Neutrino Program: Ask Me Anything Ep.2 Itering Tech Co-funder Alex Chien: Decoding Blockchain Games
This is an online Q&A program in the form of Ask Me Anything (AMA). For each program, Neutrino will invite thought leaders from different fields to discuss in depth hot topics in the industry in combination with technology trends, policy directions, projects and applications, etc., aiming to answer questions from the community, eliminate knowledge blind and expand the bounds of cognition.
In AMA Ep.2, Neutrino invited the co-founder of Itering Tech Alex Chien, an excellent technical expert in the blockchain field and a full stack engineer, to talk under the theme of “Decoding Blockchain Games” taking Evolution.land as an example. He has been an evangelist and involved in the technology development of Bitcoin and blockchain since 2011. Participated in the technology development and community building of many crypto projects including Ethereum, BitShares and Neo, he has rich development experience especially in Graphene technology and EVM smart contract.
Evolution Land is a virtual simulation game with the operations of game asset as its core. It is also an open platform and autonomous ecosystem based on blockchain, dedicating to blockchain game development, operation and resource integration. Game assets refer to game IP, props and other objects of value in the game. With the well-designed game asset model and economic system, Evolution Land will increase the value of game assets by expanding high-quality game scenarios and enriching players’ social activities.
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In current blockchain game ecosystem, there are more users and games in the gambling category. Why do you make Evolution Land a simulation game?
Alex: The development cycle and difficulty of gambling games are relatively short and low. Besides, they are simple to play and easy to communicate. Since users with risk appetite account for a certain proportion in cryptocurrency field, there is a market for gambling games, which also cost low in development. From the commercial point of view, the cost performance or the output ratio is good, so there are many such applications. However, for many reasons, such as the low entry threshold and the overflow of same kind applications, users do not feel curious about it any longer and are getting tired of the simple game playing. There is little room for future development of this type of applications.
The very definition of Evolution Land is a cross-chain platform for blockchain-based simulation games, which is of great visions. It can be described roughly as: the whole game consists of many continents, each of which will be deployed on a different public blockchain, forming a policy-independent “state” through user governance mechanisms. The parameters of the game can be adjusted, such as in-game taxation and income distribution ratio. The value of each continent (money, resources and people, etc.) can flow and trade freely. Users can buy lands, or work to collect various resources for construction, prop composition and many other uses. The game itself is also a DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization), and the revenue generated in the game is rewarded according to the proportion of the user’s contribution, and the user has a strong control over the game. Also, developers can further develop various Dapp applications based on the game’s open contracts, providing a variety of services and integrating with the Evolution Land from the economic level. An important mission of the development team is to launch the game, make all the codes open-source, and gradually reduce the centralization level in decision-making, leaving the game to the community.
For details, you can go to our official website and find our white paper. In short, Evolution Land is an economic experiment presented in the form of a game. We have a lot of ideas to test including some interesting concepts like UBI and Harberger tax.
Most of our team members have engaged in the blockchain industry since 2011 or 2012. They were greatly influenced by the geek culture. The development of such a project is mainly based on the following judgments:
First, the Internet is a network of information in which information can flow freely; the blockchain is a network of value that allows value to flow freely. What is Value? Value is not only about money, but also about digital assets, equity certificates, in-game assets, props and so on. This will greatly improve social production efficiency. We believe that blockchain technology represents a new type of production relationship, which will strengthen private property, change the way of collaboration among organizations and even upgrade the organization form of company.
We have often heard that the blockchain industry is working hard to make blockchain projects cowork with traditional industry, but there are very few successful cases. I think it is very likely that we have the order reversed. Blockchain represents the digital value network, which is a production relationship of decentralized trust in a higher dimension. We always want the projects to be implemented and acclimatized to the system based on centralized trust, which will result in nothing but incompatibilities and various compromises. It’s quite the same situation as when email was invented, we were thinking about how to make email acclimatized to the postal system consisting of postbox, postman, post office and other links at the early stage. The development of a totally digital and value-oriented application is in line with the characteristics of the blockchain, and the game is the easiest form for the general public to understand and use. This is one of the main reasons why we choose games as an entry point.
