The last era of blockchain gaming — spearheaded by Axie Infinity and the broader play-to-earn (P2E) movement — was characterized by poor economic design and out of whack incentives, and it suffered from underwhelming gameplay, weak UX, and a slew of scams and thefts. It’s clear that the honeymoon phase of crypto is over, and this is actually great news for players and investors.
Instead of relying on ten-figure valuations and FOMO to prop up their projects, blockchain game developers must now catch up to the current standards of game design and production. Development of a great game is a difficult task to begin with, and combined with integrating a new, rapidly evolving technology, it becomes a truly daunting one. Fortunately, some things are in their favor: fundraising has continued, tooling has improved, expertise has grown, and blockchain technology has advanced.
For this week’s gaming decon, we’re going to do something a bit different. Instead of doing a deep dive into a single project, we will look at a set of projects that represent some of the more promising, or at least hyped, upcoming games currently out there:
- Cross the Ages
This is also part 1 in a new series of pre-launch deconstructions on upcoming games, and we’ll drop part 2 — which covers Guild of Guardians, Phantom Galaxies, and one more game — in a few weeks.
Do these games have what it takes to hold up to the healthy skepticism and scrutiny that web3 now demands? Can they bring us into the next era of web3 gaming? Let’s find out.
Blockchain Gaming’s Philosophical Shift
In 2021 the narrative focused on how much money someone could make by playing GameFi apps. The choice of the term “apps” here is intentional, as many of these projects were more Fi than Game. Users would be more interested in ROI than in playing the game itself. Even Sky Mavis founder Jeff Zirlin’s own survey showed this to be true.
Post-crash, however, the story is very different. Nearly every game whitepaper includes two primary assertions: “This game is about fun first” and “We will have a sustainable economy.” These talking points make sense as they are a reaction to two of the biggest problems with P2E games. But they also aren’t differentiation points; rather, they are now table stakes — necessary but not sufficient — for new web3 gaming projects.
Because of this, in addition to common lenses (Team, Tokenomics, and Game Design), we will evaluate these games on Fun and Sustainability. We’ll be scoring each topic on the following scale:
- Score: 4 — We are genuinely impressed with this aspect of the project.
- Score: 3 — We think they’re doing a good job in this respect.
- Score: 2 — We feel they’re doing okay, but with some clear problems or challenges ahead.
- Score: 1 — We have serious concerns about their approach to this topic.
There will also be a Summary section for each game that gives an overall score and evaluation.
Note that in most cases this analysis is based on a combination of whitepapers, official Medium posts, and videos of gameplay. Our evaluations may change as games launch or more information becomes available. If you would like to see a full decon of one of these games when they launch more fully, let us know!
Genopets is a cross between Pokemon and Stepn, a “free-to-play, move-to-earn NFT mobile game that makes it fun and rewarding to live an active lifestyle,” as described in the whitepaper. It raised $8.3M in an October 2021 seed round led by Konvoy Ventures and Pantera Capital and an additional undisclosed amount from Samsung Next in July 2022.
In the game, players will adopt a Genopet and will have to care for it and grow it to make it stronger. Like a real pet, caring for a Genopet takes energy, which players generate by moving (presumably with a step counter rather than GPS distance tracking, since it works in a gym as well). That energy can then be converted to XP or used to interact with the Genopet (feeding, playing with, petting, battling, etc.). The Genopet’s mood will affect energy generation rates, so keeping it happy is important in terms of earning potential.
The game is currently in Phase 2 (Whitelist Public Beta), which started in August 2022. The previous Phase 1 (Private Beta) started January 20th, 2022, and the Phase 3 (Launch) is targeting 2023. While we don’t have data from the private beta, according to this dashboard, the public beta has had a total of 16K wallets, with 5K-6K daily active wallets as of late October. This is a rather strong DAW:total wallet ratio, though a player’s activity likely often amounts to just opening the app to claim their steps.
The Genopets team consists of about 25 people, most located in the US. The executive team has quite a bit of experience, though almost none in game development nor web3. There also doesn’t seem to be much web3 experience on the engineering side, though we couldn’t check everyone. Additionally, as far as we can tell, there is neither game designer nor economy designer roles on the team. The only people with game development experience we found were the director of product and the concept artist.
