Illuvium offers players a AAA gaming experience, complete ownership of in-game assets, and a cryptocurrency primer

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“In building the game, we have added and added to the scope... It’s a community – they govern us, and they can bring things in.”

Not all startups are built to solve major problems for customers – sometimes they simply want to help people have fun.

This is the principle behind Illuvium, the maker of an open-world sci-fi adventure game where players can capture and train characters and then take them into battle.

What sets Illuvium apart from earlier generations of games is its use of the Ethereum blockchain as an underpinning technology to enabled trusted commerce. This gives players a secure and immutable method of owning their characters as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), meaning they can trade characters and purchase other assets within the game environment.

Serious family business

Illuvium is the creation of brothers Kieran and Aaron Warwick, who, with help from a third brother, Grant, have combined their unique skill sets to bring the game to life. Kieran describes his talents as being in the business world, whereas Aaron brings a background in game design, and Grant in computer generated imagery (CGI).

The team also benefitted from the advice of another brother, Kain Warwick, who has built a solid reputation as a cryptocurrency investor and thought leader in the emerging concepts of Web3 and decentralised finance. Kieran says Kain’s insights and connections were essential for helping Illuvium raise funds, which it achieved through a token offer.

Kieran first began developing the concept of a blockchain-based game in early 2020, as a means of allowing gamers to take full ownership of their in-game creations. Together, Kieran and Aaron spent two weeks putting together concept graphics and a 15-page game design document that formed the foundation of Illuvium.

“From there, we started building a team. We had 20 people by January 2021, including the lead concept artist, lead animators, and a CFO,” Kieran says. “I was relentless about getting experts in their field. None of us had built a AAA game before, but these hires were important for investors.”

Just 14 months later, Illuvium released a beta version of the game and began inviting players to join. The team has now grown to 250 and Illuvium has invited 12,000 people into its beta version – and has another 1.9 million on its waiting list.

While the valuation of the Illuvium tokens has fluctuated, in June this year the company raised an additional $74 million in a virtual land sale as more people bought into the concept.

Getting players invested, literally

Kieran says the ability for players to own and trade their creations sets Illuvium apart from previous generations of games because it allows players to be more invested in the gameplay experience.

Within Illuvium’s world, players can discover, hunt, and capture more than 100 Illuvials, which possess a range of unique abilities that can be deployed in battle. The characters – the Illuvials – can be traded on the IlluviDex, Illuvium’s fee-free NFT peer-to-peer trading marketplace.

Players can earn crypto tokens as they play, which they can redeem for in-game assets or wager on tournament battles. Players can also own virtual land within the game’s world, which they use to produce fuel – a critical element for catching and upgrading Illuvials.

“In building the game, we have added and added to the scope,” he says. “It’s a community – they govern us, and they can bring things in.”

Setting up for scale and success with AWS

Kieran says that while only a dozen or so startups were working on blockchain-based gaming when he started, now those numbers have exploded. But he’s not fazed by the extra “noise” in the market and has focused on creating both the best technology and the best gaming experience.

The team plans to open its beta to 100,000 people, ahead of the game’s full release later this year. While Kieran says this will represent a big test for Illuvium, he is confident the company’s decision to host the game on Amazon Web Services (AWS) will enable them to deliver the performance that players demand, while their serverless architecture means players can have a similar experience no matter where they are based.

“We’re using Amazon Web Services (AWS) serverless architecture. It’s pretty special. I don’t think there are any other games out there, certainly not at the level we’re planning to be at, that are using it,” Kieran says. “Typically, when you’re playing a game, there are different servers that get spun up and they’re region based. This is annoying for the user – if you’re wanting to play with your American friends and your Australian friends – you need to create two accounts and then your items, your skins, everything is related to just one account.”

“With what we’ve set up on AWS, the serverless architecture, we can essentially spin up hundreds of millions of players.” Kieran says. “It’s completely scalable and they’re all in a global region so everyone can play with everyone.”

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