Could ‘Big Time’ Change the Trajectory of Crypto Gaming? – Decrypt
Decentraland and Zynga alum Thor Alexander wants to change the narrative around NFT in the video game industry.
As executive producer of the upcoming third-person multiplayer role-playing game “Big Time,” Alexander is passionate about making the title feel like a “second-generation crypto game” that goes beyond the 2D experience of gaming. ‘a title to win like “Axie Infinity”, who fell out of favor this year after facing falling token prices and a massive $622 million hack.
“Big Time” must be different.
“One of our biggest challenges has been introducing traditional players to our idea of Web3“, said Alexander Decrypt by email. “Many of them had early experiences with NFTs that ended up being mats/scams, which left a bad taste in their mouths.”
“Big Time” is currently in early access development and only available to select Ambassadors and Creators as well as purchasers of its VIP Passes, which may cost more than $4,500 depending on the level purchased.
A gold standard
As executive producer of ‘Big Time’, Alexander is very focused on developing his game. economy.
“This is one of the most important next steps,” Alexander said, adding that “there is no set timeline” for when the game will leave its current stage of development.
“Big Time is currently in early access co-development with our community,” he wrote. “When they tell us the game is ready, we’ll open it up to more users.”
Alexander has worked in the video game industry since 1992, cutting his teeth on a number of different titles like “Medal of Honor” and “Ultima X” for Electronic Arts for seven years before collaborating with Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz on Metaplace. The social game company was later sold to Disney, and Alexander went to Zynga to work on the now-defunct “PetVille” and “CityVille,” to name a few.
“Big Time’s development process is a throwback to small games from the late 90s,” Alexander said. “We don’t have a huge budget or six years to build the game, so we borrowed the development processes and design thinking that’s been used in previous MMOs and RPGs.”
When asked where he will see “Big Time” in a few years, Alexander is optimistic.
“We would like to see ‘Big Time’ serve as a benchmark for what NFTs and crypto can offer gamers and the gaming industry itself. Currently, there is generally cynicism around first-gen crypto games.
Gamblers and Greed
The seasoned executive isn’t afraid of the army of NFT detractors that seem to be proliferating in the traditional gaming space, calling the whole crypto backlash in gaming a “pretty normal reaction.”
“We saw a similar trend with early free-to-play (F2P) games where their thin nature made it very hard to judge how things would play out. Fast forward a few years after “FarmVille” and the same basic F2P mechanics fueled huge mainstream gaming hits like “League of Legends” and “Fortnite.”
But why do some gamers specifically hate NFTs? Gamers think publishers are “greedy,” Alexander said, and see NFTs as the next way studios will “come for their wallet.”
Also, efforts by some game studios to call their NFTs “digital collectibles” or other such euphemisms don’t help, Alexander said.
“Gamers are not easily fooled by marketing buzzwords. What we need to do is show them how NFTs can positively impact gaming.
“For years, players felt like they weren’t getting value for their money and the time they spent in the game,” explained Alexander. “[Traditional] studios squeeze their players to the last penny, to the detriment of the player experience.
With player ownership through Web3, things could be different, in the right hands.
“If done right, blockchain technology opens up the world to gamers, allowing them to truly own the assets they collect in-game,” he said.
First Look Thoughts
When I logged into “Big Time” I felt like I was about to jump into a game of “Fortnite” or “Dauntless” because the game’s aesthetics and UI seem clean and transparent. It screams Epic Games Store Material.
But I also encountered a visual warning: “The game is a work in progress and you should expect to encounter unfinished, unpolished, or downright broken content along the way.”
Well, that’s definitely one way to manage expectations.
That said, I was impressed with how many different servers the game already has online, despite still being in development. “Big Time” has servers in Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo, Seoul, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, and Singapore – an impressive array of locations comparable to a AAA Blizzard title like “Overwatch.”
Strong servers are the foundation of great games and cause major frustration for players when they crumble (looking at you, “Apex Legends”).
Network latency of “Big Time” – colloquially referred to by gamers as ping – was also good, ranging from 12-50ms in my Los Angeles-based test.
Why is ping important? Well, a low ping is essential for a smooth and enjoyable gaming experience, especially when playing a multiplayer online game that involves hitting targets. This is especially important for first-person shooter titles like “Call of Duty” and “Valorant” and RPGs like “Big Time” itself.
It’s not unfair to compare “Big Time” to those big Web2 competitors, considering that Big Time Studios developers are drawn from Epic Games, Electronic Arts, Riot Games, and more. And in May 2021, Big Time Studios raised millions in funding from the likes of FTX Alameda Search and Ashton Kutcher’s venture capital firm Sound Ventures.
“Big Time” had the spirit of “Dauntless” with an aesthetic similar to “Pokemon Sword and Shield” mixed with “Fortnite”. When it comes to combat animations and slaying enemies, the movements are smooth, satisfying and require precision and foresight. It looks like a good RPG.
While the character model graphics are arguably simplistic, the environments look good. I imagine the game runs well even on low-end PCs. On my bloated gaming rig and 240Hz monitor, the single-player experience was very smooth, but left me wanting a bit more detail graphically.
alexander said Decrypt that Big Time Studios chose “a very sleek look” implemented to “keep our art production under control”.
And fair enough, there’s something to be said for games that don’t invest too much in graphical detail so users with cheaper PCs can actually enjoy the game.
Surprisingly, however, neither crypto nor NFTs played a role in my first few hours of “Big Time” gaming. If no one had told me, I wouldn’t even have known it was a “crypto game”. So as it stands, Big Time’s crypto-economy poses no threat to its gaming experience.
But higher level players can embark on quests and dungeon runs that can earn them NFTs. These can then be sold for anywhere from a few dollars to over $500 per item on the “Big Time” online marketplace.
Room to grow
While it’s still in development, what do other players think of “Big Time” so far?
Jonah Blake, founder and head of games at Web3 VC Game Fund Partners, thinks the title is off to a good start, but might still need a few tweaks.
“I think they have the structure of a great game, but they’re ahead of the game and lack the content needed to get traditional players to change,” Blake said. Decrypt by MP Twitter.
“I would say the enemy variety is sorely lacking, the sound design needs improvement, and the raids feel gritty,” he explained. “The good thing is that the world design is extremely pretty and I think the story concept is compelling. It needs more time in the oven and probably more capital to move forward.
An early access “Big Time” player who spent more than 12 hours in-game with friends said he regretted his $20,000 purchase.
“I paid about 6 ETH for 3 Gold Passes, which was almost 20,000 at the time,” said G.nft Decrypt. “They announced a game model to win a limited supply [of NFTs] during gold.
But anyone who has kept their expensive Gold Pass has seen their chances of return on investment dwindle over time, G.nft said.
“Early investors/supporters who held NFTs ended up being diluted. The gold pass was diluted as more than tens of thousands of NFTs were produced during silver, jade and ruby [Passes].”
As the first buyer, G.nft said it felt Big Time Studios “didn’t deliver” on its promises.
In contrast, the Web3 game content creator Brycent had a more positive experience with “Big Time” so far.
“We see a game creating an ecosystem to incorporate non-Web3 players in innovative ways,” Brycent said. Decrypt by MP Twitter. “I think it’s powerful and with the right cultivation of storyline and lore, the game has a great chance of succeeding.”
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