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Deep Dive: DeFi Land: A DeFi Farmville
A game creating a new generation of DeFi degens
It is June 2009. You log on to www.facebook.com to see what your friends are up to. You notice a name that pops up in your feed again and again- FarmVille.
Farmville absolutely dominated the social gaming space for the next two years. All your friends were playing Farmville. People loved taking care of their virtual crops and would spend inordinate amounts of time and money tending to them.
History may not repeat but it often rhymes. Farmville was the largest game on the largest web2 platform - Facebook. A new web3 game that has a lot of hype behind it looks pretty familiar.
DeFi Land is an agriculture simulation game with a mission - gamify DeFi. Decentralized Finance, aka. DeFi, is an umbrella term for finance powered by crypto. DeFi is notorious for being complex. It is filled with jargon that is not easy to grasp without a background in crypto and/or finance. As a result, the TVL(Total Value Locked) locked in DeFI is much smaller than the value of crypto in circulation. Most people prefer to simply hold their tokens. There is a very real barrier to entry to DeFi, even for people relatively comfortable with crypto. DeFI Land wants to onboard a new generation of retail investors into DeFI through their game.
The man leading the charge at Defi Land is Erwin. Erwin got really into DeFi during the Defi summer of 2020 and was involved in several projects in the DeFi space. However, he found it extremely difficult to explain what he was doing to his non-crypto-native friends and family. His attempts to explain the concepts behind DeFi were met with confused looks and blank stares.
Erwin had been playing games all his life. He started toying with the idea of gamifying DeFI. Instead of incorporating gamification strategies into a DeFi app (which is the traditional approach), Erwin wanted to introduce DeFi concepts through a game.
Erwin claims he thought a FarmVille type game was already there on Ethereum. On looking it up, he was pleasantly surprised to find out that nothing like that existed. He got together four of his buddies and set about to make it happen.
It was around this time that the Solana season hackathon was announced. Solana summer was in full swing. Erwin and his team decided to join the hackathon and build DeFi Land on Solana. Once the team started working on it their conviction grew by leaps and bounds; so much so that everyone involved quit their day jobs two weeks before the results were announced to go all-in on DeFi Land. They ended up taking home second place in the DeFi track.
The core team behind DeFi land have worked together on several projects before DeFi Land. They work out of an office, which makes them an outlier in the crypto world. Erwin has said that this is a competitive advantage; a claim substantiated by the fact that despite facing major roadblocks- half the team got serious COVID and Solana had a major outage, the team went from idea to v1 in just two months. The team also has two remote contributors that joined later.
Rather than using an in-game currency for in-game actions like most games today, DeFi Land uses actual tokens from your wallet. Keeping with the farm theme, each token is mapped to a fruit/vegetable that reflects the price of the token in real-time.
In DeFi Land, you can swap tokens, yield farm, and more, all of which reflects in your wallet in real-time. These DeFi concepts are abstracted using game mechanics. All in-game actions are settled on Solana's mainnet.
Signing up for DeFI land is very straightforward. Just enter your email and password. Once you sign up, you will need to link DeFi land to your Solana wallet (Sollet, Phantom and Solflare are supported).
You will be greeted by a nameless guide who will show you around the various areas in DeFi land
A day in DeFi Land
You start your day by heading to the market. The market works on a barter system - you can only swap goods. As I mentioned before, each token is mapped to a fruit/vegetable, making the market essentially an AMM(Automated Market Maker).
Once you have the fruits/vegetables you need, you head over to the laboratory to create hybrid seeds from your fruits/vegetables. In DeFi terms, this translates to staking your tokens in a liquidity pool
After you get your seeds from the seeds lab, you head over to your farm. Here you can plant your seeds and watch them grow. This is DeFi Land taking yield farming very literally.
As night falls and it starts to rain, you decide to go home. On the way you stop to pet your dogs, cows, chickens and ducks.
DeFi land also has a few mini-games that do not really relate to DeFI - an arcade shooting type game and a card-based memory game
DeFi Land is currently in closed beta so you need an invite code to play. Head over to their Discord to see if you can get one.
Some thoughts on the gameplay
I really like the music and weather in DeFi Land. The vibes are immaculate. Also having a place to report bugs in your game map is a very nice way to do it.
