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The Future of the Crypto-Gaming Industry Featuring Jamie Thomson of Vulcan Forged

The Bit Podcast — Episode 30

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This week on The Bit, we’re joined by Jamie Thomson, the CEO of Vulcan Forged, to discuss the exciting new developments within the crypto-gaming industry and how we’re still only scratching the surface of what’s possible. The pair also breakdown exactly what the metaverse is how Vulcan Forged is using their Play2Earn fantasy games to immerse gamers into the NFT space.

Here are the show notes:

[04:12] The NFT Marketplace

[08:47] Big Tech and the Metaverse

[13:43] PYR Token and the Competition

[22:21] Key Partnerships and the Road Ahead

Jason Park: Welcome to The Bit, the Bittrex Global podcast, where we give you the inside scoop on all things crypto. I’m Jason Park, the director of business development of Bittrex Global.

Today’s gaming market is massive; there are more than 3.2 billion gamers playing across the globe, with 1000s of interactive games being published on different platforms every day. What’s unique about the gaming industry is that as technology advances in parallel, developers are constantly looking to combine both sectors and provide as much value as possible to their communities. Blockchain technology is one example of what some game developers have been focusing on since it solves several legacy problems within the gaming industry.

NFTs, for instance, allow users to own their in-game assets and even port them between different games. This helps prevent account thefts and opens up new avenues of value for the sector. Although blockchain and the gaming industry have been considered the perfect combination, widespread adoption is still on the horizon.

The good news is that a blockchain game studio and NFT marketplace, Vulcan Forged, is catalyzing this process with their easy to play and easy to build an ecosystem. They are a true fusion of entertainment and blockchain technology, and they have created a platform with numerous products and applications. While other game projects focus on the development of a single game, the Vulcan Forged team already has ten games and a full blockchain-based game ecosystem.

Within the platform, you’ll find exciting games. One of them is VulcanVerse, an enormous Greco-Roman fantasy metaverse that allows players to build, fight, forge and claim the next generation of decentralized worlds.

So to join us for a stimulating discussion on how Vulcan Forged allows players to play, collaborate, earn and bring their ideas to life, I’m joined today by the CEO, Jamie Thomson. Jamie, welcome to The Bit — excited to be chatting with you, especially in light of the attention the metaverse has gotten recently. Very excited to speak with you today.

Jamie Thomson: You too, Jason. Thanks for having me on the show — I really appreciate it.

Jason Park: Absolutely. I’m looking forward to discussing how Vulcan Forged is aiming to provide the best NFT gaming experience. But before we dig into that, I wanted to ask you, Jamie, who or what got you into crypto in the first place? Also, how and when did you buy your first Bitcoin?

Jamie Thomson: Well, I’m probably one of the few people I’ve interviewed that never actually bought Bitcoin itself. We only found out about crypto a couple of years ago. We are one of the very few entities or companies that’s dawned from the gaming side of things into the blockchain space. So you get a lot of cryptocurrency companies that are going the other way around — they’ve got their token, they’ve got their plans and white paper and all that. They’re trying to create games around the token, whereas we’re an established game studio already — there’s over 42 of us in the entire company, and we sort of made the move into blockchain.

So I guess our interest really stems from NFTs. It was a couple of years ago when we started with a digital art NFT, which was a bit ahead of its time because, the last year, the NFT digital art market has blown up. But we started playing around with digital art NFTs; it was a small community, it was fun, then we realized we put one of our games into this technology, or vice-versa.

And that’s where it started. We loved the idea of owning your own assets in the game and being able to create these small economies within the game. So yes, I guess a couple of years ago is when we moved into the crypto space.

Jason Park: Sure, that’s fascinating to see how much development has gotten into the crypto industry as a whole. We’re not just a small niche now — companies and industries that may not have known crypto at all are actually entering into this space and having a real impact. So that’s fascinating to hear that.

[04:12] The NFT Marketplace

So let’s dig into the project. I guess for those in our audience who may not be familiar with Vulcan Forged, could you break down exactly what Vulcan Forged does? My basic knowledge about your project is that Vulcan Forged is a one-stop-shop where players can access popular games and a huge NFT marketplace to buy and sell digital assets in-game. Would you elaborate upon that for our listeners?

