Homeland Founder’s Note
Let’s talk about Homeland.
Leadership and Accountability: Jiho and Trung are taking direct control of the Homeland roadmap, acknowledging past issues with the Homeland team’s autonomy and committing to align future development with the core vision of the community. We accept responsibility for the recent Homeland release, which did not meet our standards, and promise to ensure quality in future releases.
AXS Rewards and Game Economics: Concerns about unpredictable and non-programmatic distribution of Play-to-Earn funds, and the imbalance between Land rewards and AXS staking, are being addressed. We plan to diversify land play rewards beyond AXS and balance the reward system involving community input in the process.
Homeland Stabilization and Improvement: Immediate actions include fixing bugs, removing/rethinking unpopular mechanics like Moonbeam and Moonfall, reintroducing leaderboards, and introducing new reward mechanisms. Longer term plans involve rethinking and re-engineering land to align more with the original vision, including integrating Land NFTs into Project T, and improving communication with the community.
Homeland Development History and Vision: Our postmortem of Homeland's development reveals a deviation from the original vision of Land, which was to include social components, an interesting economy, and nostalgic art. The first iteration, Project K, demonstrated the importance of social components, but later developments became too focused on single-player aspects and asynchronous mechanics, leading to a disconnect from the community's expectations.
Future Plans and Community Engagement: We outline both short and long-term plans, including fixing current issues, re-evaluating game mechanics, integrating Land NFTs into Project T, and maintaining a focus on iterative development. We acknowledge the need for transparency in AXS rewards and propose to actively engage with the community through platforms like Discord and Twitter, as well as quarterly town hall meetings, to ensure ongoing feedback and alignment with community expectations.
Let’s talk about Homeland. This week’s release was met with disappointment and frustration from the community. There were many bugs. A lack of new content. Problems with art (especially the axies). The reduction in overall rewards. It’s clear that Homeland, in its current state, does not do justice to the scale of the dreams that we share together.
First, we want to say that we take responsibility for this release. It was not acceptable. This is not who Sky Mavis is. This release violated our core values. We know we’re better than this.
How did this happen? Over the years, the development process for Land has been volatile and somewhere along the line, the development of land has diverged from the core vision that the community fell in love with to start.
What is this vision? At its core, Land should have:
Social components and the ability to visit and work with your friends
A deep and interesting economy with specialization that encourages cooperation
Beautiful, nostalgic art that does justice to the notion of land as a home for axies
Land has always been an ambitious project to create a universe where we could host everything Axie. Flash back to December 2020, the first iteration, named Project K (demo), was released, where people could use their axies to move around the map and hang out with each other.
This iteration, along with the Plot Design Contest, demonstrated that social components play a very important role in land gameplay. We salute those who remember the fascinating and immersive experience of traveling across Lunacia using your axie as your avatar.
However, apart from real-time viewing of others' axies and some movement/decoration mechanics, the initial version had limited content. The release intentionally restricted gameplay to several weeks to prevent players from feeling that they had explored and experienced everything too quickly.
This strongly reminded us of a first principle:
In 2018, when we first started imagining the world of Lunacia, we never wanted to build a blank slate in which player immersion and technical development had to start from scratch. This is always a chicken-and-egg problem for any content platform: creating enough content for players to consume, and bootstrapping the initial audience so developers are motivated to produce more. We wanted to create gameplay where players could enjoy well-crafted progression while developing their own land plots. This would steadily lead everyone to the end-game where user-generated content matters more and social activities become the dominant part.
With that in mind, “K” in Project K means “kingdom”, conveying the original idea of the first Land game: players developing their land plots (like little kingdoms), expanding territory, and competing with others to earn rewards while using resources to progress land plots (creating a complete game loop). The idea also includes outpost and holy site wars and raids, hinting at breathtaking clan wars and more.
In the very first conception of Land, proximity was important (this will always be the case and one of the core commitments, but worth using to differentiate different Land versions). Axies could gather resources, or defeat monsters (Chimeras) and earn rewards, to bring home from afar. On the way back, the resources and loot could be spilled on foreign land plots, that’s why plots closer to points of interest are more preferred.
Even though we called the first demo Project K and had theoretically narrowed down design options, the actual gameplay was not set in stone. There was pressure to release and Sky Mavis, at the time, was not able to handle two full games (Classic and Land) in parallel. We decided to ship the most general and minimum viable part (with the real-time movement mechanic, which effectively enables social interactions), so people could have a grasp of what’s being cooked in the kitchen.
After that, we did have some room to think about the next direction. This marked the start of Homeland. Some of the learning points we had in mind at the time:
Real-time synchronization was difficult. Not that it was impossible, since we demonstrated what it looked like in Project K (demo), with a scale of being able to host ~1k concurrent players in the same map. If we optimized more, the number could be ~5k (with 10k being a well-known industry problem), or we could choose to do alternative maps (different servers). However, we would still have to solve many edge cases when the game logic gets more complicated, which slows down development time.
