The triple-A gaming experience is coming to the blockchain. A slew of projects with big backers and striking graphics are building, and Shrapnel, a sci-fi-themed first-person shooter in early-development stages, looks to be packing some heat.

To learn more, Stockhead fired off some questions to the Head of Studio at Shrapnel, Don Norbury. Norbury is also the CTO of the game’s developer, Neon Media – a Seattle-based gaming studio and virtual production company spun out of HBO’s Interactive and Immersive Group. 


A player-defined, customised gaming experience

Hi Don. The first thing that strikes me about Shrapnel, apart from the cool concept art, is the team. Some serious AAA-gaming chops right there. What can that kind of mainstream-gaming development experience bring to the world of blockchain gaming?

Thanks, yeah our team has worked on some of the best-known games in the industry at Xbox, Electronic Arts, LucasFilm and more. And what that means is, we know what it takes to create a AAA-player experience. 

Will Shrapnel be the first big multiplayer, first-person shooter in the blockchain gaming sector?

Yep – actually the world’s first blockchain-enabled moddable AAA first-person shooter. Beyond making a blockbuster game, we’re focused on using blockchain and NFTs to bring ownership to the modding experience.

Moddable… so you’re talking customisable NFT assets?

Right, it means that the game will allow players to define their own experience and customise on a level previously unachievable. Players will be able to make anything from vanity items to customised weapons, maps and map objects.


What do you expect will drive the in-game NFT assets’ value? 

When we think about NFTs, we’re really thinking about ownership, verification, trust, and player empowerment. In Shrapnel, players are empowered to create and get rewarded for what they make. So the better their creations, the more engagement they will have, creating a rewarding creator-driven game economy. 

Modding can be a really fulfilling avenue for players to express their support for a project through creativity. So we want to repay that support by offering people ownership of the assets they create. Blockchain adds that functionality layer to Shrapnel that facilitates ownership of in-game items for players in a way that doesn’t exist in traditional gaming models. 



Strong community (and big backers) spurs the growth

We’re noticing more and more high-quality-looking gaming projects are developing using blockchain tech. Do you feel a sense of competition with other games building in the space with triple-A aims?

The growth of the blockchain gaming sector is beneficial for all. We need more creative minds, developers, players, and capital across the industry in order to progress and get better. Over the next few years, we’re looking forward to seeing new developers, players, artwork teams, and more enter the space. That’s going to push the technology, and ultimately the in-game experience, to the next frontier.

What else do you think your team brings to the blockchain/NFT gaming table that’s going to be unique at this point?

Well there’s definitely a space across the industry for a blockchain-enabled game that prioritises gameplay, graphics, UX, and above all that – fun. Shrapnel is going to fill that space. And our momentum is building, just this month we announced a $7 million USD private token sale raise that’ll be used to help us bring the AAA vision to reality.

Some pretty big backers participated in that raise, right? Griffin Gaming Partners, Polychain Capital… 

Yeah, the sale saw participation from major industry players and angel investors including the first pro-gamer Dennis Fong aka Thresh and Stephen Lim, co-founder of Valorant and Raid Base. In October we were a team of seven. Now we’re 30 full-time employees and hiring fast. 

I’ve checked out your Discord channel. Looks pretty active in there. You must get a lot of suggestions for the direction of the game?

We’re really proud of the work that’s gone into the project so far and our community has had a huge hand in shaping game decisions at every stage. We started Shrapnel with a focus on making a game that rewards the community, because it’s the community who ultimately makes any game a success.



Shattering negative perceptions, but not a zero-sum game

There’s been quite a strong backlash against blockchain and NFTs from many mainstream gaming fans, who can tend to think of NFTs and crypto as a cash grab. Do you think those perceptions will subside in time? And is Shrapnel the game to make the sceptics change their minds? 

We’ve all heard and felt the frustration from within the gaming community. So we’re definitely focused on building a AAA platform that will spark people’s curiosity, bring people on board, and deliver an experience that shatters what people may be expecting from a blockchain-gaming title.

Blockchain can offer a foundation for so much more than turning a quick profit… whether that be through the shorter feedback loop between players and studios, ownership of in-game assets, or the increase in community empowerment that could be ignited through incentivised modding or in-game governance [through DAOs and sub-DAOs].

So the idea is to keep the smooth, high-quality gaming experience trad gamers expect and merge it seamlessly with aspects of in-game economics, governance and customisation? Quite a task. 

Our focus is to take the gameplay experience people expect from a AAA title and supercharge it with cutting-edge blockchain customisability through seamless UI and UX. We’re working hard on getting moderation right.

Decentralised design offers a huge degree of freedom and empowerment to gamers. People who get involved in all aspects of the game will receive reputation scores and be given the infrastructure to provide input and feedback on game decisions. We’re going to be handing Shrapnel over to the players eventually so getting those controls right in a manner that will empower is key. 

Concept art from the game’s website:

Do you think GameFi and NFTs are the future of gaming? Is the merging of mainstream gaming and blockchain inevitable?

As more people enter the space and drive concepts like NFTs and GameFi forward, we’ll see an evolution of what these ideas come to mean. There is an appetite for composable micro-services among the community – particularly mechanisms that give people a real sense of ownership in the community they’re helping to build. But we know that, until now, both the concepts and the tech platforms enabling those concepts were very new.

We think it’s better to think of these mechanisms as another tool that can be applied to the emerging list of techniques and technologies available to developers all with the same aim of enhancing the player experience. So we don’t view it as a zero-sum game in that sense.

Concept art from the game’s website:


Built on Avalanche, with a thriving token economy

Will the game have a play-to-earn token economy? 

Yep, we recently published a White Paper that goes into full details, but Shrapnel will definitely have a thriving token economy and marketplace for trading game assets. What we’re trying to do is deliver a AAA-standard game, built around modding that gives participants a real sense of ownership in the game’s development.

These images were grabbed from the newly released Shrapnel white paper.

You’re building the game using the Avalanche blockchain tech, right? What makes that platform and blockchain ecosystem perfect for Shrapnel?

Yeah, we announced we were choosing Avalanche in March. It’s a fast, low-cost, and eco-friendly network, so it was a no-brainer for our team. 

The ability to run subnets [the preferred scaling solution for Avalanche] and define our own parameters provides the flexibility needed to facilitate the type of adrenaline-pumping, extraction-based shooter that Shrapnel is.

So we know that reducing frictional elements and minimising risk will be key to bringing players on board.

We’re building this from the ground up, so with Avalanche as our foundation, we’ll be able to showcase all the features of AAA gaming that players know and love, while also enabling new modding capabilities and reward mechanisms. 


Don Norbury’s abridged bio, also nabbed from the Shrapnel white paper.


 Shrapnel is currently in the early stages of development. If interested, you can check out its roadmap in the aforementioned white paper and on its website here, and you can follow the project’s Twitter for updates. Joining and delving into its Discord channel might not be a bad idea, either.

This Q&A was lightly edited for clarity. The views, information, or opinions expressed in the interview are solely those of the interviewee and do not represent the views of Stockhead.

Stockhead has not provided, endorsed or otherwise assumed responsibility for any financial product advice contained in this article.