Shingai Thornton

@shingaithornton

The State of Ethereum-based Video Games

An increasingly large number of influencers are arguing that games will help facilitate mass adoption of blockchains, and that blockchains will significantly disrupt the gaming industry.

The highest number of games are currently being built on Ethereum’s blockchain, so I decided to take a look at some of the most interesting Ethereum-based projects, cut through the hype, and briefly review what’s actually being developed.

Companies, Studios, and Games

Studio: Lucid Sight

Crypto Space Commander

Crypto Space Commander is a Massively Multiplayer Online game (MMO) where players build a fleet of spaceships, collect resources, craft items, and battle with pirates and other players as they travel the stars.

A majority of gameplay takes place off-chain, with all economic activity taking place on-chain. All valued assets are created, tracked, and traded as Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) based on the ERC-721 standard.

Game Engine: Unity

Platforms: PC, web, mobile

Requirements: Metamask for web play, Ether

Development status: Beta in Winter 2018

Cryptic Conjure

Cryptic Conjure is a multiplayer fantasy action RPG set in the world of Kyra. The game features a blockchain-based economy filled with game items based on enhanced versions of the ERC-721 and ERC-20 standards. Players will gather resources and loot to create unique spells that can be sold to other players.

The development team is made of gaming industry veterans, but will be embracing a collaborative approach as they build the game, working with players throughout the development process to guide and shape the online experience.

Game Engine: Unreal

Platforms: Web, mobile

Requirements: Metamask, Ether

Development status: PVE gameplay expected in Q1 2019, PVP later 2019

MLB Crypto Baseball

MLB CryptoBaseball is a collectable card game, each MLB Crypto is an NFT with unique visual traits/attributes, and is represented by a 3D model of an official MLB player or event.

Once purchased, owners have complete control over the NFT. Players build a “game card” filled with MLB Cryptos and compete to win rewards.

The blockchain is only used for the creation and storage of digital assets. A custom off-chain solution was built to handle the majority of game functionality.

Platforms: Web, mobile

Requirements: Metamask or mobile DAPP browser (ie: Trust, Coinbase Wallet, Status), Ether

Development status: Released

Studio: Dapper Labs

CryptoKitties

CryptoKitties is a game where users collect and breed digital cats, it is largely responsible for starting the current hype around blockchain-based gaming.

Each Cryptokitty is an off-chain asset identified on-chain using its 256 bit genetic code. All asset transactions, including the production of offspring occurs on-chain.

Platforms: Web, mobile

Requirements: Metamask or mobile DAPP browser, Ether

Development status: Released

Studio: Fuel Games

God’s Unchained

God’s Unchained is a collectible card game inspired by hits like Hearthstone and Magic the Gathering.

Players have complete ownership of cards once purchased, and the blockchain is used to prove the unique history of individual assets. All cards are stored on-chain, and players only interact with Ethereum when they want to purchase and transfer cards. All other gameplay takes place off-chain.

A decentralized marketplace for peer-to-peer trading of cards is being developed on the 0x Protocol.

Platforms: Web

Requirements: Metamask (to interact with the game’s online store and purchase/view assets), Ether

Development status: Beta Q4 2018, full game Q1 2019

Etherbots

In Etherbots, players assemble robots from a collection of parts, battle against their opponents, and trade their bots on a marketplace.

Etherbots 2: World Arena is in development and will bring the tokens from Etherbots into a multiplayer platform brawler featuring fully destructible terrain.

Platforms: Web, mobile

Requirements: Metamask or mobile DAPP browser, Ether

Development status: Released

Studio: B2Expand

Beyond the Void

Beyond the Void is a hybrid strategy/MOBA set in space where players face off in 1v1 battle, competing to dominate the galaxy. It’s one of the first blockchain-based games to be released on Steam.

Players draft skills for their mothership at the start of the match, harvest resources to build their fleets, fight to destroy their opponent’s fleet, and finally move to conquer the enemy’s home planet. Gameplay takes place off-chain, while assets live and are traded on the blockchain.

B2expand was one of five startups that participated in the first round of Ubisoft and Station F’s Gaming and Entertainment Program.

Game Engine: Unity

Platforms: Windows, MacOS

Requirements: Steam, Metamask (to access the online marketplace), Ether (to purchase assets)

Development status: Released

Studio: VZ Games

HashRush

HashRush is an online sci-fi/fantasy Real Time Strategy (RTS) game. Players grow and manage a mining colony, battle monsters, and trade items and resources. Gamers who successfully accumulate “Crypto Crystals” earn Ether generated from a mining farm operated by VZ Games.

Game items are powered by NFTs, and Rushcoin (an ERC-20 token) is the dedicated in-game currency. HashRush won the award for best innovation at Gamescom 2018.

