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Deep Dive with CryptoKitties Co-Founder, Mack Flavelle

CryptoKitties is a game centered around breedable, collectible, and oh-so-adorable creatures we call CryptoKitties! Each cat is one-of-a-kind and 100% owned by you; it cannot be replicated, taken away

posted 1 year ago

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Anthony Nicalo
Hey Mack! What lessons did you learn from the mobile game you built, Bounty Island, that have helped CryptoKitties? What similarities and differences between mobile apps and dapp game mechanics, development, behaviors have you seen?
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ɔɔ.cc
Hi Mack!

What kind of maintenance goes into keeping a DApp like CK running smoothly? What is the balance between the design/development and the ongoing work to keep it functioning?
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Mack Flavelle
@CryptoCurrent we pushed hard to launch on time and then though we would be able to breathe after that. Instead we had to dig in. It's super non-trivial to be honest. Making the smart contracts, the back end, the front end and the user's happiness all work well together is a full time job for many smart people. Plus all the amazing stuff we're adding - because we have SO MUCH to build!
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ɔɔ.cc
@CryptoCurrent @MackFlavelle Beyond building new features, what goes into daily maintenance/support alone? The fantasy is being able to launche some well designed smart contracts and then walk away while they run on their own, if you weren't adding new features, would this be at all possible?
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Ben Tossell
What was the motivation behind CryptoKitties?
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Mack Flavelle
@bentossell Hey! Honestly we think decentralization is going to be a massive shift in life for so many people, profoundly transformative, but the path there so far has been super boring. Insurance, payments, supply chain management. All super serious things that really aren't all that fun.

If blockchains are a big deal and we want people to care - make it fun. Which on the internet obviously means cats.
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Dennis Stücken
Whats the technique behind generating the Kitty images?
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Dennis Stücken
Is Cryptokitties implemented as a dApp? Which frameworks are you using?
Can you recommend any resources for developers that want to implement something similar?
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Mack Flavelle
@dstuecken Hey! I'm not enough of a developer to meaningfully talk about frameworks that we're using. I will point you towards the ERC-721 proposal for ethereum (https://github.com/ethereum/eips/issues/721) which my friend Dete drafted, and acts as the cornerstone for the kitties - and hopefully many many more amazing projects by the community.
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Ben Tossell
cryptozombies.co is an awesome way for people to learn how to make a crypto-kitties-esque game themselves.... would you guys be interested in doing your own version?
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Mack Flavelle
@bentossell I haven't dug to deep on the zombies myself but heard they're awesome. To be honest I want things like that to exist, but I don't think it's a priority for us to build them. We have so much to do, and there's so many amazing things to be built, instead of being responsible for each I want to be a part of ecosystem where every one of them can blossom.
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Soona Amhaz
Had any tough convos with Vitalik or has it all been received in good humor?
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Mack Flavelle
@soonaorlater we have not talked! He's an inspiration to all of us though, would love to chat sometime!
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ɔɔ.cc
What do you think about current/future non-fungible token standardization? There are a number of other blockchain games being developed like ethercraft and erc721 exchanges like https://opensea.io/, and the beginnings of a future where there is this huge federated and interoperable digital universe, but being able to make things function smoothly together is going to be more difficult without standards. Are you working on this at all with other groups/developers? Is there a good place to join discussions like this?

Something like a "rarity" identifier, so that a cryptokitty could be added to another game/blockchain ecosystem yet keep some its specialness, that would be standard across all types of assets.

Thank you!
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Mack Flavelle
Gotta run, that was fun.

Thanks for asking questions!

You can always reach me @mackflavelle on twitter if you want to chat!

Meow.
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Ben Tossell
Why Kitties?
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Mack Flavelle
@bentossell cause internet.
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Ben Tossell
How did you get into crypto?
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Mack Flavelle
@bentossell To be honest, the brilliant team I work with are far more crypto-sphositicated than I am. Though you might think of me as (part of) the heart of the project, the team here are really the brains. They brought the crypto to the kitties IMO.
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Erik Torenberg
When did you realize - “this is taking off”—and what has that experience been like
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Mack Flavelle
@eriktorenberg We saw early signs it was resonating when we ran a super basic alpha at EthWaterloo. Then our closed beta showed good signs to. But it was a couple days after launch where it was clear this was gonna be a thing.

To be honest, it's been super fun, totally exhilarating and really hard work. But we're so grateful for all the love and the growing pains that come with that!
1
Fly_Ams
First of all congrats, your game made my wife passionate of Crypto!
After the initial hype are you seeing an organic growth in user playing the game?
Is in the road map a mobile app to play the game?
Purchase via USD directly in game (trough ETH)?
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Mack Flavelle
@Fly_Ams so glad we helped light the passion for her. It's stories like that more than anything else that make me smile. (And my kid's fan art!) Yeah, obviously the launch bump was crazy and it's slowed down, but still growing. To be honest it's nice to have a core group of users who love the product who we can build an amazing experience for. And growing that number of people who really love the kitties is super fun thing to work on. It's a great community.

Mobile is definitely coming. Making the on-boarding experience better is obviously critical. There's so many steps for getting started with CK- we need to make that better but it's profoundly non-trivial. A big part of that is making the journey from curious with credit card to proud kitty owner work better, so our nose is on the grindstone there.
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Erik Torenberg
How much money has Cryptokitties made?

