Improving For the Future

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ZED.RUN
September 3, 2023
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ZED RUN

Improving for the Future

ZED RUN launched with the desire to reimagine what horse racing could be — capturing the soul of the racing industry, making it accessible, and evoking a sense of pride in owning a racehorse in a digital metaverse.

The evolution of our product, gameplay and ecosystem in pursuit of that goal has gone through many stages. At times, it was unclear how ZED RUN would continue to grow as the landscape of Web3 and crypto gaming changed rapidly.

Strides towards establishing a sustainable and an inclusive in-game economy at all stages of competition took time and did not always have the impacts we hoped.

We have distilled the challenges that ZED RUN has faced down into the following four areas, and addressed our plans to rectify each area. Sharing our vision for the future is part of the first steps towards this goal.

A Path to Clear Product Direction

It is no surprise that ZED RUN has gone through a few different product and game design leaders, each of whom had their own approach when it came to defining the direction of the game. Their inputs have been crucial in progressing the game, but maintaining a coherent vision has been a challenge.

On this topic, Facundo Carril, our Director of Product, is stepping away from ZED RUN. His contributions have significantly impacted both the game itself and our vibrant community, however his departure means a refocusing of direction and vision.

The newly restructured Product, Game Design, and Live Operations teams, with input from the founders, will deliver on the vision outlined in this post, as well as refinements to current game features.

There have been many frank discussions within the business in the past couple of months to ensure we have alignment, but we feel that the shared vision and direction is stronger than ever before, and we are excited by the road ahead of us.

The product direction is clear — ZED RUN is a game in which anyone can experience the thrills of owning, racing, and breeding digital racehorses, and the best stable owners are handsomely and hugely rewarded. We will lean heavily into inspirations taken from Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS), E-Sports, and elements of real life horse racing, designing a game where the core loop can be as long as you want it to be based on your motivations and of course your racehorses earning capabilities.

Product Delivery

After the early success of the product, rapidly scaling the engineering team came with its own challenges and operational overhead. As a result, we have since right sized the team to be more efficient and more focused.

We will be the first to admit that we have struggled to ship features and product updates as quickly as we would like. Ultimately, this has made it difficult to effectively measure the impact of features, iterate on designs, or make quick tweaks based on the data.

To help with this, we are happy to announce that we have engaged an external third party development studio. This studio will initially work on an extensive list of UX improvements, including some of the things we see you mention often in Discord, and will subsequently support larger product builds in the short term.

More Communication

Communication has always been something highlighted by our community as an area to improve. Previously, the lack of clear product direction has contributed to inconsistent comms, but with a clear and defined vision we believe we will be able to deliver significantly improved comms from our official channels.

We hold our hands up and acknowledge that, in particular, communications around the introduction of racing fees fell below the high standard we want to hold ourselves to.

You have probably also noticed that engagement from employees’ personal social media accounts have reduced significantly in the past couple of months. This is unfortunately due to a significant amount of personal vitriol directed at some employees, publicly and in direct messages, leading to a step back from engaging with the community in this manner.

Rest assured, communications from our official channels will continue, and improve, and in time our employees may return to personally engaging with the community, but we wanted to share the reasoning behind this shift, and hope you all understand the impact it can have on individuals trying to do their jobs.

Part of improved communication from official channels will be an in-game notification system, which will be able to keep you up to date with in-game events and news, as well as live updates as required. We will also be bringing you full breakdown blogs of all the features mentioned in this post, where we will dive into the more granular details.

Recapturing ZED RUN’s Original Magic

A final point to make before we dive into the vision is that we want to return the magic to ZED RUN. We accept that we have strayed from what attracted so many players to our game — the thrill of breeding or buying a new racehorse, instantly feeling the excitement around its potential, and competing with the very best racehorses for huge prizes in a web3 digital metaverse.

Building For You

Following on from above, the first part of our vision centres around building for you, our community. For us, the path to ecosystem growth is clear, and starts with the release of Sit and Go tournaments. We are inspired by the appeal, entertainment, skill and prize potential of real life horse racing coupled with the feeling of ownership that is enabled by web3.

For our current community, we hope to return to those feelings of breeding a new racehorse that could be the next champion. We will also continue to add depth to later stage gameplay through breeding improvements and competitive events to create e-sports worthy, skill-based endgame content, reminiscent of ZED RUN’s most successful previous events.

