We spoke to Nazar Chervinskiy, CEO and co-founder of Prospectors, the world’s first MMORTES (Massive Multiplayer Online Real-Time Economic Strategy) game that was built on EOSIO.
Could you introduce Prospectors for us?
On the one hand, Prospectors is a game whose primary goal is to bring joy to its users; on the other, it is an alternate reality with robust economic rules and relations where anyone can become whoever they want.
“Just like in the real world, in Prospectors there is more than one path to success.”
We sometimes get comments from our users like “I don’t totally understand Prospectors, but I play it anyway and I love it!”. It mirrors the real world – people don’t completely understand that either, but they can still enjoy it, which is cool.
The game is set in the 19th century Wild West, with a map showing land tiles and above-ground resources like wood and stone. There are also resources hidden underground which must be sought out, like coal, clay and gold. Each of these resources has a different role to play in the construction of new buildings and the production of items.
Every player has three assigned workers who can fulfill various tasks. Players can use their workers themselves, or have them work for other players in return for a salary. Any action in the game requires labour from a worker to complete it. No matter how active you are, you’ll still need some help from others in the game.
What makes Prospectors different from other, traditional games like it?
We’ve created a new type of game and called it MMORTES – Massive Multiplayer Online Real-Time Economic Strategy. This means players can interact to trade resources, build things, or mine for gold. This is underpinned by our leveraging of blockchain technology, which makes Prospectors more transparent and helps us to earn players’ trust.
The game is also educational – it can help players learn about transactions and financial relationships. It offers the possibility of a side income derived from something they enjoy.
Is Prospectors profitable for a player? It depends on the strategy they choose. Just like in the real world, there is more than one path to success, which makes pinpointing a winning formula difficult.
“Players are responsible for their own destiny in Prospectors.”
They can try to realize themselves as ordinary workers, receiving salaries from other players or opt to be a builder, miner or courier. They can even start their own businesses, creating job opportunities for others.
What inspired you to create Prospectors?
I’ve been a fan of video games since childhood and always imagined what I would do if I had been in the game developers’ shoes.
There was a period early in my career when I only had to work in the summer, which meant that I could spend all winter playing video games. That’s when I became acquainted with “Travian”. This real-time massively multiplayer game was active and bustling with other players 24 hours a day, which made it very engaging.
In 2014, I first dove into the world of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. I thought back to Travian and the numerous communities of players constantly interacting on a vast game map. I dreamt of creating a game based on blockchain that would challenge and elevate this experience.
For two years I discussed the possibilities of Prospectors with my cousin and co-founder Andriy Maslijevych. We wanted our game to stand out and decided that by offering players something in exchange for their time spent playing, we could achieve that. Their efforts add value to the game’s world and in return accumulate various digital assets they truly own and can sell anytime.
We weren’t sure how our monetization model would be received by gamers. However, Steemit launched around this time, which proved the viability of users being rewarded for contributing value to their ecosystem.
The newer Prospectors game map, set in the Yukon and interfacing with the WAX EOSIO blockchain, was inspired by the works of Jack London. His gritty tales of harsh conditions during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush in the Yukon were extremely evocative. It seemed only appropriate to pay homage to the brave souls venturing to new lands in search of their fortune in our own unique way.
Why did you decide to use blockchain technology, and specifically EOSIO?
We had been excited by blockchain technology, and were searching for new ways to apply it in the real world. We ended up making a totally blockchain powered game on EOSIO – all actions are in-line smart contract actions.
We originally spent time using Ethereum smart contracts, but found the platform too slow and expensive for our needs.
The primary argument for our use of blockchain technology stems from the operation of the virtual in-game currency, Prospectors Gold (PGL). We are striving to represent an alternate reality with full-fledged economic relations between its citizens.
To provide this experience, players need to be able to trust that we cannot generate unlimited PGL for ourselves and believe us when we say we don’t know the locations where PGL is buried underneath the map. EOSIO blockchain technology allows us to be transparent about both of these things because PGL is defined and transacted by a smart contract.
“Earning players’ trust is going to become increasingly more important in the highly competitive world of video gaming. EOSIO blockchain technology is a good tool to achieve this.”
We were well aware of the capabilities of competing blockchain platforms when we made the decision to use EOSIO. We were already familiar with the works of Dan Larimer and planned to use Bitshares then pivoted, when we heard the announcement of EOSIO. It has totally lived up to our expectations.
What stage is Prospectors at?
In terms of development, we are at, and plan to be at the open beta-version stage for at least another six months.
Players can sign up and play the game in their browser right now, using a compatible wallet. We consider Prospectors to still be in open beta because we are actively extending the functionality of the game, and this will influence the economics. We would like to avoid interfering with the economic model of the game after the official stable release, though.
