Welcome to Multiverse Mondays (Part 4 of 5). In this series, we reveal the world's first multiverse assets, talk about the blockchain technology that powers them, and provide insight into what's happening behind the scenes.
"The true adventurer goes forth aimless and uncalculating to meet and greet unknown fate."
— O. Henry
The early 00's brought us Grand Theft Auto III and Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind — two games that would set the standard for open-world game design.
There's a primordial beauty in the freedom to roam across virtual worlds, unbound by invisible walls.
Morrowind, for example, featured nine square miles players could explore at will, wandering wherever, whenever they wanted. The fantasy game featured an amazing lore-rich storyline, beautiful graphics, and extremely complex NPCs.
Minecraft, the game that defined the sandbox genre, pushed the limits of virtual worlds into wonderful insanity, enabling players to generate Neptune-sized virtual worlds.
Now, the Enjin-powered Gaming Multiverse is aiming to obliterate the invisible boundaries even further — and this time, not inside a single game, but between them.
Somehow, I can't help but feel that the entire history of video games inevitably led to a gaming multiverse — just a succession of walls reduced to rubble with catapults made from technological advances, operated by extremely talented game designers and developers.
Mechanics of the Multiverse
I've got to be honest with you — the topic that I picked for this article is extremely complex.
Trying to figure out potential mechanics of a gaming multiverse is a bit like venturing to the unexplored part of the map.
It's like sailing into unknown digital oceans, flying on the backs of virtual dragons towards mountains obscured by clouds, setting course for binary stars on the very edge of known space.
Going into the unknown.
"Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go."
— E. L. Doctorow
That said, my intention with this article is to discover — to explore how blockchain technology can be used to create new types of gameplay.
I'll quickly set the stage with a couple of fictional games, just to help me out as I write about this:
Lugdunum Protocol: Alternate history multiplayer FPS where the Roman Empire never died and is now an interstellar empire caught in a civil war between five factions.
Bonescars: Epic fantasy MMORPG set on a dragonworld.
Here's a nifty little idea that can be implemented into existing games — without breaking their balance.
Developers could create multiverse side-quests; perhaps even randomly generated ones!
There's more than one way to do this — I'll use the hypothetical games I listed to explain a basic quest design:
Vanquish a powerful necromancer in Bonescars and loot his corpse. Hmm… There's a strange gem there.
The gem is actually a multiverse item — in the Lugdunum Protocol, it's the only type of crystal that can open the ancient tomb of Emperor Tiberius XXVIII. The tomb hides a puzzle; if you solve it, you'll get a peculiar key.
See where I'm going with this? The key is also a multiverse item, and it opens an easter egg dungeon in Tetraplex, one that hides a bizarre sword.
Use the sword in Bonescars — to vanquish a demigod.
This was just a basic “loop”-type quest that game developers could play with. It goes without saying that you could play with this idea in multiple ways:
Adding more “steps” inside a single game (e.g., in order to kill the necromancers in Bonescars, you first need to find a super-awesome shield in the same game).
Requiring items from multiple games (e.g., in order to open the dungeon in Tetraplex, you need a gem from Bonescars and an iron cypher from the Lugdunum Protocol).
Non-linear multiverse quest progression (instead of using a straightforward “one game after another,” you could mix things up a bit — bouncing several quest and quest items between two games before continuing the loop; using a “12321" or “123453142” quest progression).
There's two reasons I find multiverse quests extremely interesting: first, they enable game designers to create entire meta-narratives that spawn through multiple games; second, they can be a nice user acquisition tactics, as players would have an incentive to install/purchase the other games.
One super-hardcore multiverse quest idea proposed by Simon Kertonegorois a co-op multiverse quest.
Imagine this: one player is standing in an ancient temple in Bonescars, while his friend is on a derelict space-station in the Lugdunum Protocol. They are both standing in front of a locked door. Maybe the door looks eerily the same in both games — and the only way to open it is to be in the exact place at the same time.
