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NonFungible Heroes #3: Rene Schmidt from Chainbreakers

Philip Mohr
Philip Mohr
Rene talks about building and utilizing interoperable NFT assets within Chainbreakers, an RPG experience and ecosystem enabling a play-to-earn model as a launch title for Decentraland.

Who are you, what’s your background?

My name is Rene and I am the Project Lead at Chainbreakers. Before heading into blockchain I had a professional education in business at an automotive supplier. I worked there for around three years, then I started to study electrical engineering and dropped out. More importantly, I spent most of my time during school and university in front of my computer and learned a lot of things about IT, including front-end and back-end development. I was also a hardcore gamer back in the days, I played a lot of Counter Strike, Diablo 2, and World of Warcraft. After dropping out of university 7 years ago, I co-founded Qwellcode which has grown into a VR studio.

How did you move into blockchain games and what is the idea behind Chainbreakers?

It was definitely Decentraland that got me into blockchain. I was interested in VR metaverses since we got our first Oculus Development Kit in the office. I think it was summer 2017 when I heard about Decentraland, I understood the benefits of Ethereum in fall later that year before the LAND auction started. I participated in the LAND auction and met Esteban Ordano in February 2018. I explained that our team wanted to get involved in development for his metaverse. We started to work on a prototype of Chainbreakers and presented to them during ETH Buenos Aires in May 2018 and they really liked it. 

Chainbreakers is set in ancient Greece and the first title of our franchise will be released for Decentraland, but we won’t stop there. There might be some cool and interesting news coming up in the future, so follow our twitter. 

The main thing we want to do with Chainbreakers is that we want players to monetize their playtime. Not only because they can buy and truly own assets, but by linking the actual gameplay to reward pools with cryptocurrency rewards. Players will also be able to lend out their items when they are not playing and earn money while being “afk” (Away from keyboard).

Who is actually funding these reward pools?

A huge chunk of the money that gets into the smart contract is locked there while the smaller cut is our revenue. The microtransactions that fill the reward pool then get redistributed to the players according to their performance in the game. The performance of the player can be increased with better items that the player finds or purchases. We call that “play to earn”.

What aspects of the game are on-chain and why did you decide to move to Matic?

We want to have the complete gameplay for our first Decentraland title written in smart contracts, because we believe that assets will accrue higher value if the acquisition of these assets also happens in a trustless way. If the acquisition of items happens in centralized game code, the asset might be less worthy compared to an asset that is acquired from smart contract-based gameplay. This is because the exact rules are known to each participant, which is not the case in centralized systems. For the next title, we even want to extend on that, but I can’t talk about this project at this point. 

I also want to explain why we choose Matic as the second layer scalability solution. The most important thing is that we don’t need to adjust our smart contracts, because their sidechain is EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine) compatible and can interpret smart contracts written in Solidity in the same way as Ethereum interprets it. We also know the team for over a year and have a lot of trust in them. 

One of their unique value proposition is that Matic is one single public sidechain, which allows us to interact and interoperate with smart contracts that have been deployed to the Matic network by other projects. This is an important difference to many competing sidechain solutions, where each dapp has its own sidechain for their application and there is no way to interact with the smart contracts and assets that have been deployed by another project. You would need to write a custom interface between the two sidechains while with Matic every project deploys to the same chain by design. 

You are pioneering in the field of interoperability with your Neon District partnership. How will this work and what do you hold for the future in terms of interoperability?

We can definitely see in-game quests that involve Neon District NFTs and also see different token representations of their game in our games and the other way around. I think we will start with something smaller, but this is where we want to head. Our teams are both still building their games and we have brainstormed different ideas, but it’s just a matter of time until it happens. 

However, Chain Guardians will utilize our NFTs in their upcoming game, which I think is a hashrate game, where each NFT will have different values attached to it. The hashrate of your character increases when you stake NFTs from the supported projects into their game. I am not sure how it will exactly work, but that’s the basic idea.

Forwarding a couple of years, do you think interoperability will be common for blockchain supported games?

I think cross-franchise interoperability will take a bit longer than interoperability within a franchise. When you think for example about Nintendo’s Mario franchise, imagine the first Mario games would have been on the blockchain and you would own the Mario from the first Mario Bros. At some point, years later, they would have released Super Mario Kart and you could use your old school Mario character in that game. That’s an example of interoperability that would be possible on the blockchain if correctly implemented. 

