Making friends online is easier with blockchain 

Online gaming’s largest growth driver — just like the internet itself — has always been and always will be community. Just look at the world’s most successful games, like World of Warcraft. 

But despite the complex social structures inside these popular, massive multiplayer online games, they all seem to follow a standard blueprint. 

Games will confine their player into forced groups, like guilds or clans, preventing other communities from building naturally. And without the trust and reciprocity that comes from hanging out with people in real life, these online gamers are left grasping for a deeper connection.

Fully on-chain games can bridge this digital divide, bringing the rich social tapestry of in-person connections into the gaming universe.

When online gaming was introduced in the mid-2000s, the industry blew up: Three billion gamers are active today. As multiplayer gaming flourished, game companies saw how well players responded to alliance-based games like EVE Online and built more games that cultivated player societies and digital connections. 

But by examining games like “Rise of Kingdoms,” we can shine a light on the dark underbelly of the conventional multiplayer model. On the surface, these games promote alliances, task distribution and role definition, but by doing so, they inadvertently dilute the average player’s experience. The game dynamics skew toward the “whales,” the high-spending players who are obsessed with domination. Consequently, the rest of the alliance can find themselves serving as cogs in their conquest machine.

The root of this issue lies in the lack of valuable virtual assets and a system to secure them. Web2 models, particularly those adopting a free-to-play stance, encourage players to invest money to achieve in-game goals. But both virtual assets — which are largely inflationary by design — and players’ individual contributions are undervalued within the game’s context. 

The conventional models in online gaming provide no incentive to preserve assets and individuality, as these intangible properties are inherently elusive online — in stark contrast to tangible assets protected by established legal and social structures. 

Players cannot organically form social structures or arrange diplomatic agreements to protect themselves, akin to NATO or a local government, where individuals work together, have laws, interpersonal relationships and form agreements. Such social interactions are not valued as highly as the money paid towards inflationary assets.

Bringing on-chain trust into online gaming

With smart contracts and blockchain technology, gaming companies can plug the gaps in the leaky trust models that underpin modern gaming. By preserving game assets and logic in a decentralized, immutable ledger, a new generation of crypto-native games is born. On-chain, the property rights of virtual assets and entities are as solid as any physical asset. Gamers can execute contracts that are enforced on-chain, allowing pseudonymous societies to flourish without fear of betrayal. 

But to maximize the potential of online gaming, the industry needs a template, an automated framework where players can monitor promises and enforce agreements, like legal entities that serve to protect individual rights and interests. A framework that can manage diverse virtual societies with tens of thousands of people requires a comprehensive system for interaction management. 

It’s not easy. Current on-chain game architectures struggle to robustly support both the social layer and the high throughput needed to make great MMO/grand strategy games. Many players are frustrated by their experiences with fully on-chain games, where waiting minutes for a game action to go through is common. 

This latency disrupts the immersive flow of gameplay and can be especially detrimental in scenarios where quick decisions and real-time reactions are vital. Imagine being in a important battle, only to be held back by delays in executing a crucial move, or attempting to coordinate with teammates, but being hindered by slow transaction times.

Read more from our opinion section: There’s nothing wrong with Web3 gaming, except everything you’re doing

We need better infrastructure if we want blockchain games to achieve mass adoption. Fortunately, modular blockchain systems have made significant improvements possible for on-chain gaming. It’s now possible to build custom rollup frameworks specifically designed to support performant games.

Underpinned by trustless infrastructure, the potential to foster deep, meaningful relationships online grows. The potential depth of these digitally mediated connections could match, and even surpass, the complexity and richness of social networks found in real-world communities like a sports league, extended family, or at work.

Players will not be limited to social structures designed by developers. They will be able to leverage smart contracts to create their own organizations and agreements, such as NATO or your kids’ PTA. The design space is vast.

Next-generation on-chain games have the potential to breathe new life into virtual societies. They offer players more than just an interactive platform; They provide a dynamic, immersive community that mirrors the complex social framework of the physical world.

Modeo Cheng is the founding game designer of Curio Research, an on-chain gaming lab developing next-generation crypto games.

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