Christian joins me in this episode to talk about his experiences building on lightning network, and his venture along Andre Neves and Simon Cowell with Zebedee, lightning powered games. We talk:
- How Chris got into Bitcoin app development
- Does Lightning belong in games?
- Zebedee approach to lightning game development
- Thoughts on Lightning Network more generally, and LNURL
- Christian Moss Twitter: @MandelDuck
- Zebedee website: Zebedee.io
- Zebedee Article: Does Bitcoin in Gaming Make Sense?
Stephan Livera links:
Stephan Livera: Chris, welcome to the show.
Christian Moss: Thanks for having me.
Stephan Livera: Yeah, Chris. So obviously I had the chance to meet you earlier this year and a couple of times actually in Tokyo back then and also at some of the Bitcoin conferences, most recently the Lightning Conference. Obviously, I know you, but take a couple minutes and just let the listeners know a bit about your background in Bitcoin and Bitcoin development.
Christian Moss: Yeah, sure. I actually started In your neck of the woods. I was actually working in Sydney, Australia. I was working for an app development company. Basically they just, they built apps for anybody who walks, walk through the door and had like about, 50 grand in cash and an idea. We build that. So most of my apps, I did all sorts. I did games, basically I would build apps for people who wanted to be build the next Uber or something. Right. It’ll all random stuff. And then one guy came in and said he wanted us to make like a Bitcoin app and I had no idea what Bitcoin was. And my coworker who sat next to me just, he swiveled around in his chair with a grin on his face. He was like, the secret libertarian Bitcoinee in the room and you know, I spoke to him and he said, okay, you know, sit down and let me teach you.
Christian Moss: And that was kind of the first moment when I fell down the rabbit hole. Yeah. So I started to build an app for that guy. I think the app still around, but that’s got me interested. And then at the time I, and there were no Bitcoin wallets on the iPhone, so just as a hobby, I just built a wallet for the iPhone. There were wallets but they were being taken down by Apple, Apple had this, back in like 2013 I think they just got rid of all apps on the iPhone. But my job was basically I would submit apps to the iTunes store. You know, I do like, you know, one every other week for the client. So I kind of knew how to get apps into the app store, so I just thought I could get one in. I got one in.
Christian Moss: And that was my first introduction to it. So I made the a Bitcoin wallet wasn’t very good while it, but it was like 2013.
Stephan Livera: Yeah. Nice.
Christian Moss: And then then after that I had to learn Swift for my job. Swift was this new programming language that Apple brought out to replace their objective C and I had to learn it. And they had this some guy made a tutorial how to make Flappy Bird. You remember the whole game? Popular games, like, he made it in Swift like overnight and made eight tutorials. I thought that was a fun way to learn. So I kind of made a game that was quite a little bit based on that and I thought, Hey, it’d be cool to put Bitcoin into this. And yeah, so that’s I tried to put Bitcoin into it.
Christian Moss: Apple didn’t let me put Bitcoin into it, for purchasing things. So I just thought, okay, well they have this rule that you’re not allowed to kind of purchase things with like crypto currencies or Bitcoin in the app store, but it had no rule against sending people Bitcoin. So I thought, okay, I just wanted to get Bitcoin in the app any way possible. So I just made the simple game that people could play and as he played it, it would tip them Bitcoin who just like throw like a few kind of like what you know about penny at them or something as they were playing the game. It was like early days, but it was kind of my first introduction into it.
Stephan Livera: Yeah. And so how did that change over time, like Bitcoin in 2013 to Bitcoin now in 2019 there’s been a lot of shifts and changes in the way the culture is and the way Bitcoin is viewed. What was your view of that change?
Christian Moss: Quite a few changes. Yeah. well yeah, so I suppose when I first got into Bitcoin, I was ignorant like everybody else, I was kind of kind of hounded on like the like Bitcoin talk and stuff. Cause I was basically, I was like kind of spamming the blockchain. I was sending, like I had this game that it wasn’t popular in like the real world, but it was quite popular in Bitcoin world. So I’d just be sending out all these tiny dust transactions everywhere. And I didn’t really notice it at the time, but yeah, apparently it caused a little bit of controversy and but at the time I was like, you know, I’m paying the fee. It’s, you know, it’s all good. Yeah. So that was kind of, I think at the moment I wasn’t like philosophically aligned with Bitcoin at the time.
Christian Moss: It was more just, it was a cool technology and I wanted to do cool things with the technology. So as I built the game and I started to talk to the community and I started to get an understanding about why it doesn’t make sense, for example, to build a game like on chain. You know, cause I remember very early days at the end of the year, the whole block size debate, I was thinking that if my tiny app, I’m just one person making a tiny app. It’s like causing all these transactions. Then, say like just, it’ll just take another hundred indie game developers to have a similar app, let alone an app that would become as popular say as flappy bird to really cause an issue. So at the time then it’s just like 2014 and 15 I was trying to find off chain solutions then, which short term I just had to do stuff like batching.
Christian Moss: So I was trying to batch transactions, make it efficient. I also tried to do, completely custodial off chain transactions, but then I got a lot of stick from that side as well. And and this is causing issues in the games because the games are quite fun and the games are quite popular. But I could see very early on that it wasn’t really sustainable. And it kinda, it kinda stopped me from pushing the game or marketing the game because I knew that the game just became super popular. Like for example, if was shown on the BBC or something like that, that I knew that the game, the network wouldn’t be able to handle it per se. Yeah. So at the time I noticed that a lot of people at the time, my similar I guess contemporaries, they were also building games have the same issue and everybody at that time, they seem to go over to other chains.
Christian Moss: I remember thinking at the time, well, this is very much just kicking the ball down the road. Right? I kind of made a prediction at the time. Everybody when I was there, they were going over to Ethereum at the time, which had just launched and it was, going to solve all the problems. And everybody was saying, you know, it’s fine, but I remember thinking at the time, well I bet you give it two or three years, there’ll be moving to something else. And now a lot of those same people are moving to EOS or Tron or [inaudible]. So I guess how it’s evolved over time, I think we’ve really seen in my opinion when I first started in it was all about trying to build on the base layer, at least for novices like myself. And now it seems that we’re building, it seems like it’s okay to make apps and games, but they need to be on like a second layer or an application layer. And that’s how I feel. That’s where we are at the moment.
