When Blockchain Saves Customer Reviews, All of E-commerce Will Prosper

In the climate of click bait, unreliable journalists and “fake news,” it’s something of an unspoken rule that any you should take any opinion with a pinch of salt.

Professional review writing industries, as well as aggregates, have arguably been irrevocably tainted by financial interests. They are, after all, companies and as such have been formed with requirements (if not objectives) of creating opportunities for revenue generation: to pay the staff, cover overhead investments and ensure the ongoing development of the project.  

Issues that affect professional reviews are, however, are shared in many ways by user reviews as well; including unethical practices from retailers, review writers, product creators, and others. It does appear that our hallowed Blockchain technology could provide a solution to some, if not all of these if given a chance,  but first, it would do well first to consider what needs to be improved upon.

Problem #1: the conflicts of interest

Having an objective customer reviewer is all good and well but unless the website their review is posted on is managed by similarly minded managers & institutional practices, then there is no guarantee that the message will stay the same by the time it is published.

This is because, much like the professional magazines, the largest part of their revenue most often comes from advertisers and sponsors. To these investors, the audience is a valuable target – having established themselves as consumers by virtue of reading the content, to begin with, and as such, they are mostly comprised of those producers and retailers of the very products being covered by the publication.

There is, therefore, a clear conflict of interest between the review-hosting sites’ respective loyalties to their advertisers, and to their readers. The results of this can be manipulation of the review scores post-publication, censorship/omission of negative reviews, and the fabrication of positive reviews by the shop or manufacturer.

Problem  #2: The unreliable reviewers

Shills (Exhibit A)

Shills embody an end result of the aforementioned “conflicts of interest.” These particular individuals often manifest when one party who benefits the sale of a product approaches a reviewer (with either no reputation or with experience/trust-ability from the background) and persuades them to write positively about the product in question in return for a financial inventive or free products themselves.

This can even appear on well-known marketplaces such as Amazon (although compared to the accusations levied against them regarding employee welfare standards, I’d imagine it’s the least of their worries) and contribute to a negative perception of their reviews as being an “untrustworthy measure of quality,” according to Jeff Bercovici at Forbes.

He continues to describe the perpetrators as writers with a “vested interest – a friend, family member, [or] a fan” writing positive reviews” in addition to “notorious “sock puppets” created by novelists skilled in the practice of inventing characters and putting dialogue in their mouths.”

‘Review Bomb’ squads (Exhibit B)

Review bombing is a unique phenomenon which is most frequently associated with video-gaming and nerd culture. “The act of an organized group getting together and tanking the overall user review score.”

It is defined by the collective nature of the “attacks,” often represented by the proximity to which each is posted and to the aftermath of a certain event. They can also be identifiable in their conspiratorial nature, through semi-public announcements made on message-boards such as 4chan.

To clarify: not all instances of contradictory public opinion are examples of review bombs. A recent example presents a dichotomy between audience and reviewer opinions regarding the latest, post-Disney acquisition Star Wars film ‘The Last Jedi.’ It shows that the audience is somewhat active and reasoned in their criticisms.

Although if you were to listen to the politicized pundits, you would believe that everyone here (paying critics, who happen to disagree with their opinions) was a member of an organized “right-wing group.”

The conclusion: a Blockchain solution

A recently launched left-field ICO which appears (or at least claims) to have created a solution based on the Ethereum platform and its Blockchain to these highlighted concerns as well as much more you might not have even thought of. In fact, it is this company and their vision which inspired this piece.

Solution #1: The concern over review scores being manipulated or censored post-publication would be mitigated with Lina’s platform as all information would be stored on the public Blockchain, in addition to being backed up onto a private copy of said information (in a system called a ‘Hybrid Blockchain’). This means that nobody can tamper with it once it’s been submitted without the changes also being a public record.

Solution #2: Lina intents to tackle unreliable reviews by enlisting customers based on skill, experience, and ability. This is before monitoring their progress and customer approval in order to best determine future training/progress paths. With the project being an economy into itself, this allows for a form of compensation which encourages reviewers to contribute, which in turn helps to develop the ecosystem.

Lina.platform is a token based rating system, an economy whose value (and therefore the developer’s primary concern) is in the publication and promotion of high-quality objective reviews; as well as focusing on the development of popular and consistent writers for both prolific in content as well as audience bond.

Their ICO launched on Jan. 15, and you can read more about their detailed plans either on their website or by reading their whitepaper.

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We’ve been covering the blockchain gaming phenomenon for two years, now, starting with a review of Moonga by Everdreamsoft. Since then, many new developments in the blockchain gaming space have emerged, inspiring the creation of a dedicated website and community (follow us on Twitter, as well).

This year, things heated up even more, firmly establishing blockchain gaming as a new and rapidly-growing industry. Due to a confluence of circumstances—some intentional, some not—April is proving to be a crucial turning point. Here are just some of the reasons you’ll wish you’d invested your cryptocurrency in video games sooner.

CoinFest

Alongside NewsBTC, CoinFest is another partner project to blockchaingaming.com. So it’s no surprise that blockchain gaming played a major role this year in the first and still only decentralized autonomous convention for alternative currency.

CoinFest UK featured a demo booth for Beyond the Void, whose team additionally presented at the conference. CoinFest UK also hosted a server for Battlecoin, a multiplayer game where players compete for Bitcoin. Elsewhere, Christian Moss from MandelDuck released an awesome VR block explorer on Steam in time for the events, and—together with myself and Anari from Gamerholic—participated in a panel hosted by Blocktalk.

