9-1-22 - Alex West

Many Hands CEO and Verses co-founder Alexander West discusses where the name Verses came from, crypto adoption, his favorite fiction genres and more.


  1. <a href="#1">Will Verses be playable on phone?</a>
  2. <a href="#2">How is Verses different from Clash Royale?</a>
  3. <a href="#3">Where does the name Verses come from?</a>
  4. <a href="#4">What are some other crypto projects that have your interest?</a>
  5. <a href="#5">How do you think crypto adoption will play out over the next couple of years?</a>
  6. <a href="#6">Any updates on game design?</a>
  7. <a href="#7">Will you be able to compete against others like YuGiOh?</a>
  8. <a href="#8">What is a work or genre of fiction that you find meaningful or inspiring?</a>

Jed Dolbeer  


Welcome, welcome everybody to the second Verses AMA. Alex just joined us. Doing well. Yeah, excited to get this going to get through some of the questions. I peeked at some of them on that there's some stuff that I'm curious to see what the answers are now.

<div id="1" class="anchor">Will Verses be playable on phone?</div>

Alexander West  


Yeah, great. So for anyone who's new, I'm Alex West, the president of the Many Hands the company making Verses and one of the co-creators of Verses and Jed, who is has on the project since the start. Who is, I guess, our host. And we have questions. So I'll just dive into them. The first one is will Verses be playable on phone? And the answer is, yes. Our development of Verses and designing Verses is mobile first. We, we know that games get at least an order of magnitude more players from being on the phone. And, you know, our goals are for our games to be accessible to a lot of people. And we think that the both the project and you know, the NFTs related to the project, their success will be based on the number of players. So yep, absolutely playable on phone. Let's say that we've taken a lot of inspiration from seeing Diablo Immortal, which is a pretty complicated game deploying well on phone. And we hope that Verses has a pretty similar experience. Jed shall we say anything else about Verses on phone that I missed?

Jed Dolbeer  


No, I'm just like you said it makes it widely accessible. And the fact that folks who may not have a computer can still access the game, I mean, you look at how ubiquitous smartphones are the accessibility of the game, skyrockets because of that.

Alexander West  


Yep. And we're, we're also trying to make it even easier to use on phone than, you know, other games where you have to download an app from the App Store. The game should be a progressive web app, so that somebody can just see a link or advertisement for the first time and just click it and be directly in the introductory levels of the game. And we're excited about that since you have like lose around 10% of the people who are interested well, there are 90% of people are interested when they you know kind of like click through but then have to download something.

<div id="2" class="anchor">How is Verses different from Clash Royale?</div>

Alexander West  


Cool. Alright, so the next question that we have is how is Verses different from Clash Royale? So Clash Royale is a three minute or so game that two players, two or four players play various cards that are kind of fighting units. And then the units follow very specific paths to destroy towers on the other side. Really fun game had something like 15 or 16 million players, at it's peak. So here's some differences. You know, Clash Royale is set at three minutes. We think that some versions of our game will be longer than that. Class Royales main mechanics are around fighting where the mechanics of our game are going to be not violence and more about creating and moving around obstacles. And you know, just like creative problem solving. In Clash Royale, the level is always the same. And for Verses, we're going to have many different levels including procedurally generated levels. So it should have like a greater variety of experience. Clash Royale only has around 40 cards that they've made over the eight years the game has been out Verses should have, you know, hundreds and eventually 1000s of cards. Clash Royale, you build a deck with eight cards and the cards... you know, there's some ways that they're synergistic but somewhat minimal. And I think that Verses will have something a little more common with TCGs like Magic or Hearthstone, where some cards have a stronger build around the aspect that makes the rest of the deck perform differently. Those are the big ones that come to mind. Anything that you can think of that I missed?

