One of the main reasons why we’re so bad at predicting the future is because we underestimate the societal pace of change that new technology brings. It’s exponential, not linear. As such, the timespan for the accuracy of our predictions shortens. In the Middle Ages, you could probably quite accurately predict how people would lead their lives fifty to a hundred years later. Technology didn’t move at such a pace that it would drastically change people’s lives in that period of time.
In 2019, however, you’re in murky territory looking out one, maximum two decades from now. Think about how differently people lived in 1989 versus today. Driving around in a manual car, with someone next to the driver holding an oversized map of Italy and trying to figure out the fastest way to Rome, instead of using the GPS in your automatic (self-driving?) car. Taping movies on VCR instead of streaming them from Netflix. Not being available for long stretches of time when you weren’t at home or in the office instead of being instantly available all the time.
It’s an obvious truth that the world of the future will look very different than the world of today, but many underestimate how quickly it will look very different. I have a feeling that this will be particularly true for the third decade of the 21st century, as the 2020s will see the convergence of a few exponential technologies: blockchain, virtual reality, the Internet of Things, and possibly even brain-machine interfaces. Together, these technologies will create a strange, unrecognizably new world.
Of course, people still have to envision such a world and push toward it. Entrepreneurs, investors, visionaries, artists, and many other people in society still have to make their imagination specific to create lasting societal change. One such person in Rene Schmidt, the Managing Director of XR studio Qwellcode and the main Project Lead of Chainbreakers, a blockchain gaming franchise soon to launch on Decentraland.
DGaming spoke to Rene about his journey into gaming and blockchain gaming, how he came up with the idea of Chainbreakers, what some of his challenges were, and what the future will look like for Chainbreakers on Decentraland and beyond.
A History of Gaming and Entrepreneurship
Rene’s journey into gaming started when his aunt gifted him a Commodore 64 when he was seven years old (ahhh, the nostalgia). From there on, he got the original PlayStation, a Game Boy, and his first PC with Internet connection. Games like Diablo, Counter-Strike, and World of Warcraft took up much of his time during his teens, something that will sound familiar to many millennials (including yours truly).
Of course, eventually, study and work took over. In 2013, together with his co-founder, Rene started Qwellcode. The company began as a development studio helping companies build their websites and set up their e-commerce tools, services that company still offers today. However, in an early sign of Rene’s interest in innovative technologies, from the moment the Oculus developer kit was available in 2014, Qwellcode turned into a webvr studio.
Up to this day, Qwellcode provides a service where they translate 2D floor plans into 3D walkthroughs. For example, someone who’s interested in buying an apartment can walk through the apartment either using a VR headset or in their web browser (which is where the term webvr comes from). It’s the visualization of the imagination of their clients, either to figure out whether their project is viable or to entice people to buy what their clients are offering.
Rene’s interest in blockchain technology emerged when he found out about Decentraland. He’d always been interested in VR metaverses, and he was familiar with Bitcoin, but he hadn’t considered how blockchain technology could change gaming up until that point. It didn’t take long for Rene to purchase a few parcels of land. He saw the potential and contacted the founders of Decentraland to ask if they were looking for teams to create content for their metaverse. They said yes. A few months later, after the first Decentraland auction, they met the team in Buenos Aires to show them a few early prototypes of what they had in mind. It was the start of Chainbreakers…
A Blockchain Game Inside Decentraland
Chainbreakers is a strategy RPG and one of the bigger launch titles of Decentraland (which is scheduled to launch in Q3). The idea behind Chainbreakers originated when Rene started playing early DApps. At the time, DApps were mostly mini-games and collectible games. He realized it made sense to integrate the scarcity mechanics of those games into a new, fun game.
Rene wants to make full use of the unique features of blockchain technology. Chainbreakers should be a play-to-earn game, where players are genuinely rewarded for the time they spend playing. Players early to the game in particular should be rewarded for the risk they take investing time and money into Chainbreakers.
Additionally, everything in the game should happen in smart contracts. This includes game mechanics, something that many DGames currently run off-chain for scalability reasons. But Rene and his team are working together with Matic Network as their layer 2 solution to make sure that Chainbreakers can both run entirely on the blockchain while also allowing many players to play the game at once without significantly slowing down the Ethereum blockchain that the game (and Decentraland) runs on.
Chainbreakers is relatively well-funded. The game raised $130,000 in total so far. They had a great start late 2017, when they sold off a few of their epic weapons and raised around $90,000. However, they were still relatively unknown at the time and they didn’t want to cash out that money right away. They wanted to build trust with the DGaming community. It was the right choice, Rene believes, even though the crypto winter that followed saw those earnings drop to $60,000.
