Has Splinterlands Gone Pay2Win?

in Splinterlands2 months ago

I have been enjoying the Splinterlads game a lot this past year and never really had a problem promoting it on different platforms which attracted many new players. However, The most recent changes with the Collection Power Score and League Leaderboards has really shifted the way I feel about the game in a negative way as it now just feels like the worst pay2win game I have ever played. Here is why...

I always try to keep it real and honest, so after making many positive articles about the game, I don't shy away from talking about negative aspects now that they are here. Just to be clear, this post has nothing to do with the rewards that the game gives out (which are still great despite the fact that they were reduced and feel empty), it is purely about Splinterlands as a game.


Why Blockchain Gaming is Not Popular?
Games that run on the blockchain are relatively new. I see myself as a real gamer and tend to follow the latest news on different gaming websites and youtube channels. So far, I have never seen a single blockchain-based game covered on one of these sites or channels. I tried out many of the Crypto games and if one thing is clear it's that they are made by blockchain developers who clearly are not game developers which most of the time results in dull games that are centered around rewards and some kind of Ponzi Mechanic. Players tend to be drawn to the rewards instead of the actual game and the number of daily active users the top Blockchain games have is totally neglectable compared to 'real' games.


Why Splinterlands is different?
Splinterlands is the one for me that actually provided the best gaming experience. I loved playing hearthstone in the past and the gameplay loop of Splinterlands is very similar. Each match has specific rules, there are different classes to choose from with enough strategic variety to make the game enough of a challenge. Each match also feels unique in it's own way and collecting more cards growing stronger is fun. The fact that the game gives out rewards and it's possible to sell your collection is just a big bonus on top of that. Despite all these positive aspects, Splinterlands has never really been picked up by real gamers because I guess it suffers from the bad reputation Crypto games have right now along with the fact that the initial player experience is just nowhere where it needs to be.

What is Pay2Win?
Pay2Win is a term that is often used in mobile games where devs try to squeeze as much money as possible out to their players by making it hard to progress or win without the player spending more. It all comes down to the ratio between skill and the money that a player paid.

  • If the money that someone has spent in a game has no influence whatsoever on the outcome of a game (like cosmetic items in Overwatch/Fortnite) a game is 0% pay2win.
  • If the money that someone has spent in a game has some influence on the outcome of a game (Faster Progression, Stronger cards, Weapon Upgrades) while skill also still is a big factor, a game can be seen as partially pay2win.
  • If the money that someone has spent in a game fully determines the outcome of a game regardless of the skill level, a game has gone 100% pay2win.

Going full pay2win pretty much takes away all the fun and I don't know any game that has ever done this. Except for Splinterlands right now!


How Splinterlands Went Full Pay2Win!
Splinterlands is different since it gives out real rewards that are actually worth something since they can be sold. Because the game gave away too much of these rewards, it attracted a lot of bots who started farming. In the short term, this really helped the game as it became the blockchain game with the most active daily "users" making them rank on top of websites like Dappradar & Stateofthedapps. It also helped real players to always quickly get matched in a game.

Since not much needed to be invested to farm rewards and the economy was totally unsustainable at the pace they were going out, a system needed to be designed to fix the balance. What they came up with is a Collection Power score system that requires players to have the collection they own (or lease) to be worth a specific amount in order to get to a higher league which gives more rewards. Different leagues also got separate leaderboards which now give out extra rewards to the top spots.

Players are now left with a choice to deliberately stick into one of the lower leagues to be able to compete for the top spots and the end of season rank rewards or move up to a higher league getting bigger daily rewards but have no chance to compete for the top spots in the league. The problem this brought about is that matchups became completely broken. If you compete for the top spots in a league you will most times get matched with players way below your level which brings about big winning streaks. If you don't compete for the top spots you will often get matched with players that just have way stronger cards making it impossible to win.

IN MOST MATCHES, THE OUTCOME OF WHO WINS A GAME IS SURE BEFORE IT HAS EVEN STARTED. THIS MAKES SPLINTERLANDS NOW ALMOST 100% PAY2WIN!

This has taken pretty much taken away all the fun out of the game.


