CoinEx Institution | The Rise of Game-centered Public Chains (II): An Analysis of Flow, Chromia, and Ronin
Flow is a public chain built for apps, games, and digital assets. The funding team behind Flow is Dapper Labs, which is a team of game developers. Its CTO created ERC-721, one of the token standards of Ethereum. Later on, the team launched the then most popular blockchain game CryptoKitties based on ERC-721 in 2017.
This year, it introduced NBA Top Shot, which was also an instant hit. Most members of the Dapper Labs team have a strong background in the traditional VC industry or the sports industry. With access to big-name IPs such as Disney characters and Hello Kitty, Dapper Labs has received investments worth hundreds of millions, showing the potential to keep on growing.
Back in 2017, when CryptoKitties went viral, the team realized that Ethereum couldn’t support the future of blockchain games, and even Ethereum 2.0 could not meet their demand. Additionally, considering that the mainstream scaling solutions are either sharding or Layer 2, interactions between smart contracts may also become more complicated and error-prone. To build an ecosystem suited for complex applications such as games or social networks, Dapper Labs has developed a more developer-friendly public chain called Flow from scratch.
On Flow, there are four jobs that a node needs to complete. To be more specific, Flow applies pipelining by separating the jobs of a validator into four different roles: Collection, Consensus, Execution, and Verification. On Flow, each node only executes one job. This pipelining approach allows the blockchain to work more efficiently.
This architecture allows Flow to scale to higher throughput and lower cost while maintaining a shared execution environment for all operations on the network, which ensures the best user experience and full composability.
Based on statistics specified in the following table, we can tell that Flow’s gaming ecosystem is still in its infancy. It has not introduced any trending games, and the existing games also have few players. Regarding its performance, Flow can process simple operations, but it struggles to handle high-concurrency operations.
Flow comes with the following features:
- Flow uses a multi-node architecture where different nodes perform four jobs. The separation of labor between nodes is vertical, which means that validators participate in the validation of each transaction. This makes the public chain more decentralized and secure.
- Developer-first experience. Flow has open sourced a series of tools to help developers get started with the Flow ecosystem. According to the public chain, there are over 5,000 developers on its platform. Flow believes that the participation of developers is the building block for its long-term success. Apart from this, although there are 166 Dapps on Flow, most of them are yet to mature.
- Flow adopts smart user accounts that do not require any mnemonic phrases. Optional, modular, smart contract functionality is built into every Flow wallet. This supports automated processes or more sophisticated authorization controls, in turn enabling users to visit and use their accounts with greater ease.
Games on Flow
Right now, only 10 games are available on Flow, and some games are either yet to be launched or in the testing stage. Furthermore, Flow-powered games lack diversity in terms of the gaming category: most of them are card collection games.
Inspired by Pokemon, Chainmonsters is an online multiplayer RPG developed by B-side Games, which is a German game studio that once spent three years developing Three Twenty One, a single-player adventure game released on Steam. Chainmonsters, based on Flow’s Cadence smart contract, is the most popular game on Flow. In Chainmonsters, players can catch, battle, trade, explore, and combine different types of monsters to counter their opponents. The game also features a wide range of elements, including over 135 kinds of chainmonsters of different characteristics, types, and abilities. Players can also build a team of chainmonsters to battle with each other.
The game has released the final version of its Alpha test. The update achieved the transition from 2D to 3D and introduced more diverse graphics and maps. In Chainmonsters, players can get scarce NFTs by battling and completing tasks. However, if you want to play the game, you’ll first need to buy an Alpha Pass to get a Code. Unfortunately, all official Alpha Passes have been sold out, and the price of the ones in the secondary market ranges from $210 to $100,000.
2. Blocklete Golf
Blocklete Games is an online golf game developed by Turner Sports, a multinational media and entertainment group that owns a number of sports channels, including TBS, TNT, TruTV, etc. Fans who join Blocklete Games can collect Blocklete’s virtual athletes, trade athlete NFTs in the open market, and train and compete with athletes.
With different rarity levels, each athlete comes with a unique image, stats, and ID. If you want to get started with the game, you must first purchase an athlete NFT, which costs between $7 and $2,000.
