EXCLUSIVE: An Interview With WECAN & R-Planet CEO Nazar Chervinskyy
The head of one of the biggest projects on WAX sits down with John to share his history with blockchains, the rise of R-Planet, and the future of WECAN.
Created by WECAN, a Ukraine-based development team, R-Planet was one of the first blockchain games to give NFTs from partnered collections the ability to be staked in-game for token rewards – a revolutionary idea at the time.
The past 6 months has seen a sickening war fall upon Ukraine, but still the team has continued to build, with real-time strategy game R-Planet: Conquest set to enter Closed Alpha on September 22.
In an exclusive for NFT Insider, WECAN’s CEO Nazar Chervinskyy sat down with John to discuss his history in the blockchain space, R-Planet’s origin story, and what the future may hold for his Ukraine-based team.
John: Could you tell me a bit about yourself, your background and how you got into NFTs?
Nazar: It all started in 2014 when I learned about Bitcoin. The whole concept of a distributed blockchain completely fascinated me.
My friend, and now WECAN partner, Andrew Maslievych created a large chain of Bitcoin Faucet websites. Those sites worked until 2017, and during that time, we distributed more than 1,500 BTC to our users. When the price of Bitcoin grew to over $3,000, we turned the faucets off.
Our attention was drawn to other coins. We looked into Ethereum, and decided to spend all of our savings on ETH mining setups. This led us into learning about smart contract development. As the tech opened up new possibilities, we aimed to apply it wherever we could.
I’m a big fan of games, and I became captivated with the idea of combining blockchain technology, gaming, and the ability to earn online. We’d grown a fairly large community by that time, with many of them used to the idea of making money through our websites, so we got to work.
We started working with NFTs much later, though it’s a space I’ve followed since the early days – I still own a dozen CryptoKitties.
WECAN is somewhat of an institution on the WAX blockchain, with R-Planet and Prospectors being household names amongst the community. Could you explain how these two games came about?
WECAN as an organisation on WAX formed much later. Everything started on EOS.
After closing our Bitcoin Faucets, we started working on what became Prospectors. At the time, I was captivated by Alaska and the Gold Rush, watching all the films and reading all the books I could find, and so, inspired by Jack London’s novels, I chose that theme for the game.
Why did we choose EOS? Because they proposed free transactions on a high-performance blockchain!
At the time, in my opinion, it was the best option available to us. Even now, I believe that EOSIO is one of the best solutions out there. Because of this, Prospectors is one of only a few projects where all of the in-game events happen on-chain.
It was very exciting to work on the game. I visited hardware stores, weighed different tools and learned about what they were made of, and used that info to help develop the game. A lot of the materials, used to build or produce items in-game, function very close to their real-life counterparts.
For me, this project is both a source of pride and a source of pain. It’s too hardcore to reach a broad audience, but it is very cool, with many routes for the player to take. From a business point of view, Prospectors has been a failure. It hasn’t covered the cost of the development, but I’m proud that we created it. It was a challenge for our team, and we did it!
Five months after launching Prospectors on EOS, we started a new game on WAX – R-Planet.
The idea for R-Planet came on one cold autumn evening. Andrew and I met up with Bohdan Kossak, the co-founder of CryptoLions, and we were talking about the crypto industry over a few beers. I remember saying that I’d come up with an idea to increase the activity of SimpleAssets NFTs.
My idea was simple; to allow players to stake NFTs from third-party projects in return our in-game token. This token would then be used in a mini-game based on the idea of alchemy. The idea was received positively, so we agreed to discuss it in detail.
Across the next few days, we made a detailed plan and split the various responsibilities between us. WECAN was tasked with creating the staking system, whilst CryptoLions handled the design work and smart contracts for the alchemy mini-game.
R-Planet has seen explosive growth, becoming one of the Top 3 games on the WAX blockchain. Why do you think the game has seen such success?
Our staking system gave third-party NFTs more utility, more value and a purpose – rather than just being valuable to collectors. We gave more than 5 million NFTs a use case, and thus the large, pre-existing communities in the space quickly become our players. We didn’t have to worry about growing our player base one by one – we onboarded them in huge groups.
This popularity caused a sharp rise in the price of our game token, Aether. The price was consistently rising – and whilst that was great for the players, it was the opposite for us as the developers.
We’d set a maximum token supply of 10,000,000,000,000 (10 trillion) Aether, so we knew that sooner or later, the price would go down sharply – and we wouldn’t be able to influence that as we didn’t hold any Aether ourselves.
R-Planet: Conquest is set to enter Closed Alpha on September 22. What impact will this have on R-Planet, and what will Conquest bring to the R-Planet experience?
R-Planet: Conquest is a free-to-play multiplayer online real-time strategy game. Apps for iPhone and Android are ready, and we’re currently running a raffle for access to the Closed Alpha test.
The release of the Closed Alpha will give Aether additional utility, boosting the R-Planet ecosystem.
All of the main game features are ready; the world map, the first player base, buildings and upgrades, combat units, an in-game marketplace for trading game resources, the ability to establish new bases, and the use of NFT robots and land.
We’re currently finishing up the robot battle system and the ability to capture other players’ bases. Once that’s done, we’ll be ready for launch.
DAOs have become more and more popular over the past year. What are your general thoughts on DAOs, and what future plans do you have for R-DAO?
