Core Loop raises $12 million to develop a sandbox MMO with blockchain

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New game studio Core Loop has raised $12 million to develop a massively multiplayer online sandbox game using blockchain technology.

The company was started last year by mobile gaming veterans Vincenzo Alagna and Dan Chao. They launched Core Loop and raised $2.4 million, but they didn’t talk about the blockchain part at the time. Since then, this part of the industry has exploded. Their MMO will have a player-driven economy, a dynamically evolving world, and some blockchain components as well.

And this focus on blockchain is one of the reasons the company was able to raise funds from Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), who led the round, and other investors Galaxy Digital, Initial Capital, Dune ventures, 1up Ventures and Sisu Game Ventures.

“Vincenzo kept asking me if we wanted to add blockchain to it, and we decided to do that,” Chao said in an interview with GamesBeat. “Blockchain is getting more and more popular, and once we sat down and started designing how it actually fits into the game, we convinced ourselves that it sounds pretty exciting. We think it can work and it adds a lot to the game. It doesn’t take anything away from the game.”

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Times are good for game startups created by veterans. In the first nine months of 2021, money poured into games exceeded $71 billion for investments, acquisitions and public offerings, according to Drake Star Partners. The pandemic gaming boom has sparked so much activity that I suspect we’re going to start seeing shortages of game developers. On the other hand, a lot of talented people haven’t had the chance to get funding in the past, and they’re taking advantage of it now.

Core Loop was able to constitute up to 15 people. Chao thinks the team could add 10 more people over the next six months.

Veterans

Alagna, who is CEO, had roots in Machine Zone and Gree, and he worked for over 20 years in technical roles. Alagna was president and chief technology officer and oversaw multi-billion dollar franchises such as Game of War: Fire Age, Mobile Strike, and Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire.

Chao, President, has also been in games for over 20 years as an engineer, game designer and producer for PC, mobile and console. He was the lead game designer at Funzio, which was later acquired by Gree for $210 million. Chao led the design of multi-million dollar titles such as Crime City, Modern War and War of Nations.

Their remote team is spread across the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe, Japan, and New Zealand. All these ingredients facilitated the investment of Andreessen Horowitz.

“We believe the next generation of MMOs will combine the best of traditional MMO social design and systems with a Web 3 powered virtual economy based on true ownership and the ability for players to earn a living in the game” , Jonathan Lai, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, said in a statement. “Core Loop is leading the way and we couldn’t be more excited to work together.”

Community led

Above: Vincenzo Alagna is CEO of Core Loop.

Image Credit: Master Loop

Their focus is on community leadership, and that’s one of the things that was appealing to blockchain. They thought more about how they were system designers and how players themselves might be more like game designers. They decided to combine their deep expertise with game design and new technologies and models such as Web 3 (the decentralized web that leverages the transparency and security of the blockchain digital ledger) and gaming to win, where players can own the items they buy in a game and then resell them.

“We think the player should be more in control of the game. We analyzed how to solve this problem in several ways,” Alagna said. “There was this convergence of Web 3, blockchains, governance coming together. We want to transfer some of the control to the players, and we have that layer of trust. We looked at the different options. We have seen others validate the technology. It turned out that the climate was right for us to use it.

In many role-playing games, roles such as merchants or crafting are often relegated to non-player AI characters. But Core Loop wants to see how far it can push those systems into the hands of players while providing rules that help regulate those dynamics.

Players will also have agency in other ways. Players will be able to choose not only their hero class, but also their role in a sandbox world. The lore of the land is expected to take shape through player actions and their story in the virtual world, as players could become writers, warriors, merchants, or rulers.

The company manufactures its game for mobile and PC. Although it’s extra work, he has a good reason for doing it.

“If you had an MMO that you easily play during the day, whether you’re at school or the office, and you kind of have it on your phone,” Chao said. “You could grind and gain resources that way, killing little monsters, but then you always go home to your PC and do more complicated things like raids and that kind of stuff. That’s the goal there. »

He thinks players would happily farm resources and kill monsters easier all day while they are at school or in the office. The game emphasizes preparation, such as which hero should be equipped, what gear to wear, and what other items should be farmed before a raid.

The role of blockchain

Dan Chao is president of Core Loop.

Above: Dan Chao is president of Core Loop.

Image Credit: Master Loop

Play-to-earn games such as Axie Infinity use non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which use the blockchain to uniquely authenticate unique digital items. Since digital ownership is easy to establish, NFT-based game items can be bought and resold easily. And it provides new roles for the community and opportunities for self-governance in games.

In the game, players will be able to go on adventures and kill monsters without ever encountering a blockchain. The most important thing for Core Loop is to focus on making a great game first. The game will be free to play, so you won’t have to buy anything before playing. They said adding blockchain does not mean that every in-game resource will be a token or every item will be an NFT. It would be useless. It should be interesting for users to decide whether or not they decide to interact with the blockchain.

“As a free game, you don’t need to buy anything to start playing our game,” Chao said. “I think it’s very important for us. “In the game economy, not everything will be a blockchain token. So you can still play, harvest gold, pick berries from a bush, all that kind of good stuff. It’s still normal MMO activity There will be some like blockchain currencies that people can earn.

But some roles, like an earth baron or a blacksmith, will require you to participate in the player-driven economy and blockchain technology. But killing mobs, adventuring, and raiding will be normal free activities.

The developer can configure these roles to be played by humans rather than AI characters, Alagna said.

“We’re giving that control back to the players, and we’re regulating the metagame a bit more that way,” Alagna said. “That’s what got us excited.”

Some experience in cryptography

Above: the Core Loop logo

Image Credit: Master Loop

Chao tried out a blockchain game called Crypto Assault a few years ago, just when CryptoKitties was coming out. He learned that asking players to pre-purchase to play a game is a tough build for gamers. If you need to set up a Metamask wallet and learn how to perform blockchain transactions before you start playing a game, that’s a big deal. It’s also not much different from the premium games model.

“You can have a free game, but still have different places in the game where you earn blockchain currency,” Chao said.

Pleasure first

On top of that, Chao said it’s good to remember to focus on creating a fun game first, rather than paying attention to other blockchain-related issues.

Alagna said more technologies have come out in the meantime, such as layer 2 sidechains, which can simplify much of the problem of onboarding people to blockchain games. The company is currently evaluating a large number of them, and they should help. With modern games, developers have access to cloud servers, off-the-shelf engines, community and chat tools, and now layers of trust.

Although they like what NFTS can do for games, they are not fans of games with weak gameplay.

“We make a fun game first,” Chao reiterated.

Chao thinks the intersection of blockchain and the MMO genre is perfect. Players can advance the world by working together. Imagine a giant walking across the world that requires a large group of players to kill it, they said. When killed, he falls down a mountain to reveal a dungeon that connects to a new area. It’s also important that the world be viewed as resources, strongholds, and territories that guilds will want to capture and control.

Chao isn’t quite ready to have an entire community-only game. But he thinks gamers should have more of a say in the design of a game than they’ve had so far.

“I’m not ready to go all the way, like the whole game has to be community-designed,” Chao said. “It’s up to us to put on a great game. Some things in the game may be sold by the developer. Some income may go to a player. It depends on what you want to make tradable on a decentralized exchange. And it doesn’t have to be a pyramid scheme, as it has been done in the past. You can think of something valuable like a large ship in Eve Online.

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