Game Engine: Unity

Platforms: PC, Mac

Requirements: Computer

Development status: Closed beta

Company: Loom

Zombie Battleground

Zombie Battleground is a trading card battle game. All gameplay activity takes place either directly on the blockchain, or on a Gamechain, a dedicated DAPPchain based on Loom’s sidechain technology.

The blockchain allows for certified rarity of cards, player-owned assets, secure P2P trading, and a high quality marketplace.

Platforms: iOS, Android, PC, macOS

Requirements: Computer, phone, Ether

Development status: Alpha

Studio: Decentraland

Decentraland

Decentraland is a decentralized public virtual world where players can purchase land, build structures, and explore.

The Ethereum blockchain is used to store information about land ownership and its content. Content is distributed using the IPFS network, while data hashes are stored in the blockchain. The marketplace for land is already up and running.

CryptoBeasties, CryptoCarz and Chainbreakers are games being built for Decentraland’s universe.

Game Engine: Unity

Platforms: PC, Mac

Requirements: Computer

Development status: Iron Age

Studio: Horizon Games

SkyWeaver

SkyWeaver is a trading card game where players choose sides in a battle between Order and Chaos raging in a realm called Sky. The outcome of battles in the game directly affects the total supply of cards.

We don’t have a lot of detailed information about SkyWeaver yet, but they’ve received backing from PolyChain, Digital Currency Group, and Coinbase.

Platforms: PC, Mac

Requirements: Computer

Development status: In development

Studio: UbiSoft

Hashcraft

Hashcraft is a prototype whose game design was inspired by Minecraft, Fortnite, and No Man’s Sky. It’s being developed as part of UbiSoft’s efforts to explore the capabilities of blockchain technology.

When the game starts, an island is created for the player and stored on the blockchain. Gamers can then start crafting with all changes to the island being stored on the blockchain. When players decide to upload their island so it can be explored by the community, they’re rewarded with an in-game cryptocurrency.

The entire experience is decentralized, as the servers are upheld by the combined power of the players’ computers and can’t be shut down.

Platforms: Unknown

Requirements: Unknown

Development status: Unknown

Studio: 0x Games

0x Universe

0x Universe is a space strategy game where players build spaceships, explore the galaxy, and colonize planets. Players collect resources, conduct research, and jointly contribute to the story as they explore the universe.

The game is a decentralized application that runs entirely on the Ethereum network and it doesn’t rely on any centralized game servers controlled by developers. This guarantees secure ownership of planets for the players.

0x Battleships will allow players to explore the universe as battleship engineers and is scheduled for a Q4 2018 release.

Game Engine: Unity

Platforms: PC, MacOS

Requirements: Metamask

Development status: Released

Studio: Blockade Games

Neon District

Neon district is a cyberpunk online multiplayer RPG set in a world where rebels are fighting to maintain their independence from an autocratic government called The Mainspring.

Characters, equipment, and other assets in Neon District are NFTs that become more valuable as you play, with their history being recorded to a Loom DAppchain until they are moved to Ethereum’s mainnet.

Game engine: Unity

Platforms: PC

Requirements: Computer

Development status: In development

Studio: Axie Infinity

Axie Infinity

Axie Infinity is a game where users collect, train, and battle virtual pets called Axies. Battles currently take place off-chain, but the team plans to port them over to a Loom Network Plasma Chain and take advantage of Plasma Cash.

Axies can be traded on the marketplace, and the team recently formed a partnership with Decentraland to bring the Axie experience to the decentralized virtual world.

Platforms: Web

Requirements: Metamask, Ether

Development status: Beta

Studio: SpacePirate Games

Age of Rust

Age of Rust is a sci-fi adventure game set in the year 4244. AI enabled machines have turned on humans, plundering whatever technology they can to stay alive. You’ll explore space stations, caverns, and ruins in an era where advancements in technology, science, and culture have come to a halt.

As players explore they’ll encounter crypto-puzzles that provide cryptocurrency rewards (Bitcoin, Ether, Rustbits, Enjin) for those who solve them.

Space Pirate games will publish proof containing digital signatures for puzzles with high-rewards to verify the prize exists, as well as hashes to the solutions to ensure there’s no cheating on behalf of the studio. The game’s premier crypto-puzzle will be encoded with 20 bitcoins.

Game Engine: Unity

Platforms: PC

Requirements: Unknown

Development status: In development

Studio: Fracture Labs

Decimated

Decimated is a 3rd person online multiplayer sandbox game where players harvest resources and trade while fighting to survive an apocalyptic environment. Players are split into two factions: human citizens and cyborg cops. All players begin as citizens and can earn the right to play as a cop if they play by the rules and pass their training.

Gameplay consists of salvaging technology, repairing vehicles, finding cryptocurrency, building bases, fortifying shelters, and trading. DIO, the game’s cryptocurrency, can be earned by completing a variety of tasks.

