How Zillion Whales aims to pioneer blockchain gaming with single-screen RTS Wild Forest

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Strategy games have always been the driving force for mobile game developer Zillion Whales, something the success of its Mushroom Wars series testifies to. But not content with always feeling a step behind in the F2P space however, the team is now embarking on new territory.

With the aim to become pioneers in blockchain gaming, Zillion Whales recently announced its mobile-based real-time strategy game Wild Forest, which will be the first RTS to launch on Sky Mavis’ Ronin blockchain.

We got in touch with CEO Andrey Korotkov to find out more about how Wild Forest came about, its blockchain integration, recent alpha testing and what’s ahead. Can you give us some background to Zillion Whales and what the team is currently working on?

Andrey Korotkov: Zillion Whales was founded 10 years ago with a passion to make RTS games. We made a few, of which our Mushroom Wars series became the most popular and won awards including ‘Best of App Store’ by Apple in 2016. 

We’ve always been keen on RTS games but whereas Mushroom Wars is a simple game, we decided to move forward by creating more complex games. We currently have two games in production. One is Wild Forest and the other is a-yet-unannounced web2 F2P strategy game.

What sparked the ambition to create a blockchain real-time strategy PVP deck-builder?

Our passion is making strategy games and we never do clones. Mushroom Wars was the original game and now we see lots of clones of it on the market.

For this game we came up with the idea that, what if we can pack the Warcraft 3 strategy game into a mobile screen? The idea is to pack the whole strategy loop into single screen so you don’t need to scroll, something that’s essential for comfortable play on mobile.

Still, you’d have the old macro gameplay loop where you need to build buildings, gather resources, and manage your whole army, and a micro loop where you have control over each unit and can be tactical in battles.

I think we’ve achieved this goal, so that’s how Wild Forest appeared.

In what ways will the game experience be enhanced by blockchain integration?

While Mushroom Wars was a F2P game that launched quite late in the F2P era we were kind of following the run-away-train. I personally believe that NFTs and blockchain are the future of the F2P market so this time I want to be among the pioneers, until companies like Ubisoft and others take over this market completely. 

We also saw that with Mushroom Wars players played for years and they acquired a lot of in-game assets. At some point they wanted to sell them, give them away or similar, and our support quite often get these requests. So on one hand this made us think, ok, blockchain organically solves this problem because everything you own in-game are assets.

On the other hand, I believe an open economy is an interesting approach that could really work. Previously we’ve seen lots of pyramids on the web3 market, but now that era has ended there’s room for real F2P games. Let’s see…

Why did you choose to deploy Wild Forest on Ronin and was this always the plan?

No, this wasn’t always the plan. We were talking to other ecosystems but I personally think that Axie Infinity is one of the best web3 games, and seeing as we’re making a web3 game we decided that Ronin was the best ecosystem for us. Due to Ronin accommodating some top-notch projects, was also a reason why we chose them.

We want to be among the best of the best so when we got a proposal from Ronin to join them we were super excited. From then, we didn’t need much time to make the decision.

Today I also know that Ronin offers very good tools that are helpful to teams like ours who isn’t web3 natives. We’re a common web2 developer so we benefit a lot from the Ronin ecosystem tools. 

What role do you see the game’s WF token playing in this regard?

Well, I can’t foresee what will happen in the future, but I think as our game is the first and only RTS game on Ronin we will accompany other games and generally make the ecosystem stronger.

What challenges have you overcome in developing a blockchain game? 

The biggest challenge for us has been the economy. On one hand it’s similar to a F2P game economy, but on the other hand it’s way too important to predict what behaviour real people will exert in the game. 

Compared to F2P games, players want to find ways to earn money, and in a sense to do less to earn that money. And as a developer we don’t have a lot of options to change our economic model following the release, because it might hugely impact the existing community. In F2P you can easily change whatever you want after the game release, but with blockchain games you better think ahead. 

Until recently, web3 games have faced resistance from app stores. Why did you choose to distribute the game on mobile?

Well, the situation has changed and we’re a kind of hybrid because we have maps for things like battlepass and while we’ll adopt web2 users to our game, at some point they’ll find they have stats on the blockchain they can manage on the game website. This doesn’t violate any app store regulations and is not a breach of the web2 to web3 community. I think this is the hybrid approach most web3 games are choosing right now. 

Who’s your target audience and how do you plan to onboard them?

Same I guess; common to mid-core gamers. Mostly male players from 25-40 years old, of which most have played old school games and some coming from more hard-core platforms. We’ll try to reach out using common user-acquisition like we do with web2 games, with the expectation that they’ll convert to web3 gamers later. 

In F2P you can easily change whatever you want after the game release, but with blockchain games you better think ahead.

Andrey Korotkov

Another cohort of web3 players are those who’ll just want to play a really cool game, because there aren’t many of them on the web3 market I believe.

Wild Forest recently released an early alpha build, can you reveal something of what players can expect going forward?

We’re currently heading towards open beta, hopefully by the end of October. 

The alpha test showed us very good results, with even higher retention than Mushroom Wars, which was unexpected. More than 20,000 battles were played during this alpha, despite us only allowing less than 2,000 participants. The reception was very strong, which makes me happy and confident for the game’s future.

For open beta, we’ll invite almost everyone, and all participants who achieve results during open beta will be rewarded with NFTs that’ll have real value when we launch Wild Forest in early 2024.

Finally, what can we expect from Wild Forest in the long term?

That the game will be sustainable and also support esports. Looking at Mushroom Wars 2, which is already 7 years old, the game is still doing well and is currently part of esports communities with a number of tournaments running. We believe Wild Forest can be similar in terms of tournaments, support for yields, and later we’ll introduce clans, and more. 

Find out more at the Wild Forest website.

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