Jamie Thomson: Sure. The NFT marketplace is the byproduct of making the games. We host other third-party NFTs there, but primarily, it’s a way for users to trade assets within the games we make, so Vulcan Forged is the overarching company. We have several games on our roster. We’ve got Block Babies, Forge Arena, Berserk, which is like a Hearthstone NFT game. Of course, the main one which is getting most of the hype right now is VulcanVerse. As you greatly described, as sort of a Greco-Roman fantasy, open-world where users can explore and build on their worlds and interact and trade.

I suppose we’re basically trying to combine World of Warcraft, Minecraft, the Decentraland all in one. You’re right about the sort of metaverse hype; it’s bizarre because everyone’s been releasing these trailers, promises, and tweets in the last couple of months. We’ve been here building away for the last two years. VulcanVerse is live, kicking, and thousands of users are in their building and playing. And so I guess we’re living in the metaverse now. So, we’re primarily a game studio that incorporates NFTs and economies within our games.

Jason Park: Great. And I think you’ve touched upon this a little bit earlier, but can you give us some background about the Vulcan Forged team? How and when did the project begin? Where is the team based, and what kind of growth have you seen since the early days?

Jamie Thomson:

The team is based in Athens. We have an office here. In-house, we’ve got 14 of us here in the office right now as I’m speaking. They’re all Greek, primarily coders, artists. For our blockchain team, marketing, and everything outside the main coding and art, we’ve got another 30 or so from the UK, America, and India. In terms of expansion, it’s gone so quickly, and that’s been the main challenge for us to sort of keep up with.

When we entered this whole NFT world, we had a very, very small community of maybe 20 or 30 people and, and, every day, that grew and grew. Now, we’re up to 40,000–50,000 users, ten games, and the staff has grown to 13 in-house and 40 across the world. So yeah, I mean, the growth is, without doubt, a bit out of control. So for us right now, the main sort of hirings we’re looking for are people behind the scenes to streamline all this stuff. Because with games, unfortunately, you haven’t got the leeway to release unfinished products as much as you have with the other crypto projects.

Many crypto projects are based on blockchains, going on Mainnet, white papers launching, and smart contracts being developed. All the people buy into this hype. Whereas releasing unfinished games and subpar products is quite counterproductive for a gaming studio. That being said, the users who sort of bought land to start with before VulcanVerse fully developed have seen it come to life literally with daily updates.

We pride transparency very much so with our community. Every day we share updates, development updates, screenshots, behind-the-scenes, etc. So they’ve seen it literally go from just a world map to this fully functioning 3D MMO — massive multiplayer game. But yes, which is strange for us because we use the idea of just not releasing any game until it’s completely ready, but in the crypto community, these guys want to see where’s this money going?

We bought these tokens, bought the land, and want to see some sort of clear development routes, even if it’s not perfect from day one. We want to see what’s happening. I think that’s brought on a lot of trust and conviction from the community in us as a team.

[08:47] Big Tech and the Metaverse

Jason Park: Sure. And I would imagine that the entire process really built trust within your communities and also increased the engagement level within the community, as well. I also have to ask this question, what are your thoughts on Facebook changing its name to Meta? And how do you think a company like Facebook can impact the metaverse industry as a whole?

Jamie Thomson: Well, I mean, it’s very easy to say anyone who joins the metaverse movement is a rising tide. But my whole view on the metaverse is complex because every time I do an interview, I’m further along in my thought process of it. As I said in some other interviews before, a year ago, our plan was to simply combine the gaming market with the crypto market — they’re both enormous industries, and then you’ll get this utopia.

You will have the biggest market in the world because you’re combining them. But the reality is it doesn’t really work like that. The gaming industry at the moment doesn’t need blockchain to survive or profit. It’s a 250 billion industry, or something and gamers are happy to pay through the nose for these services.

Play2Earn as a basic concept is not going to suddenly suck all the players dry out of these wonderful games. So, you’ve got to look at the motivation of why someone’s coming into the game or on these crypto NFT games. So, if people just want fun, simple fun, then they’re going to find a plethora of incredibly made games out there by top studios where blockchain games, unfortunately, don’t come anywhere near.

If people are coming in for just the money, they’re most likely going to hold tokens, trading, farming, yields, and all these kinds of things. I always use Axie Infinity as an example where they were the first kind of exception, where you could say that it’s sort of a play-to-earn game, but I think that is a little bit misleading. I would say it’s the first time you can visualize earning your money.

People aren’t going to Axie Infinity for the fun of the gaming; they’re going to it because they visualize how to earn a bit more money in a cute and cuddly way. So we had to sort of work things out. If we can’t bring the games to crypto, we can’t do crypto to games — they’re both so separate industries; what are we doing?

