LONDON (Bywire News) - It has been quite a year for Block.one. On the plus side it has seen a huge vote of confidence as Google announced it was becoming an active part of the community. On the other hand, Block.one was forced to bid farewell to one of their founders and inventor of the EOSIO software, lynch pin Dan Larimer, in a move which saw the price of the EOS cryptocurrency plummet.
As Block.one move into their latest hackathon in partnership with Mythical Games, it is a slightly more anxious community than the one which came together a year ago. Michael O Sullivan spoke to Serg Metelin of Block.one and Rudy Koch, a judge in the in the upcoming hackathon and Mythical Games Co-founder.
First, though, we spoke to Serge about the hackathon and the recent changes at Block.one.
Michael: Given the huge success from the previous hackathon, “Coding for Change”, how do you see this event differing, and did your previous experiences inform your decision to reduce the top prize considerably, but provide more opportunities for others to win prizes and earn recognition?
Serg: Hackathons first and foremost serve as an educational platform where developers can converge around the philosophy that technology can be improved upon and leveraged for a greater purpose. With our Beyond Blockchain hackathon, we’re taking focus on innovation a step further by making it more inclusive and welcoming to developers outside the EOSIO community and the broader blockchain ecosystem by partnering with Google Cloud.
Michael: How important is the partnership announced with Google Cloud to the future of Block.one? Do you see Google playing an even larger role in helping with the infrastructure of multiple EOSIO projects in the future?
Serg: We’re excited to offer an opportunity for developers to build solutions that merge the transparency and integrity of blockchain with the speed, scalability and availability of cloud solutions.
EOSIO provides that blockchain platform to build apps previously unimaginable, and Google is a natural fit to serve as that partner to help these apps scale globally, with more than 1,000 Google Developer Groups around the world invited to join the hackathon. We believe in growth of blockchain technology and the intersection of these two incredibly vibrant communities will result in projects that have the potential to profoundly impact our world.
Michael: Given you have recently lost a key founder and your CTO, Dan Larimer, how do you see Block.one moving forward and building greater trust from the EOS community?
Serg: We’re excited to see what new projects Dan is working on, and we wish him all the best in those endeavours – and we think the community echoes that sentiment. We have an incredibly talented team of engineers working on improving the core EOSIO protocol every day, and their advancements to the platform empower the community to build some of the most successful applications on the market to date. That laser focus on ongoing EOSIO improvement will continue.
Michael: If you had to pick just one thing as the most important achievement from the forthcoming hackathon, what would it be and why?
Serg: If I had to pick one, I would say that it’s the potential for these projects to not only make a lasting impact on the industry but to also show us what’s possible at the intersection of blockchain and cloud solutions. As the demand for blockchain to enter mainstream markets continues to grow, by partnering with industry leaders, we’ll see adoption of the technology take root at an accelerated pace.
More importantly, the hackathon serves as a safe space for developers to exercise their creativity to try to solve some of the most pressing global challenges, and I’m excited to see participants from around the world rally together to not only advance the technology but to also improve society as a whole. An important goal of this project is to see new developers join our community.
Michael: Given that both have pros and cons, do you prefer virtual or in-person hackathons?
Serg: The opportunity to collaborate and provide feedback face-to-face is always our preferred option, but we live in a different world and it’s inspiring to see how these developers continue to persevere and meet the demands of safeguarding our systems in the middle of a global pandemic.
Historically we’ve always seen collaboration at the forefront of our hackathons—whether in-person or virtual—and we hope to continue seeing that with our latest hackathon and witness developers from around the world forge bonds that last a lifetime.
Going beyond Blockchain
This year’s hackathon comes is called, ‘beyond blockchain’. It is a sign of a company looking to expand its horizons and look to more ways in which technology can change the world. Rudy Koch joined the conversation to talk about what he was hoping to see.
Michael: You have decided to call this hackathon, “Beyond Blockchain”. What does that title mean to you both, and what should potential participants expect to be developing? Given that you are a judge, Rudy, can we expect to see new types of gaming projects born out of the hackathon?
Serg: Blockchain in isolation isn’t a cure-all: it really shines when introduced as a part of a larger ecosystem of solutions and tools that enable companies to successfully deliver to their customers.
We see the potential of how blockchain and cloud-based solutions can help empower people and solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. The hackathon helps to inspire, connect, and educate developers to think beyond just the ecosystem of the blockchain tools and discover new possibilities.
Rudy: Blockchain has been largely a niche, experimental arena for the last few years. We’ve loved being part of that while innovating in the game space, but what’s clear is that we need to move beyond experimentation. Mythical has always approached blockchain from the mass market perspective.
The question we are constantly asking is, how do we bring blockchain concepts to mass market in a way that builds long-term value for players, creators, and game developers? And through this lens, we are pushing blockchain into new terrain and making meaningful shifts in the games industry. We are at a tipping point in the evolution of blockchain where we need more developers thinking through this lens.
Michael: How can these types of events connect corporations with their communities better, and do you think that gaming can make a substantial difference to blockchain innovation and new user onboarding?
Serg: We believe that collaboration fuels impact, and whether it’s through our hackathons or venture capital investments, we’re continuing to look for new ways to fund and support early-stage projects.
