SaruTobi Island – an interview with MandelDuck

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For many of us, the crypto games market is a very new space. But Chris over at MandelDuck has already built a couple of Crypto Games and has been experimenting in this space for a while. The results of his efforts are a number of very innovative projects, such as SaruTobi Island, that are exploring some fascinating paradigms at the intersection of Blockchain and Games.

We had a chance to connect with Chris and learn more about his journey so far, and his plans for the future.

Can you tell me a bit of background about you and your team? What inspired you to get into blockchain / crypto games?

No team just me but I got into Bitcoin back in 2013, I was working for an app development company in Sydney and one of our clients requested we make a bitcoin app for them, I didn’t know what bitcoin was at the time so I had to do some research for the project and down the rabbit hole I went. At the time was I developing a non crypto game personally and decided it would be cool to add bitcoin to it and that became SaruTobi.

It seems like you’ve been making crypto games for a while now at MandelDuck. Tell me about what that journey has been like so far. What was the first project you worked on? and what have you learned along the way?

The first game was SaruTobi, it actually came about because apple had just released their new programming language swift and to learn it I played around with a FlappyBird clone that was built using it. I thought it would be cool to accept Bitcoin payments for in-app items, however it was clearly against Apple’s policy to accept BTC for payments so I decided to turn it around and pay the users in BTC for playing.  Soon after I left Sydney and moved to Tokyo and joined the Bitcoin community and at a meet-up I got a little drunk and thought I saw coins on the floor, turned out it was just paper but I had the idea of making an app where users could drop bitcoin at a location for others to collect which became my other app Takara, a Bitcoin geocaching app.

As for things I have learned along the way I would say i’m still learning but I like the idea of making a good games without crypto and using crypto to enrich the experience i.e. there is a temptation to blockchainize your whole project which I think has a place and can be interesting in itself but is not necessary.

Another thing I have learned is to be very careful when launching a token or ICO for your project as your development efforts can end up keeping the token price high to keep buyers happy rather than concentrating on what you think is best for your game.

Tell me about how the vision for SaruTobi Island came about. What inspired you to make a game like this?

I was working with EverdreamSoft developing an app called Book of Orbs that lets you collect and trade rare collectible and game items in the form of Counterparty tokens. Particularly RarePepe was a popular environment on the app. However, one issue was after users collected their tokens they really didn’t have a usecase for them. I had been interested in the idea of using tokens as cross platform/cross game game items and decided to make a game that would allow users to use any token they may have, thats the direction I am interested in the most the idea of games sharing game items through tokens.

What is the basic gameplay, story, and marketplace of SaruTobi Island? How does the game work?

The game is still in development and as I am working on it in my spare time I decided to release the game as an on going process in the form of chapters. Currently the game is a mix between Monkey Island and Monster Rancher. Monster Rancher was an old game where users could unlock monster be inserting random CDs into their console, in the same spirit, inside SaruTobi Island users can mix any token to summon a random monster.
Monkey Island is a puzzle based adventure/story game and perhaps my favourite game and as a homage I though it would be interesting to add a puzzle/story mode to the game and make it a satire of the current crypto space with characters and memes relating to people and events in the space.

Tell me a bit about what inspired you to integrate with Counterparty? Where do you see the opportunities with a platform like that in the crypto games space? And from your perspective, what does that look like 5 years from now?

It was by accident, I was introduced to a startup called Indiesquare which develops a Counterparty wallet and from them I was introduced to EverdreamSoft (I currently work for both these companies at the moment), I quickly saw that current games have a problem which is game items you have are somewhat stuck in the game, using Counterparty tokens it seemed possible to liberate game items from the game and let you use a token you hold as a game item in multiple games which is quite powerful from a user point of view. I think the opportunities are more with smaller indie game studios rather than larger ones, larger game developers tend not to want to share game items or currencies and also want to have complete control which is antithetical to blockchain.

However for smaller developers it could give them a competitive angle to attract more users. Once such example I can think of is a small studio could attract users by allowing the use of tokens of other popular game such as Spell of Genesis, RarePepe or CryptoKitties in their game. In 5 years from now? I expect to see better scaling solutions to really allow the use of tokens on a mass scale.

What are some of the barriers you see ahead for your project and Crypto Games in general?

Scaling is an issue of course, many use cases require zero to very low fees and layer 2 solutions for crypto tokens have not been developed yet either, so I think a lot of projects will move to cheaper chains whilst some more rare/exclusive tokens/items may stay on expensive chains. It is possible to create pegs or swaps between chains and plan to work with IndieSquare to develop tools to make that possible.

What plans do you have for the future for your team and your project? Any announcements coming up?

Personally I am exploring the lightning network to see if it could be used effectively in gaming to transfer money between players and between players in different games.
There are also plans to allow the use of tokens from other chains in the game as well.
Another project I am woking on is a MetaMask style api but for Counterparty. Basically it would allow game developers to request wallets to do functions such as get the user token balance, or to sign a transaction.

These wallets could be a chrome plugin or the game could be a HTML5 game that is loaded inside the wallet its self. The benefits of this is it allows user’s private keys to be stored securely in a single wallet such as an iOS app and give it the ability to interact with a number of apps built by 3rd party developers who do not need to worry about asking for the users private keys or to worry about handling transactions as the wallet will do that for them.

This is currently been utilized in Ethereum with the web3 standard with projects such as MetaMask, CryptoKitties etc and I want to bring to Counterparty and am already developing a few simple HTML5 mini games for RarePepe.

Any key dates or milestones coming up that you would like to share?

SaruTobi Island Chapter III is in development and should feature some new puzzles as well as hopefully the ability to use the lightning network to buy crypto styled hats in game. ETA is hopefully end of next month which means end of next next month in develop speak.

sarutobi island screen


You can learn more about SaruTobi Island by visiting their website here. And you can learn more about MandelDuck by visiting their website here.

You can also download SaruTobi Island on Android and iOS.

Got any comments, corrections, or new info? Get in touch!