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Immerse, Create, and Collaborate: The Age of On-Chain Gaming
The road to decentralized gaming: A primer look at autonomous worlds.
by Noah Roy, investment analyst at Sino Global Capital
The world of on-chain gaming is currently in its early stages. However, with breakthroughs in blockchain scalability and infrastructure, new gaming genres can now be built entirely on the blockchain. This presents opportunities for composability with the broader decentralized ecosystem and the crypto economy.
Blockchains can be like building blocks for creating virtual worlds ensuring that everything in that world is immutable and persistent with well-defined rules for how objects can be added to the world through code. This has opened up new avenues for creating virtual fully on-chain worlds.
These on-chain environments called Autonomous Worlds (initially ideated by 0xPARC and Lattice), are not just simple environments that exist on a blockchain, rather are worlds that could not exist in any other way enabling the participants of such a world to shape what it ultimately becomes.
Early game developers were limited to single-player worlds that were sculpted by the developer themselves. With the advent of networked computing, multiplayer worlds became a reality, and server-based multi-user dungeons and massively multiplayer online games were born.
These games allowed for dynamic unfolding that was no longer contingent on the participation of a single player. Instead of being produced entirely by game creators, Autonomous Worlds allows various users to collaboratively build and grow the virtual environment. However, getting the initial user flywheel going and encouraging the community to actively get involved and build on the game's base layer presented considerable challenges.
Traditional multiplayer games often face the risk of shutting down due to the operating company running out of funds or implementing rule changes that negatively impact the existing user base.
An Autonomous World, on the other hand, operates without an owner who can change the past or the world's rules. Furthermore, being built on a blockchain ensures that the world will continue to exist as long as a full node stores its entities and enforces its rules.
There are still hurdles to overcome in the world of Autonomous Games. While it makes sense to put game logic on-chain, game state is a much harder problem. The best way to handle the latency to write the game state on-chain, especially with the need for sub-second latency when scaling to more complex games with a lot of concurrent users, is still a question. Furthermore, who will bear the cost to write the game state? Users probably don’t want to sign & pay for every transaction.
Persistent worlds that exist entirely on-chain can include benefits such as:
Meaningful decentralization, autonomy, and self-governance through community ownership at the root level.
Ensuring provably fair and credibly neutral rules for all human and non-human agents through well-defined parameters and on-chain game logic and state.
Native composability and interoperability of the blockchain and open token standards. Trustless and permissionless community co-creation of the platform provides opportunities for ownership of assets that extend to their existing context.
Robust token economies built on the intrinsic value of virtual assets.
Potential of everlasting games and worlds.
Exploring and Expanding Autonomous Worlds
In these autonomous worlds, players not only experience the environment but also contribute to its expansion. Although the full potential of these worlds is yet to be realized, early forays into on-chain gaming have already showcased their unique advantages.
OPCraft: A Pioneering On-Chain Game?
A prime example of this innovative gaming approach is OPcraft. This game is an immersive, on-chain 3D voxel world where every single detail - from rivers to blades of grass, to patches of snow on a mountaintop - exists on-chain.
Leveraging MUD for Autonomous World Development
OPCraft is built on a robust framework and engine known as MUD, designed specifically for crafting complex autonomous worlds. This platform allows developers to create decentralized data namespaces, referred to as Worlds. These Worlds are not owned by any individual or entity but serve as collective repositories for all the elements within the namespace.
Entities: Building Blocks of the Worlds
These elements, known as Entities, are represented by numerical IDs. For example, in a basic World that resembles an ERC-20 contract, the entities would represent addresses. This user-friendly, collaborative approach opens a world of opportunities for creativity and interaction within the gaming community. To experience it firsthand, you can try out OPCraft.
The Bottom Line
The potential for Autonomous Worlds is still largely unexplored, but early experiments with on-chain games have shown the unique affordances they offer for collaborative experiences. With Autonomous Worlds, game developers and designers have an unprecedented level of flexibility and creativity in crafting new and exciting online experiences.