Driving P2E Forward: An Interview with Josh, Founder of Stratton Studios
We caught up with this inspired enigma to discuss cult classic games, household names, and how he and his team are building WAX’s next big P2E experience!
I’ve spoken often lately of the talent that WAX is attracting.
From artists to developers to entertainers and more, skilled and passionate individuals are discovering the WAX community each and every day, and it quickly becomes the digital home for many.
One such individual is perhaps one of the hardest-working I’ve had the pleasure to meet, and one of the most passionate I’ve interviewed thus far – Josh from Stratton Studios, developers of P2E game Costume Clash.
I’ve been speaking to Josh, and streaming his games, for many months now, and with the play-to-earn mechanics within Costume Clash now live, this seemed the perfect opportunity for an interview!
Scroll to the end of the interview for our free Costume Clash Interview Card, dropping next week!
Pssst… there’s three claim links hidden within this article. Happy hunting!
Hydro: Hey! Could you tell me a bit about yourself, your background and how you got into NFTs?
Josh: Hello there! My name is Josh Loveridge and I’m the director of Stratton Studios, a game developer/publisher based in the lovely Wicklow, Ireland which was founded back in 2017.
My story starts all the way back 8 years ago when I first got into game development. Pretty early on I knew that I wanted to be a game dev as I’d spent the majority of my childhood and early teens playing all the cult classics we fondly remember today. Once I’d made that decision, I knew it was time to work!
Game development is one of those industries where you have to be the best to survive, and I was ready for the challenge. I’ve always been the type of person to fully commit to anything I do, and game development was no different!
Fast forward a few years and game dev had led me down the path of having started a number of successful companies that are still in operation and thriving today, so where do NFTs fit into all of this?
Over the last few years, I’ve been lurking in the crypto space, watching and waiting to get a good feel of how it all works and what the general practices are. I first heard about NFTs back in the day with CryptoKitties, but never really paid much attention until late last year when I stumbled upon the WAX ecosystem.
From the get go, I knew things were different with WAX compared to other blockchains and that the sense of community within the space was profound, so I started to dabble here and there in projects such as Green Rabbit and fell in love with the space.
I made the decision that we would make it our goal and vision at Stratton to bring NFT gaming to the mainstream markets.
Were your companies previous to Stratton in the development realm also, or another industry?
I love this question!
What is now Stratton Studios used to be a company called Loveridge Designs. In the early days of our company history, we began to be approached by customers looking for solutions to their content creation problems, along with other general marketing pain points such as not having a website. A lot of these problems we had built solutions for in-house as we were already creating content in bulk for ourselves.
As time went on, this ballooned and expanded to a point where we were working with companies such as Disney, Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari and a number of other notable brands and agencies. At this point, the company had to be split into two entities; Stratton Studios and Loveridge Digital.
Today, Loveridge Digital is a multinational full-service media agency that specialises in high-end content creation. We have two offices currently, one in Ireland and the other in New South Wales, Australia. Loveridge Digital is at a much more mature stage than Stratton, with quite a big team and client base.
I’m also involved with a number of other companies in various industries, but nothing special to note. Stratton has always been my ‘baby’ so to speak, and it’s something that I’m extremely passionate and dedicated to!
I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Stratton, as I feel we’re only at the tip of the iceberg for its potential!
You started the strattonsire collection way back in March – what has the story been so far?
Wow! To think it’s already been nearly 8-9 months since the collection was started is crazy – it seems like only 10 minutes ago!
At Stratton, we mainly focus on Halloween-themed titles as it’s our favourite time of year and we feel it’s always under-represented in the gaming space.
For the first 6-7 months of our collection, we remained as just a collection of character NFTs from our third Halloween-themed console title Costume Kingdom, which is a turn-based third-person action-adventure game set in an open world environment. The player takes on the role of Rain, a young child on a quest to obtain the Apex Cup whilst unknowingly saving Halloween. This game was published on PS4/PS5 & PC in October 2020.
As we began to talk with other members of the community, we set our eyes on creating a governance-style game where people could vote on our development decisions using their NFTs. This concept quickly evolved into a fully-fledged P2E multiplayer kart racing game called Costume Clash.
Costume Clash is a throwback to the old days of kart racers, taking inspiration from the likes of Crash Team Racing & Cell Damage. The game features mechanics such as real-time multiplayer races, AI races, staking and much more, and is updated on a weekly basis.
We have a long roadmap of features that we want to add and expand upon – currently the game is browser-only, but we’re in the process of porting it to mobile & desktop, and are excited for what’s next!
Which games have left a mark on you, and influenced your approach as a game developer?
