Interview with Derek Proud, Game Producer for Gods Unchained
Derek Proud is a Game Producer for the popular blockchain card game Gods Unchained. He has previously worked in building consoles games, ranging as far back as the Sega genesis, to PC and mobile games in Australia. He is now a part of the team taking on the challenge to build the next generation of play-to-earn games.
How are you going about building your player base in the blockchain gaming space? And what’s the current new player experience like?
Firstly, we are looking at the barriers to entry and the friction points for new players, and really there are two experiences we are seeing. The first is the completely new player. The game itself is easy to download and install. The issues come afterwards where players don’t have many cards (outside of the default decks) to build new decks. You have to play a huge amount of games to win enough packs. We fixed this problem by having the welcome set (70 free cards that are not on the blockchain), and making a tutorial, which provides a step-by-step process on how to play. I’m fairly confident we now have a good new player experience.
The second experience was the transition from a new player to a long term one who buys packs. There’s a great deal of friction and it’s quite intimidating for anyone who is not a blockchain expert. You got to set up a wallet, download Metamask, create some sort of cryptocurrency account which you need to attach your bank account too. We needed to make that process easier. The introduction of credit card purchasing is a start, which we think will help onboard a lot of non-crypto players.
Can you explain your Immutable X (IMX) project?
Yeah sure. It’s our scaling system for purchasing cards. The gas fees on the Ethereum network right now make it prohibitively expensive for people to make smaller purchases, like buying a pack of cards or even selling cards in their collection. Immutable X is back-end technology, which basically accumulates a bunch of transactions together and does them all in one hit. This requires only paying gas fees for a single transaction. This means a lot of these transactions will be essentially free.
What’s different about balancing a game where the cards are immutably stored on the blockchain?
It’s a tough job for the game designers. They have to be innovative. They have to create cards that are fun and interesting to play but don’t break the meta or are overpowered. We have balancing periods where we are able to make tweaks, however it’s a struggle to determine how long cards should be balanced for to really find out all the strong and weak points. It will probably always be a struggle. It’s currently a 90 day period but this could change in the future.
What upcoming feature are you most excited about?
I probably can’t mention half of the things yet to be released. We now have our star store, which should help players ease into and progress through the game. I may be speaking out of turn here, but our quest system will also be rolling out pretty soon, which is also fairly focused on new players and should provide an exciting way to progress through the game.
In regards to the competitive scene, can you give us more information around the half-million dollar tournament that is planned?
Unfortunately, we need to tick a couple boxes before we can commence the tournament, so it’s not something in our immediate future. before we do this, I would like mass market adoption and low new player friction so that we can have a really vibrant tournament. I’m absolutely blown away by the community tournaments that are happening and the current level of engagement is really exciting to me. Things like tournament management and spectator mode are very high on our list to create.
Does the team pay any attention to the secondary market for cards and what information are you trying to gather?
Our biggest indicator from watching the secondary market is how much liquidity there is, which has been stymied by the high gas prices on Ethereum. People are not bothering to trade right now. I mean, one of our core tenets is the idea of earning money by playing, and the secondary market can tell us how much people are earning. In traditional free-to-play games, especially mobile games, an important metric is ARPU — average revenue per active user. I’d like to flip this on it’s head, and try to determine how much money our users are making from the sale of our products, especially once the market gets more lively and IMX comes out.
What’s your favourite card and god?
I like cards that do interesting stuff, ones with lots of options. Cards like Vow of Champions or Pious Giant. You have multiple choices, and there is a factor of risk vs reward to consider. The programmers are going to hate me, because those cards are often the ones with the most bugs.
I don’t play a lot of deception, it’s too hard, too much of a pain. I’m sure my Game Director Chris Clay is shaking his head in disgust. I’m an instinctive player, that plays hard and fast, so Nature and War lead to my strengths, and sometimes Light.
What’s the process of creating a card set?
There’s several iterations the cards have to go through. They’re firstly designed by the Designers. Then they’re handed off to Flow Graphers who make the cards work in the game. They have a lot of comprehensive tools to make the cards function correctly. If there is a new card functionality, the Programmers have to come in and create this for the Flow Graphers. The people in the office then get first crack at testing them. We give feedback and the Designers and Graphers go back and tweak where necessary. After that, we have an external testing company, then off it goes to the public balancing period. We’re thinking of adding in a public test realm, but it’s a bit challenging trying to ensure that cards aren’t leaked.
What advice can you give to aspiring Game Producers?
It’s really important to learn how games are being made nowadays. We’re working within the scrum and agile game development method, and Clifton Keith’s book on agile game development is a great starting place.
You need to have clarity around your vision for a game. You need to be able to say no, and to keep people focused on what needs to be done. I’m lucky that Chris and I are really in alignment with our vision for the game. You know, we have disagreements and we argue all the time, but we both know that we’re arguing for the good of the product.
You can find out more about Gods Unchained here, or follow the parent company, Immutable on twitter here.