Volition is a blockchain-powered collectible card game that you print at home

volition card game blockchain technology ccg feat

Imagine a world where card gaming didn’t involve shipping millions of cards all over the world, where cards could be downloaded and printed at home, and ownership was maintained by a ledger accessible and readable by every player.

That’s what Volition is designed to be. Its developers want to create a new paradigm that allows everything from digital card distribution, to permanent card upgrades, and even sanctioned custom fan artwork — all facilitated by the blockchain.

Building on the best

Hearthstone and Magic the Gathering are card gaming’s most influential franchises, so it’s no surprise Volition is looking to them for inspiration. “[Volition] lands itself between Hearthstone and Magic in terms of complexity, difficulty and learning curve,” Ken Pilcher, lead game designer of Volition, told Digital Trends. “It’s going to be resource based, so you’re going to play around with resources that will unlock higher level cards that you can use – characters and creatures that you attack your opponent with directly.”

Both Pilcher and Patrick Meehan, fellow co-founder of developer Crytogogue, previously worked on award-winning collectible card game The Spoils. They’re looking to leverage that experience in a new way with Volition.

“You can print it on demand, print it from your home, or send over the files to a professional.”

“There’s no turn order, you just have the start of your turn, take it, and then end it,” Pilcher continued. “Also, it’s action based. You’ll have three actions [so] it’s going to be limited in that regard. That’s kind of the resource system. It’s actions, rather than Magic or Hearthstone’s mana.”

They hope to make a game that’s accessible to as wide an audience as possible – as Hearthstone was designed to be. Yet they want greater complexity and nuance, so there’s more depth for experienced players to enjoy.

Blockchain bound

Volition is built on a custom blockchain that will give the game unique features the developers hope will revolutionize collectible card games. There truly hasn’t been anything like it before.

The blockchain is not an easy topic to wrap your head around, even with more comprehensive guides — but in a nutshell, it’s a decentralized digital ledger that tracks everything about a digital token. While the Bitcoin blockchain tracks monetary transactions, the Volition blockchain would track cards. It would keep a record of who owns which cards, and what changes are made to them. That means the physical cards are not what’s important. Volition is instead based on digital cards, which are then printed for real-world play.

“You mine or purchase booster packs from others who have mined them, pick your cards, build your deck, and print them out from a PDF that will be generated,” Pilcher explained. “You can print it on demand, print it from your home, or send over the files to a more professional printers to get higher quality versions of the cards.”

Where traditional card games have decks built from physical cards purchased from retailers, Volition is as decentralized as the blockchain it’s based upon. The cards will come from booster packs generated by miners. As with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Volition will require miners to validate transactions that take place. Every time people trade cards, buy new cards, or change cards (more on that later), those changes require validation, and the miners will be responsible for that. The reward? New booster packs.

Each card will have a glyph or QR code on it, so you can tell the ownership of the card and look into its history.

Those boosters can then be opened by the miner or traded to someone else. Whichever option they go with, the results will once again be recorded on the blockchain. As with real collectible cards, there will be a limited number of them from each “print” run — especially the rarer cards.

“Each card will have a glyph or QR code on it, so you can tell the ownership of the card and look into its history,” explained Pilcher, highlighting how Volition would handle people playing with cards that they don’t “own.” However, Cryptogouge isn’t too worried about unsanctioned play. That’s theoretically possible with any CCG, and any sanctioned tournament play would require deck-checks against the blockchain.

volition card game blockchain technology how to

“Once you start thinking about the assets as being digital, then the cardboard just kind of becomes an embodiment,” Meehan told Digital Trends. “I want people to rethink their relationship with card stock. Why have a warehouse of cards and ship it across the world if the assets can be painlessly and permanently stored in the ledger? Card stock is dead, long live card stock.

Chain specifics

Cryptogogue isn’t the first company to try and build a game on blockchain technology, and with its very hands-off approach, it will need to craft a system that’s fair, secure, and can sidestep the issues that blockchain projects have encountered.

“We’re going for a custom protocol for a lot of reasons,” Meehan said when asked about the blockchain Cryptogogue is leveraging. “It took us a long time to get to that decision, and we had to do a lot of research.”

Cryptogogue wants the mining aspect of Volition to be something gamers themselves can be involved in throughout the life of the game.