Score: 2 — A nearly complete lack of experience in web3 and game development is concerning. This represents a high risk of failing to deliver a fun, balanced product. The one saving grace is that it’s good to see what appears to be a successful beta.
Genopets, operating on the Solana chain, has a fairly standard complement of NFTs (Genopets and Habitats) and fungible tokens (FT) (GENE - governance, KI - utility), along with some semi-fungible tokens (Refined Crystals and Terraform Seeds).
The FTs function generally as one would expect. KI is used in-game for crafting, terraforming, boosts, and can be converted to energy. Based on current data, it appears that players are generally using the KI rather than holding on to it, with more KI being burned every day than harvested from Habitats. GENE is a fairly typical capped token that conveys governance rights and can be used for staking (with GENE rewarded) in addition to terraforming, upgrading, and crafting.
Genopets was the first project to list SFTs (semi-fungible tokens) on Magic Eden. These SFTs make use of Solana’s “Fungible Asset” class (as opposed to just its “Fungible” class, which is a normal fungible token), somewhat analogous to ERC-1155. While the definition of an SFT can vary based on who you ask, for Solana, it is simply a token that has zero decimals and can store a bunch of metadata. In the case of Genopets, this boils down to: Refined Crystals are fungible (i.e., all the same) but can’t be split (you can’t sell half a Refined Crystal).
The Genopets themselves are the eponymous NFT characters in the game. Surprisingly, there is no “breeding” of Genopets, though. There are 3,218 “Genesis” Genopets, but those are the only NFT Genopets currently in existence. New players will get a single, off-chain Genopet when they create a new account. While not possible yet, the plan is that players will eventually be able to convert their Genopet into an NFT, likely after hitting certain requirements like leveling up.
The whitepaper states that players can invest time and effort to get their Genopet NFTs to appreciate in value, and selling these appreciated Genopets is one of the ways players can earn in the game. Trading pets is of questionable value to the game, though some players will be happy to spend money to buy a pre-leveled pet, but that also defeats the whole point. Paying someone else to exercise for you is at best an exercise in absurdity.
Habitats are the other type of NFT in the game, functioning as a source of resources and having some land-like properties. Owning one unlocks more of the GameFi/earning elements, including earning KI tokens, terraforming (minting) new habitats, and crafting items. A single wallet can have up to three active Habitats (one primary and two secondary) producing resources at a time.
Habitats have built-in functionality for delegating rights to other players. The owner can allow another user to handle harvesting KI (for a royalty %) or refining/crafting rights (for upfront rent). In addition to enabling the collection of KI without having to bank steps, harvesters can be delegated to any Habitat a player owns, allowing earning beyond the normal cap of three attached Habitats.
The floor price for Genopet NFTs on Magic Eden as of writing is 23.8 SOL (~$670), and Habitat NFTs have a somewhat lower floor of 8.8 SOL (~$210). It makes sense that Genopet NFTs are more expensive since no new ones are being minted at present, and future mints will not have Genesis status or benefits. New Habitats, on the other hand, are slowly but steadily being minted by players at around 4-6 per day, so the supply is growing.
From an ROI perspective, Habitats produce a daily amount of KI for the owner. The actual earning calculations come from a complicated combination of number of daily steps banked, upgrade tier, additional Habitats, Genesis status, upkeep costs, etc., which is outside the scope of this overview.
Score: 3 — Tokenomics here is relatively straightforward. The use of SFTs is interesting from a tech perspective but realistically doesn’t have much of an impact on the functionality. Giving everyone a free Genopet is smart since it removes the ownership overhead and should help the game reach a much larger audience. Ownership exclusivity is instead focused on Habitats, which are the main “to-earn” element of the game.
The game has two primary gameplay components: Genopets and Habitats. The interaction between them is fairly light — primarily, energy can only be generated by Genopets, and energy is required for most Habitat activity.
The most fundamental activity in the game is collecting steps and converting them to energy. This conversion rate varies depending on the Genopet’s level, but in all cases there is a decaying effect every 1,000 steps that creates practical limits for daily earning. All Genopets can convert 1 step to 1 energy for the first 1,000 steps, but after that it’s a different story. Then, conversion rates increase substantially as a Genopet levels up.
The conversion figures below are based on a smooth decay curve for the sake of easier calculation. This is a close approximation to the step function (hah!) that Genopets actually uses but isn’t exact. The third and fourth columns list how many steps it takes to reach 75% or 95% of the effective max.
