Chromia: The Scalable Blockchain for MMOs

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chromia blockchain

Chromia is a gaming blockchain and platform currently in development. Chromia is designed to solve the scalability problem and allow complex games to be entirely hosted on the blockchain.

This article will explain the main features of Chromia that make it distinct from other gaming platforms, including relational databases, blockchain specific programming language, “providers,” and more.

Blockchain for MMORPGs?

There have been many blockchain games over the past few years. And these games have been from a few different niches; with monster breeding, real-time strategy, turn-based strategy, and collectible trading card games being the most popular.

But one genre that we have not seen much of in the blockchain world is MMORPGs. Games like World of Warcraft and Elder Scrolls: Online make use of very large databases that constantly change. And the rules by which these databases change are complex and expensive to process.

Because of these problems, running an MMO on Ethereum would result in high costs for the developer and players. And for this reason, no one has yet attempted a fantasy MMO that runs fully on a blockchain.

Chromia hopes their platform will solve this problem by providing a blockchain that can handle the complexity of modern game databases.

A database instead of smart contracts

smart contract dapps

Smart Contracts

Previous versions of Dapp platforms have conceived of the blockchain as a system of “smart contracts.” Under this model, the problem to be solved is one of two people or groups who don’t trust each other.

To solve this problem, one person or group can write a contract written in code, and this code can be deployed on a decentralized network. The other person or group can read the code and verify that it does what the two parties have agreed it should do.

Assets are then transferred to the smart contract and held in escrow, and the code of the contract ensures that each party follows through with its side of the deal.

For example, person A may agree to lend money to person B. And if person B defaults, an asset held in smart contract C is automatically sent to person A to compensate him for the loss.

This view of the blockchain has proven to be useful. Dapp developers have been able to create sophisticated programs such as social networking systems and RTS games using it. 

However, it has also presented some problems.

Serialization and indexing is not built into smart contract platforms, nor do they offer arbitrary-sized keys or iteration through stored keys. Yet these are standard features of centralized databases.

This makes it extremely difficult for decentralized apps to compete with centralized ones in terms of complexity.

The blockchain as a database

Chromia conceives of the blockchain as a shared, decentralized database. In designing Chromia, the team sought to create a database system that would compete with current centralized systems.

In theory, this should allow for Dapps to be run on the platform that are just as complex as any current centralized app.

Relational model for databases

Chromia uses a relational model for storing information.

The relational model has dominated database management for the past fifty years. And the Chromia team believe this model must be used if Dapps are to become mainstream.

Dapp sidechains

In Ethereum, all code is deployed to some contract. And each contract can be either a shared set of rules between multiple members or an individual wallet controlled by one user. The system doesn’t distinguish between these two very different types of applications.

This requires users to pay for every transaction they initiate on the network. And the more complex the transaction, the more the user has to pay.

By contrast, on Chromia, users do not pay for transactions. The cost of a transaction is instead paid for by the Dapp itself.

Each Dapp is run on a sidechain, and the way users pay for the app is determined within the code of the Dapp itself.

Dapps, in turn, are allocated a certain amount of resources by the Chromia blockchain based on the fees they pay to the network. They can use or not use as many of these resources they need, up to the full amount they have been allocated.

The bottom line is that Dapps pay for network resources, not players or users.

Some Dapps may recoup this cost by charging a per transaction fee to users. Others may charge a subscription fee that allows unlimited transactions. Still others may be “free to play (F2P)” games that earn crypto from sales of collectibles.

Games will not be stuck in a one-size-fits-all fee system.

Rell programming language

rell programming language

Chromia is built on the PostgreSQL system commonly used by centralized databases. This allows it to use SQL commands.

However, some SQL commands would be unsafe or ambiguous in a blockchain environment. So the team implemented a new language called Rell.

Rell is similar to existing popular languages such as Javascript and Kotlin. So the team believes most programmers should be able to learn Rell within a few days, even if they don’t understand SQL.

Rell is an interpreted language. It converts javascript-like code into SQL while simultaneously checking for ambiguous or unsafe code.

Chromia providers and poleis

A Chromia node is called a provider. And a group of nodes that form a consensus and keep the same database are called a polis (plural poleis).

The first few providers will be chosen by Chromia. These providers will collectively form the first polis.

Over the long run, Chromia hopes to implement a protocol that will allow providers to vote in new members to the Polis.

The Chromia team considered using a PoS or DPoS system to determine who can be a provider. However, they found that each of these systems could lead to centralization and lack of transparency. So they chose instead to simply pick a list of providers.

It should be noted that the Chromia blockchain is public. So if at some point, users decide that they don’t like the current Polis, they should be able to fork the blockchain and create an entirely new polis with different providers.

