The Big Interview

Zilliqa’s Xinshu Dong: Blockchain games must be built from ground up

Blockchain games are currently slow, and the lack of immediate finality results in users waiting for their transactions to finalise, which can often take a few minutes, the CEO tells Coin Rivet

Coin Rivet: Tell us about Zilliqa.

XD: Zilliqa is an open, high performance, high-security blockchain platform. We aim to make decentralised blockchains the building block of future applications.

Developed through academic research and helmed by a team of experienced scientists, engineers, venture creators, and leaders in the financial services, Zilliqa addresses limitations in scalability and security, enabling real-world usability across a variety of industries, including finance, digital advertising, and gaming.

Our public, permissionless blockchain is the first of its kind to utilise sharding, enabling us to combat the industry’s ongoing struggle with scalability limitations. In choosing alayer 1 scaling solution, we’re able to ensure our network runs with an increased transaction throughput that’s able to accommodate a myriad of use cases, such as gaming, but not at the expense of decentralisation and security.

“Across the industry, organisations looking to implement and develop blockchain applications will become more focused, so it is very likely that we will see some compelling use cases that combine a strong user experience with clear, concrete user value-add emerge”

Coin Rivet: How has scalability impacted the long-term sustainability of today’s blockchain games?

XD: What measures the success factor of any game is an increasing number of active users. If today’s blockchains are already unable to handle 1,000 daily active users (DAUs), then these games have no hope to sustain long-term growth. Not only does the underlying blockchain have to be scalable to accommodate increasing user numbers it also needs to be able to process transactions efficiently.

Currently, blockchain games are slow, and the lack of immediate finality results in users waiting for their transactions to finalise, which can often take a few minutes. When compared to mobile, PC, or console games, this is a poor gaming experience, and will ultimately deter gamers. Though some games have resorted to moving the bulk of their transactions off-chain, this defeats the purpose of a “blockchain game” to begin with.

Additionally, limiting the aspects of the gaming experience on the blockchain only points to the absence of a true value-add for prospective gamers, making it difficult to convince them of the enhancements that blockchain technology can provide. Therefore, a more scalable blockchain is required to truly unlock the long-term growth and value of blockchain gaming.

Coin Rivet: How can blockchain gaming further propel interest in tackling the scalability challenge?

XD: We are particularly excited about gaming as it is one of the existing blockchain use cases that is facing major challenges in terms of scalability. Games such as CryptoKitties and Etheremon are notable examples where scalability impeded the ability for sustained gameplay, and in the former’s case, it impeded the network as a whole.

As the demand for blockchain games grows, so will the developer community’s demand for more scalable blockchains. Having real use cases that showcase the real need for scalability will help us move away from the mentality of “scalability for the sake of scalability” to “scalability to enable real-life adoption”.

Coin Rivet: How are non-fungible tokens enabling gamers to truly custodise and safely exchange in-game assets?

XD: Tokenised alternatives in gaming allow for increased security in peer-to-peer transactions and the protection and permanence of in-game assets.

If you look at existing popular games, there is often an unofficial black market for trading in-game assets, such as selling accounts with high-level characters in MMORPGs, or even the selling of high-spec Pokémon. Engaging in transactions across these unofficial channels carry serious risks for gamers, such as susceptibility to hacks, fraud, and information theft.

Tokenised alternatives are beneficial as they protect both buyers and sellers of in-game assets – a user can prove that they really own a certain item and the trade can then be facilitated on a decentralised platform instead of unsafe practices such as giving someone an account password and doing a bank transfer.

Such tokens also represent true ownership in video games, where users can have the security of their token remaining theirs and remaining tradeable. One of the biggest challenges with traditional gaming is that the developer has the ability to shut something down arbitrarily, for example Diablo III’s auction house shut down. However, if the bulk of the game content is still on a centralised server, the risk of developers altering the gameplay remains.

If you look at the growth of the mobile gaming industry, you will find that the biggest success stories have come from games which were designed from the ground up for mobile, instead of games that simply ported over the same mechanics and game design concepts from PC or console. I believe that it is important for blockchain games to be built from the ground up to maximise the value-add of blockchain as opposed to copying existing gaming paradigms.

“We are particularly excited about gaming as it is one of the existing blockchain use cases that is facing major challenges in terms of scalability. Games such as CryptoKitties and Etheremon are notable examples where scalability impeded the ability for sustained gameplay, and in the former’s case, it impeded the network as a whole”

Coin Rivet: How are consensus protocols such as sharding the key to sustaining the high throughput necessary to effectively run on a blockchain network?

XD: As projects continue to work towards finding different solutions for scaling, we’ve found that sharding is a viable layer 1 solution that allows us to strike a balance between decentralisation, security, and scalability. Security is a priority for us and preserving decentralisation ensures that our blockchain is secure through the consensus of public opt-in nodes and offers third-party censorship resistance of transactions.

By opting for a layer 1 scaling solution, we’re able to scale securely as the blockchain operates with the full security guarantee provided by itself. Though we believe that sharding is currently one of the best options to tackle the scalability problem, we intend to continue to innovate beyond that as we develop our platform.

Coin Rivet: What are your gaming/blockchain technology predictions for 2019?

XD: Across the industry, organisations looking to implement and develop blockchain applications will become more focused, so it is very likely that we will see some compelling use cases that combine a strong user experience with clear, concrete user value-add emerge.

In gaming specifically, there will be a broader audience base as long as the games become of higher quality. To do so, developers need to think about the real value-add of decentralising their game, improving the user experience, and ultimately, making it “blockchain invisible”. As the demand for gaming and blockchain gaming increases, so will the demand for scalable blockchain solutions.

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