Reviewing the Development History of Web2 Game Engines and Exploring the Future Development Path of Full-Chain Games

Exploring the History and Future of Full-Chain Games

01, Underlying technology promotes the leap development of games

The progress of the gaming industry is always evolving with the advancement of technology. From the changes in graphics and sound effects to the revolution in game design and interaction methods, all of them are driving the development of games. The first game developed by Atari, Pong, is recognized as the first commercially successful electronic game, which was popular at that time and set off a trend in electronic gaming. The 1970s was a period of rapid development in integrated circuits, and in 1975, Motorola introduced the 6502 processor, laying the foundation for the subsequent brilliance of home consoles. The most famous pioneer of home consoles, Atari 2600, was born from this development, and Pac-Man became widely known from then on.

Modern games are a combination of art and complex technology. Early games were relatively simple in terms of code logic and interface interaction, and developers were more accustomed to starting from scratch. However, as the capabilities improved, gameplays became more diverse and technologies became more complex. Starting from scratch became a slow and inefficient process. In the 1990s, the emergence of CD-ROM and 3D graphics cards brought game content and visual performance to new heights, resulting in a sharp increase in the amount of code required to develop a game. In this context, the concept of game engines emerged. Game developers standardized some underlying technologies and integrated them into an efficient toolkit to shorten the development cycle, reduce development complexity, and support game releases on different platforms and devices. It can be said that the emergence of game engines has brought great convenience to developers. These modular, generic, and standardized functionalities allow developers to focus more on game content and gameplay design. Nowadays, a mature game engine may include various systems such as graphics, physics, and scenes.

In 1993, Id Software used the DOOM engine (Id Tech 1) to develop the game “DOOM,” which achieved tremendous success with sales reaching 3.5 million copies that year. The success of “DOOM” was largely due to the design of its software architecture. Its game software architecture was divided into core software components, artistic assets, game world, and game rules, among other parts. This clear architectural division allowed different developers to use the same engine to create new games by producing new art, levels, characters, game worlds, and game rules. The success of the DOOM engine sparked interest in MOD production in the community and also became the first commercial game engine. In the following decade, game engines became very popular, from Epic Games’ Unreal Engine to CryTech’s CryEngine, and Unity, which achieved great success on the iOS platform. In addition to commercial engines, many manufacturers also developed their own proprietary engines, such as Valve’s Source engine, Infinity Ward’s IW engine, and Ubisoft’s Anvil engine.

02. ECS Architecture of Web3 Game Engine

The two most well-known full-chain game engines, MUD and DOJO, both adopt the ECS architecture. ECS stands for Entity-Component-System, which is a commonly used architectural pattern in Web2 game development. It is used to manage game objects (entities) and their properties (components) and behaviors (systems). The benefits of this architecture pattern are:

  • Performance optimization: The ECS architecture allows game developers to better manage memory layout and data access patterns, thereby improving game performance. The tight arrangement of entities and components helps reduce cache misses and improve data access efficiency.
  • Scalability: Due to the decoupling of entities and components, adding new features only requires adding corresponding components and systems without changing existing code. This makes it easy to expand the functionality and content of the game.
  • Reusability: By dividing attributes into independent components, these components can be more easily reused to create entities of different types, reducing redundant code.

MUD V1 is a typical ECS architecture. In the V1 framework, entities are also the basic units in the game, which can be various objects, props, or wallet addresses, identified by unique IDs. Components are the data part of entities, used to describe different attributes of entities, such as the position of objects, properties of characters, etc. By attaching different components to entities, a variety of game objects can be created. Systems handle the logic of components and implement various rules and behaviors of the game, and they exist on the chain in the form of smart contracts. Entities, components, and systems are all in a Worlds contract, and each Worlds corresponds to an independent game environment.

How does this architecture demonstrate scalability? Suppose we need to upgrade a certain feature in the game or the community wants to add new content. First, we need to give the new game feature/logic (system) write permission for the relevant components, and then create an upgraded version, while keeping other content in the game unchanged. If write permission is not given, we can also consider creating new components and systems that include the new features, and players can choose to play different versions while interacting with the same core component data. From the perspective of Worlds, anyone can create components and systems, just like anyone can create new ERC-20 tokens and “attach” them to addresses.

