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NEO-Blockchain Game Contestants Interview Series | Stephen Zhou: Welcome to Waterworld 2.0

If you are an avid movie fan you probably were impressed by the 1995 movie “Waterworld,” which told the story of a massive melting of the Earth’s polar glacier caps. The earth becomes a vast ocean and people can only live on water. The background of the story was very novel at the time and many wondered if there could come such a day in the future where Noah’s Ark would truly become a reality.

The possibilities of this event actually happening shouldn’t be anytime soon but through the NEO Blockchain Game Development Competition we can get a hint of what it might be like with a Waterworld style game said Stephen Zhou, the founder of Fairwood Studio and the game “Anno Ark.” Its background story is very similar to Waterworld, while most war strategy simulation game (SLG) perspectives are established on land this game is based around a floating island. And adding blockchain technology in the game will bring a unique freshness to veteran SLG players. 

NEO Blockchain Game Competition official website:

Tournament Committee: Hello Mr. Zhou, as the founder of Fairwood Studio, can you introduce your team and your game entry?

Stephen Zhou: Our team members are all from well-known mobile game companies with each having five to six years of industry experience. We have been following blockchain technology from its early stages and have a great understanding of crypto market trading. I am personally a strong believer in Bitcoin. In the past two years the mobile game industry has seemed to have entered its definitive stages, the head effect has been revealed and the window of entrepreneurship has been basically closed. So that is why we selected blockchain gaming as a new track.

Our game is called “Anno Ark” and is an innovative strategy game. The background of it is set in near future where a massive comet hits the Antarctic continent and causes a huge rise in sea level. Humans can only live on a floating island called the Ark. For the gameplay the players can build cities on the Ark, produce resources, explore other entire planets and compete with other players for territory or even digital currency bonuses. We previously released an early beta version on the Nebulas chain and it is receiving very good feedback.

[Game Cover]

Tournament Committee: What did you consider to make the move for your game to NEO chain?

Stephen Zhou: Well NEO has more than 100,000 users which is a very large potential user base and so is possible to make a dynamic game on NEO. Once the NEO game explosion occurs, it will be a major turning point for the entire blockchain industry. NEO’s investment in their game development incentive plan is also significant because it shows that gaming is a very valuable element to the NEO public chain. So we will provide good games and  benefit mutually with NEO chain to jointly promote the development of this industry.

[Game Login Interface]

Tournament Committee: War strategy games is a broad game category and unfortunately in recent years there have been no new huge breakthroughs in gameplay design. This  standardization has been inevitable. So how has Anno Ark taken a new direction?

Stephen Zhou: The biggest difference between this game and traditional SLG’s is that the player’s game Ark is constantly moving. Players can sail to any corner of the Earth to explore, occupy some resource points and enjoy a variety of other rich gameplay elements such as salvaging relics in submerged cities. The movement of the main city makes the geographical relationship between players constantly change and players need to pay attention to it so to avoid being attacked.

More importantly, the logic of this game is running completely on the blockchain and contracts are all open source. And we allow third-party developers to develop new game clients or game scripts and don’t limit and can’t do it at all. So, instead of saying that we are just creating a game product we are actually developing a “consensus”of players. Which is similar to what decentralized sports and traditional  board games achieve. I hope our game will be optimized from the force of the community and eventually grow into a very entertaining game like DOTA and PUBG.

In addition, all the resources in the game can be freely gifted. This small function will open up to various rich strategies, such as support, raising subsidiary accounts, opening a union and so on.

One other key thing to mention is that there is a very special “Diamond Island” gameplay feature. How this works is a sponsor pays for the naming rights and players compete for the rewards. There are dozens of Diamond Islands on the big map and the merchants who need more traffic or exposure can bid for them in digital currency. After a player has occupied a Diamond Island the digital currency can be “exploited” continuously. In professional sports, sponsorship is a very common business model and blockchain tech makes this model work in online games.

[Ark Construction Interface]

Tournament Committee: The floating island in “Anno Ark” can drift throughout the game. If the player wants to travel from one end of the map to the other, how long does it take?

