Autonomous World A Vision of a Digital Utopia Based on Full-Chain Gaming

If you ask “Why do we need blockchain games?”, “Autonomous World” is obviously a perfect answer. As a new category of games, the most exciting thing about “Autonomous World” is the unexpected events that naturally emerge from the game, which even developers and initial publishers cannot predict, as well as the potential to unleash the infinite creativity of players. Blockchain technology is the premise for its existence, in other words, “Autonomous World” can only be realized on blockchain technology, and it will challenge traditional game categories with a brand-new game design pattern and gameplay.

The full-chain game OPcraft, which lasted only two weeks online, has proven the potential of this new category of games. It provides only minimal rules of “physical reality” and an unlicensed “component system” that can be used to expand the game experience and introduce new rules. This minimalist game design can fully mobilize players’ creativity and enthusiasm, giving rise to intense dramatic conflicts, leading from one event to another, and constantly advancing the plot through elements such as conflict, collaboration, and governance.

It can be said that compared to “making money”, “drama” is the key element for the long-term development of games, because it can continuously attract the attention of human players and drive them to invest and participate in the game spontaneously. Although not aiming to make money, the drama generated by the game itself is enough to create sufficient alternative revenue streams, unlocking new business paradigms.

Autonomous World

History tells us that every time a new computing paradigm emerges, it unlocks a new use case for games:

  • With the rise of transistors, microprocessors, and televisions, computer games appeared
  • The popularity of PCs expanded new game categories – “strategy and simulation” games
  • The emergence of the Internet gave rise to multiplayer games
  • The emergence of social networks led to the rise of social network games
  • The emergence of mobile internet led to the rise of casual games.

Blockchain is no exception, it brings us a new category of games – “Autonomous Worlds”.

According to reliable online records, the term “Autonomous World” first appeared in Lattice, a team known for its participation in building the full-chain game “Dark Forest” and its subsequent development of the first full-chain game engine MUD framework. The team is also known for its dedication to incubating Ethereum technology and infrastructure projects under the name of 0xLianGuaiRC Foundation.

In August 2022, Ludens, a member of Lattice, first introduced the concept of “Autonomous World” to the world through an article titled “Autonomous World (Part 1)” and a keynote speech at DEFCON 2022.

Ludens mentioned in this article that in order to go beyond the concepts of tokens, NFTs, and liquidity, and create a digital world beyond Ethereum, three conditions must be met: “autonomy, permissionless creation, and adherence to the fundamental physical principles of the digital world.” He also coined the term “autonomous world,” which represents a fully self-sustaining open-source digital kingdom (realm).

An Autonomous World—More Than Just On-Chain Games

On-chain games refer to games that store all data and smart contracts on the blockchain. The assets and game state in these games are stored on the chain, and game logic and rules are established in a way that is independent of the client.

In the article “The Strongest Crypto Gaming Thesis,” Gubsheep (Brian – 0xLianGuaiRC/Dark Forest) proposes a widely accepted definition for on-chain games, stating that they must meet the following five criteria:

“The true source of game data is the blockchain.”

“Game logic and rules are implemented through smart contracts.”

“The game is developed based on open ecosystem principles.”

“The game is independent of the client.”

“The game includes valuable digital assets from the real world.”

An “autonomous world” is a type of on-chain game, but its significance goes beyond that.

The “autonomous world” does not have predefined tasks and goals for players (such as “conquer more land” or “kill more enemies”), nor does it have preset opposing sides (such as the need to fight and compete with other players). It only sets a simple underlying rule – “digital physical reality” as a constraint – and provides a publicly accessible programmable interface, allowing players to freely create, enhance, and expand the game experience within the boundaries of this digital physical reality, and expand the game storyline.

Note: "Digital physical reality" refers to the fundamental law system that exists in the computational world. Each world has its own set of inherent fundamental laws that govern everything that happens in that world. These laws are the physics of that world. Please note that here, physics does not refer to the specific physical laws of the atomic world in which humans exist, but rather to the fundamental law systems that exist in any "world."

The basic rules in the “autonomous world” are immutable.

The “autonomous world” always operates independently according to predefined rules and has no endpoint. It is a world that exists and evolves without external dependencies, even without external support, without anyone’s control, and even without citizens accessing or residing in the world, it still objectively exists. Moreover, this world allows anyone to join at any time, and the extensions built based on the game will also exist as long as the game exists.

Blockchain is the premise for the existence of the autonomous world

The unique features of blockchain technology, such as “programmability”, “permissionless composability”, “persistent storage”, and “immutability”, have opened up new possibilities for creating a virtual world of on-chain autonomy.

The “basic rules” of this autonomous world will be defined in the form of code in Ethereum smart contracts. The autonomous world operates entirely according to these rules, without external intervention or maintenance. It cannot be shut down even in the face of malicious attacks. As long as Ethereum continues to exist, this virtual world will not disappear. Even if the original developers leave, the world will continue to evolve and progress, presenting multiple coexisting realities through the publication of new rules and improvement proposals by players.

