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Cats are having their game renaissance. While felines have been part of the meduim for years, last year’s Stray proved they can carry games as heroes. Now a developer called Rude Robots wants to bring cat power to the web3 space with a free-to-play third-person shooter called Nyan Heroes. In addition to wanting to provide an appealing game that will change the perception of blockchain gaming, Rude Robot Studios also wants to use Nyan Heroes to help save real cats.
GamesBeat spoke with Rude Robot CEO Max Fu about Nyan Heroes, its blockchain base and how it’ll benefit kitties. Fu co-founded Singapore-based studio Rude Robot in 2021 with YouTuber Wendy “Wengie” Huang. The developers plan to launch the alpha sometime early this year on PCs, expanding onto other devices later.
Nyan Heroes is a third-person shooter battle royale built on the Solana blockchain. The player characters are bipedal cats who pilot mech suits at least ten times their size. While describing the heroes to GamesBeat, Fu compared them to the palicoes from Monster Hunter. There are multiple different kinds of heroes to play, including bulky Bulwark tanks, Deathmark assassins and Megami supports. Fu also drew comparisons to mecha-based anime, such as Evangelion.
In addition to gameplay, Nyan Heroes also offers in-game token-based economics, with an incorporated wallet. Rude Robot held its first sale of “Genesis Nyan” NFTs in 2021. It’s implementing a series of balances into its economy to keep it stable in crypto winters. According to Rude Robot, it plans to make the cryptocurrency features more unobtrusive, so that gamers who just want to play a cats-in-mecha game without engaging with the financial aspects can do so.
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Everybody wants to be a cat
Fu stated that using the funds from the games to help real (quadrupedal) cats is one of his priorities. “As the game goes live, we hope to be able to integrate various in-game activities or actions that will contribute to saving a cat in real life. For example, if a player does a certain set of actions, completes a particular mission or finds a rare item in game, then we as a studio will donate on behalf of that player to an animal charity. At the same time, we’ll reward that player in-game with a personal achievement to show they helped saved a real cat.”
Rude Robot has donated about $350,000 to 10 different animal charities, with the largest being the Best Friends Animal Society. Fu himself owns five cats and says one of his backup career plans is to open a cat shelter.
He also hopes that players will be motivated by in-game achievements to help real cats. “Eventually, if players are doing these things consistently, we might even be able to create a leaderboard to recognize the achievements who have, say, saved the most cats in real life. That’s something we hope to incorporate into the game as well.”
An image problem
Fu and Rude Robot wish to change the perception of what web3 gaming can be. As Fu admits, there is a certain perception around blockchain gaming and the use of NFTs in such games. “There were a lot of other games that came out around that time and they’ve kind of come and gone. Some of them have given the whole blockchain gaming space a bit of a bad name. I think, so far, we’ve yet to see any really high-quality releases — triple-A releases.”
Fu stressed that the point of Nyan Heroes was to make a game, rather than a blockchain product. “I think the main thing for us is that from Day One of Nyan Heroes, we set out to do a particular job. And that job was to create an amazingly fun, game-first product and focus on the game — with only certain systems supported by the blockchain tech. We certainly weren’t out there to build a blockchain product that happened to be a game.”
Web3 games are still struggling to find an audience. A Coda Labs poll published last October showed that only 12% of the 7,000 gamers surveyed had played a web3 game, and 3% owned NFTs. The majority of gamers who had played such titles did so to earn or spend money. Coda Labs CEO Şekip Can Gökalp said at the time, “[Our] takeaway is that we did a horrible job marketing in this space. The crypto natives and crypto gaming companies and the get-rich fast schemes left a really bad taste with the general audience.”
Nyan Heroes might not be the only game aimed to change this, but Rude Robot’s adaptability as a studio might help, says Fu. “We know the quality will come at some point in the future. What we hope to be able to do as a small studio that may have a bit more of a head start and is also more nimble is to be able to be one of the early pioneers in that space and prove that it’s actually possible for a blockchain game to be high-quality, immersive and fun — not just this thing build around blockchain economies and financial incentives.”
The path to cat NFTs
Rude Robot has since raised $10 million in funding for Nyan Heroes. The development team of over 50 employees includes some who have worked on Assassin’s Creed, Marvel’s Avengers, Destiny, Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six.
Fu moved into the games industry from medicine and says the journey was a long one. But he notes that working in new tech has made the change worth it. “I feel like I have this opportunity now to innovate in this amazing space using bleeding edge tech, like Unreal Engine 5, blockchain, now AI and fusing them with gaming is really exciting. I honestly love it. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”