Cardano and the Coming Metaverse
The gaming industry has seen incredible growth in the last decade, most notably in the online and social domains, but also in gambling. In the last 10 years, the online gambling industry grew from 20.51 billion dollars at the start of 2009 to a whopping 59.79 billion dollars in 2020 — nearly a 290% increase.
Incredible growth, by any measure. Yet, in comparison, the growth of online gaming (including games like Fortnite) dwarfs that of online gambling, going from 550 million dollars in 2010 to 3.37 billion dollars in 2014 — nearly a 612% increase in just 4 years!
As impressive as this growth has been, it's our strong belief that we are witnessing only the beginnings of a wild new future. Blockchain technology mixed with the coming AI revolution will take the industry beyond what we can even imagine.
Still, making educated predictions of the future is exactly what we do best here at The Crypto Drip. To appropriately describe what we see coming — as not only possible, but inevitable — this post is our longest read to date.
So brew a venti (maybe two) for this one; it's going to be very detailed.
The Current Landscape
With the growth of decentralized computing, mainly pioneered by Ethereum, we are now seeing games pop up in the blockchain space as well.
Unfortunately, the current landscape is still very limited. High gas fees and slow (for gaming) confirmation times on Ethereum create substantial barriers to entry. Perhaps equally dampening is the lack of funding that, when combined with unproven monetization strategies, limit most blockchain games to simple genres such as card trading.
While some notable releases evolve beyond this (such as Lost Relics and Age of Rust), development is still usually produced by a single indie developer, while most on-chain interactions are limited to simply awarding players with NFTs.
Larger studios like Ubisoft and Atari are making moves to get involved, but in a decentralized world these gaming behemoths will likely have difficulty adapting to new revenue models, as their business strategies are built on owning centralized databases and selling access to the proprietary assets therein.
Still, the space is evolving and we applaud all the effort being put into making it work despite these obstacles to mass adoption.
Before going any further, however, it might be worth explaining how blockchain gaming is any different from, say, a high-quality game release on XBOX. After all, immersive gaming is already possible with current gaming technology and hardware, so why do we want a future where games happen on-chain?
If you get nothing else out of this post, let it be this: the paradigm shift happens when you accept that blockchain games aren't really "games" as we currently understand them — they are more accurately described as alternate realities.
Everything in a blockchain game is final and immutable; in other words, the blockchain can be thought of as a digital reconstruction of linear time — and with time, comes real cost. If you sell something, you can't change what happened. If you purchase something, you can't erase that purchase from your history of events.
Mix this hard truth with the creative potential to imagine worlds without end, bend the laws of physics, and rewrite natural order? Everything we already play on consoles and watch in cinemas is now — for lack of a better word — real.
We call this the Metaverse.
A Vision of the Metaverse
The goal of this post is to propose how the Cardano blockchain can be used — both today and in the near future — to reshape our entire understanding of what gaming is and what the Metaverse means.
It's worth noting here that pieces of the Metaverse already exist, and that there are existing platforms working to bring about and enable this reality. But many of these platforms are built on blockchains that can't currently scale to mass adoption (like Ethereum). Even if they do, they still lack the mechanics to recreate studio-level gaming productions through decentralized funding.
While we believe Ethereum will have its place, we strongly believe the future will be built on protocols that are research-driven and built to scale: they are built for global adoption, accommodating billions of users. In light of that belief, we will focus on building our mental framework for blockchain gaming with a few specific technologies: Cardano, SingularityNET, and Ergo.
Despite leaning on these to support our Scenario, the reader should focus more on what blockchain as a whole can and will allow in the Metaverse — not necessarily the protocols that we think will win market share (though it couldn't hurt).
In the same way that online social gaming boosted the economy of gaming to the mainstream, we believe blockchain technology and AI will take it the heavens and beyond.
Prepping the Stage
To give our members the best possible understanding of what blockchain allows, we've broken this deep-dive into 4 different perspectives (centering around a single fictional Scenario):
- The Storyteller
- The Developer
- The Player
- The Merchant
Each subsequent perspective will draw from the previous one to help build a full mental framework upon which you'll be able to envision the future.
One last thing: much of this article is speculative in nature (for example, all characters are fiction). It is a mental exercise to describe what might be possible with blockchain gaming. However, it's imperative to grasp that the technology already exists (or will exist within the next 5 years) to make everything you are about to read not just possible, but likely. As you read, you should allow for some degree of inaccuracy around the technical underpinnings. Such inaccuracies will likely be limited to programmatic execution, and not capability. Each factual piece of evidence will be hyperlinked to reference existing and/or upcoming technology.
