AMA Highlights — Alien Worlds
On Tuesday 2 February we welcomed Sarojini McKenna and Michael Yeates from Alien Worlds into the Hillrise Capital Telegram Chat for an AMA. Sarojini and Michael are both cofounders.
Alien Worlds is an NFT DeFi metaverse project running on the Ethereum and WAX blockchains, where NFT collectibles have in-game utility and are fully user-owned.
Planets in this interdimensional DeFi metaverse are DAOs, each having their own fungible token. The universal fungible token of the metaverse is ‘Trilium’ — an ERC-20 token (‘TLM’) also on WAX.
NFTs, digital collectibles, and gaming have experienced a deserved surge in interest and momentum over the past 6 months.
In this post, we have compiled key questions and answers from the event.
Daniel Dal Bello
Welcome to you both and thank you for joining us today. As always I’d like to start with some introductions.
How did you both get into the world of blockchain and come to be where you are with Alien Worlds?
I am one of the co-founders, along with Michael and Rob. I come from a corporate finance background for many years before realizing I wanted to build decentralized systems that would empower more people. I handle strategy and finance within the project.
I was a developer working in e-commerce for over 15 years. I saw that blockchain was a very important technology and started investigating properly in 2017, after that I got dragged in very quickly and became interested in governance and disaster recovery for blockchain applications.
The dream of unstoppable applications originally drew me in.
How have you experienced building a game in blockchain so far? Do you see a big difference in, for example, community support, income streams, or the amount of effort it takes to attract these cryptocurrency traders and users to Alien Worlds?
I think we have been very lucky, the community support has been excellent, and people really seem to get what we are doing. Onboarding in the WAX blockchain is very easy, so we have seen way more users than we were expecting.
Since late December, according to DappRadar, the number of active players in Alien Worlds has grown to 7,600. This figure is ~1,000 more than even Axie Infinity’s max recorded daily active users. Through DappRadar, we are unfortunately unable to see the growth in transaction volumes and balances in smart contracts.
From your perspective, can you tell us how the userbase has grown and are there any key metrics and figures that you can share with us?
Yes, at this point we are actually the largest blockchain game by 24-hour users. As you mentioned this outstrips by some margin even far more established platforms that currently have an asset base which would exceed ours. This is in part due to the ‘metaversal’ economy we’ve built — people are mining NFTs and Trilium that they really value and are highly motivated to keep participating and growing their positions.
However, it’s also a testament to the layer-1/layer-2 design that Michael and Rob have put in place, where Ethereum is our layer-1 blockchain (so Trilium, the fungible token, is there, and TLM token holders on Ethereum can benefit from using their existing ERC-20 wallets) but all the gaming smart contracts are on WAX, which allows fast and free transactions on a smart contract platform. This is working well.
Daniel Dal Bello
Being primarily based on the WAX platform, can you run us through some of the pros and cons of it?
What do you think of other NFT-based games running on other L2 scaling solutions such as Matic or xDai?
Michael can speak a little to the more technical elements but from a functional perspective, what WAX provides is:
- Easy signup without buying or owning any crypto, via WAX Cloud Wallet (contrast that to many games where you must own ETH to start)
- A sophisticated smart contract language that allows all the gaming actions to be on-chain
- Fast and feeless transactions — again contrasting to many projects that have been choked by high gas fees right now
- NFT attributes can be read and updated by a smart contract easily so that we can use them within the game. So first generation NFTs were mainly ‘collectibles’ in that the user valued them because they enjoyed the IP associated with them. But our NFTs come alive because they have gameplay utility — mutable and immutable data some of which can be impacted by the gameplay itself.
WAX has been great for us for a few reasons:
- Easy onboarding, users can signup with Facebook and start playing the game in seconds
- Cheap transactions, most user transactions (and our costs) are cheap or covered already so we do not have to be affected by moving gas costs
The major downside is that there is little liquidity and WAX is still relatively unknown. This is why we chose Ethereum as the layer-1 architecture and it seems to be working well so far.
I do not have many details about the other projects but I think they are making a good move to run gameplay on a second layer.
Do you actually see blockchain-enabled gaming move away from the browser-based model and into the mainstream? We can imagine that it’d be amazing to, for example, see scarce items in games like The Sims, or skins/items similar to the Steam Marketplace but on a blockchain.
What are your thoughts and vision when it comes to this?