Stephan Livera: Right. And so it’s, it took some years of experimentation and then people were sort of coming around to this idea that, well, we need ways to either do batching or to use offshore and protocols such as obviously lightning network. And that’s where we’re going to talk a bit about today with what you guys are doing with Zebedee. And also actually one other thing before we get into that, you wrote a cool article on the Zebedee medium page, which is called does Bitcoin in gaming makes sense? So do you want to just tell us a little bit about that article and why’d you write it?
Christian Moss: Yeah, I wrote it because personally I’m not a big guy for hype. You know, I like to think I’m a bit of quite skeptical and I always like to kind of questions my question, the fundamental assumptions, like, does it make sense? Should we be playing Bitcoin in gaming? I think there’s a good argument that you really shouldn’t and and then that’s fine, but I just wanted to explore that argument. You know, does gaming, does Bitcoin in gaming? Makes sense. So at the time I wrote the article, I wasn’t a hundred percent certain myself. It was more kind of an essay in a way just to kind of explore for myself. But I just had this idea that I kind of have two concepts when it comes to gaming and Bitcoin. One is that I think games and I go into this in the article, games traditionally were used value transfer between people.
Christian Moss: Obviously like, you know, people play games for fun, but the earliest games were all kind of used mainly for gambling, you know but the games weren’t specific for gambling, so people still play them for fun and people played them without money. But all these games kind of had a gambling mode where, they give a value to it to be transferred peer to peer. And as I wrote the article, I did a bit of research and this was kind of true and most games had this so most famous like cards, you know, it’s the most famous example. But then as I kind of looked, how games evolved digitally because we had digital games before we had digital payments. So the first digital games that we had, a lot of them tried to kind of, they still have the concept of money in them and money was quite strong.
Christian Moss: So if you think of Mario, you’re basically collecting coins, you know all games have this concept of collecting coins and earning coins. And I kind of felt that that was kind of, it was embedded in the idea that people like to play games and they like to get some sort of value. But obviously they couldn’t do that at the time because, there were no digital payments and the only digital payments that came were, you know, in app purchases, credit cards. So then they tried to kind of put payments and values back in the game, but it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t peer to peer. It’s just this idea that, you know, you could buy a loot box or something and it didn’t feel quite right. And, and I was thinking, well, you know, now that we have something like the lightning network and this peer to peer network for transferring value, maybe that it’s continuing one aspect of how games were used in the past were going out to like, people can play a game and they can play it for fun.
Christian Moss: Probably most people just play the game without money. But if you want to kind of make the game a bit more fun, they can stream Bitcoin between themselves. And and then it kind of reminds me when I was a kid at Christmas, we’d get a lot of candy and sweets as presence and we always used to play monopoly. And when we played monopoly, when it wasn’t Christmas, we’d just play, with just the normal paper money. But at Christmas we would use the sweets and candy we got as the money. And it just made the game so much fun. So it wasn’t necessarily about earning money, it wasn’t strict gambling, but the idea that you’d have, you know, a little bit of value there to kind of make the game a bit more focused or give them a bit more incentive.
Christian Moss: So I think like the lowest hanging fruit is just to get that back into gaming. You know, just this idea that people can play a game and not massive amounts, but maybe they could have a few bucks or something and it just makes the game a bit more fun. Right. You know, there’s.
Stephan Livera: Something to play for.
Christian Moss: has a bit more meaning. So that was a kind of one idea I got. Like I think Bitcoin and gaming makes sense on an application layer. I’m still very much of the opinion that base layer is, we kind want sound money that’s, censorship resistant. But I think from an application layer it kind of does make sense.
Stephan Livera: Yeah. And so in the article you talk a little bit about how gaming evolved a little bit. And so, for example, the internet evolved and, it took it away from it being a peer to peer aspect. Can you touch on what your thinking is there?
Christian Moss: Well, it’s just, over, well not now, but when games and the internet first came up mainly on mobile, there’s no way to send money peer to peer, you know, that was just it. Right. You know, I’m sure game companies would have liked to have done that perhaps. I’m not saying that in app purchases wouldn’t exist. You know, I just think they couldn’t do peer to peer and if they tried to do it in a custodial way, it gets complicated cause they need to have a license and the money transmitters, all these things. I think there were a few game companies who tried to do this. I think the Linden dollar in second life is a famous example and a few people have gotten around it, but it’s still a bit clunky. It’s not like, each game has their own coins.
Christian Moss: So it’s, these coins have to be traded on a kind of illegal exchange or something. So it’s kind of clunky. So they were my thoughts. Yeah, I just, I think people just generally forgot about the idea that the games could even do that when, if you go back to playing cards, like it’s, you go back a hundred, 200 years, it’s obvious, that’s what you did with games. If you’re an adult and you’ve done that part of, you know, you sweeten the deal a bit, but as we have digital games that has kind of disappeared and people have just forgotten about it. And if you even just say the concept to people that, you know, that did, you know that you can play a game and you can stream payments even though don’t even know what you’re talking about.
Christian Moss: Right. It’s yeah. So that’s kind of what I meant there. I also have another another angle about gaming and Bitcoin, which I think it’s still something I’m exploring, but I kinda think that like for me still the most important thing about Bitcoin is, basically I can be my own bank and I’ll have to trust any third parties. But I also find myself, I also find myself like living in a first world country. I don’t really need to use Bitcoin day to day, but I want to use Bitcoin day to day, if you know what I mean. When I go to my, I can’t use this, I’m frustrated, I want to use it, but I can’t. And I kinda think gaming, it could kind of be like martial arts or something.
