Guild of Guardians is Immutable’s second major game after Gods Unchained, and is one of the most anticipated web3 games of 2024 - Immutable has called it their new “flagship game” and has been preparing for a global May 15th launch. After starting out as a real-time RPG, the game pivoted to a more casual auto-battler 15 months ago, driven by Gods Unchained and formerly Magic the Gathering: Arena Design Director Chris Clay. Guild of Guardians is one of the first games on Immutable’s new ZK-EVM blockchain, which Naavik covered in the January 24, 2024 episode of the podcast with Immutable founder, Robbie Ferguson. 

In this episode, your host, Niko Vuori, sits down with Justin Hulog, Chief Studio Officer at Immutable and Chris Clay, VP & Design Director at Immutable and talks about Immutable’s gaming ambitions, lessons learned from Gods Unchained and how excited the Immutable team is about Guild of Guardian’s early metrics heading into the May 15th global release. If you are interested in web3 games, you won’t want to miss this episode. 

Check out Guild of Guardians online, as well as Niko’s January 2024 interview with Immutable founder Robbie Ferguson.


We’d like to thank RallyHere for making this episode possible. RallyHere is a proven gaming backend platform and service made specifically for cross-platform live-service games. RallyHere is your one-stop-shop to streamline your development processes, increase speed to market, and optimize your post-launch live services. To learn more or schedule a demo, visit  

This transcript is machine-generated, and we apologize for any errors.

Niko: Hello and welcome to the Naavik Gaming Podcast. I'm your host, Niko Vuori. We have a great episode for you today. We are talking again with one of the undisputed leaders in the Web3 space, and that is, of course, Immutable.

As long-time listeners will know, we've spoken with Immutable a few times now, and for good reason. They continue to innovate on both the technology and platform side to drive broader Web3 adoption, while simultaneously continuing to ship both first party and third party new games at an impressive rate.

Today, we're here to talk about Immutable's upcoming major new release, their biggest one yet, called Guild of Guardians. It's a Web3 fantasy RPG, and it has a global launch date very soon, May 15th. Which is just over a week away as of this recording, the team has high hopes and expectations for this title.

And so we wanted to dig into it further as well as discuss Immutable's roadmap and how it has evolved since we had Robbie Ferguson, Immutable's co founder on the show back in January of this year. So today we welcome back. Justin Hulog, Chief Studio Officer at Immutable. He was last here about a year and a half ago.

We were just talking about that before we started, when he gave us his Web3 gaming predictions for 2023, way back in December 2022, when conditions were quite different than they are today. So let's see how accurate you were, Justin. Welcome to the pod.

Justin: Great. Niko, glad to be back.

Niko: Fantastic. And we also have Chris Clay, or just Clay, who is the VP and Game Director at Immutable, who was responsible for one of the early success stories in Web3, and that is the trading card game, Gods Unchained.

He has also been one of the driving forces behind Guild of Guardians, and we are delighted to have Chris on the pod to talk about that. Chris.

Chris: Oh, very happy to be here.

Niko: Yeah. Fantastic. All right. So with that out of the way, let's get right into this episode here. So Justin, Chris, we always start with backgrounds.

Justin, we've covered yours, but a year and a half ago. So let's hear from that again. But Clay, why don't we start with you as a first time guest, at least on this podcast? You've actually been at Immutable since summer of 2019. Which is quite a bit longer than most Web3 developers have been developing.

So you're one of the kind of OGs in this space. And you were of course the game director on Gods Unchained, which is arguably one of the biggest Web3 games still to this day. Certainly was back when it launched. It was a huge deal. Uh, So tell us more about how you ended up at Immutable and just your background in general.

Chris: Yeah so for my background, I've been making games for 24 years now. And prior to Immutable, I was at Wizards of the Coast as Game Director of Magic the Gathering Arena. And yeah, joined Immutable for the same reason many people did back in the day, in that Robbie Ferguson reached out, and he was like, we need to chat.

I need to tell you about this game that we're building. And after an hour long call with Robbie, I had to talk to James Ferguson. And after an hour long call with James Ferguson, I had to fly to Australia to meet the team and it was much, much smaller back then, about 15 people, but very much a shared passion for gaming that I.

Really appreciated and they had the crypto tech down pat and they needed somebody who had built and shipped games that last, and that's one of the things my games do build things to last and God's Unchained at this point has stood the test of time, five years in crypto years is a lot of years and, looking to do the same with Guild of Guardians, just building upon everything we've learned in that time, and it was a lot.

Niko: Fantastic. And we're going to get into a lot of those learnings and some kind of more background on Gods Unchained. I'm very curious to hear about some of the backstory eager to take advantage of the fact that you're here, Clay, on this pod and share some of your wisdom and insights and, of course, Magic the Gathering.

Gosh is there a bigger game out there that has stood the test of time? It's certainly up there in the top 10. So very excited to have you in web three. And of course, very excited to have you on the pod. Justin, I know you, you cover this a year and a half ago, but obviously things change quite rapidly, but in crypto in particular, tell me a little bit more about refresh our memory and how you got to immutable.

And then what have you been doing in the kind of 16 months or so since we last had you on the pod? My story is not that different from Clays, which is that

Justin: TLDR. I was tricked by Robbie Ferguson to, basically I was at a company called Riot Games, which makes like League of Legends, little games, yeah.

Niko: Yeah, nobody's heard of.

Justin: Yeah. And we had just finished launching Arcade. I was very happily settled in Singapore. My family and I were like ready to, we had just bought a house, like all those kinds of things that imply you're going to settle in a place. And I was doing. Basically, this special project, which was like the Web3 strategy or some research for Riot, which got me sent to NFT NYC, the very, very first one, ran into Robbie Ferguson at a party, had a chat with him, and then somehow, like three and a half months later, found myself living in Sydney.