Second, in the current blockchain industry, the fiercest competition occurs in the public chain or the protocol chain area. Everyone wants to gain market dominance and a status similar to the “mainstream operating system” by improving performance and security. We believe that there will not be a dominant public chain, and the competition in this field will exist for a long time. There will be a high probability that many public chains with high market share will advance shoulder to shoulder. At present, each publicchain is like an isolated island with its own camp and value. As cross-chain technology matures, there will be a convergence that value will flow among different public chains. This will be a very interesting phenomenon. Currently, the communities of various public chains show some obvious “characteristics”, for example, some of them are fundamentalists; some are supported by high-level economic theory; some have gathered a large number of developers, pursuing the purity of technology; some are aggressive, while some are good at marketing, and there are still some that addicted to gambling.
Therefore, building a game ecosystem that is technically cross-chained, economically integrated, and able to accommodate a diverse user-base is a very interesting thing. At the same time, from the user’s point of view, they don’t need to migrate to another chain to play a game for fun. They can play it in his own “continent” and integrate into the “world.”
This is an important reason why we make our game cross-chain. In addition, the cross-chain asset coding protocol is a small and purely technical component of the system, with which we participated in a recent blockchain competition and got a good result.
Third, simulation game is more suitable for the characteristics of the blockchain, which requires less for real-time in-game operation. And it is more suitable to build a fundamental economic system for various Dapps to be developed.
From the blockchain game to the network of value, the compromise of the decentralized production relationship with the centralized trust system has impeded the implementation of many blockchain products and brought confusion to many blockchain practitioners. Back to the game, the cross-chain technology allows users to be involved in the “world” in their “native continent”. But we all know that simulation game cost users more time and energy, so how does Evolution Land keep the game’s playability and continuity?
Alex: This is a process of constant evolution, but there are several main principles:
Firstly, the Ownership. Users are players who not only get satisfactions from the game, but also influence the development and policies of the game by giving suggestions on the forum, voting on the chain and many other ways; meanwhile, users are the “shareholders” of the game, and the system revenue gained by the game will be rewarded according to the contribution of the user;
Secondly, it’s about the fairness and diversity. Evolution Land treats all users equally. Whether the user is a rich player who spend money like water, a tech nerd who is willing to delve into it, or a player just for fun, there is corresponding gameplay in Evolution Land. Under the same rules of the game, Evolution Land can make all players happy by enhancing the diversity of gameplay;
The third is openness. As I mentioned earlier, we develop the project as a DAO, for which openness is an important principle. We believe that with the right economic incentives, there will be a variety of developers to develop applications on our platform, for which we provide a third-party developer incentive interface at the contract level. Those people can bring a wealth of extended applications and services for the game.
The last but not least, it’s playability. A traditional Chinese saying goes that “different field has its own professionals.” Our team specializes in the study of blockchain technology and economic system. Therefore, we have partnered with an experienced traditional game company who will be responsible for the specific game production. I believe that the game will be very professional in terms of visual effect and playability.
There are three tokens in Evolution Land, which are COO, RING and KTON. What do they represent? Why is there more than one token?
Alex: The design of these tokens is based on user portrait analysis.
COO is a highly-available resource like the oxygen we breathe. In the context of the Evolution Land, the apostle (the player’s in-game representative) needs COO to survive on the planet. Users can get the resource through some simple operations such as log in to the game frequently. Many of the primary activities in the game require only COO, which is mainly for some players looking for fun, or for those who come around for a chance to experience the game.
RING is the system token in Evolution Land, which serves as unit of value in the game and acts as the base currency. It will be used to pay for operational fees and smart contract fuels in the Evolution Land system and network. The trading and purchase of various elemental resources, land parcels, buildings and props will also use RING as the unit of pricing, which is the most liquid currency in the game. To speak frankly, it’s the money in the game. Players work or sell resources to earn RINGs, which in turn can be used to purchase the materials in demand. System revenue of the game is also allocated by RING.
KTON is a proof of liquidity lock, and a proof of equity. Users need to lock RING into the Gringotts Bank for a certain period of time to get KTON, which is a bit similar to the interest on bank’s time deposits. In fact, it is an algorithm of the equity-based PoW: based on how long you promise to hold the token in the future. In this way, we can distinguish between players for fun and users who care about long-term interests. Part of the system’s revenue is distributed to game contributors (referring to users actively participated in construction and content creation), and the other part is distributed to KTON holders.
We have seen a lot of blockchain games turned into Ponzi scheme in the end. What mechanism does Evolution Land have to avoid the monopoly of big whales, or the project team running away with users’ funds?
Alex: To put it simply, the best way is to be open and transparent. Evolution Land has institutional and angel investors to help start the project. They are all under long-term lock-in plan, which is executed by contracts without any under-the-table deal. In addition, the release of RING is carried out by the Bancor algorithm. The ETH reserve provided by the project team for each circulating RING is locked in the Bancor contract and the multi-sig address. Users are free to buy or sell RING through the contract, which means that the project team has not raised funds from the public, instead, it uses its own funds to provide liquidity to the market. This is completely different from the normal ICO before. Therefore, there is no possibility for anyone to run away with users’ funds. In fact, the question should be that how the project team avoids being hunted by bonus hunters.
As I mentioned previously, Evolution Land is of great visions. Taking the game as an entry point, Evolution Land will grow into an ecosystem of blockchain game. In the blockchain game industry, we have great advantages in technology accumulation, in which we are very confident. We will grow with the blockchain industry to constantly integrate cutting-edge blockchain technology into Evolution Land, making it a benchmark project for the blockchain game and even the blockchain industry. This is the true value of Evolution Land. We believe in the broad prospect of Evolution Land, and we have the capability to achieve. We never think of pyramid scheme, or running away with funds. After all, we have a galaxy waiting for us to explore.
Besides, it is also very important to guide user’s expectations. Evolution Land is not a pyramid scheme or gambling, but a game. We believe that serious management will bring a reward, and we hope users to realize that the reward is not only about money, but also getting fun in the game. Participating in such a social experiment is a very interesting thing in itself. It is unrealistic to getting rich overnight, not to mention that any project has a risk of failure. It’s better not bet all on a single throw.
In the blockchain industry, the project team is a vulnerable group. In the white paper, we learned that Evolution Land uses the Darwina network to achieve cross-chain operation, can you describe more about the differences between this and other cross-chain technologies?
Alex: Centralized and semi-decentralized cross-chain tools are already in our toolbox, but they are not so pure. And there are many other teams working on this problem. The cross-chain technology of Darwina’s network is focused more on specific applications and rapid implementation. The original intention of Darwina chain is to make the blockchain game assets circulate among different continents, that is, different public chains. Considering the player’s game experience, we need to make some trade-offs between decentralization and efficiency. The Darwina network will take Cosmos and Polkadot as references. According to the development progress and maturity of the project, we will continue to improve the game based on players’ feedback in actual use, and finally meet the requirements of the game and the demands of players. After all, a true cross-chain technology needs to be accepted and practical, otherwise, it’s only a castle in the air.
Speed of the game is very important for players, and blockchain network congestion has always been criticized. What technical solutions do you have to ensure the fluency and experience of the game?
Alex: This is indeed the case. Now, every step of the blockchain game needs to be operated on the chain. The process of sending transactions for confirmation is overwhelming on the POW-based public chain. It’s the same problem faced by our first continent running on Ethereum blockchain. It’s a problem for the entire industry to solve. We’re considering to use the Layer 2 solution because it can be decoupled from the underlying public chain. As our continent is running on different public chains, the improvement of an individual blockchain is of little significance to us.
We will use a Layer-2 scaling architecture called Counterfactual Common State Channel. Counterfactual means that we presume something not existed or not happened yet as existed, and to carry on following things based on such a presumption. This concept is to regard the on-chain contract as a dispute resolution mechanism. A large number of transactions will be carried out off-chain before finally settled on the blockchain. For example, some of us played cards one night for hundreds of rounds, but the winning or losing is actually a few dozen dollars. The current application is to make settlement on-chain at the end of each round, which is slow and a bore to the players. The process after applying state channel will be more simple, which is to record each round of the game with signatures of the players and make settlement at the end of the game to get the money from the contract. Others can also supervise the process of settlement. No one can cheat. With the off-chain process, the efficiency is improved. And off-chain recording can be made by a centralized server, both the speed and the efficiency are improve greatly.
Of course, it’s a simplified example, which describes the scenario of payment status channel of Lightning Network and Raiden Network. It’s a way to achieve scaling by establishing a payment status channel.
However, in our scenario, it’s not enough to have the state channel only for payment, so there is a general state channel, which, in addition to the migration of state describing the balance, includes other types of state, such as the state change of my cat after eating. The difficulty of implementation has also increased. We will take a more pragmatic route, the domain-specific state channel. In other words, it is to make some compromises on the target of the general state channel. Instead of trying to solve all problems, the conditions are set in the field of game or in the field of Evolution Land. By this way, the difficulty can be reduced, and it is possible to achieve in an acceptable time.
With this technology, users will enjoy a response speed and experience close to traditional centralized games, while maintaining independence and verifiability. Even if the channel becomes unavailable for some reasons, users can still reclaim their assets directly from the contract. For now, Evolution Land has implemented and adopted a one-way token distribution state channel for players to obtain KTON dividend and RING rewards.
From the perspective of Evolution Land’s development and operation, what are the advantages and disadvantages of blockchain games and traditional ones?
Alex: Comparing with traditional games, the blockchain games are like a baby swaying and squatting. The traditional game system is perfect and easy to connect with users. While blockchain games are now of high education costs. Users need to learn to use wallets and understand the concept of assets on the chain, etc. The props of traditional games may never be actually owned by the gamer, but hosted on the game company’s server. Therefore, cognitive concepts also need to be upgraded. The current users of blockchain games are high-quality users in a sense, most of whom are from the so-called cryptocurrency circle or blockchain circle. They are adventurous, willing to try, willing to consume, and regard the game as an investment. This is of great difference from the traditional game users who pay more attention to experience and consume little. Blockchain games grow on the value network, so they are born with financial nature. Users may truly own their game asset props, which can be flowed freely. This is where it has a sort of magic power.
Moreover, another important difference between blockchain games and traditional games is that the public chain can make Evolution Land an infinite game that is open and borderless (finite game is for the purpose of winning, while the infinite one is for the continuation of the game). Independent developers are free to opt in and add extended finite extensions. The economic and right rules of the game are defined on the chain, anyone can run it by sending a transaction. Blockchain games do not restrict independent developers’ access to these contracts and content. These features give players a user experience of real-world that is rarely seen in traditional games, therefore, we are looking forward to seeing what new changes this new species will bring to the game industry.
The core essence of the game is “fun”. What is your ideal blockchain game like? What games do you think are good now?
Alex: The definition of fun is different in the eyes of different people. In my opinion, it’s something that catches my eyes with great imagination, or make me surprise. I’m not bothered with its complicated playing methods. However, others may find the game is cool for its easiness and fine pictures. There still others consider that making money is more important than pictures or any other features.
One of the characteristics of the Evolution Land is that because of blockchain, the sense of participation and possibility may be included into the definition of fun. The sense of participation means that users can influence the development of the game through some mechanism of on-chain governance. In this case, the game will from Tencent’s game, Netease’s game to my game. The possibility is that because of the decentralization and co-governance concept of blockchain, blockchain games can be developed and expanded with various possibilities. No one can accurately predict what the game will end up.
As can be seen from our team’s usual discussion, when discussing other projects, the atmosphere was relatively mild. While in discussion of games, the imagination was wide open and the atmosphere was rather enlivened. From this, I can tell it will be of great fun.
There are a lot of new games in the market. Personally, I like CryptoKitties most. In addition to the pretty and cute cats, CryptoKitties created a precedent for collection games based on blockchain. Each cat is a digital artwork whose appearance is determined by genes, which further determines the appearances of its offsprings. The ownership towards any cat you bought is confirmed by the blockchain, which cannot be denied. This is pretty cool to me.
