RE: “How blockchain is revolutionising videogaming”

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Today I ran across an article from Crypto News Review titled “How blockchain is revolutionising videogaming[sic]”, where the writer interviews Nicolas Gilot, the ‘co-CEO’ of a company called Ultra. This company is, in Gilot’s words, “a blockchain-based, game publishing platform designed to put an end to the current PC game market status quo.” From here I will share my thoughts and interjections on what is said in the transcript.

But first, a brief background on how I found this: I was browsing r/gamedev and ran across a link post by u/BasketballMan23. Even now, the replies archived echo confusion on the subject matter and question the premise of Ultra and its newfound ‘coalition’. This is what pressed me to properly explain my perspective on this as fairly as I could: I share their sentiment. The article seems to be completely scripted ahead-of-time, for what it’s worth. I should also mention the article doesn’t make it unambiguous whether the writer or Mr. Gilot is the one talking, even though it reads like a back-and-forth, so quotes are as-is.

The newly-launched Blockchain Alliance describes itself as a “coalition of industry-leading gaming and blockchain companies committed to advocating for the democratisation of blockchain within the gaming industry”.

OK, so the Blockchain Alliance is a Special Interest Group. Their objective is “advocating for the democratisation of blockchain within the gaming industry”, which has loads of subtext and context I presume is explained later on in the interview.

And certainly, it already appears to have some clout. Amongst the names involved in the Alliance are Alto, Gimli, Fig, Ubisoft, Ultra, B2Expand, ConsenSys, EverdreamSoft, and Enjin, and the aim is to bring together their respective expertise.

In no time, the interviewer’s impartiality has blown away. I’m a little disappointed. Also, the only name in that list I’ve ever heard of is Ubisoft. Don’t know if I would agree to say the list warrants a label like ‘clout’.

One of the key figures in the Blockchain Alliance is Nicolas Gilot, the co-CEO of Ultra. And he exclusively spoke to CNR about the project, and what it means for videogaming.

Can you explain to us what the Blockchain Game Alliance is in your words to start with? What is it, and why do you feel it needs to exist?

This is the first question posed to Mr. Gilot about his company. He replies:

` The Blockchain Game Alliance brings together some of the most renowned blockchain and gaming companies, which will allow us to realise our vision of democratising blockchain within the gaming industry.

We believe that by supporting each other, and by having some of the brightest minds in the industry facilitate research, development and education, together we can drive disruptive change and deliver innovative solutions to the gaming community. `

There’s really not a whole lot of substance to this response, in spite of the wordiness. Basically reiterating that they exist and have the mission they mentioned, plus generic assortment of buzzword filler to say you’re a business in the 21st century. Meh.

And what about you, Nicolas? What’s your personal background?

` I am the Co-CEO of Ultra, a blockchain-based, game publishing platform designed to put an end to the current PC game market status quo.

I previously led Xiaobawang as CSO, a major game console project undertaken in partnership with AMD with a budget of over US$100m. I was also responsible for the success of numerous businesses including game studio PixelBeam which was later acquired by Kingsoft [Xiaomi], and multiple game/app projects including Plants VS Zombies, Highnoon, and The Economist. `

OK, this is interesting. Ultra is a game publishing platform with the hots for bitcoin. That’s pretty decent.

I’m not sure what role he means by CSO, but before I look up Xiaobawang I gotta say it’s a little funny how he mentions them. It’s an unknown name, yet he immediately mentioned he partnered with a billion-dollar company and had a fat budget. While these might impress worker bees, they are really second-rate things to brag about as an entrepreneur when the big things to talk about are what you’ve actually made. Makes me wonder what Xiaobawang actually did, especially since I’ve never heard of them until now.

Next he says he helped with work on PixelBeam, mentioning its successful acquisition, and then some game titles and websites. But it is vague: anybody who had any kind of work involvement with those projects could say they were ‘responsible for their success’, but without further expoundment from him he isn’t saying much either way. Freelance artists can claim that for big titles in spite of having one of the most dispensable roles in the project.

Blockchain is clearly hugely important to you. But what kind of impact do you feel blockchain technology can have on gaming?

` Blockchain technology will impact gaming by making it possible to process payments instantly, which will allow developers to quickly reinvest money into their businesses.

Blockchain-powered platforms will also make the trading of virtual items easier which may be extended to third-party platforms, as well as facilitates fraud-proof marketing which provides developers with the ability to spend their marketing resources effectively and track that these resources are legit. Ultimately, what all of this creates is a dramatically improved experience for players, and increased revenues for game developers and publishers. `

OK, this is pretty bad. Again, massive verbiage, but the question was “what kind of impact do you feel blockchain technology can have on gaming?”. Cutting out the sagacity, his answer is “it will”, with no part of the plan differing from the notion of bitcoin itself.

