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Clark Stacey AMA: Crypto and Cinder

AMA answers from 2021/11/27 in the official Fer.al Discord server

Hey everyone. Let me start out explaining why this was announced to the Feral community first, despite the fact that the new game, Cinder, is NOT being developed for the feral audience and will not be promoted to you. The reason we announced it to Feral social first (and the reason I’m here), is because I’m well aware of the strong feeling many of you have about NFTs and crypto, and many of you have been kind enough to share your thoughts with me over the past few months while we researched this space. You deserved to hear about it first, and to have a forum to talk about it directly with me. I had a pretty good idea that the reaction to this announcement would be very negative. I’ve tried to anticipate some of your questions in the Medium article we posted (https://clarkstacey.medium.com/the-crypto-gaming-controversy-331bcf5fb519).

A lot of questions about what this means for the future of Feral. We work on new games and new ideas all the time. Game companies have to. Doing so doesn't mean we're abandoning Feral.

I understand the environmental concerns. They're the reason we never considered this technology in games before. I've explained why we chose the Solana network in the Medium article. The fact is energy usage there is better in most cases than the other online payment methods we already support. Our environmental commitment hasn't changed.

Regarding the audience, appropriateness for kids, etc. Cinder isn't for kids. Neither is Feral, actually. It won't be marketed to kids, or to the Feral audience. I do not think games that have real cryptocurrency trading are appropriate for kids, and fortunately the wallests used for storing NFTs and accessing Cinder are additional gateways to prevent kids from accessing it.


What creative uses of NFTs do you have planned for Cinder aside from user-generated content?

--That's the main initial attraction for me. Letting players own what they create in a new way.


Isn’t this all just about making money?

Of course it is. WildWorks is a business, and businesses have to make money. Some businesses do that any way they can, and others try to do it in ways that provide real value to customers and are socially responsible. I wouldn’t be involved with WildWorks if it wasn’t one of the latter. We’ve invested over 2 years and $6M into Feral. Our intention has always been to build it into a business that recoups that investment and makes enough to pay our employees, grow the game, and invest in new games. My interest in blockchain gaming is the idea that players can own and control what they create in the game. Amazing avatars and Sanctuaries have been created in Feral by YOU, not by us. I think it would be cool if YOU could own what you create and even make money from it yourself, if you choose to. When blockchains became capable of executing code, we saw how that could happen. And when blockchains like Solana emerged that are environmentally sustainable, we saw that we could make it happen without violating our principles.


hi clark is the server database going to be the only thing kept on the blockchain and can you consider a way of showing off energy usage within the solana blockchain versus something that the player base would understand

-this is valuable context, I think: https://solana.com/news/solana-energy-usage-report-november-2021

Yes, I had a pretty good idea that the reaction to this announcement would be very negative. I’ve tried to anticipate some of your questions in the Medium article we posted (https://clarkstacey.medium.com/the-crypto-gaming-controversy-331bcf5fb519). Here are a few more points to establish at the outset:


So you're making a crypto currency game because YOU WANT MORE MONEY? WTF!? Do you know how WRONG that is? If you make good games that people like, they will sustain themselves. You do NOT have to make stuff like this to satisfy your money greedy needs.

If that was true I wouldn't be in the business of kids games in the first place. It's the hardest segment of the industry, which is why so few companies survive there. We want to build all of our games into businesses that sustain themselves. We invest huge sums in our creative team and it takes money to keep doing that. With millions of dollars invested in feral, we are continuing with it because it's an important project and we see a path to it becoming self-sustaining. We won't apologize for trying to create games that make money and keep us with these communities, though. It's how we stay in business. The rub is doing it ethically and with value to our customers. That is where my priority has been and will remain.


Again, with all due respect, I would like to bring up the act that you claimed in your article that Cinder will be entirely separate from Feral and Animal Jam, and thus won't have any effect on them or their playerbase, but I would say that this server's outrage has already proved you wrong. Not to mention Cinder is, and I quote, "drawing upon the scaffolding of Feral" and "draws upon visual elements and locations Feral players will recognize". That, to me and other members of this community, seems quite contradictory. You did claim that this was not marketed towards us Feral Players.

-I'm not here to market Cinder to you guys. I'm here because I knew it would upset many of you, and I wanted you to hear about it from us directly first (and hopefull answer the "why" questions"


will funds spent on feral/aj go to funding cinder?

-The opposite is much more likely


Will you make a single statement that actually addresses concerns or do you plan to just repeat "No no it's not for kids, but it is for kids, but it's not for money, except it's totally for money. It's not harmful, it's just a little harmful-"

I've been taking a college class over Blockchain Technology and Cryptocurrencies this semester for my degree. Will Cinder explain why the Solana blockchain is cryptographically secure, or will the details remain hidden from the end users?