To maintain the operation of an autonomous world, a well-designed incentive mechanism is needed to allow builders to spontaneously create and expand new realities through new components and systems. An autonomous world built on top of a blockchain can leverage the underlying financial programmability to provide sufficient incentives for the long-term operation of an open world. The game itself can become an economic system, with currency, markets, and economic rules, creating a new form of economic organization that coexists with traditional economies.

However, it is important to note that incentives do not necessarily have to be tied to money. They can also be status, a sense of achievement, pure love, belief, and passion within the community. Human history has shown us that these can inspire humans to create amazing miracles.

OPCraft: The game that best embodies the autonomous world on the blockchain

Currently, most blockchain games have nothing to do with the concept of an autonomous world. If you want to better understand the concept of an “autonomous world” from a practical perspective, OPCraft is perhaps the best example. It is a fully on-chain version of a 3D Minecraft-themed game created by the Lattice team from Dark Forest in October 2022. Initially, it was only meant to test the performance of their self-developed Mud game engine.

OPCraft only sets simple rules, allowing players to perform only four in-game actions: destroying voxel blocks, crafting voxel blocks, placing voxel blocks, and claiming a 16×16 plot of land (by becoming the highest diamond staker in that plot). In addition, players can customize the frontend and deploy custom components and systems through the publicly accessible plugin system provided by the developers.

However, in just two weeks since its launch, this game with simple rules has exceeded the expectations of the developers. It has been highly successful in terms of data, attracting over 1500 participating players, 3.5 million+ on-chain records, various pixel creations generated by users, player-made plugins for specific purposes, and a series of spontaneously formed competitions, games, collective governance behaviors, as well as both malicious and benevolent player behaviors.

Unlocking the Creativity of Artists, Architects, and Developers

In the “autonomous world,” all players can participate in creation, including artists, architects, and developers. OPCraft allows us to witness this.

OPCraft unlocks the creativity of artists and architects. From the beginning of the game, players start by building simple wooden houses and towers. As their skills mature, they begin constructing large castles and monuments of various designs, such as statues of Mario and Fire Flower, and a massive phoenix spanning hundreds of blocks, among other breathtaking art structures.

On the other hand, engineers and “scientists” can explore another limit of the OPCraft world using another weapon – coding ability. With the plugin system and “component system” provided by the system, which can be easily and freely integrated into World1, game players begin to showcase their intelligence and explore the possibilities of technology. For example, some players have released plugins for automated material mining without geographical restrictions, automatic diamond mining drill tools, and chat plugin tools for text communication, and so on.

Evolution: Improving Tools and Productivity

Basically, everything that happens in the OPCraft game is a microcosm of the development process of human society.

In the beginning, during the “primitive period,” players only perform basic operations such as picking flowers, chopping trees, mining rocks, digging holes, building wooden houses, constructing single-block-wide towers, and creating some rough digital objects without clear shapes.

As time passes, players gradually understand this world and learn to create more complex items. For example, they can manufacture glass, dye wool, and make bricks. Furthermore, these more complex materials can be combined to build larger artworks and structures with greater composability. For example, colored wool blocks can be used to create giant pixel art, such as the Union Jack, giant pandas, and of course, an advertisement openly promoting their NFT project. Additionally, players have built magnificent pyramids in the sky using synthetic materials such as sand, stone, wood, and bedrock. There is even a huge planet with a space theme, paying homage to “The Dark Forest,” made by a player using 6360 blocks of bedrock.

The Tower of Human Knowledge is created by combining knowledge: recombining existing knowledge to unleash new cognition and practical possibilities. – guiltygyoza

When players know that there is a component system that can be utilized, they start to create more advanced tools, including the aforementioned automated mining drills, text chat tools, and teleportation plugins for traversing. This system gives humans the ability to create production tools, and with production tools, productivity and work efficiency can be maximized. The component system is like a scaffolding for players to create new tools. Just like in the real world, when there is the ability to create new tools, human civilization will accelerate forward.

This is exactly what guiltygyoza mentioned in the article “Composable Engineering”. When a self-governing world supports composable engineering, it provides unlimited possibilities for this world. It allows for the recursive combination of engineering artifacts, with no limit on the depth of recursion.

In a self-governing world, composable engineering artifacts allow for the invention of compounds, which can achieve knowledge combinations similar to those that drive human history in the atomic world, thus driving the evolution of the computational world.

Composable engineering also allows for knowledge encapsulation, which means “I don’t need to understand the specific details of the invention to incorporate it into the invention process.” Knowledge encapsulation is somewhat equivalent to the separation of concerns principle in software development. By implementing separation of concerns, large engineering tasks can be divided into smaller tasks and then merged. Since different tasks require different skills and types of resources, it naturally encourages labor specialization. With labor specialization, the world becomes more inclusive than before – residents with different backgrounds, skills, and interests can all find their place in the world as creators and contributors.

