DeFi Land — The Passion and Thinking Behind a New Game — Serum Stories #2
“We didn’t want to create just another blockchain game…we wanted to accelerate all of the existing DeFi protocols and platforms and help them reach the retail audience and to make their overall user experience better.”
Welcome to Serum Stories #2
Serum’s on-chain infrastructure powers not only a wealth of financial applications, but also supports growing industries like gaming. The introduction of DeFi elements like in-game NFT marketplaces makes possible a whole new world of virtual fun and entertainment.
This week, we had the incredible chance to speak with the DeFi Land team, the makers of the new agriculture-simulation web-game which aims to gamify decentralized finance to the next level.
In this installment, we want to share some of the DeFi Land team’s industry insights, best practices, and a bit of their personal backgrounds. It’s always inspiring to see so much thought go into an initiative that positions itself as fun and games.
What’s up Next
1. — What is DeFi Land
2. — Literally DeFi
3. — Sources of inspiration
4. — Educating and helping the wider community
5. — Details matter
6. — Why Play-to-Earn?
7. — Inspiration
8. — A future for Play-to-Earn
9. — Mobile version!
10. — What makes it all worth it!
1. For those who are not already in the know, what is your 30 second elevator pitch for DeFi Land? What’s your usual introduction to new investors or players?
So, DeFi Land is an agricultural simulation web game that aims to gamify the experience for decentralized finance. It aggregates different protocols into the same place and adds another layer on top of them, which is basically our game, in order to gamify this DeFi experience for players.
For example, whenever a player swaps across different assets in our game, they will be actually swapping different tokens on Serum but in a seamless interaction. So, you can think of us like a gamified ‘Zapper’ as well, but we don’t want to be just a gamified Zapper; we want to become a real game which people really enjoy and love to play, complete with animations, cool features, and all these different gamified elements that all games must have. That’s our quick intro and what we basically tell new investors.
2. There’s been a number of games that are plugging into Serum. People are quite excited about gamified DeFi at the moment. Such games include Aurory, OpenEra, Star Atlas, and Axie Infinity. What’s cool about all these titles is the dedicated lore behind them, the cool worlds you can explore, and gripping narratives.
DeFi Land is special, however. You guys have gone through this ‘meta route’. Your game not only represents DeFi elements: these elements also perform as literal DeFi. What was the idea behind gamifying DeFi to this level? What kind of audiences do you hope to engage?
Indeed, there are many games who are trying to gamify DeFi, as you have mentioned, including Star Atlas, OpenEra, and Aurory. There are many other games outside of Solana as well, including Axie Infinity and many others. You can say there’s basically two types of games: one type is those that do not make sense to even put on the blockchain — and we don’t want to be in that category for sure. The second type includes those other games that you mentioned, and what they’re doing is that they are creating their own new ecosystems for their games.
Having just another game on the blockchain does not really help adoption of the blockchain and DeFi. Likewise, we didn’t want to create just another blockchain game. Instead, we wanted to accelerate all of the existing DeFi protocols and platforms and help them reach the retail audience and to make their overall user experience better. That’s why we’re gathering all these different protocols and outsourcing their user experience to our platform. We think that there is a huge gap to be improved, user experience-wise, so that’s why we kind of came up with this gamification idea.
Our main goal is spread across two planned game versions, our V1 and V2. In our V1, we want to capture all the basic functionalities of DeFi and ‘pitch’ them to players who may have tried DeFi at least once and give them a new user experience for them to learn and try out all the different features. We want players to realize that it’s pretty easy to use DeFi — that it’s not as complex as it seems. In other words, our main goal is to make Solana and DeFi mainstream.
3. Sounds like your team has put a lot of thought into it! And we love how DeFi Land takes inspiration from other projects and tries to appeal to a wide audience.
That being said, what specific games influenced the diverse set of game modes you have planned?
The founders and the whole team — we’ve been really big gamers since our childhoods. We’ve all spent many hours just playing different video games, ranging from mobile games, web games, and more ‘complex’ video games on PC. We have been influenced by each of them, as games are a really important part of our lives. And we have experience in building games as well.
The inspiration behind DeFi Land was, of course, farming games such as Farmville or Animal Crossing and many others. Basically, we always thought that DeFi was kind of about farming — farming yield, or farming for assets just like in these farming games. So that was our inspiration. And once we found out that there are really good games coming out on the blockchain, we thought that creating this kind of gamified Zapper with a farming-style simulation framework would make a lot of sense. So that’s the whole background behind the path we took.
