Web3 Game Development: The Ultimate Guide (2023)

Web3 Game Development: The Ultimate Guide (2023)

The gaming world has been slow to adopt web3 and blockchain. 

First, developers are doubtful of blockchains’ current ability to handle massive gameplay and gamers’ base. Second, the whole idea of decentralized systems with new wallets, seedphrases, gas fees, etc., is new and can be confusing. 

Apart from that, web3 gaming suffers from two major concerns — the lack of smooth gameplay and hyper-financialization.

We all know that the potential of web3 to improve and democratize gaming is unparalleled. To truly realize this potential, web3 gaming needs its own tools i.e. a web3 gaming stack for developers.

But what exactly is a web3 gaming stack?

In this article, we will explore what it is, the different components of the stack, and the tools you should use to build successful web3 games.

How do you develop a web3 game?

To get started with blockchain game development, game creators need a stack of tools & technologies to create & manage games on blockchain networks. The components of this gaming stack range from the underlying smart contracts to user-facing elements like web2 logins.

Let’s now look at the different components of the blockchain game development stack in detail.

User onboarding in web3 games

This is a key component of the stack considering the numerous complexities and prerequisites for users to start playing web3 games. From a simple wallet creation and seedphrase management to in-game logins, the onboarding process for users in web3 games is a lengthy process. 

Here are three key components developers need to simplify a gamer’s onboarding experience to web3 games: 

1. Simplified logins and sign-ups

Simple logins and signups in web3 games are essential to attract players. They keep it simple and straightforward for games to access the gameplay. Simplified logins also help bridge the divide between traditional and blockchain gaming. 

Incorporating familiar web2 login methods simplifies the process, leading to increased gameplay and player loyalty. As we shift to Web3, maintaining certain web2 practices ensures user comfort.

Developers can make this transition smoother with thirdweb’s embedded wallets that come with web2 login flows for their web3 games.

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Read our comprehensive guide about embedded wallets here

2. User authentication systems

In the web3 gaming stack, user authentication is crucial with new-age features like passwordless, web3-native solutions. Logging in with a digital wallet bypasses the need for traditional usernames and passwords, offering a more direct and secure method of authentication.

This approach allows game developers to verify on-chain identities, conditionally provide access based on criteria like NFT ownership, and interact with players on the blockchain for tasks like distributing rewards and others.  

Web3 auth for games is of two types:

  1. Internal Auth: The game's built-in login system uses credentials like a username, password, email, or social account. 
  2. External Auth: This involves logging in using external sources like web3 wallets or third-party services, where the game relies on external verification.

thirdweb's Auth toolkit offers a comprehensive solution for web3 authentication. It seamlessly integrates popular web3 wallets with familiar web2 login flows.



3. Wallet mechanisms

In the gaming stack, web3 wallets serve as a distinct digital identity for players, replacing traditional username-password systems.

These wallets enable players to manage and trade in-game assets. Similarly, they also help players make in-game purchases, P2P trades, and transactions using cryptocurrencies. Additionally, their integration provides a smooth user experience, bridging the game with these web3 components seamlessly.

Talking about wallets for web3 games, we need to focus on two nuances:

  1. Ability to use and import external wallets

External wallets are third-party wallets that can be integrated into games. Their primary appeal lies in their interoperability, allowing users to access multiple platforms with a single wallet. For example: one single wallet to participate in decentralized finance (DeFi) as well as to play a game.

Developers should give users the ability to import their external wallets into the game.

  1. Admin wallet setup

Admin wallets are geared towards game management and often come with extra permissions.

In cases where gamers lose access to their wallets or forget their private keys, an admin wallet can function as a backup system. Admins wallets can be bolstered with options to assist in restoring access to the gamer's assets and credentials.

They can also be integrated with smart contracts to automate security and recovery protocols.

Rather than building wallet mechanisms from scratch, developers can employ thirdweb’s ConnectWallet directly into their games.

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Account abstraction (ERC-4337) supercharges web3 wallets. Read more here

Payments in web3 games

Payments in web3 gaming are not only about using cryptocurrencies for in-game purchases. 

Gamers can truly own, trade, and monetize their gaming assets, especially with the rise of NFTs representing unique in-game items. Furthermore, the integration of DeFi protocols within games offers complex economic systems, allowing for lending, staking, and borrowing of assets.

How can developers build a seamless and smooth payment system in web3 games?

Two important components make this possible:

1. Fiat on-ramp

A fiat on-ramp is a platform or service that allows users to convert their traditional fiat money (like USD, EUR, etc.) into cryptocurrencies or game tokens. This is crucial for mainstream adoption of web3 gaming, as not all players are familiar with or own cryptocurrencies.

By integrating fiat on-ramps, game developers make it easier for players to get started, purchase in-game assets, or pay for subscriptions.

