Etheremon Offers Sharding Technique to Smooth Out Transactions on Blockchain-Based Fantasy Game
For gamers and investors, there is a place where the two areas of interest meet, and that place is called Etheremon. This game was originally influenced by the concept of Pokémon, but with all of the benefits of the Ethereum blockchain. It only costs about $15, and consumers are given the chance to interact with characters in this fantasy world.
Once the user pays the $15, they are given a limited range of gameplay. Every single action the user commands of their creature, which is also known as a “mon,” will cost some level of ether. The price is low, valued at around $1 to $2, and it allows the user to catch the original mon, train it, and interact with other users. If the user wants to expand the reach, they have to use additional ether to cover battles between other players, “evolving” their individual character into a higher-level creature, lay eggs, and trade.
The charge is due to updating the smart contract of the character, requiring “gas” (fees) that are paid to real miners that help Ethereum’s blockchain thrive. According to a recent user, this charge holds up gameplay for a few minutes at a time, which could be due to the minimal scalability at this time. At the early beginnings of the game, the cost of gas was so massive that the developers of the game had to reassess how to handle these transactions. In the process, they unfortunately lost many daily users.
Another reason that this game has not been as popular as it could be, has been due to poor user experiences. There are many steps to get onto Etheremon, including buying ether, installing extensions on the user’s browser window, and connection with the blockchain. Even though it ranks as the second-most popular game for Ethereum, it still has added barely 209 users in the last day.
There have been a few ways that the developers have attempted to make the experience more enjoyable. First, they dealt with the scalability of “battles.” These battles occur between two users that can allow their mons to compete against each other for experience points. Previously, this action took place on the Ethereum chain, which slowed it down. Now, it is available through a centralized service. However, since using a centralized server seems completely opposite of what crypto and the blockchain is about, Ethereum decided to launch a new blockchain protocol called Zilliqa, which is still in the works.
Despite this new platform, the designers plan to leave the assets from the game exactly where they are. There’s so much encoded data, like experience points, game level, and the history of the mon, that it would make no sense to move it off of Ethereum yet. Basically, Etheremon will balance itself between a blockchain with more scalability and fewer fees, and a blockchain with greater security. Either way, Zilliqa keeps the ether tokens safe.
Zilliqa and the Upcoming Launch
Ethereum seems to have a lot of scalability projects on the table right now, but there is a great amount of urgency to initiate the new protocols. Ngo of Etheremon’s team said, “They have to commit Casper and then proof-of-stake and then sharding, so it will take a long time.”
Zilliqa is so unique in the blockchain industry because it uses a technique called sharding. Sharding typically functions under traditional databases, so the crossover to blockchain is a revolutionary step in the industry. With this technique, Zilliqa can handle 2,488 transactions in just a few seconds, compared to Ethereum’s 20-30 transactions a second.
Amrit Kumar, the co-founder of Zilliqa, has explained the technique is a somewhat simpler way. In a network that contains exactly 10,000 computers, using sharding would divide those 10,000 systems into 10 smaller networks, each holding 1,000 computers. Each of the ten networks would process part of the total transactions, sharing the load. Even though this technique has not really been used in the cryptocurrency world at all, there are many academic credentials to on the team to support the adaption.
Kumar plans to have Zilliqa ready by the third quarter of 2018 and hopes that it will be “the go-to platform for applications which require high throughput and high scalability.”
Even though scalability is a major concern for Etheremon’s developers, there is still more that they have to concern themselves with. In any game, users want to have fast reaction time from the program, but without compromising their safety. Each mon contains a wealth of gameplay hours and experience, along with a significant investment for someone users, and no one wants to lose what they have worked to earn. That is why the tokens will stay where they are. In Ngo’s words, “We actually feel that keeping all the in-game assets on the Ethereum network is very secure.”
Kumar added to this notion, saying, “Ethereum is certainly an established network and we do understand that there's still some benefit of using Ethereum.” However, Kumar believes that Zilliqa has the advantage over Ethereum for security, because “you won't be able to write a buggy contract like [the] DAO,” referring to a 2016 hack on Ethereum. Since the language for Zilliqa is simplified, it is easier to find the weak spots and correct them quickly.
Even with this security, the way that Zilliqa uses practical Byzantine fault tolerance (PBFT) makes the platform slightly more vulnerable to becoming a victim of specific types of attacks. PBFT limits the nodes, since two-thirds have to be considered “honest.” Basically, there are risks of some of the more common attacks, though Kumar argues that a proof-of-work blockchain attack can occur without any node involvement.
Right now, both Etheremon and Zilliqa are working to find the best way to balance the two chains that they want to run simultaneously. Ngo remains optimistic about “the first stage of the collaboration.”