I also really enjoyed the memes sprinkled throughout the game
The main complaint I have with the gameplay is that although DeFi land incorporates several core DeFi concepts, I felt that they could do better with the analogies. It felt like I was navigating around a DeFi app rather than in a game. Instead of clicking “swap” on a menu, I was clicking on a building. The actual UX of the swap remained the same. That being said, the game looks great for a v1.
The DeFi land team has a very exciting roadmap. A v2 is expected to come out in Q1 2022. Here's what's planned for DeFi land v2:
Lending and borrowing
Predictions and betting
Unions and clans
Multi-chain support - Ethereum, Terra and BSC lands
The team is also planning on adding a new game mode - Education mode. Right now, everything you do happens on the main net. Education mode will allow you to familiarize yourself with the game either using test net tokens or a non-crypto in-game currency. You will need to pass a quiz before you can start playing with real tokens. Educational mode will also allow for better progressive onboarding. For example, when you start with education mode, you can have achievements for linked to wallet, funded wallet, etc. which will teach new crypto users the basics before jumping into DeFi concepts.
Another potential feature that I am very excited about is the ability to send in-game NFTs to people that have not signed up yet. Although it is not part of the public roadmap, Erwin has spoken about adding it to a future version. This is how it works:
You send an NFT to an email address instead of a wallet address
The recipient receives an email that they have an NFT waiting for them in DeFi land.
Once they sign up to DeFi Land they have to complete a series of tasks to claim their NFT
On completion of the tasks, the NFT is sent to their wallet
This is a great onboarding experience and also functions as a very effective growth hack
DeFi land has a lot of community support behind it. They have over 43k followers on Twitter and over 1300 Discord members. The team recently raised $4.1M from over 40 investors including Alameda research, Jump Capital and the Solana foundation.
The game is currently in closed beta but there seems to be a lot of excitement for it to open up.
DeFi Land is planning for an IDO on Solanium. $DFL will be used for in-game activities and will also have governance privileges.
DeFi Land gets compared to Farmville a lot due to the underlying game mechanics. However, DeFi Land's mission is much bigger than that. Games like Axie infinity have shown us that in-game winnings can have a real economic impact(check out Play to Earn, a mini-documentary about Axie's impact in the Philippines). DeFi Land takes this a step further by having complex financial instruments in the game itself. Kids playing games can be the highest earners in their house. Playing DeFi land can have a real economic impact on your life.
Unlike several other crypto projects, DeFi Land is somewhat blockchain agnostic. They have plans to release BSC, Ethereum and Terra versions. This makes the project more resilient. However, this may take team bandwidth away from improving the game, which is the most important factor for retention. For now, the team seems to be all in on Solana
DeFi land has not really monetized their v1. They get a small cut of the fee during swaps but that's about it. However, their roadmap has several features that can bring in a lot of money. NFTs will allow them to implement revenue streams similar to that of Axie, DeFi Land is in a great position to implement Minecraft style crafting using NFTs. Multiplayer modes will further boost revenue as people will buy in-game items for social signalling.
Ownership and personalization are great hooks. DeFi Land needs to add as many worldbuilding items as possible. This will get players to form an emotional attachment to their farm. Future features like NFTs and in-game land ownership can really solidify this.
DeFi Land needs to figure out is whether it is a DeFi app with gamified onboarding experience, or a game with elements of DeFi in it. The former means that people will probably abandon it once they get comfortable with DeFi concepts, or leave it for DeFI apps that offer better services(lower fees, lower slippage, etc.). The latter means that the team needs to focus on making DeFi Land more fun. This will also determine who their competitors are.
Crypto games seem to be at the cusp of breaking out. Everyone wants to build a metaverse. Competition is fierce. Some other interesting projects in this space are
Solana Valley. A farm-based NFT project with plans to build out a game around it. This is the opposite approach to that of DeFi Land, which is planning on introducing NFTs to a built-out game.
The Sandbox Game. Sort of like crypto Roblox/Minecraft.
Star Atlas. Space exploration themed game with crypto-based in-game economies and governance.
If DeFi Land can get a mobile version of the game out it could be a huge unlock. The game mechanics are perfectly suited for casual mobile gaming. However, this poses several technical challenges so that might be a distant dream for now.
We are still in the Miniclip flash games era for crypto games. I can't wait to see what the crypto RDR2 looks like. DeFi Land has a strong team behind it and has built out a good v1 very quickly. They have a very exciting roadmap, a strong community, and backing from several big names in the cryptosphere. I strongly believe in the problem that DeFi land is trying to solve. I look forward to seeing how the game and the community grows.
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