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Thousands of words and ink: On-chain gaming (Part 2): Insights from Dark Forest and Loot, and possibilities for the future.

2023-02-23 16:32
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The field of fully on-chain gaming has just entered its nascent stage, and Dark Forest is one of the earliest and most central representatives in this field.
Original Title: "Thousands of Words and Ink, Exploring the Peak of Blockchain Gaming through Dark Forest and Loot: Full-Chain Gaming"
Original Author: Kaspar, Mask Network

Special thanks to Loot Chinese community core members & evangelists, Loot veteran holders @Taylor Zhang, as well as Dark Forest active players and DF Archon core members @byeddy. Their guidance on the article and patient answers to the author's questions have given the author a clearer and deeper understanding of the two ecosystems. Grateful.

This topic has a total of 3 articles, this is the [Next: Insights from Dark Forest and Loot, and Future Possibilities]
[Previous: The Beginning and Dark Forest] [Middle: An Overview of the Loot Ecosystem]

 1. Dark Forest and Loot

Previously, we spent a considerable amount of space explaining two very important projects in the current blockchain gaming industry, allowing everyone to have a basic understanding of the projects. If we analyze them together, what similarities and differences can we see, and what inspiration can we gain for the topic of blockchain gaming as a whole?

1.1 Narrative Framework Differences: "Rules" and "Clues"

Narration is undoubtedly the most important part of the content industry, and the decentralized nature of blockchain has been utilized by Dark Forest and Loot in different ways to construct two different forms.

Loot As mentioned earlier, the abstracted text, which is simultaneously released with infinite possibilities about the worldview and rules, only provides players with "clues" about the basic elements, and completely delegates the interpretation of the "clues" to each participant. In this process, players can not only interpret the clues (e.g. GA), visualize them (e.g. Hyperloot), but also associate them with other elements related to the clues (e.g. Loot Realms) and create bridges linking different elements (e.g. The rift). This allows Loot to grow into a content ecosystem that is completely constructed by the participants themselves, which is exactly the inclusiveness that can be opened up by the "bottom-up" model for all possibilities.

Compared to Loot's lack of restrictions, Dark Forest focuses more on gameplay development. Therefore, Dark Forest builds a "top-down" model, but unlike traditional NFT or game projects that directly provide a complete game narrative, Dark Forest only establishes core "universe rules" and basic elements. Through open source and on-chain methods, it allows everyone to enrich the experience around the framework of the rules. This allows Dark Forest players to focus more on the game itself without having to establish a consensus on the rules. This approach also creates a highly dynamic community ecosystem.

(This is a HTML tag and should not be translated)Different narrative frameworks correspond to different purposes. As a MMORTS game with clear mechanisms, Dark Forest aims to provide a "game" scenario for players to engage in "games" with each other, allowing them to engage in struggles and strategic confrontations within limited resources in order to achieve victory. Therefore, for players, their main goal in participating in Dark Forest is to use various means to win and achieve a sense of accomplishment (or other game objectives, e.g. mischief-making).

During this process, due to the characteristics of the entire chain and the promotion of the project's core team, players are encouraged to increase their chances of winning by developing plugins, which has promoted the emergence of a good developer ecosystem and the creation of high-quality plugins, resulting in a sense of achievement. Therefore, it can be seen that the players of Dark Forest have built an ecosystem around the sense of achievement brought by game competition and derivative development.

Loot is different in a way that it is not really a "game" in the traditional sense, or rather, it greatly surpasses the concept of a "game". Loot does not have a specific purpose from the beginning, its core is all about the "experience", and games are just a part of that experience. For those who have drawn RPGs on notebooks or played Dungeons & Dragons when they were young, they should be very familiar with the "clues" that these Loots provide, which can easily build a game. However, the potential of Loot is far beyond just a game, it can spawn countless games, game components, or even just the story content itself. Due to this richness, for the participants, it is like traveling through different worlds, and the "experience" they can gain will be the most unique feeling that the Loot universe can provide.

Therefore, if we compare Dark Forest with narrative and gameplay, it is like the Three-Body Problem on the chain, while Loot is like the Three Kingdoms/Rights and Game on the chain.

1.3 Differences in Economic Mechanisms: "Focus" and "Connection"

Actually, in this aspect, the two are somewhat similar. The main purpose of the economic mechanism is usually to attract new participants and incentivize retention/contribution. However, neither Dark Forest nor Loot rely on the design of their economic models to generate traffic.

Slightly different, Dark Forest has clear game mechanics and objectives, where rules are the core, and there is basically no token system in the rule setting. The team also hopes to focus on exploring the gameplay, so it is relatively difficult for participants to create an economic model and gain recognition. The result is to filter out speculative purposes like Fi, making the participating players more pure. This pure motivation can also effectively inspire players to think, explore, and build.