A few things become apparent:
- Genopet level has a huge impact on daily earning potential
- It’s going to take a lot of steps to generate significant energy
- It quickly becomes infeasible to get close to the theoretical max
Two other things affect energy earning: the Genopet happiness (which can reduce energy potential) and being a Genesis Genopet (which gives a 10% bonus).
Once a player has converted their steps into energy, the energy can be spent in a few ways:
- Care for the Genopet (feed, groom, play)
- Convert to XP to level up the Genopet
- Convert to KI (through a Habitat)
- Participate in battles and quests (not yet available)
A battle system is planned eventually, but there are few details at this point. There are also plans for Augmentations to add more customization and crafting opportunities.
The whitepaper details the many possible interactions with Habitats, but in general most of the earning elements come from Habitats. Habitats can be one of five elements and can be leveled up to a maximum of Level 3.
They have 5 primary functions in the game.
- Unrefined crystal generation. Each Habitat generates daily unrefined crystals equal to its level, and of the same element as the Habitat (except Genesis Habitats which produce element-less crystals).
- Crystal refinement. Unrefined crystals can be refined for 10 KI per crystal (with no daily limits).
- Item Alchemy & Terraforming. Creating item and Habitat NFTs with recipe ingredients.
- Terraform Seed source. When a Habitat reaches Level 3, it produces a one-time collection of 6 Terraforming Seeds, which are required to mint new Habitats.
- Converting Energy to KI. The largest source of value production from Habitats is through the harvesting of KI from Energy. The daily KI cap depends on the Habitat level (30/50/70). This cap can be increased by joining up to two additional Habitats to the primary one. Players are also incentivized to wait longer between harvests since the KI:Energy ratio improves as they wait from 7 days (min) to 14 days (max).
Habitats also have maintenance and decay properties that require regular upkeep (or forced hibernation). This all plays into ROI calculations, requiring players to balance the capabilities of their Habitats, their Genopets, and their own abilities to move.
Score: 2 — As more of an exercise app than a true game, there is a fair amount of complexity for players to dig into and optimize. Some elements feel a bit over-complex though, potentially turning off lighter players. There’s also not much in terms of active gameplay at this point, mostly acting as a check-in-and-collect app. A battle system is planned, but not much is known about it yet.
Genopets doesn’t really spend much time talking about fun, though this makes sense since it’s more of a fitness app than a game. There is a reference to enjoyment as a guiding principle, but given its focus on movement, it has less of a need to emphasize a “game first” mentality.
Oddly though, there’s a reference of game design theory’s definition of “fun” as being in a “challenging but completely safe state.” The developer argues that this is what makes game economies fun, but given real-world costs and earning potential, Genopets is very much not a “safe” place to play around with “investments.”
Consider, for example, the rental terms from the whitepaper. This language hardly reads like a “completely safe state” of play.
Score: 2 — While fun may not be as big of an issue for an exercise app, the heavy gamification it is using will likely need to step up a bit on the fun factor. The virtual pet aspect could be legitimately fun on its own, but the Habitat gameplay seems almost entirely financially-motivated, which is only “fun” while you’re winning.
Having a sustainable economy, on the other hand, especially in the wake of Stepn’s fall, is a substantial priority for the team. Dedicating a whitepaper page to this question alone, Genopets identifies a three-pillar plan for sustainability.
- Reward participation and skill instead of financial investment
- Enable a marketplace economy with players needing to continually interact to earn
- Create experiences worth paying for
#1 primarily means that players can increase the value of their NFTs by grinding and then sell them to those who don’t want to grind. That’s a flow of money that makes logical sense, though it may not be fun for the grinder and only works if there is sufficient demand from spending players. Given that free-to-play games generally have fewer than 5% of players spending, that seems likely to lead to a lot more supply than demand. And as we saw with the Diablo 3 auction house, depending on the design, this dynamic can potentially harm the fun of the game.
#2 shifts responsibility of resource generation to the players (specifically Habitat owners). Genopets refers to this as “a creator economy,” though that seems a touch generous as a description. It’s unclear why this would help make the economy more sustainable. It ultimately takes even more control out of the hands of the developer, meaning that it will lack the ability to course-correct if it doesn’t get everything right from the start.
