Shameless Shilling: Dark Forest

Shameless Shilling: Dark Forest

Based on Cixin Liu’s award-winning book by the same name, players compete in a cryptographically suped-up Galcon clone. The game looks to capture Liu’s concept of cosmic sociology and its two primary axioms, “First: Survival is the primary need of civilization. Second: Civilization continuously grows and expands, but the total matter in the universe remains constant” (The Dark Forest).

During the beta rounds, players are challenged to grow their galactic empires to compete for xDAI (you know… the cryptographically backed and overcollateralized USD stablecoin transacted off-chain, but with limited counter-party risk). 

The game loop is as follows: Find a nearby planet that is weaker than you; select a nearby planet you control to attack it; use that newly attacked planet to attack its neighbors. This is somewhat complicated by redirecting silver from asteroids to your planets so that you can upgrade them. Things get speculative with the introduction of NFTs.

In the latest beta release, v0.5, players may randomly encounter artifacts of varying scarcity and biome. These artifacts have some in-game utility, increasing player scores and specific stats of their planets. These artifacts also happen to be NFTs that can be withdrawn from planets into their controlling player’s wallets. To date, there is no roadmap explaining what (if anything) these artifacts will be used for.

If you are interested in playing:

  1. Gather a beta key.
  2. Buy some DAI.
  3. Transfer that DAI into xDAI.
  4. Create a new private/public key pair.
  5. Create an account on 
  6. Turn on auto-payments under 0.01$
  7. Visit to get some key plugins to make the game more playable

The remarkable complexity and beauty of Dark Forest is its commitment to a fog of war on a blockchain. This is an impressive feat, given that blockchains are public ledgers which do not take well to operating with hidden states.

When you begin the game, you are secluded on a planet without any real knowledge of the enormous map around you. To begin exploring, you need to start by hashing coordinates. Once your CPU cores crunch the numbers, you’ll get to know what lies under a tiny portion of the thick fog. This creates a real fourth-wall breaking feeling, but in a way that draws you in rather than pushes you out. 

Right away I was starting to imagine where I might score a better computer to compute hashes faster. Eventually, I figured out there was a plug-in to hash remotely and got some help connecting my game to an AWS server. This sped up exploration by a factor of 4, but beyond this interesting hashing gimmick is a far more difficult accomplishment: Every move in Dark Forest is actually a zkSNARK.

That is to say a proof that what you have done is valid, without actually revealing what it is you have done. Players will collect your meaningless proofs, but only once they’ve discovered a particular square will they be able to piece together its history. This is how the fog of war is preserved without allowing players to cheat. These SNARKS are also computationally expensive, meaning each move takes a few seconds to calculate before publishing. The game’s creators are supposedly mining data surrounding SNARK proof calculation time to better understand these magical cryptographic tools and further their science.

On a parting note, for anyone looking for the big kahuna in terms of DF NFT here is the scoop: There are four tiers of rarity (common, rare, epic, legendary) and after 4 days of playing, this is what I had. In this past season, there was an additional contest to produce community generated plug-ins. The winner of the contest has yet to be determined, but they will receive an artifact of Mythic quality which so far has never appeared in-game.



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