We were developing a mobile MMO RPG for 3 years, created a great game, and raised 112.000 dollars in cryptocurrency in just 5 days on an ICO. Ask me anything!

Ilya Mikov
Aug 29, 2017

Active Games is an indie game development studio based in Perm, Russia. In the summer of 2014, we started development of the next great mobile MMORPG called Lordmancer II. Last year, we received a funding round from an american gaming accelerator, but it wasn't enough. Although the game was in beta testing already, we as the studio were on the edge.

And then we heard about this whole ICO thing. We invented a way for a crypto currency to be super useful in our game, announced a pre-ICO, and here we are, with 112.000 dollars to continue development and to do marketing for the ICO proper. lordmancer2.io 

I promise to honestly answer all of your questions regarding indie game development, trade and cryptocurrency in MMORPGs, funding and ICOs, publisher relations and why it's so hard for an indie studio to reach the market, life in Russia and everything else you can possible come up with! Don't miss this AMA.


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Are their any disadvantages  to using a crypto currency

Aug 29, 1:17PM EDT0

Compared to what? :) 

Well, first of all, it may be illegal in some countries to buy or sell cryptocurrency. Then, you might create a cryptocurrency wallet and then somehow forget the password or get this wallet stolen, in both cases your money is gone forever. Then, some cryptocurrency exchanges sometimes get closed, let's remember BTC-E in this regard. Everybody who kept money there, lost it. Then again, cryptocurrencies are extremely volatile, they move up and down like crazy (the whole trend is up, however). 

There are many disadvantages, and only one big advantage:

Aug 29, 1:33PM EDT1
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What is an ICO?

Aug 29, 10:27AM EDT0

Brandy, ICO is a crowdfunding campaign conducted using cryptocurrency. Let me explain. Let's assume a service, or a game in our case, intends to raise funds for development and/or marketing. It creates a "secondary" cryptocurrency built on top of Bitcoin, Ethereum (as in our case) or even creates its own blockchain. Then it announces rules of its ICO, which by the way stands for Inicial Coin Offering (mimicked from "IPO", inicial public offering, the procedure in which formerly privately held company issues shares, gets listed on an exchange and sells shares to future shareholders in order to raise money).

With ICO, it is very similar: the company announces how many tokens (those secondary coins) will be created, in our case 20 million; how much one token will cost. Oftentimes, there are different prices for different stages of an ICO; as the rule, early buyers recieve discounts. When an ICO is finished, tokens get listed on one or many cryptocurrency exchanges, and can from this point on be traded for another cryptocurrency. Market decides how much a token will cost. Oftentimes, the price of a coin rises dramatically if the corresponding service or a game performs well. In our case, there's additional "deflator", we will take commission for each in-game trade and "burn", destroy half of that commission. As a result, fewer and fewer of our tokens will remain in circulation, which will push the price of those remaining ever higher. 

In short, ICO is a (risky!) way to gain even more profit than you would have if you simply were holding your existing Bitcoins or Ether. Or put it that way, it's a gamble on a project's success. 

Aug 29, 12:44PM EDT0

Is there a large gaming comunity in Russia?

Aug 29, 9:13AM EDT0

According to a not-so-fresh report from https://newzoo.com, "In 2016, the Russian games market will be worth $1.4 billion, the 11th largest games market in the world. There are 72 million gamers in Russia, 65% of the online population. PC remains the dominant gaming platform with 44% of the total games market. "

So, as you can see, exactly half the country's 145 million population are gamers. There's at least one quite famus game studio, ZeptoLab, and tons of less well known: Playrix, Game Insight, Mail.ru, and of course aside stands Wargaming with their "World of Tanks".

Aug 29, 9:36AM EDT0
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What advice would you give to someone just entering this field?

Aug 29, 8:15AM EDT0

You mean the game development field? Well, perhaps the obvious "follow your passion". Game development takes a lot of time, a few years per game easily. So you're going to stick with a team and an occupation for a pretty long time. On the other hand, be flexible. Listen to yourself. For example, if you decide that programming is too tedious, try switching to something you really like.

