Blockchain and Gaming: MMORPG’s

I am sold on the idea of blockchain technologies be employed to operate as a decentralised database to record data, where multiple people with incentives of their own, who don’t have a reason to trust each other, need a secure and trustworthy way to transact with each other.

Many teams are already tackling the issues of scalability and performance and I’m sure one or many of primary blockchains, hard forks, or alt-coin projects in development will iron out these issues soon.

I’m more curious about where we’re going with DApps (decentralised apps); in particular how the full application stack (that includes the frontend elements, rulesets that can be updated, application logic that can be patched, operational databases and other mechanics) and the physical internet-connected application servers are deployed.

Smart contracts allow for very basic applications to be deployed on a blockchain at present where they cannot invoke a service call to an external service provider to lookup information (each node on the blockchain executes a smart contract at different times and can receive different responses), the rules can never be changed, and the fee to execute transactions are increasing over time on certain blockchain platforms like Ethereum (especially for complex rulesets). Smart contracts are akin to stored procedures on a database, or Chaincode on the Hyperledger Fabric. You use them to perform basic operations on a limited dataset.

I’ve been giving thought to a more complex use case for the blockchain and believe that a MMORPG (Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) would work well if implemented as a DApp utilising blockchain technology. At the data layer, a blockchain is used to prevent cheating or theft of resources that are part of the in-game economy; and at the application layer the DApp architecture offers high server up-time and scalability, low transaction latency and low server costs (with minimal wastage), there are no single points of failure, and rewards are awarded to players for dedicating personal computing resources to the game world.  The game rulesets require consensus to be updated, and a game’s story line can be developed further as time progresses.

It makes sense to see more applications of blockchain in the gaming universe as this is one of the first places that digital assets with value could be traded.

There’s been a few blockchain MMORPG projects initiated over the past few years and there’s a few works of interest in progress:

  • Voxelnauts – a VR MMO which failed to reach its funding goal on Kickstarter, and has not published any progress updates in over a year.
  • CryptoCountries – an Ethereum-based game which takes place in a simulated world where entire countries can be bought and sold with the cryptocurrency. The game has already been launched to the public and they have a great roadmap.
  • Privateers Life – the white paper indicates that blockchain tech is only used to record and monitor the purchase and transfer of in-game tokens. Player movements, the application servers and logic seem to be recorded centrally. The game is in the alpha-testing stage.
  • Prospectors – A game to be built on Unity and an initially centralised platform where game players have to search for pre-mined gold tokens that have been hidden beneath the in-game ground. The tokens can be exchanged for Ethereum coins, and a prototype of the game has already been released.
  • Chimaera – They are building a MMO gaming platform which allows other developers to create their own MMO games. In-game cryptocurrency will be based on a blockchain secured by proof-of-work. Player accounts and the most important game data (e.g. ownership of valuable items) are persisted with a decentralised name/value store built directly into the blockchain. The team has experience from being involved in the development of Namecoin (the very first altcoin) and Huntercoin (a game where coins need to be collected in a virtual universe which resides inside the blockchain). Chimaera is currently in the pre-token sales phase. The gaming platform will only be ready in 2019.
  • Xenio – They are developing a decentralized peer-to-peer game distribution platform and blockchain, and multi-OS consumer client with no central server authority. Xenio uses Proof-of-Networking which is a custom combination of Delegated Proof-of-Stake and Proof-of Authority where game hosts provide proof that gamers are using their system. Delegated Proof-of-Stake works by paying people who hold on to, or “stake”, these digital “coins” in a virtual wallet with the promise not to spend them for a specific duration. After that duration elapses, a fee is paid to the staking wallet, and a new staking period can begin.

Proof-of-Authority works by the network explicitly authorizing a set of nodes which are initially run by the project developers to ensure valid blocks are created while the network is still small and growing. Only authorized nodes can create new blocks.

They are still raising funding at the moment and have released a beta software client. I really like this project. However, I could not find further information on their latest progress as I could not join their Slack group (invite limit reached) and their Facebook page has not been updated in 2 months.

With the knowledge I have gained thus far, I am in favor of the Proof of Network and Proof of Experience protocols. The Proof of Work protocol is inefficient and a waste of resources, particularly in the gaming context where it can be utilised to offer better gameplay experiences instead of transaction validation. I also favour decentralised or/and distributed applications over the centralised models. If anyone has ideas of a platform that can currently be utilised, ideas on how to architect the solution or would like to explore the possibility of developing a MMORPG blockchain game as a team, let me know. I have written a draft outline for a blockchain MMORPG game and I am trying to figure out what architecture would suit it best (read the outline here).


Why we need blockchain-based MMOs

What is a Decentralized Application?

This discussion on reddit that the author participated in

Centralized vs. Decentralized Apps, Part 1: The Difference by Maxwell Goldbas


Article written by Zaid Mahomedy, CTO and Enterprise Architect at Blockchain Advisory. Zaid has extensive experience working as a Solution Architect on legacy and newer cloud-based enterprise technologies; preparing as-is, transition and target architectures and experimenting with new technologies (VR/MR/AR, IoT, Blockchain, Big Data, Chatbots, etc.)


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