The blockchain community recently celebrated the ten-year anniversary of Bitcoin. On January 3 of 2019, it had been exactly ten years since the first Bitcoin block was mined. A significant milestone. The community has made incredible progress since, and has grown to become a market worth $137 billion today. It’s not too far-fetched a thought to see it become a trillion-dollar market in the near future.
But despite the decade-long existence of Bitcoin, most projects I write about here haven’t existed for more than one or two years. Even Ethereum only went live mid-2015. Most blockchain projects have a whitepaper, funding, and an idea. A few blockchain projects have some form of product, but rarely have those products existed for longer than, say, two years.
That’s why the XAYA project is quite unique. Its roots go back to 2011, because several members of the XAYA team today worked together back then on Namecoin. The founders of XAYA next achieved significant success in the blockchain community with their project Huntercoin in 2013. And the technological innovations they’re developing for XAYA have the potential to overturn the gaming industry.
XAYA’s Namecoin Roots
Andrew Colosimo and Daniel Kraft are the CEO and CTO of XAYA. Both were instrumental for the success of Namecoin, which was created in 2011. It was the first fork of Bitcoin, and its aim was to provide a decentralized Domain Name System (DNS).
Namecoin implemented the .bit top level domain, which means any .bit website is run independently of ICANN, the organization that otherwise looks after the maintenance and proper implementation of procedures of DNS databases. Hundreds of thousands of .bit domains were registered, although not many have active websites built on them.
Namecoin was one of the first projects to show that blockchain was bigger than Bitcoin, bigger than decentralized money. Namecoin showed the world that blockchain could decentralize any industry where there’s a form of centralized power.
The Success of Huntercoin
Colosimo and Kraft left the Namecoin project and started work on Huntercoin, which was released in February 2014. The Huntercoin project was quite revolutionary for a few reasons, and still has an active community today. First of all, it was the world’s first fully decentralized Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) game. Not a single part of the game was owned by a central authority. Still today, the game cannot be taken down and it cannot be censored.
Secondly, the way that the game’s cryptocurrency (also called Huntercoin, or HUC) was distributed was unique. In fact, even in 2019 the HUC distribution method could still be considered a unique concept. It’s something called human mining, and here’s how it works:
Huntercoin blocks are one minute long, and every block releases 10 HUCs. One HUC goes to the miners to incentivize them for mining the block. Then 8.75 HUCs are distributed on the Huntercoin game map, and 0.25 HUC goes to whichever Hunter has the crown, which is an object you could find in the game.
This means that players were rewarded HUCs for roaming around the Huntercoin map and finding the coins. Player didn’t need dedicated hardware to mine HUCs. They could just invest their time, skill, and intelligence into the game and they would be rewarded with HUCs. This wasn’t small money either. In an interview with DGaming, CTO Daniel Kraft said some players earned $25,000 a day gathering HUCs.
It should come as no surprise that this generated a significant amount of buzz in the blockchain community, which then also posed a problem. The game scaled to so many users so quickly they actually had to slow down the growth, because it congested the Huntercoin blockchain.
However, the team understood that slowing down growth because of blockchain’s scaling difficulties is not how it should be. So they started work on a solution where games could be scaled without being limited by the blockchain they run on. This solution is set to be implemented in the XAYA platform.
What is XAYA?
XAYA, formerly known as Chimaera, brands itself as the ultimate blockchain gaming platform. It wants to become the platform for entire game universes, while also relying entirely on the blockchain. And with entirely, they mean entirely. Most DGames (decentralized games) today have some aspect of their game on the blockchain, while most aspects are centralized.
For example, a game might have its in-game assets on the blockchain, but might keep the game’s internal logic on a centralized server. This means that gamers have full ownership of their assets, but without transparency into the game’s rules. They have to trust the developer that these rules are fair and that won’t be changed without proper consideration of the impact of the changes.
The XAYA platform is different. It gives game developers the opportunity to place their entire game on the blockchain, including the game’s rules. This allows players to deeply understand why something happens in a game, which makes the game provably fair. There’s no need to trust a central server in any aspect of a game on the XAYA blockchain.
The XAYA platform is built so developers can better monetize their games, while increasing gamer loyalty by incentivizing them through human mining. It wants to become the go-to place for blockchain game development. Of course, in order to do so, the team knew it had to solve one of the biggest problems of blockchain technology: scaling.
How Can Games Scale on XAYA?
You need to think about scaling in two ways: scaling horizontally means that your platform should be capable of running many games and many players on those games at once. Scaling vertically means that your platform should also be capable of running a single game that becomes incredibly popular.
The XAYA team encountered scaling problems with Huntercoin and had to slow down the growth. CryptoKitties clogged the Ethereum network in December 2017. Both are examples of vertical scaling problems.
