Our Journey to the Cosmoverse

We’re barely exaggerating when we say we tried all the open blockchains before deciding that Cosmos is our home. Our story spans 7 years, so these blockchain systems have inevitably changed, and our games have evolved in tandem.

In the Beginning

Our first project was built on UTXO blockchains, started in 2013, and launched in 2014. Even then it was clear fees were going to be an issue, but there were other problems too. It didn’t take a lot of play testing to recognize that long block times led to disengagement in players.

Bitcoin, you’re our first love, but your developers were clear: “This is not our use case.” By the time we had our game secure enough to manage some real funds (thanks CryptoCurrency Security Standard!), fees on the Bitcoin network had increased far beyond the micropayments we targeted. Our transactions were considered nothing more than spam by the very community we wanted to entertain.

Of course we tried other UTXO networks, like Litecoin and Dogecoin, but there were frequently basic hurdles to overcome in each of them. Within a week of our launch on Litecoin, the network/community decided they’d start to migrate from one address format to another, leading to immediate fragmentation across wallets and user confusion. Even despite our best efforts to coordinate the update across wallets, explorers, and services, it ultimately led to a waste of our own time and a user experience that never quite recovered. Decentralization can be a double-edged sword — you can’t even be mad, you must simply adapt.

One of our initial (admittedly misguided) design goals was to build a game that could be played with any cryptocurrency wallet. We actually thought this would remove friction and get players in faster, but instead it meant that our game experience always relied on the UX of third parties. We tried to partner with a couple really great wallets to improve the process but in the end they were struggling to keep up with basic features and had no extra resources to collaborate with small projects such as ours. Keeping control of the entire experience became a necessity for our future endeavours.

To the Defcoin community, we love you too. The original Coindroids system made its debut at DEF CON 22 (2014), where we introduced cryptocurrencies and blockchains to countless attendees who’d never tried the technology prior. Defcoin was started as a complete joke and we turned it into a learning tool. We look forward to continuing this tradition each year in Las Vegas ❤ That said, Defcoin is a seasonal coin, unless it’s DEF CON (+/- 7 days), the network is hibernating and is not something we can reliably build on.

The Lighting Network

“Use lightning!” they said. Sounded incredible — low fees and quick transactions! We wanted this to work. We absolutely loved Bitcoin and this was the way it could scale to meet the needs of weird little applications such as our own.

Welcome to Coindroids on the Lightning Network.

Are you on the LN? No? Well f&*k off then!

The first problem was pretty obvious before writing a single line of code. Unless our potential players show up with assets on LN we’re turning them away almost instantly. We’d already learned how bad any friction can make our onboarding process and this was going to be a problem for us.

Let’s assume a miracle happened and my player showed up already on-boarded to LN. What does game play look like? We quickly learned that transactions on LN require invoices to be issued and then the wallet is able to fulfill the invoice and send the funds.

Sounds reasonable enough, let’s see how that translates to game play…

  • Player A decides to attack Player B with 0.000001BTC
  • Player A would ask Player B for a Bullet Invoice for 0.000001BTC
  • Player B monitors for Bullet Invoice requests with their always-on server
  • Player B receives the request and issue the Bullet Invoice to Player A
  • Player A would complete the attack by fulfilling the Bullet Invoice
  • Player B accepts the 0.000001BTC of bullets and takes damage

Hilarious, but not great in reality. The Lightning Network is constantly evolving and some of the initial issues have been addressed, but it has never felt like the actual answer we’ve been in search of for game development. We definitely keep a close eye on this network though.

Ethereum & Smart Contracts

The vision of Ethereum was incredible, but keep in mind, when we started building games in the blockchain space, it was only a dream! Sure, it seemed like an obvious choice to use once it was ready, but that was quite literally years away.

As the Ethereum network was developed and a mainnet released, we constantly looked back to it to see what we could build. The network was somewhat stable by the end of 2016, but still developer tools and user clients left a lot to the imagination.

You can still read about one of our explorations into Ethereum in our 2017 article Doroidotchi — The Tamagotchi-like Smart Contract.

The Ethereum space was cool and the capabilities felt endless but, as mentioned previously, we’d also already known the pain of turning away users because they had no crypto, and (right or wrong) we definitely had that concern about ETH. The EVM allowed for so many fascinating possibilities but we were terrified that either nobody would (or could) play, or the only winners would be the miners.