Whisked away basically and, have been here for the past, I guess it's almost been like two, two and a half years. And what I've been doing is basically taking the immutable game studio and really starting to think through like how we can create strong games that can last the test of time that have strong core game loops that, are ready.

For mass market adoption. And so that's basically what I've been doing is building up the teams, both here in Sydney, Singapore the U S. And then, we also have an external studio that working with pretty closely in Shanghai. And it's been a wild yeah,

Niko: I bet. Yeah, Robbie Ferguson, he is a force of nature.

He's not tried to whisk me to Sydney yet, but he's been here. You'll be swept out of your Piedmont palace suddenly in Sydney. Yeah no, but he's been on the podcast a couple of times, most recently in January of this year. And it was actually great having him on because he laid out. It's a very similar episode actually to yours, Justin, from 2020.

Early 2023, late 2022, looking forward into the year ahead. Robbie did the same thing for us. And so if our listeners haven't checked out his episode, it's a really good one. A lot of great insights, a lot of great details. More detail than we're going to get here. This episode is more about Guild of Guardians.

In the gaming side, but Robby gave us the whole vision for what Immutable is trying to do for the ecosystem, not just in the gaming space. Okay, so as I said, Clay, I'm gonna, I'm gonna pick on you here a little bit because it's great to have you on this pod to talk a little bit about Gods Unchained, which as I mentioned is definitely One of the OG web three games standing the test of time five years as you mentioned is an eternity in web three and it's still going strong.

So why do you tell a little bit about how that came to be a little bit about the history of the game? What were the design principles that you were bringing to it from your background with Magic the Gathering? And web two and not even web two, but analog games, literally. card playing games, like physical games.

And so how did that all come to be? And how does it compare to where we are today versus where you guys got to start with? What were the tools you had and where are you today?

Chris: Yeah. When we started gods on chain was already in flight when I joined they had done the start of the Genesis sale.

It was still ongoing, going when I joined the company. And it's a very similar story to so You know, they sold a bunch of NFTs and then went and figured out a way to make them work. And that was a lot of the initial job for me. It's how do we take the client for the game, which was built in Unity and make everything that we had sold work.

And it was a big task. There were a lot of cards. But the foundations were there the art was really good the world building a little bit less and I think that's something that Justin and I have shared a love of continuing to expand on, but, in those early days it was, making sense of everything in the world, and, yeah, really working on the core of the client, and back then it was built on Ethereum, And it was in the days where, maybe we would stop minting if things got up to five or six quay, it's like, it's getting a little pricey, so we're gonna slow down.

But it was just creating that foundation of tools to make everything work in that ecosystem. And ultimately, Gods Unchained, Is what led to the creation of immutable X because it became very obvious early on with the Genesis sale that if Ethereum as a foundation wasn't going to work with what we were building at this point, God's on chain has 80 million NFTs.

And that just wasn't scalable on Ethereum. The core team started working on Lair 2. And I would say that, throughout its history Gods Unchained was like a split purpose. On one end, my goal with it was to build a game that players would play in Web 2. It just happens to have the Web 3 components.

And with a card game, it just makes so much obvious sense. Like everyone, he talks about card gaming. It's yes, owning the cards like I do in real life. And that made it easy in some ways. And harder and others. It saw many evolutions throughout its history from, Basically tokenization with gods and then integrating that through that whole ecosystem.

And it's been a really important testbed for so many ideas and concepts. We've tried many different, sales we've brought, sealed in, which has been huge recently for the product. But in many ways, an evolving test bed on the gameplay side of it, it's a digital card game.

The most direct comparison is with hearthstone but with putting our own spin on it being able to choose your God powers trying to solve that like sideboarding problem as well.

Justin: With other systems and it's just continuing to evolve, but I think the biggest ship that we made, especially when you and I started working together was, Guild of Guardians and Gods Unchained at first were two separate, right?

Yeah, two separate worlds. And I remember coming in and being like, wow, it's already difficult enough to manage one IP, let alone try to do two well. So one of the first things we did was to combine the IP so that we could focus on a single world. And then when we started thinking about Guild of Guardians and how we could, get it ready essentially for the launch that's coming up very soon.

One of the things that we really thought about was like, where is the gap in the market right now, just from a pure gameplay perspective, like what kind of games fit into people's lives? And ended up making a game that's quite casual compared to, you The experience that, was originally sort of put forward.

And then second, really thinking about that Web 2 on ramp to make it easier to go into Web 3, because one of the biggest gaps from a, from at least the first, my perspective in terms of thinking about mainstream adoption was the idea that you actually had to buy the NFTs or have the NFTs in hand first.

It creates all that stuff before you get to actually get into the game, versus the flow of GOG is very much. Game first. And then as you start getting invested, it then pushes you more and more into. Web three Ascension mechanics to, to develop.

Niko: And that's quite different to cause and change in the sense that God's and Jane, you do need to own the card set.

You have to have cards to play. Otherwise you can't really play. Yeah, it's pretty fair. And God's a chain. You get free packs to start for sure. But it's all, it is about ownership first and foremost, whether you get them for free or you have to buy them, like you have to have this notion of, I have to own these things and I can either, grind for them or get them for free or, or buy them, right?

Which, which is what you'd exactly what you do in the analog case. But here, I think you're taking a very different approach, which it's almost like it's always game first, but if you'll excuse the slightly strained analogy it's game first ownership second, as opposed to ownership first game second, however you define the ownership or how you get to the ownership, is that, would that be a fair description?

