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Putting Dark Forest into Eve Online
Eve Online + Blockchains? Also: The First NFT & The Hyperreal, Harry Potter Raves, and the Invention of Cities
Eve Online is amazing: it’s always endlessly interesting to learn what’s going on over there. Given that people have destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars of ships and crafted crazy strategies of power and betrayal, it feels alive unlike any other MMO.
There’s constant shifting sands and battles over resources, markets, alliances, betrayal, and a thriving community that builds tools for the game. Here’s a map of what alliances control what territories.
Seeing that a16z invested in them to build a game that utilises the blockchain, it feels like a great fit, but probably not in an obvious way. Much has been said about gaming using the blockchain, but there *is* something that already exists that fits in extremely well with the ethos of Eve Online: it’s Dark Forest.
Merely using the blockchain as a substrate for ownership is… okay. It’s a marginal improvement that gives players more control and ownership over their existing digital assets, but it could also have actual negative consequences. If you bring in outside influence (eg, the rest of the blockchain), it can risk derailing the incentives inside the game (eg, all users using a decentralized exchange and it getting hacked, or some other incentive like a random token airdrop giving some players outsized control in the game that doesn’t fit the lore/experience of it). There’s a trade-off here where the more you publicly use a blockchain for a game, the more it interacts with parts of it that is not in tune with the lore/experience of the in-game world. eg, it would feel off buying an Eve Online spaceship next to buying a CryptoPunk. That can be okay if that’s the expectation, but taking an existing game and adding in the blockchain requires attention to these unexpected influences.
There is one game/experience that I think is a great fit. It works in rounds and plays with incomplete information on a public substrate of information. It also, already exists in space. It’s Dark Forest.
Without requiring a central server, you can get: 1) a temporary battle over resources, 2) natural fog of war, 3) alliances, 4) and modding/composability all through the use of zero knowledge proofs.
Using these proofs, players submit private actions to the same public smart contract engine without revealing what they are doing. The smart contract verifies that it is correct without revealing this information to other players.
Each player has a unique view into this world.
But the thing that I think is actually even more interesting and important than this is the idea that games built on decentralized systems are infinitely interoperable and composable in ways that games built in the traditional way or not. So, for example, one thing that you get for free whenever you build any application on blockchain is that the application is client agnostic. In other words, you're going to deploy some smart contracts up to the blockchain. And that will basically define how you can programmatically interact with the data layer of the application. But beyond that, usually developers might provide like a default client to actually make those interactions. But really anybody can spin up an alternate web client of their own. We can go even deeper into beyond just the user-facing client that people are using to interact with the game. People can start writing interoperable smart contracts on top of the game defining their own mechanics, expansions, all sorts of interesting things.
The benefit of this, as opposed to merely having a client-server relationship, is that it truly opens up composability that relies on no third-party. A mark of a great blockchain-based game is that it can be played (if need be) inside a block explorer (like EtherScan). GUIs are just viewers. It’s like the Matrix.
In short, players explore a universe, conquering planets and finding resources to upgrade their capabilities. This can be played in the default web UI by simply clicking along, but due to the open-ended nature of the blockchain, players have built plugins that immediately automate strategies once information is revealed to them. Think of it like writing bots that witness your game world and automate actions.
In each round, after it’s done, the users get points and it changes their ranking.
In one round, players got points based on how to close to the center they were. This caused unique alliances to form to overtake the player in the middle of the map.
As you can see, this hallmark of fighting over resources, unique fog-of-war mechanics, a public substrate to compete upon, and the added fun of alliances/trade makes this already a great example of the type of blockchain implementation that would fit great into Eve Online.
For example, using some creative liberty, one can imagine that in a new part of space, there’s an alien presence that keeps breaking through from another universe. It’s such that no human would survive in it. Sending probes/bots into it, players compete for resources from this temporary presence. If they win, they get resources they can use in the rest of Eve Online. One could also imagine that starting probes require resources from within Eve Online. Utilising programming, markets, and alliances, players could enjoy a new style of combat + resource management game.
This keeps the blockchain part of it in a separate part of the existing game world, but still utilises existing alliances and intrigue. I’m not sure if this is something they had in mind, but time will tell. I hope they are talking to the Dark Forest people at least. In the end, I hope it’s something that’s more native to the blockchain than just: hey, put some digital assets on the blockchain.
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The Hyperreal & Kevin McCoy’s Lawsuit Over the First NFT
The first ever NFT, “Quantum”, was initially minted on Namecoin by Kevin McCoy. The inscription expired (because Namecoin entries works like a domain name). Someone sued Kevin McCoy because he later ‘recreated’ the work on Ethereum and sold it through Sotheby’s for $1.47 million.