Alright, you ready? Great. First, let's set the scenario...
This scenario was written with this soundtrack as inspiration. If you like to read with background music, then give this a go as you read. We find it helpful when going through mental exercises that require a degree of imagination.
The year is 4321, and you're the captain of your very own starship. You've been sleeping for the last 14 hours, but you don't feel any different. As an avatar (a digital representation of your owner), you have simply been idle.
Your bed sits in the middle of a large room, securely bolted to the floor on a small circular platform. White sheets and a light blue blanket roll off of you as you sit up.
A familiar voice speaks directly through an earpiece in your ear, "Good morning, captain. Would you like an update on current events?"
It's Jarvis, your personal AI assistant.
Standing up, you walk over to the large gallery window on the opposite side of the room. The darkness of space threatens to drown you as you stare into the void, challenged only by the beauty of Kasandra, the planet you are orbiting.
Light from a nearby star glistens off the surface of the planet's watery surface, causing you to squint. Kasandra is majestic; swirling colors of blue and green accented by white strands of thin clouds.
Taken by the sight, you suddenly remember to answer, "Yes, please."
Jarvis begins reading off a list of events that have transpired while you were offline. For some of these events you are a subscriber, while others are simply what Jarvis thinks you may be interested in. Your mind wanders off again at the site of Kasandra, but not for long. Your attention snaps back into focus as you hear Jarvis mention an artifact.
"...my scanners have discovered data about the artifact you've been looking for. A recent transaction mentioned a possible location of the object in the Medieval chain of Alexandria. Considering what we already know from the Oracles, I estimate a 73% chance of accuracy."
Your heart skips a beat; the artifact promises a unique power-up to the owner's avatar. 5 failed attempts at locating the artifact have left you somewhat disheartened, but recent upgrades to Jarvis have enabled faster and better scraping of chain data.
Your hope re-kindled, you tell Jarvis to initiate the chain jump. "I don't want to waste time," you add, "send me a prompt to confirm the transaction." Immediately, a prompt appears asking for your authorization.
You confirm, willingly paying the jump fee.
Instantly, your room transforms into a forest of trees. The Medieval chain only allows compatible gear, so another prompt appears with a UI of your virtual wallet (everything you own). Compatible items are highlighted, and you select a tunic, map, and a dagger; less items mean you'll be able to move faster.
You confirm your selection (paying a small fee), the prompt disappears, and the avatar representing you updates accordingly.
Looking around, you take in your surroundings. The clear mountain air blows your hair to the side, orange and yellow leaves mixing in as they fall to the ground. It's fall, and the sun is shining brightly in the sky. Bushes fill the right and left edges of your purview, revealing a single beaten path in front of you.
Jarvis speaks in your ear, "I've marked the location of the artifact on your map. Head straight." Grinning, you begin walking.
Not two steps later, however, you're suddenly knocked to the ground as a giant blur of brown rushes out of the bushes to your right. It's a bear, the enormous size clearly suggesting mythological origin. With shoulders nearly 12 feet tall, a single strike from the chest-sized paws will kill you.
You instantly regret your dagger choice, but there's no time to change that now. Death here means losing everything you have on you. Do you fight or run? It probably doesn't matter, but you have to choose.
The unplanned event bleeds you dry of any excitement you felt just moments ago, as if prophesying the details of your untimely end. What do you do?
You must decide, and quickly. Time is running out.
The Storyteller Perspective
The scenario detailed above could have been one of a million different storylines, each one having their own twist of details mixed within its ink. But at the beginning of every story, there is writer. And from that writer, a prompt; a given set of instructions that lay the groundwork for a storyline that is as unique as it is engaging.
Megan is one such writer. She lives in America, in the northwestern state of Montana. Growing up on a cattle ranch, she knows her fair share of hard work. While the work ethic stuck later in life, Megan did not want to be a rancher.
After her chores were done, she would spend countless hours reading fantasy novels by writers she adored, hoping one day to write her own stories. After she grew up, and with the advent of blockchain, Megan settled on a lucrative career as a blockchain generative story architect, or a BGSA for short.
Her current assignment is to write a new treasure hunting narrative for Medieval, a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) that operates alongside the Cardano blockchain as an isolated side-chain. Medieval makes use of Voltaire, which has for a while now been integrated into Cardano as an extendable DAO framework for voting and treasury funding.
