Game Design Principles for Web3

On our mission to revolutionize Web3 gaming by bringing it to the masses, we’re focusing on one simple core idea: build great games! And it’s our strong belief that building great games starts with having great foundational game design principles that fit the context at hand.

Building for the long term

When Candy Crush Saga was released in 2012, no one could foresee the phenomenon it would become. Moreover, internally everyone assumed the success would be relatively short lived, and started planning for sequels that could replace Candy Crush Saga once its popularity had ebbed away. The last level in the original release of Candy Crush Saga was level 65!

Now we’re here, a decade and literally tens of thousands of levels later, and even though the Candy family consists of a few more siblings, the original Candy Crush is still one of the most popular, beloved and profitable games in the world.

Since we believe the future of gaming lies in Web3, we’re in it for the long haul. And with the above lessons in mind, this is why we take a sustainable approach to everything we do. This is our mantra. Whether that be applied to growing the community steadily in a sustainable way by managing the influx of new players. Or to how we approach growing the economy and progression systems in and around our games relative to the community growth. This mindset influences all our decisions, in all areas, especially in our game design.

Game design principles

So how do you build an economically sustainable gaming ecosystem for Web3? There are many facets to that question, but one perspective for sure lies in the game design. Other perspectives, like tokenomics (that of course have large overlap with in-game economy design), managing community growth, health and quality as well as long term strategies of onboarding non-crypto-natives to access a larger audience, will be discussed in future articles. For this article, we’ll focus on our principles from a game design perspective.

To build great games for Web3 we adhere to three game design pillars:

  1. Entertaining core — Strive for a fun, challenging and sticky core.
  2. Engaging packaging — Develop an immersive world in which players can lose themselves.
  3. Economic sustainability — Build a robust economy with an infinite mind set.

Below I’ll go through what these pillars mean to us, why we believe they are important, and exemplify how we’re applying them in our games and universe.

Entertaining core

When we talk about our games being entertaining at the core, some of the experiences we’re striving to create are:

  • Moment to moment excitement.
  • A well balanced experience of skill and randomness, with strategic depth.
  • A long term rewarding experience.

This is extremely important to us, because we believe that building a truly sustainable ecosystem is only achievable through a good balance of different types of users. For players to be able to profit from playing our game and interacting with our ecosystem, there also has to be players that are willing to pay for the entertainment value of our games in the long term. Not to mention the fact that also players who want to earn, deserve to enjoy themselves while doing so.

A few examples of how we aim to achieve these goals are to focus not only on extrinsic rewards but also on intrinsic motivations when designing our games. It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing too much on the monetary benefits and rewards when designing games for Web3. As such we want to make sure we support more traditional reasons to play, so that as many players as possible will want to play our games for their pure entertainment value.

For our first game we have identified a genre that we believe fits the bill very well. It is perfectly suited for both a Web3 experience, as well as fits great into our planned product portfolio. In our autochess-style battle game, you’ll only achieve true mastery by learning how all the classes and affinities play, which synergies combine well, and which skills are best in which situations. Players will also have the autonomy to build the team of their dreams. This team building is of course enabled by true ownership on-chain. In-game, the long term motivation and purpose is about progressing and improving your team, e.g. by upgrading your dragons. We’ll achieve this by applying our team’s combined years of experience of best practices from building progression systems that support long term motivations and rewards long term engagement.

But most of all, a shared purpose much larger than the game itself or any individual motivations, we have in the community and the culture we’re building together. This is where the social aspects of Web3 truly shines in our community first approach.

Engaging packaging

Worldbuilding is at the heart of our proposition and how we package the core experience. Even though we believe the content and the core comes first for any single Web3 game to be successful, the universe we’re building is essential for all games going forward. Not to mention the narrative and story around it all. Some of the goals we’re aiming for are that:

  • The concept and theme should be immersive and evergreen.
  • The art has to be striking.
  • The packaging needs to be approachable and accessible.

One thing we identified early on is: Everyone loves Dragons! That’s what both our gut, and our research told us. And where do dragons live? In a fantasy world, of course. And that’s where the opportunity meets our passion! And through that synthesis, the idea of Eternal Dragons was born.

