From corporate finance to blazing trails through decentralised communities and play-to-earn blockchain gaming
Chris Sinkey of Bittrex Exchange recently interviewed Alien Worlds Co-founder, Saro McKenna. During the AMA, Saro answered questions from the audience about everything from how she first discovered the crypto scene and the genesis of Alien Worlds, to what’s ahead in the game’s development, including hinting that 2022 could be the ‘Year of the DAO’. Read on for highlights from part one of the interview.
How did you get into crypto?
It’s such an interesting question to ask everyone in crypto, how they found their way to this space, and it’s such an amazing time both in the history of blockchain technology and also blockchain gaming in the Metaverse. I think the community that has coalesced around these projects is really unique and wonderful and we’ll probably look back in years to come at what a golden age for blockchain it’s been because of that origin story.
My story was that I was in corporate finance. I was in M&A and other types of corporate finance, right around the time of the credit crisis. I think I saw around that time also that Bitcoin was beginning to be created as peer to peer technology. I didn’t jump on that, unfortunately. I wasn’t that early adopter. But I was certainly aware of the limitations of, the world of traditional finance. It certainly has its strengths in some ways. I think it is able to appraise value and risk in some situations, but I think in others it doesn’t and is possibly myopic to that. So I was interested in how other systems could be organised, whether decentralised systems could work and also security and those types of topics.
When did you buy your first Bitcoin and what led you to get involved with Alien Worlds?
Some of my friends were working in crypto and blockchain projects and I began to find out more about what they were doing. Then I got involved in a project called eosDAC, which was a Decentralised Autonomous Community (DAC) that was also a block producer on the EOS blockchain at that time, and that was where I met my co-founders. Together we were taking forward this vision of building DACs as we called them at the time, which is the same thing as a Decentralised Autonomous Organisation (DAO), which was eventually how we came into Alien Worlds. This specific vision behind Alien Worlds was that we had been building DAOs and we had built a product that allowed anyone to create their own tokenized DAO and some groups did use that software to do that.
It’s always really interesting to hear how people moved into this space and especially how they came up with the idea and so on–how they decided to create something new. The NFTs and the concept of using an NFT is really interesting. I haven’t heard of anyone else doing that. It sounds really innovative.
We are actually the only project that I’m aware of, in which DAOs are an actual gaming component as opposed to just a way of governing part of the project. So we have this concept of DAOs in competition with each other, which is basically like teams in competition, but organised as DAOs. So yeah, I think that is novel. I think 2022 will probably be the year of the DAO. So we might start to see that arising. We’re pretty forward looking in the sense that we’ve got millions of users. So we’re either the first or second largest blockchain game now by users depending on what metric you look at; and we also have really battle tested DAO code. Meaning, we’ve been building this type of code for years now, including in the previous incarnation (eosDAC). Thus I think we feel pretty well positioned to move into forming DAOs as actual gaming components.
This is very interesting. And how do I play Alien Worlds?
Yes, so you go to our website: play.alienworlds.io. You credentialise with a WAX account, a WAX Cloud Wallet if you’re playing the Mining Game, or with Metamask — connecting it with a Binance Smart Chain wallet if you’re playing the Missions Game. You can also run to be a candidate on the planet DAOs, which are six DAOs that are in competition with each other for the scarce resource [Trilium]. And that’s the initial functionality that we have in flight right now.
The next piece that we’re rolling out will be planet DAOs; and that’s coming this year. So currently playing Alien Worlds involves using the NFTs within our Metaverse. NFTs in this case are utility NFTs; they’re not primarily collectibles and so they have attributes that are read by the gaming smart contract. You use them in the way that you might play cards or other types of things in other games. You might play them like a card that has attributes and powers. [In Alien Worlds], you’re playing your NFTs.
I will absolutely get involved. So can you tell us a little bit about the background of the Alien Worlds team?
We came from a background of building DACs. The three founders were Rob Allen, Michael Yeats and I. We first got together in eosDAC, which was a block producer.
Rob comes from a technology background and also has studied gaming mechanics in detail across different types of games and what makes asynchronous games. How does the strategy work? How does the balancing work?
So he was putting together those narrative elements and game balancing elements into the NFTs. One of the really important things with NFTs is calibrating the scarcity across various aspects of the NFTs. In our case, because the NFTs are utility NFTs, they also have to have certain powers and all of that needs to fit into a narrative context. So that’s what he was designing. I think one of the things that’s been quite inspiring about the way that the NFTs work is that it has allowed the community to create their own NFTs. In some cases modeled on how we laid out the various rarity levels and the different types of powers. In some other cases, people have created different types of NFTs with different rarities and different powers.
That’s one of the really nice things about NFTs on WAX: You can just create them yourself with very low costs. There’s lots of NFT creators that help people to do that, and those are all NFTs that are then in the Metaverse. Rob’s design of the NFTs was both what we call the Genesis NFTs but also a way of inspiring the rest of the community or anybody who wants to to create their own utility NFTs.
