Dark Forest Revolution: How DF Archon is Transforming Blockchain Gaming with Community-Driven Experiments

Cointime Official

When it comes to blockchain games, one stands out as a trailblazer, attracting players such as Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin and crypto venture capital Paradigm co-founder Matt Huang. That game is Dark Forest.

Dark Forest is a decentralized, massively multiplayer online space conquest game currently deployed on Ethereum and Gnosis Chain. Created by MIT graduate Brian Gu under the pseudonym Gubsheep and his friends, the game was inspired by the "dark forest theory" from the science fiction "Three-Body" by writer Liu Cixin.

Dark Forest takes place in an infinite, procedurally generated universe containing various types of planets and space entities. The popular Dark Forest Showdown mode is a week-long melee where thousands of players, bots, AIs, and even smart contracts compete head-to-head for galactic supremacy. Players begin on a tiny home planet and must harvest resources, conquer nearby planets, and interact with neighbors through alliances, trade, negotiations, and even war to expand their empire.

Groundbreaking Innovations: Fully On-Chain, zkSNARK, and Permissionless Interoperability

Dark Forest has pioneered blockchain gaming by being the first fully on-chain game, utilizing the non-tamperable, traceable, and decentralized features of blockchain without sacrificing the fun of "Incomplete Information" game theory. It also creates room for players to customize their gaming experience.

  • Fully On-Chain Game

Traditional blockchain games store only part of the game data on the blockchain, such as in-game assets in the form of tokens and NFTs, while other data is stored on back-end servers. Dark Forest, however, was the first game built entirely on the blockchain, with all game logic deployed on the chain in the form of smart contracts.

Being fully on-chain provides players with a truly decentralized gaming experience, making full use of the openness and transparency offered by blockchain. Every player's action is recorded on the chain, and game results cannot be manipulated by the platform or any third party. Additionally, players have complete ownership of their game assets, which exist forever and cannot be tampered with, even if the game developer stops maintenance.

  • "Fog of War" Based on zkSNARK

The universe of Dark Forest is vast and infinite, but upon joining, each player can only explore a small section of the star map. The positions and states of other players remain hidden, creating a "fog of war" effect, which forms an integral part of the Dark Forest gaming experience.

"Fog of war" is a common feature in traditional games, particularly in classic real-time strategy games like Warcraft, Red Alert, and StarCraft. These games employ fog to obscure player information, adding an element of mystery and strategy.

However, in blockchain-based games, incorporating the fog of war is challenging due to the open and transparent nature of blockchain technology. Data stored in smart contracts are accessible to everyone, making it difficult to create an information barrier. For instance, Axie Infinity, an NFT game built on the Ethereum blockchain, allows players to access specific information about their opponents, such as the owner, attribute values, and skills - making it a "complete information game."

To overcome this limitation, Dark Forest utilizes zkSNARKs (Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge) to create a "fog" in an otherwise transparent blockchain game. zkSNARKs protect sensitive information while enabling complex mechanics and interactions. This technology allows players to submit verifiably valid actions publicly while maintaining privacy. In Dark Forest, players cannot uncover other players' coordinate information by inspecting the game's smart contract. Instead, they must use computational power to clear the "fog" and reveal hidden information.

Fog of war is common in traditional games but rare in blockchain games, as blockchain is entirely open and transparent. Dark Forest uses zkSNARK (Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge) to create fog in a transparent blockchain game. zkSNARKs protect sensitive information while allowing complex mechanics and interactions, enabling players to submit verifiably valid actions publicly while maintaining privacy.

  • Permissionless Interoperability

The Dark Forest game is built upon a smart contract deployed on the blockchain. This design enables any player to interact with the game through programming, regardless of whether the address represents a real person, a robot, or another smart contract. Game creator Gubsheep refers to this feature as "permissionless interoperability." Smart contracts establish the fundamental laws governing the Dark Forest universe. Players have the freedom to do as they wish, as long as they adhere to these basic rules: they can create their own in-game trading markets for buying and selling assets, develop tools to expedite task completion, automate all game operations, and even create new games within the game. To put it succinctly: In the Dark Forest, players can not only play games but also customize them.

