Some decentralized games are easier to understand when you know the context around them. CryptoKitties wants to introduce blockchain technology to a mainstream audience and Decentraland wants to combine virtual reality with blockchain technology. It clarifies why CryptoKitties isn’t a more complex and layered game. It clarifies why you best experience Decentraland with VR goggles.

Dragon King, as well, requires context to fully understand the game’s purpose. In fact, it required more context than any other DGame I’ve ever played to date. The reason for Dragon King’s existence doesn’t become apparent by simply playing the game. As such, to explain it all clearly to you, I’ll start by talking about the game itself and slowly introduce the layers of context around the game.

Playing Dragon King

The fabled land of Ethrea is divided into three warring factions: the Sacred Luck Dragons, who rule the sky and the mountains, the Minjok in the East, who live in harmony with the Sacred Luck Dragons and pay tribute to them with gold and silver, but who fight the evil dragons trying to invade, and the Euros in the West, who have come to invade Ethrea and who want to steal the Dragons’ treasure.

Dragons rule the sky

However, Ethrea is dangerous territory. Its mighty volcano Paektu erupts on a frequent basis, taking the lives of the dragons in the sky and the people on the ground. Over time, a society evolved where the dragon that survived most volcano eruptions is crowned the Dragon King. As befits any king, this dragon will receive the biggest share of reward given by the Minjok and the other inhabitants of Ethrea.

That’s the background story of the game, and it’s integrated into the game’s mechanics (to a certain degree). There’s a volcano in the game that, depending on the game mode, erupts either every 24 hours or every 8 hours. This will kill around 10% of the characters purchased in-game, and the ETH cost of these characters will be distributed among the survivors. The Dragon King, i.e. the dragon that survived most volcano eruptions, will receive the largest share.

There are six types of dragons in the game: evil dragons, big dragons, friendly dragons, blue dragons, red dragons, gold dragons, and green eastern dragons. Each type has a different price and will receive a bigger share of the bounty after the volcano erupted. Dragons start at 0.01 ETH and end at 1 ETH. The pricier, the bigger its share of the bounty.

Although the idea of the game is to become Dragon King, dragons aren’t the only characters you can buy in-game. You can also buy archers, mages, and knights, all three of which have prices that go from 0.01 ETH to 1 ETH. It’s unclear yet what archers and mages do, although the Dragon King lore mentions that archers may be hired to help defend the castles of Ethrea for a daily wage, while mages can accelerate the frequency of volcanic eruptions. However, in order to purchase an archer or a mage, you need SKL and XPER tokens, both of which I didn’t know where or how to buy. So I couldn’t test out what archers and mages actually do.

But knights you can buy, and they serve a genuine purpose in the game. You can command your knight to attack a dragon once per volcano eruption. The type of dragon your knight will encounter is random. If your knight has a greater ETH value than its opponent, it will win. Otherwise, it won’t. I sent my knight to battle once and bumped upon the Dragon King, which currently has an ETH value of 1.39215. My knight didn’t stand a chance.

Dead pretty much right away

There are ways to cheat death. Dragon King has two cryptocurrency coins: the NEVERDIE coins (NDC) and the Teleport Tokens (TPT). You can protect your characters from attacks and from volcano eruptions by spending NEVERDIE coins. You’ll need TPT to transport your characters to the battlefield. While the conversion from ETH to NDC or TPT can done in-game, you’ll need a NEVERDIE wallet to store those tokens. Enter the first layer of context.

The NEVERDIE Wallet

Registering an account on Dragon King will automatically create a NEVERDIE wallet account for you. You’ll need to transfer your ETH funds to the NEVERDIE wallet before you’ll be able to spend money in Dragon King. This is an inconvenience, particularly considering you can login with MetaMask, Mist, or Parity. The integration with the most popular crypto wallets has been made, but you need to transfer funds into a new, unknown wallet before you can play Dragon King. It feels forced.

