I've been extremely impressed with the progress EOS has made in only a few short months since the main net launch in June. While I'm sure anyone using Steemit is likely aware of EOS, to those who don't know it's a cryptocurrency developed by a company known as Block.One. A very notable member of the development team is Dan Larimer, previously worked on Steemit and the Steem token. EOS is designed as a very fast, fee-less smart contract platform similar to Ethereum which will allow developers to build decentralised applications, or DAPPs.
That's the simple explanation, anyway. What's important here is that EOS basically works as advertised and already seems to be ahead of a lot of the competition in the blockchain space, in much the same way Steem itself has much more of a use case than the majority of other tokens, and there are already quite a number of projects being built on EOS. Among decentralised exchanges, social networks, and gambling apps, are two games which I've decided to take a look at over the past few weeks.
First off is Wizards.One, which released a fair while before EOS Knights did. Wizards.One is a project openly inspired by Crypto Kitties, the game on the ETH network that was famously able to clog the entire network just by its transaction volume alone. Crypto Kitties was also known for allowing some users to sell pictures of cats so absurdly expensive that it boggles the mind. Last I checked there have been purchases for over $100K worth of ETH. Wizards.One hasn't made any sales nearly that absurd just yet as the game is still quite young and is still missing an extremely important feature currently. But let's take a look at it as is as well as what it's promising to do.
While Crypto Kitties had a focus on breeding cats together to create new cats, Wizards has more of a focus on customising your wizards with clothing items as well as the stats of your wizards. You can buy different clothing items, weapons, and pets from the clothing store, with each item differing in rarity and EOS price. While it is cheap to create a wizard, kitting out a full wizard in decent clothing items can be quite costly. Currently all of the legendary items are sold out, demonstrating how blockchain technology has been used to give these images an artificial scarcity, thus opening up the possibility for these items to have real value. Once a wizard is decked out, you can put your wizard on the marketplace for whatever price you choose.
Right now, however, the value of the wizards, their stats, and the items you can buy from them are based on purely speculative value, as evidenced by the fact that the market value for wizards, as it is set by users, is almost impossible to determine. Prices can range from a single EOS to thousands of EOS, with seemingly no correlation between rarity, stats, and pricing. This can be largely chalked up the fact that nobody really knows what they're doing. This is because that key important feature I was talking about is the feature which gives the game, and thus its wizards, any actual shred of value, and that feature is, well, the gameplay. Once implemented the Wizards will be able to battle other player's wizards in a variety of different formats, whether those be one on one matches or full blown tournaments, and players will be able to bet on the outcome of matches, with winners taking home the EOS put into the prize pool. Because the Wizards will be able to fight each other, the stats and items on your wizards are going to have a strong impact on the outcome of your fights, and since real EOS is at stake getting a strong Wizard could turn Wizards into a game that will make a few lucky people, especially early adopters, much richer than they used to be.
In theory, anyway. While the potential to earn real money sounds fun, unfortunately, there's no element of skill involved in the Wizards battle themselves, and despite the stats and items advantage the outcomes of fights are still basically determined by a set of random number generators that the developers have explained in such extensive detail in some of their blog posts (See here: https://firstname.lastname@example.org/wizards-battle-dna-description) that the math will likely go over the heads of most people, myself included. The game UI has recently implemented a number known as DDC rating which explains the strength of your wizards in simple terms, however.
What this means is that Wizards is, at its core, basically just a blockchain-based gambling game where users can sell weighted odds to one another. It would be one thing if the game had a turn based battle system, hell even a rudimentary rock-paper-scissors based guessing game would be better than nothing, boring as that might get, but as it is I don't think Wizards has a long-term future ahead of it. I think a lot of people will play the game, especially when battles go live, and I myself have managed to snag a few strong Wizards on the Marketplace for cheap, as well as a few legendary items, but anybody playing the game, especially myself, will be playing purely for the money potential.