Our community’s feedback has been critical in identifying opportunities to succeed in providing an experience that keeps you coming back for more, uncovering additional depth and potential each time you race a new ZED RUN racehorse. Most importantly, how our players engage has created a clear path to revamping our onboarding experience to get more participants into the ecosystem.

With the foundation of the current game in place, we have set our sights on key additions and refreshes that will propel our platform forward.

Breeding

Breeding new racehorses is central to the ZED RUN experience, and the changes we have planned as part of the breeding updates will address the frustrations you have raised as a community. First and foremost, we will be unlocking the ability to breed the next champion racehorse. The perennial titans will once again battle it out to achieve that goal, but every stable owner will be presented with a pathway to topple previous legendary bloodlines if they put the effort in.

Retirement and Breeding Catalysts

We recognise that having a method of controlling the racehorse population within the ZED RUN ecosystem is important, and so, as part of the next breeding update, we will be introducing a retirement function, as well as breeding catalysts, to revolutionise breeding.

The retirement function will be based mainly on the age of the racehorse (how many races it has run since ageing was implemented). The more you race your racehorse, the better the reward you will earn when it retires. However, you will be able to retire a racehorse at any time in its life cycle, after the Griffin stage, if you want a shorter game experience loop.

Breeding Catalysts will serve as the rewards for retiring a racehorse, and different tiers of catalyst will significantly impact a racehorse’s ability to breed a Super Breed and produce a starting level bonus.

To deepen the impact of retirement and breeding catalysts, we will also be introducing the ability to combine a number of catalysts through crafting. Similar to packaging stable XP into XP Boosts, this process will reward a more powerful catalyst from the next tier.

Super Breeds

A Super Breed is a highly specialised racehorse which entails a higher starting level than a normal breed and varying extremes of distance preference or stability.

With these breeding changes, Super Breeds will become a much more impactful and important part of the ecosystem. They will more directly pass down their traits to their own Super Breed offspring, allowing for generations to be built up to surpass the soft caps from previous breeding updates. Super Breeds will, along with Genesis racehorses, become the cornerstones of your breeding strategies as you breed down the lineages to find your next champion.

Genesis Racehorses

With Genesis racehorses receiving an advantage in their ability to produce a Super Breed in each catalyst tier, as well as having no breeding decay, we are continuing to look to Genesis racehorses as the foundation for ZED RUN’s breeders to create lineages of champion racehorses. They remain, and will continue to be, amongst the most important racehorses in ZED RUN. To be clear, owning a Genesis racehorse will maximise your breeding potential.

Finally, offspring from racehorses with lower genotypes will receive a starting level boost, highlighting the increased importance of low genotype Genesis racehorses within the game’s racing environment.

In-House Breeding Discount

With breeding gameplay changes adding more opportunity and depth to the overall ZED RUN economy, we will also be increasing the in-house breeding discount to incentivise players to create their own lineages and reward the stables with the most successful breeding strategies. This will make in-house breeding cheaper than normal stud market use.

Overall, our vision for breeding is a game of stables attempting to create the best lineages, where ownership, discovery and selective breeding are key.

Racing

Racing represents the other pillar of the ZED RUN experience, and the place where the thrill of the game really comes alive. Our vision for racing is to create clear paths for different types of players, focusing on casual and competitive racing experiences, and big prizes for the best racehorses and stable owners.

Racing Fees

We would not begin sharing our vision for racing without first addressing the racing fees, which have proven to be a controversial topic in past weeks. With the introduction of racing fees, we made an important stride towards ensuring the sustainability of our prize pool treasury, but fell short of effectively communicating how this not only creates opportunities to earn, but grows those opportunities over time.

We want to reiterate our commitment to sustaining and growing the ZED RUN treasury, the entirety of which goes towards community and platform initiatives. We accept that we did not explain our ongoing plans for how we will modify fees as we continue to stabilise the platform with our current reward structures.

As the platform scales, corresponding changes to racing fees will be made, with a continual fine-tuning process until an optimal balance for the ecosystem is reached. It is with this vision that a significant portion of our decision-making is dedicated to scalability and ensuring long-term sustainability.

