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Interviews

Exclusive Q&A with Colin Steil, Co-Founder and COO of Cartesi

Niji Narayan

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

 

We usually start with an introductory question. Tell us about yourself. How have you become a blockchain entrepreneur?

I’m Colin, Co-Founder and COO of Cartesi. I am a previous venture capitalist and start-up founder with a passion to make blockchain a reality. I have an expertise in execution and years of experience in community building and business operations across the globe.

I originally got into blockchain while working for my previous venture capital firm, SOSV. We were actively investing in companies in a wide variety of verticals that were always trying to push the boundaries of technology. Some of these companies had discovered blockchain technology early on and were integrating into their existing products, or starting exchanges (such as Bitmex). I got to learn about blockchain through assisting our portfolio companies and fell in love with the technology and the possibilities it brang. From here, I eventually met my current business partners and Cartesi was born.

What is the story of Cartesi? What is special about Cartesi in the blockchain universe?

The Cartesi founding team initially got into blockchain as a result of Augusto Teixeira (our Chief Scientific Officer) being friends with Serguei Popov (Founder of IOTA and inventor of the Tangle).

Serguei Popov, one of our Advisors, initiated Augusto into the crypto scene through the Bitcoin whitepaper and sparked his interest in the technology, knowing that Augusto is a leading expert in cryptography and game theory.

Augusto had the original idea of creating a trustless marketplace for data scientists. Basically, it would allow specialists and companies to engage in a service agreement without the need to know each other or a reputation system. In order to implement that, he invited Diego Nehab (our CTO) to design and implement a reproducible VM capable of running Linux. With this architecture and the protocols Augusto had envisioned, we would be able to make generic computation verifiable by the blockchain. More specifically, the blockchain would be able to initiate routines in the emulator to verify the results sent by the specialists after they completed their jobs. The system would protect the two parties involved, only releasing the funds if the results were proven to be correct.

Later on, after engaging in long discussions, we realized we were tapping into a broader scope. Before Cartesi even had that name, we understood we could actually create a versatile layer-2 Linux infrastructure to overcome the problems of scalability of computation and infrastructure for blockchain applications.

Cartesi is special in the blockchain universe in the sense that it allows decentralized applications to be run within a Linux environment in a way that’s verifiable by the blockchain. Complex processing can be executed off-chain free from blockchains’ computational limits and corresponding fees.

By offering a Linux runtime environment, Cartesi is the only software-based verifiable off-chain compute system that gives developers a vast array of software that evolved in the last 30 years and that enable the applications we use on the Internet today.                                                                   

You have talked about the twin major objectives of Cartesi in other interviews as well: increasing network efficiency and reducing programming difficult over blockchain? Could you share details about real life projects that actually achieved the objectives?

For sure! No software application is built in isolation. Mainstream mobile/desktop/web Applications today depend on multiple software dependencies that took decades to mature on operating systems like Linux. Cartesi brings all this software infrastructure to blockchain applications. Whereas without Cartesi, blockchain applications cannot use mainstream software, libraries and services, unless they sacrifice decentralization in some way.

Then, there’s the second problem. Besides being hampered by insufficient software infrastructure, decentralized applications also suffer tight on-chain processing limits. So, they can hardly offer a compelling alternative to mainstream centralized applications. They are often hard to build, being clunky and limited for developers and DApp users.

Cartesi solves these three problems by

1) offering developers the software and tools supported by a full Linux OS

2) moving off-chain all the heavy computation over large amounts of data, that blockchains cannot do

3) offering services and a token economy that allows users to securely rely on the network and remain free from inconveniences of blockchain tech (e.g. slow confirmation times, requirement to remain online to resolve disputes, and others).

We have only just recently open-sourced and launched our decentralized tournament infrastructure with Cartesi. With this, we have recently released our first DApp, Creepts – a tournament on a tower defense game. This game showcases a fully decentralized game that was developed using conventional software stocks on Linux and also requiring billions of microprocessor instructions (and thus impossible to run on-chain): https://creepts.cartesi.io

The most significant product from Cartesi for the gaming industry must be Creepts, the blockchain-based game. Tell us more about it.

Creepts is the world’s first fully decentralized tower defense tournament game built with and running on Linux. It is built on top of Cartesi’s Layer-2 Linux solution for blockchains, which is available as an open-source software stack that is under active development.

