November '22 - Alex West and Dan Burdick

Dan Burdick and Alex West discuss finding funding in a bear market, why some people are against crypto in gaming, and Marvel Snap.

Outline

  1. <a href="#1">Welcome back to the show.</a>
  2. <a href = "#2">What was the interrogation like?</a>
  3. <a href = "#3">One of the big advantages is players being able to collect digital objects and paying real money for them.</a>
  4. <a href= "#4">What are the reasons why a lot of gamers are against crypto currencies in games?</a>
  5. <a href= "#5">Why do you think you will succeed with your project?</a>
  6. <a href= "#6">Working remotely vs. working with a team.</a>
  7. <a href= "#7">Marvel Snap is a formula for designing games.</a>
  8. <a href= "#8">What aspects of TCG makes you the most excited?</a>

<div id="1" class="anchor">Welcome back to the show.</div>

Alexander West  

0:06  

Usually people come to listen to conversations about technical issues so that we can satisfy. Yeah. I'm sitting here with a cup of tea, since I had COVID. The last, I guess, two and a half weeks now been drinking a lot of tea with honey. And, you know, it's it's funny. I feel like a few AMA's ago, someone asked a question about my relationship with milk. And my new relationship with the milk is that I don't drink it at all. Because it's like very inflammatory. And when you're sick, it makes you feel terrible.

Dan Burdick  

0:54  

There's a whole new world, it used to be one of your favorites. Right? Yeah, so we've been, we were without our fearless leader for a couple of weeks, which was, which was intense. But it's really good to have you back, Alex

Alexander West  

1:09  

Yeah, it's good to be back. I feel like I feel like I'm only half of our fearless leadership but yeah.

Dan Burdick  

1:21  

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I've been holding down the fort.

Alexander West  

1:26  

You know, I think I think it's a testament to the fact that we have a pretty good team that even though I was gone, things seemed like they plucked along just fine.

Dan Burdick  

1:35  

Yeah, we had a productive couple of weeks, actually.

Andy Wilson  

1:42  

So I just kind of wanted to kick this off. And, you know, officially started this AMA, and you know, that we have Alex West and Dan Burdick here. You know, I'm Andy Wilson. And I will be kind of the hosts and just asking questions, and I wanted to kick this off with a question about some big news about the fact that we have, Verses is now fully funded. You want to you want to speak to that Alex?

<div id="2" class="anchor">What was the interrogation like?</div>

Alexander West  

2:17  

Yeah, sure. So this is a very serendipitously that happened, I went out on a date, OkCupid. And my date went very well, my days might be back to her place to meet her other partner. Both ing are ethically non monogamous. And I had a really good conversation with our other partner. And yeah, a few days later, I'm kind of a nerd, so when I reference obscure things, I often send a follow up email. And since I talked about, Verses I sent a follow up email. And her other partner was like, this is actually very interesting. And Ben, you might not know about me, is that invested in Bitcoin a long time ago, and run a crypto Investment Fund. And, you know, like, we're interested in your projects, I'd like to have members of my team interrogate you. But this could be a thing. And we spent maybe, like a week, exchanging information. And, you know, I think that Many Hands, which is our corporation that makes Verses is a very values driven company. We have pretty strong beliefs about like, what should be in games and who should make games and what, what, what business life should be like, and its relationship to like the rest of someone's life. And Spencer, who is the investor is also a pretty values driven person and found our values like, exciting, and also as a gamer, and a fan of some of Dan Burdicks previous work, and it really liked what we're doing in terms of game design. And then, you know, also, his, his analysts thought that what we were doing was kind of quintessentially, like the best of Web3 can be. So they were like, How much money do you need to make this project and not have to spend another minute worrying about raising money because what we'd really like is for your team to be at the center of all of its focus, making the best game possible. And, you know, we're like $5 million, and they're like, alright, well, how much money are you willing to sell? And, you know, we negotiate over terms a little bit, but ultimately, we came to a deal where we're selling up to 20% of our stock for up to $5 billion there. And, you know, I think it's I mean, it's very exciting. And I think, a very good valuation for the project. And, you know, I think it's like just a huge relief for everyone on the team. You know, people like, we're like, will we still have jobs in November? And we're like, we're pretty sure yes. Like, you know, we think we'll raise money, but very different to be like, yes, we'll definitely all have jobs in November. And also, we can hire the team members that we feel like are missing. So big relief, and I think just very exciting.

