The term “blockchain” has been thrown around a lot in recent years, typically in the context of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. While most people have thought about blockchain in terms of how it could change the economy, others have sought to apply the technology to other, more creative areas.
To understand those applications, it’s important to understand blockchain itself, which is a process where data is stored and passed around. A blockchain is created when a piece of data is either created or passed from one person to another. The “block” of data is given an identification number, called a “hash,” which is unique to each block and helps computers read the information stored in it. When the block is moved from one computer to another, its hash is read and identified. All the computers in these chains have the exact same information at all times. This makes sure nothing can be lost, and the data is essentially impossible to tamper with due to the platform’s redundancy.
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Developed by Axiom Zen to showcase the concept of block chains, CryptoKitties is one of the most popular games using the technology. CryptoKitties gives players a digital “kitty” with unique physical traits. No two kitties look alike, and this is what gives them value. A player can then pay a small fee in Ethereum (another type of cryptocurrency) to “breed” their kitty and pass some of its traits to a new kitty. The idea of the game is to pass rare traits onto new kitties that can then be sold for a profit. In this scenario the kitty is the data block being passed on. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
As blockchain technology becomes more popular and more accessible, the possibilities for this type of technology will become more advanced. Eric Schiermeyer, one of the co-founders of Zynga, is developing a way to make blockchain technology more accessible to game developers. As CEO of Blockchain Game Partners, he’s been working to develop Gala, a foundation that works to incorporate blockchain technology into its games. By doing this, Schiermeyer is hoping to create a world where “players can own the things they buy or create, even if the game eventually shuts down.” By creating a network where digital items in a game can be authenticated through a blockchain, players will be able to buy and sell digital items as if they were physical.
Not only is this all a concept, as Blockchain Game Partners has been working on a beta for the past 18 months. Townstar is a game that works using blockchain technology. Players start out with a plot of farm land and eventually work their way up into building an entire town. This type of game has been very popular in recent years with titles such as Stardew Valley and Foundation. It seems that farming and city building games are on a rise, and Townstar might just be released at a time where this type of game will be well received.
A large problem that developers for blockchain games have to face is a negative view towards microtransactions. In recent years, many players have been upset about the addition of microtransactions and loot boxes to many of their favorite franchises. Schiermeyer’s solution for that is to give those who spend money in the game “something that you can keep, and maybe even give away or give some to somebody else.” Being able to prove the history of an object, what resources it was made of and how old it is could give it a value that current microtransactions simply don’t have.
When this type of technology is applied to MMOs, an object that a player develops could be traded to another player and still retain any upgrade the first player put on it. As the game goes on and the object gets older, it could become an antique, being passed from generation to generation and gaining value just as a real-world heirloom would. Leveling up items in a game could have a whole new meaning. Blockchain technology could change what players get for putting their time and effort into a game.
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