Currently, Creepts is playable on the Rinkeby Ethereum testnet. In Creepts, players compete against each other to see who can claim the highest score in a fully-featured, real-time, browser-based Tower Defense game map. Players join a tournament by committing their high-scores and game moves to the blockchain, at a negligible cost. The game’s smart contracts then decide who the winner of the tournament is.

In order to play Creepts, players will currently have to go through a rigorous setup experience, downloading docker, setting up Infura, and installing the Cartesi Node. To simplify this in the future, we are now working on a read-write version of Creepts, which will present users with a similar experience to running a normal app without having to deal with any idiosyncracies of blockchain technology.

Is Creepts publically available now? If not, when can we expect to have its public release? 

Yes! Creepts is publicly available now on the Creepts website: https://creepts.cartesi.io. We are currently offering both a read-only version which is playable immediately (although centralized) as well as instructions on how to setup the fully decentralize version on Ethereum’s Rinkeby testnet.                                                                   

What are the values and features that do you think Creepts add to the existing crowded world of games? 

Cartesi frees blockchain Layer 2 development from restrictive programming environments. The Creepts game logic that determines player’s scores is implemented in Typescript and runs over a Linux OS. The blockchain components of Cartesi do not care what the software used to write the Creepts DApp is. All it cares about is that Creepts can run inside of the Cartesi RISC-V machine emulator to produce verifiable and disputable game logs and player scores to the tournament contracts.

Cartesi also allows Creepts to be the first blockchain-based multiplayer game that is able to mathematically prevent one of the most impacting cheating vectors in decentralized and competitive virtual worlds from being exploited, which is the injection of arbitrary content into the persisted game state. Creepts can do so while accepting arbitrary off-chain (Layer 2) game logic, written for a Linux OS, incurring massively reduced computational costs for the Layer 1 components of the DApp.

What are the things do you think blockchain technology can bring changes to (let’s say ‘revolutionize’) the gaming and gambling industry?

Blockchain technology brings a lot of advantages and fixes a lot of problems we face in games and development today, largely due to having to trust people. Blockchain can make games self-hosting, so if players love it and are there to pay the transactions, it will never go away or be changed unless mutually agreed upon.

Full decentralization will also make game systems transparent and traceable, with provably fair game-play. This can potentially allow for much higher stakes and bids in tournaments, gambling, or games involving money.

Another big factor is in-game asset ownership. This is something that has already evolved and is quite popular. Blockchain brings the potential for players to truly own their in-game assets, and would even allow them to bring them into other games – this opens up a whole new class of gaming possibilities.

Cartesi is not an exclusive programming platform for the gaming sector. Still, what are the ways in which the existing gaming and gambling software and technologies can make use of Cartesi?

Correct, Cartesi is a general-purpose infrastructure that will enable a new wave of DApps that were not possible before. We are not limited to gaming, but it is a great showcase given the market for DApps and for Cartesi’s technology.

Now that we’ve released our decentralized tournament infrastructure, gaming companies can easily create never before seen tournament DApps without having to know about blockchain development, they can even create these complex games with any software of their choice. In addition, we’ll be launching our SDK and documentation next quarter, which will guide developers to build with Cartesi and venture into different kinds of game development.

We’re looking forward to see what people can come up with in terms of games on Cartesi!

The ongoing Corona outbreak is really in the process of crippling the world economy. Hope your company’s operations are going smoothly. Some experts say this would be like pressing a reset button on all fronts. How do you estimate the future of blockchain technology in a reset world? We would love to hear your views on this.

Our thoughts are with all those who are affected by the current outbreak that is going on. We hope it gets better soon.

It is very hard to predict or understand the effect coronavirus will have in how the world works, but one thing that has become clear is how decentralization is important in times like this. For instance, governments may be acting in haste by printing loads of money to cover up for lack of preparation, which is basically another way to tax the poor. Blockchain, DeFi and cryptocurrencies could be used to protect yourself against government actions such as these depending on where you live in the world. Individuals are growing increasingly scared of authoritarian methods that are employed by governments, and it may be used as an excuse to escalate this authoritarianism around the world, where blockchain would be another good defence.

We are of course hoping things become stable soon and the world carries on. Wishing everyone safety and good health!