That’s where the whole concept of the metaverse made sense to us. We shouldn’t be trying to combine or compete with them. What we’re making is like a third total entity on its own, where, because of blockchain technology, assets you can own, in-game currencies, you can create actual economies and sort of social interactions that make a difference to your real life. So, if you buy an NFT trade it, or earn some secondary token within the game, that money is making a difference in your life.

So, it’s not fun anymore, and it’s not earning money anymore. It’s an economy on top of a virtual world, which is, as you say, trustless. It can’t be hacked, and it has real-life implications. And that, for me, is what the metaverse is; it opens up the possibilities of these economies within a virtual world. And that virtual world can be represented however you choose.

We’re doing Greco-Roman mythology, we’re also working on a summarized virtual world, and it can be represented in any way, and that’s why I think blockchain games haven’t really pushed the envelope much in terms of their quality because their market and their userbase are pretty much in it to make money.

So we try to avoid the word game at the moment with VulcanVerse because we’re not going to compete with World of Warcraft anytime soon. Although we do have plans for world domination of all multiplayer games, the emphasis has to be on “How can you create an economy within a virtual world that people will enjoy and want to be in there?” And I think Axie Infinity was the start of that. And I think that’s where we’re going to go.

Jason Park: Sure. And I think you brought up a very interesting point. To dig a little deeper into this, I think that the gaming and metaverse industries are a great match, but the key to the industry’s future is persuading users of their social and non-gaming experiences as well. So I think you guys are definitely on the right track of doing that.

So let’s talk a little bit about the token. Can you expand on the PYR token and the use cases? I’m interested in learning more about how it aims to compete with other competitors as a marketplace token of choice?

[13:43] PYR Token and the Competition

Jamie Thomson: Sure. Well, PYR, a lot of people ask where that’s from. It’s PIR or PIRA. It’s the ancient Greek for “fire” like pyro. But yes, that’s our settlement coin, a settlement token for all NFT transactions. It’s also used to put into land to stake, upgrade creatures, cards, and it’s used as a pairing on one of our game decks we have made. It’s basically the payment token across all games and ecosystems that we have within them.

It’s worth noting that we have recently introduced a secondary token called $LAVA, where you can earn it by playing, but we’ve made very drastic changes to the actual model in that. There is a limited supply of how much you can earn per day, you can only get if you earn enough experience, and we have to incentivize people to reinvest it into the ecosystem — PYR.

I think Play2Earn is a very simple model and is unsustainable. You can’t just give out free money — someone’s got to pay for that, and then you’re bringing in just nothing but people that want to stack out as much money from the company as possible. The key is Play2Earn-to-invest — to reinvest. So those who play enjoy it enough so when they do earn something, they can put it back into upgrades, which will give them more rewards as they go up. So that’s what we do with the land staking.

For example, the more PYR you put into the land, the better assets you get to build with, and the stronger characters you get. This earns you more $LAVA and more PYR to re-upgrade the land again and keep leveling up and using that sort of intermittent reinforcement. So yes, I think the tokenomics have Play2Earn on metaverse has to be thought out immaculately to make it sustainable.

Jason Park: Sure. And do you guys have a target audience or a target jurisdiction?

Jamie Thomson: Yeah, and this always changes. Originally it was gamers and the crypto, and combining the two. But I think those who are serious about the metaverse have to start realizing that they are pioneers of something that hasn’t been done before.

You can’t just slap on NFTs in the game and expect all the games to go there because they can earn. It doesn’t work like that. You’ll get people who just want the free money, and then you’ll get people who start comparing these blockchain games or some of the multi-billion gaming studios.

The audience has got to be brand new. Of course, that can be a sort of a mix of gamers and a mix of crypto investors. The real market is the people who’d enjoyed Second Life back in the day, which was a total success. Those are the ones who want to live within a virtual world, which has real-life benefits outside of their own life. Now you could say that it would be gamers, crypto people, but I think it’s even bigger than that. I think that’s going to be the new revolution.

With Facebook, it’s hard to know what they’re planning. The word metaverse actually just means a futuristic world. So it just happens to be that blockchain gaming has stolen the word to mean anything with NFTs is a metaverse when in fact, anything futuristic is a metaverse.

So, Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t have to use blockchain technology at all, and it will still be a metaverse. VR will be in the metaverse, and I think people are just losing it. You’ll see the word so many places now that people have lost track of what it actually means, but on a very basic meaning, it just means a futuristic world.

