Inside The NBA Top Shot #8 Alan Falcon (Co-Creator)
Hello! And welcome to the last episode of my Inside The NBA Top Shot series. I saved a real special guest for the last one, co-creator of Top Shot Alan Falcon! Alan shared a lot so I’m not gonna hold you with my intro and let’s just get into it! Also, this interview happened before Roham spaces, just a note.
Alex: Co-creator of Top Shot, but a lot of people don’t know that you’re a writer, worked in the video game industry, and started like us, as a collector, with CryptoKitties. Just tell me more about all of that
Alan: I have in my Twitter bio that I’m a Jack of all trades, master of dragons. For one thing this is intended as a fun allusion to my novel that I wrote and self-published many years ago, “Dragon Master.” But it’s also a direct reference to the fact that I’ve worn so many hats in my life, and have always chased down every little rabbit hole that ever caught my fancy, often scratching and clawing my way down that rabbit hole until I had a deep understanding of the subject matter. My favorite rabbit holes have involved creative endeavors — for example, I’ve completed three “365” photo projects where I took and shared a photo a day around a specific theme — and in a few cases these rabbit holes have tied in directly with my employment.
One of my favorite jobs was when I worked at Blizzard Entertainment on the web team, making and publishing graphics and other content primarily for World of Warcraft and BlizzCon websites, as well as having the opportunity to make animated banners (they were Flash banners!) for the WoW and later Battle.net launcher.
Fast forward to 2017 and I’d been following the crypto storylines and drama, but never really cared quite enough to invest in crypto myself… then CryptoKitties came out.
I was obsessed, I bought my first expensive cartoon pictures with ownership backed by the blockchain in December, 2017 and by the end of that month I was deeply embedded in the CK Discord community, making and sharing tools to help people breed and chase Fancy cats. Together with Jordan (Editor note: Also known as Poopie) from the CK community, who later went on to launch Doodles along with two others (shout out to Evan, who also worked with Jordan and I on the CK team,) I launched KittyCalc.co and that helped Jordan and I meet Roham and the rest of the Dapper team, and eventually led to us both joining Dapper Labs to work on CryptoKitties.
I’ve always had a passion for collecting, which becomes problematic after a while once your home is filled with “stuff,” so transitioning to digital collecting was completely natural for me, and I’ve been in love with NFTs since the term was coined. Having the opportunity to work on that premiere premium NFT experience with CK and then later to help define and launch and work on NBA Top Shot, which for many people became their introduction to this amazing world, has been a marvelous experience.
Alex: Moving to Top Shot, pretty sure you didn’t imagine it will all happen so fast. Just share your experience, from your pov over the last 2 years
Alan: I’ve had faith from the very beginning that we were building something monumentally special with the NBA. We knew this brand was incredible, world class, and so much fun, and that we had the team to develop an NFT experience unlike any other that had yet been seen. With my collecting background as well as time spent with CryptoKitties and other NFT projects, I truly believed that the choices we were making would help Top Shot realize that amazing potential, and would often tell people on and off the team my expectation that one day we’d see NBA players talking about a great play in terms of the Top Shot Moment it would become. But I never imagined it all happening as quickly as it did!
It’s been an amazing blessing, and just a non-stop whirlwind since the day we launched, with all that accelerating in early 2021. Sometimes it has felt like non-stop fire-fighting as we did everything in our power to shore up all the pieces that were not holding up to the huge turnout and demand, but occasionally I’ve been able to step outside of it for a minute and take a look at the big picture and recognize all that we’ve accomplished so far — as well as to see and be reminded of the road ahead that will let us fully realize the potential that we anticipate Top Shot is yet to become.
Alex: Now, it’s the biggest thing there is. Which comes with high expectations, a lot of feedback, and passion. How the team does go about the community impact on Top Shot?
Alan: First of all, we have just the best community and support team members who are seriously non-stop in both interacting with the community, seeking and processing that feedback and passion, and helping to synthesize it to the rest of the team so that we can keep building, and prioritize and focus on the most impactful things. We love the high expectations, we love the feedback, and we seriously love the passion.
