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What Solana Unlocks for GameFi's Backend w/ Albert Chen (Genopets)

By Validated

Published on 2024-03-12

Discover how Genopets leverages Solana's unique features to create a seamless Web3 gaming experience, bridging the gap between traditional mobile games and blockchain technology.

The notes below are AI generated and may not be 100% accurate. Watch the video to be sure!

Solana's Impact on Web3 Gaming: Insights from Genopets

The intersection of blockchain technology and gaming has been a hot topic for years, with many believing that Web3 gaming would revolutionize the industry. However, the reality has been slower to materialize than many expected. In this deep dive, we explore the current state of Web3 gaming through the lens of Genopets, a pioneering project built on Solana that's pushing the boundaries of what's possible in blockchain-based gaming.

The Evolution of Web3 Gaming

Web3 gaming has been touted as the next frontier in the gaming industry for several years now. The core idea is to leverage blockchain technology to create more immersive, player-centric gaming experiences. However, the journey from concept to reality has been fraught with challenges.

Albert Chen, a key figure behind Genopets, provides valuable insights into the current state of Web3 gaming:

"I think we're getting really close. For us over here at Genopets, we've been building since 2021 and there is a lot of other projects that are built alongside us and with different philosophies on what Web3 means for gaming."

Chen highlights two main schools of thought in Web3 gaming:

  1. Fully on-chain worlds: These games aim to put every aspect of the game on the blockchain, catering primarily to Web3-native audiences.
  2. Web3 as an economic layer: This approach uses blockchain technology to enable player-owned economies within more traditional game structures.

The Player-Owned Economy Model

Genopets falls into the second category, focusing on using Web3 technology to create what Chen calls a "player-owned economy." This model aims to flip the traditional gaming economic structure on its head:

"We think that instead of buying these game items and game assets from game publishers, players are buying them from other players and players are creating it themselves. That's how you create a flywheel effect because prior to Web3, most games, I mean, all games in general, have the model where the publishers create items, create end game assets and content, and then consumers do one thing and they just consume it and buy."

This approach creates a more dynamic and engaging economic system within the game, where players can be both consumers and creators of in-game assets.

Balancing Decentralization and Publisher Control

One of the key challenges in Web3 gaming is striking the right balance between decentralization and maintaining the necessary infrastructure for a high-quality gaming experience. Chen explains Genopets' approach:

"I don't think for Genopets or other games in our category, we believe that the game should be fully decentralized. I think there's still a role for the publisher to manage servers, to create the mobile game or the desktop game for people to consume."

Instead of full decentralization, Genopets focuses on decentralizing specific aspects of the game, particularly the economic components:

"Most of the settings for economic sinks for our items and the crafting recipes to create these items are all on chain and upgradable and can be governed."

This hybrid approach allows for the benefits of blockchain technology in areas where it adds the most value, while maintaining the stability and user experience that centralized infrastructure provides.

Genopets: A Web3 Game in Disguise

Genopets takes a unique approach to Web3 gaming by essentially hiding its blockchain underpinnings from the average user. Chen describes the game as "a gamified habit app that rewards players for living a healthy lifestyle."

The core gameplay revolves around raising a digital pet powered by the steps you take in real life, similar to popular games like Tamagotchi or Pokémon Go. Players can customize their pet, level it up, and compete against other players.

What sets Genopets apart is its "Web3 invisible" approach on mobile:

"The mobile app experience is mostly a Web3 invisible experience. And then there's a Web3 crafting side that's on our website where you can play to earn and you can craft them in assets to sell to the wider player base, and that part is optional."

This design philosophy allows Genopets to cater to both traditional mobile gamers and those interested in Web3 functionality, creating a bridge between the two worlds.

The Semi-Custodial Approach

One of the most innovative aspects of Genopets' design is its semi-custodial approach to in-game assets. This system allows players to interact with blockchain-based assets without needing to understand the underlying technology.

Chen explains:

"We call this approach the semi-custodial approach, because we're doing things for their using their wallet, but we're not actually, we don't actually own the wallet and it's not, the transactions aren't taking place in a centralized ledger. It is actually just being done on chain."

