Metaverse is a word that gets thrown around a lot but what does it actually mean? How far are we in creating a functioning virtual world? More importantly, how will all of this affect the future of gaming?
A core concept when building a digital version of the real world would indisputably be… ownership.
Ownership in turn requires an accurate form of record-keeping as well as a method of payment. The relatively new technology; Blockchain facilitates both.
The essence of Blockchain is that it deviates from the traditional method of storing related information; the database. Even though databases exist in many different forms and sizes, let’s use a very simple example:
A college maintains a spreadsheet with three types of information; student names, phone numbers, and email addresses. The students have permanent access to the document but they can’t make any changes, only the admissions department can. When someone changes their number, they can notify the college. Admissions then makes the change in the list and emails the others to inform them.
This database is centralized (the college), has an administrator (Admissions), and multiple read-only users (the students). When a piece of information is changed, the old information is REPLACED with the new. If a student leaves, their record in this particular list will be DELETED.
With Blockchain, the three types of information don’t change but the way they are managed does.
First of all, a copy of the data ledger exists on the devices of the college AND every student. A student can update independently but ONLY their information. Every change to the ledger requires approval from ALL other users before it can take effect. The new information is ADDED to the ledger, leaving the old information intact thus creating a data chain.
What advantages does this bring?
Well, try to imagine a tower of Legos in different colors. In a database, the administrator can remove a blue Lego and put a red one in its place. The problem is that a rogue tower builder (a hacker) can do the same if they gain unauthorized access.
In the Blockchain, each layer of Legos is glued to the one below. It can’t be taken out, nor replaced. Even if someone did manage to pry the pieces apart, the Lego tower still needs to look EXACTLY like all the other towers or it will be rejected and immediately flagged for suspicious tower building. Changing all towers at once would be virtually impossible.
- Blockchain is almost impossible to hack as opposed to traditional databases, making it a very secure form of record keeping.
- Blockchain doesn’t overwrite data, so it can keep track of both current and previous owners of digital property.
- Blockchain’s high level of security allowed it to be used in the creation of the first digital currency; Bitcoin.
Crypto Coins, Tokens & NFTs:
Bitcoin is another one of those things that people love to talk about but do we really understand how it works? To explain it as simply as possible, Bitcoin uses the concepts of Blockchain as follows:
A Bitcoin is “mined” by having a computer’s processing power used to solve an advanced mathematical equation. The equation and its solution are then stored on the Blockchain and a Bitcoin is created in the process. A Bitcoin’s value, just like any other rare resource (gold, diamonds, etc.) is dependent on supply & demand and expressed using traditional currencies (US Dollar, Euro, etc).
Crypto refers to the encryptions used to safeguard these transactions, and Bitcoin is, therefore, a cryptocurrency. By definition, all crypto coins are tokens, but not all tokens are coins. Coins have their own Blockchains, such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple. Many Metaverse projects choose to issue their own currency tokens, however. These are encoded on coin Blockchains together with ownership records.
NFTs or Non Fungible Tokens are unique digital items that can be traded for tokens, coins, or other NFTs. An NFT can be a digital piece of art, a designer hoodie for a person’s avatar, a special addition of a novel, and many more. In most cases, there are only a few of each NFT item available and its rareness makes it “valuable”.
How does all of this work in practice?
Decentraland is a popular browser-based virtual world that has property owners including Samsung, Space-Ex, and Coca-Cola. The platform sells property called LAND. This commodity can be bought and resold just like land in the real world. Decentraland was built on the Ethereum Blockchain but has its own token, called MANA. The token can be bought in order to purchase LAND and other items within the virtual world but it is also traded on various exchanges.
- Crypto coins are tokens encrypted on a Blockchain.
- Each crypto Blockchain has only one unique coin but can be home to many different tokens and ownership records.
- NFTs are tokens of a unique collectible. Just like coins, and currency tokens, their value is dependent on supply and demand.
VR, AR, MR & XR:
VR or Virtual Reality is a technology that has been around for quite some time and emerges a person into a computer-rendered environment. The user sees the virtual world through a VR headset, which also provides the appropriate audio. Interacting with the environment can be done with a simple manual controller or even sophisticated motion capture devices and treadmills.
Titles such as Half-Life: Alyx, Skyrim VR, and The Room VR: A Dark Matter take immersive gaming to the next level, although they are not examples of Blockchain or Metaverse projects.
AR stands for Augmented Reality and refers to digital elements being rendered over the real-world environment. This effect can be achieved with hardware as straightforward as a mobile phone.
Games like Pokémon Go, Jurassic World Alive, and Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs make the real world a part of their experience.
MR is an acronym for Mixed Reality; a combination of VR and AR, whereas XR or Extended Reality, is the umbrella term used to cover VR, AR, and MR.
Did that make sense?
Related: Love, Death + Robots Volume 3 Review
Blockchain & Metaverse Games:
Released in October of 2018, Axie Infinity is one of the older Blockchain-based titles out there. Built entirely on the Ethereum Network, this casual browser game requires NFT creatures called Axies in order to play. They are initially for sale on a central Marketplace but can then be bred in-game. Players are tasked with raising their baby Axies, fulfilling daily quests, and/or testing their skills in an epic battle.
The Six Dragons:
This fantasy RPG has been built with the UNITY Engine and lives on the Ethereum Blockchain (JumpNet). As the players venture through the vast open world of The Six Dragons, all NFT items found or crafted in-game are automatically added to their Enjin Crypto Wallet. These items can then be sold or traded (and in the future even be used in other games).
The Six Dragons is still in its alpha phase but so far it looks promising. A playable version can be downloaded here for anyone wanting to give this title a whirl.
Even though this next-gen game is not out yet, it looks like it will definitely make some waves. Star Atlas is being built with the Unreal Engine 5 for hyper-realistic visuals and since it lives completely on the Solana Blockchain, the multiplayer aspect will no longer need traditional servers.
The game will feature a marketplace for selling NFT assets (spaceships, collectibles, etc.), two unique currencies; ATLAS & POLIS, and the possibility of earning mining revenue from territories you control in-game.
Last but certainly not least it will also be VR enabled for the ultimate immersive experience.
This Article’s Featured Image is ©Star Atlas
Even though a title such as Star Atlas seems to be pretty sophisticated, full Metaverse gaming is still in its infancy. What makes blockchain technology secure, also makes the transactions slower than what gamers are currently used to. Ultimately, a fully immersive experience will require more than just currency, property ownership, and NFTs. VR equipment is still costly and therefore not easily accessible to even the most dedicated of gamers.
Many tech companies are investing billions of dollars in the concept of the Metaverse. On the other hand, giants like Microsoft and Sony are buying up AAA studios left and right, in an attempt to dominate the gaming market. Only when all of these movers-and-shakers decide to make our games fully immersive and available to the masses, will we have a chance to play our games in their own versions of…