On second thought, if you're completely new to gamedev, start with trying to figure out how the games are built. What is the difference between interesting and boring games. What makes a game interesting. Try reflexing on your own emotions when playing a game. What made you scream of joy, or get frustrated? Games are all about psychology and human reaction to external stimuli, everything else is just technical .

Last edited @ Aug 29, 1:17PM EDT.
Aug 29, 9:23AM EDT1

What's exactly is indie game development?

Aug 29, 7:29AM EDT0

"Indie" stands for "independent". It means that the studio (or a person) acts on its own, usually doesn't have tons of money, as opposed to established studios like Rovio, Zynga, Electronic Arts and the likes. 

But, like with indie music, sometimes new stars emerge from this mass of underdogs.

Aug 29, 9:25AM EDT0
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What does ICO stand for?

Aug 29, 6:01AM EDT0

ICO stands for Inicial Coin Offering, a kind of crowdsale campaign. During an ICO, ordinary people who have some cryptocurrency spend it for "tokens" offered by projects doing the ICO. Usually, those coins can later be used for some services that the project intends to offer. Or an investor could send their tokens at the exchange and hopefully profit from that. 

Aug 29, 9:27AM EDT0
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I’m not an artist but I still want to make games. Should I do design or programming to help me achieve it?

Aug 29, 5:47AM EDT0

Well, if not an artist, then probably a programmer, or a game designer, or tester/quality assurance. A "game designer" means someone who actually creates the rules of the game, in some sense "programs" player's behaviour. It is extremely hard and challenging to create the rules so that the game is both hard, challenging and rewarding. Think of Tetris. It has extremely simple rules, but still a fun and challenge to play. Or, chess, checkers or poker. Someone created those games! 

Aug 29, 9:29AM EDT0

I think I'll leave it to you experts!  Haha!

Aug 29, 2:00PM EDT0

Where are you based?

Aug 29, 3:41AM EDT78

We are based in Perm, https://goo.gl/maps/G3GqnGoLyUC2

There's expression "armpit of Europe", well, Perm is the armpit of Russia. It was a frontier territory once, when Siberia wasn't yet colonized, but now it's just a calm pieceful place with cool climate and a lots of rivers and forests.  Also, there are two big technical universities and therefore plenty of IT workforce.

Last edited @ Aug 29, 9:39AM EDT.
Aug 29, 4:42AM EDT57
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Are you self-taught or did you go to Uni to learn development?

Aug 29, 3:33AM EDT0

Yes, I finished a university in Perm. I am a master of sciences in Computer Science. However, it's been long time since I programmed something myself. There was quite a painful moment when I relised I'm actually a pretty mediocre programmer, so I switched to enterpreneurship instead. But I must say it helps a lot to understand other (good) programmers, how they think, what they want, what you should and shouldn't say to them, what motivates them. So, the education wasn't in vain.

Aug 29, 4:47AM EDT0
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What were your reasons for using crypto currencies?

Aug 29, 3:20AM EDT0

Well, to be completely honest, we just needed investment really badly. And then this whole ICO thing came about. So we began thinking, how could we make an ICO. We learned, that for an ICO to be successful, the product must be using the token it's trying to sell as a part of its business model. And then the team had this really bright idea, to make cryptocurrency token the second in-game hard currency, and then - to allow players withdraw tokens from the game. We knew there's usually a huge black market around MMO RPGs, and by using token as an in-game currency we can make this market legal, supported by the game. We think it's going to be a game-changer in all senses!

Aug 29, 4:51AM EDT1

Definitely a game changer!  

Aug 29, 2:02PM EDT1

Do you have a blog or website to showcase your work?

Aug 29, 3:16AM EDT0

Does http://lordmancer2.io/ count? :) 

Last edited @ Aug 29, 9:40AM EDT.
Aug 29, 4:52AM EDT1

Haha!  Yes!  Sorry - I was being blind!  lol!

Aug 29, 1:02PM EDT1

What gives you and your game the edge?