The beauty of most blockchains is that all of that information is public. https://docs.solana.com/


Recently Neopets, another beloved childhood game, attempted to mint NFTs to work with its game. The project was an abject failure; the plan was for 2,000 to be made, the company only made 1.,000 and they didn’t even sell all of them. What makes you think Cinder will work better?

Cinder is not a children's game, and we are not taking characters from people's childhoods and turning them into NFTs.


Again, if you KNEW cinder would be upsetting and have a mostly negative reaction, then WHY did you go through with it?

Again, it wasn't developed for this audience. Out of respect for this audience, many of whom have been good enough to discuss their concerns with me over the past few months, we are talking to you about it first. We're trying to be as forthcoming with you as possible, in part because I knew this decision would create a a lot of rancor in the community.


-What inspired this new game? -Who is Cinder's target audience? -What message(s) will you be trying to share with said new game? -Can we see concepts? Or any new information on it at all? -How long has this been in development for?

-The advent of green blockchain tech that can run code, enabling new ways to give players control over a virtual world they feel invested in -The target demographic for Cinder is more akin to that of Axie Infinity, The Sandbox, Blanko’s Block Party, etc. -That blockchain tech can be part of the solution for climate change instead of part of the problem. That this type of game can be made ethically, with player utility first. That we can influence how this tech grows in the world and make it something positive. -Yes, soon -many months


How much money raised from season passes, star fragments, ect in fer.al went into FER.AL, how much went into the development of cinder?

None. Feral is still long away from recouping the investment we've made into it from the beginning. Feral revenue is keeping Feral open while we work on its issues and your requests


Why are you dragging us unto it if you've said multiple times we are not the target audience? You expect backlash from us and you are still trying to peddle it to us. I simple fail to understand the logic behind any of this.

Would you really have preferred to see a press release about this new game, without WW giving you the prior respect of an explanation, a forum to ask questions? I understand this community is not drawn to the mechanics behind "play to earn" games. I'm not trying to sell you on it.


If Cinder is to fail, and there is no room for any other hypotheticals, what would happen to the blockchain, as well to the NFTs, and the owners of said NFTs? Would the property then be owned by WildWorks, or would the user's have it as their own property? What would be the process to this?

Cinder NFTs exist independently of the game world on the Solana blockchain. Their ownership would continue.


Why is cinder being developed right now when feral is in such an early state?

That's a fair question. The short answer is because we want Feral to get to a point where ongoing development is self-sustaining. Right now we invest more in it than we make. That doesn't mean we're abandoning it; it means that the company needs multiple revenue streams to sustain projects like Feral that aren't self-sustaining yet.


Is cinder using existing feral assets, or is this from the ground up a new game set in the same universe?

It is using the technology platform we built for Feral, and initially many existing Feral assets. It has already diverged considerably, and the heritage won't be obvious soon after launch.


How do you plan on preventing botting, account theft, or other malicious activities that take advantage of users?

In order to connect to Cinder, you need to connect a crypto wallet containing a Cinder avatar. These wallets are protected by 25-word seed phrases and extremely strong encryption. (If they originate in the US, they are also protected by UA KYC banking law, which means nobody under 18 will be able to validate one).


please answer the questions about updates on your other games. Will they EVER be updated after Cinder?

Our commitment to our other games is undiminished. We created a new division within WildWorks to explore crypto-gaming. While we've been chatting here I saw that Apple just approved the latest AJ update. Our existing games are what most WW folks are working on.


Can you or can you not provide unbiased, peer-reviewed reports on the environmental benefits of using Solana. We have yet to see an actual credible source from you

Solana is audited by Robert Murphy, and their energy use reports are validated by his organization. Read the report and the footnotes. https://solana.com/news/solana-energy-usage-report-november-2021


Clark Stacey, less of a question about Cinder and more of a general question. Do you guys at WildWorks actually care about the Fer.al or Animal Jam communities? Why would you make a decision like this knowing we would be completely against it?

I have devoted the past 12+ years of my life to those communities. Not because they were in the most profitable segment of the games industry, but because I strongly believe what we do there is important. I acknowledge that many in the Feral community hate this decision and want nothing to do with it. That's why we separated a division to explore this in a completely new game. I believe new technologies are made to serve people when responsible companies engage with them and push them in the right direction. Hoping that blockchain tech and cryptocurrency goes away isn't going to make it happen. There's too much utility there, too many important problems it can solve. If it's going to become part of our lives anyway, pushing it from within in the right direction is how it comes to serve us.


