An Esport for Web3: An Interview with m1nac, Founder of The Forge Arena
We sat down with this infamous personality to talk his well-documented past, pushing competitive gaming into a new era, and a $1,000,000 tournament.
When OPSkins came to the fore in 2015, CS:GO fans rejoiced. Finally, there was a platform to trade in-game skins for real-world money.
Since Valve forced its closure 5 years ago, the man behind OPSkins made it his quest to build a game where players could freely trade the skins they acquired, and with the advent of blockchain gaming, his idea found the medium it needed to come to fruition.
His name is m1nac, and the game is The Forge Arena.
With NFT.NYC behind them and the game closing in on its Open Beta release, we pulled m1nac aside for a in-depth chat on the current state of play, and where the game is headed.
John: Hi! Could you tell me a bit about yourself, your background and how you got into NFTs?
m1nac: Sure! My name is Artur Minacov, but I go by m1nac online. I’ve been an avid competitive gamer since I was 5 years old, playing over 20,000 hours of Counter-Strike since 1.6.
I’ve always had an entrepreneur mindset when it comes to anything I do in life. I’ve been building gaming communities since I was 7 years old, and ran my own game servers & web hosting services for these groups whilst I was in high school.
Building communities and great products has always been my passion. In 2015, I founded OPSkins, which has a well-documented history in the community. I ran it for 2 years before I sold it to William & Johnathan in 2017, who transformed OPSkins into what we know today as WAX.
Today, I’m the Creative Director of The Forge Arena, the first competitive FPS video game to utilize blockchain technology through NFTs & Play-to-Earn mechanics. Aiming to be the world’s first blockchain esport, The Forge Arena offers an unique user-powered and user-owned experience that’s unparalleled in the space.
How did you come up with the idea for the game, and what has the development been like up to this point?
I started building The Forge Arena in 2017 when I sold OPSkins. After 2 years of development and a lack of funding, we decided to shelve the project. With everything happening in the NFT space today, it was obvious for my co-founder Arthur and I (yes, we’re both named Arthur!) to bring The Forge Arena back and turn it into a blockchain game.
We have the chance here to be pioneers in the space and showcase the potential of these new technologies. It’s our duty to educate gamers and investors alike around the world on NFTs and blockchain games as we truly believe they’re the future of the gaming industry.
Gamers have resisted change. It happened with Free-to-Play, and we’re seeing the same resistance with Play-to-Earn. It is without doubt that the next 12 months will be very interesting, both for the Arena and for the space in general. Our team is ready to deliver, and we firmly believe that The Forge Arena will become the #1 blockchain game within the next year.
Looking at your Litepaper, there’s a raft of updates planned throughout 2022, including your take on Play-to-Earn. How will P2E work within The Forge Arena?
The Forge Arena is currently in Closed Beta. The only way to get into the game is by owning one of our NFTs – ranging in price from as low as $0.50 all the way up to $60,000.
There’s no P2E mechanics in the game currently as we don’t want to rush into things. We firmly believe that our key mechanics and features need to be in place first, building a strong foundation before implementing tokenomics and P2E mechanics.
With that being said, we will have three different tokens that you can earn:
- $BOUNTY – earned by completing daily challenges and missions, and by completing game objectives such as planting/defusing the bomb, killing the kill leader, winning a round/match, or by being the MVP of the game.
- $SOUL – earned by accumulating kills in the game.
- $SCRAP – earned as players spend their time in The Forge Arena. Our infrastructure monitors player activity and adds gameplay time to their account. At the end of each month, players will be sent $SCRAP relative to the amount of time they’ve spent in the game.
Alongside the ability to exchange these tokens for our governance token on Alcor, they can be used within our NFT Generator and NFT Store.
The NFT Generator allows players to craft specific weapon parts and skins using $BOUNTY, $SOUL and $SCRAP. Once the required weapon parts are assembled and the skin is crafted, players can either import these skins for use in The Forge Arena, or can sell them via a secondary marketplace.
On top of these token rewards, once a player completes a challenge or mission, they will be rewarded with an additional prize. This will either be one of these three tokens, or weapon parts, skins, battle passes, store items, partnered prizes or similar rewards.
As we get closer to our Open Beta launch, we will update our Litepaper with the latest information on our key features, mechanics and tokenomics.
Also within the Litepaper, you mention the “$1,000,000 Ascendance Series Tournament”. Could you tell us a bit more about this?