Justin: Yeah, I think so. I think that it's one where. We really want to make sure that the players who get into the ownership mechanics do so of their own, after they have the chance to try the core product and make sure that it's the right product.

Chris: Yeah. And it really is a continued evolution of so much that we learned on Gods Unchained.

There was the forge where you could basically combine cards together to initially bring them on to the blockchain, but also increase their their shine on them. And we've gone from that to now we've been using the altar inside of Guild of Guardians to create more complex recipes. So it's also allowed us to solve problems that we couldn't necessarily solve without it.

In just like the web, like web two space to web three with all of the founder guardians, there's actually a limited number of them. There's only, a little over a thousand Leah's out there in the world. And part of the mechanics for the Guild of Guardians is you power up your guardians as you basically combine them, similar to, cards back in the day, except they gain power rather than just shine.

But with that limited supply, it meant that if you got to the top tier Leia at, that 15 enlightenment, you'd only have about 120 of them in existence. And the altar with crafting has been Basically let us solve that problem through wait, what day is today? Tomorrow, the recipes for cracked hearts is going to go live and there'll be a replacement for using duplicates for those founders.

And you can basically take, core gen one guardians that people have acquired, or even founder guardians use the recipes to create these cracked hearts. And like having that tool to solve these problems in web three, allow people to craft, allow people to also just. Game in the market of by the guardians that are low to go solve this need, all of that sort of economic interoperability is something that I've had in my mind since we started really pushing on this new path for guild guardians to like, how do we make this economy?

Flow beyond just ownership like that was the foundation, but it's like it's so much more than that now.  

Niko: Yeah. Yeah. No, that makes total sense. And actually leads me nicer to a kind of a more market slash technical question. When we had Robbie on the show in January, he was talking a lot about how excited it was for immutable passport.

Which, Justin, you just mentioned earlier that we only have so much time on our hands. Players are just looking to play and they don't want to spend a whole bunch of time setting up their wallets. And, this still to this day in 2024, we've been talking about this for years now, ever since, 2018, 2019, I mean, going back all the way to CryptoKitties, like nobody has.

Time to do all that stuff and jump through all those hoops and despite so many companies coming and promising that they're going to make it frictionless easy to onboard and what have you, nobody really has succeeded in that. And I know Robby was extremely excited about Mutable Passport, but it wasn't quite there was still a bunch of stuff to be done.

So I'm curious to hear, where is Mutable Passport now? Actually, maybe Justin, you take this what does it do? What is Mutable Passport for our listeners? Where are you guys at with it? And how does it address this big question mark around, we only have so much time, I want to get into the game, I don't want to be messing around with all this other stuff.

Justin: Yeah The PR bullet points, right? That, or that to describe Passport is that it's a non custodial wallet, an authentication solution that streamlines user onboarding and allows you to play it across multiple games and access all of the different marketplaces across immutable. But the TLDR is that it makes it incredibly easy to log in.

And I know this because I've worked with Alex Connelly, who's our CTO through almost every step of this process, right? Passport. And GOG and ZKVM are all tied together because we test each other's products. And this is how we dog food it out ofutable. Part of why GOG is so important is because it was the game that was, that ZKVM was designed for with the idea that if we got it right for GOG, we could get it right for everywhere else.

And if you think about what the past used to look like, where when you had to create a wallet, you had to collect your seed phrase. And if you didn't understand what that meant, you were Not quite sure where you put your seed phrase. And all of a sudden you'd have all these assets and they get lost or stolen or whatever.

Passport means that when you're on your mobile device and you're logging in, it's just as easy to log in as an Apple ID, if not easier. And especially when you're thinking about how that works on mobile, if it's that easy on mobile, it makes it much easier on desktop and then allows you to connect everything that you're doing with that one log in across all of the other games that you play on immutable from my perspective.

And, the test case that I always use, because like when you're working on a game and when you're working at a tech company, it's too easy to get into the weeds of your own work, so I actually tested on my sister who doesn't really enjoy any of the blockchain stuff. And so I'm like, Hey, just make a password, like test this, see how easy this is to log in.

And she's like, Oh, she clicks on the link, right? Then there's a code that gets sent to her email. She types in that code, which, shows up as a notification and auto pops in. She's in the game, she's able to do all the stuff, and then doesn't feel like she's doing all these complicated blockchain transactions.

For me, the user experience is incredibly easy to connect, and what we're starting to see is that prior to GOG's launch, which is in about a week, We've seen 500, 000 new Passport signups and the data that we're looking at is starting to show that these are like real people who are using their Google accounts to log in because they're excited to start claiming some of the early rewards, they're excited to start minting some of the new guardians.

That to me shows that like, when you have users and for my own personal network, I get pings from my friends who are excited to try to play the game who are like, Hey, I just signed up for my passport. When I go to this altar, what's the recipe for X, Y, Z, which, is an anecdotal is it, is an anecdote and not exactly data, but it's really helpful for me to see how people are finding it much easier to start accessing the web three elements and how it's starting to become much more seamless in terms of how they start integrating it for games.

Niko: That, that's the vision. Obviously you guys are immutable. For you to having passport work with air quotes, just immutable is sufficient if you guys are the big winners, of course, in the space. But, my next question is about the promise of web three more broadly, and I'm curious to hear your guys's thoughts as immutable as one of the leaders in the space.

We had a Exceptional guy called Max Fu on the show a couple of weeks ago. I don't know if you're familiar with him. I know Max. I think Max is great. Yeah, a fantastic guy. Like crazy background. Like he was a gastrointestinal surgeon or something like that in a previous life.

And he had, very strict Chinese parents who he was, he could only be a doctor or a lawyer. And then he became a game developer and. They almost discern it. But anyway, really fascinating episode. It was, that was two weeks ago. If you guys haven't listened to that, I highly recommend it.

