Possible solutions to the Spliterlands bot problem
Hi, I'm Yuki. Today I'm going to talk about a big topic in Splinterlands, which is bots. Having bots in the game definitely has pros and cons. I'm going to mention that and suggest some solutions to the bot problem in the game.
I know some people are mad at bots but please read calmly lol
Pros and Cons with the bots
We can find matches instantly or without much waiting time
No one wants to wait for 3 minutes and end up not finding an opponent. That's a terrible game experience. This might not be a huge problem in bronze and silver but in higher leagues, this problem gets bigger because fewer and fewer people are available at the time you're playing, for example in diamond or champion league. I personally experienced this in the diamond league, especially the earlier part of the season. Having bots provide a solution to this.
Cheaper cards on the market
Bots can farm the reward cards by working 24/7, so bot farm owners can sell reward cards cheap because they didn't spend so much of their time to farm those cards.
Bot owners still contribute to the economy
Bot accounts still need to have card power to stay in a certain league to gain DEC battle reward. It means they still either purchase cards or rent cards from the market.
Bots take a lot of DEC from the DEC reward pool, reducing normal players' DEC rewards.
If you didn't know, Splinterlands mints a specified amount DEC per day and distributes the DEC pool to individual players. So if bot farms take DEC from playing a lot, that means you earn less DEC
Not fun if you lose a match to bots
People like to play against other people, not with bots. If you lose a match, it is frustrating already but if the opponent was a bot it gets extra frustrating.
Bot farm can make a lot of money selling reward cards
This is an unfair advantage because human players can't spend thousands of hours playing thousands of accounts to farm reward cards.
Possible solutions to this bot problem
1. Use lore quiz as CAPTCHA
Just in case you don't know what captcha is here's the screenshot of it.
You either have to click a checkbox or click certain pictures that contain
something, for example, a taxi.
While this would remove bots, this destroys the game experience steering people's attention away from the game.
My suggestion is to use the lore quiz as a captcha. Nate (the creative director of Splinterlands) has been saying that the lore will be an important part of the game in town halls (AMAs). Why not have a lore quiz that is related to the daily quest in order to claim the daily reward?
For example, today I got an earth quest. Before you claim the reward, the game asks a question like this.
"Pelacor Mercenary is a monster in earth splinter. He is from a continent called Solaki. What is Solaki known as?"
- The continent of Dothraki
- The sun splinter
- The place of peace
- The birthplace of angels
If you're human, you can just go read the lore of Pelacor Mercenary and find the answer. It only takes you a few minutes and you can learn and enjoy the world of splinterlands at a deeper level. However, if you are a bot farm owner, you don't have time to check hundreds of lore stories. You can only get 1 retry and if you get it wrong twice, you can't claim that day's reward chests. Yes, you might be able to outsource it but that reduces the profitability of the bot farm.
This lore quiz can't be the same for everyone. For example, I noticed if one account gets an earth quest, a lot of other accounts get an earth quest as well for that day. So if a lot of accounts with the earth quest get the same lore quiz for that quest, it's easy to manipulate programmatically and get the answer. So we should have hundreds of lore quizzes for one quest and randomize it. Also, the game should keep adding a new lore quiz every week.
2. Introduce a merchant guild license as CAPTCHA
The idea is that in order to buy/sell/transfer splinterlands cards, you have to join the merchant guild. In order to join the merchant guild, you have to own a guild license.
Before you buy/sell/transfer a card for the first time, you have to pass a licensing exam. It is a short reading plus a few quizzes to test what you read. The reading could be talking about
- fees associated with buy/purchase cards (splinterlands fee, peakmonster fee etc)
- the lore of the merchant guild
- the lore should talk about the existence of illegal merchants who scam people
- the guild license is a way to differentiate illegal merchants and official merchants
Also, before you buy/sell/transfer a card the first time in the month, you have to tell the merchant guild code to the game, or 3rd party markets like peakmonsters.
The guild code should be something more fun than just numbers & characters. I'm thinking something more like a phrase, "venari brings a candy", "the storm has come", "open sesame"
You can only gain the merchant guild code from the splinterlands android / iphone app. The code is different for each device and you can only reuse the same code 3 times. That means you can use one device for 3 accounts.
