Part 1: Pre-Hackathon
The dApp ecosystem on Dfinity’s Internet Computer (IC) has grown significantly since the IC was launched a little over 3 months ago.
Since launch, many categories of dApps have been created including dApps for:
- Blogging (Nuance)
- Socialising (OpenChat / DSCVR / distrikt)
- Hosting websites (Fleek)
- Creating and/or trading NFTs (ICPictureThing / Stoic / Entrepot)
- Store files (icDrive)
- Decentralised Finance (Dfinance) and many more
The “killer features” common to all the above dApps are:
- No more connecting to a blockchain "wallet" before being allowed to use
- No more worries of “fighting gas wars”
- Better anonymity with the use of Internet Identity which does not track your usage across each dApp (for privacy focused users)
As more and more developers come on-board, we will surely be seeing the number, variety and sophistication of dApps increase ~ think dApps that facilitate decentralised finance (defi) on the IC (which will most likely occur when canisters are allowed to hold ICP*).
*DFinance, the first defi project on the IC, has found an alternative around this issue and is currently undergoing testing
The final category, and probably the one many are interested in, are games!
Game development on the IC started off very quietly (from my perspective at least) limited to early adopters of DSCVR and/or Dfinity-based forums/groups. Some of the earliest games are listed below.
This could possibly be the very first game on the IC, which was created by Dfinity’s staff engineer Paul Liu and launched prior to the main launch of the Internet Computer in May 2021. For those of you who are interested, Paul has written an in-depth article into his thought process when designing the game.
Super ICP Party
Soon after, a flicker of light emerged with a relatively simple but exciting game titled Super ICP Party. This was probably the first truly multiplayer game on the IC with its first game (organised on DSCVR) held close to 2 months ago. The game pitted one player against another who had to fight it out by throwing bombs at each other with the loser either being bombed out or killed by flames which eventually engulfed the game.
Another early game was T-Rex runner, a Google Chrome game ported over to the IC. The game was an endless side scroller where you controlled a T-Rex dinosaur that had to jump over obstacles whilst avoiding flying dinosaurs. This provided proof that games on the centralised web could be easily (for the developer at least) ported over to the IC and at the same time, run smoothly without any glitches.
Rise of the Magni
Soon after, we began to read and hear about another game in town: Rise of the Magni (RotM). This may have been the first ‘tactical’ multi-player turn-based strategy games on the IC (inspired by Triple Triad, a mini game within Final Fantasy VIII) to allow users to login using their own Internet Identity.
The game initially generated interest through word of mouth on DSCVR (in particular with assistance from the various Dfinity forums). Interest grew significantly when people found out they could unlock special characters (known as Magnis) within the game that would someday become NFTs that they could own.
RotM soon became a favourite past-time for many trying to defeat “the Beast” in training mode or for some, challenging other players to friendly online matches. More recently, players could gain bragging rights the more they won (against other players) after RotM incorporated a scoring system ranking each player by number of games played and won/lost (each player starts with 2000 and either loses or gains points depending on whether the player wins or loses a game).
There is a RotM tournament coming up and if you have practised and ready for some action, why not head over to Toniq Labs and sign up for the tournament.
Part 2: Inaugural DSCVR Games Hackathon
The first hackathon on DSCVR was announced over 2 months ago with 1 simple rule: submit a simple game as an IC application within less than 1 month with the winner and runners-up being voted upon by the DSCVR community.
With the relatively short time-frame involved, there was a sudden rush to purchase ICP and convert into cycles, being the ‘fuel’ that would eventually be used to power the games that were going to be developed. Interestingly, you could literally see a spike in the number of canisters, cycles on IC (and coincidentally trading price of ICP) around mid-July 2021, less than 2 weeks before the submission due date!
Quietly, many were eagerly anticipating the types of games that could be created on the IC in such a short time, let alone run smoothly.
Before long, developers started providing links to their respective games for the DSCVR community to discover (no pun intended). I remember opening each of the links as they came along, trying out nearly every single game eventually forgetting that I was playing games on the IC.