Aug 29, 3:15AM EDT0

A few things. First, it's not the first game we made. The first one was Lordmancer I, or just Lordmancer :) It was conceived as early as in 2006, launched in 2008. It was for Java phones, with buttons. People are still playing it. We learned a lot about game mechanics, game economy from this first game.This allowed us to begin developing Lordmancer II with more then basic understanding of what we want to achieve. The goal was more or less clear.Second, there's stil not many mobile MMO RPGs and we have a chance to stand out. With this cryptocurrency thing and the opportunity for players to withdraw real money from the game, we believe this chance is augmented. Last but not least, I think we really managed to create a quite engaging game. I've seen it evolve from "boring" to "not bad" to "not bad at all". There's a lot yet to do obviously, but the framework is already there and our players like it. Retention metrics show it as well.

Aug 29, 4:58AM EDT0

That's really inspiring!  Thanks for your answer.  It just goes to show that when you keep working on something and don't give up on it, it will eventually come to fruition and work for you! You should be proud!

Aug 29, 1:27PM EDT1

How hard is it to learn game development?

Aug 29, 3:07AM EDT0

Pretty hard. Well, it depend on the kind of the game you want to create. In our case, there's big 3D chunk. Everything in the game is 3D, rendered by a 3D engine called Unity. So, there's a couple of guys who know Unity in and out, they had to learn it from scratch. Then, in our case, there's a lot of multiplayer interaction, hence significant amount server side code which in turn implies load balancing, proper architecture, scalability and so on. Then, there's networking, delays, lost packets, etc.There is auxiliary code, like map editor (Lordmancer II has huge game world and it's expandable), quest engine. Quests are programmed in their own simple language. But Lordmancer II is a big title.To create a single-player game with no demand for internet connectivity, something like puzzle or a platoformer, one will possible have learn only a 3D engine like Unity. So if you're interested in gamedev, you should possible start there. 

Aug 29, 5:25AM EDT0
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So you raised your own funds by selling add-ons through your gaming platform?

Aug 29, 3:01AM EDT0

More or less so. All MMO RPG games make profit by selling in-game goods (like weapons, artifacts, troops, etc.) or boosters, or some specific in-game features like teleportation, etc.We raised funds in exchange for CURRENCY that will later be used to buy weapons, artifacts or ready-to-use characters from other players (peer-to-peer trade). It would be correct to say that we issued our own currency, declared its future use, and sold it for Ethereum. 

Aug 29, 8:35AM EDT0
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Does your job afford you the ability to travel and work remotely?

Aug 29, 2:29AM EDT0

I wouldn't say so. My job involves a lot of talking with the team, and I would say it's very important for the team to just sit together and talk everything out. Everybody on our core team, and we're 8 in total, sits in the same office. We have a couple of 3d artists, modellers, from other towns, but it's simply due to the reason that we couldn't find relevant talent here in Perm. Otherwise, it's preferrable to do business the old way, i.e. being in the same place at the same time, physically. Some chemistry happens. 

Aug 29, 8:38AM EDT64
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Are game schools really a thing? Should I allow my son to go to one?

Aug 29, 2:15AM EDT0

Frankly, I have no anwser to this one. There's no game schools in the place where I live. What do they teach there, how to create games? 3D graphics, programming? It may be worth it then.Also, it depends on your own attitude towards games. For example, my wife opposes that and our son, he's 9, is only allowed to play for half an hour a day. On one hand, I do understand we're in XXI century and everybody is digital, on the other, it hurts to look at modern kids, all the time in their smartphones. 

Aug 29, 8:41AM EDT1

How much of the interest in cryptocurrency is from genuine commerce, and not speculation?

Aug 29, 1:45AM EDT0

It's hard to say. I'm not a big fan of crypto currency myself and it is due to lack of understanding, I'm ashamed to say. I do more or less understand why shares of a company cost what they cost, but I DON"T understand what influences the price of Bitcoin, for example. I know that with current transaction time Bitcoin isn't of much use for commerce, it's mostly a "value storage". In your terms, it's "speculation", not "genuine commerce". So, perhaps 90% speculation. But I may be totally wrong here. 

