Talking about how to make on-chain games more competitive: procedural generation


While on-chain gaming has its differences from the traditional gaming world, we are obliged to consider what features need to be ported to make blockchain gaming more popular. An increasingly important feature of the game environment is “Procedural Generation” (ProcGen). Procedural generation in games is the use of data to algorithmically generate elements, such as terrain or level design with computer-generated randomness. Certain types of games (i.e. “roguelikes”) rely on procedural generation to increase difficulty, replayability, and also to make game design easier to calculate.

Bringing this functionality on-chain is an important part of the infrastructure to allow permissionless access to games, both for players and developers. In general, keeping data on-chain maintains its integrity at all times, independent of servers or other centralized institutions. This is also one of the key points we will address in this series of articles.

A key difference between a centralized game and an on-chain game is the presence of a decentralized front-end with a terrain that interacts with the game. Giving users and developers access to the procedural world generation stack allows for greater composability. Sharing custom design or gameplay elements is a hallmark of modern multiplayer games.

How does on-chain map generation (Gen) currently look and how does it work?

The most popular example of procedural world generation is undoubtedly Minecraft. However, integrating procedural generation of 3D voxels on-chain requires significant rendering time. In the current format, generating a detailed 3D map as large as Minecraft is not really playable due to this limitation.

When we look at other instances of procedural generation in traditional games, like Dwarf Fortress or The Binding of Isaac, these are more feasible than what can be achieved in an on-chain gaming environment state. For example, developers in the MatchboxDAO community are working on a game called Age of Eykar that uses procedural generation in a unique way to make an on-chain strategy game.

Talking about how to make on-chain games more competitive: procedural generation

Eykar World map

In this game, instead of storing map data directly on-chain, developers use an algorithm to interpret how the map looks. So the player’s browser does the calculations and converts the data into an image of the map. In this way, the data generated (which is more work-intensive) does not have to be stored directly on the blockchain. Because the computational cost is low, the storage cost is high. To expand on this process, developers are working on solutions that prioritize computational approaches to game design.

Why is procedural generation on-chain so important?

Procedural generation allows game developers to compress terrain and make it easier to store. Developers can create games with a high degree of playability and variety of terrain, dungeons, and overall experience without compromising computing. Roguelike games (note, a subgenre of role-playing games (RPG)) are one of the most popular game genres, and elements of it have been adapted from numerous games.

This is an important imperative for game developers porting their ideas to the blockchain. Shaping this style of terrain generation into a process that can be implemented by smart contracts is a huge leap forward in open source development. Integrating it into the infrastructure standard of on-chain games makes the development process of different games interoperable.

With the advent of ZK rollups and their use in StarkNet, the transaction throughput and speed of these contracts will increase significantly. This increase in throughput and open source generation extends not only to the game environment, but also to in-game objects and elements. Think about random item drops, events, and other in-game instances. Perlin noise (Perlin noise refers to the natural noise generation algorithm invented by Ken Perlin) generation is a technique commonly used in procedural methods. 0xPARC has a great article on how the technology works in on-chain ProcGen.

How will this drive the development of on-chain gaming?

We’re still in the early days of on-chain gaming, but bringing this type of terrain generation to on-chain opens up a whole new set of possibilities for developers. The creators understand that there is an expectation and a current zeitgeist in the gaming space. Players expect certain features that maintain their game philosophy, features that have lasting value, and features that make the game boring or fun. Procedural generation is critical to bringing familiar and fun elements to on-chain games.

Layer 2 solutions using Zk rollups (like StarkNet) will allow developers to deploy these contracts at a lower cost and faster. Game design is a creative activity that has driven the advancement of computing technology since its inception. Deploying new infrastructure like ProcGen will accelerate people’s ability to innovate on-chain and bring us the next set of creative ideas.

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