#3 is what could really create a sustainable economy. One needs at least as much money/value entering the system as leaving to avoid spiraling downward. And this money can’t come solely from new users, otherwise it’s a Ponzinomics system. For Genopets, this is going to mean either having a great game or building a top-notch supportive fitness app and community. At the moment the developer is straddling those two genres, and it may prove challenging to execute well on either.
Score: 2 — It’s really good to see acknowledgment of the need for money to enter the system due to the intrinsic value of the product. That said, there’s still a lot of emphasis on the earning component, which is likely to make sustainability very difficult when it’s time to crunch the numbers.
Summary: Average score of 2.2/4
Genopets had the unfortunate luck of being beat to market by STEPN, but it also has the opportunity to learn from its missteps. The move-to-earn narrative was fine in early 2022, but at this point it’s well-understood that earning has severe limitations. Genopets gives a nod to these sustainability problems but doesn’t make a convincing case as to how it specifically intends to address them.
A move-to-grow virtual pet app seems like a good idea (and apps like Wokamon and the defunct Tep have been testing that theory), but the heavy focus on earning seems to be stuck in the previous, unsustainable generation of blockchain games.
Cross the Ages
Cross the Ages is a lightweight CCG with grand aspirations. It has thousands of cards planned, 7 novels slated for release, incorporation of physical NFC cards, a team of over 150 people, and some truly flowery language, perhaps best illustrated by this quote from its landing page:
Cross the Ages is a project that explores human biases and the differences of the heart and mind in a fun and imaginative environment without the risk of being dogmatic. - crosstheages.com
The team raised $12M in March 2022 from investors such as Animoca Brands, Ubisoft, and Polygon. There had to have been an awkward conversation with that last investor, though, when the project switched from Polygon to Immutable X.
The game is in an “early access” stage now and is targeting an imminent release slated for November 9th, 2022. It is currently playable only on PC, but a mobile version is planned to launch later in November.
Sporting the largest team in this group of games, Cross the Ages brags about having 80 artists and 170 people “involved” as the first thing you see on its website. The ”game development” page in the whitepaper is confusing and a bit self-contradictory. It cites a “combined team experience of 30 years” working on “more than 50 next-gen titles.” It also mentions PlayStation, Xbox, and Switch development and that there are “10 releases scheduled for this year alone,” even though there’s no mention of the team working on any game other than Cross the Ages, nor Cross the Ages supporting anything outside of PC.
To the developers’ credit, they do list out every member of their team, but that feels very large for the scope of the game that we’ve seen so far. While it makes sense that they would need a bunch of artists to churn out a high volume of cards, having over 50 people in the game development team seems a bit hard to justify. CEO Sami Chlagou and lead game designer Julien Rocca both come out of Storybird Studio, which unfortunately has not had a lot of success with past releases.
Score: 1 — While the transparency of sharing the full dev team is very appreciated, it feels oversized and unwieldy. The lack of any standout experienced design leadership adds another risk factor to the project.
As far as we can tell, the only NFTs in the game will be the cards themselves. Until very recently Metaverse Land was listed as an additional NFT to be released, but all mention of land has been removed from the whitepaper. It’s unclear whether the team has decided to fully remove land or just didn’t want to have it in the documentation at this time.
Cards come in two classes (battle and field) and a range of eight different rarity levels: common, uncommon, rare, special rare, ultra rare, mythic, exclusive, and unique. Three of these are unusual in terms of how they can be obtained (excluding from a market):
- Special rare: only obtainable from airdrops and physical products like books
- Exclusive cards: reserved for investors, they have different artwork but unchanged stats
- Unique cards: one-of-a-kind alternate art versions of Standard cards, unknown acquisition method
There are also three types of cards:
- Standard - 173 of the 367 cards in the initial “Arkhante Collection” are Standard.
- Alternative - Upgraded versions of Standard cards, typically require fusing Standard cards to obtain. There are 180 Alternative cards in the first release.
- Alternative Combo - Some Alternative cards can be fused together to create an even more powerful “Alternative Combo” version. The Arkhante Collection has 14 Alternative Combos.
Fungibly speaking, the capped $CTA token will be used for the in-game marketplace, staking, governance, minting, and so on. There will be two additional utility currencies: “Trisel” as an off-chain “soft currency” and “Prana” as an on-chain currency akin to a free-to-play hard currency.
