Alien Worlds Interview With Co-Founder Saro Mckenna

The original interview took place at CGC Conference by George Tsagkarakis, manager of eGamers.io. 

You can find the video below, or continue reading for the written interview.

Sarah, would you mind introducing yourself? What you used to do and what are you doing right now with Alien Worlds?

I’m Saro McKenna, co-founder of Alien Worlds. We are the largest blockchain and NFT game in history by users by quite some margin. And we are comprised of DAOs, and also have a suite of NFTs that are used as part of gameplay. We’re constructed on three blockchains, WAX, Ethereum, and the Binance Smart Chain. We’re excited about the developments in the space and the growth that we’ve seen so far in our community and the technology, and thrilled to see how DAOs, which, you know, have been such a powerful technology for a while in terms of bringing people together and have found a sort of implementation within gaming that I think creates really interesting competitive dynamics.

Alien Worlds is the most played blockchain game right now. How many are we talking about?

So we have over 2.2 million lifetime players and over 220,000 players per day.

The gameplay that we have out right now is mining and staking, so where people use their NFTs to mine for the fungible token Trillium (TLM), which is traded on Binance as a normal ERC-20 BSC token, that has proven to be extremely popular. And I also think the application of that to sort of more competitive DAO dynamics is a future vision that has people excited. So, yeah, it seems to have captivated people’s imagination.

Can you explain to us what the game is about and what your goal is with the game, what players have to do?

So the game currently has a mining functionality and then staking into Planet DAO. So those are the two pieces of functionality that exist right now in terms of the game. And those are the games that the Federation, which is the game creators, the sort of end game persona of the founding publishing company Decoco have created, but we’re a metaverse. And what that means to us is that because of our blockchain construction and everything runs on smart contracts, which is an open architecture, you know, other users can, call actions on the smart contracts. That means that the games that we have started with and will continue to introduce are not, the only games or functionality that will exist within the metaverse over time. 

We’ve already started to see that the community themselves, because they’re very incentivized, because of the tokenistic mechanisms, they’re building out a lot of their own services, communities, forums, economic NFT drops, all kinds of competitions. So the metaverse goes beyond what the games we have put out or even will put out.

How many people work for Alien Worlds? And do you have plans to expand as a company?

Yeah, absolutely. We have several people working with us, probably between 20 and 30, in various capacities.

Player support is quite a significant component of it. I think for people who have been used to playing other browser-based games or even console games, there are still a few more things to work out. And so we have a lot of people for answering questions, helping people to work out where within the metaverse would be best for them to check out and to start making friends and meeting people. And of course, we have a lot of developers who are, who are building out. So yes, but we’re rapidly growing and we are hiring.

Mining alien worlds, Interview with Saro Mckenna
Talking about accessibility, you have done good work, and I believe the reason for choosing WAX as your first blockchain was because of the accessibility and the ease of use, right?

Yeah. And also the fact that you can code, you can create smart contracts that allow for fairly sophisticated gameplay all to be located on chain. So something that’s quite unusual is that almost all of our gameplay is actually something that you could see on a block explorer totally on chain. Whereas even other blockchain based games, especially if they were primarily building on Ethereum, just for no fault of their own, they had to locate gaming action off chain because you couldn’t compute or create those kinds of gaming interrelationships on chain. So WAX was good for both of those two reasons.

 How did the idea of Alien Worlds come up from building DAOs to creating a game?

 I think gamifying DAOs was not the biggest leap of the imagination, but it did. So I think what we then had to figure out was we’d been building DAOs we’ve been helping other people build DAOs for some time, but what had never happened before was to put DAOs in one economic environment where they’re competing for the same resource. So that was the kind of leap of logic that we had to make when we said, okay, we’re going to build a metaverse and one component is going to be NFTs. So that was like a big pillar of what we knew that we wanted to build. And then the other pillar was, you know, using everything that we’d already learned about DAOs to put DAOs into some kind of gamified competition with each other. And then, as part of that, to create the framework for other people to build. Because once you have these DAOs, you have these ready-made incentivized groups of people who are going to, and there’s six of them who are going to take things off in their own unique directions.