I think the main thing that will kill the game, even more so than the random, skilless battles, is the artwork and the lack of variety in items. A saving grace of the game could have been the vanity aspect, which is something Crypto kitties intentionally tries to entice you into with its marketing, by designing its system so that each cat is unique and by basing its gameplay around breeding unique cats that look aesthetically cool. While I think the art in kitties is also quite poor, I can at least respect the fact that each cat looks very distinct, or at least, much more distinct than a Wizards.One Wizard. Wizards has a lot of different races, but each race has very few unique traits, and the only real differences that can be spotted are facial features and skin or fur colour. Just by browsing the marketplace you'll see a lot of wizards that look identical to each other even before you take their clothing into account. As for the items, while there's quite a lot of them, right now there's no real reason to pay attention to items bellow diamond tier. And unfortunately there aren't very many items in Legendary and diamond tier, in fact legendary doesn't even have a legendary cloak yet. And right now they're only planning on adding the one legendary cloak. Just one. In many cases, you only have a choice between one or two items at a specific rarity. Diamond items are still readily available and fairly cheap, so what this means is that the marketplace is flooded with wizards that have the same set of faces you've seen before wearing the same items you've already seen before. While the rarity system does seem to have been designed for the long term, meaning we might get some diversity once newer players are forced to use items of silver rarity and bellow, or whatever, I still feel like the lack of items even at that point is going to kill the vanity aspect of owning a Wizard, and as Wizards have less unique faces that's going to kill their value, as they're not unique enough. This will lead to a situation where DDC and item rarity becomes the only determining factor regarding a Wizard's value. I've seen some wizards on the market try to dress up their wizards in a way that will look aesthetically appealing, even going so far as to mix bronze items in with their legendary items just to look good, and I already know that those wizards, despite being more original, are only going to be as valuable as the legendary items they are wearing.
And I have to reiterate, that even if these problems weren't here, the art would still just be bad. I feel like I've seen better work on sites such as deviant art, and frankly I feel that the developers simply can't manage to hire a talented artist, or they decided to rush the game out so that they could capitalise on being among the very first games built on EOS. The battle system and the art might be improved over time, especially if the game gets popular among EOS holders and the developers make some money off of the game's transaction fees, but I feel that the game will be quickly abandoned the moment a proper video game makes its way onto EOS. I'm sure it must have been very difficult to get the game working properly, especially since this is a game on a brand new ecosystem that's directly handling people's money, but I feel Wizards.One will be used mostly as a case study and template for other developers to observe and improve upon. EOS holders and devs will remember Wizards, perhaps even remember it fondly if the developers manage to make it into the best possible version of itself can be, but the game would have to be fundamentally re-designed from the ground up if it is ever going to attract anybody who isn't already interested in EOS. I feel the first game on EOS that truly reaches a more mainstream appeal will be the game that people find fun to play first, with its monetisation potential and blockchain benefits being considered an afterthought, a cool bonus, by the player base.
Basically, buy my DDC 11 Wizard because I really want the money and I really know you want those sweet tournament wins.
The other game I wanted to talk about was EOS Knights. Unfortunately, a lot of the issues with Wizards.One are issues that EOS Knights also shares, and my opinion doesn't differ too much from Wizards. If anything, I think Knights is a bit less interesting as a game, and in terms of making money I have more faith in Wizards despite what I just said about it.
EOS Knights is basically an idle game similar to Cookie Clicker, the great-grandfather of all clicker games and the gold standard against which all others should be judged. However in this game you can grind for resources of differing rarities which can then either be crafted into stat-boosting equipment for your party of three or sold on the marketplace to other players, where you too can buy crafting materials and items. While both Wizards and Knights are both fairly manipulative products designed with the marketplace and monetisation in mind first over fun gameplay, Knights kinda shocked me with just how many micro transactions it has. To even begin the game you have to buy your three party members individually, with the EOS cost increasing with each purchase. You have two separate inventories, one for your items and one for your equipment, and to expand your inventory space for both individual boxes you have to pay EOS. To level up a hero you need magic water, which you can get either by scrapping items or grinding, or by paying EOS. And chances are unless you're an early adopter who was given 10,000 magic waters, you'll need to pay the EOS in order to level up. Magic water is also used to enter a pet gatcha which will give you a random pet with different rarities, and for this you will almost definitely need to pay EOS to get your desired results due to the inherently random nature of a gatcha system.
All these little transactions that go directly to the developer themselves, even before you decide to head into the marketplace itself. And all for a game that is literally just waiting until you can hit the rebirth button which revives your dead heroes and allows them to keep fighting, which is the core gameplay once you strip all the marketplace and crafting away. All items do is lengthen the amount of time it takes for your heroes to die, increasing the quality of items you get in the process. Your enemy in this game is your attention span. This isn't like most clicker games where you can leave them on over night or while you go to work, you literally have to keep clicking that rebirth button if you want to be able to do anything, and it's very easy to lose interest.
Also, yes, that's really what the desktop version looks like. You're confined to a tiny 1/3 of the screen, and I didn't want to give you the impression that you won't be doing a lot of squinting. This was a game designed for mobile first and foremost, but honestly even with upcoming scatter support for mobile I'm a bit wary of putting in my private key. I already feel exposed as it is using EOS without a hardware wallet, so unless I decide to make a new account strictly for mobile, playing this already slow game on mobile doesn't seem too appealing.
