Ready Player One is a film adaptation of a 2011 science fiction novel by Earnest Cline that takes place primarily within an immersive virtual reality universe called OASIS amidst a dystopian reality plagued by resource scarcity and overpopulation. The film is slated to hit theaters on March 29.
As interest in RPO grows, so do the fantasies of individuals worldwide about a real-life OASIS. OASIS represents a virtual safe haven from the issues plaguing the real world, an endless playground of beautiful scenery and limitless opportunities. The virtual economy booms in contrast to a failing real-world economy, with the global currency of OASIS acting as the most stable currency in both the real and virtual worlds. With the implementation of blockchain gaming, such a virtual reality could be brought to the real world.
For the past five years, a number of projects have focused their efforts on integrating cryptocurrency and blockchain technology into different facets of gaming. These strategies include tokenizing virtual assets, implementing cryptocurrency economies, and enabling trustless systems to wager goods and currencies. One instance of such a project is the Worldwide Asset Exchange (WAX). WAX is a cryptocurrency developed by the creators of OPSkins, the current leaders in virtual asset trading, to create a decentralized virtual marketplace.
Beyond just WAX, all of the existing blockchain gaming initiatives are interesting and certainly carry merit. However, in the context of achieving gameplay akin to that of OASIS, the most instrumental evolution throughout the blockchain sector relates to the concept of decentralizing gameplay. Decentralized online gaming takes place when servers are replaced by the blockchain itself. This represents a massive paradigm shift from legacy gaming solutions and, if successful, these progressions will propel online gaming as a whole.
Huntercoin, a cryptocurrency launched in 2013, represents the first example of such a system, and is the pioneer of blockchain gaming. Huntercoin was a simple MMORPG in which players fought with one another to harvest the in-game currency, HUC, which also acted as the cryptocurrency that fueled the Huntercoin blockchain. While Huntercoin was and still is incredibly innovative, its gameplay lacked substance. For example, players could only input movements or actions once per minute.
As for what is possible with Ethereum games, they are still bare-bones, costly, and limited in scale (that is, when too many people try to play the game, they slow the entire network down and make everything on the Ethereum network slower and more costly).
One project, however, is taking a different approach to blockchain gaming. Chimaera, which is actually the expansion of the pioneer Huntercoin project, is taking an elevated approach to blockchain gaming. Using a solution called game channels, real-time and infinitely scalable gameplay can take place, for the first time, directly on the blockchain. With this approach, games are not limited in complexity or scale, and gamers are not limited by the speed or frequency in which they game.
Game channels could potentially act as the framework for the first fully immersive, virtual reality universes. In the OASIS universe, gameplay is divided into 27 “sectors”, or worlds with differing functions. This is a process known as sharding. In the gaming industry today, sharding takes place to improve client performance and allow more players to interact concurrently within the world as a whole.
Sharding is similarly possible through game channels. Shards of game channels can represent cities, planets, or galaxies. When they are interconnected as a network of virtual realities, a Decentralized Autonomous Universe (DAU) is born.
Such a universe is fully equipped to emulate OASIS. This environment represents a massively empowering, limitless sandbox. Players are given all the raw resources and tools necessary to construct a virtual society exactly as they see fit. This could manifest in a number of ways, but overarching themes of such worlds suggest an environment of villages and cities, complex and massive economies, and a highly diverse array of tasks and activities for each player to participate in.
Like OASIS, the economy of this universe will utilize a global currency. In the case of worldwide popularity, such an economy could play a vital role in bridging the real-world economy by connecting third- and first-world players with equal opportunities. Additionally, real-world transactions utilizing the virtual currency would further legitimize and cement the value of this universe.
While the components of OASIS can certainly be emulated through a Decentralized Autonomous Universe, there are a number of differences between the two approaches. Primarily, there are no developers in a DAU. The nature of blockchain gaming is that there is no “God”. Developers have no special permissions or privileges beyond that of the general playerbase.
Other cool features associated with blockchain gaming concern the nature of asset ownership. In a DAU, players have complete freedom to trade and transfer anything and everything as they see fit.
Additionally, players can create smart capabilities for their items. For example, apartment keys in the virtual universe are analogous to encryption keys, where only the account that holds the key can access the apartment. This could also be utilized in the form of membership passes at classified facilities or VIP clubs.
While the sort of gaming experience contained in Ready Player One’s OASIS is certainly still at least a few years away, it’s very exciting to think that the next evolution of video games could be right around the corner. If these emerging blockchain developments can achieve the goals they are actively working toward, this gaming evolution is dangerously close.