Splinterlands & EXODE Reward Purposes & Gameplay: A Comparison

in Splinterlands8 months ago
After Sunday's post on Splinterlands & EXODE Reward Types, today's post will cover why rewards are given out and how rewards affect the game. This might seem, at first, to be an odd topic -- but it is actually probably the most critical difference between the two games.

Introduction

EXODE and Splinterlands are both digital collectible card games built upon the Hive Blockchain. I'm pretty thoroughly addicted to both. Other than that, they are nearly as different as they can be.

EXODESplinterlands
GenreSpace ColonizationFantasy Battle Arena
Primarily PvPNoYes
BotsNoSubstantial % of players
Length of GameMonths<5 minutes
Pay for Best PlayNoYes
$$$ Requirement$10-$20$1000s
RewardsCards, In-Game Assets (including New Assets)
Card & Asset Upgrades (including Experience
Points, conversion to Elite, etc.)
Cards (including Potions)
DEC cryptocurrency
Reward MechanismsMission/Quest/Epic QuestLine Rewards;
Research, Discovery & Crafting Rewards;
Weekly Rewards; Season Rewards;
Legacy/Post-Game Rewards; and
Tournament Rewards & Contests
Game-Winner Rewards;
Daily Quest Rewards;
Season Rewards and
Tournament Rewards
& Contests
Pay For Best RewardsNoYes

The Purpose of Rewards
One critically important point that I missed in my last post on Splinterland & Exode Reward Types is why each type (and amount) of reward is given out and, also, how rewards affect game-play. It should be obvious that the general purpose of rewards is to convince people to start and continue playing the game, but the details of how that is done and what it actually means for game-play is vastly different for Splinterlands and EXODE and critically important.

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In Splinterlands, it is possible -- indeed, basically necessary -- to max out your collection (with the sole exception of owning a very small number of extremely rare cards). Players who aren't maxed out not only miss out on the vast majority of rewards -- but their game-play experience is immeasurably less enjoyably varied and complex because the large majority of the abilities that provide those advantages only appear in a rigid sequence as cards are upgraded (with the huge exception in the case of legendary summoners, which cost a lot of money and seriously imbalance low-level game play). The purpose of rewards is thus reduced entirely towards first getting cards and DEC to reach the point of being maxed out (to get optimal gameplay and rewards) and, after that, to getting cards and DEC solely to sell for profit (which, as you'll see below, is not nearly as lucrative as people believe).

Experienced players find very little novelty and only the excitement of beating other players and "winning" money. Indeed, I have somewhat frequently heard (particularly recently) that Splinterlands now seems like "work" or a "grind" game with experienced players feeling stuck in the game to try to get back the huge loss in card values over the past year. There are also a large number of bots currently grinding along as well -- but they do have the benefit of ensuring that players always have opponents. The only real excitement and novelty comes about when new cards or new mechanisms are released -- but, even at this point, there is only a total of 256 different cards with unique abilities (273 after the ΛZMΛRÉ Dice hit tomorrow).

Once the Collection Value Fix is in place and the current bot flood beaten back, the "diamond wall" will likely reappear and players will once again find themselves only able to play to the league for which their collection is suited (i.e. that they have spent enough money to reach) -- mainly due to the difficulty increase of not having the field padded with poorly-playing bots, NOT because of the relatively high caps of the Collection Value fix are restraining them. As I'll detail further in my next post Splinterlands & EXODE Reward Events & Amounts, this means that those players below Gold I (i.e. those who have spent less than 45% of the thousands of dollars required to max out even a non-alpha, non-gold foil collection) will return to getting an extremely small portion of the rewards pie -- and even daily Gold I players will get far less than maxed players.



For example, a Gold I player who completes every daily quest will make about 20,000 DEC per 15-day season. This isn't a terrible award -- currently about $12. On the other hand, the yearly total of less than $300 is likely only a 15% return on the value of the collection needed to play at this level. A Champion I player will make 66,000 DEC/season. If you're in the top 50, you get an additional 10 booster packs (20,000 DEC) for that. Because I have a Gold I gold foil collection (NOT cheap), I've been able to make over 200,000 DEC in tournaments in the last 17 days. Unfortunately, due to the cost of those gold foils, my seemingly lucrative rewards are actually only about a 10% annual return (i.e. less than that of a Gold I player who hasn't bought alphas or gold foils). Note further that the truly top level players like jacekw can get 100 boster packs/season (200,000 DEC) and probably 300,000-400,000 DEC in tournament winnings -- but those rewards actually provide even less than my 10% return due to requiring a maxed gold foil collection.