A major and unprecedented event also occurred in the Huntercoin community. Its original founder had previously announced a new project called Chimaera, which hopes to become a decentralized platform for games. A snapshot was taken of the HUC blockchain on April 5th with the intention of noting and rewarding coin holders, who await news of when Chimaera will release so they can claim free CHI tokens.

Although some prominent community members remain skeptical of the plan, it caused the price of HUC to spike to over 11,600 satoshis on Poloniex, an all-time high market cap and increase of over 400% from April 1st. However, coins were not burned in the process, so the price quickly crashed back down to around 3,250. It has since climbed past 4,500 satoshis—a nice 50% increase—but the future of the protocol (and its coin) remains uncertain.

True Ownership

CoinFest UK wasn’t the only event the Beyond the Void team attended. That was actually just a small part of their European tour, which began on April 6th at the Blockshow in Germany. They spent the next two days in Manchester before heading to Évry, France, followed by the Insomnia (where they’re still promoting) and Geek Touch gaming festivals later in the month. This has translated to an increase of around 70% in Nexium prices since April began.

That’s because you’ll need Nexium to buy in-game assets, which will be stored and freely traded on the Ethereum blockchain. This is in stark contrast to traditional MMOs, which restrict your ability to exchange assets in order to appease financial regulators who could confiscate their central server. This also means that nobody can take your stuff, a cornerstone of blockchain gaming.

This concept was pioneered with Spells of Genesis, another trading card game by Everdreamsoft. On April 20th, it will be the first blockchain-based video game to be commercially released thanks to the help of major publisher Channel 4. With over 200 levels supposed to be ready at launch, prices have already risen almost 50% in anticipation, and could more than double if they reach their all-time high (and the coin supply has decreased since then).

Augmentors—yet another game inspired by Spells of Genesis—is also seeing some major activity. Much-awaited for its Pokémon GO-like features, its Databit tokens listed on Bittrex and spiked when the month began. After falling to a new support line at around 15,000 satoshis and hovering for over a week, DTB prices eventually climbed to more than double that. Despite not being listed on Poloniex or having been properly updated by coinmarketcap.com, this gives it an effective market cap of around $7.5 million.

GameCredits & MobileGo

GameCredits is a universal payment medium for the gaming industry, bringing all of the advantages of cryptocurrency to traditional game developers. Rather than skip ahead to on-chain assets and worlds, they’ve chosen to focus on basics such as quality APIs, which has allowed them to reach hundreds of mobile game developers. All of them will be listed on the Mobile Store, which is analogous to (but less centralized than) Steam.

To fund this, they’ve created the MobileGo token and crowdsale, which debuts April 25th. It will be the first to utilize two blockchains simultaneously, in this case Waves and Ethereum, allowing for redundancy in case of failure as well as a wider variety of features. This will include the use of smart contracts for decentralized tournaments and a marketplace for game assets, as well.

Participants in the MobileGo ICO will get a discount for paying with GameCredits, which will also then be supplemented by Ethereum and Waves technology. As a result, GAME skyrocketed around 70% in April to an all-time high, completing its once-tenuous upward triangle. Its market cap now dominates the blockchain gaming industry (and most cryptocurrencies) at almost $35 million.

Any readers who were skeptical before should definitely be interested, now. It would have been impossible to pick a losing blockchain gaming token this month. Keep following the website, community and Twitter if you don’t want to miss out on the next major push for the Moon.

Blockchain gaming is now in style, with yet another successful cryptocurrency ICO. Whereas Spells of Genesis uses the Bitcoin blockchain to secure its in-game assets, Beyond the Void has integrated with Ethereum, its Turing-complete cousin. In a partnership with its predecessor, BtV managed to crowdfund 515,143 BitCrystals as well as 30,395 ETH.

Beyond the Void’s Nexium tokens have since rocketed past their ICO value on Poloniex, and development of the game itself is well underway. As usual, the Blockchain Gaming series is taking a look at this title to help you decide if it’s worth buying into, and how excited you should be to start playing the first blockchain RTS.

Blockchain Integration

Nexium (NXC) derives its value from its usefulness to Beyond the Void players. It’s necessary to use the in-game shop, which is where you get all the vanity items. Despite having no real gameplay effect, they cause multiplayer online battle arena games like Defense of the Ancients to earn hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Beyond the Void takes the NXC, burns half of them, and dispenses items as Ethereum assets.

That sounds like great economics, and has so far proven to be, but how does it really work? The most basic cryptocurrencies on Ethereum are smart contracts with one function: they let you send and receive amounts of some variable, in this case NXC. They also define the initial coin supply, with Nexium’s being as according to their crowdsale distribution. This allowed them to have a more decentralized ICO than was possible for Spells of Genesis, which relied on Bitcoin via Counterparty.

The in-game items are basically smart contracts, as well. They will probably also automate the burning process, which would be done by filtering spent NXC through a smart contract before arrival in the developers’ wallets. That makes Beyond the Void more decentralized than Spells of Genesis but less so than Huntercoin; overall, though, it’s pretty great. It would be expensive to hold all gamestate calculations (such as pathfinding and movement) on Ethereum directly.

Story

The story does not appear to be the primary focus of this game, so there aren’t many details about it–at least not yet. I think it has potential, though, despite the sci-fi cheesiness, as it ties in well to how the gameplay functions. I would recommend creating some iconic characters, especially since Beyond the Void has strong MOBA elements. DotA characters have developed a following, for example.