4. What you’re building in DeFi Land seems especially concentrated on educating a wide range of potential or current DeFi users. That’s wonderful.
Could you go into further detail about the educational design of DeFi Land? Will your project have other ways of connecting with and helping out the wider DeFi community?
Yes, as I mentioned, in our V1, we want to approach users who are already using DeFi in order to get their thoughts and feedback from them. We want to find out what they like, what they hate, and accordingly, learn how to get these people interested in our game. And once we’ve found the ‘market fit’, that’s where we’ll start approaching and targeting retail users.
Our idea is, for sure, to get retail users to start using DeFi and learn about all the benefits behind DeFi. To achieve this, we have this educational mode in our game. It’s a kind of practice mode for first time users who don’t know anything about DeFi. Or, let’s say that I know some things about DeFi and I want to learn more details: in DeFi Land, I can try and test some different strategies in a simulative environment. People will be able to play the guided version of our game and be introduced to each of the DeFi features such as how wallets work, what is impermanent loss, and other core topics..
We’re paying very close attention to in-game details, from the music to the NFTs, even on our in-game quizzes. For example, if you pass a quiz, you will be rewarded with a special NFT which will be an in-game object that can affect gameplay. There will also be options for advanced gamemodes, like an advanced tutorial if you become more interested in specific aspects of DeFi.
We ultimately want to create a solid, unique and engaging experience for new users to make them interested in DeFi and allow them to learn and use it. We want to convert retail users from the ‘non-crypto’ stage into power users of DeFi. There are many ways to do this. It’s also important to target student segments who want to learn about the blockchain and need a really easy way to learn.
5. You’ve mentioned in a past conversation some special features and artistic choices such as rainy or sunny in-game weather depending on real world market conditions.
Would you like to go further into some of the in-game details which you believe will make your game unique?
We don’t want to be just an aggregator of different protocols, but we want our users to enjoy playing our game. What will make DeFi Land really stand out is the attention to detail which makes the player’s journey unique, memorable, and an overall joyful experience. Someone might say, “Oh, such details are not a big deal”, but in actuality, they make a world of difference.
As you have mentioned, there’s going to be several of such details (which are ultimately optional). There will be, for example, day and night cycles depending on the player’s timezone. Another favorite of ours is the in-game weather which will depend on several factors such as the real world’s market condition, so that whenever your asset prices are declining, there will be rainy weather and sad music, or whenever the market is really pumping, everything will be greener, and the weather will be really shiny with cheerful music.
We’re creating our own music as well: we have our composers and musicians who are writing the soundtrack. DeFi Land will have a diverse collection of background music as well as unique in-game sounds and animations. Another cool feature will be the in-game radio station, where players can tune to different channels and choose between, for example, lo-fi music or jazz music or whatever they want.
Furthermore, all of the game objects will be tradable NFTs which are available through our in-game app store. People will be able to customize their lands through the marketplace; so basically, we’re giving our users ownership of their assets, which will be tradable and carry different values. All the different assets will have their unique features as well; for example, certain buildings will give you additional yields on farming or a chance to receive mystery boxes with randomized prizes like DFL tokens.
There’s a bunch of features planned, and we don’t want to spoil everything right now, but one last feature we’ll reveal today are the in-game pets. Players can own pets and interact with them. For example, if you pat them on their head, you will receive XP. Overall, the more you interact with different elements in the game, the more you will earn and discover.
6. We love the idea of the weather changing depending on real markets. It’s a really cool idea for immersing the user into DeFi.
You also mentioned that you’re deploying a play-to-earn model. What motivated that specific choice?
Since the beginning, we saw the play-to-earn model as crucial for our game. Towards the beginning of our development, we saw Axie Infinity become this really big thing. Watching their success, we confirmed for ourselves that for a game to not only survive but also deliver a good player experience, it must have a play-to-earn model to get players to become more active, engage more, and spend more time in the game.
The way we’re going about it is, DeFi Land will have many tasks and accompanying achievements for players, and once a player achieves these tasks, they’re going to receive prizes which can include our DFL tokens, NFTs, or mystery boxes. There’s going to be levels and XP in our game as well. People will be able to level up and aim for leaderboard positions. Showing off is important too. Players will be able to visit their friends’ lands and even leave messages. All of this is planned for our V1.