Of course! Our Ascendance Capsule drop is composed of 11,111 capsules with 2 NFTs inside – one Ascendance-themed weapon skin and one tournament badge. The skins are usable right away in The Forge Arena, whilst the badges allow users to participate in the Ascendance Series Tournament to compete for the biggest prize pool in blockchain gaming history – as well as earn another in-game token, Sparks! These can be staked in order to generate Bounty, Soul and Scrap.
All the money from the drop contributes to the Ascendance Series Tournament. Once the drop sells out, we’ll be able to confirm the prize pools and finish the plans for our esports circuit. We’re already in talks with production companies and stadium venues, so things are already cooking on that side.
With your experience within esports, how do you plan to make The Forge Arena the premier Web3 esports title?
The most important aspect of an esport is the spectator mode and viewer experience. This is why we’re making sure that we update to Unreal Engine 5 and improve our Spectator Mode before moving forward.
I believe that over the years I’ve spent running CS:GO and Overwatch teams, the OPSkins organisation, various gaming communities and being involved in the VALORANT space, I’m in a good position to understand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to esports.
One thing I stand by is that you cannot force your game to be an esport but you can build all the right tools and features for the community to pick it up as one – competitive play, round-by-round intrigue and the fun factor for the viewer. These ideas are central to us, and we’re building these out to fuel a healthy competitive community inside The Forge Arena.
Speaking of your time in esports, your past involvement with teams such as EnVision is widely known in the gaming space. Is there anything in particular you’ve learned from those experiences that you can bring into The Forge Arena?
Running EnVision for almost 2 years at the inception of the Overwatch League really helped me understand what it takes to run an esports organization. My time and money spent on that project really put things into perspective and made me understand that it’s not an easy job to run an esports org, especially one with multiple teams in different games. One valuable lesson I learned from my time running EnVision is that content is everything.
OPSkins was a monolith in its time, but is best-remembered for the falling out with Valve over skin selling. With The Forge Arena being fully Web3, did part of your quest to create a next-gen esport-level title – where players can freely trade the skins they own – stem from this experience?
Absolutely. When we first launched OPSkins, John and I had no clue how long it would take for us to get shut down. Fortunately, Valve is known for being quite loose, allowing the community to build around their titles, which allowed OPSkins to have quite a run until I sold it in 2017 to what today became the WAX Blockchain.
When we first started building The Forge Arena in 2018, I made sure that the dev team focused on somewhat recreating what CS:GO had accomplished with their skins. Web3 allows us to push the boundaries further and build player-owned economies within the game ecosystem.
The Forge Arena was the first ever game on the blockchain to integrate NFTs inside a video game. In fact, we were the first and only game that integrated VGO Skins back in 2018, before NFTs were actually a thing, so it’s nothing new for our team as we move forward in pioneering the space.
Editor clarification: The first NFT was created in May 2014 (Quantum by Kevin McCoy) and the first case of an NFT in a game was in November 2017 with CryptoKitties.
Talking more broadly, your time as CEO of THESPIKE.GG – and in various other positions with different organisations over the years – has generated a number of controversies and allegations, both personal and professional. These are well-documented (one, two, three) – is there anything you’d like to clarify or to set the record straight about regarding some of these matters?
I started playing Counter-Strike when I was 5 years old. My first venture was a game server hosting company at the age of 12. This was followed by a fashion app and a bankruptcy at the age of 19, which is when I turned back to what I knew best – gaming.
A year after bankruptcy, I built OPSkins with my partner and sold it in 2017 to focus on my dream – creating my own game. Before we tried to get The Forge Arena off the ground, I spent a lot of time and money on EnVision and more recently THESPIKE.GG, which was sold to an undisclosed party.
What I’m trying to say is that yes, I made some mistakes – but anyone who dares to be bold in life will make mistakes. I’ve been building cool stuff since I was 5 years old, trying to add value to the communities I’ve been a part of.
OPSkins was an amazing thing for me, but also a very bad one. For the past 6 years, I spent a lot of time in the darkness. Only after THESPIKE.GG debacle did I reach rock-bottom and that episode really helped save my life.
A lot of allegations were false, and those that weren’t got resolved a long time ago. I’ve been sober for over 347 days, and I’ve been grateful for every single day since. I tried too hard, and it bit me in the ass.
