OPGames Dev Feature: Ronan Sandford, Conquest.eth

An interview with Ronan Sandford, lead blockchain developer for The Sandbox, and creator of Conquest.eth

Conquest.eth is an open-ended, on-chain strategy game that runs completely on Ethereum. Players get to acquire planets by strategizing on how to capture other players’ planets.

Ronan Sandford, blockchain architect and Web 3.0 developer, is one of the game developers we’ve collaborated with for our NFT drops exclusively released in Paras.id last June 5th-7th. Some of the projects under his portfolio include Etherplay, The Sandbox, and his latest creation, Conquest.eth, which made it to our “The Pioneers” NFT collection.

After working in the casual mobile game space from 2010 to 2016, and a year of attempting to iterate a different business model for game development around skill games, Ronan Sandford recognized the pitfalls of the free-to-play model and how it affected the overall quality of games.

It was in 2016 when he discovered Ethereum and saw huge potential for disrupting the prevailing business model of the gaming industry by building unstoppable games on-chain. He is now working full time on his latest creation, Conquest.eth, and plans to release it before the end of this year on Ethereum L2.

We got to know more about the motivations of this very accomplished game developer and his thoughts on blockchain gaming, NFTs, and more!

“I do not follow all that is happening there, but unfortunately there seems to be a lot of companies seeing crypto as an opportunity to get money, and not interested in the actual breakthrough it enables. It makes talented game developers wary about such technology, but the hype is probably inevitable and could be a good sign. In 2019 when I started to build fully on-chain EVM games, it was kind of new. This is now changing with games like Dungeon Protocol and Dark Forest embracing the limitation of the EVM while providing fun game play. There are also other projects outside of the EVM sphere that show great promise like Nine Chronicles or Xaya.io. The latter is actually the first blockchain game creator ever (with the release of Huntercoin) and still building.”

Ronan Sandford delivers a presentation on building a game fully on chain.

“The idea came in mid 2019 when I realised one of my favorite games, Konquest, was a perfect match for the limitation of the EVM, and could provide a very fun experience. It was a game I implemented on the web before but never finished. I then started to think how we could make it open-ended and permission-less as this is what makes crypto so interesting.

Blockchain games are MMO by default. This added interesting challenges and required design changes. I started to implement a prototype in April/March 2020 with the core idea in place. Then it took my not-so-abundant spare time to continue building.”

Q: After the first alpha, what were the difficulties and lessons learned?

“With the alpha, I was testing mainly 5 things:

1. whether it was fun

2. whether the game was really diplomatic and social as I envisioned

3. whether the core mechanics of the game worked

4. whether the implementation is robust enough

5. how far can I go with a “no backend” architecture

The alpha was a great opportunity as the Goerli network on which the alpha was running had issues and it revealed several problems in the code, some of which I was aware but did not think I would see them in the alpha. Next version will be more robust and more importantly would not require a rewrite for the issues found, not like the alpha’s implementation.

For the “no backend” architecture, it was something I wanted to test personally as many projects in the space (not only gaming) forego a lot of decentralisation when it comes to user interface. The learning here is that to provide a better experience, I would have to forego some decentralisation, while the core remains fully decentralised.

In the alpha, every data were fetched from the user’s wallet’s node. There was no backend I needed to maintain for the user to play the game. There was also no reliance on external service like thegraph.com. The issue was that it was slow and inefficient for users to get the necessary gameplay information. In the new version, the game will rely on thegraph.com but players will be able to run their own.

Another issue was the use of ENS and IPFS, it made update slow to propagate, and while I definitely want to keep using that once the game is released, for the next alpha I would use a system where update can be propagated quickly, so I can react faster to issues or make improvements quickly.”

Q: What made you decide to participate in the OP Games NFT drop? What does this mean for the Conquest.eth community?

Conquest.eth NFT card available exclusively on Paras.id.

“I think the OP Games NFT drop is a great initiative for funding game developers. NFT can represent an interesting piece of history down the line and I thought it would indeed be a cool idea to have a Conquest.eth NFT immortalised. Every participant in the alpha is offered to get one for free (but I cannot guarantee to keep them indefinitely, so reach out for details and join our discord) but there is no plan to make use of that NFT in the Conquest.eth ecosystem per se. I am still figuring out how the community of players will be involved in the broader Etherplay ecosystem (planning to release more games later and potentially expand the Conquest.eth universe) but it is unlikely these NFTs will play a role. I see them more as historical pieces.”

Conquest.eth is a game of strategy and diplomacy where players compete for the control of the universe. It is an open-ended, on-chain game that runs completely on Ethereum, and players get to acquire planets by strategizing on how to capture other players’ planets.

About OP Games

OP Games enables developers and the community to own, run, and monetize games as a collective. Through OP Games’ suite of tools and SDK, developers can turn entire HTML5 games into fractionalized NFTs offered to the public as investable assets. Founded in 2018 by gaming veterans, OP Games seeks to lower down the barrier to game ownership.

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