This approach provides several benefits:

  1. Reduced complexity for users
  2. Improved user experience
  3. Lower custody risk for the company
  4. Easier onboarding for non-Web3 native users

Leveraging Solana's DeFi Ecosystem

Genopets doesn't exist in isolation but rather integrates deeply with Solana's growing DeFi ecosystem. The game primarily uses two key protocols:

  1. Phoenix: A decentralized exchange (DEX) used for the game's marketplace
  2. Orca: An automated market maker (AMM) used for token swaps and buybacks

The decision to use Phoenix was particularly important for Genopets due to its unique features:

"Phoenix, really, there's a lot of good things about it, but this is the number one reason we chose Phoenix because with it being crankless, you can actually finish an atomic purchase instruction and then add other things, other instructions within it. And that whole thing becomes one atomic transaction leading to really, really good Web2 like user experience."

This ability to create atomic, composable transactions is crucial for providing a seamless user experience that feels more like a traditional Web2 app than a blockchain-based game.

Solana's Evolving Capabilities

Chen provides valuable insights into how Solana's rapid development has enabled projects like Genopets to push the boundaries of what's possible in Web3 gaming:

"Solana in the past two years have made so many improvements that facilitated the ability to do atomic transactions."

He highlights several key improvements:

  1. Increased compute budget: This allowed for more complex transactions.
  2. Version 0 transactions: Introduced lookup tables, dramatically reducing transaction size limitations.
  3. Improvements in composability: Making it easier to interact with multiple protocols in a single transaction.

These advancements have been crucial in allowing Genopets to create a user experience that feels seamless and familiar to traditional gamers while leveraging the power of blockchain technology.

Challenges and Future Improvements

Despite Solana's rapid progress, Chen identifies several areas where further improvements could benefit GameFi projects:

  1. Composability: "The biggest pain point right now is how composability works, right? So when we compose, when you want to interact with another program right now, you basically need their SDK."
  2. Account resolution: Understanding which accounts are needed for complex transactions can be challenging.
  3. Data serialization: Different protocols may use different serialization methods, complicating integration.

Chen expresses excitement for upcoming improvements like Runtime V2 and Type Bridge, which promise to address many of these challenges.

User Acquisition in Web3 Gaming

One of the perennial challenges in the gaming industry is user acquisition, and Web3 gaming is no exception. Chen provides insights into Genopets' approach:

"Web3, a huge part of why Web3 is important for gaming. I personally believe is the evangelizing of the game once players feel like this is a game that they are part owners of."

He notes that players who engage with the Web3 aspects of the game tend to retain better and spend more money. However, Genopets doesn't rely solely on Web3 for user acquisition:

"Genopets, for us, we're not really 100% a mobile game. We are actually a consumer habit app that takes the medium of free to play game to help you live a healthier lifestyle."

This positioning allows Genopets to tap into both the gaming market and the wellness industry, broadening its potential user base.

The Future of Web3 Gaming Interfaces

When asked about how alternative interfaces like the Rabbit R1 might impact game design, Chen offers an intriguing perspective:

"Earlier on, and what we were planning on building the app, we threw around some ideas about building custom hardware to really learn everything that there is about you because steps is just the first thing that we're tracking. We aim to track sleep, heart rate, all kinds of things."

This hints at a future where Web3 games might not be confined to traditional smartphones or computers but could integrate more deeply with wearable technology or custom hardware.

Conclusion: Solana's Role in Shaping the Future of Gaming

The insights provided by Albert Chen from Genopets offer a compelling look at how Solana is enabling the next generation of Web3 gaming experiences. By leveraging Solana's unique features like high-speed, low-cost transactions and advanced composability, projects like Genopets are able to create games that bridge the gap between traditional mobile gaming and blockchain technology.

As Solana continues to evolve and improve, we can expect to see even more innovative GameFi projects emerge, pushing the boundaries of what's possible in gaming and potentially reshaping the industry as a whole. The future of gaming on Solana looks bright, with projects like Genopets leading the way in creating engaging, user-friendly experiences that leverage the power of blockchain technology without sacrificing the familiar feel of traditional games.

