EDIT: Read the updated buying guide here https://medium.com/@dewaun/pfl-buying-guide-d599cb30e108
Photo Finish Live (PFL) is a highly anticipated P2E NFT horse racing game on Solana built by Third Time Inc, a game studio led by gaming veterans from EA Sports, FanDuel and Zynga. Players can earn via racing, breeding, track ownership and wagering, and the racing beta is expected to launch in May 2022 when up to 5,000 “Generation Zero” (Gen 0) horses will be the first to race and populate the rest of the ecosystem.
This guide will focus on how to get your hands on one of the initial 5,000 Gen 0 horses for the game for racing and/or breeding. This is an update of the first Breeding Guide written back in December 2021. Since then we’ve learned more about the game, tokenomics were released, breeding has launched, there’s a thriving marketplace for Gen 0 tickets on Magic Eden, and the team announced their $3.5M seed investment round.
I strongly recommend reading the prior Breeding Guide to understand all the basics about horse grades and boosts. For the rest of this guide I’ll assume all that prior knowledge.
What’s the best way to buy a Gen 0 horse?
Gen 0 horses in the game are obtained by exchanging a Gen 0 ticket. This will happen between the end of breeding (April 20th 2022) and the launch of the beta (expected in May 2022). Gen 0 tickets don’t have gender, this will be assigned randomly when they are exchanged for the in game horses.
There are two ways to get a Gen 0 ticket:
- Buy one directly from the Magic Eden marketplace
- Buy a Filly, buy the Stud (or rent via a 3rd party service) and breed them to produce a ticket yourself
The strategy you choose depends on your preference and how much SOL you have. Let’s go over some PFP breeding basics:
- Stylish Studs can breed more than once (hence why they can be rented)
- Fine Fillies can only breed once (they are then turned into Marvelous Mares)
- Studs and Mares STILL have value after you breed them:
1. High rank Studs can be sold for someone else to breed with.
2. Both Studs and Mares will receive airdrops of $CROWN (see the Economy Blog). $CROWN is the fixed supply governance token of Photo Finish Live and it has a lot of potential (see my other post Speculating on $CROWN). Because of this, they are easy to resell.
3. Collecting Studs and Mares are also needed to reach certain VIP tiers (1, 5, 20 are required for various tiers) however this is harder to value right now
Now that we have the basics out of the way it should be clear that:
- Buying a ticket directly is the easiest, but you only can get what is out there at the time
- Breeding enables you to create your own ticket but requires more funds upfront and a bit of work. However, depending on the $CROWN-driven resale value of the Mare (and the stud if you bought the stud) it may be cheaper than buying a ticket off the market
Let’s go over each method.
Option 1: Buying on the Market
This is the easiest option, you can see go to https://magiceden.io/marketplace/photo_finish and use the filters there, however you can’t see the boosts without clicking into each one.
Instead, either download the Photo Finish Helper chrome extension which overlays the stats (and also shows Crown Per Sol for Studs, Fillies and Mares) or, even better, use the community built site Racer’s Edge on the “Horses” tab to view tickets for sale and filter based on all the stats and boosts.
Option 2: Buy Filly, Buy/Rent stud, Breed
In this option you locate a Filly, locate a Stud and then breed them at the official breeding website. If you rent the stud using the Solmates Stables breeding service, they will breed for you and send back the ticket and the Mare.
To see what the resulting Gen 0 ticket would look like you can enter the IDs into the breeding tool (this is good for taking a screenshot) OR you can use the Matchmaking page on Racer’s Edge (enter the IDs, then click Run Analysis).
There are a few ways to locate the Stud and Filly:
Market Page: If you want to do no work at all, use the Market page on Racer’s Edge, you’ll be able to see the price of the Stud and Filly as well as the resulting ticket. Since it’s easy, you probably won’t find a great deal here, but you could get lucky!
