During a tournament in May 2022, a Call of Duty streamer known as “BBluring” accidentally displayed wall-hack cheats on his stream. Despite the unfair advantage, BBluring still ended up losing the match and was banned by GameBattles.

Cheaters are never any fun to deal with, and such instances make it difficult to preserve the competitive spirit and ensure a level playing field. Those who cheat can severely harm the image of both games and the companies behind them, especially if appropriate measures aren’t taken to address the issue.

Combating the cheating issue

As the online gaming sector battles ongoing issues, blockchain technology emerges as a solution. For example, games are now starting to leverage blockchain in various components. And this, to an extent, helps to combat fraud and cheating, offering enhanced security and transparency in how games operate.

A report by DappRadar revealed an average of 786,766 daily unique active wallets in Q3 2023 within blockchain gaming, with the sector receiving $600 million in investments during the same period.

In tandem, the integration of Zero-Knowledge (ZK) Proof technology within gaming enhances privacy and security. ZK Proofs enables verifying the actions or outcomes without revealing any underlying data, ensuring that players can engage with other gamers without compromising sensitive information.

“It’s a form of cryptography that allows for basically verifiable computations. What that means is that an application runs a piece of code and you offer a proof that this result came from that code. That magic basically lets you shortcut and fast track a ton of steps that you otherwise would have the network run for you,” says Howard Wu, Co-Founder & CEO of Aleo.

Transparency by code: a new standard for on-chain games?

ZK Proofs offer groundbreaking advancements in secure gameplay, particularly in scenarios demanding player secrecy such as card games or shuffling decks. By leveraging ZK Proofs, turn-based games can ensure heightened levels of confidentiality, fostering a more transparent gaming experience without trusting a third party.

For instance, Khartes Studio’s zkHoldem, the world’s first fully on-chain card game platform leverages ZK Proofs and Fully Homomorphic Encryption (FHE) to solve the issue of confidential shuffling. Built on Manta Network’s modular blockchain for ZK applications, it removes the trusted party element to automatically carry out the game rules.

With its in-house zkShuffle suite, Khartes Studio is capable of producing a range of fully on-chain games that maintain player secrecy without relying on a third party. For example, the cards dealt in zkHoldem are known only to the player, with no possibility of external visibility.

The zkShuffling smart contract suite allows a fully decentralized shuffling for a variety of card and board games. It eliminates the possibility of cheating by using decentralized smart contracts, which strictly follow the game’s rules by executable code.

Moreover, while maintaining this privacy, ZK Proofs ensures transparency by recording each player’s actions on-chain, providing a clear, auditable trail that enhances the integrity and fairness of every game played on its platform.

“By building the game fully on-chain using ZK technology, game developers can now leverage the immutable nature of blockchain and achieve a truly decentralized shuffling & gaming system with fairness guaranteed on the code level,” says Henry Spencer, Co-founder of Khartes Studio.

Tackling obstacles for scalable growth

The blockchain gaming market is projected to reach $154.46 billion by the end of 2024. However, its rapid growth faces hurdles like limited scalability and network congestion, potentially stalling further innovation in the field.

The expense of a game entirely operating on a blockchain escalates as each player action constitutes a network transaction, thereby necessitating a significant volume to store data and game history on blockchains. For lightweight games such as card games or simple 2D arcades, they may be completely suitable to run fully on-chain.

However, advancements in blockchain scarring networks are offering cheaper and scalable solutions to meet the core advantages of secure on-chain games. The data-heavy components can be offloaded away from the main blockchain that handles the core on-chain game logic.

Celestia, a modular data availability network, is one solution that helps on-chain games to achieve cost-effective blockchain data storage. It is powering games like zkHoldem to minimize blockchain-associated costs, while preserving the decentralized and transparent ethos of on-chain games. Additionally, they are working alongside Lumoz, a ZK Rollup-as-a-Service, for seamless Layer 3 integration that aims to enhance the overall efficiency of on-chain games.

When a game’s logic is running on-chain, it unlocks boundless opportunities for permissionless interoperability and composability. They become more aligned with the design of a community-owned game, resistant to censorship, and less independent of their initial developers.

Games exploring innovative technologies like ZK proofs and on-chain data are currently in an experimental phase to determine the most effective solutions. Yet, they are steadily progressing in solving the fundamental needs of provable transparency and fairness in gaming.

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