Facts + Figures

  • Genopets has been building on Solana since 2021, positioning itself as a gamified habit app that rewards players for living a healthy lifestyle.
  • The game uses a semi-custodial approach for in-game assets, allowing users to interact with blockchain-based assets without needing to understand the underlying technology.
  • Genopets integrates with Solana's DeFi ecosystem, primarily using Phoenix DEX for its marketplace and Orca AMM for token swaps and buybacks.
  • The game uses semi-fungible tokens (SFTs) for in-game assets, which are different from traditional NFTs in that there can be multiple identical copies.
  • Solana's introduction of Version 0 transactions and lookup tables allowed Genopets to reduce transaction size by 32 times, enabling more complex, atomic transactions.
  • Players who engage with the Web3 aspects of Genopets tend to retain better and spend more money in the game.
  • Genopets positions itself as both a mobile game and a consumer habit app, targeting both the gaming market and the wellness industry.
  • The game uses an in-game currency called Cubits, which is a wrapped version of USDC, to create a familiar experience for non-Web3 users.
  • Genopets faced challenges with composability and account resolution when integrating multiple Solana protocols into a single transaction.
  • The game's developers have considered the possibility of creating custom hardware or wearable devices to track more user data beyond just step count.

Questions Answered

What is Genopets?

Genopets is a gamified habit app built on Solana that rewards players for living a healthy lifestyle. Players raise a digital pet powered by the steps they take in real life, similar to games like Tamagotchi or Pokémon Go. The game incorporates Web3 elements, allowing players to craft and trade in-game assets using blockchain technology, while maintaining a familiar mobile gaming experience for non-Web3 users.

How does Genopets use blockchain technology?

Genopets uses blockchain technology to create a player-owned economy within the game. In-game assets are represented as semi-fungible tokens (SFTs) on the Solana blockchain, allowing players to buy, sell, and trade these assets with each other. The game also integrates with Solana's DeFi ecosystem, using protocols like Phoenix DEX for its marketplace and Orca AMM for token swaps. This blockchain integration enables players to become both consumers and creators of in-game content.

What is the "semi-custodial" approach used by Genopets?

The semi-custodial approach used by Genopets allows players to interact with blockchain-based assets without needing to understand the underlying technology. While the game manages transactions on behalf of the user, it does so using the user's own wallet on the blockchain, rather than through a centralized ledger. This approach provides a balance between the security and ownership benefits of blockchain technology and the user-friendly experience of traditional mobile games.

How does Genopets leverage Solana's features?

Genopets takes advantage of several key features of the Solana blockchain to create a seamless gaming experience. These include Solana's high-speed, low-cost transactions, which allow for complex, atomic transactions that feel instantaneous to the user. The game also uses Solana's advanced composability features to interact with multiple DeFi protocols in a single transaction. Additionally, Genopets has benefited from Solana's ongoing improvements, such as increased compute budgets and the introduction of Version 0 transactions with lookup tables.

What challenges has Genopets faced in building on Solana?

While building on Solana, Genopets has faced several challenges related to blockchain integration. These include difficulties with composability when interacting with multiple protocols, complexities in account resolution for transactions, and issues with data serialization across different protocols. The game's developers have also had to navigate the limitations imposed by mobile app stores while still incorporating blockchain elements into their game.

How does Genopets approach user acquisition?

Genopets approaches user acquisition from multiple angles. The game positions itself as both a mobile game and a wellness app, appealing to both gamers and those interested in improving their health. The game's "Web3 invisible" approach on mobile allows it to attract traditional gamers who may not be familiar with blockchain technology. Additionally, Genopets leverages the community-building aspects of Web3, encouraging players who feel ownership in the game to evangelize it to others.

What future improvements does Genopets hope to see in Solana?

The Genopets team is looking forward to several upcoming improvements in the Solana ecosystem. These include Runtime V2 and Type Bridge, which promise to address many of the current challenges with composability and cross-program invocations. The developers also hope to see improvements in how different protocols can interact with each other without requiring extensive knowledge of each protocol's specific SDK.

How does Genopets envision the future of Web3 gaming interfaces?

While currently focused on mobile gaming, the Genopets team has considered the possibility of expanding to custom hardware or wearable devices in the future. This could allow for more comprehensive tracking of user data beyond just step count, potentially including metrics like sleep patterns and heart rate. This vision aligns with emerging trends in alternative smartphone interfaces and wearable technology, suggesting a future where Web3 games could be more deeply integrated with users' daily lives and health data.

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