03. The Significance of Web3 Game Engine for the Development of Blockchain Games

Although blockchain technology has not yet fully landed in daily applications, its unique characteristics such as transparent ownership are bound to bring important changes to the gaming field. Especially when people have witnessed the tremendous power brought by DeFi. What will happen if games are completely put on the chain? From DeFi, we can deduce the changes that blockchain will bring to games:

  • Open economic system: Blockchain can make virtual assets in games have real ownership and scarcity. This means that players can verify the rarity and output rate of items, avoiding centralized game companies’ control and management of assets.
  • Composability: Placing games in the open environment of the blockchain allows different games and projects to complement each other. The progress of players in one game can be reflected in other games, and even shared assets, creating a more open and interconnected game ecosystem.
  • User-generated content: Users can independently build game content or assets and have ownership of assets in an open-source environment. This promotes a user-generated game cycle, increases the playability and distribution of games. For example, users can load verified mod content into game contracts, enriching gameplay and possibly earning some revenue.

Blockchain games have always been highly anticipated, especially after the successive outbreaks of DeFi and NFT in the field of blockchain applications. However, there are still many obstacles to overcome:

  • Firstly, there are limitations in the technical infrastructure. The EVM is slow, gas fees are high, and the Solidity language is almost unable to handle complex game logic, severely limiting the complexity and interactivity of games.
  • Economic model design is crucial for blockchain games, as a balance needs to be found between effective incentives and financialization.
  • Freedom and governance are important for blockchain games. They should allow any player to create and deploy different game content. However, these contents will inevitably make the game world more complex and may even have unforeseen economic impacts, requiring effective governance mechanisms to coordinate and manage.

The above are just some of the difficulties that can be foreseen at present, and it is also the reason why almost all full-chain games are focused on SLG at this stage – the game mechanism is simple, does not require high TPS, and the incomplete information needed can be perfectly applied by existing technologies. If we expect an MMORPG, it will undoubtedly be quite challenging. Taking inspiration from the changes that game engines have brought to Web2 games, if blockchain games also adopt the ECS architecture, it may be possible to solve:

  • Data organization and management: Blockchain games also have a large amount of game data that needs to be processed, including character attributes, items, map information, etc. The ECS architecture can help organize data into reusable components and effectively manage the modification and access of data.
  • Flexibility and scalability: By separating game entities (Entity) and components (Component), developers can easily create new game objects and features without affecting existing logic. This flexibility and scalability are particularly important in blockchain games because complex game mechanics may require frequent upgrades and expansions.
  • Smart contract and data updates: The ECS architecture can more effectively manage data updates in smart contracts. Each component can be updated independently without having to update the entire entity. This can reduce the execution cost of smart contracts and improve interaction efficiency.
  • Composability: One advantage of ECS is the composability of its components and systems, which aligns with the concept of composability in blockchain games. Perhaps players can create new content, thus bringing a richer experience.

04, Outlook for Web3 Full-Chain Games

There are still many challenges in full-chain games, and game engines only solve a small part of the problem. However, challenges and opportunities coexist, and this complex application of full-chain games may become the key to the real implementation of blockchain technology.

Currently, full-chain game engines are still in the very early stages. As mentioned earlier, we have seen the embryonic form of complex applications, but lack the tools for implementation. Currently, MUD V2 and Dojo are developing rapidly. MUD V2 has improved the ECS architecture compared to V1, but V2 is still under development. Dojo is the only verifiable game engine built by the Starknet community, and thanks to the Cairo language, it can natively implement the fog of war. Dojo also adopts the ECS architecture and plans to develop a dedicated L3 for games on Starknet to further improve scalability.

In addition, the infrastructure that the blockchain game relies on is also evolving. L2 has become so robust that it can launch a chain with just one click. Perhaps a popular game can earn the price difference by building its own Rollup, thus maintaining a dissipative structure and avoiding a death spiral. By utilizing the ERC-4337 account abstraction technology, players in blockchain games can perform game transactions, create characters, and more with a single account, helping to simplify the user experience. Different game mechanisms can also be encapsulated into an upgradable contract account, making it easy for developers to update or optimize game rules and content.

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