Hello, this is Conward with Crypto Loops. Today, we will be going over a recent interview we conducted with the CEO of Rektangular Studios. These are the individuals who, for fund 4 under Dapps and Integration, submitted the idea for the Novellia Gaming Platform and Store. We covered their project a little bit in a previous video, but we’ll be going more in-depth on the project with our recent, written interview.
Conward: I want to thank you for taking time out of your day to respond to some of our question. I don’t want to waste any time, so the first question is, “What made Rektangular Studios decide to build on Cardano’s Blockchain?”
CEO: We don’t think there’s another blockchain that provides what we need. Cardano will have deterministic contract fees, low costs, and Hydra. Users don’t want blockchain if it means paying exorbitant fees, or somehow degrading their experience.
We also feel that the team behind Cardano has also built a lot of trust: they get things done right. It would be a shame if we spent a lot of time developing only to discover the blockchain we want to use simply doesn’t work.
From a business perspective, it also makes sense. We expect ADA prices to soar, to generate passive income as a Stake Pool Operator (SPO), and Project Catalyst has the potential to fund our seed round. The market is relatively untapped, which is ripe for a vertical.
Conward: Can you tell us a little bit about where your idea for the Novellia game and platform originated? Did strategy games like Duelyst or Gods Unchained shape your vision for Novellia?
CEO: The game, Occulta Novellia, was actually the first idea, not the Novellia Platform. We’re really coming from the perspective of developers that want to use their own tooling.
We were finishing early drafts of the game design when we realized we wanted decentralized modding. A blockchain is the perfect environment for collaboration. Slowly, our feature requirements became equivalent to a decentralized market. We decided: why not?
Initially, the team just wanted to make a game: anything. After much deliberation on how we could use Cardano, we realized that blockchain had to come first. This meant:
- Transcriptable gameplay which could be made turn-based using Hydra.
- Collectibles and in-game items.
At first, a Pokemon clone seemed like a good idea, but we saw all these cash grabs that we didn’t want to be associated with. So we turned to three turn-based titles we all loved:
- Fire Emblem
- Divinity: Original Sin II
All of these focus around lore and stories. Having two metalheads on the team, we thought something mysterious and horrific would be incredible. That’s why we picked the surreal horror genre. The name Occulta Novellia is basically code for “horrific stories”.
We use Gods Unchained for inspiration all the time. I’ve never heard of Duelyst though.
Conward: It looks like you and your team have put a lot work into developing Novellia and optimizing the user experience. Does the studio have an idea of when gamers or consumers might be able to see an alpha version?
CEO: Yes, we’re aiming for May 3rd for the initial deployment of the Novellia Dashboard as a web-app only. This will be followed by a short QA period before we list some Occulta Novellia characters for presale as tokens. We plan to execute the listings on May 17th at the latest.
An Electron version will come later to act as an installer and launcher for the Occulta Novellia game. The Novellia infrastructure will provide some much needed infrastructure for the game.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot we can’t do until Plutus arrives though, especially around decentralization concerns. As a result, we’re just doing what we can.
We expect a lot more manpower to be available May through August that will allow us to deliver much quicker. Having gone through the initial growing pains of starting a company, we are already noticing a gradual acceleration.
Conward: Since integrating an intricate game with the Cardano Platform is still a pretty new endeavor, what would you say are some of the challenges you have encountered?
CEO: We’ve realized that blockchain itself isn’t that complicated, what’s difficult is finding an optimal fit. We didn’t want to make a blockchain game for the sake of it, we’re not in the business of finding problems for solutions.
There’s a bit of a linear scale on what a developer can do design-wise:
- Arbitrary game design. Can only support items on-chain. Actions are centralized.
- A game where events can be made into a transcript (think Chess). This can technically be totally decentralized, but can be expensive. At the least, regulating rules around the transcript means that after a match ends, some kind of consensus verification can occur to determine foul-play.
- An asynchronous game where each atomic action is a transaction. Since control is periodic, gameplay must be generated by the progression of the Cardano blockchain. This means real-time play isn’t possible. The use case for this kind of game would be like if you wanted to send a transaction to configure some kind of AI for a battle, and then wanted to watch it unfold using the blockchain data as the official determination of “what happened”.
Find a way to make a game all of:
- Cheap to play
is nearly impossible without creatively designing game mechanics. You can’t just take any game and put it on blockchain.
Conward: What kind of support and resources have you found most useful for the development of Occulta Novellia or the Novellia platform?