We also have many planned activities such as trading tournaments, yield farming competitions, and mini-games where people can compete with each other. Players will have the chance to receive prizes daily. We’re also planning a battle mode as well — something in the style of Clash of Clans where players can attack other players’ lands and steal their crops and assets. So if you choose to make a ‘battle account’, you transfer your funds to this account and start participating in guilds and battles.
So in summary, we want to have all these different features which are common in traditional games and combine them in a play-to-earn model to gamify the DeFi experience for everyone. We were definitely inspired by Axie Infinity and other games which we believe will only get bigger and bigger as time goes by.
7. Speaking of Axie Infinity, could you comment about your general thoughts about their success and what your team is learning from them?
So, all of our team members — including our designers and our developers — are playing a number of blockchain-based games, including Axie, to get the idea of what’s done right and what can be improved on. We always try to learn from the success and mistakes of other projects.
From what we have seen in the past in general, there are so many different things we want to improve on, whether it’s scaling issues, improving animations, or improving user interfaces like ensuring proper support for different resolutions across devices. But for sure, what games like Axie Infinity are doing really well is creating a really good in-game economy.
And one more thing to add: in our view, blockchain gaming shares strong parallels with trends from the early 2000’s, such as when Facebook was becoming popular and many games like Farmville were launching on their platform. You could say that DeFi Land is positioned to be the next Farmville, except this time, it’s launching on a blockchain platform. We see a similar potential to many new blockchain games in parallel with the success of early web games. We’re all witnessing a new trend that is going to become the next new big thing in several years. Maybe even bigger than web games have become so far.
8. What’s your view of the future of play-to-earn for these blockchain-based games? For example, with games like Axie Infinity, there are a number of people in certain regions who are actually earning more by playing the game than they could from their regular jobs.
Do you have any view on this trend going forward? Do you see, for example, people really making a living through these economies?
We believe that play-to-earn is going to be a kind of full-time job for different people. Today in many countries, the minimum wage can be way lower than the average level of profitability from such games.
We believe that we can bring that to our game as well. Once we transition to our V2 and deploy all the features discussed earlier such as battle modes, competitions, and tournaments with guilds, we hope to become equally (if not more) popular than Axie Infinity.
We have a pretty unique concept and so many game features, resulting in a more open experience than ‘the competition’: Defi Land is not too broad as, say, a sandbox game, and easy to pick up. We really believe in our play-to-earn model and, accordingly, foresee DeFi Land as enabling a lot of people to earn money, on top of having fun and learning more about the possibilities of DeFi.
9. You’re building a web-version of DeFi Land for now. Will there be plans for a mobile version? Do you think mobile is going to take over and be the dominant platform at some point?
We have previously built mobile games as well as web games, so creating a mobile version is for sure on our road map. We’re really working hard on that, so hopefully, we will have our mobile version in 2022.
We really believe that mobile gaming will take over the PC gaming — not with multi-multiplayer games like League of Legends or Counter Strike or other team games, but mostly, with games that are ‘easy to play’ with your fingers. So yeah, we’re looking to get into mobile in the future.
10. Would you like to share some of your positive or most favourite experiences so far as (game) builders? What would you say makes it all ‘worth it’?
There are many different things that have made our experience really great and fun. Developing the game itself and even working with the blockchain itself is pretty fun. In our team, everyone is good friends, so we have really good conversations. That’s why we’re able to work like 15 hours a day. Everyone just wants to be there.
And also, all the feedback we’re receiving from the community, whether it’s Twitter, Discord, Telegram — everything makes us even more motivated. We also want to thank all the people who continue to give us great ideas and help grow the game by sharing with us what they want to see.
We’re also thankful for all the support from our supporters, investors, and the Serum team as well. Everyone’s really feeling the momentum! People really see the potential behind our idea as a one-of-a-kind idea for the blockchain and DeFi. We are really pumped. As time goes, we have become more and more confident in our vision and execution.
Another thing that I want to emphasize: everyday in our team, we hold, at the end of the day, a 15-minute brainstorm session with a whiteboard and go through all the comments we received on Twitter or Discord or Telegram. We write everything down on the whiteboard and identify what we love and what we find really exciting, alongside our own ideas. Having this kind of brainstorming session everyday is pretty unique and is one of the really amazing things that I think any team could experience!
We hope you enjoyed the interview! And a huge thank you to DeFi Land for making this happen.
And there’s more where that came from!
We would love to continue having these kinds of conversations with all the incredible teams building on Serum and sharing them with you. Just let us know who you want to read about next!
Listen to Sam Bankman-Fried’s breakdown of the Serum ecosystem