Basically, though, humanity discovered a new form of matter known as “the Cube,” which allowed intergalactic travel and the acceleration of civilization. Unfortunately, it is a scarce commodity, so warring houses known as the Harkon, Asgar, Syan, Morsith and Estherid have been fighting over it in increasingly remote regions of space. That makes it the primary in-match resource, like minerals in StarCraft.

Gameplay

A match in Beyond the Void consists of a heads-up battle between two players, each in control of a Mothership in a six-planet solar system with multiple asteroid fields. Weekly-bestowed Event Cards (which can be purchased permanently in the shop for Nexium) can rotate the orbital bodies as planets are wont to do, or have other effects such as altering the rules or bringing content into the game.

Once conquered, planets and asteroid fields will yield that precious Cube, which you need to build your fleet, research technologies to assist you, and use your Skills. Each Mothership gets two Skills: a powerful Ultimate Skill that typically affects a target, and a Passive Skill that continually affects an area. They can be used to deal damage, quickly traverse the map, boost your fleet, or incapacitate the enemy’s. As in other MOBA games, they can also completely turn the tide of battle.

To achieve victory, your Mothership has to work together with your fleet, which is controlled as in typical real-time strategy games. Ships range in size, strength, speed and ability, and are built by satellites which orbit your planets. Satellites are also needed to research technology, and can be used to defend their stations. You’ll need to expand and hold your ground to fund these endeavors, which is typical of the RTS genre.

The winner of the match earns Game Points, which are the only way to unlock skills and other cool content. It sounds simple, but having played both DotA and StarCraft excessively, I’m actually excited for this combination. Maybe I could fulfill my dreams of playing turtle-style by using my Mothership to take out those pesky long-ranged units.

Presentation

I read some FUD about Beyond the Void’s graphics on bitcointalk, but I found it to be exaggerated. I’ve watched the trailers, and the game looks pretty cool to me. Then again, I’m one of those strategy gamers who lives to watch the simulation unfold, and BtV has all the swarming little fighter drones and ships firing independently that make my eyes water. Unlike first person shooters, those functional details matter more than high-resolution character skins.

That being said, higher resolution in general always improves a game, but unit and terrain details are easier to upgrade later than basic unit mechanics. Meanwhile, the sound is basically a lot of space warfare sound effects, but the trailer music goes well with it. Hopefully they develop a distinctive style.

All of these things will be upgraded, though, as Beyond the Void is still in private alpha stage, with the open beta scheduled for April and the final game for June. With the development funds at their disposal, that gives plenty of time to polish things a bit. We look forward to reviewing it in full in a future Blockchain Gaming installment.

Cryptocurrency ICOs are all the rage these days, and the video game industry has been one of the first to jump on this crowdfunding opportunity. Spells of Genesis and Force of Will raised money for their trading card games, and Beyond the Void will be the first blockchain-based RTS/MOBA.

The Augmentors team was clearly inspired by these examples and has followed in their footsteps, making blockchain gaming officially in style. Their chosen game genre is augmented reality—as in Pokémon Go—allowing you to summon creatures into the world with which to battle in turn-based fashion.

Unlike Pokémon Go, however, Augmentors uses decentralized technology. Creatures and relics you acquire are registered on the Bitcoin blockchain via Counterparty, which inserts information about the in-game assets into the OP_RETURN section of transactions. They are typically traded thereafter with “swapbots” or purchased for cryptocurrency.

In this they’ve followed Spells of Genesis directly, and the two partnered for Augmentors’ pre-sale. Also like Spells of Genesis (and many others), they’re crowdselling their cryptocurrency ahead of time in a 30-day initial coin offering, or “ICO.” Their tokens—called Databits (DTB)—are needed to acquire assets directly from the store, which will occasionally offer special deals and give DTB intrinsic value.

The ICO began on January 30th at 15,000 DTB per BTC. Every 5 days, the rate decreases by 1,000, ending in 10,000 DTB per BTC from February 24th to 28th. Of the 100 million Databits that will be created in total, 70% of them will be distributed this way, with 30% kept for marketing and development of the Augmentors game itself.

Creatures level up with experience, from Rookie all the way to God status. Participants in the crowdsale may also get a limited edition creature to start with, however, depending upon how many Databits were purchased. The tiers are as follows:

  • A Rookie token for 2,000 DTB (Silver Package)
  • A Champion token for 10,000 DTB (Ruby Package)
  • An Ultimate token and premium Store access for 20,000 DTB (Gold Package)
  • A Hero or Villain token and Premium Store access for 45,000 DTB (Diamond Package)

There was also a Diamond Package for 100,000 Databits (currently 6.6 BTC) that yielded Partner Store access and a God token, a legendary creature which maintains its God status permanently. Unfortunately, these are already sold out; this stands as a testament to the success of the Augmentors ICO, which has already raised 584.42 BTC.

The crowdsale has still just begun, however, now entering the second tier with 14,000 Databits per bitcoin. That means it’s still a good time to get in on the action, especially since all previous blockchain gaming ICOs have already returned so well on their investments before their games are even out. If Augmentors is anywhere near as successful as Pokémon Go, Databits should go even further in the future.

Blockchain gaming has been in the spotlight lately; video games using the technology have appeared in mainstream media and academic journals, and even have a professional educational website. Most are focused on in-game payments and smart property integration, but it’s possible to build completely decentralized online worlds.

Huntercoin set out with that as a goal, and it’s actually the oldest of the blockchain gaming bunch. It came out in early 2014 to much fanfare, but development slowed due to the unfortunate death of lead developer Mikhail Sindeyev. The Huntercoin protocol and client grew outdated over the following couple of years, but now both have received massive upgrades thanks to the renewed effort of a reorganized team.