Christian Moss: Right? You know, people study martial arts because I guess they want to feel like they can defend themselves in a fight, but they don’t get into fights every day. So they kind of do sparring. I think gaming in a way, it helps the ecosystem. It’s like we’re sparring with Bitcoin so we can develop these tools. We can use Bitcoin but casual things and then say that we really need Bitcoin one day. We’ve got that skill because we’ve been practicing and that infrastructure is being built. So I’m kind of thinking in a way gaming is a great way to bootstrap and keep Bitcoin alive, you know, to give it an ecosystem in the first world because otherwise if we didn’t do gaming, people maybe wouldn’t have much of a reason to use Bitcoin every day apart from just HODLing. Right. And then people might forget how to use it and they might forget to turn the node on all these kinds of things and then when they really need to use it, they’ll be rusty as it were. So that’s kind of another thought I had. You know, it’s just a great way to onboard people. It’s a great way to keep you kind of them nimble with Bitcoin. If that makes sense.
Stephan Livera: Yeah. So people have to learn how to use lightning, for example. They’re going to have to learn a little bit around, okay, how do I manage my channels? How do I refill or refund channels, little things like that.
Christian Moss: That’s what kind of games in a way, I guess animals and humans play games in the way you kind of, it’s training in a way, but it’s a fun way to train. So I think, you know, a similar argument could be made with Bitcoin and gaming.
Stephan Livera: Mmm. Yeah. Potentially. Yeah. And I think so. I guess let’s get into what we think could be enabled then with lightning that was not possible before?
Christian Moss: Yeah. I guess my first answer there is I like to say, I don’t know cause I want just something completely that you know we haven’t thought of or we can’t think of yet will appear in a few years. So I’m sure there are these hidden gems out there that in a few years, once we’ve built some first prototype games, somebody go, Oh hang on a minute, this is a really cool idea. But at the moment, I think the two things I’m quite interested in, one is just streaming payments between players like non-custodially and I’m working on a game at Zebedee that does that, like a a street fighter style game. Whereas people punch each other basically. You know, a punch is like as satoshi or ten satoshi, whatever they set and you know, if player one punches player two, then player two gets a satoshi from player one completely non-custodially and vice versa.
Christian Moss: So I think that’s really cool. Another thing which kind of came about from the lightning conference itself was the idea of audience participation and kind of the idea that you can cause like I think e-sports and people watching other people playing games is quite popular now. You know? People just go online on Twitch and just watch people play games, you know, you know, it’s like watching, you know, football on TV. And I think obviously people like to cheer, but people want to kind of interact with the player. So at the lightning conference, we quickly put together this demo that when two people were playing, the other people were watching and they could actually stream, they could send sats to the players to give them like a boost of health or you know, to give them a power up or you know, they can kind of interact and help them out.
Christian Moss: I think that’s quite cool that you can kind of like break the fourth wall, whatever wall.
Stephan Livera: Yeah. Break that barrier a bit. Yeah, that’s pretty cool.
Christian Moss: Yeah. So that’s quite interesting then.
Stephan Livera: Yeah. So I guess tell us a little bit about that game as well, how that game came together. Yeah.
Christian Moss: Yeah. It’s actually the game itself. It was last year or last year? No, this year. Anyway, it was a year ago. I think there was a lightning hackathon. There was a virtual lightning hackathon last year. Yeah, it was, it was last year. And Nope, sorry, there’s was hackathon in New York. I wanted to attend it, but I couldn’t. But I just thought, why don’t I just do the hackathon at home and then just try and keep the same hours and just, you know, just, it wasn’t a virtual hackathon, but I thought, you know, whilst they’re doing it, I’ve got a free weekend.
Christian Moss: I had this idea before, you know, this idea of building like a street fighter type game. So yeah, I’ll just try and make it over the weekend and I, I made a demo and kinda got that working. It was a bit clunky. And then then there was the lightning hackathon for Bitcoin 2019 where I kind of got the old code out and I kind of completed that game. I also built a couple of other games, I mean three games for the lightning hackathon there. And I was lucky enough to, to win that and the game got a little bit better. And then from winning the lightning gum hackathon, I, you know it kinda got me potential to start and join Zebedee and now we’ve got the chance and the funding to develop the game to like fully production level.
Christian Moss: I think it seemed like quite a simple, basic concept. I thought it was a good way to demonstrate lightning. It’s quite easy to explain, you know, you know, I punch you, you get a sat, you punch me, you know, whatever. Yeah. So that was kind of how it came about. .
Stephan Livera: That’s awesome. Tell us a little bit actually, how’s Zebedee came together and some of the concepts around that?
Christian Moss: Yeah well actually Zebedee actually kind of it was started by my co-founder, Simon, and I think he had this idea of them, you know, he wanted to do, he thought that lightning gaming made sense. I don’t wanna put words into his mouth, but yeah. This is the impression I got. You know, and he’s not a developer himself, so he just wanted to find a couple of developers that could help him realize at the time I was actually working for a Japanese company building something quite similar, but for various reasons that company didn’t work out and I was kind of free.
Christian Moss: And just as that company didn’t work out, I got contacted by Simon. He just basically said, Hey, you know, he didn’t know I was doing it, but that thing that you were doing, do you want to continue it? It kind of sounded like to me and and you can come on board as a co founder. So he contacted me and I said, yeah cool, you know, I’m on board with this. He, he’d also contacted them, Andre Neves, who’s a great guy and should definitely try and get him on the podcast. And, you know, I kind of knew Andre from Twitter, so he seemed like a cool guy, you know, and yeah, just said, yeah, sure. You know, we were both on board Simon managed to secure some funding and yeah, that’s kind of how it came together. I was quite lucky and it all happened quite quickly and yeah. Now we’ve started and we’re building cool stuff.
Stephan Livera: Yeah. Right. And so at the Lightning Conference or rather one or two days just before Michael Folkson from the London Bitcoin devs group organizer, he organized a like a presentation night where people came and presented and I saw you guys obviously went up and did your presentation with Zebedee and okay, here’s what we’re doing. And you had a couple of different prongs. So it was a bit interesting because it wasn’t just, Hey, we’re just making lightning games. We’re also going to try and make it easier for other people to implement lightning into their games. Tell us a little bit about some of those ideas you presented.