DAOs are cool, and I think we’ll see their heyday in the near future. Maybe they’ll be the next hype area for Web3.
R-DAO enables our token holders to make decisions across all aspects of the project, giving power to the players. We’re trying to give it as much functionality as we can. It’s been in development for a while, and there’s still a few strategic tasks we’ve not completed, so I won’t reveal anything just yet in case we make any changes.
You’ve recently launched a brand-new NFT collection. What can you tell us about this collection, and what is its aim?
The core WECAN team lives in Ukraine. It’s been a difficult time for us since February 24th. We never thought that in the 21st century, Ukrainians would have to go through such a horrible, unjust war.
Our NFT collection is a call to people from all over the world to support our country and help in the fight against Russian aggression. All the funds we raise are to support Ukrainian soldiers. We’ve also given all the profits we receive as a WAX block producer to the cause. Our team has already purchased a variety of ammunition worth more than $230,000. (Note: see end of interview)
It’s our main goal nowadays. We want to help our soldiers stop the war, to stop the Russian invaders. Everything else in this reality – in which our friends and relatives die from bullets, rockets and bombs – is secondary.
Outside of this new collection, what are the best ways a reader can support you and your fellow countrymen and women?
Unfortunately, people are getting tired of hearing about the war in Ukraine. The first shock and interest in it has passed, and now everyone wants to read about something positive, not about mass murders in a foreign country.
But for Ukrainians, this is not just news that can be turned off, this is our reality.
The end of this terrible and useless war depends on how other countries help us, and this help is proportionally dependent on whether this topic remains on top of the information space. That’s why it’s so important that everyone who wants to support Ukraine continues to share the truth about this war.
This day, our hearts and thoughts with soldiers who heroically defend us from russian invaders.
Our team keeps working and does its best to support the army and prove to the world that people in Ukraine are amazingly creative, innovative, and brave. #ukraine pic.twitter.com/WjqBXGlz3s
— R-PLANET (@RPLANETio) August 24, 2022
What are your future plans regarding the Aether token?
Soon, Aether mining will stop, but its use cases will increase significantly.
Firstly, holders of our NFTs will be able to level them up. Currently, they have little utility, but this will be revealed as soon as Conquest is launched.
Also, a huge number of new assets have been created for Conquest, such as heroes, items, artefacts and more. All of them will be able to be bought exclusively for Aether.
What is the biggest problem in blockchain gaming right now, and how do we go about fixing it?
The biggest problem, in my opinion, is the low quality of projects.
The play-to-earn model created an opportunity. The quality of art or gameplay didn’t matter – all you needed was to come up with a simple economic model and a website, and add a button that said “Earn”.
The hype will pass, as it did with ICOs and DeFi, and only the strong teams with really cool projects will survive.
The current market for blockchain games is quite small, and the community is primarily interested in profit, not the game itself. For this to change, the quality of blockchain games must improve to a really high level, which will help attract true gamers – players who are primarily looking for fun, not just profit. Unfortunately, it’s the other way around right now.
What are some of your favourite NFT projects?
It’s not easy to answer that one. I like CryptoKitties because they created this whole industry, and I still have a dozen of them.
Genetic engineering seems to be heading in an exciting direction, and we have several ideas based around it.
An increasing number of projects are looking to become multi-chain. Are there any plans for R-Planet, Prospectors or any of your other projects to expand to other blockchains?
Yes. We have such plans for R-Planet and have been actively working on them. Unfortunately, we cannot disclose any details just yet.
As for Prospectors, it’s already has worlds across both WAX and EOS blockchains, which are linked by the ability to transfer tokens and in-game assets. However, it’s very difficult to develop a large-scale project like Prospectors on a non-EOSIO blockchain since all of the game actions take place on-chain.
It’s time for our quick-fire questions!
What fuels you?
Our great team, my family, extreme activities, and travelling.
One unusual fact about you?
I start my working day by playing my favourite video games.
If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?
Live your life today.
You can invite three people, real or fictional, to dinner. Who do you choose and why?
I would be happy to invite Putin and two of his closest colleagues. Obviously the food would be poisoned.
What is your purpose in life?
Accomplish what the previous answer says.
How can we follow you and your work?
The team has indeed tweeted evidence of this, but Nazar stated in this interview that a “variety of ammunition” worth over $230,000 has been purchased – without making it clear if that was paid for exclusively using their block producer profits, or with part of the funds raised from the standwithukr schema.
When I think of “life-saving equipment”, I think of medical supplies, bulletproof vests and helmets – as were represented by the NFTs they sold – and whilst I’m happy that at least part of the funds have gone towards that purpose, I think many may feel uneasy with the thought that they may have funded the purchase of ammunition.
I can absolutely appreciate that the WECAN team want to do everything they can for their country in these terrible times, but I had to make note of this as a point of clarification.
WECAN have had somewhat of a tumultuous relationship with the community as of late – speculation of their exact involvement in projects such as Mining Network notwithstanding – and whilst Nazar is clearly incensed by the unjust situation himself and his countrymen and women find themselves in, his drive to continue building in such a difficult scenario is notable.
The raffle for R-Planet: Conquest Closed Alpha spots is currently live, with the game set to go live for 1,000 lucky players on September 22. You can find more information, as well as join the raffle, here.