Introducing World Engine by Argus

Introducing World Engine (WE), a blockchain designed from the bottom up for onchain games.

Introducing World Engine by Argus

From Magnavox Odyssey to Ultima Online.
The video game industry has been built on the shoulders of rebels, those crazy enough to build the impossible.

Argus is a game developer and publisher built around a collective of hackers and designers in pursuit of the next great paradigm shift in the video game industry.

Our mission: Trailblaze the Internet of Games.

We’re proud to announce the first of our efforts to germinate the seed of future game worlds — the World Engine (WE), a blockchain designed from the bottom up for onchain games. World Engine provides the foundation for game developers to build and customize their own open and interoperable game worlds. Through World Engine’s novel layer 2 sharding architecture, each game can now have its own horizontally scalable blockchain owned by the community and grows with it.

The Status Quo: Online Games Are Disconnected

While online games were born from the internet, they are siloed, cut off from the vast potential of a connected universe.

Despite game designers, developers, and players striving to create more emergent behavior, user-generated content, and platform in games, the underlying infrastructure on which we run our games has done very little to make that a reality.

Game developers find themselves restrained by the shackles of dominant platforms. Players yearn for greater creative freedom yet are constrained by limited access to core game logic and data. The inability for games to communicate seamlessly with each other hampers game design innovation and stifles the evolution of expansive cross-game economies.

Creating Exceptional Content, Fueled by Technological Breakthroughs

The pursuit of fun is inseparable from the exploration of novel technological primitives. Imagine if John Carmack said "screw it, let's just keep making 2D games" instead of building Doom and the real-time 3D technology that powers it; video games would be in a very different place.

Every so often, a technological catalyst upends the video game industry, providing a path for innovative and agile startups to challenge the incumbents

The CoinOp/Arcade era (~1970s) brought us Nintendo, Atari, and Sega.
The Internet era (~late 1990s) cemented the path for NCSoft and Valve.
The social games era (~late 2000s) paved the way for Zynga.
And the mobile games era (~2010s) led to the prominence of Scopely and Supercell.

These technological catalysts spark the creation of generational video game developers and publishers. However, the battle is not won by merely copying the predecessors’ playbook with slight tweaks. Rather, innovators discovered new forms of fun that made their medium special and leaned heavily into them.

The winning games in the internet age are not "Pacman but on the internet".
The winning games in the crypto age will not be “Hearthstone but with NFTs”.

We at Argus envision the blockchain as the next technological catalyst that advances the plot of the gaming industry. A new medium that allows game worlds to outlive their creators, unleash players’ creative freedom, provide a canvas for novel gameplay, and orchestrate cross-game economies.

Argus is an unapologetically crypto company,
Yet also an unapologetically gaming company.

The end game will be found in the synthesis of the two, not by shying away from either one.

The Game Infrastructure Maze

Argus traces its roots back to 2020 when my friends (Gubsheep, Alan Luo, and others) and I co-created Dark Forest, the first fully onchain MMORTS game on Ethereum.

We set out to answer a simple, yet crazy question: "What happens when you create a game where all actions are onchain?"

The launch of Dark Forest brought the future of crypto games into focus: a world where great games could coexist with player-driven content, tools, and platforms that interact and compose directly on top of the core game state and ruleset.

Through smart contracts, players could independently establish systems such as player-run item marketplaces, information exchange hubs, guild systems, mercenary systems, etc. The ability for players to enrich the game world with these elements without developer interference proved exhilarating to many players.

However, we also learned that building a fully onchain game like Dark Forest proved to be a daunting task for many game developers.

Current blockchains are not designed to run games

Building a game on the blockchain feels like building a game on Microsoft Excel. While it might be turing complete, there are a lot of constraints that it imposed on how the program is written.

For example, blockchain smart contracts can’t self-execute at every fixed time interval to implement a “game loop” system that is essential in game servers. This creates additional headaches for game developers and limits their creativity.

As a result, many game developers settle for only having in-game items onchain as NFTs, while fully onchain game developers operate on a limited design space that restricts them to simple strategy-based or turn-based games with low tick-rate requirements.

Current blockchain gaming infrastructures are duct-taped band-aids

In recent years, many companies sought to become the “pick-and-shovel” for the crypto gaming space; however, current approaches are limited in capabilities and often avoid solving the root cause of the problem altogether.

For example, many L1/L2 blockchains advertise themselves as “blockchain for games”, but when observed closely, they are nothing more than “blockchain for JPEGs”.

When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail; as a result, many crypto games solely rely on NFTs that are peddled as a replacement for in-game assets while providing limited benefit to end users. At the same time, this mindset created a self-imposed limitation that hampers experimentations in onchain gaming primitives that would unlock a treasure trove of emergent game logic and gameplay experiences.

On the other hand, game developers in the onchain game community had to resort to “band-aid” solutions to bridge the infrastructure gap. While these solutions have made the development process a little more manageable, the inherent limitation of current blockchain architecture and VMs forces game developers to make significant compromises while failing to provide a clear path to running commercially-scalable games.

