To #NFT or Not to #NFT — II
In my previous article, I talked about selling art as NFT. Now let’s talk about games. Particularly, the legend of “trans-game items” also known as, pardon my French, utter bullshit. I realize this is a pretty biased intro but you’ll see why.
So the dream being sold is that you can buy an item as an NFT that you can then use in any game. For example, a sword called The Sword of NFT that looks like a rapier but has a glow that you picked the colour of, plus a logo is etched on the handle that you chose. No one else can have that combination of sword body, logo and colour. Sounds cool right? You go into Fortnite and you have it! You go to World of Warcraft and you have it there too! Assassin’s Creed? You got it, buddy! Because it’s on a decentralized block, you are no longer chained to whatever the pesky devs of Fn, WoW or AC series restrict you to!
As with all things too good to be true, this also is. Here is why, layer by layer:
- All games? So… A rapier in Starcraft? Well, Starcraft is a strategy game so how about… Half-Life 3: VR edition. Will it replace the Crowbar? Where the hell did Freeman find a rapier that glows pink and has three seashells etched onto it? In fact, let’s reverse the tech shift here. What if you bought a laser gun? Are you going to have one in Warcraft? In a WW2 themed shooter? You get where this is going, you will be limited by game setting/theme and this, by itself, narrows the potential games by a lot.
- Ok, so obviously we are only going for the same type of setting. So, maybe a sword that works in WoW and ESO but not necessarily in a sci-fi game. With that one restriction, we are free, right? Wrong. Because items in each game, visually and functionally, are very different. I won’t get in detail here and instead link this thread by the awesome Rami Ismail. TL;DR: Items can be and are created with a bunch of different parameters and their functionality is also programmed differently between titles, even those using the same engine. Also, the way NFTs are stored creates huge issues.
- Let’s assume that we built a chain that prevents the issues (not sure if it’s possible) and we are also building the same type of games and enforcing the same type of parameters or maybe an engine like Unreal 5 has a magical function that converts everything as necessary (emphasis on magical). Now, creating a standard, even with the tech available is going to be a choice but let’s assume Ubi is doing this for the next 5 Assassin’s Creed series. Same company, same style game with little immersion breaking issues. Looks good right? Well, not really. Because this means you are forcing the next 5 games to have the same quality of graphics, same functionality in the code etc.
- But we want different games to work with it right? So let’s assume there is a magical code that adjusts the NFT item to the game. For example, it adjusts stats to work with the game and adjusts all the technical problems in the model that Rami talks about etc. It’s impossible to automatize this (at least the game design part) and even manually, it’d be tough (what do you do if an item has increased attack speed property but the game has fixed attack speeds?) and by tough I mean virtually impossible to apply to a constant stream of NFT items.
- Another problem would be the game interacting with that item. The item needs to be in a database that the game can access. Having the game on a third party location just makes things very complicated. I guess technically you could treat the chain as a db? Maybe? If we imagine hard? But it would create so many development and security issues that… Let’s just not talk about it.
- So many assumptions. But you know what? We are visionaries. Let’s assume we solve all the technical issues and we don’t have to worry about immersion or stats. We create an NFT and we can use it on WoW, ESO and AC 7. So, how’s that going to work with a decentralized chain? Well, we have accounts in Battlenet, Bethesda and Ubi’s platforms. So this chain needs to talk with each of them… but to my knowledge chains can’t do that so we need a mediator that can talk to each platform and the chain, properly assign ownerships, and apply the magic adjustment codes. One might call this… a central piece and either a different server/platform or the NFT itself, it has to either have a centralized component or it’s not really going to function.
- Not to mention, the impossible magical adjustment codes would require work from the developer. It would open the game up to security risks and more bugs. Risks and bugs that might be very costly to fix because NFTs are non-fungible and because of how blockchains work.
See where this is going? NFTs, by design, can not accomplish what they promise. Some of the assumptions above are huge, almost impossible ones.
The fun fact is, that we do not even NEED the NFT/Block technology to do all that!
Any item in a game can be assigned to only a single person. Uniquely bought items are possible and I believe a few examples exist. The reason they aren’t common isn’t technical restrictions, it’s the return of investment not being worth it since regular items aren’t sold for 5 figures just because of a buzzword.
But Ekrem, they can’t be traded, you might say and you’d be wrong. Trading items is common in games. But players and publishers alike can’t make money off these, you might insist. Wrong. In fact, there is an infamous example of this: Diablo III Real Money Auction House. Before you argue, no, the system wasn’t flawed. It worked very well. The problem was with the game design. Game design and probably the chance to make more sales is what stops more companies from doing it since, again, items aren’t sold for crazy numbers because they are called something pretty.
If companies were OK with third party items, they could also have their systems talk with each other or the third party server for ownerships and accounts (similar to how you can unlock stuff by Prime Gaming).
As we mentioned, no item is going to just work in a different game, but if companies were so inclined, they could make an adjusted version (ie a sword that is remodelled for WoW and ESO but IG text has the same name and has powers similar to each other as much as possible) and even automatize some of this — but it would require a huge effort from each developer.
Once items are there, it’s easy to get two systems (like Steam and Battlenet) and get them to recognize that the person who owns item X in one system also owns it in the other.
So our technology allows us to make unique items, trade them and make money through transactions. And while items working in different games is a complicated matter, if companies wanted to do that, the solution would be way easier WITHOUT NFT and Block technology.
Why we don’t do all of this is either RoI and/or because some of these decisions can and have (DIII RMAH) hurt the game experience… And I guess also some attempts in the past created a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
In summation, if a day comes where we magically create items in the same standards all over the industry, where magical codes adjust items to different functionality and somehow a certain style of graphics don’t stand out in a different style game and an item of certain technology and production works and doesn’t break immersion in a bunch of games… the “NFT item in all games” uto- sorry, the “NFT item in all games with a similar setting” utopia can come to life. Until then, it’s another one of the fraudulent NFTbro sells.
PS: Just a small reminder that I didn’t even go into all the issues NFT and block inherently has and how much effect these can have on a game that relies on the interconnectivity of people and systems, like an MMORPG.