An interview with Hash Rush Chief Game Economist, Jethro Naude
Since we recently welcomed three new members to the Hash Rush team, we figured it would be good to continue our interview series. As the PR manager of Hash Rush, I (Jochem Gerritsen) was the right person for the job; today I sat down with our new Chief Game Economist Jethro Naude and asked him a couple of questions.
I’d like to turn the gaming industry on its head by making the Hash Rush in-game economy very real-world-like / Jethro Naude
- Hi Jethro, it’s great to talk to you today. What are you doing at the moment?
Like, right now? Well, I just started my morning, it’s 8:30 am, I started about an hour ago. I’m drinking a cup of coffee, going through some emails, and generally preparing myself for a pretty grueling day, so there’ll be lots of coffee.
My day is 10 to 12 hours, I don’t confine myself to a 9 to 5 job. Normally I’m online by 6:30 am, at my desk by 7:30, and I end when I end.
- Wow, those are long days indeed. Ok, let’s start this interview with some background info. Could you briefly introduce yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Jethro Naude, born and raised in South Africa. I got my first degree in Economics and Accounting from the University of Cape Town. Directly after graduating I moved to New York. There, I worked for an economic think tank and an investment bank, but after a while got tired of the cold; so I moved to California. That’s where I’ve been since, and I have worked for an aerospace company and the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation. I then got a postgraduate degree in economics, and shifted my focus from public sector economics into startups. I co-founded Slapfish, a seafood restaurant franchise, and helped it grow from one food truck to where it had over 150 stores in development around the world. That doesn’t sound very much like a startup, but the beautiful thing about economics is that you can apply it to any sector. I helped grow Slapfish from one food truck to 150 stores around the world.
Then I joined Tesla Motors for almost two years as an economic advisor, joined another startup as the CFO and after that I started my own company with Craig (the Hash Rush Marketing Director) called Evaline, which is an automated charger scheduling service for electric vehicles. Currently, I also do a bit of independent consulting at the side.
- Right, so you’ve worked at some exciting places! But now, do you still work at an office, or do you work from home?
I have an office space I use from time to time, but I have a really nice office at home, detached from my house. So that’s where I spend most of my time working.
- Ok, I see. It seems that many of us in the Hash Rush team (such as Lead Concept Artist Dendy Dhamier) are working from home. It’s great that this job lets you do that. But let’s now shift focus and talk about why we’re here: Hash Rush. How did you come to hear about the Hash Rush project?
As everyone does nowadays, we have a WhatsApp cryptocurrency group with a bunch of friends. I know Craig from since we lived in South Africa, and Craig kept mentioning Hash Rush in this group. After a while, I checked it out and thought it was pretty amazing. He gave me some info on it, then I started poking and see if he could make an introduction. He looked and saw that there was no one with my skill set in the team, so we both thought it would make sense for me to get involved. And that’s what got the ball rolling.
- So you founded a startup with Craig, and he introduced you to Hash Rush! That’s awesome. Now that you work with Hash Rush, what is your role?
Soon I’ll start working as the Chief Game Economist. So that means that I’ll be building the in-game economy and any form of trading content within the game. I’m pretty eager to start on this, since I play a lot of games and I’ve seen a lot of issues with the in-game economies of other games. So I’m hoping we can take that to another level.
For now however, I’m helping with getting the corporate structure of Hash Rush in place, and checking all the boxes from a corporate due diligence perspective.
- I see. So your focus will shift a bit in the coming months. About your job right now, could you tell us a bit more about doing corporate due diligence? How does this work?
Well, it means that I’ll be looking at our corporate structure, what country we’re registered in—this needs to be a country that supports cryptocurrencies and the blockchain—, and make sure we have a good accounting and cash flow system in place.
Basically, it’s just me going around the table and making sure the screws are tight. I want to make sure we’re airtight, and that nothing comes loose or rattling. I want to make sure we’re future-proof and that we can scale. I’ve done this several times in the past for other companies, so I’m simply setting us up that we’re ready for success, and Kris and Nathan can get on with their key roles.
- That’s a very important job indeed. So you mentioned Kris and Nathan; I know you’ve been brought on board just one week ago, but if we talk about the Hash Rush team, who will you be working with most?
From the corporate due diligence side of things, I’ll be working mostly with Kris and Nathan. But as you say, I only started last week. On the game side I work with everyone, but I’ll be working most closely with Rafal.
- Awesome. If we take a look at your second responsibility, I’m wondering, how does that work, setting up an in-game economy? Where do you start?
The first thing I’d like to start with is looking at the Game Design Document (GDD) from Rafal. The most important thing is that the in-game economy is complementary to the game system Rafal and his team are designing. I can’t model the economy myself without full visibility of the type of game. This information needs to flow back and forth, so that the economy can really support the game. If I modelled the game economy without that input, it wouldn’t function that well. Not to say that it couldn’t, but still. So I need to know more about the style of game, the inventory of tradeable items, the different factions, and the supply of those items, for instance. In economics, supply and demand are the most important principles. So you basically start from there.
On that basis, I’ll look at the different items we’ll be putting in the game, their value (not their price but their intrinsic benefits), and what’s the supply of those. For instance, is there one super unique thing, compared to very generic items. What does this mean for the economy?
I’ll also apply my mind and give advice, and see for instance when we need to inject certain items, increase the supply of something, et cetera. But we have to think about this. The reason for this is, we don’t want an oversupply of goods which will drop prices to the floor. Then you’ll lose the whole effect of a market and that part of the game. So it’s a delicate dance you need to do, to balance the supply of a good to ensure it meets the demand of that good. People need to know if they can change an item and store them to hold value. If we start flooding the market, we remove the whole value part of the market, and that can be detrimental to the in-game economy.
- How does this compare to the in-game economy of other games?
