Exclusive: Yuga Labs Executive Talks Dookey Dash, Hacks, and What’s Next
You might say that Yuga Labs’ Dookey Dash was a success. At least, that’s what the hundreds of thousands of hours people spent playing the game and the nearly 37,000 ETH in Sewer Pass trading volume on the secondary market would indicate.
When the game’s two-week run ended on February 16, few in the Web3 space were particularly surprised by the achievements of this latest gamified minting mechanism of the Bored Ape Yacht Club ecosystem. But that near-blasé response to Dookey Dash’s smooth execution is compelling evidence of Yuga’s increasing ability to pivot to the play-to-earn (P2E) gaming sector via its projects. It also hints at what’s to come for the company.
Yuga has been headed in this direction for some time now. When the company announced at the end of last year that Activision Blizzard’s President Daniel Alegre would succeed Nicole Muniz as Yuga Labs’ CEO, it indicated that they were gunning for the P2E world in a big way. Just a few months prior, the team had announced Spencer Tucker as its new Chief Gaming Officer to aid in this push.
It was a telling move; Tucker — who previously served as President of Games at Scopely — specializes in game development, design, and, most crucially, Web3. Now that Dookey Dash has concluded, nft now spoke with Tucker about the game’s results, lessons Yuga learned from its run, and how the company is positioning itself to bring Web3 gaming to the world.
Dookey Dash, by the numbers
On February 16, Yuga announced the winner of Dookey Dash and the recipient of its coveted prize, The Key: Kyle Jackson, a Fortnite player who goes by the moniker “Mongraal” in the eSports world. Jackson obtained a high score of 928,522 after more than ten minutes of gameplay and has since listed his Sewer Pass for a healthy 2,222 ETH on OpenSea.
Rounding out the top three spots on Dookey Dash’s leaderboard are second place at 876,679 (also Jackson) and 875,242, courtesy of Web3 denizen ohhjar_warm. Of course, the fervor surrounding the attempts to land on the leaderboard was intimately tied to the BAYC’s new and ongoing minting mechanic, in which holders of higher-scoring Sewer Passes will be more advantageously placed as it continues to unfold.
“The concept of a skill-based mint is just the beginning of how we innovate blockchain technology,” Tucker explained to nft now. “Mint mechanics are ripe for disruption. The methods of getting NFTs into the wallets of the burgeoning Web3 industry cannot remain predictable, in our opinion. […] It needs to be exciting and weird and get people’s attention.”
Dookey Dash grabbed and held that attention for two solid weeks. The numbers the Yuga team has gathered since the game’s wrap are worth appreciating: 25,525 Sewer Pass holders accumulated 7.5 million Dookey Dash runs (amounting to roughly 80 years’ worth of play time), averaging nearly 28 hours per Sewer Pass. The game helped expand the BAYC universe significantly, growing the ecosystem by 40 percent, according to Yuga’s estimates. The game’s ApeCoin incentivization worked a charm, too: roughly one-third (9,026) of the game’s active players used the token (a total of $424,566 $APE) to purchase boosts to help them achieve a higher score.
The Bored Ape in the room
Dookey Dash wasn’t without its fair share of controversy, however. Responding to concerns that bad actors might try to cheat the game, Yuga co-founder Greg Solano put the Web3 community on notice when he explained that the team was collecting plenty of data on Dookey Dash runs and that those who engaged in foul play would have their scores disqualified. This didn’t satisfy a number of Web3 observers who claimed there was a possibility that the game might be vulnerable to bots in a way that Yuga hadn’t accounted for. Such bots, they argued, could use code to “look ahead” in the run and automatically move the player into a safe position to avoid obstacles.
Yuga denies the presence of meaningful levels of cheating in this form, however, saying that “common client-side cheats” didn’t represent a significant problem for their detection systems. Responding to the accusations, Tucker noted that only two percent of all scores were associated with such behavior and removed from the Dookey Dash leaderboard.
“Hacking is always top of mind for game developers, whether it’s competitive eSports or browser-based games,” Tucker elaborated. “Hacking prevention is a game of cat and mouse. We’ve instituted a ton of cheat detection software designed to ensure fair play. While people may post about potential hacks, they are often also fishing for information about our cheat detection efforts.”
Where does Yuga go from here?
The blockchain gaming world has been a notoriously difficult industry to truly get a handle on. While entries like Axie Infinity have certainly made their mark, no one has yet been able to build a sustainable and wide-reaching Web3 gaming enterprise, much less one with mainstream appeal. Tucker and Yuga Labs are working to change that.
“Yuga Labs is uniquely positioned to be one of the first Web3 gaming companies to crack the code,” Tucker asserted, “bridging the gap between traditional gaming and the ethos of Web3. We are leveraging our unique blend of storytelling, community, and technology. So, yes, free-to-play should pay attention because Yuga’s positioned to be a disruptive force and is already producing exciting results.”
That ambition is made bolder by the fact that Yuga currently lacks the gaming pedigree and development capabilities of traditional developers. Despite this, the team is eager to grow its in-house abilities while partnering with leaders in the gaming space to broaden that capacity. The difference, Tucker says, is in the “core competencies” of the businesses they’re going up against.
“We are doing something entirely new in the gaming sector,” Tucker said. “Bringing the strengths of these industries together is a challenge I am excited to go after.”
Tucker remained tight-lipped on details of Yuga’s plans but said he was looking forward to what the team has in store for the BAYC ecosystem this year.
“Gamification is a core piece of the future for Yuga,” Tucker said, hinting that the upcoming return trip to Otherside in late March will showcase new functionality and “special surprises” for users. Tucker also highlighted Yuga’s continued plans to explore the mobile and mini-game sectors as they build an interoperable metaverse with their community.
For now, those suffering from Dookey Dash withdrawal (and those who missed out on the game entirely) can look forward to February 22, when Sewer Pass holders can re-enter the game to earn a companion trait for their Power Sources in a Dookey Dash bonus round called Toad Mode that will produce a separate leaderboard. Sewer Pass holders will then have the chance to participate in the “Summoning” to transform their Passes on March 8, a process in which Power Sources will be critical.
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