How will we be able to trust Wildworks security with something as serious as crypto when your company has had numerous breaches, hackers and poor account security? Don't You think you should focus on your current games and show us your security before your audience gives you their important financial information?

We continue to invest in security infrastructure for AJ and feral, and we've made a lot of progress in the past year. That won't stop. Yes, we still have work to do. Cinder doesn't detract from that. If fact, some of the infrastructure developed for Cinder will ultimately help secure our other games.


Are you not viewing any other sources besides pro crypto ones? That's a horrible way to start anything, and I sincerely hope that there's much more to this than just you only feeding off of what you'd like to hear. You need unbiased and credible sources, not ones that are sponsored and/or encouraged by the parent company.

Actually, I spend a lot more time reading crypto skeptics. Tends to be more educational, when it's research-based, at least. Share your sources with me. I've been gathering as many as I can. I'm always happy to challenge my assumptions, and hopefully learn.


You are aware that Blockchains/NFT's have been used to scam artists specifically? How will you protect artists that are gonna be the main sellers in this "game" when anyone can go and grab assets from games using asset rippers and just reselling their work? How will you moderate this "game" and make sure people get what they paid for and artists credited and paid when its so easy to steal things to resell?

I discuss this in more depth in the Medium article, but yes - I know people have stolen artwork, tokenized it, and sold it as their own NFTs. It's reprehensible. They've also done that with every other technology that has democratized media creation, from cassette tapes to YouTube. NFTs CAN offer solutions to this. In Cinder, when a player creation is tokenized, it can be verified as unique against the blockchain and ownership is traceable. Artists will be able to sell those creations if they choose and the revenue goes directly to them. I don't have solutions for marketplaces for NFTs that don't protect artists. We need regulation in place and it's coming. Already reputable marketplaces like OpenSea and Solanart are implementing systems for takedown notices and artist protection. I can, however, make sure that our marketplace safeguards artists' creativity.


Why were alternative blockchains not investigated? If my research is wrong, do correct me. This is all available by rudimentary Google searches.

They were, and continue to be. Solana was chosen for it's energy efficiency, its commitment to carbon neutrality by the end of 2021, and its smart contract functionality.


Clark, you said in the medium you sent a while ago that (direct quote!) “NFTs have the ability to totally flip the table and put control in the hands of players and creators.” This was when you were comparing Roblox to NFTs, saying that the Roblox company gets 75% of players’ profits, and then pointing out that with NFTs you, the player, get all the profits. If this is true, how are you earning money?

Two ways. Initially we'll be minting unique avatar NFTs to raise money to develop out the Cinder roadmap. When the marketplace launches, players will be able to create and tokenize their own avatars, social spaces, etc. If they choose to sell/trade them in our marketplace, we'll take around 4% of that transaction, with 96% going to the artist. We will also be able to collect downstream royalties from the initial drop of original NFTs we do.


Will you confirm that you will look into the child gambling issue? It is a growing problem around the world, and Animal Jam (Play Wild) has been receiving more and more gambling features.

I'm not sure what you're referring to, but I promise I will investigate it - including your link


a majority of the active feral playerbase is quitting and refusing to support the game due to the announcement of cinder. what will you do about this?

If that happens, I hope despite our disagreement those players will watch what we do in the crypto-gaming space and judge us based on that. I know I will never convince many that this technology can be leveraged in a way that it sustainable, ethical, and beneficial to players. We will have to demonstrate it. In my experience, people come around when your demonstration is legitimate.


You said you would investigate the gambling aspect, time to investigate the predator aspect too. When will we get further information on that?

If you have information about predators operating in our games, I would urge you to report them not just to our staff but to law enforcement. We work very closely with the FBI and NCMEC. Every report we can substantiate is pursued with law enforcement.


Why were cultural representation issues in feral never addressed? You've butchered the Kokoshnik by naming it the "Matroshka Hat" while also never bothering to put Slavic mythology or cultural elements in feral, you've also misrepresented Mayan culture multiple times! 😟 There's also countless other instances present in Feral. The least you could've done was made an "inspiration dex" where people could see the real life culture/item it was based off

Thats a very good idea


Clark, would you be able to wait until Solana is nearly completely enviro friendly if you do this?

It's why we're doing it now. Cinder will not begin minting until the end of the year, when Solana has reached its carbon neutral goal


I cannot change your opinion alone, but many people don't want this game At All. You are simply ignoring the people who line your wallets with money, the only audience who would actually think of playing Cinder.