Every transaction that happens on the Medieval side-chain gets a percentage siphoned to the DAO treasury, which allows the platform to evolve and improve simply through continued usage.
After months of garnering interest in her storytelling capabilities within the Medieval community, Megan submits a proposal to get funded for the next year at a living salary of $90,000, an expense line of $25,000, and a completion bonus of $25,000. The total amount of $140,000 will be denominated and paid in the Medieval cryptocurrency of $MDV.
She wins the proposal through a community vote from $MDV token holders, unlocking the requested funds from the treasury and sending the living and expense amounts to a new smart contract.
As an initial trigger, the smart contract automatically sends the appropriate amounts to her wallet address from the proposal:
- The entire expense account of $25,000 worth of $MDV.
- The first month's amount from the living salary of $7,500 worth of $MDV.
- A single NFT that will act as an access key to the DAO's IPFS server.
Once received, Megan converts the entire $MDV to $AgeUSD (a USD-pegged stablecoin available on a decentralized exchange). The rest of the living salary in the smart contract is dispersed on a monthly interval, provided that subsequent proposals in each voting period are approved.
Each month that her funding proposal is approved, that month's funds are released from the smart contract and sent to her wallet. In the event that she fails to get approval from the community on a given month, the smart contract is terminated and the remaining funds are returned to the Medieval treasury, effectively firing Megan.
This all happens on-chain and without a middle-man.
To create the treasure hunting narrative, Megan utilizes both creative and technical skills to create a true masterpiece of intrigue. Using the expense funds from the contract, she can utilize on-chain services to produce a captivating story.
Most frequently, Megan utilizes SingularityNET agents to help her write her stories with randomness and complexity, both efficiently and without a large team. These agents are no more than AI algorithms that use the SingularityNET protocol to communicate with other agents as needed, essentially forming a neural net of general intelligence.
Specifically, Megan chooses a popular narrative agent, which takes prompts from writers and generates a tree of possible storylines. Using machine-learning and other resources available on the network, this agent can extrapolate and improvise storylines from user-inputted prompts with convincing creativity (much like GPT3 does today).
To start, Megan takes the idea outlined in her DAO proposal (about a lost artifact from an ancient civilization, hidden somewhere in Medieval), and prepares it for submission in the form of several classified prompts. Each prompt details a section of the outlined story, but remains vague enough to allow the AI agent to fill gaps.
Next, she fine-tunes the desired output by adjusting the provided options from AI agent's user interface. There are many options requiring understanding of machine-learning fundamentals (and this is why Megan can command a high salary), but the most important right now are:
- Storyline generation per prompt: 500
- Randomness variant: .137
- Output format: GERSF (Game Engine Relational Storyline Format)
The first two options determine the size and creative freedom of the agents. The last determines the output format, which Megan has set to a standardized policy format for minting relational NFTs collections on the Game Engine framework (more on this later in the Developer Perspective).
Since SingularityNET uses Cardano, Megan chooses to pay the associated fees for using the AI agent with the $AgeUSD already sitting in her wallet (Babel Fees have since enabled transaction settlement in any type of native cryptocurrency on Cardano, allowing automatic and appropriate conversion when necessary).
The process of this particular agent usually takes around 4 hours to complete as it processes her inputs. Megan submits the job to the SingularityNET agent and, once the transaction is confirmed, takes a walk.
When Megan comes back, the storylines are delivered via an access key delivered to her wallet (an NFT, by technical design). The storyline tree lives on a popular decentralized file storage protocol within the Cardano ecosystem, and is now accessible for her to view and control using her access key.
The next 12 months entail countless interactions with many different AI agents, further research, consultation, feedback from the community, and continued iteration upon generated narratives from SingularityNET.
Finally, on a brisk morning in December, Megan sits back in her chair and sighs with relief. The treasure hunt generative storyline is ready.
As a deliverable, Megan has compiled (using AI agents) a GERSF-compatible policy ready to be minted on-chain as a collection of immutable NFTs. Each NFT adheres to the GERSF standard that Megan originally determined at the beginning of the process, and thus can be consumed by the game developers (as we'll see in the Developer Perspective).
Without getting into the weeds, Megan is able to deliver the policy securely and privately to the Medieval DAO by uploading it to the DAO's private IPFS node, (using the NFT access key provided at the beginning of the work).
