'Esports is definitely a possibility for us' – an interview with the developer of MMO RTS Infinite Fleet

Infinite Fleet is an upcoming sci-fi MMO RTS (Massively multiplayer online real-time strategy) game with a twist: players can use crypto tokens as in-game currency.
Developer Pixelmatic is hoping to create something fresh for strategic RTS players – and has plans for open-world PVP and possibly esports in the future too.
Esports News UK editor Dom Sacco speaks with Pixelmatic founder and CEO Samson Mow about his StarCraft esports background, his experience working on Dawn of War and what he thinks is wrong with EVE Online.
 
As Infinite Fleet’s creator, please introduce yourself and tell us about your background in gaming and in general.
I currently split my time between two industries that represent the future of our digitalized society: gaming and bitcoin. I am currently the CSO at Blockstream, the leading provider of bitcoin-related technology such as high-security wallets and satellite nodes, and I founded our game studio Pixelmatic back in 2011.
I started my career in the games industry at Relic in Vancouver, Canada. There I managed the game balance department and worked on highly rated RTS franchises such as Company of Heroes and Dawn of War.
I then spent some time managing operations and business development at a SaaS company called Sitemasher, which was acquired by Salesforce for $20 million soon after. I returned to the games industry by joining Ubisoft, moving to Chengdu, China. There I oversaw the growth of the Ubisoft Chengdu office, while working on a number of social games including The Smurfs & Co., which turned out to be Ubisoft’s most successful social game to date.
I was always fascinated with space and science, and I used to be an avid player of RTS games. Infinite Fleet combines these passions of mine and I see it as a dream project. We’ve raised some funding for this project and with that we have been able to recruit some top notch talent to make this a fantastic game.
 
Infinite Fleet is billed as a sci-fi MMO RTS. What’s it like to play and what kind of gamer is this for?
Infinite Fleet is aimed at RTS players that want a more expansive, strategic, and persistent experience. Traditionally, RTS is played in 20-40 minute sessions with most of the early game pretty boring and the match being more or less determined during the mid-game. Also, traditional RTS multiplayer is very dependent on quick reactions and APM, which takes away from a lot of the more strategic elements.
RTS players that enjoyed high APM games in the past are older now and more inclined to play something less dependent on quick clicks and more about strategic thinking.
My goal for Infinite Fleet is to appeal to those more strategic RTS players that want to enjoy the experience. The game should be able to played without constantly needing to be online.
Since we are separating the “build” gameplay from the “combat” gameplay, you will be able to log on, set some mining or construction efforts in motion, and log off. Your fleet will be able to follow you directives while you’re AFK.
Longer term we want to be able to pair the game with a mobile app to allow management of your fleet and ‘build’ activities so you can still play on the go.
 
 

“Later down the road, we’ll have open world PVP. And esports is definitely a possibility for us. Infinite Fleet esports could possibly be 3v3 or 5v5 matches where players have maxed-out attributes on their ships.”

 
 
The space genre has been popular in recent years, with titles like No Man’s Sky, Elite Dangerous proving popular, not to mention EVE Online showing there’s an appetite for space MMOs. Is there room for more, what sets your game apart? It uses some kind of blockhain technology right, how will that work?
Definitely. There are many shortcomings for the games you mentioned and none of them fill the gap that Infinite Fleet is focused on. EVE Online is very unfriendly towards new players and the sandbox model means gameplay can be very aimless with long months of buildup ending abruptly after a short battle. I find No Man’s Sky and Elite to just be very uninteresting.
Infinite Fleet is about giving you command of a fleet that you can upgrade and customize over time. You can build mining facilities, defense platforms, and initiate terraforming/colonization of worlds – think of RTS base building, but throughout the galaxy across billions of planetary systems. All while a massive war is raging between the USF and the Atrox.
Infinite Fleet uses blockchain technology in a sense, but probably not like what most people are thinking. We’re integrating a crypto token (INF) issued on a sidechain of bitcoin into the game to be the primary game currency that players will use. This means that players will be able to take their game currency out of the game and do with it what they choose – it gives a lot of power and incentives for players. While this is the case, it is completely optional.
Players who are unfamiliar with the operation of cryptocurrencies or simply have no interest, can just treat INF as standard in-game money. We are not putting any part of gameplay “on a blockchain” nor are we trying to force “blockchain” onto the players. We are simply adding a link between the game currency and bitcoin, which is now a real world currency. This structure of interconnected digital assets could become the norm entirely in the future.
 