Chromia is a Relational Blockchain, a combination of a relational database and a blockchain. The former allows applications, including social networks and games, that demand high performance to manage data more efficiently, while the latter keeps data secure and trustworthy.
Chromia is a Layer 1 application that uses the Postchain architecture, but it can also be a Layer 2 solution compatible with Ethereum. Additionally, the Postchain architecture enables Chromia to host multiple blockchains on a database. This allows a blockchain to “see” the terminal data of another blockchain.
As such, the architecture simplifies the interaction between different blockchains and helps Chromia expand on a horizontal scale relying on multiple chains. In other words, on Chromia, each DApp can be deployed on its own blockchain. Although the public chain is not entirely a blockchain platform focusing on NFT/games, it is heavily invested in blockchain games and sees them as a major part of its future ecosystem.
Back in August 2019, Chromia started Chromia Studios and partnered up with a US company by the name of Workinman Interactive. This December, Chromia acquired Antler Interactive, a Swedish game studio.
At the moment, Chromia has not launched its mainnet. From the explorer of its official testnet, we can see four side chains that correspond to four applications, including Vault (the wallet function), My Neighbor Alice Lottery, Mysterious Seed (a game similar to My neighbor Alice), and Chromunity (Chromia’s community forum). Chromia’s White Paper claims that the confirmation time on its blockchain can be as fast as approximately 1 second. Moreover, each side chain comes with a TPS of over 500 (i.e the TPS of the whole network is theoretically infinite), and the IO output exceeds 100K per second.
Generally speaking, Chromia has the following features:
- Relying on the “relational model” as its data model, Chromia enables blockchains to manage data with the same level of efficiency as conventional databases. Thanks to the relational model, Chromia achieves zero redundancy (data only exists in one place, and an update will take place if there is any change) and full independence in data management, which makes it easier to implement logical sharding and sidechain mechanisms.
- On Ethereum, each interaction incurs a fee. Chromia solves this issue through the decentralized application level. To be more specific, each DApp can be deployed on its own blockchain (sidechain), and fees that are collected to maintain nodes are paid by DApps as a whole. As a result, DApps could better implement their resource management policies.
- Chromia uses a relational language called Rell for DApp programming, which allows data of the relational model to run on conventional virtual machines.
- Chromia features a unique consensus mechanism. The public chain uses a supplier model similar to cloud computing and Byzantine fault tolerance. It regularly interacts with large public chains such as BTC/ETH using part of its data to keep Chromia fast and secure. On Chromia, DApps acquire resources by paying CHR to different suppliers (nodes), while the side chains achieve the required performance and process their own tasks. Through regular interactions with BTC/ETH, Chromia anchors its existing block information to a secure blockchain with strong consensus.
- Chromia Originals is an advanced NFT standard native to the Chromia blockchain, which integrates more advanced metadata sets, as well as new features and flexibility. Apart from the ownership, interchangeability, composability, and programmability of the average NFT, Chromia Originals also features interchangeability and portability. These attributes may help NFT achieve tremendous breakthroughs.
Games on Chromia
On Chromia, a public chain focusing on games, two fifths of the DApps are games, including the farming game My Neighbor Alice, the action-adventure game Mines of Dalamia, the escape game Krystopia, and the MMO battle game Chain of Alliance.
1. Mines of Dalarmia
In Mines of Dalarmia, an action-adventure game available through the official webpage or Chromia Vault, players mine and combine various in-game items, improving their skills to unlock more features. There is a free-to-play version of the game. However, in Free Play, players do not obtain the minerals needed to upgrade their abilities beyond LvL 3 or generate a refinery.
The game features two gameplay models:
- Mining Gameplay: In this 2D mining game where the player controls a character via WASD and space keys to mine through the earth at different levels and collect various minerals needed to upgrade the character and generate a refinery;
- Real-estate Gameplay: This is a management-style interface where players buy or lease plots using minerals they’ve obtained through mining for others to mine within.
Although the game’s built-in token is Dalarnia (DAR), players must buy plots with Chromia tokens (CHR). It is also interesting that players in Mines of Dalarmia can transfer their resources to Krystopia, which is another Chromia-powered game, allowing them to move in-game assets across games.