Background

Huntercoin’s initial claim to fame was human mining—the ability for people to manually work for newly-minted huntercoins (HUC). This is accomplished via a simple competitive game played entirely on the Huntercoin blockchain via P2P network, effectively the first fully decentralized autonomous massive multiplayer online game. While a remarkable innovation, this created some unique new dilemmas that the developers have been working hard to solve.

Part of the appeal of a decentralized autonomous MMO is that it leads to self-regulating, almost lifelike game environments. Like an impartial god, the developers merely design the ecosystem, then sit back and watch events unfold. There are no in-game mods or admins, and intervention can only occur via a hard fork of the Huntercoin blockchain to update its protocol. This is in stark contrast to game economies such as World of Warcraft’s or EVE Online’s, over which the developers maintain central control.

That means blockchain gaming worlds must be designed very carefully, or else their economies will become unbalanced and potentially collapse. The Huntercoin world was overtaken by a player (or players) known as the Dominator, who controlled most of the coin supply. A fee increase was instituted in an attempt to combat the problem, but when HUC prices began to rise again, many blockchain gaming fans complained this solution was expensive.

Hard Fork

A hard fork was clearly necessary. To accommodate rising prices, the value of a Hunter was cut in half to 100 HUC, and the fees for Hunter creation and combat (the Destruct fee) were lowered, as well. Meanwhile, developer Wiggi was tasked with improving the gameplay with a focus on casual blockchain gaming fans who have less time to dedicate.

One major problem was the time it took to effectively get into and out of the game; Hunters would spawn randomly on the map, sometimes far from the nearest coins to collect, as did the “banks” where you could log them out to get your coins back. Instead, Hunters now spawn on the rings around coin farms—the primary battlegrounds—where they can also bank, as well. To liven things up further, coins periodically become inaccessible or “ghosted,” then unleashed on the world all at once.

Also included is a spectator mode for Hunters, wherein they also become inaccessible if they don’t move soon enough after spawning. This serves two purposes: first, it allows players to decide if they like an area before spawning a Hunter there, or logs them out automatically if they forget to move. Second, it allows developers to use Hunters as a means of interacting with the Huntercoin blockchain without them getting killed, which makes it easier to build additional game mods on top of it.

Huntercore

Unfortunately, running an entire game world on the blockchain can be very taxing on players’ hardware. In particular, those with older hard drives would experience very sluggish syncing times, and the full blockchain takes up a lot of space at around 17 GB. Also, hiccups with the client would often force a restart due to its reliance on obsolete Bitcoin code (from which Huntercoin was originally forked via Namecoin).

Developer Daniel Kraft—who works on both Namecoin and Huntercoin—has reimplemented Huntercoin onto Bitcoin’s latest codebase, creating the Huntercore client. Both faster and less buggy than the original client, it features blockchain pruning, wherein old transactions with spent outputs are deleted. The client only needs unspent transactions to calculate your HUC balance, which amount to 550 MB and around 1 GB including the game data.

Additionally featured is the HD or “hierarchical deterministic” wallet. In this system, public/private keys are derived from an initial “seed” value, typically another key, allowing them to be easily backed up with very little stored information. In addition to security, it also provides convenience by allowing the game to be played across multiple clients on different devices at once.

You can test it out along with the hardfork changes by downloading and running the new all-in-one easy installer, which was used to make the image for this article. It allows those new to blockchain gaming to set up Huntercoin in minutes, a process that previously was more difficult and time consuming than for mainstream computer games.

This game has received major updates. Read here for details.

The Blockchain Gaming series has covered nearly every major development in its namesake niche, and many people have caught onto the opportunity cryptography represents for the gaming industry. The Munne Project appears to have been a cheap way to capitalize on this, while other titles like Spells of Genesis use it only partially for things like in-game smart property.

The Huntercoin team, however, had one dream: to build a game that is fully and completely decentralized, the pinnacle of blockchain gaming. Like most dreams, it wasn’t easy to accomplish; they encountered ample drama along the way, and dealt with the financial constraints typical of underground projects. Now, however, all of that hard work is finally beginning to pay off.

Story and Background

Huntercoin doesn’t really have a much of a story. Its out-of-date website contains a page describing the game universe, but it comes across as a little hokey: humans can control special matter forms called Hunters in the Chronosius realm, which has a different concept of time and is the source of all huntercoins (HUC). Basically, it was contrived to fit the game mechanics.

The story of Huntercoin’s creation, on the other hand, is an epic tale, and the beginning of the blockchain gaming movement. It started in 2013 as an experimental prototype, and quickly developed an online cult following with many prominent bitcointalk.org members in support. Drawing on tech enthusiasts’ love for video games, the most popular Huntercoin thread received over 380,000 views.

In February 2014, however, tragedy struck. Lead developer Mikhail Sindeyev—who was also behind Namecoin, from which the Huntercoin protocol was forked—passed away suddenly due to a stroke, leaving the blockchain gaming community in a state of shock and sorrow. Other notable backers vowed to continue the project, but development slowed to a crawl. The value of HUC crashed in March, and traded for less than 1% of their original price by 2015.

Despite these unfortunate setbacks, Huntercoin development continued. UK-based Andrew Colosimo (snailbrain), the original creator, announced that they would release a web browser client and mobile phone app; he also told me privately about some major surprises he has in store, which we’ll cover in a future article. Now, it’s just a matter of waiting to see if they come to fruition, which is a question of funding and manpower.