Imagine gaming where there is:
- No prerequisite to “connect” to any blockchain wallet
- Minimal lag
- Hassle-free (and anonymous) sign-in using an Internet Identity that you use specifically for gaming (for games requiring login)
The top 3 games submitted for the hackathon include:
Rise of the Magni
No introductions required here. The game was created by Stephen Andrews and his small team from Toniq Labs (also of the Cronics NFT fame which you can trade right now on Entrepot.app). Given the game’s popularity and challenging gameplay, this was voted as the inaugural Hackathon winner by the DSCVR community resulting in Toniq Labs taking home the winning prize: 30 ICP (or around USD$1,800 as of today). ROTM will be developed into a full fledged NFT-style game where players can play-to-earn whilst upgrading their “Magnis” (NFT creatures) to compete in ROTM battles and mini-games. In other words, watch-this-space!
This is a games hub on the IC hosting 2 ‘old-skool’ games including it’s own version of Nokia’s Snake (single player) and Tic-Tac-Toe where you can challenge other players to a game. The developer Ravish is also the developer of ic.drive, the first storage dApp on the IC which recently received a $25k development grant from the Dfinity Foundation!
This game was created by Seb Thullien, a founder of Motoko School. The game starts off where the player is thrown into the game (by a ‘brain transfer’) with little to no instructions as to what you need to do next (think Samarost 1). This forces the player to explore what is essentially the IC metaverse populated by members of the IC community.
The only instructions available are quests that you need to complete including finding a ‘ghost’, playing the Motoko Runner, a side-scroller mini-game (you might want to consider "hiding" Google Cloud if you want to improve your score) and finding the codes to “unlock the locker”, which in itself is a brain-buster in its own right. Metaverse demonstrates the possibility and relative ease of creating games within games on the IC.
If you have some brain power to spare, why not try cracking the code yourself (or setting a high score on Motoko Runner) which until 25 August 2021, only 3 people have the bragging rights to.
The remaining games that did not win are also worth checking out. These include:
Think Flappy Bird but harder with its gravity-fickle bird and changing backgrounds (at least when I first played it). The developer may have since toned down the game’s difficulty, but it is still probably one of the most difficult games on the IC, next to unlocking the locker on Metaverse.
Block Paper Scissors
Extremely fast-paced game (throw away your notion that blockchains are slow) when you are short on time. You basically challenge a random player on the IC and are scored based on your wins, losses and draws. Dogedev, the developer of this game has also won eternal bragging rights on Metaverse by being one of the few to unlock the locker there.
A platform game (think Mario) where your character scores points by collecting ‘ems which in the developer’s own words “through education and demonstration of capabilities, FUD will be obliterated helps bust FUD”.
This game was easily deployed on the IC using Fleek, so if you are a developer and want to deploy a game quickly on the IC, why not go down this path and use the services of Fleek to deploy your next game on the IC.
Want to know your destiny? This was one of the first NFT-style card collectables (after Toniq Labs' Cronics) which provided early adopters with their own NFT deck of tarot cards. By the way, don’t despair if the first card that you draw is “Death”, many of us drew this card and we are still alive.
This is an open-sourced port of a classic Sudoku game deployed onto the IC with assistance from Fleek. Developed by Norton Wang (of ic.rocks, Axon and cycle_dao fame), his aim was to build a game using Motoko (the purpose built programming language for the IC) and testing-out online game dynamics using the power IC.
This is probably the first gambling game on the IC where you can play* using actual cycles which doubles up as ‘fuel’ for powering the game itself, These cycles (in trillions) are obtained by converting ICP to cycles through a player’s wallet on the IC (being the Network Nervous System dApp).
*where your jurisdiction legally allows to do so
If you are a game developer needing some cycles, why not head down to Cycles Bet and try your luck at winning the lucky draw, the prize pool being 128 trillion cycles at the date of this article.
A full list of games from the Inaugural Hackathon can be found here.
Part 3: More Games on the IC!
The inaugural Hackathon has done wonders for games on the IC ecosystem as it has spurred on other developers on the fringe to dive in, learn motoko and deploy their game creations on the IC.