Finally, Megan submits a final completion proposal to the network and the NFT access key back to the smart contract. The community has been kept up to speed and things go smoothly — they approve her proposal overwhelmingly.
Upon approval (and validation of the access key within the smart contract) the DAO automatically sends the completion bonus of $25,00o worth of $MDV to the smart contract.
The final smart contract action is initiated: the remaining $MDV in the smart contract is sent to Megan's wallet, and the NFT access key is sent back to the DAO's treasury.
With the smart contract complete, the story done, and the writer paid, Megan is free to start on her next proposal.
Given the technical nature of this Perspective, we will not explore a fictional character's interaction with our Scenario. Instead, we'll take a broad overview of how development might work, and then spend most of our time on how game aspects could actually work with blockchain technology. If you're not a developer or don't have familiarity with blockchain, then feel free to skip to the Player Perspective.
Once the storyline in its entirety is complete, the Medieval DAO initiates a request to the community for proposals to begin funding development of the game. The best proposals include the full roadmap of development: from hiring, to timeline, to salaries, to predicted expenses, to planned execution.
Once the community decides on the best proposal, the same process happens for the development team that happened for Megan in the Storyteller Perspective.
Since going through the entire process of developing a game could be several posts all on its own, we'll focus this perspective on 3 distinct parts:
- The Metaverses
- The Game Engine
- The Game Interactions
Each will explain on a technical level how The Scenario could logically play out with current and upcoming technologies available on Cardano.
While most of our story has revolved around the Medieval Metaverse and corresponding side-chain, there is much more going on. If we zoom out, we will see that there are hundreds of DAOs; each building their own Metaverse lands on the Cardano blockchain.
Some of these DAOs will require side-chains, while others won't require it. Side-chains are separate computation layers that guarantee consensus on the main Cardano blockchain, but can be used to encapsulate complexity, create rules such as what assets coming from Cardano or another side-chain are compatible, and also create privacy layers unique to that chain.
Furthermore, in a Metaverse where many smaller Metaverses exist, side-chains will be important components that allow broader governmental regulations to be adhered to. For instance, a user may not be allowed to enter the Medieval chain because of regulatory restrictions, while others can. Cardano enables this by separating their consensus layer from their computation layer.
Regardless, The Game Engine (described below) will interface with the user's wallet and identity information, such as Atala PRISM, and give feedback to the user based on all of these variables (i.e. allowing entry to a Metaverse or not).
The Game Engine
In order for our Scenario to have a chance at working, there has to be a central framework that creates a common language between all these Metaverses. Currently, the closest example of this is Enjin (an Ethereum-based game framework).
In our fictional future, we're going to call this equivalent The Game Engine, and it will be built both as DAO and as a decentralized App (dApp) on the Cardano blockchain.
The Game Engine has its own governance token: $TGE. The Game Engine took the Cardano world by storm, introducing a novel new framework and standard for building Cardano-based games that could be scaled and multiplied.
It now holds the mission of providing software development kits (SDK's) and application programming interfaces (API's) for the ecosystem to rapidly produce and scale these Metaverses, and each of these are compatible with The Game Engine's main dApp suite.
For example, The Medieval side-chain mints unique NFT assets according to Game Engine policy standards, improving compatibility and predictability with other Metaverses, and allowing predictable swapping and transferring of assets between Metaverses.
The Game Engine's SDK's allow developers and teams to build studio-level gaming experiences while easily hosting assets like music, graphics, and more on IPFS. Furthermore, the DAO also maintains and supports its dApp suite including client interfaces for Mac, Windows, and Linux.
Users are rewarded for using these platforms by earning the DAO's token while they play, and in some cases (if they hold enough of the governance token) can even pay for their interactions with the Metaverse completely through the staking rewards that they receive.
With so much usage of The Gaming Engine, the DAO's treasury is the single largest innovation fund of any DAO to date, employing nearly a million developers, designers, and writers world-wide across hundreds of different Metaverses.
The Game Interactions
So, how would a developer employed by The Game Engine DAO actually create our Scenario? What pieces of technology would they lean on and how would they accomplish all the requirements of the storyline presented from Megan?
Jarvis (the personal AI agent) will be explained in more detail in the Player Perspective, so let's focus on 4 main interactions within our scenario:
- The Avatar
- Smart Contracts
- AI Agents
The avatar in our Scenario is actually a virtual representation of the user's wallet. Everything they hold within their wallet can be visually represented on-screen in some form or another, and The Game Engine has standardized this to make the life of developers a lot easier.
