Who's Who In The Zoo - Ep.4 - With Nate Aguila


Welcome summoners! You have found the portal to the background of some of the more prominent members of this community. In this edition I was able to have a chat with Nate Aguila, VP of Design & Creative Director of Splinterlands! He is the mastermind behind all the cool visuals and art concepts you see everyday when playing Splinterlands.

Hope you enjoy 😎

Platypus: G'day Nate, thanks so much for the interview. The support from the Splinterlands team and community has been outstanding. So what can you tell us about yourself, what’s your (digital) art background?

Nate: From doodling to comic books to websites, I have always been passionate about Art and Design. In the past, I have participated in a wide variety of design projects that spanned anything from branding to media to website or app design. Over time, I found myself at a Dev Ops agency where I managed over Sales, Marketing, Design and Development for lots of cool projects. We did stuff with companies like the UFC, 7Eleven, and the United States Postal Service. Since we were technology based, it made sense to look at blockchain. That’s when I stumbled upon Steem.

Platypus: Yeah nice, How long have you been involved with the hive network, how were you involved with Steem?

Nate: I joined Steem in March of 2018. About a month later, I started working with Yabapmatt and Aggroed. After working nonstop for another crazy month, the alpha of the game known as Steem Monsters (later known as Splinterlands) was launched!

Platypus: So, what got you involved in working in a crypto network, was splinterlands your introduction?

Nate: Back then, crypto was this cool new toy to play with, and integrating it with social aspects (like Steem...and then later HIVE) was a no-brainer. At the time, it was really the easiest and best way to introduce blockchain or crypto to somebody.

Platypus: Yeah I agree, I think it is definitely a great door-way into mass adoption.

Platypus: Splinterlands is starting to grow rapidly. What is your goal with the Splinterlands game?

Nate: For me, the goal is to produce a game where the overall gaming experience is just as compelling as the rewards. Considering that the rewards are top notch, that’s a lofty goal. But I think we can do it!

Platypus: There are many great elements in Splinterlands, what's your favourite feature?

Nate: I’m pretty proud of our SPS Dashboard. That’s a LOT of layered blockchain complexity streamlined into a user-friendly access point to a number of DeFi features. I think we are easily paving the way when it comes to GameFi. However, I’m not sure it’s my FAVORITE thing. Hmmm. The new Story page we made for the Chaos Legion Pre-Sale is pretty cool I think. But you know what? I think my Favorite is probably the Mana Well (where you drop packs into the swirly magic to see what cards you get). That on-screen, interactive animation was made quite awhile ago, and I think it has aged rather well. It still looks pretty neat!

Platypus: Yeah it does add some excitement when you open stuff up and with Chaos Legion imminent everyone else can get to see it too!

Platypus: Are there any tools / features you have in the works regarding art that you can share?

Nate: Haha, you’ll have to attend the Friday AMAs for that. I will say that it’s no secret that I hope to elevate the overall experience of the game. Not only that, what you know as “the game” (ie, ranked play) will hopefully someday be only a very small part of a greater ecosystem.

Platypus: Can't blame a semiaquatic, egg-laying mammal for trying! 😄

Platypus: The tech industry throws up some mighty hurdles at times. What are some of the challenges you have faced so far & What are some of the challenges you face in the future?

Nate: Previously, the biggest challenge was trying to do so many things myself. The concept work, the UX, the UI, the text, the vector art, some of the raster art, animation, sales/marketing support, and everything in between. That’s a lot of juggling!

Platypus: Yeah I bet! Getting a team around you must be paramount?

Nate: For the future, it’s not about doing everything myself. Now it’s about managing this creative team that is growing at a rapid pace, keeping everyone on track while also addressing any deficiencies or voids that need to be filled (usually by doing the work myself while I head hunt for the right talent).

Platypus: What is your favourite splinter and card?

Nate: First of all, you will notice that most references to “splinter” in the game have been replaced with the word “element”. Splinters (geopolitical factions) are not going away. In fact, I’m sure that we will only be adding more kingdoms, nation-states, tribes, and organizations. However, for the purpose of card management, they are now categorized by the Elemental forms of magic (in other words, what type of magic is used to summon these manifestations?). And for that, I would have to say my favorite is DEATH! BWAHAhahahaha!

Platypus: Any other NFT games you like or have been / are involved in?