2. Purchase game tokens (ERC-20) with fiat

ERC-20 is a popular standard for creating fungible tokens on the Ethereum blockchain. Among web3 games, these tokens can represent in-game currencies, points, or any other tradeable assets. 

Allowing players to purchase these tokens directly with fiat money simplifies the gaming experience. Instead of going through external crypto exchanges, players can acquire game tokens directly within the game or its platform.

Alongside this, developers also need to focus on regulatory compliance while building the payment systems for web3 games. Apart from abiding by numerous international laws, developers also have to worry about anti-money laundering (AML), know-your-customer (KYC) procedures, and tax implications. 

Making their lives easier, thirdweb offers Checkout — a one-click NFT purchase mechanism using credit cards. More importantly, this is fully compliant & enterprise-ready with built-in fraud and AML (anti-money laundering) detection.



Session management in web3 games

Session management is an essential technical tool that ensures smooth interactions and transactions for players in web3 games. Unlike traditional games where session data might be centralized, web3 games rely on blockchain — ensuring both security and transparency.

A well-designed session management system optimizes the balance between the decentralized ethos of blockchain while providing a user-friendly experience.

Here are three components that developers can build to create a smooth session management system:

1. Automatic signing/operating on the user's behalf 

Developers can automate actions like signing transactions or in-game operations for the games without constantly requiring the player's explicit consent. This reduces friction and enhances the gameplay experience. 

2. Bringing assets from outside 

Web3 games allow players to bring in assets, such as NFTs or ERC-20 tokens, from external sources. This is critical for cross-game integrations and metaverse interactions, where assets in one game might have utility or value in another.

3. Sponsored transactions 

Game publishers and developers can sponsor on-chain transactions for their players. These gasless transactions reduce the players’ headaches of paying gas fees for each of their on-chain activities and thereby encourage more in-game activity and friction-free interaction.

A well-thought-out session management system can do wonders for the gaming experience. 

Developers can use thirdweb’s tools to enable features like generating wallets on the fly or creating a "continue as guest" feature — must-haves for web3 games.   

Overview | thirdweb developer portal
The Wallet SDK allows you to build a fully featured wallet solution

Crypto off-ramp in web3 games

Off-ramps in web3 games act as gateways that empower players to seamlessly transition their in-game value to the real world. They enable seamless asset liquidation, making it easier for players to benefit from their in-game achievements.

The facet of creating a tangible link between virtual gaming economies and real-world finance is needed. This fosters greater adoption, trust, and growth in the web3 gaming sector.

For gamers, the off-ramp should ideally fulfill the following needs:

1. Export in-game value

Players should have the ability to export in-game assets outside the game environment. This functionality paves the way for real-world applicability of in-game earnings, be it transferring to other games or preparing for withdrawals.

2. Convert game tokens

Converting game tokens to fiat or other cryptocurrencies is a must-have feature of any gamer. It's this conversion mechanism that binds the virtual economy with the real one. 

Whether players aim to trade their tokens in crypto exchanges or cash them out as fiat, this component gives tangible meaning to digital rewards.

Seamless Web3 onboarding for everyone | thirdweb
Make web3 apps accessible to all users with onboarding experiences that completely abstract away web3 complexity.

Performance and scalability in web3 games

The most doubtful component of them all for web3 games, given the current infrastructure — performance, and scalability.

However, these two stand as twin pillars that dictate a game's success and longevity.

What can a developer do to improve a game’s performance and scalability?

1. Don't interrupt the game

Smooth gameplay is the priority. 

As games incorporate blockchain-based transactions, such operations mustn't disrupt the gaming experience. Lag or interruptions due to blockchain interactions can be detrimental to user experience.

For this, developers must employ high-grade RPCs (remote procedure calls) that provide high data reliability, throughput, and uptime. 

This ensures a gaming experience that is unparalleled and smooth. Thirdweb offers enterprise-grade RPCs that developers can make use of.

2. Scale with volume: 

Web3 games are prone to experiencing sudden influxes of players or high transaction volumes, especially during launches, updates, or in-game events. The underlying infrastructure must be prepared to handle this surge without compromising game performance.

How can developers scale games?

A working engine i.e. a server with friction-free and high throughput is a must. Even as games grow in user base and complexity, they have to maintain consistent reliability. Any downtime or glitches can alienate players. 

More importantly, this scalability should come along with reliability and security — at all times. Additionally, developers need to embrace interoperability for more innovative cross-chain gaming experiences.

To facilitate all these, an open-source server designed for the masses like the one thirdweb offers can be the best investment for a game publisher:

Engine: Open-Source Server for Scalable Web3 Apps | thirdweb
A production-grade HTTP server to generate backend wallets on any EVM blockchain—with smart contracts, auth, gasless transactions, & managed infra. Get started.

APIs and gaming SDKs in web3 games

Web3 gaming’s biggest strength is its open-source nature of development. How?

