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Deadfellaz, a prominent zombie-themed Ethereum NFT project, is developing a digital trading card game (TCG) inspired by Blizzard’s Hearthstone, Street Fighter, and the creators’ favorite anime shows. 

DFZ Labs will begin selling digital boxes of the in-game cards on Friday. Collectors of Deadfellaz NFTs can mint these vaults starting today, with general access opening up to the public on Sunday. The card vaults will be minted as Ethereum NFTs, while the cards within will be revealed on an as-yet-unannounced Ethereum Virtual Machine-compatible chain.

While the sale arrives before the start of active code development on the game in October, the team has been working on this project behind closed doors for a year.

“We’re a year into mechanics on pen and paper,” Psych, pseudonymous director and co-founder of Deadfellaz, told Decrypt. “So while that’s a very important step, in terms of validation of the concept, we are just starting actual coded development in October.”

Codenamed RIP TCG, the PC and mobile game is still in its early stages—but the team is clear that it wants the card-battling experience to play a key role in the evolution of the Deadfellaz universe going forward.

“It’ll be the main delivery device for lore.” Psych explained. “The way this comes to the market is that we can do a lot more tailored short-form content around particular characters.”

Psych said that the game will tell vignettes about individual characters and groups that are native to the cartoonish, undead-themed Deadfellaz universe. Deadfellaz aims to avoid complex preambles and instead focus on committed character exploration.

How will it play?

DFZ Labs is keeping mum on specific details on how the game will play, feel, and look. But Psych shared that it’s a card-battler similar to the likes of Hearthstone and Marvel Snap, with a sprinkle of Street Fighter’s “cinematic experience.”

He explained that your cards will come to life once played, turning into physical characters rather than remaining lifeless cards laying on a virtual table.

“We’re not a TCG in the fact that it’s like a tabletop, cards-on-a-table experience,” Psych explained. “The card format is just a capsule. It just happens to be a square that’s traditionally flat, you know? But the way that we’re putting together these cards and the different characters within them, they are very much alive.”

The Deadfellaz game aims to have a short gameplay loop of around 10 minutes per game. This takes inspiration from Marvel Snap which has 3-minute games—and has recently become the leader of the genre—but potentially provides a bit more time for complex, strategic battles.

Blockchain-backed

Instead of focusing on Web3-native concepts like play-to-earn token rewards, DFZ Labs plans to offer a free-to-play experience to users—with blockchain technology in the background.

“This isn’t being made as a ‘Web3 game,'” pseudonymous Deadfellaz CEO and co-founder Betty explained, “This is just being made as a really, really well-developed game that is supposed to be very, very fun; very addictive. And the interaction with blockchain technology will be very much silent and seamless.”

In other words, it’s not designed to be crypto-forward; the prevailing goal is to create the best-possible user experience, but blockchain can aid with that in some ways. One example of this is the “deep on-chain XP” system, according to a blog post. Each card you collect in the game will be an NFT that will have its entire history etched onto the blockchain.

“You could pick up a card down the road that someone is selling, that has seen multiple wins in tournaments over three years and it has killed so many cards,” Psych told Decrypt. “It’s also the attachment of those data points to unique unlocks. The fact that it’s not just a card on the table means that we can attach meaningful visual differences that you do see in the match.”

The path forward

In October, the game will enter development with support from the professional services team at Unity, the company behind the popular video game engine and development platform of the same name. The aim is to create an “early alpha” product ready for release by Q1 2024, with a beta version to follow in 2025.

Throughout this period, the team will produce a series of development diaries called the Road to RIP. They’ll chart the team’s path as they work to bring the game to life—and try to shake up the card-battler genre in the process.

“Deadfellaz, as a brand, has always been a proponent of culture and creativity,” Betty told Decrypt. “We do see the gaming ecosystem as something to disrupt—in terms of really merging various industries and modalities, and all kinds of different contexts into each other—to create completely new experiences in a TCG format. It’s really exciting.”

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