Earlier this week we explored the impact of trading card games entering the blockchain space. Today we’re excited to speak with one of the leading projects in the crypto-TCG landscape, Steem Monsters.
Unleashing the Creative Power of Steem
Steem Monsters is a digital trading and role play card game fueled by and secured through blockchain technology. Specifically, these collectable and war-hungry Monsters of the Splinterlands are powered by Steem. These days, Ethereum has been the default and go-to blockchain for gamers looking to develop crypto collectable databases, marketplaces, and battlegrounds. But this team went in another direction, to Steem. An unlikely homebase, Steem “the social blockchain” is most popularly known for content publishing applications like Steemit and DTube among hundreds of others. SM is the first large scale game to improvise and explore this blockchain in an entirely new, and excitingly creative way.
The Creative Crypto (CC): Welcome @yabapmatt and @aggroed! Let’s dive into the origin story of your blockchain powered game. The internet era has completely changed the growth of gaming. Especially when it comes to trading card games going from physical cards to digital collections. We’re curious to hear more about how these changes might have impacted the start of Steem Monsters?
@yabapmatt: Absolutely. There have been some big changes to games when physical cards moved online. One of the biggest changes was that you no longer owned your trading cards. It was physical with Magic: The Gathering cards because you could hold them, trade them and sell them. But with online games like Hearthstone you can’t do that anymore. The only way to get new cards is to buy them from Blizzard Entertainment (a company), and that’s essentially the same format with every online game today.
CC: How did Steem come into the picture here and ultimately become your blockchain of choice?
@yabapmatt: Last year I started learning more about blockchain technology and digital assets, scarcity, etc. and I thought oh my gosh there needs to be a TCG (trading card game) that taps into all that. I wrote a whole whitepaper and essentially thought that I would have to build my own blockchain to make this thing happen. I knew I couldn’t use Ethereum because of fees and long block times. I knew about Steem which had some of the properties that we wanted but at that time I didn’t think it could function much beyond actions like rewarding content publishing. I met with @aggroed (a Steem witness) who I had met through other projects. I told him that I had this idea for a blockchain card game but had no idea where I should start.
He said that we should use the Steem blockchain. Steem ended up being such a good idea for us, in terms of both the technology and the insane benefits of a community.
CC: So what was it about the blend technology and community that made this an advantageous blockchain to kickstart your project?
@aggroed: Using Steem for this project? It’s ultimately pretty killer. You’ve already got a functioning blockchain. And the process of actually building a blockchain is like a million dollar project. For us, well, this was already 1 million dollars in development costs that we didn’t have to spend. Then after you get your blockchain you have to go out and find a way to populate it with people. That in and of itself is incredibly expensive, time consuming, and challenging. It’s like opening an empty marketplace and then trying to fill it with goods, services, and so on. With Steem we already had 60,000 daily active users to engage and interact with on day one.
With Steem we already had 60,000 daily active users to engage and interact with on day one.
The Steem community became exceptionally excited and even gracious for Steem Monsters because they understood that new projects lift the waters for all of us. The rising tide lifts all boats as they say. This whole community has really rallied behind us and that’s been extraordinary.
So, having a pre-functioning blockchain and an active community was just incredible for us. It was a magic combination that helped propel our team in just three months (so far) of being active here.
CC: On the community side of things, your team has done a really great job engaging “Steemians” with the development of everything within Steem Monsters. From storylines, to complex narratives and even artwork. So how do you feel about Steem beyond the technology of the blockchain? How has the Steem community served as an accelerator in the growth of the project?
@aggroed: One of my favorite things to talk about is our Steem Monster campaign guide. It’s over 200 pages and explains the teams within our game, the culture and “splinters” of the world environment. Each of these “splinter” storylines was actually authored by a different Steemian. Doing this with 6 different teams butting heads with one another made an amazing story for our Monsters. Having a whole platform filled with artists, writers, and musicians has helped us make a fantastic culture within the game.
