Blockchain — Buzzword or Reality?
We are Analogue Players in a Digital World.
In 2045, people seek regular escape from life through the virtual reality entertainment universe OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation), co-created by James Halliday and Ogden Morrow of Gregarious Games. After Halliday’s death, a pre-recorded message left by his avatar Anorak announces a game, granting ownership of OASIS to the first to find the Golden Easter egg within it, which is locked behind a gate requiring three keys. — Wikipedia
Thought experiment for those who have seen the movie ‘Ready Player One’
Will the real future look and function exactly like portrayed in it? Whether it does or not, does it even matter? Will gaming and virtual worlds have a bigger role in our society from now on? “Perhaps”, “Not really” and “Probably” are the answers I want to give to those questions. Based on the rate of development so far, technology will keep advancing at an incredible pace, leaving us, the society, with two options — either we “evolve” too and keep up, or keep stationary and struggle trying to fit our analogue selves into the digital world.
The goal of this article is not to argue whether or not the speed of technological advance is to the benefit of our society, but rather to address why it will result in greater games and a more enjoyable gaming. Specifically:
How is blockchain changing the world of gaming at present and in the future?
Disclaimer: Some of the proposed benefits exist, others are still in a stage where technical limitations need to be overcome to realize the potential already there. However, perhaps sooner than the majority of people expect, all of it will be possible!
Don’t know anything about blockchain technologies? Read about the basics here.
#1 Immutability for Real
I will go out on a limb here and guess that almost every gamer has experienced something like the following. You find a game you just love, invest all your spare time into it, make friends on the platform and/or in real life centered around it, perhaps beat the game, collect the rarest items and go back for another play on a higher difficulty. And it all feels amazing. And then, suddenly, the game developers shut it down for reasons only known to them. Sure, you still have the great memories, but your character, cards, items, friends’ contacts — all is lost.
Now imagine that you could have kept everything, even should the game publisher die like in “Ready Player One”. This is where the blockchain comes in — if assets are saved to the blockchain, they are yours, now and always! Moreover, the game itself could potentially be yours as well. This is possible when games run completely on the blockchain with data distributed and checked on innumerable computers around the globe and there is no server or entity that can shut it down.
#2 Freedom of the Gamer
One of the drawing points of games in general is that nobody can tell you what to do or not to do — behave or not, go where you will, buy what you want, play strategically as good or as lazy as you wish. This sort of freedom is the player’s power within the game.
But what if we extend this freedom? Take trading as an example and imagine that all items and other assets like cosmetics or skins can be traded anywhere and anytime. No more feeling bad for buying a cool skin or an awesome special cosmetic feature only to quit the game shortly after and feel wretched for the waste of money because there is no way to return or sell it to other players in turn. That’s not the freedom we want and deserve. A centralized server should not have the power to tell you what you can or cannot do with something you have spent your hard earned money on.
Moreover, a player shouldn’t need to have the game client nor even the game itself. In the future items won’t be locked in one game on a centralized server where developers have full control over them. Instead players will be able to trade on different platforms and marketplaces, or even in person on the streets. And why limit this to items within one game — want to trade your legendary hammer from Game A against the ultra-rare trading card from Game B? Just do it!
#3 Parallel Gaming Universes
And with the trades crossing borders, why wouldn’t everything else potentially do that too? In “Ready Player One”, each person has their own unique digital avatar holding all the skins, cosmetics, achievements etc. ever collected in any game. Going one step further, all the items could technically be used in all the different games.
Naturally this requires the games to be designed in a way that the insertion of these new items doesn’t break the mechanics (well, not too much at least ;) ) making this feature a controversial and tricky one to implement. But seeing as occasional cross-game universes already exist, there is clearly light at the end of this particular tunnel. For example, Blizzard Entertainment provides cross-game benefits from achievement rewards and to owners of collectors’ boxes from other games within their game universe.
The direction of gaming, therefore, is towards interconnectivity. It is not much to say that this sort of large-scale-multi-game universe creation within one company products is simplified by blockchain. And between different teams and developers? It is the basis of it ever happening.
#4 Transparency and Trust
Scenario — you’re playing The Game, have gathered almost the entire set of that specific armor, just lacking one last piece. So you go buy that loot box. Nothing. Ok, another one. Still nothing. “Well, I already wasted this much money, can’t stop now until I get it and there is a 1/3 chance, right.” Aaaaand it’s gone — your money is all gone.
Have you ever wondered whether the chance to receive a rare item really is that low as it seems or whether there is a trick that could give you an advantage? Is a reward actually distributed on fair bases? How is it calculated? Is it possible to and/or did anybody cheat the system?
This can all be answered when the code is published on a blockchain with the guarantee of validity. There are two main features that play into higher transparency and trust here. Firstly, game developers are able to open-source their code on the blockchain. This allows for anyone to check the code for any malicious inserts. With several people doing that, the chance of something ill-intended slipping through is low.
Secondly, once on the blockchain, information can’t be changed. This means that certain logic and features necessary for the honesty of the game cannot be tweaked later even by the creators of the game themselves.
Rare or unique items in general will be more trustworthy. No more spending all the in-game gold you spent a year collecting on one unique item and then have the developers add ten more copies of it to the circulation. With the item written into the blockchain it is and will ever be truly unique — only one exists and you are the owner.
The goal is to have mechanics, game logic, reward and item structure be as trustworthy and transparent as possible before the players spend time (and money) on anything. No more sleepless nights, blockchain is standing guard.