Meanwhile, the drama continues. AI bots plagued the massive multiplayer game, making it impossible for human players to compete. A few times, the world was even taken over by “dominators,” who created player characters in huge numbers. They used these to maintain strategic control of the map, keeping all of its loot for themselves until the developers added the Disaster feature, which killed everybody at random intervals. It is clear that Huntercoin’s story will be player driven and involve guilds or clans, like many MMO games.

Gameplay

Huntercoin relies on a novel concept known as “human mining.” Unlike Bitcoin’s hardware mining, wherein new coins are earned by working on math calculations, Huntercoin also distributes some in the built-in game world for you to collect. To do so, you must create one or more Hunters to traverse the map; this requires you to pay a 200 HUC fee, which becomes analogous to your Hunter’s health.

One Hunter damages another using the Destruct ability, which affects all other Hunters within one space of the attacker in a 3-by-3 square of devastation. This drains 200 HUC from any who are a different color (red, blue, green or yellow) from your own, a life-stealing attack which destroys any Hunters reduced to zero. Proper timing and the ability to predict your opponents’ movements are paramount to success.

To keep your coins safe, you must deposit them at “banks” generated randomly around the map. Upon landing on one, all of the coins your Hunter has collected from the map (minus a fee) will be redeemed to your Huntercoin wallet. Remain in the bank for three turns and your Hunter will disappear, returning most of its health to you in the form of HUC.

Spam—the P2P networking equivalent of button mashing—is prevented by small fees for the time being, 20 HUC to use Destruct. This incentivizes players to choose their attacks carefully; a bot would otherwise attempt to attack every turn. Some forgo combat entirely and focus on collecting coins, or look for the Crown of Fortune, an item which disables your Destruct ability but continuously generates bonus HUC.

Those who prefer player-versus-player combat will prey upon such pacifists. When not stalking the Crown-wearer, some will spend a lot of their time looking for newbies and people who’ve fallen asleep or aren’t paying attention. Others will imitate those targets, keeping idle Hunters around the map in preparation for an ambush. This game of cat and mouse usually spans hours.

Unfortunately, pure blockchain gaming is still very taxing on traditional hardware, so gameplay is often marred by technical problems. The QT Client on the Windows operating systems sometimes stutters, failing to process one of your moves or freezing entirely. This happens even in the best networking conditions; under poor conditions, the massive growth of Huntercoin’s blockchain makes it impossible to keep up to date enough to play (more on that, next).

This might be fixed by coming updates, however. New game clients under development are reported to be less buggy, and efforts to prune historical blocks and spent transactions from the wallet database will soon massively reduce its download size. The planned mobile phone app and web browser client will also make it easier for people everywhere to play Huntercoin without complex installation procedures.

Blockchain Integration

Despite its problems, Huntercoin is unquestionably the most decentralized game on the blockchain gaming market. Everything from its development and launch to basic game design remains true to Satoshi’s legacy, which needs to be commended.

It is an open source initiative, developed collaboratively by members of the community. Unlike other blockchain gaming , there was never any initial coin offering, so everyone has an equal opportunity to buy HUC and contribute with whatever resources and skills they possess. This includes some of the newly-developed game clients, which are not all produced by the same people.

Instead of a central server, players interact with each other via a P2P network. Player characters are commanded by issuing transactions, which are confirmed and added to the Huntercoin blockchain by both SHA256 and Scrypt miners. All game data is stored there, where the rules are implemented as smart contracts—all terrain, coins and characters are inside the blockchain itself.

Miners are incentivized to secure this data by 10% of the block reward, which is currently 1/10 HUC every minute (on average). Like Bitcoin, this supply halves every four years, but instead ending with 42 million coins in circulation. Thereafter, miners will be competing for transaction fees, as well as the fees paid for various game actions.

Since Huntercoin uses two mining algorithms, each one targets a 2-minute block time, readjusting difficulty every block. This makes it virtually unhackable without the need for a central authority—the first and only decentralized autonomous video game. Players agree to the rules by adhering to a common version of the protocol. If significant disagreement arises, it could potentially result in a fork in the Huntercoin blockchain, which would be a natural part of the consensus-forming process.

If all goes smoothly, however, the world will have the first online game to be truly controlled by its community. Any forks that do occur in the future are likely to be the work of new video game developers, building new worlds inside different blockchains. Such competition will lead to faster block times and bigger blocks, allowing for more complex gaming experiences—perfect for Blockchain Gaming.

Presentation and Development

The graphics in Huntercoin are pretty basic, borrowed from the public domain and free sources due to the lack of a graphic designer. The landscape consists simply of trees, grass-covered ground, rocky ground, wooden palisades, some bricks, and the stone cliff faces which mark the boundaries of the map. All of them were designed by Daniel Cook, the author of the Lost Garden gaming blog.

Everything looks a little fuzzy, or “old school” to use the common euphemism. There are only a small handful of character models, which are sprites created by Sithjester. This is despite the game’s relatively high system requirements, which are a consequence of its overworked development team and unique game design.

Fortunately, Huntercoin is a work in progress. In 2015, developer wiggi began work on an update called BetterQT, which was intended to address the original’s poor usability. Along the way, he managed to significantly upgrade the graphics, increasing the resolution and making everything appear less 2-dimensional. Rocks and shrubbery have been added, existing terrain features create shadows on the ground, and the character models appear a little more diverse.

It’s still very difficult to get up and running, but the third-party clients (which run alongside the original QT client) are easier. The one used for the purpose of this review is based on Unity3D, a free-to-use game engine popular among indie developers. It’s notable for its portability to multiple platforms—both desktop and mobile—which allows you to play Huntercoin on Windows, Mac, Linux, and even Android if you configure your network properly.

