Gods Unchained is a decentralized trading card game that uses the ERC-721 non-fungible token standard to establish on-chain ownership of cards to be used in off-chain gameplay. Actual gameplay in Gods Unchained takes place off-chain, in a desktop application resembling that of its centralized counterparts, such as Hearthstone. Ethereum’s role in the game is to facilitate players’ absolute ownership of certain valuable in-game cards, as opposed to other free, non-tokenized and untradable cards provided by the game to all users. Storage on the Ethereum blockchain serves to demonstrate and maintain the provable-rarity of the former, more powerful class of cards. In Gods Unchained, users compete in turn-based one-on-one and battle royale competitions by using creature, spell, weapon and god cards to weaken and eventually eliminate those of their opponents. Gods Unchained is developed by Immutable, a blockchain-based gaming company based in Sydney, Australia. Chris Clay, a former Magic: The Gathering executive, serves as Game Director for Gods Unchained. The project has raised $15M in equity funding and an additional $6.2M through a public token auction in October of 2019.
Gods Unchained is a digital trading card game in which users can compete using both tokenized and non-tokenized ‘cards.’ The game’s mechanics closely resemble those of its centralized peers: Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering. At a high level, players amass decks of ‘god,’ ‘spell,’ ‘weapon,’ and ‘creature’ cards with which they battle other users in a turn-based manner; these cards, as well as a specific ‘power’ chosen for one’s god card, inflict damage upon opponents’ cards, depleting their ‘health’ levels. When cards reach health levels of zero, the are sent to ‘The Void,’ and may only be played again in the current match if specific spells are invoked. One wins a match by simply fully depleting one’s opponent’s god card’s health. Players may compete against other players or simulated opponents in ‘solo’ mode. The usability of cards sent to The Void is fully restored upon completion of the current match.
Gods Unchained builds upon Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering with its inclusion of ‘mana,’ an in-game virtual resource that must be expended to play cards or god powers. This novel game element intends to enhance the quality and pace of gameplay by forcing users to act when it may be otherwise advantageous to not do so. The game itself is free to play, and there exist a set of core cards which users may obtain for free or as rewards for in-game accomplishments—these cards are not secured by any blockchain or purchasable with cryptocurrency.
Gods Unchained is the latest project from Immutable, previously called Fuel Games. Gods Unchained is currently in open beta phase and its marketplace went live in November of 2019. During the projects development, users were able to earn Gods Unchained cards by interacting with a previous Immutable project, Etherbots. Likewise, a partnership with Dapper Labs allowed CryptoKitties players to build ‘statues’ and earn cards in Gods Unchained. Immutable sponsors an annual Gods Unchained World Championships, with the inaugural tournament’s prize pool exceeding $100K.
In the Gods Unchained ecosystem, there exist 250 core cards, which are stored centrally in the game itself and function independently from the Ethereum blockchain; these cards are distributed for free and are not tradable. However, over six million Gods Unchained cards exist as non-fungible tokens built on the ERC-721 token standard, allowing cards’ attributes and statistics to be stored permanently on the Ethereum blockchain. It is in this manner that the game distinguishes itself from Hearthstone and other centralized trading card games: users maintain absolute, provable ownership and control over their cards via the immutability of the blockchain. Unlike other NFT-based games such as CryptoKitties, blockchain-secured Gods Unchained cards may be used in actual gameplay for both competitive and cosmetic purposes. Further, provable ownership history allows cards to be ‘digitally signed’ by influential users and streamers, effectively creating memorabilia-esque assets.
New NFT-based cards are released periodically in so-called ‘seasons,’ wherein a set of provably scarce cards are made available for purchase in ETH directly from the Gods Unchained website. Following a season’s initial release, there exists a one month ‘balancing beta’ period following cards’ initial release during which they may be played but not traded. Also during this time, cards have their statistics and attributes adjusted by developers. Notably, while developers claim that no cards can be ‘nerfed’ following this period due to the immutability of the blockchain, there exist no trustless or cryptographic assurances that the translation of on-chain attributes to in-game capabilities will not be altered. The first season released by Immutable was the ‘Genesis’ sale, comparable to CryptoKitties Gen 0 auction. The game’s ‘Genesis’ sale concluded in October of 2019, selling out of over six million Genesis cards and raising 33,333 ETH (worth roughly $6.2M at the time of the sale’s conclusion).
Further, storage on the Ethereum blockchain allow users to trade Gods Unchained cards free from interference from game developers, which often occurs in the trading of non-blockchain-based digital collectibles on platforms such as Steam. To begin trading a new card, following the balancing beta period, a user must ‘activate’ it, thus minting an ERC-721 version of the card on the Ethereum blockchain. Once activated, cards may be traded via MetaMask, as any other Ethereum-based asset may be. Additionally, NFT-focused exchanges such as Open Sea and Rare Bits may also facilitate Gods Unchained card trading. Finally, to use NFT-based cards in the game one simply needs to connect their MetaMask wallet to the game via the Gods Unchained website. NFT cards of lesser power may also be combined to create more powerful cards, in a process similar to the ‘breeding’ of CryptoKitties. In July of 2018, Gods Unchained also minted and sold 20,000 ERC-20 tokens that served as tickets for admission to the project’s inaugural World Tournament.