Aug 29, 8:43AM EDT0
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What does "game developer" really mean?

Aug 29, 1:42AM EDT82

Well, game developer as a person is someone working for a company that is developing games, obviously. It may be a programmer, a 3D or 2D artist, a quality assurance, server administrator, game designer (the person who understands and "programs" player behavious, reward cycles, etc.) PR person and so on. So, a game developer is simply someone involved in the process of creating a game. 

Aug 29, 8:45AM EDT42

Got it, thanks

Aug 29, 12:01PM EDT36

Do you work for a company, or for yourself?

Aug 29, 1:18AM EDT0

I'm a co-founder of a company called Active Games along with another co-founder, my close friend, and an American business accelerator in gaming area, the company called Global Top Round. I don't receive salary in Active Games. So I would say I work for my own future, hoping to monetize my time and effort spent for Active Games sometimes in the future in the form of dividend from the company. 

Aug 29, 8:47AM EDT0
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What is a Technical Artist?

Aug 29, 1:11AM EDT0

In gamedev, it's a low-level artist that follows the lead and directions of head artist or art director. This person creates pictures of weapons, textures, elements of interface, etc. Usually, this work involves only minimum of creativity, for which head artist is responsible. We can think of it as of a first step in artists' career in gamedev.Other industries may have different meanings for the term, I think.

Aug 29, 8:51AM EDT1

How do you turn your cryptocurrency into cold hard cash?

Aug 29, 1:06AM EDT0

Just as our players will do, in the near future. Or token will be listed on a number of cryptocurrency exchanges. Anybody who has LordCoins will be able to trade them for Ethereum or Bitcoin and subsequently exchange those for dollars or euro on exchanges like Kraken or the likes. In our case, we received Ethereum during pre-ICO and will use Kraken to change them to dollars and then dollars to rubles in order to pay salary here in Russia :) 

Aug 29, 8:54AM EDT0

That's incredible!  I guess this is opening up whole new worlds of opportunity!

Aug 29, 1:04PM EDT1

How long did it take you to create Lordmancer II?

Aug 29, 1:05AM EDT0

Much longer than expected. We started development almost exactly 3 years ago, in the summer of 2014. The core team "sold" the idea of the game to me. I, in turn, persuaded my close friend to co-invest with me. We were planning to more or less finish development in 1 year, spend another year on polishing and reach the market in 2016. It didn't happen. We're only reaching market in 4Q2017.It took 2 years (2006-2008) for Lordmancer I to reach the market, but I guess life was easier then :) 

Aug 29, 8:57AM EDT0
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How would you explain the possible benefits of cryptocurrency to a layperson?

Aug 29, 12:59AM EDT0

Most and foremost, it's a storage of value. Just look at the price chart Ethereum/USD.

Aug 29, 8:59AM EDT0
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What does a gameplay programmer do?

Aug 29, 12:54AM EDT0

Is the word gameplay the most significant here? We don't have exactly this position in our team. We have a game designer who is responsible for unit balance, who creates and programs quests. I think we're talking of this kind of person. Their responsibility, in short, would be ensuring that players are neither bored nor too overloaded with complexity, as in both cases they would abandon the game. 

Aug 29, 9:01AM EDT0
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Do you expect Bitcoin to remain the most popular cryptocurrency for a long time?

Aug 29, 12:40AM EDT0

Frankly, I don't know. I can see much more usefulness in Ethereum, simply due to the fact that most ICOs are done using Ethereum blockchain and smact contract functionality, ours included. But Bitcoin has a lot more momentum, so to speak. So, if you want to invest, I would split between those two.

Aug 29, 9:02AM EDT0
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Why would people like your MMORPG over your competitors?

Aug 29, 12:31AM EDT0

Every MMO RPH is unlike all others. I think we have decent graphics, our battle system strongly resembles that of HoMM 3, therefore it's very familiar to a lot of people. On the other hand, its gameplay is quite different and unique.And of course we count on this feature of being able to withdraw the money from the game. 