For example, a developer would use the SDK's provided by The Game Engine to connect a visual engine (like Unreal Engine) to data coming from the Cardano blockchain.
But what about saving progress, and user state? Well, this is where things are different from what we know in gaming today.
In the beginning of The Scenario, our avatar wakes up after being offline for 14 hours. What happened during that time? A lot. In the same way that you would get behind on notifications if you turned off your phone for 14 hours, the same would happen in a blockchain game.
Remember, time keeps moving on-chain, even when you're not looking. Events happen with or without you. You can't pause the game, other than synthetically — for example your "saved state" would really be the state of your wallet. You can't start over either (time is linear), but you can get rid of everything you own or generate a new wallet.
This also means, though, that anyone can have multiple avatars if they wish, though maybe only one would have an identity attached.
With avatars more accurately seen as visual representations of a wallet, this also means sending assets from one avatar to another would be nothing more than sending assets from one wallet to another wallet — that is, assuming those assets are not deposited in a smart contract.
Speaking of smart contracts, this is where things get pretty interesting.
Most game development at this point in the future is a complex layers of smart contracts. For example, if a user enters the Medieval chain from the Starship chain (lets assume that The Game Engine, as part of its framework, has already created a standard bridging mechanism between any Metaverse that is created using its framework), then the smart contract would execute a series of conditions or even more smart contracts.
For example, when our avatar initiates a chain jump to Medieval, one could think of this as The Game Engine being triggered to authorize a wallet connection via a bridge.
Visually, the Game Engine would be able to be creative with this (such as the room fading to trees), but underneath it all the user would be initiating a connection, and then prompting a smart contract agreement.
Since each side-chain can have its own isolated rules, an entrance fee could be required to move your assets over to that chain (hence the UI prompt to pay the chain-jump fee).
The UI that pops up for our avatar upon arriving is purely an interface asking what assets from the avatar's wallet they wish to submit to the Metaverses main smart contract (essentially telling the user, "You can play in our Metaverse, but you have to place something on the table to risk losing").
Remember what our avatar said? If he dies here then he loses everything he brought with him. What that really means is that the smart contract would burn the assets he deposited, effectively removing them from existence.
However, burning assets from a wallet does not destroy the wallet. Thus, our avatar could just re-spawn like any normal game, but without the assets he brought with him — the assets he risked upon arriving are now gone.
The prompt would restart, asking whether he wanted to start a new smart contract and deposit items to use within the Medieval Metaverse, or perhaps return to his Starship, or even a type of waiting room that The Game Engine created. The possibilities are really whatever anyone could imagine.
To take the mental exercise even further, each event within the Medieval Metaverse could technically be summed up in a smart contract. Depending on how location would be recorded on the blockchain, our user stepping on a coordinate could theoretically activate a smart contract involving the bear.
But hang on, let's talk about that bear.
Remember Megan from the Storyteller Perspective? She used an AI agent to help her build generalized prompts for the storyline. Imagine that the AI generates a storyline from a prompt she writes in the Danger classification, and creates 1,000 different variations of possible threats compatible with the Medieval Metaverse.
Upon entering Medieval, an AI agent could consume the data from the storyline provided to the developer teams from Megan, and pre-choose — at random — a complete series of events for The Game Engine to present to the user.
Such a strategy would suggest any avatar's entrance to this mission (or smart contract) would not be the same — millions of variations would be possible, but completely isolated to each activation of the smart contract.
AI agents could be utilized by developers to do all sorts of other creative things as well. For example, the game developers who originally built the Medieval world could use AI agents on SingularityNET to create entire worlds using procedural generation, or read data from Oracles on Ergo to replicate real-time weather within The Game Engine — effectively creating game environments that react to what a user sees outside their real-world window.
Ultimately, if SingularityNET achieves their vision of Generalized Artificial Intelligence, one could even imagine completely AI controlled avatars in-game that control their own wallets, using the complex neural network formed on SingularityNET to make intelligent decisions and affect storyline outcomes.
Finally, every asset in the game is an NFT. The tunic, the map, and the dagger. Even the land he is walking on (possibly even owned by another avatar).
The developer studio would translate rare storyline assets to NFTs, such as the artifact our avatar is looking for. And here's where it really gets interesting: in a Cardano-based game with a single NFT representing the artifact everyone is trying to find, the mission is playable until someone finds it.