Many of our players arrive with nothing, we provide them with a basic shovel and we have seen a lot of them work their way up by mining Trilium and extra NFTs which can be used to boost their mining output.
The games do not appear to have progressed much, but behind the scenes, blockchain is a massive leap.
Alien Worlds is not only a game, it is a synthetic economy which can be used to experiment and test real-world ideas which I think can be used by non-game businesses in the future. Already we have seen the economy flourish and the economy is still not fully released (we have a lot more phases to go).
I would add that Alien Worlds has a lot of depth in gameplay. So someone who doesn’t or can’t pay to increase their NFT powers, can absolutely (and are) executing other types of strategies.
Then there are strategies (like making a play to gain governance dominance over a planet) that require a kind of strategic dominance that comes from a substantial holding of Trilium. If you go in and hear the stories of various community members, you’ll hear this variety of experience, strategy and outcome.
We are seeing a lot of players give away their excess abundant NFTs to new players who don't have resources in return for mining on their land — so there is a lot of entrepreneurship happening.
With the ability to earn money through games such as Axie Infinity, The Sandbox, and Alien Worlds, we’re seeing an emerging trend of people playing such games for the sole purpose of generating an income.
What do you think of this development and with real adoption of Alien Worlds, the long-term implications?
This speaks to the freedom inherent in the proposition. We aren’t standing in the way of what an individual wants to do with their time, their involvement in the metaverse, or their offering into the metaverse. What we’re focusing on is executing the slickest and most thoughtful design in terms of the smart contracts, the reference UI which we provide (others can build their own to interact with our smart contracts) and well-calibrated incentive structures.
How people turn that into meaningful and valuable outcomes for them, is brilliant and they’re free to do that.
It is a very interesting development, honestly, we probably cannot predict how it will develop but we are building Alien Worlds as a framework for people to earn Trilium and even their own currencies.
I really believe that it is a simulation for real economies in the future and hopefully we will evolve to bring Alien Worlds back to this planet.
You deal with a lot of NFT-based assets in your game, does your team view the current iteration of NFTs as final, or are there any specific characteristics that you’re looking forward to seeing in non-fungible tokens in the future?
We will almost certainly create new NFTs (both of the existing types as well as new ones) because the players are already demanding them. The atomic asset’s standard is very good and fills our needs at the moment. The only feature I am planning to add by extension is the ability to lease NFTs for mining and potentially even lease land which might add an entirely new DeFi angle to the game.
So far we’ve seen the first generation of NFTs which were largely collectibles. I think it’s fair to say we’re at the vanguard of pushing the boundaries of the current generation of NFTs, where they have sophisticated gameplay utility and characteristics that can change according to gameplay (so a hospital where you can ‘heal’ your avatar).
The next step will probably be more interoperability between chains for NFTs, and also NFTs which include a fungible component. For example, our packs of NFTs are actually fungible tokens (when you open the pack, the NFTs get minted, hence low mint numbers) but creating ways for people who like NFTs but don’t want to fiddle with inventories, and want to take fungible-like positions, will be the next iteration, and that’s something we’re already designing in relation to.
We actually broke the API used to query NFT data because of our user numbers and how we are using the NFTs in a totally new way. It is a good test and shows that we are moving in the right direction, even if I do get in trouble.
Daniel Dal Bello
Beyond the upcoming Thunderdome, can you tell us what’s the most exciting thing about Alien Worlds coming up?
Can you explain how TLM might be involved?
For me the most exciting part will be the bits that we do not build, fairly soon the DAOs will be open for voting (with staked Trilium) and then each planet will be independent and will launch their own games and DeFi. I am aware that one of the groups is already talking to a game builder to make their own game which will then be used to distribute the Trilium that the planet earns.
Upcoming we have the release of functionality around quests, which allow people to use their NFTs in different ways and earn TLM and NFTs, we have the roadmap toward Planet DAOs having more control over their affairs, and we have TLM being used to increase land ratings.
TLM is so far only earnable through mining and by owning land NFTs, and we are carefully evaluating options for Trilium to get into the hands of our gamers who want to use it strategically. Trilium is an ERC-20 token, so obviously there are a number of attractive options there.
Hillrise Capital is an independent research, and advisory firm exclusively focused on blockchain startups and crypto-assets.
Alien Worlds is an NFT DeFi metaverse project running on the Ethereum and WAX blockchains.