You might argue that bot farmers can still use emulators to run the splinterlands application, but that adds complexity, adds a lot more time and effort.
This prevents or makes it hard for bot farms to send DEC and reward cards to one account to sell a huge number of farmed reward cards.
3. Publish Physical Splinterlands cards as CAPTCHA
This is more fun but a little more difficult idea to make come true. The idea is that you can purchase a set of physical cards that has merchant guild codes on the back that last 1 year. If you input the code from this physical card, you don't have to type the merchant guild code for 1 year.
How fun will this be! I want a set of physical cards from splinterlands!!!
This solution is so fun and purchasing a set gives you the advantage of not having to bother with the merchant guild codes because you're a special merchant!
4. Registered bots
This is to make sure that players don't have to wait for a match for a long time. Splinterlands should allow accounts to be registered as official bot accounts. These bot accounts don't gain much or any DEC or reward cards from the battle or reward chests BUT the bot owner can get rewarded with SPS. The more bots you run, the more SPS you gain. The higher league you run in bots, the more SPS you gain.
There's going to be a limit for the total number of bots run in each league. For example, bronze 1000, silver 600, gold 300, diamond 200, champion 100. I'm assuming that lower leagues have a lot more players, so they need more bots.
These bot accounts can't have more than 65% win rate to make sure that bot accounts are not beating up regular players too much. If the bot account wins more than 65% in the season, the bot owner gets a notification to act. If an account keeps winning more than 65% in 3 seasons, the bot account doesn't get any SPS reward.
This SPS reward for bot accounts can come from the SPS foundation treasury if the game splinterlands can't give any SPS from the company.
If you don't know about SPS foundation treasury, there's already $4M worth of crypto in the treasury. Also, if mini-set packs (the next one is rift-watchers) are purchasable with SPS, that SPS used to purchase packs goes to the SPS foundation treasury. The SPS holders will be able to decide how to use the crypto including SPS.
5. Trustless Scholarship
If we restrict bots with the lore-based captcha, what happens to bot farm owners with a lot of cards? They can apply for officially registered bots, but there's a limit. Another way to use their cards is through scholarships.
Currently, if you want to create a scholarship program where you delegate cards, you have to advertise and trust that person for reward split etc. This is a blockchain-based game. It should be trustless.
Here's how a trustless scholarship program should work.
A new person should be able to create an account for free without a spellbook. There's a scholarship listing page where you can apply for scholarships. The program detail page should list how it splits the DEC earning and reward cards. A scholarship program owner should be able to choose if they want to cover the cost of the spellbook or not. If they offer spellbook purchases, the game should charge the program owner $10. So a brand new person can start playing the game for free thanks to this trustless scholarship program.
Once the scholarship was approved, you can start earning. It'll be something like Spellbook purchase is covered. DEC earning a split of 70:30. The player keeps the reward cards from the chests. Length of term, 10 seasons. The program owner can choose those terms. This is a smart contract and the card, reward spit should be executed automatically.
You know we can't just ban something and not prepare a roundabout method. For example, if you ban alcohol completely, people find their way to drink it. If there's no other legal way, they will find an illegal way. That's why trustless scholarship is important, making it super easy to run a scholarship program.
At the same time, this provides an interesting way for new players to start earning with 0 upfront cost! If they like the game when they try it out for free, they'd be more likely to invest more money into the game!
Bots are a big problem in splinterlands, the great blockchain-based trading card game. The reward in bronze was nerfed severely and it is not an ideal situation for low-budget players.
I suggested adding the lore-based captcha to make an environment that is hard for bot farming DEC, reward cards. I also mentioned the idea of physical cards and the idea of registered bots to keep the matching time short without draining DEC reward pool and reward cards.
The trustless scholarship program not only helps reduce un-registered bots but also will help more new players come into the ecosystem as well.
I hope that we can create a sustainable economy with a restricted number of bots.
Research paper: Keeping Bots out of Online Games (Philippe Golle, Nicolas Ducheneaut)
Please let me know what you think about my suggestions in the comment section!
If you haven't joined Splinterlands, the amazing & fun blockchain-based trading card game, please use this link to create an account!