A Brief Guide To Blockchain Games
A Brief Guide To Blockchain Games
August 12, 2020
A Brief Guide To Blockchain Games
A Brief Guide To Blockchain Games
August 12, 2020

Gaming is a proving ground for the future of blockchain. It is a learning tool, not just for blockchain but for other applications too.  Blockchain games are distributed through the open-source program called Ethereum.

Since blockchain emphasizes decentralization and freedom, gamers can truly harness the capabilities of some of our favorite games. So far, gamers that have taken part in this phenomenon have taken place in some truly uniting experiences within games.

Blockchain adds more easy ways of interactions and transactions between players. These interactions would bypass economic control and artificial scarcities put in place by developers and give power back to the players. We can say that the gaming market is prime for a blockchain disruption.

The global games market reached $138 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow more than $180 billion in 2021. The progressive attitude of the gaming industry towards new technologies has led to the integration of blockchain into the world of games. Driven by high levels of consumption and the community’s engagement, blockchain technology can be seen as the next logical step. In 2017, the blockchain market generated $340 million and is expected to generate $2.3 billion by 2021.

Gamers are benefiting from the security provided by blockchain’s smart contracts, eliminating the threat of security breaches on fiat platforms. With the introduction of digital currencies, game assets cannot only be bought with cryptos but also tokenized and traded across different platforms. Also, reward systems through the use of cryptocurrency tokens are stimulating game designers and players to change the way gaming is done.

Experts say that gaming will be the first real use-case for blockchain, revamping the industry and making games more immersive than ever. How gaming navigates the remaining hurdles will become a case study for other industries considering mass blockchain adoption.

Josh Chapman, the Managing Partner of Konvoy Ventures, a venture firm dedicated only to eSports and video gaming, said:

“Gaming does not need blockchain; blockchain needs gaming. Blockchain will only see mass adoption and mass application once it provides significant value to the video gaming ecosystem.”

“Blockchain + Game”

Image: Hacker Noon

Many professional gaming media outlets and companies view “blockchain + game” as the following reasons:

  • Unclear Underlying Ecosystem: A lot of public game chains and sidechains are still in the early stages, so there’s no universal standard.
  • Unsatisfying Performance: Ethereum has a transaction capacity of fewer than 20 transactions per second and charges a gas fee for every action.
  • No Real Gameplay: Current blockchain games all suffer from having a simple mechanism and a short life cycle.
  • A Lack of Professional Talent: There are not that many people who are knowledgeable in both blockchain and gaming.

What Value Can Blockchain Bring to Games?

Ownership and Liquidity of Game Assets

On the blockchain, players retain ownership of their in-game assets, and these assets have more extensive liquidity. The “karma”, items, weapons, and characters in traditional video games are all owned by the game developers (the companies), and these centralized authorities have the power to make drastic changes to the assets or even get rid of them entirely.

Traditional in-game assets are limited to the built-in economies of a single game. It seems that they have no value outside of the game. It is also difficult to create use cases for them on a technical level.

Use-cases

  • Assets can be traded, anywhere, anytime: A large number of games don’t have item trading features. Oftentimes, the reasons behind this are to avoid chaos in the in-game economic mechanism, extend users’ gameplay time, and increase income for the developer (the company). For example, you are chatting with your friend about a recent PC game over dinner. Both of you open your mobile wallets, check out each other’s weapons and armor, and you decide to buy his weapons. The transaction is as simple as using Apple Pay. And at the end of the night, when you go home and log in to your game, you will find your newly purchased weapons sitting in your item list.
  • Reuse of game assets: Since on-chain assets are saved under each player’s address, it is easy for developers to reuse the game assets from other games in their own game, or to modify them. CryptoCuddles is a cat battle game that’s based on CryptoKitties. After a player logs in with their Ethereum addresses, the game will automatically import all of the CryptoKitties characters from those addresses. Only the battle logic is created by CryptoCuddles’ developers. The reuse of assets is easiest for games using the same ecosystem or IP. For example, if you have several characters from Pokémon, it’s natural for developers to allow you to import all of your character assets into a new game that uses the same IP. In the case of inter-game and inter-IP operability, the reuse of assets requires complex design and collaboration among developers. 
  • A new way to get new users: In the traditional video game world, new games often need to reacquire users, or use old games to divert traffic. The blockchain can make this user reacquisition cheaper and easier — like how CryptoKitties users are all potential CryptoCuddles game players. If direct reuse of assets involves IP issues, then developers can also reward users who own kitties on CryptoKitties with in-game characters, treasure boxes, items, etc. They just need to use a player’s login address to verify the on-chain data. In this way, any game can take full advantage of popular games to divert traffic. Coin forking and airdrops use the same strategy — airdropping tokens 1:1 to all ETH or EOS holders, thereby, can help gain users at a very low cost. DAppReview accumulates more than 100,000 users’ information from more than 200 game DApps. If a new game needs to do a promotion, then the most efficient way would be to airdrop in-game assets to all of these addresses.
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Relationship between Game Developers and Players

Most of the time, game players and developers often stand on opposite sides. One party wants to take advantage of the in-game dynamics to earn a reputation and get more enjoyment out of it. The other party modifies the mechanism and parameters again and again to exploit players.

