We’ve seen some interesting ideas and concepts based on blockchain technologies over the past several months and plenty of people have been talking about video games and blockchain technologies.
This week Mark Kern who was a key founding member at Red5 Studios and was one of the original lead developers on World of Warcraft announced his latest gaming venture MEK-Entertainment and an Oculus VR game that will integrate blockchain technologies.
The indie game developer has worked in secret on a new gaming universe that will be powered by the modding community, built for the Oculus Rift from the ground up, and integrated with blockchain technology similar to Bitcoin to power its player driven economy.
The game features a retro 8-bit and SNES inspired art style powered by MEK Entertainment’s new ray-tracing, voxel graphics engine. The game’s multiverse will contain vast procedural landscapes and user scriptable servers.
Kern is joined by several other game industry professionals, including former key developers from Oculus Rift, ID Software, Red 5 Studios, Activision-Blizzard and Chucklefish, as well as experts from the emerging crypto-currency industry.
Coin Fire was able to pin down Mark from heavy development to speak with him about the new game and what the future holds for blockchain technologies with games.
Mike: The game concepts look really cool. What prompted you to create an 8bit game for such a powerful platform?
Mark: Well, 8-bit is more of a marketing phrases to conjure the feeling of retro gameplay that we wanted to get across to gamers. The engine is actually a very powerful “micro-voxel” ray-traced engine that runs at very fast frame rates which are essential for the VR illusion. We can display 4096 micro-voxels for every traditional sized voxel in a game such as Minecraft.
But to answer you question, we did a retro graphics approach for a few reasons. The first was that we love retro gaming, and the SNES days. The book that inspired this game, “Ready, Player One” by Ernest Cline is chock full of retro 80’s and 90’s gaming references. We wanted to capture that feeling. Second is that we are a small indie studio, and we wanted other small studios to be able to create MMO experiences in our game. SNES style graphics are about 30-40x easier and faster to make than next-gen models. That really opens the doors for small modder teams of 1-3 people.
Mike: We’ve heard word that you are looking at how blockchains can integrate with games? Can you give us any more specifics for our readers on what that looks like with your game?
Mark: We’re very excited about the providing an in-game currency for player to player trades. This isn’t gold drops in the game, btw, its more like a currency dedicated to transporting value between players. Since we have this universe of game servers with different games, we wanted a universal currency that could work “between worlds” so to speak and even, possibly, outside the game. The public and decentralized nature of blockchain technology fit perfectly with our goals.
But there are other applications. We have the concept of land ownership in our game, for example. This is a great virtual asset that can be tracked on top of blockchains. Bitcoin colored coins and NXT’s asset marketplace are great ways to do this. There is also the idea of a decentralized auction house. Most games have an internal auction house, but some blockchains out there already support decentralized marketplaces for virtual and even real goods. Exploring the blockchain tech to allow us to say, have an auction house that trades between games is a very interesting possibility.
Mike: What sort of time frame are you looking at for having the game come out?
Mark: We believe in rapid development and quick release cycles. We also will be building out in phases, so while I don’t have a release date yet, you will be seeing playable public builds from us next year.
Mike: What are some other cool concepts you can see with games and blockchain technologies?
Mark: I mentioned some of them already, but I’m also interested in seeing if we can use the blockchain for things such as secure player to player in-game e-mail and cross game communications. If you sense a theme here, it’s the “cross game” part. We think blockchains offer an exciting way to finally transfer information and assets between games, even entirely different types of games.
Why is this exciting? Well, from a player’s point of view, you put hundreds of hours into a game to earn rewards and advance your character. Isn’t it a shame there is no way to take your hard work with you to another game? Wouldn’t it be great if you could convert your gear on the market to a universal, decentralized currency, and use that to buy stuff in a completely different game? That way, your efforts and time as a player are never wasted or locked into a single game.
Mike: Can you see games where the currencies earned in games are traded on markets along with other currencies such as bitcoin?
Mark: Definitely. Look, Bitcoin is around a6B market cap, but games have at least14B in market cap for virtual goods alone. Everyone says crypto currency isn’t backed by anything…well, they would be in games. Virtual currencies in games are already well understood and accepted by gamers. Virtual gold is bought and sold for value determined by the players time and effort toobtain gold and items in-game. We can bring that value to the blockchain, potentially making crypto currencies more valuable as they have a “yardstick” of value based on these virtual items.
While the developers of the game are being fairly tight-lipped about what is coming they are going to be releasing more details and information in the near future and are encouraging others who are interested in the game and platform to signup on the website at http://MEK-Entertainment.com/ because those signing up earliest will receive extra perks and prizes in the game as a special thanks from the team.