Also the music is an obnoxious loop that I couldn't stand so I had to mute the website basically immediately. Also EOS Knights may have killed my parents. In all honesty I do feel bad for being harsh on the game, but I feel that it's important to judge these games for what they are, even if that does mean being honest. Pretending these games are perfect just because we want users to join and give us money isn't going to make the EOS ecosystem or its games more enticing. If cyrpto based projects are ever going to succeed then they can't be compared against other crypto projects. They have to be compared against what already exists and is used. And when comparing EOS Knights to literally any other clicker game on mobile or the internet in general, it falls short. Other games of this nature might use better graphics, a sudden introduction of a new mechanic that surprises the player and evolves the core gameplay loop, a unique aesthetic, and most importantly in my book humour in order to get a player addicted. EOS is all this game has going for it. And of course, in general, clicker games can get you addicted for an afternoon, much to your own shame, but they don't stack up against almost anything else. I might even go so far as to say that they're almost inherently flawed by design. And this game could be more classified as an 'idle game' than a clicker game, because here you don't even have to click on anything but item menus and occasionally the rebirth button.
Going back to comparing it against Wizards, however, I personally think the art is better, but not by much. And unfortunately there's even less variety in visuals here. The enemies you fight are goblins, and only goblins, some light green and some pale green, and no matter what items or pets you attach to your heroes they will always look the same. The background can change occasionally when you switch levels, but that's about it. The menus are also kinda sluggish even before you take into account that most actions in the game will force you to sign a scatter transaction, and it may take a while before you've managed to whitelist every action. Everything from equipping items, crafting items, trashing items, using the marketplace, the gatcha, and even rebirthing is tied to a blockchain transaction. Oftentimes the game will simply hang on a transaction forever, forcing you to restart, at which point you have to sluggishly log in again and attempt to broadcast the transaction again and hope it goes through. I don't have this problem with other EOS apps, and while I can occasionally have the odd issue with Wizards, Wizards also asks me to make less transactions in general, and the menus are generally less sluggish. I feel like maybe Wizards has had some optimisation improvements since I started playing, but I might just be imagining it.
Because there's no skill involved in the game, and not even any PVP, EOS Knights can often feel like little more than a ponzi-scheme wearing the dress of a clicker or idle game, whichever you prefer. Already, I feel like I'm behind the early adopters simply because I was a day or two late and not fully committed to keeping the game running 24 hours a day, or however long they're able to play. I feel that by the time I've invested enough time to be able to find and craft legendary items, that there will already be enough people at the top grinding out these items that they won't have enough value, or indeed, willing buyers, to offset the amount of time, money, and boredom invested into the game. The inflation of items just feels like it will end up being too fast, so I'd be scared to grind them up or purchase them even if I did feel like I wanted to progress in the game. The players at the top right now will simply sell what they have and move on to become early adopters of the next potentially good money making project.
Wizards certainly has elements of being a ponzi or a waste of time as well, but Wizard's PVP elements makes it feel like more of a betting game, and while I don't think the wizards have much value from a purely aesthetic, collectors perspective, I do feel that they are at least more interesting to look at than a random material item in my inventory. Outcomes of matches may come down to random chance or raw numbers, but there is at least a potential for failure with Wizards. There's also potential for a brand new player months from now to spend just 0.1 EOS to roll a wizard with a high DDC wizard or a wizard with a legendary item that they could sell off for a tidy profit, or immediately use in battles to engage with the game at a decently high level. This is all very small praise for Wizards, but it's enough.
There might be a few more projects along the same lines as Wizards.One or EOS Knights, but I feel the next major step forward for EOS gaming will be skill based games. In fact I even saw a reddit post suggesting some prototypes for games just today. (https://www.reddit.com/r/eos/comments/99po0l/announcing_my_realmoney_skillgame_tournament/) The prototypes aren't anything special but it shows that people are at least thinking about the next step, and the fact that games that look as polished as Gods Unchained on the ETH network can appear shows that crypto has the potential to get some really exciting projects in the future.
I could absolutely see EOS being used in much, much larger projects and AAA games that want these kids of monetisation practices in the future. For example, I think a game like Warframe would absolutely love to tie its resources and in-game currencies to a blockchain. MMOs could build entire economies around EOS tokens, imagine what the already complex WoW economy would be like if the gold could be replaced by a deflationary token, inflation being a historically known problem for the game, and how the game already operates on a loot and auction house based system. Blizzard in general is a company I could absolutely see employing EOS for almost any game they choose to make in the future. Even regarding a game like Overwatch, blockchain could be used to further comply with any lootbox regulations that may pop up in the future. By putting the lootbox code on a decentralised open-source smart contract, users would be able to see the exact rates and know for certain that the developer isn't lying about the percentage rates.
In conclusion, as a tech demo for EOS, both these games are fantastic. But uh. We may have to wait for a while until these projects become actual games.