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How's this for a unique concoction? A video game that is playable within a Discord chat server, is being built using generative AI tools, and even taps into Solana NFTs and tokens for player-owned assets and rewards.
What it adds up to is Alchemy: Battle for Ankhos, a game that's being built using both AI and blockchain to deliver engaging, persistent experiences within the familiar, interactive chat window of a Discord server. Decrypt saw the game in action at the recent Solana PlayGG event in San Diego.
“Discord has a few advantages for building social games,” Creative Director Alex Finden told Decrypt. “One of those is that all of the game activities happen in this interactive environment that people are already very comfortable with,” he added, further explaining that the platform makes it easy for players to spectate and challenge each other.
Alchemy: Battle for Ankhos is a text and turn-based role-playing game (RPG), which holds its battles in a fantasy world via the game's official Discord server. It also uses the Solana blockchain for its NFT-based items, including in-game characters.
"Nearly every in-game asset earned or purchased is optionally mintable as an NFT on Solana," Finden said. "Any player can mint their assets from in-game menus with no blockchain knowledge or experience required," he said, adding that a launch date for the assets has not yet been determined.
The inaugural NFT collection for the game will be called the Alchemy: Gods collection. Players can collect one of 5,000 unique Alchemy Gods, and accrue the soon-to-be-introduced Solana-based token SPIRIT through a new faction-based gameplay mode.
Alchemy: Battle for Ankhos was among five winners of the Solana Foundation’s NFT Showdown in June. At SolanaPlayGG, Finden unveiled its Land Shard NFTs.
Solana was already a popular destination for NFTs and digital collectibles. Now, the Solana Foundation and Solana Labs aim to make it the destination for gaming, thanks to initiatives like last week’s PlayGG event in San Diego and the upcoming GameShift toolkit for developers.
Alchemy: Battle for Ankhos players take on the role of a Descendant as a mage, squire, cleric, or rogue, and can play against an AI-controlled opponent or join player-vs-player (PvP) battles against other users.
Gaming via Discord servers is not a totally new concept. Other text-based games on the platform include IdleRPG, PokeMeow, and the classic game of chess. However, Alchemy: Battle for Ankhos opts for a distinctive hybrid approach, looping in crypto assets while also tapping into generative AI smarts.
Discord offers several tools for developers, Finden explained, including APIs that make creating and deploying games quickly very easy. An application programming interface (API) is a way for two or more computer programs to communicate with each other.
“We can turn around game modes and our fantasy RPG in about two weeks,” Finden said, “because of all of the tools that Discord allows us.”
Finden said two types of players are most interested in Alchemy: Battle for Ankhos—the classic turn-based strategy player that wants to be competitive with the game, and the Web3 die-hard that wants to come in, have power over the world, influence the players, and see if they can capitalize on some value that the ecosystem has generated.
“We've designed the game modes and the tradable assets in the game in a way where the Web3 players and the Web2 players create this circular economy,” Finden said, emphasizing that no cryptocurrency needs to be spent to play on Discord.
It's time to Descend. 🔻 pic.twitter.com/gTdQXchMfe
— Alchemy: Battle for Ankhos (@play_alchemy) June 27, 2023
Much of the computational work is done on a server that operates in the background, and the team leverages Discord’s scalability to circumvent any network congestion on the platform.
“The demand is minimal as the files are extremely small, especially when compared to larger 3D-model games,” Finden said. “As such, server capacity and scalability are not an issue for us.”
Since the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot and the generative art platform Midjourney, advances in generative AI have enabled creators to generate dialogue and images for adventure games quickly with minimal skill. Finden said AI has allowed the small team to produce a volume of content that traditionally would have taken a robust squad of artists.
“We have two options. We can either hire a full art studio, which takes a lot of time and iteration to nail our vision,” he said, “or I can just get really good at using the prompts to allow AI to create the vision that I have.”
AI has become integral to the game, Finden said. Midjourney is considered a co-creator because some of the creative ideas the AI tool spits out end up finding their way into the world that the Alchemy: Battle for Ankhos team is creating.
“We're using Midjourney prompts to create art on demand; we also pre-create a lot of the art and layer it in based on the decisions that the player makes,” Finden said. “On the chat side, we use OpenAI to power our NPCs in a way that gives them some creativity in their character.”
Alchemy: Battle for Ankhos uses AI prompts to hone the character's behavior and ensure the story progresses in the desired direction.
“We give them some creative control," Finden said, "so that each time a player goes into this world, they get a slightly different experience."
Finden said that what intrigues him about the potential of AI in gaming is the idea of having a fully generative dungeon master-type entity that takes players on quests. That's the long-term goal, but even with a tiny team, Finden believes it's possible using this unique development model.
“I'm really excited to see what happens when we allow for that,” he said. “I think hopefully we can see that in the future. But it's going to be an adventure to get there.”