With over a decade of professional experience working for various software companies and a life-long love of gaming, Vledic Franco has founded Drunken Dragon Games, which combines his love of computer science, community building, and fantasy. Moreover, Drunken Dragon Games is also one of few companies building a video game using crypto platform, Cardano / ADA. Vledic was also in Cohort 1 of the Plutus Pioneers Program; which is IOHK’s education program that teaches people about Cardano’s smart contracts. Wanting to learn more about Vledic as well as his thoughts on ADA in game dev, I was able to interview Franco for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, what were some video games you loved playing? Are there any you still enjoy revisiting?
Vledic Franco: I have played countless games in my life, so it is hard to answer this question without omitting loved games like Ocarina of Time, Age of Empires or Minecraft, but my favorite genre is MMORPGs: Ultima Online, World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, ArcheAge; I simply love the feeling of immersion, of being part of a fantasy universe with a thriving community. I have always been and I am still a gamer, work is always in the way, but I still play when I can. Lately I have played a lot of Valheim, but I am looking forward to Star Citizen and Ashes of Creation… and Drunken Dragon: Inns & Quests! There are so many elements I want to play from our own game.
Yanes: You have working in software for over a decade. Looking back, what do you think has been the biggest change in how you approach coding?
Vledic: For me coding has always been about curiosity, creativity, and beauty in the abstract, but in the last years I have learned to be more pragmatic and less academic, as a private contractor helping big corporations achieve their goals I have learned to make small steps that make a big difference. Such, has a lot of beauty as well. But my heart is still with abstract mathematics that have philosophical implications on how we design code, like Category Theory or Abstract Algebra, that is why I like functional programming a lot and the approach of IOHK, academy and engineering can be very good friends.
Yanes: You created Drunken Dragon Games. What was the motivation for Drunken Dragon Games to be created? Was there a specific gap in the market Drunken Dragon Games was going to specifically fill?
Vledic: Drunken Dragon Games was not a market opportunity, it was a project created from love of Blockchain, of fantasy, and the community of Cardano. I have been managing it like a business to make it succeed, but for me it is more personal because it merges the 3 things I love in life, computer science, fantasy, and forming meaningful communities.
Yanes: Drunken Dragon Games is mainly focused on working with Cardano. With all the crypto currencies and block chains on the market, what attracted you to Cardano and its coin, ADA?
Vledic: Its end goal, the culture, and the community. The objective of improving the systems of the world is something that I share with Charles Hoskinson, IOHK, and Cardano. Also the culture of doing things correctly, doing the proper investments upfront, and not fearing the academy. These are things I find very powerful. Finally, the community is very open-minded and have a critical mind, we suffer less from “maximalism”, I think it is super important to be kind with each other, have some basic empathy even to those who do wrong, and be open to new ideas and fear not the possibility of being wrong. All of this are things I find in Cardano that make me feel at home.
Yanes: On the flipside, no software or technology is perfect. Are there any bottlenecks that have come up working with Cardano?
Vledic: In general that it is still early days and one still might find some documentation missing, or base layers of abstractions / libraries missing, but as someone that has spent many years learning many technologies, I must say that Cardano has had an amazing approach to development and has discovered extremely elegant models, it is hard to criticize something so well done from its very foundations.
Yanes: In regards to Drunken Dragon: Inns & Quest specifically, what games influenced how you developed this project?
Vledic: The beauty and innovation of modern pixel art indie games has fascinated me, I no longer associate pixel art with “old games”, pixel art has been evolving with the capacity of new computers and the skill of new artists. Regarding game play there are many things I have planned for the game if I can express it by comparing the emotions that other games have provoked in me. The collector feeling of obtaining and buying/selling artifacts and cosmetics in Ultima Online. The complex and interesting in-game economy like EVE-online. The hardcore risk/reward mechanics of Diablo in hardcore mode, Albion Online, or old school pvp mmorpgs. The long term growth of Travian, old school mmorpgs like Vanilla WoW, or Minecraft. the bare feeling of adventure of Valheim. And finally, the intriguing deep lore of Warcraft.
Yanes: While developing this game, was there a moment in which you realized that it was going to work out?
Vledic: Every day that I meditated on the idea, that I worked on the pixel art, that I started receiving words of support and excitement, the more I felt like it was something worth doing. I don’t think that measuring things in terms of “if it is going to work out” makes any sense, for me it makes more sense to measure things in terms of “epicness”, the feeling that something is worth living. Very few things work out, but that is no criteria to what it matters, if it is something worth living. For me, if Drunken Dragon Games does not work out, then it still did for me, because the experiences that the community have given me are already something that I will save in my heart for the rest of my days. Drunken Dragon Games and every single community member that has joined has been an epic adventure indeed, and will continue to be so.
Yanes: Given that Charles Hoskinson is the face of Cardano, will any easter eggs related to him appear in Drunken Dragon Games?
Vledic: Haha, maybe, he is great but our first reference to IOHK has already been created, we have a Pixel Tile of Lars Brunjes, the head of education of IOHK and the professor to the Plutus Pioneer Program and Haskell courses, I think he is a noble person, when I saw the interview of him made by Charles Hoskinson in his youtube channel I felt very much identified and connected to several things he had to say, specially I saw that love for functional programming, to having a life doing what one loves, and to sharing it.
Yanes: When people finish playing a game of Drunken Dragon Games, what do you hope they take away from the experience?
Vledic: Well, Drunken Dragon: Inns & Quests will be a game that you will be continually playing, much like an MMORPG, so no matches. The ultimate goal for this game is to make people feel that they are part of an epic world where they have a role in an amazing community. Adventure, fantasy, and community, that is what we are about.
Yanes: Finally, what else are you working on that people can look forward to?
Vledic: Our focus is the game, the community, and its ecosystem. We will be making developer update streams every end of the month to show our progress, also Discord is already a very fun place to be, we are looking to create more interesting ways to engage with the community through there. Really cool things going on in the Discord are mini-games, fan-art contests, and simply people are open to chat.