Cryptogogue’s whitepaper outlines the basic underpinning of the game’s blockchain, and the developers say even more details will be added in the future. It has a functioning blockchain already in operation with miners who’ve signed up to beta-test. The developers are keen to avoid scale problems, because they long transaction times could frustrate players and send the entire project into a tail-spin.

“It’s a little early for me to get too detailed, but I will say that I think for a blockchain to be scalable, the notion of sharding has to be built in from the ground up,” Meehan said. Sharding involves splitting up a blockchain into more manageable chunks, so miners only process a certain part of it. In theory, that reduces the security of a blockchain because a single miner with incredibly powerful hardware might be able to take over too much of the validation process. That’s something the Cryptogogue team is working to avoid.

“One guy with an ASIC could just own your chain in a naive proof of work algorithm [and] we’re taking a lot of precautions to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Meehan said. “We’re going to be careful that the mining is accessible. It won’t be super advanced for getting it going, but you’ll need some kind of beginner or intermediate IT skills. We’re going to take care not to do things where you need to sink money into custom hardware. [We want it] to be accessible through work rather than a load of money.”

Pilcher echoed these sentiments, saying that he wanted the mining aspect of Volition to be something gamers themselves can be involved in throughout the life of the game. In comparison, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum, to a lesser extent, have seen professionals with thousands or even millions of dollars of invesment dominate the mining scene. Cryptogogue wants to keep its miners more grounded than that, even if the practice should be slightly profitable to encourage node creation.

Fanart and permanent upgrades

Alongside card trades and booster pack purchases, miners will be charged with validating card upgrades and augmentations. Since the cards in Volition are digital entities, they can be altered permanently in ways that physical cards cannot. Certain cards can be combined, augmenting or upgrading the original character or item to something new and more powerful, with all changes recorded on the blockchain.

While that offers an exciting potential for the types of cards we’ll see in different players’ decks, the most intriguing effect of the upgrade system is how it might alter the rarity of cards.

volition card game blockchain technology poster crop 2

“If you take a card and attach another card to it, the original attaching card is effectively destroyed from the ledger,” Pilcher explained to Digital Trends. “That will create rarity and scarcity just from people combining cards. That will be another interesting tool from a design standpoint.”

It’s not just the stats and abilities of cards that can change through upgrades and augmentation.  Cryptogogue will also allow visual customization of cards, letting artists and fans craft their own card art. While that’s something anyone could do with any CCG by printing custom cards at home, Volition uses the blockchain to validate the changes, making them official.

“Well, we’ll see what happens when you walk into a game shop with cards covered in inappropriate art.”

That’s still a work in progress. “There’s a continuum of possibilities there and a lot of that will be informed by how the community grows,” Meehan said. “There’s everything from kind of the ‘wild west,’ put whatever you want on a card, to something more gated with a little process for leveraging the crowd to identify ideas that might be perfect. There are plenty of things we can do to ultimately give them value.”

If Cryptogogue were to opt for the ‘wild west’ scenario, we asked the developers how they planned to implement effective guidelines for what is and isn’t appropriate. What would stop someone from defacing cards with genitalia?

“Well, we’ll see what happens when you walk into a gameshop with cards covered in inappropriate art,” Meehan laughed. “You’re going to learn a lesson in consequences.”

Pilcher also suggested because cards have real value, it’d be unlikely for people to want to deface them entirely, as a card with terrible or offensive art – even a unique one – would be likely to lose value because of it. The reverse of that might be celebrity or professional players who sign cards, or perform some other form of customization, before selling them on, increasing the value of a card through their ownership of it.

As for parental controls, Cryptogogue is investigating the idea of “constrained wallets” so parents can look at the logs of their children’s’ play and actions, as well as leverage built-in filtering.

In-game currency

Volition will be paired with its own cryptocurrency, VOL. When the game launches, VOL will be a secondary payment method for more established cryptocurrencies, used only when trading for new boosters and cards. The developers hope that in the future, VOL will be the preferred method of monetary compensation within the game world.

VOL, will be a secondary payment method for other, more traditional cryptocurrencies, used only when trading for new boosters and cards.

“We think [VOL] will eventually be the preferred currency because it will be faster and more secure,” Meehan explained. “We’re not going to gate it on costs, or transaction fees of other protocols, but we’re also trying integrations. To on-board people we think they’re going to want to use currencies they’re already familiar with, so we’re taking the hybrid approach with the anticipation that people will want to eventually transact in VOL.”