Andy Wilson  

5:37  

Yeah, it was incredibly exciting. I mean, we all we all celebrated in our Discord. You know, got together and some of us have, you know, because of the timezone. Some of us had breakfast and some people had a beer. Yeah. I kinda want to ask you a follow up question, Alex, which is, what was the the interrogation like?

Alexander West  

6:05  

I feel like the interrogation had. Yeah, I feel like yeah, that the basic like information gathering where they're, like, show us every document you have ever made about this project. But also, there were kind of two real big sticky points in Spencer's mind. You know, one was like Spencer's, like, is this a fun game? And to Spencer's like, user experience is everything. How can I know that you'll have like a great user experience? And, you know, the first point, I was like, to be very honest, I can't promise you that this is a fun game. You know, we haven't built it electronically yet. You know, we've done paper testing, we've gone pretty far with paper testing, but I can only tell us so much, you know, we have a bunch of really expert, you know, game designers on our team will think this will be very fun. But, you know, it's just theorycraft. And Spencer's, like, alright, well, let's do this, let's run a simulation of this game, like in my head. So like, close his eyes and was like, I started designing some cards and a scenario, and then describing what he was doing. And, you know, mostly I didn't correct him, because I think he had a very good idea of like, what the game would be like. And he, you know, he basically, like, made a level where it was dark, and there was a wall in the middle, cast a couple like light cards, found a wall turned into a cloud of fairies to play over the wall, and then found the exit to the level. It was like, Yeah, that was pretty fun. I can really see this game.

Dan Burdick  

8:13  

right. I love I love that, by the way. Like, a little bit of a funny story, but I think it's just visual, as well.

Alexander West  

8:23  

Yeah. And then the second part, he was like, Can I see games that have been made by your engineers. And, you know, a lot of the guys at Mint State Labs have built games as part of their coding school or had kind of like smaller personal projects, and nothing that's like, really, this game was like, taken to market and successful. But Dan's worked on quite a few digital games. And I was like, can I show you a game where like, the analyst, part of, you know, the people who devote user experience and yes, that's just like, sure. Magic Arena and Eternal are both pretty good examples. And Spencer was like, you know, a lot of its user experience there was great, like, question answered. So that was the those are the two pieces of interrogation. It was a little longer than that, but the short version.

Andy Wilson  

9:39  

that's, that's just, I mean, that's basically the exact thing you want to hear when you're trying to get money from an investor for them and say, how much money do you want so you don't have to worry about money anymore. You know, I got they, they played the game in their head and then they came up with a scenario and a level that is totally feasible but not something we had mentioned or really, you know, thought about, and then they came up with cool cards on their own.

So, want to go ahead and just jump into some of the questions that were submitted here? And let's go with this one, which is a lot of gamers are against cryptocurrencies in games. What are the reasons for that? And, you know, what can you do to convince them that integrating cryptocurrencies in a game is a good thing?

<div id="3" class="anchor">One of the big advantages is players being able to collect digital objects and paying real money for them.</div>

Dan Burdick  

10:48  

One of the big advantages, I think that we're excited about is players being able to collect digital objects, because collecting digital objects and paying real money for them is certainly not new. In gaming, in trading card games, people have their collections. But the trading is, is typically not there, when it comes to digital card games anymore. And that's one of the most exciting things about collecting cards is having a collection and feeling like if you ever decided to sell that you there's real value there. And that's something that has been somewhat lost. And so being able to access these markets, and have digital objects that are tradable, sellable, purchasable, I think, is exciting. And then to have those markets be fully traceable, where cards can have their own history is something that we're pretty excited about. So a card can you know, win a tournament, you know, having that that accolade attached to it. Any number of ways that a card's history can end up being relevant to its value is something that, I think is an advantage that people will will start seeing through the transparency of blockchain.