Christian Moss: Yeah, so I guess it’s probably important to clarify. Zebedee isn’t actually a gaming studio. We’re actually, we want to focus on making the tools and the SDKs for game developers to make games. We are making a game and actually my sole job at Zebedee is to make the game along with a couple of other people. So we do plan to make a professional game, but we kind of understand that making a game and maintaining a game. You really need to be a dedicated studio to do that. So the idea is that we’re going to make kind of these flagship games just basically show what you can do with the SDK and the APIs and what you can do with lightning. But we really want other gaming studios who are non Bitcoin but they really know how to make games and do games well and kind of, get a game to market. And we w we want them to kind of be flagship games of our tools as well. I guess the main problem we see at the moment is it’s quite hard to convince normal game developers to be interested in Bitcoin. Cause see, most people have only ever heard of Bitcoin. They just, I think most people have probably never heard of the lightning network. They’ve heard of Bitcoin. Most gamers have heard of Bitcoin because it made their graphics cards more expensive.
Christian Moss: Well not Bitcoin. Now I tell them that was something else, it was like Ethereum and stuff, but that’s the kind of impression they have. And then the, their first idea of Bitcoin as well in that purchase has worked for me. Why would I want to use Bitcoin? I guess you could say, well yeah, you could, save 30%. You don’t have to send to Apple fees, but it’s not really to try and convince them, but they’re not aware of the other cool, innovative things that you can do with Bitcoin such as kind of e-sports or just participation, streaming between players, sending the players. Bitcoin, you know, is rewards. So the idea is that we are going to build the games that show that. And that’s a good example for the other game. You know, the game developers to go, Hey, Oh, okay.
Christian Moss: Wow. That’s pretty cool. I didn’t know you could do that. Oh, it would be cool if we could do that in our game. And so that’s kind of why, we’re building the games and the APS and SDKs.
Stephan Livera: Yeah, that’s cool. And I think it’s also crucial to recognize that these games have to be good enough in their own right because if these games are only played amongst a bitcoin and lightning people, well that’s a very small audience. Right. And so I think that’s also part of it, that recognition that the game has to be really fun in its own right to sort of draw in non Bitcoin people who then can learn about Bitcoin in that process.
Christian Moss: Yeah. Well that’s kind of yeah, that was kind of a decision on my part when I made the game. Like, I could’ve called the game like Block Wars or Bitcoin battle or something, which was, we just kind of want to make a game, you know, the obviously non Bitcoiners would like, but they could, they could enjoy it, but they could easily see how Bitcoin is used.
Christian Moss: So I think streaming payments is a little bit complicated at the moment to show newbies. But one thing that we plan to do in the game is that, and this is what I’ve found successful in my original games, when I first got into Bitcoin, like 2013 and 14 was the ideas that people could play the game and they just got Bitcoin for free, which is, you know, a great way in like they play a game, then they get just kind of like these big ones for free and you know, there’s no risk. Okay, okay, what can I do with this Bitcoin, now, I can use it in this other game or I can send it to somebody. It’s a great onboarding mechanism. So that’s another important feature of the game. Yeah, but, I do have to admit that like, we kind of understand at the moment, we don’t expect our game to compete with like the triple A game studios.
Christian Moss: Like, we’re not going to kind of, you know, we’re not going to replace call of duty anytime soon, but we just, you know, I think we want to make good games the, you know, the people enjoy, that can be popular and just they can get the kind of, get the ecosystem rolling and get the attention of, you know, the kind of the smaller studios and once the smaller studios start to use it, then maybe that gets the attention of the biggest studios. I’ve actually, in my previous consulting work, I’ve actually spoken to larger gaming studios when I was in Japan and I kind of did, I actually demoed lightening at Tokyo game show and I spoke to some people, but the larger game studios, they’re not really interested in giving power back to the users at this point of time. They kind of want to control things and they have legal restrictions and they’re quite large, so they’re not going to do anything risky. But the smaller, the indie game studios were the ones that were more interested and I kind of think that’s where it probably has to come from.
Stephan Livera: Right. So it might be more like a way that a challenger brand can differentiate themselves and get new players in to say, Hey look, we’ve got this new thing that the big players don’t want or they don’t have a reason to put that in yet. But we do want to.
Christian Moss: Yeah, I think that’s how technology generally evolves. You know, a scrappy startup comes out of nowhere and disrupts the big players. So yeah, that’s, I think that makes sense. Obviously if Nintendo wanted to add lightning network sure come to us, we’re not going to say no.
Stephan Livera: Cool. so then, what are your thoughts around platforms? So there are obviously PC games, console games, mobile games, what are you focusing on?
Christian Moss: Everything. Well, so the games at the moment are built with Unity is kind of the technology use. It’s kind of what 95% of indie game developers use. So we’re building with unity and unity just lets you build to like many platforms. So there’s not much, there’s not a lot of work involved to kind of build for different platforms. Obviously I kinda think mobile is important in this day and age. But obviously mobile can be more restrictive due to Apple’s policies. You know so my kind of view is that we’re definitely going to get something working on mobile. It seems that through my past experience and I’ve actually spoken to like the app review team a few times. I think like sending satoshis between players is fine. Obviously there’s going to be some restrictions on countries that you’re not allowed to do it and you know, it’s going to be targeted to a different age, but that’s okay.
Christian Moss: Sending Bitcoins to players is fine. The only thing you definitely can’t do is purchase things with Bitcoin cause obviously that is kind of, it’s replacing the app store or the in app purchase mechanism. But to be honest, that’s not that interesting anyway. I think, it’s not something new, so I’m not too fussed about that. Having said that, you know, Apple, it’s apples rule. So Apple can always like change the rules at any time, which is why we’re also building for, you know, just desktop, web as well. I’m quite interested in mobile web. I think that’s, it’s limited at the moment, but it’s definitely getting there. And mobile web, you know, you kind of have the advantages of mobile but with no restrictions. But it’s, I think surprise, surprise Apple on their Safari mobile browser kind of accidentally make mobile web games difficult to run. I’m not sure. It’s kind of, it’s interesting. But yeah. But yeah, I think we just, you know, want to target as many platforms as possible. Yeah. Mobile is, I think is a good way to reach the most people in this day and age. Right.
Stephan Livera: What about on the Google Play side? Are they restrictive there as well? Similarly with the Apple side?