To illustrate what I am talking about, just look at the League Leaderboard of the first season this system was in place.

These players did not get on 100+ game win-streaks winning 90% of their matchups because they are making 2000 IQ plays, but more because the game allowed them to basically pay for these wins. This situation pretty much kills the entire purpose of the game and makes it all just a reward grinding fest where running bots makes more sense compared to actually playing the game itself.


When the old system was in place, I never really had many issues with it the most games felt evenly matched with a fair chance to win. You started the season low in rank and league and pretty much always climbed up day by day reaching higher leagues which felt great as it gave a sense of progression. The only real fix that was needed was for the rewards to be reduced for everyone while giving bonus rewards for players based on the collection score. These past 2 seasons, I have been getting one broken matchup after the other where all the fun is taken out of Splinterlands.

With my Main Account that has ~500k Power and level 5 summoners (many duplicate cards with an eye to lease them out to new players) in Diamond League, I oftentimes get matched up with players way above my Summoner level (especially at the end of the season). One of the many typical Battle examples where you know before the start who will win.


With my Alt Account that has ~220k Power and Level 3 Summoners (Many Gold Cards) in Silver League, I now constantly get matched up with players that are way below my level which gets me into these crazy 15+ game win streaks even when randomly selecting cards so to say.


I get that it is not always easy for the game to create perfect matchups because some players only have certain summoners at a higher level and specific game rules prevent them to use those. The occasional mismatch which was part of the game before the changes never really bothered me and were in a way fun because they gave the rare fee win or a hard challenge. Right now though, it's most of the matchups that feel completely broken and the part that really worries me is that nobody is really talking about it and the Devs still think this latest update is awesome.


Has Splinterlands Gone Pay2Win?
I have no issue with traditional pay2win models where some level of investment is needed to get up higher in the league and get bigger rewards. It shouldn't come at the cost of a game being fun or not though. The new changes pretty much put players behind a paywall when it comes down to the league they can reach and once they reach it they get locked behind another paywall is the matchups are often completely broken. From what I know, Splinterlands is now the only game that does it in such a blatant way making it right now for me the worst pay2win gaming experience I have ever witnessed. At this moment, playing the game has become a daily task just to grind out the rewards instead of it being some daily fun with rewards as a nice bonus. I will still give it some time and won't be making any impulsive decisions for now in terms of selling my collection or quitting the game.


For another View on why Splinterlands stopped being fun, see this article by @mudcat36 I can relate to.

For my view on both the rewards and onboarding psychology and possible ways to improve it check this post.


To me, the core and potential of the game are still very strong and I'm not ready to give up on it just yet in the hope these things will get fixed. I can't say I'm all too confident it will happen though. I'm just hoping they start putting more importance on the fun of the game itself instead of making it all about the rewards.



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Wonderfully written and presented post. You offer a number of really good insights here that should be considered by @aggroed and the @splinterlands team. They should take some of your observations into consideration if their aim is to produce a truly mainstream game in the block chain space. If that's not their aim however... and it's just a cash grab floated on hype.. Well... I really hope that's not the case. I had high hopes for the game and I didn't give up easy. It would be a shame if it turned out a sour frothy bubble that goes pop with a foul odour. The game did and hopefully will rediscover its potential. Great post @costanza. Happily up voted and reblogged.

Thanks, Even if it's just a cash grab, they are way better off to not make it pay2win like it is now.
I forgot to tag some of the devs @yabapmatt / @byzantinist (I don't think it will make a difference though.)

Hey @costanza, sorry for the delay in reply. 3D world has been busy lately. In regards to pay to win, cash grab, and the like... yeah you gotta point with your reply. I have to admit I miss the old Splinterlands format... the new one just does my head in. It was a great post you put together here though. We will have to wait and see here so fingers crossed the devs put the work in and back peddle the changes.

I give you a 100% upvote because this is probably one of the best posts created on Splintertalk so far. However, I fully disagree with you on pretty much all of your assumptions.