One thing kept us coming back to the Ethereum ecosystem over the years; people will throw ETH at ANYTHING. The community absolutely adores exploration and creativity. Never building on Ethereum has been an extremely difficult choice and it’s one we revisit frequently. We’re not ignoring your magnificent ecosystem.

Our search for the next generation of smart contract platforms brought us to EOS, which promised to be the answer to all our needs. Self-funding contract execution, high network throughput, upgradable contracts, easy to dev, etc. Once it was finally released we dropped everything and excitedly got started. It was obvious this was it…

But we’ve never struggled with any environment we’ve tried more than EOS. The founders were extremely helpful and tried to make sure we had all the help we needed. But it didn’t work well with our games. Other game devs have been super happy with EOS and reached incredible success. This is where we say “It’s not you, EOS. It’s us.” We wish you all the best.

Suddenly, so Many Great Choices!

Next we tried Nano. It was supposed to be fast and the future. It was certainly an application we downloaded and the documentation was not time consuming.

We’re pretty sure we built a game on Monero at one point but we have no idea if anybody is playing it 😅

Stellar… yep, we tried it. If we wanted to build KYC into our game this could have been an option? But KYSee-ya-later to anything KYC for Slow Ninja’s games. We’re trying to build entertaining environments, not financial platforms.

(For absolute clarity on the subject, Fuck Ripple. Never touched it, never will. Don’t @ us on this one.)

We tried to build on IBM HyperLedger but we’re still negotiating the $50m contract to use their open source software. Ok, ok, that’s 100% satire. They wouldn’t actually talk to us (presumably related to our somewhat aggressive methods for testing their BlueMix service).

The XX Network was promising but we must be in a parallel universe in which the project is only an email marketing list rather than a working quantum blockchain product.

Bitcoin Cash? We tried, but the clients were a mess at the time.

Ethereum Classic? We legit considered it but, again, it was like going back in time for tooling and clients.

IOTA seemed super cool too, but what the hell even is it. We tried it. Wasn’t for us.

Many told us Cardano was our answer. Roughly every quarter we’ve downloaded whatever Cardano “is” at the time. What Cardano has not been to date is our answer. Cardano JUST released something we’re told, but at this point it’s too late for us. It’s like the chain that cried Wolfram.

BAT didn’t grab our attention.

OMG…we didn’t care about this one bit.

People we like recommended Ravencoin. CAWWWWWW…which roughly translates to “didn’t solve any of our problems.”

We tried Verge, but we’re nowhere close to being on the verge of recalling what benefits it was supposed to provide us.

We tried to build something on Polkadot, but after pooling our lunch money together we did not win the auction and are unauthorized to build on Polkadot.

There are several gaming specific platforms that we tried but they all felt so basic, limiting, and centralized even. They have their place, but their place was not our place. Talks with many led to a similar end as Bitcoin, with the phrase “that’s not our use case” ringing in our ears.

Would the Tech Ever Catch Up?

It turns out, our use case is quite unique. We want to provide gamers with the benefits of a distributed system: sovereignty over assets, high availability, community lead, and community run. We want to provide innovative challenges and adventure.

We truly believe that great games can be built using this incredible technology. We also believe the user shouldn’t need to be aware of blockchain tech, and users certainly should not be hindered by it. If there isn’t a benefit to the gamer, what is the point? This is OUR use case.

And Then It Happened!

Then Cosmos came along, delivering on their whitepaper like fucking champions. The CosmosSDK gives us the building blocks to take control of the UX like nothing else out there. Now it’s ALL on us now to make something awesome. And we know we’ve got champion game development coursing through our veins. Basically, it’s a partnership of champions.

The CosmosSDK is like Ruby on Rails, only instead of a web page it builds a sovereign consensus mechanism for your network. It’s fun to work with while also being seriously powerful.

Cosmos’ Inter-Blockchain Communication, or IBC, lets these sovereign chains (or games) interact amongst themselves with (almost) limitless possibilities. Moving items around worlds is only the obvious mechanism here, but imagine an entire game universe that can influence other game environments.

We started building blockchain games in 2014 and were happy to use the rudimentary pieces we had before us. We were always hopeful that one day, if lucky, the tech would catch up. It has. Cosmos is here and we never need to hear “not our use case” again.

Come join as we build and play together. We’re not just looking for play testers, we’re looking for our community. Our curious and cautious, our leaders and our students, our helpful and our hilarious. The invite to our discord is below 👇

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Slow Ninja

Slow Ninja

Defining skill-based blockchain gaming since 2014