If the current prices turn out to be the new normal, the current 40% decrease in value since January 1st equals FOUR YEARS -- or more -- of rewards for high-level players. Thus, because these rewards seem very lucrative, they have faked many players (including myself) into believing that Splinterlands is a much better (and safer) investment than it actually is. This also ignores the losses at the end of last year (because I don't have records of how much they were) and is further assuming that the authors of the bot flood don't find another loophole to exploit and pillage more money/value out of the game.

Indeed, I find myself wondering, after performing this analysis -- what role Splinterlands' rewards actually serve other than to suck people into spending tremendous amounts of money to play the game. The game is more than good enough that it would definitely be played for far fewer rewards if it weren't so ridiculously expensive to get into (particularly since those reduced rewards would likely still buy the same amount of the then-cheaper cards). Indeed, I suspect that if the team hadn't been so intent on rewarding themselves and the early and high-spending players, Splinterlands would be much cheaper, have a much larger player base, be making them much more money and not have the potentially fatal problem of insurmountable barriers to entry. The problem is, once having gone down this road, there are very few ways to remedy the situation without harming those very individuals.

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With EXODE, it is literally impossible to max out your collection -- and, unlike Splinterlands, no real need or even reason to do so. First, there are already 389 base cards with unique abilities. Next, as cards advance, rather than having a fixed ability and statistics set, the player gets to choose which direction the card evolves in. Third, rewards -- particularly mission/quest and achievement rewards -- include both new cards and the potential to add new abilities that are not available anywhere else (except, of course, already applied to cards being sold by other players on the Starbase Market). Even if you could buy up all the cards currently in existence and play for years, the exponential possibilities are far larger than the actual number of cards in existence.

Thus, while you can certainly make money playing EXODE (particularly for rare reward cards that have accumulated multiple rare reward abilities or statistics), you can also vastly expand the details of the possibilities of play. Instead of suddenly being capable of using a research ability (which you have from the beginning of the game), you now can grow the capability of crafting a whole colony specifically geared to a very particular type of research (with all the advantages and disadvantages which that likely entails). And that doesn't even count the ever-increasing number of types of in-game assets (and infrastructure to create even more new assets) as players discover and research new idea and resources and invent everything from new poisons (Scarlet Sarah), drugs (the Syndicate) and fuels to software and implants (Syndicate Hacker, Sh4rken) and other character alterations (Genetician Scientist) to equipment, installations, vehicles, weapons and even starships.

Instead of experienced players really only having the option of cashing their rewards out of the game to get any value whatsoever from them -- EXODE players are far more likely to only sell duplicate cards, which comprise a much smaller percentage of rewards anyways (and in many cases can also be burned to advance higher-leveled cards of the same type), in order to buy cards and in-game assets that they don't have. Note also that, by vastly increasing the variety of different cards, EXODE is thereby decreasing the supply of each card and, by standard economics, increasing the value of each. Thus, cards will be worth far more money if the player does need money or ever reaches the point of not having time to play the game anymore (although the time requirements to get good rewards are also much less burdensome in EXODE).

Thus, for an extremely minimal investment, you have a basically complete game experience and definitely the ability to earn a far higher percentage return on your investment than Splinterlands. It may be that, if things go well for Splinterlands, you can earn a much higher amount of rewards on an investment of $5K to $30K -- but that is also a large investment to lose if things go badly.

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If you haven't yet joined either game, EXODE has the following advantages:
  1. extremely low "buy-in" price
  2. maximum rewards & game-play even if you don't spend a lot of money
  3. the novelty & excitement of game-play is always increasing and never "tops out"
  4. you're never going to feel trapped into playing the game just to recover your investment
It's nearly impossible to determine profit potential. Currently, the value of Spinterlands cards is sitting about 40% below what it was at the beginning of the year. It could well be that buying in at the current reduced price turns out to be a brilliant idea -- if prices bounce back.