Jed Dolbeer  


I just think hammering home that kind of puzzle aspects. So instead of trying to defeat your opponent through like fighting mechanisms, it's more kind of kind of like, you'll be able to play alone. But also, if you're playing against other people, you're trying to solve the map faster than them using the different cards that you brought to kind of figure that out. So I think on your feet problem solving is a big, big portion of how that's gonna play out.

Alexander West  


Yeah, and that's a good point. I think Clash Royale is always competitive. And Verses can also be played cooperatively. Right, since the the fundamental goal is to get to some objectives, you can be trying to beat other players to those objectives. But you can also play with friends against the clock or against a leaderboard. So I think, yeah, I think that's a significant difference also, since we know that there are there are quite a few players out there who enjoy cooperative experience is a lot more than competitive experiences. Cool. Alright.

<div id="3" class="anchor">Where does the name Verses come from?</div>

Alexander West  


So next question, where does the name Verses come from, and the name Verses... when we're trying to think of what's the name this game. It took us months of pretty passionate discussion about what to name it. But ultimately, we wanted a name that worked on multiple levels. And so we liked that it sounded like, you know, "versus-like", to two people or two entities playing against each other. But also, we had thought that we would write a poem or song that tied together a bunch of different cards, like in the flavor text, and that all of those things together would make, you know, when you put a bunch of cards together, it would make a poem or song. And that would be like different based on how you combine the different cards. I think we've kind of come away from that very ambitious goal. But that was one of the origins of the name Verses and then the third inspiration was when we had all these different pieces of art from different sci fi and fantasy artists, and we're trying to figure out how to put them together into something narratively cohesive. It seems like each of them kind of have their own universe. And also, you know, watching a bunch of like different crypto projects that are each kind of creating their own universe. And so we want something that captured the idea of there being lots of different different universes. The larger pool and so that was kind of like the third reason for Verses and I guess that might be the the stickiest of the reasons. Is there anything about naming that comes up for you, Jed?

Jed Dolbeer  


I just I didn't remember the process. We had so many names that we went through and like, voted on, and we're close to a couple others. And then we like scrapped a bunch and started over again, like, naming things is hard to understand. Like, it's not something that we take lightly. And it's not something that we kind of just threw together. There are a lot of debates and like, kind of light hearted arguments about what the name should be. So it's a fun process, but it was a lot of work.

Alexander West  


Yeah. Yeah. I guess this is also where I'll say where did the logo come from? And it's made up of lots of little squares. And alright, you know, our idea was that like, the squares are kind of individual cards, and, you know, individual cards coming together to make a bigger shape. But that, you know, we we also were like this kind of looks like, you know, spiral like, you know, a galaxy. So you even though the logo is meant to kind of like echo the concept that cards come together to form universes.

<div id="4" class="anchor">What are some other crypto projects that have your interest?</div>

Alexander West  


Cool um, next question we had is what are some other crypto projects that have your interest? I'll say, for me, the crypto project that inspires me the most is the Forgotten Rune Wizard Cult. PFP project 10,000 Different wizards. Each of them have different names that sound fancy. And some of them have like familiars and little arcane sigils. But what makes it special to me is how much customization the community has done and is invited to do. Like, on the main page of it, there's a book where the owner of each wizard can write an entry and I think, also put a picture? So there's been this great... people who own wizards commissioned artists to make custom art for their wizard and also write the story of their wizard. And they've also, you know, I think made, or they're working on making a cartoon based on the wizards. So it's just like this place where it seems like the community has done a lot of development of the story, and feels like engaged with it. And I guess it reminds me a lot of how Magic the Gathering, people sometimes will, like, customize their deck by having artists paint altars of cards. And you know, I just like one thing that excites me about web3, and yeah, like trading cards, are people's ability to customize their thing, and have it be an individual thing that they like own. So yeah, that's probably my most inspiring project. How about you, Jed?

