On diving headfirst into the world of crypto game development, one of my observations is that many successful projects feel more like community co-development projects than what we traditionally think of as game development process. Its kickstarter/early access on steroids. A small but passionate and well-heeled community can bootstrap a project that experienced game devs might look at and go “this is pure vapor.”
In some instances that instinct might be right, in some it might be wrong. Personally, I might dismiss a project after reading its white paper and thinking “they just promised 4 AAA games that each take minimum 3 years each to build. This is never going to happen.” But as a crypto outsider I’m missing the point. This is exactly what the community wants: to be a part of the development process for years and years. It is this enthusiasm that powers $100m token market caps and eye popping NFT sales with a promise of future gameplay.
My favorite recent experience with co-development comes from LegendMaps.io. Legend Maps is a Nethack inspired project that launched with a minting of 5757 ascii art style, procedurally generated dungeon map NFTs. I missed out on the minting and didn’t want to pony up the $450 floor price to join the community by acquiring my own Founder’s Map. However, unlike most generative art NFTs that I look at and think “this ugly, why buy?” the Legend Maps appeal to me. Even though I never played these ascii art dungeon crawlers, as a student of video game history these maps stirred a deep nostalgia in me. I wanted one.
So I joined the Discord community. They recently ran a lore competition: pick any Founders Map on Opensea, write some lore for it and share on Discord. The dev team would pick their favorite entry and reward the writer with a Founder’s Map NFT. All participants would get a “lore master” badge on the Discord server.
So I browsed the collection and found the Keep of King Kil’am. I wrote a 4 stanza poem inspired by the map (I’ll include at the bottom of the post). I monitored the channel daily, reading other community member’s entries and eagerly anticipating the announcement of the winner. Participating in the competition got me emotionally invested in the Discord and led to me checking it much more frequently than the other 100 project servers I’m following. There were over 30 high quality entries for the competition.
Writing and art competitions are a frequent co-development tactic I’m seeing across projects. For instance, in Jam City’s Champion’s Ascension Discord server, I won a Prime Eternal role and a spot on the pre-sale whitelist for writing the winning Cauldron of Fire house motto: “Born in sin, live in flame, rest in ash”. Simply type the !fire command into chat and you’ll see my name and motto 🙂 But I saw a lot more engagement from the Legend Maps lore competition than other similar competitions I’ve seen.
In the end, the Legend Maps team chose 3 winners including yours truly. I am now the proud owner of Holdfast of the Scholar and a devoted evangelist for the Legend Maps project. If you follow me on Twitter, I’m sure you’ll see me signal boost Legend Maps and look for further opportunities to get involved in its development in the coming months.
In my opinion, this high level of engagement comes from setting up a competition that is well aligned with the community. Legend Maps’ NFTs likely appeal to people who have either been dungeon masters, played D&D or otherwise have deep experience with old school RPGs. If you’re building a community that naturally appeals to a dungeon master crowd, you are more likely to have a lot of lore writers in your audience.
So the lesson here isn’t “lore competitions are good and you should run them.” It’s “who is my core community and how can they assist me in co-developing this game?” What crypto gamers want isn’t a highly polished AAA game launch after 4 years of waiting. They want to be as close to the development as possible as early as possible. Your community is your team, and the best crypto game projects will leverage the skills and interests of their team to build successful, sustainable and long lasting games.
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For those interested, here is my winning lore entry:
Oh cursed blade of wretched king,
in my dreams it calls.
I thirst, I thirst to taste its edge,
my soul is in its thralls.
For Kil’am’s coins and Kil’ams gems,
they have no hold on I.
I sing, I sing, its blood drenched song,
though those who wield it die.
Poor Kil’am’s page, who hid the blade,
his blood is on my hands.
He did his duty, sealed his fate,
for following commands.
And so I set out for the Keep,
with arcane tools in tow.
And any fool who bars my path,
will meet their end below.