Where Cross the Ages really tries to stand out from the pack is the decision to cross into the physical world. Players will be able to purchase a printed NFC-enabled card of any of their NFTs. When this happens, that particular NFT is “locked” to ensure that each NFT can only be printed once and cannot be upgraded after printing. What one would do with these NFC cards is unclear. Presumably it’s to make NFTs feel more “real” by allowing them to be printed, but that feels like a giant step backwards.
Score: 2 — Points get knocked off for a few things: the lack of clarity about the role/existence of land, a confusing rarity system, and the bizarre decision to try to promote physical versions of the NFTs.
While there is not a lot of detail about the gameplay in the whitepaper, there is a pretty thorough ruleset and game guide. Battles play out on a 4x4 grid on which players can play cards from their collection — a system that is clearly inspired by Final Fantasy IX’s Tetra Master mini game.
A player’s deck consists of 20 cards, with 1 or 2 field cards and a max of 10K raw battle strength. One battle card will be designated as the “leader” and can be given an extra ability. Each game, the player will draw nine battle cards and one field card, and the leader card is guaranteed to be one of the nine.
Each turn, a player selects a Battle Card to play and a location. It then attacks all adjacent cards, and if its battle power is larger, it flips that card to be controlled by that player. Once a card is flipped, it can then attack another card to form a chain. Think of it as a flashy, complex version of Reversi. A battle is won by a) the opponent running out of time, b) controlling the most cards once all 16 cards have been played, or c) having the most time remaining if both players control 8 cards at the end.
The cards have influences and effects on neighbors, governed in part by a 7-way elemental heptagram. Becoming proficient in the relationships of the heptagram will be essential to success, in part because the game is on a timer, and players will quickly run out of time if they have to constantly reference the chart.
There are three types of interactions pictured here:
- Advantage: These are the yellow arrows. For example, Water has advantage over Fire, and Darkness has advantage over Light (which seems rather backwards). A card with an advantage over another gains a 150-point strength bonus during an attack.
- Simple Affinity: The small, dotted lines are Simple Affinities. Air has an affinity with Earth, and both Light and Dark have affinities with Nature. When two cards you control are adjacent and have an affinity, they each gain a 100-point strength bonus.
- Double Affinity: These are the colored lines around the outside and are basically 3-way affinities. For example, Air+Nature+Earth all adjacent create a Double Affinity. Like Simple Affinities, these also convey a 100-point strength bonus.
Additionally, there are Field Cards that add one more twist to the game. Playing a Field Card, which does not count as the player’s turn, will change the battlefield’s element to match it. All cards of that element will then receive a 50-point strength bonus.
The complexity of these interactions would certainly add “depth,” but it seems likely that puzzling together all of the combinations and chains possible will be an exercise in overwhelming frustration. There’s a mathematical elegance to the fact that every element has a relationship with all of the other six, but it also creates a significant cognitive load. It’s a full-on game of rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock-latte-Miata.
This is exacerbated by a fairly short timed clock (players have about 40 seconds to make each move), and the fact that cards are constantly being flipped will undo much of the planning. It is a design that would work well for a single-player puzzle game but feels out of place for a tactical PvP CCG.
To offset the cognitive load, cards don’t have “abilities”; they only have an element and a numerical power. This mechanical simplicity should make for a gameplay that is fun and easy to watch, and combined with the swings of fortune that combos create, the game is likely to be highly streamable.
However, that same simplicity is likely to lead to problems with creating meaningful new cards in the future. That’s extra concerning given the plan to release 365 new cards every year for 7 years. For context, that’s faster than Hearthstone was releasing cards for its first 3 years (averaging about 260/year, though up to 400/year now) and faster than almost every expansion of Magic: The Gathering (which have generally been more like 250/year). Granted, Cross the Ages’ cards are much simpler, which should make balancing relatively easy, but the cards will also quickly start to all feel very similar.
Each battle will be relatively short, using a chess timer system that gives each player a total of five minutes to make all of their moves. This caps a single match to at most 10 minutes, and likely quite a bit less on average.
There is no information yet about game modes or much of a metagame.
Score: 1 — We have serious concerns about the core design here. There is a rather striking combination of being overly complex and too simple. The game is likely fun to watch but frustrating to play and has significant challenges with content generation.