As for the game itself, I would suggest that the current version is in a period of initial capital accumulation. The distribution of gold is happening according to “true proof of work” where more work in the game world earns more gold.
We have so far built the core game, which is only around 10% of our planned functionality.
What are the challenges you had to overcome, and how did you do it?
In the beginning there was just my cousin Andriy and I!
“We had no experience of the video games industry so we had to learn everything along the way, which was a significant challenge for us!”
Creating a game as complex as Prospectors required a lot of time and effort. Balancing the economic model was particularly difficult, and economists we consulted didn’t even believe it would work. It is now running smoothly though, and needless to say we are happy to prove them wrong!
We had no clue about marketing and lacked the funds for even a small PR campaign, so had to find our own ways to get our messages out there.
We couldn’t have overcome these challenges without our magnificent team. Notably, many who joined us in the beginning left higher paying jobs. Through working on Prospectors, we all gained some totally priceless experience, and have become stronger together (emotionally at least!).
What are your plans for scaling?
We currently have two main game worlds: Wild West and Yukon, which use the EOS and WAX blockchains respectively, and we plan to launch at least two more. Each new world will contain unique resources, and players will be able to travel between them using railways.
Players will become familiar with the railway game mechanic, because we are also planning to host temporary new maps which will contain resources to collect. They will have to work together, and can only take resources back with them if they successfully build a new railway.
They will need to balance collecting resources with construction, otherwise no-one will take home anything.
“We are hoping this innovative game design will give players a novel challenge, and attract new gamers to Prospectors.”
What EOSIO community initiatives have you engaged in, and how has the EOSIO Community responded to Prospectors?
We continually keep up with EOSIO community news, and we were the first project to start providing CPU for players.
We contribute when we can to the development of EOSIO. When we were starting out on Prospectors, we discovered a bug which could totally break the Jungle testnet. This critical vulnerability could have been replicated on the EOS public network. We reported the problem to Block Producers, and they took steps to fix it.
We are grateful to have an incredible community of players, some of whom came from the EOSIO community to Prospectors, and some the other way around. Positive comments from them have always kept our spirits high in the face of challenges.
Some players loved the game so much they became contributors over time, volunteering to perform tasks like translation and even game development. Thanks to the efforts of these people, Prospectors is even better for everyone who plays.
Can you introduce your team and tell us what makes them/it special?
Our team is comprised of 16 people with a similar world view and a shared belief in our project. Some have been friends with each other since childhood, and some have joined us along the way. Here are some of the core members of our team:
Our CTO, Yaroslav Kikhtan, has 20+ years experience of software development. He never tires of learning, and reads everything from the theory of evolution to philology. He will not believe something unless it is backed up by grounded research in several different scientific publications. He is an advocate for more straightforward gameplay – after his censorship, the majority of our crazy ideas die in agony. He is an important counterweight in the development process though and produces robust, well structured code.
Andriy Masliyevych is one of our co-founders and a brilliant mathematician. His head contains seemingly unlimited amounts of information and he quickly fishes facts out as needed. He finds creative ways to solve programming problems, and is adept with blockchain technology.
Max Karkach is another co-founder and our lead graphic designer. He manages our artists and combines their output to produce the visible world of Prospectors as gamers experience it.
As CEO, I mainly work on the game design of Prospectors, and also strategic planning for the whole company.
Our team is fantastic and ready to support each other through hard times, long nights, and weekends. We celebrate our victories together, and I count my teammates as genuine comrades-in-arms.
Where do you see Prospectors in the future?
As Dan Simmons wrote: “No book or poem is ever finished, merely abandoned.”
We have a lot of imagination as a team, and usually have more ideas than time to implement them!
While we have very ambitious plans for the future, I can only reveal a few things at present. Very soon, the game will allow the formation of Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), which will allow players to group together to perform work and collect income. These DAOs will have various jobs available, each with different responsibilities and rewards. The EOSIO permissions system is perfect for offering this feature!
Following on from this, we plan to offer players a chance to shape the experience of the game by introducing elective positions: a Sheriff and a DAO court. One of the challenges we face is dealing with multi-accounts (where one player uses multiple accounts to generate more resources than they should be able to), which are forbidden by the game rules. It is our hope that the community will help us in the fight against these cheaters through the DAO court – it may even prove to be a compelling new dimension to the game for enthusiastic players.
“In time, we hope to pass 100% of the management and strategic decisions to Prospectors players – DAOs are the first step in achieving this.”
We would like to experiment with a number of different governance systems, starting with direct democracy via the delegation of voting rights.
In a sentence, how would you want readers to remember Prospectors?
“Prospectors is set in a world of virtual Gold Rushes, where the gold you mine is defined and transferred by a smart contract to increase transparency and security.”
. . .
Play the game now at Prospectors.io
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