<div id="4" class="anchor">What are the reasons why a lot of gamers are against crypto currencies in games?</div>

Alexander West  

12:25  

I love Dans answer. I think in some political trading in the past, what they tell a politician is don't answer the question, say the thing that you want to say. And, again, talk about everything that's awesome about blockchains. without answering, you know, why? Why do people have negative feelings about them? So I'll be a bad politician here actually. I think that I think that a lot of the negativity around cryptocurrencies, specifically is that it's very volatile. And there have been several cycles now where people are excited about cryptocurrency really talk it up, and people like buy in speculatively, and then it crashes. And people lose a bunch of money. And so they're like, that's a shitty place where like, you know, lots of people lose money, I don't want to be part of it. And, you know, I think they're also because it's new technology that involves money. There have been, like, low regulations, and lots of things have been really scammy. And I think people are vaguely aware of that, even if it has already gotten like burned by the scam. And I think those two things kind of create this, this negative Animus. But I think that as the technology is more mature, and there are more regulations, it's becoming, you know, more stable, more safe. But I think that making a trading card game that uses like blockchain technology is very different than a lot of these like financial instruments. And mostly, all the good things that Dan said, I think are true, and has very little to do with the speculative cycles or scams that we've seen in the space.

Dan Burdick  

14:51  

Our goal first and foremost, is to make a great game that leverages all the best technologies available to us. In every aspect of it And the business model. For the business model web three technologies, there are powerful things to leverage.

Andy Wilson  

15:11  

So I want to, I want to I want to move to the next question, which is kind of kind of funny, because it says the question is the current bear market? And it's difficult to find new investors and people interested in crypto gaming. Why do you think that you will succeed with your project? And it's funny, because you already found that you just spoke about finding the investors. But maybe you could speak to the interest in crypto gaming?

<div id="5" class="anchor">Why do you think you will succeed with your project?</div>

Dan Burdick  

15:43  

One thing we could say, actually, is, you know, Alex, I remember you telling me that if we had jumped in any differently than we did, you know, we likely wouldn't have found this investor, they wouldn't have ended up ultimately being interested. So I think that kind of speaks to the you know, why will we nevertheless succeed? And, you know, it's because of the things we're doing and, and how values driven we are specifically with our project, that, yeah.

Alexander West  

16:19  

Yeah, I mean, I think that I think that investors say is that ultimately, they invest in teams more than anything else. Because, you know, what a project is doing can often change. And the fundamental question is, are these smart people with the right experience? Who even if they don't have all the right answers, now, will find them? And I think that a good team can get investment money in almost any environment. Like, we did get our investment, like, well into this bear market. And, you know, we still have people who are continuing to trickle in and ask if they can invest in our projects. You know, these are like, friends and family who know us. So, yeah, I think there's that. And then, you know, to speak to what Jim said, I think that our project being a game, it's not really affected as much by what's going on in the crypto world. Our expectation is that the vast majority of our players will come from conventional gaming, and have never used anything crypto before. And that the experience of having their collection, be NFTs on a blockchain isn't really what they're going to see. They're just going to have a user interface where they have a collection. And it's just gonna be digital collectibles, that they can trade with other people if they want to. So really, as far as, you know, crypto gamers, like you, that's a group of people that we're very interested in connecting with to as like early adopters. But I think part of the reason that it's not hard for us to get investment is that like, our goal is to get 10 million people who have never touched crypto before to play our game.

Andy Wilson  

18:43  

Kind of the views of on NFT, Seattle, everyone on the gaming panel, kind of all of the panelists basically agreed that when it comes to crypto gaming, what we really need are great games, and we don't necessarily have them yet, but they're on the way.

Alexander West  

19:20  

Yeah, you know, at NFT Seattle, I think there was this idea of a lot of the history of blockchain has been engineers building things that engineers thought were cool. And, you know, that's how like the technology has developed and matured. And then you know, there's kind of a wave of you know, artists who are like this is an interesting technology and you know, people are like, yeah, art love it bought some, and then you know, there a lot of money changing hands and that brought people who were finance minded, which has created a lot of projects that are kind of like finance first and very focused on extracting value from users. Which most of them have been either, like scams or not very fun. But now there's a wave of, you know, legitimate game designers. Oh, man, that sounds so elitist. But you know, like people are focused on games and fun coming to the space. And, you know, these kinds of things take time to develop, like, often like two to five years. So assume a bunch of people showed up sometime around last year, and are spending the next two to five years making cool games that actually, like use the blockchain effectively. And that's what Andy's alluding to. I think it's true, and I think is very exciting.

Andy Wilson  

21:02  

So let's, let's move on to the next question. And it is what has the biggest challenge been with the project so far?