Jed Dolbeer  


I've brought it up a lot internally is Project Eluüne on Solana. They're putting together kind of like a auto battler RPG using, like, what they call Star Gardens. And they did this really interesting thing. So if you held a Star Garden, they gave you a secondary NFT, the airline, and then that would change over time on on a cycle. And you could lock it in anywhere in the cycle if it hit a thing that you liked. Or you could just wait longer and it would just keep going through a cycle. So this is like interesting aspect of like, well, I like this picture, but will there be a better one later? Like, kind of a risk thing. But also like if you find when you love you can lock it in? And if you locked in early and nobody else did you have like one of the three things that they have that that ever got made. So it was just kind of interesting aspects to how NF T's can be kind of adapted and changed quickly within a community.

Alexander West  


Yeah. Psychologically, the psychology there is kind of fascinating, it reminds me and economics, there's this question, which is, if you walk into a room full of slot machines, like 10s, of 1000s of slot machines, how many slot machines would you have to visit to have like pretty high confidence that you found a slot machine that had a really good payoff? And I won't go into all the game theory, but the answer is around a third of the slot machines. And so I guess, if you and the slot machines in this economic example, are kind of meant to represent things that give you pleasure, like how much do you have to sample? So with a thing that is like constantly changing, and will keep on changing? And you don't know what it'll change to in the future? Like, how many iterations do you have to go to you before you find something that you really love and have reasonable confidence that you love it? But you can't go back?

Jed Dolbeer  


I held one. And I did a lot of things when thinking about this. And like, level zero was just like, wait forever, right? Level one is locking first and just be done with it. So I went level two and I locked on the second cycle change because I thought like, there'll be a bunch of people that are locked in the first one. There'll be a bunch of holders, and there might not be very many of these.

Alexander West  


Cool. How did that play out?

Jed Dolbeer  


Oh, I I sold it a while ago. When we moved I had to so...

<div id="5" class="anchor">How do you think crypto adoption will play out over the next couple of years?</div>

Alexander West  


Right. Owning a house is nice too. Yes. All right. Next question. How do you think crypto adoption will play out over the next couple of years? So, you know, as far as crypto adoption goes, I still think that we are tremendously, tremendously, really, I think that, you know, from a monetary perspective, or seeing really serious inflation in the United States, and think that cryptocurrency, obviously its price is influenced by what else is going on in the economy, but ultimately should be affected by inflation last, and as people realize that, you know, digital currency is more stable than fiat currency, I think more people are gonna use it. But it's, it's, it's gonna be a slow process. I think as far as, you know, like gaming or other applications, we've, we've seen basically nothing. I don't, I think most of... ah man I was talking to a guy who's gonna be at the NFT Seattle conference at the end of this month, and he was saying, you know, he thought there's three stages to game development in crypto, and I think this is correct. It's like the first stage are programmers, if people are interested in the technology, they do things that are like technologically interesting to them. Some of which are interesting to others, but not very, like mature or like, well developed ideas. So you throw out like Crypto Kitties is a good example of that. Like, it's cool. Like, it's an interesting project. Lots of people enjoyed playing with it. But is it like a mature game? Ehh... You know, and then the second stage are, you know, people are interested in finance. And they do a lot of things that are financially extractive, but also mature games. And I think that that's the wave that we saw, right? There's a, there's a bunch of people who came in to make money. They designed systems that took money from users, and didn't deliver a lot of value. But the third wave is, you know, professional game designers. And that's, that's the wave that's coming here. You know, this last Game Developers Conference, basically was about crypto. And, you know, I think there are a lot of projects like ours that started sometime in the last year. Good, good development takes time. And I think that over the next couple of years, we're going to see these kinds of like mature game projects emerge that use blockchains in different ways. And, yeah, at the, you know, in the same conversation, I was talking about different blockchains and I was like, we really don't know what the most popular blockchain would be, you know, any game that has, you know, 10 million players, whatever blockchain and so on, like today would just be the most used blockchain there is. So I think that, you know, hit games are going to cause crypto adoption, on a scale we haven't really seen. But also, I think that people who are playing these games aren't really going to know that they're using crypto. I think that a lot of people will have kind of like custodial wallets, through whatever game they're playing. And this isn't like a bad thing. But the fact that their, their cards or whatever assets they have on the blockchain will be somewhat invisible to them. It'll just be, you know, kind of like a seamless thing that works. Right? Like when, when people are looking at graphics on their computer, most people don't know what what kind of graphics card there is. There's just like, there's graphics, and it works. And that's how blockchains will be, I think. Do you have any thoughts about that Jed?