I’ve definitely learned from those experiences. Every single project or venture I’ve ran since I was 5 years old has helped shape me into the person I am today, and prepared me for my current focus: being a pioneer of the gaming space and its communities that I love so dearly.
What is the biggest problem in blockchain gaming right now, and how do we go about solving it?
It is funny that you ask me that – I wrote a thread recently on that exact topic.
The biggest issue right now is that most of the current projects will end up as a rug pull. Sounds familiar? Think ICOs in 2017.
The problem with the Blockchain Gaming space is that most projects are built around Hype and a token without any true mechanics and utilities around it. (1/3)#NFTGame #BlockchainGaming @WAX_io
— M1NAC 3️⃣4️⃣7️⃣ (@aminacov) May 27, 2022
We’re all aware of how many ICOs actually ended up working. Those rare ones that did are thriving, and are building amazing products for the community. The same thing is happening in the NFT and blockchain gaming space today. Most of these projects will die, but the few that will thriving are the ones that are constantly innovating and are hard at work building the future.
The true pioneers need to build the right mix of mechanics, features and tokenomics within their games. Having tokens isn’t a bad thing, but if you have little-to-no utility, it’s only a matter of time before your game will die. If your project is solely built around a token that doesn’t go as planned, it will wreck your entire ecosystem.
Creators should take their time building NFT and token utility, burning mechanics and earning opportunities that will help their micro-economies thrive. Most importantly, you have to deliver a fun and competitive game that you support with regular updates, bringing it to the next level with each patch and making the most of new technologies at our disposal.
Who are some of your favourite people and projects in the blockchain space?
I don’t have any specific projects or people that I favour over others in the space. I like anyone who’s busy building and shaping blockchain gaming the right way. I feel like 99% of the projects out there aren’t going to survive long-term, and that those who are quietly building and keeping it consistent will be the winners in the space. Anyone who is bold enough to keep moving forward no matter what is a person that I like!
Is there anything you’d like to add? Anything you’d like to say to the reader?
There’s nothing specific that I’d like to add, just that I am very excited to be part of this amazing community and will do everything I can to be a pioneer of Web3 and blockchain gaming, and to move these spaces forwards.
Time for our quick-fire questions!
What fuels you?
From my very first endeavours, it’s always been about building products that would benefit the communities I’m a part of. Every single day, I’m grinding to build the future of gaming. Web3 will change not just gaming but a whole host of other industries. My goal is to be innovative and creative in the features and mechanics we build for The Forge Arena.
One unusual fact about you?
I do not quit, even when the odds are against me. I’m a believer and an optimistic that will always move forward, no matter what.
If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?
Never quit. Consistency is key. It doesn’t matter what you do in life, what’s more important is to stop thinking and just do it. Keep going until you succeed.
There’s no easy path to achieve all of your goals and milestones. It takes hard work, dedication, sacrifice and a lot of energy to keep pushing forward, even if it feels like a complete waste of time in the moment.
You can invite three people, real or fictional, to dinner. Who do you choose and why?
Gabe Newell, Elon Musk and Snoop Dogg. All these people inspire me every single day. They’re leaders, innovators and creative geniuses that have created amazing things for the communities in their respective industries.
What is your purpose in life?
To build the next generation of gaming with Web3 technology. Our goals go beyond gaming – we see a future where our studio has its own self-sufficient city or compound utilising robotics, AI, and NFTs/blockchain integration, bridging the gap between the physical and virtual worlds.
We’re creative people who execute very quickly. With the right funding behind our team, we believe we can achieve greatness for everyone involved – most importantly for our players and supporters.
How can we follow you and your work?
Fans of the WAX blockchain have been longing for a proper game to play for much of the past year, and with The Forge Arena, it looks like their calls may have been answered.
However, many will be approaching The Forge Arena with a measure of caution.
As discussed in the interview, m1nac’s controversial past in esports is well-known. I’m all for second chances, but any more than that and rebuilding trust with your target audience – which is paramount in Web3 – only becomes harder.
Artur claims to have changed for the better, and for that, we can only take him at his word. The Forge Arena itself may be a great game, but I cannot blame nor disagree with prospective players for any reservations they may have at this stage.
Wounds may heal, but scars run deep. Time will tell if m1nac can redeem himself in an industry where he’s such a contentious figure, and if The Forge Arena can grow into the industry-defining competitive esport it aims to become.