If you have some important topic you would like to discuss, we are ready to talk to you! Please contact me on [email protected] and we can set up an interview.

Interviews

Exclusive Q&A with Andrey Vajdyuk, Head of Business Development for NetGame Entertainment

George Miller

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Exclusive Q&A with Andrey Vajdyuk, Head of Business Development for NetGame Entertainment
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

How has 2021 begun for NetGame Entertainment?

We’re incredibly pleased with how the year has begun as it’s seen us deliver on our key growth targets in Q1. Against the backdrop of an unforgettable 2020 for the industry, we worked tirelessly to set the perfect foundation and it’s allowed us to seamlessly focus on new jurisdictions, promotions, aggregator and platform partnerships.

Our creative games studio has been busy with several hugely popular releases that included the latest in our Book of Nile series and Fruit Cash Hold ‘N’ Link. Another milestone for the business since the turn of the year was the launch of crypto currency and it means we now work with all world currencies.

NetGame Entertainment’s creative studio continues to release a wave of successful slots, what makes these titles standout from the crowd?

Our creative team and studio is second-to-none and deserves all the plaudits for the positive reception of NetGame’s titles. The team has been curated over time and is perfectly positioned to drive the business forward through designing exceptional iGaming experiences.

Supporting the innovative thinking are outstanding graphics, fair and trusted math and a combination of interesting features that each help deliver the best experience to players. Particular attention is paid to our bonus games and multiplayer elements that both have positive impacts on player engagement and retention.

Engaging bonuses feature heavily within NetGame Entertainment’s slots, what impact do these have?

Bonuses add to the fun for players and make games more exciting as we constantly strive to make every user’s experience interesting and enjoyable. NetGame’s bonus games are synonymous with our brand and there are various levels to the in-game features. One component that players love that’s present in some of our titles is the option to buy different starting levels within the bonus game to give a greater chance of success.

We are proud of our Progressive Jackpot Series Game and these have really added to player engagement and therefore life-tme-value. Other NetGame features include Free Spins, Buy bonus feature, Gamble feature, Tumbling reels, Hold N’ Link, Pick’em Game, Fortune Wheel, Super Laser, Multiplayer Mode, Totalizer, Pay-any Symbol and Quick cash.

The Fishing Kingdom slot has a multiplayer element, is this something that NetGame Entertainment will introduce more?

Fishing Kingdom has been incredibly well received and the results have been beyond encouraging. The game has been beautifully designed, but the standout feature is the multiplayer element. Given the results thus far, we plan to develop these styles of games and there will be another three launched during the remainder of the year.

How do slot series, such as Book of Nile, perform when compared to standalone titles?

We’ve been thrilled with how warmly the public has taken to the Book of Nile series. Magic Choice launched in February as the third installment following Revenge and the Lost Chapter. The Egyptian series is packed full of fun features and builds a narrative across the three games that players have really engaged with. Book of Nile is one of our most volatile games and that really adds to the breathtaking experience on the reels. Our series games and standalone titles perform equally well with our partners and that’s thanks to the creative team’s commitment to fun, thrilling and rewarding experiences. The key for us is having a diverse library of games to suit all our partners’ demands.

What are your business expectations over the next 12 months?

The next 12 months promise plenty for NetGame Entertainment and we have high expectations on delivering on our action-packed roadmap. One core element of that strategy is that we’re close to obtaining our MGA license and you are the first publication we have shared this information with.

Later in the year we’ll also be revealing some more details on some major arrangements with big aggregators and operators. These significant deals will allow us to expand NetGame’s reach in the market and give more players the opportunity to fall in love with our proprietary titles.

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Interviews

Exclusive interview with Petra Maria Poola, Head of Business Development and Operations at OneTouch

George Miller

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Exclusive interview with Petra Maria Poola, Head of Business Development and Operations at OneTouch
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

We sat down with Petra Maria Poola, Head of Business Development and Operations at the mobile-first casino game developer OneTouch, to discuss how suppliers should adapt their products to the geographic regions which they are targeting.

Is content localisation a myth?

No – for those who get it right, it’s an invaluable acquisition and retention strategy. What do we mean when we talk about localised games? Put simply, it’s a title that’s tailored to a specific geographic audience.

And it takes a lot more than just changing the language to do that. From both a visual and technical perspective, adapting your content to individual target markets can do wonders for engagement.

