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Interview With Cristián González Of MEGO, Developer Of Hammercoin

Hammercoin is an action MMORPG, developed by MEGO, that features a Bitcoin-powered economy. In it, players are tasked with completing various objectives in order to take back maps from monsters that have invaded them. As they complete more objectives, they will unlock more maps.

I recently had the chance to sit down with Producer Cristián González to talk about the game in some detail. We discussed what inspired the game’s world structure, the possibility of player-created content, and more.

Me: How many people are working on Hammercoin and how long have you been working on it?

González: It’s been about two years. We started with a small team and now we have seven people working on it. We have about three programmers, another two are artists, and there’s one writer, and like game master, too.

Does the game master host any events in-game?

Right now, we’re not making any events. I think that we want to do that in the future. Probably, it’s going to be something like a town gets invaded. There are going to be big pterodactyls in the future, so there are going to be massive monsters that are invading some maps. But I think that that’s going to be probably next year.

Right now, we’re just working on making new maps. That takes a bunch of time for a builder to design them in a way that is frustrating enough, not very much. So that requires a lot of testing and designing levels. We’re going to try to make every level very different from the last one so that also makes it difficult. So that’s what he mostly does these days.

I saw that you also developed a Minecraft server with a Bitcoin-powered economy.

Yeah, that was me. I’m still working on it. It’s an open source experiment that plugs Bitcoin into Minecraft. At that time, the Bitcoin ecosystem was just starting out, so you could use the blockchain for free, which is not the case anymore. I think it’s one of the first, if not the first, implementations of a Bitcoin economy inside of a game, meaning that players can make transactions with other players, not necessarily with the server itself.

It’s still working. It is kind of on and off sometimes because the thing with Minecraft is that it’s super difficult to manage as you grow a big, big, big, big world and I think that server capacity is not enough yet. I think it’s going to be back in a few weeks with a bigger server.

But yeah, I think that we were one of the first teams that were thinking about doing something like plugging Bitcoin into a game as a mod. I think that’s where we realized that we wanted to make something new. Probably because we also saw a lot of limitations on what you can do in Minecraft in terms of security and stuff that is really important for cryptocurrency in a game.

What inspired the game’s world structure, where there are small maps that each have a specific objective that must be completed?

I think that the idea is to propose to people, to the community, that they can gather a team and go beat a map, meaning that the maps are designed for a group of people. That might require ten or twenty people, so it’s a bigger team than a League of Legends team, but still kind of the same idea of having a common objective between you and the team. The difference between this and a MOBA is that this is bigger and that there’s only one team; the other team is the AI.

But still, we really love the idea of beating a level. That’s kind of like a feeling of old-school gaming that we can reinvent in a player versus environment setting. If it becomes massive, then there will be a lot of maps that you can choose from, but with a number of friends. Maybe ten or twenty people. It depends on how big or small the map is. But that’s how we see it.

The other thing that we like about having different maps is that we can put a political status on the map, or what we call a political status. That means that the map can be owned by the monsters, if they took the objective, or the map can be taken by players. We could create certain conditions, depending on if the map currently has a blue or red political status.

So we could play with that. I think that that is something that we want to experiment a lot with. Perhaps stuff like, if the map is taken by the mobs, the mobs are going to be more difficult or, if the map is taken by the humans, the humans can multiply their experience. Stuff like that.

So yeah. It’s something that we want to keep doing. That’s why we designed it like that, so that you can play a bunch of different maps with different objectives and different dynamics of the type of group that you will need to join to go to that particular server.

Are you eventually planning to have a social hub so that players can more easily group with other players?

Yeah, that’s one of the next maps. I don’t know if it’s the next map that we’re going to release or the subsequent one. It’s going to be a city. It’s going to be the biggest map, I think, and there will be no monsters. We want to make that place the place where you trade between players. So you could have a card that is hard to find and maybe you want to sell it to the vendor, you want to sell it to other players, you want to give it away to another player in exchange for something else, you could do that in the city.

That’s the main activity that we want to happen, but also, as we make more difficult maps, there’s going to be more of a need for a group to take particular items or make a composition, like there’s going to be two archers, two magicians, and, I don’t know, ten tanks, for example. There’s going to be a need to have a balanced team to go to the more challenging maps. In the city, you will meet with other people that want to go to the same map.

Given that the city map is intended to be used primarily for trading, are you planning to add direct player trading?

