Development Trends in Blockchain Gaming Industry

The gaming industry has gone through multiple stages of development.

1. Settlement of Game "Currency" Using Homogeneous Assets

Blockchain games utilize digital assets from blockchain systems as the settlement medium for in-game "currency" production. A typical representative of this stage is the ERC20 homogeneous asset standard of the Ethereum system. This standard is well-known in today's blockchain projects. Many projects create homogeneous assets based on the ERC20 standard of the Ethereum network. Assets based on the ERC20 protocol are easily exchangeable and compatible, allowing them to function on dApps. Asset holders have complete control over their assets and can track their circulation to any address and in any quantity. These assets can be used across different projects and platforms, and their circulation paths can be queried through blockchain browsers. In this stage, blockchain technology primarily addresses the following issues:

• Transparency of in-game "currency" production and circulation

• Cross-game circulation of "currency"

• Diversification of "currency" exchange channels

Therefore, the digital assets in this stage are homogeneous and can only express numerical values, such as points and coins, used for settling game outcomes.

2. Free Exchange of Game "Currency" and Items

Using ERC20 as an example, it can only be used to issue fungible tokens, representing various interchangeable entities. It determines whether items or quantities of similar or equivalent types can be completely interchangeable during their circulation or use. However, in real life, there are things that are unique and non-fungible (such as unique individuals, events, or objects like artifacts) that can be replaced by digital assets. Their value cannot be measured using fungible tokens. In Ethereum's improvement proposal (EIP) with the code name 721, a new "non-fungible" digital asset standard called ERC721 was introduced.

The popular game CryptoKitties is an example of a non-fungible digital asset standard. Each cat is a "unique genetically composed creature" rather than a fungible currency. Each cat cannot be divided and remains a complete individual. Each cat has its own unique attributes, such as tags and prices.

Expanding beyond CryptoKitties, special game items or any items with certain collectible value can correspond to an asset to indicate their identity information. Non-fungible digital assets, to some extent, are unique, indivisible, and cannot be split.

In this stage, the value representation of in-game items, equipment, and player accounts can be expressed through non-fungible digital assets. All general asset circulation behaviors in the game (including but not limited to item transfers, asset circulation, item drops, and other scenarios) are ultimately settled in the form of digital assets (both fungible and non-fungible). Specific game content, such as mods, can even be issued and circulated as separate digital assets. Compared to the first stage, this stage places non-fungible items as unique identifiers in the blockchain record. The production logic of items and currency still remains in a black box, requiring alternative solutions.

3. Execution of Key Rules on the Blockchain

In this stage, the basic settings and key rules required for blockchain games will be written into blocks as contracts or other forms that facilitate public access. This ensures the fairness and transparency of game rules and output logic. For example, the probability of item appearances, encounter settings on RPG maps, treasure chest drops, and dealing rules are written into the chain, achieving open, transparent, and tamper-proof rules. This feature effectively alleviates players' concerns about cheating in game operations, increases their confidence, and attracts more players to participate in the game. The execution and verification of contracts take time. Taking the example of treasure chest refresh logic in SLG game maps, there are two possible execution approaches:

• All treasure chest contents are generated in contracts when the map is loaded.

• Contract execution generates contents each time a treasure chest is opened.

At this stage, a considerable number of rules and data of blockchain games are executed on the chain, and user growth leads to increased network pressure. Without new breakthroughs, the technology at this stage can only be applied to games with cool-down times in turn-based battles. Decentralization and performance are contradictory, and high-performance consensus and contract virtual machines are the main tasks of the next stage. Technologies with lower latency, such as DAG, may become breakthroughs, but the ultimate solution is still some distance away.

4. Full Integration of the Game on the Blockchain

The full integration of games on the blockchain is the ultimate form of the industry. The entire logic code of the game is executed within the blockchain environment and carried and stored by a decentralized distributed network. In this scenario, the game itself is the contract, and running the game requires a trusted, efficient, and extremely low-latency integrated operating environment and lightweight user nodes. Currently, there is no definitive technical solution in the industry.

The original intention of CryptoKitties was to have the entire game run on the blockchain. However, due to the throughput limitations of the Ethereum network, both data interaction and content hosting are severely restricted. Eventually, CryptoKitties chose a compromise strategy of "data interaction on the chain and game execution off the chain," which is the "execution of key rules on the chain" stage described earlier. Therefore, we believe that the combination of blockchain and gaming is an inevitable path in the future:

• Players have lightweight full-node environments.

• The service stack runs in the blockchain environment.

• The game engine is one of the infrastructure nodes.

• Provides a unified development/debugging environment including the engine, visual IDE, and chain network interaction interface.

• Critical processes of contracts are witnessed and agreed upon by nearby or related nodes (such as players in the same game instance).

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