Jason Park: Sure, and I think this is a good segue onto my next question. Certainly, metaverse has been gaining a ton of traction, and actually, I’m currently in Korea, but we actually had a first metaverse conference here, and we had over 100 companies participate.

So the interest level is very high. I think NFTs are an important component to that, so walk us through your NFT marketplace. I think many people out there are looking to get into NFTs, especially on the creation side of things. I’m really curious to know more about how users can forge NFTs in just three steps without any crypto or gas.

Jamie Thomson: Yeah, absolutely. I’m on a side note to that, I’m interested in the convention you went to in Korea, and all these companies that came, what was their definition of metaverse? Were they all blockchain NFT companies? Or were they sort of different kinds of virtual worlds?

Jason Park: It was all-encompassing. So we had virtual reality companies, including blockchain operators, NFT companies, but it was more of a tech conference, rather than just NFT, blockchain-focused companies. We have hundreds of them, and there’s huge interest. Obviously, the Facebook announcement was the right timing for that conference as well.

Jamie Thomson: Oh, that’s great because that’s exactly what a metaverse is. I wonder why this has come about now because the technology for VR and AR and virtual worlds, aside from blockchain, has been in place for many years. It makes me wonder if Corona and detachment from your real life over the last few years due to COVID has made people venture out into more ambitious ways. It’s not like the technology is lined up only this year to do this. But I guess that’s another segue.

But yeah, we sponsor all the gas. You put in the attributes in your metadata, press mint, and it gets minted onto the chain. You can pull the APIs out, and we’ve got various third-party games. We recently had our first Vulcan convention in Amsterdam — hundreds of people from the community turned up, which was really wonderful and quite flattering. We announced that we were releasing our own chain called Elysium next year, which will host all our NFTs because we’re not going to stop the VulcanVerse. We are going to make many different themed fantasy metaverses.

But again, the word metaverse, I think virtual world on the blockchain would be a much better description because, as you rightly pointed out in Korea, in that convention, the metaverse is anything futuristic, and it’s exciting. A lot of people have got some bad things to say about Facebook and all the data mining, and I’m sure there’s no smoke without fire — I’m sure it’s very true.

I’m sure there’ll be a lot of data being sold and collected, but to see these big companies really push the boundaries of virtual mechanics is great because even if it doesn’t work, it shows us what doesn’t work, what does work, and what humans are interested in in the next generation. Someone’s got to do it.

Jason Park: Yeah, sure. And I think that’s a great point. I think a lot of people forget what metaverse means. The Oculus tool was created in 2014, and it’s 2021. So, we’ve had the tools for a very long time, and then metaverse isn’t something novel that just came out this year. So I think that’s an interesting point that you rightly pointed out.

Jamie Thomson: Yeah, and that’s the other thing. You have to realize that if you are trying to reach a broader audience and aren’t as crypto savvy, we live in a blockchain industry where it’s far easier to onboard users.

[22:21] Key Partnerships and the Road Ahead

Jason Park: Yeah, that’s actually correct. And are there any key partnerships that you want to mention that were essential to the growth of Vulcan Forged?

Jamie Thomson: Yeah, we just partnered with Yield Guild Games, YGG, and Merritt Circle just bought half a million dollars worth of assets to rent out the scholars. Right now, VulcanVerse is only closed to land owners and, of course, with only 10,000 plots of land, the price of land is a ridiculous barrier of entry — people can’t enter.

So we’re creating this NFT lending system where anyone can rent out an NFT to anybody, and you just share half the $LAVA tokens you earn within the game.

So that’s happening this month, where we expect 40,000 to go 5, 6 times more, as everyone just tries to get in and Play2Earn. The goal for us, and the challenge for us, is retaining these users — not just to get the money and go, it’s got to be retention, and it’s got to be sustainable. So yeah, we’re partners with them, we’ve got a collaboration coming up with The Sandbox, and we’ve got across character collab coming up.

That’s the other thing I’d like to say is just that every gaming CEO I’ve talked to, whether it’s from The Sandbox or wherever, they’re all so open to collaboration and far less tribal than a lot of these token communities seem to be like, “My blockchain is better than your blockchain.” The real journey ones want to work to a real new revolution. I guess that’s because they’re already established — they don’t need to fight for their dominance.

Jason Park: Sure, and I think the same within the crypto industry as well — we need more industry participants that are open to collaboration to really further the industry as a whole.

Jamie Thomson: Yeah, it’s tricky, isn’t it? Because it’s also tied up with finances. Once you have so many people bought your token, you have to be the best in order to survive.