Some of these games include:
Texas Hold’em Poker
This is an online poker game (Texas Hold-em) hosted on the IC where you can play against random players using the game’s 3000 ‘game farm tokens’ that you can mint upon logging in using your Internet Identity.
Some players may find the game is laggy at the moment, however, game performance will sure improvement once more nodes (computers hosting canisters) and subnets (group of nodes that validate the IC blockchain within each subnet using a ‘random beacon’ and ‘noninteractive distributed key generation protocol’)* are added to the IC. For now, proximity to a node may affect your gaming experience on the IC depending on how far or near you are to a node.
*if you would like to ‘nerd-out’, check out this article.
Some developers have also begun to push the boundary of games that can be developed on the IC.
3 such games which demonstrate the ease of deploying graphically intense games are:
- HexGL (think modern version of F-Zero)
- Space shooter (think modern version of Star Fox)
- Sportfi Rush (think modern version of Outrun)
Of note is HexGL here I compared the original version (built using WebGL and hosted on the traditional plaforms) and this version hosted on the IC. To my surprise, the IC hosted version allowed me to play the game at a higher resolution, with sound and was overall a smoother gameplay experience.
If you have some experience in building games using WebGL, why not consider developing a game on the IC which can run equally as fast, if not faster!
Looking at these last few games, I can only imagine the quality of games that can and will be developed on the IC in the next few months or years.
Part 4: The Future: DSCVR Games Hackathon Season 2
Season 2 of DSCVR’s Games Hackathon will be significantly bigger and bolder than the first one with a total prize pool of at least USD$45k! Further, we will expect to see even better games which are inter-operable within and outside of the IC, given that this is one of the main themes for Season 2.
There is plenty to get excited about from both a developer’s (prize money plus being in the spotlight for developer grants from Dfinity) and player’s perspective (cutting-edge games pushing the boundaries of gaming on the decentralised web).
For current IC developers, they will now be equipped with significant experience gained from building games for the inaugural hackathon.
For new developers, you have now seen and played the games created by the early IC developers which will act as reference points for you to create even better games, more so when these early games were created and easily deployed on the IC in a short time.
I can only imagine the sorts of games that developers will come up with this time around including:
- Games which seamlessly connect with each other within the IC; for example, a game which allows you:
- To use your Cronic or ICMoji NFT character and replace with the current character (being Motoko) on Motoko Runner
- Upgrade your Cronic or ICMoji NFT (within Motoko Runner) if you achieve a certain score or manage to find a hidden puzzle (which can then be used to power-up your Cronic or ICMoji for battle on RotM)
- Record your high score directly within the Metaverse which then instructs DSCVR to automatically mint say 500 DSCVR tokens (good enough to create your very own portal on DSCVR).
- Games which seamlessly connect with apps outside the IC; for example, a game which could:
- Be used as a liquidity provider for dApps on other blockchains (for example on Polygon) or even better where IC-based NFTs can interact with NFT characters on other blockchains.
- Seamlessly connects with say Portal (IC streaming dApp that is soon-to-be-released) to provide in-dApp live-streaming of games and/or live streaming to external centralised platforms (for example, interfacing with OBS to livestream to Twitch / YouTube)
- Allow non-IC wallet holders to participate (either as a player or spectator) in IC-based games whilst earning tokens in their native crypto-currency
These are only the tip of the iceberg of possibilities available to developers building games on the IC. The question then is, what next?
Part 5: Conclusion
Judging by the number of games that have been developed so far, we would all surely agree that the inaugural Hackathon has contributed significantly to the development of games on the IC.
If you are a developer, why not check out the games that have already been developed and use them as inspiration for your next multiplayer strategy, arcade, adventure, first person shooter game on the IC and perhaps, win some prizes at the same time by participating in DSCVR Games Hackathon Season 2. Prize money aside, the satisfaction in knowing you have built a game on the IC that many people will play and love is probably motivation enough for you to start building on the IC.
For everyone else, sit back, relax and enjoy the show that will be DSCVR Hackathon Season 2. More importantly, please show your support by testing, playing and voting on your favourite games.