“Roughly a month before the sale, Free Holdings created a new NFT on the Namecoin blockchain, using the same namespace that McCoy had used seven years earlier and duplicating McCoy’s original metadata. Free Holdings then alleged that it was actually the owner of the ‘first-ever NFT,’” according to a statement shared with Artnet News from McCoy’s attorneys at Pryor Cashman.
The judge essentially ruled that:
“Free Holdings has demonstrated nothing more than an attempt to exploit open questions of ownership in the still-developing NFT field to lay claim to the profits of a legitimate artist and creator. It does not allege that it took any part in the creation of Quantum or the blockchains used to record it. Free Holdings has thus failed to plausibly allege that unjust enrichment occurred in these circumstances.”
I find this being a very interesting case, because technically, that first “entry” did expire. That first inscription is no more. Rhea Myers has a great technical overview.
It pits the hyperreal of the blockchain against reality. The blockchain is a really great reality anchor: a provenance machine that absorbs and attempts to keep true, information about what it is inserted into it. It’s the database outside organisations. The records in a blockchain is important, but we should see it as a tool, not what reality actually is. With Quantum being recreated (which is the right of an artist), and with this court case, it re-affirms that our non-chainspace systems for social consensus is also still meaningful. What we want is for these systems to serve us, not us, serving it. In reality, both are important.
Our systems of information is already affecting our physical reality with places literally called “Dentist Near Me”.
Marshall McLuhan predicted this when he talked about cities of the future being less huge hunks of concrete and steel and more of an information megalopolis. The information in the physical world is beginning to communicate to us with the proper assumption that we spend most of our time online. It used to be that we used physical metaphors such as Information Superhighway to describe what being online was like. The day is not far way when we will use online metaphors to talk about the physical world.
I think it’s a good thing that Kevin won here.
Show & Tell in SFF vs Mainstream Fiction
As a writer, when do you show and tell? As a SFF writer, Matthew Claxton gives some perspectives as he wades into contemporary literary fiction. In the latter, it seems to be more flexible in its liberties to tell. There’s a lot of “interiority”.
As a fiction writer, it’s something I think about a lot. I’m also wading into writing a more contemporary novel, and it’s useful to see this perspective. My thinking atm is:
1) Don't let "show vs tell" get in the way of a good story. If you are trying to show something that is difficult to show well, you run the risk of just adding verbose prose and it getting in the way of the story. Tell, and move on. In figuring this out, I tend to see "show" scenes as ways to make the reader feel something. "Tell" scenes are ways to glue the story to its next conclusion. Sometimes, the latter is more important: to get on with it.
2) If tell is too flat, first show, then tell. eg "Emma threw the trashcan across the room. She was furious!"
At the very least, I’ve read a lot of great books that don’t stick to this rule at all. I don’t take it too seriously.
AI Fan-Fic with MidJourney v5
And that’s ultimately, fan-fiction. Writing well is not a requirement for a good fan-fic story. It’s about comfort. It’s about fantasising and world-building. It’s about the social aspect of sharing the story and world with others. It’s not about necessarily being a good storyteller. Writing poorly or not being a good storyteller is forgivable, because the fans are often, too. They can see past the quality for the joy in building worlds together.
With MidJourney v5 we’ve started seeing a lot of interesting adaptations/remixes. How about, an Indian Star-Trek?
or a Harry Potter x Balenciaga mashup?
Or. Harry Potter with a 90s rave?
It allows fans to very easily explore the adjacent possible. It’s a massively useful tool as a derivatives engine. It ties in with the belief that AI tools will increase both the long-tail of creators, but also increase the popularity of already popular things.
New technologies often introduce a two-fold effect:
It increases the long-tail of access.
The big players get bigger.
The power-law distribution just keeps power-law-ing.
I wouldn’t be surprised if large corporations eventually lean into this. We’ll definitely see A LOT more of this coming. Infinite fan-fic.
Maps are cool. NFTs about maps are even cooler. One of my favourite collections is Steve Pikelny’s generative art, “Maps of Nothing”.
There’s a new collection from int.art coming that involves metro maps. They are also grow over time, adding new stops. Looking forward to it. It’s also on-chain. :)
The Invention of Cities
An interesting video from City Beautiful on the origin and history of early cities. I like that he included Gobekli Tepe: a 11,000 year old settlement around what is likely a temple of sorts. Despite that fact that the area includes statues of people holding their dicks, what I enjoy about this theory of humanity is that it wasn’t agriculture that domesticated us, but spirituality. We didn’t invent places of worship after settling down, but rather, wanted to settle down where places of worship were. That’s the current thesis from the region. However, with only (a believed) 5% of it excavated, maybe the story will change again.
Just interesting architecture. Enjoy.
White Circle Canteen (Asa Moto Remix)
This week’s song is an awesome, slow, progressive funk house track. Enjoy the vibes. Crank it. :)
That’s it for this week! Enjoy the sunset.