Splinterlands - the bot problem in higher leagues.
In Splinterlands Discord there are currently lots of discussions about the use of bots which are lead partly rather emotional. Therefore I will try to summarize my thoughts in a post instead, where I try to convey my arguments in a sober way.
I won't focus on the 'bot-farms' in lower leagues because I personally don't have to deal with them and also didn't collect any data concerning that topic.
Instead of that I would like to contribute my thoughts concerning the impact of bots in the highest leagues.
I am not a "complainer". :)
I am well known to be a bot sceptic, and as such I have to face various replies like for example that I would be a "complainer" who only critizes bots because they got a big piece of my former 'reward cake' etc. I think that in my case that's just obivously wrong: since I realized rather early that more and more, richer and richer players would enter the Splinterlands arena I decided to focus on Alpha gold foil tournaments, to occupy a niche within the game economy which couldn't be easily invaded by the rich newcomers due to the scarcity of the necessary cards.
The regular tournament reports of @jacekw show that I am still earning very well and thus my personal Splinterlands income is not yet significantly affected by bots.
I am thankful that Splinterlands (founders, team and many players) made that possible!
I own more than a million SPS and more than 20 million collection power, so that my (main) aim is NOT to accumulate more SPS but the success of the game so that the value of my already owned SPS and assets might increase.
Bots are / will be superior compared to human players, and Splinterlands is no exception.
I am convinced that sooner or later bots will play significantly stronger than every human player. That doesn't mean they will win every single battle (due to the intrinsic elements of chance) but no human player will be able to win a match of lets say 20 battles against such an advanced software anymore.
Rather often I am told that Splinterlands would be an exception due to its "complexity", "uniqueness" etc., and due to ongoing changes, but I am deeply convinced that it is only a matter of time, until the unavoidable will become obvious: that bots are the clear bosses on the battlefield.
I observed the same phenomenon (and the discussions, the hints on the alleged superiority of humans, their intuition and so forth) again and again in many different games.
As a rather good chess player who also supported a chess programmer to reach the top ten of the best available chess programs worldwide these days, I am well aware of the history of chess, where grandmasters at first belittled the artificial competitors, then fought hard to beat them and finally lost.
Programs based on neuronal networks like AlphaZero but even open source based conventional chess software like Stockfish beat the strongest chess players easily.
The same happened to Go, to Poker and many other games.
Splinterlands is only 'lucky' not to be in the focus of really good programmers (yet).
And no, it is NOT too complex for bots (never mind real AI).
If this, my prediction, should be proven wrong I would be very surprised but at the same time more than happy and the problem discussed in this post significantly smaller!
So why do I consider bots to be such a big problem?
Already now a big percentage of the 'top' Champion League players, and even complete guilds rely on bots.
I actually wonder who of the top 25 players of the last "Champion I" ranking is ready to state in the comment section of this post NOT to use a bot? Is there anybody out there? :)
To make it clear, I don't blame anybody. I understand the desire to try to earn as much as possible (in a rather comfortable way) within the frame of what is allowed. Within the botters is quite some folks I consider as friends.
Here I also cannot save my friend @uwelang from mentioning him. He wrote in Discord that people would only complain about bots "because they are too stupid or not skilled enough to beat them". Well, he himself cannot beat them either, and thus is using a bot, too. :)
Even if, as I said, I don't don't accuse people to use bots, I see bot dominance in the game as a huge future problem in general:
In general sports/games are attractive for humans if they see HUMANS compete for the crown.
People admire tennis, soccer or chess players because they proved to be best in a fair competition among a huge number of human concurrents.
I ask you: would people also admire a motorbike that beats all human sprinters, an insuperable wall that beats all tennis players or any 3 meters tall robots who would win the soccer world cup?
What would be the incentive for new players to join a game where it is well known that the first 50 Champion League ranks belong to machines? Be honest ... :)
If players notice that it is financially beneficial and at the same time means much less own work to let a bot play, why should in the end still anybody play themselves? That would mean to earn less but work more.
Every economical thinking individual should decide sooner or later to join the bot fraction (as I said, I completely understand that, I am not writing here to criticize anybody). Of course I will also start using a bot in the long term if nothing changes (even if I think it's bad for the game at least that will refresh some of my programming skills).
If it will continue to happen what I fear, my question is why new players (real players who like gaming themselves) should still join the Splinterlands economy if they realize at a closer look that it's more like an inhabited desert where emotionless bots are killing each other while farming SPS for their owners? (Exaggeration intended.) :)
If effortless farming is the thing (nothing against farming) I wonder if then it wasn't even easier to just stake any other crypto currency like ADA or BNB? Then why gaming?
If the game would become unattractive for human players the question would be how then the economy could still grow and thrive long term?
There is a reason why on chess servers bot users are detected and excluded, there is a reason why bots are excluded from many other games ... because in the end, again and again, it becomes obvious that human players stay away if they are facing machines all the time instead of human opponents.
I personally have to agree that there is neither a feeling of satisfaction nor any fun to beat (or to lose against) a machine.
Among others @gank wrote that bots might contribute to improve one's skills. That's of course true. Also the best chess players are intensively PRACTICING with chess software and databases ... but these are pure tools, NOT at the same time their competitors and concurrents.
Finally, the purpose of this post was only to explain why exactly I see also very strong bots (not only 'bot-farms') as a big problem for Splinterlands.
Even if the majority of players would agree with me I think it would still be very difficult to find any solution.
Alone to detect who is using a bot would be very complicated, especially because one still can enter one's teams manually according to the suggestions of one's software (which then can run even on another computer).
Nevertheless, it would be interesting to receive some answers to the questions asked in this post (for example "Who of the top 25 players is still NOT using a bot?" or "What makes a game, where everybody passively lets play instead to actively play themselves, different from just staking any crypto currency, and why should real human players still join then?").