With any cryptocurrency, the question arises — how do you get it into the hands of the players? In the case of VOL, Cryptogogue is keen to avoid an initial coin offering (ICO), which is often seen as a quick cash grab.

“We’re still weighing the options and we’re going to see what the community wants to do,” Meehan said. “We’re shying away from doing an ICO, so there may be other ways to distribute the currency. It may also be part of a mining reward. It may be something we’ll leave up to the miners. We’ll see.”

Coming soon to a printer near you

The Volition team still has time to figure that, and other aspects of the game, out. It’s not planned for a general release until later this year, though early testers will begin playing the game this summer. A mining technology beta is slated to begin in late summer, and that’s where Volition’s blockchain will be put through its paces.

The developers hope they can do more than just create a new game and a new cryptocurrency. They hope to ride the wave of board game resurgence and pioneer not only a new way to play, but a new way to publish games.

“We think this is really a new genre of game, and we’re approaching this with a very creative and experimental mindset, and hope to prove the model,” Meehan said. “We would love to see a whole new era of games and a whole new way of publishing games come out of this. It’s cards today, but with 3D printers and models, we’ll see. It’s a really exciting experiment –and  we think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”


With our Steam guide, you can give the gift of gaming this holiday season

The holidays may have passed, but it's always a good time to give the gift of gaming (especially when there's a Steam sale)! Here's our quick guide on how to give a Steam game as a gift.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Home Theater

Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime: Battle of the streaming giants

Trying to figure out which subscription streaming service to use while sticking to a frugal entertainment budget? Check out our updated comparison of the big three: Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu.
Digital Trends Live

Marshawn Lynch joins Digital Trends Live to talk charity, football

On a special episode of Digital Trends Live, Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch joined host Greg Nibler to talk about his charitable foundation, Phones for the Homeless, and the Fan Controlled Football League.

Lost your router? Here's how to find its IP address to help track it down

Changing the login information for your router isn't always easy, that's why so many have that little card on the back. But in order to use it, you need to know where to go. Here's how to find the IP address of your router.

Acer Swift 7 vs. Apple MacBook Air

The Acer Swift 7 accomplishes its goal of being the world's thinnest notebook, and it's well-built to boot. But is that enough to take on the Apple MacBook Air in terms of being the better to actually use?
Product Review

It's not just light. Alienware's m15 is an entirely new breed of gaming laptop

Thin and light gaming is a new category of laptop, led by options like the Razer Blade. Alienware now has its own entry -- The Alienware m15. It’s not the thinnest, lightest, or sleekest option in the bunch, but it doesn’t hold back in…

Asus ZenBook 14 UX433 vs. Dell XPS 13

The Asus ZenBook 14 UX433 has some incredibly tiny display bezels, in an effort to jam a 14-inch notebook into a 13-inch chassis. That pits it against the Dell XPS 13, the icon of small clamshells.

Intel’s 28-core monster Xeon CPU might cost upwards of $4,000

Intel's new-generation 28-core Xeon CPU will debut with a hefty price tag. Although not quite as expensive as some of its predecessors, early pre-order pricing has it costing between $4,000 and $5,000.

Lenovo’s first ThinkPads with Intel Whiskey Lake processors to arrive this month

Lenovo has opted not to wait for CES 2019 next month to introduce the first ThinkPads with Intel's Whiskey Lake Core I5-8265U and Core i7-8565U processors. They will arrive onboard the new ThinkPad L390 and L390 Yoga.

LG’s new monitor gives you screen space galore without hurting your wallet

LG's new 32-inch display could be your next great upgrade. For $350, it offers the complete package of high resolution, high refresh rate, and 32 inches of screen space. What more do you need?

PewDiePie supporters hack printers, hope to boost his subscription numbers

In an attempt to garner more subscribers for their favorite vlogger and secure his status as having the most YouTube subscribers, PewDiePie supporters claimed to have hacked thousands of printers worldwide.

Chrome fights manipulative sites that don’t allow you to hit the back button

Have you encountered a webpage that won't let you hit the back button? Someun scrupulous websites employ what's known as history manipulation, preventing you from hitting the back button, but now Google Chrome will be fighting back.

Forget painting-style transfers, this A.I. creates realistic portraits of fake people

Do these images look computer-generated? Nvidia researchers recently published a paper on a new variation on style transfer artificial intelligence that's able to generate entirely new portraits.