Christian Moss: Less restrictive than Apple in a way. Apple generally. So Apple, they manually review your apps as you submit them. So you actually get a guy in a room who looks at them. So you kind of know when you first submit it if it was going to be rejected on that Google the 10, I’m not sure, but it seems to be an automated review. And what you find with Google is your game will just be taken down like a month later. But in my experience Google a lot less strict. But the good thing about Android is you don’t have to go through, you know, the Google play store, you can go through like F-Droid or other options with Apple. You kind of, there’s no other easy ways for a person to install an app that Apple haven’t approved, unfortunately. But I kinda think, it’s like again, Bitcoin, while it’s abandoned Apple at the time, but eventually they seem to tend to come around.
Christian Moss: They’re a bit slow. But I think Apple just wants to do a lot of due diligence and just, you know, that knee jerk reaction is just abandon these games in these apps. And then once they’ve looked into it, they tend to, you know, add them back. I had this issue a lot with Apple in the early days. It was quite funny. You know, I remember actually speaking to the app review team, the banned one of my apps and she was explaining and she was saying, well, cause she obviously she wasn’t, didn’t know anything about Bitcoin or blockchain? But she was like reading from a sheet. So the approved currencies we’re allowed to approve are the Litecoin, Bitcoin, Ethereum and the DAO token. Cause like at one point the DAO token was an Apple approved virtual currency. And that was, and then I think a few days later, the whole event that will have happen. So Apple all over the place. It’s just funny.
Stephan Livera: So I guess the other big one then from a, like maybe from the app store or maybe from a legal perspective, is all this kind of money transmission laws stuff. Do you have, do you see much of a burden or hurdle there?
Christian Moss: I’m sure you know it’s again, at the moment everything’s a gray zone, right? It’s, you know, it’s I think again at the moment it seems to be if it’s player to player, non-custodial makes things a lot easier. So actually there’s an incentive. It’s quite interesting. So we were talking about this, last team meets up. That’s the end. There’s a strong incentive for us to be noncustodial is actually good for the ecosystem because I think a lot of companies, if it, you know, if it was less strict about people being custodial, you’d probably get, I feel you’d get a lot more people doing custodial services because in a way it’s easier, especially with lightning, you know, it makes things a lot easier if you’re custodial, but in a way we kind of, we don’t want to be custodial because of the regulations.
Christian Moss: So in a way it’s forcing us to be more non-custodial. Having said that, we actually will have a custodial kind of kind of onboarding mechanism just to kind of help, cause obviously we want to onboard people to, to lightening. And obviously at the moment it’s hard to kind of do that in a complete non custodial way. So we do have like a small custodial onboarding mechanism, but that’s going to be limited. It’s a very small amounts and things like this. Yeah, but so just it’s, it goes to money transmitter license, you know as long as you’re not touching fiat and you kind of non-custodial it seems to be okay. But having said that, it is a gray area so things can change.
Stephan Livera: Yeah, no, that’s cool. And I’d be, I’d love to hear a bit more about how you’re going to configure that part of it in terms of custodial versus non-custodial. How so? Obviously I guess the easy way at the start is if that user doesn’t know about Bitcoin, they’ve just got like a custodial amount just for a small amount, then how would they progress and how would they configure it to be non-custodial?
Christian Moss: Yeah. so again, we are still kind of working out the details, so we’re actually building the platform now. But I guess the simplest ideas that a user will download the game, it’ll download our wallet and they can just get some sats. You know, like as they play the game they can just get some sats free and obviously that’s going to be custodial. It’s gonna be a small amount. And then we’re gonna have like a voucher system, you know, where, you know, players or people we can give players a small amount of sats straight through a voucher system at the moment. What we’re planning to do to incentivize kind of the noncustodial routers. We wanna work. So another thing I should make clear what we’re building a wallet for our games. But again, we don’t necessarily want to be the only wallet company that supports this. We have to build this wallet at first just so we can like build the protocols for like streaming sats between players and all the cool things we want to do.
Christian Moss: But we actually working with a few other wallets and want to work with some of the bigger wallets to kind of, basically we’d love them to do that more than us. So I think there are a few wallets out there. Like Breez for example, is a great kind of non-custodial that seems to make kind of onboarding pretty easy. Like, you know, they kind of open a nice channel to you and you don’t have to worry about liquidity. So I kind of think as the lightning network evolves. I think the wallet companies are going to solve this kind of onboarding issue, basically make it easy for non Bitcoin savvy newbies to be able to use a non-custodial lightning one and not have to worry about streaming. And then once you’ve got like satoshis in custodial fashion, we can do some cool things with, you know with swaps and stuff, you know, and lightning loops where we can transfer that balance. And another thing is I don’t go into too much detail, but the idea that you can charge higher fees, you know, for say custodial, but non-custodial, you could lower the fees, so you’re kind of incentivizing people to move to non-custodial. And another thing is you have limits, you know, so if somebody wants to put like, 50 bucks or something, then, you know, they’ve got to like go to like non-custodial mode or something.
Christian Moss: But if they just want to get into it and just get a few like dollars, I think it’s fine to be, custodial, and then if they want to get lower fees and larger amounts and we’re going to give them an easy on ramp to kind of, to use the noncustodial wallet. So that’s kind of what we’re thinking at the moment. Obviously we’re building this out, so we’re gonna work out the details, but it seems to be, I think it’s getting better and I think it’s a quite solvable problem. And we don’t want to be custodial because it causes more work for us. You know, we have to obviously worry about the legal, you know, and the regulatory aspects. So
Stephan Livera: Yeah, it sounds like there’s a bit of a, there’s pros and cons I guess. So it might be technologically more difficult to build non-custodial, but from a legal and regulatory point of view it’s better. So,
Christian Moss: Yeah, yeah. I prefer the technical challenge more than the legal challenge.
Stephan Livera: Nice. Well said. And one other question around streaming versus batching for payments and in even on lightning for example, rather than like sometimes when you want to route a payment on lightning, that might still take 10 seconds or a bit more. What’s your view there? Is it something like at the end of each round you would do a payment or you know, during the fight or during the gameplay that you would literally be streaming payments?