But he's the founder of a game called Nyan Heroes, which is cats controlling mechs. But it's on Solana. They have 1. 3 million pre registrations, big numbers. They seem to have had a very successful kind of alpha launch. Close that down. They're working on the next one. But the question I have for you guys is like the promise of web three is that it's so simple to play any game has ownership of some sort or has, NFTs integrated or any of the web three technologies that we've come to embrace.

But as of right now, Passport, you can't play a Solana game through Passport and vice versa. If I'm on Solana, I can't go and play an immutable game. And I'm just curious to hear your thoughts on that. Robbie had some philosophical thoughts on this, but it's all very well. Good to have philosophical thoughts.

There needs to be practical implementation pieces behind it. So what are your responses to that? How do we actually solve the walled garden problem, which is ultimately a big promise of blockchain. A big promise of blockchain is that there are no walled gardens anymore. Anything is possible. I have had this asset here.

I can use it over there. There is, composability. Take this, create something new, which is modding from Web 2. So long question here, really. But here it is again that interoperability question, which is if immutable wins big, great. You're the apple of Web 3 and everything else is smaller, but If Web 3's ethos wins, which is it's a completely open ecosystem that anybody can play in and it's frictionless, then we're going to have to solve this interoperability problem somehow.

Long question, but I'm going to throw that to both of you guys to think about a little bit and say, okay, Passport is great for immutable. Is it great for the ecosystem?

Justin: Yeah, and I think this is this is a question that has a lot of different parts because there's one question about, Passport, right?

And the ability to log in across different stores. And I think generally speaking, passport is not necessarily locked as EKBM. If there's another chain that emerges as like a large chain where there's a lot of content, It's really easy for us, to work with that chain to integrate Passport.

And so that people could go back and forth between different chains. And even right now, there's connection points to do MetaMask, for example, at Passport, which makes it easy for you to do those connection points, right? So that's point one around the login, right? I think that the reality around is that players are going to go where there's great content.

So our first priority at immutable is to make really good content. We have over 200 games that are building on us. The criteria for how we look at those games is not so dissimilar from the way that, you know, that at least I used to look at games at other companies that I used to work at.

When we were thinking about acquiring images, looking at core game loops with strong retention that are actually fun first, and then thinking about like how the blockchain elements can be built on top of it. And what I think is going to happen is that there's going to be a convergence of a smaller number of chains because right now it feels if you would ask me who our competitors were two years ago.

I would give you a different answer from a year ago from a different answer from today. Yeah. And all of that stuff constantly is shifting and moving. And for us, we're just very focused on get good content, get different genres of games, make sure those games are actually fun, and fun without the blockchain elements on top, because the blockchain elements artificially or not artificially, but they inflate like your D one, your D seven, your D 30.

And then, Once we figure out where the majority of that content works, we can then start thinking about how we can do those integrations with those winners once the dust settles. The other and the third point, which is something that Clay and I have been talking a lot, is that one of the things that's really interesting about NFTs and games is that it used to be that the assets in your game were the assets in your game and they couldn't move.

But the reality now is that as game designers, we can think about the longevity of the asset and the longevity of the original game experience that they're in as two separate parts. And we can start thinking about how we can design with other people's assets with or without their permission, which also becomes really interesting.

For without saying too much for GOG right now, we're already talking to other developers and other projects about how we can integrate their assets into our game. And that's with permission. The reality though, and what's so interesting is that we don't necessarily need their permission to create utility for those assets inside our game.

And I'm not sure I've even fully thought through the ramifications of that, but that becomes a really interesting tool to think about how designers think, how we should start thinking about, franchise, not just games, but, multiple games within a franchise, about how those experiences build out.

I think we're just at the beginning of that, which is what to me is so exciting is this kind of unknown frontier of how you can start thinking about games and game design generally.

Chris: Yeah, I think the thing I would add on to that is I've been pretty consistent in saying that my take on like the web three sort of interoperability, I was never a big proponent of it.

And when it comes to having a single NFT that you can play across any game, the technical challenge of that is huge. Is it theoretically possible? Yes. But as a game developer, I can tell you like my desire to integrate somebody else's NFT at a base level isn't necessarily very high on the other side of it, though, when I look at the ecosystem, like economic interoperability has always been To Where I've seen the most potential and this is where solving a problem like this is where an expanded like altar could be where right now the recipes are based off of NFTs on ZKBM, but depending on where, passport integrates, you could expand that out so you can take, pieces from, base pieces from Solana NFTs, combine them through the altar, you're performing actions on different chains.

And to get a new output through that experience. Again, economic interoperability, you're transforming NFTs but you can solve some of those problems. I think the other side of it is as much as, Web3 has, you had narratives throughout its time and I've seen them come and go. We are on a path right now in gaming where you're going to have a chain that wins.

You're going to have a second place chain and maybe even a third. But this mass proliferation of gaming chains is going to come down and you're going to find winners. And I believe Immutable is playing to win. Working with Polygon one of, at one time, a strong competitor of ours has helped us consolidate more.

And that's a big part of, like, where it also helps gamers. If you're just on Passport, on Immutable's EKVM we can make that experience, pretty darn seamless. And that's been big inside of, just Guild of Guardians testing the web pre functionality. Now it's at the point where we're like, I can take this and have my 15 year old son run through and perform the actions.

And he's yeah, it's just a little bit slow, dad. And I'm like, yeah, there's blockchain. Sorry, son. Sometimes blocks take a little bit of time to solve. So much faster than the early days. Keep getting better. But solving it for everyone. We're not quite there yet.

Niko: Yeah, I think both of you had great answers that I, my next question was going to be about the fact that we have we had this there's an outfit called game seven.