<div id="6" class="anchor">Working remotely vs. working with a team.</div>

Dan Burdick  

21:14  

I know what it is, for me, and it's working remotely. We have a team that's scattered around the world actually. And in addition to you know, some of the timezone challenges, really just not being able to be in the same room with people consistently and, you know, really, like feel people's energy and, and, and, you know, conversational cues, it's something that has been a particular challenge for me. I think working from home is something that works really well for a lot of people. But that's one that has really taken some getting used to, for me. That said, now that we're fully funded, we might we might be, we've got about half of our team in Seattle. So perhaps we'll start creating some offices to consistently get together. But, yeah, that is, by far the biggest challenge for me because it directly affects workflow.

Alexander West  

22:17  

The biggest challenge, for me has been keeping production organized, like when the company had like, three to five people. It's very, it's like, pretty easy to communicate and come to consensus about what to focus effort on. And I think we're now at like 16 people, and takes a lot more effort. And fortunately, we just hired a senior producer, Agnes who, Agnes Roche, who has a ton of experience producing games, and I think she's going to fix that problem. But yeah, I've done a lot of startups before, this is the largest that any of my startups has gotten. And so I think another challenge is just like, as the business is successful. We're like, unlocking new challenges every time. And so it's just kind of like adapting and learning constantly to figure out how to make things work at whatever stage we're at.

Andy Wilson  

23:47  

Yeah, yeah, definitely. I kind of want to want to want to shift gears here a little bit and asked some more lighthearted, less serious questions. And that still with Marvel Snap, has been a big hit in the TCG worlds. And so my question is, have have you been playing Marvel Snap?

<div id="7" class="anchor">Marvel Snap is a formula for designing games.</div>

Dan Burdick  

24:14  

I played a decent amount of it. Yeah. I think it's really brilliant on a lot of levels. And I think one of the reasons why one of the reasons it's so brilliant is the ease of getting into it, all you have to do is just play cards to a board. And then, you know, kind of follow along with some numbers. And playing it with my best friend's eight year old and he has a really good time with it. Actually even helping him a little with math. But, yeah, so games being potentially very short. And the the ease of play is something that I think is pretty revolutionary. And it's something that Clash Royale, it's also true of. And so that's been a model for us. And our intention is that the game while while while vs will be a very rich experience, it's really like interesting to watch and resonant, and has deep strategy. It'd be similarly easy just to point and click and watch and see what happens since you're as you're kind of learning the game learning strategy. So it's a great model, where they really went all in on that have been successful.

Alexander West  

25:51  

Yeah, I've also been playing Marvel Snap. I once upon a time, design is very similar game though. Never arrived at the awesome "this game only lasts six turns". Think that Marvel Snap is kind of Richard Garfield has a formula for designing games, which is take the classic game. And then like add a twist. So Marvel Snap is basically War with a twist. But yeah, super fun. While I had COVID my ability to like stay conscious and focus for a protracted amount of time was low. So having a game that was very short, but like satisfying, was perfect. And I'm currently playing all the cards that move. I feel like even if they're a little less powerful than some other cards, being able to move cards from location to location really messes with people's calculus and intuitions about the game. And I think well, while most players are still developing, you know, they're like internalized game theory about where to place things and what might happen. It is far and away the best thing that you can do.

Andy Wilson

 27:27  

I've been playing a lot, a lot of Marvel Snap, and I feel like the move deck is probably, if it works, and your cards line up the way you want them to, and your deck does the thing, you probably are doing the most powerful thing.

Alexander West  

27:44  

Yeah, what's another thing that I love about Marvel Snap is I always have this question which is like it for any board game or computer game. Like if you're losing, how does the game deal with it. And you know, there's a lot of board games where there's a mechanic where you can come up, come back from behind. These can also be like very painful things because they're good at hurting players who are in the lead. And the other solution is just like the game ends. And like you get to play a new game where you aren't losing. But like, I think Marvel Snap does something very clever with the cubes and the snap mechanic, where if you're like, I just have a bad hand, I'll just retrieve, I'll lose my one cube. You know, my time is a resource. And I can just like, triage how good my hands are. And like, I love that, like it said, like that Mulligan thing. You could just be like, This game isn't gonna be good, I'll lose a cue. And I can kind of like save my time and effort for the game where I think I have a good hand and bet more cubes. Like, the more I play, the more it becomes a like, you know, a betting game like poker, or even kind of like backgammon where there's that doubling cube where, you know, like, you're kind of like assessing your hands and yeah, that he harder on the good ones

Andy Wilson  

29:23  

so with this kind of leads leads to a follow up question, not necessarily about moral set, but about you know, the Marvel MCU and the question is simply Marvel MCU yay or nay.