It’s essentially giving the community the opportunity, that has invested early into your game, to use the same NFTs and utilize it in games that come out years later. I think those things will happen. Cross-franchise interoperability is another thing that will most likely happen in the next few years due to technological and regulatory standards. 

We will definitely push into this direction, but the market is still very, very young and you never know which companies will dominate the market. On the bright side, I can totally see future token interoperability happening. It’s comfortable for programmers to use existing assets and create new games around it. So that definitely speaks for it.

You have been in the VR community for a couple of years, how important do you see the role of VR for the future of blockchain gaming and NFTs (crypto art etc)?

I think the success of blockchain gaming doesn’t really depend on virtual reality. But virtual reality and augmented reality will most likely create places, where you explore and interact with NFTs. However, both, VR and blockchain, are still niche industries. This grand vision of a VR metaverse with blockchain-based ownership is something that has been portrayed in movies like Ready Player One and I think it will happen at some point.

Decentraland, for example, is moving into this direction by building a VR metaverse on top of blockchain technology. Other metaverses that come from the VR world are moving towards blockchain the other way around. Some of these projects will make it happen and combine both. Crypto-art is also very interesting. Josie Bellini, a friend from Chicago, creates tokenized artwork that is already exhibited in metaverses like Decentraland and Cryptovoxels. So there are already things going on in this area, but it’s still very early.

VR has been a hot topic for many years and so far struggled to take off as a consumer product. What do you think needs to happen to get it off the ground?

In my opinion, a virtual reality that feels good, requires a headset and two controllers with Six degrees of freedom (6dof). The headsets that enabled that in the past were Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. But these headsets required you to have a gaming PC that costs probably about 1500-2000 euros, which created a high entry barrier. 

Two months ago I received my Oculus Quest, which offers 6dof and comes with two controllers. You are also completely wireless because the headset works completely stand-alone without a computer. This piece of hardware only costs about 450 euros and I think the hardware issue is solved with that for the first time. I read a statement from Mark Zuckerberg this week saying that the Quest is selling as fast as they can make it. For me, this is the turning point when it comes to hardware. Cool and fun software is already available: Games like Beat Saber, VR Chat, Tilt Brush and even multiplayer shooters like Pavlov VR already exist for the Oculus Quest. 

Chainbreakers will be a launch title in Decentraland, what other Decentraland games or experiences are you looking forward to the most?

Chainbreakers in Decentraland will be released on multiple land parcels across the multiverse. The player needs to travel through the world to reach the other areas of the game and explores the metaverse at the same time. The most interesting other game that I want to play is Battle Racers. The team around Gabby, who is a friend of ours, creates a very nice arcade game. It’s located in a large arcade hall which you can visit to play Battle Racers in virtual multiplayer hot seat sessions with others. I think it’s a pretty cool idea, you can just go there and play a session of this multiplayer racing game, where you can shoot rockets at each other to have an interesting multiplayer experience. Afterwards, you can just leave the arcade hall and move on to the next place within Decentraland. It’s definitely the game I am looking forward to playing the most.

From the blockchain gaming titles that are launched right now, what are you playing?

The latest blockchain game that I played is the early access version of Neon District which is pretty awesome. There are Founders Keys that grant early access and you can still get one of these on Opensea. I am really busy with Chainbreakers at the moment, but I played a lot of Etheremon back in the days. However, their project is not fun anymore. Another game I really like is Axie Infinity, which definitely has the cutest characters.

To wrap it up, Chainbreakers launched in closed beta a couple of weeks ago, what can we expect from the rest of the year from Chainbreakers?

The closed beta was launched two weeks ago and it’s still being extended. We already received the first feedback, which was very positive overall. The game is not finished and we are working really hard to hit the release date at the end of September. 

We have already announced another title for the Chainbreakers franchise, which we will focus on after we’ve released our Decentraland title. We can already state that Chainbreakers token holders can expect additional utility for their existing NFTs. Another thing we will do is joining the dialog with the players of the Decentraland game and react to their feedback. 

Thanks Rene!

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