For example, there are obviously still places lacking in internet coverage, particularly in growth regions such as Latin America. For suppliers trying to enter those territories, that makes it all the more important to ensure that your games don’t take up too much storage, and can be easily downloaded by those with an older smartphone model or a slower internet connection.

Do you localise your games? If so, how? And which regions are they tailored to?

Here at OneTouch, we think it’s all about striking the right balance between creating international hits with cross-cultural appeal, while also producing content for specific local audiences.

Our recent release, Ganbaruto Battle, draws inspiration from the great Japanese tradition of sumo-wrestling. It features a renowned Estonian wrestler called Baruto Kaito, so its appeal is likely to include, without being limited to, players from that country.

Equally, classic casino themes such as Ancient Egypt and Vegas-style fruit symbols often generate global popularity. Our timeless slot title, Forgotten Pharaoh, has achieved tremendous and widespread success by drawing on the former theme.

One might expect that our basketball-based slot MVP Hoops performs especially well in markets where that sport is popular, but it’s actually proved a hit in regions where basketball is not generally followed by the wider population.
Finally, we expect our upcoming title Live Crash to reach a transnational audience, because it is a crash-style title similar to those enjoyed in the crypto-gambling space – which is rapidly gaining followers from around the world.

We research every market diligently to understand what its players want in precise detail. Localisation has proved a successful strategy for OneTouch!

Are there any aspects of game development which are internationally uniform, and do not vary based on where you are in the world?

Some aspects of content development require more localisation than others. Failing to geographically adapt your game from a visual perspective might mean that customers might not want to play it. Failing to do so from a technical perspective, meanwhile, could mean that they are not able to play it.

However, there are other stages of the game development process which are not subject to regional variation. With the exception of a game’s volatility, mechanics do not tend to vary all that much on the basis of geography, unlike technical and visual effects.

Similarly, sometimes localisation isn’t just about adapting to cultural or infrastructural differences, it’s simply a case of knowing the ratio of land-based to online players within the market you are targeting. It’s all about creating an enjoyable entertainment experience for the end user by paying heed to their specific cultural context. Get that right, and you could be onto a winner.

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Cryptocurrency

‘What is the role of social media within real-money gaming, and how will this change in the years to come?’

George Miller

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'What is the role of social media within real-money gaming, and how will this change in the years to come?'
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

We sat down with Tom Leadbetter, Head of Marketing at multiplayer casino game developer FunFair Games, to discuss the increasingly important role played by social media within the modern-day gambling industry.

The casino industry’s use of social media is fundamentally outdated. Specifically, the world of iGaming has yet to understand the true value of community engagement.

The crypto space, by contrast, has long been ahead of the curve. That includes crypto-gambling, which places community at the heart of its acquisition strategy. Yes, many in the real-money gaming sector post about their activity, but that’s rarely followed up with a conversation.

That’s why FunFair Games uses social media to start a two-way dialogue with its community, stimulating discussions on platforms such as Discord, Reddit and Telegram, as well as more conventional social channels like Twitter, where we’ve got more than 35,000 followers.

I doubt there are many companies in the real-money space who use Reddit, but we’re proud to call ourselves pioneers in the gambling industry’s use of social media. And with a current membership count of nearly 17,000, as well as 72,000 page views in January alone, we’ve found the platform to be a fantastic engagement tool.

Keeping your community engaged takes more than just emailing a newsletter without response. We live stream our games at the prototype stage, and ask for community feedback on the names of the characters found in our titles.

In that regard, social media is a great way to garner instant feedback on your content. The crypto index is much younger, boasting a higher level of popularity among Gen Y and Z players than the mainstream casino sector.

Crypto is therefore a useful predictor of things to come. If the emerging generation of player wants more community-driven experiences, it’s likely that social media will prove key to the gambling industry’s future.

There’s a tendency for the real-money sector to fear community engagement. In some ways, that’s understandable: scroll through Twitter these days, and most of the stories you find about gambling tend to be negative.

That negativity, though, stems from a lack of trust. That’s a word you wouldn’t normally associate with the world of gambling, but social engagement allows you to cultivate it. Most of the feedback we get is positive, but our community often flags potential problems too. We don’t shy away from spirited discussions and debates with them – it’s not that everyone agrees, but that everyone cares.

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