Christian Moss: Yeah. I think the main thing that, so you can stream payments and if they’re small amounts you can kind of have, what’s the word I’m looking for here? In the UI of the game you can kind of show the payments are streaming and you can kind of show in the UI that it screened even if it hasn’t confirmed. And then just assuming that it will confirm in a second if it doesn’t, you update it. I think this is what Twitter does with it’s likes, like Twitter, you have all these likes going up, Twitter actually know how many likes are actually doing it in real times. I think Twitter has this algorithm where it kind of shows likes, but a second later you kinda update it to the real amount. So you might go lower but you don’t really see it.
Christian Moss: The UI just kind of shows like going, so that’s kind of one way to show it on the UI point of view, you know, it’ll look like it’s streaming. So you know, in the game it’ll just say you’ve got a satoshi, you’ve got a satoshi, but really you’ve got a satoshi, you’ve got a satoshi it’s not a big deal. Right? Yeah. You can still play the game and you know, it’s small amounts so you don’t have to necessarily worry about it being confirmed as you hit. So I think it’s acceptable. And another thing is that we are as part of our API and tools, we basically, we’re going to have this kind of connectivity module if that makes sense? The idea that we’re going to have, make sure that our players are well connected to other players and developers that use our APIs and SDKs.
Christian Moss: They’re also well connected to us and the other players. So that way you know, there shouldn’t be too many hops and when you’re streaming the amounts are quite low that you don’t really need to do that many hops. You know, if you’re streaming, like if you streaming satoshi’s generally you find routes pretty easy,
Stephan Livera: right? Yeah.
Christian Moss: Yeah. I think in practice is not a bigger problem. So the idea that, you know, like we’re going to have like as a game studio, we’re going to have, you know, make sure our node is connected to the popular wallets and make sure that game developers who use our software and link there. So our software will let them link their own node and it will also work with them, BTC Pay as well. So again, develop can link that BTC Pay to our API and SDK and we will kind of make sure, Hey, you know, let’s open a channel together, to make sure that your players are linked to us. So streaming should be quite smooth and faster than them. Yeah. Easy. So that’s kind of how we’re approaching it at the moment.
Stephan Livera: Yeah. That’s awesome. So it’s sort of like these relationships, if you will, it makes sense for people, for them to obviously have channels between these two parties. Right? Like with you and Breez or Zap or these other big providers.
Christian Moss: Yeah. And you kind of see that happening already. There’s incentives for everybody to be well connected, just because as a merchant or you know, a game developer, you want to give, your players, a good experience. So that one of the simplest things that you can do is make sure your, you’ve got a few channels open to the larger wallets, and that also kind of helps kind of make this mesh of, nodes are kind of decentralized a bit more. So I think, I think all the incentives are in place just just to kind of solve this problem.
Stephan Livera: Yup. And what about finding developers for the cause and teammates, right. So you’ve got the three co-founders. How’s the team expanded and are they also Bitcoiners or, are they just developers who then learn about Bitcoin?
Christian Moss: Yeah, so we’ve, we’ve got a couple of few new hires more than a couple. So we’ve got a designer, we’ve got a couple of developers and then another developer coming on shortly. To be honest, because it’s lightning and lightning is kind of like the hot girl in the room it’s not too hard to kind of find, like we’ve had developers say, you know, Hey, you know, like, you know, I was on this amount before but I’m willing to work for this amount just to work on lightning, you know. So I think obviously the is obviously there’s a shortage of developers. You can’t just go on like LinkedIn and like, find like new people. But I think myself and Andre and Simon are the two co-founders. We kind of know the good people in the space.
Christian Moss: So we’ve, you know, we’ve reached out to people that we know are good and people have reached out to us and people are quite excited to be on board, you know? And so at the moment it’s okay. I think obviously we’re still a startup so we, you know, we’ve kind of been lean so we don’t, we’re not looking to like, you know, like 20 developers. I think as we grow, if we want to have, you know, 10, 20, 30 developers that will become more challenging I think to find people. But the moment I think there’s, I think to be honest, a lot of bitcoiners have kind of been waiting for it cause you know there’s not a lot of money in being a Bitcoin maximalist if you’re looking for work, you know, I think a lot of Bitcoin developers will tell you this, they wanted to work on Bitcoin but the only jobs they’ve got on there around like, you know you know, other coins for example. And now I think with, with, and I think Bitcoin in a way, like the only job you could really have, it was an exchange because, Bitcoin wasn’t an application layer. But now as lightning, you’ve got these companies who are building applications and attempting to build them services and startups. So I think now there’s going to be a, wave of, lightning based companies. We’re just going to be sweeping up these Bitcoin developers who’ve been long waiting for some paid Bitcoin work.
Stephan Livera: Yeah. Although I think it’s great to see the ecosystem starting to build and grow. Let’s talk a little bit about lightning in general. So what are some of your favorite tools? What’s your favorite implementation?What do you, what do you normally use?
Christian Moss: Yeah, I don’t really have a favorite implementation per se. I think I stopped actually started with C-lightning when it first came out and actually moved to lnd because at the time lnd had a better API. C-lightning API was still a bit at the time it wasn’t as fast, It’s much better now. So I moved to lnd and because I started working with lnd, I just basically, that’s why I know. So that’s what I work with at the moment. But the other implementations also seem great. I’m quite interested in like Rust Lightning per se, but LND is quite good at the moment. It’s quite easy to kind of, you know, to read the documentation. They’ve got a great Slack group and you know, if you’ve ever got an issue you can go in there and somebody will help you within minutes sometimes. So yeah, I quite like to use lnd is kind of my main stack. Wallets, I guess I generally I use the one I made myself to.
Stephan Livera: So with the wallets you and previously did Pebble wallet and then I think there was also Nayuta wallet. Tell us a little bit about your experiences there.
Christian Moss: Okay, so when I worked for a company in Japan that, I was trying to build lightning gaming of that company and the company itself was actually, it was actually more interested in tokens and stuff and other things, which is why it kind of didn’t work out. But I started to build a wallet and I started to build games, similar games, lightning games on that and that kind of didn’t work out. But I built the wallet and I got it out there, and people were using it. They liked it. I think it was at the time it was the only wallet that linked with BTCPayServer, you know on Android or something like that. So it was quite, I kind of built it for myself as well because, you know, I wanted a wallet that could connect to my BTCPayServer on android.