The developer has done some streams of the gameplay, and card owners can go ahead and try out an early access version of the game. The project is clearly aiming to be a fun experience that free/non-NFT players will enjoy just as much. That said, the game is complex and a bit confusing, with a significant learning curve that will likely turn off a lot of new players.
As a multimedia endeavor, Cross the Ages is also heavily promoting its “free-to-read” books, but after skimming through one of them, it seems unlikely that they provide a significant competitive edge. One thing we will absolutely give them, though, is that they do have some really sweet art.
Score: 2 — Cross the Ages is aware that it needs to be fun and is working towards that goal. We believe some design decisions are going to make that challenging, but seeing the motivation is encouraging.
There is no mention of sustainability, nor NFT inflation, in the whitepaper or the game’s Medium account. While there are some videos and articles about the game economy, they are simple explanations of how the currencies will work, and there’s no acknowledgment of the problems that have plagued the previous generation of blockchain games.
Score: 1 — Cross the Ages provides no information about its economy and designs to try to create a sustainable environment.
Summary: Average Score of 1.4/4
Unfortunately, Cross the Ages doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. A sprawling team, a game design that is both too complicated and too simple, a backwards-looking move to physical NFTs, and no acknowledgement of sustainability issues make Cross the Ages a project to avoid.
Solana-based Aurory turned heads back in October 2021 when it raised $108M in its IDO (initial DEX offering). Unfortunately, the owners of that $AURY token are likely less enthusiastic now since that same volume of tokens is currently worth just $10M.
The project places collectible NFT characters into a turn-based tactics game, letting players experience the world through both a single-player story and competitive PvP.
The game is very meta — in the literal self-referential way — using lots of blockchain jargon in its own lore. The NFT units are “nefties” hailing from the world of Tokané, fighting enemies known as Fuds. The villainous wealthy elite collapsed the world's economy, and a god named Satoshi has created a decentralized financial system (yes, that’s really in the lore) to solve the problem. So yeah, they’re leaning hard into a meta metaverse.
There is a sizable and experienced team of about 60 working on the project, largely based in Montréal. Its About Us page gives a much-appreciated detailed list of the people working on the project. There is quite a bit of Ubisoft Montréal talent represented, in addition to a wide variety of indie and big studios.
The only real yellow flag that popped up is what appears to be a minimal amount of free-to-play experience. It does have Maxime Ciccotti as lead game designer though, who was a designer for The Elder Scrolls: Blades. There is a whitepaper page dedicated to live-ops, which is good to see, but hopefully the team isn’t intending to only release content updates on the 6-month seasonal cycle it has depicted.
Score: 4 — While we’d like to see some more significant free-to-play and live-servicing experience, overall, this is a very strong team that has the talent to make a great game.
Aurory will have a single, limited-supply token, $AURY. There is a detailed discussion in the whitepaper about why the team decided to go with a single-currency system. It’s good to see it challenging the “best practices” by analyzing the system and exploring creative alternatives.
In this case, it cites a dual currency system as splitting investors and governance from players without any real benefits. Instead, it’s going to make use of two off-chain “sub currencies” — OKA and TOKE. OKA is only for “financially invested players,” which currently means Nefty NFT holders. OKA can be earned from both PvE and PvP activity. TOKE is specifically for F2P players and can only be earned through PvE. There’s no clear explanation as to why only OKA can be earned from PvP, though it could be an anti-botting measure since PvP rewards require staked $AURY.
Throughout the week, players will earn OKA and TOKE through in-game actions. Once per week these off-chain tokens will be converted into $AURY and deposited into the players’ wallets. In this way even F2P players can start earning the $AURY currency.
The calculation for the conversion rate is a simple percent of the total. A certain amount of $AURY will be designated for distribution, with part going to OKA and part to TOKE. Each player will then receive the portion of the $AURY that corresponds to the portion of the total currency they earned.
As a quick example, let’s say 1K $AURY is going to be distributed, with 60% going to OKA. Let’s also say 10K OKA was earned by all players that week, and Annie earned 1K. She would thus have earned 10% of all OKA and would get 10% of the $AURY distribution — in this case, 10% of the 600 OKA $AURY, receiving 60 $AURY for her efforts.
It’s a system that is similar to how staking rewards are sometimes calculated, in which players receive rewards as a portion of total stake. The advantage to this system over direct $AURY earning is that a very tight control could be kept over distribution, and distribution rates don’t increase as player counts increase. The downside is that players won’t be able to have consistency in earning — the same action one week could be worth a lot more $AURY than the following week.