So we could see that there would be a lot of creative chaos that would arise from that. So that’s how the idea came about. We were interested in WAX as a chain and the fact which was always conceived as an NFT chain. And thankfully, my co-founder had the vision to see that NFTs were going to be a big thing. 

This was before most people had seen that. So we were kind of wanting to use NFTs. We wanted to actually use them as opposed to just to have them be collectibles. So, I mean, it’s funny to think now, because of course, a lot of, you know, NFTs are being built with utility now, but actually a year or 18 months ago, most NFTs were collectible only. So yeah, it was NFTs plus DAOs in one competitive environment.

Can you explain to us what a DAO does, and how does it help the community when using it?

So a DAO, is a group of people that are organized around a token, and that token tracks both their voting power and it is a way of recognizing value. So people can get the token either by buying it, putting in economic value, or getting the token by working. Often there is a worker proposal system associated with a DAO. And so a DAO is a tokenized on-chain entity that combines within a single concept of the token that underpins it, both power and value.

Basically, it allows people to come together and collaborate on one unified aim and track within them their relative ownership or position or stake. And also to then be able to sort of giving that out to each other as recognized and computed by the token.

How a DAO is Structured. Image via Dev.to
Each Planet in Alien Worlds is a DAO. So does this mean that we have like six different sub-communities in Alien Worlds?

Exactly. I mean, six is in the beginning. We also have the seventh planet, the planet Binance, which runs on a different chain. So it’s not fully integrated into the tokenomics yet, although it will be in time. But yes, we have these DAOs, and that means that there are these sub-communities. And by the way, one of the interesting things is that it is actually a true metaverse because those aren’t the only subgroupings that are formed. For example, landowners have also formed various collectives. So they’ve worked out that their interests are aligned when they offer discounts on mining, on their land collectively. 

So we have groups of landowners that have all lowered their commission to a certain rate and are encouraging people. In fact, they have their own NFT drop programs where certain collectives of landowners are dropping specific NFTs onto anyone who minds on their land.

So that’s an example of a community grouping that’s arisen just totally naturally. That’s not even necessarily associated with any of the DAOs so far. We have other people who’ve come together for more social reasons like Twitch streams and things like that. So yes, the DAOs are where the communities are happening, and I think they’re happening elsewhere in the metaverse.

You broke every record in terms of blockchain gaming. So, well, where do you credit the success?

 I think there’s a couple of things. So we’d been working on similar concepts for years, and so we already had a community around us and it was a lot of those key people from earlier communities who then took up certain concepts and ran with them, or like these communities that we’ve been talking about, many of them are headed up by people that we’ve known for quite some time. So I think already having people who could first understand what we were doing, cos it’s not immediately something that everybody grasps. So people who understood what we were doing could see that it would probably be quite successful. That was really great in terms of that early kind of growth. 

I think the fact that we were fortunate enough to have this blockchain construction on three different chains has given us more reach because we run WAX for the gameplay, our token is on Ethereum, which people trust and want to hold high-value assets on, and our token is also on the Binance smart chain, which then gave us access to a platform like Binance.

 So I think the fact that we were technically able and just maybe have the vision or whatever to locate different aspects of the tack on the chain most appropriate for that has really allowed us to scale. And then apart from that, you know, some of its also luck, right? 

I mean, you know, people have really appreciated what’s been built. I have to credit my co-founders, who have built some game mechanics that people really find very enthralling. I mean, they love it, this is actually something, the power of NFTs, the emotional power of NFTs, you know, so however much we all love Bitcoin (and we do). None of us, I would say, have an emotional connection to Bitcoin necessarily. But an NFT is something with a picture on it, and our NFTs have attributes.