Nate: I am always on the lookout for cool NFT games. First, because it makes sense to keep an eye on new and innovative ideas in the industry. Secondly, I am a total Geek and would love to play more games (if I had time). Of course, no other game has come close to blending fun, functionality, utility, tokenomics, and blockchain compatibility the same way as Splinterlands. Some games have cool visuals but no solid reward system. Others have a reward system with no engaging gameplay. I think Splinterlands hits the sweet spot where all the “right stuff” perfectly intersects and supports each other.

Platypus: How did you meet the Splinterlands team, what’s the relationship?

Nate: I was the first official “hire” I guess. Yaba and Aggroed told me about this idea they had for a card game, and I knew I had to be a part of it!

Platypus: And the rest is, as they say, History!

Platypus: Any advice for others looking to make digital art for an NFT game?

Nate: If it’s for a game, create the art with that in mind. In other words, you are no longer an Artist. Now you are a Designer. This means that you produce visual assets with a specific purpose and functionality in mind. You may need to separate elements of the art to allow for motion or to have limbs replaced with other limbs. Or maybe the art in your NFT may end up being utilized in unexpected ways in the future.

Platypus: Makes sense, anything else?

Nate: I think it’s beneficial for artists to learn how to produce vector art as well in addition to the typical raster art. Those who can do both will have an advantage.

Platypus: If you could choose one person that has inspired you the most to achieve your goals, who would it be?

Nate: My wife. She says if I don’t do a good job, I won’t get any of that sweet luvin’.

Platypus: Haha, a great motivator indeed!

Platypus: What’s your favourite flavour, scent and colour?

Nate: What the heck kinda question is that, you weirdo? Uh, I like the taste of that Dragonfruit Refresher that Starbucks makes. I like the smell of the forest after it rains. For color, I like #043D56.

Platypus: #043D56? A man of culture I see, that's a great shade of blue.

Platypus: Are you a cat or a dog person?

Nate: When I was a kid, I loved drawing Garfield (the cartoon cat). Later, I came to own an orange cat, I named him Frodo. However, as I grew older I began to realize that cats might be smarter than dogs, but dogs seem to genuinely care about their owners. You look into the eyes of a dog, and you realize this slobbering, tail wagging creature would actually take a bullet for you. Now look into the eyes of a cat...stare too long and I guarantee you that thing will scratch your eyes out.

Platypus: Yeah evil little bastards :)

Platypus: So, are you a gamer in general? Do you have a hobby outside of gaming?

Nate: Absolutely! My wife and I spent many years raiding together in EverQuest 2 back in the day. Nowadays, we use video calling to have D&D sessions with friends and family. And of course, I play Splinterlands!

Platypus: One last question. What’s the best / your favourite story you have heard come out of the splinterlands community?

Nate: I think the Splinterlands community itself is an incredible story.

So many pieces had to come together. So many people had to contribute and BELIEVE in the game, each other, and the overall philosophy of empowerment and decentralization. I mean there’s all these amazing stories of people quitting their jobs, buying clothes, food, cars, or medicine. There’s stories of people who were truly struggling a year ago...and now they’re in-game assets are worth in the hundreds of thousands of dollars?!! And yet if you take a step back and look at all the stories as a whole, what you see is even more breath-taking, because it’s not based on hype or luck (although there’s a healthy bit of that sprinkled in too, haha).

It all revolves around these people who believed in what was being built. It’s an organic growth born of belief and loyalty and passion. Anyone who’s been around knows that our success is directly linked to the community that supports us. It’s this crazy, revolutionary never-ending cycle where they support the game and the game supports them back...until eventually, everyone owns assets. Everyone is a stakeholder. The line between the community and the game becomes blurred and eventually starts to fade away. When governance is launched, the community and the game begin to merge.

Platypus: Yeah, it's a super exciting time to be a gamer and the shift although slow, feels like it's coming.

Nate: This is history in the making, man. It’s the story of a bunch of crazy people who tossed all their fiat dollars at interweb cards and changed the world.

Well that's it. I hope you enjoyed the insights into a brilliant mind as much as I did. With people like Nate involved in this game, I can't help be feel buoyed by his passion and commitment and like you, I'm sure, wait with abated breath for what comes next.

Till Next time


Fantastic interview. Great to hear from Nate with a bit of lore. Is it still lore if it's real?


Thanks for having me on the show, haha!


My pleasure. Thanks for being so forward and entertaining with your answers, it really helps to make the piece flow :)


I always wondered who that guy was. Good stuff.


Yeah he's pretty chill and extremely passionate about splinterlands. If the others are even half as dedicated as him SL is gonna be a giant.