Kriptomat has recently announced a unique collaboration with eight game development studios which are building 24 games. They have banded together to create the world’s first digital multiverse that spans beyond gaming by utilizing the blockchain to allow players to own assets that can be used across multiple platforms. We’re excited that they have committed to supporting Kriptomat’s Founder Tokens.
One of those games is Age of Rust and it is being made by Chris LoVerme, an Indie developer from the US. We’re at the beginning of our partnership, so we thought it would be a great opportunity to invite him for an interview and kill two birds with one stone. It’s a chance for us, the Kriptomat team, and a wider community to get to know one of the pioneering figures in the world of crypto gaming.
Age of Rust is a single player first person adventure game that combines puzzles and action. The game also features cryptocurrency which is used to buy, sell, and trade game items. They are crypto items which are stored on a player’s wallet independent of the game. Those items include the Kriptomat Founders Tokens which will unlock a special flamethrower in the game.
Mr. LoVerme was a great interviewee and I believe you will find a lot of great information and insights in his detailed answers. Let me also remind you that this is the first of a planned series of interviews with crypto game developers who are supporting our ERC-1155 tokens.
So without further ado, let’s jump straight into the interview!
Interview with Chris LoVerme
1) Hello Chris. First of all, I know that you must be extremely busy, so I thank you for taking the time out of your day to do this interview. I’d like us to start with a brief introduction to give the reader a bit of a better understanding of you as a person. What is your background and how did you get into gaming? Is this something you’ve been doing forever?
Chris: Hello, Thanks for taking an interest in me and the project. Well, I’ve been in the tech industry for a little over 20 years, I worked for NASA/JPL for a division that tested parts going on spacecraft for the Cassini, Mars Rover, and Stardust projects.
From the gaming side over the past several years, I provided consulting to Microsoft Studios, 505 Games, and some indie game studios. As a gamer, I got into games in the late 70’s playing Atari at home and have been playing PC and console games ever since.
2) What made you pursue a career in the gaming industry? I’m well aware that game development can be a grueling process, so give us a bit of an insight into your day-to-day operations.
Chris: Yeah, game development is something that I think everyone who goes into IT dreams about at some point. It’s almost a stereotype that defines the daydreams of network engineers crawling the back of server racks everyday.
As for myself, I finally came to the realization that I needed to take my idea and make a game of it and that’s what got me into the industry. Being a game developer can be tough, I think everyone has this perception that it’s somewhat of a lofty developer position. At this point, I’m up early and working into the nights as well as on weekends to make the dream a reality.
3) Age of Rust is a game that you’re currently developing. What sparked the initial idea for its creation?
Chris: The game idea goes way, way back into the 80’s when I was interested in science fiction. I had this story in my mind about what happens to human kind in the far distant future as we try to span the galaxy and get to other planets.
4) Describe Age of Rust for someone who has never heard about it before. What kind of genre is it? What is the plot about? What is the setting?
Chris: Age of Rust is a single player science fiction action-adventure game. It’s very similar to games like Firewatch, Myst, as well as Splinter Cell and Subnautica. The game setting takes place in the year 4424 and civilization has come to a halt on its expansion out into the stars. AI and humanoid robots called “Mechs” have turned on humans, which over a few centuries has dwindled the human population to almost nothing. Survivors are struggling with what remains around them in terms of culture and technology.
The technology around the galaxy can only run on “autopilot” for so long, so humans and Mechs are fighting over whatever scraps are still working. This is what defines what the Age of Rust is for the human civilization, the decay of technology.
5) Video games were a big part of my childhood and I still like to play them on a semi-regular basis, but there is simply very little time to continue to do so in adulthood. Do you have time to play them yourself? What are some of your memories when you think about your earliest gaming experiences and what are some of your favorite video games?
Chris: Not in the past year at least; that’s one of the trade-offs I think you make as a game developer. So much of your time has to go into the work as well as life, so you’ve got to let something go even though you don’t want to. I have a list of games that I want to play, so hopefully I’ll get some time at some point to revisit and play some of them.