 So people have really enjoyed acquiring and collecting particular entities. They talk about the mining rig that they like to use. They swap strategies, and they’re getting very deep into the strategy. 

So I have to credit my founders with having created dynamics that really have captivated people’s imagination. And I think also the roadmap ahead for people who are a little bit more strategic and can look at what we’ve set out as our roadmap and see where we’re going. 

I think, they’re also excited and want to stick around. So yeah, those, all of those components together, part of the mystery of why something takes off and something else doesn’t.

Can people move the tokens from one chain to another?

They can, yeah. We can use a teleport facility that we have and move tokens from Ethereum to WAX, to BSC, and back again. When they’re earning in the game, they’re earning the WAX denominated token, but if they want to take it off onto a Pancake Swap or somewhere else, they have to teleport it to BSC. And if they want to hold it in Metamask in an Ethereum wallet, they teleport it to Ethereum.

What are some struggles that you encountered while developing Alien Worlds? I’m sure there are many.

One of the things that have happened is we’ve become very large for the chain that we’re on. So while the basic consensus mechanism of the chain can handle the amount of activity that we have, there’s some other kind of, some of the connective tissue that connects an application like ours to the chain has been struggling with the number of actions that are being called. So things like the wallet and the API and so on. There have been some technical challenges around just keeping up with that kind of thing. Most of them are pretty bitty, and we just have to solve them as they arise. But I think in general, they all revolve around having a scale that is kind of, you know, quite large versus the chain that we’re the chain that the gaming logic is on. 

 And I also think perhaps some issues around being cross chain, you know, there, the teleport isn’t always the smoothest. You have to make sure that all the Oracles are running and the nodes are running around that. And so on. Um, the other thing is like, no one’s ever really done what we’ve done before. So even just like the amount, like you can’t just turn around and hire five people who’ve done this before, because nobody has, you know, so we actually set up quite a small team trying to execute all of this. So yes, there are certainly challenges. And, um, I mean, thankfully we’re, we’re, well-resourced now, so we’re working through the steps to, to kind of be able to meet all of the challenges fully.

Alien Worlds is basically clicker game right now, you just collect NFTs and click. What are your plans to evolve the game? 

Yeah, I mean, even right now, if you go onto YouTube and you look up “Alien Worlds mining rig”, for example, you’ll see the strategy involved in that, in that clicking. So people choosing the land to be on the, in fact, the land that’s on the best planet to be on at any given time, which changes as various parameters change, and the different tool and NFTs to use with that land. So even the existing functionality, I would say, has quite a lot of strategy and people have gone quite deep into that and have become sort of experts in how to optimize their mining. But yeah, so that’s only the beginning. Planet DAOs and opening those up to full governance is going to be a major step forward for the metaverse. And that’s where Planet DAOs will have five elected counselors, and those counselors will be able to be changed every week. 

They won’t necessarily change every week, but there will be a recalling of the retelling of the votes every week. Planetary DAO counselors will have control over the treasury and will have real power. That’s a major new part of the metaverse that’s coming on stream. 

We have the Planet Binance functionality, which is the gaming logic, and NFTs on the Binance Smart Chain and Binance are opening up an NFT marketplace very shortly. So, there’s a huge amount of scope Planet Binance part of the metaverse. And we also have major strategic commercial collaborations coming on board, which will introduce new IP into the metaverse and like artistic collaborations into the metaverse. We have quite an extensive land roadmap, which is where land gets used as a way for people to offer services into the metaverse. 

Interview with Saro Mckenna

There’s plenty of scope for people to use the metaverse as a platform for their own business, for their own economic activity, or even their own creative activity. We have a lot of Loren art being created by artists and writers. All of these things are an active development and they’re all part of really creating the framework for the metaverse to be a place where people produce their own content and get rewarded for that. 

I know that there is a guy who is actually building a hospital for his village. Have you talked with people who really managed to change their lives (by playing Alien Worlds)?