Compared to DF, Loot has a wider audience and ecological scope, and its growth is not limited by any rules. Even within the Loot ecosystem, new ecological circles have emerged. Therefore, we can see the emergence of some token systems around the ecosystem, which connect ecosystems with each other (such as fundraising and introducing other ecological tokens), and also provide effective incentives for contributors.

However, these types of ecological tokens often involve governance issues. The recent "Uniswap deployment incident" undoubtedly sounded an alarm on the issue of "token governance". Therefore, the extent to which ecological tokens ultimately contribute to the development of the entire ecosystem is still a question that requires observation and study.

2. Some Thoughts on Full-Chain Games

 2.1 Challenges and Difficulties

At this point, we have used more than 10,000 words to outline the general appearance and important features of the entire on-chain game. Does this mean that "on-chain" is necessarily the "correct" path for blockchain games? From the current perspective, it may be a bit early to say. Although on-chain games have great potential, they still face many challenges at present:

Insufficient underlying infrastructure and ecosystem:

 The underlying infrastructure mainly includes chains and corresponding development tools, and its impact on games is reflected in issues such as latency, cost, and iteration.

Delay: As mentioned earlier, multiplayer games are often very sensitive to network latency and stability, and a large amount of high-frequency transaction processing places high demands on the performance of the blockchain; Cost: The cost includes the development cost of the game and the on-chain interaction cost of the player. Since the industry is still very early, there are no mature web3 game engines like UE and Unity, which makes the pre-development work of developing full-chain games even greater. And since all on-chain transactions require payment of miner fees, this cost often becomes a burden for players, especially in the current context where the concepts of deposit and withdrawal and wallets are still to be simplified; Iteration: The immutable nature of the blockchain undoubtedly brings fairness and decentralization, but it also poses certain challenges to code iteration. Developers need to be extremely cautious in auditing their own code to ensure that there are no vulnerabilities and that the game logic is correct. This is still a relatively labor-intensive task for any game with a slightly larger volume.

Selection of game types and design of game logic:

If we simply divide games into categories, we can roughly classify them into five types: RPG (role-playing), ACT (action), AVG (adventure), SLG (strategy), and SIM (simulation). Currently, most blockchain games are limited to SLG games that emphasize strategy.

First of all, it's about multiplayer vs. single player. There is no doubt that a fully on-chain game is expected to support real-time online multiplayer. If it is just a single player game, the attributes of the entire chain are not maximized. For the project party, the same thing may be more efficient using the OCA mode of asset on-chain, such as the Beacon. Therefore, single-player RPGs and most AVGs are basically passed (there is still potential worth exploring).

In traditional game development, for games that emphasize real-time combat, such as ACT and MOBA, frame synchronization or event triggering is usually used to handle player interaction and status, in order to complete a large number of transaction processing under low network latency. However, the performance of current blockchain technology makes it difficult to achieve this type of pattern. Therefore, currently, game types that are more suitable for implementing "on-chain" are those that emphasize tactical deployment, such as Dark Forest, and those that focus on experience, such as OPCraft.

But even for these types of games, there are still many challenges. For open-world building SIM games like Minecraft, UGC content is an important part of the building experience, so a game engine that can support the corresponding logic will be a major difficulty.

For SLG, the challenge lies in how to convert game logic into a form that can be implemented on the blockchain, which involves resource planning and game processing. For example, Dark Forest slows down the game pace and reduces player operation frequency by lengthening energy transmission time, thereby reducing the pressure on blockchain performance. This is a very clever way. However, in the entire development process, the game logic of Dark Forest still faces many challenges, such as game balance and mechanism fun, etc.

Therefore, the concept of "full-chain" posed significant challenges in the early stages of game planning and development.

The challenges brought by the inherent properties of the entire on-chain:

Everything has two sides, just like "centralization" means efficiency but also means monopoly, while "complete decentralization" may bring "freedom" but also may bring "chaos".

First of all, from a "narrative" perspective, the free narrative framework and barrier-free UGC content do broaden the boundaries of content. However, when anyone can participate in the act of narration, the quality of the content will inevitably vary. On the one hand, the overall progress of the narrative will be slowed down due to the community's screening and review of the content. On the other hand, when a large number of narrative branches appear, it will blur and distract attention from high-quality content, causing community members' focus to become confused and leading to longer time to establish corresponding consensus.

And in addition to the aforementioned challenges regarding experience and mechanism design, there is also a need to reconsider the economic model from a new perspective. While placing the game on the chain does indeed provide the greatest openness and composability for the economic system, it also means that there is almost complete loss of control over the game's economic system. This will bring significant variables to the development of the game.

2.2 Hopes and Expectations

Since "full-chain games" face so many challenges, why is it still worth doing, or what are we expecting when we talk about "full-chain games"?