It is also important to mention the ZED Token here. We will explore it in detail later on, however, there are 7,232,638 ZED Tokens vesting every month until June 2026 which will be accessible for use by the treasury in the future, allowing us to overlay tournaments and events with additional ZED Token rewards.

The Maiden

Our recent changes to the Maiden, perhaps the most popular tournament format in ZED RUN, were made to allow a stable owner to engage with their new foal immediately, as opposed to being effectively forced to wait for a less frequent Maiden tournament to begin.

In addition to ongoing, overarching tournaments for the best new performers, we plan to utilise Sit n Go tournaments and longer timeframe events to create additional opportunities for new racehorses to compete for bigger prizes.

With cheaper in-house breeding, catalysts, and breeding gameplay improvements, we are creating more ways to earn from new racehorse creation, discovery and success. More accessible breeding with more potentially rewarding breeding outcomes means more prizes, plain and simple.

Casual vs Competitive Racing

As stable owners progress their racehorses out of the early stages and deeper into the game, they will be presented with two play styles; casual and competitive. Creating key dynamics between these two areas of racing is critical in positioning ZED RUN for scale.

Casual racing will encompass a wide range of Sit n Go events with featured tournaments and unique conditions and formats on top of a core availability. In addition to the prize pools created from entry fees, additional XP multipliers will be utilised to propel successful participants into position to engage with the competitive racing environment. For those loyal to multi-stage buy-in events, we will also introduce high stakes Sit n Go’s tournaments for racehorses at any stage of their career, for stable owners looking for a less time consuming way to battle for larger prizes.

The competitive paid racing landscape will remain as the cornerstone of the ZED RUN ecosystem. Moving through the racehorse lifespan while progressing to max level will continue to allow the most successful stable owners to compete in ZED RUN’s flagship events. Weekly Premiers will build to monthly events, with increasing stakes and prize pools as the ecosystem grows. The majority of the Player Treasury will continue to be allocated throughout our racing segments. With the addition of retirement at the end of the racing journey, both long term racing success and more impactful catalysts await those capable of managing a long career.

We envision Sit n Go racing becoming a major part of the platform, and largely taking over the mantle from traditional paid racing when it comes to volume and engagement. As such, we will be transitioning the main XP multiplier functionality used in Weekly Premiers primarily to Sit n Go’s instead, allowing paid racing to operate as the competitive, higher reward area of the game, with treasury allocation and flagship tournament events.

ZED Token

Constructing new in-game economies does not happen overnight, but we will be slowly and strategically making more use of the ZED Token. A strong and sustainable economy is a focal point of the most successful games, and that is what we are building towards.

There are a few key things to address regarding the in-game use of ZED Token — liquidity, accessibility, and ways to spend it — which we will explore below. However, with a much clearer product direction, the integration of the ZED Token begins to make a lot more sense.

To recap, there are 347 million ZED Tokens dedicated (34.7% of the total supply) to aggressively growing the platform, ~27% of which, or 94 million, have been unlocked and ready to distribute through engagement on ZED RUN.

Where You Will Start to See ZED Token

We have included a simplistic graphic below to display how we envision the ZED Token being integrated into the ZED RUN ecosystem. Eventually the ZED Token will be fully integrated as the in-game currency of ZED RUN, but that process will not happen overnight.

Hurdles to Overcome

Insufficient liquidity is a big one — if too many tokens are distributed and in circulation too soon, the token becomes unstable, which affects a player’s motivation to acquire, hold and use it. As more utility is injected into ZED RUN, and we begin to see more liquidity from the ZED Token, it would be preferable to then see tokens distributed and in circulation more freely. It will be a methodical process, but a very rewarding one for our players.

Right now, ZED Token is difficult to acquire. As such we are making it a priority to ensure the ZED Token is much easier to obtain. In the coming week, it will be as simple as launching Transak and purchasing ZED Token with a credit card. There will also, of course, be ways to earn ZED Token by engaging with the platform as mentioned; and we will release a dedicated post on the economic modelling of how this will function.

Rewards

Another key part of our vision is a diverse reward system, allowing us to reward players at all levels of competition and engagement with suitable prizes.

Traditionally, prizes in ZED RUN have largely been limited to ETH, with some ZED Token and Skins along the way too, but the introduction of XP Boosts and Breeding Catalysts gives us more flexibility when it comes to rewarding engagement with the platform.

