Why Developers Should Take A Gameplay-First Approach In Crypto Gamingby@gabrielmanga
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Why Developers Should Take A Gameplay-First Approach In Crypto Gaming

by Gabriel MangalindanApril 5th, 2024
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A discussion with Roy Blackstone on the importance of taking a gameplay-first approach to blockchain game development.
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Why Developers Should Take A Gameplay-First Approach In Crypto Gaming

Today, I am speaking with Roy Blackstone, and we will discuss the benefits of taking a gameplay-centric approach to game development.

We'll also look at Roy's experiences with a gameplay-first approach to game development.

Please introduce yourself and tell us what you do.

I'm Roy Blackstone, driven by a passion for product design and innovation. I've successfully launched numerous ventures from the ground up, such as Doki Doki and Chainbinders.

My enthusiasm is rooted in transforming the ecosystem and pushing cryptocurrency towards widespread acceptance. I am also SHADOW WAR's Creative Director and founder, a 5v5 third-person action game with Web3 capabilities.

Can you share your perspective on prioritizing gameplay and world-building in crypto gaming, especially in contrast to pay-to-win schemes?

It all comes down to player experience. Games in the Web3 space have been fairly basic and have not had players at their heart. Rather, they have been focused on a play-to-win model. This has not and will not attract Web2 gamers to the space; these people tend to ensure a game's longevity. Play-to-win games mainly attract people looking for a quick win and, therefore, have a different motivation.

Although there is a place for the pay-to-win model, I believed there was a huge opportunity to build a game with the strength and depth you would expect from a more traditional title while utilizing the technological advantages of Web3. It is one that gives players ownership and financial opportunity in the play-to-win model while delivering a game they will truly want to play.

By focusing on gameplay, creating a strong token model, and prioritizing world-building, we have built a game that brings the best of the web 2 and 3 spaces together,

In your experience, how do players react to games that prioritize gameplay over those that largely depend on pay-to-win features?

In a word, experience. It is all down to what motivates you. In a play-to-win model, you are financially rewarded for playing. Therefore, you are less focused on the game's depth and characters.

Players of games with gameplay at the center will be looking for depth in the game and will want a strong overall gameplay experience—a game you want to come back to and play again and again because you enjoy it.

What inspired the creation of Shadow War, and how does it differentiate itself from other games in the market?

I have played games for almost two decades in competitions and with friends. I didn't feel the current crop of crypto games came anywhere close to capturing the true essence of gaming.

SHADOW WAR will reset this. We want SHADOW WAR to be seen as a benchmark in the space, a title that combines gameplay and world-building while offering an innovative token model that rewards players.

SHADOW WAR will be the first web3 game you want to play with your friends, run your competitions, test yourself against others globally, and come back, again and again, to play while being rewarded for the time and effort you put in.

How do you approach development differently when prioritizing gameplay and world-building above pay-to-win models?

We have a strong and diverse team, including individuals with proven track records with studios across the Web2 and Web3 space.

Although SHADOW WAR is very much a Web3-enabled game, the studio is run like a Web 2 studio. From the start, we wanted to ensure that gameplay and world-building were part of the game's DNA. We challenge ourselves internally through weekly workshops and internal play tests to ensure we stick to this central focus. Everyone has a voice, everyone is heard, and everyone is equal.

This internal work is supplemented by external outreach and engagement. We run open-play tests that anyone can sign up for. This is just one way we ensure that our partners, supporters, and future players are part of the development process, providing another means to keep us honest and focused on gameplay and world-building.

Can you provide any instances of world-building elements in the game and how they relate to the overall experience?

Much effort is put into areas most people will never see, such as character lore.

There are pages and pages of backstory for each character and the environment. This helps develop the character narrative, creating characters that players can engage with and relate to.

For me, the experience of any game is vastly enhanced when there is a real backstory to the characters, stories that have helped shape and model them into the ones you can now play in the game.

What potential risks or drawbacks are associated with pay-to-win schemes in crypto gaming?

Personally, there are two real stand-out ones. As a player, you can, and often do, lose your money. The game's longevity and survivability are purely down to the player economy.

Could you explain how Shadow War rewards skill-based gameplay and gives free players ways to access higher-tier resources?

We are implementing a reward-based token, much like a skill-to-earn model. As players increase their skills, they earn more tokens, unlocking more resources.

This type of model, along with our skill-based matching, not only enables new players to join and start to skill up quickly, but it importantly rewards those players who have been playing the game for a while.

What steps can developers take to maintain a level playing field for all players, especially when focusing on gameplay instead of pay-to-win mechanics?

Developers should encourage people to play and grow their skill sets within the game. Crucial to this is the new player experience. That is why we have put in and will continue to put a huge amount of effort into ensuring that the experience for first-time players is engaging and rewarding.

Can you discuss how the community of players has shaped the development of Shadow War and how their opinions have affected the game's evolution over time?

We are proud of our community and their passion for the game. The key to this is ensuring they have the means to engage and support themselves and that their feedback is acted on.

If I can give two quick examples:

Firstly, we are about to launch Shadownet 2.0, our engagement platform. The pilot version was a huge success, with over 200,000 sign-ups and over a million tasks completed. The new version is being developed and rolled out based on the feedback we received from our community.

Secondly, playtests are important for any serious game about community feedback and development. Our most recent one was last month, and players from over 60 countries participated. We have already opened up applications for our next playtest this month.

Our community of players is not just supporting the game and the wider platform; they are part of the process and have been from the start. This will only increase as we conduct more play tests in the run-up to our launch and further develop our touch points and feedback loops with them.

What challenges did the developers encounter while making Shadow War, and how did they fix them?

When developing a game like SHADOW WAR, as you might imagine, there are often challenges. Rather than pick one, I felt it might be beneficial to highlight how we always approach a challenge internally and how we solve it.

Firstly, we have an open internal ethos. If you are facing a challenge, we want you to share it. As a remote business, we don't want people to feel isolated. Having fresh eyes and viewpoints can speed up the process significantly.

Secondly, we know we have the very best people in place leading in their respective areas, but we also know we are not all experts in all areas. This is where we focus on collective problem-solving. We have numerous weekly sessions where we can support each other and find solutions to individual challenges. We have often found that the best solutions are ones where we work together and discuss the issues faced.

Thirdly, checking and testing. This is where the community comes in and is a crucial part of the process. Not only do they help find issues that need to be addressed, but they also often come up with feedback and solutions, providing a different take on a challenge that might be being faced.

What advice would you give aspiring developers who want to create successful crypto games while taking a gameplay-first approach?

Work with like-minded people. I feel extremely lucky to be surrounded by people with the same drive as me to ensure that gameplay is front and center. I feel we have the best team in the world for our project. We understand the market and see the opportunity that is afforded.

Not only are we creating a game that we want to play, but through research, we know that others will want to play it. Knowing a real market opportunity helps you get funding and support. Finally, stay true to your passion. It is easy to follow a path that has already been walked, but it is much harder to forge a new one.