Stephen Zhou: We hope the players feel that the whole map is very huge. It takes 1-2 days for the Ark to cross half of the Earth, which is about the same timeframe of real airliners. Therefore, players need to pay attention to the global situation every day and also the movements of hostile players. The entire big map looks like a slow-paced real-time strategy game and if you play it well you can dig into the depths of the strategy. For example, if a union war occurs it will test the strategic deployment capabilities of the presidents.


Tournament Committee: Can you earn real money in this blockchain game?

Stephen Zhou: I think for blockchain games in general, players have five ways to make money and forms of  these will appear in our games.

1) The “Diamond Island” sponsorship mechanism I mentioned earlier. Sponsors come to advertise, players earn money through competitions and the sponsors gain exposure,  thus achieving a win-win situation.

[Thirty Diamond Islands On The Planet]

2) You can earn money from other players. For example, by plundering the resources of other players and then selling them off. Of course the opponent will not let you plunder so easily at the same time also wanting to take your money.

3) If there is some kind of Union created in the game then a player can make money as the president. However, if the president does not make money for his members this will not work as a long-term economic solution.

4) Blockchain games can really make money for everyone through highly liquid transactions. The resources and assets in game can be traded freely. If these assets are always in demand there will be a market for the buying and selling of them. The higher the liquidity of the market, the easier it is for players to realize the value of their assets and they will feel that they have a lot more money involved. This is a very unknown principle but in fact the economy of human society is running like this and which is also part of the charm of blockchain. Therefore, we often say that the most important indicators of blockchain games are not the secondary retention and payment rates but the “handover rate.”

5) The dividends of the game. We will write the game’s income distribution rules into smart contracts and distribute revenues by shares. Strictly speaking, this is not part of the gameplay. Those who get dividends are not the players but the investors. Thus we will open a resource exchange in the future (players can conduct OTC trading there) and will also encourage players to open the exchange themselves.


Tournament Committee:Do players make their own exchanges? Can you elaborate on this concept?

Stephen Zhou: Free gifting means that players can trade resources and these resources are all ERC20 Tokens. Third-party developers can develop their own exchanges. Our exchange may charge a fee of 0.001, so players can go to our exchange with lower fees and there are no restrictions at all. In general, since assets will be completely owned by players they can go and trade them in anyway they prefer. For example, if you want to sell a soccer jersey you don’t have to go to an exchange market designated by FIFA, you can just set up a stall on the street and sell it.


Tournament Committee: The inclusiveness factor of the strategy game is very good. Have you ever thought about adding new content to the game?

Stephen Zhou: This is indeed one reason why we are optimistic about blockchain SLG’s. An SLG game can be integrated with many other mechanisms, such as operations, pre-sales, general economics, global socialization, and exploration.

In the short term we have planned some interesting ways to play. One is the joining together of floating islands. Players can join their floating islands into a larger floating island which helps save fuel while sailing, decreases the chances of getting lost and the sharing of defensive powers during war. Unions can form their own islands so that each member has a strong sense of belonging to the group.

[The Union Can Join Floating Islands To Form A Large City]

The other way is to encourage players to settle in the “space” of their own country. So even though the land is overwhelmed, players can still build their country at sea. If a player makes an intercontinental missile with a special warhead they can conduct long-range national warfare with players from other countries.

[The player can settle in the space of their overwhelmed hometown “]

[Many players will settle in their home country]

[The player can make a very long-range attack]

[Underwater Facilities Construction]

[Space Station Construction]

Tournament Committee: So far I know there is one other war strategy game called “EUROPA UNIVERSALIS” in the competition. What do you think of that game?

Stephen Zhou: Their game is great! It is a strategy game but still different from us. They are a land-based strategy game, we have just one main city. Overall it is hard to say which one is better. We don’t think that we must compete but instead feel that we can work together and make a big blockchain game so everyone can make money and develop more of the games that we each like. Their team is also in Shanghai and they have been communicating with us these days. I am very pleased to find like-minded people!


Tournament Committee: Well we hope that you will have a great competition and finally thank you for your time.

Stephen Zhou: Thanks to NEO for all the support.

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