A variety of NFTs are also present, including Aurorians (character avatars), Nefties (the battle units), Land (which will generate passive revenue from battle fees), and Items.
Owning an Aurorian conveys a variety of account-level benefits, including early access, improved rewards, occasional airdrops, priority for land sales, and governance over the DAOry. Essentially, these are the VIPs in the game. Aurorian NFTs have held value fairly well with a floor price of around 20 SOL (~$650 USD), having fallen only about 60% from the all-time high of 50 SOL (now there’s a bear market sentence if ever there was one).
Aurorian holders will be able to vote on what to do with the DAOry funds, but it’s important to note that governance here is specifically of the DAOry, not the broader governance that $AURY conveys. The DAOry itself is a small DAO that has access to a moderate amount of resources: 1K SOL to start, plus a percentage of royalty fees, and most notably 5% of all $AURY distributed over 6 years. That last one is about 70K $AURY per month, which is currently worth about $80K USD, though it would have been about $1M USD per month when the whitepaper was first written, based on the IDO pricing.
Nefties are minted by putting Nefty Eggs in an incubator and paying an $AURY fee. It’s worth noting that Nefties are not “bred” (i.e., there’s no concept of parents or genes), but rather players can win eggs in both PvE and PvP modes. They have a full complement of standard RPG stats: HP, MP, ATK, DEF, INI, and E. ATK/E. DEF (“ethereal,” basically magic attack and defense).
Nefties have rarity levels, though what exactly those levels are is not clear. There are, however, two special rarity levels: “shimmering,” which have very high stats, and the clever “glitched,” which have the lowest stats but special quirks that can make them extra useful. Nefties can currently only be traded on Aurory’s own marketplace and have a floor price of 13 $AURY (~$14 USD). Eggs can be picked up for only 3 $AURY on the marketplace, but an incubator fee of 20 $AURY must be paid to hatch them. Lower floor prices here are not as concerning as they were with Axie since there are deflationary burn mechanisms available, which will be discussed in the Sustainability section.
Land details are still fairly vague, but they will have four rarity levels and will act as a source of passive income for owners. This happens through the Dungeon system in which weekly dungeons will spawn on player-owned land. Dungeons, featuring significant possible rewards, will have an $AURY entrance fee, and a small percentage of that fee goes to the landowner. Random weekly spawns seem like they will lead to very inconsistent passive income, but it will be interesting to see how that develops.
There are a few other tokenized items planned, most of which sound like they will be either aesthetic or consumable (Power Stones).
Score: 3 — The token design here is thoughtful, making an effort to stay accessible and provide a variety of ways for players to interact with the world. The biggest question mark is around the real value of land and passive earning.
The core game design is 3v3 turn-based tactics. Nefties take turns based on their Initiative stat, and a turn consists of a move and a skill, in either order.
When a Nefty is minted, it gets a collection of a basic attack, three skills from the ones available to its species, and the species’ Ultimate skill. Since the skills are picked from a pool, even Nefties of the same species will vary significantly, which adds a lot of variety. This could also add difficulty to reading the game, but from the screenshot below it appears that there will be an icon system to help players quickly survey the specific skills each unit has.
A few other mechanics exist to keep things interesting. For example, the battlefield will shrink over time, increasing the action and putting caps on the length of game. There will soon be a Tactician feature that will allow players to pick an overall strategy to use for each battle and get buffs associated with it. Each player can also take up to two consumable Power Stones into a battle.
Duels make use of a MOBA-style drafting system in which players alternate choosing their Nefties from their collection, then making other choices around Tactician, deploy locations, and Power Stones. This honestly sounds a little heavy-handed for casual duels and might be best reserved for highly competitive gameplay, but either way adds more strategy to the game.
The metagame is still being fleshed out, but it’s clear that there is going to be an extensive single-player adventure with a plot, lots of characters, and branching quests. On the PvP side, there is a wide variety of events to appeal to both casual and top-tier players. While this is still in planning phases, it seems reasonable and good for the game.
The scope of Aurory is pretty substantial and would be concerning for a smaller, less-experienced team. However, it has brought in talent, including project managers who have worked on AAA projects, that makes this pitch seem realistic and doable.
