The developers of Neon District and Axie Infinity have announced that that these games will soon be run on the Loom Network. But what exactly is the Loom Network? How does it work? And what does this technology mean for blockchain gaming in the future?
This article will attempt to answer these questions. We’ll explain the technology behind Loom Network, and we’ll tell you a little about the various projects that use this technology. If you’ve heard of the Loom Network and don’t quite understand what all the fuss is about, read on.
What is Loom Network?
The Loom Network is a set of sidechains connected to the Ethereum network. These sidechains are produced by a piece of software called the Loom SDK. The Loom Network also includes PlasmaChain, a kind of “master sidechain” that can interact with all of the other chains in the network.
Together, these various sidechains allow games and other DApps to have many features that otherwise wouldn’t be possible, but they do so without compromising the excellent security available in the Ethereum blockchain.
Some problems with Ethereum
Ethereum is the most popular smart contract platform available today. It is favored because of its Proof of Work system that maximizes security. But it also has some flaws that developers have noticed and that Loom Network is attempting to solve.
For example, let’s say that a developer wants to make an RPG that allows characters to farm resources and craft items. Ethereum can do a great job of recording ownership of the items that have been created. If player A wants to sell his course leather armor chest piece to player B, Ethereum can record the transaction and insure that player B receives the chest piece and player A receives the gold.
However, what Ethereum cannot do is to guarantee that player A farmed the leather according to the rules. It cannot keep track of all of the battles the player engaged in, whether he won those battles, and whether the creatures he killed were skinnable or produced the right kind of leather.
The reason it cannot keep track of these things is because this would require the entire game to be run on the blockchain. But if this was done, it would cost players $0.20 or more worth of ETH for every action they took; every swing of the sword; every magic spell cast; every movement they took in the game. This might cause an MMO to cost hundreds of dollars for just a few hours of play.
In addition, putting the entire game on the blockchain would slow down the game so much that it would be virtually impossible to play. Actions that now take milliseconds would require a Proof of Work confirmation that would take up to fifteen seconds or longer. A game that was run this way would quickly be rejected by players as too frustrating to play.
Because of this problem, most blockchain gaming developers have chosen to keep almost all of their games’ transactions offchain, leaving only the most sensitive transactions recorded on the blockchain.
While this has worked so far, Loom Network developers are concerned that it opens the door to security problems in the future. They want to see more of a game’s content run onchain, as this would allow players to be sure they are not going to be cheated by the game’s developer, hackers, or other 3rd parties.
To solve this problem, the Loom SDK allows each game or DApp developer to create a separate blockchain for its game. This way, transactions can be processed on the game’s blockchain without having to be verified by the full Ethereum network.
However, these separate chains are connected to the Ethereum mainnet. When a player logs into the game, he transfers his in-game assets to the game’s sidechain. He then plays the game, and each transaction is recorded on the game’s chain.
When he is done playing, he transfers the assets back to the Ethereum mainnet. However, the assets now contain a recording of every event that happened in the game. As a result, he is able to record every piece of game information with just two mainnet transactions instead of hundreds or thousands.
Delegated Proof of Stake (DPoS)
Creating sidechains is only the first part of the solution to the problem. The second part of the solution is to make sure that the sidechains are faster and cheaper than the mainnet. This is done by allowing developers to use a Delegated Proof of Stake (DPoS) consensus protocol for their chains.
How the Ethereum mainnet works
The Ethereum mainnet uses a Proof of Work (PoW) consensus protocol similar to the kind used in Bitcoin.
In a PoW system, each transaction must be verified by every miner on the network, and only miners that solve an extremely difficult cryptographic problem have the right to add blocks to the blockchain. In addition, any computer can be a miner, as long as it can solve the cryptographic problem.
DPoS: Witnesses instead of miners
By contrast, in a DPoS blockchain, the computers that add blocks to the blockchain are called “witnesses.” Witnesses do not have to solve a cryptographic problem. And being a witness is not open to everyone. If a person wants his computer to act as a witness, he cannot simply run it day in and day out trying to solve a puzzle.
Instead, witnesses must win elections where the “voters” are the members of the network. In most DPoS systems, these elections are held several times per minute in order to make sure the witnesses are not abusing their power.
Another difference between PoW and DPoS systems is that transactions do not require a unanimous vote. Instead, only ⅔ of witnesses have to approve a block being added to the chain.
The benefits and drawbacks of DPoS
DPoS systems are much faster and cheaper than PoW ones. They can typically process a transaction within a few seconds. As a result, most users of DPoS-based apps do not experience any lag beyond what normally occurs on a web-based application. In other words, normal Internet congestion tends to slow web-based DPoS-based apps more than the blockchain itself does.
In addition, DPoS systems are much cheaper to transact on than PoW ones. In most cases, users only need to invest around $20-$50 worth of crypto up-front to get more bandwidth than they could possibly use. This bandwidth regenerates each day. So once the player makes the initial investment, no further investment is necessary (although the player may want to invest more for other reasons).
Despite these advantages, DPoS systems also have some drawbacks. In a DPoS system, if ⅔ of witnesses collude to defraud players, they can potentially steal the players’ assets. And if one player owns ⅔ of a game’s assets, he can elect whoever he wants as a witness. This can also potentially be used to commit fraud.