The reason I like what we’re doing right now, is that I’ve always had a problem with in-game economies because they’re super static. They don’t take into account real-world impacts and features, so I’d like to kind of turn the whole gaming industry on its head by making this in-game economy very real-world-like.
A lot of games fall short by not bringing this human aspect into gaming economies, and that’s what I’d like to leverage, bringing real-world aspects to the game. Make the trading aspect of Hash Rush so awesome that people want to play the game because they experience things they would also experience in the real world.
- That’s sounds great; I’m sure that if you manage to do that, it’ll add another great feature to Hash Rush. Still, it seems quite difficult to set the in-game economy up like this, or not? What is the most difficult part of creating the Hash Rush economy?
Hmm, it’s definitely human nature. Humans tend to do something opposite of what you think they will do. From the development point of view, creating the economy will be a mechanical process of setting up the model, looking at the supply and demand of a particular item, et cetera. But it’s when you add the human component in, and how humans interact, that will make it difficult. And this is something we need to monitor; how will humans use our economy? So I’ll be glued to my screen when we launch Hash Rush. And the economy needs to be adjustable, so if needed we can still control, for instance the supply of coins and in-game items. We can’t control demand of course, so we need to make sure we’re watching the demand, watching what people are looking for the most. We need to look at which item or card is super valuable, and it might be that this is very different from what we expect.
The point is, the difficult thing is not the mechanics of developing the economy, but it’s anticipating the demand and the gamer’s reaction to the economy. And making sure we can adjust accordingly to the volatility of the demand.
- That indeed seems quite difficult, but you sound very passionate about it. Let’s take a quick look at Hash Rush; do you have a faction that you like most?
Of course, the vast majority of information released is about the Ernacks, but given the type of sci-fi I watch (Firefly for instance) and the games I play, it has to be the Space Pirates. I’m an underdog and the fact that they came from ruin, trying to re-build their civilisation, and go back to the space explorers they once were really appeals to me.
I really like the story they put out around the Space Pirate, and I like that this faction might introduce a black market to the game. That will be a whole twist on the game economy, because most games have a generic trading market. But when you bring a black market into the mix, it’s very difficult to model, but if we can do it and do it right, it will add a whole new dimension to this game. So I’d say the Space Pirates.
- Awesome, so you really have a favourite faction. But what do you think of Hash Rush in a more general sense, as a project? How do you see the future of Hash Rush?
My first thoughts were: how is this even possible? How can you mine and play games at the same time? I have two mining rigs set up, but didn’t understand the concept until I looked at it more closely.
But now I think, if we do this and we do this right; we’re taking two super big worlds, and combining them; that would be an incredible feat. But if we could do it and do it right, there’s no end to our success. The most important thing here is to keep both our gaming and our mining audience engaged. Crypto enthusiasts are a lot easier to get enthused, but getting gamers onboard will… well, it won’t be a challenge, but it will be something we need to really focus on. Because that will be our main market, first and foremost.
The second thing I’d like to mention is that we’ll introduce a whole new world to people. So I really like what we’re doing! We’re bringing blockchain and crypto technology to a world that doesn’t know about this yet, and we’re gamifying it, making it fun. I can really see people thinking: “I’m not building a mining rig, I’m not renting hash power from Genesis, but if I can make money playing this, then hell yes, why wouldn’t I?”
So I really think we have a great future ahead of us, as long as we’re the first to market this and we keep being a successful entrant in this market.
- If we talk about gaming, what is your favourite gaming platform, game, and what are you currently playing?
I always game. That goes hand in hand with everything I do. My favourite platform over the years is the NES knock-off called “Golden China”. Back in the 1990s we were sanctioned because of apartheid, so Nintendo wasn’t allowed to be sold. But China made their own version of the NES. So I started with an 8-bit, shifted to Sega over the years, and then obviously started playing on a Playstation. But I’ve always been doing PC gaming, from Lords of the Realm when I was 12 to Civilization I through VI. I’m a huge fan because of the whole in-game market. You don’t have to go out and kill things, that really intrigues me in games like Civ and Freelancer, and it’s also the reason why I like what we’re doing here. You don’t have to get a gun and shoot people.
Right now, I’m playing a bunch of games like Civ VI, Rust, ARK: Survival and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.
- And will you play Hash Rush yourself?
Absolutely. Without a doubt.
- Great! Thanks Jethro, we’ve come to the end of our interview. Is there anything you want to mention to share with our readers? Maybe a favourite game no one knows about? Our Lead Concept Artist talked about his cat in this part of the interview, so anything goes!
Well, once upon a time there was this game called ‘The Dig’, by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. It’s not a normal game; I played it for almost 72 hours straight. I was a teenager, the game came out in the 90s, but it’s still a beautiful and mesmerising game. It’s like you’re immersed in a movie, with captivating game content, but it’s not well-known. The reason I like that game is, if you look at the design elements, there’s features you can see in our design studio, how we design our game. Looking at Hash Rush, I get almost that same look-and-feel, it’s very similar to what these massive game houses/studios did in the day. It’s called The Dig. Look into it, it’s one of my favourite games of all time, and you can get it on Steam now [here, to be precise].
Also, I just had a baby boy, Haiden. He’s about 8 months old. And a third thing to share, I live completely off-grid. I grow my own vegetables, have a water source and own a Tesla powerwall. So if the zombie apocalypse hits, I’m super ready.
That concludes our interview with Jethro Naude, our Chief Game Economist. I had a great time talking to him, and of course I’m happy I now have a place to crash in case of a zombie apocalypse.
If you’re interested to read more about the individual team members of Hash Rush, take a look at our previous interviews with Senior Game Producer Rafal Nowocien and Lead Concept Designer Dendy Dhamier, or simply wait a week until we publish the next one!
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