Some of the earliest experiences that left an impression with me were the early Sierra games from the mid-80s like Space Quest and Kings Quest or from LucasArts, like Monkey Island. Aside from that, I really liked the original Phantasy Star on the Sega Master System and its sequel on the Sega Genesis. All of them had this strong narrative around solving puzzles around an element of exploration and adventure, which left its mark on me as a game developer.
6) Were there any video games that influenced your work on Age of Rust? Are there any other influences from the world of literature, music or film? Do you have any role models? Like John Carmack or Gabe Newell if we think about the heavyweights of the industry.
Chris: In some respects the Splinter Cell series has had some influence, I really liked the concepts that were explored in that series around stealth and puzzle mechanics. A lot of inspiration has come from science fiction films in the 70’s and the 80’s, notably films like Logan’s Run, Outland, Dune, and Alien.
From literature, I think the Shannara series of books from Terry Brooks. It’s also interesting when I come across movies or books that are similar to the main concept of Age of Rust, like the book Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear and the movie Passengers written by Jon Spaihts. The backdrop for all these stories are really about how people live and struggle in the future.
From a role model perspective, I think it would be some of the developers like Ken and Roberta Williams, Ron Gilbert, Rand and Robyn Miller. I think they all struggled to bring their vision of the game they wanted to build into an industry and business where bias was their obstacle. Ken and Roberta faced obstacles of getting industry to buy-in to the concept of telling a story through a game when the industry was about arcade games. The Millers faced challenges in with overcoming technical challenges and distribution, they released a game on CD-ROM at a time when a drive and sound card was about $600.
7) So let’s move on to blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Age of Rust will be one of the first games to include crypto items from the Ethereum blockchain. Why did you decide to go in that direction? It looks like these items will represent quite a big part of the gameplay. So can you also explain in more detail how the blockchain fits in your game?
Chris: This is an interesting story because the game was originally being built on Counterparty, which uses the bitcoin blockchain underneath it. The counterparty community was great, but user experience in the wallet and exchange was tough because it relied on the user to be patient and willing to learn. Those are some of the classic problems with blockchain adoption, it’s hard to get people to do those two things, so buying game items and trading game items on counterparty was difficult for new people. Also in late 2017 and early 2018, the fees for Bitcoin transactions were high as well; those two things were the catalyst to move from Counterparty to Ethereum, more specifically to Enjin.
Right, so Age of Rust uses the blockchain in a few ways. The first is that game areas open up as players own game items in their wallet, like a passport to content. In some cases, players who own those “passports” can earn off of players who don’t have them by letting non-holders pay a small fee in Rustbits (our in-game currency) to get temporary access.
Some of the game items are also on the blockchain as well, things like weapons and armor which aid exploration and combat in some areas. Players who have tokens from other games or blockchain services can unlock special content or items within the game. We also have puzzles that have elements of the blockchain in them, these puzzles are complex but also have rewards in either Bitcoin, Ethereum, Enjin Coin, or blockchain game items.
8) I believe that we haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s possible with blockchain, and it seems to me like there is a whole new world of possibilities if the crypto industry manages to merge with the gaming industry. Do you share the same view? What is your take on the current state of crypto gaming and where do you see it going in the future?
Chris: We are really at the beginning of a new era in gaming, this is similar to the early 90’s when computer games required new hardware and players had to acquire that hardware and learn new things to play those games. The first generation of cryptogames were essentially dice and card games, the generation after came the tamagotchi-style pet creation games that use smart-contracts. Now, the third generation games are coming out which use the Unity and Unreal game engines integrated with blockchain smart-contracts like ERC-1155, empowering tens of thousands of indie game developers with the ability to make blockchain-enabled games.
I think in the near future, the player won’t have to be aware of the blockchain or how the blockchain works, they’ll be playing and focused on the games. They’ll have collections of game items in their wallets that they can buy, trade, sell and use in other games without having to worry about what Ethereum is, worry about fees, or gas.
They’ll just earn, consume, trade, and profit in some cases in an ecosystem that connects to other ecosystems. It will be like that scene in the movie Ready Player One where you can use items from one universe into another one.