CEO: Honestly, I heard someone made a proposal to incentivize documentation creation. I hope they get funded. There’s some patchwork documentation, but most of our velocity comes from a “just do it” mentality and we just figure things out.
The best documentation is more related to stake pool operation. CoinCashew has an awesome guide I like to use as a reference.
Conward: Since we know users will give feedback, which I think is an excellent way to draw in new users, can you mention a few of the aspects of the game users will get to vote on?
CEO: We think waterfall development is a waste of time. Who wants to spend a year developing a product that it turns out no one wants?
While users won’t be able to vote on features, they won’t need to. They’ll be playtesting as soon as a minimal game is ready.
There’s going to be two kinds of voting on Novellia:
- Voting on proposals to mutate product listings on the DAO. This determines what shows up on the Novellia Dashboard. Voting is weighted using a governance token (NVLA).
- Voting on game features. This has no real authority since we want developers to maintain their creative freedom. Voting is weighted by in-game assets owned. This is just for polling the community.
Now, this doesn’t mean developers have free reign to release garbage. If low quality content is released, someone is likely to propose a delisting or reversal of the latest update. How to implement this in a way that’s fair for both developers and the community will be interesting.
Conward: I have a question about site maintenance and logistics. With video game NFTs having qualities built into them, how would Novellia be able to implement patches, nerfs, or buffs to NFTs?
CEO: This is a really good question.
Because developers will have to submit a proposal to update reference to decentralized storage, we effectively have Proof-of-Stake for game content.
This means that users voting for an update would be very likely to swap their current tokens for upgraded ones, for example.
But, this requires manual effort on the owner’s behalf, and a swap fee. We want to avoid this.
The solution is to just update the meaning of the tokens, or what they’re pointing at. This may mean updating a registry on a smart contract.
For Occulta Novellia, we decided that character cards don’t really need a lot of numerical values. How do you update a physical trading card?
You update the rules, the interpretation of the language physically written on the card. Likewise, we’re storing text like “bite” on the token, and what move this could enable is going to depend on factors like which rules a match is using. Tournaments may prefer limited modes, for example. In this case, there’s no way for new cards to break old ones, because a match restricted to old cards would prevent that.
This ensures that old tokens are never truly outdated.
Conward: And last but not least, speaking of NFTs, I’m curious whether players will also get the chance to propose new NFTs, designs, storylines, etc?
CEO: Yes! We want to create a living ecosystem.
Recently, we started doing this by hiring two artists from r/Cardano on Reddit. The artwork was awesome, and we paid in ADA of course!
Once the Novellia Dashboard is released, we plan to host some events for lore / stories to start building a universe around the characters. This may include distributing tokens to winners or work we really like.
While Novellia will eventually permit voting to automate this, we also want to personally initiate events like this to incentivize community interaction.
When Novellia is live with voting support, users will be able to propose listing their tokens, stories, etc. to be playable in Occulta Novellia. These will be usable in custom modes while official content and modes will allow us to steer a bit. If we really like some content, we think we’d also add them to our official modes, but some stability is required to ensure at least a few game modes can’t break from balancing issues. In fact, player made campaigns / stories were the original motivation for Novellia.
We recognize that our Wiki is presently insufficient to support this use case at scale, so will be investigating ways to develop the “never ending” lore in a systematically regulated manner.
We think the universe of Occulta Novellia will become bigger than the game. Honing the creativity for offline play in games like Tavern Tales and Dungeons and Dragons is definitely a goal.
We would really like to try https://smoothrpg.wordpress.com once the lore is fleshed out. It’d be a lot of fun.
Conward: This is so much exciting stuff! First of all, I’d really like to thank Rektangular Studio and their CEO for taking the time to be interviewed and providing the community this opportunity to learn more about your projects. There are many things about the Occulta Novellia concept that I am really excited about, for example, it will be a great creative adventure to diversify the decentralized applications that are built on the Cardano blockchain.
As a gamer myself, I am particularly happy to see that there is going to be a DApp platform that specifically caters to the fantasy and gaming enthusiast demographic, and not limited to those that work in the financial realm. I hope this project gets the funding it needs to propel it forward, and I am definitely looking forward to seeing it take shape and succeed.
This was really informative, and it sounds like a great project that can really help draw more people to the NFT market, especially because so many people aren’t sure of their use, given how new they are. Game-ifying them, as your project does, helps fill that gap.
It was great to have you on to talk about Occulta Novellia the game and platform, and to help us learn more about its development. I think it sounds great, and I’m looking forward to watching this project continue to grow. Below we will be leaving links to their website and social medias.
Thanks for being with us today.