Mike Rubinelli dreamed of being a game developer even since he was a child but there was not a natural career progression if someone was not a top developer. He self-confesses to being a terrible programmer but also to working with really old-fashioned languages such as RPG which are not in demand for games development.
“But I would not be denied,” he says.
However, gaming was not all sunshine; gaming for Mike on traditional platforms felt like playing in a walled garden. When he left a game, he felt a loss for the items he left behind.
Mike further expanded this reasoning as he feels players should care about the game not the bottom line.
There are 3billion games in the world and it is this cohort that Mike wants to address. He wants to make better use of their time and to create objectively more compelling games, not relatively. According to him, this is the North star by which everything in WAX studios is built.
The game in question is Blockchain Brawlers which was incepted last year. WAX already had a start on other blockchain chains in that it had successfully launched collections and then gamified collections with big names such as Topps and Street Fighter. The next step was to launch a collection with utility.
“We said, let’s build a real game.”
Blockchain Brawlers began with mining, crafting and blending before looking at the game. It was important to understand their audience, they knew they had to get it right.
“This is the litmus test for us.”
Mike explains that earlier in his career, success meant moving up the ladder and away from content production. To therefore work with WAX studios was a boon to return to his core love.
Trading card games work very well on blockchain, so WAX Studios reached out to Richard Garfield of The Gathering fame, but he pointed out he didn’t have the capacity to start one from scratch. Instead, he astounded Mike and the WAX team by saying he had been building a different game over the past year and would they like to look at it.
Richard sent over the prototype and Mike and the team took a look. Originally it seemed a bit underwhelming but this was a Garfield game and as they continued to play it they understood why Garfield was the author of the most popular trading card game of all time.
“It’s not just a head to head – it’s more like poker with lots of strategy behind the play. It’s devilishly clever and we knew we could put the wrestling idea on top of this.”
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As players go up the levels, they can buy or craft the more humble moves into more dramatic and powerful ones.
“Our community is very visual and very public – they tell their opponents what they plan on doing to them in great detail and with great bravado. It’s a kind of toxic masculinity that we are fostering, candidly.”
Crafting the Brawlers requires the Brawl token but the cost is very little. Originally the WAX team did not want to run out of tokens as other platforms had and opted to mint one trillion tokens so they had enough runway for the next 200 years. However, this produced some unhealthy behaviour in players, some of whom gathered large amounts, for example a million, and dumped them causing the price to crash.
In response the WAX team knew they had to reinject tension again and so burnt 99.9% of existing tokens, reducing the amount from one trillion to one billion. With the final mining completed at the start of August, this now means that to get Brawl one needs to win, sell items or buy it. And since then the price has held, it proves there is broad support amongst the players.
Overall Mike wants the player to feel their time is well spent. Even the secondary marketplace is not about money with only 5% going to the platform and the rest shared amongst the players.
The stated aim of WAX studios is to foster the adoption of Web3 gaming which includes cross chain activity. To that end, WAX is supporting multi wallet, multi chain interoperability.
Asked about the issues currently facing bridges, Mike is pretty relaxed. He points out that WAX has never been hacked and indeed has never been down and that is due to part of the huge emphasis on security.
Mike also refers back to the vision of mass adoption pointing to ease of use, frictionless access with instant transactions at no or little cost.
“Scaling is not an issue for us, we can currently handle around 10,000 transactions a second but we are working on upgrading that to cope with the influx of new players.”
He remarks that even if you are a layer two blockchain you are only ever as fast as your layer one.
Even traditional gaming houses can be reluctant to move forward and Mike sees their ultimate isolation and eventual collapse if they don’t move with the times.
“At the heart of business is risk taking and at the core of risk taking is courage. And you have to be in the business of creating the possibility of greatness. While traditional gaming houses feel they have too much to lose, we feel we are like the never-ending story, we’re never done.”
And to back up the love WAX is hosting a Summer Block Party in the month of August where they are giving away $30,000 worth of value to all players holding miner tokens.
“It’s our love letter to our community.”