Aug 29, 9:05AM EDT0

I think that's definitely your selling point there with the "real money" part of your game.

Aug 29, 2:28PM EDT0

Can you describe life in Russia now in 5 words?

Aug 28, 10:09PM EDT0

Everything is way too stable. (5 words) 

Aug 29, 9:06AM EDT0
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You have a few languages on the site, where do your main contributors come from, which country?

Aug 28, 8:41PM EDT0

Frankly, there's no way to tell. We think it's mostly Europe, but there's no way to trace payments "because it's cryptocurrency, dude". Most of pre-orders came from Europe, but we don't know if those people put their money where their mouth was. 

Aug 29, 9:07AM EDT0
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How is the crypto currency super useful in your game?

Aug 28, 5:48PM EDT0

In our game, people can put every artifact or weapon they have on sale. Even their whole character. Someone else would buy it for LordCoins, which is a cryptocurrency token. It can be exchanged for Ethereum or whatever and then to dollars or euro. This way, a player will be able to actually gain some "cold hard cash" by playing the game. Someone could even make it a daytime job. 

Aug 29, 9:10AM EDT0

That is what I love about your game - how many times has anyone said they wish they could play and actually make some real money!?! 

Aug 29, 4:17PM EDT0

What's the best thing about Perm?

Aug 28, 4:29PM EDT0

Or, we have great nature, a lot of really really wide and calm rivers, lots of forest. It's a very green and calm sity. And there's a great balley, opera and symphonic orchestra, whose conductor Theodor Kurrentzis recently won conductor's top world award.

Aug 29, 9:11AM EDT0
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Since you said it :) - why is it so hard to fund a game? One would think that's all people do nowadays - play games!

Aug 28, 4:13PM EDT0

You know, there's a credibility gap, or even chasm. You see, there's tons of games, but only few truly succeed, all others are fails and trash. Because of that, publishers are super cautious, they usually say "come when your game is finished". So an indie game developer has to fund all the development by itself. And it may easily take up to 3 years, as in our case, with montly cost of $10k. 

Aug 29, 9:14AM EDT0
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Have you worked anything with crypto before that or did you have to learn and implement it from scratch?

Aug 28, 4:03PM EDT0

Nope, nobody in the team had previous experience with crypto. Fortunately, Ethereum is a well-designed system, so it took only 2 or 3 weeks to understand it, create smart contract and launch pre-ICO. from technical standpoint.

Aug 29, 9:15AM EDT0
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How is the game doing so far? How many subscribers do you have and what are they contributing and getting in return (sorry if that's a dumb questions but not a gamer here!)

Aug 28, 3:48PM EDT0

The game is doing well, it was launched in its test market (in Russia) in late May. All of the summer we were busy adjusting the game to player's expectations, improving player retention, adding game cycles where the game seemed boring to players. Today, we have 2nd day retention above 40% which is rather good, and average payment per paying player above 18 dollars, which is also decent. 

Aug 29, 9:17AM EDT0
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How did you get the first funding?

Aug 28, 3:37PM EDT0

You mean that Global Top Round funding? Well, they found us, we don't know where, probably at one of half a dozen game shows that we visited. Invited us to send over the game for evaluation. We got shortlisted, then were invited to Cologne for a face-to-face meetup and the final round of selection, where 12 out of 20 teams were chosen to receive $40k each. It came as a big surprise for us, but the timing was excellent and the mere fact was very encouraging for the team. It's good when someone else also cares for your success.

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Aug 29, 9:19AM EDT0
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Where do your clients mainly come from?

Aug 28, 3:17PM EDT0

Since the game is at the time only launched in Russia, it's mostly russians. On the other hand, the game is already translated into English and we're welcoming players from everywhere. They just need to manually download the APK (Android executable file) from our web site or apply for iOS build. If you're interested, please visit http://lordmancer2.io/ there's a link for the APK and a request form for iOS.

Last edited @ Aug 29, 9:40AM EDT.
Aug 29, 9:21AM EDT0
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