Thankfully, Chainbreakers can rely on Qwellcode for some funding as well, a luxury that most DGames don’t have. It gives Chainbreakers a significantly higher chance of succeeding, as they’re unlikely to run out of money any time soon.
This being said, Rene wants the project to be sustainable by itself. As such, the team raised another $70,000 over the first half of 2019, which helped create the first version of Chainbreakers. Currently, the game is in closed beta, with around two hundred people testing. The feedback has been very positive so far. People like the design and the game mechanics. Of course, there’s still work to be done, particularly when it comes to setting up the game, but the basic architecture is ready.
Eventually, there will be two ways to access and play Chainbreakers. Firstly, users can visit the Chainbreakers website, create an account, and enter the game and its quest areas from there. Secondly, users will be able to access Chainbreakers through Decentraland. After all, Decentraland is a gigantic world that will eventually be full of houses, games, districts, and other creations.
Chainbreakers has a few parcels of land in Decentraland that will attract wandering gamers and allow them to create an account, tell them the story of Chainbreakers, and teleport them to a beginner quest area. All of this happens in Decentraland directly, something that might be hard to wrap your head around, particularly if you’re not familiar with metaverses.
It gets a lot weirder when you place VR into the equation too. Right now, as Matty said in a previous interview, the Decentraland team is less focused on VR and more on mobile and web, as VR is still too much of a niche to rely on it entirely. But Decentraland will eventually become a VR world too. Rene told me that their Chainbreakers codebase is entirely ready for that transition, because the Decentraland SDK has made it easy for all the content on Decentraland to switch to VR.
When that happens, gamers will be immersed in a digital metaverse where they might see a big Chainbreakers temple or perhaps even a Chainbreakers billboard that they can point to and that will teleport them directly into Chainbreakers.
The Symbiotic Future of Chainbreakers and of DGames
Chainbreakers and Decentraland have a symbiotic relationship. People visiting Chainbreakers through the game’s website will grow inevitably familiar with the Decentraland universe, while people wandering around in Decentraland will become familiar with Chainbreakers as they stumble upon the game. This seems indicative of the current and future state of the DGaming industry, where blockchain projects are intertwined and work together to grow the DGaming pie.
In that sense, Chainbreakers is only possible because of three teams working together: Qwellcode, Decentraland, and Matic Network. However, this doesn’t mean all projects will collapse when one does. When I asked Rene about the risk of tying Chainbreakers to Decentraland, ultimately still a hugely ambitious and risky project, he explained why it’s not such a big risk with two points.
Firstly, the risk is low because the Decentraland team is now much closer to launching their platform than they were when Chainbreakers had only just begun development. Back then, early 2018, it was much riskier to spend a significant amount of time and money into a game tied to a platform that might never launch. It required placing a significant amount of trust in the Decentraland team. That risk is now practically gone. Decentraland will launch.
Secondly, the non-fungible tokens that are the essence of Chainbreakers exist on the Ethereum blockchain and not on Decentraland. As such, the core of the game is platform-agnostic. The assets can be transferred to whichever metaverse turns out to be the popular one, without affecting the playerbase. Some things would need to change, of course, but it wouldn’t be an impossible task.
Of course, thinking that Decentraland will fail would be denying the momentum that the platform already has. It’s quite likely, given their vibrant community and the success they’ve already seen with their auctions, that Decentraland will become one of the more popular DGaming projects when it launches. Chainbreakers will surf on that wave, and they have many exciting features planned when they launch.
One feature that I found particularly interesting was Chainbreakers as a franchise. Decentraland investors who haven’t yet built a scene on their parcels of land can give edit permission to Chainbreakers and host a Chainbreakers experience on their land (you need a 3x3 parcel of land). In return, these landowners will receive a 5% cut of the revenue that their Chainbreakers experience brings in. It’s perfect for people who are hodling their land until it raises in value and who want to earn some money while they wait.
Another interesting feature was the interoperability of NFTs as the Chainbreakers franchise will grow. Rene said he considers it very important that early gamers will be able to use their NFTs in the different games of the Chainbreakers multiverse. He gave the example of a unique Mario NFT that you could still spawn into a Mario Kart twenty years later. Not only would it be an extremely braggable event, but the NFT would quite likely be worth a significant amount of money too.
Rene sees a bright future for the DGaming industry. It’s still a small ecosystem permeated with the positive, experimental spirit that budding new technologies often have. The opportunity is huge, as large publishers will probably still take a few years before they’ll release a AAA blockchain game. Now is the time for the pioneers.
Chainbreakers is set to launch alongside Decentraland over the next few weeks. The Qwellcode team is ready and excited. If you want to see the seeds of a wildly different future, you know where to go.