Felix LaHaye on Achievement Unblocked and developing games with Blockchain technology

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Created by the partnership of United Esports, a leading esports media and marketing organization, and DFINITY Foundation, Achievement Unblocked is a groundbreaking competitive series that follows 100 aspiring participants as they work to earn the chance of developing their dream game, earn over $1 million in prize money, and receive future investment opportunities.

Besides being immersed by the high-stakes drama that is customary in a competitive series, viewers will also have a closer look at how games are intricately developed by blockchain technology, a controversial but revolutionary software development that is gradually gaining prominence within the game industry.

After much anticipation, Achievement Unblocked began its application phase in early January for developers wanting to appear in the program, which will run until the end of March. Although many prospective developers are fittingly excited over the prospect of appearing in Achievement Unblocked, none can match the degree to which Felix LaHaye, CEO of United Esports, has shown. Having already contributed to multiple successful media projects in his career, LaHaye feels especially delighted to finally showcase game developers in a manner at which no one had done before: by creating a competitive series. With the stage finally set after loads of preparation, all that is left for LaHaye to do is simply watch them shine in the form of their game development skills.

With a firm focus on Achievement Unblocked, The Click interviewed LaHaye to discuss how it was created, the manner in which it will be conducted, and its contribution to the game development sphere.

When and how Achievement Unblocked was created

Thank you for doing the interview, Felix. You’ve built your esports career on media and marketing but what gravitated you towards creating Achievement Unblocked, a competitive game development program?

LaHaye: “I believe that developers can be the true heroes of gaming! They are the true creative forces driving the games we know, play, talk about, and love – but it is an extremely difficult field to break into. We want to allow players to personally connect with the individuals who make the worlds, stories, maps, servers, characters, competitions, that are the essence of their gaming experiences. As there’s never been such a series for developers, we thought there would never be a better time for us to create one.”

Why are you focusing on gaming development specifically? Was it to challenge yourself in making something vastly different from what you have done thus far?

LaHaye: “Working in the esports and gaming industry, I do my best to follow everything that happens in this space. Unfortunately, most independent game developers who want to pursue their artistic visions are often met with challenging, obstacle-ridden paths. Roadblocks and barriers are at every turn, and even the savviest and connected individuals are faced with limited options when it comes to distribution. We wanted to help be a solution to this problem through Achievement Unblocked by providing the funds and resources needed to turn their dream game into a reality.”

Was creating a competitive series always on your mind during your career? Or did it happen on a whim and you felt compelled to do so at a specific moment in time?

LaHaye: “Yes! I’ve always been a fan of the format. Further, our team actually has extensive experience working on some of the most famous competition series of the past decade. That being said, we have drawers full of amazing ideas for gaming-based competition series, that our amazing creative team ideates around frequently. What makes Achievement Unblocked truly unique is what is being enabled through DFINITY – who are thought leaders in their space.”

The show will feature a collaboration between your company United Esports and Dfinity Foundation. How did that partnership come about?

LaHaye: “We had been in discussions with DFINITY for the Internet Computer in gaming for quite some time before we conceptualized Achievement Unblocked. In fact, many of the leadership at DFINITY come from the world of gaming and understand the primordial role it plays in popular culture and media today. With United Esports’s unmatched experience and capabilities in gaming and DFINITY’s the Internet Computer, we had all the best pieces anyone could ask for to create Achievement Unblocked.

”Furthermore, the decentralized player-based economy that blockchain-based games allow, coupled with the ability for innovative and more interesting gameplay economics, can be a big draw for gamers – and the industry is taking notice. We believe this is the next evolution in game development, and hope to encourage others to see the same through the series.”

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How Achievement Unblocked will work

I’d like to jump in on how the show will work. With the release of the announcement video, one has to assume a sizable amount of planning has been finalized. In that case, what kind of contestants will we expect to see in this program? What about the judges? What will we see from them? 