Dan Burdick  

29:38  

So much yay. Like it's formulaic, but it's really entertaining. And I grew up with the comics and so, you know, it would have been a little more exciting when I was a kid. Even as an adult. I definitely fanboy it out. Especially when it was about some of my favorite characters.

Alexander West  

29:59  

Yeah, Yeah, definitely, yeah, I think that a huge part of being human is, like wanting to be told stories. And I think like connected stories are just usually more interesting than unconnected stories. And so, you know, like, dozens of connected stories is awesome.

Dan Burdick  

30:17  

And I also think that they're like diverting from their formulas a little bit. They're trying some new stuff and letting some directors do some stuff. I thought Love and Thunder was fantastic. And I'm sure Wakanda is going to be good too.

Andy Wilson  

30:37  

So, one last one last question, before we close it out here, we're coming close to our time. And that is, what, what aspects of Verses makes you the most excited.

<div id="8" class="anchor">What aspects of TCG makes you the most excited?</div>

Dan Burdick  

30:53  

I'd say for me, it's the accessibility. You know, again, while we are making a game that will be strategically to give something that you can spend a lot of brainpower thinking about and building decks and learning how to optimize strategies. Ultimately, it's intended to be and I think will be ultra accessible to all types of players, super casual players, you know, Candy Crush, folks that like, kind of max out on Candy Crush, when it comes to their mobile gaming, life, you know, that the same type of theories of point and click, satisfying things happen and, and you begin to gain mastery is at the, at the fundamental is a fundamental tenet of, of the experience of Verses, and so, when I think about being able to introduce TCGs, to millions of people who TCGs have, up until now been too complicated, intimidating, or just a little bit too hardcore of a, of a game experience for them. I think that's what gets me the most excited. I always think about it as "Can I make a game that my mom would play? While also really being excited to my brother, as a hardcore gamer? And Master game designer?"

Alexander West  

32:26  

I think Dan took the most obvious answer I probably would have. At the moment, I think that I'm feeling excited about is art. I feel like, you know, we just brought in Mike Chen who's been doing a really wonderful job, like leading visual design, and there's an area and a level that we've been building that's like a savannah. He's like, here's, here's my concept art for the savannah. I was like, that's a savannah, and I don't know, when someone flies a Phoenix through the Savannah, it's gonna look amazing. So, yeah, it's just like visual storytelling. I think it's gonna be really fun.

Andy Wilson  

33:24  

So before we, before we end, I kind of just want to open the floor for you to two kind of just say anything you want to say or maybe answer a question that I didn't ask, but you wish I did. Just kind of give you one last opportunity to to add anything you want to close this out?

Dan Burdick  

33:47  

Well, I kind of, I guess, plus plus one to the very last question, as the demo is starting to come together, and a lot of the visual assets are coming in. You know, I we're on the precipice of of really like getting those builds, stood up and, you know, experiencing games, it's meant to be experienced. And this is a really exciting time for us. And so I am really looking forward to being able to share the demo experience with people that comes together. And I think there's just right on the horizon of some really exciting stuff. So it's an exciting time.

Alexander West  

34:38  

Yeah, I think I will mostly say I am really grateful for all the team members who have chosen to work on this project. You know, certainly less risky things people could have done. Yeah, Some some people definitely work through periods where they're like, I'm just taking equity on faith that we're going to create something amazing. And you know, as it's kind of coming together like Dan's talking about, I think it'd be great, obviously, like we have funding now. So some people have put their money where their mouth is and think this will be great also. And like, it's, it's amazing to be a part of a group of humans collaborating.

Andy Wilson  

35:34  

All right, well, thank you, Dan, and Alex for answering some of these. Some of these questions. I really enjoy doing these and I, I can't wait for the next one. Awesome.

Alexander West  

35:48  

Who will be here for the next one end?

Andy Wilson  

35:51  

I think it's going to be someone from Narrative. Exciting, we, you know, I'm pretty sure Eleanore will be here. Jody, also might come i We haven't quite exactly finalized. Exactly who from narrative is going to be here. Mike might be, you know, looming behind Eleanore's microphone in some way. So we'll see. But it will be people from Narrative. Alright, awesome. All right. Thank you guys.