They do a lot of great research in the web through space and they had one of the Very first kind of super comprehensive 30, 000 foot level reports that wasn't like sponsored by any particular chain or didn't have any particular agenda. And I, when I had them on the show there, they were telling me that there was over 200 different blockchains and most of them are catering towards gaming and it is just not feasible for there to be 200 epic game stores.

There's not. 200 steams possible on the planet. So to your point, Justin, about consolidation to your point clay about there needs to be some winning happening here. I'm 100 percent there and I think we are entering that phase personally thinking about, okay, like some of these smaller chains are just not going to succeed.

Like developers don't want to build on chains that aren't going to have any kind of. Traction, even if they're interoperable with immutable and passport and all these other things. So I think you guys are spot on and I think we're going to see maybe your prediction, this is my prediction, at least for 2024, maybe it'll take it to 2025 when some of the funding runs out, but yeah, there's going to be a bunch of consolidation.

And I think that 200 is going to get whittled down to a much smaller number. Yeah. I think about

Justin: where there's been like no one, for example. By the way, much as I love sort of infrastructure, there's very few gamers who are like, Oh my God, this game is on AWS. I can't wait to play it. Right?

That's not it. It's the content that, that gets them excited about it. And then what ends up happening is, as a developer, you end up building on the content that makes it easier for you to reel are on the chains that help you realize your vision. I think to a certain extent, in the same way that we've seen the consolidation of like cloud infrastructure, like there will be something similar that will happen to blockchains, and it's really going to be about the content, where the best content is, are the chains that are going to win.

Niko: Yeah, totally. What a phenomenal segue into content because I was going to switch gears. Anyway, I start talking about Guild of Guardians. Just to give the slight preamble here I've been reading up a lot about it very, I'm excited to see. It looks great, so kudos there. Obviously how it plays is the key thing but you've gone out on the record and called it your flagship game, right?

And so that's a, that's pretty, you know, and that's quotes that's putting a lot of pressure on yourselves, I think and putting a lot of expectations out there and, obviously we hope it lives up to it. I want to get a sense of why you guys, especially like Clay, maybe this is for you. So what is it?

How does it play? How long has it been in development? All the stuff that are, our audience is interested in hearing. And then talk a little bit about how come you guys are so confident you're calling it your flagship game. I like the confidence, but I want to hear the root of that confidence.

Chris: Yeah, from my end If you go back about 17 months in time we're still focused primarily on GU but Justin had asked me hey, can you spend a day a week on Guild of Guardians? And one of my core competencies is combat, like making combat look and feel good. I'm like, great I'll pop in and I can do that.

And after about a month of Getting in the game working with our partner had a very uncomfortable conversation with Justin where I was like, Hey, Justin, like this is in trouble. Like I've built games for a long time and we're not, two months from launch. We're probably three to four years.

And that, that's not something you want to tell your boss necessarily when a game is supposed to be really close. And the boss doesn't want to hear that. Definitely not. But. Yeah, I'm like I could be wrong. Let's pull in some other people from tech to explain it. Yeah, look at it in more depth, but did a bit of a deep dive and it was like, we really need to reboot the project.

And basically at the start of last year, it was working with the team on analyzing the mobile space and looking at places where we thought we could win. Obviously going up against Diablo Immortal is challenging. There's a lot of foundation there. And. One of the core loops that we were looking at was in this sort of squad, idle or auto RPG space.

And, even to the today, there's still a lot of room to win there. So I think we made the right call and it's got a core loop. If we can find the right partner, I think we can deliver on this pretty quickly. And here we are, 15 months later from signing with my letter and.

We are a week away from launch. And a lot of it was, we want to have a game that smooth on mobile, that's visually stunning. And that was a companion app. And this was coming from just my experience as a gamer, who's a father and a lot of my game time is when I'm with my family.

And I need to, I've got something on the side. And Guild of Guardians was built to be something I can play full focus on, but it's also something I can run on the side. And We went really hard for the first, was it just four months to beautiful quarter where it's okay, I'm gonna get four hours of gameplay.

Like my goal is to get people to play beyond an hour because back for the original guild of guardians, what we saw with one hour play tests, people were done after about 20 minutes and that's never where you want to be with a play test. And as the beautiful corner build came together for guild of guardians, it's we're getting to the end of the hour and it's 15 minutes past and we haven't even finished typing up our feedback notes yet. We're still playing through and You took it out to the community had a really positive response to it follow that up with Friends and family again four months later And it's been just building on that core loop of, get in, spend your energy running your guardians through dungeons, leveling them up, acquiring additional resources, go into crafting, which the other side of it generating crafting materials with your factories, crafting a bunch of gear, which powers up your guardians and rinse repeating.

And at its base it's a pretty straightforward game. But there's a lot of depth in that with, at this point, 90 plus guardians with all of the different runes, all of the different monsters and bosses you face. It's simple, yet you take it into that next stage of depth, you add some competition into the mix.

So beyond the story dungeons that you run through, we have the endless dungeon, which is where competition really comes together. And essentially, in the Endless Dungeon, it's, your goal is to get as deep as you can into the dungeon before your guardians fail, and you get more points the deeper you go.

As you're going down, you're choosing which, which rooms to enter. Some are easier, some are harder, depending on, like, how healthy your guardians are. Do you go through some easy rooms to hopefully, hit some additional healing for lesser points, or do you go, hit more elite rooms?

And it's all about choice. And each run is going to be different. You're going to have different runes that you select which power up your guardians, which sometimes may let you go deeper than others. The runes you pick, the paths, the guardian combinations it takes something that at its core is very simple and makes it harder to solve.