@yabapmatt: The design of the website, the battle interface, even the sound effects when you open the card packs are all created by different Steemians looking to contribute to the project from all over the world.
CC: It’s amazing to see how you leveraged a global pool of creative talent to assemble a storyline and engage a community of users! It’s really a decentralized endeavour. How does this whole process compare to the traditional way of starting an blockchain product?
@yabapmatt: If we had launched our own blockchain it would be like submitting a new app to the Apple or Google Play store. Even if it’s a great app, no one is going to see it. You’d need to spend millions on marketing for people to come across it and know what to do with it.
And as much as people hate the trending page on Steemit.com people still pay Steem to have their content promoted on it. When you compare that to most advertising campaigns it’s not that much to spend and you can reach a cryptocurrency fluent audience in the process. So overall, from a developer perspective it’s surprisingly pretty simple. Plus you have a huge community to connect with. That’s rare.
CC: The impact that blockchain is having in the trading card game world is pretty exciting. You have direct control over your collection without having a single company to go through, provable scarcity and the ability to improvise or create sub games surrounding the original game. What excites you about this new decentralized structure of gameplay?
@yabapmatt: For games today like Hearthstone, you’re beholden to what companies like Blizzard Entertainment do. You have no control. You can’t take Hearthstone cards and make your own version. But, Steem Monsters is the total opposite of that. We’re going to build the best game that we can. All the information is publicly available, so anyone who wants has all the information we have and can build their own versions of the game. If people like that version of the game better, they can go and play that version. As far as we’re concerned, that’s all good.
The more options people have the better the experience will be. It’s the opposite of what a traditional and proprietary company would do.
@yabapmatt: We also have a decentralized marketplace. The market for buying and selling cards on our website is actually a decentralized protocol built on top of Steem. So with respect to centralization vs. decentralization – steemmonsters.com doesn’t even have to be here for that to exist or continue to happen. We left all this very open for others to design on top of. So there’s actually another marketplace that was built on steempeak.com (another app built on Steem). They built Peak Monsters, which is actually way better than what we built. They basically built a Steem Monsters block explorer where you can see and discover everything in real time.
CC: On the blockchain tech side of things, you’ve mentioned in previous conversations that there are some new features on Steem that might enhance the gameplay of Steem Monsters. Could you tell us a little bit about what’s in the pipeline and how it could impact gaming in this ecosystem?
@yabapmatt: Steem Monsters is built using a soft consensus layer on top of the Steem blockchain. We had to build this system. But an upcoming feature called Hivemind is actually just that, but more generally built. So, once Hivemind becomes available – Steem Monsters or any other game that runs like it could become an extension that would validate Steem Monster transactions. It will make it much easier.
It’s going to open up Pandora’s Box for this blockchain. There’s so much hiding in this blockchain that is going to be unlocked.
Hivemind might actually have the most potential for Steem, even beyond Steem’s Smart Media Tokens protocol. Hivemind in my opinion is a project that actually has the most creative potential. It’s going to open up Pandora’s Box for this blockchain. There’s so much hiding in this blockchain that is going to be unlocked. Keep an eye out for Hivemind.
CC: When most people think of Steem, they think about content and social applications like Steemit and DTube. You guys are breaking the mold here by creating a game. What do you think about this “Pandora’s box” as it continues to evolve and how might others approach this ecosystem for new crypto-fueled projects?
@aggroed: Steem is a big public database. Sometimes people get overwhelmed with all the jargon that goes into the blockchain world so sometimes it helps to just say, ‘hey this thing is just a big public database, and it’s verified by lots of people.’ Steem is great for this because it’s got a lot of different types of people, it’s really fast (every transaction takes no more than 3 seconds) and every transaction is free. It’s a great place to build something with strong technology and an even greater community.
Thanks to the Steem Monsters team for speaking with us about the future of blockchain gaming and of the power of crypto-communities! We’re excited to learn more about the Splinterlands as they evolve. For those looking to learn more about these Monsters, explore the project using the links below. Steem Monsters also has a Kickstarter Campaign that ends in a couple weeks, below: