The purpose of this post is to share details why Blockchain technology is suitable for gaming and hopefully to inspire other Web3 builders to follow a Blockchain-first approach.
Blockchain technology is not suitable for everything. It serves to solve specific technical and social problems in our current web infrastructure around transparency, immutability and community.
As it stands, the technology itself can make an application slower, more complex & adds strenuous onboarding and education for the users.
Unfortunately, this hasn’t stopped projects that insist that “X” must be revolutionised with Blockchain technology (as long as you buy their token). These projects ride on the virtue of decentralisation and then miserably fail once real people use their application.
So that begs the question: What is Blockchain technology good for?
Over the past 2 years I have been tinkering across a range of Web3 applications and was lucky enough to build a side-project that inadvertently became the #1 Crypto game for a short period of time. You can read more about that here.
Since then we’ve discovered why building a game on the Blockchain is the key to building emergent gameplay, booming communities & exciting opportunities.
We have since launched Sunflower Land, a community built Web3 game on Polygon. We’ve taken the extra step to ensure every game item lives on the Blockchain — accounts, quests, skills, achievements, analytics + more!
The Stagnate Web3 Market
The explosion of GameFi (Game Finance) in 2020 sought hundreds of ICOs & VC funded game companies to appear out of thin air. They all promised a very similar idea — Imagine a AAA Blockbuster game…..but with an NFT and a ERC20 token that players can trade.
On the outset this was disrupting traditional concepts of asset ownership. However, on closer inspection it appeared that all of these projects were simply copying successful Web2 games, adding a tradable token and riding the wave of speculation.
There was clearly a lack of innovation and actual use of the Blockchain technology.
In 2021 I saw a huge opportunity to rethink the way that games could harness Blockchain technology to build thriving communities and ecosystems.
A Blockchain-first game
The model that we envisioned is what we now call a ‘Blockchain-first game’.
This is similar to the idea of ‘Mobile First design’, where designers ensure a website works flawlessly on mobile, then tweak it to support a desktop browser experience.
In a “Blockchain-First” approach, every game item is stored on the Blockchain as the source of truth. We then refine and adapt the game to work with traditional servers and databases to enhance the gaming experience.
Data that is stored on chain at Sunflower Land includes:
- Characters, experience, levels, skills, quests & achievements
- In game currencies, resources, tools, clothing + thousands of other game items
- Buildings and land expansions
- Player analytics — how many Sunflowers they harvest, how many trees they chop etc.
At it’s core, all of these items are stored as unique NFTs, SFTs and in-game ERC20 currencies. Each of these must seamlessly connect with marketplaces, wallets, scanners, social media sites, analytic platforms and more.
Benefits of a Blockchain-First Approach
Okay, so why even do all of this?
The team at Thought Farm like hard problems, but we didn’t undertake a Blockchain-First approach just for the fun of it.
The purpose of storing your data on the Blockchain wasn’t purely to support marketplace trading — in fact most of the tokens listed above are soul bound or non transferrable tokens (e.g. Accounts, skills, achievements)
By storing all of our game data on the Blockchain we discovered a range of diverse and profound benefits.
Unsurprisingly, gamers love competition.
Everything on the Blockchain is public for the world to see which means that all of our players have access at any time to discover the top farmers, leaderboards & unique trends in the game.
In short, the community knows everything: When a player reaches an insane level, discovers a mutant chicken or crafts a rare item, it quickly becomes common knowledge amongst our players. This can be seen through Blockchain activity or simply looking at someone’s wallet.
Sure, you can build in-game leaderboards and ways to display status. However, in these scenarios the game master is deciding what players think is important in the game.
At Sunflower Land we have seen thriving sub-cultures evolve around players who crafted a Goblin Crown, collected the Gold Rush skill and other esoteric achievements in the game. We never would of planned for these tokens to have such a significant value in our community, but luckily the Blockchain technology ensures that the community itself has the data points and proof to show accomplishments.
2. Interoperability — Marketplaces, Dapp Radar, Dune Analytics
Storing all of our data on the Blockchain ensures that all of our game items work seamlessly with existing Web3 services.
No longer do we need to spend time building non-game features.
We can rely on marketplaces like OpenSea, payment gateways like Sequence, trading features like NiftySwap & Open Source game leaderboards like Dune Analytics.
In a lot of cases we don’t even need to integrate with these services. Our players themselves can build on these platforms and add the features they want to see.
3. Build for the community
With open source and ledger based technology it becomes near impossible to launch an unwanted feature without the keen eyes of the community picking up on the change.
Every single feature we build is watched closely and critiqued by a large number of players before it can be launched.
This means that our features inadvertently align with the player’s desires. When they don’t, a community member submits a code change which gets traction and is added to the game.
4. Database free architecture
Even if all of our game’s databases were wiped out, the entirety of a player’s game could be restored from the Blockchain alone.
This means that we can spend less time with high-end database administration and complex recovery architectures.
For us, the Blockchain is the source of truth.
5. Community Projects
Since all of our data is stored on the Blockchain, everything can be publicly queried by an open source developer or game designer. This encourages players to build tools, projects & even games on our exisiting architecture.
Essentially we are not limited to the creativity of the Thought Farm engineers. Our community members are free to build what they want to see in our ecosystem. We have seen a dozen spin-off projects and tools launch since our inception, all thanks to our incredible contributing community.
6. Emergent Gameplay — My passion!
Web3 technologies have the ability to usher in a new genre of gameplay where players have more freedom to interact with a game’s universe how they see fit.
In a typical game, you are constrained to trade by the rules of the game master and the price that has been programmed. In a Blockchain first game, you have ownership of these assets and can trade them as you desire on external marketplaces.
Do you trade your carrots for wood? Should you level up your Bumpkin so you can swap it for Gold? Will you stock up on eggs before the Easter event?
These endless strategies are not programmed or controlled by our system — nor can they be predicted by our game designers.
No longer are players constrained by the rules of the game master!
Mass adoption in Web3 gaming isn’t about copying Web2 games and adding a few tokens. The real opportunity in Web3 is to create an entirely new experience for the players and community as a whole.
Experimenting with the possibilities of Blockchain technology is what excites us at Sunflower Land! Every day is a challenge and the space is ripe with unsolved problems. If you are excited about exploring these possibilities, please join us on our Github, Discord or Twitch live product development sessions.