AMA with Rob Salha & Geoff Wellman

On Friday 15th October, we held our anticipated “AMA” (ask me anything) with Virtually Human Studio Co-Founders Rob Salha and Geoff Wellman. Last week, the team called for questions from the Community, raising a number of hot topics that have been on everyone’s mind. Community was then given the chance to vote on their favourite ones to be answered in Discord via the #ama-questions channel for this session.

We want to thank everyone for your overwhelming contribution, and a big shoutout to Rob and Geoff for thoughtfully answering as many as questions as possible — both in the #ama-questions and #general channel. For anyone who may have missed it, this is the blog containing all the main questions and answers. Enjoy!

What do you have planned to help the oversupply of racehorses?

Rob: We know burning (sending to the glue factory) is a crowd favourite, this is definitely something we will explore in the future along with a multitude of other ideas. While you may feel your “donkey” is useless, we still feel we will be able to create a lot more value for every racehorse before we have to resort to turning them into glue. There’s a similarly asked question coming up and we’ll add a bit more info there.

When will we get a hint that the next drop is coming?

Rob: We are excited about this and it will be a HUGE milestone for the community to sell out all Genesis racehorses. I still remember when Chris and I spent weeks deciding on what the total population of the Genesis racehorses should be, and to be in a position where the sellout of all Genesis racehorses is not too far away, is incredible for everyone involved in this project (the team and community). For context, we paused on selling Genesis racehorses because a lot of the team’s time was spent on trying to get the ‘drops’ right, which we didn’t because we kept underestimating the demand. As a result, we didn’t want to neglect what mattered most and we decided to shift and spend our energy on racing and breeding.

Geoff: With that said, we are aiming to release the majority of Genesis sometime in Q1 2022 (maybe sooner but there are a lot of product updates on our roadmap from now until the end of the year). Although some special ones will go on sale/auction beforehand through some cool initiatives.

Rob: We want the last remaining Genesis racehorses out the door for the community sooner rather than later, just as much as everyone else does. But we want to also make sure we drum up as much momentum as possible.

Can free races be distributed in a better manner than the fastest finger first?

Geoff: We are aware that entry to free races is very competitive and we are exploring some changes to the race entry process in general that should help with this issue. Whether that’s a queue system, randomised gates, or even automatic gate selection. But 1000%, we hear you all loud and clear and agree that Free Races are difficult to get into. The new tournament system will alleviate some of this.

Rob: We have also increased Free Racing events from 200 per day to 1000 per day. Actually, I just checked.. We had over 5,500+ races in the last 24 hour with 2,700+ free races. Actually, 6,900 races today. ok ok next question

What are your thoughts on the current “crash ” in the ZED market?

Rob: Markets move up and down — ZED is no different. If you zoom out on the ZED ecosystem from the day we launched, there have been hundreds and millions of dollars added to the market cap of racehorses. For the entire team, and I’ll reiterate this a hundred times over if I have to: we are building ZED for the future. The bumps we will ride out. If you take a look at our product roadmap, it is organic and really strong:

– Tournaments
– Conditional events
– Skin livery
– Renting/lending model
– Token launch

My personal perspective is that I view the swings in traded volume/market caps as opportunities to get in if you have been waiting on the sidelines. The most exciting part about NFTs is finding those arbitrage opportunities. I don’t intend to give financial advice here, however, I believe that our commitment to delivering value and a fun product is clearly evident over the years. We are constantly iterating time and time again on the feedback we receive from the community. Those of you who have been in this discord since January 2019 know the entire team is dedicated to building long-term value.

Any plans to introduce a burn function or a way to limit the population of racehorses?

Geoff: Population is definitely a factor to consider however it is also our responsibility as a business to ensure the value chain stretches across all racehorses. With the introduction of our first tournament, we will be looking to have tournaments not only across different classes, but also across different conditions (i.e. racehorses that have never placed and are non-genesis and were born after XX date as a high level example). What this will do is increase the value of those racehorses that may not typically have a chance at performing well with the current class structure (which is being updated anyways).

There has been work internally done on “game DeFi” concepts (i.e. breeding pools and racing pools) to extend utility and giving more value to all racehorses across varying classes. The burn function of racehorses has been discussed at length internally and on community threads; and as mentioned already in the first question, we are not disregarding it, but it was a joint decision that would need to be made with the community…we also think that any horse burn function should work within a native token ecosystem. Overall, how we manage the population of racehorses is critically important to the future.

Why do you not have races open all the time in each class for each distance?

Geoff: We are mindful that if there are an excess number of races open to enter then there will be too much choice, creating a situation where the races are slower to fill or where there are users who enter a racehorse in a race and no one joins them, meaning they are unable to continue to race until the rest of the race fills.

Those of you that are familiar with the paradox of choice will know it is well researched that if there are too many options, then it can make it harder to decide. We know there will always be a sweet spot here that we will need to manage and this is unable to be done effectively while we manage the race schedules manually. Thus we have already started working on a machine learning model that will monitor behaviour with regards to race selection and automatically ensure the right configuration of races are being opened at the right time to satisfy demand in an automated way.

Rob: add to that, the medium term vision is to give stable owners the powers of creating and scheduling their own private/public races which we have openly spoken about before. We have been testing this internally and personally one of my most anticipated features.

