Why Blockchain Games?
We’ve talked about the impact that NFTs will have on gaming, but we haven’t yet compared blockchain games to the traditional games most people are familiar with.
So today, we want to introduce blockchain game.
If you’re a gamer🎮 yourself, or you’re a developer looking to get into blockchain gaming, we hope that this introduction helps to bring you up to speed on blockchain games and why we’re so excited about them here at Infinite Virtual Space.
The Blockchain Game 1.0 Era You Didn’t Know About
November 2017: CryptoKitties Opened the Door to DApp Games
CryptoKitties was the first viral DApp, and also the longest living game DApp. Holding the record of over 14,000 daily active users (December 9th, 2017), it succeeded in paralyzing the Ethereum network. As of April 30th, the total transaction amount equaled 43067.04 ETH, or about 32 million USD.
From the perspective of conventional video game players, CryptoKitties was not really a “game”, but a novelty brought by the “transaction attributes” and “unique private assets” of the blockchain. At the same time, this was the first blockchain game with a decent game mechanism and UI design. Other DApps around the same period were still in the prototype or demo stages.
CryptoKitties is a milestone in the development of Ethereum. It proves to everyone that financial DApps are not the only apps that can be built on Ethereum, and it unlocks tremendous opportunities for developers to create and have fun.
As of writing this, there are still about 4,000 transactions and 300–500 active users every day on CryptoKitties.
In early December, my partner TZ and I began to study the genetic synthesis of CryptoKitties, and tried to deduce the logic inside this black box. Eventually, we were able to synthesize a mistletoe cat (which was super rare at the time) and three of the top ten Christmas cats in the entire game.
It all started with Bitcoin…
We’re all familiar with Bitcoin (the secure, transparent, and finite cryptocurrency) as the first use-case for blockchain technology that attained widespread, mainstream attention.
Not long after Bitcoin, Ethereum was developed as a way to decentralize applications through the use of smart contracts: Dapp (decentralized applications) and scripts that can be run without having to trust a third party or centralized server.
The next progression came in the form of the ERC20 standard built on top of Ethereum, standardizing fungible tokens. We then saw the appearance of CryptoPunks, a crypto-collectible platform that allowed users to purchase different “punk” caricatures represented by something like ERC20 tokens.
CryptoPunks are one of the first examples of blockchain tech in entertainment, and sparked the explosion of crypto-collectibles. Contemporary collectibles like CryptoKitties are represented by non-fungible tokens (NFTs), meaning that each kitty is actually distinct, unique, and scarce — provably so thanks to a public registry built atop the Ethereum blockchain.
Crypto-collectibles and the concept of digital economic scarcity have entirely shifted the way we view and value digital content, expanding a new avenue for online gaming.
What are blockchain-based games?
To put it very simply, a blockchain game is any game that is built, even partially, on top of a public blockchain that enables each player to own and control their own data. This means that the game developer, or whoever is hosting and running the game, has to request permission from a player before they can write a new record to that player’s database.
Furthermore, since blockchains are essentially large, public databases, any developer from any location can access the player records stored on the blockchain. This adds a certain element of extensibility to blockchain games, because the content and data stored on a blockchain is more easily shared between different platforms and services.
Imagine developing a marketplace where gamers can purchase new, unique skins (represented by NFTs) for their avatars in one game, to be built and maintained by a different developer in a completely different application. Not only do the players have complete, verifiable ownership of their new skin, but they can rest assured that their new skins are in fact scarce (or even completely unique).
This is in stark contrast to traditional online games where the databases of player and item records are stored in private, centrally controlled servers. These traditional games give the developers total control over player data, in addition to removing the potential for integrating truly scarce, digitally unique in-game items.
Ok, what do blockchain games look like?
We’ve already tried to define what a game can accomplish with the blockchain, but what are some actual examples?
Imagine taking one of your CryptoKitties (or Etheremon or CryptoBeasties) into an entirely different game or space where you can pit them against other peoples’ kitties and monsters. Now, imagine translating your CryptoKitty’s “cattributes” to a racing game, where these unique attributes are represented by your racecar and its performance. Maybe maneuver gives you a bonus to handling, and hotrod takes your top speed to another level.
In addition to unique attributes attached to truly-owned virtual items, imagine if all of your MMO guild’s management and resources were registered, stored, and tracked by a blockchain without the need to entrust that power to any single member. We are already seeing these decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) being applied to some very exciting and noble uses, lending true democracies more power and scalability.
These DAOs can be put to use in an incredibly wide variety of industries — like online gaming. By creating a DAO to run different gaming guild’s you remove trust issues, guarantee and enforce accountability between players, and allow for secure and trustworthy records of titles, roles, and standards. Imagine having one pseudo-anonymous game ID that you could share across multiple games, instead creating a different avatar and player name every time. Don’t worry though, you could always create a fresh avatar as often as you want.
Another exciting application of blockchains to gaming comes in the form of education and tutorials: picture querying a player’s blockchain records, looking for similar games they’ve played in order to minimize the “time-to-fun metric” for your game. You can do things like hand out extra experience points, or maybe skip a tutorial, because you are able to confidently assume that the player understands the core concepts of your game.
Finally, picture a standard game achievement that is granted in the form of an NFT that the player can keep forever. Achievements, medals, and trophies are a huge draw for gaming, illustrating player goals and building up bragging rights in the community. Now, imagine creating a “team trophy case” containing the virtual equivalent of the stanley cup. Having your name engraved on a virtual trophy that will exist forever is a gamechanger. Winning players from each season can have their accomplishments displayed forever, free from the constraints of a centralized database belonging to a game company that might someday go out of business.
This is only the beginning
There are an incredible number of emerging use-cases and constraints that we are identifying as we dig deeper into designing blockchain games, but we hope that this provides a rough introduction to what we think is possible.
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