First of all, your level 5 summoners are simply not designed to play in Diamond League. Of course you will be matched against maxed cards there because that league has no limits. Instead, you should drop down to Gold League and compete for the league ladder to win some extra Booster Packs. It is actually more profitable to do so than just getting more chests on higher leagues. And it is way more motivating and challenging. This mind-set has not reached many players yet, who are still just trying to advance to higher leagues and ignore the leaderboards, probably thinking they could not get there or they are not worth it.

Further, the rewards will be adjusted in a month or so, when enough observation with the current system has been made.

And finally, the game is always trying to find a balance between rewarding investors and skilled players, while fighting the bot armies trying to leach out rewards, apparently unavoidable on a blockchain game without identification process.

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Thanks!

Aren't the win-loss ratios of the accounts that reach the prizes on the league rankings a valid reference? In a game like Splinterlands, a solid win rate should be around 55% or maybe 60% at most for the better players. 90% win rates have nothing to do with Skills. In Silver league with my Level 3 account, I'm now rank 66 and win nearly all my matches without even trying. All these matches are just not fun for both the winning or losing player.

The game should make sure players get matched with similar type opponents, this is not something that should be up to the players. I get that it's not easy to make it happen, but right now the game is just completely broken while the devs are acting like everything is great.

Normally win rate would be a great indicator. But now we are still in a transition phase where people try to figure out whether to proceed to the higher league or not. Many choose to proceed although they rather shouldn't. Eventually, more people will realize that playing in lower leagues will benefit them more, which will lead to greater competition in each league, leading to more losses for most people, including the top spots. Right now you are facing all those players who cannot proceed to next league and probably should be a league lower than yours anyways. Of course that makes it an easy win.

Give it another month and maybe some slight reward tweaks from the game and the situation will be very different. I trust that the devs are observing very closely what is going on to drive the ship ahead, as they have always done in the past years.

Fingers crossed 🤞

Right on. I really wish the developers/head of community would look at this. I really haven't heard any positives about the changes, and I think they would be wise to consider some changes before the franchise tarnishes its reputation.

100%, I'm not sure what it will give with the new big partnership they say will expose the game to million+ players. I'm sure some will get into it, but most will likely be put down instantly by extreme pay2win direction they have gone.

There's a lot of unhappy people lower down the leagues for sure!

Not only lower down the leagues. Competing for the league prizes also is not fun because every win is pretty much given to you because you get matched with players that just don't have the cards.

Yup, it has.

I stopped playing two seasons ago. I can't reach the higher leagues any longer because my *contribution was not big enough.

It will be a challenge to get rid of the cards.

Sad to hear you have given up. I guess if you are patient enough you should be able to get your collection sold for a decent price. I do think the game will still do well even though it's completely broken once a new crypto/NFT hype is in full force.

Personally I don't mind being able to reach higher leagues or higher rewards (they still are pretty high to be honest). I just want a fun gaming experience.

That's exactly my thought - it's boring now. The rewards are boring too.

I didn't started selling the cards yet.

And it's also better for me to waste less time playing games :)

Good luck!

Hey @costanza!😍

This was a really great post.
I had no idea about the league thing. Those win streaks are nuts.😳
I'm going to pass this post along to the team.
I do think that soon there's a possibility (or honestly, I just had this idea) that as we get more players we will be able to make the leagues/levels/parameters even tighter... which could solve the problem you are showing here.

I do get your frustration... it makes me really see how much you care. I (we) appreciate that and are constantly striving to make things better, not worse. ❤️

We (the Splinterlands Team) are constantly working long hours trying to ensure the longevity of this game and little ecosystem.

You are always invited to our Weekly AMAs (rotating times to include members of the community from all over the world) in the Discord channel. Tomorrow it's at 9PM EST. Join us. 🥰

And.... if you miss them, but wanna catch up on on the new things, questions, concerns: Youtube AMA Playlist

Thanks again for caring. Hopefully, things will even out sooner rather than later.
🥰@carrieallen

Thanks @carrieallen

Getting in way more players could indeed improve the situation even though I believe more will need to be done to fully fix it. I'm always listening to the AMA once it gets released on youtube. You have a lovely voice by the way :-)
I'm still looking forward to everything the game will bring in the future!

Keep up the great work and thanks for passing this issue on to the team

Oh yes! I agree, more tweaks to perfection.

and...
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thanks 🥰