As an Ethereum-linked sidechain made specifically for the leading blockchain game Axie Infinity, Ronin addresses the scalability issue of NFT games. It aims to evolve into the most popular Ethereum sidechain for NFT games. Ronin was developed by Sky Mavis, which happens to be the founding team of Axie Infinity. Like Dapper Labs, Sky Mavis also believes that Ethereum couldn’t provide blockchain games with the required high performance.
Moreover, the need for diverse gameplay and smooth gaming experiences is more demanding on underlying blockchain infrastructures. At the same time, Ethereum suffers from a congested network due to the expensive gas fee and poor scalability, which makes it difficult for players to immerse themselves in a game. In light of this, Sky Mavis decided to develop a side chain named Ronin that’s designed just for games.
Ronin uses the PoA (Proof of Authority) consensus mechanism where blocks are confirmed by 25 Authority nodes selected in the network and approved by at least two-thirds of the Authority nodes. The first Authority nodes include Binance, Ubisoft, Animoca Brands, and Nonfungible. Relying on PoA, Ronin processes transactions faster than other EVM-powered sidechains. In addition, the public chain features low gas fees, and transactions between Ronin wallets are almost free.
Based on the relevant statistics listed in the table below, we can tell that Ronin is still at an early stage and its NFT ecosystem remains immature except for Axie Infinity. According to the CEO of Sky Mavis, the team will continue to explore effective NFT scaling solutions such as zKSyncs and make Ronin one of the most effective scaling solutions in the NFT gaming field.
Ronin comes with the following features:
- In addition to near-real-time fast transactions and extremely low fees, on Ronin, users don’t need to pay Ethereum miners;
- Customized for Axie Infinity, Ronin fits Axie community’s complicated customization requests. Moreover, Axie can be freely transferred between Ethereum and Ronin. Players can enter Axie Infinity through the Ronin wallet without transferring assets from Ethereum to Ronin;
- Ronin’s growth prospect remains to be seen as it is still at an early stage and has not launched its official website.
Games on Ronin
1. Axie Infinity
Right now, Ronin has only one game, Axie Infinity, which outweighs 10 games combined. As a leading blockchain game, Axie Infinity has recorded top transaction volumes and DAU.
Thanks to Axie Infinity, Play to Earn has expanded its influence beyond the crypto space. In the game, players raise pets called Axie and earn SLP (the in-game asset) through breeding, battling, and trading. It is noteworthy that SLP can be converted into crypto assets in secondary markets.
Based on the above analysis, we can see that while a number of public chains have stood out in the gaming sector, there are also infant public chains/sidechains like Flow, Ronin, and Chromia.
A well-established game-centered public chain should meet the following requirements:
- Firstly, it should be able to process high-concurrency requests, thereby meeting blockchain games’ need for frequent on-chain transactions; it should come with fast block time, with a three-digit or four-digit TPS;
- Secondly, a mature public chain should promise low fees, enabling users to enjoy the game without the restriction of costs;
- Thirdly, it should be equipped with easy-to-use wallets, which would make blockchain games more accessible and reduce the learning cost.
Based on the above criteria, we can see that Immutable X and WAX are both outstanding players in the field. Powered by Layer 2, Immutable X boasts 9,000+ TPS and zero transaction fees. Compared with other public chains, WAX’s block time is way shorter. Further, it can process thousands of transactions every second, with low fees.
Other than the above requirements for the underlying infrastructure, a game-centered public chain should also build a team with strong R&D or BD capacities. For example, although Ronin only has one game on the chain, the extremely popular Axie alone outweighs dozens of games on other chains in terms of popularity and transaction volume. Additionally, popular games can also bring more user traffic to other games on the public chain.
However, at the moment, blockchain games are still not comparable to traditional games, and developers must keep working hard on the graphics, fluency, and in-game mechanics. The reason behind the boom of most blockchain games is driven by profit rather than the gaming experience. Under such a circumstance, once players couldn’t make any earnings due to the declined profitability of the game, the user traffic will start diminishing. If blockchain games lack any real charms that could keep players around, the field may become another “trap” of DeFi mining.