This is a tough one! Over the years, there have been so many different games that have taught me many things, not only in terms of game dev but also in terms of life – from roaming the great plains of Azeroth to searching each and every corner in a game like Banjo-Kazooie. I think every game I’ve ever played has taught me some profound lessons which I’ve carried forward into my development.
If I had to name a few, I would say that Soma was one of the biggest games that has influenced me as a developer; the sheer nuance of the world along with the existential threat and dread of the looming challenge that was laid upon me as the player was just masterful and a joy to play.
Another notable series for me was Ratchet and Clank. The use of game design techniques like weenies and the implementation and control of the synergy & flow of the player experience was nothing short of amazing and taught me a lot of great techniques that I’ve carried forward into all my games.
What really resonated with me about these games is that they always put the player first. Without players, a game developer is nothing. They are the life and blood of everything that we do, and being honoured with the ability to bring joy to others through games is something that is nothing short of magical!
Costume Clash has been an absolute blast thus far! You currently have both the racing and deathmatch modes available, with PvP options within both. What other game modes do you have in mind?
Thank you! It’s been awesome to see all the community get involved and give the game a whirl even though it’s still in the early stages!
We have a laundry list of game modes that we plan to integrate over the lifecycle of the title. To list a few; Multiplayer Cups & Circuits will be a series of races with higher stakes but higher rewards, Tournaments & Leagues will allow players to go head-to-head for a big reward pool, and Team Races & Team Deathmatches will allow players to team up with their friends and challenge their rivals!
We’re also planning a World Championship, which will see players from around the globe compete in organised matches to discover who really is the best racer in all of Costume Clash!
We have plenty more game modes in the works as well, which we’ll announce when the time is right!
Wow! Organised competition is sure to fire up the community – do you have any plans for when the first of these tournaments might be?
Oh yes! I would expect the first iteration of this to begin Q1 2022. It’s sure to be exciting seeing everyone playing against each other!
Plan-wise, we don’t have anything locked in yet, but ideally we’d love to collaborate with a couple of the community streamers and make a nice weekend of it!
Does Costume Clash have any Play to Earn elements?
Great question! This is something we have been asked about a lot, and I am delighted to say that yes it does – we officially became a P2E title as of last Friday, with our native token CORE now listed on Alcor!
In-game, there’s a number of ways players can earn, from placing high on our leaderboards (which earns exclusive NFTs) to earning Hallow Cores – our in-game currency which can be withdrawn to our native WAX token. This will allow our players to earn no matter what they choose to do in-game, whether they’re racing AI or battling other players!
In future, we will also have more features to facilitate greater earnings, such as a rental program and the potential to own a track – all of these will be announced in due course.
You’ve worked with many collections to give them a presence within Costume Clash – even designing some themed cosmetics! Is this sense of community something that is of particular importance to you and the team?
Community is one of those things that I know is more important than anything. I love working with others and being able to share their creations in our games is truly an honour.
I’ve always been a massive fan of cameos in all forms of media as I think they just make the world feel more alive and “lived in”. It allows for that little nod to the other project and it really has no negatives!
As time goes on, we would love to continue to do this and are fully open to any project that would like to do something cool together! The more the merrier – we’re even lining up some custom kart collabs for 2022!
I foresee this community collaboration continuing & just getting bigger and better over time!
You have a publicly available Trello board, where the community can see what you’re working on, and what has been completed. This level of transparency is yet to be commonplace amongst NFT projects – why did you feel this was necessary for Costume Clash?
Transparency is a cornerstone of trust, and I know too well that there’s nothing more annoying than when you don’t know what a project is working on and it’s a chore to find out.
We want our community to feel involved, almost as if they are living the game dev experience through us, and having a roadmap that is publicly available and constantly updated is something I felt very, very adamant that we do.
It also helps us to stay accountable for what we’ve committed to completing. Often times in the game dev space, things get promised but are never delivered, and that is something that I am making sure we avoid at all costs!
The card-based design of your NFTs, and the overall design of assets in the game world, is superb – could you tell us a bit about the process that goes into them?
Sure! I think every piece of content that is created always starts with an idea and our NFTs are no different.
I’ll break this into two answers, as the NFTs were generated from our in-game characters that were already made for Costume Kingdom, our console monster taming game.
To create the characters, to start, when conceptualizing what we are looking for in terms of a game character, we always define the 5 W’s: Who, What, Where, When and Why. In a game world, everything needs to have a story and it also needs to make sense. If it doesn’t, then it will cause a disconnect for your players and will stop them from becoming enthralled and immersed in your world.
