The creator of life-simulation video game The Sims is releasing a new title where players meet their inner id, and he’s using artificial intelligence and the blockchain to do it.
Legendary game designer Will Wright’s Gallium Studios has partnered with blockchain gaming platform Forte Labs Inc to develop the new game, called Proxi, that will allow players to create and own their content.
The goal is self-discovery – uncovering one’s subconsciousness to make “proxies” of their mind. Players create a memory, and visualise it with 3D drawings, audio and photos. The memory – represented in a snow globe – serves to create a world and ultimately a mind.
Proxi draws on information about how players choose to arrange their memories to inform it about how the player thinks and what makes them unique. The game builds a conceptual map about how the player associates with all the things in his or her life. From this, a Proxi comes to life and can interact with other Proxis.
Wright said he believes that people are their memories and that tackling that in a game is a somewhat frightening idea.
“I think that self discovery is scary,” Wright said in an interview. “Learning about the world is not as scary as learning about yourself,” he said. In Proxi, the player is forced to start with blank space and fill it with recollections.
Given that users are creating personal memories in the game, Wright thought it was important that there be due ownership. He also tapped the extensive online forums of Sims creators to work alongside the game developers making the objects in Proxi, and wanted to make sure they get paid for their work too.
The idea that Wright is building a game half with the Gallium team and half with the creator community itself, “is actually a really profound idea and it wouldn’t be possible without blockchain,” said Kaiser Hwang, vice president of creativity and community at Forte.
That’s where Forte comes in. The San Francisco-based company provides the blockchain infrastructure for video games – things like cryptocurrency wallets, a range of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and it deals with the legal and regulatory aspects. In Proxi, the blockchain gives players ownership of their memories and content-creators a pathway to earn income from their work.
If someone creates something in the game, they will own it as an NFT. A person’s memories, or “snow globe”, will be an NFT, for example. But virtually everything in Proxi can be an NFT and an in-game marketplace will conduct transactions, where players can either trade or use US dollars to purchase NFTs.
The invention of NFTs, which are often associated with digital art, have also created new possibilities in the gaming world. These tokens are a type of cryptocurrency, similar to Bitcoin, but each one is unique and can’t be replaced or replicated. In the online world, where anyone can replicate images an infinite number of times, NFTs allow artists to create a stamp of ownership. With ownership comes value.
On Tuesday, community members who participated in Proxi’s development will be able to buy special packages of NFTs to use in the game. The first version of Proxi will include only NFTs created by the game’s developers at Gallium, but as more players make memories, more will enter the marketplace. The game is due out this fall.
Since the content of Proxi is meant to be intensely personal – a spattering of one’s inner mind on a screen – security control is critical. The blockchain also helps to protect players from piracy and imposes some kind of order on ownership.
Currently, there is a gray market for sales of in-game content creation, which exists in an entirely separate economy from the game itself. Gamers will sell inventions in a roundabout way, using sites like EBay Inc. But there are certain risks associated with those sales. There is no oversight as it’s often against the terms and services of the game itself.
“This was the wild Wild West, and now the marshal comes into town and there are going to be some rules,” Wright said.
Wright isn’t the first game developer to try to integrate the blockchain. For the past five or so years, the gaming industry has floated largely empty promises of blockchain games.
Hwang identified several reasons for the failures: The technology is new and hard to use, mysterious to most, and until recently, had been largely unregulated. Blockchain also was not made for gaming, so Forte has worked to build a platform with that industry specifically in mind.
Wright cited another reason for the lack of integration so far of blockchain technology and video games – blockchain is just a tool, and the design, how you use that tool, is what matters.
Many early blockchain native games were more financial in scope, with players focused on making a profit, Hwang said. “But great game makers think ‘how can I make a great experience?’” – Bloomberg