 

Samson Mow has solid experience in the RTS field, having previously worked on franchises like Company of Heroes and Dawn of War, as well as leading a StarCraft guild which competed at several World Cyber Games
 
 
You also do a lot of other things, particularly in the crypto/blockchain space. Please tell us about that.
I’m currently the Chief Strategy Officer at Blockstream. Blockstream is the leader in developing technologies associated with bitcoin, and for making it more accessible and secure for users.
The CEO of Blockstream is Dr. Adam Back, a veteran in cryptography, whose name was actually cited by Satoshi Nakamoto in the original bitcoin whitepaper!
At Blockstream we have worked on a variety of technologies that aim to improve the accessibility of bitcoin to everyone as a form of truly decentralized, censorship-resistant digital money. We have developed a secondary layer blockchain called the Liquid Network that aims to solve some scaling limitations of bitcoin, a satellite that runs bitcoin nodes, a secure user wallet, and more.
Recently we announced a massive mining operation in North America with about 300 MW of power. We will be renting out mining capacity to businesses and individuals who want to mine cryptocurrencies, and this will further help decentralize bitcoin.
 
Please tell us about the competitive/PVP elements of the game.
At launch, Infinite Fleet is going to be a PvE game. The PvP element is going to be simulated training combat for the USF faction (so basically USF vs USF).
Later down the road, the Atrox may become a playable race, and we’ll have open world PvP – but the main focus is on the PvE core game of USF vs Atrox.
 
Do you have any plans to enter the esports sector? Why/why not?
It’s definitely a possibility for us. Infinite Fleet esports could possibly be 3v3 or 5v5 matches where players have maxed out attributes on their ships.
I think people will tire of MOBAs eventually and want something more exciting, but still less daunting than RTS matches with hundreds of units to track on screen.
 
 

“There are many shortcomings for [big space games launched in the last few years] and none of them fill the gap that Infinite Fleet is focused on. EVE Online is very unfriendly towards new players and I find No Man’s Sky and Elite to just be very uninteresting.”

 
 
Do you enjoy esports? If so, which games do you follow?
I liked esports before esports were a thing. I was the leader of a StarCraft guild back in 1998 called RICE and we sent many of our team over the years to various World Cyber Games competitions (including the very first one WCGC).
I was also a top Unreal Tournament player and usually at the top of the ngworldstats leaderboards. When I was at Relic/THQ, I got Dawn of War added to WCG 2006 and went to the finals in Monza, Italy, to present the awards to the winners. Esports have changed a lot since then though!
 
When will Infinite Fleet launch and on which platforms?
Alpha in 2020 on PC first.
 
What are your aims and expectations for the game?
My goal is that Infinite Fleet will be the first Sci-Fi MMO game with mass market appeal like World of Warcraft. We have a top tier team to do it and everyone is working very hard to make it a reality.
It will hopefully also set a precedence on the potential monetization of game participation and linking MMO gaming directly to the future of internet money.
 
 

“Infinite Fleet is aimed at RTS players that want a more expansive, strategic, and persistent experience. RTS players that enjoyed high APM games in the past are older now and more inclined to play something less dependent on quick clicks and more about strategic thinking. My goal for Infinite Fleet is to appeal to those more strategic RTS players.”

 
 
Follow Samson Mow and Pixelmatic on Twitter here

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Looking forward to this. Having the game currency as a portable cryptocurrency could potentially be huge… If I earn some coins in the game then I can sell them for bitcoin?

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