The problem with blockchain games on Ethereum is that gamers need to pay a fee for every transaction. This fee is relatively high, so playing a game with many transactions can become expensive quite quickly.
Additionally, every full node on the Ethereum blockchain has to execute all the smart contracts on the blockchain. This means that a complex game can become a burden on the network quite rapidly. Even calculating checkmate in a game of chess, which is still relatively simple in terms of gaming complexity, becomes infeasible on the Ethereum blockchain.
Currently, game developers work around the Ethereum fee and complexity problem by making their games simple. And that’s understandable, if you want to build a blockchain game on Ethereum. But XAYA believes this shouldn’t be the inherent fate of every blockchain game.
So they devised a solution called game channels. Game channels decouple game-rule validation from the core network consensus rules. This means that miners and all nodes only have to verify the core rules (such as the creation of new CHI, which is XAYA’s cryptocurrency).
The game rules and its states, on the contrary, only have to be verified by the nodes interested in the game. This makes it possible for games to have as much complexity as desired. It also allows many games to run on the same blockchain, and it means that there’s no need for a uniform language in those game channels, such as Ethereum’s Solidity. Developers can program in whichever language they feel most comfortable.
CHI is XAYA’s cryptocurrency. It can be used to create accounts, do account transactions, buy or rent game assets or accounts, complete game transactions, and run CHI-powered crowd sales. As of today, CHI can only be bought on the Liquid cryptocurrency exchange, in exchange for BTC or ETH. I bought some CHI myself and I can happily say it’s as easy and secure a process as with other big, reputable exchanges.
There are no plans to expand this to other, bigger exchanges, because listing your coin on such an exchange easily costs a few hundreds of thousands of dollars. This shows that one of the downsides of running your own blockchain and not having an ERC-20 token (which is a token that conforms to standards on the Ethereum blockchain) severely limits you in your ability to raise money.
This being said, the main public sale of CHI was in September 2018 and the XAYA team still raised a respectable $2.5 million.
The XAYA platform currently has two games you can play: Soccer Manager Crypto and Treat Fighter. The team is also working on their own game, which currently still has the Project X placeholder name. It’s developed on the Unreal Engine and wants to be a cross between Civilization, EVE Online, Dune 2, and Huntercoin. I love EVE Online, so count me excited. Here’s a very early screenshot:
I decided to try out the Treat Fighter game. The game is developed by Tricky Fast Studios, is completely autonomous and decentralized, and integrated the game into the XAYA platform with hardly any help from the XAYA team.
The instructions to set up the game are quite easy to follow, but lengthy nonetheless. First, you have to download the XAYA wallet and sync the entire XAYA blockchain. That’s no joke. It was a big drain on my bandwidth and on my (admittedly potato) Surface tablet. The only option I had was to let it run as it synced. It took a few hours to sync entirely, which I thought was still okay. I can’t imagine what syncing the entire Bitcoin blockchain would be like.
Then I went on Liquid to buy some CHI. As mentioned above, the process was relatively straightforward. I already had some Ethereum, so I bought CHI with Ethereum and sent it to my XAYA wallet address. The withdrawal process took a while, but I had it all sorted in a few hours.
I downloaded the game and was excited to start playing, but found out the Treat Fighter game still had some syncing to do as well. And the Internet I was on at the time just wasn’t fast enough. It would progress ten points every thirty seconds, and I still had almost 80,000 points to sync.
I had this problem both with the regular client and with the pre-synced database client. Now, the fault might well lie with me. My bandwidth might be too slow, my Surface laptop might not be fast enough, or I might have overlooked something. But the blockchain sync meant I couldn’t try out the game before the delivery date of this article. I might let it run, but I have a feeling it would take days to sync entirely.
It’s Early Days
The people on the XAYA project are innovators, builders, creators. They innovated with Namecoin, saw fantastic success with Huntercoin, and are developing credible and pragmatic solutions to some of the biggest problems of blockchain.
XAYA has a forum where its members actively participate in conversations, and it feels like there’s a community around the team that deeply cares about the project and what it aims to do. Some of the project’s ideas and solutions, such as game channels and human mining, were unique when introduced in 2014/2015, and can still be considered unique today. The team seems far ahead of most blockchain projects in those areas.
Despite this, I feel like XAYA needs to pick up the momentum when it comes to offering something playable to a wide community. While it’s important to build something that represents your ideal solution at least to some degree, it’s also important to deliver something that developers can use to create simple games, and can have people playing without too much effort.
XAYA provides solutions to big problems. It genuinely has the potential to become an important game development platform for blockchain games. But if it wants to compete with an arguably inferior blockchain gaming platform such as Ethereum, it needs to step out of the shadows a bit more and offer up a game that’s easy to install and play.