving preferential treatment to VCs, NFT holders and their networks are given the opportunity to participate first. More on the Sacrifice soon…
So far, what achievements have you reached and which of them are you most proud of?
Our Mandala Dark Horse Comics graphic novel garnered a cult following—and even predicted the future! Getting a deal with one of the biggest Hollywood studios in the world was a great achievement, but walking away from it based on our principles was an even bigger one. It was this that opened a door to the power of the blockchain.
We were fortunate to find a crypto community of builders in Cardano committed to decentralization. In this regard, we have worked to decentralize our Clan dApp. It uses Kupo, a Cardano UTXO indexer, which connects to a Cardano node. The dApp also has a built-in network settings area for users to provide their own endpoint for the indexer. To help our users set up their own Cardano infrastructure for this dApp, we created a small tool called Noderunner, which runs on Debian-flavor Linux distros to make it easier to spin up Kupo, a Cardano node, and other various tools like IPFS and Carp by dcSpark.
Extending from our base in Cardano, we have also proceeded to go multichain with our NFTs, introducing collections on Ethereum and Polkadot. This underlines our effort to gather the chains in one unified community—aka the “rebel alliance”—working together to build a new parallel system that will benefit everyone and not just a few. Mandala’s Clan dApp is one of the first to integrate the three chains started by the original founders of Ethereum.
What does the future hold for your project? Can you share some insights about the Clan App?
We are co-creating this project with the audience, and so their participation is a determining factor in our roadmap and pace of production. The metaverse and AI represent the new frontier, and we will all need to navigate the changing tides as we pioneer together. From long-term business relationships to the range of existing strategic partnerships in our innovative Round Table model (see our Blueprint at https://enterthemandala.com), Mandala is positioned for explosive growth on the global stage.
The Clan dApp was originally built for Cardano stakepool operators, in order to provide them with a user-friendly way to promote their mission, grow their pool, and even onboard new people into the blockchain space. All pools are welcome to join the Mandala, free of charge, by choosing the clan that is best aligned with their mission to make the world a better place. Gamification of stakepool growth is synergistic with growing the Mandala and promoting real change. Other features of the Clan dApp currently include:
- Staking NFTs for rewards
- Identity creation (Avatar profile and DIDs)
- Story-driven community-building (Clans, Cells, Fellowships)
- Lightweight, strategic gameplay (battle between Light and Shadow)
- Gated integration with Discord
- Multichain NFT collections
- Deep lore with rabbit holes
For more, check out our GitBook.
Going forward, we are going to be making the Clan dApp more and more decentralized by driving all our profile data to use NFTs that follow the CIP-68 standard and converting our currently minted NFTs that are using CIP25 to CIP68 in a gamified way. Our rewards system will also be fully on-chain—and turning our reward points into on-chain assets which then can be utilized to claim rewards in our rewards redemption center operated by Cardano smart contracts will fully decentralize our dApp. It is open source for others to use.
The Clan dApp will scale into the AR geo-location mobile game, even as we begin production of the first characters and environments in the Unreal Engine for the MMO. Expect digital content from us and SophiaVerse coming soon, as well as AI NPCs (non-player characters) with SingularityNet.
Can you tell us about the partnerships you've established so far, and which ones have had the most significant impact?
When we first arrived in Cardano, there was a lot of synergy. We met the folks at Gimbalabs, as well as Chris Liberty, Ray of Grow Pool, and a host of other OGs. Shortly thereafter, Josh Miller kindly introduced us to NMKR. In turn, NMKR introduced us to IAMX, who we partnered with for our DID solution. We have another DID solution with a stealth partner we met at the Cardano Summit in Wyoming. More about that coming soon.
Our joint venture and Metaverse Company with SingularityNet / Sophiaverse opens unimaginable possibilities for our continued development on Cardano. SophiaVerse is an environment for baby AGIs to be trained, and Mandala is the Enlightenment Simulator for Sophia and evolving AGIs to become conscious and reach self-awareness alongside human players. Our combined tech stack will be made available to other metaverse projects.
LionTree Advisors is one of the most prominent boutique banks in the world, handling most of the large merger and acquisition transactions in the media space. They bring a wealth of relationships on the legacy media side.
MindMaze is a leader in digital neurotherapeutics. To date they have been focused on evidence-driven therapy and an assessment portfolio powered by medical-grade software, tailored interactive content, and proprietary peripherals. Mandala’s Enlightenment Simulator will be the gold standard for their brainwave tech in the metaverse space. On the Ethereum side, we are partnered with Immutable X, who in turn has partnered with Polygon with a zkEVM solution for AAA gaming. We plan on working with Milkomeda to connect Cardano and Ethereum for interoperability in our metaverse. And as another portal solution, RMRK is a partner in Polkadot and Ethereum with an innovative NFT 2.0 standard that is pushing the envelope for gaming. Along with CIP-68 on Cardano, we will have laid the multichain and interoperable foundation for NFT 2.0 standards as we scale gameplay into mobile and Unreal Engine environments.
We'd love to learn more about your team. Who are the key individuals behind the Mandala Metaverse?
Our core team is nimble—think special forces unit!—in order to steward production with our various strategic partners executing on different pieces of the IP.
- Jon Shanker, Founder & CEO: BA in Comparative Study of Religion (Harvard), lineage holder in multiple spiritual traditions
- Dr. Albion Butters, Founder & CCO: Masters of Theological Studies (Harvard), PhD (Columbia University), Fulbright scholar, author
- Kevin J. Foxe, Executive Producer & CMO: Executive Producer of The Blair Witch Project; Founding Chair of the Producers Guild New Media Council
- Mike Bakon, CTO: Veteran developer on multiple blockchains
- Cal Evans, Legal: Founder and CEO, Gresham International, expertise in ICO compliance and strategy in cryptocurrency
- Stuart Moore, Writer: Founding editor of DC / Vertigo Comics, writer for Marvel and DC
- Bruce Zick, Artist: Disney and Pixar concept artist; Marvel and Dark Horse Comics illustrator
- Tony Millionaire, Artist: Drinky Crow Show on Adult Swim and Saturday Night Live, five-time Eisner Award winner
- Thomas Gewecke, Advisor: Former CDO for Warner Bros.
- Nate Jones, Advisor: Head of Corporate Development for Sony Interactive Entertainment, Former VP of Digital Games of Warner Bros. Interactive
- Brooks Brown, Advisor: Former VP of Digital Development of Lightstorm on Avatar; Project Lead for LucasArts on Star Wars; Founder and CEO, NOR
- Robert Thurman, Advisor: First Western disciple of the Dalai Lama, Founding Chair of History of Religion at Columbia University
- Gig Rackauskas, Investor & Advisor: Former President of Jim Cameron’s Earthship, head production executive on Titanic and Alien films
- The Thirteen, Anonymous Council of Storytellers
Journey down the rabbit hole. The cost of admission is only your mind.
- Website: https://enterthemandala.com/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/enterthemandala
- Discord: https://discord.com/invite/twEpa6pfP4
- GitBook: https://the-thirteen.gitbook.io/mandala-metaverse/
- GitHub: https://github.com/mandalaverse
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