Hunt them down: To get a better deal, you’ll need to do a bit more work:
- First, choose a Filly based on your budget. Personally, I like to use the Rank/Price chart on Solanafloor to find the highest rank for my budget. You can also use the Ranks page on Racer’s Edge and filter for Fillies.
- Then use the Matchmaking page on Racer’s Edge but then click “Check Magic Eden” to see all the available studs on the market and how they match your Filly.
- Alternatively, use the Rent a Stud page on Racer’s Edge to see how the available studs to rent match with your Filly. Prices for Solmates Stables breeding service vary and can be negotiated but expect to pay between 1 and 5 SOL.
- If you want to know the resale value of the Stud/Mare look up the Stud/Mare on the Ranks page to see how much $CROWN per month it gets. Then go to the CROWN per sol (CPS) page to see the highest CPS on the market. For a high likelihood of a quick sale, take the top number and add about 5 (right now the top CPS is 50, so you want to use a value of 55). Then take the Crown per month of the Stud/Mare, divide that number by the CPS you chose (55 in this case) and that should be the rough resale value of the Stud/Mare.
Strategies for Choosing a Gen 0 Ticket
OK, so armed with the info above you should now know HOW to obtain a Gen 0 ticket. The next question is WHAT Gen 0 ticket to buy or breed. This is where your chosen strategy comes in. It’s not simply about getting the highest grade or the highest number of boosts for your buck, there are different strategies for racing, breeding and speculating. At the end of the day you’re probably here for the EARN part of play-to-earn just as much as the play part, so let’s go over some strategies to gain an edge.
At a high level, all income generation stems from racing. Placing high enough in races earns income directly, and having good racing genetics enables the owner to earn from breeding. If there was no racing, there wouldn’t be demand for new foals and therefore no breeding revenue. There’d also be nothing to wager on. Because of this, an understanding of racing strategy is key for figuring out racing AND breeding.
Racing Strategy Considerations
Racing in Photo Finish Live is all about choosing the right race for your horse. You only have to beat the other horses in that particular race. This means it’s likely to be much better to specialize and be exceptional in a particular area than try to be good across many areas.
As you know (from reading the prior Breeding Guide) horses have stats and skills (preferences). The numbers on the Gen 0 tickets are boosts to the baseline stat for that grade. If you take the 3 preferences (direction, track and condition) you get 8 combinations (Right/Left x Grass/Dirt x Soft/Firm).
In addition, some of the stats (Start, Speed, Stamina, Finish) confer a particular advantage at a specific distance. Race distances are continuous and range from 4 to 16 furlongs. To keep things simple let’s say there are 3 ranges, short, mid and long.
So now you have at least 24 niches (8 preferences x 3 ranges) in which to target for specialization. Some are going to be more competitive than others and you can see that using the Horse Metrics page on Racer’s Edge.
At this time only 40% of Gen 0 tickets have bred so things can change but we can already notice a few things:
- Right Dirt Firm (RDF) is over crowded and has the most S and S- horses.
- Right Dirt Soft (RDS) is very rare, with only 2 S- horses
- Left Grass Firm (LGF) can’t be bred! This was unintended but if you breed an LGF horse in the subsequent generations (Gen 1, Gen 2 etc) you’ll have an advantage (more on this later in the breeding section).
To see the distribution of ranges (short/mid/long) you’ll have to use the Horses/Tickets tab and filter for a specific preference, then check out the competition. Is there a dearth of long distance horses (Stamina/Finish) etc? If so, can you breed a ticket that will do well in that niche?
How competitive a niche is also depends on how many races there are for that type and distance. We don’t know how this will shake out yet but if the distribution of races is fairly even these percentages will matter a lot. You can always hold off on your purchase until all the tickets are bred and traded in (there will be an in game marketplace) but as the game gets more awareness things may get more expensive, so you need to factor that into your decision.
Breeding Strategy Considerations
Let’s go over some in-game breeding basics. Female horses can only breed once a season and they keep the foal. Males can breed a large number of times (it’s unknown what exactly the limit is) and the owner gets the stud fee instantly (the price paid by owners of females to breed with your male).