And in my long time in gaming, like that possibility space is really important to a game's overall longevity. And some of those, it's like in card games, there's so much possibility space because you can use so many different cards in your decks and like how they come out, combine out make some really sustainable.

And in Guild of Guardians, it's just that combination of, the different guardians and their different power levels, the different challenges that you face. That sort of gives it it's oomph. And for the record, by the way, I was not actually mad when you told me. No, you wasn't.

Justin: I was scared. I was terrified. I was not actually mad. No, he wasn't mad at me, but I was not mad at all. For what it's worth I'm actually very into it. Clay tells me, oh, yeah, there's probably a fix. Cause I'm like, wow, I'm finally useful. Let me jump in and help. But I do think that For me, it's actually quite simple.

Video games are 50 percent art and 50 percent science. And from the science perspective. When I talked to the board about why we're excited about field of guardians, I point to the retention numbers, which our latest tests that we did, which was out in the wild in Indonesia was 28 percent D one, and then our friends and family tests was 48 percent D one. Oh, way higher. It was golden corded. Oh yeah. It's really like 70 plus. Oh, so I discounted that. But the main point is when you look at those tolerances those D one numbers are More than, within the range that you expect to see for what like a hit game looks like.

And then our D 30 goes between six to 13, depending on what the cohort looks like, which also is really good from the art perspective. Some of my favorite games, which is so I think I told you before to go that I'm like Filipino and American, as in I literally spent half my life in the Philippines and then half my life in the U S and play both Asian and like us games I love, love.

Like Fate Grand Order, and Epic Seven, and, Genshin Impact. And so much of what this game has just started to take is like some of the best elements of those games. Which is the collection element, the ability to play it on the fly. And much as I think that so many people in the web three space are like, and keep in mind, I worked on some of these games where Oh my God, we're going to make the next like League of Legends or like the web three Valorant.

And, I actually know a lot of those people. I think that's great. I think that like for the lives that we have right now, games that you can play When you're waiting for your Uber, when you're in between sets at the gym, which is honestly where I test GOG when you are stuck watching a Netflix show that you didn't pick, that your partner is forcing you to watch for an hour and a half.

Those are the games that can fit easily and seamlessly into your life. And that's what Guild of Guardians is trying to target. And we found that people who play this game for an hour are playing it all the time for, just from a purely anecdotal perspective. I knew that we had a good core loop on our, in our hands, have my test device and then I use my partner as the other tester.

I woke up one morning and my partner was double fisting GOG, not making breakfast. And I was like, Oh, okay. I'm like, this is ready to, this is ready to start putting into production where we could get out of pre prod and go into prod, so I think that there's a lot of things to be said about, both the hard facts that we're seeing around what will make this game successful, but also just the fact that the game is pretty fun.

Chris: That last part of it is, we've had Guild of Guardians live in a web two only since, since January in Canada. And just in a web two sense it's done well, that's where you're seeing the numbers Justin is talking about. But my experience, over the last five years in the web three spaces, as people get into that web three side of gaming and Guild of Guardians guides people, they're very, smoothly.

The retention, particularly long term retention is just so much higher. And I think that combination at launch of a solid web to game. With the web three is going to be really strong which, yeah, I'm looking forward to. And then I think the other really thing, important thing, like from gods on chain, from my experience with MTGA, like going back to MMORPGs, it's building the game from the start to evolve.

And I don't know of. I've done a lot, but particularly with Guild of Guardians, like we've built it to evolve and, we can do so much fixing modding of the game just remotely once it's launched. So we get a build up on iOS Google Play Store, and we can just change so much of it from the back end.

And that sort of mutability of the product makes it so much easier to add new content. And it's one of the things that I guess gives me tons of confidence as it likes it came like mind loader. If I made any one good bid because my load's a partner like my loaner is our partner. And they have been such a fantastic partner to work with on the product.

And, their ability to just ship new features is impressive. So as we go into launch and beyond game is definitely not complete. It's not gonna be complete for some time to come. Which is a very much a good thing, I think because there's so much room left to evolve it. And I know that working with MindLoader, we can, continue that roadmap through 2020.

What year is it now? 2024?

Chris: And beyond.

Justin: But I think, you know, this is one of the things that I, because I also in my role, Talk to other game companies that are building on immutable, right? Not necessarily games that totally fall within my preview, but other games that are building.

I give them advice on how they should think about their games. And one of the things that we did with GOG that I think is actually pretty important is test the game. In a market where no one knows that it's going to be web three to make sure the core loop is actually fun independently. That's what we do normally in web two, right?

It's like you take your game and you put it out in the wild. You see how it works when it's not juiced up with people who are super excited about that game. And that actually helps you to make choices that like in a control group. That made sure that the base game is fun. So that when you inject the web three elements on top, which kind of acts a little bit like a retention steroid, it gives you a higher chance that your game is actually going to be successful in the long run. Yeah. I actually, that's been great.

Niko: So congratulations. It sounds like some of the metrics are, at or beyond what you were hoping for. So that's all very good. It's very impressive.

Built it in 15 months, after a retool. So I've never had a harder, I was going to say that's a tough deadline to hit. So you guys are probably burning the midnight oil a little bit here. I have some questions on the web three elements. So you talked a lot about, and as you should, by the way, it's game first, you Doesn't need the web three stuff.

Doesn't need NFTs. Doesn't need ownership. Like it just needs to be fun. Too many, like over the last few years, too many developers were like, Oh, it's going to have all this own. I was guilty of exactly the same thing going back to 2020 when we, started our company. So we were all guilty of a lot of the kind of same sins, which was like, Oh, no, the ownership is like, Oh it's a whale game.

