Ethereum-based farming game Pixels—the hottest crypto game not built on Telegram—just rolled out a massive Chapter 2 upgrade this week that significantly shakes things up. But you wouldn’t know it at a glance.

“Everybody’s day-to-day inside the game changes pretty drastically,” Pixels founder Luke Barwikowski told Decrypt ahead of the launch.

Pixels retains the charming retro vibe that the game’s own title conveys. And it’s fair to say that the previous gameplay was a hit with many players, attracting millions of users over the past few months alone. But for Barwikowski and his team, it’s an attempt to “basically fix some of the issues that we’ve seen over the last two years of building a live game.”

Broadly, Chapter 2 is an effort to infuse Pixels with much more depth. As he previously discussed with Decrypt back in February, Pixels has introduced scarcity across the entire economy and added a sense of progression across different “levels” of tools.


That should make the game—which runs on Ethereum gaming network Ronin—feel more like a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), he said, akin to Runescape or Ragnarok Online.

Tying into that are differentiating factors between the free-to-play experience that anyone can jump into, and the increasingly valuable perks of owning one of just 5,000 NFT land plots. Holders can benefit from resources generated on their owned land now, which will factor into how player-run guilds function and play a role in the online game.

With Chapter 2, Barwikowski said that Pixels will “start to shift a lot of the earnings towards further-progressed players”—which means those who have invested huge amounts of time into the game will have a better chance to earn PIXEL tokens than newcomers and dabblers.


At the same time, Pixels doesn’t want to kill the game's initial allure for new entrants, and there are enhancements for free-to-play users as well, such as expandable “speck” farms. But it’s all very much a work in progress, as he wants to continue building in public and adjusting the game as players give feedback.

“What's cool is that we don't know what the metagame is going to be,” he said ahead of the launch. “This is also part of the experimentation. The team is basically all-hands-on-deck for the next month or two after the release to do a ton of live ops.”

Growing pains

Gamers are notoriously passionate—and vocal too. Within hours of the Chapter 2 launch earlier this week, Pixels was already fielding complaints about the amount of PIXEL players could earn, and how quickly player energy was depleting. Since then, the team has pushed out multiple patches to address common complaints while easing players into the larger shifts.

Barwikowski admitted that addressing issues like that on the fly and building in real time became much harder when Pixels saw explosive growth after its migration to Ronin last fall.

And he confessed that the game’s sudden success briefly convinced him that the startup needed to “professionalize” and take slower, more deliberate steps. But that vibe was completely out of step with how Pixels had operated before the boom, and he quickly realized that it wasn’t the right vibe going forward—no matter the audience size.

“I had this wrong line of thinking for a minute, where we need to professionalize a bunch of areas of the game, and we need to be more like a big company because we have all this attention,” he said. “It’s only been in the last month where I had a breakthrough on our side of things, where it's like, ‘Wait, that's actually the wrong way to view it.’”

Pixels Chapter 2 launched “three or four months later than we wanted to,” which he—now in what he framed as a right state of mind—said is “not an acceptable level of speed.”


To make up for it, Barwikowski plans to keep his team as lean as possible—estimating a full-time head count of 19 employees at present—and iterate even faster, attempting to maintain the “cowboy mindset” he professes while the startup continues scaling one of the most successful games ever built on a blockchain.

“If it takes us a month to get a patch out, that’s way too long,” he said ahead of the launch. “We’re gonna lose player trust. We need to be getting patches out multiple times a week if we want to meet the expectations of our players.”

Based on the last couple of days since the Chapter 2 launch, it appears that Barwikowski and team are living up to that expectation of making constant adjustments. It’s frenzied, no doubt, but that keeps things interesting for both creators and players alike.

“It's a high bar that we've set for ourselves,” he said. “But I think this is actually what we all want on the team because it's more fun, right? It's way less boring.”

Edited by Ryan Ozawa.

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