Thoughts on the Latest SPS Governance Proposal
I wanted to take a minute to share some thoughts on the most recent SPS governance proposal around limiting rewards based on card level used in battles. You can find the proposal post here for reference: https://email@example.com/sps-governance-proposal-adjust-rewards-based-on-card-level
Evaluating the Problem
First and foremost, it's important to always start by clearly identifying and defining the problem that we are aiming to address with any change to the system. The problem in this case which we have identified, along with many members of the community, is that there is not enough incentive to combine or otherwise obtain cards above level 1 in the game.
Once the problem is identified, we then have to look at whether it is accurate (i.e. is there actually not enough incentive to combine/obtain cards above level 1?), and whether it is really a problem (i.e. is that actually a bad thing for the ecosystem and community?).
Regarding the accuracy of the issue, I feel that it is quite obvious from a quick glance at the system. The most glaring indicator is the rental market, where over 85% of all cards actively being rented are level 1 and over 95% of all cards listed for rent are level 1. This is fine on the regular market, where it gives more flexibility to buyers to purchase multiple level 1 cards and combine to the level they need, but the rental market shows what types of cards players are actually using in battle.
We are still working on pulling the battle data, but anyone who has played at all in Silver league knows that you'll be hard pressed to find a card being played above level 1 except for the accounts going for the leaderboard. And why would there be? Why would someone combine 14 common cards into 1, or pay a little more for a level 3 rental, when they can do just fine with the level 1 versions and spread the 14 common cards they have over 14 different accounts?
To me, as well as many in the community, it is clear that there is little incentive currently (perhaps even disincentive) to combine cards at the lower levels, which then brings us to the second part of the question - is that a bad thing for the ecosystem?
This should be a much simpler question to answer with a resounding "yes". This entire ecosystem and economy functions on scarcity. The combine function is the key element to the scarcity of the cards. For some context - if all 15M Chaos Legion packs are opened, there would be approximately 1.85 million of each level 1 common card available in the game. This is an unbelievably high amount and would make the cards nearly worthless. However - if all of those were combined only to level 3, it would reduce the total number of each CL common card to about 130k - which is less than the current number of daily active accounts.
Think about that for a second - if all of the CL common cards were combined to level 3, there wouldn't be enough of them even just for the accounts that are playing the game right now. Not even counting any future growth. Obviously if cards are combined to higher levels, it would be even less, and the same concept applies to the higher rarity cards as well.
Combining cards is essential to create scarcity, and scarcity is essential to a healthy and growing economy, so therefore a lack of incentive or worse - disincentive - to combine cards is a major problem that everyone who is part of this ecosystem should be concerned with.
Assessing the Proposed Solution
Now that we have identified and evaluated the problem, we can start assessing the proposed solution - as well as any other potential solution.
Ultimately, Splinterlands requires two things in order to move up through the ranks and increase rewards: Assets and Skill. Many people have commented that the proposed change is lessening the skill factor of the game, but it is not doing that at all. More skilled players can still move up in the ranks and have a higher win rate than less skilled players, and with fewer assets, and therefore they can earn more rewards just as before.
This part of the system is actually working quite well, in my opinion, since the recent ranked rewards changes, and nothing about that will be changing with this proposal. Players who are more skilled will still be able to earn more rewards with fewer or equal assets than less skilled players, as it should be.
What is proposed to change is the assets side of the equation. For that, all we have really had in the game is the collection power system, which is woefully inadequate for many reasons. For one thing, the collection power system completely blocks players from moving up in leagues if they don't have the required assets, so no matter how skilled the player is, they simply cannot move up to higher leagues with higher rewards until they acquire the necessary assets.
On top of that, the collection power system can be and often is easily manipulated by simply having a small number of relatively cheap, high CP cards in an account while all of the cards actually used in battles are low level. We have explored a number of potential changes and fixes to the CP system to address the issues discussed above, but none of them are that great and ultimately we feel that it would be much better to replace CP completely with a better system. This proposed change to how card levels used in battles affect rewards would be a big first step in the direction of removing CP requirements for ranked leagues altogether.
The proposed change addresses both of these items in a much better and cleaner way than collection power ever could. It does not prevent players from moving up to higher leagues and earning higher tier rewards in any way - players can still play at any level with any cards. The difference is that rather than just taking into account cards in the players' collections, it uses the actual cards used in battles which will go a long way towards encouraging players to combine their cards and/or to rent higher level cards, which, as we discussed above, is absolutely vital to this ecosystem.
Team Creation UI Updates
One other thing I wanted to address quickly is the situation where sometimes it is better to play a card at lower levels than at higher levels in certain rulesets. That is something we plan to address with some UI updates to the team creation screen as soon as we can reasonably put dev resources on it. Ideally, players would have the option to choose to play a higher level card at a lower level, so the card would count as the level it actually is for rewards, but in the battle it can have the lower level stats.
Long Term Thinking
A lot of the feedback that I have heard about the proposal is something along the lines of - "I am a skilled player who can do well in higher leagues with lower level cards and so I will get fewer rewards as a result of this change / I am being penalized and therefore I am against it".
Splinterlands - like many things in life - is a long term game. If you want to be successful at it, and if you want it to be successful overall, you need to also think long term. In the short term you may earn fewer rewards compared to the previous system, but that is well worth it to create a better system which is likely to increase the value of those rewards significantly over time.
The current system has many flaws, which we are working with the community on identifying and fixing, so when evaluating this proposal or any others, it's important that we don't compare it to how things were previously - i.e. will I be getting more or less than before - but instead we should think about how it will increase the scarcity and utility of the assets over the longer term, which will ultimately benefit everyone who participates.
If you are a skilled player and can win in higher leagues with lower level cards, then you will still be earning more rewards than a less skilled player with the same or even better cards, which is as it should be. But skill by itself should not allow you to fully maximize rewards. Increasing the level of your cards should always allow you to increase your rewards, and it should be more obvious, direct, and not easily manipulable like collection power.
I strongly feel - in addition to many people on the team - that this change will be a huge net positive to the Splinterlands ecosystem over the long term by strongly encouraging the combining and renting of cards at higher levels. I also think it will bring us closer to being able to remove the collection power requirements which would be another big win as they cause all sorts of issues (both technically and economically) themselves.
It is important to also keep in mind that this change will not fix everything, and we still have a lot of work to do to build a fun, engaging, and sustainable blockchain-based game and economy which will allow players to build up significant account value over time. That also includes a lot of work on the new player experience, which we in no way have forgotten about, but it is prioritized behind getting the core reward system figured out.
In any case, the goal of this post is not to try to get anyone to vote a certain way on this proposal, but rather to provide more context into the thought process behind this proposal and the issues it was meant to address as well as to provide players with a framework by which to evaluate future proposals going forward. Hope it was helpful!