Another notable alternative was created by MithrilMan, and adds some useful gameplay features. Players can estimate the number of HUC they’ll collect following a given path, which aids the decision-making process; as in the Unity client, they can also see the moves issued by other players on the blockchain, which removes a primary advantage held by bots and hackers. Most useful, however, are the automated behaviors, which can command your Hunters to the nearest bank in case you go AFK.

These third-party efforts are promising, but the most exciting development underway is the Huntercore update. By implementing the latest Bitcoin Core code, it will reduce the required download size of the Huntercoin blockchain to less than 800 MB. This will make trustless mobile clients possible, rather than relying on a central server as others like blockchain.info do.

Overall, this project has a lot of potential, but still feels like a prototype. Blockchain gaming fans should keep their eyes peeled for the mobile and web versions, which should propel it to the major leagues.

Spells of Genesis was the first serious use of the blockchain by a video game company, whose cryptocurrency crowdsale was intended to replace a traditional investment round. This constituted not only a precedent but an experiment, the results of which could shape the future of the gaming industry. Thankfully, it was a huge success.

The game is being developed by EverdreamSoft, based out of Switzerland. Like Moonga before it, it is based on a collectable set of battle cards and played turn-by-turn. While Moonga is a pure strategy game, however, SoG’s gameplay has been revamped in action-arcade style, and now requires timing and coordination.

Unlike other online card games–which use central servers to track who owns which cards–EverdreamSoft’s cards are issued on the Bitcoin blockchain as Counterparty assets, resulting in true, irrevocable ownership. Also issued are BitCrystals, a cryptocurrency integral to the Spells of Genesis economy which also functions as a fundraising vehicle.

Fundraising began with a crowdsale on August 4th, at 15,000 BitCrystals (BCY) per bitcoin. This was decreased by 1,000 every 5 days to a final price of 10,000 BitCrystals per BTC on August 29th. Bonuses such as beta access, free cards and discounts were unlocked at 3,000, 16,000, 32,000, 47,000, 63,000, 130,000, 315,000, and 625,000 BCY.

EverdreamSoft’s orginal fundraising goal was 730 bitcoins, but they managed to raise 240 BTC in the first 2 hours and 630 BTC in the first 3 days. They set extended goals requiring them to add features like PVP and smart contracts to the game, and have raised 913 BTC as of the time of this writing.

The community response has been very positive, and EverdreamSoft will receive the funds in a series of milestones. An early beta is expected in October, several playable levels by February, and a completed game in April. Erik Voorhees and Jeremy Johnson will be the key signatories of a multisignature wallet that ensures the bitcoins are not released until these goals are met.

There are 60,000,000 BitCrystals total, with around 75% remaining. This means that the crowdsale cannot last forever, but it has already made waves in the video game and blockchain industries.

This article was originally posted on September 1st.

So far, all of the games featured on Blockchain Gaming were already published and available for you to play. Such reviews are important for consumers lacking the time to try everything on the market to sort the good from the bad, but the emergent nature of this industry means most projects are still on the horizon. Therefore, it’s time to take a look forward—into the future!

Spells of Genesis is made by EverdreamSoft, the company behind Moonga (already covered here). Although they’re based in the same universe and share many aspects in common, SoG is being built for blockchain gaming from the ground up. Everything about it is totally crypto, and reveals a lot about where the gaming industry is headed.

The Game

The Moonga universe is pretty bare boned: it takes place in the land of the Four Continents, where Kallan Marnordir discovered a way to imbue special cards with magic to fight the evil Sayosian Empire which despotically rules the land. Typical.

The twist added by Spells of Genesis, however, is far from generic; it’s one giant Bitcoin metaphor that knows its target audience. The player is brought to the valley of Askian, where local kingdoms have discovered precious magical gems that can be seamlessly transferred through the air. Each kingdom fights for the supremacy of their gem of choice, until the Empire steps in to put a stop to it and re-establish monetary control.

The player races to find the Genesis Block (seriously), the source of the gems’ powers which the Empire hopes to destroy. As in Moonga, you need cards to defend yourself; strategic card games, however, don’t appeal to a wide enough audience to push blockchain adoption, so the gameplay has been completely revamped.

Although it’s still being tweaked, I’ve been following the test versions, the latest of which is available to the public here. Players still have cards, and turns are taken, but you play each round arcade-style: enemies are orbs on the playing field, which attack at specified intervals and must be destroyed by firing projectile orbs of your own. Orbs bounce off walls and each other, incurring damage along the way until no enemies remain (or your own health is depleted).

You use your cards to fire the orbs, and each card has its own power. The projectile you fire gradually loses speed until it stops, leaving a power-up behind. The type and strength of the power-up is determined by the card you used, so you must collect them and choose the right deck in order to succeed.

The Blockchain

The best way to do so, of course, is with blockchain technology. Specifically, the Bitcoin blockchain, which still has the most hashing power backing it and is thus the most secure.

Spells of Genesis utilizes the Counterparty protocol, a data layer on top of the Bitcoin network’s. Extra non-currency data is inserted into the OP_RETURN section of a Bitcoin transaction’s outputs; the transaction is then broadcast to the network, and the data inserted into the blockchain via Bitcoin miners as usual.

When deciphered by the Counterparty client, this data can mean all kinds of things. Chief among those things are digital assets—in this case, trading cards. Once issued to a person, those with the right tools (such as the marketplace EverdreamSoft plans to release) can buy, sell or trade them as easily as sending bitcoins.