The most exciting thing about blockchain-based gaming is its ability to expand and break through the traditional definition of "games", unleashing new possibilities and providing players with a unique "experience". This experience comes from the "permissionless interoperability" brought about by being fully on-chain. Imagine if World of Warcraft suddenly opened a Minecraft instance, and the equipment and weapons obtained from the loot could also be used as character skins in Dota. The achievements in Dota could then be converted into experience and medals in Game ID, unlocking a special card in Magic: The Gathering. Such cross-game, cross-platform, cross-genre, and cross-world linkage can be achieved by anyone, and this highly interoperable and combinable feature allows for a more open and free ecosystem and richer combinations under the concept of gaming.

At the same time, the importance of narrative cannot be ignored in the gaming industry. This is especially true for Chinese World of Warcraft players, who have a deep understanding of how good storytelling can leave a profound and lasting impact on players. This is also why NetEase was able to successfully attract millions of players with its Nieshuihan World of Warcraft veteran server after the game was shut down. The tamper-proof nature of blockchain technology in gaming also provides a fair and permanent foundation for storytelling to flourish.

As players, we will always yearn for greater openness, more freedom in combination, and more unique narrative structures. This is why games like Zelda have become legendary, and why a simple building block game like Lego has been popular for over 90 years worldwide. Perhaps it's hard to imagine how just 6 simple Lego bricks can produce over 900 million possible combinations, but with the potential for highly combinable and scalable features in blockchain games, the imagination that can be sparked in the future is worth looking forward to for all gamers.

2.3 Direction and Possibility

Combining with the current overall development situation of the blockchain industry, as well as the inspiration provided by Dark Forest, Loot, and other full-chain games, there are many worthwhile directions to explore in the future. The author will briefly introduce some ideas here as a starting point:

2.3.1 Infrastructure and Tools

Game engine

The game engine plays an extremely important role in the development of any large-scale game, and for fully on-chain games, a tool that can help developers quickly deploy game logic is also needed. This can shorten development time and provide a data standard for subsequent iterative development by others and mutual calls in the open ecosystem.

The relatively mature project in this field is the full-chain game engine MUD based on Solidity developed by @Lattice studio, which allows developers to quickly deploy game logic to contracts and significantly improve development efficiency by achieving state synchronization between contracts and clients.

Interestingly, due to the current full-chain games, besides being written in Solidity, Starkware's Cairo is also a commonly used language. However, MUD is not compatible with Cairo, so the founders of two active projects in the Starkware ecosystem, Realms and Briq, jointly developed a full-chain engine based on Cairo called Dojo. However, because the core idea of Dojo is too similar to MUD, Ludens, the founder of MUD, had some objections, which caused a small controversy. However, Ludens eventually expressed that he was very willing to assist in deploying MUD to the StarkNet plan.

Although MUD is a very good framework and has developed full-chain games like OPCraft, as the underlying infrastructure for game development, there is still a lot of exploration and development space in this direction.


GameID refers to the DID generated by players based on the game, which mainly presents the player's reputation and skills. This direction can cover a wider range of game types, not just for on-chain games. For example, DeQuest, Carv, and other projects are all implementations of GameID, while The Rift focuses more on the identity composition within a certain ecosystem.

The reason why Game ID is important is because it is a tool that can connect players with various different games, and it is an indispensable needle and thread in the process of building the game ecosystem.

Distribution Platform

Distribution is an extremely important part of the gaming industry, serving as a bridge between game developers and users. The more open the ecosystem, the greater the demand for this type of role. Looking at the history of game development, companies like STEAM and EPIC have successfully seized the opportunity of the shift from consoles to PCs. Therefore, we can also believe that there is tremendous untapped value in the trend of combining gaming with blockchain.

Currently, there have been many Launchpad platforms and some platforms that combine Launchpad and GameID for ordinary chain games. Among them, the more noteworthy projects include TreasureDAO in the Arbitrum ecosystem, which aims to become the web3 Nintendo, and Cartridge in the Starkware ecosystem, which aims to build web3 Steam.


2.3.2 Selection and Design of Game Types and Mechanisms

策略类游戏 Strategy Game (SLG)
Strategy Game (SLG) is a type of game that focuses on strategic planning and decision-making.

First of all, SLG games undoubtedly have an excellent fit with the concept of full-chain. On the one hand, it can present a complete gaming experience in a light graphics and real-time combat environment. On the other hand, it has a high degree of tolerance for narrative, allowing for game systems like Loot or Realms that provide deep storytelling and grand backgrounds, as well as games like Dark Forest that focus on simple storytelling and strategy. It can even be like zkHoldem (full-chain Texas Hold'em), which is a pure gambling game without any narrative.

Moreover, in terms of game mechanics, in addition to the competition between players, the mode of cooperation and confrontation system is also a very interesting and suitable direction for the whole chain, such as Topology's ISAAC, or you can imagine a full-chain version of Plague Inc. Classic board games and 18xx games will be very high-quality transformation themes and directions.