The game will also feature user generated content, the ability to offer token rewards to other players for co-op missions, and graffiti that can be used to mark territory.

Decimated will use a fork of Ethereum designed for online multiplayer games. Their blockchain will make use of a parent-child chain architecture that allows users to make rapid transactions on the child chain while relying on the security provided by the main chain.

Game Engine: Unreal, Spatial OS

Platforms: PC

Requirements: Unknown

Development status: In development

Studio: Cartified

War Riders

War Riders is an MMO where players build and battle cars as they race to collect Benzene, the only surviving currency in an apocalyptic wasteland. You’ll be able to build an army of cars to increase your power and influence, expand your garage locations, and earn ETH by offering protection to other players.

The team has developed a dedicated sidechain where users will deposit in-game items and currency in order to enjoy fast transactional speeds while playing.

Game Engine: Unreal 4, Spatial OS

Platforms: PC, Mac

Requirements: Computer

Development status: Beta for premium vehicle owners by end of 2018, full release in 2019

Studio: Rogue Nations

Crypto Assault

Crypto Assault is a strategy MMO where players will mine resources, deploy troops, form alliances, and battle for territory in a war-torn world. Tanks, trunks, mechs, jets, and helicopters are the units you’ll have under your command.

Players will own their ERC-721 based game assets and have the opportunity to vote on coordinated decisions to attack, research technologies, elect guild leaders, and establish trade agreements.

The game will feature daily competitions for Ether rewards that can be earned in three different ways: discovering the daily random satellite drop, holding on to land tiles, and referring other players to the game.

Game Engine: Unity

Platforms: Web

Requirements: Metamask

Development status: In development

Studio: World of Ether

World of Ether

World of Ether is a decentralized collectible dueling game that lives on Ethereum’s blockchain, with all core game logic being handled by smart contracts. Players can collect, breed, and fight digital monsters that are stored inside of contracts. Once purchased, monsters are fully player-owned and can be freely traded on the game’s marketplace.

There are five types of monsters that fall into four different grades of rarity. The game currently features 200 monsters, but new species can be added to the roster through the breeding process. As players level up by winning battles, they increase their chances of breeding rare monsters.

Platforms: Web

Requirements: Metamask, Coinbase wallet

Development Status: Released

Studio: 8 Circuit Studios

*Disclaimer I’m currently working as an advisor for 8 Circuit Studios*

Project Genesis

Project Genesis is a first-person shooter with third-person space combat. The characters, select ships, industrial installations, and certain planets that you see during the gameplay portion of the above trailer are reflective of how ERC-721 tokens will be represented in in the game.

Player-owned assets will be stored on Ethereum’s blockchain, while all gameplay functionality is handle off-chain, facilitated by 8 Circuit Studios’ custom development and asset management framework.

Game Engine: Unreal

Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One

Requirements: Computer, game console

Development status: Alpha Q2 2019, full game Q4 2019

Studio: Far Frontier Studios

Mankind Reborn

Mankind Reborn is a cyberpunk MMO shooter set in the near-future where eight player run factions compete for economic, political, and battlefield dominance.

Gameplay is handled off-chain, and Frontier Studios has formed a partnership with 8 Circuit Studios to use their technology for building cross-game digital property.

Assets shared between Mankind Reborn and Project Genesis will represent one of the first major steps towards building out the metaverse of interconnected games envisioned by 8 Circuit Studios.

Game Engine: Unreal

Platforms: PC

Requirements: Computer

Development status: Closed beta

Technology and Infrastructure

Loom

Loom Network is a layer-two scaling solution for Ethereum, a network of DPOS DappChains/Sidechains. Loom has also developed an implementation of Plasma Cash, and an SDK. The team currently has three sidechains (PlasmaChain, GameChain, SocialChain) running in production.

Their CryptoZombies code school teaches users to code Ethereum DAPPS by building a game.

OpenSea

OpenSea is a marketplace for crypto collectibles. They’ve created developer tools to help projects easily build their own custom marketplaces.

BitGuild

BitGuild is a decentralized blockchain-based gaming platform that aims to redefine the relationship between players and developers.

They offer a marketplace, a game incubator, a wallet, and an ERC-20 token (PLAT) used to play games, trade on the marketplace, and support projects in the incubator.

Bitizens is a virtual world being developed in-house where players customize their characters, mine for virtual items, and explore the city of Bitropolis.

Dmarket

Dmarket is a marketplace for in-game items that has established partnerships with Unity Technologies and Pantera Capital.

0x Project

0x is a protocol for decentralized exchanges. They’ve recently released version two of the protocol which added support for ERC-721 tokens, and the team is excited about how their technology can be used for digital assets.

Emoon

Emoon is a peer-to-peer marketplace for ERC-20 tokens and ERC-721 assets based on the 0x protocol and open-source smart contracts.

