Massively Multiplayer Online Organisations

With the release of Spells of Genesis, we can see the beginnings of a trend where the blockchain is being used to expand an imaginary world beyond the confines of a single game, and to connect the game world to the real one.Moonga, a universe satisfyingly based on several influential people and concepts from the world of crypto, mixes elements of arcade-style gaming with a collectable strategy and trading card game. Using Bitcrystals, players can transact and purchase blockchain-based collectable cards that are used during gameplay. The blockchain enables players to collect cards that they retain ownership of, and that can be traded outside the game in a complementary app called Book of Orbs. This is a first step towards a future in which in-game assets can exist independently of the game itself, and be bought, sold, and traded almost as if they were real-world items.

This sort of blockchain liberation is just beginning for in-game property, and it’s only going to get better as new tools allow for virtual items to perfectly mimic the characteristics of real-world property. This is what Ownage hopes to enable: cryptoproperty. Ownership of property is a little different and slightly more nuanced than ownership of currency or rare digital trading cards, because unlike those examples, real property can be non-fungible, and items in the real world have provenance. That is to say, every real-world item has a story that might give it unique value. The holographic Venusaur on display at the card shop, despite having the same HP and stats as the Venusaur unwrapped on your 10th birthday, is nevertheless not nearly as valuable to you! The tools being built by Ownage will allow items in the virtual world to have that same sort of uniqueness that defines real-world property.

Imagine a famous palladin using a fully-upgraded battle hammer to win a worldwide tournament, and as an act of generosity, deciding to hand the item over to a lucky fan. There might be hundreds of identical hammers owned by hundreds of different players in the realm, but the fan should be able to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the hammer she owns is unique, and that nobody — not the other players or even the game designers — can change that.When in-game items have that fundamental characteristic of provenance, the distinction between ‘in-game’ and ‘real’ property will become less meaningful as the border between virtual and physical worlds becomes increasingly permeable. This is the future Ownage hopes to bring about.

But let’s take things even further. I want to extend our view forward to a time when digital assets and ownership are fully realised, and using a crypto-stablecoin to purchase upgrades or unique special items is a standard practice.When blockchain-based digital assets have become commonplace in the online multiplayer scene, and players are free to move unique items between servers, games, and platforms with equivalent ease, we might find that cryptoproperty on the blockchain has become just a base layer that enables a much deeper connection between the virtual and physical worlds.

Virtual Communities

Many games and virtual worlds include a team aspect, often in the form ofclans, eSports teams and even corporations. Within such organisations, groups of players work together towards common goals, such as competing in raids to get new and rare item drops, improving the global clan ranking, or participating in tournaments for cash prizes. These groups often comprise pseudonymous entities of whom very little is known; members could be of any age, continent, or socioeconomic status.

Despite being pseudonymous, these virtual organisations still have much in common with their meatspace counterparts; members have different roles, from administration and recruitment to resource grinding, and even content creation or PR. The work that people do for these organizations is seldom trivial; it requires considerable time and effort to sit on forums selecting new clan members, or to coordinate a well-balanced team for a raid that needs to fit the schedules of people logging in from five different countries. Most people that take on these roles in a gaming community do it purely out of love of the game. They may have a full time job, be caring for a family, or have any number of real-world obligations.

With the exception of professional competitive gamers and for-profit grinding, the energy spent by members of the gaming community doing these ‘jobs’ is not usually directly financially rewarded. Gaming is a hobby, after all — but that doesn’t mean that the work is without value. On the contrary, in the universe of a game, vast economies can arise through the coordinated efforts of player communities.

Take just one game that’s been around for almost 15 years: Eve Online. Players have built incredible organizations that rival and even exceed real world businesses in complexity and scale. Some alliances in Eve Online have departments responsible for recruiting, accounting, IT, propaganda, diplomacy, and much more.