Essentially, this would be an example of a multiverse “access” token, one that activates only if certain conditions are met (e.g. players are at a specified location in each game at the same time).
It also goes without saying that multiverse quests would be more immersive for games that share the same setting/lore. I'm intentionally using a couple of vastly different hypothetical examples, in terms of game genre.
Character & Item Progression Through Multiple Games
“Hahaha, our game designers would murder you,” said a Ubisoft developer I spoke with a couple days ago at the Blockchain Game Summit in Lyon after I mentioned that characters leveling through multiple games is an extremely epic idea.
He was joking but had a valid point — balancing gameplay for a single game is an extremely difficult task.
Balancing it across multiple games? A fools errand, many would say.
Now, Enjin is not really known for recycling old ideas, having “twists” on existing products or, well, not trying to shake things up a bit.
We're a group of quirky pioneers — our company culture itself encourages exploring new ideas, pushing boundaries, and going where no one has even thought to venture before.
Innovation is where we thrive.
So, naturally… Yup, sorry, the idea is too epic to let it go. I really want to talk about leveling your characters and items across multiple games — but I'm also going to offer the solution to the balancing problem.
It's fairly simple, when you really sit down and think about it: all you need is a multiverse leveling coefficient — a variable you can use to determine a player's level in each game within the multiverse.
The exact formula can vary based on a number of variables (e.g., number and genre of games that support leveling up characters and/or items) and can include multiple variables (e.g., total time played across games, number of defeated enemies, etc.).
The simplest multiverse leveling coefficient formula could go something like this:
M = C * sqrt(T)
M - Multiverse leveling coefficient
C - Multiverse constant
T - Multiverse time (total time played across all games)
This is the super-basic start of the math, but it could work well if progression in all games within the multiverse is linear. One could also use the logarithmic function (for example) to help scale player leveling.
How different games actually use this variable (or modify/create a new formula) would be up to individual designers . In some games, the level could give players actual advantages; in others, minor perks or cosmetic upgrades.
P.S. In case it's only cosmetic perks — it wouldn't break the existing game balance.
Blockchain-Powered Multiverse NPCs
“So, I'm doing a little experiment,” said Witek Radomski a few days ago. “It's a bot that essentially owns itself. Once you deploy it, even you are locked out of accessing it. It owns its own crypto, it can earn crypto; it can pay programmers to update its code and code reviewers to check out the code.”
“So… You're building Skynet?” I replied, jokingly.
The idea is intriguing — it's essentially a program that can update its own code. It still needs human help, so it's not really able to self-evolve…
Still, it got me thinking — how could this new paradigm be applied to games; more specifically, the gaming multiverse?
It could be a “lite” version of Witek's hardcore experiment: an NPC that can own blockchain-based assets, earn them — and spend them to upgrade itself. Developers could choose to make them semi or fully autonomous, opting to let the bot keep the earnings or to send a steady percentage to the developer's wallet.
A few ideas came to mind:
Trader: An NPC that would simultaneously exist across multiple games, enabling gamers to sell and buy multiverse items to and from other games.
Mercenary: A sidekick you could hire in one game — and it would follow you and help you out in all other games within the multiverse. It could use its earnings to upgrade itself by purchasing more powerful weapons and gear from other players or NPCs.
Quest Giver: I imagine an NPC that would earn by being “the guy” to go to if you want someone killed or raided, or if you need a real player to do anything else (find an item, build you a house/spaceship/castle, help you in a dungeon or PvP, etc.) and that would spend its earnings to mint new items for randomly generated quests.
A blockchain-powered multiverse NPC is an interesting idea, both from a game designer and a gamer perspective. Coupled with a powerful machine learning algorithm, who knows, we might see a rogue bot taking over an entire MMORPG one day.
Let me finish with this note — it's not only possible to use ENJ to give players true ownership of digital gaming assets. It's also possible to use ENJ to enable those digital assets (aka an AI) totruly own themselves.
To build truly autonomous and free artificial intelligence that might have some heavy ethical and sci-fi-like implications in the years and decades to come.