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D-PARC
A look at 8 Circuit Studios’ forthcoming blockchain-based survival game, “D-PARC.” (8 Circuit Studios image)

Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel “Snow Crash” was set, in part, in a massive multiplayer virtual reality called the Metaverse, where people could use specialized visors and gloves to meet up and hang out. The book is remembered for a whole lot of things besides this — sword fights, exploding skateboards, a ton of Sumerian history, the main character actually being named Hiro Protagonist — but in games and VR, “Snow Crash” popularized the word “avatar” to refer to a player’s character in a game. There’s a lot in modern virtual reality that was inspired by the book.

Now, a Seattle-based studio wants to make the Metaverse a reality. Or an actual virtual reality … so to speak.

8 Circuit Studios was founded last year by James Mayo, a producer and consultant who has put in time at Motiga, Serellan, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Day 1 Studios (now Wargaming West). The company has tracked much of its plans and development on their YouTube channel, and in a series of pieces by Mike Jones on Medium. The studio’s remit is to create in-game “ecosystems” based on blockchain technology, through the use of what Jones refers to as “Smart Game Objects.”

The general idea behind this is that via the blockchain, an object you acquire or create within a game can be linked to you, rather than the game. You haven’t paid a software company a licensing fee in order to gain indefinite access to what is, at the end of the day, their digital asset; you now own your in-game possessions, and can carry them with you via tech similar to a bitcoin wallet. To quote Mayo in 8 Circuit’s initial press release, “With blockchains, players never have to ask for permission from an authority to give, trade or even sell their digital assets.”

Therefore, you could bring a character from one game to another, freely importing and exporting some or all of the character’s skills, belongings, and/or appearances. Thus, instead of creating a brand new character every time you started a new game, you’d simply have a single avatar, Metaverse-style, which would participate with you in every game.

8 Circuit Studios’s current projects work to further that technology, working on the theory that this is something that will eventually be ubiquitous. Their iOS/Android title “Alien Arsenal: Battle for the Blockchain,” which is currently in an early test phase, runs on the open-source Ethereum platform. It’s a cooperative game where players can collect and evolve aliens to battle bosses with, then trade and sell them along the Ethereum blockchain. You can currently sign up to get an Alien Arsenal code via 8 Circuit’s Discord server.

Alien Arsenal
Official screenshot from 8 Circuit’s “Alien Arsenal,” currently in testing — if you couldn’t tell. (8 Circuit Studios image)

“D-PARC” is a first-person shooter/space combat game, built with Unreal Engine 4, that puts the player in the role of a malfunctioning AI. You’re installed aboard a ship that’s heading out to do emergency repairs on the cargo vessel n-Satoshi (named, one would assume, for Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym used by the person or group credited with the initial design of bitcoins and the blockchain). The n-Satoshi is currently carrying 100,001 cryogenically stored humans, en route to the colony of New Eden.

Your AI’s “malfunction” gives you the ability to make your own decisions, such as whether you’ll pursue your own agenda or shepherd the colonists safely to their destination. The implementation of blockchain technology here is apparently in order to make your character “live forever” — your choices will always matter and they will have a permanent effect on the game’s outcome.

Right now, we’re currently in the exciting stage of a company’s debut where they’ve been working for a while and they’re ready to show a few things off.

It seems as if every second developer right now is beginning to explore the possibilities of blockchain technology as it can be used with games, and this is one of the first major announcements in what’s likely to become a major rush in the next couple of years.

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