The Promise Of Loom Network: Bringing Zombies & Dapp Superhighways to Life

I think digital collectibles will be one of Ethereum’s first killer use cases. So I was intrigued this week when Loom Network announced a Kickstarter for a Magic-like card game built on Ethereum.

I was going to write a two minute post…then I fell down the rabbit hole. I discovered that this card game is just the skin on the onion. Loom’s vision reaches far beyond collectibles and CryptoZombies, its app for learning Solidity.

Loom is building a sidechain platform that could be a game-changer in scaling dapps. Loom’s layer-two chains, which run in parallel to Ethereum, help solve the so-called trilemma of making things secure, decentralized AND scalable.

Something like PayPal is secure and scalable but not decentralized while present-day Ethereum is decentralized and secure but not scalable e.g., it can only run ~15 transactions per second.

Vitalik has said his original vision was to use Ethereum purely for financial transactions. So it makes sense that Ethereum is laser-focused on security. But sending out a tweet and buying a house, two things folks will soon likely do on Ethereum (if they haven’t already), carry wildly different security and scaling tradeoffs.

If you’re buying a house, you need strong security. If it takes 15 minutes to settle, no problem. But if you’re sending a tweet, you don’t want to wait 15 minutes, and you don’t want to pay a premium for security.

Having all dapps run on the same infrastructure is a bit like having a Tesla and road bike share the same lane. It both slows down the driver while putting the cycler in danger. Maybe it makes more sense to have multiple lanes. This, in essence, is the idea behind Loom.

Loom’s sidechains which it calls DAppChains allow for faster, cheaper transaction while relying on Ethereum as a base layer for security. For example, in a collectible card game like Zombie Battleground, cards will be stored on Ethereum as ERC721 tokens and then transferred to a sidechain during gameplay, likely using Plasma for in-play security guarantees i.e., ensuring nobody runs off with your cards while on the sidechain.

With the Loom SDK, anyone can spin up their own DAppChain and skew it more toward scalability or security based on their needs. For example, by using more validators, a DAppChain may be more secure (more costly to attack) but slower and less decentralized. These DAppChains typically use Delegated Proof of Stake, the same consensus protocol used by EOS.

For those who don’t want to create their own sidechain to host their apps, they can use Loom’s ZombieChain, a prebuilt sidechain that can host any number of dapps.

Loom is focused on gaming and social networks, two spheres where speed is a must while security risks are lower. Its sidechains offload computation from the Ethereum mainnet and let Ethereum focus on what it does best i.e, manage state and high-value transactions.

As James Duffy of Loom put it,

Loom Network is building a fundamental infrastructure platform that will help Ethereum scale, and is the first Ethereum scaling solution to be live in production.
In short, you can think of Loom Network as EOS on top of Ethereum.

Okay, big visions are great, but there are plenty of big visions in this space. What I like about Loom is that it’s actually delivering. Along with CryptoZombies, Loom has built a suite of useful tools like DelegateCall (StackOverflow for blockchain built on a DAppChain) and EthFiddle (code sharing site).

Rather than just building a platform and waiting for folks to come along and use it, Loom is actually making things with its SDK. I think this will aid its broader ambitions by enabling experimentation, proof of concept, and community building.

Back to Zombie Battleground, it’s aspiring to be the first blockchain-based collectible card game. Think Magic, but on Ethereum. Every card is represented as an ERC721 token. So cards are provably rare, tradable 24/7 on peer-to-peer marketplaces, and operate on a platform that cannot be censored or shut down by a centralized party. And these cards like any ERC721 resource are free to be reused across other games.

I think gaming is well poised to be one of the first use cases of Ethereum since it faces less regulatory headwinds than say, financial services, and the gaming community is progressive when it comes to embracing new tech. I also think that games are meant to be communal, transparent, and peer-to-peer.

The success of any (d)app ecosystem depends on attracting talented developers, so Loom is wise building an army of Ethereum and Loom devs via its code school.

I also like that they’re using Kickstarter rather than an ICO for Zombie Battleground. This makes it more accessible to everyday gamers and puts the focus on product rather than speculation. That said, pledgers of certain amounts will be rewarded cards in the game, which may accrue in value overtime.

I think Zombie Battleground has the potential to be the first large-scale game on Ethereum. While CryptoKitties paved the way, it suffers from speed, cost and UI issues. Since I’m more of a cat than zombie person, it breaks my heart a bit to say this, but I expect that Zombie Battleground will be more fun and easier to play than CryptoKitties.

Games like this are also a gateway to introduce people to Ethereum and blockchain.

In the words of Loom’s Co-Founder,

Selling the cards they’ve earned for free by playing Zombie Battleground may even be the way thousands of new users discover Ethereum and earn their very first ETH

But Zombie Battleground is just one piece of a much broader vision. I would keep an eye on Loom and on its projects like Zombie Battleground. Some interesting things may soon be coming to life…

As always, comments and criticisms welcome. If you enjoyed this article, check out my recent post The Long-Term Bullish Case for Decred and other posts on Sunrise Over The Merkle Trees.