PoW Anchoring

In order to make Chromia even more secure, the team has proposed to anchor Chromia to either the Bitcoin or Ethereum blockchains. This should allay fears of collusion between providers in the initial Polis.

Speed and scalability

The Chromia team has tested the blockchain to see how fast it can process transactions. They have found that it has transactions speeds of approx. 1 second, can handle more than 500 transactions per second on a sidechain, and can issue greater than 100,000 in/out updates and reads per second.

This should be enough scalability to run World of Warcraft size applications.

Chroma meta-token

chroma meta-token

The native token for Chromia is the Chroma. Tokens for particular Dapps can be minted from Chroma similar to the way Enjin coin works

Decentralized application hosting

The Chromia team sees its platform as providing decentralized application hosting. This is similar to app hosting provided by cloud storage and cloud computing services. 

The difference is that the Chromia database is public, and no one organization controls it. As long as a developer makes its game open source and deploys it on the Chromia blockchain, it will be able to continue indefinitely without any further input from the developer.

And the developer will not be able to shut down a game once it is deployed.

Hosting fees

Chromia providers charge Dapps fees using a system that is similar to ones used by cloud hosting providers. Dapps pay for resources allocated rather than resources consumed. 

Chromia believes this will help to make sure providers are adequately compensated, while also preventing Dapps from being overcharged.

Provider stake

Chromia developers are actively discussing ways to use token-staking as a way to further incentivize good behavior from providers.

Is Chromia Blockchain too centralized?

Given that Chromia will choose the providers that make up the initial Polis, some cryptocurrency advocates may feel that it is too centralized. 

In the past, most scalability solutions have employed PoS or DPoS consensus protocols to determine who is allowed to run a full node and add blocks to the blockchain. Two good examples are the Steem and EOS networks.

In these systems, token-holders have the right to vote for “witnesses” that will keep a copy of the ledger and ensure that there are no invalid transactions. However, these systems are not pure democracies.

The number of votes that a token-holder has is determined by the number of tokens he holds. In theory, this means that a person could gain complete control over the network if he owns 2/3 of the tokens (since a ⅔ vote is required to add a block).

To make matters worse, users may not even be aware that the network is being controlled by one person or group – since the “owner” can distribute his tokens among multiple accounts to hide his identity.

In practice, we have not seen any outright invalid transactions being processed successfully in popular DPoS systems. So defenders of these systems can legitimately say that these fears may be unfounded.

But both Steem and EOS have been plagued by accusations of centralization. 

Some users believe that Steem and EOS are ⅔ owned by the developers of these platforms. And since there is no way to know who the owner of a blockchain address is, there is no way to disprove this accusation.

Seeing this controversy, the Chromia team has decided to simply dispense with this system altogether and choose the members of the Polis on its own. 

Critics may say that this doesn’t eliminate the centralization inherent in these kinds of systems.

But from the perspective of the Chromia team, it at least it makes it transparent who is validating transactions. And if users want to fork the blockchain in the future and use different providers, they can always do so – just as they can with a DPoS system.

This is why the Chromia team feels that their network is not more centralized than other scalability solutions.

In addition, the Chromia team has stated that “Chromia will ‘bootstrap’ the network with a handpicked set of providers, but this is start-state – not end state”

We don’t take a position on this controversy. But we hope we’ve explained it well enough that readers will be able to make up their own minds on it.

Chromia games: Mines of Dalarnia

mines of dalarnia

Chromia is a relatively young blockchain network, but there is already one game in development for it: Mines of Dalarnia. This game is described by the developer as “a fast paced mining game with elements of economics and digital asset ownership.”

There is no demo of Mines of Dalarnia available yet. But when one becomes available, we’ll play through it and let you know what we think of it.

Chromia conclusion

We’ve gone over the main features of Chromia; including blockchain as database, the relational model, Rell programming language, and more. We hope this has helped you to decide whether to get involved with this project further.

If you would like more information about the scalability problem and attempts to solve it, you may want to check out some of our other articles on the topic. These include explanations of the Matic Network, Loom Network, Xaya, and Cocos-BCX, amongst others.

Or if you just want to find some fun blockchain games to play on current networks, browse through our full list of game reviews.

Will you be playing games on Chromia? What do you think of the idea of blockchain as a relational database? Are you excited about the possibility of blockchain fantasy MMOs? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Tom Blackstone
Tom Blackstone is a former salesperson turned tech writer. Before 2014, he sold video games, computers, home theater systems, and other entertainment products. Since 2014, he has been a full time writer. His previous work includes ICO announcements, articles on the history of cryptocurrency, guides to Kodi addons, and more. He has always enjoyed learning about new technology and helping others to understand it. As a former video game salesperson, he also likes to try out new games and review them for others.

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