Blockchain Game Company Lucid Sight Invests in Software Developers

Randy Saaf talks dev tools, space MMOs, and the future of the blockchain gaming industry.

Randy Saaf, CEO, is accustomed to being at the industry forefront. He founded and exited from one of the first mobile gaming companies in 2008, Jirbo, well before Candy Crush and Angry Birds synonomized the iPhone as a casual gaming console.

One could say his pioneer mentality remains with his Los Angeles-based gaming studio, Lucid Sight. Launching the first ever licensed sports NFT gave their team the energy and momentum to dive deeper into blockchain gaming possibilities.

In our Q&A session, Randy emphasizes multiplayer solutions and digital ownership as catalysts to growth in a $200B gaming market.

Tell us about your recently acquired software, Colyseus, and why you wanted it in your portfolio.

Lucid Sight acquired Colyseus in 2021 because it was our favorite multiplayer server engine. Colyseus is 6 years old and is the largest open-source JavaScript multiplayer framework in the world, with about 350,000 developer downloads. We launched a SaaS for Colyseus called Arena. The goal of Arena was to reduce the DevOps financial drag of bringing multiplayer to a game. An independent game studio can easily add a million-dollar-a-year drag to a single-player game by trying to make it multiplayer. Therefore, many games that would be better as multiplayer never become multiplayer.

Additionally, JavaScript is the most accessible and common programming language in the world with estimates of around 34 million global developers. Having a multiplayer solution built in JavaScript makes it incredibly accessible to not just Western developers, but to a growing global audience of independent game developers. We have seen huge growth in countries like Vietnam and India, where game creation is exploding. Whatever the “metaverse” ends up being, it will be built on real-time data channels, so we decided Colyseus was a foundational investment we should own.

According to Steam, one of your most popular blockchain games, CSC, is in active development. What are the play-to-earn mechanics behind CSC and how will future developments impact gameplay?

Crypto Space Commander (CSC) launched in 2018, and is the first play-to-earn space massively multiplayer online game. CSC was fashioned after EVE Online. Lucid Sight’s team is huge fans of EVE Online and a key part of the EVE experience is resource gathering and crafting. Crafting in video-game terms is where a player searches for and discovers resources (iron, diamonds, etc.) and combines them to make new game items (lasers, shields, etc.). We thought those mechanics would be wonderful for a blockchain-based game, where the crafted components are NFTs that could be traded or sold.

Gameplay image of ore processing in Crypto Space Commander. Image credit: Lucid Sight

A few games have experimented with real-money economies and there have always been gray markets for game items, like in World of Warcraft, but true digital ownership has always been a first principle of CSC. Additionally, CSC obtained a license and sold the first officially licensed Star Trek ship NFTs in 2019. We sold everything from Enterprises to Borg cubes. NFTs hadn’t exploded then like now, but those Star Trek NFT ships are still actively traded. CSC is a live-ops game, like EVE or Fortnite, which means that we have seasonality and events. We are not ready to announce the next events for CSC, but 2022 should be exciting for the player base.  

Tell us about your interest in moving blockchain gaming to traditional platforms.

I am not sure about blockchain gaming coming to traditional platforms. A few years ago, that was the goal—to be on the traditional platforms but with digital ownership. Traditional platforms have been hostile to blockchain gaming, most likely because they are protective of their 30% platform rent. Crypto gaming has come so far and the audience is much more global, so I am not sure it needs traditional platforms. The main ethos across crypto is eliminating these “rent takers,” so I am not sure blockchain gaming will evolve around traditional platforms that take rent. I think those traditional platforms will continue to be successful, and I think blockchain gaming will also be successful.

Some of Saaf’s favorite games include: Wii Sports, Skyrim, Zelda BOTW, Resident Evil 4, and The Last of Us.

People forget, but the iPhone and Android app stores did not launch with in-app purchases, so F2P gaming did not come around until 2009–2010. I was a co-founder of a small independent game studio called Jirbo that made iOS and Android games, so I remember it well. When in-app purchases were born, F2P became the main business model for mobile games. My mobile gaming company, Jirbo, actually pivoted to become an ad network called AdColony to take advantage of the new demand for installs. Game studios that had good conversion of free to paid knew exactly how much each install was worth and was willing to pay up to that amount for an install. The “whales” were often nontraditional gamers like middle-aged women from the Midwest. Lots of traditional gamers hemmed and hawed about in-app purchases and didn’t consider those match threes to be real games. Well, fast-forward to 2022 and mobile gaming is not only respected, it is a larger industry than console gaming. It is hard to say what the “in-app purchase” moment will be for blockchain gaming, but it probably will not look like “traditional gaming” any more than an iPhone game in 2009 looked like a Nintendo Wii game.  

Space Travel in Crypto Space Commander. Image credit: Lucid Sight

In terms of ease of use, there is a balance. We have definitely strived to make CSC accessible for those without deep crypto knowledge. However, the blockchain is the differentiator from an EVE Online or any other space MMO. The more you reduce the crypto knowledge necessary, the more you risk hobling the metagame. The metagame is the satisfaction of acquiring general crypto knowledge not specific to any one game and the tight community that knowledge group feels. We see that metagame playing out around the explosion of profile picture NFT activity in 2022. I think crypto gaming is the next explosion in communities and some knowledge of how it all works will be necessary to value belonging to that community. Digital ownership has proven to be one of the strongest community bindings we have ever seen and that is awesome for a multiplayer game!

What’s next for Lucid Sight?

Lucid Sight has a slogan of “Get to Fun Faster.” We will continue to invest in open-source and blockchain tools that help software developers create faster and with less resources. Software development is one of the only skills where someone in a developing market can be self-taught, develop from their own country, and make something very valuable. We want to empower the next 100 million game creators with tools to “Get to Fun Faster.” Lucid Sight will also continue to push the boundaries of blockchain gaming and NFTs, as we have since 2017. 

Christopher Yang is a member of Tech Coast Angels; a not-for-profit organization consistently ranked as one of the top five angel investment groups in the U.S. He is also VP of engineering at Away.