Christian Moss: I built that, so I built and that was called pebble and that was actually open source. And then because it didn’t work out with the company actually do, some consulting work for Nayuta as well, which are the, a a Japanese company who made a lightening implementation Ptarmigan and they wanted a wallet. So at the moment I’m kind of consulting with them to work on it. So Nayuta wallet while it’s changed quite a lot, but it was originally based on pebble and Nayuta wallet it’s actually pretty cool and I think that’ll be coming out with an announcement this week or I’m not sure when this podcast comes out, but it’s actually the first mobile lightning wallet that has a fully validating node in there as well.
Stephan Livera: Right.
Christian Moss: So you can actually, it’s, you know, it’s, it’s quite, it’s still experimental but it’s just, it works.
Christian Moss: But it’s it’s kind of like the the HTC.
Stephan Livera: that Exodus, blockchain phone thing.
Christian Moss: Yes. But it’s only Bitcoin and it has a lightning wallet and it links to your LND. So in a way it’s, you know, it doesn’t have like the secure hardware, but it uses your iPhones or your, sorry, it uses your Android secure kind of enclave. So yeah, it’s pretty cool. You can basically run a fully validating lightning node on your phone. And it also has this this hybrid mode that the idea is to obviously running a full node all the time can be, it can be quite heavy on your phone. So it has this hybrid mode where, well, when you start to use it or use neutrino and the full node will sync in the background when you’re at home and charging.
Christian Moss: So when you go home, you plug your phone in and you’re on Wi-Fi, then it’ll kind of, the full node will start to run. It’ll start to sink and it will actually kind of do some checks on the blocks that the neutrino has downloaded and just to make sure they are actually valid. So it’s kinda got like this lazy detective mode. It’s experimental, but I think, you know a lot of the work was done by the, AB core team. So, it was built on top of that. But that’s kinda my favorite while at the moment because I’ve, you know, I’ve got this full validating node, I should say. It’s not a full node because it doesn’t like have a full, it’s a pruned node, really. So but yeah, I think that’s quite powerful and yeah, I think they’re open sourcing that as well, so other wallets will be able to implement that as well. So that’s kind of my favorite thing. It’s a moment I feel quite empowered. I’ve got this whole thing in my pocket, you know.
Stephan Livera: Yeah, that’s really cool because there are obviously different styles of wallet in the lightning network, right? You’ve got those that are, they are a lightning node on the phone. But then they might not be as good with routing say, because you know, they might not have, you know be as easy or they, or you might have different channels and then it’s a bit of an awkward experience because you might have your lnd back home with like your proper channels and then you might have to have like a mobile, right. And then now, then the other approach we’re saying is like the remote control, your know back home approach. Right. And then what you’re talking about here is like actually the full node is on the phone and it’s just on.
Christian Moss: Well the way I see actually personally I quite like the approach of everybody just has this box you plug in at home. It’s like a router that’s like, you plug it in and forget about it and everybody links to that. I like that approach. But what’s actually cool about the full node that Nayuta have built with the lightning node. It’s actually, I think it can make a lot more sense that if you don’t think about it that you’re running a full Bitcoin and Lightning node on your phone, you’re running it on Android with. That basically means that if anybody’s got an Android TV or an Android box or just cheap Android hardware, you can basically download, you can basically install or run a full node as an app. So I think you just kind of make the barrier to, literally you just download an Android app and then this thing starts syncing so you could kind of have that at home.
Christian Moss: You can get this. Like I actually did it as a task. I don’t recommend it, but I bought like a 40 bucks Amazon fire stick and I wanted to see would Nayuta wallet run on that, cause I was like 40 bucks. It didn’t have too much RAM but I think it had just enough. So I plugged that into my phone I installed it and yeah, I just literally had a full node running on this $40 stick you know? Don’t reason I don’t recommend it is cause I think the type of memory they use, if you kind of hit the database too much it could burn out their memory. But the point is that I think it’s research in the right direction of just making it easier to run a full node. And if you can get one running on Android and you know, these cheap Android devices come out.
Christian Moss: And another thing is that, you know, you might not need to use the full node on your phone, but say you’re traveling or you know, something happens to your house, you’ve still got like, you know, a valid UTXO state that you have validated on your phone in your pocket. So, you know, yeah. And you didn’t have to do any actual work to do that. It’s just a thing that ran in the background. I think it’s all stuff in the right direction, you know, I’m not saying that it’s the most practical thing, but I think it just makes sense in just improving or making it easier to run a full note. And I think every bit of research in that direction is important.
Stephan Livera: Yeah. And what about battery usage then? So what’s your view there around, if we’re running this node on our mobile and the battery burn down and bandwidth usage, is that manageable in your view?
Christian Moss: Well, so that’s why I say, it’s hybrid mode. So what you can do is you can set it to only start syncing and when you’re charging at home and on wifi. So that was the idea behind it. Obviously. Yeah. If it’s, I have it set up on my phone, I have kind of a flagship Android phone and I actually just set it to try and sync all the time if I’m on battery or not. And actually for me it’s not a big issue when I’m like, when I’m going out day to day and I’m not traveling, I’m just going out to the store or whatever. And it’s fine. When I was traveling I did have to turn it off because obviously in between airports and things, I might not have battery, but it wasn’t too big of an issue. So yeah, but that was the idea behind that. The hybrid mode is that you can kind of, and actually to be fair, so the Android OS at the moment will actually, if it thinks you’re using too much battery, it may turn off itself. So I think Android also has some mechanisms around it. Yeah.
Stephan Livera: So that’s actually one thing as well because Android is getting more aggressive about shutting down background applications as well. So that’s something that’s Bitcoin or Lightning developers will have to consider that as well.