9) Why did you choose to work with Enjin? How did that come about?
Chris: I met up with them at the Game Developers Conference in 2018. I met up with Michael from Boxmining, Marguerite deCourcelle from Neon District, and Roger Walco from Enjin at a blockchain dinner where at least 20 other people from other blockchain games in development had gathered.
The next day I went to see the Enjin booth and they had this game called Enjin Quest running, it was a real game demo and right next to it was a phone with a wallet. When the little adventurer grabbed a jewel, it showed up on the mobile phone. I knew right then and there that I had just seen what the future of blockchain gaming was going to be.
10) You have recently announced support for Kriptomat Founders Tokens. It seems very fitting that the Dragon token will unlock a special flamethrower :). How did you come up with the idea?
Chris: One of the things that I like to do when collaborating is finding a way to build in support around content that has something meaningful around gameplay mechanics. In the game there’s an ice world and I thought that it would be fun to have some kind of a puzzle where a flamethrower would be helpful. When I saw the Founders Token was a Dragon, I knew right away that it was going to be an unlockable flamethrower.
Age of Rust is a dark sci-fi adventure game set in the vast expanse of the universe. You’ll explore abandoned space stations, mysterious caverns, and ruins on far away worlds. On the way, you’ll unlock puzzles and secrets to light the way forward. The upcoming 3D RPG game is expected to launch in late 2019 by SpacePirate Games.
Age of Rust will be supporting the Kriptomat tokens in a very special way. The “Dragon” token unlocks the Dragon flame thrower in Age of Rust. Kriptomat is an exchange adopting erc-1155 blockchain virtual items to gamify trading! @kriptomat @enjin #blockchaingame #enjin #ethereum pic.twitter.com/6MPdEnH5oE
— Age of Rust ? GDC 2019 (@SpacePirate_io) February 18, 2019
11) What if the Enjin price goes up by a considerable amount and all items are melted? Is there any concern on your part about the game economics and possible Interruption in the gameplay by “losing” items? For example, imagine that all of the Kriptomat Founders tokens get melted. Will users still be able to get their hands on the special flamethrower?
Chris: It’s key part of the blockchain game design process not to lock yourself into a corner with the game economy. Having one token mapped to a key game logic path could be problematic if there’s no other way to use an item or follow a path in a game if what you need gets melted.
We can change the mapping on the backend so that a particular token id can be swapped out if something ultra chaotic takes place with a particular token, such as a mass melt of a single item. We can either mint our own item or choose another item that exists in the multiverse as a replacement.
12) The blockchain enables a unique interconnection between different ecosystems. It truly offers an opportunity for a multiverse of different games. What are some things that the blockchain can do in gaming that the people aren’t really aware of?
Chris: The multiverse of being able to use an epic item you earned in one game to be used in another game is a great innovation of blockchain games. I think one of the things that people are surprised about with blockchain gaming is the ability to earn passive income. A few of the blockchain games out there allow players to rent out things to other players and generate an income.
This kind of player-to-player model without a middleman could really disrupt things in some of the traditional games on the market. Twenty years ago you had people farming characters in EverQuest and selling accounts online, until the studio shut it down due to fraud and also as they were losing some potential revenue.
So with blockchain, the entire model is flipped where players are in control of the ownership. Alterverse, another Enjin early adopter has a server that players can build their own world on and earn from other players. That’s just one small example where blockchain gaming and it’s decentralized approach with player owned assets is going to change gaming.
13) Are you open to future collaborations with Kriptomat and do you have any other ideas on how to implement various tokens into the game?
Chris: Yeah, there’s still a lot of opportunities to collaborate and bring something fun and build an experience for the players. When building in token support, I really like to build a story or a narrative around it. There’s plenty of situations in the game where a token can come into play, from unlocking special content, missions, or gameplay to reward the player.
14) Tell us a bit more about Age of Rust’s gameplay. The FAQ section on your website also mentions a treasure hunt worth 20 Bitcoins. Can you tell us more about the specifics of it?