The “Apostles” in Evolution Land is the role controlled by the user. By learning from the genetic design of CryptoKitties, it will inherit, cross and mutate the genes, based on which, it will add features such as gender, race, disease and population control.
01.Member of Neutrino community Jay: Which public chain will the second continent be based on?
Alex: In fact, I really want to know exactly about the answer to this problem as well. Now we are studying a batch of public chains that we are familiar with, including EOS, LOOM, TRON, QTUM, NEO, HOLOCHAIN and the like. We are actively communicating with these teams to make decision and build the next continent in consideration of development difficulty, time consumption, community size and other factors. The assessment is not yet completed and there is no final conclusion.
02.Member of Neutrino community Mr. Chen: I am a gamer. I learned from the white paper that the elements are used to synthesize the squares, which are used to build buildings. However, I didn’t get the function of such building from the white paper, which is the biggest confusion since I joined this project. After all, the ultimate form of the elements is the building.
Alex: The elements are minerals beneath the ground. They will be the cornerstone of the game’s advancement in the future. A large number of architectural props need these elements, and labors as well. Buildings will greatly increase the user’s contribution to the system and increase his share of system revenue. At the same time, the main function of the building is to provide a gamified interactive scenario for the application in the future, where the landlord can rent the building to the application, or participate in the revenue sharing of the application.
03.Member of Neutrino Community Wang Zhongping: When a user has only one account (an eth address), he can choose one occupation. If he wants to change the occupation, does he need to clear the performance of the previous occupation? Can one account have more than one occupations?
Alex: The occupation role is carried by the apostles, and one ETH address can have multiple apostles. Each apostle have a occupation, however, a apostle can choose one occupation only.
04.Member of the Neutrino community Wang Wei BIT.GAME: What is the design for gamers’ consumption in the game? Other than technology, blockchain games are very different from traditional games in terms of profit distribution. Most blockchain games tend to ignore the charges. However, it is difficult to guarantee the long-term positive development of the economic system within the game incentivized solely by the native token. To put it bluntly, the blockchain game is also a zero-sum game. Only when someone is willing to spend money, the rest people can make money.
Alex: Consumer users or rich gamer who is willing to spend money are important consumers who care about achievements. RING is the main token in the system. Users can get RING to purchase resources, hire workers, etc. with ETH ,to speed up the game.
05.Member of Neutrino Community Zero²⁰¹⁸: With the support of Darwina Network, in addition to the improvement in speed, can other blockchain games be transplanted to the Evolution Land in the future? As you mentioned earlier, this is an open game with many possibilities.
Alex: The main function of the Darwina network is to solve the problem of cross-chain asset flow, which has little effect on speed:), and the performance improvement mainly relies on the Layer 2 scaling technology. Of course, other games or Dapps can be integrated into the Evolution Land. As an open blockchain game, with a good layered design and cross-chain plan, it will provide a lot of basic services for blockchain game applications on it, including blockchain contracts and application services, as well as game model interfaces.
Evolution Land will provide a unique gamification interaction scenario for Dapp, which will likely be rendered in a gamified manner of 3D model interaction.
The element resources will be acquired through mining under the land of landlord. By combining the element resources with building template (including corresponding interactive foundemantal components), we can get the building. For example, Dapp developers can bind the functionality of an app to the interactive scene of the game by renting the building. For example, when a gamer enters the building of a virtual bank, he will be able to see the “AI Apostles” provided by Evolution Land for consultation and service, and the interactive controls of the counter and screen will become a part of the architectural model in the form of 3D items. In this way, Evolution Land and Dapp work together to provide players with a consistent gamified experience. Dapp indie developers can focus on functionality, while Evolution Land will provide account signing, web transaction, economic system and access to other Dapp services.
These Dapps will greatly enrich the ecosystem and functionality of Evolution Land, adding playability and realistic effects.
06.Member of Neutrino community Edward Cai: If there is a EVO replica, a copycat, how to ensure that Evolution Land is not weakened. (There’re already copycats)
Alex: It’s a good question. Since technically, the final contract will be open source, the best barrier to copycats is the brand and the community. This is why we have already started to deploy the second public chain and quickly brand it out.