AI agents would likely be used to choose the location of the artifact (using the policy from the Storyteller) each time a user entered into the mission's smart contract. No one could cheat, they would literally just have to find it within the maze of AI generated storylines.
What does this mean? The mission becomes dead once someone finds the artifact.
Why? Because the game developers would deposit the artifact NFT within the mission's associated smart contract. If a user ever won, the NFT would be transferred to that user's wallet. The blockchain would know the artifact was transferred, and The Game Engine could pick up on that transaction — alerting players that the artifact had been found.
The items from each avatar that were deposited into the mission's smart contract? They would be returned to the avatars' wallets, and the mission would be done.
This creates a wild sense of competition to find an NFT, basically gamifying the future of the NFT business in a way that hasn't yet been seen. It also limits the playability of a mission to the amount of time it takes to complete it, increasing user participation and transactions.
So what would this be like? This leads us perfectly into the Player Perspective.
Jake is a professional Treasure Hunter in the Metaverse. Back in the early days of the Cardano network, he was an NFT collector.
After a while, though, Jake got bored.
After all (with the exception of CardanoSpace, which offered utility), most NFTs were nothing more than expensive art. And while art was extraordinarily valuable in a human sense, it was also a dime-a-dozen financially. When the NFT craze finally came crashing down, Jake was lucky enough to have already sold a decent amount of his collection.
A New Game Engine
A few years passed and things were quiet in the NFT landscape — until one day, he came across a new gaming dApp built on Cardano called The Game Engine.
He was hooked from day one. The quality of engineering and game design was enough to cause Jake to exclusively play in The Game Engine's Metaverse. Games were no longer called "titles" — there were simply Metaverses.
Jake took a huge chunk of his earnings from the NFT craze and poured them into The Game Engine's native token: $TGE. With an obscenely large bag, Jake was able to cover his entire cost of playing in the Metaverse solely with his staking rewards. Furthermore, his net worth went up significantly after $TGE skyrocketed in value against the cryptocurrency landscape.
Jake's favorite type of mission (across all the Metaverses) was treasure hunting. It restored his love of NFT collection by re-igniting the reward of discovery. With the advancement in AI agents from SingularityNET, Jake was always fascinated by the new experiences every time he entered a mission's smart contract.
No longer were NFTs just an item to buy — they were an item to find, where real cost, effort, and risk was involved when trying to locate them.
Over time, Jake became prolific in finding treasures. His obsession with Metaverse lore became consuming. After a while, he got fired from his day-job as an IT specialist at a security firm for being late too many times.
He knew something had to change.
The solution was ironic. Jake realized he could do more than collect these NFTs. He knew he could sell them, but he also knew that if he could sell them, he could get paid to find them.
Thing's were different now than they were during the craze. NFTs had real utility, with many of them offering power-ups to avatars that used The Game Engine.
Immediately he set up shop. He created a brand new avatar (a wallet, as we described in the Developer Perspective), and associated an identity to it with Atala PRISM (Cardano's identity solution framework) for legal reasons.
From there, he registered himself and his avatar (wallet) with the state as a Metaverse Treasure Hunter. Many people, including his friends and family, called him crazy. But Jake was always ahead of the curve — and this time was no different.
He put his money where his mouth was, and began investing in equipment and services that would make him one of the first (and best) Treasure Hunters to date.
Jake was currently trying to find an artifact located somewhere in the Medieval chain. He had read the mission's synopsis on The Game Engine's public mission board at least a hundred times — but still could not find it.
He had entered the Medieval chain and died while trying to find the artifact at least 5 different times — but he was determined. He knew of a buyer (described in The Merchant Perspective) who was willing to pay large sums for this artifact, so the cost and lost assets were worth it.
Still, he had lost one too many items and was looking to recoup his losses with an easy mission in the Starship chain. He had just completed that mission two days ago, and was able to earn some more $ADA tokens (native to Cardano) to re-purchase his lost items from the public NFT marketplace on The Game Engine.
He then took an entire day off to detox from the Metaverse.
The AI Assistant
14 hours later, Jake boots up his computer to start looking for the artifact again.
He starts The Game Engine dApp, selects Resume, and sees a screen appear showing his avatar waking up on his starship (an NFT he purchased a while ago). In his ear, he hears Jarvis come online and give an update on what's happened since he last logged off 14 hours ago.