However, the blockchain breaks this tension by changing the relationship between developers and players. Traditional video games run on centralized servers, where developers set the rules and players try to break them.

It is possible for developers and players to form a community as well as a consensus. When some of the nodes are hosted by key opinion leaders of the game, part of a developer’s interest will be highly consistent with that of the game community. Loyal players will spontaneously maintain the balance of the game, help developers attract new users, extend the life cycle of the game, and build up the community together.

Stages of the Evolution of Blockchain Games

Image: Bit Rebels

Three major stages of the evolution of blockchain games:

Stage One: Copy and Paste

The NFT is a record of ownership, is transferable, and, in some instances, can be swapped for other fungible cryptocurrencies and fiat currencies. 

NFTs also guarantee an item’s uniqueness and signify it is one of a kind, different to all the others in circulation. Therefore, if you are selling thousands of the same item in a game that has the same purpose, you can also substitute the NFT with a fungible payment method.

By giving items a “badge” of uniqueness, they suddenly become worth something, especially if someone else will pay for them. The first stage is to make a game that already exists, make the in-game items nonfungible, do little-to-no blockchain integration, launch it on a chain with a massive audience and network effect, and call it a blockchain game.

Many games and developers have settled for this outcome once they realized the limitations with scaling, price, security, and complexity.

Stage Two: Meet Me Halfway

The second stage is where games with real potential, traction or an existing user base realize that they simply can’t scale on some chains or that running the game is cost-prohibitive and, therefore, starts looking at other newer options. Some may qualify for a grant or a payment to build the game on a particular chain but then have the added complexity of dealing with less proven technology, smaller audiences and more unknowns.

Those with every intention of building on-chain quickly work out that there are too many trade-offs. So, they put partial functionality on-chain and leave the rest to legacy systems and platforms. The idea of melding items from other games together to combine value, to increase powers, etc. is a novel concept and one made better by the fact the transaction can be reversed. This is a great use case for NFTs in games, for shared gaming economies, and it’s a step in the right direction for games that share the same NFT technology.

Stage Three: The Holy Grail (Mass Adoption Ready)

Mass adoption will be achieved when you have 100% game logic on-chain — it’s a mobile app that can scale fast and securely. Many have set out with this end goal in mind and have ended up having to adopt a close-enough-is-good-enough mentality, for now.

So, why is it the Holy Grail? Approximately 50% of all PC and console gamers spend money in-game. This number increases to 75% for mobile gamers. In addition, 44% say the payment methods need to be improved, and 19% have fallen victim to fraud. 

If blockchain technology can offer a better solution to those that already exist, then gaming companies using the technology will be well-positioned to compete for the $159.3 billion that gamers spend each year. Blockchain technology can add incredible value in different ways for different games by offering some or all of the following:

  • Identity verification where required.
  • Provably fair outcomes.
  • Funds custody/escrow through smart contracts.
  • Immutable player history and records.
  • Proof of ownership of in-game assets.

Blockchain offers a number of solutions to the gaming industry:

  • Granting immutable ownership of in-game items, solving item theft due to hacking, and the sale of fake in-game assets.
  • Tying assets to players instead of games, thereby protecting time/money investments players have made, irrespective of developer decisions.
  • Protecting players from undesirable actions on the part of creators; players can take the wheel, extending game longevity, and encouraging user content. (Virtual reality game Decentraland is a promising example.)
  • Restoring trust between game developers and distributors by recording sales on a blockchain.
  • Creating a decentralized distribution network for games.
  • Creating more realistic economic systems within games.
  • Shifting the definition of a successful game away from revenue and toward in-game currency value, thereby refocusing game development efforts to benefit players.
  • Incentivizing players by offering dividends and granting them a vote in development processes.
  • Fixing the high-cost, low-revenue problems of cloud gaming initiatives (like Sony’s PS Now) by distributing the server over a blockchain network.
  • Encouraging game development competition outside of the monopolistic console and game-publishing industries.

Most Anticipated Blockchain Games for 2020

There are lots more blockchain games but here, let’s find out some of the most anticipated blockchain games that gamers and players are fond of:

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Age of Rust

Age of Rust is a single-player first-person adventure game that combines puzzles and action. It features blockchain assets (using Enjin on Ethereum) for game items, these game items are crypto items that are stored on a player’s wallet independent of the game. You play as a rogue bounty hunter in search of crypto treasures, which require you to explore abandoned ships, mysterious caverns, and ruins on faraway worlds.

