The dNo Ecosystem
dNo can be thought of as akin to a hobby like Warhammer or Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) – but is entirely digital. When someone walks into a Warhammer/Games Workshop store, they are greeted with all the ingredients of a multifaceted and sophisticated hobby. There are the games – rulebooks and boards, collectible dice, miniature figures along with paints to decorate them, campaign manuals – which detail the game worlds and the stories that take place therein. Importantly, these stores nurture communities, running game nights where people get together to play. A game like D&D appeals to different people in different ways – from the detail-oriented fan who loves to learn every statistic in the game, the creative type who likes to decorate figures, the dungeon master who creates and narrates the worlds and stories people play through, and those who primarily enjoy the social and role-playing aspects of the game.
That’s what we’re building – a hobby, based around digital collectibles, games to play with them and a community of players and creators.
Dice, Figures, Tiles and Worlds
Players use collectible, digital dNo dice – like the ones you’d play D&D with. There are free sets, but players can buy others, which are made of different (virtual) materials, have different carvings, fonts, items inside and behaviours.
These dice can be used to generate Characters – players drag different dice into the dNo Character Creator, and new characters are generated taking on the characteristics of the dice. Drag in a set of wizard dice and you’ll create a magical character. Add in some warrior dice, and you might improve their fighting skills, physical strength or replace that magic wand with a sword. Add in some rogue dice for stealth, and you’ve created yourself a unique new hero!
The dice and characters, along with what we call ‘tiles’ and ‘worlds’ (which are built from the hexagonal tiles) form the foundation of the dNo universe. On these foundations, we're building a whole hobby ecosystem – with games and apps not just developed by us but also by any members of our community who’d like to get involved in making something new and exciting.
Players... and Creators
We love the modding scene that has grown up around certain games – from Minecraft to Stardew Valley. These are great games made that much greater by the support and creativity of a dedicated community not just playing but adding new content and features to the games they love. We think that we can take that a lot further with dNo, and are interested in how new technologies can help us do that.
At its simplest, this might mean players creating new characters by combining their dice in unique ways, and choosing to ‘cast’ those characters. When you cast a character, it gets stored, permanently (potentially on a blockchain) for you to keep. Once it’s been cast, you can do whatever you want with it – we’ll store its history, which will become richer with every quest. You can upgrade it, learn new skills and spells, take it from one game to another (as and when other games are built!) or even sell it to someone else. Maybe you’re someone who enjoys decorating miniatures and want to give it a custom paint job… perhaps you’re so good at it, you can sell your wares to other people.
You might be more of a dungeon master, and want to own and build your world. You’ll be able to create your own unique world and, again, choose to ‘cast’ it permanently. You’ll be able to use tiles to add to your world. Tiles might contain traps, treasure, monsters and more. Build a unique dungeon and invite your friends! You could even become a professional world builder and sell your creations, or run your own competitions therein – plant a chest full of loot at the end and see who, if anyone, is brave, and smart, enough to win it.
If you’re a developer, whether a first-time hobbyist or an established studio, you might want to build something in the dNo universe. That could be your own game, an add-on for one of our games, a cool utility the community might like – whatever you want! You might want to give it away, or charge for it… again, whatever you want to do, you can do it.
Our role and the SOLID SDK
We see our role as providing the starting point for the hobby, but we’re not the end goal. We’ll make the dice, provide tools that make the characters, the worlds and the tiles but, just as importantly, we’ll provide our SOLID SDK, a set of libraries anyone can use to make their own games and apps within the dNo universe.
Blockchains - isn't it all a scam?
We're interested in whether, and how, storing digital collectibles on a blockchain can help us to build this player and creator-friendly ecosystem. We're also very aware that the whole blockchain space has been full of scams, bad actors, disappointments and insanely hyped nonsense. Despite that, we do think there are interesting things that blockchain technology could bring to a project like dNo.
We’re fascinated by the way that new technologies might allow us, as game designers, to bring new experiences to our players and community. In particular, we love the idea of players being able to play, create and build within those worlds, to invite friends to join them, to run their own tournaments, craft their own dungeons, write their own lore, even make whole new games and apps for the community to enjoy.
We’re excited about how we can use blockchain and AI to make something that just wouldn’t be possible without. We think there’s something amazing about being able to take a digital item from one place, and put it somewhere else - whether that’s over to another player’s world, into a different game or even offering it for sale on a marketplace.
Similarly, we love the idea of every player owning their own unique characters and worlds - which evolve over time as battles take place, treasure gets looted and heroes and villains die. Of unique stories, lore and history, people and places becoming more real, more richly detailed, more meaningful to you the more you play with them. AI and procedural generation technology allows us to create and evolve these characters and environments, unique to every player, changing every day. We can use AI to help generate stories unique to every player, to narrate their progress and bring the dNo universe to life, for everyone.
