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MetalCore’s CTO on how to make a Web3 game fun: “We use what we understand”

Dan Nikolaides explains the challenges that arise when making a Web3-focused game entertaining.

MetalCore’s CTO on how to make a Web3 game fun: “We use what we understand”

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Blockchain games dominated the first quarter, representing 30% of all on-chain activity in this period, according to the “State of the Dapp Industry Q1 2024” report by DappRadar. The report highlights that an average of 2.1 million wallets were active daily during Q1.

This dominance in gaming activity on the blockchain could mean that analysts’ expectations about Web3 games focusing on entertainment this cycle are being fulfilled. MetalCore is a blockchain shooting game from this new batch of titles focused on entertaining gameplay, and it is finding success in its second closed beta testing.

“[The number of players] It’s actually a lot more than we expected. We planned for a couple hundred, maybe 1,000 players. We’ve got close to 9,000 players and about 1,500 to 2,000 daily active users. And then at any given time, we have somewhere between 300 and 400 concurrent users, which is really good for a game that is not freely available, you still have to sign up on a waitlist and get keys,” shared Dan Nikolaides, CTO of MetalCore.

The second closed beta test for MetalCore ends May 16th, after a two-week period used majorly to test game economy and check bugs, added Nikolaides. Since those testing periods are executed without the completed game, they are harder to retain players, which is why MetalCore’s team is surprised by the number of players dedicating up to 50 hours a week to the game.

However, making a blockchain game fun is not an easy task, especially because most of the teams behind new Web3 titles are from the traditional gaming industry, and must get acclimated to new standards.

“Web3 industry is really young still, so it’s hard to know what’s right. And that leads to changing directions, more so than we would do in Web2. Changing directions from a business perspective is not something that you typically would need to do in Web2. It is pretty much about thinking: well, this is going to be a premium game or a free-to-play game, or we’re going to sell it in bundles, or whatever it is going to do. Whatever the business plan is, that doesn’t require you to change your entire development process.”

Yet, in Web3 there are more factors to consider, such as choosing a blockchain to deploy digital assets and deciding whether or not the game will have tokens. This drastically affects the technology stack used and what the team can do with digital assets, said MetalCore’s CTO.

“Are we going to be able to upgrade them? Are they gonna have attributes that we can cheaply upgrade and can players level them up? Or is that gonna be too cost-prohibitive? That is just the simplest of things. Even from the business side, we have to question when we should launch from a market perspective. Like when is a good time to launch a token? Who should we partner with? All of these are very, very difficult decisions that we have to make besides just making the game, which definitely there was a learning curve there for us to figure all this out.”

Scratching an idea

MetalCore is a multiplayer shooting game that reminds famous titles, such as Titanfall and Destiny. Players can go on missions, use different battle vehicles, and fight alien monsters. Nikolaides shared that the decision to create a multiplayer online game is tied to the “company DNA,” but it started outside the Web3.

“We started this off actually as a VR game. So we made a VR game called World of Mechs for Quest 2 [VR goggles]. And that was really fun. Our founder has a long history of developing mech games. And once we did that, we had a really good foundation for fun mech combat. And we were like: ‘What if we took this and made a big PC game out of it?’ And at the time, we weren’t sure how to fund it. We weren’t sure how to make it happen.”

Migrating to Web3 then made sense, as the team would be able to create a new blockchain title from scratch, instead of just trying to “slam a game into Web3.” After this decision, Nikolaides explains that making the game free-to-play was the next logical step, as the team didn’t want to gatekeep the game with costly NFTs, allowing players to build a community around it.

“Gatekeeping games with NFTs is just not fun. The fun thing about games like this is when you can show off. If you have something really cool, naturally you want to show off to other people. But if you make a game where you have to buy a super expensive NFT just to play, there’s nobody to show off to. Nobody else is there to be like ‘oh my god, that’s so cool.’ So people generally, just the average person, really loves to feel they have achieved something.”

Keep it simple

Besides the initial barrier of getting used to a new industry, Nikolaides shares additional challenges when creating a fun Web3 game, and how MetalCore’s team overcame them. “There are all the normal challenges that come with making a fun game even in Web 2, which is difficult by itself. Then there are additional challenges, which are the kind of economic challenges of designing a system that works in Web3.”

MetalCore’s approach then was to keep “as close as possible to something they understood,” says Nikolaides. They already understood the idea of building a character, leveling it up, improving its load-outs, spending time, energy, resources, and money potentially upgrading it and making it “super bad-ass,” he adds.

“And then we thought that with a free marketplace of NFTs, people would want to sell upgraded characters. And so we kind of designed our game around upgrading characters, right? This was very important for us, because instead of trying to do something very complicated, we kind of could take a lot of lessons that we learned in Web2, that we understood from designing game economies that involved upgrading characters, and then just kind of do it in such a way that it was Web3 friendly.”

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