Numerous Dark Forest-related plugins, third-party clients, and automation tools have been introduced to the market. As of October 2022, nearly 100 open-source plugins for the Dark Forest have been released. Players can leverage these plugins to visualize opponents' territories, automate warfare, conduct transactions, and more. Some players have even developed third-party clients for the Dark Forest, enabling gameplay on any device.

The "permissionless interoperability" of the Dark Forest has inspired the developer community to create innovative tools, form alliances, and build DAOs. The blockchain game development team, DF Archon, is one such example.

DF Archon's Blockchain Gaming Experiment: DF ARES

DF Archon is a development team specializing in blockchain-based games. They are dedicated to creating a user-friendly gaming environment and contributing to the Dark Forest game ecosystem. Moreover, DF Archon is highly invested in the overall development of blockchain gaming. Their recent NetherScape game, developed using the game engine, has entered the Top 10 of the Autonomous Worlds Hackathon organized by 0xparc, Lattice, and ETHGlobal.

The team has currently open-sourced several projects related to the Dark Forest ecosystem, including:

  • DF GAIA: A plugin development library based on the Dark Forest v0.6.5 core interface, which provides 90% of the strategic functions players need in just three user panels.
  • DF ARTEMIS: A planet-targeting bounty mercenary system for Dark Forest.
  • DF APOLLO: An automated assistant operating system for the Dark Forest.

The original version v0.3 of Dark Forest was launched in August 2020, with the latest iteration, v0.6.5, released in February 2022.  DF Archon has decided to initiate a blockchain gaming experiment - DF ARES, a community-driven event within the Dark Forest ecosystem.

In fully on-chain games, the boundaries between developers and players are increasingly blurred. "Dark Forest" has attracted a loyal following of players and developers. This ecosystem allows players to explore, combine, and create various emerging technologies and gameplay experiences, fostering an organic community. Its open and highly composable nature significantly expands gaming possibilities, enabling gamers to contribute to the game experience rather than solely relying on the official team.

This is why DF Archon selected "Dark Forest" as the platform for their decentralized experiment. They aim to collaborate with other blockchain gaming communities to test innovative ideas and disruptive game mechanics within the Dark Forest game. During the event, they plan to develop scalable products, such as NFT trading markets, decentralized ticket and incentive issuance systems, and decentralized chat software. These products will be integrated into other blockchain games, enriching the Dark Forest game ecosystem and promoting blockchain infrastructure development.

According to DF Archon, the DF ARES project is currently under development, and the team plans to launch the first round of activities by the end of June.

Blockchain games will undoubtedly introduce more revolutionary gameplay in the future. DF ARES is just the beginning of these gaming experiments. As the development engine and toolkit for blockchain games mature, even players without programming experience may one day create their own games.


All Comments

Recommended for you

  • Valkyrie Ethereum Futures ETF Receives U.S. SEC Approval

    The US SEC has approved Valkyrie to convert its existing Bitcoin futures ETF to a Bitcoin and Ethereum futures ETF. The new fund will be renamed "Valkyrie Bitcoin and Ethereum Strategy ETF" and will take effect on October 3, with the code still being BTF.

  • AlphaSense Raises $150M in Series E Funding Round Led by BOND and Alphabet's CapitalG

    AlphaSense, a B2B AI platform focused on business intelligence and search, has completed a successful Series E funding round, raising $150 million. The round was led by BOND and included investments from Alphabet's CapitalG, Goldman Sachs, and Viking Global. AlphaSense's valuation has grown from $1.7 billion to $2.5 billion since its Series D funding round in June 2023. The platform uses machine learning to provide deep insights into business and finance analytics, offering "insights-as-a-service." The latest investment will allow AlphaSense to continue leading the generative AI revolution in the B2B sector.

  • web3 startup IYK raises $16.8 million in seed funding, led by A16z Crypto

    Web3 startup IYK has raised $16.8 million in seed funding, with A16z Crypto leading the way and other investors including 1kx, Collabcurrency, Lattice Capital, and gmoney. According to its website, IYK is a participant in the a16z Crypto Startup School, which is an accelerator program from the venture capital giant that typically invests $500,000 in participating startups in exchange for 7% equity. IYK says that it has recruited over 100 creators from industries such as fashion, music, and art since its founding in 2021. To attract more brands and creators, it is launching a self-service platform to help create digital physical experiences.