Jed Dolbeer  


I think one of the biggest things, looking at that three step, like development cycle is that people don't seem to realize how long it actually takes to make a game. Even like a not a great game that we wouldn't be happy with which still take us a year. So when we get to a game, like ours, we were we have a lot of quality. We want to put the time and effort to make our game or anybody else's developing at a high level, like the development cycles or start a game from zero to starting as like years typically. So that's just it's all in context of like, that lifecycle of like realizing the quality takes time.

<div id="6" class="anchor">Any updates on game design?</div>

Alexander West  


Yeah, I guess, speaking of years of development, next question was any updates about game design? So we, we hired another game designer to be on our team full time. Reid Flamm, his, his a lot of his a lot more background in building kind of like real time games with physics, which was interesting tasks, as most of our designers have TCG backgrounds, but as, as we're having more characters moving around in three, you know, 3d environments. You know, we wanted someone who had more reps doing that kind of game design. And we have oh, I guess? Yeah, I think you're the last one, we said that we adopted Unity. But our engine is... the basics of it are up and running. Like, we now have, you know, characters moving around on the map and can play cards and have a lot of visual effects happen. So we're not too far out from, you know, being able to, like see effects, and how they work. Our designers have been working very hard iterating at our demo level, which will be the thing that we're developing show investors and our early users in November, and, you know, every iteration on the level looks good. And we've been, we have this kind of grid, where it's, what is the effect? Like, what is the card being played? What kind of effect does it generate? And like, what what is the object of the game world. So like, the the effects interaction table is kind of, you know, kind of like the core of how the game works. And we've been doing more and more standardization of all these, like 20 different things that seem like different effects, they actually do the same thing, like, you know, push or like, smash something. So we've been kind of getting, getting that chart more and more streamlined. Other things that are interesting in that game design that you've seen happening, Jed?

Jed Dolbeer  


I think it's a lot of it is balance, like they want different characters to still be able to solve the same puzzles, or they may be in different ways. But it's just that's the big complication, well not even a complication just like a big kind of brain exercises, like, okay, we have these 20 characters, and we have these maps, but they all have to be able to solve them in some way. How do we do this, so that they all have their own unique ways to do it, but still solve them is the interesting part to me.

Alexander West  


Yeah. And I think we'll try and get, we will ask this question again next month and get, I think, Dan Burdick. Because, yeah. He's unfortunately been sick and otherwise would have been here today. All right. Next question I'll jump on is, when will new card releases start again. So our intention is to not start releasing cards until there is a demo of the game that people can see in action. We got pretty strong feedback when we're releasing cards in February and March that people wanted to see what the game was. And I think that we, we really appreciate people who are excited enough and trusted us enough, based on us just kind of describing what we were doing. But a lot of people need to see it. So we want to show it off. So people have confidence that the project is real, and the game is gonna be cool.

<div id="7" class="anchor">Will you be able to compete against others like YuGiOh?</div>