With craftable, purchasable and sellable rewards, the ecosystem will be varied and diverse, with a myriad of ways to play and earn in ZED RUN. Over time, this will grow the inflows and outflows outlined graphically above. We will also be testing additional reward systems beyond the ones described here in the next few months, with all new, exciting mechanics that will gamify engagement by utilising in-game resources.

Other Things to Look Forward To

As we continue to build our core gameplay (breeding and racing), integrate ZED Token, and improve core website functionality and design into 2024, there are also additional impacts planned.

New Player Experience

We are putting a big focus on the First Time User Experience (FTUE), improving the journey and flow for new players in various ways, including:

  • Integrating a marketplace to allow new players to purchase horses without leaving the site (eventually using Fiat)
  • Creating a flow that onboards new players into racehorse discovery and early life stage events like the current Maiden stakes as effectively as possible
  • Major UX and UI changes to simplify the entire onboarding process

User Growth

The goal of improving the FTUE is to allow for meaningful and effective user acquisition efforts in order to grow the game. Attracting new users through optimised paid and organic funnels is paramount to achieving the full impact of network effects that enhance engagement and tokenomic features.

We can build a great experience and product, however, without a consistent top of funnel strategy to acquire users on an ongoing basis, the ecosystem will not grow nor sustain itself.

Our aim is to launch our paid user acquisition strategy in late Q4 2023/early Q1 2024 once we deliver on closing the engagement loop and refining the first time user experience.

Third Party Wagering

Third-party wagering stands as a pivotal component that has been eagerly anticipated within the ZED RUN ecosystem. The journey towards its realization has made significant strides, as we draw closer to bridging this essential gap. A preeminent third-party wagering platform is on the cusp of introducing ZED RUN race betting and this dynamic initiative is poised to enable cross-regional wagering on ZED RUN races.

As we forge ahead, our commitment to expanding global wagering coverage remains steadfast. Harmonizing this expansion with regulatory frameworks remains a focal point, underscoring our collaborative efforts with regulators. We are dedicated to orchestrating the rollout of wagering offerings in full compliance within specific regions, ensuring a secure and regulated environment for participants.

Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting development.

LiveOps Initiatives

Alongside the core game loop improvements, the LiveOps team will continue to run added initiatives to ensure you always have something to look forward to when you log in to ZED RUN. Building upon the Flash Tournaments and Challenge Tuesdays, which have already proven popular, there are bigger events planned, which will add even more options to the ZED RUN experience.

We learned a lot of valuable lessons from the Metaverse Cup, and these big in-game events will operate in a similar way. You will see the first of these in action around the end of October, which should give you a good sense of what the theme might be. One last thing to add here is that the overall winner of the event will receive a 1 of 1 skin unlike any other on the platform.

3D Racing Improvements

Collaborating closely with Unreal and Epic Games, a major graphical upgrade to 3D racing is now nearing its completion and is poised to massively enhance the racing experience.

This upgrade encompasses more than just a superficial enhancement of race aesthetics. It is a commitment to delivering unparalleled, high-fidelity graphics and content, harnessing the visual allure to drive marketing initiatives and user engagement (yes, we are updating the racing animation too).

We have also designed this feature with customisation and community interaction at its core. This added functionality opens doors for collaboration with brands and wagering partners. However, our ultimate goal is to empower you — our community — allowing you to monetize the events you create in the future.

Along with these graphical upgrades, we will also be working on bringing more exciting and varied race animations, to put 3D racing at the forefront and ensure it becomes a real spectacle to watch a ZED RUN race.

In Closing…

Immersed in boundless enthusiasm, we are thrilled to reconnect with our dedicated playerbase and embark on a resolute trajectory into 2024. This journey charts a course for ZED RUN to ascend as a presence in the realm of web3 gaming. Our vision crystallizes ZED RUN as an online destination, where both punters and gamers converge to partake in an unparalleled experience. Fueled by our impassioned community and fortified by unwavering commitment internally, we are eager to translate this visionary narrative into tangible reality. We look forward to following up this vision outline with specific breakdowns for items on the roadmap as they near release.

Gratitude swells within us as we extend our heartfelt appreciation to our players for their invaluable feedback and steadfast support. With renewed vigor, we gallop confidently into the future!

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