The Zima Red Podcast: Why Axie Infinity Is Miles Ahead of Other AAA Titles With Sarutobi Sasuke

In this Podcast, Sarutobi Sasuke, Head of Partnerships at YGG, explains the intricacies of Axie Infinity’s gaming model that make it a tour de force in the Industry.

The Zima Red Podcast features interviews with prominent founders, investors, and collectors in the NFT space, who throw light on the industry’s potential and how it intersects with existing sectors such as finance and gaming. 

Zima Red is hosted by Andrew Steinwold, an investor from the Greater Chicago Area who is also the Managing Partner at Sfermion, the world’s first investment firm focused on non-fungible tokens and associated assets. Along with being a Partner at Polynexus Capital, a multi-strategy digital asset fund that invests in distributed ledger technologies, Andrew has also invested in projects such as OpenSea, Yield Guild Games (YGG), and Showtime.

This episode of the Zima Red Podcast features Sarutobi Sasuke. Sarutobi is currently the Head of Partnerships at YGG, unearthing games, projects, and other opportunities that provide value to the community at large. As a long-time Axie Infinity player, he also founded BlackPool HQ Academy, a scholarship program for Axie Infinity players under the BlackPool, a DAO built solely for NFT gaming and trading

Sarutobi talks about his journey from being an avid gamer, to getting attracted to the Axie Infinity community. He also details some of the core gameplay mechanics that make Axie stand out from other AAA titles, and even other play-to-earn games. With the game’s soon-to-be-released land gameplay,  he believes that Sky Mavis will continue to lead the game in the right direction.

The following is an excerpt from the discussion. Listen to the full podcast here.  

Sarutobi Sasuke - Deep Dive Into Axie and Play-to-Earn - Zima Red ep 75

Andrew (21:30): I want to dive into the Axie Infinity’s gameplay mechanics, so let's first go over the player versus environment (PVE), and then the player versus player (PVP) mechanics, so can you pretend that I know absolutely nothing, and you have to explain PVE and PVP.

Sarutobi (21:46): Yeah, sure. So in the PVE mode you have your three Axies. You start off with level one, where you fight these small monsters called “Chimera'' and as you defeat these monsters you level up your Axies, so they get stronger over time as you grind through these levels, and progressively have to go through these stages of beating harder and harder monsters, and the reward that you get from the game increases over time. As of now, there is only one large PVE section, which gets surprisingly challenging towards the end, and it is going to be really exciting to see them take away the cap of level 25, and let Axies get to a higher level, which will again increase the stickiness of holding these NFTs.

Andrew (23:21): Very cool, so that’s on the PVE side, so on the PVP side I think it's quite different. 

Sarutobi (23:37): Yeah, absolutely. So on the PVP side, the levels of the Axies don't increase. The Axie team has tried really hard to make sure that the game is not too intrinsically play-to-win. There is an evolving “meta” of the game, which means each individual Axie has four cards that allow it to attack or defend against other Axies, there is this intricate and complex card game between two players, and then there is an energy mechanic.

In the PVP mode, you have a certain amount of energy which allows you to play the cards that the Axie possesses. And it's actually quite a complex game with a lot of skill, timing, and understanding of like “How much energy does my opponent have and how much do I have? How should I use my cards and how do I create a team based on what people are using, to get to the top rank now,” and you could, in theory, try to design a team to get higher up the ladder, if you are smart enough to design a team around defeating the most successful teams, and it is actually quite skill-based which is a great thing to see. 

As of right now, there are what we call “Mystic Axies” and intrinsically they don’t possess fighting powers that allow them to be overpowered. And as long as you are using Axies that are combat-specific, it is near impossible for most players, or at least once was, until the player base has grown so much, and as I said, I was able to get to the top 200 players in the world. Now, it would be a much bigger task for me and even some of my scholars, who are able to reach the top 20, with some of the teams I was providing them. 

But as of now, it is definitely the case that the hallowed top 100 players often seem to have multiple teams to be able to switch to whatever the meta evolves to be at that time if that makes sense.

Andrew (26:26): Yeah, so could you tell me about the types of Axies like how Pokémon has water, fire, psychic. Axies also have the same general types which are more powerful or weaker, so I would love to hear about the actual move sets they have because I believe each Axie character has four cards. So I would love to dive deeper into that.

Sarutobi (26:58): Yeah, absolutely so just as you mentioned, there’s currently a number of class types, so you have the Beast class type, the Aquatic class type, the Plant class type, Bird, Bug and Reptile. In addition to that, they have three classes, which as of now, don’t have cards specific to their class type, which is the Mech, Dawn, and Dusk type, so it is going to be really exciting to see those classes be awoken and to have their own move sets which would make the game more intricate and complex.

In addition to having the classes, there are also interbred classes. There is a very complex thing that a lot of players aren’t really aware of like dominant genes and two levels of recessive genes, so you can blend these class types together, and depending on how you blend class types, you can go for a high purity class of Axie which allows you to gain certain buffs. 

Also, if you breed two classes together, let’s say like an aqua and a plant, you can affect the stats or move sets of the Axie, to create these really interestingly, tactically thought out breeds that allow you to compete at a higher level, so the genetic traits plus the class type influence the cards that the Axis has, to be able to use in the game.

Andrew (28:53): Switching gears here, I want to dive into Axie Lands, so I know that Axie is developing land gameplay because right now, it is a turn-based card game essentially, and land gameplay is going to introduce the Pokémon style 2D world where you can collect resources, battle, etc. So I would love to hear all about the land gameplay.

Sarutobi (29:19): I am not sure if it’s going to be completely 2D, I think there might be a degree of 3D to it, but I think another good comparison would be Farmville, but it does incorporate some of the traditional battle mechanics of the original game. 

I was lucky enough to own a plot of land and play the pre-pre-alpha version of the game and explore a little. So, it really revolves around developing your land plots and posting nice objects and items. There will also be a dungeon-crawling element to it, where you will be able to go into a dungeon and clear out monsters for prizes and yield. It is definitely safe to say that the land gameplay will be an exciting new chapter in the evolution of Axie Infinity. 

There have also been huge increases in the costs of the land itself, so there is a lot to live up to there, but I am sure that the team is working really hard to make sure it is a huge success, but it is going to be fascinating as well because they have got a lot of mechanics that they're hoping to implement in the future, in terms of large structures of people that own large sways of land, the ability to raid other people’s land is going to be an interesting dynamic to see, obviously, you have large guilds like YGG or BlackPool Academy or other guilds that might own tracks of land and all these guys are going to align themselves to be allies or battle each other for resources which is also going to be a fascinating thing to witness.

As of right now, it is expensive to buy land, the cheapest land is at least $5000 USD, so one would hope that there will be a mechanism that anybody can somehow jump in with their Axies and play and enjoy the land gameplay, without necessarily owning the land NFTs themselves and what is going to be really important and exciting to see is, how profitable is the land going to be, from a business point of view.

You can check out the full podcast on Anchor

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