Virtual currencies have been around in video games almost since the beginning, in the form of precious coins, gems, or other eye-catching tokens of value. They’re earned by completing objectives, and used to buy things like weapons, armor, or other fun virtual assets. Now MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) games like World of Warcraft or EVE have spawned virtual currency-based markets for virtual goods, and their increasing immersiveness with technologies like the Oculus makes one question how virtual these currencies really are.
None of these were cryptocurrencies, however (there’s a difference), because they relied on a central server. But recently, developers have been designing games with currencies that utilize the blockchain; although these need not necessarily be intended for real-world use, in most cases the game is designed the promote the cryptocurrency as an actual unit of value. Being a video game afficionado and reader of related publications, I’ve taken it upon myself to preview these cryptocurrency-based games for you.
Huntercoin is possibly the most decentralized video game on the market, and has been mention before on our site. Every single in-game event is recorded in Huntercoin blocks, in the same manner that Bitcoin or Huntercoin transactions can be recorded on their respective blockchains. Instead of connecting to a central server to interact with other players in Huntercoin’s MMO world, your client runs through the Hunter blockchain to learn what moves they’ve made.
Huntercoins are mined with a hybrid system, combining SHA256 (mergable with Bitcoin mining), scrypt (mergable with Litecoin and its kind) and the power of video game addiction. Players are enticed to collect huntercoins on the map, which can be brought to a spawn area and redeemed into your Huntercoin wallet. There they can be used to create new Hunters, or as any other cryptocurrency.
As always, however, it is easier said than done. The coins you’re collecting come from other dropped players–if you yourself are killed, 4 will go to the proof-of-work miners, and the rest are up for grabs. Players kill one another via a kamikaze attack, which require more than one hunter and skilled timing and coordination.
Motocoin is also trying to stay true to the tenants of decentralization. Unlike Huntercoin, however, Motocoin players never interact with one another, rendering most in-game events unnecessary to store on the Motocoin blockchain. Aside from everyone’s Motocoin balance, the only thing it needs to keep track of is who beat the game first for each block.
This is important because Motocoin is the first cryptocurrency to implement the proof-of-play protocol. The wallet client contains a simple one-player game, the object of which is to collect the Motocoin in time using your motorbike. The first to do this mines the upcoming Moto block; instead of the order of transactions being confirmed by whomever first finds a small enough hash value (proof-of-work), it is decided by the winner.
Double-spending your motocoins via a 51 attack is difficult because of the sheer competitiveness of the game. The controls are still rather clunky, which can make it frustrating to navigate the floating boulders in your path, but the developers promise continued improvements. The most important one upcoming is designed to detect bots, which are currently skewing the difficulty to an inhuman level.
Although the Munne Project by Munnecoin is more centralized than previously-mentioned games, it plans to make up for it with more advanced features. Currently in alpha stage, it is a browser-based game hosted at http://munneproject.com/ (no word on .bit or MaidSafe/Storj integration) with a mafia theme.
Like similar browser-based games, you can complete missions, practice shooting at the range, and fight or bribe other characters. Eventually, you gain the ability to start your own crime family, and their server will come to support massive cooperation and competition between players. They’re also putting a lot of work into the graphics.
They haven’t yet integrated Munnecoin with the game, but the developers claim it will inevitably be instituted as the in-game currency. This will raise the issue of whether or not Munnecoin is a both a virtual currency and a cryptocurrency, but for now Munne is just a proof-of-stake coin with 3 interest per year. They make a lot of bold claims about their plans for widespread adoption, and their ICO as an investment opportunity.
HYPER, QuarkCoin, and Shaquille O’Neal
At the other end of the spectrum, there are games not initially designed for cryptocurrency that have chosen to incorporate it after the fact. The most notable so far is Shaq Fu: a Legend Reborn, a reboot of the original Shaq Fu from the 90’s now rejuvinated by Indiegogo. It was a relatively basic fighting game, loved by nobody except serious fans of Shaquille O’Neal.
Shaq Fu will now accept QuarkCoin–a cryptocurrency designed to enable CPU mining at home–for in-game purchases. Other games are becoming involved in a less direct fashion; HYPER is another proof-of-stake cryptocurrency that will hold tournaments in Steam games like Counterstrike, the rewards for which are coins. They also hope to develop their own MMO and add HYPER as the in-game currency.
It’s only fitting that cryptocurrencies and video games should go hand in hand; they come from similar tech cultures, with global online communities. What was once obscure and underground becomes mainstream, like the shiba inus we all know so well. So it was with video games, and so it will be with crypto.
This article is the first installment of the Cryptocurrencies in Video Games series. Stay tuned for in-depth reviews!