If one concept is coming to define blockchain gaming more than any other, it is the advent of the NFT. Characterized by an indisputable record of ownership and permanent existence on the blockchain, the NFT is quickly emerging as the core concept in the brave new world of blockchain gaming by making it possible to mint all kinds of in-game items as portable, tradeable, ownable pieces of digital property. Gala Games, the consortium of development teams behind such titles as Town Star and Mirandus¸ is leading the way in this kind of NFT gaming, and their newest outing promises to up the ante in the field. Partnering with game development company Gamedia, Gala’s latest offering is a yet-to-be named project, currently code-named "The Spider Tank Project."
The Spider Tank Project will be the first NFT-based multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game on the blockchain, in which players do battle in arachnid-like, heavy-armored, all-terrain battle-bots—or, for lack of a better term, “spider tanks”. Spider tanks, along with weapons, items, buildings, and certain in-game lands, all exist as non-fungible tokens on the Ethereum blockchain, as they await the full launch of the GalaChain mainnet later this year. Like other games built to be compatible with Ethereum, the NFTs in The Spider Tank Project are theoretically portable to other games and have the kind of permanent existence that is promised by blockchain technology. To date it has not been officially named and will be named via a consensus vote of the Gala Games Node Operators.
Gala Games, founded by Zynga Inc. co-founder Eric Schiermeyer, is an early pioneer in the blockchain gaming space. Its first offering, Town Star, is a blockchain-based farm and town builder in the vein of Farmville, but with – you guessed it – NFTs! Players can still enjoy the subtle economic crafting of a traditional town builder, but with the added twist of being able to acquire NFTs as part of their townscapes. Through a variety of methods players can acquire these coveted digital assets that make up the beating heart of the blockchain gaming universe, and while only a handful of NFT assets, such as fountains and farm stands, are currently available in Town Star, the idea is that more will become available over time and will be permanently available once they do. Mirandus, another forthcoming title from the minds at Gala Games, employs a similar concept but in the fantasy RPG genre; powerful items and legendary weapons can now be preserved forever on the blockchain and, in theory, be carried from game to game to game.
The same is true of the NFTs in The Spider Tank Project, which is developed by Gamedia for the Gala Games Ecosystem. According to a Gala Games blog post, the NFT “strategy” in The Spider Tank Project centers around tanks and their weapons, resources for upgrades, and ownable lands on which resource mines can be built. Some NFTs, such as land, will only be available as purchases; others, such as tanks and weapons, will be upgradeable on a play-to-earn basis. To that end, The Spider Tank Project is free-to-play, but critically includes play-to-earn mechanics as part of its overall ecosystem. This eye on those players who might be curious to play but hesitant to spend money within an unfamiliar context, i.e. that of blockchain gaming, will be critical in the development of blockchain and NFT-based gaming going forward. Free-to-play is crucial; play-to-earn is key.
Dittmar Tukker, CEO of Gamedia and lead brain on The Spider Tank Project, agrees, and sees fundamental value in the time gamers spend inhabiting virtual worlds. He says:
"I never liked the phrase 'time is money,’ because it always felt the opposite way, especially... in gaming. I've been slashing monsters, shooting bad guys and hunting for treasure for days, which did not impact my bank account in a positive way. I believe our upcoming multiplayer brawler game can turn this around and you'll be able to actually make some money while having a blast (no pun intended here). Together with Gala Games we're trying to bring you the best 'play to earn' experience there is out there. So don't waste your time...we promise we won't do so either!"
The folks at Gala Games and Gamedia are also taking steps to mitigate one of the biggest barriers of access to blockchain gaming, which are the often-high cost of NFTs. As hot as they are, NFTs typically do not come cheap, and they are already associated with the high risks surrounding cryptocurrencies more generally. It is already only a certain class of gamer that is going to sink disposable income into a high-risk-speculative asset before even being able to play a game; therefore, it's crucial for the democratization of gaming that there be forms of access beyond the power of purchasing. Gala is aware of this, and has plans to engineer the game such that players can work their way up from nothing.
Jason Brink, President of Blockchain at Gala Games, says:
"We are strong believers in play-to-earn ecosystems and our long-term goal is for all users to be able to receive free tank NFTs which can be upgraded and enhanced, and eventually sold by the players."
If The Spider Tank Project sees the kind of success that its developers anticipate, it could very well be a pivotal moment in the development of NFT-based blockchain gaming.
"I see this project as the very beginning of a revolution in this industry. This is the moment that will define the level of quality and game play we all will come to expect. And I think that in many ways future games will be judged by how well this game can achieve the promise of blockchain games."
Officially unnamed at this point, the game will be named by vote of the Gala Games community before the game’s release. The game is scheduled to launch in Q4 of this year, though users can already access tank NFTs in the game’s marketplace. Players interested in getting a further advance peek at The Spider Tank Project can join the Gala Games community on Discord or follow Gala Games on Medium.