The game started out on the Bitcoin-based Counterparty network with its own Rustbits cryptocurrency but has since switched and is now part of the Enjin Coin Multiverse of games, which is based on the Ethereum blockchain.

Axie Infinity

Axie Infinity is a decentralized game based on the Ethereum platform introducing players to the adorable fantasy creatures known as Axie. Those creatures have powerful potential underneath their appearance. The game allows players to breed, raise, battle, and even trade them in the marketplace. Inspired by the idea of Pokémon and Tamagotchi games, Axies live in their own artificial environment called Terrarium. Through daily activities and battles with other Axies, the Axies could gain experience to evolve to a superior level. To succeed in raising them, players need to understand their Axies as if Axies are your real best friends.

There are more than 500 Axie’s body parts and the combination of them is limitless. Players will never be bored of exploring new combinations. Axies’ body and parts are classified into classes including Beast, Plant, Bug, Bird, Reptile and Aquatic, and more in future release. Moreover, the parts also come with four levels of rarity, which are Common, Rare, Ultra Rare, Legendary.

Blankos Block Party

Blankos Block Party is an MMO set in a vibrant online world styled like a giant block party, with a focus on custom art and design, world-building and exploration, and collecting unique Blankos. It is an online game where you collect and create custom characters based on toy figurines. Along with the built-in modes of racing, platforming, and shooting, you can also plug and play your own levels in a similar fashion how Disney Infinity worked, although with a simpler set of tools.

Blankos Block Party will also focus on collecting and customizing the full series of characters as you progress through the game. You do this by earning in-game currency. As we saw in games like Skylanders each of the virtual characters can be upgraded in different ways that affect their abilities and how they perform in-game. The game offers a central area with characters that offer quests and missions that give you rewards to power-up your Blanko figures. This will change and evolve over a specific season of content. This game is good if you want to create something for visitors, have silly fun together, make video games, or connect and challenge friends.

CryptoKitties

CryptoKitties is a blockchain game on Ethereum developed by Axiom Zen that allows players to purchase, collect, breed, and sell virtual cats. It is one of the earliest attempts to deploy blockchain technology for recreation and leisure. Each CryptoKitty is unique and owned by the user, validated through the blockchain, and its value can appreciate or depreciate based on the market.

CryptoKitties cannot be replicated and cannot be transferred without the user’s permission even by the game developers. The company released some of the art under a new ‘Nifty’ license that lets players use the image of their CryptoKitty in a limited way.

Crypto Space Commander

Crypto Space Commander (CSC) is a blockchain-based space exploration game built in Unity3D. CSC utilizes the Ethereum blockchain to secure game assets, enforce P2P contract actions, and run the game economy. As with other blockchain games during 2018, Crypto Space Commander has experienced some key changes. Originally designed as a browser game, it’s since moved to a full PC client release; something that pushed its planned release from late 2019 into 2020.

CryptoWars

CryptoWars is a fully decentralized strategy game built on the Ethereum blockchain. In CryptoWars, users can build villages, summon armies to protect their e11 tokens and battle enemies to steal their tokens.

Matías Nisenson, the CEO and Co-founder at Experimental, the company behind the fully decentralized strategy game CryptoWars, stated:

“Developing CryptoWars was a huge challenge because the blockchain gaming industry is in such an early stage. This new frontier presents an amazing amount of innovative opportunities for game developers and gamers. Having true ownership of game assets and being able to transfer them from game to game is incredible. It’s with great joy that we announce our partnership with WAX to bring to market our limited-edition skins and collectibles that will be compatible with all games developed by Experimental and all game developers using the shared NFT protocol in their games.”

Gods Unchained

Gods Unchained is a turn-based digital card trading game that operates on the Ethereum blockchain. Each match is a one-on-one battle between two players or one player and a computer. The aim is to reduce the opponent’s life to zero by beating their gods with yours. Each player can choose a deck of 30 cards from their collection of gods to battle it out with his or her opponent. The game was developed by an Australia-based blockchain gaming startup Immutable. The Immutable mission statement is to “make virtual worlds real.” Each collectible card is a non-fungible token (NFT) based on the Ethereum blockchain. This enables players to own their in-game assets in the same way they own cryptocurrency.

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Interestingly, the PC/Mac client-based game is free-to-play, enabling all players to use a core set of non-blockchain cards, plus rotating weekly specials. You’ll only have to spend Ether via Metamask if you want to get involved in buying and selling blockchain cards to build out your deck.

Hash Rush

Hash Rush is a real-time strategy game that allows gamers to compete with each other for cryptocurrency and other rewards such as new skins and boosts. Players work to establish Crypto Crystal mining colonies on their planets. They can attack enemies to gain more Crypto Crystals, and in turn defend their own Crypto Crystals from threats by building and strengthening their mining colonies. These colonies help players build wealth and progress up leaderboards. Players can buy, sell, and trade items using the in-game marketplace and RUSH Coin cryptocurrency.

