What is a Blockchain? How will utilizing it affect gamers? Is it the future of MMORPGs or are all Blockchain games a scam? The Blockchain-age has arrived, and with it, comes a slate of new buzz words like “non-fungible tokens” and “crypto-assets” that can be confusing for gamers who now see these terms throughout a growing number of in-development titles. Luckily, Samson Mow, the creator of Infinite Fleet, and CEO of the development studio Pixelmatic, joined us to explain everything that gamers need to know about blockchain gaming, and how the premiere sci-fi MMO Infinite Fleet is so much more than “just a blockchain game”.
Samson Mow is not only the creator of Infinite Fleet and the CEO of Pixelmatic, but he is also the Chief Security Officer (CSO) of Blockstream. Blockstream is a global leader in blockchain technology, which includes the Liquid Network, a cutting edge Bitcoin Sidechain that Pixelmatic will utilize in their upcoming game Infinite Fleet. The virtual world of blockchain and crypto-assets can be difficult to navigate, but Samson's background made him the perfect person to explain it.
MMORPG: For starters, the word “blockchain” gets thrown around in a lot of new games recently. I think a lot of people automatically equate the word “blockchain” with “cryptocurrency”, but in games like Infinite Fleet you use blockchain for more than just your INF token. Could you give a simple explanation of blockchain for people who are having trouble understanding its uses in gaming?
Mow: At its most basic level, a blockchain is nothing more than a type of database that stores information. It’s part of the design that made Bitcoin successful: the Bitcoin blockchain stores the data of every single transaction on the network, and thanks to Bitcoin’s decentralized design and Proof-of-Work algorithm, this data is immutable, meaning it can’t be changed.
“Blockchain” has become a bit of a buzzword however, as countless projects have come up with tokens piggybacking off Bitcoin’s success in recent years, hiding money-grab schemes behind an endless list of “use cases.” This has done a great disservice to the cryptocurrency industry, as many gamers have come to view “blockchain” or “crypto” with some apprehension.
Infinite Fleet uses a blockchain for its in-game currency INF and for NFTs of our spaceships. The blockchain we use is called Liquid; it’s a Bitcoin sidechain. Our players can earn INF by playing the game — we don’t sell INF anywhere, so that’s the only way to acquire it. They can use it to trade with other players in the peer-to-peer marketplace and move it to an external Liquid wallet should they choose to. We do things very differently from many other so-called “blockchain games” because moving INF around is completely optional and hidden from immediate view. We don’t need you to download a wallet or buy some token to play the game – which most blockchain games do. But if you want to take your INF outside of the game, for example to move it to an exchange or gift it to a friend, you can.
We also use Liquid for our fundraising, but via a security token offering (STO). This is similar in structure to an equity raise, but rather than buying shares in the traditional sense, our investors purchase security tokens called “EXO” which grant equity and a profit share from our publishing company Exordium. Since these tokens live on a blockchain, they provide our investors with better interoperability, liquidity, and accessibility than traditional shares. You could invest as low as $100 in Infinite Fleet and have a stake in future profits.
MMORPG: You mentioned that Infinite Fleet won’t be selling INF, players have to earn it in game. Would it be possible for players to sell INF to other players for real money? Do you see that as being a common practice?
Mow: INF is portable, meaning players can hold it in their own wallet outside the game, move it around freely, and do with it whatever they want. We expect that players will primarily use INF to buy ships and items from other players.
MMORPG: Are there benefits to either the development team or the players when integrating blockchain-based systems into a game, such as a currency or cryptoassets?
Mow: Where it gets interesting is that not only our in-game currency, but also our spaceships are issued on the Liquid sidechain. Each ship will be assigned a unique token, or NFT (non-fungible token, which is just a unique token). Again, if you don’t want to bother with that, you don’t need to. Just play the game and enjoy yourself. But if you want to engage in peer-to-peer trades, you can trade ships for INF via “atomic swaps” — in a nutshell, this allows you to eliminate counterparty risk in which one side of a trade must make the first move and risks being defrauded by the other side. In an atomic swap, both sides make the trade simultaneously, without the need for a third party. This levels up P2P trading big time.
MMORPG: These days, people are starting to notice cryptocurrencies in the news a lot more. You hear a lot about meme coins, like Dogecoin, that was originally created as a joke, but has started to gain traction and is being taken more seriously. Now, you have copycat coins that some people worry are “scams” and it makes them wary to get involved in games with their own proprietary cryptocurrencies, like INF. What would you say to those that think blockchain games aren’t “real games”?
Mow: They probably have a point! Many, if not most blockchain games have made “blockchain” their identity and use that to promote the value of their token. The focus is usually more on the token value and less on the game; most of these games are further built on the Ethereum blockchain, which makes them basically unplayable as their design is not scalable. Also, games that use a private blockchain or don’t allow P2P trades don’t even have a need for a blockchain.
So doing your research on any blockchain games that catch your interest is a very healthy attitude. But when I talk about Infinite Fleet, I usually don’t even refer to it as a blockchain game. Infinite Fleet is a AAA sci-fi MMO. We use blockchain technology to further our goal of enabling an open, free-market economy for our players, but the game is perfectly playable and groundbreaking even without the blockchain aspect. That’s what fundamentally differentiates Infinite Fleet from the majority of blockchain games out there.