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Mack Flavelle
@eriktorenberg Not enough!
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Emre Tekişalp
What features and capabilities, that weren't available before, does cryptocurrency/blockchain unlock for games?
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Mack Flavelle
@etekis The big idea is the death of the middleman. These smart contracts will exist "forever ." So will the cats. Which is a big idea explored in a playful way.

I also think of blockchains as new medium for creatives. What an artist can do sculpting granite is very different then what they can do with spray paint but both have incredible potential. I think the same is true of blockchains. They're a strange new tool for creation with a ton of unexplored potential in the realms collaboration, exclusivity and interaction.
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Erik Torenberg
Walk us through how you went from idea to launch ;-)
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Mack Flavelle
@eriktorenberg

My CEO says: Mack- decentralization is such a big deal. Seriously.

Me- I know right.

Him- so get weird on the blockchain.

Me- we should put cats on a blockchain.

Engineers- wtf does that even mean?

Me- I don't know - but they should totally breed.

We spend 8-10 weeks with brilliant team at Axiom Zen designing and iterating on what it should be.

We run alpha at ETHwaterloo. Hackathon.

We run bug bounty.

We run closed beta.

We launch.
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Mack Flavelle
@eriktorenberg @MackFlavelle Actually it might have been Dieter who said "they should breed." Not sure anymore.
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Soona Amhaz
Most expensive kitty you've seen sold went for how much (eth or usd)?
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Erik Torenberg
How are you thinking about expansion for crypto kitties?
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Mack Flavelle
@eriktorenberg I want to build some cool things. But I want the community to build many many more cool things. Trying to figure out how to make that work really well for us, for developers and for players. This is important to me.
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Nathan Pilcowitz
What is the biggest learning from CryptoKitties' hyper growth?
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ɔɔ.cc
@pilcowitz @MackFlavelle if you were going to start again from scratch, what would you do differently?
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Mack Flavelle
@pilcowitz @CryptoCurrent better managing first time blockchain users expectations.

At this point, we all expect to press a button and get feedback. It worked or it didn't. There's a bunch of weird things about building at the intersection of new users and weird ass tech, and I wish we had done a better job of communicating what was hard, what was expected and how it all works.
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Mack Flavelle
@pilcowitz not sure I know yet. Spent lots of time thinking about what more we should have done before launching that would have made success less stressful, but let's be honest, success is always deeply unlikely. I've shipped many many many things that went nowhere at all - it would have been stupid to spend too much of the development life cycle focused on the slim chance of success.

So I guess maybe it's decide before hand the most important things you can do to make hyper growth easy, do those and accept you're gonna be pissed at yourself for not doing the others if it works. But it's the only thing that's pragmatic.
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Hot Air Token
Are all fancy kitties able to be found now if the genes are about? Or do we need you to flick the switch on your end?
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Mack Flavelle
@HotAirToken Fancy Cats come from specific "recipes" of cattributes. Until all the cattributes are in the wild all the fancy cats won't be!

Super super excited about some of the Fancy Cat stuff coming soon actually.
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Erik Torenberg
What’s the end game?
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Mack Flavelle
@eriktorenberg We stop releasing Gen 0 cats in November. But that doesn't mean the product development stops. It's also really has no bearing on all the cats that exist. We can imagine all sorts of experience that we build and other people as well that make the cats more fun, more useful, more dynamic or just more intersting.

The weird thing is that the cats will outlive anybody reading this. So I like to wonder about what a cryptokitty will mean 60 years from now, when we give them to our kids in our will.
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Erik Torenberg
How did you think about game mechanics and how has the product evolved over time?
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Erik Torenberg
How are you managing the scaling ?
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ɔɔ.cc
@eriktorenberg @MackFlavelle would you consider ever running CK as its own blockchain or on a platform other than ethereum?
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Mack Flavelle
@eriktorenberg @CryptoCurrent will consider doing whatever is best for our users. They're really what matter.

I don't know of anything better than Ethereum for our users at this point though.
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Mack Flavelle
@eriktorenberg talking to the smartest people we can find. Our own team is pretty exceptional and they are heads down trying to figure out how to scale blockchains with high volumes of transactions but we're also talking to people all over the world who have been thinking about this problem. We've got some really cool ideas already, but it's faaaaar from a solved problem.
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Ben Tossell
Do you have plans for any other 'games?!' like this? or something MORE crazy?
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Mack Flavelle
@bentossell There's so many things I want to build, but it would be arrogant to think all (or even most) of the good ideas will come from us. Long term I hope to get to work on dozens/hundreds of cryptocolletible projects, but for now I'm honestly just OBSESSED with these kitties.
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Fly_Ams
[DELETED]
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Soona Amhaz
Are there ways to use/test cryptokitties on ropsten test net (or is it just on the main ethereum network?)
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Mack Flavelle
@soonaorlater We ran the alpha on rinkeby but at this point it's all mainnet.
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Erik Torenberg
What is your advice for other people looking to build crypto projects that take off?
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Mack Flavelle
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Erik Torenberg
How did you meet your team?
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Mack Flavelle
@eriktorenberg We all work at AxiomZen.co

Most of us have been working together for years, on multiple projects.

One of the amazing things about AZ is as we needed to scale the team fast, we had amazing people who we could call on , who were literally sitting across the room, for whom we had implicit trust.
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Erik Torenberg
What does go-to-market // user acquisition for Crypto kitties look like?
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Erik Torenberg
What's the crypto kitties version of product debaters?
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