Bohdan Melnychuk, the CEO and founder of the political strategy game Mithraeum, is an experienced engineer with expertise in game theory and cybersecurity. He saw potential in crypto back in 2017 and began exploring its underlying principles. As a hardcore gamer at heart, Bohdan dreamed of creating autonomous virtual worlds and saw Ethereum as the perfect foundation. The emergence of DeFi in the summer of 2020 provided the validation he needed to pursue his ideas about world-building and the concept of "money legos". He assembled a team and began building his dream. We had the opportunity to sit down with Bohdan and ask him some questions that have been burning a hole in our minds for a while.
What is Mithraeum, and what was the inspiration behind it?
Mithraeum, in my humble opinion, is not just another game or metaverse. It's an on-chain political grand strategy game that plunges players deep into historical eras filled with battles, sieges, and the complexities of forming political and diplomatic alliances on a unified global map. The unique part, the real essence of Mithraeum, is its on-chain world. This world runs on the unbreakable laws of digital physics, crafting the perfect ambience for the birth of meta-states.
We see all these blockchain solutions, and they're great, but they need to truly solve our real-world issues. We've got DeFi, but it's just in its own bubble, right? These solutions are all crypto-native and don't genuinely tie back to real-world assets. So, the burning question is, how do we bridge this? How do we tie the virtual and the real together?
I believe that we can make a real impact if we root our virtual worlds, like games, in genuine value, not just speculation or the ever-changing world of stablecoins. Right now, everyone's chasing these crypto trends, but we're eyeing something bigger. These so-called 'ancient games', these autonomous worlds, could be what comes next, beyond stablecoins.
It's essential to get this – we don't just want to fit into the current gaming or crypto narratives. We truly believe we're offering something more, something unique. Just like autonomous worlds are carving their own niche, separate from the typical crypto games or NFT arenas, we, too, see Mithraeum as an entity in a league of its own. It's more than a game; it's a new dimension, and we firmly believe that.
What makes Mithraeum stand out from previous projects, and what problems with on-chain gaming does it intend to solve?
Mithraeum stands out because, unlike traditional games, it leverages the real benefits of blockchain: decentralisation and composability.
Composability on-chain means full transparency and openness. If a protocol is built on-chain, someone else can seamlessly create something on top of it without seeking permission. It's like building mutual mechanisms with other developers on the chain. In the gaming sphere, this is transformative. While phenomena like compatibility exist in games like Minecraft or Roblox, many traditional games remain closed and opaque, limiting expansion. But with an on-chain, permissionless world, such as Mithraeum, anyone can expand the universe, making it dynamic and ever-evolving. Just as DeFi thrived with composability, we anticipate similar growth in the gaming realm.
As for decentralisation, it challenges the conventional developer dictatorship. We envision game worlds where player commitment transcends the superficial. In traditional gaming, player involvement is quite shallow, but virtual worlds can and should mirror the depth and reality of our physical world. A game world that's autonomous and immutable, where no single entity can change its core, invites deeper emotional, intellectual, and financial commitments from players. We've already seen promising traction in Mithraeum's early stages, where players are more engaged and invested than ever.
What is your affinity with politics, and more importantly, Why does Mithraeum have such a strong political focus?
So, in Web3, we've already bumped into DeFi, NFTs, and Dapps, right? But I'm seeing us moving toward something bigger—crypto states. We're talking about a world where laws and judgments are fully digital. This vision is kinda fueled by my love for politology, political science, and history, and, yeah, strategy games like Mithraeum that are just soaked in political themes because they're so social and strategic.
In DeFi, every move you make, like a trade on Uniswap or a vote on a DAO, is strategic. It's pretty much like playing strategy games, where every action is a big deal, resulting from a lot of thinking and reasoning. They’re all about slow, mindful, deliberate moves. Mix that with MMO multiplayer and the financial side of crypto, and it's all naturally going to be social and political.
Personally, I'm all about diving deep into history and political science. My engineering background is there, but my soul? It's all about exploring theories and models about how states popped up in our history. My journey in crypto is like a reflection of this deep connection to history and politics. The reason for putting a heavy emphasis on politics in the game isn't just a hobby thing—it's a belief. I see strategy, social norms, and politics as intertwined, impacting the future of gaming and crypto.
Can you tell us about the current 'Iron Age Tournament' and the lessons you've learned so far?
So, diving into the Iron Age Tournament, we're looking at our 4th event in 1.5 years, and to be honest, it's maybe the most successful one yet. It's been something to watch. We've got players who are deeply organised and competitive; they've been shaping this game for 18 months, building and creating their narratives, you know?
Now, the intriguing part is the reward pool! It skyrocketed to over $80,000 in one month, and that's all from the players buying settlements. It really shines a light on how much people are getting into online gaming, even in this bear market, willing to put down serious money for this experience, even when it's just a public test, not the real deal gameplay yet.
So, what have we learned? Well, we had around five guilds in the test, and let me tell you, two of them got into a major showdown. The two had history from previous tests, and oh boy, did the competition get heated!
Looking at it from the game design perspective, I'd say it went pretty smoothly. We're seeing that we don't need to change things up fast. We can stick to the plan, and we're considering letting players add new zones for the next public test. But, back to the Iron Age, we noticed one important thing— peer-to-peer trading is crucial. We realised that in a localised, competitive environment like Mithraeum, it matters who your buyer is. Players withdrew from AMMs from Swapper, focusing more on peer-to-peer, understanding who the seller and buyer are, and ensuring they're not empowering the wrong guy.
So, in a nutshell, this Iron Age Tournament? It's been a roller coaster, but it's given us a lot of insights, and it's a testament to the growing commitment from the players. We're onto something here, and we're just getting started!
What's next for the team?
Over the last three years, we've assembled an incredible team at Mithraeum, all experts in their own right, and let me tell you, they're laser-focused on where this project is heading. It's been quite the journey, with the Iron Age I Tournament just being the tip of the iceberg. But as we plan ahead, all I can say is that there's more in store related to Mithraeum.
Everything you've seen so far, be it the Iron Age or the Bronze Age series of tests, is all gearing up for this major, unchanging, immutable world intended to last.
And, from the technical side, 2024 is when we're aiming to get onto the mainnet and make some waves, hopefully in sync with a bull market— We're still deciding on the network – maybe Arbitrum, maybe Optimism- but yeah, we're positioning ourselves to blow everyone away when that time comes!
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