At the same time, we’re not blockchain (nor indeed AI) purists. We’re interested in using these technologies only where they can help us, and our community, to make better games that enrich the hobby. We're building Beneath The Six in a way that allows players to play and fully enjoy the game with or without storing items on a blockchain.
We think decentralisation is potentially an interesting aspect of using blockchain technology. By decentralisation, we mean taking control of aspects of the game, or the dice, figures, tiles and worlds, out of our hands. A simple example of this might be allowing players to swap or sell their dice or characters with each other, on our in-game marketplace (when we make one) or other people's, or even just directly to one another. We think players who have spent time or money building up their characters or worlds should be able to do whatever they like with them. If they get bored with them, why shouldn't they be able to sell them like anything else they might own?
Take control away from us
Similarly, we'd love for other developers - whether one-person hobbyists or big AAA studios - to make games that are compatible with our collectibles. As game developers, we're well aware of the dangers of building on top of someone else's intellectual property or technology - lots of people have made great mods for famous games only to find the game's publisher sends in a team of lawyers to stop them releasing their work. In the world of D&D, Hasbro recently tried to change the licensing terms under which third parties could make D&D-related products - much to the annoyance of the players and creators in that community. We even encountered this ourselves recently when Unity, the company which makes the game engine we're using to build Beneath The Six, suddenly announced a complete change of business model and fees to use their engine - upsetting thousands of game developers around the world and, ultimately, having to backtrack on their decision.
We think it's better if there isn't some all-powerful company in charge of these things. Even if it's us.
Couldn't you do all this with databases? Why do you need blockchains?
This is a very valid argument. We absolutely could make digital collectibles, games, SDKs and all this great stuff without using a blockchain. The Steam Community Market, for example, sells all kinds of in-game skins, trading cards and more, for thousands of different games, all without using blockchain technology. What that doesn't give us, though, is the decentralisation. Without decentralisation, if we decided (or were forced to) close down our games, our servers, or our company, they'd be gone for good. Any time or money people had spent building up collections, games or worlds could be lost.
What we hope is that, eventually, we're just a small part of the dNo ecosystem, and that we've been joined by lots of other creators making their own dice, figures, tiles, worlds, games, stories, building friendships, clans, running tournaments... doing all kinds of things we haven't even though of yet. We think that decentralisation potentially helps that to happen. That's why we're still interested in using a blockchain (and potentially other, permanent file storage systems). We want these things to continue to exist long after we do.
What if nobody wants it?
We're not wedded to any particular technology platform or technique. If it turns out the best place for our games and collectibles is the Steam Community Market or anywhere else, that's where we should be. At the moment, though, we see enough long term benefits in looking at using a blockchain for us to make it worthwhile. In practice, we don't think it should be noticeable to players anyway - it's just a technology which allows us to store certain data in a certain, secure, decentralised way. We don't see what we're building as 'blockchain games', and more than we see them as 'linked list games' (a linked list being a way to store data, which is basically all a blockchain is).
Will this make me rich?
It's important to separate the hype that has existed around 'blockchain' from the technology itself. We think the tech is interesting. We think the idea of creating a picture of a monkey which sells for a million dollars is not. We're not trying to make 'digital assets' which will go up in value. We think the idea of decentralisation (which a blockchain can potentially facilitate) opens up all kinds of future possibilities for creators in our ecosystem who add value. For example, if someone builds some amazing dice, or characters, or worlds, or games, or is an amazing dungeon master, we think it makes sense that some of those people might choose to sell something they've made, or a service they provide, and make some money out of it. We think they should be able to do that outside of our control, in a decentralised environment. We're much less interested in the idea that someone buys something for ten dollars and sells it for a million.
We're interested in selling our dice at reasonable prices (we don't know how much, yet, but the kind of price you might buy any other in-game purchase for in other games). We want people to buy them to play with and enjoy, not as some kind of pretend investment. So, please don't buy any of our collectibles thinking they're going to go up in value. It's really not the point, and we'd much rather not have that kind of speculation happening in the dNo ecosystem.
Our roadmap will change depending on what we learn at each stage - what we and our community do and don't like will help to guide us. With that in mind, please consider the roadmap below as a rough guide to our current thinking:
October 2023 - Beneath The Six: Combat Test
Q1 2024 - Beneath The Six: Basic Exploration and Multiplayer Tests
Q2 2024 - Beneath The Six: Exploration and Multiplayer Tests v2
Q2 2024 - First sales of digital collectibles - a variety of dice sets
Beyond this we will be releasing our SDK so anyone can create within the dNo ecosystem, continuing to build on Beneath The Six (we have a multi-year plan of releases for the game in mind), building more games, tools and apps for people to enjoy. We're not sure exactly what will happen and when, but we'll keep our roadmap updated as we learn what people like, want and want to help us with in future.