All this is extremely important to us, because it lies at the heart of our IP, that powers our portfolio of games. But especially because it is essential for the community and the culture we’re building. For us, world building is one of the key foundations that we can gather the community around. Both as our version of gathering around the campfire to tell great stories, but also as being a vehicle for inclusion and co-creation.

To continue on the world building we’ve started, among other things we’re making sure to expand on the narrative, deepening the immersion into the Eternal Dragons universe. We’ll tell these stories using different media, like lore pieces, illustrations, and even teaser trailers. Meanwhile we’re onboarding some of the best artists in the business. There are some exciting announcements coming soon.

Lastly, we think it’s important to make the onboarding experience as smooth and frictionless as possible, to make our games as approachable and accessible as they can be. To do that we’re focusing on avoiding blockchain-specific language, providing a soft onboarding for new players and to only introduce blockchain concepts as a value add to players once it’s relevant. This will not be the main focus of our first staged releases of Chapter 1, but we’ll give increasingly more attention to this aspect as we develop the game and the franchise further, in order to onboard new user segments into our world.

All of the above examples will be integrated in our core games, across the product portfolio, to create an approachable and cohesive experience in a shared universe of awe and wonder.

Economic sustainability

One of the absolutely most important aspects of building successful Web3 games we believe is the economy. On a high level, our goals in designing our economies are that the economy:

  • Is robust enough to handle expansive growth as well as pullbacks.
    - Has enough taps and sinks, and flexibility to add more, with tight controls.It has to be able to sink a lot of repeat spend from players paying for entertainment.
  • Can grow together with the community.

As mentioned many times in this article (as well as in a multitude of other Medium articles and Twitter threads), economic sustainability is key for the longevity of any Web3 project.

In order to future proof our economy we’re not just focusing on making our games fun and entertaining. We’re also focusing on ensuring that players who are happy to pay for the entertainment value, can sink a lot of repeat spend into the system. As such we’re serving many more user needs than e.g. a traditional free-to-play game, that only is there to benefit developers and platforms. Rather, our model wishes to distribute the value created much wider. The value we deliver is for some users entertainment, for others monetary benefits. Our economy design will always strive to find a good equilibrium in balancing these (and other) value propositions to the right users.

Some of the mechanics and tools we’re using to achieve these goals, to name a few, are:

  • Slowly scaling progression systems that can be controlled to grow alongside maturing user cohorts.
    - An example of this type of lever is our unique Grade-system. This system ensures that the power cap of the ecosystem grows together with the community, and guarantees scarcity of power while also making sure there is a low barrier of entry for new players in the future. More on this will be explained in a later article.
  • Fusion mechanics.
  • Dynamic costs, rewards, interest rates and vesting schedules that can be automatically updated using ML, based on market conditions.
  • Seasonal competitions and live-ops.

There are many more levers we’re using to ensure the long term sustainability and stability of our ecosystem’s economy. As mentioned above, we have a mindful focus on the intrinsic motivations that also motivate players to invest into, and not only extract from the economy, as well as levers to control the influx of new players. In addition to this we also lean heavily into our strategy of providing an extendable utility of NFTs across different experiences. This strategy not only extends the NFT utility, but also allows the NFTs to appeal to different types of users and serve different player needs in other games, which is also an important key to growing the ecosystem.

Ending notes

There is of course much more complexity and nuance to all of this. We will talk more in-depth about our solutions to some of these, and other, challenges in future articles.

But suffice to say that, being in it for the long haul, we prioritize controlled and sustainable growth in everything we do. This is a longplay to nurture a healthy balance of both paying and earning players, since we believe that long term sustainability is only achievable through wider, mass market adoption. We aim to achieve this, by focusing on building great games, and continuously delivering value, content and entertainment to our community.

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Eternal Dragons by Trailblazer Games. Play & Prosper with unique Dragon NFTs across multiple games in the ever expanding world of Eternal Dragons.

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Eternal Dragons

Eternal Dragons by Trailblazer Games. Play & Prosper with unique Dragon NFTs across multiple games in the ever expanding world of Eternal Dragons.