We were confident that we solved the prerequisite of socialization (via real-time player interactions). If we leave it aside, we can always come back and add it to the gameplay.
So, after considering different options, we decided to make the first part of the gameplay more single-player, with a fair amount of competition through asynchronous mechanics like the leaderboard. We thought this would help modularize and reduce the complexity of development. Furthermore, the approach should also give players enough progression and give us enough time to work on more sophisticated, socialized features. Along with the decision making process, we expanded the team, added more workforces with the aim of faster execution.
This is when things got off-track.
As the Homeland team grew and started to understand the grand vision of Land, they became more ambitious and determined. What was supposed to be an intermediary step (though a big step) quickly turned into a full game, because we wanted to deliver a full-fledged experience to players. At the dawn of Sky Mavis, we always said to ourselves that developing a Web3 game should be more like a startup product, lean and iterative. But we let the pride of craftsmanship creep into the development at the wrong time.
Short Term (~Q1 2024)
With all that said, the current version of Homeland is disconnected from the original vision and feedback from the community. Responsibility for this situation ultimately lies with the Founders as we recognize that we haven't been actively involved enough in guiding the development of Homeland. We should have given more direction and have been the sounding board to help the team validate ideas, avoid working in a silo and iterate more quickly. In response, we (Trung & Jihoz), are assuming control of the Homeland roadmap and will set direction for development in line with our core vision, together with input from the community.
Battling back from this will take some time. We will need to take things step by step. In the short term, there is some low-hanging fruit when it comes to the current Homeland game. Here’s our current thinking:
We must fix the current bugs and UI issues while reforming our quality assurance process for the future. This release involved a lot of changes and should have been broken down into many rollouts to make it easier to control the process and prevent major issues at launch. Fixes have been delivered as we speak and will be released more in the coming days and weeks.
We understand that the community, by and large, thinks Moonfall and Moonbeam are bad mechanics and make the earning of in-game rewards seem arbitrary and too random. We agree with you. The fact that these two mechanics still exist, mainly unchanged from Alpha, is part of the reason that Homeland feels like it has had no significant new gameplay added.
We also understand that the leaderboards from Alpha were actually fun and want to add these back in ASAP. The time frame and how these work must be adjusted so that players can sleep.
Moonbeam feels too much like a lottery. Moonbeam’s removal creates a very interesting opportunity for improvement. We are still considering different approaches, which also include the original idea of Land gameplay. The unused AXS rewards could spawn at the Pink resources nodes as AXS ore. Players would need to send their NFT axies to harvest this ore. In this scenario, the proximity to resource nodes will once again, be a key determinant to the usefulness of a particular land plot. This feature could be upgraded over time, for example Chimera could be guarding these ore deposits and need to be defeated by your NFT axies. We also understand that the adventurer system lacks appeal and is disconnected from your axies. There may be a path to solving two pain points at once here (moonbeam + adventurer issues).
In addition, land is still too disconnected from Axie Core. The next step is integrating AXP and part evolution visuals in Homeland. We’ve set an ambitious timeline for delivering this in Q1.
We’re also thinking about making the gameplay less clicky. However, this is a part of a bigger game system and poses some challenges.
We will actively share more about the short-term plan and status as we progress in the next few weeks.
Bottom line: Homeland’s development path must proceed in a direction that takes into account the real pain points and needs of Landowners. We’ve developed Homeland in a black box thus far, and the results have not been up to our standards. This will change moving forward.
This past year, we released a prototype of Project T to explore social features in parallel to the development of homeland. The idea has been to iterate towards various gameplay mechanics for land using a parallel development process.
This created some confusion around Project T cannibalizing the design space of Homeland, while they’re actually two projects complementing each other and eventually—the utility of your Land NFTs.
At the moment, we’re looking into incorporating Land NFTs into Project T. To be more specific, we’re currently working on the next iteration of Project (with a new name) which will better describe the unified vision of Land, through learnings from Project K, Homeland, and Project T. You can think of this as a new game that combines the learnings and feedback from all of the land development so far. If this game receives community buy-in, support, and excitement it’s possible that the future of land could revolve around this experience.
We continue to dream of a universe in which everything Axie is connected, and even enables high interoperability and cross-promotion within the Ronin and Web3 ecosystems.
While the vision is big, we tend to be very mindful and lean with each development step. Building iteratively, maintaining a short release cycle, and keeping an open mind for feedback from stakeholders, are the key—this is part of our DNA and we’ll need to make sure that we lean into this in order to execute on this vision.