And then we're going to figure out the web too fun part later. And it's on its head. I like how you're thinking about it. Web two first, launching it purely as a web two game. No web three knowledge, even in some of these markets leads to the next question though, which is you've sounds like you've designed a very good game.

That's easy to play relatively casually, right? You can't play a really hard game, double fisting it like your partner was playing. And so that kind of leads to a question is like, how compatible is that web three component? Tell us actually a little bit about what are the web three components and say your.

What do you think are the big ones that you're putting in there that are going to be the biggest hit, so to speak, with the players? Why would they be the retention steroid? And then secondly, are they fully compatible with what sounds like a kind of an auto RPG mode that perhaps, if I'm reading between the lines, many or most players are playing.

It more casually than they are playing super like hardcore. So once again, a long question but you guys had a long answer. That's good. I don't want to dig into that a little bit.

Justin: I'm going to take some credit for this one because it was like, one of the things that we were looking at in part of our research, which was also driven by some of my experiences.

So You know, games like Fate Grand Order, games like Genshin Impact, games like Epic Seven, are games that actually have a thriving black market underneath them, right? These are games where people will pay to train up and level up characters. These are games where people will Pay for accounts through like shady discord and WeChat deals to get the specific, like an FGL, like I really want that saver, or I really want that rare character so that I can put them into my squad.

These are games where, you know, getting dupe, rolling for the duplicate so that you can level up the character, we're games where whales will spend hundreds or thousands of dollars in order to capture this market. So to a certain extent, we were trying to find. Genres where some of the like behavior was incredibly compatible with Web3 and I say this as someone who is very guilty of at least in Asia, like mildly dolphining out and at least in Australia, it's hardcore way off.

Niko: And that's Dolphining out. Alright, you may have coined that term here, but it's dolphining out. Obviously we've heard of it.

Justin: No, compared to some when I moved here from Singapore, my friends were like, Oh, you're such a like, you're not a whale, you're like a dolphin. I moved to Australia and everyone was like, Oh my god, you're totally a whale, right?

But the thing that becomes really interesting about it is that if you like these types of games where you have to collect, and level up, and have duplicate characters, and you are used to the web2 path where all of those assets are locked to a single account, where you, where, You can't really get them from external markets unless you're breaking the terms of service in order to take accounts from shady places and definitely can't combine the assets from those accounts in order to get what you want, right?

Web3 actually offers an incredibly easy and natural solution for you to be able to get those assets, collect those assets in a way that's much more efficient than you would normally in Web 2. And so one of the things that we were thinking about here is I was thinking about not just real problems that players have from, the market research we're doing, but thinking about genres of games where I wish that I actually was able to go buy duplicates of my, fake iron order, for example, my saber, right?

Or for my Merlin and be able to collect them off the market instead of just rolling and rolling on a single account. So At a base level, just in terms of just that pure functionality, GOG solves that problem for players who love these kinds of collector gacha games where you're trying to build up these super powerful characters.

In order to do that, you need to roll and roll. You can now roll and roll on Web 2. We haven't closed that path off. If you want to do it the normal way, you can. It's much more efficient and actually cheaper for you if you engage with the Web3 portion of it, to be able to level up those characters in a way that makes sense.

So from my perspective, there's a lot of other Web3 features that we're putting on top of that to make it easier. Things like leaderboards, things like the ability to earn tokens, things like the ability to share, affiliate links. But the core functionality is that if you are actually someone who loves these kind of collector squad, gotcha RPG games.

I think that this has the best potential value out of any of the games out there. And as someone who loves a lot of those games and has accounts on those games that are worth thousands and thousands of dollars, which I can no longer trade. Easily, to me, I think that actually solves the problem really quite elegant.

Niko: All right. So you're, you are both boldly putting for, gave both gameplay reasons and for, market research slash market fit. Let's just say I'm also collecting characters now. All right. You're getting ready for the sales for real. Yes.

Chris: I hear you. I did buy myself an energy token after the last one.

I was like, man, now it's like it was going to do it. It was like, and then I'm like, I like, just so you know, guys, I'm buying mine after this one.

Niko: There you go. There you go. Love it.

Chris: There are other NFTs in the mix. Another big one on the NFT side being guilds and guilds are just going to be in their infancy and Guild of Guardians at launch.

But like long term actually even allowed that long term looking at the roadmap. That's going to be some of what we're evolving next, adding those additional layers into how guilds interact with all of this and what they can do to enhance their guild members power and crafting some powerful artifacts in the mix but maybe that'll be a future one.

Niko: Nice, nice. You're always welcome back anytime. This is a very exciting topic and very interesting to hear. And you're saying flagship game and you're. Standing behind it, at least at this moment in time, so May 15th is when it's coming out. You teased a little bit Clay, already about what the kind of post launch roadmap looks like.

Obviously games are never done. Great to hear that your partner is good at LiveOps, because LiveOps in Web 3 is by no means guaranteed. And many developers are not that great at it. So you gotta have all the, yeah, you're nodding your head and laughing a little bit here.

Chris: Yeah, I mean I've done 24 years of basically live games.

I've always worked in MMORPGs or like MTGA. And it's it's in my blood. If you make me make a single player game, I'm just like, wait, how do you do that? Yeah.

Niko: I'm actually a sidebar here. I'm a massive Civ six civilization, six fan. And that game, yes, they do a certain level of live ups with like their content packs, but it is so frustrating that the game sits still for a year, two years at a time.

And, it's just, anyway, don't get me started. And as an ex Zynga PM GM that was, live offices in our blood too, there. Yeah very Contrasting brain left brain thing going on here. Okay. So talk a little bit more about what's in the post launch roadmap post May 15th, like what are you looking to accomplish?