This being said, it’s an interesting wallet with plenty of functionality, although much of it still has to be built out. It was at this point that I realized Dragon King was living in a much larger ecosystem and seemingly served a bigger purpose than what was evident from the game itself.

The NEVERDIE wallet

The wallet has a few interesting tabs. Firstly, the “Starter Kits” tab offers you to purchase chests of crypto and tokens. Each chest is outrageously expensive. The most expensive chest costs $576.98 ETH (over $1 million 😂). The cheapest chest costs 2.31 ETH (over $400) and gets you 1,000 NDC, 1,500 TPT, 25 SKL and 12 XPER. Frankly, that’s a huge rip-off. An archer or a mage in Dragon King costs 2.50 SKL and 5 XPER, so you’d be able to buy max two archers or mages for that money. And NDC, the only coin listed on CoinMarketCap, currently goes for $0.000186. A thousand NDC, which you get when you buy the cheapest chest for 2.31 ETH, is worth $0.186 today.

So, if you like money, don’t buy any of the Starter Kits in the NEVERDIE wallet. Please.

Other tabs in the NEVERDIE wallet had me ask plenty more questions, in particular the “Jobs” and “Esports” tab. While both tabs were under construction, I started wondering what the real vision was behind what seemed to be a NEVERDIE ecosystem. It was when I clicked on the “Games” tab that a new layer of context unfurled.

The NEVERDIE Ecosystem

The “Games” tab in the NEVERDIE wallet shows you three games: Dragon King, ROCKtropia, a fully released MMORPG, and Nova Blitz, a real-time card game yet to be released. All three games are being developed by NEVERDIE studios, which was founded in 2008 by Jon Jacobs. Jacobs became famous because he mortgaged his house in 2005 to buy a virtual asteroid for $100,000 in the virtual world Entropia Universe. He made a resort out of the asteroid, called Club Neverdie, and sold parts of it in 2010 to various Entropia Universe players, for a total of $635,000.

ROCKtropia started as an entertainment-driven virtual world inside Entropia Universe. Jacobs worked together with the American film studio Universal to create a virtual King Kong trilogy set in ROCKtropia. You have to give props to Jacobs, who not only works on the cutting edge of the cutting edge, but apparently also found a way to make a living out of it.

It was upon reading the NEVERDIE white paper that fragments of a bigger vision emerged. Mind you, it’s not an easy read. It’s often incoherent and, at times, rambling. It talks plenty of Virtual Reality, abbreviated as VR in the paper, but it’s not just VR as you and I know of, as a virtual world you immerse yourself in through VR goggles. It’s VR as in any world that immerses you, regardless of whether you use VR technology or not. As such, any game is a “virtual reality”. Confusing, I know.

In the paper, there’s plenty of emphasis on disrupting business models to address global challenges. More specifically, it mentions the need for creating gamified jobs instead of relying on a universal basic income to help those who will lose work because of automation and AI. ROCKtropia, for example, allows you to earn 50 cents an hour playing, which is more than the minimum wage in countries such as Cuba. The paper mentions you “only” need a computer to earn a minimum wage of 50 cents an hour, but it seems far-fetched to believe that anyone who earn less than $0.50 an hour actually has a PC and Internet access.

In Conclusion

Decentralized gaming can lead you down wacky avenues. At first, I thought I was playing a simple game created as a side project by a developer. It turns out I was playing a game created by a studio that was founded by a man with a Wikipedia page, who made a fortune selling a virtual asteroid he’d turned into a fictional space resort.

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend anyone to spend significant amounts of money on Dragon King. If I were to play a NEVERDIE game, I’d choose ROCKtropia, which has been around for much longer and which seems to still have some players involved in it. However, I wouldn’t put my hopes high either.

I like the audacity of NEVERDIE’s ideas. It’s an attempt at combining virtual worlds and blockchain technology to create a future where the digital is fully merged with the real and where people can use their gaming skills to earn money. However, the execution of this vision feel bungled and make you doubt whether anything will ever come of it.

If you'd like to give Dragon King a shot, visit the Dragon King page in The DGaming Store.