Demand for males comes from other breeders (who own females) whereas demand for foals comes from breeders but mostly from racers who want to race in the future when the foal is of racing age. Remember, the “Triple Crown” races are only for 3 year olds, so there’s lots of prize money and glory for each season’s batch of 3 year olds.
So in many aspects, breeding strategy is similar to racing strategy. The distribution of horses across niches discussed above will impact foal prices and this distribution will naturally change over time, so you must anticipate the breeding needs of the current and future horse population. For example, breeding strong LGF horses could be VERY lucrative at the start, until the market balances itself a few seasons in.
Separate from racing there are additional aspects to consider.
How you earn as a breeder is highly dependent on the gender of the horse, however, we won’t know the gender of the Gen 0 ticket until some time after the breeding deadline (4/20) when they get randomly assigned as the Gen 0 ticket is traded in.
There is typically a power law distribution for males (i.e. most foals are bred from the top males) and we saw this already with the Stylish Studs PFPs. Most mid-rank to low-rank studs weren’t chosen for breeding and this will likely happen with the in-game horses too. This means that it can be lucrative to have a very strong male in your particular niche.
However, if PFL is similar to HRM, then breeding will produce better results if the horses aren’t too far apart in Grade. The way that Temper works in the game may be similar to how it works for breeding the PFPs (i.e. more alignment, higher temper). So there’s possibly room to have many top breeding males at every grade level.
For females it’s less important to have the best one in the grade since you’re the one making the choice who to breed with, however you’ll want to have a good idea of incoming and existing players and the types of horses they’ll want. Many of them who are racers may have a similar strategy as described in the racing section above.
Inbreeding is bad and there are penalties in the game for doing so. Per the breeding blog post, even if two horses share 1 great grandparent it’s likely that some genes will get demoted by one Grade so you’ll want to avoid this. This means that when you’re choosing a horse for breeding you’ll want to pay attention to the number of siblings (you can see this on Racer’s Edge) and avoid those that have too many. What’s too many? We don’t know yet, but with every purchase you must factor in having a reduced pool of horses to breed with in the future (if you want to avoid inbreeding penalties!).
Genetics & Attribute Matching
Breeding is based on complex genetics and to produce the desired foal you’ll want a horse that has strong genes for the desired traits. (You’ll also want to have access to genetic reports by owning 20 Studs/Mares). It is believed that high numbers of trait matches between the parent Stud and Filly will confer a higher likelihood of strong genes. This means that as a breeder you’ll want to have Gen 0 tickets with as high a match count as possible in addition to having high boosts on your stats. 3 of 5 is good, 4 of 5 is great, 5 of 5 is exceptional, but rare (only 40 potential matches exist). You can see the number of attribute matches on Racer’s Edge if you scroll to the right. In addition, the Temper stat is directly linked to number of attribute matches. 0, 1, 2 and 3 attribute matches result in 0, 1, 2 and 3 temper (4 and 5 matches still get 3 temper), so you can use temper to gauge number of matches below 3.
Internal vs External
Since it’s cheaper to breed within your own stable, you may want to buy multiple Gen 0 tickets within a particular niche so you can produce high quality foals more cheaply. Obviously this requires a bit of luck in the gender lottery.
OK, get breeding
If you’ve made it this far you’ll be aware that there is a LOT of strategy in this game, much more than what I’ve described here. This is one of the many reasons I believe this game will have longevity and be very successful. This is the 3rd horse racing game for Third Time and they’ve honed the gameplay over multiple years.
Hopefully this guide gives you a good place to start, if you want to dive in more join the discussion in the PFL discord.
Finally, buying and breeding would be incredibly difficult if it wasn’t for Racer’s Edge, the site I’ve mentioned multiple times throughout this guide. So if you end up using it please consider donating to the creator (Ian Landsman a.k.a Steelheart), you can find the tip address at the bottom of the site.