I think we’ve seen a number of passionate community members join the team in recent weeks and come to understand just how much we’re working on, and how many of the largest expectations in the community are being actively worked on, and you’ve seen some of them share some thoughts around that in Tweets and whatnot.
It’s a tough reality that because what we do has real world value, it can be problematic to talk publicly about some things when they’re not in a final state because it often leads to speculation and changes in behavior that might not make sense with whatever final form a feature ends up taking. And so we constantly work to find ways to share as much as possible without crossing that line into problematic territory. It looks like it may never be “enough” to satiate the community’s passion, but it’s our hope that as we all look back on what has been shipped and improved over the past months and year, it’ll be clear that we’re making great progress by leaps and bounds.
One of the things that makes it difficult to share timelines is that the top concerns within the community also change from week to week (sometimes hour to hour!), often for very good reasons. So we have to strike the balance between prioritizing and addressing top community concerns and shipping in-progress features, and meeting our own internal timelines (which sometimes are tied to publicly shared hopes and expectations). But even when you don’t see an immediate response or change within the product, and even when our solutions don’t exactly match up with what some community members strongly feel are the best solutions, we’re absolutely always listening and discussing the feedback and community concerns, and working to build Top Shot for the fans.
Alex: The biggest thing recently has been trade tickets/packs. Collectors question prices, supply, and demand. You try different things, trying to make the product as best as it can be, what lessons have been learned from last month or so, and what’s the plan going forward?
Alan: I don’t want to steal the thunder of upcoming announcements and changes, so I can’t really speak to the plan going forward except to say that we’ll be sharing our plans and executing on them so stay tuned.
I can speak some to what we’ve been trying, and some lessons we’ve learned. We had early indications that some of our growth levers would work best in a world where we were able to have packs available for purchase as soon as someone found out about Top Shot and wanted to join in the fun, so our older pack models that focused on exclusive limited drops with gates and limited supply were a strong barrier to growing the number of fans in the product.
With that in mind, we set out with a number of different potential solutions, and have been testing which ones work, and how effective they are, as well as how they’re received by the rest of the community, and what larger effects they may have across the economy beyond some of the direct effects that can more easily be modeled out. And you’ve seen so many different iterations and evolutions as we’ve continued to refine the models and gather data (and feedback), as well as some large shifts to help us address some of the secondary and tertiary effects. Ultimately, I believe we’re very close to a hybrid approach that will make the product the best it can be for everyone, but we’ll continue to iterate and evolve whenever and wherever we find we’ve fallen short of that state.
We do understand that some of these changes have led to tumultuous reactions, and one of our learnings has been how to approach trying different things in ways that can maintain more stability for everyone while letting us continue to move toward making NBA Top Shot the best it can be.
Alex: The last one. Utility, rewarding holders, and encouraging buying in the marketplace, are all topics that the community has been curious about. Future of Top Shot, how do you see it with these things mentioned, and with what you wanna leave this article with
Alan: These are also topics that will be addressed in more detail soon, and so it’s not the best time or place to share too many thoughts, especially forward-facing. Again, because we do deal with these collectibles that carry real world value, we’ve learned that some kinds of things have to be rolled out with a proper wide-ranging communications plan so that access to the information doesn’t start with a small group. I hope everyone reading understands!
What I can say, even if it comes across a little generically, is that we definitely agree with the community that these are big, important topics that will help shape the future NBA Top Shot. We find that everyone has a different idea about what these things mean in practice, so it can be interesting to take a group who all agrees on one thing and says, “This is very important,” but then when going into detail you find that each disagrees on what exactly “this” means or how to best improve “this.” We do all agree that what we want is for this economy and this experience to be as strong as possible, to be fun and exciting, and to continue to pave the way to the future of fandom and of digital ownership, accessible to everyone!
Alex: Love it! Thank you Alan!
This was a fun interview, I wanna thank Alan, but also Jacob, Carrie, Luke, Vinyls, Austin, Sam, Meg and Mo for being a part of my little series! I hope you guys enjoyed it, the goal of this was to get to know people behind the product we all love a little bit more, get some behind the scenes and just talk some Top Shot which we all love to do. All 8 episodes are available for you to check it our right now. Thank you all for your time reading this and happy collecting!