This also means that nobody can steal your cards by hacking EDS’s central server. The implications, however, go far beyond that: these are the first digital playing cards that you could truly claim to own. Rogue developers within EDS can’t steal your cards, either, and if the company bans your account, you still don’t lose your cards—you just can’t use them in Spells of Genesis.

Theoretically, however, you could still use them in other games, which EverdreamSoft is already taking advantage of. The original Moonga app is already integrated with the blockchain—all new cards will work in both games, just according to different rules.

They are effectively real assets with real value. Not unlike Magic: the Gathering, it is probable that people will buy them with no intent to use them, at all. They will be not just collected but speculated upon, but that’s not the only thing speculators have to look forward to.

The Tokens

Cards aren’t the only Counterparty assets EverdreamSoft is issuing. In keeping with the times, EDS is releasing a token on the blockchain—called BitCrystals (BCY)—which will be sold before Spells of Genesis is released to raise development funds.

Players will want BitCrystals because they’ll be necessary to buy assets in-game. Furthermore, all booster packs will be issued by a digital platform known as Gutenberg, which consumes BitCrystals in the process. If you buy a pack in the Appstore with dollars, those dollars must be exchanged for BCY to be sent to Gutenberg, where they are destroyed.

BitCrystals are therefore a scarce resource which will diminish in supply over time; theoretically, their price should rise as more people play SoG. This makes them of interest to cryptocurrency traders, who are already exchanging BCY thanks to a partnership with FoldingCoin, which rewards you with cryptocurrency for lending your computer power to help cure diseases. You can also earn BCY by playing Moonga or registering an account on the SoG website.

The easiest way to acquire BitCrystals, however, will be via the token crowdsale this August. It will last 30 days, during which time 70 million BCY will be made available at a gradually increasing price (from 15,000 BCY/BTC). 15 million more will go to the development costs, another 15 million to marketing and promotion, and all those unsold during the initial offering will be burned.

Of course, we can’t simply trust them with all of that; the bitcoins will be released to EverdreamSoft ¼ at a time upon the achievement of development milestones. Those wishing to pay in alternative cryptocurrencies will be in luck, as EDS has also partnered with Shapeshift.

Simply put, this the first serious use of cryptocurrency to raise funds for a video game. Whether or not mainstream development houses will catch on remains to be seen, but fans of blockchain gaming can help make it happen by getting involved now.

The first installment of Blockchain Gaming featured Moonga, an existing title retrofitted with blockchain technology. That will inevitably be the fate of all online video games, from MMORPGs to first-person shooters, as the advantages of decentralization become obvious.

Many developers, however, are building blockchain-based games from scratch, such as the team behind Munnecoin, a mainstream-oriented proof-of-stake coin with a 90-second block time. You can tell a lot about their target demographic from the promotional video on their homepage.

They created an MMO called the Munne Project to help market their coin and cryptocurrency in general. I was given a test account, and devoted some time to sussing out its strengths and weaknesses. The game is still in alpha, so I cut them a bit of slack, but it was clear what direction they’re going in.

Story

The Munne Project is basically a free web-browser game, a genre not known for storytelling. It takes place in Prohibition-era North America, in stereotypical versions of cities like New York, Chicago, Toronto and Detroit. You are a mobster, and the non-player characters are all associates, rivals, or victims of your criminal behavior.

The details of your surroundings are fleshed out by the various missions you can perform. NPC text is delivered in ’20s slang, as per the setting, but they’re not interactive enough for you to truly get to know or care about them. The main quest line is basically just a selection of those missions, without any real continuity.

Of course, that’s true of a lot of renowned sandbox games, such as EVE Online, for example. The Munne developers are probably hoping their game will follow the path of other MMOs, wherein the story is generated by the actions of players and the complex alliances they form. Time will tell.

Presentation

The Munne team cares a lot about presentation, judging from their expressed belief in the importance of professional design. Aesthetics are highly valued by mainstream users, so the visuals in the Munne Project are heavily stylized, almost like an old crime drama.

The visuals are in color, so they’re not exactly noire, but everything looks and feels very Prohibition-esque. Dominant shades of brown make it look gritty and real without seeming too dark. It’s a violent and competitive world, but one filled with the optimism of a growing young nation of opportunities.

There were previously some graphical bugs which messed up the user interface, but those now appear to be fixed. My greatest complaint is the typos that still remain, which—at least for me—seriously detract from the perceived production value. The game could also benefit from sound effects for various actions; if Munne is worried that sounds might annoy some players, the developers could easily add an on/off button for them.

Gameplay

As stated before, the Munne Project is an MMO browser-based game. It takes place in real time, with timers on most actions to limit how frequently they can be performed. In addition to the missions in each city, you can engage in street fights, extortion, or the shooting gallery, almost all of which reward you with money and experience points, which are used to buy new equipment and upgrade your character (respectively).

You can also buy, smuggle and sell alcohol, as well as attack and form alliances (known as “families”) with other players. These latter features should become more interesting as the game world populates, but for now it all feels rather repetitive. One main quest in particular requires you to perform a specific crime dozens of times, which prevented my from completing the storyline in time for this review.

Most of the gameplay bugs have been patched, but a few remnants remain. Missions frequently time out or fail to initiate properly, but that merely requires you to refresh the page. I also noticed that money you place in the national bank doesn’t accrue interest as stated, but maybe that was intended as an educational message about the banking system. I decided to withdraw all of my money before it could collapse and ask for a bail-out, incurring a significant fee in the process.