Yes. I think that’s one of the things that Bitcoin allows us to do that you cannot do with other payment methods in gaming. It’s kind of like opening a frontier and I’d really like to see what happens if you enable that.

How many maps are there currently?

Right now, there are only three, but we’re going to be releasing new maps more often now. Expect to see the number to go up.

The third map is actually very challenging and there are a lot of loot rewards there that aren’t in the second map. And the second map is really hard to beat, actually. There’s a lot of stuff that is dropped there, too, that is rare and is being purchased by the vendor, too.

So there are few places to go, but both places are really fun and we’re going to add a lot more soon.

How much is each Bit worth?

A Bit is, by standard definition of the Bitcoin community, worth one hundred-millionth of a Bitcoin. That means that one hundred million Bits equal one Bitcoin. To be concise, this is always changing. We keep track of the money spend in the game in US dollars. We know that players that have been in the game for a long time, sometimes they transact five or two dollars. Sometimes, there’s a two dollar or one dollar loot. That’s a lot of Bits right now. That’s 1000 or 2000 Bits. And that’s kind of the volume of transaction that we are seeing right now.

I am always sure to emphasize that we don’t want to make a game that its objective is to make you win money. We’ve seen players taking money out; they win prizes. Of course, that happens. But that’s not the only good thing that can happen in this game.

We are starting to amplify the economy and to scale the economy to bigger numbers that will make us, or some players, win bigger amounts of money. And, as the price of the Bitcoin goes up, the Bit is worth a lot more, so the numbers numbers that we see in a few weeks could be totally different than the numbers that we talk about today.

Is PvP of any kind planned?

There is no plan for PvP, but there is a plan to open an API for the game. We just started doing this very informally, so it might take a while, but we’ve been speaking to a few mod developers to see how they would like it to work. So, if we don’t do PvP, we’re going to try and make it easy for other developers to create a PvP mod and to create a PvP server.

So it could happen. We could do it ourselves or, if we don’t, we will allow the community to mod the game if they really want to make it.

So players may be able to create entire levels of their own one day.

Yeah, we have our internal map editor. We actually make the maps live on an internal server, but the map editor is not very friendly yet. At some point, we will release some sort of tools for the players who want to dig more into how the game works or want to set up their own servers. So they can use some of our tools.

And some of our tools are still going to be internal, but the server part of the game works with a pretty standard protocol, so, if you implement WebSockets or RPC, which are really, really standard protocols for the web, you could write your game server in Go, in Java, Scala, whatever language you want, as long as it talks to a really standard protocol that we’re going to be releasing next year. So you could use a lot of tools that already exist to make other kinds of software that work as mods for this one. It’s going to be really cool to see how it evolves.

Along with maps, are you planning to allow players to create their own items or do you think that that would cause too many balance issues?

To be honest, we don’t have plans for that yet. I think that we’re going to look more into a crafting type of situation where you can take two items and make a third item from those two items. That’s a path that we know that we’re following, but maybe. Maybe after that path, user creation of objects may be something that we’ll [do]. Maybe I will take it back that we are not going to do it. So I’m not going to say no at this point.

But there’s the plan of crafting, which I think that, if we make it right, if we make it fun, there’s going to be a lot of fun stuff to do. We’re going to try to think of crafting as something more akin to what the game is or maybe insert some random component into the crafting so that it’s not that simple. We don’t aim to do anything that simple. We want to make this a very technical game about war strategy and it needs to have some sort of complex component to objects. For us, that stuff cannot be simple.

So we’re going to do a crafting style like Minecraft. We’re going to try to add a component that mixes intelligence and skill and luck into the process of crafting.

Do you plan to release the game on Steam at some point?

Yes. We do plan to release [on Steam]. To be really honest, we just started out learning the Steam framework. We haven’t gotten the time to do it. We did decide that all the keys that you buy on itch.io will redeem on Steam. As we prepare for the Steam release, we will announce that, yeah, you can trade your itch.io key for a Steam key, but we don’t have a time for that yet.

So yeah, if you want to acquire the game on Steam when it’s out, you could still buy the itch.io one and, when the Steam [version] comes out, you’ll get it.

Hammercoin is available now on itch.io for $10.

Matt Chelen

Matt has been playing games for as long as he can remember. He got into games journalism during college.

http://twocredits.co

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