Role Playing Game (RPG) & Adventure Game (AVG)

As mentioned earlier, it is often difficult for single-player games to effectively utilize the characteristics of the entire chain (excluding MMORPGs), but this does not mean that this path is not feasible. Instead, it requires more sophisticated thinking and design. For example, puzzle games in the AVG category are very suitable for the context of the entire chain + zk. PLUR was once a very interesting attempt (although it is not a full-chain game). If you are interested, you can check out this tweet.

As for the RPG direction, Realms: Adventures also proposed some great ideas. In a single dungeon, players can play a single-player game similar to Beacon. However, in reality, players interact with the dungeon and engage in a game with the creator/owner of the dungeon. In this case, introducing an asset and economic system also outlines a very interesting picture. In addition, narrative-rich themes such as Cthulhu and Dungeons & Dragons are also worth exploring.

Simulation or exploration games that are linked to the real world

One of the most important features of blockchain technology is the permanent recording and storage of data. There are many meaningful attempts to apply this feature, such as Guardians of Earth, a real-world exploration game deeply involved and invested in by Dr. Jane Goodall. Similar to Pokemon GO, it encourages players to search, explore, and record rare plants and animals they discover in order to receive capture rewards. These records can help mark and protect rare plants and animals, although it is not yet fully implemented on the blockchain. The overall logic of such games is not complicated, and the content on the blockchain is very valuable. The reward mechanism can also be fairly implemented through the on-chain economic model, making it a direction worth exploring.

「End」. The boundary between "present" and "future" may be more blurred than we imagine.

With the continuous emergence of the web3 concept and the increasing number of products that adhere to the concept of decentralization, we have gradually heard a lot of voices comparing the user experience of web2 and web3 applications. This comparison is undoubtedly valuable for founders, product managers, and investors, as it can provide a clearer understanding of where current web3 applications stand and what aspects need to be improved.

However, this does not mean that all products that have not achieved or surpassed the web2 experience are meaningless or worthless. We always need to be clear that whether it is from the underlying technology or product logic, we are trying something new and attempting to build a new world together.

The value of comparing Web2 and Web3 should only be equivalent to using a ruler to help us understand the current progress. Otherwise, it's like comparing the results of a 100-meter sprint between an F16 fighter jet and an F1 race car, where the fighter jet, designed for combat, would lose. But do the two really have comparable goals and directions?

Whether it's full-chain games, decentralized social networks, or network countries, these are still niche and may even be ridiculed as rough and unrealistic experimental ideas, thoughts, and products. Perhaps this is the starting point for a new revolution and a new future. It is worth giving more tolerance, encouragement, and constructive opinions to help them grow, after all, paradigm shifts may happen inadvertently.

Just like the spring 12 years ago that was still dominated by free text messages, no one could have imagined that this product, which was criticized and rough, would change the way of life for 1.4 billion people after just a few years of growth. And are these criticisms and insults so familiar at this moment?



[JumpCrypto] Gaming Infrastructure Part 1: Defining On-chain Gaming 

[Will Robinson] Unblocking On-Chain Games: Part One—Throughput

[NAAVIK] An Introduction To Blockchain Gaming Infrastructure

[MIT Tech Review] This sci-fi blockchain game could help create a metaverse that no one owns 

[Devcon Bogot] Dark Forest: Lessons from 3 Years of On-Chain Gaming by gubsheep 

[DF Archon] Dark Forest: Revelation of a Three-Year Full-Chain Game

2022 April 19th, Amsterdam - Introduction to "Interesting Things" in the Dark Forest

[Bankless] Loot Explained 

[Loot.Foundation] Fundamentals of the Lootverse

[Loot.Foundation] A Meta-Timeline of the Lootverse

[OpenQuill] Open Quill recap + Pendium Launch

深度解读 Realmverse:Loot 生态具有可玩性和经济收益的链上游戏  translates to:

In-depth analysis of Realmverse: Loot, a blockchain game with playability and economic benefits 

BAYC to the left, Loot to the right, exploring the ecological development of "NFT new paradigm" Loot eight months after its birth 

网易回应魔兽关服事件  Translation:

NetEase responds to the World of Warcraft server shutdown incident 

网易逆水寒魔兽老兵服  translates to "NetEase Nishuihan Warcraft Veteran Server".

 Finally, thanks again to all the friends who have provided suggestions and help for this article. Grateful!! Full series links: 《Part 1: The Beginning and Dark Forest》 《Part 2: An Insight into the Loot Ecosystem》 《Part 3: Insights from Dark Forest and Loot, and Future Possibilities》  With thousands of words, this article provides a glimpse into the pinnacle of blockchain gaming through Dark Forest and Loot: full-chain games (Part 3)
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