Jarvis is a competitive advantage that Jake has invested a lot of resources into. Using the SingularityNET marketplace (and thanks to his own IT background), Jake created his own program that utilizes several different AI agents to create a personal assistant.
Jake tweaked the settings and chose specific AI agents to make Jarvis super efficient at scraping chain-data on Cardano, extrapolate it into categories, and infer information based on public transaction metadata. Jarvis can also scrape other blockchain data, such as the Ergo Oracle pools mentioned in The Developer Perspective.
In this case, the Medieval treasure hunt mission includes a reference to the weather being an important part of the puzzle, so Jarvis has been paying attention to a public weather oracle running on the Ergo network.
As a complete AI agent, Jake can utilize his AI assistant (which also interfaces with his wallet and The Game Engine's API) to help make quick decisions and actions while traversing the Metaverse.
The challenge at this point has been finding the artifact. Jake knows the overview of finding the artifact, but each time he dies in Medieval, he has to start over. He doesn't get to use what he learned the previous try on the next try, because each try is different.
Upon entering Medieval and the mission's smart contract, Jake gets a completely new storyline every time (thanks to the AI agents that Megan, our Storyteller, used to create a narrative-tree of possibilities).
This particular treasure hunt has been going on for 3 months, and still, no one has found the artifact. The pressure is mounting, and Jake is mainly trying to be as prepared as possible so that he can reach the artifact without dying.
The first 5 times, Jake has tried to fight any threats that the storyline's AI agents throw at him. This time, he's doing it different.
"Lighter is better, maybe I can just outrun anything," he thinks. According to our Scenario, Jake is about to find out.
But what happens if Jake finds the artifact? This takes us to the final Perspective: The Merchant.
Kim is a Metaverse NFT reseller. In the truest sense, she is more accurately an NFT collector, just as our Player used to be. But in the Metaverse of The Game Engine, collecting and reselling NFTs is a full-time job and a living.
Kim grew up reading. She loves fantasy novels and art, but she never had the eye to make these things herself. What she really love, however, was curating what she found to her online audience.
Right around the same time that The Game Engine started taking off, Kim was writing a newsletter to her fans with all the most exciting Cardano NFTs she had found. More often than not, her fans would ask if they could buy the NFTs she would send in the newsletter.
After some thinking, Kim realized she could collect these NFTs and sell them herself, using smart contracts.
She opened up an online store on her website, and began purchasing NFTs where she could that would appeal to her audience. Once ascertained, she would put the NFT up on her website for sale and include the NFT in her newsletter.
Now, Kim is not technical. She can't program her own website, nor does she want to. What she really loves is the art and collecting activity of NFTs. She spends hours finding the best possible assets that she thinks her audience will like, saving them the same amount of hours and pain.
Thankfully, Kim doesn't have to code to be able to sell products. Since the main release of Marlowe, she can create her own smart contracts on the Cardano blockchain using an intuitive user interface on Marlow Run.
From here, she can deposit any NFTs she finds into a smart contract and set the conditions of that contract with a puzzle-building UI. For example, she wants to sell her deposited NFT for 500 $ADA, so she sets a condition to wait for a 500 $ADA deposit, at which point the smart contract executes the exchange.
Kim can do this without touching any code, effectively allowing her to participate in the blockchain Metaverse and make money without being overly technical.
Eventually, Kim realizes that much of her audience is starting to play The Game Engine, and a lot of them hang out in the Medieval chain.
In her business' chat rooms, she hears her fans talking a lot about the recent treasure hunting mission, and how no one has found the artifact yet.
Being a savvy business owner, she reaches out to one of her friends, Jake. He says he'd love to find the artifact for her, and names his price.
Kim agrees and sets up a new smart contract using Marlowe Run. This time, she sets the following conditions per her conversation with Jake:
- Kim will deposit a total amount of 50,000 $ADA.
- She adds a trigger to send the $ADA to Jake once he deposits the artifact (using the NFT's policy ID, posted on the The Game Engine's mission synopsis of the artifact).
- She adds another trigger to send the deposited NFT from Jake to a completely new wallet address that she's created, after it's been deposited in the smart contract.
- She then sends the smart contract address to Jake.
If Jake completes the mission, the Medieval mission's smart contract will send the artifact to Jake's wallet. He's not required to send the artifact to Kim, but he wants to get paid and she wants to re-sell the artifact to her audience (whom she knows will want to use it for their own avatars).
