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What Is Parallel Colony? A 101 🦾

Parallel Colony is bringing AI gaming onchain!
William M. Peaster William M. Peaster Nov 16, 20234 min read
What Is Parallel Colony? A 101 🦾

Dear Bankless Nation.

Back in August, I walked you through the basics of playing the Parallel card game. Even this early on, the game’s an S-tier contender in crypto’s gaming scene in my opinion!

One hit’s impressive enough, so that’s why I think it’s awesome that the Parallel team has another really compelling game in the works called Parallel Colony.

Colony’s just an experiment for now, but it’s already pushing the boundaries of what’s possible when you bring AI onchain. For today’s post, let’s get you up to speed on the basics here and how to get ready for the game!


Intro to Parallel Colony 🤖

In April 2023, researchers from Stanford and Google published what’s come to be called the “Smallville paper,” where they detailed how they simulated humanlike behavior by filling a sandboxed digital realm with 25 AI agents.

Inspired by this paper, the Parallel team began experimenting with a simulation in which AI-powered Parallel Avatars, which are NFTs, used the Parallel ecosystem’s native token, $PRIME, to accumulate in-game resources and evolve as unique agents in a “colony” environment.

Thus Parallel Colony was born.
Originally designed in 2D and currently being mapped to a 3D environment via Unreal Engine 5, Colony’s creators define the project as “1.5 player” game. In other words, the AI-based NFT characters are the main actors and humans only guide them, whether that be passively or very actively or somewhere in between.

So how do these NFT characters accumulate and manage game assets on their own over time? This central mechanic comes courtesy of the ERC-6551 standard, i.e. Token Bound Accounts, which allow NFTs to function as wallets themselves. In Colony, this capability allows Avatars to autonomously transact around in-game resources.

On the AI side of things, the Avatars’ intelligences are generated by a custom Large Language Model (LLM) the Parallel team has fine-tuned in order for the agents to be able to better remember experiences and make decisions based on their gameplay memories.
In this way, the agents will be far from mere non-playable characters (NPC), as they’ll actually have unique and dynamic biographies that are shaped by both AI and human interactions in the game over time.

Indeed, these AI-powered Avatars won’t just be responding to the always-on game environment but will help actively shape it through queue-based actions.

For example, one standout feature previewed so far is Avatars’ ability to generate entirely new items in the game, imagery and all, and then mint and store them (technically within themselves) as NFTs. To maintain balance and progression here over the course of play, a “Dungeon Master” AI is used to approve generated items and govern the underlying simulation.
For now, as far as the blockchain architecture goes, the Parallel team has been iterating on Colony on the Base Layer 2 (L2) testnet, though they’ve previously said they plan to migrate the game to a dedicated L3 in the future — e.g. the Base L2 settles directly to the Ethereum “L1,” so an “L3” is a scaling solution that settles directly to an L2 for even greater transactional efficiency.

Looking ahead, Colony’s still in active development so there’s nothing for the public to get their hands around for now. The Parallel team is aiming to have a playable build ready for MacOS in Q1 2024, and there are also plans for mobile support. In the meantime, you can sign up on the Parallel website to get in line for early access and upcoming updates.
When I zoom out and think about the potential of Colony going forward, I think Fiskantes, partner at Zee Prime Capital, said it best a few months ago:

I feel this can become something really novel and ground breaking, AI driven simulation set in a captivating world with countless generative adventures and stories playing out every day, under the watch of players who can pick their own level of engagement from hands off benevolent god to micromanaging OCD tyrant [...] The sky is the limit with such an open and fluid concept.”

If you’re like us and find this all compelling too, you can bide your time for Colony to arrive by diving deeper into the Parallel ecosystem in general. For example, consider:
Ultimately, I know it’s early on, but I do think Colony represents a bold new vision for what games can be, and I’m excited that we here in the NFT ecosystem have front-row seats to this rising, pioneering effort. Beyond just play, though, Colony’s experimentation is also creating a general template for the sorts of AI x crypto fusions we’re increasingly going to be seeing in metaversal spaces in the years ahead, so get ready, as the future’s nearing!

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William M. Peaster

Written by William M. Peaster

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William M. Peaster, Senior Writer, has been with Bankless since January 2021. Immersed in Ethereum since 2017, he writes the Metaversal newsletter on the onchain frontier, covering everything from AI projects to crypto games, as the team’s lead NFT analyst. With a background in creative writing, he writes fiction and publishes art on Ethereum in his free time. He lives in Washington.

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