Gamertoken

Gamertoken is creating a global marketplace for buying and selling in-game items on the blockchain. They’ve also created a wallet, and a demo MMO.

Finality Labs

Finality Labs is doing research and development on scaling blockchains. They’re currently working on Payment Channel Hubs, and Applied State Channels and Plasma for payments, exchanges, and games. They’ve open-sourced a javascript library for building state-channel and Plasma applications.

They’re currently working on Eternal Time Heroes, a turn-based state-channel game, researching RPGS that might sit on a Plasma chain, and collaborating with Decentraland and other NFT land systems.

Finality Labs recently received a $250k grant from the Ethereum Foundation for research on Forward-Time Locked Contracts.

Fuel Games

Fuel Games is developing “scalable blockchain infrastructure for world class games.” Their Apollo Platform will allow game publishers to easily integrate decentralized assets. Ansible Channels are their custom framework for generalized state channels designed specifically for high-throughput games.

Fragment

Fragment is a blockchain gaming platform being developed by crowdfunding/game publishing website Fig.

Details are light, but the platform will aim to offer “a unique community-based approach to the funding, engagement, and cross-promotion of games.” It will be an open, decentralized platform that can be independently modified by gamers, publishers and developers.

Initial funding for the project was provided by the creator of NeoPets, and Fig announced the acquisition of blockchain-based asset platform Ownage (co-founded by Colony’s Jack Du Rose) simultaneously with the announcement of the platform.

Enjin

Enjin is building a Multiverse of interconnected game worlds along with tools to help developers mint digital assets. The Enjin ecosystem consists of: Enjin Network, Enjin Wallet, Enjin Coin, Efinity Framework, SDKs.

Enjin recently released tools that allow developers to easily mint custom digital assets based on their custom ERC -1155 framework. They’ve also created a game item infused with over 1 million ENJ, the Monolith, that is the reward for finishing their main Multiverse Quest.

Themes, Trends, and Predictions

Today, gamers pour massive amounts of money and time into collecting and developing digital assets that are ultimately owned by publishers.

Player-owned digital assets stored on public blockchains can transform this dynamic, allowing gamers to maintain ownership of their valued possessions . Once gamers realize this is possible, they will come to demand a higher degree of ownership over their items.

These player-owned assets can serve as the foundation for characters and items that can be transferred between different game worlds. Building this Metaverse and ensuring that it provides a high quality gaming experience will be difficult, but we have examples from popular fiction (ie: Ready Player One’s Oasis) that demonstrate what this might look like, and how it could create a valuable gaming experience.

In a high-quality video game, not everything can or should be put directly on a public blockchain. The most complex games on this list are not decentralized applications, it would’t be technically feasible to run them without relying on vital centralized infrastructure such as Unreal Engine 4, AWS’ suite of game development tools, and the game servers needed to facilitate online multiplayer.

While the concept of completely decentralized games is a fascinating one that will work for certain experiences, when creating a fully-featured RPG, FPS, or MMO, developers and publishers will need to retain a certain degree of control in order to craft a balanced and enjoyable experience.

Second-layer solutions hold incredible promise for allowing us to increase the amount of information and data that is secured by public blockchains. Imagine consortiums of game publishers, studios, and players cooperating to maintain shared infrastructure for state-channel based payment hubs, Plasma contracts, or sidechains. Decentralized technologies like StorJ, IPFS, and Swarm can be used as compliments for public blockchains.

Big players have started experimenting with blockchains and could have a significant impact on how this emerging technology impacts the gaming industry. Ubisoft and Epic Games (Fortnite’s publisher) are the first of many to come.

These are still the early days for blockchain-based games, we should be carefully studying the experiments being conducted, taking note of what works and what doesn’t.

I have a few predictions for how blockchain-based video games might start transforming society over the next 5–10 years.

  1. We will see an increased viability of professional gaming as a source of income as it becomes easier for players to buy and sell digital assets on open marketplaces.
  2. We will see an increased availability of infrastructure and tools that allow independent developers to effectively compete with the major publishers and studios.
  3. Gamers will have a handful of popular metaverses to choose from. As people spend more time in these worlds that will become increasingly realistic, the lines between the virtual and real worlds will continue blurring. Society will be forced to grapple with the unintended consequences of this development, much as we are still reeling from the disruptive impact of social networks on public discourse and governance.
  4. The successful integration of cryptocurrencies into popular video games will help reduce the stigma surrounding the technology and play an important role in facilitating mass adoption of blockchain-based technologies.

Conclusion

Clearly there’s more going on here than just hype, but it will take some time before we are able to test, at scale, how blockchains can improve the gaming experience for average players.

As a longtime cryptocurrency enthusiast who has been casually observing crypto games for about a year and digging in deeply for the past few months, I’m optimistic that incorporating blockchain-based technologies into video games will eventually deliver substantial value to gamers and developers.

I’m certainly not alone.

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