If that was true I woudn't be here with you now. Again, this is not the audience for Cinder. I've described the Cinder demographic already. I'm not here to change your opinions about NFTs. I'm here because I respect this community and think they deserve to understand our reasoning behind this decision. Yes, I AM aware that we may lose many of you as supporters of WildWorks. That's not my intention, and I hope our actions will prove our intentions, but I am well aware of the risk. And yes, I care a great deal about that or I wouldn't be here talking to you. My 16 year old daughter is the quintessence of the Feral community. We're doing this because I believe ultimately we will be serving our audience better, and be better able to support all of our games, including Feral.


Clark, I have to worry about how money will be handled with this game. As we all know, when games need money usually they will have microtransations. Microtransations can be VERY predatory to its audience with its own schemes to further push the human psyche to buy, and im sure crypto transations would be no different in the basic sense.

I agree MTX can be very predatory. The goal with Cinder is to have any purchase provide real, lasting value, and even the potential for a return.


Why didn't you just implement the idea of selling your creations such as sanctuaries and avatars by doing so on fer.al for star frags?

See previous questions about security. Incentivizing hackers to attack our existing games by putting real money asset sales into them would not benefit players.


there’s so much evidence to suggest that solana isn’t as environmentally stable as they’re made out to be. are you aware of this or not?

No, but I'd welcome any information you have


Not only that, headdresses and head feathers continue to be in the game, in fact players refuse to aknowledge that they're cultural appropriation when you tell them and they act mean about it, its not like Wildworks is doing anything about it either.

This is pretty far afield, but I'm seeing a lot of on-topic questions that I've already answered so I'll try to address it. Assume you're referring to headdresses in AJC(?) We were contacted by Native American players who found these offensive, and they educated us about their cultural significance. It was ignorant of us to have put them in the game, as we acknowledged at the time. But we also couldn't go in and delete them all from the people who'd acquired them. We discussed this with the native tribe members who contacted us, and agreed a solution would be to stop making them and promoting them in the game, but let those in circulation remain there until they fell out through attrition. That's what we did, and while I'm sorry to say not all of them have fallen out of AJC, they are diminishing steadily. It's not a perfect solution. It was a stupid thing for us to put in the game, born of our ignorance.


Will need to wrap this soon so our mods can get some rest -- they've been extremely wonderful to do this with me on a Saturday. Couple more that I've seen repeatedly but haven't hit yet…


The way blockchain and cryptocurrency works inherently rewards high energy users, and users with existing wealth. In proof of stake systems, you are still rewarded for having more devices on the blockchain-- all devices that will consume energy.

That is true of Proof of Work systems. Proof of Stake validators don’t increase their reward by having more devices on the blockchain — the 1000 validators Solana already has is more than enough to handle much greater volume that they get. PoS validators are rewarded for being reliable and trustworthy, and thus selected more often to validate. Regarding the idea that the biggest wallets control the network, the assumption being made is that because validators are certified by how many coins are staked against them, those who hold the most coins are naturally the validators and hold all the power. Functionally that’s not how it works. ANYONE can stake their coins and delegate the validators they deem trustworthy. The validators that wind up doing the processing are those the entire ecosystems decides are most trustworthy. Large holdings have a bigger vote, but if they stake a large amount, that just means they have more to lose if the validator tries to do anything shady or unsafe on the blockchain. The big holdings don’t get to decide when they lose coins because they backed a malicious validator — that happens when any manipulation happens on the publicly visible blockchain. A pyramid scheme is where the people on the bottom carry all the risk and funnel the rewards to the people at the top. There’s no pyramid here — the biggest holders have the most at risk to lose, and validators are chosen by the entire structure.


We haven't gotten a lot of information on actual gameplay or what cinder'll look like

As already discussed, I'm not here to promote Cinder. More information will be announced in the coming week.


end of 2021, and its smart contract functionality." 2. Then, you were asked about if you actually knew about Solana's environmental costs: "No, but I'd welcome any information you have"

No, I was asked if I was aware of information contradicting the data in Solana's energy report. I am not, but will certainly review it if it's offered.


Several of you have asked about data from independent sources re: Solana's environmental impact. I will provide these as footnotes and followups to the Medium article. Thank you for participating in this. I hope you'll look back over the answers if you feel something was missed, and if it was, I will attempt to address it in followup articles or AMAs. Thank you for playing our games. I know this is a very controversial decision, but it's made in order to sustain the work we're doing to support ALL of our game communities. My goal is to see Feral and AJ grow in depth and features in the coming year, and for Cinder to prove to its skeptics that blockchain gaming can be done well, in ways that benefit players beyond what a simple database can do. The proof will be in what we do, I know. For those of you inclined to withold judgement until you see it, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.


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