Shrapnel’s Lock-and-Load Plan for Dominating Gaming with a Web3 Extraction Shooter

Shrapnel’s Lock-and-Load Plan for Dominating Gaming with a Web3 Extraction ShooterShrapnel’s Lock-and-Load Plan for Dominating Gaming with a Web3 Extraction Shooter


Shrapnel’s Lock-and-Load Plan for Dominating Gaming with a Web3 Extraction Shooter

Shrapnel’s Lock-and-Load Plan for Dominating Gaming with a Web3 Extraction Shooter

Who needs another shooter game? 

While the $11.6 billion market battle royale games may be saturated, blockchain-powered extraction shooter game Shrapnel’s co-creator Don Norbury sees plenty of room for differentiation in its growing category, in which players compete with each other to survive a hostile environment and reach a particular destination to advance or win.

The core gameplay of Shrapnel features intense player-versus-player-versus-environment (PvPvE) matches where players collect an in-game resource called Sigma that enhances their damage output and resistance and push forward into combat rather than camping in safe zones.

"We’re building the game so every session tells a story in Shrapnel," explains Norbury, who serves as chief technology officer and studio head at Neon Machine, the makers of Shrapnel. "The gameplay is based around delivering that incredible rewarding feeling that hooks you into first-person shooters, but elevated through a narrative shaped by player decisions each and every single match."

Who’s bringing the pieces together to make Shrapnel?

Norbury brings an extensive gaming industry pedigree from his work on many acclaimed titles, including:

  • Building AI systems for the NASCAR and Madden franchises at EA from 2005 to 2006
  • Leading AI work on Indiana Jones and Star Wars at LucasArts from 2006 to 2008
  • Serving as the AI Lead for BioShock during his time at 2K Games from 2008 to 2012
  • Leading publishing for Xbox from 2012 to 2018, also serving as the engineering lead for Crackdown 3 and Sunset Overdrive
  • Leading the interactive division at HBO from 2019 to 2020, where he and his team won an Emmy for the Westworld game experiences they produced.

At HBO, Norbury also worked closely with Neon Machine’s future cofounder and CEO Mark Long, who led development of Xcloud at Microsoft and has run video game companies for over 20 years.

After HBO's acquisition by AT&T, Norbury and others eventually jumped ship to new opportunities. They teamed up to form a new game studio they dubbed Neon Machine, raising $10.5 million in November 2021 and another $20 million in October 2023.

"We were cutting-edge for our time, exploring VR, AR, machine learning and voice synthesis. That work on the cutting edge inevitably led us to explore blockchain and web3," says Norbury. "We recognized it unlocks the ability to build not just games, but entire provocative virtual experiences that players can fully invest themselves in."

Finally, the Neon Machine team features creative director Clint Bundrick, who shaped the game’s brand and elevated the extraction shooter concept, and chief operations officer Aaron Nonis, who previously spearheaded the creation of the HBO Max streaming platform.

How does Shrapnel equip the blockchain?

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Shrapnel is one of the first AAA-level game being developed on the Avalanche blockchain, although it did launch its first NFT collection  — Operators — on Ethereum, which dropped in June 2022 and was released in waves dedicated to each of the five main characters in the Shrapnel lore: Aniki, M, Hassan, Alek, and Alyxandra.

Owning an Operator bestows a variety of benefits onto players, including early access to builds along the game’s development journey, a copy of the game’s companion comic book for the character, allocations from future drops, and more.

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Custom cosmetic skins for Shrapnel weapons are secured via NFTs, which can be bought or sold on the Shrapnel marketplace that launched in March 2024. Thus far, Shrapnel has unveiled collaborations with NFT collections and web3 games such as BoDoggos, Neo Tokyo, Alchemy Gods, and SuperVerse.

“We want Shrapnel to be very onchain, beyond just trading weapon skins. We’re aiming to put crafting ingredients onchain so crafting becomes this highly composable part of the game,” said Norbury.

Shrapnel also has an engine for the community to generate game identities called INSIGNIA, where players can create onchain “callsigns” that come with currently unspecified benefits and can be bought or sold on the Shrapnel Marketplace.

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"It can't just be a sandbox," states Norbury. "We're building a universe you want to become a part of and create your own corner within. That’s the thinking behind letting players craft their own callsigns on a blockchain, so they can own and trade their Shrapnel identities."

Under the hood, Shrapnel runs on Neon Machine's proprietary blockchain infrastructure dubbed Mercury, which is currently hooked up to an Avalanche subnet with plans to migrate to a new environment called Hyper, so the game won’t need to compete for blockspace and will have an easier time scaling.

"As game developers, we're used to flexible systems but very rigid tools and marketplaces," explains Norbury. "Web3 lands somewhere in between; we're essentially building a commerce layer for everything in the game world, which mirrors a lot of what we’ve seen historically before blockchain came along."

How to play Shrapnel

Shrapnel has been rolling out in phases through a series of "Shrapnel Training eXercises," shorthanded as STXes. The first public beta, STX1, ran in February 2024 in tandem with the game’s early access launch on the Epic Games Store. The first STX focused on establishing the core multiplayer gameplay flow. Subsequent STX releases have layered on more elements of the game's token economy, collectible cosmetics, crafting, new maps, and more.

This flexibility will be crucial as Shrapnel brings more users into its sprawling virtual world. In the first few months, Norbury says over 120,000 accounts were created with 80,000 actively accessing the game during the STX testing phases.

So far, only players who purchased Extraction Packs granting early access can experience Shrapnel during its staggered STX release phases. While this has allowed focused testing and iteration, the game will need to grow its audience exponentially for a successful free-to-play launch projected for early 2025.

Only time will tell if Neon Machine can fully deliver on that promise. But based on Shrapnel’s progress so far, the game’s developers are aiming for a direct hit and won’t settle for just shrapnel.

Editor’s note: This article was written in partnership with Shrapnel.

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