#5 Saving on Payment Processing
From players who only go for free-to-play to people who spend a bit on skins or cosmetics, to the most-common buy-game-and-that’s-it to serious investors — at one point of time the majority of players have to deal with funds of some sort and the payment processing that comes with it. Especially the transactions concerning cosmetics or micro-payments (e.g. one time power-ups) usually involve a payment service which requires a cut of the cost. This means that money from the community is floating out of the game eco system consisting of players and developers, to the unrelated financial services. So, safe to say, you too would benefit if the payment processing costs were reduced — besides having instant deliveries.
Blockchain has the advantage of already integrated in-game economics, the value of crypto currencies. Instead of letting the payment fees leave the eco system, the same value could be either given back to the player in terms of reduced prices or used by the developers to just provide better games in general.
#6 eSports and its Niche
The 2018 League of Legends World Championship finals were watched by 99.6 million unique viewers, with concurrent viewership reaching a peak of 44 million viewers. The first place team was rewarded $ 2,418,750. What more does one need as proof that eSports is a real phenomenon. Whether participating or watching, sport has always been a source of entertainment to humans and electronic sports is just the next stage of that.
Of course it can be debated whether the rewards mentioned above are justified or not. However, compared to the money circulating in analogue sports, the respective sums for eSports are still relatively small. This is likely to change in the near future, though, as more and more people discover this new innovative mode of sports making it very plausible that it’ll either catch up or even overtake the numbers involved in traditional sports.
How does this affect the average gamer besides enabling them to enjoy streams of the best players in the world fighting for the title? For one — why not participate? Most of the time, there is just one big prize pool as a world championship for a few players. Reason is that the costs and organization of tournaments are extensive.
With blockchain technologies, however, it will be easy to create smaller tournaments with moderate prize pools where non-professional players would have a chance to join and win, or even set up seasonal ranking systems where the top players are rewarded periodically. Blockchain works when you reward the best 10 players as well as when you split the prize between the top 10000, all of them potentially located in 100 different countries. And it does so without creating overhead expenses, meaning that close to the total of what players put in the pool gets distributed between them.
Projects like ArenaMatch, which is an eSports gaming platform utilizing blockchain technologies, are already in development and can be tested in their beta phase.
#7 Item Creation and Rewards
Modding of popular games is demonstrating the creativity of gamers clearly. So why not let players alter game items like they would be able to do in the real world?
Take any Trading Card Game for example. Don’t own any? Come on, everybody traded some at some point ;). Point is, anyone could, for example, draw on the card when they wanted to. Yes, it might have started out as one of many copies, but as soon as a player obtained it, the card took on a completely unique life and destiny of its own. Moreover, some people created their own cards to either make the gameplay more fun or to spend less.
Keeping the growing interest and awareness of eSports in mind, maybe you’d like to have a digital signature on your trading cards by your favorite player or perhaps the winner of the latest tournament?
On blockchain, each card could have their own history engraved — it could remember which tournaments it was played and who it belonged to, initiating a whole new era of collectibles! It’s all possible and anybody is able to prove it.
Paying attention to news in the latest years, one can’t have escaped the numerous corruption cases erupted and uncovered around the world. As a community, this is, of course, something we don’t stand by and fight with all our might, but the fact is that as long as money flows stay shady and uncheckable and votes are still written on paper cards and counted in inaccessible back rooms of the polling stations, corruption isn’t going anywhere. So what can be done to fix this? Well — naturally use the transparent blockchain to enable incorruptible voting features.
This could lead to new concepts and a whole novel gameplay could derive from it. In a sense a completely virtual and absolute democratic world can be created where players would be able to vote on changes made to the game. Think — strength of enemies, drop rates or any other in-game content.
And should the future games never really pick this concept up, at least the real life fighters against hyper-corrupted politics have a positive example to draw on. :)
#9 A better Community
Since it is never easy to push a new technology to mainstream adoption and prove its real value, as of today, blockchain developers still face a tough reality. When it comes to game developers who really want to create value for the player, they currently need not only to provide quality games, but also to prove to the world that fun games running on the blockchain actually exist, and that their game is neither a Ponzi scheme nor a just-to-kill-time dull game nor a straight out scam. Because those three can also be found in abundance.
Meanwhile there are all the technical challenges to overcome. Luckily, in this new technological field developers work closely together to provide the best possible content and outcome for the players and the community. Already existing smart contracts are reused, code is open sourced, intense feedback and contribution cycles take place and overcome technological barriers are shared and rejoiced over. The outcome of this close communication can’t be anything but a better community and a better world for Gaming.
#10 Unknown possibilities
Many highly intelligent people have gathered in what we now call the blockchain space. Even though some may call themselves experts, nobody can yet predict what the future will be like exactly. When the Internet was developed it was initially considered useless. In 1990 not many were able to dream how vital to every single aspect of our lives it would become 30 years later. Did it improve our society? I’m sure some people can argue about this to their last breath.
But did it change gaming? Oh boy, yes! It’s unthinkable for modern games to run without the Internet and many features and possibilities we now consider essential only arose thanks to this new technology. OK, I know you are thinking about this super great Single Player Offline Game you recently played — you are right, just because there is Internet, not every game has to use it.
And just because we now have blockchain, not every game has to use that. But it is absolutely certain, that from this technology many other features and possibilities will arise that nobody can imagine just yet. Or maybe you are able to and will join our journey changing the world of Gaming?
Our vision at Calystral can be summed up with: unleashing the potential of gamers. We might not be able to use all the benefits listed above, some of them may not make sense in our particular quest. But in any case we are focusing on enhancing the player’s experience and empowering the gamer. In the process we want to overcome and solve as many technical limitations as possible and share them with the community and other developers. Towards a better future of Gaming!
Other projects that work towards a positive blockchain revolution in Gaming you should know about:
- Loom Network — “The Blockchain Platform of Choice for Serious Dapp Developers”
- Enjin — “All-in-One Blockchain Game Development Platform”
- ArenaMatch — “Esports Gaming Platform”
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