Once Jake sends the artifact to Kim's smart contract address (shared in step 4 above), the 50,000 $ADA will be sent to Jake's wallet and the coveted artifact will be sent to Kim's.
For the sake of exploration, let's say that Jake does outrun the bear and eventually retrieves the artifact. The mission is over, and everyone (including Kim's audience) know that the artifact has been found and that it was sent to an address.
It's likely that many would already know who Jake is (given his status). Regardless, on-chain data shows that Jake has sent the artifact to an unknown wallet (since Kim created a new one).
Kim lets the intrigue brew for just a few days to garner gossip. Finally, she posts the artifact on her marketplace in a smart contract as a timed auction, setting the starting price at 100,000 $ADA.
She knows there are several customers in her audience who will pay more than this amount to super-charge their avatar (let's assume The Game Engine enables the user to jump 3x as high in the Metaverse once every 24 hours), and that they will likely use it to achieve their own interests in the game.
12 hours later, after the auction expires, the highest bid on the NFT is 250,000 $ADA — a new record for Kim's business.
The Future Is Closer Than You Think
If you've made it to the end of this article, we applaud you. Much of what we've written relies on both speculative imagination of cultural shifts, but also educated predictions of what is and will be technically possible.
To finish up, here's a few questions we'd like to answer:
What About Ethereum?
It's true that we love Cardano at The Crypto Drip. But it's important to note that a Metaverse could technically (and already is beginning) to work like this on Ethereum.
In terms of side-chains, many Ethereum solutions could accomplish pieces of our Scenario with fast transaction times and low gas fees (Polygon comes to mind).
However, many of these solutions are piece-meal bandaids on a foundational layer suffering from systemic scalability problems. Furthermore, even though Ethereum is working to improve this with ETH 2.0 and the move to Proof-of-Stake, there are other additional problems not yet addressed, such as:
- Layer 1 governance protocols
- Identification verification (DIDs)
We keep scalability in there because even after migrating to Ethereum 2.0, transactions per second will be capped at a theoretical max of ~100,000.
Even at this size, it's hard to fathom that bottleneck issues won't arise again in the future, especially if you onboard billions of users.
Cardano, in comparison solves all of these without ceilings to limit scalability:
- Layer 1 governance protocol: Voltaire
- Identification verification (DIDs): Atala PRISM
- Scalability: Hydra (theoretically no ceiling)
Furthermore, Ethereum operates on an account-based model (meaning a single sender/receiver per transaction). In comparison, Cardano is EUTXO and can have hundreds of receivers and senders within a single transaction. So even when considering Hydra could scale to over 2 million TPS with 2,000 heads alone, the transaction model comparison to Ethereum is even more compelling.
Still, it's yet to be discovered which blockchain will win market share. No matter what happens, there will likely be a place for both — in fact, one could imagine a world where there are Metaverses both on Cardano and on Ethereum, but where both use the same standardized framework from our theoretical The Game Engine DAO.
Wouldn't Too Many Smart Contracts Get Expensive?
There's definitely a risk for smart contracts getting out of hand. However, with the novel approach that Cardano takes to smart contracts we are confident this would be resolved. For example, possible side-chain solutions to batch executions together, and even offloading smart contracts onto other protocol bridges (such as Ergo, where smart contracts don't use gas) would be promising solutions.
Couldn't Centralized Game Studios Compete?
Yes. In fact, in our Scenario there could be a situation where assets within the Medieval DAO would be visible to outside parties. Let's say the DAO treasury contains the data necessary to recreate the Medieval world, and this data is publicly queryable since on-chain data usually is.
In this alternate scenario, a centralized game studio like Ubisoft could certainly build their own visual representation of that data and release it as an interactive game (especially since The Game Engine API's would likely be open-source).
This isn't too much of a concern, though, since competition rarely produces inadequate results. Furthermore, DAO's rising to the level of competing with traditional institutions is only a good sign in our opinion.
This Whole Thing is Far Fetched, Isn't It?
It's important in a mental exercise to allow your creativity to flow. Considering half of the technology mentioned in our Scenario is in active development (Cardano smart contracts, for instance, won't be available till late summer or early fall of 2021), there will be many nuances that become outdated or completely inaccurate altogether.
However, we're less worried about the technicalities of our thought experiment, and are more concerned about general capabilities. Regardless of how the Scenario is built, we believe and care more about when it becomes reality.
From our perspective, we can confidently anticipate within 10 years — and within 20 years for the full force of SingularityNET agents to participate.