Sniper Spotlight with ChronoForge CEO Lachlan Craigie

Credit: ChronoForge

Despite the initial pushback we saw from gamers in the early days of Web3, NFT and blockchain-based gaming appears to be on the rise. One reason for the shift in attitude around NFT games is that Web3 studios are working harder to give gamers what they want — better games.

One game that’s doing exactly that is ChronoForge, a game owned by Minted Loot Studios and co-developed by Ammobox Studios. The game is making a name for itself by featuring carbon-neutral digital collectibles and collaborative, strategic gameplay. Adding to its resume, it has an official partner in Immutable X, one of the biggest names in Web3 gaming.

Last week, we caught up with Lachlan Craigie, the CEO of ChronoForge, to talk about what makes the game special, how Web3 gaming can be improved, and his vision for the future of Web3 gaming.

Check it out.

To introduce yourself, tell us about your background and role at ChronoForge.

I’m CEO, product owner on the ChronoForge action RPG and was the founding engineer of the studio. Prior to setting up Minted Loot, I was working as an AI engineer for about eight years, but have held just about every job in dev and tech at some stage.

I spend my days doing a little of everything to get the game going, from marketing, art direction, cloud engineering and game design. I have even managed to sneak in a little AI engineering to ChronoForge in the form of our character AI system — Mind

For readers who are unfamiliar, what is ChronoForge? What makes this game special or unique?

Aside from the Web3 options in the game, ChronoForge isn’t your typical multiplayer action RPG. At first, you will notice the traditional elements of different combat classes and races, dungeon crawling, and an open world crafting economy.

However, there is a big twist. The collective decisions of players can literally make or break the world week to week. In an analogy for the global carbon emissions crisis, groups of players upgrade one of twelve trading company airships (which is basically your base for crafting). At the top tier, you can smelt the best gear and access end-game zones using a harmful power source known as a ‘chronoforge.’ If too many chronoforges are active at once, a planetary fracture occurs which wipes out everyone’s airships.

Players vote weekly to decide whether their trading company risks it all by activating their chronoforge, attacks a rival, or votes for an unlikely global prohibition of chronotech. We expect the community to engage in a range of cooperative, disruptive, and covert strategies to swing trading company votes in their favor.

How this community-driven dilemma resolves alongside the main questline is a well-kept secret; however, what is certain is that each week hordes players will return to scheme and vote on the fate of their world. This cycle both increases player retention and creates a grand spectacle perfect for streaming audiences.

Why did you decide to launch ChronoForge in Web3? Are there any specific problems in gaming that Web3 could solve?

Our founding team were big fans of MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, but were always frustrated the developers chose to ban trading of characters and gears between players. We decided to fix this in the best way possible by building our own game!

We also loved the decentralized possibilities of a ledger of game assets, especially the idea that more than one studio or creative party could give utility and life to that IP. To incentivize growing the utility of ChronoForge NFTs beyond our first-party content, we’ve allocated 40% of our $RIFT token supply to an ecosystem fund to support more studios, modders, artists, and other contributors.

How big is your team? Where are you based? And what’s a day in the life of a team member like?

There are around thirty game developers working on ChronoForge, including a partnership with Ammobox Studios of Malaysia. Minted Loot is headquartered in Sydney, Australia, but much of our game development and art talent is in Malaysia and Indonesia. We also have folks in the US and UK, but overall sticking with a fully remote team and a South East Asian talent pool has meant we have been able to hire a lot more talent than if we tried to set up the whole studio in say, San Francisco.

Every team member is working flat out in the lead up to a planned launch of Q1’24. We also had a public play test last month and another coming up in the next few weeks.

Tell us about your upcoming drops or launches.

We have several major drops coming up in the next few weeks. First up is a mint of 2,500 Support Airship NFTs that are eligible for $RIFT rewards. These airships can swoop in during a dungeon raid for an airstrike or instant revive, in addition to increasing certain drop rates and other buffs.

We will also be conducting another play test around the same time. An additional allocation of $RIFT will be airdropped to all holders of our Adventurer NFTs shortly before game launch in Q1’24.

What demographic does your game primarily cater to, and how do you engage with your community?

We are here for all gamers, and particularly those with a soft spot for great art, action, and multiplayer RPG experiences. Our holder-base is mostly North American, but includes a healthy smattering from all around the world. Our team, including the founders, chat directly with the community every day in Discord — there are no ivory towers. We pride ourselves on being an accessible team that genuinely takes player feedback and drives it back into the game design process.

What challenges are your players currently facing when it comes to interacting with your game’s NFTs? Are there any potential drawbacks to blockchain-based gaming that your team is anticipating?

From day one we were very focused on ensuring our game and NFTs were accessible to the largest audience possible, including Web2 folks with no knowledge of crypto. We have addressed the sometimes steep learning-curve of crypto in a few ways:

  1. The Web3 experience of our games is entirely opt-in. The game is free to play, and you can choose to make all purchases in fiat if you prefer.
  2. Once you own a lot of great items or characters, we help players get set up with a non-custodial wallet tied to their email address for a simplified NFT management.
  3. We are launching on the Epic Games Store, where millions of gamers can find us, Web3 or otherwise.
  4. Our game looks and plays like games should — high fidelity graphics, high quality action.

Do you think the gaming community has finally begun to embrace blockchain-based games? Is there still work to be done to earn their trust and approval? If so, what does that work look like?

There is still a lot of work to be done, but the accessibility measures discussed above and simply producing a genuinely fun gaming experience is core. In our opinion, we simply haven’t yet seen good enough games launch in Web3 to win over Web2 audiences and have set our sights squarely on resolving this with ChronoForge.

Having a sustainable token economy, carbon-neutral NFT drops on Immutable X, and a free to play minimal entry barrier are other steps we’ve taken that we believe will build trust with Web2 audiences that Web3 games can be ethical.

Are there any specific tools or resources that you think are lacking in the market, which could enhance the player’s experience or interaction with your game?

We think better in-engine tools for wallet and transaction managing will make a huge impact on this space. For example, currently it is still a slightly awkward UX flow to interaction with a wallet (other than receiving items) from within an Unreal Engine game session.

Where do you see the future of NFT gaming heading, and how is your game positioned to adapt to these changes?

NFT gaming is heading towards high quality gaming experiences. Simply put, creating a sustainable Web3 gaming business is about creating great games that provide great utility for NFTs.

More basic games that are simply a veneer over complicated tokenomics won’t cut it in the future. We’ve prepared for this future by ensuring every NFT we mint is a highly engaging part of our game — from the playable characters to epic flying mounts.

How do you plan to innovate or evolve your game in the coming years, particularly in relation to NFTs and blockchain technology? How will you continue bringing value to your community?

As an AI engineer, I’m looking forward to attaching deep AI personalities to all our NFT characters and watching those evolve through gameplay, produce their own missions and new types of game mechanics. I am also looking forward to seeing more studios and creators bring our NFTs into other experiences, be they games, VR worlds, animation or real-world events, and perks.

We plan to grow the core gameplay experience to include major PVP modes, special dungeon modes, player housing, and features more typical of a AAA MMORPG. We’ve built a high-fidelity gameplay foundation and from here the possibilities are endless.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

We like to think that our gameplay speaks for itself, so we encourage folks to check out our footage and jump into our next public playtest in the coming weeks!

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