Some thresholds aren’t crossable.
Originally I meant to add this to the dev blog, but they aren’t the same thing, only related. So we’re starting a new blog series where contributors can shed light on things in a more personal way. Everything below is my opinion, so keep in mind that I speak only for myself. But I believe this thinking is familiar to many on the team. We’re proud of our work and sometimes want to take the time to explain what we think makes us different or what our vision for the project is.
And that’s what I would like to talk about this month: Vision. So if you’re willing to indulge me, get comfortable as I take you on a journey.
Usually, I get straight to the point. I’m relatively direct, but unfortunately, it is hard to discuss what Illuvium is without first discussing what we are not, especially when others falsely claim to be similar or better. Illuvium is not a short term project. It has never been a project where a few public members find out early and flip quickly. You’ll notice that we don’t sell people on hope. You can’t buy an Illuvial yet because we want the ecosystem to be fair. If you want to buy a picture of a sword or ship (or creature or enchanted turtleneck) because a dev swears that they will “totally make a great game later on”, there are hundreds of projects for you. On the other hand, we already have more than 150 collectibles completed in AAA quality. In addition to that, we have two regions nearly complete and four more underway, as part of an eight region world that (surprise) has plans to grow over time.
Soon we will have three solid games to play. The feedback has been encouraging, and we’re only getting started. But still, you can’t buy the collectibles yet, because that is not fair. Forcing you to gamble is not something we find acceptable.
Making a killer GameFi protocol requires three ingredients: Collectors, Investors, and Gamers. So far, I argue there are very few projects that have attracted anything more than investors. It makes sense, though. Crypto has mainly been about investment. So NFT games have focused on allowing people to buy NFTs in the hopes that someone else will buy them later, with almost no thought outside of that.
You could argue that someone who buys NFTs is a ‘collector’ by default, but I don’t think that is accurate. At least not for many projects. Collectors tend to be those who find something that they NEED. It doesn’t matter if it is a stamp collection, coins, or cards. People attempt to get the whole set (or as close as possible) because it is a passion. It is an activity worth doing for the sake of itself. In my opinion, beanie babies weren’t for collectors. There was a narrative that they would rise in value forever, and people bought into the hype as investors.
For us, collecting is at the heart of everything we make. I learned this from others on the project.
Look at the characters. It is effortless to make procedural 2d art, but we chose a different path. Unique 2d art is more challenging but still not super complex. But we didn’t choose that route. We chose to make high-quality 3d creature art, arguably the most challenging path to take. Nothing about that choice guarantees success, but it ensures that very few projects can copy you if you make something worth collecting. 3d creature art is particularly complex because of the different skeletal structures. That is why most games use humanoids.
If you want to collect Illuvials because you think they are cool, cute, or exciting, you can be confident others feel the same. That attracts collectors who aren’t just looking to flip something for a profit.
Gamers take the project to a new level via constant engagement. They tend to join games, fall in love, and learn the lore or gameplay at a high level. From there, they tend to stay for a long time. These people are our focus because we are them. We want people theorycrafting (check), watching online (check), and competing (check). When you get this level of engagement, you know there is more to it than investors pushing their investments. Hundreds of people don’t join a Discord stream because they need to shill something. They do it because they are genuinely interested in the result. That’s engagement. We still have lots of work to do, but even having this as a goal from the start puts us ahead of many NFT games. Eventually, we will draw players from mainstream titles. They might take a peek due to seeing a headline about huge prizemoney, or hear that their friend makes money trading assets, but they will stay because they learn it, love it, and live it.
Most projects are filled with only investors, as I said above. But what type of investors are they? Every good investor knows that if the only thing propping up a project is inflation and people joining because they heard about a pump, the project will crash hard. Real investors look for fundamentals. And in the NFT GameFi space, the fundamentals are the number of Real Collectors and Real Gamers. As an investor, you don’t need to understand the game. You only need to understand that the user base loves it and comes back for more. Only then can there be sustainability.
We achieve our dream by being as good as mainstream games, but with decentralised governance grounded in the very people who love it. I don’t see a lot of that elsewhere.
What Is Illuvium
People are sleeping on the promise of Illuvium because they don’t see what a good project can be. Instead, they compare us to what exists currently. Illuvium is a universe. It is a suite of games, all designed with a singular purpose: To provide Real Collectors and Real Gamers an outlet that is tangible, comfortable, and familiar. Everyone seeks to own Illuvials for a myriad of reasons.
Collectors want to own entire sets. Some seek perfect stats, certain lines, or particular finishes. They might also be gamers, but their drive is completionism.
Gamers need Illuvials because of the utility they provide across all games. One gamer may need Atlas to complete their perfect Deck in Arena. Another may require Atlas to upgrade their factories in an RTS game so that their tanks gain a shield. Another may want to get her hands on Atlas for its tight turning circle in a cart racing game. And many gamers will fall in love with the idea that if they want variety, they can play a new game and see familiar faces that help them tame the learning curve. Always, there is a sense of belonging. A place to call home, where you can unwind from the real world and let yourself get sucked into a different universe of your choosing. Your friends will join you, and you’ll make some new ones on the way.
The holy grail of NFT games and the Metaverse is interoperability of assets, but what nobody tells you (except game devs and gamers that mostly hate crypto) is that this dream is bullshit. Games don’t work like that. No company will import assets worth thousands from another game because it will collapse their economy… unless the same developer makes both games.
THAT is Illuvium. It fulfils others’ empty promises of what NFT games can be. And by integrating a DeFi protocol, we allow real investors to do what they do best in a trustless way. The contracts do what they say they will, and investors get their share when players spend in-game or on the marketplace.
I believe people are smart enough to see the truth. There is a way forward for NFT games. There is a way to bring real collectors and gamers to the party. It isn’t by making a simple game, slapping the word NFT on it, and calling it a day. It must be a world where your hard work pays off in many ways. Learning the lore should be valuable in the next game you play. Levelling up your collectibles needs to be permanent across many titles. Unique stats need to cross boundaries, and high health in the fighting game should mean high charisma in the dating game. There must be a connection to the characters, and I don’t think that comes from procedural art.
And while we build our universe, others will recreate something that Second Life solved two decades ago, but they will attempt to convince you that somehow doing it with NFTs makes it different. And when the dust settles, we’ll be the ones with the universe everyone wants to live in. I hope you join us there.