Christian Moss: Yeah. Yeah. So that’s kind of, I think that’s what the AB core team also ran into when we were working on it. With Nayuta the same issue. I think they updated Android, which basically meant background works a bit differently. Before you could basically say run in background, it would do it. Now you basically have to go to the OSTP and say, please run this in background when you think it’s applicable. On my phone, it kind of runs 80% of the day, so, but my phone’s got plenty of Ram. So I think if you’re on a decent phone and phones are getting cheaper, I think you can get really kind of powerful Android phone for not too expensive nowadays. I found it’s not too big of an issue. And to the credit of the Bitcoin core devs, they’ve done a lot of work that Bitcoin core isn’t that heavy, you know, it’s compared to other things. Yeah. Yeah.
Stephan Livera: And from a lightning point of view, what else are you looking at? One example that comes to my mind is LN URL, which is a really easy way to withdraw as well. So do you wanna just talk a bit about that and if you see applications there?
Christian Moss: Definitely that’s something we’re definitely adding into the game and adding into our,
Stephan Livera: Sorry, would you mind actually just for the listeners who don’t know, can you just explain what that is?
Christian Moss: Oh yeah. So LN URL it’s basically a protocol that actually, it does a few things in the protocol, but it can do but it’s just, I, I would explain it as a way LN URL is a protocol that just lets, wallets and applications talk and communicate a bit more in depth. So before, the only way an application and a wallet it could talk was basically you were scanning an invoice that the application made up on lightning. And that’s basically the only thing you could do was pay an invoice. But as people made applications, they wanted to do stuff like they wanted, you know, an application to say open a channel to the users wallet they, or they wanted to request an invoice from the wallet that the application paid. And there was no mechanism to make that. Actually, with another Japanese company, we actually built something before LN URL with a project called den, which we did something similar, but LN URL has become the standard.
Christian Moss: It’s just kind of, just the protocol for applications to talk to wallets. So one of the aspects that we’re quite interested in for gaming is the idea that if you want the game to send your wallet a tip or some Bitcoin the game can basically request the wallet to make an invoice. And then it can, the wallet will send the invoice of the game. And the game can pay it and it’s in such a smooth way that the user doesn’t have to do anything. They just press a button, you know, give me a tip. And the protocol handles it.
Stephan Livera: Yeah, I might, just explain that. So one example, there might be right now if you wanted to withdraw from some service without LN URL, it might ask you, Hey, go and generate an invoice, paste it in. Right? Whereas now with the use of LN URL, it can literally, they can just show a QR your wallet, you pull it out and you scan that and then it will do a withdraw that way. Not just you paying, but you can now withdraw using LN URL in a smooth way. Right.
Christian Moss: Even smoother than that. So what we want to do is literally, if you have your wallet and a game on the phone, you press the button on the game and it basically just kind of does it all behind you or you don’t have to actually scan anything. So yeah. But as you said Stephan, for like web applications, you can just scan it and it’ll send you a tip. So it just makes it a bit easier. It’s also, I think the protocol has room for growth. So actually we’re proposing we’re going to propose some protocols to allow like streaming between players, non-custodial, we want to try and get that into LN URL so other ones could implement it as well. And other game developers and game SDKs can implement it as well. So it’s just a really cool protocol just to add new features to lightning.
Stephan Livera: Yeah. Anything else in lightning that you’re excited for in the, let’s say short to medium term?
Christian Moss: Oh, so much. The thing from a technical point of view, I’m just, I’m quite interested in is, you know, people say it’s a lot, but eltoo and you know, it’s Sighash noinput gets added. I think that will not necessarily affect us too much from a gaming point of view, but I just think it’s going to make the lightening software a bit safer and a bit more economical. I’m quite interested in stuff like channel factories. I spoke to roasbeef from lightning labs and he’s quite hyped about channel factories in gaming and there’s a lot of cool stuff that you could do. It just basically would make like streaming between players even more efficient and cheaper. And you could also, roasbeef was explaining a lot of stuff to me that went over my head.
Christian Moss: Sometimes it happens. I think channel factories are going to be pretty important for gaming because you could have this, you know, a channel factory. If you think of like an MMO you have guilds and clams players get together. Like the client can open a channel factory together and everybody in the Guild could control, this channel factory. So there’s definitely some cool stuff with that. I’m quite into, it sounds a bit kind of arrogant, but the most thing I’m interested in is like getting my games out there and like adding streaming and doing the e-sports. You know, we’re actually going to hold an eSports event at Advancing Bitcoin in London. It’s going to be, I think it will be the first lightning e-sports event where we’re going to have two known Bitcoiners are going to battle each other in the game.
Christian Moss: So we’re going to make their characters in the game. So they’ll fight each other and the audience can like stream them sats. Do I give them power ups power up? Some could help them, some could add health and some could like them, you know, it could be some wildcards there. So that’s what we’re building and that’s going to be exciting. Yeah, and we’re also we’re going to have a workshop at advancing Bitcoin as well. We really want to get other game developers out there and get them using lightning. So we’re going to run a workshop. So those are the kind of the things I’m quite looking forward to.
Stephan Livera: Yeah, that’s awesome. I’m actually going to be at Advancing Bitcoin, so I’ll definitely see you there. And I’ll definitely try and
Christian Moss: We’ll have to get you battling somebody.
Stephan Livera: Yeah, sure, sure. Okay, cool. So look, I think we’re just about coming to time, but maybe just let the listeners know, are you looking for any, what can they do if they want to follow Zebedee? Are you hiring? Who do you want to hear from? Anything like that?
Christian Moss: Yeah, I think the simplest thing is to go to just to follow us on Twitter and I’m sure it’ll be in the show notes, probably be a link there. And you can also visit our website zebedee.io And the best thing to do is to subscribe to our mailing list and that keeps people up to date. At the moment we’re actually building out the tools. So I think the first thing, like the first major release we plan to do will be around Advancing Bitcoin. And then the main thing we’re looking for at the moment is actually other games indie developers. You know, you don’t have to be a big studio or a small studio. You could just be an individual. We just want to get we’d like to talk to developers who are interested in using our APIs and SDK. So we’d like to work with them and help them, add lightning to the game. So if they, if anybody wants to reach out to us, just send us a message on Twitter or email us from the link on our website. We’d love to talk to you.
Stephan Livera: Fantastic. Well, look, I think it’s really exciting. I’m really excited to see where this all goes. So thanks for joining me, Chris.
Christian Moss: 2020 is going to be crazy.