Blockchain Integration

Unsurprisingly, the Munne Project utilizes the Munnecoin blockchain. As in most free-to-play browser games, players may purchase credits which can be used to reset timers, unlock perks, or buy in-game items. Rather than requiring players to pay for them by Western Union or Paypal, however, the credits used are Munnecoins, which can be acquired at online exchanges like Bittrex, or minted via proof-of-stake.

Munnecoins are therefore access tokens, backed by the Munne Project video game. This has the advantage of being faster (approximately 90 seconds for one confirmation) and cheaper (a couple cents per transaction) than traditional methods, and Munne’s stated goal is to educate the public about cryptocurrency this way. They presumably hold a lot of coins, and would profit from the resulting value appreciation.

Realistically, though, all Munne has done is adopt a new payment method. The Munnecoin blockchain has yet to be configured for either smart property or smart contracts, so the status of each user and the in-game economy is recorded on their central server. If I could give only one recommendation to the Munne developers, it would be to remedy that as fast as possible—in its current form, their use of cryptocurrency comes across as rather gimicky, more about marketing than blockchain gaming.

The bugs will probably be ironed out before the alpha is over, but I wasn’t made aware of any further blockchain integration plans. Therefore, I wasn’t compelled to put any money into the game, given that I’m already playing another browser game which—despite forcing me to use PayPal—is a lot more polished and fun. Almost all of the Munne Project‘s features are available to free accounts, however, so I’m keeping mine, for now.

This is the first installment of Blockchain Gaming, a series of written reviews and previews of blockchain-based video games. Since the cryptocurrency industry is still nascent, most of these games are still in rudimentary forms, but we believe that blockchain gaming will become a noteworthy genre, if not a commonly-used technology across the gaming world.

Moonga, however, has been around for a while, having been released in 2009. It became a fan favorite as an early innovation in online trading card games, but began losing the spotlight to bigger competitors like Blizzard. Now EverdreamSoft is turning to blockchain gaming in an attempt to regain their competitive edge.

Story

Moonga takes place in the land of the Four Continents, ruled by the tyrannical Sayosia Empire. Like many fantasy stories, it follows the tale of an unwanted child who rises to prominence after apprenticing under a great wizard. Named Marnordir, he discovers a way a way to imbue magical essences into cards called Spells, which can be wielded in battle and are the basis of the game.

Taking up residence in the country of Juzil, Marnordir used these cards to kickstart a rebellion against the Empire of Sayosia. Sayosian forces suffer heavy losses, but eventually Emperor Daryen obtains the secret of the Spells by way of deceit. That’s pretty much where the player takes off.

There’s not much more to learn about the story from the Moonga website, but you can ascertain bits and pieces about the Moonga universe from browsing the cards. There’s also a community and detailed lore online to flesh things out, but in truth, the focus isn’t really on the story. Other trading card games like Magic: the Gathering don’t have much story behind them, either, and they have stood the test of time.

Presentation

It’s hard to expect much from a game running on Android and iOS. The game menu is nothing special, with a looping tune that can become monotonous. When you enter a match, battle music begins and the screen turns sideways to better virtualize the tabletop card-playing experience. Both screens are accompanied by the game’s stylistic illustrations.

The illustrations are where Moonga‘s presentation really shines. Some of the cards are really fun to look at, especially the creature and monster cards—they look almost like watercolor paintings. EverdreamSoft wants you to want these cards.

My biggest complaint is the grammatical errors in some cards and the online lore. Granted, this is a European company working in their spare time. The English-speaking market is huge, however, and it’s a very easy fix that would give the story more production value. They could also add captions at the bottom of cards (if space allows), like Wizards of the Coast does for MtG.

Gameplay

Having grown up on MtG and Pokémon cards, the rules seemed unfamiliar to me, but it works very well. You must choose five of your cards to use for the duration of the match; four are Attack Spells to be used once each during the games four rounds, and the fifth is a Support Spell played during one of the rounds as a surprise.

With only five cards to choose from per match, the key becomes expanding your options with cards that are not only powerful, but versatile. Players can collect Evolving Cards which morph Attack Spells into a different and generally more powerful form, and many different abilities called “capacities” are available, such as life boosts, direct damage, nullifies and counters.

Each round consists of a battle between the opposing Attack Spells, which have a base amount of offense, defense, and damage dealing capability. Players take turns going first, meaning one opponent knows what Attack Spell the other will play. If your Spell’s offense is higher than the opponent’s defense, you deal the given amount of damage to the opponent. Attack Spells’ capacities can also raise or lower its or the opponents stats.

You can also raise your Attack Spell’s stats by expending Power Points—both players start with eight, and they are also required to play certain cards. Both players also start the match with twenty Life each, and whomever has more at the end of the last round is the winner. With only four rounds, it sounds like it would be over fast, but multiple layers of strategic thinking emerge from this set-up, which requires more skill than luck.

Blockchain Integration

Blockchain integration is what this series of reviews/previews will be all about, and EverdreamSoft is off to a good start with Moonga. One of the biggest buzz words in the decentralized space right now is smart property, and Moonga has joined the bandwagon by placing cards on the Bitcoin blockchain via the Counterparty protocol. When you trade the card to another player, you basically send it via a Bitcoin transaction.

This allows for a multitude of possibilities. You could buy and sell cards on the blockchain for BitCrystals, which will be required to purchase booster packs with the arrival of Spells of Genesis. You could use the Spells in both games, making them true digital assets with the same essential properties as physical playing cards.

The possibilities are truly endless, here, and it will be exciting to see how it works out for EverdreamSoft. They plan to hold a crowdsale of BitCrystals in the future to raise funds for further games, and it’s likely that competitors will put in-game assets on the blockchain, as well.