Jason Park: Exactly. So what does the Vulcan Forged roadmap look like for the rest of the year and into next year as well? Do you have any short-term objectives or long-term visions that you would like to share?

Jamie Thomson: Yeah, well, we are certainly coming out of beta for all of our games now and having the $LAVA routes open this month, which is like the Play2Earn token that’s going live this month. The scholarships are opening this month. We’ve got the Cedalion program because Cedalion in Greek Mythology was the work of the Vulcans, so I think it fits in well to the mythology, but it is simply a scholarship.

So yeah, all games are coming out to beta, $LAVA routes are opening, scholarships are opening. And because we’ve got like eight, nine, maybe ten games now, we rather make sure all these are immaculately made and sustainable. We don’t want to be the company that makes 200 unfinished products, so we’re going to make sure all these games are fully functioning and have enough user attention.

Then beginning of next year, we’ll start our movement into the next virtual worlds, which will be an ancient samurai world, and there’s a world based on this Hindu war, and I forgot its name. My goodness was a wonderful idea.

So we’re pushing boundaries as fast as we can because we’re excited by it. If this were purely financial, we would have left long ago, the company is doing great, but we are absolutely fascinated by the idea.

We’re seeing it live in VulcanVersee. You’re seeing these societies, classes, hierarchies, and rivalries happen in real-time. And when there’s money and leveling up involved over your peers, it could be a social experiment.

Jason Park: You’re an expert in the gaming industry — are there any new tools that are getting your attention?

Jamie Thomson: Not really. I mean, I think people overestimate the development of gaming tools compared to blockchain. But then again, every new blockchain seems to have the next new tool, but we use the standard structures unity and goodness, Blender, and all the basic 3D elements. One thing that really frustrates me and the other developers here is the use of Unreal Engine all over Twitter, which is an incredible engine. Absolutely incredible.

But it’s suitable for a trailer, it’s suitable for a POC — you’re never going to see a massive multiplayer world using Unreal Engine — it’s just not feasible. So you’re seeing a lot of these projects pop up and say, “This is what’s going to look at look like this metaverse.” Just a couple of searchers can just show you that they just sort of bought Unreal assets.

Even World of Warcraft. Actually, they use their own engine, but they still have an incredibly low poly count for the size of their game, and it’s vastly successful. So yeah, if anyone is still listening and then looking at metaverses, just a small wise word of advice: really research the team and the feasibility of what they’re trying to create.

Jason Park: That advice goes well and the crypto industry as well. So just to wrap things up, I’d love to ask you one more question. Aside from the gaming industry that I just asked you about, I’d love to hear about any other projects or blockchains or cryptocurrencies or anything else you’re interested in and watching that you think the audience should be paying attention to as well.

Jamie Thomson: Well, I don’t trade, so I don’t know so much about tokens in general. I mean, our token is on Polygon, so I have to give them a shout-out because they’re wonderful in helping us on board, and they’re a good partner of ours. As I said, we’re creating our own blockchain for our NFT, so I don’t want to mention any other tokens in case something goes wrong. I don’t hold any of the other tokens either.

But I really would just advise those who see metaverse companies popping up out of nowhere, just ask them what their experience is. Ask them their previous goals because it should be obvious to anyone why all of a sudden anonymous crypto companies can suddenly make graphics better than any multi-billion dollar industry ever has, or gaming company has. It just doesn’t make sense.

So, do be careful out there, and anyone is welcome to join us at discord — it’s easy to find us — discord.gg/vulcanverse. Check us out on Twitter — we’ve got a very friendly community, and we’re happy to answer your questions.

Jason Park: Great. Well, Jamie, thank you so much for coming on the podcast and talking with us about a project that’s how that’s now firmly on my radar. We’re definitely looking forward to hearing more exciting news from the Vulcan Forged team in the future, and thank you for listing PYR on Bittrex Global. Thanks, Jamie.

Jamie Thomson: Absolutely. Thanks a lot, Jason. Take care.

Jason Park:

Thanks for listening to The Bit, the Bittrex Global podcast. Our guest today was Jamie Thomson, CEO of Vulcan Forged. To learn more about Vulcan Forged, visit vulcanforged.com. To learn more about Bittrex Global, visit global.bittrex.com. And please make sure to subscribe to our podcast — you can find us wherever you get your podcasts.

Thank you for listening and making The Bit one of the fastest-growing podcasts in the world of crypto. I’m Jason Park, the director of business development of Bittrex Global.

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