Conflict and Dramatics

In the article “Composable Engineering”, guiltygyoza also mentioned the importance of “dramatics” in maintaining the long-term evolution of a self-governing world:

The dramatic aspects of the world depend on the enumeration of objects within it… When the enumeration of objects stagnates, regardless of the composability of these objects, the possibilities for combinations will ultimately become saturated. The meta-strategies that emerge as dominant in the world have solidified and become rigid. The allocation of resources and power among human participants also tends to stagnate. All of these influences suppress the development of drama.

In the atomic reality of human life, new things constantly appear through natural evolution or human discovery/invention, disrupting civilization and social norms, and giving rise to dramatic events. Adaptive mutations of viruses lead to global supply chain collapses. The invention of printing makes it possible for imagined communities to form among strangers, thereby giving birth to nation-states. If all the items in the world are manufactured by a single company, then this world may be subject to the lifecycle, delivery capability, and delivery willingness of that company, resulting in bottlenecks as the autonomy of the entire world is diminished.

OPcraft perfectly demonstrates how drama naturally grows and progresses in a self-contained game, driving the development of the plot and moving it forward.

Digging Holes and Filling Holes

Whether out of mischief, a sense of humor, or as a result of group gaming behavior, some players in OPcraft started digging deep holes, causing many unsuspecting players to fall into traps.

However, a turning point emerged from these malicious events. When someone fell into a trap, some players launched rescue missions by filling the holes or directly placing ladders in the holes to rescue the trapped individuals. Some players even developed a teleportation plugin to avoid falling into the holes.

SupremeLeaderOP Republic: Join or Resist

A dramatic scene unfolded on October 29, two days before the end of the testing period for OPcraft. On this day, a player named SupremeLeaderOP announced the establishment of a World Government on Discord and Twitter. They also claimed to have mined 135,200 diamonds and obtained large tracts of land by staking these diamonds.

According to the game rules of OPcraft, players need to mine and accumulate diamonds. Diamonds can be staked to claim a pixel-sized plot of land (16x16x16). When multiple players stake on a land plot, the player with the highest number of staked diamonds will have priority in claiming it. Once claimed, the land plot belongs exclusively to the claimant. Ownership is exclusive, meaning that once a specific player owns a land plot, others cannot use it, whether for mining resources or building on it.

However, SupremeLeaderOP provided players with a choice. Players could use the apro-comrade plugin to pledge their allegiance to the Republic through a ceremony. Once they joined, they would have the right to use the government’s “public property.” They could not only use the smart contract to mine materials for the government but also build structures on the government-owned land. However, there was one condition: they had to forfeit their private property.

The players’ attitudes towards the Republic were mixed.

Some players chose to join the organization out of “belief” and became comrades under the leadership of the Supreme Leader. After joining the system, they worked hard to upgrade their comrade level (a rule within this subsystem) and began building large statues and paintings themed after the Supreme Leader all over the world.

There were also players who joined the organization out of “economic interests” to gain mining rights for more materials and building rights on the land.

However, there is still a group of players who strongly oppose joining this republic and strongly condemn its desire for control and collectivist policies, and mobilize everyone to resist and fight for freedom.

Another player named PhiMarHal discovered that the republic only claimed and controlled the land on the ground, while the space in the sky is still available. So he mobilized players to fly to the sky and build a city in the sky.

No predefined storyline means infinite possibilities

One of the most interesting things about OPCraft is that this republic is not pre-designed, but initiated by players spontaneously.

OPCraft has no predefined script, no set goals or objectives, and there is not even an ultimate villain to defeat. But it has spontaneously generated a series of player-driven behaviors, leading from one event to another, resulting in dramatic developments.

Players can quickly deploy smart contracts in the game using the officially released blockchain game engine MUD without a license. This means that social organizations and other “augmented reality” in the autonomous world are completely unlimited. Unlike players in World of Warcraft who operate within the scope of a predefined guild system, players in OPCraft can spontaneously create social organizations of various kinds by deploying components through MUD. Like countries, economies, and religious groups in the real world, players can choose to join spontaneously and must comply with the consensus rules of the organization after joining. (In OPCraft, joining is declared through the apro-comrade plugin, and all private property is confiscated. Players are granted the right to exploit and develop government land resources.)

The success of OPCraft tells us that in order to gain sustained attention and participation from human participants, blockchain games should not make making money the main goal of players, but need to continuously generate drama and explore other possibilities for income with drama as the starting point. Just like the football industry, football matches as a “game” itself do not aim to make money, but the drama it produces is enough to generate sufficient revenue streams, such as gambling and advertising.

The minimal underlying game rules and the right to create without permission are the premise for the “autonomous world” to constantly evolve and generate a kind of “non-artificial drama”. Developers do not know more about what will happen in the autonomous world than players. The progress of the game is entirely controlled by the players themselves, and their actions will affect the future progress of the game. Everything in the game depends on the creativity of the players.


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