LaHaye: “The competition series will follow a pool of up to 100 selected participants and teams from all levels of experience. Anyone who knows how to develop a game on the blockchain can apply to be in the show. Each developer will have to fight to impress the esteemed panel of judges to unlock additional levels of support or they will risk elimination. We encourage any developers, designers, animators, artists, programmers, students, individuals, and dreamers to submit themselves to be considered for this first-of-its-kind series.”

Will it be held exclusively in a region (i.e. only in North America and/or Europe) or include everyone from everywhere?

LaHaye: “We are focused on the whole world! That being said, the series and all the content will be in English, so whilst teams can participate from anywhere, they will have to be able to participate in that language. The show will also be distributed on a global scale, and in essence, garner a fanbase for each of the contestants so they can continue to pursue development with an already built audience to play their games.”

Will the show be filmed remotely? Or will it be done on location?

LaHaye: “The show will be filmed from many locations, including by the contestants themselves. Indeed, contestants will shoot journals from their personal viewpoints, detailing how their development process is going, using gear that we will provide them. They will also interact remotely with the judges and our teams until the further stages of the competition where we expect to have most people join us in Los Angeles. We believe this will capture the best behind-the-scenes look into the game development process and allow the contestants to showcase their personalities and passions.”

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Mitch “Ubershouts” Leslie

In the announcement trailer, we see Mitch “Ubershouts” Leslie, a renowned play-by-play caster who worked in Overwatch and Valorant, as the show’s host. What led to selecting him for that position?

LaHaye: “Mitch Leslie is already a celebrated member of the esports community and one of the most hard-working and dedicated professionals in our industry. His unique voice and nonstop energy is truly unmatched and it made him the perfect fit for Achievement Unblocked.”

When will the proper program begin and last?

LaHaye: “Submissions to participate open on Monday, January 17th and close on March 31st. The series will start filming in April and is set to premiere in Fall 2022.”

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The show’s significance to the game development sphere

Not only are you contributing to the trend of gaming-oriented programs with Achievement Unblocked, but others are making their own. A notable example is Riot Games working with Tony Yacenda and Dan Perrault, the creators of American Vandal, to create a mockumentary series like The Office. What do you think of the growing interest in gaming-oriented programs in recent years?

LaHaye: “Gaming is the most important form of media in the world and has been for some time. I like to say that gaming is the new Rock n’ Roll, transcending its original nature to be an all-encompassing cultural phenomenon. As such, it is not only great but also to be expected that many great companies and individuals in the gaming world will continue to make game oriented-programs!”

What do you think of the current state of game development?

LaHaye: “I think game creation is currently in a fairly good state for independent developers, with mostly positives over negatives. Generally speaking, you see some of the best creative minds across industries exist to focus solely on gaming, you also have more tools dedicated to game developers than ever before, and now excellent programs such as Achievement Unblocked to help gamers make it to the next steps. Overall, it is an ever-growing industry and ecosystem, and there are frequently discussed issues, but I have a rather positive view of what the future will hold for game development.”

What do you hope Achievement Unblocked will achieve (pun intended) with its contribution to the game development sphere?

LaHaye: “We hope to foster the next generation of independent game developers and provide a new path to achieve developer dreams. With a $10 million funding pool, competitors will have access to funding each step of the way as they pioneer the next evolution of blockchain-based games. In a new twist on the traditional ‘competition series,’ Achievement Unblocked will truly provide everything they need to make this a reality – grants, mentorship, technical support, and seminars – all throughout the program.

“But what truly sets this series apart from all other competition shows is that although elimination may signify the end of a developer’s journey on the series itself, it does not mean the game development – and more importantly, funding – has to come to an end. Eliminated contestants may still have the opportunity to access funds through the DFINITY Developer Grant Program with an additional $220 million available in funding.

“This is what we hope to accomplish: creating a new path for developers to make their dream games a reality and providing other resources so their journeys don’t end with Achievement Unblocked but instead are kickstarted into a passion-filled career.”

Images provided by DFINITY.

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