Meet the World Engine

"The beginning of a new world - I call it the seed.
Once it sprouts, you'll know what it is.
What you do with it is up to you.” - Kayaba Akihiko

The launch of Dark Forest exposed a glaring issue: current blockchain infrastructure is ill-equipped to support onchain games. Designed as a one-size-fits-all solution, the limitations of existing blockchain architecture became increasingly apparent as we pushed its computational boundaries and limits to its flexibility.

To fix this, we asked ourselves: what would it look like if we were to design a blockchain from the bottom up for gaming and gaming only while preserving the benefits of interoperability and composability?

This is how the World Engine was born.

The World Engine is a sharded layer 2 blockchain SDK designed with the needs of game developers and players in mind. As a layer 2 blockchain, World Engine inherits all the security and decentralization of the underlying layer 1, allowing game developers to focus on what they do best: creating unforgettable gaming experiences.

Horizontally Scalable to Grow With Your Game: Rollup Execution Sharding

The World Engine’s main innovation lies in its sharding design inspired by the server architecture of computationally intensive massively multiplayer online (MMO) games.

Sharding enables game developers to distribute their game load across various shards. Consequently, a World Engine chain can adjust its throughput in response to demand, growing in tandem with the developer or publisher. At the same time, World Engine’s sharding architecture also avoids the interoperability/platform fragmentation issues associated with scaling by spinning up another separate rollup.

Expressive and High-Performance Game Backend: Game Shards

World Engine’s sharding approach also allows game execution (game shard) to be decoupled from smart contract execution (EVM shard). As a result, this opens up a large design space for building an optimized state machine that is purpose-built for handling game-related computations.

The use of game shards allows us to avoid the performance bottleneck that running games directly on existing blockchain VMs has, such as:

  • Low block time tick rate
  • The complexity of writing and debugging game logic in Solidity
  • Reliance on an external indexer that introduces extra latency

Through game shards, we can finally provide the performance you would expect from a high-throughput game server while maintaining the interoperability superpowers of a blockchain.

We are excited to introduce our first game shard implementation – Cardinal.

Cardinal is a high-performance game shard capable of handling the workload of a performance-intensive game. Cardinal’s Entity-Component-System (ECS) architecture provides a familiar development experience for game developers without prior crypto game exposure.

Cardinal game logic is written in Go – avoiding the need for developers to learn a new programming language such as Solidity or Vyper. Last but not least, Cardinal can integrate seamlessly with existing game engines such as Unity and Unreal through client libraries; no more wrangling with complex blockchain integration!

Seamless Interoperability Layer: Customizable and Gamifiable EVM Shard

The World Engine EVM base shard provides a central place for players and developers to build user-generated content and platforms that can interoperate seamlessly with the Game Shards through our Shard Router system. Aside from its sharding superpower, World Engine’s EVM shards function similarly to an EVM rollup, allowing you to use all the developer tooling, wallets, and libraries as Ethereum.

However, the fun doesn’t end there. Thanks to Polaris, a high-performance modular EVM framework developed by Berachain, World Engine’s EVM shards can be expressively customized through its stateful precompile and plugin system, from something as utilitarian as subsidizing gas for users to something as crazy as gamifying smart contract deployment.

The limit is only your imagination.

Building on The World Engine

Today, we are excited to announce that we are accepting a select few teams to the World Engine private beta to give it a spin.

World Engine Private Beta Application:

As a part of the private beta, you will have the opportunity to get a first look at World Engine before everyone else while getting a direct support channel with the World Engine core team to help address any of your questions, both technical and non-technical (game design, GTM, etc.).

The private beta will allow us to incorporate your feedback ahead of the official launch in the next few months.

Trailblazing the Internet of Games

We envision the World Engine as the shared backbone for the Internet of Games. As the world increasingly embraces open and interoperable games, the World Engine will not only allow games to communicate with each other but also allow game developers to build an ecosystem of tools, platforms, and primitives on top of it.

As the steward of World Engine, we believe that the following guiding principles are essential in realizing this future:

  • World Engine is designed by gamers, for gamers – We don’t distract ourselves from trying to solve a problem that doesn’t push the needle for gamers and game developers.
  • World Engine is open source – We are not a pick-and-shovel company. The Internet was not built as a B2B enterprise SaaS product; neither will the Internet of Games.

It’s time for a new era in video games.
An era where the creatives, hackers, and savants will lead the industry once again.

Together, we'll redefine what it means to play games.
Together, we'll germinate the seed for future game worlds.


Talks About World Engine

DBA Research Day 2023 – How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love Execution Sharding (Scott Sunarto)


Thank you to Breck Stodghill (Haun Ventures), Rachael Horwitz (Haun Ventures), Calvin Liu (Eigenlayer), Jacob Arluck (Celestia), and Ekram (Celestia) for reviewing drafts and providing feedback to this blog post.