MMORPG: In a recent interview you mentioned that ships in Infinite Fleet will be NFT’s, to better facilitate peer-to-peer trading between players. What are the benefits of having an NFT ship over just any, regular in-game ship in another game?
Mow: It’s really for the atomic swaps that I mentioned earlier. Without the ships as NFTs, we wouldn’t be able to have those atomic swaps where there is no counterparty risk. If you want to buy a spaceship from me via an atomic swap, you can pay in INF — but I won’t receive the money until I have “paid” you with the NFT. All of this is programmatically enforced by the network, without the need for a third party, and fixes a major issue in the gaming industry.
Also, ships as NFTs allow us to issue an auditable number of ships. If we sell 200 Polaris Carriers of a certain mark, you can verify the total supply on the Liquid blockchain, and you can also know that your ship is, for example, 1 of 200.
NFT ships could in theory be transferrable from one game to another – but that’s a discussion for another day!
MMORPG: When you look into NFT’s that get minted or traded in the Art world, often times there is talk about “gas” fees associated with them. Are these fees a concern in games like Infinite Fleet?
Mow: Gas fees are inherent to the Ethereum blockchain; gas is used to pay for transactions. The majority of NFTs are issued on Ethereum as their creators followed a recent hype for NFTs; the problem is, Ethereum is not scalable. That means the more people try to send transactions over the network at the same time, the higher the gas fees. This has led to crazy fee spikes, forcing people to spend thousands of dollars for a single transaction.
Liquid doesn’t have this issue as it is designed differently from Ethereum. Without going into too much detail here: Ethereum is a proof-of-work blockchain where blocks are mined, whereas Liquid is a federated sidechain where blocks are signed. Liquid is designed for fast transactions and scalability. Liquid transaction fees are priced in L-BTC (Liquid Bitcoin) and are roughly 10 cents at current Bitcoin prices. Liquid also allows another party to pay fees, so we could subsidize some transaction fees, or allow payment in another form, like US dollars, instead of having players procure L-BTC.
MMORPG: In that case, when players are finally ready to trade or sell, would players who trade their NFT ships for INF or USD have to take into consideration this Liquid Bitcoin transaction fee when making a trade?
Mow: If a player makes a trade on our platform, the L-BTC fee will be masked via a service that allows them to pay the fee in dollars. This fee would be added to the total purchase price, similar to what you're used to from other payment platforms that charge fees.
MMORPG: One worry that some players have, is that, with limited quantities of items, and a limited supply of INF, there may come a point where it will be difficult for new players to get into the game. The buy-in may just be too high for the average player, if quantity-limited assets are being claimed too fast, or it is too difficult or time consuming to gather the INF needed to buy an adequate ship. Is there something that your team is working on to address those concerns?
Mow: INF is primarily used for peer-to-peer trades, and sellers would just price items in USD, so the limited quantity of INF wouldn’t be an issue. There will still be non-NFT ships available too, so players could always use those if they don’t want to pay. Non-NFT ships will just not have a mark (MK-X) or a unique serial number.
For the ships, they will be purchasable for US dollars or Bitcoin, so INF won’t be an issue. We may have certain ships that could be purchased for INF, but those will be more like a limited availability bonus.
MMORPG: In the gaming community, something that we’ve all become aware of recently is the rise of cryptomining, as it’s become increasingly difficult for gamers to obtain video cards in the last few years. With that being said, mining takes a lot of time and resources. This can slow down the transactions that gamers usually see as instant in games currently. How is Pixelmatic handling these transactions?
Mow: The crypto mining that is riling up gamers is for Ethereum, which uses GPU mining – which means miners are buying up graphics cards that gamers need. Some falsely accuse Bitcoin of being at fault here, but Bitcoin mining actually uses highly specific ASIC miners, which don’t involve GPUs at all.
That said, INF isn’t mined. It’s simply issued on the Liquid Network and requires no mining at all. As mentioned earlier, Liquid blocks are signed, and signed every minute by the federation – so transactions happen like clockwork and don’t consume any significant amount of processing power or energy.
MMORPG: When playing a blockchain game, do players actually have to worry about the game “mining” these transactions themselves?
Mow: That would depend on which game you’re playing, but as far as Infinite Fleet goes, you don’t need to worry about that at all. You earn INF by participating in in-game events in Infinite Fleet. There’s no mining going on here, except for mining resources in-game, but those are just in the database like in other games.
MMORPG: What kind of future do you see for Blockchain Games, and Infinite Fleet? Are the games in development today more of a “proof of concept” endeavor, or is this a future that you think will become mainstream within the next decade?
Mow: I think the first step is to get over the term “blockchain game,” at least in our case. Infinite Fleet is so much more than a blockchain game. It’s a game developed by some of the best developers in the industry. Our team comes from studios like Ubisoft, SEGA, EA, Relic, and more. We’ve worked on Mass Effect, Ultima Online, Age of Empires 4, and other titles. Our passion is gaming, and our mission with Infinite Fleet is to make a killer AAA title that brings fresh air to the MMO space with major innovation on the storytelling and economic levels. We use a blockchain to further this mission, but it is by no means the only thing that makes Infinite Fleet special.
That said, I do think Infinite Fleet will become the game that demonstrates to the wider industry that you can build an MMO that embraces free secondary markets rather than unnecessarily limiting players that have invested so much time and effort into building up their in-game assets. We hope that this will lead the games industry to a new era of gaming, in which gamers can extract real-world value from their gameplay.