This is a full public, worldwide launch. So it's a big deal. You're clearly confident that you've got the metrics to back it up. How long is it going to sit? How long are you going to collect data? Do you go to live ops right away? And it's feature after feature here we go. Do you ramp up the team?

There are a lot of considerations when you launch a game, especially a big public launch. You can either scale up or you can sit back and wait and watch the numbers come in. Where do you go from here? This is one of those things where Alyssa called me and she was like, you have to make sure that you're careful.

Justin: Media training.

Niko: Clay, you had the right media training at the start of the podcast.

Chris: At its most basic. Like with any launch big part of the team is just going to be responding to what we learned. And we've got new A. V. testing functionality. We've got a number of things in the mix, particularly with early onboarding.

Mostly because we found that if people hit 50 minutes of gameplay they retain way better than market. But if they don't not quite as well. So it's like getting people to that magic moment, trying to pull that, that, that time in. So some of it is just going to be optimizing what is there.

But in terms of live operations I cannot spoil marketing's fun too much, but a lot of it is going to come down to those leaderboards. And this is web three and making it really appealing for people to come try out guild of guardians to compete for some of those leaderboard rewards.

So like in that, like the live operations of Endless, leaderboards, we've got a new mode called boss rush which has much quicker engagement. So for the whales out there that don't want to spend the time doing the deep endless runs, they can get more in boss rush. We've got PVP and that live ops schedule of each of those running.

And then getting special events into the mix. We also sold a bunch of esports guardians and you're having rules where you've got to have those guardians to play in the mix. Is part of that special eventing beyond just, holidays in the mix. So we've got that. We've got our path of additional guardian releases, which I think is going to be big, getting these new guardians into the mix to expand out that possibility space of guarding combinations, and then it's going to be the additional features.

And our road map there is not yet done. There's a lot of work to do on the guild side of things. There is additional just handholding when it comes to fleshing out just web three onboarding. I think that's going to be a big area that initially the discovery ability is that quite where I want it.

So we'll be having, external guides by getting that into the game itself. And then, yeah, things like pets in the mix. And it's just going to be getting these features out one by one. We've got a really good high level roadmap at the moment. Launch destroys all plans. We'll see, in the chaos that is any launch period exactly where they shift.

But yeah, like when it comes to the high level roadmap, pretty confident at the moment and definitely dead set on the live operations.

Justin: I'm not worried there. But TLDR, Niko, what we can tell you also is that all of those things will be broken into roughly three acts. Over launch. Starting on May 15th, ending around August 1st night and each of those different phases will reflect different sort of progressions of this like mythical enemy called the dread, which will coincide with major feature releases in those three acts.

Oh, so lot of lore. Yeah, lore. It's a lore driven act launch thing. Nice. Which is all the tide to the roadmap that clay is putting together.

Chris: Nice. Yeah. I have way this has worked out well, Justin's, Justin loves it's teasing the storytelling world building side of it. It's not that I don't, I just like making things work.

Yeah. And you get those two in combination. I can't wait for the world to see the launch trailer. It makes good stuff.

Niko: This episode is slated to air on the 14th. Even though we're recording it just over a week plus in advance, what a great time for our listeners who happen to be listening on the day this episode drops.

Get out there and get yourself into Guild of Guardians, May 15th is the global public launch. I had so many more questions. I know you guys have a hard stop and I'm going to respect that, but I do have to ask my final question that I ask all my guests that you can power through these real fast.

Web two, web three, analog games, doesn't matter. What are your favorite three games you're playing right now? Or are most excited by, and you can't pick your own.

Do I have to do three? Yeah. I don't have time.

Chris: I'm launching a game. I don't have time for three games in my life.

Justin: We were just talking about this yesterday, which is that like we were talking. So I really love like Paradox Games. I think we talked about this on the last podcast. And I have not allowed myself to play anything new until this launch, basically.

Chris: Good for you.

Justin: But the game that I'm excited about. I'm excited about Manor Lords. I'm excited to actually try out Manor Lords after May 15th and then games that I play to relax that are not me testing GOG, essentially replaying TFT, which was a game that I used to work on, right? And playing Stellaris.

Which is just the game that I've been playing for years, and I'm only playing those just because I cannot start a new game right now while I'm finishing GOG.

Chris: Yeah, I mean for me, My game time is down a lot right now but I spend a fair amount of time just trying to play obscure games on Steam.

And games that are just a little bit different. One of the big ones right now is Songs of Six. It's a little like Dwarf Fortressy style game that it's very meditative. And in the little bit of time I have to like hop on that and playing that. Manor Lords is high on my list post launch when things calm down.

Justin: But I love to play Manor Lords.

Chris: Yeah, I know. I haven't, I, I have I wanted to this weekend, but I resisted. And yeah, some of it is like going back to the old classics too right now. So Griftlands is one that I've been playing, can get through a run in just a couple of hours.

Niko: That's a good list there. Good list there. Yeah, I've been getting nostalgic for old games as well, but we don't have time to get into all of those. So I just wanted to say a huge thank you to both of you. Justin clay. Thank you so much for coming on the pod today. Real pleasure. Best of luck with the launch May 15th Guild of Guardians.

A lot of other stuff going on that we didn't get to talk about with a meetable Robbie. Teased a hundred plus games launching in 2024 or mostly launching in 2024. Justin, I think you mentioned 200 games under development, probably not all launching this year. I know you guys have a hard stop, so I'm going to stop it here.

Justin, thank you. Clay, thank you. so much. And of course, as always, a big thank you to all of our listeners. We'll be back next week with more interviews, more insights, and more analysis from the weird and wonderful world of web3. So until next time, friends stay crypto curious, and feel free to send questions, guests, recommendations, and comments to me, my email is [email protected].

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