In the meantime, Homeland will continue to serve as the main experience of Land. Though its current gameplay is not perfect, we believe there are critical points that we can change (with some concerted effort) to make the game more viable.
We want to be transparent about the reason for the reduction in rewards. At the beginning, land staking was originally created to compensate for the long delivery of land gameplay. This is the reason why it was funded with the Play-to-Earn allocation and acts as alternative rewards to what is supposed to be distributed in-game when the land gameplay goes live.
Additionally, land staking rewards were retrospective. We saw it as a way for aligning incentives going forward, but also expressing gratitude to the early supporters and long-term holders of Land NFTs.
However, land staking is never the ultimate and perfect solution. When we looked at the data, land staking rewards accounted for a disproportionate amount of sell pressure on the AXS token. While this isn’t inherently wrong, it hints at an unhealthy flow that discourages people from keeping their working capital within the ecosystem and actively transacting to create more value. This is also based on the fact that staking is essentially unidirectional and boring.
We always want to create long-term alignment. The thesis here is, by incorporating meaningful interactions in asset ownership, like via playing immersive games or expanding social capital, we can incentivize people to hold, contribute, and catalyze more value for themselves and the ecosystem.
We also want to acknowledge that the upbeat tone of the rewards reduction article and the framing of the release as an “increase in rewards” was misleading.
An additional issue is the lack of rewards in Homeland aside from AXS. If there were interesting tokenized rewards in the form of crafting materials and NFTs in Homeland, then the game would be less reliant on the AXS rewards.
We also understand that the logic of reducing land rewards to increase AXS supply dynamics is not defensible to many community members. Especially since AXS single-sided staking has always just chugged along in a very predictable way based on the Whitepaper unlock schedule, whereas the Play-to-Earn funds have not been distributed in a programmatic way.
This is a problem that we’d like to address alongside the community. The vision is to rely less on passive staking and promote active, meaningful participation and contribution. That would create stronger aligned incentives to develop the Axie ecosystem as a whole.
Open Lines of Communication
We understand that there is a delicate balance between open communication and being more flexible with development. The former increases transparency, fosters trust and helps maintain a pipeline of feedback. However, it also requires serious effort or else incomplete communication would create room for speculation and unhealthy political influence, which then comes back and places a lot of stress on development.
Nevertheless, this should never be the reason that prevents us from hearing out ideas, feedback and constructive criticism. We’ve renamed the #Land channel on Discord to #Land-feedback and we (Trung & Jihoz) will be more active and vocal on Twitter (X) & Discord when it comes to Land vision, principles, direction and decisions. We also aim to hold town hall meetings, to answer questions and address concerns more interactively.
To assist with this process we’ve appointed Victoria from our team to act as a liaison with the community and to summarize player feedback.
We are open to other mechanisms but also want to be cognizant of what could work based on past experiences (such as with the Land Working Group).
We Hear You
We’re grateful for the passionate feedback we’ve received over the last week. Anger and disappointment are preferable to apathy. Web3 gaming is still highly experimental technology and there will be many more bumps along the way.
We want to single out and thank one community member in particular, Artic, who laid out a compelling and interesting vision for the future of Land amidst the chaos of the release. While disappointed, Artic was able to use the moment to paint a picture of the future that was inspiring and exciting to all of us. We also thank Gila for hosting and everyone who tuned into Ronin Radio on Thursday.
The intensity of the feedback for this Homeland release shows the strength of the Axie community. This passion is part of what makes a Web3 game special and we’re excited to keep pushing forward with each and every one of you.
Axie has set Guinness World Records, topped crypto charts, and weathered two brutal bear markets. These accomplishments belong to more than a single founder or team: they belong to the Axie community. Our community is a force of nature, and has always been our not-so-secret weapon. However, Homeland’s botched launch showed the world what happens when we forget to leverage our unique advantage.
Axie once brought people together. Gamers from Michigan to Manila found each other in a Discord server and went on to become lifelong friends. Skilled players and casters launched professional gaming careers by streaming Axie games. Engineers from Vietnam stepped onto the main stage as leaders of the crypto industry. Over time, the lines even blurred between community member and team member as everyone rowed the boat together. We were building something special, something different—and we changed the world.
We understand that words without action carry little weight. We’re sharing these words anyway because we know that many of our community members are looking for a lifeline. The only way forward is alongside our community.
Axie is 6 years old. One day, we’ll be 60. The years in between will be full of the boldness that brought us here, while new challenges will pop up to test our limits. Regardless, we want to build the future together, with you.
The thoughts we’ve shared above represent our deep desire to foster the bridge that connects us. We’re taking the first steps by making changes to Homeland. Let us know how you feel about our direction—we’re listening. It’s time to get back to work.
Trung & Jihoz, and the founding team