Chris: So this is something that I haven’t covered in too much detail before because it is kind of a hidden feature of the game. We want players to find these little hidden clues and mysteries in the game that begin to point to something larger in the context of the story and the puzzles.
Several pieces of the game and story start to fit together in ways that gives hints to clues to the big treasure that’s in the game which is this 20 Bitcoin treasure. Players have to uncover the seed words to the wallet containing the treasure, but the words aren’t directly hard coded into the game, it’s more illustrative in the way the ciphers are hidden throughout the game.
It’s very similar to a book called “The Secret” by Byron Preiss in which he hid 12 jewels each worth $1000 and the location of each is ciphered into 12 paintings. Another example was a painting done by Marguerite deCourcelle which had 5 Bitcoins hidden in the painting, which went unsolved for 3 years. I thought it would be fun to also include a cryptocurrency treasure hunt into the game of a similar nature.
15) You are using Unity as a game engine. Do you also utilize the Enjin Blockchain SDK? If so, how has that helped your process?
Chris: Yes, the integration of the Enjin SDK for Unity is a key fundamental aspect of making the game playable for the average gamer. What it simplifies is the connection of the game to the player wallet. This is one of those things with blockchain that is hard to do, make players feel at ease with something new. Players own items that the game needs to know they have; tying those two universes together in a way that is simple lowers the barrier to adoption.
So using the Enjin SDK helps in that way, but it also made creating the game assets to use on the blockchain a snap, just a few clicks and we created thousands of items without the need to write any code. That’s something that is a huge game changer for the process of making a blockchain game.
16) You are one of the pioneers of crypto gaming. Can you talk about some of the challenges you face? For example, were there any unforeseen issues with the integration of blockchain items?
Chris: When I think about challenges, the first thing that pops into my mind is adoption of the blockchain. It spans outside gaming of course and it’s something that I think all of us in the blockchain space struggle with. Last year, you couldn’t say “blockchain” or “crypto” without being labeled as a “scam” regardless of the context. Now, communities, players, and those unfamiliar with blockchain gaming have an open mind again.
It’s no longer an argument, it is about a conversation now and the work still continues. I’ve been a crypto-maximalist for the past 6 years telling anyone who would listen about how the blockchain is going to revolutionize and disrupt many industries. Gaming is a very strong use case for blockchain tokens, but the challenge is still getting adoption outside of the crypto-community.
I think one of the unforeseen issues with blockchain items is the collectors market outside the game. We’ve had quite a few people who bought our access cards just because of the artwork of the card or just own something rare, not because they wanted to play the game. So this keeps the tokens out of the players who want them. It wasn’t something that was anticipated which can cause a problem because we want players to experience the game versus just collect the cards.
17) Is there any exclusive piece of information you can give specifically for this interview? Something you have never revealed before about Age of Rust. It can be a completely trivial piece of info (like a never before seen screenshot), just so we can have bragging rights of publishing it before anyone else. 🙂
Chris: Here’s a quick clip of a location in the game, it’s on a planet called Pollux where it’s a bit of mystery in what happened there. Of course there’s traps, clues, and it wouldn’t be a blockchain game without some rewards there too.
18) Okay, so where can people go to learn more about Age of Rust? Is there an online community where people can discuss the game?
Chris: Our website has some information about the game which more is being added to over time. However, our Telegram and Discord channels are where our community hangs out to talk about the game. They’ve also created some puzzles around the lore of the game on their own and reward players with little prizes while the game is in development.
19) What are your plans for after the release of Age of Rust? Do you plan to continue adding and improving stuff or do you plan to move on to other projects?
Chris: I want to take a little time off before the next game, but I’ve got some ideas for a twist on a classic RPG, so that’s probably the next blockchain game I’ll be working on after Age of Rust.
20) Thanks a lot for joining us! Anything else you’d like to add as closing words?
Chris: Thanks for taking the time to reach out and talk with me about the game. It’s hard to express in words what it’s like to be an indie game developer and have a whole community talk about and look forward to a game. Suffice to say, it’s very humbling and I’m really amazed at the outpouring of the community support we’re getting. So thank you again 🙂