The Genesis of Star Atlas: Michael Wagner’s Crypto Journey from Mining to MMOs

We spoke with Michael Wagner, Co-founder and CEO of Star Atlas, to learn more about this epic space game on Solana. 

Traveling back through time to his youth, Micheal was part of a group called the LANarchists. While it sounds slightly illegal, this club would gather to network their computers together in order to spend the weekend gaming. Little did he know he was laying the first bricks of an interstellar foundation. The next brick was cemented in with his history in traditional investment management. Michael holds a CFA charter and is experienced in investment and securities analysis as well as managing client portfolios for high-net-worth individuals. 

In 2013 he discovered the wild world of web3 through Script Coin mining with GPUs. Micheal had always built his own computers growing up. A friend introduced him to the idea that he could use a computer with GPUs to mine crypto that had real value. Micheal was captivated. “And so kind of combining the computer background, the gaming experience, as well as the financial education and background that I have, I was really fascinated by this space, and I just dove in headfirst. Before I knew it, I had these computer rigs spread out all over my house,” Michael said. By 2015 he was full time crypto. 

His first project was Tokes Platform, now called Multichain Ventures. It operated at the intersection of crypto and legal cannabis, attempting to provide legal financial solutions to the industry providing crypto payment solutions to the typically cash only business. While they were selected as one of two companies to participate in this closed network for payment remittance in Nevada, the Pandemic shut everything down. 

In 2020, Michael sat down with his Co-founders Danny and Jacob and began brainstorming on gaming concepts. The duo had launched multiple mobile games that were  topping the charts across App Stores. Michail said, “when I brought the idea to them that we could combine NFTs, DeFi, and gaming and do so in a way that hadn’t been done previously in crypto, bringing AAA products to the space, their eyes just lit up. And we conceptualized Star Atlas over the course of 2020, formally launching in January 2021.”

Star Atlas is a grand strategy space exploration MMO. The game is centered on owning spaceships, owning land, navigating the stars, participating in bounty hunting, staking claims on planets, extracting resources, crafting items and ships, and otherwise socializing. 

Back in the early stages, one of the things that Star Atlas was successful at was being able to capture the interest of a wide audience through the vision. As an early adopter of Solana, they benefited from a wave of interest and a robust developer ecosystem.

At sub 400 millisecond time to finality, it was high transaction throughput and low cost that solidified Solana as the chain to be on. These were all important for their user base because many transactions would be executed on chain. Going into the future, Star Atlas is executing something like 2 million transactions per day on Solana. “The CEO of Solana Labs has a vision of a global, single state machine, and that’s really what we want to be a part of. We don’t want to be isolated; we don’t want to be compartmentalized on a separate chain,” said Michael. 

Star Atlas launched a closed access multiplayer stress test on January 17th on the Epic Games store where players could test early modes like 3rd person shooter and combat racing against bots. Testers could also view final in-game ship models and more. 

They have a robust economics paper that outlines all of the core mechanics, gameplay loops and income streams that a player can be involved in. It uses a dual token economy system based on the ATLAS and POLIS tokens. ATLAS is the medium of exchange that Star Atlas players use to pay for items and receive as rewards for reaching milestones and POLIS is their governance token. 

You can listen to the full recorded interview with Michael and @howimetweb3 here on spotify:


“We are at an incredible pace in velocity right now with development. It’s really incredible to see how the team has rallied together following some challenging times over both 2022 and really through the course of 2023,” Michael said. They recently released the decentralized autonomous corporations (DAC), which is their fully on-chain guild system. They will also be adding on chain combat, character progression, ship mastery and configuration, as well as a competitive combat hover race across multiple courses, including tournaments. Stay up to date by following Star Atlas on X

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