Rudy: As game developers, we get excited whenever we find a new technology that challenges the way we create experiences and innovate. Blockchain is one of those technologies that allows us to introduce some incredible concepts to the games industry. We’re inspired by concepts like NFTs, verifiable scarcity, true ownership and secondary markets. We believe that blockchain is helping us introduce inclusive, creator-friendly economies that will result in exciting new revenue opportunities for game ecosystems. Putting blockchain into these types of mass market settings has really helped challenge blockchain’s capabilities and value.
Michael: Given the drive for accountability and transparency, do you see your projects as being centered around these concepts, and do you feel confident that this can translate into blockchain gaming and beyond, to eventually become the norm?
Serg: We believe that accountability and transparency are fundamental to the idea of the blockchain, and EOSIO is the one of the first protocols to integrate these features into its underlying technology in a highly performant way.
We strongly believe that realities of today’s messy information and disinformation flows, shady online identities, the amount of cyberbullying and a general call for accountability will inevitably lead to broader blockchain adoption as blockchain naturally solves these problems by design.
While blockchain adoption is still in its infancy, we believe advocating for developers, hobbyists, and corporations to build blockchain-based solutions that incorporate EOSIO’s core functionality into their application will allow projects across industry verticals to bring transparency and accountability into their systems.
Rudy: For us, it’s all about trust. Blockchain is incredibly efficient at tracking digital value and facilitating secure transactions in a transparent manner. In mass market games where players are spending real money, trust as incredibly important to success. The trust that blockchain can facilitate is helping us explore and innovate with new game economies and monetization models in ways that hasn’t been possible before.
Blockchain for games
Koch’s experience at Mythical Games has put him at the heart of the digital gaming revolution. He’s seen gamers flood into the market, new models take off and revenues surge. We asked him what role the blockchain was playing in the digital gaming revolution and what he thought the future might hold.
Michael: How can the blockchain improve the experience of gamers and how is this experience likely to evolve over the next five years?
Rudy: With the emergence of Free-to-Play over the last decade, digital game items have become front and center in economies. We’ve seen record-breaking revenue through the purchase of skins, emotes, and other digital in-game cosmetics. Blockchain and the explosive NFT space is allowing us to unlock the true value potential of digital game items and get creative with game economies to open up new revenue streams for the gaming industry.
Michael: Mythical Games have gone from strength to strength since your launch and subsequent investments, but what is next for you guys?
Rudy: We are currently focused on a couple of areas. We have our first game, Blankos Block Party, in Open Beta and we are working hard on getting the game ready for launch on PC and console this year. Fans can learn more about Blankos at Blankos.com.
In tandem, we are building the underlying engine that powers Blankos, which was designed from the ground up to showcase our vision for blockchain-enabled economies. We believe that any game can benefit from these concepts and Blankos will be the first to demonstrate that.
Michael: The Mythical Gaming branding, style and artwork are outstanding. I can see clear inspiration from street, graffiti, and modern art. I am keen to know what or who inspired this, did you always plan to try and stand out with your creatives as well as your technological advancements or was this part of the evolution of the start-up?
Rudy: The game is inspired by the Vinyl Toy industry. We wanted to find an idea that allowed us to lean into some of the key blockchain paradigms like collectability, verifiable scarcity, true ownership, and secondary markets. Vinyl Toys really hit the nail on the head. Blankos Block Party is an imagining of what a Vinyl Toy world would look like in the form of a mass market, open-world game.
Michael: Interestingly you have chosen not to focus on tokens or crypto but have strongly anchored on the blockchain. You are clearly setting out a long-term vision with that decision, can you tell us a little more about why, and is this something that may change or evolve in the future?
We come from a deep background in traditional mass market game development. We’ve been involved in some of the most prolific games in the industry like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. We know how to make great games, and that’s what we set out to build with Blankos. Through this lens, Blockchain has to add value to the game experience and to players. And if there’s a concept that doesn’t fit, then we won’t do it just because it’s blockchain. Over time, we expect to see more blockchain concepts come to the forefront of games across the industry, but for now, we’re focused on what we feel is most valuable today, and that’s NFTs.
Michael: Can you explain to newbies what Mythical Games are trying to achieve, how your ecosystem is so revolutionary and answer the question on everyone’s mind: can I finally get rich playing games and trading in-game assets with Mythical Games?
Rudy: We’ve seen a trend over the last several years where players and creators have forged billion-dollar revenue channels with streaming on Twitch and YouTube, and then again with eSports. We know that gamers today are extremely sophisticated, and they want to be more involved with their favorite games. Given the right tools, players and creators have proven that they can make money and generate new revenue streams within the industry. We believe that blockchain and NFTs will introduce more ways for players and creators to get involved and create value.
We’re leveraging blockchain technology in Blankos to create what we call a “player-owned” economy. With our marketplace, which will come online later this year, players will be able to buy and sell in-game items to each other -- in trusted, verifiable sales -- for real money, a first in our industry.
Build the next generation of impact through the power of EOSIO and Google Cloud. Register for the upcoming #eosiohackathon and start building.
Event starts on Mar 2, 2021, 2:00 PM GMT
(Interview by Michael O'Sullivan, written by Tom Cropper, edited by Michael O'Sullivan)