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I’m very excited to announce our WASD’s newest guest creator: 0xAkina!
Akina is a writer and onchain gaming enthusiast.
Today, he’ll be diving into the world of infrastructure by looking at the different L2 frameworks optimized for hosting and building onchain games, including AltLayer, World Engine, Paima, and Keystone.
If you’re an infrastructure nerd who wants alpha from the scaling frontier, then this is the piece for you.
I hope you enjoy it as much I did.
It’s always fun to explore individual onchain games.
But it’s just as important to understand the intricacies of their underlying infrastructure.
Infrastructure is critical to the success of onchain gaming, as it directly impacts gameplay quality, user experience, and a game's overall success. Robust infrastructure ensures fast, cost-effective transactions, enables support for complex game logic, and helps provide a seamless gaming experience.
All of these are vital for attracting and retaining players.
Today, we’ll look at some of the Layer-2 frameworks being built specifically to tackle these challenges and help make the onchain gaming revolution possible.
One common explanation for the absence of a “breakout onchain game” is that the underlying infrastructure is “not yet ready.”
Consequently, many games remain at the proof-of-concept phase, characterized by straightforward gameplay, buggy clients, restricted player engagement, and limited mod developer involvement.
This is largely due to the significant limitations posed by existing infrastructure and developer tools.
In particular, the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) is sluggish and unwieldy, current Solidity data models don't facilitate intricate game development, and no mainnet blockchain is practical for game deployment due to gas costs and limited scalability.
Interoperability and fragmentation also pose significant challenges for onchain gaming.
While diversity in tech stacks fuels innovation, it makes it difficult for games to interact smoothly with one another and across various networks.
Addressing these challenges is crucial for unlocking the full potential of blockchain-based gaming.
As Vitalik said back in 2020, gaming projects should be looking into rollups as a scaling solution.
Rollups are Layer-2 networks that aim to improve the throughput and efficiency of Layer-1 blockchains like Ethereum. At a high level, rollups do so by aggregating and processing transactions offchain and then posting a summary of these transactions onchain.
This approach reduces congestion on the L1 blockchain, making transactions faster and cheaper for end-users.
Rollups come in two main flavors: Optimistic and zero-knowledge (zk), each with their own design tradeoffs, such as with their security model and development speed.
For onchain games in particular, rollups offer a variety of benefits, such as:
Scalability: High transaction fees on L1 blockchains like Ethereum have been a major barrier to entry for many gamers. Rollups can significantly shrink these costs by reducing congestion, making onchain gaming more affordable to prospective players.
Improved User Experience: With lower transaction fees and faster confirmation times, players can enjoy a smoother and more seamless gaming experience. This is essential for real-time gaming experiences where every millisecond counts.
Security: Rollups maintain a high level of security by anchoring data on the main blockchain. This ensures that the security of the underlying blockchain extends to the L2, making it a safe environment for gaming.
Despite these perks, general-purpose rollups fall short when it comes to hosting onchain games.
Traditional blockchain VMs are better suited for financial applications, and generalized networks that host various applications do not have the throughput capabilities to meet the needs outlined above.
What's needed is a cutting-edge L2 VM purpose-built for this task.
That's where application-specific, onchain gaming optimized rollups come in.
Below, let’s take a look at the different stacks being built.
One of the upcoming strategies for enhancing onchain scalability involves horizontal scaling.
Horizontal scaling refers to the use of multiple "hidden" rollups that operate the same application. The application's user interface then seamlessly guides users to a suitable rollup to execute their transaction based on factors like capacity, location, or specific application preferences.
One prominent rollup provider that utilizes this design is AltLayer.
An additional benefit to AltLayer is the creation of localized fee markets, where actions like minting or trading a collection do not impact the fees associated with other collections or games.
However, this solution does have its tradeoffs, such as the lack of communication between rollups, which makes it difficult to apply to all onchain gaming models.
In July 2022, AltLayer raised $7.2M in funding led by Polychain Capital, Breyer Capital, and Jump Capital with participation from angels like, Balaji Srinivasan, Kain Warwick, and more.
Another solution with a similar architecture to AltLayer is Argus Labs World Engine.
World Engine utilizes a Sharded Rollup SDK, enabling game developers to construct their own horizontally scalable blockchain while inheriting the security features from the underlying Layer-1 blockchain.
World Engine is an EVM-compatible solution, enabling developers to create a rollup that can leverage the extensive blockchain developer ecosystem of Ethereum. Due to this EVM compatibility, a World Engine-based L2 can seamlessly integrate with all Ethereum wallets and tooling.
Argus is building more than an onchain gaming engine, as the company has three components, including:
Their research labs
A game studio
A game publisher
They recently raised $10M in funding led by Haun Ventures with participation from Robot Ventures and a host of angel investors including Balaji Srinivasan, Elad Gil, and more.
Paima is a framework for creating L2s optimized for onchain games and autonomous worlds.
Paima also supports other gaming-friendly features, such as Stateful NFTs, which are NFTs whose metadata updates automatically based on a user's onchain actions.
Paima recently announced that they received a $1.4M grant from Cardano to further the development of onchain gaming and autonomous world infrastructure.
Another L2 framework optimized for onchain games is Curio’s Keystone.
Keystone fuses together OP-stack, EVM-compatible L2s with a high-frequency game engine.
This dynamic combination, along with other features such as support for the Go programming language and ECS, empowers developers to create performant onchain games that could perhaps be comparable to offchain ones.
In the future, you can also expect support from Keystone for data availability layers like Celestia.
In February 2022, Curio raised $2.9M in a round led by Bain Capital Crypto and TCG Crypto.
It seems builders have taken Vitalik’s advice – Because the energy in L2-based, onchain gaming infrastructure is exploding!
Although scaling challenges will remain, frameworks for building application-specific L2 optimized for onchain games like AltLayer, World Engine, Paima, and Keystone are helping provide solutions to many of these issues.
Of course, there are other complementary scaling technologies that will play a role in the future like Playmint’s client-side proofs, as well as generalized rollups with strong onchain gaming ecosystems like Starknet and Arbitrum Nova.
As we can see, the scaling wars are here – And are only just beginning.
What will truly set each apart each of these L2 stacks is not just their tech, but the vibrant communities that rally behind them.
Thanks for reading!
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