Thought Leadership with Ark Dev from Hytopia

Hytopia, previously known as NFT Worlds, is a free-to-play metaverse gaming project inspired by Minecraft. It launched in September 2021 and was quickly followed by the release of NFT Worlds NFTs, a collection of 10,000 NFTs minted for free on Ethereum.

The team, led by co-founders Ark Dev and Temptranquil, is now preparing to release the beta version of Hytopia, along with a Layer 2 blockchain called Hychain that it hopes will become the go-to blockchain for Web3 games.

Last week, I was lucky enough to catch up with Ark Dev to discuss the project’s history, what they’re working on now, and their vision for the future. Check it out.

The following interview has been edited for concision and clarity.

Thanks for speaking with Rarity Sniper today. Please tell us who you are and your role at Hytopia.

I go by Ark Dev on Twitter and everywhere. I’m one of the co-founders of Hytopia, formally known as NFT Worlds — which many people remember. The last two and a half years have been focused on building out what was NFT Worlds and is now Hytopia, which is like a Minecraft/Roblox creator platform with tooling and monetization.

Lately, we’re building out Hychain, which is an L2 blockchain for gaming with vertically integrated tools for developers. This comes from our experience building Metafab previously. And before diving into Hytopia and NFT Worlds, I built startups for the last 12 or 13 years and have had exits in the gaming and e-commerce space.

Can you describe Hytopia for people who are unfamiliar with the project?

Hytopia is similar to a platform like Roblox, which has a UGC (user-generated content) focus. There’s no default game mode in Roblox. Creators come in and they have all the tools, APIs, and things they need to build specific game types within the constraints of what Roblox allows.

We take that sort of approach for creators and gameplay mechanics with Hytopia. On the visuals, experience side, and what the game plays and feels like across all these different experiences, we borrow from the nostalgic and familiar field of Minecraft. So, it uses the voxelized, low-poly gameplay mechanics and physics that you would recognize from playing Minecraft and allows developers and players to come in and have a whole new ecosystem.

Is Hytopia live now or is it forthcoming?

Our beta will come out in early April. But we already have little over 1.1 million pre-registered player accounts for Hytopia right now. Most of these accounts stem from people who were familiar with us and players during the NFT Worlds days, when we were one of the biggest networks and blockchain layers on top of Minecraft and had hundreds of thousands of players active.

Why the pivot from NFT Worlds to Hytopia?

We want to target the broader gaming space. When we look at a lot of games in the Web3 space, I see a lot of niche ideas focusing on adding Web3 crypto elements into it and targeting the small pool of degens — which I don’t think is sustainable.

But we believe that even if we were to take all the Web3 elements out of what we’re building, Hytopia is something that the Minecraft creator space has needed for a long time and players have been hungry for it. We think it would fly without it [Web3 tech].

So, we wanted to make sure the name was something appropriate for a greater audience and not something that would be abrasive. That was the biggest reason for the name change.

A few years ago, the gaming space was cynical when it came to Web3. Do you feel like that sentiment is beginning to change?

I think maybe in some circles. I have a few friends that are in different roles at big game companies. Some are either studio managers across different titles at Microsoft or working on some of the largest mobile games in the world. I talk with them about blockchain maybe once or twice a year.

The sentiment that has been common so far is that Web3, blockchain, and crypto — all these things aren’t going to see mass adoption by mainstream traditional studios or game development companies until, or if, there is an unlock of a business model that has not been possible for traditional games.

Ownership and all these ideas around NFTs are not that; that’s something you can still do with traditional technologies. The thing that they are bullish on though, or that comes back as the commonality, is that one thing blockchain solves that you can’t solve with another technology is the ability to take revenues on secondary markets and what are otherwise black markets for games that are denominated in USD and cash trades today.

So you probably remember World of Warcraft, or we still see this with Steam CS:GO Marketplace — the black markets where gaming assets trade in US Dollars. The games today can’t get a cut of that because it’s US dollar trading and they’d have to custody the dollars for their players, which gets into banking regulations and other money transmitter issues.

