I believe gaming will be one of the first major breakthroughs of blockchain technology. We already saw the first hints of a breakout when Cryptokitties took the blockchain world by storm in late 2017. So much so that it nearly brought down the Ethereum blockchain.
The ability to own and trade one-of-a-kind digital items makes blockchain gaming a truly unique proposition. Couple that with virtual reality worlds and secure blockchain technology; it’s a revolution waiting to happen.
But there’s a problem. No blockchain platform is yet powerful enough to support high-quality games and millions of users.
Ethereum is the obvious candidate, but as we saw with Cryptokitties, there are serious issues with scaling. Ethereum ground to a halt when too many users flooded the system. The Ethereum scaling roadmap now extends to 2025 to address these issues.
So what else is out there? Zilliqa.
Zilliqa has the potential to scale significantly faster than Ethereum, and the team is putting gaming at the heart of their mission. I spoke to Xinshu Dong, CEO and co-founder of Zilliqa to find out more. First things first:
What is Zilliqa?
Zilliqa is a blockchain platform similar in focus to Ethereum. It gives developers a platform to build games, decentralized apps (dApps), and projects. The key difference to Ethereum is speed and throughput. Zilliiqa can handle 2,828 transactions per second compared to Ethereum’s 15-30.
In Xinshu’s words, “Zilliqa is an open, high-performance, high-security blockchain platform. We aim to make decentralized blockchains the building block of future applications while tackling the limitations in scalability and security in order to enable real-world usability across a variety of industries.”
Why has progress been slow in blockchain gaming?
There are a handful of innovative blockchain games out there right now. But we’re a long way from seeing anything as ambitious as Fortnite or League of Legends on a blockchain. The main reasons for this, Xinshu explains, is “poor user experience (UX) and a lack of concrete user value-add.”
The issue is also rooted in a lack of technology on which to build blockchain games. “It is difficult for developers to fully address this without a stronger tech stack to enable a better user experience.”
Zilliqa aims to fix these issues by establishing a platform that is friendly for gamers to use and powerful enough for developers to build ambitious games upon.
Improving blockchain gaming UX
The problem for gamers starts with a complicated on-ramp. To play blockchain games, you often need to download a browser extension and load up a wallet with the correct cryptocurrency.
“Gamers are confronted with high barriers to entry,” Xinshu says, “due to a complex setup process, such as getting a wallet and an upfront cost to pay for gas fees. This becomes a deterrent for new gamers in the space.”
The games themselves are often slow and cumbersome due to the low transaction rates on Ethereum.
“Blockchain games are slow and the lack of immediate finality results in users waiting for their transactions to finalize, which can often take a few minutes. When compared to mobile, PC, or console games, this is a poor gaming experience. Zilliqa’s higher transaction throughput and lower gas fee can help to address some of these issues. We’re also exploring features that can help developers design more user-friendly games, such as the ability to offset gas fees to developers rather than to users.”
Blockchain Games Leave Ethereum For Zilliqa
Zilliqa made headlines in the crypto world last year for luring the popular game Etheremon away from its home on Ethereum. I ask Xinshu why Zilliqa is a better fit.
“Etheremon, a decentralized app built on the Ethereum network, experienced high gas fees and transaction congestion due to scalability issues. This led to poor UX for users and Etheremon was forced to move the in-game battles off the blockchain, demonstrating the structural limitations of existing infrastructure and the need for alternative, innovative solutions.”
Zilliqa’s faster platform provides an instant UX boost for gamers and developers. However, speed, UX, and decentralization is just the first step. For blockchain games to truly take off, Xinshu admits, we need a killer game.
“Games Need to be Fun”
“While some gamers may be attracted to the decentralized manner of buying and selling items within the game, ultimately, the game needs to be fun to attract gamers. If the game is not in high demand, to begin with, the items themselves will have little value.
“As a whole, blockchain gaming needs to be designed from the ground-up to maximize the value-add of blockchain as opposed to copying existing mobile gaming paradigms. Zilliqa is actively looking to partner with game developers who are committed to this, and we strive to provide technical solutions to support them.”
Could Virtual Reality Be The Answer?
One of Zilliqa’s partners in the gaming world is Decentraland; a virtual reality platform that supports games and even virtual real estate. Xinshu tells me more about the potential of virtual reality’s interplay with blockchain.
“VR is one of the areas of gaming that has strong synergies with blockchain. In games where users can create their own items, artwork, and worlds, giving them ownership through the blockchain makes a lot of sense –– for example, Cubego, the new game by the Etheremon team, emphasizes user generated content.
“When looking at the entirety of the virtual world on a blockchain, there’s an immutable record of ownership when a user creates these items and eventually, creations can be traded and monetized safely. Although it’s possible to do all of this in a centralized manner, the decentralized nature of building a virtual world on blockchain can breed a stronger sense of community and ownership across the members of that world.”
Let’s get technical…
So far, we’ve addressed Zilliqa’s commitment to the gaming industry. But how does the technology work behind the scenes?
“Zilliqa uses sharding to attain greater scalability while maintaining high standards of security. Our entire mining network is divided into multiple consensus groups – shards – that are capable of processing transactions in parallel. Our network also allows for on-chain linear scalability – this means that as the network grows and the number of nodes increases, the faster our network runs. Though we are able to attain a higher transaction throughput, this does not occur at the expense of the number of nodes available to process transactions.”
Sharding: Zilliqa’s silver bullet for scaling
Zilliqa’s technical solution to high speeds and lower fees is sharding. Sharding is also being explored by Ethereum’s development team, but Zilliqa will likely be the first blockchain to implement the technology.
In simple terms, sharding partitions the blockchain into smaller “shards” in a bid to relieve congestion. It’s one of many proposed solutions for scaling blockchains. But why did Zilliqa put sharding at the heart of its technology?
“We’ve found that sharding is a viable layer 1 solution that allows us to strike a balance between decentralization, security, and scalability. Security is a priority for us and preserving decentralization ensures that our blockchain is secure through the consensus of public opt-in nodes and offers third-party censorship resistance of transactions. By opting for a layer 1 scaling solution, we’re able to scale securely as the blockchain operates with the full security guarantee provided by itself. Moreover, scaling on layer 1 will allow us to explore more solutions for layer 2 scaling further down the line.
Though we believe that sharding is currently one of the best options to tackle the scalability problem, we intend to continue to innovate beyond that as we develop our platform.”
What’s next for Zilliqa?
Zilliqa’s mainnet is scheduled to go live on 31st January. A successful launch could lure even more dApps and game developers to the platform. As Xinshu explains, gaming is just one industry on the platform’s roadmap.
“In general, Zilliqa wants to enable any DApps that can bring a strong user value-add, realize the true potential of blockchain, and benefit from our high throughput platform. We also want to focus heavily on use cases, specifically in digital advertising through our partnership with Mindshare, and in financial services and insurance.
“A strong user experience with low barriers to entry coupled with a clear, concrete user value-add, will help to make DApps more popular among mainstream audiences.”
Zilliqa’s mainnet launches on 31st January.