The Loom Network solution to prevent fraud
DPoS systems have been around for several years. And so far, they seem to be relatively free of fraudulent transactions. But the potential for abuse still exists, especially with small networks such as those we would expect most niche games to be run on.
To prevent this problem, the Loom Network implements several security features, the most important of which is that players can transfer their assets to the Ethereum mainnet each day. This gets their assets out of the hands of the witnesses and ensures that these assets will not be tampered with.
The drawback to this approach is that players will have to pay a small transaction fee each time they transfer between chains. But this is still significantly less expensive than running an entire game on a PoW blockchain.
Even with DPoS sidechain technology, players could still lose their assets while playing a game on a dishonest network. For example, suppose that a player buys some gear for his character in a new, startup game that no one has ever heard of. When he is done playing, he pays the ETH mining cost to transfer his gear to the Ethereum mainnet.
Now he believes that his assets are safe. The next day, he logs into the game and transfers his gear back to the game’s DPoS sidechain. However, within five minutes of playing, he finds that his gear has been transferred to another player.
It turns out that another player has bought up ⅔ of the game’s currency, voted his buddies into office, and taken control of the network. Now he has stolen all of this player’s valuable gear.
To prevent these types of events from happening, Loom Network is implementing PlasmaChain. PlasmaChain is a master sidechain with a built-in decentralized exchange (DEX). It records serial numbers associated with Ethereum assets. If an asset is moved to a sidechain and some kind of fraud occurs, the user can initiate a “plasma exit.”
When the user does this, these serial numbers are used by the game’s mainnet smart contract to remove the assets form the sidechain and bring them back to the Ethereum mainnet. This means that users can be protected from fraud even when they are logged into the game.
Loom Coin (Token)
The Loom Token (LOOM) is the native currency of the Loom Network. If a developer wants to run a Dapp on the Loom Network without charging users for it, he must stake a minimum number of tokens to power the smart contract.
Each month, as his users consume bandwidth, a number of tokens are deducted from this stake in order to pay the witnesses for their work in validating transactions. If a developer is concerned that his users may consume more bandwidth than he expected, he can cap the cost at a particular level (although his app will crash if the cap is reached).
In a nutshell, Loom Tokens are used to pay the fees for running Dapps on the Loom Network. If the Loom Network continues to grow and its Dapps are popular, there should be high demand for the Loom Token. If very few developers use the network, or if users don’t like the apps run on it, demand will probably be low or nonexistent.
Loom Network Games and Dapps
Now that you know what the Loom Network is and how it works, you may want to know what kind of games and apps currently use it or plan on using it in the future. Here is a list of the most notable Loom Network Dapps.
Zombie Battleground is a digital collectible trading card game. It was developed by the same team that brought us the blockchain-game programming course, CryptoZombies. Incidentally, this is also the team that is developing Loom Network itself.
In Zombie Battleground, players can create decks made up of zombies from six different elemental factions: water, toxic, life, fire, air, and earth. Each element has its own abilities and playstyle.
Zombie Battleground can be downloaded and played using the free cards that come with it – or players can buy premium card packs from the developer.
Neon District is a post-apocalyptic turn-based strategy game from the team that brought us Pineapple Arcade and Plasma Bears. The game is still in development, and there aren’t many details known about it.
But we do know that it has a dark, futuristic theme and amazing graphics. And the team has made great games in the past, so this is a title that many blockchain gaming enthusiasts are keeping an eye on.
Axie Infinity is a browser-based collectible game involving cute creatures called Axies. These Axies can be bred with each other to produce new ones, and they can battle each other to gain exp.
Axie Infinity has a sophisticated combat system with a Final Fantasy Tactics feel to it. It is currently running on the full Ethereum mainnet, but the developers plan on moving it to the Loom Network in the future.
Mossland is a virtual reality sandbox game similar to Second Life and Decentraland. It is being developed by a Korean firm, and little is known about it in the English-speaking world. But its ICO is reported to have sold out in 38 minutes. So it is certainly getting interest from collectors.
Pixie Wardrobe is a social MMO focused on anime-style fashion. It has over 3 million users, most of whom are teenage girls in east Asian countries.
The developer of the game is currently working on a feature called Pixie Shopping Street that will allow players to design and create their own costume designs. These designs will be recorded on the blockchain and owned by the players who created them. Pixie Shopping Street will use the Loom Network to validate transaction in the game.
DelegateCall is a question and answer forum site similar to Quora. But instead of users simply earning social status by answering questions that get upvoted, they earn actual cryptocurrency.
DelegateCall has yet to acquire a large base of users. But given the quality of content on sites like Steemit (which pays people for social media posts), it wouldn’t be surprising to eventually see lots of expert answers on DelegateCall in the future.
Several games have announced that they will be run on the Loom Network, including highly anticipated ones such as Neon District. But it may not be obvious what Loom Network is or why it is important.
This article has attempted to answer these questions. Loom Network is a collection of Ethereum sidechains that allow users to have faster and cheaper transactions without unduly compromising security.
Several games and Dapps already use or plan to use the network, including Zombie Battleground, Neon District, Axie Infinity, Mossland, Pixie Wardrobe, and DelegateCall.
Many of these games do not yet use the Loom Network or are not completely developed. But if you’re interested in blockchain technology and gaming, the Loom Network is definitely a development worth following in the future.