 Yeah, for sure. People have been able to quit their jobs and also, people are now where it’s become their new, the new focus of their lives. We have a number of groups that are now have come together and are pretty much full-time collectives of people, um, who are coming up with these NFT drop ideas or creating Minecraft extensions and spin that into Alien Worlds. There’s a huge amount going on, so it’s real when you create a tokenomic mechanism that incentivizes people that has proven to be true, and of course, people then have to come together. 

 …And that’s when you start to make friends with other people in the channels and you start to come together and you start to figure out that you could offer this thing where you create a mining incentive for people and the ideas just naturally flow, and then they build. There’s plenty of people for whom Alien Worlds is kind of their life. And it’s great to see, and this is why I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that, real growth is in the future because people want to come together and make friends and do things together, as long as they’re rewarded for that.

Based on the experience you have acquired so far, what would you have done differently? (Audience question)

 Gosh, so many things. I think we would have priced certain things differently, especially some of those early rounds of NFTs. We would have possibly tried to put in place certain things like a team, earlier, I mean, obviously, we were delaying making certain expenditure decisions because at that point we didn’t really have that much money. But obviously, if I knew now that things would have gone quite well, I would have started to invest earlier. We would, I think, probably have certain design features, certain tokenomic mechanisms that may be a preference. I won’t say too much about that. It might set the cat amongst the pigeons, but yes, the way we’ve designed things had ended up being very, very good for certain people. Um, and we could possibly balance that a little bit differently. 

And… what else? Possibly moving on to Ethereum earlier, you know, we didn’t kind of fully realize that people would want to see the token on Ethereum earlier. So maybe doing that a little bit sooner. And yeah, just building in the capacity for more scale from an earlier point would have been great, but at that point, it didn’t necessarily feel like that was necessary. We were kind of building in a way that was appropriate for what we could foresee.

Saro Mckenna
When will it go live and anything you can share about the game mechanics? (Audience question) 

 Planet Binance missions are in active development. We would have preferred to have had that ready a little bit sooner, but there’ve been actually some issues with BSC as a chain, which everybody has been experiencing. And so we’ve had to resolve some of those and move forward. Will any NFTs play a big role in this new game aspect? Well, yes. The NFTs that we’re building on BSC are pretty sophisticated, especially for the standards of the type of entity that has been on that chain and able to be coated on that chain. So our NFTs on BSC have mutable attributes and immutable attributes that are within the NFT and can be read by smart contracts as part of gameplay. 

So yes, I think the NFT aspect on BSC is very significant, especially from a gameplay utility perspective, we have a whole part of the gaming logic that’s on BSC. And in terms of more information about it, it involves sending your spaceships on missions and getting Trillium and NFTs as a reward. And there’s a certain amount of strategy involved in which mission you choose to go on versus how many other people are going on that mission and how popular it is.

When can we directly stake NFTs on Alien Worlds? (Audience question) 

We do not necessarily have an intention at this time. I think to build that out, there’s a lot of functionality that is in our roadmap and it doesn’t necessarily feel like that. Because you see the thing, other projects need to use NFT staking as a core proposition because that’s actually the only utility an NFT could do within that environment. But in our case, you use NFTs in the game play itself. So even a fighting game will involve NFTs. So NFT staking feels actually like maybe a step down in terms of the functionality that we’ve already built in. I think that’s the main point on that one.

 When will the next big update arrive? (Audience question)

 We have a continuous development schedule. So Planet Binance missions will be the next kind of big part of the metaverse that’s released, but we also have a redesign of the UI and an integration of the UI bringing elements together that is ongoing right now. We’ve put all of this into our detailed roadmap where we outlined the short term, the short-medium term, the medium term, and then the long-term plan. So we’re absolutely executing on all of that. It’s actually a very ambitious roadmap, even versus what other ambitious projects are looking at. So, that is under active developments, and yeah, the next big news will be Planet Binance missions.

I hope you enjoyed the Interview with Saro Mckenna as much as we did.

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