Building an NFT Game: Part IV
In Part IV of this “trilogy” series, I want to switch gears a bit, and instead of pondering how to theoretically build a successful NFT game, I want to focus more on the current game I’m working on, FROBOTs .
This project has been a culmination of an idea bouncing around in my head for the last 3-4 years or so. It had its roots in the idea of distributed computing over blockchain. The same dream inspired Ethereum (except they failed in execution due to their fundamental design decisions). And it was shared by many computer scientists such as Joe Armstrong, the inventor of Erlang. If you remember, Bitcoin (the original Bitcoin, not BTC) has a subset of FORTH as its internal scripting language. Why would an electronic cash system need an internal scripting language if all it was supposed to do was just process payments of tokens from one party to another?
I don’t remember exactly when the idea that Bitcoin FORTH (or bFORTH) is an assembly language and that the Bitcoin network is a CPU analog came to me, but when it clicked, all kinds of light bulbs went off in my head at the same time. I’m pretty sure it was because of something that Craig mentioned, perhaps his comments about Bitcoin validations being a perceptron or his comments about the Wolfram 110 mobile automata – a Turing computer (albeit a very inefficient one), running ON Bitcoin.
My idea was that FORTH could be thought of as a “portable assembly language” for the Bitcoin “distributed CPU” consisting of a distributed network of computing nodes running on Bitcoin, and the only thing missing was a suitable transpiler that could take a high-level language and compile it into Bitcoin transactions. Then, programs can be run divided into units and distributed and executed piece-meal, and calculations can be paid for atomically in these microcomputing units, thereby achieving maximum efficiency in distribution and utilization of all available computational resources on the network. It would be a cloud computing solution without a central administrator like AWS.
It’s not a new idea either, some other projects with equally lofty goals, like Dfinity, started out building something like this, but they fell to the dark side of incorporating a proprietary “app coin” that users had to buy to use their Network. (Which was always doomed to fail as most ICO projects do).
After spending three months writing a small PoC for this idea, I realized that there was little chance that there would be enough reason for some clients to use this distributed solution as a replacement for cloud computing. The benefits weren’t compelling enough, and the cost of customizing tools and reprogramming much of their workload was simply too high.
But if not generic computation on the blockchain, what other applications of blockchain compute might be palatable and exciting enough for the market to use and engage with?
Then I happened to catch reruns of my favorite spectator sport, Battlebots, and I thought “EUREKA! That’s it! Battle Coding! Fight against virtual robots that you can create! I’m going to make a fanatical universal combat autonomous robot simulator!” Although *I* thought the name of it was pretty fly, others around me thought it was a bit too rude (or was nerdy?), so I decided on FROBOTs instead.
What makes FROBOTs different? Well, it’s a kitchen sink with games. It is a competitive multiplayer game of skill and strategy. It’s not turn-based, but it’s not real-time either. It’s educational, but it’s also an e-sport. Competition is encouraged. Ingenuity is rewarded. It is a free market. It tests your ability to write code to power a FROBOT that can destroy other players’ FROBOTS in a fight to the death. (Death is, well, not such a big deal for digital devices, so we’ll give them a pass). But the idea is basically to outsmart your opponents on one Battle royale style game. But what puts skin-in-the-game from the users’ perspective is the fact that your FROBOTs will be NFTs.
What does this mean? Well, it doesn’t mean what you probably think it does. NFTs are generally seen as stupid, frivolous and trivial things that serve no purpose other than to act as a speculative tool for people who want to gamble on winning “who’s the biggest fool”, “collect the rare Pokemon” – the game. FROBOT’s NFTs are nothing like that. They will not have value because they are rare or because they are some kind of status symbol. (Although I suppose they might eventually be).
No, they will have value because they have HISTORY.
What do I mean when I say ‘history’? Well, the easiest way to explain this is to use the analogy of a human being. Take yourself. You are valuable. No one else is like you. Although you are a twin, you are not the same person as your twin, and each of you is different. What makes you different is your story. Your record. If perfect human cloning technology were to exist today and a copy of you were to be made1, even if you both wanted to believe you were the original, only one of you would have scars and old skin, bruises and cataracts to show for it. It’s how you got here, not just what you are now, that makes you who you are and makes up a large part of your worth.
So FROBOTs will embody this concept of digital assets provenance. A FROBOT can be created, traded and destroyed, but one copy of it can never exist because even if one were to copy the brain code, it would not be able to copy history. The history will include who owned it at various times in the past, records of battles it participated in, and its brain code upgrade path and evolution. These are things that give each FROBOT its uniqueness, its “scar” and character, and therefore its value.
So FROBOTs stands to be the first NFT application where the NFTs actually are agents themselves and not only property. Because unlike other NFTs, which are just images, or even those that represent game characters like the ones in Axie Infinity, NFTs just represent a “bag of attributes”, game model or game state. FROBOTs, on the other hand, encapsulate behavior, as it is CODE, not just static data. It doesn’t require the human player to act through it. Instead, it appears in the game universe itself.
It is my belief that this is where the true value of NFTs lies, the ability to give digital agents and devices their own autonomy, identity and history. And I hope that with these three basic precepts, our FROBOTS will only become more valuable with time, proof of work (history) and experience…just like real-world humans.
Jerry – Wall Street technologist
 Ala The Prestige with Hugh Jackman –
See: BSV Global Blockchain Convention panel, Metaverse, NFTs & Blockchain
New to Bitcoin? Check out CoinGeeks Bitcoin for beginners section, the ultimate resource guide for learning more about Bitcoin – originally envisioned by Satoshi Nakamoto – and blockchain.