While ideas and uses for blockchain appear limitless, each have their fair share of challenges before the sector hits the mainstream market.
Speaking to James Mayo, the Navigator/Founder of US developer 8 Circuit Studios, we delve into the accomplishments and the prospect of a blockchain gaming world beyond dApps.
The ‘crisis’ of ownership
It’s no easy thing to go from infancy to then be thrown under the spotlight of major established companies in a short few years.
One thing the blockchain does is it democratizes the concept of ownership. And that's a threat to current incumbents.
As a result, companies are caught at a crossroads between collaboration or opposition, according to Mayo.
“[As a company] how does one know when the new kid on the block presents a material or existential threat to your business model? And how do you adapt or embrace it to make sure it doesn’t?” he says.
But if there’s one thing that can be attributed to the blockchain, it’s that it’s transformed the notion of item ownership in-game.
Gamers tend to believe that they own their items, only to find that they’re inevitably alterable thanks to a centralized system.
“A lot of players these days just believe that they own their in-game items, and they project onto their in-game characters a lot,” Mayo argues.
“We recognize a couple of things: One is the incredible power that blockchain when it comes to proving ownership of assets.”
Those familiar with the likes of Cryptokitties or WAX will know about the level of digital sovereignty attached to items that you buy through.
Traditionally, developers would simply create, add or remove specific items from its games. This meant that the only true stakeholder in them were the developers, which is a dynamic which blockchain directly challenges.
“Those same companies that have created walled gardens and benefit from digital assets which they manufacture,” Mayo says.
Blockchain as the democratizer of gaming
Witek Radomski, Enjin’s CTO put it best when he talks about the impact of mods on a vanilla game when it comes to game replayability.
“Whenever I’ve seen games introduce mods, they become increasingly popular. If you look at games like Half-Life or Half-Life 2, they have been extensively modded over time,” he says.
Gamers are fast becoming key contributors but also influencers of what games get developed in the blockchain world, according to Mayo.
“We’re seeing this ability to flatline these previously centralized systems… What we’re seeing is more of these features being made easier through blockchain,” says Radomski.
This creates a mutually beneficial system for both players and developers. Players are granted a meaningful position within the game’s future, while the developer can better understand the future scale of its game, and what its fans want.
Mayo continued on from this point to contemplate just what kind of future blockchain games had as dApps. Whether developers would package full games on blockchain, or if they’ll take on a different form.
With this system of crowdfunding, developers can create their art at a scale that is more practical.
A future without dApps?
“One of the things that a dApp did, CryptoKitties for example, and if we look at it in a vacuum; it was a successful example of what could be done on the blockchain and really instructive on a bunch of different levels…”
Mayo points out that, while it made for a successful model for developers, it doesn’t necessarily make for the only example for them to follow.
“But is that going to be the model for how games are developed? I don’t think so.”
Having a background in QA, Mayo uses conventional PC gaming as an example of blockchain as a component, not as an all-in-one medium for gaming.
“My roots come from QA, and one of the things you have to test for is input-output; or where data lives and where it goes,” Mayo continues.
“Example: if you’re playing a game today, like an FPS, the question of where you want that data to live. Do you want the entire game in the hard-drive? No.”
The future that Mayo envisions? One that sees blockchain as part of a wider, holistic approach towards gaming, in which, blockchain takes care of the components that it’s best suited for.
“There’s data that will be appropriate to go on the blockchain, and data that isn’t,” Mayo concludes.
“One of the reasons I think there ought to, or will be a blockchain 2.0 is because I believe that there are parts of a game that ought not to go onto blockchain.”
For more information about 8 Circuit Studios, visit the website.