Redstone Network Launches to Power Fully On-Chain Ethereum Games

Redstone, a new Ethereum scaling network designed for fully on-chain games and “autonomous worlds,” launched its mainnet today—with a number of early games already available for play.

Developed by Ethereum startup Lattice, Redstone was built via Optimism’s OP Stack scaling tech. But it’s much more than a rebranded riff on the layer-2 tech that also powers networks like Base and Zora—Redstone has been significantly retooled for the needs and demands of video games, particularly those that use blockchain for much more than asset ownership.

“We’ve had core developers come along and make really cool contributions to the OP Stack,” Optimism co-founder Ben Jones told Decrypt’s GG. “This is the first [network] that’s not just tweaking dials a little bit.”

Many crypto or “Web3” games utilize technologies like NFTs for unique user-owned items or cryptocurrencies for decentralized economies. But fully on-chain or autonomous games also put their game logic or rules on-chain, working within the capabilities but also limitations of the decentralized technology to power playable games.

“Most of the time, when you fully embrace the medium or the system you’re building to, you tend to get more interesting results—and sometimes better harmonization—just purely from a product development perspective,” Lattice co-founder and CEO Justin Glibert told Decrypt’s GG.

Glibert says his team has embraced this model of building entirely on Ethereum, a “computer that had to be multiplayer out of necessity, and not out of choice.” Following early experimental games like Dark Forest, zkDungeon, and OPCraft that his team created or helped build on other chains, they’ve designed Redstone to better suit such games—and it’s open to the public.

Certainly, crypto games can be built on layer-1 networks, as well as general-purpose layer-2 scaling networks. But fully on-chain games can be held back by the way those networks are typically designed. Games need low latency speeds, for example—and with such a constant flow of player inputs, they need to cut down on the friction of interacting with a blockchain.

Redstone is built for just that, and it also features the first implementation of Plasma Mode, an alternative data availability protocol co-developed by Lattice and OP Labs. Plasma Mode allows for increased transaction throughput via an off-chain data availability provider, but also includes a permissionless Ethereum layer-1 feature that lets any user challenge suspicious inputs.

In short, Plasma Mode picks different kinds of design trade-offs to power games and other high-throughput decentralized apps, but also includes an on-chain capability to challenge potential threats. It’s inspired by the Plasma concept that Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin co-authored back in 2017 (and recently shined a fresh light on), and will be available throughout the OP Stack going forward.

That’s paired with MUD, Lattice’s engine for on-chain Ethereum games. It’s being used by the studio’s own Sky Strife, a tactical strategy game in the vein of Nintendo’s classic Advance Wars that’s available to play today. Other Redstone launch games also use MUD, plus EVE Online developer CCP Games is using the engine for its Project Awakening game—though Glibert said that CCP has yet to choose a network for that project.

Along with Sky Strife, the initial lineup of Redstone games includes titles like Biomes, a Minecraft-like sandbox game; DF Ares, a community-driven revival of Dark Forest; and Downstream, which has been described both as an “infinitely moddable MMO” and the “world’s first post-singularity civilization simulator.”

A screenshot from Sky Strife. Image: Lattice

One of the more distinctive games on the launch list is DEAR, a game by ARPA that sounds like a cross between an abstract art project, a virtual pet simulator, and a crypto-fied social experiment. Or as an ARPA representative described it, “DEAR is a digital creature that transforms under the collective behavior of all players—a tug of war between two factions, whether you feed or abuse the creature.”

“Experimental” is a fair term to describe most of what’s happening around Redstone and fully on-chain games. Some of the early games look far from mass-market in aesthetic and are built around new and unfamiliar concepts.

There are various benefits to being fully on-chain, Glibert said, such as the ability to easily deploy modifications to games and create new business models around existing games. Fully on-chain games (FOCGs) can’t be shut down or erased from existence like some Web2 games, while autonomous worlds (AWs) could yield new kinds of play mechanics and experiences.

Whether there’s a business here, however, remains to be seen.

“Most of the studios out there that have raised capital to build on-chain games—nobody knows if it’s actually going to be a valuable market,” said Glibert. “I would say most of the people that are doing this seriously, they also don’t know if there’s actually a mature-enough business model today to do it.”

But they’re still building, attempting to push the edges of what’s possible on-chain.

“There is a lot of noise of ‘how to monetize’ before a FOCG actually takes shape,” ARPA co-founder and CTO Majorknight told Decrypt’s GG. “Rushed monetization is the killer of innovation. At best, it creates one-hit-wonders like the play-to-earn games we have seen and doesn’t have anything to do with making FOCGs, or improving the infrastructure.”

Majorknight described the Lattice team as a team of “young, talented, and driven people who focus on building the infrastructure” for such games, further praising them for attempting to empower new types of on-chain games.

“The original vision of FOCGs is to utilize risk-free and creative scenarios to test the possibility of new blockchain applications and push the boundary of the infrastructure, similar to the relationship between games and simulations in science/engineering and between games and GPUs,” they added. “Who else to collaborate with if not the team who coined the term FOCG/AWs and established this vision beyond the short-sighted monetization?”

Edited by Stephen Graves

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