The best way to describe running an Eve alliance is like being a CEO of a major multinational company, except nobody gets paid but a shit ton of work still has to get done.
/u/leodavinci on a Reddit AMA

Players work to make and manipulate markets, protect assets, establish and operate complicated shipping channels — even engage in espionage, subterfuge and coordinated attack that is the stuff of internet legend. All this work isn’t trivial, either. Many items are made by players, which means it has real value. People have invested thousands of hours upgrading characters, collecting items, and building ships that can all be destroyed in a matter of minutes. Earlier this year, a single raid led by a particularly well-organised group of ne’er-do-wells resulted in the destruction of an estimated $13,000 (USD) worth of in-game assets.

Eve may be the best example of an elaborate game universe that allows for complex organisations, but gaming communities come in all shapes and sizes:

  • World of Warcraft is estimated to have over 30,000 guilds.
  • Clash of Clans, with 30 million downloads on Android alone, is a game based entirely on clan play, with millions of clans rumoured to exist.
  • Minecraft, an open-ended collaborative building game, has allowed thousands of people of all ages to work together and build monumental structures within the game universe, coordinating on forums, wikis, and in-person meetups.

So the gaming multiverse, in practice, is already not that different from the physical one. People build bridges (or entire cities), accumulate value (or destroy it), and most importantly form communities whose members are all investing their own precious time and energy towards common goals. In the future, when the value of an in-game asset is not stuck in a proprietary server, when fiat, items, and credits can smoothly exchange between users aided by a blockchain, there will just be people doing the things that they love. The distinction between cyberspace and meatspace will be immaterial.

But the people will remain, and the communities they build will still need to organize themselves.

Enter Colony

As we’ve discovered, there are already huge numbers of organisations occupying virtual worlds without any standard operating model. Colony is a protocol that makes it easy for people all over the world to build organisations together online. It’s a new sort of approach to organisation building that allows for greater decentralisation and flexibility, and it could provide the core framework around which future decentralised gaming communities build themselves.

Decentralised companies, e.g. clans, can spring into operation quickly, with a well designed operational framework and governance structure from day one, with little or no additional effort from the developer. Users will be able to collaborate trustlessly to manage valuable resources, even operating within different departments just as companies in the real world do. Members of a colony will be able to delegate responsibilities, coordinate efforts around particular objectives, reward each other according to the value of their contributions, and earn seniority and influence according to the expertise they demonstrate.

Moreover, just as regular companies have shares of stock, colonies have a tradable token that represents a community-established value. Tokens of a Colony can be issued rarely, entitle the holder to an equivalent proportion of revenue, and change hands for a hefty price, or they can be liberally minted and given out as a more symbolic gesture, like an upvote — it’s up to each community to decide for themselves.

Using Colony, what works for one gaming community or world could work equally well for another. Although some of the software may differ in order to suit particular use cases, the underlying principle remains the same:Contribute towards the common goals of the community, get justly rewarded.

The Common Multiverse

The transparency and freedom of a public blockchain, the liberation of digital assets and digital property, and the foundation of distributed organisations all will combine to form a future in which I expect to see new and vibrant economies where digital currency and property move and change hands seamlessly between people, games, and communities.

Imagine an aspiring operations manager building skills and experience in Stormwind, then leveraging that reputation for a transition to a role managing the greater Chicago area; an architecture firm that makes no meaningful distinction between buildings to be constructed on real Earth or Middle Earth; or a hobbyist hedge fund manager who keeps futures in rare earth metals, but diversifies into mana potions. With open borders between virtual and physical markets and a flexible platform for decentralised community self-organization, anything is possible.

I can foresee a world in which decentralised communities are employing large numbers of people who work towards a shared vision that traverses cyber/meatspace, enabled by Colony, Ownage, and other tools yet to come. As physics engines and simulation tech for games or otherwise continues to make exponential leaps, we might see the line between reality and imagination blur and dissolve. In that future world, however, there will still be people, and they will still be driven by the same desire to organise, create, and collaborate around the things that they love. It’ll just be radically easier to do so.

Colony is an operating system for open organisations.

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