Move over CryptoKitties, a new wave of Decentralised Apps have come to entertain on the Ethereum network. Reportedly originating from memes on the 4chan forums, the games offer more than just collectables, letting users breed snails, farm shrimps, and even manage their own narcotics empires.
According to volume statistics provided by Dapp Radar, PepeDapp is currently the most popular game on the platform—a meme marketplace for sharing, buying and selling “the dankest memes on Ethereum.” Close behind is Ether Shrimp Farm, the “#1 shrimp farming simulator and idle game on the blockchain”, that puts players in control of a virtual shrimp farm with the goal of optimizing shrimp production, so that they might trade more eggs for valuable Ethereum.
PepeDapp’s “dankest memes on Ethereum” Source: www.pepedapp.com
Ether Cartel is another favourite—a game that lets players pretend to be gangsters that must manage a narcotic empire by repeatedly clicking on the screen (idle-clicking) to earn currency. However, while these games might be crawling up the Dapp Radar leaderboard, the most popular Dapps are still decentralized marketplaces like ForkDelta and IDEX which attract a significantly higher number of users.
However, although they’re not the biggest bandwidth hogs it is these games that are being held responsible for clogging up the Ethereum network, despite little evidence that the recent surge in interest has led to any significant congestion.
According to DappInsight, on the 22nd of May, the total number of Ethereum transactions across all dApps was 65,250. This is a small proportion of the entire Ethereum network, which saw a total of 822,409 transactions over the same period. The entire range of DApps therefore, represented only around 8% of the total transaction volume.
In recent times, the most gas-hungry applications have not been games, but decentralised exchanges like IDEX, which accounts for around 5% of all transactions.
This suggests concerns that the new wave of games threatens the stability of Ethereum are unfounded. As the Eth Gas Station indicates, the standard transaction price currently remains at an average of 15 cents. This gas price is slightly higher than recent times, but not comparable to the clear spike caused by the stress put on the network during the Crypto Kitties invasion of early December 2017, which caused significant Ethereum transaction delays.
While the meme-based games might be a joke for some, they do serve a valuable purpose for the Ethereum ecosystem—testing the capacity of the network to handle potentially more serious Dapps. With Casper implementation in progress, and a “minimal sharding protocol” announced as a new development target last month, a scaling solution could be on the near horizon for Ethereum, which would allow for a higher volume of transactions and faster processing times.
Until that happens, Ethereum Dapps will face bottlenecks that prevent them from scaling without causing significant disruption to the network, as we saw with Crypto Kitties. New DApps must contend with the limited number of transactions that the Ethereum blockchain can handle, which is currently around 13 transactions per second, making it difficult to create a widely-used distributed application on the Ethereum blockchain.
However, there are ways around this—Dapps could reduce their thirst for precious decentralized computing power by handling transactions off-chain. Peepeth, a Twitter competitor on the blockchain, is an example of this. The project integrates a second layer of functionality that handles processes that do not requirehigh-securityy off-chain.
This avoids the processing limitations, and costs, of running the entirety of the Dapp in the smart contract itself. Peepeth claims to be able to save up to 15 actions off-chain at a time before having to commit them to the blockchain, Other innovative distributed app developers like Loom are developing similar off-chain scaling solutions that allow large-scale blockchain-based games and social applications to run parallel to the Ethereum main chain, without disrupting the entire network.
While on-chain scaling decisions can take years to make, and just as long to implement, off-chain solutions offer the advantage of potentially being implemented immediately, without the political strife as the community divides itself in disagreement over the best scaling solution.
On-chain or off-chain, the race continues to scale Ethereum Decentralized Applications to millions of users.