When we look at blockchain and self-custody as an implementation for player asset management, it allows the game to create marketplaces that connect player to player, and then the protocol takes a split off of transactions for any USD to item type transaction.

That is probably going to be a big deal, and that’s what I think we’re all sort of feeling that the biggest opportunity and unlock is. I think once we see someone do that at scale, the sentiment will change very quickly amongst publishers and studios.

Does Hytopia have a genesis NFT collection?

Yeah, we have the Worlds collection. Hytopia Worlds launched back in October 2021. It was a free mint too.

And there are two others. There’s one called Hytopia Avatars, which are content models for players and games so you can look different. And there’s a lot of other perks that they have as well, such as unique cosmetic drops and games that are going to add to their overall utility.

And then the third collection that we launched is unrelated to Hytopia. It was something we did back in 2021 before NFT Worlds got significant traction. It was called Gray Boys. It was a PFP collection, and that community’s still part of our greater ecosystem community today.

Can users enter Hytopia using a Gray Boys Avatar?

Yeah, we do have avatars that will be visible skins within the Hytopia game for Gray Boys. But you don’t need to own an NFT to play Hytopia in the future. It’s free to play for anyone. It just gives you a custom look and stuff like that.

Let’s talk a little bit about the node sale on Hychain. What were you guys hoping to accomplish by selling nodes to your community?

Right now, when we look at our current treasury, everything’s earmarked for the Hytopia game development. With the node sale, it gives us the resources to be able to start focusing on our L2 infrastructure, bringing partner games onto the chain that utilize Hytopia to build and power their games, and utilizing the Hychain network and all the technology we built as well.

The second piece is that node operators are going to help secure the network in the long term. They’ll be different software upgrades to the node software that’ll make the nodes more important to the security of the network over time. But just having them operating now gives us a greater pool of people that will upgrade and support the network in the long term.

What’s unique about this Layer 2 blockchain?

Hychain is a fully vertically integrated solution for game partners. What this means is when you come to a typical L2 for gaming, you have all the table stakes stuff like, “Hey, this [has] faster block times, a little bit better throughput, and cheaper transactions” — but that is something you can get anywhere.

The stuff that’s important is giving the proprietary software on top that allows games to quickly integrate things like fully frictionless account abstraction for players, so they don’t have to deal with crypto and you can target the mass Web2 markets of players who can just come in, sign up for the game using Discord and they’re automatically playing.

We also aim to help games and game developers who are coming from Web2 or the indie side and who don’t know Solidity so that they can come in and launch things like an ERC-20 token for a game that underpins the game’s currency. Or NFT items like ERC-1155 or 721 tokens where they can watch the collections, manage them through simple services and APIs, and issue them to players based on actions they do in the game.

Another one is Hychain fully subsidizes player and game transactions. As games grow over time, when you pick a network, you’re either going to have your players paying for their transactions for whatever they’re doing, or you as a game are going to be trying to cover the fees as your players scale and as players do things.

Both of those scenarios are difficult to justify. For players, you have to teach them how to get tokens or put cash in just to be able to do some things in games, and for games it’s difficult to justify because they need to handle the ballooning and scaling costs if their game starts to grow and grow.

So baked into the sinks and fee tokenomics of Hychain, we basically have a recycling mechanism where up to a certain extent we will cover your players transactions no matter your scale. That way you don’t have to worry about it as a game to start scaling. I think that’s one of the unique propositions, and something we’ve learned while operating Metafab and then building Hytopia.

What does Hytopia have planned for this year?

The two main things for us are Hytopia and Hychain right now. The Hytopia beta is rolling out at the beginning of April. They’ll just be continued releases and iteration on the product from that point forward.

We think we’ll see fairly large-scale user adoption based on the problems we solved back in the NFT World days — the user adoption we saw then — and then how we’ve iterated and come to this stage of the product with Hytopia in the pre-registrations.

Outside of that, we have Hychain, which we’re going to try and build what we think will be the largest L2 for gaming — the first choice pick—because of the full vertically integrated stack you have everything you need as a game partner to come in and be successful. And we’re going to really push that narrative and product. So, those are the two main things.

Thanks for talking with me today.

Thank you.

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