On the other hand, Splinterlands card valuations depends heavily upon the influx of new players -- and Splinterlands has really significant cost barriers to the entry of those new players. Worse, these barriers will become even higher as ΛZMΛRÉ dice (another set of promotional cards) hit tomorrow and land (a major new mechanic that requires maximizing yet another asset) is introduced later this year. Thus, as you are doing your investment calculations, you need to be absolutely sure to include those into your costs.

Further, it is actually the total number of players (and their investment) that truly matters. The second half of Splinterlands' year-to-date drop in value was almost entirely due to a single large unhappy investor leaving the game and he still hasn't placed many of his cards on the market. Thus, his leaving will continue to suppress the market for some time to come. Furthermore, the number of bots that will be cashing out after the Collection Power fix aren't going to help the situation -- even though they, fortunately, have far fewer cards than the investor did. There was a 10% bounce, up from a 50% loss, as current players bought cards at the new, vastly reduced prices -- but it's not at all clear that there are anywhere near enough players to "clear" the market to allow prices to start rising again any time in the near future.

If, like me, you've already joined Splinterlands, hopefully you joined after less than a month-and-a-half ago, unlike me. Even with my well above average rewards, it's going to be quite some time before my investment is anywhere close to its initial value (and I'm going to have to invest even more in dice, lands and other new additions until I decide to cash out). I'm also starting to second-guess the necessary time investment in the game, particularly since I don't feel that the team is making any of the right moves necessary for Splinterlnds to get new players (or, even, to raise card valuations).

There are many solutions to the above problems. If the team were to take some of the following suggestions, they would likely improve the experience for both new and old players and reduce game-play costs while increasing the card valuation for heavily invested players (i.e. move towards a more perfet world for all): Unfortunately, according to the development timeline (as well as numerous comments), they seem far more interested in helping early heavy investors (like themselves) and in rolling out new, expensive enhancements (raising money from the current player base). Personally, I'm still likely stick around a while in hopes of recovering some of my investment while checking out the new dice and land features and seeing if the newbie experience is improved. On the other hand, I'm coming to suspect that I'll be leaving Splinterlands around the turn of the year unless anything changes -- particularly since the EXODE beta edition cards are likely to appear around then.

Of course, I would be very remiss if I didn't point out that EXODE is still in a very early alpha -- except for the first part of the game (evacuation) which is currently playable and only a week or two from late beta where rewards will be given out. It is certainly true that many games do fail at this point, but we're talking about an investment of less than $25 to get a full game-play experience (which is already top-notch) and rewards to boot. You'll also be getting the opportunity to get in during the normally very lucrative early stages (again, assuming that the game takes off).

Oh . . . . and actually, you can experience that gameplay with ZERO risk with my

Special Offer: Double your money back if you try eXode and don't like it

First, simply use my referral code 777c835 when you buy your first starter pack ($10) or the triple starter pack ($20) and you will receive two additional booster packs. Then, if you try the EXODE Evacuation version E and decide that you don't want to continue playing EXODE, simply send me your starter pack cards and I will send you twice the purchase price ($20/$40) -- assuming, of course, that HIVE verifies that you actually really did try an evacuation. There are also additional rewards if you join my EXODE alliance, AILF. If you are interested, details are at the bottom of my first post in this series: Economics & Rewards in EXODE and Splinterlands.

For more information about the awesomeness that is EXODE, check out the short (five minute) introductory video and the wiki. There is also the EXODE Pilots Hive community (which has a bunch of terrific tutorial videos as well as many posts entering and detailing the results of recent contests) and a Discord Server. Oh, and the game itself is at https://exodegame.com/.

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Great post, thank you @digital-wisdom! It seems that the level of complexity already in eXode is giving it the edge here, hoping that the beta version brings many new players in and shake things up!

ive just started exploring exode this week and have a question. can you also gather more cards with doing th evacuation quest, or is this still just to get points for the testing?

Version E, which is due out in a week or two, will be giving out player rewards. I don't know whether this will be experience for cards (probably), more cards (reasonable chance), something else (maybe) or some combination of those three (most likely). You could always join the Discord group (https://discord.gg/GZcYNXz) and ask Elindos. He is likely to give clues if not outright answers.

Welcome to EXODE!

Nice post, but why not playing both games just for fun and not for investment. As always only invest what you are ready to lose...