Score: 3 — While maybe not super innovative, the design and implementation so far are relatively “safe.” This is not a criticism, though, and in fact is a smart approach. The project already has to be extremely innovative by getting into web3, so going with a well-understood genre and general design helps keep risk a bit more constrained.
While the whitepaper mentions “fun” only twice, it does generally discuss creating a game that is accessible for new players while deep and engaging for competitive ones. The playable demo loads quickly in-browser even without registering an account, let alone connecting a wallet, which is a good sign for building a large audience.
Aurory has a playable beta currently available. It looks like a game that would be happily at home on the Switch with its clean, nicely animated visuals. It also runs well in-browser, even allowing players without wallets to wander around and see the world.
The current version of the game is a fairly standard-looking turn-based tactical RPG. That’s by no means a bad thing, even if it perhaps isn’t particularly innovative yet. The team includes some experienced game designers and creative directors, which gives additional confidence in their ability to deliver something that is engaging to play on its own. The game is also emphasizing the role of free players, which means it can’t rest on the laurels of play-to-earn promises.
Score: 3 — While the demo is definitely still a little early, the combination of some strong execution with a talented and experienced team means there’s a good chance of putting together a fun game.
The team is clearly very aware of the challenges of sustainability for blockchain games with the potential for earning. Even prior to the broader crash in May (though after Axie fell hard), they realized the importance of figuring out how to make things sustainable. While the whitepaper repeatedly mentions earning, as of a late-October update, they have explicitly moved away from pitching the game as earning potential. They are instead adopting the “play-and-own” model and are describing $AURY's value to players more in terms of re-investing in the game than as a profit.
They are taking cues from the F2P model, which is good to see from a sustainability perspective. They are also trying both some established solutions (burning of NFTs to reduce inflation) and some new mechanics (the OKA/TOKE sub-currency system that abstracts token value from off-chain currencies).
Because of its similarities to Axie Infinity, one of the biggest sustainability concerns would naturally be the inflation of Nefties. To combat this, Aurory has a number of deflationary mechanisms built in. There are four different ways Nefties can be burned, including a couple of permadeath features:
- Coaching: A player can burn a Nefty to reroll a stat of one of their other Nefties. This should create some demand for inexpensive Nefties to be used to optimize high-value ones.
- Heroic Dungeons: These dungeons have the best rewards but are extra difficult, and if a player loses, they must burn a Nefty on their team.
- Special Events: Certain tournaments will have literal “deathmatch” modes in which the losers are burned.
- Laboratory: Players can burn Nefties for a chance to get rare items.
Perhaps the most substantial difference from Axie Infinity, and all breeding-based games really, is that new Nefties can only be minted from Eggs, and Eggs are dropped randomly by the game. This means that Aurory can set the inflation rate from the start, and if needed, it can pull back the reins on the Egg drop rates to quickly control unforeseen inflation.
It also has two staking methods ($AURY and Nefties), built-in lending capabilities, and liquidity pool options. It will be interesting to see how the game plans to support these for-profit elements from a sustainability perspective. Where is significant money entering the ecosystem to prop up the value here?
Score: 3 — It’s very good to see a lot of focus and energy spent on trying to solve the sustainability issue. They’re using a variety of mechanics to address it, and in particular the move from breeding to Eggs should all but eliminate the risk of inflation. The one core issue that is not addressed is how money is overall entering the system.
Summary: Average Score of 3.2/4
Aurory is an exciting project to watch. It has a strong, experienced team creating a game that has a solid core loop and meta game design. The team is taking a thoughtful approach to tokenomics and sustainability and is not leaning heavily into pitching the game as a way to earn money. It’s checking a lot of boxes, and that makes us optimistic about Aurory.
We’ve looked at three upcoming web3 game projects through a variety of lenses. Given the changes in how players and investors are viewing web3, these projects have to meet higher expectations in terms of fun, sustainability, and general quality.
Of these three games, Aurory looks to be the most promising, combining strong teams, quality game design, and smart tokenomics. Genopets has some good qualities but also some significant yellow flags that it will need to address for us to give a positive review. Cross the Ages, unfortunately, looks to be in a rough state, though it has a few good bones and might turn around with some iteration and reworking of systems.
As a reminder, this is just part one in our series that digs into interesting, hyped upcoming blockchain games. Part two will publish in a few weeks, and we’re excited to watch these games officially launch!