  • Oracle project Supra completed over US$24 million in financing, with participation from Animoca Brands and Coinbase Ventures.

    On September 28th, Supra, a provider of oracle and VRF services, announced that it had completed a funding round of over $24 million. Investors in this round include Animoca Brands, BCW, Coinbase Ventures, FiveT Fintech (formerly Avaloq Ventures), Galaxy Interactive, Hashed, HashKey, Huobi Ventures, No Limit Holdings, Prosus Ventures,, Republic Crypto, Shima Capital, Signum Capital, SMO Capital, Sound Ventures, Sublime Ventures, UOB Venture Management (Dahua Bank), and Valor Equity Partners.

  • Hong Kong police arrested three people again in connection with the JPEX case, bringing the total number of arrests to 15

    Hong Kong police arrested three more people related to the JPEX case, including one director and one employee of the overseas exchange Lupin, and one popular analyst from a foreign currency exchange shop. The total number of arrests is now 15. The police have received a total of 2,392 reports, involving a total amount of nearly 1.5 billion yuan, and have frozen 77 million yuan in assets. 

  • The EU will collect data proving that cryptocurrency PoW mechanisms "seriously" harm the environment and plans to develop sustainability standards

    On September 28th, the European Commission released a tender contract worth 800,000 euros (approximately $842,000) aimed at mitigating the "significant harm" that cryptocurrency poses to the environment. The research, which will end on November 10th, will establish standards that will be incorporated into potential future EU policies to curb the impact of cryptocurrency on climate change and develop new energy efficiency labels for blockchain. The European Commission stated in the tender document that "there is evidence that crypto-assets can cause significant damage to the climate and the environment," which could undermine the EU's greenhouse gas reduction targets, indicating that new sustainable development standards may be adopted in the future. EU legislators are concerned about the energy-intensive PoW consensus mechanism that supports blockchain such as Bitcoin. The EU's research will be completed within a year and will study green issues related to the use of water, waste, natural resources, and energy by cryptocurrencies. (CoinDesk)

  • Brazil’s cryptocurrency trading volume in July was US$3.7 billion, with USDT trading accounting for 81.6%

    According to data from the Federal Tax Authority, cryptocurrency transactions in Brazil reached 18.8 billion Brazilian real (approximately 3.7 billion US dollars) in July, a decrease of 11.4% compared to the previous month. The three highest transaction volumes were stablecoins, with USDT accounting for 15.3 billion Brazilian real, or 81.6% of the total transaction volume, followed by USDC (838 million Brazilian real) and Brazilian real stablecoin BRZ (641 million Brazilian real). 

  • The National Blockchain Industry Industry-Education Integration Community was established in Xiongan New Area

    National Blockchain Industry Production-Education Integration Community Establishment Conference was held in Xiong'an New Area on September 27. The National Blockchain Industry Production-Education Integration Community is jointly formed by Xiong'an Guochuang Center Technology Co., Ltd., Southwest University of Finance and Economics, Hebei Software Vocational and Technical College, and other units under the guidance of the Vocational and Adult Education Department of the Ministry of Education, the Education and Examination Center of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and the China Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, together with relevant industry associations, enterprises, undergraduate colleges, vocational colleges, scientific research institutes and other units. The establishment of the National Blockchain Industry Production-Education Integration Community aims to gather high-quality production-education resources and establish a new type of production-education integration organization to support the development of the blockchain industry, promote industrial development and talent cultivation, effectively promote the deep integration of industry and education, improve the quality of talent cultivation, better meet the development needs of the blockchain industry, and effectively promote economic and social development.

  • Slope, a Fintech Startup Backed by the Founder of Worldcoin, Completed $30 Million in Financing

    Slope, a financial technology startup supported by Worldcoin founder Sam Altman, announced the completion of a $30 million financing round, with participation from Y Combinator, monashees, and a group of angel investors in the financial technology field. It is reported that Sam Altman and Union Square Ventures jointly led Slope's previous $24 million Series A financing round. So far, the company's total financing amount has reached $187 million.

  • AIOPs Platform Senser Completes US$9.5 Million in Seed Round Financing, Led by Eclipse

    Senser, an AI operations management platform that can provide data analysis support for Web3 infrastructure, announced the completion of a $9.5 million seed round of financing, with Eclipse as the lead investor and Amdocs and other private investors participating.