Lots of folks have also been asking about more 2600 racing events. Will these be coming?

Rob: Waiting for the fix to be merged.

When will gate selection be removed for more user-friendly entry into races?

Geoff: There is an auto gate selection feature we are going to be rolling out very soon, this will help minimize the friction to enter a race by selecting the next available gate at random for each user.

This next one is pretty important and something that we know has been everyone’s mind. How will sandbagging be handled going forward??

Rob: We have taken onboard a lot of feedback around sandbagging and tweaked the rules of the first tournament to reflect that feedback as per my last in the announcements channel. For the data enthusiast, we have based the new ranking/leaderboard system on the ELO method which will help provide fairer and more competitive racing.

Although this new ELO ranking system won’t eliminate sandbagging it in its entirety, it certainly will contribute to fairer racing. Coupling this with a new classing system that places an emphasis on winning and (not losing) will also be a major step forward. We want to make “classing up” a good thing and a rewarding thing.. Stable owners should be incentivised to class up. We will announce the deployment of the new ranking system when it’s ready and will look forward to everyone’s feedback.

Next one is about classes: Any plans to make classing up a good thing?

Geoff: It is absolutely on our radar to incentivise being in Class 1 as we move forward. This will be achieved via different configurations of races and prizing structures. The tournament in its current form is very scaled back to where we actually feel we can take it. There could easily be different qualification requirements which favour your class and rating. Having multiple tournaments running at once would very much become a thing once we have proved the success of tournaments. All part of the bigger vision about creating opportunities for every horse in the ecosystem to succeed in some shape or form. Shoutout to some of our community members for sending in passionate and detailed suggestions how we better the class system in its current state.. This is certainly being taken on board and has been discussed. Some input has included:

– More classes
– Bigger prize as you progress through classes The overall consensus here is that we need to incentivize progression; and to drive people to win and not to purposely lose; we obviously agree with this.

Here comes a big one… Will breeding minimums be addressed for the different breed levels??

Geoff: Admittedly, racing has been at the top of our list in terms of attention right now, however breeding is not forgotten. As we grow out the product development team we are able to create more focused teams for each feature. Breeding is going to have a dedicated team by the end of the month, it will be their mission to improve breeding which means every aspect of it from the economy of it to the control and feedback you get while breeding.

Economic updates for breeding are overdue as the population has scaled dramatically. We actually ran a breeding survey a few months back where we were inundated with over 600+ detailed responses. We are taking all this into consideration as we begin to simulate various scenarios based on the impact of changing the Minimum Breeding Price. Our thinking here is to not over complicate it and to dynamically base it off what the open market is doing.

Rob: just want to add to that. In terms of teams, we are building out more individual teams to focus on the core areas of ZED RUN:

– Onboarding
– Racing
– Breeding
– Renting/Lending
– Racing/Breeding Pools
– Marketplace (skins)
– Tokenomics
– User tooling (APIs/content creation tools)

Being a team of 80+ today and growing, we are most definitely putting the pillars in place to turn ZED RUN into a massive economy. But hopefully the above gives you insight into what our priorities are for the business in the short and long term. Oh, and this is something that is happening right now.. Some of these teams are already formed. A focus of mine has been to hire senior leaders on the people and operations side of the business which will help us hire faster and build teams faster and to onboard new team members more effectively. For the entire team, we know that the more users we get into the ecosystem, it bolsters and distributes more value to everyone hence our focus on user-onboarding. And by user-onboarding, we don’t just mean a prettier user interface/experience, we mean actual mechanics that get every single new user to race as quickly as possible; internally we call this the ‘time-to-fun’ factor. Ok now im going on another tangent.

Would the senior zed team be willing to share with us what is their priority list? (and may I add, please say skins)

– Skins: full site integration and ability to trade before the year is out.
– Racing and in particular class system improvements.
– Breeding (new UI so it is easier to search and shop for the right breeding partner).
– Onboarding (new stables, getting your first racehorse and growing the community).
– Improve usability on mobile.
– We have over 35+ job ads out for more engineers.
– Creating a much stronger presence for the ZED RUN brand starting in Q1 2022.
– Scaling our Customer Support team (currently sitting at 10 people).

Before we go, I think we may have missed one of the more popular questions raised…
The question was around the reduction of global speed variance and seeing a tightening of global race time variance – are you able to provide any insight on this?

Rob: Regarding the question about the global speed variance of racehorse times that the community have been flagging, the core underlying algorithm hasn’t changed (the way in which race results are generated). The only things that will affect the algorithm is when and if we add more characteristics (like we did with stamina); however this is overlaid on the current algorithm. Stamina can and will affect the overall performance and speed of any given racehorse. Geoff can give more insight.

Geoff: There have been some edge cases where the outcome of the race was inconclusive – we have made improvements to prevent this from happening again and we have no intention to fundamentally change it without community consensus. However, going off what Rob said, the implementation of further characteristics, will of course impact a racehorses speed in certain conditions.

Moving forward…

Folks, we’ll look to continue AMAs but will most likely change up the format and find more ways for our team to connect with you. We’ll keep you posted on the next one!

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