Then, Michael was doing all of the Blockchain construction. The design of the smart contracts and thinking through how this economy would work. So we have a play-to-earn mechanic, that’s what the Mining Game is. It’s where you perform the mining action using these NFTs and you get Trilium and later NFT rewards as well. But there’s also a closed-loop mechanic in there. The closed-loop mechanic is where people stake back into the planet DAOs, which have treasuries of Trilium and control those treasuries through multi-sig permission systems. That’s a reason why people are using Trilium and there’s a number of other ways within the Metaverse that Trilium gets used. So Michael was both designing the construction of that, but then also implementing that through smart contracts. Then we had other team members creating the design of the NFTs and then of course the user interface and so on.
I come from, as I mentioned before, a corporate finance background. I studied philosophy, politics and economics at university and so was also thinking through some of the economic elements. But then also the corporate, legal parts. We’ve grown from being a team of four to now being a team of about 75, and we’re growing quickly. So there’s been quite a lot of company growth and development too.
I’m looking forward to it now! I know you mentioned you’ve got something coming pretty soon. Can you walk us through the Alien Worlds team roadmap for 2022 and anything you want to mention beyond that, as well as maybe some upcoming milestones in particular?
I mentioned that it was the first or second largest blockchain game by users, and I think that’s been a testament to this mining functionality that we’ve developed. People play a strategy, particularly strategies and NFTs but also to the community that’s been formed around that, and those are communities that share collective interests.
So for example, landowners have come together and become collectives. People have joined together as candidates on Planet DAOs. There are communities that just share a particular interest or want to pursue a particular strategy. They have their own Telegram and Discord channels, for example. They’re self-organising into these collectives in anticipation of the opening of our planetary DAO. They have a treasury and they have a treasury of Trilium which is our token. And that is, a sizable amount of economic value, which is residing at the level of these DAOs. We could say we’re a decentralised game, and that’s very much true objectively in the sense that a lot of the value in the system is actually residing at a level that is totally outside of my control, for example. It’s sitting in these smart contracts that are governed by these DAO permissions. So the big strategic milestone that will be coming out of the DAOs is releasing them to community governance, which is really opening up the game around the DAOs.
I mentioned that people are already candidates on the DAOs. That means that each DAO will have five custodians every week, and those custodians get to vote on any transaction or action on that planet’s smart contracts, which can include holding Trilium, the fungible token, but also NFTs. Some of the planet DAOs are already developing strategies of what types of NFTs they’d like to either create or hold, including NFTs that could represent other real world objects and assets like silver, for example.
When the DAOs are opened to first elections, and then the actual governance by the custodians, they’ll then be able to start spending those treasuries for work proposals and anything else that they want to support, and that’s really where the DAOs come to life. It’s also a way in which the DAOs are competing: the more one DAO has staked to it, (the more Trilium that it has staked to it), the more inflation it gets every day. This is why they’re in competition with each other, and also why groups can take over other DAOs. If a group of players all want to stake their Trilium to a particular DAO, they might then be able to get control of that DAO. So this is the competitive dynamic. This is being developed right now.
We expect in the first half of this year to be able to roll out those DAOs and that’s where people will be able to get involved in a more organised way than they have so far. There’s the grass roots of a lot of self organisation, but that will be a specific and formal way that they can get involved. We also have what we think of as games, so Alien Worlds is both a platform and a Metaverse, which involves all of the tokenomics, the fungible token, the NFTs and the DAOs themselves.
That’s the Metaverse component, but it’s also a series of games. We as Dacoco, the founders of the project, are creating some of those games and other people are creating some of those games too. Anyone is free to create games in the Metaverse that use the Trilium fungible token. We also have a roadmap of releasing further games, which are not really baked into the infrastructure of the Metaverse for inflation, but there are particular gaming loops that people can play and participate in. Those include a Fighting Game and Quests. Additionally, these games also include fun gaming actions that happen off of the WAX blockchain or the BSC blockchain or the Ethereum blockchain, which are the three blockchains that we primarily have gaming logic on. These can include gaming actions that happen in other gaming environments, such as Minecraft. We’ve built a technical bridge into Minecraft, where people can play Minecraft to do actions within Minecraft that are recognised by our smart contracts and that understand who that person is, that credentials their blockchain account into our gaming smart contracts.
The actual opening up of those Minecraft servers for people to use will be part of our roadmap in the first half of this year as well. Also, open sourcing that code so that anyone can run their own Minecraft server to play Alien Worlds. You can probably discern a bit of a theme here, which is sort of technical interoperability being a key way that we acquire users and build out the Metaverse.
We’re known for being a technically preeminent team, that always was our background: building out blockchain tech, and building out that interoperability is a huge part of the roadmap. The Minecraft implementation being one of the first but there’s other games like that that run in a decentralised way on servers, for example, and we’re looking into and analysing those different environments for building interoperability similarly to other blockchains. We’re the first blockchain game to be on three chains and looking into future roadmaps of other chains to build on.
That’s really the roadmap for this year: the opening up of the six planet DAOs, the implementation of some of these smaller gaming loops, like the Fighting Game and Questing, and then extending the Metaverse into other gaming environments and other chains.
Stay tuned for highlights from Part 2 of the interview, including the trajectory of blockchain gaming, NFTs, and the advantages of some chains over others for hosting game mechanics.
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