Building from scratch is time-consuming. SDKs (software development kits) and APIs (application programming interface) provide pre-written code modules and functionalities, reducing the development time significantly. 

This allows game developers to focus on game design and mechanics rather than the foundational aspects of web3 integration.

Let’s delve deeper into the APIs and SDKs that help build quality web3 games:

1. Gaming platform SDKs

Software Development Kits (SDKs) tailored for gaming platforms provide developers with a suite of pre-integrated tools. These enhance game functionality and reduce development time, ensuring a smoother and more efficient game development process.

For game development, Unity and Unreal are two of the best gaming development platforms and thirdweb offers customized SDKs for both. 

2. Backend APIs

The engines that drive games — Backend APIs are crucial for ensuring smooth communication between the game client and the server. They provide a bridge for games to interact with blockchain smart contracts, enabling features like token transactions, minting, and more.

Similarly, these backend APIs also fetch real-time data from the blockchain, such as player rankings, asset ownership, or game states, ensuring games remain up-to-date.

API Keys | thirdweb developer portal
An API key is required to use thirdweb’s infrastructure services such as Smart Wallet, Storage and RPCs and it is completely free to use. These services are built into many of the thirdweb products such as the CLI and SDKs.

3. Marketplace API

In-game economies are rendered useless without the presence of a marketplace. Also, gaming marketplaces do more than just facilitate the buying, selling, and trading of digital assets and in-game items. They validate the authenticity and provenance of digital assets, fighting against counterfeits.

Marketplace APIs also enable the creation and management of user profiles, tracking their transaction histories, owned assets, and more.

Thirdweb offers a ready-to-deploy marketplace smart contract that is fully configurable and rich in on-chain analytics.

Blockchains to build web3 games on

The blockchain layer is a fundamental component in the web3 gaming ecosystem. Blockchains for web3 games mirror the role of servers and databases in web2 games, capturing a gamer's activity and gameplay status.

1. Which blockchains should a developer choose to build web3 games?

The choice of blockchain depends on the game's requirements, the developer's familiarity with the platform, and the desired trade-offs between factors like speed, security, and cost.

As a quick overview, here are three tips:

  1. Developers familiar with Ethereum often choose EVM-compatible chains like Binance Smart Chain, Polygon, and Avalanche due to their rich tools, libraries, and large communities.
  2. For games that require high transaction throughput, chains that support more transactions per second (TPS) can be ideal.
  3. Some blockchains are tailored for specific gaming functionalities. For instance, WAX is designed especially for trading in-game assets efficiently.

Apart from that, developers can improve their web3 games with layer-2 solutions, appchains, and cross-chain bridging. 

The next section delves deeper into each of these.

2. Layer 2 solutions

L2 solutions, such as rollups and sidechains, address the scalability concerns of the main blockchain. They process transactions off the main chain and subsequently commit the results, ensuring faster and cheaper operations. 

Developers can employ L2 solutions for the following advantages:

  1. L2 solutions significantly reduce transaction costs, making micro-transactions or frequent in-game trades feasible.
  2. Some L2 solutions facilitate cross-chain interactions, allowing games to leverage multiple blockchains or transfer assets between them seamlessly.
  3. L2 solutions are more scalable. They can handle increased gaming activity without compromising on speed or cost.

thirdweb offers extensive support to over 4,000 EVM-compatible blockchain networks. This helps developers build on their blockchain of choice without a lot of hassle.

3. Appchain support

Appchains are blockchains designed specifically to support applications. Ronin chain is an example of a gaming-specific blockchain — an appchain in essence. These are usually optimized for the specific requirements of a game, ensuring peak performance and responsiveness for players.

They can also be customized to support specific game mechanics or economies.

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To learn more about appchains, here is a comprehensive guide.

4. Cross-chain bridging

Developers also should think about cross-chain bridging while building web3 games.

Why?

Cross-chain bridges allow players to transfer in-game assets, like NFTs or tokens, from one blockchain to another. Imagine playing in multiple gaming universes where each game exists on a different blockchain. Cross-chain bridging allows your game character to move and interact across diverse blockchain-based games.

By leveraging cross-chain bridges, developers can capitalize on the best features of various chains, improving the overall gaming experience for players.

thirdweb: The complete web3 development platform
Build web3 apps easily with thirdweb’s powerful SDKs, audited smart contracts, and developer tools—for Ethereum & 700+ EVM chains. Try now.

Build web3 games easily

The reception that web3 gaming has received from the gamer community has been lukewarm. 

There is a huge potential in terms of open-source development of more innovative gaming economies using web3 components. To make this possible, the developers need a better web3 gaming stack. 

We hope this blog has helped you better understand what a web3 gaming stack looks like, its components, and how they work.  

If you have any questions, join 40,000+ other builders in our Discord community or reach out to the team directly for more info on how to get started with building games.

And if you want to start building web3 apps on Ethereum, get started with thirdweb’s web3 tools and SDKs - they’re free!