Alexander West  


Next question is will we be able to compete against others like in YuGiOh? Yes, you can definitely compete against other players. We will have multiple modes of competition. And you can play against strangers and pick up games. We'll make it so you can challenge friends. And we intend to have a pretty vibrant tournament scene, I think that, you know, I think we hope to have small small tournaments for, you know, relatively small prizes, you know, on a daily basis and, you know, slightly bigger tournaments, I like a weekly basis and slightly bigger tournaments than that on a monthly basis, and then probably big tournaments on a quarterly or annual basis. But also, if the game gets big enough, we can just like have big tournaments every week, like Grand Prixes. One thing that really has impressed me on magic arena, is that they have had monthly tournaments with, like, large cash prizes that you can play in almost any jurisdiction. And, you know, for me, my like, my background is competitive gaming and competitive Magic, the ability to kind of have that kind of high stakes event available from home without having to, to fly somewhere is pretty good. I'm not against flying places, like I loved it when tournaments were in cities I'd never been to. But sometimes the tournaments were in the same city over and over again, and I've been through it a bunch. And just hanging around the convention center wasn't my favorite.

<div id="8" class="anchor">What is a work or genre of fiction that you find meaningful or inspiring?</div>

Jed Dolbeer  


All right. There's a there's one more question from the previous AMA, I think we can close out on that would be kind of neat. That is worse and works of genre fiction that you found particularly meaningful or inspiring? I'm curious where your answer is there actually.

Alexander West  


Oh. Right. Okay, stop for a second, you haven't answered yet.

Jed Dolbeer  


I mean, I've, when it comes to genre work, like high fantasy and sci fi have been things that I've kind of focused on the most, I think it can be true for a while in the gaming world. But I remember pretty, pretty early on reading high fantasy stuff when I was like nine or 10. And just realizing that like, I can entirely lose myself and escape into something like this. And not many other genres like do that. So that was a big thing for me.

Alexander West  


Yeah. All right. I've also just, I'm a bookworm. As a kid, you know, in school, I would usually have like a book kind of hidden under my desk. So I could like read during class. And when we were like, in line to go places, I figured out how to like read a book while walking. But I'm gonna pick on the Left Hand of Darkness, which is a book where people travel to another planet that's inhabited by people. But the people on that planet kind of adopt technology very slowly. And I mean, there's lots of things going on the book. But the reason they adopted slowly is they're like, technology has a lot of unanticipated consequences. And it is much more of an existential risk to our society, to have, you know, those consequences kind of play out in a way that turns out badly than it is to use the technologies slowly. And it was interesting, because, you know, lots of sci fi is about technology. But I guess I haven't encountered that much like science fiction that was about sociology, and how this sociological adaptation could lead to success or lack of success. And I guess the reason I chose that it's kind of obscure, but when we were trying to think of syntax, right, we're like, this is the verse of tak. But also, you know, there's a lot of intentional ways that societies can shape themselves socially. And I think that's also part of what syntax is about. Maybe that that part's less obvious. But yeah, yeah. I really like science fiction that kind of explores how society can be different. So yeah, like Stranger in a Strange Land also, like a great example of sci fi where the the main premises like what what, what if there was organizing idea and culture were kind of like radically loving other people was the organizing force behind it. Yeah, that's, that's, oh, that's so hard to choose. There's so much good genre fiction. But there I did it, I made a choice. You got through it. That's the good part.

Jed Dolbeer  


It can be tough because like we fall in love with these various archetypes, books in specific like in universes or whatnot trying to pick one is how do you do it?

Alexander West  


Right. Well, and maybe that's the great thing about VS is you don't have to you can Yeah, you could, whatever you love, like you can have in the game.

Jed Dolbeer  


And if that changes, you can change that too. You're not locked in. Yeah, you have others to choose from.

Alexander West  


All right. Well, yeah, that's been actually delightful. I really like these little boy. Does. It's, it's great to see you. I think you now get the title of our most steadfast supporter. Yeah, we'll get this posted. So other people can listen to it later.

Jed Dolbeer  


Yeah, this will be posted on SoundCloud. Tomorrow. We'll have another one next month, potentially, with the narrative team so we can dive into some of that world with them. We have some other things coming up on the on the horizon. Stay tuned to Twitter for that. And then make sure to get your questions in. If you have a question that didn't get asked or you want to ask for next month. We'll post links and you can ask us then. Thanks, everybody.

This is some text inside of a div block.