Now this has been agreed, we begin to brainstorm with our talented 3D artists to define the deliverables we require, whether that be an FBX with 100 animations under a 10,000 vert count or just a plain OBJ. I’m delighted to say that we now have internal 3D artists, which makes life 10x easier for us!
Once we’ve received a mockup back, we usually add some finishing touches ourselves and then begin to piece the model together with all the lore and extras we have created. Our game logic is then scripted and added to the character to create the final piece that is seen in-game!
To create the NFTs, it was a matter of generating an After Effects mockup of what we wanted to achieve, and using in-game renders to pull our characters from the game engine into the NFT world. A lot of the posing and framing of the scenes is actually done within the Unity game engine using Cinemachine!
A massive thing for us was that the NFTs looked consistent with the game and that there wasn’t a massive difference in quality or consistency across the board. We take pride in everything that we do and are often our own hardest critics, so it’s great to hear that the work that has been put in shines through!
How big is the team working on Costume Clash?
Right now, the team is 2-3 full-time employees (including me) and then around 7 part-timers working on various elements of the game.
I’ve always been a massive fan of the “right person for the job” mentality and always strive to find those with the best abilities for a set task we need completed. For example, if we’re working on some environment designs for the game, then typically we need an environmental artist that specializes in that area rather than a generalist who may be good at it but not great.
I like that we’re constantly expanding the team and Costume Clash has been a big driver in that. Honestly, I foresee us growing even bigger over the coming months, as the workload is immense right now!
Creating a game of any type is a massive challenge, but just to give some context on what it takes, my average workday ranges between 18-22 hours, depending on what is being worked on and published within the game. Obviously, our team doesn’t work those crazy hours!
The funny bit about games that I’ve always loved is that it doesn’t feel like ‘work’. Time just passes by & before you know it its already 6am and time to go to sleep!
I’m truly honoured to have the opportunity to do what I love on a daily basis, and that’s something I’m eternally grateful for. Without our committed player-base, none of this would be possible, and to all of you that have supported us thus far, I thank you!
Speaking of Stratton’s potential, what does the future hold? Do you have any particular plans in mind?
To be honest, every time we make a plan for the future (5-6 years), a wild twist of fate always seems to come along and change it – that’s why I like to plan for the next 2 years and then reevaluate!
Our dream and vision at Stratton is to become one of the first teams to bring NFTs to the mainstream console market, and I foresee that playing a major role in our future plans.
In the short term, we will continue to build Costume Clash and expand the team, with the goal of becoming one of the biggest games on WAX. Obviously this is a big challenge, but we love aiming big and reaching far!
Is there anything you’d like to add? Anything you’d like to say directly to the reader?
I would just like to say thank you so much to everyone in the community – both those that play Costume Clash and those that haven’t heard of it!
Everyone has been so welcoming to us and has allowed us to grow within the community. Without the belief and support of our players we honestly would be nothing, and I really think that gets understated today in gaming.
The players are the reason a game does well and Costume Clash is just as much the communities game as it is ours – we’re building something great together that will stand the test of time. In a few years, I think we’ll all look back and be proud of what we’ve built together!
Many of the community I now consider close friends, and I’m looking forward to continuing to meet new people in the space and exploring everything that the WAX ecosystem has to offer!
P.S. If you are one of those that I haven’t had the pleasure of saying hi to yet, just drop me a message – my DMs are always open!
What fuels you?
I’m one of those rare people who’s not driven by external factors or motivations. I’m intrinsically motivated and I do the things I do because I always want to push the boundaries of what’s been done and be a better version of myself!
One unusual fact about you?
I suppose the most unusual fact about me is that I haven’t taken a day off work in 8 years – including Christmas!
If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?
Never give up on whatever you are pursuing, as often times when you feel most like giving up is when you’re the closest to reaching your goal.
You can invite three people, real or fictional, to dinner. Who do you choose and why?
Tough one! I would say Hideo Kojima, John Carmack & Shigeru Miyamoto as they are all absolute experts & trailblazers within their respective fields!
What is your purpose in life?
To push the boundaries of what is typically seen as possible!
How can we follow you and your work?
Josh works 18-22 hours a day. Let that sink in.
Those aren’t hollow words either – I’ve often found myself messaging Josh in the early hours of the morning regarding one thing or another, whether it’s discussing their latest updates, or conducting this interview!
The Stratton Studios team have developed Costume Clash at rapid pace, and it’s quickly becoming a community favourite. With so much on the way, and such a great team behind it all, I can’t wait to see what the future will bring!
To celebrate this interview, we have our free Costume Clash Interview Card, dropping next week!