Following the successful Otherside Second Trip playtest, executives from Yuga Labs, the creative minds behind Bored Ape Yacht Club, deliberate on their transparent approach to development and their ambitious plan to breathe life into the Web3 metaverse game.

Metaverse game realms frequently suffer from a perception of being desolate, devoid of human interaction and activity. However, the Otherside Second Trip playtest orchestrated by Yuga Labs last month was a stark deviation from this trend. Upon entry, I found myself amidst thousands of other players, all enthusiastically exploring, leaping, and soaring through the digital sky in unison. This bustling environment was a testament to the engaging nature of the game.

This engaging spectacle was indeed impressive, albeit slightly overwhelming. Even though the players sported similar robotic tribal designs and the environment was minimally decorated, possibly to alleviate technical pressure, the Second Trip managed to host approximately 7,200 unique players, according to Yuga Labs. The game functioned seamlessly on my two-year-old MacBook Pro, effectively demonstrating its browser compatibility.

The Chief Creative Officer of Yuga Labs, Michael Figge, commented on the stark contrast between Otherside and other metaverse experiences, which often lack the same level of density and human interaction. He emphasized that the objective is to maintain and even amplify this degree of user activity as Otherside continues with its testing and development process.

Figge voiced the challenge that Yuga Labs is currently grappling with: “How do we build in public and maintain that density, and even scale that density up even further, so that more and more people find this as a thing that they want to come and be in?

This question takes center stage as Yuga Labs strives to scale Otherside from its initial success as a massive NFT land drop and a trading platform with $1.25 billion worth of trading volume, according to CryptoSlam, into a vibrant online universe teeming with Bored Ape-themed narratives, social gameplay challenges, and a plethora of NFT avatars.

The approach of developing in public and offering NFT holders a glimpse into the ongoing development process is a departure from traditional AAA games. Although some games launch in an “early access” mode and others conduct beta testing prior to release, Yuga’s demonstration appeared to be in a nascent stage. At this point, it appears that the technological infrastructure is more established than the content.

An immersive jungle-like setting complete with “magic blobs” to collect and deliver to gigantic laser-spewing toads was revealed once the introductory session concluded in the Second Trip lobby. This environment was significantly more aligned with the Bored Ape Yacht Club universe than the sterile lobby arena.

The players were divided into four teams, each led by notable Web3 personalities like content creator Bryce “Brycent” Johnson and Cordell “Champ Medici” Broadus, Snoop Dogg’s son. The team leaders encouraged their players to gather the most orbs and feed them to the toads. The winning team was promised an exclusive “winged helmet” wearable NFT. Despite the initial excitement, the experience eventually became repetitive and the players started expressing their dissatisfaction.

However, it is important to note that this is not the final form of Otherside. The feedback received from players during these early stages of development is critical in shaping the final product. Spencer Tucker, Yuga’s Chief Gaming Officer, emphasized that they are co-developing with the players, the Bored Ape Yacht Club, and the broader Otherside community.

These playtests offer a wealth of insights, not only in terms of technical feedback and data but also in terms of player sentiment and reactions. “We’re just tuning a guitar, right?” Figge added, highlighting that the team is in the process of fine-tuning to determine what best fits this novel medium.

The frequency of these ‘Trips’ is slated to increase soon. Figge stated that while the first two Trips were “large-scale, theatrical experiences,” future Trips will allow for more visits, following a regular testing schedule. “In order to figure out what features people need, we need to be moving to a model that opens us up every few weeks,” he asserted.

If things progress as planned, Yuga Labs could potentially enable other builders to create user-generated content on Otherdeed land plots by the end of this year. This would complement Yuga’s own work on the world. “I think that a goal for success is that in December, we can all be asleep and somebody else is building on the Otherside—and they don’t need us,” Figge envisioned, expressing his hope for a self-sustaining community.

So, what does the future hold for Otherside? Tucker and Figge envisage it as an online universe where Yuga’s own official content coexists with the creations of potentially tens of thousands of players and digital landowners. They believe that Web3 provides a way for external creators to leverage Yuga’s building blocks, thereby enhancing the value within the original game ecosystem, while also benefiting the creators.

However, the integration of these two potentially disparate elements remains to be seen. Games like Roblox and Decentraland present different models of user-generated content within their respective metaverse platforms. Tucker provided an interesting perspective, likening Yuga’s mindset to Star Wars and the Expanded Universe of content, suggesting that it is up to them to decide what is considered “canon” and what can be regarded as alternate universe narratives.

The next critical question pertains to the accessibility of Otherside to a larger audience. Considering the high cost of Bored Ape NFTs and Otherside NFT deeds, an exclusively premium experience could potentially exclude a majority of gamers. For the time being, Yuga Labs is primarily focused on its NFT holders, the investors in its Web3 vision. However, Figge suggested a strategy that involves NFT holders acting as gatekeepers, introducing friends into the ecosystem, or even loaning out their access credentials to bring in more users.

Notwithstanding the criticisms, Yuga Labs’ recent standalone Dookey Dash web game was a massive hit in the Crypto Twitter universe, amassing $110 million worth of trading volume. The winner of the game received an NFT prize that was later traded for a staggering $1.63 million worth of ETH.

As Yuga Labs continues to focus on its NFT collectors, it aims to create engaging games that not only showcase the potential of Web3 but also redefine the concept of a digital collectible. “One of our favorite things about Dookey Dash and Otherside is that you really do forget that you’re interacting with NFTs,” Figge concluded, “You just think you’re having fun.”