But do you see a willingness, in an industry as cut-throat and competitive as gaming, for companies independent of each other to work together, and share ideas?

This question is somewhat preposterous. Where did the competitiveness of the gaming industry come in, and how is that now just an assumption? That’s a very contentious thing to just assume, and of course there’s no room to unload and question this since it’s a transcript.

` Yes, absolutely.

Services offered by companies are often complementary — publishers needs platforms to distribute their games, platforms need battle-tested technology, and technology often already exists then finds its utility afterwards within new services in the gaming ecosystem. `

Another nothingburger. Could have dropped the entirety of the second paragraph; it wasn’t necessary.

From our side of the fence, how do you believe the end user will benefit? Is it in any way going to affect the games people play, or the way they play them?

I’m going to assume by ‘our side’, the writer means the consumer’s side of things. This question is absurdly convenient, it’s almost unreal.

Blockchain opens up a world of possibilities for both gamers and developers — for instance, users can now earn money by helping developers, while developers can utilise blockchain to build new solutions that ultimately benefits players, such as trading items and reselling games. It will also be interesting to see how games evolve over time, especially since there will no longer be a centralised system controlling a game.

Users can earn money without blockchain just as well. For whatever reason not mentioned here, they don’t. Does the writer want us to blindly assume that the reason for that is intrinsic to the nature of the payment system and blockchain wouldn’t suffer the same? The last sentence raises so many questions of theory and practise, too. What games would exist without centralisation? Further explanation needed?

You’re pushing for a universal standard: what kind of standard, though? Can you explain a little more about that?

Many companies are often building technologies to create new possibilities or solve issues — by establishing a universal standard, we discover what is optimal for each situation and are able to provide valuable insights to the community and developers.

How well-meaning. Here is a quote from Peter Welch, in his blog post entitled “Programming Sucks”:

There’s a theory that you can cure this by following standards, except there are more “standards” than there are things computers can actually do, and these standards are all variously improved and maligned by the personal preferences of the people coding them, so no collection of code has ever made it into the real world without doing a few dozen identical things a few dozen not even remotely similar ways. The first few weeks of any job are just figuring out how a program works even if you’re familiar with every single language, framework, and standard that’s involved, because standards are unicorns.

I wonder how much code Gilot has dealt with in the real world. If I had less of my career backed by gritty code-monkeying, perhaps I’d believe standards are the answers to everything, too. It is quite the obvious answer!

Your plans sound ambitious! What’s your roadmap for the Alliance for, say, the next 12-18 months?

` We are currently finalising the governance structure of the Alliance, including how we can accommodate new members. We are receiving a lot of requests from companies who want to join the Alliance, so we want to ensure that the structure is ready for new members.

We will then be focusing on the various challenges that blockchain solves for the gaming industry, as well as educating developers and big publishers on how they can take advantage of blockchain to build better games and solutions. We will provide more details in the coming weeks in our roadmap. `

OK. They’re ironing out their legal body for now. Once they get that, they will continue advocacy for their stated interests in the gaming industry. More details will come on a roadmap in a few weeks. Whoever wrote this desperately needs to cut down their word count.

One more thing: can you recommend to us a really good game from the last six months we probably haven’t played?

This is so weird, haha. Why are you asking this question after the entire interview revolved around business and advocacy? Are we supposed to relate to this like it’s some kind of contemporary platitude?

I wish I had more time to play games, but recently I played Deep Rock Galactic which is a first-person shooter game, where you mine resources and explore different worlds – which could be perfect to adapt to blockchain!

Yuck. Look, even if the question is phony, that extra shit at the end really wasn’t necessary. Really comes off as fake, just saying.

Another game which is still in the alpha stages is The Cycle. I’m very much looking forward to the open beta version of the game and highly recommend it. It’s a hybrid of Player vs. Player (PvP) and Player vs. Environment (PvE) and FPS with resources management, and is a very interesting game!

That’s a better response! There’s some kind of temporal relatability to it now, and more specificity in how you describe it. No plug of the topic at the end, either. Feels more real.

Not gonna lie, the whole thing reads like a generic paid promotional from start to finish, although that’s just speculation on my part. There was no sponsorship disclosure as far as I could tell. The guy seems like someone who’s vying for relevancy and doesn’t necessarily want to make this stuff simply because it needs to be made. That’s not a good mentality for entrepreneurship. His business idea is pretty unimpressive and I wouldn’t bet anything on it personally, although he is apparently pretty skilled at convincing people to do so anyways. I guess we’ll see where it goes then?