Rob Nicholls, the Lead Game Designer of Hash Rush, said:

“The possibilities that non-fungible tokens (NFTs) present are very exciting for us. Not only does this mean we can assure total authenticity and fraud protection, but we can offer players virtual goods that have value outside of the game itself. As far as in-game uses, we are already planning to integrate tokens that can be redeemed for game units, skins, titles and resources; tokens that can be traded between players in our marketplace; and limited edition tokens that are rare and collectible.”

As its name suggests, Hash Rush does play with sector memes. For example, one part of the game is mining (and looting) Crypto Crystals. It’s these which are used for your leaderboard ranking. The game also has its own ERC20 token, Rush Coin, and a range of ERC721 character skins.

Neon District

Neon District is the cyberpunk role-playing adventure and flagship franchise developed by Blockade Games. Leveraging the latest in decentralized technologies, players battle to progress through a sci-fi dystopia and earn in-game items.

Neon District is a blockchain game that looks to mix free-to-play turn-based battle gameplay using sidechains with item ownership on Ethereum.

Season One features a full single-player campaign filled with crime syndicates, oracles, cogs, genetic mods, winding plots, and a morally-questionable cast of characters. Play through scores of missions and complete contracts to survive, and you’ll find yourself falling deeper into the dark, seedy reality underlying the powers-that-be within Unity.

The game uses the Loom Network to handle its gameplay, with item ownership and trading all happening on the main Ethereum mainnet. Developed in Unity, Neon District will be released for PC/Mac and mobile devices.

The Sandbox

The Sandbox is a community-driven platform where creators can monetize voxel ASSETS and gaming experiences on the blockchain. Released on May 15, 2012, it is a sandbox game for mobile phones and Microsoft Windows, developed by game studio Pixowl and Animoca. 

Across several game releases since 2012 there have been over 40 million downloads of The Sandbox series. That’s a great starting point for what’s one of the most ambitious blockchain games planned for 2020.

It’s better described as a user-generated content platform, in which you can spend your time building objects and worlds, and/or playing games with them.

SkyWeaver

SkyWeaver is a collectible card game featuring Ethereum-based in-game items. It is a collectible card game (CCG) where players acquire cards for excelling that can be traded like any other Ethereum-based asset.

The basic format of the game is much like other similar one-on-one games played with a deck of soldiers and spells. One difference is that you are playing with a lead character (“a hero”) who is on the battlefield and the goal is to keep that character alive longer than your opponent’s hero in the turn-based format.

Players can choose one of two formats: discovery or constructed. In fact, they have to start playing “discovery,” which provides a random deck of cards the player doesn’t keep. Players earn cards they can use later by playing and winning. Once a player has enough cards, they can choose from them to build a deck in the “constructed” setting. The 1,000 players who will earn a gold card in Season 0 will actually be the top 500 in each of these two categories.

0xUniverse

0xUniverse is a web-based strategy game created by 0xGames, hosted on the Ethereum blockchain. The game leverages Ethereum smart contracts and ERC-721 tokens (Non-Fungible Tokens) to allow players to discover and actually own planets within the 0xUniverse.

0xUniverse is a fully “on-chain” title, where all of the game actions are written to the Ethereum blockchain. This has several advantages, including the ability for players to go back through the blockchain and analyze the results of all actions by all players.

My Crypto Heroes

My Crypto Heroes (MCH) is a multiplayer RPG built on the Ethereum blockchain. Level up your historical heroes through quests and join the player vs. player battles to conquer the MCH world. Your heroes and items are secured by the Blockchain as ERC 721 token, while you see their value grow as your progress through the game.  It is a complex turn-based battle game, featuring PvE and PvP battle.

Conclusion

Although the blockchain gaming phenomenon has some potential hiccups along the horizon, it seems that it could potentially develop into something great.

With an open and free marketplace amongst gamers, cryptocurrency flowing, and the ultimate decentralization of game worlds, blockchain could be the next big gaming craze.

Thus, with blockchain, real money is at stake, but it’s still wrapped inside a game: the perfect place to test blockchain’s first mass adoption.


Cover Image: Bitcoinist


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Ishita Bora

Ishita Bora is a Senior Content Creator at Digital Notice Media Labs. She has completed her Master's Degree in Language and Linguistics in 2019 from Gauhati University, India. She is an archetypal writer, who loves to create her own little world with words and locutions. Apart from this, her interest lies in blockchain technology and cryptocurrency space, as she loves writing about blockchain and other blockchain-related articles. Currently, she is working on blockchain-based news, reviews, featured articles, and guides.
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